October 2007

Nope, no Greater Albania to see here, Folks…move along…

Ethnic Albanian judges in Macedonia’s highest court resign over flag dispute

SKOPJE, Macedonia: Two ethnic Albanian judges in Macedonia’s highest court resigned on Tuesday to protest a recent ruling by the court on the display of national flags in restive Albanian-dominated areas.

Constitutional Court president Mahmut Jusufi and judge Bajram Polozani claimed political motives were behind the court decision, which was condemned by ethnic Albanian leaders.

The Constitutional Court ruled last week that the Albanian national flag cannot be flown on its own on public buildings in areas dominated by the ethnic Albanian minority — which accounts for a quarter of Macedonia’s 2 million people.

In a measure aimed at easing ethnic tensions in a country that came close to full-blown civil war in 2001, Macedonia’s parliament in 2005 granted ethnic minorities the right to display flags of their choice — beside Macedonia’s official flag — on public buildings. The law applied to areas where minorities make up at least half the population.

But in many Albanian-dominated areas only the Albanian flag was flown.

The leaders of Macedonia’s two main ethnic Albanian parties expressed “outrage” at the court ruling and called on their mayors in 16 municipalities to ignore it.

Macedonia, a tiny Balkan country that gained bloodless independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, has implemented dozens of reforms aimed at guaranteeing equal rights for the ethnic Albanian minority and Macedonian majority, as part of its bid to join the EU and NATO.

A six-month conflict in 2001 between government troops and ethnic Albanian rebels killed some 80 people.

Two ethnic Albanians and an ethnic Turk judge sit on the court, as Macedonia’s constitution ordains that one third of the judges must represent ethnic minorities.

“Laura Bush forcefully dismissed conservatives who attacked her for wearing a Muslim headscarf during her visit last week to the Middle East” on Fox News Sunday.

The first lady responded, “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me…[T]hey saw this as giving me a gift from their culture.”

Actually, the gift from their culture was four commercial jetliners crashing into the Pentagon, the Twin Towers and a Pennsylvania field.

I will say that I told them that I had always felt like they were closed to me, that I wouldn’t be able to reach them because of the way they’re covered, and one of the women said to me — she said, You know, I may be all dressed in black, but I am transparent.

And what they were saying to me is they want to reach out. They want American women to know what they’re like. And these women do not see covering as some sort of subjugation of women, this group of women that I was with. That’s their culture. That’s their tradition. That’s a religious choice of theirs.

No. Their religious choice is making the rest of us wear the shmatta. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Nazi sympathisers host US band Final War

MELBOURNE’S Croatian community is under fire for hosting a rock concert for neo-Nazi skinheads, publishing anti-Semitic material on the internet and naming a building after fascist Croatian dictator Ante Pavelic.

The Melbourne Knights Soccer Club yesterday launched an extraordinary attack on its social arm, the Croatia Social Club, for hosting the October 13 concert by groups that incite violence and attacks against Jews and other minorities.

“I am deeply disturbed that the good reputation of our football club has been tarnished by the social club’s incompetence,” Knights chairman Matt Tomas said.

The concert at the Knights’ North Sunshine complex was headlined by US neo-Nazi band Final War .

The band describes itself as “defenders of the Reich”, and its songs boast: “We fight Jews”.

Australian skinhead band Fortress also played.

Its song, Parasites, urges repatriation of immigrants: “If they don’t f..king like it, it’ll be in body bags”.

The concert was organised by the Australian chapters of neo-Nazi skinhead groups Blood and Honour and Southern Cross Hammer Skins.

Group members in the US and Europe have been convicted of assaults, bombings and murders.

Anti-Semitic messages from the Knights’ Croatian fans are posted on the Knights Army Forum website.

One posting says Jews would “sell their mothers for a dollar”.

Melbourne campaigner Cam Smith said anti-racism activists alerted the Knights to the nature of the concert several hours before it started.

“As soon as we found out, we contacted whoever we could at the Knights through phone numbers on their website,” Mr Smith said.

“They weren’t interested. One of their people asked one of our people if he was a dirty Jew.”

Mr Tomas said he did not know who was attending the concert, but he would investigate Mr Smith’s claim that Knights members were contacted, adding: “I don’t associate with that sort of scum. I’m utterly disgusted about this.”

Mr Tomas said the concert was approved by the Croatia Social Club, a separate legal entity to the football club.

Contacted by The Weekend Australian, social club manager Catarina Malacic denied the event was held. “There was nothing on at the venue that night,” she said.

Later, club committee member Ivan Skunca confirmed the premises were booked for a concert, but said the club did not know who made the booking.

“It was a mistake. Perhaps we had an obligation to check these people out and we didn’t.

“We apologise for that.”

B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission director Manny Waks said he was disturbed the concert was held in view of links between the Croatian community and neo-Nazi elements.

Mr Waks said the Croatia Club — a separate entity to the Knights’ social club — had ignored Jewish protests against the naming of its Footscray hall after Ustashi Nazi collaborator Ante Pavelic, who was responsible for the slaughter of 700,000 Serbs, Jews and Gypsies.

In Saudi Arabia, it’s Halloween all year ’round!

Check out the Cancer ribbon. Hey, what’s with the decadent pink trimming on the left? She’s asking for a whooping.

Don’t laugh. I’ll bet she’s hot without the glasses.

While touring a haunted house, Laura gets a lecture on how the torture chair for infidels works.

Here’s a visual test to determine whether you’re a positive or negative person. Which shape do you discern better? The positive, or the negative? (Didn’t the one on the left star in “The Ring”?)

Laura finally gets into the Halloween spirit, with a costume sewn especially for her.

And here’s me in my Halloween costume:

I can’t wait to scare the neighbors on Halloween. “Have some candy, infidel chil — Wait, where are you going?”

These photos were actually taken on the Bushes’ current trip to Riyadh, where Laura helped launch a “screening facility in Saudi Arabia Tuesday as part of a U.S.-Saudi initiative to raise breast cancer awareness in the kingdom.”

You mean breasts are legal in Saudi Arabia?! I thought they circumcised those off too.

Bush’s trip to Saudi Arabia, her first to the oil-rich kingdom, is part of a regional tour that aims to highlight the need for countries to share resources and unite in the fight against breast cancer. She was greeted by Prince Faisal bin Abdullah, the king’s son, who is honorary president of the Saudi Cancer Society.

Yup, “Saudi Cancer Society” pretty much sums up Saudi Arabia.

Bush visited the Abdul-Latif cancer screening center, the country’s first, where she met with Saudi women affected by breast cancer…Dr. Samia al-Amoudi, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in April, spoke about the pain she felt when her 10-year-old daughter asked her if she would one day be stricken with the same disease.

She said she told her daughter “hopefully you will be able to tell your children there was once a disease called breast cancer that killed women…”

I thought it was called Islam.

Al-Amoudi said many of the hurdles in Saudi Arabia are not medical. For instance, until recently, it was widely considered socially improper to refer to the disease by name in the kingdom, she said.

Ah, breasts aren’t illegal in Saudi Arabia; only mentioning them is.

“People would refer to breast cancer as ‘the bad disease’ or ‘that disease,’” said al-Amoudi. “But today, when we talk to the highest levels of authority or are speaking in front of all kinds of media about this issue we name the disease for what it is: breast cancer,” she added.

Now if only we could do the same for Islam.

WND publisher Joseph Farah was good enough to rebuke Vox Day for his column last week, which I’d blogged about. I’ll quote the parts that are relevant to my criticisms:

…But Vox Day gets even sillier when he writes that “the Israel lobby’s petulant demand for a third Middle East war, this time in explicit defense of Israel rather than U.S. national security, already has the potential to severely divide America’s Jews from the rest of the country, Christians and non-Christians alike.”

Since I, an Arab-American Christian journalist have occasionally been accused of being a part of this phantom “Israel lobby,” perhaps I am disqualified from offering an opinion. Yet, it seems to me that Jews in America and Jews in Israel are risking their necks to avoid war at all cost — even to the detriment of world peace!

In Israel today the misguided leadership is, once again, at the demand of the U.S., offering to slice and dice its country up in appeasement to terrorism. Yes, Israel has a formidable military, as Vox Day later acknowledges. Israelis could use it to impose their will on their enemies — but they don’t! And neither is the so-called Israel lobby in America asking the Jewish state to do that — with the possible exception of yours truly, an Arab-American Christian journalist.

And certainly no one — least of all me — is asking the U.S. to meddle in Israel’s affairs or fight its battles.

Vox Day’s column gets even meaner and uglier when it turns, in my mind, nearly threatening — blaming the victims of anti-Semitism and hatred for bringing it all upon themselves: “America is still quite friendly towards Jews, but the incessant attacks on Christianity by the likes of Deutsch, Forman and Abe Foxman have grown increasingly tiresome. Given this irritating behavior, and the historical fact that Jews have worn out their welcome in literally dozens of countries over the centuries, it is the height of foolishness for a small number of misguided individuals to demand that 80 percent of the American population remain silent about the tenets of its religious faith.” [Farah’s emphasis]

Jews wore out their welcome in dozens of countries over the centuries? Show me one place they were ever welcome? Again, the Christian Bible Vox Day reads, along with me, explains quite clearly the Jewish Diaspora would have a trying experience in which the Jews received no welcome. That’s the way God planned it — not the[y]. (See Jeremiah 24:9)

To his credit, Vox Day concludes amicably enough — explaining there is no reason Christians and Jews in America shouldn’t get along. He also shows he, too, believes in God’s eternal covenant with the Jewish people, explaining Israel “has the Lord God of Israel on its side.”

Let me go a step further. Not only is there no reason Jews and Christians in America shouldn’t get along. There is every reason they must. We have common enemies in the world. Christians are commanded in their Bible to bless the nation of Israel — which means the Jewish people. And American Jews should recognize that other than the Lord God of Israel, American Christians represent their best friends and most important allies.

KFOR tanks in Serb’s garden

KFOR troops yesterday searched the garden and house of Aleksandar Jovanović in the village of Bresja near Kosovo Polje.

At about 6 p.m. they cordoned off the road in the village, said KiM radio from Čaglavice.

Jovanović’s son Radoslav told the radio station that KFOR soldiers turned up in their garden at about 2 p.m., though later reinforcements of a further six or seven tanks arrived.

According to unofficial reports received by radio KiM, the KFOR troops searched the house for illegal weapons.

Kosovo Police Service deputy spokeswoman Sabrije Kamberi was unable to confirm whether a house search was involved, and added that the police had no information regarding the operation.

While we don’t have any facts of this particular case, following is a likely explanation for what just happened here. When I was in Israel recently with the American Council for Kosovo, the group’s director Jim Jatras told me the following about how cleansing works in Kosovo: When Albanians in a given village suspect that a Serb home may have weapons in it, they firebomb the house. They then call police or KFOR to come and investigate. Generally KFOR arrives and handcuffs the occupants while searching for weapons. If weapons are found, they are confiscated and the Serbs are released. The Albanians then know for sure that the house is unarmed (or disarmed), and is safe to ransack and burn — and that the Serbs will most likely leave at that point. This is how they have been cleaning out Serbian neighborhoods. Supposedly, Jim told me, only the Serbs of Mitrovica aren’t sitting ducks, and still have arms. That would be the Mitrovica which Rep. Dan Burton recently singled out as the place where, not coincidentally, “most of the remaining Serbs enjoy relative security.”

A few months after Jim told me this, I began reading Hiding Genocide in Kosovo. The method Jim described started in 1999, the year of our invasion. From page 15:

Miomir’s diary notes that when a Serb house ws attacked or damaged in an explosion, KFOR would come and search the damaged house. This had become an everyday routine…KFOR continuously detained Serbs from the village [of Cernica] after searching their houses. One US KFOR officer admitted to one of the Serbs from the village that KFOR was following up on allegations by Albanians from the village against their Serbian neighbours.

On July 22, 1999, two hand grenades were thrown into the yard of Milosrad Simic, one exploding and the other later being removed by KFOR. Soon after, KFOR raided the houses of two Serbs Svetislav and Milivoj Spasic. They damaged their properties and forced the family members, including five children ranging in age from three months to four years, to wait outside their house from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. while they were allegedly searching their houses for weapons…

As July turned into August the attacks continued; gun attacks, bombs, theft, destruction of property. Still, KFOR only arrested Serbs and on occasions even arrived at Serb houses to carry out raids accompanied by Albanians from the village. The sound of rocket propelled grenades smashing into Serb houses became a nightly chorus in the village of Cernica throughout the summer and early autumn of 1999.

In his 2006 article Behind Kosovo’s Facade, Russell Gordon describes a similar picture:

The northern Kosovo city of Mitrovica is particularly instructive. There, the town is divided by the Ibar River into a multi-ethnic North, and a “pure” — cleansed — Albanian South. In the predominantly Serb North, 4000 ethnic Albanians, plus Roma, Bosnian Muslims, and Croats live side by side with Serbs in relative normalcy — as they had during the times of Tito’s Yugoslavia…

Moreover, Serbs in the North suffer insecurity due to provocations and raids by Albanians who cross over from the South to bomb, knife and shoot Serbs with impunity. Recently, a 16 year old Albanian youth crossed over from the South and threw a hand grenade in a multi-ethnic café, wounding several people. He was arrested, but soon liberated. And while UN and NATO troops stage frequent raids of Serb houses to confiscate the last vestiges of arms for self-defense, few such operations are undertaken against the heavily armed Albanians.

On that last point, here is another paragraph from my former source soldier’s final letter:

We’ve rarely had an occasion where a Serb has had in his or her possession a weapon or bomb making materials, but the Albanians will stock pile weapons as if war was coming tomorrow. And their excuse is always the same — “self defense”. Honestly, do you need a mortar tube and a few dozen rounds to protect your family from a thief? Or a belt fed machine gun? A bazooka? I used to believe they did this to protect themselves from the Serbs, but the more I think about it, they’re drawing a bead on us with a finger slowly caressing the trigger.

Back to Mitrovica. Here is how author Chris Deliso described the scene to me in an email:

about 80,000 Albanians looking interestedly across the river at 10,000 Serbs… not good. Still, the latter could hold their own given that 1) they had weapons 2) NATO didn’t forcibly stop them.

But this latest weapons search by NATO happened to a Serb home in Kosovo Polje, according to the dateline in the first news item above. Unlike the Serbian stronghold of Northern Mitrovica, Kosovo Polje proved a simple task for NATO to help cleanse. Here is how that went, again from Hiding Genocide in Kosovo:

In the course of the cleansing of Kosovo Polje, it is interesting to note that KFOR actually mapped the progress of the cleansing; they produced maps showing each house in Kosovo Polje marking each with a colour denoting ethnicity. The first map for April 2000 shows very clearly that the majority of houses were inhabited by Serbs, with Albanians in the minority. Six months later by September 2000 the map showed a completely different pattern with Albanians in the majority. The map of 2003 shows the process was almost complete. By 2004, the mission was accomplished. The markers indicating where the Roma households were, have also vanished. These maps were given to me by a priest who was forced to flee his church and house in Kosovo Polje and he in turn received the maps from a Norwegian KFOR soldier.

The first KFOR contingents to arrive in Kosovo Polje were British; the MILAN platoon of the Irish Guards and a contingent of the Green Howards Regiment. The latter were led by Major Simon who was to become notorious among Serbs for his blatant antipathy towards the Serbian population. Later Norwegian KFOR took up position in Kosovo Polje. KFOR employed several interpreters, both Albanian and Serbian, and some of the Serbian interpreters shared their experiences with me.

One Serbian interpreter recalls that he often accompanied the British soldiers on their patrols. He noticed that the British soldiers swallowed everything they were told by Albanians, especially in the beginning. Right away he began to notice a pattern. He realised at an early stage in that summer of 1999, all the Albanian interpreters suddenly appeared with mobile phones, a rare site in those days. None of the Serbian interpreters had such luxuries.

The strategy was simple: a British KFOR unit would leave their base planning a routine patrol or in response to news of an incident and then one of the Albanian interpreters would phone and tip off the perpetrators. Other tactics employed by the Albanians were equally simple but effective.

An Albanian who wished to take possession of some Serb house would start by provoking the Serb owner. This harassment could last a few days or even weeks but it would culminate in British KFOR arriving at the scene just in time to arrest the Serb who may or may not have had a gun in his possession trying to defend his property. Another tactic was to falsely accuse a Serb of stealing some household item. In due course, British KFOR would search the Serb’s house until the owner could provide some documentary evidence that he or she had purchased the item in question. Who at the point of a gun can find a receipt even if they kept it in the first place? This apparently did not seem out of place to KFOR.

The above type of provocation ended in many Serbs just packing up and leaving. It was obvious to Serbs by then that the Albanians wanted their property. However, there was one young British army lieutenant who tried to address the issue in particular by creating a mechanism by which the rightful owners could return to their property. He drew up a plan to create a list of who the rightful owner of each property was and allow the return of only the people from the list. But he was not supported by his superiors. In actual fact he was transferred to another location and his plan was never implemented.

The Irish Guards were seen by the Serbs as more neutral than the Green Howards. For instance, on one occasion they stopped a car coming from Pec which was occupied by two men in UÇK uniform, although officially by then the UÇK was supposed to have been disbanded. The British found a rocket propelled grenade launcher with several rockets under one of the seats of the car and confiscated them. They even forced them to remove their uniforms and sent them back to Pec driving away in their underwear. Incidents like these inevitably meant that the Irish Guards unit was withdrawn from Kosovo Polje soon after. One source explains there were some good officers and soldiers in the Green Howards unit, trying to act objectively, as did the Irish Guards. However, some were totally partial and pro-Albanian and regarded the Serbs as their enemy from the very beginning. In general, Norwegian KFOR were seen as more impartial or at least less anti-Serb than their British counterparts.

One source began working with KFOR in June, 1999. His job as an interpreter meant he went home twice during the first month and a half to his house in the town and during that time he experienced many incidents. He remembers that one of the Albanian interpreters working with the British was particularly vociferous in her propaganda campaign against the Serbs. She really tried to poison the minds of the KFOR soldiers against all Serbs. She was having an affair with one of the senior Green Howards officers and was obviously in a position to influence procedures. Ironically, this interpreter was a member of the family that had opened the Albanian separatist café in the 1990s where the owner had actually worked for the Serbian secret police.

As is often the case, the children of people like this have to prove themselves and show they are more extreme than anyone else.

KFOR H.Q. seemed to be unaware of what was really going on in Kosovo Polje. Major General Dannett on 18 June, 1999 told international journalists at a briefing:

“Further out beyond Pristina itself, out in the Kosovo Polje area, the Green Howards Company is doing good work amongst the Serb civilians in that area to try and reassure them.”

This does not tally with what [was] actually happening on the ground. For instance, one of the houses that the British army commandeered as a barracks belonged to a Serb living just off the main street that runs through Kosovo Polje. It was later used by Norwegian KFOR. At least the Norwegians paid him rent money. The British contingents, regardless of how long they occupied the house, paid no rent; and to add insult to injury left without paying a telephone bill of more than 6,000 Deutschmarks (€ 3,000). Ironically, one of the British soldiers, then Sergeant Major Steve Bennet, placed a picture in the regiment’s newsletter posted on the web which showed members of the platoon proudly posing outside the house, above a caption which stated that: “We have just liberated this house”.

The fact that this family had lived for generations in this area seemed, in the excitement of the moment, to have escaped the minds of the liberators. It begs the question: who were British KFOR liberating the house from? Because since June 1999, this family has been subjected to the most horrible existence at the hands of the UÇK; they have spent the last years watching their neighbours disappear one by one; they have seen their Health Centre burnt to the ground, they have seen their church destroyed; they have very limited freedom of movement and they are trying desperately to hold on to their property and dignity until the end. Like myself the reader might well wonder whom Sergeant Major Steve Bennet was liberating the house from and for whom?

On one rare occasion the interpreter witnessed the arrest of an Albanian man armed with an AK-47 and two Molotov cocktails while walking through the town of Kosovo Polje, in the vicinity of a Roma house that just happened to have been set on fire half an hour earlier. He was released shortly after his arrest due to lack of evidence.

As one source explains, the Serbs had very few guns to defend themselves with and those they had were kept in the house or some place nearby where they could be obtained quickly. At this stage Serb households expected an attack at any time. Thus, British KFOR searching houses for guns usually found them inside a Serb house. They almost never found them in Albanian houses because, not expecting to be attacked themselves, and usually being informed beforehand of searches by the Albanian interpreters, they could afford the luxury of hiding them more securely such as burying them in the garden. In just one case, that our source is aware of, following the report of shots fired, two rifles and some grenades were found in the gravel pit outside an Albanian house.

The cosy relationship between most of the British KFOR contingent in Kosovo Polje and their Albanian interpreters meant that whether they were aware of it or not, British KFOR were being used by the Albanians to help them ethnically cleanse the town and its surrounding villages. On numerous occasions, an “anonymous” Albanian would report that there were weapons in a specific Serbian house. Very soon afterwards, British KFOR would search that house and remove any offensive items, but later that night the Albanians would know the house was now “clean”, and the house could be torched, usually the same night. In such circumstances most Serbs decided to leave.

Every Serb detained by KFOR in those days would end up in jail, often with no charges. A Serb man, who tried to defend his home against three armed Albanians, shot one of the attackers and was himself wounded on his doorstep. All four were put in custody, the Albanians being released the next day. The house was burned the same evening and the unlucky owner spent the next several years in Mitrovica prison without a court trial. In 2005 he was released without charges and left Kosovo. His house is now illegally occupied by the same Albanians who attacked him.

I’m Going to Miss this Place

As KFOR 9 [that’s the next NATO rotation, for those just tuning in] prepares to take over, we’ve been showing them around Kosovo and introducing them to the Serbian Soldiers with whom we work. It’s been a week of saying “goodbye” to friends I’ve made here — both Serbian and Albanian. I’m going to miss them all.

I have so much respect for the Serbian Soldiers with whom I have been working this past year. They are true professionals, and we’ve developed friendships that I hope will last well beyond my rotation here. We’ve learned a lot about one another. We’ve done a lot together — patrols, joint recons, meetings and investigations. I think we’ve taken a gigantic step forward in not only making the region more secure, but also developing a partnership between our two militaries.

From what I can see, politicians may do their thing. Their decisions are many times stupid and self-serving. And we in the military are obligated to implement these decisions.

Recall what a difficult concept this was for Nicki to grasp just a short two months ago. It seems like just yesterday she considered this notion to be equal to “slamming the troops”, “misrepresenting the Soldiers”, “attacking” the troops, saying the soldiers “aren’t doing their jobs”, that they “don’t love America”, “insulting” the troops, “doing a great disservice to every Soldier who is serving here”, “shedding a negative light on the Soldiers”.

But we are Soldiers, and we have a bond that goes beyond politics and beyond the stupid decisions of self-serving politicians by virtue of being military professionals.

No, Kosovo is not completely violence-free yet, but I think we’ve left this a better place for KFOR 9, and I’m pretty proud of that.

She should be. Leaving places better than they were is the American way and, in contrast to some earlier rotations, KFOR 8 represented that. Nicki herself leaves Kosovo a better and more informed American.

I’ve met Serbian Soldiers who deliver potable water and provide aid and medical care to villagers along the Administrative Boundary Line, regardless of the fact that they happen to be Albanians. And these villagers are thankful and have a good relationship with the Serbian Armed Forces. I have met two Serbian Orthodox Priests, whom I am proud to call friends, Father Zvonko of Vitina and Father Dragan of Partes, who are both dedicated to God and peace for everyone, regardless of what they are ethnically.

That is the Serbian way. And the Serbian way is rooted in Christianity. Unlike those whom we favor over the Serbs. As Father Sava Janjic, whose Decani Monastery and two nearby churches repeatedly came under mortar attack in 2002 — said: “In this monastery we sheltered 200 Albanians during the [NATO] bombing period and organised humanitarian aid, which is something which even Albanians now recognise, though they are not ready to do anything for us now, when they are in a position to help.”

I’m likewise proud of the teachers at the Liria school in Lovce, who believe in teaching Albanian children how to be decent human beings and how to respect their fellow man no matter if he is Serbian or Albanian.

Indeed. Specifically Albanian children need to be taught “how to be decent human beings” and tolerance for those who are not of their blood. Though this is a lesson that all children need, most tend to internalize the fairly basic concept early on, and for life. Unfortunately, because of cultural and family influences, and as Nicki confirms here by correctly singling out Albanian children, Albanian children require some remedial training in this department.

These guys actually want to work with KFOR on developing a curriculum of civics for their kids, teaching them about human rights and unity among citizens of Kosovo! I think if people such as these are allowed to continue working for peace and cooperation, and KFOR continues to work toward apprehending criminals and ethnic armed extremists, things will eventualy be OK here.

Correct. Rule of law does not yet prevail in Kosovo. Ethnic armed extremists (a.k.a. jihadist/nationalist terrorists) still have free run in and near Kosovo — and local authorities still need KFOR to do most of the catching.

I can see the confusion and a bit of apprehension in the faces of our KFOR 9 counterparts. But the more we travel the region, the more comfortable they get with the area.

What could they be apprehensive and confused about? In Kosovo? Maybe, just maybe they’re confused about the U.S. position there, which makes the mission uncertain. As my source soldier put it in his last letter to me: “I talked to more people about all this, and they are legitimately worried. And as far as the next rotation coming, I’m worried that those guys will get hit hard and be caught in a mess.” Back to Nicki:

I hope they continue the good work we’ve done here. I remember how scared I was when I first hit the ground here, and how my heart pounded every time I left the wire. I remember how nervous I was the first time I met the Serbian Soldiers with whom I was to work. But the nervousness gave way to knowledge, understanding and relief. And I know KFOR 9 will adjust much like I did.

Indeed. Serbs are not the enemy. Though the U.S. has done everything in its power to make them so, kicking and shoving them into Russia’s arms which they didn’t seek while they did desperately try to be America’s pet over the past eight years, not Russia’s. This now unavoidable Serbian-Russian alliance will determine whether the Serbs stay friendly to the West.

I wish KFOR 9 luck here.

She can say that again. So let’s review our lessons:

* Serbian soldiers are not genocidal. (Recall partner Brad’s words from August that Albanians are “still a bit miffed about a plan of extermination carried out against them in 1999.”)

* Policies and our soldiers who implement them are two separate creatures. To impugn a mission, particularly out of concern for American soldiers, is not to impugn the soldiers themselves.

* Albanians often cleave toward supremacy and therefore may require specialized, extra training in tolerance.

* Criminals and terrorists are running around Kosovo where, additionally, rule of law as a concept still has a long way to go.

* American soldiers, particularly this next rotation, are imperiled.

* It’s not because of Serbs.

That pretty much sums up the crux of my American Legion article that caused Nicki Fellenzer and Brad Staggs to make an enemy of me.

As a sidebar, and to illustrate that indeed the Kosovo that Nicki and her fellow KFOR 8 soldiers, including my source, leave behind is superior to the Kosovo that we saw as recently as 2004, is this snapshot from May, 2003. Via Oslo, Norway’s Forum 18 News Service:

KOSOVO: No protection in capital for attacked Orthodox Church and Priest

Despite repeated requests for protection, including requests made personally two weeks ago to the KFOR commander, adaquate [sic] protection for a Serbian Orthodox Church and its priest in Kosovo’s capital Pristina has not been provided since the removal of KFOR guards at the end of 2002. Attacks have become frequent and on 10 May many church windows were broken. Parish priest Fr Miroslav Popadic told Forum 18 News Service that “I open the church gates only on Sunday mornings and on major holidays for the faithful to come to liturgy, otherwise, if someone comes to church without a call in advance I do not open the gates. When I visit local villages, I make the sign of the cross, sit in my car and drive fast at my own risk”. KFOR’s commander told Fr Popadic he “cannot give any more troops for the protection of churches”. No arrests have been made since for the attacks on Orthodox churches since 1999 and KFOR has not replied to Forum 18 News Service’s questions on this latest attack, or to questions about the security of Orthodox churches and monasteries.

“There have been various attacks on this church before,” reported Fr Popadic, the only remaining priest serving the once thriving parish. “On 27 December 2000 a hand grenade was thrown into the churchyard, causing minor damage. But people keep stoning my apartment regularly, since I live in the parish house in the yard.”

He said the grenade attack had occurred while KFOR troops were still protecting the church. During January, he reported, two police officers kept guard, one from the UNMIK police and the other from the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC), a local police force mainly made up of ethnic Albanians. He said that during February the church was guarded only by a single KPC officer, while for the last month and a half the church has had no protection at all. “No wonder the extremists are encouraged.”

“Bishop Artemije personally sent a written warning to international representatives in Pristina that KFOR should resecure the church and the parish hall,” the diocesan statement declared. “Regrettably, this appeal did not result in a favourable response.”…

Two weeks ago, in the wake of Bishop Artemije’s letter, KFOR commander Lt-Gen. Fabio Mini visited Fr Popadic, accompanied by police officers. “I complained that I am unable to walk freely even in the churchyard, let alone in the streets of Pristina, that often in the night from 9pm to midnight my apartment is stoned, and that there are fewer than 200 Serbs now living in the whole of Pristina,” Fr Popadic told Forum 18. “The police promised more frequent patrols, while General Mini told me we have to move forward and that he cannot give any more troops for the protection of churches.”…More than a hundred Orthodox churches have been destroyed or badly damaged in Kosovo since the international community took control of the province in 1999.

Thankfully, NATO, UN and other international organizatons today are devoting greater attention and resources to the safety of what’s left of Kosovo’s churches. At the same time, we shouldn’t kid ourselves; one must maintain a dose of cynicism as concerns all things Kosovo. It is not an accident that as status determination drew nearer, promising to shine a spotlight on the region for a little while, more began to be done to fulfill the international community’s obligations there and create some semblance of standards. Again, this in no way impugns soldiers, who behave in earnest regardless of policy — always ready, willing and able to help but not always able to, depending on the policy of the day.

Hopefully we stay true to our word and do not abandon these people should our policymakers achieve their obsessively-sought goal of independence for Kosovo.

Ponoš asks KFOR, UNMIK to identify ANA

Serbian Army (VS) CoS Lt. Gen. Zdravko Ponoš urged KFOR and UNMIK to say who masked gunmen appearing in Kosovo are.

“It is a job for the KFOR and UNMIK to determine who appeared in uniforms [of the Albanian National Army – ANA]. I believe they will determine that,” Lt.-Gen. Ponoš said in reply to a question on whether there had been contacts between the VS and KFOR, over the apparent resurfacing of the ethnic Albanian terrorist group.

But the chief of the Serbian army added that cooperation between the VS and KFOR is “very successful and on a daily basis.”

The reappearance of ANA terrorists in Kosovo recalls something that my erstwhile, anonymous source soldier had written in that last, unpublished letter:

I discovered that our ROE [rules of engagement] for what we call “competitors” is to break contact and report to “higher”. A “competitor” is someone that poses a threat to a safe and secure environment. Now when the ANA (Albanian National Army) made their appearance in the winter of 2006 [ANA is the KLA incarnation destabilizing Macedonia], KFOR soldiers were not dispatched to find them or do anything about them, even though KPS [Kosovo Police Service] had a shoot-out with those men.

Maher helps security kick out rowdy protester

Maher was talking science during one of his weekly panel discussions when a protester in his audience stood, held up a smuggled-in sign reading “9/11 is a cover up fraud” and shouted comments to the same effect.

The host tried to shout down the audience member, who only became more agitated.

When security reached the man’s aisle and he resisted leaving, Maher ran into the seats and helped them push him out the door, shouting “Out! Out! Out!”

Several other protesters, sprinkled throughout the audience, then stood up and shouted.

“This isn’t the Iowa Caucus, OK, we’re not here to debate,” Maher shouted with most of his audience cheering him on. “This is the problem with live television.”

After the instigators were ejected, Maher told his panelists — MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Los Angeles Times columnist Joel Stein and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson — that they often linger outside his studio to share 9/11 conspiracy theories with him and try to get into the show.

“It’s the only time I defend Bush,” he said.

Here is a video.

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