many feared, the alleged demise of the "National Liberation
Army" of Albanian militants two weeks ago was short-lived
and grossly exaggerated. Forced out of their border base in
Tanusevci, they struck deep into Macedonia and attacked its
second largest city, Tetovo.
a week of heavy fighting, Tetovo is beginning to look like
Bosnia in the early days of 1992. Many inhabitants have fled,
buildings are on fire, and small-arms fire echoes in between
mortar shells and sniper shots over largely abandoned streets.
Tuesday, Macedonia’s Army had brought up tanks,
armored fighting vehicles and additional
troops, shelling the militants’ positions and claiming
to be preparing for a full
assault. Dug into the hills above the city and controlling
most of its mountainous hinterlands, the militants have no
intention of giving up. They are demanding
"peace talks," which would legitimize
them as a force and internationalize their demands. Their
actions have already had a profound effect, and further violence
might nudge the crisis past the point of no return and into
the hell of ethnic warfare. The Macedonian government is finding
itself short of options and running out of time. Every minute
that the NLA is allowed to exist only makes it stronger, but
so does every bullet fired at it.
Macedonia is looking elsewhere for help, mainly among the
NATO powers occupying Kosovo, where the NLA was founded. That
quest has been, and will remain, fruitless. For it was NATO’s
conquest of Kosovo that precipitated the militant actions
of Albanians elsewhere, and directly caused Macedonia’s current
predicament – one from which it may not recover.
WORDS, HOLLOW PROMISES
European Union pledged all nonviolent means of support – i.e.
words. France actually called for Macedonia to improve
the rights of Albanians, thus encouraging the militants.
Germany is threatening action – but only to defend its supply
outpost in Tetovo, which came under fire the other day and
prompted four panzers to arrive from Kosovo as protection.
also received extremely confusing signals from EU’s foreign
policy czar, former NATO political head Javier Solana. Agency
reports quote him as saying there is no alternative to a political
solution, but also that there can be no
negotiations with terrorists. Macedonians’ heads must
be spinning, trying to understand Solana’s doublethink. Little
has changed since 1999, after all.
in time to excuse itself from Macedonia’s pleas for help,
NATO suddenly remembered it "had
no mandate" in Macedonia. Lack of mandate certainly
never prevented it from launching a war over Kosovo, which
earned its current leader George Robertson his life peerage.
Indeed, the KLA can feel absolutely
safe with NATO behind them...
the other side of the ocean, the US minced even fewer words.
US Balkans envoy, James Pardew, showed his government’s "support"
for Macedonia by criticizing an insignificant,
minor Kosovo party suspected of NLA ties. At the same
time, KLA’s masterminds Hashim Thaci and Ramush Haradinaj,
and the prophet of Albanian separatism, Ibrahim Rugova, have
not been disturbed in any way. The Bush administration claims
to be "isolating" the militants by giving "unequivocal
support" to Macedonia’s integrity. Yet it repeatedly
and clearly pledges not
to move a finger to address the root of the problem, in
a province – the very sector – its troops occupy. Meanwhile,
in the US are sending
money, weapons and men to the militants.
Balkan envoy Carl
Bildt, who said Macedonia was standing on the precipice
of war, and UN human rights envoy Jiri Dienstbier, who said
Sunday that the current war was not
about human or ethnic rights, but about creating a Greater
Albania, were lone voices of sanity in a sea of indifference
the Macedonian crisis heated up, President Bush ordered the
of some 800 Americans from Bosnia, where their heavy weapons
were no longer needed to keep the locals under submission.
This way, the US deflected questions about its inactivity
in Macedonia. The GIs just came home; it would be un-American
to want to send them to the Balkans again...
the media seemed intent to divert attention from the real
causes of the conflict as well. The New York Times’ Carlotta
Gall, famous for her outstanding work in glorifying the original
KLA and the Chechen
separatists, continued the tradition on Tuesday with an
with NLA’s racist drivel.
Western news agencies only made a passing
note of KFOR’s arrest of five Albanians, suspected of
the recent bombing that killed 11 Serbs on a bus in Kosovo,
they enthusiastically covered the Hague trial of three Bosnian
Serbs accused of running "death camps" for Muslims,
with the prosecution’s allegations reported
as uncontested facts.
– INDEPENDENT KOSOVO?
specimens even tried to use this crisis to advance their pet
goal of an independent Kosovo. Olivia Ward, the Toronto
Sun’s chief Balkans propagandist, penned a syrupy piece
on Dr. Flora Brovina, a KLA martyr who was recently granted
amnesty and released from prison by the Yugoslav government.
After countless tales of Serbian "atrocities," Dr.
Brovina confided in her old friend that peace would only come
opinion is shared,
unsurprisingly, by former NATO warlord Wesley Clark. In his
Sunday Washington Post op-ed, Clark blamed the conflict
in Macedonia on "real causes" of Albanian discontent,
and "crippling progress towards self-government"
for the "people of Kosovo." Clark is a board member
of the International Crisis
Group, a famously militant NGO that has loudly lobbied
for Kosovo’s independence for years.
have become victims of media manipulation again as well. Newspapers
illustrate reports of fighting in Macedonia with pictures
of fleeing Albanians. Given the numbers of actual Albanian
refugees, that coverage is grossly lopsided. While Reuters
speaks of 2300 Albanians fleeing the fighting to Albania and
1300 to Serbia (yes, Serbia!),
it also cites a figure of 4000 Macedonian refugees
inside the country. Bloomberg news cited
AFP reports of about 1600 in Albania, 480 in Kosovo and
1500 in the rest of Serbia, without giving figures for Macedonians,
and AP does not mention Macedonian refugees at all. "Ethnic
cleansing" must be happening again…
along the way, AFP reported that the Macedonian government
has kept a lid on people’s passions, rejecting citizens volunteering
to fight the militants, and that many Albanians
resented the militants. Amidst the sea of obfuscation,
such commitment to peace and coexistence went largely unnoticed.