The death of Ian Collins, a British soldier killed in Macedonia by some kids flinging rocks, has mobilized the British media behind a campaign of anti-Macedonian vitriol: "Macedonian mob kills British soldier" said the lead story in the Telegraph. "Boy gang incited to ambush NATO men" averred the [UK] Times. "Macedonia's campaign of hate leaves NATO suffering first casualty," the Independent headline screamed. The author of this last diatribe was, naturally enough, Justin Huggler, whose reports from Skopje invariably hard on the government and soft on the Albanians have been getting worse by the day. His piece certainly lives up to its headline. Brushing off the explanation of British defense secretary Geoff Hoon, who said "it would appear that his death resulted from mindless hooliganism, rather than a concerted attack on NATO troops," Huggler interjects:
"But that is not the whole story. NATO has consistently been deliberately portrayed as hostile to Macedonian interests by the Macedonian government and the country's media. Sapper Collins was traveling in a clearly marked NATO jeep, and sources say this was not the first time a NATO vehicle has been stoned at this spot."
In other words, what we have here is an Anglophobic hate crime that must be punished forthwith. Tony Blair called the President of Macedonia to demand that the perpetrators thought to be a group of kids aged 15 to 17 "be brought to justice." No word yet on whether the Brits plan on reviving capital punishment. For Huggler, however, the real culprits are not the teenage "mob" but the politicians and the Macedonian media who supposedly "incited" them:
"Leading Macedonian newspapers close to the government have published reports that NATO armed the Albanian rebels of the National Liberation Army (NLA), and even that NATO helicopters landed behind rebel lines during government offensives to replenish the rebels' ammunition. The media consistently claims that Macedonian forces could have defeated the rebels on the battlefield if NATO had not forced restraint on them. In fact, Western military analysts say the rebels were winning on the battlefield."
The terrorists were winning because the West had put pressure on Russia and the Ukrainians to cut off their supply of weapons and the NLA had no shortage of weapons and money to buy them. There is, strangely enough, almost an air of gloating in Huggler's evaluation of the military balance of power: clearly he seems not to be rooting for the Macedonians. But does anybody but Huggler really believe that Macedonian teenagers have abandoned video games for busily poring over long ideological tracts in the Macedonian media, and, thus, inspired, going out and stoning NATO vehicles?
Huggler sniffs at the idea that NATO has been supplying the "National Liberation Army" that has been terrorizing Macedonia for months, treating it like a black helicopter sighting in Idaho. But is it really so incredible to assume that NATO's past relationship with Albanians in the region has continued right up to the present moment? Everybody knows that NATO armed and trained the NLA's progenitor, the Kosovo "Liberation" Army, and that a great many of the NLA's commanders and core fighters are veterans of the Kosovo war, where they fought side-by-side with NATO against the Yugoslav Army. Not for nothing did the NLA's top commander display the NATO flag alongside the Albanian double-headed eagle at a recent press conference. One rebel spokesman called on NATO to stay "for 100 years" instead of withdrawing in a month's time. As for NATO helicopters landing behind Albanian lines and delivering ammunition, the story we posted here by Scott Taylor, reporting from Macedonia, confirms this out of the rebels' own mouth:
"Two weeks ago, there was a flurry of diplomatic protests filed by the Macedonian government when two US helicopters were observed delivering supplies to an Albanian village in the mountains above Tetovo. Officially, the US claimed their aircraft were only transporting vital 'humanitarian aid.' However, the local UCK commander 'Commandant Mouse' contradicted this statement and confirmed that the Americans had in fact delivered 'heavy mortars and ammunition' to the UCK. As proof of 'Mouse's' claim, Thursday, 16 August, the UCK began bombarding Tetovo with 120mm and 82mm mortars. Judging from the duration and intensity of the bombardment, which I witnessed, ammunition supply is not a problem for the UCK fighters."
To Justin Huggler, we say: take it up with "Commandant Mouse."
Kevin Collins, father of the deceased British soldier, described the death as a "terrible waste." In statements to several newspapers, Mr. Collins said: "I don't think our soldiers should be there. This is a civil conflict with two factions fighting amongst themselves." That is exactly it: why, an increasing number of Brits are asking themselves, are we intervening on behalf of one faction against another? Some in the Tory party are raising similar, though far less pointed questions, but the Americans are backing Blair against their British cousins, with US State Department spokesmen doggedly defending the NATO deployment in daily briefings.
We are told that Americans are not to be directly involved in the disarming process, and that their only role there are already 500-plus GIs stationed in Macedonia will be "logistical." Any more questions on the nature of these "logistics" should be directed at "Commandant Mouse" and his merry men, who are no doubt on the receiving end of it.
The [UK] Times reiterates the charge that the Macedonian teens were ideologically-motivated hate criminals: "The youths appear to have been motivated by some politicians' denunciations of NATO's role in planning to disarm the ethnic Albanian rebels of 'only' 3,300 weapons." No proof is offered of this, yet it is stated as fact. Could the youths have just as easily been motivated by some other factor, such as "turf," the need for a thrill, and/or too much testosterone? The War Party has seized on this incident as proof of Macedonian villainy, and spear-carriers for the NATO-crats in the media are echoing this same line, so that it frames every rendition of the Ian Collins story. In this sense, NATO's journalistic operation may prove more well-coordinated, thought-out, and successful than its military operations on the ground.
In any case, stone-throwing youths all over the world are something of a problem for occupying armies, and the reason isn't all that mysterious. Perhaps some in that "mob" were among the 100,000-plus refugees from towns ethnically cleansed by the Albanian "liberators." Perhaps they have had their houses burned, their kin kidnapped, their lives turned topsy-turvy by thugs and the Western politicians who armed and unleashed them.
It is the same story, from Macedonia to Palestine, and in both cases the stone-throwers are not only very young but also very brave, boldly going up against well-armed opponents who have the power to crush them with overwhelming force. What's next in Macedonia suicide bombings? Is that what it will take to convince the West that it cannot rule the lives of subject peoples without suffering a little "blowback"?
Ordinary Macedonians are not unreasonably convinced that NATO and the rebels are in cahoots, and their resentment is growing. The effect of the NATO deployment will be not to limit but to inflame the conflict, polarizing Macedonian public opinion. Western pressure on the government to cave in to virtually all of the Albanians' demands including a precedent-setting law that will give the minority veto power over decisions of the democratically-elected Parliament has created a reaction that can only ensure Ian Collins won't be the last NATO casualty in this operation. In undertaking "Operation Essential Harvest," the Europeans are sowing the seeds of a much wider conflict and we will all reap the whirlwind.
For no one can doubt that the US will come in, once again, to bail the Europeans out of a mess of their own making. Bush has solemnly pledged to do so, in violation of his campaign promise to get us out of the Balkans, and, as a good "Atlanticist," the President would no doubt follow through and not all that reluctantly, either. Bush would probably welcome the opportunity to show those European snot-noses how much they need us, in spite of their much-vaunted "independent" posture. At a time when the EU is aspiring to superpower status albeit only rhetorically, at least so far the US can be expected to eagerly insert itself into the Macedonian quagmire.
The only potential problem, for Bush, is political: while Macedonia doesn't register as even the subtlest blip on the public's radar screen, congressional Republicans are bound to greet any new military mission with deep skepticism. When push comes to shove, opponents of intervention will be answered with an American version of British foreign secretary Jack Straw's rationale for the deployment:
"The lesson of the last 10 years is that the longer a conflict is left in the Balkans, the more difficult and bloody it becomes. We cannot close our eyes, wash our hand of what goes in the Balkans. Because if we do, not only do we wash our hands of the most terrifying, bloody conflict and abuse of human rights but also there are knock-on effects, as we have seen in the last decade, right across western Europe if we fail to take effective action. What we need to understand is that the Balkans is Europe's and Britain's back yard."
Gee, that's funny, but I could've sworn that the whole British cabinet had their eyes shut tight as the Kosovar Albanians ethnically cleansed their "liberated" land of virtually all Serbs, Gypsies, and other non-Albanian minorities. As for the lesson of the last 10 years, surely it is nearly the same as Mary Shelley's classic novel, Frankenstein create a monster, and it could very well turn on you.
All that is assuming, of course, that we can take the fašade of official neutrality on the part of NATO seriously, and honor its role as an honest broker. But there is no honor among thieves, and what this heist is all about is lightly hinted at in Straw's remarks, the part about the "knock-on effects" that will supposedly follow a failure to take "effective action."
Europe is facing an acute fuel shortage, and the socialist governments of the EU have been shaken by fuel tax protests that threatened to bring down Jospin in France and posed far more of a challenge to Blair than the Tories. Plans are afoot to build a trans-Balkan oil pipeline that will ship the precious resource to fuel-starved Europa. The financial and political web that binds the US as well as the Europeans and particularly the Brits to the success of the Albanian-Macedonian-Bulgarian Oil corporation (AMBO) is too complex to go into at length here. In detailing the story, the names of companies associated with prominent US officials, such as Brown & Root, come up with disturbing regularity, and, on the British side, too, the connection to the oil industry is evident in this biography of the chief executive of AMBO, a Mr. Edward L. Ferguson:
"Ferguson has 30 years of experience with `British Petroleum PLC'. He has held senior positions responsible for oil pipeline and production activities worldwide in places as diverse as Libya, Italy, Alaska, the Shetland Islands, Rotterdam and Norway. Ferguson earned the honour of Member of the British Empire (MBE) in January 1982 as a result of his outstanding work in the Shetland IsIands. At the time of his retirement from `British Petroleum', Ferguson was the Works General Manager of BP's largest petrochemical complex worldwide with over 2 000 employees and an annual budget in excess of 150 million dollars."
What is NATO doing in Macedonia? We are supposed to believe that they are serving the cause of "human rights," and standing against the forces of darkness: but, as many Macedonians are beginning to understand, they are the forces of darkness. This isn't about "human rights." All the usual reasons for conquering a nation are operative here: money, power, and the human capacity for sheer evil. It is an evil born of the idea that mere men can be like gods and determine the fate of whole communities, arrogating to themselves some divine right of judgment in disputes that go back to the Middle Ages. It is, in short, a ruthless evil born of hubris, a dark force that killed Ian Collins and promises to take yet more: we can only hope and pray that, in time, God will deliver Macedonia and the West from its power.
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