at the Gates
With Friends Like These,
Macedonia Needs No Enemies
years ago yesterday, Nazi Germany surrendered
to the Allies and ended the European part of World War
II. Its Albanian allies in the Balkans continued fighting
for another year, resisting the Communist government of Yugoslavia’s
Marshall Tito even as it sought to appease them with land
and privileges. It was under the same government that Macedonians
were recognized as a separate ethnic group, and were guaranteed
statehood. When Tito’s Yugoslavia imploded nine years ago,
Macedonians alone achieved independence peacefully, and have
sought to avoid conflict ever since.
is ironic that Macedonia is now facing the likelihood of a
most violent war itself. Even more ironic is that its enemies
are those very same former allies
of the Nazis, eager to claim lands drawn in red on well-publicized
maps. But the supreme irony has to be that in its effort to
defeat this fundamental threat to its existence, Macedonia
is being hamstrung by the nations that had defeated Hitler
over half a century ago.
is a Latin proverb, told perhaps to schoolchildren who studied
the fall of Troy the way we study the fall of Berlin: Timeo
Danaos et dona ferentes. "Beware of Greeks, even
when they bear gifts." The Trojans had obviously not
heeded this advice, as exemplified by their eager acceptance
of the proverbial wooden horse, and their undoing that followed.
all the "help" Macedonia has been getting from the
"international community" – embodied in the US,
EU and NATO – looks disturbingly like a large and completely
useless wooden horse. Criticism of Albanian attacks has not
been nearly as severe as the media are trying to portray it.
Nor has media coverage itself been particularly kind to the
beleaguered Macedonians – quite the contrary. And while the
mellow, pointless words assure Skopje of the righteousness
of its cause, actions on part of those very helpers undermine
Macedonia’s precarious standing every day more.
the Battle of Tetovo ended with a whimper in March, it was
obvious that the Albanian "National Liberation Army"
not destroyed. It had retreated to fight another day,
just as it had done after the embarrassing skirmish at Tanusevci
earlier this year. Also, further fighting would have done
more harm than good, since the "support" of NATO
and EU made the Macedonian government accept
negotiations with Albanians’ political parties. Yet the
politicians and the UCK demanded
the same things, only difference being their preferred
method of operation.
April 26, Reuters reported that the UCK was becoming
impatient with the talks. Hysni Shaqiri, a member of parliament
(and the government-allied DPA party) who had joined the UCK,
had already called for a war six days before. By April 29,
UCK’s "Commander Sokolli" was telling Newsweek
he had 18,000
men ready for war. A day before, a Macedonian patrol
was ambushed near the Kosovo border. Four policemen and
four soldiers were killed, then
were off. The government was incensed. So was the population.
After the four policemen’s funeral in Bitola, angry Macedonians
throughout the city, beating up Albanians and attacking
their property. Arben Xhaferi, leader of the aforementioned
DPA, drew a pointed
comparison with the Nazi Kristallnacht,
when Hitler’s thugs had systematically smashed Jewish property.
The lines were drawn. UCK attack on another patrol on May
two and capturing one soldier near Kumanovo, was merely
the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
WAR BY ANY OTHER NAME
response was swift. Macedonian army moved
against the UCK-held villages near Kumanovo, deploying armor
and artillery. Lacking manpower to attack the bandits head-on,
it opted for the same approach that worked in Tanusevci and
Tetovo – artillery attrition. On May 4, the US issued a statement
of support, coupled with a curious warning:
Washington considered civilian casualties unacceptable. The
following day, it became conveniently known that the UCK was
holding some 2000 villagers as human
the previous two battles, the UCK had evacuated most civilians
from its areas of operation, thus neglecting to exploit the
immense propaganda value of human suffering. This time, they
completely reversed their approach. Those villages that were
"evacuated" had in fact been ethnically cleansed
of their Serb
inhabitants, who sought refuge in Kumanovo.
a Macedonian police action against a band of terrorists became
a siege of hapless civilians, narrated
for the Western press by UCK’s "Commander Sokolli."
Sure enough, as Macedonian helicopters, howitzers and tanks
UCK positions, NATO and EU diplomats scrambled to stop
the Macedonian government prepared to declare
a state of war, NATO issued a warning against such a step
and – as usual – called
for restraint. European officials swarmed to Skopje: Javier
Solana, EU’s foreign policy czar, was followed by his successor
at NATO, George Robertson, Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh
and another EU commissioner Chris Patten. Their message
was more or less the same: Do not fight! Negotiate! Appease!
Eurocrats’ pressure on Macedonia to change its mind about
declaring war. Even OSCE, the pan-European "security"
organization ordinarily specializing in monitoring elections
in NATO’s occupation zones, argued
for appeasement of Albanian demands last Saturday. At
the same time, it issued a weak
and confused report about "possible intimidation"
of villagers by the UCK.
is tempted to entertain a thought: were these not the very
same people who chomped at the bit while bombing Serbia in
1999? That makes them uniquely credible to claim "violence"
does not solve anything, indeed…
"friends" like these, Macedonia hardly needs enemies.
agencies as well as papers in the West described this outpour
of leveraging as "support" to Macedonia’s fledgling
government. As they gave plenty of coverage to "Sokolli"
and his cohorts, they also adopted Albanian terminology: thus
"Macedonian" came to mean citizenship, while the
preferred name for ethnic Macedonians became "Slavs"
(which describes about 300 million people worldwide). Macedonians
were thus written out of their own state. Compare this to
the enthusiastic use of "Kosovar" and "Bosniak,"
terms appropriated by Albanians in Kosovo and Muslims in Bosnia
as a way to lay exclusive claim on those territories.
off from declaring a state of war and martial law. Instead,
it announced the formation of a unity
government, encompassing both the current ruling coalition
and the opposition parties. One Albanian party, however, blocked
the deal Tuesday by demanding
a unilateral ceasefire by government troops. They did
not demand the same action by the UCK.
"international community" endorsed the new coalition
wholeheartedly. Macedonians living near the frontline scoffed
at the idea. Tanks, they said, were a better guarantee
of security than phony political coalitions. One can hardly
blame them. Of the two main Albanian parties, one calls for
the government to surrender, and the other compares Macedonians
to Nazis and allows its members to join the UCK. If that does
not raise concerns about whether these people are really opposed
to the bandits, then it ought to.