the reason for my upcoming
journey to the region: to get up close enough to focus
in on the real story of why and how NATO's arrow pierced the
heart of this broken country. Distance has been a real problem,
from the beginning, in covering the ongoing saga of US intervention
in the Balkans: the sheer physical distance between
ordinary Americans and the truth, has been a major obstacle
one that we are only recently attempting to overcome....
the Macedonian crisis, we have had to depend, as always, on
the mainstream media the only nongovernmental institutions
with the resources on the ground to act as intermediaries
between us and the truth. Every day we present what we think
of as the best and most informative of these intermediaries,
as links and yet, still, we are acutely aware that
the picture we are presenting is only an approximation of
the truth. Without people on the ground, reporting directly
from the scene of the crime, we can't precisely pinpoint
the culprit: we can only infer, deduce, and in the
end make an educated guess.
GO EAST, YOUNG
We are outsiders,
and we cannot know the truth from the outside looking in.
To get some rudimentary understanding of the forces at work,
and the likely outcome, it is necessary, in the end, to go
there and see the reality firsthand. Otherwise the truth
can be elusive. Take, for example, the recent death of British
paratrooper Ian Collins, NATO's first casualty in Macedonia.
Does anybody really know how and why he died?
WHAT WE KNOW
this incident in my
last column, and will only briefly reiterate the details
here. Collins and a companion were driving on the road from
Skopje to Kumanovo when, suddenly, their journey came to an
abrupt and tragic end. Collins was severely injured, and taken
to Camp Bondsteel, and then to a hospital in Skopje, where
five hours after the incident he died on the operating
table. That is all we know for sure.
don't know, first of all, is who killed Ian Collins,
or why they did it. The official NATO story one dutifully
echoed by the Anglo-American media is that, as the
[UK] Independent put it, "Macedonia's
campaign of hate leaves NATO suffering first casualty."
By failing to hail NATO troops as their saviors and liberators,
and instead treating them like what they are an occupying
army the Macedonian media and some sectors of the government
a "boy gang" as the Times so felicitously
phrased it to stone Collins to death. According to
this version of events, Collins was hit in the head with a
large piece of concrete thrown by rampaging Macedonian youths.
The Times quotes one alleged eyewitness, 18-year-old
Sima Stojic, as saying that he saw them do it, and not only
that but "I know the name of the kid who threw the concrete
that hit the vehicle."
particularly the British media has taken this story
and run with it. But is it true? Shortly after the first news
reports of Collins' death were posted on the Internet, there
were a lot of reasons to entertain doubts about the
veracity of the official line. To begin with, Sima Stojic,
the chief witness, popped
up again, this time on Macedonia A-1 TV, denying that
he had ever told the Times any such story:
haven't seen anything,' says the alleged eyewitness. 'I told
them that the situation is very bad, and when they asked me
if I've seen the stoning of the British soldiers, I told them
that it happens occasionally, but that I have no information
about this specific case.'"
GO FOR IT,
only that, but, he says, they offered him money if he would
refrain from speaking to other reporters. Mr. Stojic has announced
that he will sue the Times hopefully for libel,
since, in British law, this puts the defendant at a disadvantage.
Britain's repressive libel laws have often been used to quash
dissent witness the
outrageous silencing of LM magazine and it'll be refreshing
to see this sword cut the other way, for once. Go for it,
Sima! Take 'em for all they've got!
we don't know exactly how Collins died. The official
story is that Collins' head injuries were the result of being
hit with a large piece of cement. But according to Dnevik
newspaper, the medical staff that treated the injured soldier
claims he had head injuries which could not have been the
result of being hit with a rock. According to personnel at
Skopje Medical Center, where Collins was treated, the upper
part of the British soldier's skull was fractured, and the
main brain artery severely damaged. Reality
reports the doctors' claim that, "most probably," he was
fatally injured when the vehicle was upended.
WANT TO KNOW
we don't know have a clear idea of the circumstances in which
Collins' death occurred. What were two lone British soldiers
doing riding down the road from Skopje to Kumanovo, without
an armed escort, at a time when tensions against Westerners
were running high? The official story would have it that Collins
and his companion were on a routine mission, when suddenly
they were set upon by drooling Macedonian barbarians with
bloodlust in their eyes. It was, we are supposed to conclude,
a random incident of mindless hate-filled violence. But, hey,
wait a minute....
A ROUTINE MISSION?
denies telling the Times, or anyone else, that he witnessed
the incident, let alone that he knows the identity of the
assassins. Furthermore, it turns out that their mission may
have been far from routine. By the time the Macedonian police
arrived tipped off by an anonymous caller the
scene had been cleaned up, and the vehicle they were
told already repaired. Dnevik and other sources
maintain that, according to NATO, the two soldiers were carrying
secret documents of great importance and that this
accounts for the commandeering of the crime scene and the
complete takeover of the investigation by NATO. Never mind
that the incident occurred on Macedonian soil, and is properly
the province of the local police authorities. NATO is dropping
the presumption of Macedonian sovereignty very early on in
IN KANSAS ANYMORE
news media, instead of trying to discover the truth, is busy
as usual fulfilling its appointed role as NATO's servitor.
Associated Press dispatch by Danica Kirks avers that American
medics on the scene were surrounded by a "hostile mob"
that gave them the finger, and records for posterity the dimwitted
insights of Staff Sgt. Edna Flores: "On the way back I started
thinking `Oh my God, where have I been?' As I drove away,
I realized we were not safe." Duh-uh! Yes, that's right,
Sgt. Flores you left safety behind when you joined the
military. According to the AP story, she also declared, with
some befuddlement, that "members of the crowd were making
obscene gestures, shouting, waving their hands,
yelling in a language the medics couldn't understand." But
what did else did she expect? This is Macedonia, Edna, not
Manhattan you're in somebody else's country.
of the Ian Collins incident and the regional crisis in
general are permeated with an air of astonishment at this
atmosphere of growing Macedonian antipathy to the West. However,
Ms. Kirka has a ready explanation for the hostility, even
if Sgt. Flores is clueless:
"Nowhere is this hard-line anti-NATO sentiment more
clear than in the media, which is still largely state-controlled,
and there's no better example than its coverage of Collins'
death. While NATO said Collins was struck by a flying projectile,
Macedonian media suggested he may have died in some other
way. Some reports said the incident was suspicious because
reporters who went to the scene later found no evidence of
a destroyed car and that NATO waited for hours before announcing
the death. 'We doubt the incident happened at all,' an unnamed
Interior Ministry official was quoted as saying by the country's
major daily newspaper, Dnevnik."
IN NATO WE
interior ministry official probably meant to say is that "we
doubt the incident happened at all the way NATO says it
did" and where is the evidence to contradict him?
Indeed, since NATO has impounded the evidence, and refused
to let the Macedonians in on the investigation: we (and the
Macedonians) have to take their word for it.
Operation "Essential Harvest" seems to embody the same farcical
elements that characterized Operation Allied Force. Ms. Kirka
goes on to report on the propaganda campaign being waged by
NATO to pressure the Macedonians to ratify the sweeping concessions
made to the Albanians:
that its message of being the guarantor of the peace deal
is not reaching the general public, NATO has taken out newspaper
advertisements, featuring an explanation of the mission and
photos of the two senior generals, smiling benevolently."
HAWKS ON THE
benevolent smiles in the world, plus all the newspaper ads
money can buy, are not enough to convince an occupied people
to willingly give up their sovereignty. In the new Europe
that British troops and their American allies are building,
however, there is no longer any such thing as national sovereignty
to insist on it is a hate crime, and its defenders
are "extremists," "hardliners," and, according to this morning's
[August 30] New York Times, nothing less than shrieking
"hawks." An article by Carlotta Gall, "A
Macedonian Hawk Vows to Extend Pursuit of Rebels," condemns
its subject interior minister Ljube
Boskovski in its very title.
THE ART OF
a New York Times headline so as to give the story a
not-so-subtle spin has become a high art at the Gray Lady,
but surely this one is a classic. How and why is Boskovski
a "hawk"? Apparently for repeating what the NATO-crats have
themselves been handing out, that "NATO's operation to collect
weapons from rebels was only a 'symbolic disarmament.'" As
Colonel Paul Edwards, NATO's chief of the operation, put it,
''No one is going to remove every weapon in this region. I
come back to our position that the rebels' offer to disarm
is a statement of intent that they seek to pursue their goals
in the political process and not through fighting." He added:
''The collection process is but one part of a process heading
toward peace'' that is, the collection process is largely
symbolic, just as Boskovski said.
is described as a "hawk" no less than three times during the
course of Ms. Gall's article, including the title but on
what basis? Perhaps because "he warned that his anti-terrorist
police would seize any remaining illegal weapons as soon as
NATO was finished with its 30-day mission." But what else
are the "anti-terrorist police" supposed to do other than
seize illegal weapons in the hands of insurrectionists? Gee,
it's funny, but the Times has a curious double-standard
when it comes to the gun control issue: guns in the hands
of, say, David Koresh, are strictly verboten, but a
Kalishnikov cradled in the arms of an "oppressed" Albanian
is nothing to get too excited about.
truth about Macedonia and about the Balkans in general
is still not known or even suspected by the American public.
Our intermediaries the news media merely parrot what
NATO tells them, and all the complaints about Macedonia's
"state-controlled" media apply to our own in spades:
they might as well be government-run for all the independence
they show. This underscores the vital importance of Antiwar.com's
mission to Macedonia now expanded, I am happy to say, to
include not just myself but also Christopher Deliso, a travel
writer and scholar of Byzantine art and culture, who knows
the country well.
THE HEART OF
that I was afraid to plunge all alone into the heart of darkness,
you understand, but as various news reports of bombings, kidnappings,
and other incidents reached the West, several friends intervened
and suggested that I take along a friend. If anyone can brave
the uncertainties of such a volatile landscape and such
a volatile companion as myself then it is the good-natured
and levelheaded Chris Deliso, whose excellent
work has recently begun to appear on this site. Chris,
a graduate of Oxford, where he majored in Byzantine studies,
is precisely the kind of scholar that Antiwar.com wants to
encourage and utilize in the fight for a noninterventionist
foreign policy knowledgeable, committed, idealistic and
yet very much at home in the real world.
what is, by our standards, a lot of money to send two
reporters to the Balkans. Of course, the amount involved is
peanuts as far as the US government and its academic and political
amen corner are concerned: they drop that kind of money without
a thought. On the other hand, it is, for us, a considerable
amount, and we have to raise it from you, our readers and
supporters. I don't mind asking for your dough, in this case,
because I know that you're going to get your money's
worth. And I also know that many of you realize how much is
at stake in Macedonia, and in the entire region.
THE WAR PARTY
we are hearing voices raised asking whether NATO ought to
stay longer and implying increased US participation.
John McCain, whose usefulness
to the Albanian lobby in the US has been documented in
this space, is already agitating for an extension of the NATO
presence: "To go in and come out quickly is certainly desirable,
but history tells us that it's difficult to accomplish these
operations in a short period of time," said McCain. "In fact,
they are rarely accomplished in a short period of time." "If
it takes longer," says McCainite Sen. Chuck Hagel, "it
WILL NO ONE
As the US
slowly sinks into the Macedonian quagmire, will none speak
out against the madness? As we destabilize a government that,
up until a few months ago, was praised by the US as
a model of multiethnic democracy, will no one raise a voice
in protest? If we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the
Kosovo war, only this time on a larger scale and with much
less excuse then let us at least have the opportunity to
bear witness to it. It is only possible, however, because
of you and your generous contribution. If you haven't already
contributed to help keep Antiwar.com the best foreign news
site on the web, then now is the time to
do it. We are making strides every day, breaking news
and speaking truth to power but it doesn't come cheap.
Contributions, I remind
you, are tax-deductible so why give it to the government
when you can give it to us? They aren't going to get
away with it in Macedonia, without a full exposure on the
Internet but only if you help to make it possible.
contribution of $50 or more will get you a copy of
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