August 9, 2001

Murdering Macedonia

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Old and worn as that phrase may be, it is no less accurate today than it was the first time it was spoken. The familiar descent of Balkans nations first into warfare, then into servitude and poverty, ought to stand as a living example. Now that Macedonia is being torn apart as the old Yugoslavia, then Bosnia and Serbia were, most Balkans nations look upon the unfolding grisly spectacle with a mixture of relief and fear: relief, for it is not them on the sacrificial altar of the "international community"; fear, for they are not at the altar yet.

Indeed, most Balkans nations try to think about Macedonia as little as possible. Slovenia is too busy trying to become a NATO fiefdom; Croatia has its own troubles, which – most inconveniently – its politicians cannot blame on Serbs anymore; Bosnia is preoccupied with pretending it is not a dysfunctional foreign colony, losing what little of its youth survived the 1992-95 war; today's Yugoslavia is but a shadow of a shadow, with Montenegro's regime determined to secede, federal leadership downright comatose, and Serbia in hands of men with an eighteen-fold personality disorder and a gargantuan inferiority complex. Indeed, on a good day, Yugoslavia cannot decide whether it exists or not. Bulgaria is still waiting for the difference King Simeon promised. Greece watches its northern border not so much out of principle as out of territorial curiosity. And Albania... no one really knows, though whoever ends up running the illusion of government in Tirana will surely do as they are told.


Those that survived firsthand the kind of death currently administered to Macedonia know the script by heart, including the inevitable local variations. Most often, the Empire gives its verbal support to the legitimate government while maintaining a more practical relationship with its enemies. (The scenario in Bosnia-Herzegovina had a modified cast of characters, but that merits a column of its own at a later date.)

If there is fighting, the Empire's true protégés are always saved by a timely ceasefire, one they have no compunction breaking. Peace talks organized by the Empire's envoys almost always involve an ultimatum to the government to accept its enemy's demands. When the government refuses to submit – stubbornly believing in sovereignty, rights and justice, or whatnot – the Empire blames it for everything: obstructing "peace," violence, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, even genocide, if that's what it takes.

Overwhelmed by this sudden "reversal" and the onslaught of propaganda, the targeted government always chooses surrender.


Thus, as Macedonians are being stretched on the rack to sign the "agreement" with Albanian separatists that would effectively destroy their nation, those very same separatists are growing stronger and bolder every day – a fact that is then used to increase pressure on the Macedonians even further.

The Empire grows frustrated. Its troops are ready to occupy Macedonia and pretend to disarm the Albanians as soon as the blasted politicians sign the surrender papers. But the accursed wretches just keep dithering... Well, wouldn't you? If your country was being drawn and quartered by supposedly well-meaning foreigners, wouldn't any one of you out there at least think twice before putting a torch to your own funeral pyre?

To give them credit, Macedonians are fighting any which way they can. They've marched on the White House (though neglecting the fact that His Glorious and Elevated Majesty was on vacation) and they've appealed to the world's conscience with testimonies of their people, who have been dispossessed, abused and exiled by Albanian bandits, in what certainly qualifies as ethnic cleansing. They have even tried fighting the usurpers, though such actions immediately draw harsh Imperial condemnations and deadly reprisals. Most of all, they've stalled for time, hoping, perhaps, that some alternative to defeat lies in the future.


Macedonia would not find itself in this predicament had the Imperial intrusion into what used to be Yugoslavia been halted in its early stage, in 1990. Back then, however, few took it seriously and even fewer bothered to fight. Those who did – for whatever reasons, patriotic or private – are now either dead, imprisoned, or in exile. Tens of thousands of troops occupy Bosnia and Kosovo, protecting not their inhabitants, but the foreigners who rule them. And if the rumors are true, the Empire will soon link their dominions in Bosnia and Kosovo with a string of bases in Serbia itself.

Talks on the topic have already been held between American generals and some Serbian officials. Two of them, Nebojsa Covic and General Ninoslav Krstic, had negotiated with NATO the end of Albanian invasion in Presevo. Just a few days ago, those supposedly demobilized bandits ambushed a police patrol and killed two officers in a village near Presevo. Either someone's not holding up their end of the bargain, or this is an example of the diplomatic communication that the Empire is so good at: give us your bases, or else...


It may seem that events in Serbia have no bearing on Macedonia, but that impression is very wrong. First of all, both face the same Albanian militants – not just the same movement, but actual individuals. Wearing hats of different "armies," the same people fought first in Kosovo, then in Presevo, and now in Tetovo.

Their aim is clear: an ethnically pure Albanian territory, mapped by some as "Greater Albania," by others as "Greater Kosovo," but definitely separate from non-Albanian nations. Their methods are consistent: first attack the police, then the army; expel non-Albanian civilians; take control of Albanian civilians, even by murdering those who resist; finally, appeal to Western help on grounds of "repression," and "humanitarian disaster," while falsely claiming to fight for "civil rights."

That help always comes. It came in Kosovo, when the KLA was resurrected and eventually brought to power by a NATO military intervention. It came in Presevo, since the Albanian "Liberation army" there was armed and organized as a tool against Yugoslavia's President Milosevic. Now the same people that fought in both of these "armies" are fighting against Macedonia. Those who helped them twice already have now come up with a Macedonia "peace plan" – which, incidentally, is supposed to wipe out the "rebellion" by capitulating completely to its demands. (They have the nerve to deny it.)

Next time you see the Western media describe Macedonian resistance to Western treachery as "angry mob violence, organized by hard-line nationalists" or some similar bit of drivel, consider why the Macedonians are angry. Also, try to think why the press describes them so, and what the press has done every other time the Empire intervened in the Balkans.

Suddenly, the world will make much more sense.


There is one more, crucial question. No, not what will happen in Macedonia – though the outcome is far from preordained, it is likely to pattern itself after all the other interventions of the previous decade. The real question is why?

Is the Empire aiding the Albanians because it believes their grievances are legitimate, or is it simply appeasing them to protect its vulnerable occupation force in Kosovo? Is it aiding Greater Albania out of love for Albanians, or because it's using Albanians against other nations? Is it occupying the Balkans because it wants "peace and stability," or because it plans a pipeline through its heartland?

It could be, though, that all of those explanations fail to see the forest for the trees. After all, the Balkans mountain-tops offer a far more interesting view of Moscow and the Caspian oil fields than of Belgrade, Skopje or Tirana.

A consistent ideology underlies the Empires actions: it will do everything and anything that increases its power and eliminates potential obstacles or, God forbid, competition. Power, in the final analysis, is about forcing people to do things they would not do of their own will. And if the greatest individual power is over life and death, would not the greatest power of one nation be that over the life and death of others?

Text-only printable version of this article

Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo, and had contributed to the Independent. As a historian who specialized in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia and Serbian politics, which were published by the Serbian Unity Congress. His exclusive column for appears every Thursday.


Past Articles

Murdering Macedonia

Rambouillet Repeated?

Empire's Willing Servants

Kostunica's Choice

Betrayal in Belgrade

The Empire Shows Its Hand

The Return of Kings

Meditations On The Edge Of The Abyss


Terms of Betrayal

Presevo – A False Victory

The Balkans: Land of Delusions

Enemies at the Gates

ICG's Blueprint for Destruction

Kosovo: Between Death and Taxes

Madness in the Mountains: Montenegro's Looming Secession

A House Divided


Empire at the Gates

Macedonian Maelstrom

Pax Americana

The Fourth Balkan War

Mayhem in Macedonia

Surreal Realm

Santayana's Curse

The Croatian Conundrum

March of the Black Eagle

Showdown in Belgrade

Out of the Shadows

With a Grain of Salt

Crusade's End

The Worst of Times

Moments of Transition

Déja Vu

The Crucible

Bandits on the Border

It's the Spelling, Stupid

Zoran Djindjic: Serbia's Richard III

Wheels of Injustice

The Tragedy of Bosnia

The Suspended Castle

Hand Of The Empire: Decision in Kosovo

Introduction: The Balkans Babylon

ITN: Case Closed


One peculiar thing about the murder of Macedonia is that it has not yet fully taken place. There is still a chance that the victim might make a fortuitous turn somewhere and escape the knife-wielding butcher at its heels. Perhaps help will come from the outside, though the Empire's reach is long and powerful.

What we see now is a life-and-death contest of willpower. Do people value their land, their name and their honor enough defend them, no matter how sweet the murderers' words, no matter how powerful their weapons and lies?

No sooner have these words touched the screen when news came of the KLA's ambush on the Skopje-Tetovo highway, and the death of 10 Macedonian soldiers. There seems to be no more room to maneuver; it has come to fight or flight, and the dice are loaded.


The greatest plague in Macedonia and the rest of the Balkans is not poverty, corruption or violence. Those are but symptoms of a greater evil: despair. After a tumultuous decade that saw the destruction of many structures – political, social and physical – but almost no construction of new ones, denizens of the peninsula wander around aimlessly, seeking meaning while trying to survive from one day to another. Stripped of ideas and goals, cheated of beliefs and possessions, they are now slowly being robbed of the last vestiges of hope as well. Unless they find the strength to stop that slide, and soon, the entire Balkans will become a land of walking zombies – mindless, resigned servants of local satraps and their Imperial overlords.

Greater than the death of flesh is the death of hope, the death of dreams – the death of not just freedom, but the dream of freedom itself. Macedonia fights not just against invaders and usurpers, but against chaos and despair. It's a fight that they cannot afford to lose, and we cannot afford to ignore.

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