June 2007

Dear Readers,
I wrote an article titled “The ‘Successful War’ we Lost in Kosovo” for American Legion magazine, the publication of America’s largest veterans organization. Because its articles aren’t available online, I’ve scanned it in. Here are the links, from page 1 to page 6 (though the article is not a full six pages):

Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4, Page 5, Page 6

FYI: Draza Mihailovic is mentioned.

From AP:

President Bush announced Wednesday he will establish an envoy to a coalition of Muslim countries, with hopes of bolstering ties to the Islamic world and improving the image of the United States.

That’s right: WE need to improve OUR image in Muslim eyes.

Bush’s special envoy, who has not yet been named, will be a liaison to The Organization of the Islamic Conference. The intergovernmental organization, representing more than 50 Islamic states, promotes Muslim solidarity in social and political affairs.

Because 1.5 billion people all thinking the same way just isn’t cohesive enough? Since…not enough Muslims believe that Jews control the world? Or that the Holocaust was exaggerated? Are there still too many Muslims who support Israel? And the war in Iraq?

Then again, perhaps Bush is more clever than we’re giving him credit for. Note the language he uses here:

“Our special envoy will listen to and learn from representatives from Muslim states, and will share with them America’s views and values,” Bush said in a ceremony honoring the 50th anniversary of the Islamic Center, a mosque and cultural center in Washington.

That could be a subtle way of saying, “See, this is how we do things here…”

From Whitehouse.gov site:

We have seen that friendship reflected in the outpouring of support Americans have extended to Muslim communities across the globe during times of war and natural disaster. Americans came to the aid of the victims of devastating earthquakes in Pakistan and Iran, and responded with urgency and compassion to the wreckage of the tsunami in Indonesia and Malaysia. Our country defended Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo after the breakup of Yugoslavia. (Applause.)

Not too much Muslim solidarity about that war, huh!

Forgot to comment on this line in the post below:

Media crackdowns have become a routine, and most of the public is only exposed to governmental airwaves, which often accuse critics of being ‘jews’ and ‘faggots’.

So much for those great Jew lovers that Albanians keep promoting themselves as. Though I guess as far as the “Jew” comment goes, you’d really only be offending 10 people in that country.

Speaking of which, I wonder why the Jews of Albania felt they needed to be airlifted out of there after communism fell?

An Albanian intellectual named Erion Veliaj has the following post on Huffington Post, whose managing editor recently informed me he was not interested in this subject (at least from a conservative):

Washington Shouldn’t be Fooled by Albania’s Euphoric Welcome of President Bush

(Tirana, Albania) - When US President George Bush visited Albania earlier this month, my little Balkan country made international headlines for the first time in a very long while…

But here’s what the press didn’t report: our government, led by Prime Minister Sali Berisha, has abused this relationship with Washington, using it as cover to shore up his increasingly tyrannical rule. Today’s Albania is the closest European resemblance to Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela. With seemingly unconditional US support, Berisha is slowly undermining respect for human rights and democracy.

Media crackdowns have become a routine, and most of the public is only exposed to governmental airwaves, which often accuse critics of being ‘jews’ and ‘faggots’…Berisha talks about progress and reform, but these are euphemisms for cracking down on the independence of the judiciary, redistributing private property, solidifying his grip on secret services and stacking the public administration with hardcore supporters of his Democratic party irrespective of their competence. He has used so-called anti-corruption legislation to purge the government of opposition and has even gone as far as taking control of leisure institutions such as the Albanian Football Federation.

Redistributing private property? Good thing the Albanians stood up against Communism, huh? (FYI: Defeating communism, as usual, wasn’t the end game, but that’s how it was sold to the West — so that we’d help advance the actual end game of a Greater Albania, which we’re still doing.)

There are no McDonalds or ClubMeds in Albania, and not because we oppose globalization. On the contrary, we welcome it — but businesses here are constantly harassed, extorted and shut down if not found favourable with the ruling regime. Tourist resorts, gas importers, detergent producers and telecom operators are being strangled to close shop under pressure of the financial police.

This is not the first time Berisha has acted to curtail fundamental democratic freedoms in Albania. In the 1990s, he was our president (politicians in this part of the world don’t retire — they reincarnate) and he proved very adept at jailing his political opponents, shutting down newspapers and stacking the security services with party loyalists.

Back then, Washington viewed Albania as critical in its effort to contain the conflict in the former Yugoslavia by putting a lid on Albanian support for their restive brethren across the border in Kosovo. So long as Berisha did not fan the flames of nationalism, Washington turned a blind eye to his autocratic tendencies.

This policy came back to bite the United States, however, because Berisha’s government became so corrupt and abusive, that it eventually imploded. In 1996-97, a string of fraudulent pyramid investment schemes collapsed, bilking tens of thousands of people out of their lives’ savings. They took to the streets and demanded his resignation, but not before they raided the country’s armories. Many of these weapons they looted eventually wound up across the border in Kosovo, provoking yet another war in the former Yugoslavia — stopped only by a $45 billion NATO intervention. Exactly what the US wanted to avoid happened.

Washington learned the hard way what the costs are of turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuses. America should be reminded of its past mistakes. We Albanians would be grateful if Washington would remember the principles and values that so many of us have come to admire about the United States of America.

Ready for the punch line? Here it is in the first comment (and subsequent ones) to his post:

Dude, you must be paid a pretty penny by the Serbs,or Greeks to talk like that about Albania, its political past and future under Sali Berisha or any other Albanian leader. You should be ashamed calling yourself Albanian…

May God protect Erion Veliaj as his group does its important work. But still I have to point out that even a breakthrough Albanian like this has his limits, as seen in his response to the negative comments to his blog post:

Many of us worked with refugees at the border, helped the relief efforts in Kosova [sic] proper in 1999-2001, and are still working with civic movements there to attempt to accelerate the process of independence and keep Kosova [sic] intact. Which unity is this hurting?

Why is even this Albanian on board independence — and independence without border compromises at that — especially given what he says next:

Shouldn’t we in Albania fix things here first, before trying to ‘export’ our despotic regime elsewhere?

Cameron Diaz apologized for wearing in Peru that olive green bag emblazoned with a red star and the the Mao slogan “Serve the People”. The AP report noted that “in Peru the slogan evokes memories of the Maoist Shining Path insurgency that fought the government in the 1980s and early 1990s in a bloody conflict that left nearly 70,000 people dead.”

It’s pretty funny that she picked one of the only non-commie/non pro-commie Latin-American countries to wear a commie bag in. Almost anywhere else south of the border, it wouldn’t have caused much of a stir. This was her apology: “I sincerely apologize to anyone I may have inadvertently offended. The bag was a purchase I made as a tourist in China and I did not realize the potentially hurtful nature of the slogan printed on it.”

Excuse me?

It was just a “purchase as a tourist — in China”? And…she didn’t know that China is a communist totalitarian country? It takes a world traveler to be this dumb.

I read an excerpt in a book once where a good Croatian who was imprisoned in Jasenovac because he was horrified with the Ustashi crimes asked an Ustashi guard “Don’t you know that you are going to burn in hell over what you are doing?” The guard replied: “Yes, but I am going to burn for Croatia!”

Hey, western Pennsylvania is loaded with good Croatians who emigrated here before WW One, and had nothing to do with the Ustashi crimes. The problem is that about one in 10,000 will turn on their community’s self-perception by openly saying anything judgemental about the Ustashi or what they did. When it comes to Croatian crimes, mum’s the word, they are always the good guys — which of course just encourages more crimes because it does not dissaude the killers.

Re the Croats that were Partisans (what a choice: fascists or communists), they all switched at the end of WW Two, when the end was in sight and the victory of the Allies clear and inevitable. Tito immediately promoted them to top ranks to create the illusion that his army was pan-Yugoslav, and they then used their positions to continue their anti-minority policy. The entire archives of the Ustashi and the Nazi gold was captured by Serb partisans at the end of the war (out of desperation the Serbs in Croatia mostly became partisans while the Serbs in Serbia mostly stayed in the royal army) — the next day it was gone. Ended up in the Vatican. Who gave that order? Tito? The Croats around him?

Mosha Pijade, the only Jewish person who was a top leader in Tito’s partisans suggested that the Serbian parts of Croatia be given their own republic separate and free of Croatia to reward them for being the bulk of the fighters in the partisan army against the Nazis. Tito shut him up at the meeting and a week later Pijade was dead of a mysterious “heart attack”.

My family in the old country remembers listening to Croatian emigre radio broadcasts from the west telling the Ustashi to join the communists and get in to every position of power that they can, and then to wait for the day that they can achieve their goals again. Meanwhile, they did not do such a bad job of achieving these goals as they waited: they divided Serbia in three so that rump Serbia was smaller than Croatia (despite having three times the population); in the 1950s they reworked the borders to take away Vukovar from Serbia and to make sure that Croatia gets the Danube river; they took stratigically important Prevlaka from Montenegro; they banned Serb regugees of 1941-45 from returning to Kosovo; they pursued the policy that a weak Serbia means a strong Yugoslavia therby stifling Serb grievances; they kicked out half a million Italians from Dalmatia and made sure that both Slavonia and Dalmatia were swallowed up in Croatia, etc…., etc…. The Croats did the same thing after the First World War — switch sides at the very end to avoid reparations and punishment, but continue your goals.

Re the Ustashi song and the River Drina: I once heard a song being played on a Croatian radio show in Chicago where they were LITERALLY saying “we will cross the Drina, plunge the Serbs with our knives, and make their bloody dead bodies float in the Drina.” I guess the FCC does not speak Croatian.

Scientist Implicates Worms in Global Warming

Jim Frederickson, the research director at the Composting Association, has called for data on worms and composting to be re-examined after a German study found that worms produce greenhouse gases 290 times more potent than carbon dioxide. (Worms are being used commercially to compost organic material and is in preference to putting it into the landfill.)

So here all this time we’ve been trying to have a global outlook on global warming, to see the big picture, when all we needed was the worm’s eye view.

A death threat from Mostar, Bosnia:

name = ustasha4ever
comments = fuck you you bitch….burn in hell….no one likes us but we dont care….the poglavnike is the best…if you have something against us…come to craotia and we will kill you…fucking bitch!!!

No, the problem is that no one knows enough about Croatia to dislike the Ustashas. That’s why I’m shining a light on this under-reported phenomenon. Meanwhile, here’s a death threat from Amsterdam:

name = Alqaida
email = alqaida@alqaida.org
comments = We are going to kill you

For some reason the “al Qaida” one came along with all the letters responding to my recent Croatia posts, so I don’t know what to make of it. But my question is: How have I offended the Nazi/Ustashas of Croatia? If they are what they are, then I haven’t given them anything to object to, and they should be proud of my publicizing their activities. There is nothing in my posts to offend a proud Ustasha. But if all the angry letters are coming from the non-Ustashas of Croatia, then Croatia has an even bigger problem than it knows.

I must say, America’s name is dragged through the mud every day, and by people in every country. But it doesn’t elicit death threats from nationalistic Americans.

I did hear from a kind lady named Eva in Ivanic Grad, Croatia, but she was in denial that Thompson harbors Ustasha sympathies, despite his remake of a 1942 Croatian Nazi song glorifying the extermination of Jews and Serbs. “Please, do not present the whole Croatian nation as fascists!” she continued. Regarding the Nazi nostalgists, she added, “That is a disease we are dealing with. If you are, like us, unsatisfied with behavior on this concert, try to help us, not attack us.”

Eva, I am a blogger/opinion writer. The way I help call attention to issues is to shine a light on them, so that there can be greater public scrutiny than there currently is. Countries don’t become healthy if the world remains unaware of what happens there. That is the very reason that Croatia’s Nazi sympathizers are more mainstream than they are in other countries. Recall this letter from Svetlana, describing how Croatian POWs released from Serbia were welcomed to Croatia as “Ustashas” by a leading Croatian official; and recall this criticism of the Jasenovac exhibit. I am helping Croatia, Eva.

And of course I know there are good Croatians; many Croatians were killed as Partisans in the Ustasha camps. And that’s why I was surprised to hear from some of their children and grandchildren after writing my original Baltimore Sun article in January — complaining that I was exposing Croatia instead of emphatically nodding their heads. As Betsy Lalich — president of the Serbian-Jewish Friendship Society of America — wrote me:

If my grandparents had stayed in “Lika”, now part of Croatia, they would have been tortured and murdered like the families and friends they left behind, some in mass graves. All by their “good” Croatian Ustasha neighbors. And yet there WERE some true good folk too.

Meanwhile, let me once again call attention to the storm that is caused when someone points a finger of blame for Balkan troubles at someone other than Serbs. It’s very interesting that this isn’t acceptable, whether we’re talking about Albanians, Croatians or Bosniaks.

I must offer my apologies that I can’t read every letter, much less print and respond to each one (I’ve only read about five out of the 50 or so I received this weekend). However, I do plan to return to the subject of Croatia, especially since people keep asking me to address what happened in Vukovar. The next few weeks will be tied up with Kosovo, however, and I am on deadline for that.

Muslims open first prayer site in Athens

Immigrant groups on Friday opened the first formal Islamic prayer site to operate in Athens since rule by the Turks of the Ottoman Empire ended more than 170 years ago.

Plans by Greece’s government to build a mosque for tens of thousands of Muslim immigrants living in the capital have stalled, so businessmen in Arab countries financed the downtown cultural center.

Plans to build a mosque in Athens have been unpopular, because of their association with centuries of rule by the Ottoman Empire, which ended in 1833 after a long rebellion…

So until last week, there hadn’t been a mosque in Athens since the time of the Ottoman Empire — which lasted from 1299 to 1922.

There’s a song playing in my head — “Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1299!”

Hey, when I signed up for embracing this multi-culturalism thing, I didn’t know it included time travel. Somebody, please stop this ride — I want to get off!

Oh, here’s more of that song:

I was dreamin’ when I wrote this
So sue me if I go 2 fast

But life is just a party
And parties weren’t meant 2 last

War is all around us
My mind says prepare 2 fight

Yeah, everybody’s got a bomb
We could all die any day
But before I’ll let that happen
I’ll dance my life away

Two thousand zero zero party over
Oops out of time
Yeah, Yeah
So tonight we gonna, we gonna party like it’s 1[2]99

Yeah, 1[2]99
Don’tcha wanna go
Don’tcha wanna go…

In reference to the banner the girl below is holding, there is apparently a similarly titled old Ustasha song called “Spustila se Gusta Magla” ( “A Dense Fog Descended”). Herewith, a loose translation, courtesy of Nebojsa Malic:

A dense fog descended on Zagreb,
It was no dense fog above Zagreb,
It was the brave army of the Poglavnik (the “Fuehrer”, Croatian President Ante Pavelic).

Poglavnik, gather up the army,
And lead it to bloody battle to Drina (border between Bosnia and Serbia).

Poglavnik gave them the name, brave Ustashe,
That is the army defending our homes.

A dense fog descended on Kupres (majority-Serb Herzegovina town which the Black Legion terrorized in the ’40s),
It was no dense fog above Kupres.

Their leader was knightly Boban, a real Ustasha (Black Legion commander Rafael Boban).
Under the mosque he shouts, a brave Ustasha. (Probably a reference to the Bosnian Muslims who served in the Black Legion.)

Poglavnik named them the Black Legion.
It was a brave army, the Black Legion.

Meanwhile, a letter from a Croatian gentleman today, named Kresimir:

Julia i don’t understand your hate towards Croatia and Croatians. i will tell you this YOU WILL NEVER SPLIT US APART AND JUGOSLAVIJA WILL NEVER BE AGAIN AND IF IT EVER COMES BACK AS JUGOSLAVIJA I WILL BE THERE TO DESTROY IT….worry about your JEWS killing innocent palastinians and causing the wars in Iraq and Lebenon and soon Iran…

Bog I Hrvati (”God and Croatians”)

This is almost too easy.

I’m not sure whom he thinks I’m trying to split apart, but it’s funny he used the word “split”. Because Split, Croatia, is where a new acquaintance of mine was vacationing and found — displayed casually amid a bunch of travel books for sale — a copy of Mein Kampf:

It was summer 2002, and I was in Split, Croatia, a pretty and popular European vacation destination, and I passed by a small book stand selling many books that seemed geared toward the tourists all around, but unlike similar stores on Khao San Road (backpacker street in Bangkok), the proprietors of this Croat travel bookstand felt their customers should want to read Mein Kampf.

Similarly, in a September 1999 article titled “Nazi Nostalgia in Croatia,” Balkans expert Diana Johnstone wrote:

When I visited Croatia three years ago, the book most prominently displayed in the leading bookstores of the capital city Zagreb was a new edition of the notorious anti-Semitic classic, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. Next came the memoires of the World War II Croatian fascist Ustashe dictator Ante Pavelic, responsible for the organized genocide of Serbs, Jews and Romany (gypsies) that began in 1941, that is, even before the German Nazi “final solution”.

However, if the Croatian fascists actually led, rather than followed, the German Nazis down the path of genocide, that doesn’t mean they have forgotten their World War II benefactors. After all, it was thanks to Hitler’s invasion of Yugoslavia that the “Independent State of Croatia” was set up in April 1941, with Bosnia-Herzegovina (whose population was mostly Serb at the time) as part of its territory. And the hit song of 1991, when Croatia once again declared its independence from Yugoslavia and began driving out Serbs, was “Danke Deutschland” in gratitude to Germany’s strong diplomatic support for Zagreb’s unnegotiated secession.

In the West, of course, one will quickly object that the Germany of today is not the Germany of 1941. True enough. But in Zagreb, with a longer historical view, they are so much the same that visiting Germans are sometimes embarrassed when Croats enthusiastically welcome them with a raised arm and a Nazi “Heil!” greeting.

So it should be no surprise that this year’s best seller in Croatia is none other than a new edition of “Mein Kampf”. This is not a critical edition, mind you, but a reverently faithful reproduction of the original text by that great European leader, benefactor of Croatian nationalism and leader of the Third Reich, Adolf Hitler.

The magazine “Globus” reported that “Mein Kampf” is selling like hotcakes in all segments of Croatian society. For those who want to read more, there is a new book entitled “The Protocols of Zion, the Jews and Adolf Hitler” by Mladen Schwartz, leader of the Croatian neo-Nazi party New Right, and “Talks with Hitler” by the Fuhrer’s aide Herman Rauschning, as well as various other memoires celebrating the Ustashe state whose violent massacres of Serbs shocked the Italian fascist allies and even German diplomatic observers at the time.

I was pondering what it is about Croatia that allows it to get away with — sometimes literally — murder (but in this case a 60,000-person concert full of people Sieg Heil’ing). Had this happened anywhere else, the mainstream presses would have picked it up and disseminated the information far and wide, and there would be a public outcry. So what is it that keeps Croatia’s crimes off the radar, I wondered. The obvious answer came to me in short order. This is all part of the “Balkan blowback” phenomenon. Meaning, if a light were shone on what the Serbs’ enemies have been up to, it could bring the called-for reexamination of 1990s events, but too many of those same presses have too much blood on their hands to allow that kind of reexamination to happen.

So if you are an enemy of the Serbs, it doesn’t matter what you do; you are immune to public scrutiny.

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