The settlement due to be initialed August 13 by both sides in the Macedonian-Albanian conflict has got to be the strangest "peace agreement" in recent history. "War Looms despite Signing of Macedonia Peace Deal," the Reuters headline informs us. The level of violence, instead of decreasing, has been ratcheted up as the day of the formal signing approaches. At this rate, the country should be plunged into all-out war just moments after the ink on the agreement dries.
Today [August 12] the Albanian rebels surrounded a patrol of Macedonian police as helicopter gunships flew to the scene to attempt a rescue. On Wednesday, 10 Macedonian soldiers were ambushed even as rebel commanders and their parliamentary sock puppets at the negotiating table were declaring their fulsome support for the "peace process." Meanwhile, we hear news, from Human Rights Watch, that rebel Albanian fighters kidnapped and tortured 5 Macedonian road workers on the outskirts of Tetovo, subjecting them to a very imaginative and even elaborate series of sexual abuses. The rumor that the Albanian commander is planning on entering the International Mr. Leather Contest is unconfirmed, at this point, but we'll keep you posted.
Yesterday hundreds of "Kosovo Protection Corps" fighters – their guns, ammo, uniforms, and training paid for by US taxpayers – crossed the border with Macedonia in what amounted to an open invasion, without running into any trouble, apparently, from the 20,000-plus NATO troops supposed to be on "peacekeeping" duty. As the editors of Reality Macedonia – an excellent website offering often-updated coverage and commentary on the conflict – put it:
"One thing is not clear: If NATO troops were supposed to protect the Macedonia–Kosovo border, how and why is possible for the Kosovo Troops to cross the border and openly attack Macedonia?"
A good question, raised by Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, and one NATO and the US haven't bothered to answer. While the US issues pro forma pleas to both sides to stop the violence, everybody knows that it is the Americans who armed and trained the Albanian "rebels," many of whom spilled into Macedonia in the wake of the Kosovo war. Pointing to the military reality of rebel "National Liberation Army" forces firing shells from bases within Kosovo, Georgievski threw down the gauntlet in a letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan:
"I, personally, consider this an official declaration of war by the international protectorate of Kosovo and by the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC), which is unfortunately part of the UN civil administration in Kosovo. This is an unprecedented event in international politics, in which a sovereign and democratic country has been the object of aggression from an international protectorate of the United Nations."
Not quite unprecedented. Bosnia, a UN protectorate, was used as a launching pad for the conquest of Kosovo, much as it is being used today for a similar campaign directed at Macedonia. And can there be any doubt, at this late date, about whom is doing the directing? Georgievski is right, however, in one sense: this level of brazen arrogance is unprecedented in human history.
By cutting through the elaborate pretense of UN-US neutrality, Georgievski has already earned the enmity of the powers that be: news accounts of the Macedonian Prime Minister's pronouncements now routinely describe him as "the hardline Macedonian leader," although his party, the VMRO-DPMN, has signed on to the peace accord. He has earned this unflattering moniker, it seems, by demanding to know the exact value of a truce during which the gunfire accelerates, and by daring to state the reality clearly and simply: that Macedonia and Kosovo are at war, even as 600 Albanian fighters pour across the border. No doubt Carla Del Ponte and her International Star Chamber are keeping a file on Mr. Georgievski. Reading what he has to say I can only think: here is a man slated by the "human rights" crowd for the role of the Macedonian Slobodan Milosevic.
The pro-Albanian drumbeat has already begun. Christiane Amanpour, grab your shawl and get on a plane – Part II of the Kosovo war is ready to be filmed and your services are needed. Already, in spite of the escalating level of violence initiated and sustained by the Albanian rebel forces, the Western media, particularly in Britain, are carrying stories that invariably portray the Albanians as the victims. The [UK] Independent, which opposed the Kosovo war editorially and was a rich source of contrarian fact and opinion during that conflict, has mysteriously switched sides and now takes a vehemently pro-Albanian interventionist line. For example, this story about the alleged "ethnic cleansing" that is supposed to have taken place in the Macedonian village of Rastan, in central Macedonia.
According to the author, Justin Huggler, an Albanian family was set upon by Macedonian ethnic cleansers, and a 13-year-old child was ruthlessly slaughtered: "The ethnic cleansing has begun," intones Huggler, but there are no facts offered as evidence as to the identity of the killers. The premise of the article – that paramilitary groups are targeting Albanian civilians – is merely assumed, as Huggler gets up on his high horse and lectures the NATO-crats on their moral duty:
"This is the reality of what is happening in Macedonia, while the West flounders for a way to contain the growing crisis. NATO insists it will send troops to Macedonia to collect the rebels' weapons only if they agree to hand them over voluntarily. A peacekeeping force is out of the question."
Is this the reality of what is happening in Macedonia? For a different perspective, go here: Reality Macedonia takes the same incident and spins a few more facts in the opposition direction, against an entirely different backdrop. While Huggler maintains that Rastan "used to be a mixed village" and "now it has been ethnically cleansed," Reality Macedonia calls the village Rashtani, and, as for its ethnic composition, describes it as "a village predominantly inhabited by Macedonians, but two ethnic Albanian families also live[d] there for a long time." While there can be only one explanation for these masked intruders as far as Huggler is concerned, Reality Macedonia proffers:
"Two explanations on who performed this disgusting act. The Macedonian version is that is performed by the Albanian terrorists, with the sole intention to inflame the neighboring ethnic Albanian villages, so they rise to arms. The Albanian version is, as official DPA internet page claims, that the attackers were Macedonian paramilitaries."
Whom to believe, some Fleet Street hack or the locals? Without denying a certain low level of violence directed mostly against Albanian merchants, who have had their shops looted and burned by opportunistic mobs seeking revenge, I'll put my money on the locals, in this case. And I would take seriously the question of whether this was a staged event: it wouldn't be the first time such an attempt was made. Remember when Bosnian Muslims bombed their own marketplace in Sarajevo, just to make it look like a Serbian "atrocity"?
In any case, most of the anger on the ethnic Macedonian side is directed, not at Albanians per se, but at the US and their own government. Ordinary Macedonians, bewildered by their government's willingness and even eagerness to give in to terrorists, took over a government building in Skopje, forcing the Western envoys and the various negotiators to flee out the back door. The other day, they marched on the US embassy, but were prevented by police from entering. The Macedonian government's response to popular outrage at its conduct of the war has been quite odd, to say the least.
As if to underscore the point that, in the Balkans, we have entered a zone where the ordinary rules and laws of human behavior have been repealed, and the actors are guided by some mysterious code forever inexplicable to outsiders, we hear this astonishing news: "In order to give peace a chance, the government has declared a unilateral ceasefire," averred some anonymous Macedonian government official today.
What I want to know is: how is this different from before? Why, it seems like only yesterday that the former commander in chief of the Macedonian army resigned in protest, claiming that he wasn't allowed to do his job. He was replaced rather hurriedly, but the replacement was himself replaced after the deadly ambush in which 10 Macedonian soldiers were picked off by Albanian snipers. An army that has had three commanders in as many weeks is more than likely to be demoralized – and isn't that the idea?
What is going on in Macedonia is the mugging of a nation, and it's a crime. As the US and its NATO allies hem in the Macedonians on every side, the Albanians, armed to the teeth by their American sponsors, move in for the kill. It reminds me of what happened to Kitty Genovese, killed on a New York City street in full sight and hearing of dozens of onlookers, all of whom did nothing. That incident, which occurred in Queens, New York, in the 1960s, became emblematic of the violence and fear that was beginning to envelope the new urban landscape. The city, the living symbol of human evolution and civilization, was reduced to a primordial jungle. The very public mugging of Macedonia imparts the same atmosphere to the international landscape. Windows shut, and lights go out, as the screams of the victims rise up in the night, and everyone wonders: Who is next?
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