August 2013

Well this ought to give us some new insights into what now appears to have been a bit of projection by Funnywoman Chelsea Handler in 2011, when she ripped into Serbian defense minister Dragan Sutanovac not only for his Serbian name, but for daring to do what everyone else including Handler was doing at the time — criticizing tragic but out-of-control singer Amy Winehouse. When the Serb dared to join the party, he was condemned for his Serbness by Handler — and reminded of his nation’s collective guilt for a fictitious genocide of Muslim soldiers.

Last week on Tuesday the Handler episode of Lisa Kudrow’s celebrity genealogy show — “Who Do You Think You Are?” — aired, and according to Kudrow was a favorite among TLC executives and staff.

In addition to the pandemic American ignorance on matters Balkan, and the rarely-thinking entertainment industry’s lockstep with politics and media on that score, the half-Jewish Handler appears to have had two additional disadvantages keeping her from ever becoming that one in a million who gets a clue on the Balkan wars. Between the German soldier in her and the Jewish sucker ( ‘Well if someone says they’re undergoing a holocaust, then they must be’), the poor girl didn’t stand a chance.

As the report below notes, it isn’t clear if Handler’s grandfather supported Hitler, or simply went along to avoid a suspicious eye falling on his own family (and subsequently he was OK with his daughter marrying a Jew), but what we have here is yet another example of that cosmic phenomenon I’ve written of before, in which the pursuit of German supremacy and Serb-revulsion finds its way almost supernaturally into even the most disconnected German blood, wherever it may be residing.

The review by Yahoo! TV’s Caroline Kepnes is surprisingly substantive, pinpointing the episode’s tone-deafness, conflicted-ness, and non-substantiveness:

Hey, TLC: Hitler Is No Laughing Matter For Chelsea Handler (Yahoo! TV, Aug. 7)

Witnessing Chelsea Handler’s awkward pursuit of intelligence regarding her grandparents’ Nazi ties on TLC’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” made for a strange, crowded hour of television that left us uncomfortable and emotionally jet-lagged.

…Nazi history is wacky stuff for Chelsea to riff on! Hey, TLC: Pick. A. Tone.

It starts out okay, with Chelsea talking about being Jewish and German and having many siblings and being raised Jewish. Chelsea maintains a wry perspective on her Jewish heritage, making fun of her background (and all backgrounds) on her E! talk show “Chelsea Lately” and in her comedic memoirs.

In the book “Lies that Chelsea Handler Told Me,” for example, one of her “Chelsea Lately” writers notes that it’s not a “productive morning in the writers’ room” if Chelsea hasn’t “made a 9/11 or Holocaust joke (and I’m talking about the Jewish Holocaust, not the Armenian Holocaust).” She will joke about anything, really, and it’s unclear whether she’s holding back here for personal or professional reasons.

…Her grandfather, who fought for Germany in WWII, had a green book with a swastika on top — yes, a swastika — and her grandmother kept memoirs that remain untranslated…Suddenly…you have to tread lightly when you talk swastikas, and now Chelsea’s in Germany learning that her grandfather worked for a very enthusiastic Nazi. There’s [also] a half-baked lesson on Hitler’s genius job-creating skills[,] and subsequent racism and hatred. It’s just too tone-deaf. You can’t dissect the cultural impact of Adolf “I exterminated Jewish people” Hitler in a tiny segment.

Chelsea looks strained during a stilted conversation about the odds of her grandfather being a hater. How could she not? This isn’t chit-chat about vodka and one-night stands; this is, you know, HITLER. Slow. It. Down. This isn’t “The Amazing Race to the Concentration Camp,” TLC. Shame on you for rushing a girl as she tries to process her roots…

Anyway. Historians are pretty sure that her grandfather probably wasn’t a full-blown Nazi. Given his unremarkable record as a solider and evident disinterest in his swastika book, it seems that he kept his mouth shut and went with the flow for the sake of his family. Chelsea is bemused by his noble reticence, given that she is famous for what she calls “a big mouth.” Ah, levity.

But not for long. The Americans storm the beaches of Southern France, and Chelsea’s grandfather is taken overseas to America as a POW. The historian reminds Chelsea that back then, the Nazis warned soldiers that Americans would castrate them and use their bodies for science projects. Chelsea remarks what a long and horrifying boat ride that must have been for her grandfather. Yep.

She’s all smiles, though, upon seeing a picture of her granddad one month into his time in Iowa. He looks fuller in the face, happier. (Producers: Can we see the photo too? Why cut so fast?) And no wonder. POWs were well-fed and and encouraged to have active private lives. Chelsea even spots her grandfather in the orchestra pit of a musical production in the POW camp.

Hitler put us in a bad mood, and we have to complain: “WDYTYA” needs more humanity — photographs of the elders, participant living relatives — and fewer rushed, generic quickie “educational” sidebars.

After talking about wretched conditions in Germany pre-Hitler, Chelsea remarks: “You can almost see why people got behind Hitler and supported him. I mean you can’t really blame them.” Take a hint, TLC. That’s your cue to delve into her grandparents’ day-to-day life. Show us their life instead of steamrolling forward.

We get it when Chelsea deadpans upon returning to the States, “From the south of France to Iowa, I’m such a lucky girl.” We feel ya, girl. That was a bumpy, poorly navigated ride and we’re queasy…

A shorter item, from Times of Israel: Grandpa’s Nazi past shocks Jewish star

…In the episode, Handler, who was raised Jewish by her Jewish mother [sic: father] and non-Jewish father [sic: mother], confronted the dark secret her “very, very big, strong” German grandfather, Karl Stoecker, had avoided discussing for years — his Nazi past and role in the Holocaust.

“My German grandma definitely spoke about her life during the war way more than my grandfather did,” said Handler. “He never spoke about it.”

The 38-year-old comedienne discovered during the episode that before immigrating to the United States, her grandfather had been interred in a POW camp for years, probably in Montana. Prior to that, discovered Handler, he’d served as a Nazi soldier in Hitler’s army during World War II.

“When he went back to Germany, he was very eager to come and take his family and move them back to the United States,” said Handler.

Handler, who was raised in New Jersey, became emotional and broke down during the episode as she struggled to reconcile her Jewish upbringing to her grandfather’s Nazi past.

“My grandfather served in the Second World War as a soldier. Whether or not he agreed with Hitler, he was serving in the Germany army,” she said.

“My father, I guess, made a deal with my mother when they had children that they were gonna be raised Jewish. So I connect with my Judaism, or the Jewish side of my family, more than anything else.”

One thing we’ll never know is if her grandfather was eager to move the family to the U.S. for the usual reasons — better life, family reunification, America representing the opposite of Nazi Germany — or because he had inside information that the U.S. was fixing to usher in the Fourth Reich. (Fighting communism having been merely a positive byproduct of our post-WWII fascism-friendliness, apparently, and ultimately just a pretext.)

The sentence about Karl Stoecker being in a prison camp “for years” is also of interest, as this reminds us that the POWs were at the disposal of the U.S. government for debriefing, so as to gain information helpful in its rivalry with the Soviet Union and other European countries. So, he and the other German POWs would have been very useful to a government in the early stages of becoming the next Reich.

I’m not sure what is meant by POWs being “encouraged to have active private lives,” but clearly for the WWII Germans we imported — a lot more than just the “scientists” we supposedly “needed” — Washington’s arms were wide open. Such that, eventually, German priorities became priority in Washington, with the U.S. by the 1990s spearheading foreign policies that were originally spearheaded by Germany.

Some photos from the UK Daily Mail:

Lost in time: A historical family photo shows Karl and Elizabeth Stoecker, Handler’s maternal grandparents

Cold hard facts: A historical document shows a photo of Handler’s grandfather being processed for unclear reasons

Dear diary: Handler examines a notebook emblazoned with the Nazi swastika that purportedly belonged to her grandfather

Although I ultimately took a measured tone about Handler’s tasteless anti-Serb diatribe, defending the comedic aspect of her bit, my visceral reaction was, “Who the hell does she think she is?”

Well, now we know. And so does she.

Maybe henceforth she’ll be more careful about tossing collective ‘genocide’ guilt around, particularly if her grandpa, an actual Nazi soldier, might not be guilty in what was an actual genocide.

I recently wrote this piece for “Blueprint,” a website geared toward Jewish singles and run by New York Jewish Week. It’s an interview about a new play called “Einstein,” whose official Off-Broadway opening in New York is tonight, August 12th.

As often happens when I stray from the subject of the Balkans, the Balkans finds me in whatever seemingly unrelated task I’m doing. And so it was that in the course of the interview I discovered that Einstein’s first wife was Serbian. This may be old news to some Serb readers, but her name was Mileva, and somewhere out there are two Serbian sons of Einstein (Mileva had them baptized Orthodox).

But I need to dwell for a moment on this confounding pattern in which every time I try to do something to branch out, something mentally and professionally constructive, something in tune with my pursuits before Kosovo and Bosnia took over my life, or even something recreational, the very diversion harkens back to the Balkans. Below are a few examples.

In 2007, when the producer of the hit Fox show “24″ asked me to try out for the writing staff of his conservative version of “The Daily Show” (”Half Hour News Hour”), I thought it would be a good idea to at least rent the first season of “24,” so I wouldn’t be going in completely ignorant of producer Joel Surnow’s credits. I spent the week before my (ultimately unsuccessful) trip to L.A. watching the first season of “24,” which starred Kiefer Sutherland.

And what do you think the first season was about? Well, Sutherland’s character, the maverick CIA agent (”CTU” in the show) Jack Bauer, faces off with an old nemesis from…Kosovo. Naturally, a Serbian “war criminal,” played by Dennis Hopper and now plotting terrorism in America. So there I was, trying to get away from the Balkans by focusing on comedy writing, and yet being somehow dragged back in. (While unavoidably losing a bit of respect for the show.)

Then there was the time two years ago, when we put a small TV in our bedroom and I did something I never do: watched TV in bed before going to sleep. I turned on a Tru-TV program I’d never watched before, “Hardcore Pawn” (about a pawn shop in Detroit), and who walks into the pawn shop on the day I decided to watch? An Albanian making a scene and getting kicked out, professing the greatness of his Albanianism on the way out.

Earlier this year I changed gyms. The blonde, blue-eyed lady from Kansas who was signing me up asked what I did for a living. I told her “nothing,” as I was a blogger on a rather specialized issue that no one wanted to be reminded of and rarely paid anything for. She asked what it was and as I was assuring her it would be of no interest to her, I said it had to do with the place where jihad had its first modern victory in Europe: the Former Yugoslavia. At which point she told me her family background was Croatian and her grandfather went to art school with Hitler. (He became a stone mason and went on to build cathedrals.)

Another time, in the fall of 2010, I went to do a comedy in a variety show at a local theater. The Monday night show was run by a drag queen, who after your set would come up on stage with you and have a conversation so as to let the audience know more about you, and to promote your website or whatever other shows you had going on. But I told her and the audience that my site had nothing to do with comedy, but rather the Former Yugoslavia, and professed that the Serbs were framed. (It was a bit more verbose and funny than that.) Somehow the juxtaposition of comedy and the Balkans worked, and I was a big hit. Two acts later, a young magician came up on stage and said he could turn on a light bulb that was contained in a Ziploc bag, by sheer force of will. It was a tribute to his inspiration, Nikola Tesla, a name he introduced the audience to that night for the first time. I couldn’t believe Tesla’s name came up at a drag queen’s variety show, and — emboldened by the free drink I’d consumed by that time — I stood up and yelled, “SERB! He was a SERB!” The audience snickered at the Yugo-obsessed comedienne yelling from the audience.

Then there was last September, when we traveled to Baltimore for my husband’s cousin’s daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. The reception took place at a popular Russian night spot called Europa, which always had the “newer” Russians for waiters. But by 2012 there wasn’t a Russian to be found among the wait staff, most all of them Hispanic now. One waiter in particular seemed to take a liking to me and paid special attention to me (which I’m not used to anymore since gaining a thousand pounds after marriage). He spoke softly, so I couldn’t make out his accent, and was trying to figure out if he was also from a Latin-American country, or if he was the last vestige of the days of Russian waiters at Baltimore’s Russian restaurants. Only as we were leaving did I venture to ask where he was from, and he answered, “Serbia.” He was the only Serbian waiter there, and he happened to be assigned to the bank of tables where I was seated.

I was thinking about these weird coincidences last week as I walked my dog, when we came upon a puddle that looked like Kosovo.

My dog drinking Kosovo

Kosovo may be 95% Albanian, but this albino is leaving Kosovo.

OK, so maybe that one was a stretch (my geographic memory isn’t good). But the next day I was watching History Channel’s classier version of “Hardcore Pawn” — “Pawn Stars,” about the Gold & Silver pawn shop in Las Vegas — when lo and behold, a man walks in with a framed poem written in Nikola Tesla’s hand, alongside a photo of him. I was surprised to learn that Tesla is a hero to shop owner Rick Harrison, and to actually hear some of the dirt (on a mainstream TV show) on how Edison screwed over and stole from Tesla. The American and the Serb. A tale which itself is a microcosmic parable for the dynamic between the two countries. There was one thing Rick said that I would adjust, however. In trying to convey the greatness of Tesla’s mind, he said, “He was like an Einstein.”

As the actress I interviewed about the “Einstein” play told me: “Einstein’s science was big and rather singular, and from his science sprang many different major discoveries and understandings of the physical world. But his one contribution, if you set it aside, was rather limited in and of itself.”

Tesla, on the other hand, was infinite. The compliment would have been more proper in reverse.

But Einstein did well to mix his Jewish genes with Serbian ones. Consider that somewhere out there could be a future Einstesla. Or Teslastein.

Bosnian MP arrested on suspicion of war crimes: report (FOCUS News Agency, July 19)

Bosnia’s state security agency on Friday announced the arrest of a Muslim member of parliament suspected of war crimes against ethnic Serbs during the Balkan country’s civil war, local media said, cited by AFP.

Semsudin Mehmedovic, whose SDA party represents the nation’s Muslim majority, is suspected of abusing ethnic Serbs as a police chief and making arbitrary arrests during the 1990s conflict, a spokeswoman for the agency told local media.

The crimes allegedly took place in 1992 and 1993 in Tesanj, 150 kilometres (93 miles) north of the capital Sarajevo, when Mehmedovic was the town’s police chief, spokeswoman Kristina Jozic said.

A probe into the case began last year, and three other suspects are still being investigated, she said.

Mehmedovic has been a member of parliament since 2006. […]

This is an interesting arrest. Why now? What’s — literally — the deal? After all, this is a big honcho, who is well known for infiltrating Bosnia with radicals, getting them weapons through Croatia, and being Bosnia’s al-Qaeda hook-up. Just look at this blog’s previous mentions of him:

[W]ell-known figures associated with the political and security apparatus, such as Siladzic and hard-liner Semsudin Mehmedovic, were nurturing the Wahhabis — and aiding foreign Islamic terrorist groups in Bosnia. In 1996, while police chief in Zenica, Mehmedovic was charged by the New York Times of “having sheltered foreign Islamic fundamentalist fighters, of crushing moderate Muslim political forces and of fostering hatred between Muslims and Croats. According to Galijasevic, Mehmedovic remains “the chief of al Qaeda in Bosnia….

“Mehmedovic was the man who signed off on marriage licenses for Jihad fighters who came to Bosnia and got married off with local Muslim women.

“According to Michael Sells citing Washington Post’s reports back in 1996, ‘The U.S. government, if it were serious about enforcing the Dayton accords, could simply ask its close friends in Kuwait and Riyadh to stop supporting extremist fundamentalist[s] like Mehmedovic who are trying to destroy the Dayton agreement and establish what would be an Islamic ghetto in the heart of Europe.’”

Maybe that’s what finally happened, 17 years later, the belated “war crimes” charges being just the pretext to get rid of him? Shedding some light on all this:

CIA, MUJAHIDEEN AND SDA IN CAHOOTS (Serb Republic News Agency, Aug. 2)

During and after the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, El Mujahid unit commander Abu Mali was an operations liaison of Šemsudin Mehmedović of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA)…claims counter-terrorism expert Dževad Galijašević.

Galijašević told Srna that throughout the war Abu Mali had been supplying information to an Islamic group in San Diego, California about the course and goals of the war.

He says that this piece of information, as well as the fact that pilots who participated in the 9/11 attack were trained not only in Germany, but also in San Diego, became known after a press conference of the director of the National Security Agency, Army General Keith Alexander.

Galijašević claims that NSA confirmed on Thursday the findings and information that the Southeast Europe Expert Team…had constantly been delivering to security agencies and the public.

He says that Mehmedović kept his operations liaison – Abu Mali – under the title Vazal (vassal). When the Mujahideen commander learnt about it, he was insulted because, according to Galijašević, vazal means “a servant of the occupying forces” and not “a servant of God.”

Galijašević notes that the first Mujahideen arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina thanks to Mehmedović who brought them to the village Jablanica near Tešanj, and that Mehmedović also cooperated with Sheikh Abel Aziz Barbarossa, who was charged with an attack on a residential complex in Dhahran in Saudi Arabia in 1996, in which 372 people were wounded and 19 were killed.

Galijašević noted that in the war, Mehmedović helped many Mujahideen to meet the requirements for BiH citizenship by facilitating their marriages with local women.

“He also hosted the infamous terrorist group from Roubaix in France. One of its chiefs Christophe Caze Abu Velid took a photo holding a cut-off head of a Serb at Crni Vrh near Tešanj, for which case an investigation into Mehmedović is underway,” says Galijašević.

Abu Mali is [a] citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina even today and lives at the address of the Presidency of BiH. He was granted citizenship under one of his 170 doubtful names by that or a similar institution, says Galijašević.

His previous address was at the Spanish Embassy in Sarajevo, he claims.

Abu Mali, that is to say an Algerian by the name of Abdelkader Mokhtari, got his BiH citizenship under the name of Khalid Ibn Abdullah, who is of Kuwaiti descent, as did Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, who was the first accused for the 9/11 attacks. Galijašević says that the two are listed one after the other in the BiH citizenship records.

Abu Mali later changed his name to Halid Ćatić and then held a position of an attaché with the BiH diplomatic mission to the UN under the name of Safet Abid Ćatović.

The only problem, according to Galijašević, is the fact that during the war in BiH, CIA used the services of Abu Mali and that now the agency cannot talk about the nature of that relationship.

The US also knew that Mohamed Atta, the main operative of the 9/11 attacks, held BiH citizenship and that one year before the attack, he had spent six months in Bočinja near Maglaj.

In the surveillance scandal, NSA proved that it had been aware of those data, which its director himself disclosed.

Galijašević says that General Alexander had definitely confirmed the connection between Khalid al-Mihdhar and the so-called group from San Diego, where Mihdhar took pilot training, and that in a subsequent replay of his calls they learnt about the cell in which BiH citizen Adis Medunjanin was placed.

“That was how a terrorist attack on the New York subway was prevented and thanks to that, the group was arrested and convicted together with Medunjanin, as claimed by the NSA director,” explains Galijašević.

The 9/11 report that was made in 2004 in over 500 pages and adopted by the US Congress mentioned Bosnia and Herzegovina only twice, stating that Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar participated for some time in the Bosnian war and that the US had had intelligence about it.

“We learnt from the NSA press conference on Thursday that the Americans had known about the role of [wartime Bosnian president] Izetbegović’s nomenclature and the Mujahideen and terrorists the whole time,” stated Galijašević.

In less political Bosnian-Muslim-arrest news, a chap in Vermont turns out to have — gasp — lied on his U.S. entry application:

Bosnian in Vermont accused of lying about war crimes (Burlington Free Press, July 26, 2013, By Mike Donoghue)

An immigrant living in Burlington is facing federal charges for lying to immigration authorities by denying involvement in war crimes during the conflict in Bosnia….

Edin Sakoc, 54, committed war crimes against a civilian Bosnian Serb family 21 years ago, according to the two-count indictment unsealed Friday.

Sakoc, a Bosnian Muslim, is accused of raping a Serb woman in July 1992, aiding in the killing of two elderly people she was caring for and burning down the house they were staying in, court records show.

The three victims, after their home was destroyed by military fire, moved to live in the house of a nearby Bosnian Croat family in July 1992.

Sakoc and an unnamed co-conspirator removed one of the victims from the home against her will, the indictment said. It said Sakoc then assaulted and raped her before taking her to the Dretelji prison camp.

Later that night or early the next morning Sakoc and the co-conspirator returned to the home for the other two victims. The indictment said once inside, the co-conspirator, “aided and abetted by Sakoc, shot and killed Victim-2 and victim-3.”

Sakoc and the co-conspirator then burned down the home and also took the bodies outside to burn them, the indictment said.

Authorities say Sakoc lied when he applied for refugee status in March 2001 and for permanent residence in the United States by denying any past crimes or persecution…He became a permanent legal resident about March 2004 after filing more paperwork, including answers denying any past crimes.

Sakoc applied in the district of Vermont to become a naturalized citizen of the United States in February 2007, the indictment said. He was required to file various forms and swear to their accuracy.

Sakoc became a naturalized citizen of the United States in September 2007.

If Sakoc is convicted on either criminal charge, he is subject to having his naturalization revoked, according to the indictment. […]

The item above illustrates a point made here repeatedly, starting with the killing spree in Salt Lake City by Sulejman Talovic, whose father too lied on his immigration application: How many more of these “innocent refugees” do we have here, who have lied about their war records? Separately, I love how people get to be “refugees” from wars they started.

An update to the story appears below, with thanks to Liz (who also found that according to the indictment, the unnamed co-conspirator who helped the Muslim rape, kill and burn three Christian-Orthodox women was a Croat).

Bosnian immigrant charged with lying about alleged war crimes (NBC News, July 26, 2013)

A naturalized U.S. citizen living in Vermont pleaded not guilty Friday to charges that he lied on his citizenship application about gruesome war crimes he is accused of having committed 21 years ago during the Bosnian war.

The grand jury indictment, which was unsealed Friday in U.S. District Court in Burlington, alleges that Sakoc, a Bosnian Muslim, kidnapped and raped a Bosnian Serb woman and abetted the killings her mother and aunt in July 1992 — only three months into what would become a 3½-year bloodbath….

That’s not what he’s charged with, however. The indictment formally charges him with two counts of failing to disclose the alleged crimes….

The Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia in March 1992. The next month, armed conflict broke out between Bosnian Serbs and a loose coalition of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats. The conflict spread to other former Yugoslav republics… [Notice here the MSM-uncharacteristic presentation of the chronology: Rather than writing of “Serbia” or “Slobodan Milosevic” ’setting off’ three wars, the first thing to have happened was BiH declaring independence. At which point armed conflict “broke out.” That is, the sentence is missing a clearly identified instigating culprit for a subject. Could this mean that, as Western journalists learn more about the wars they covered 20 years ago, they’re being belatedly…cautious…in how they word things?]

…Sakoc assaulted and raped the woman and took her to Dretelj, a nearby prison camp where Bosnian Serbs were tortured or killed during the war, it says. A few hours later, Sakoc and his partner returned to the home, where the unnamed second person shot and killed the woman’s mother and aunt, the indictment alleges. They then burned the women’s bodies and torched the house, it says.


An Examiner company blogger, Jim Kouri (”Law Enforcement Examiner”) noticed the story, and — though it’s not the first time these independent ‘examiners’ have impressed on the Balkans — used some surprisingly strong victim language not usually associated with Serbs. Note also the un-minced declarative sentence under the photo (which at the URL appears when you click on an arrow in the picture):

American Muslim discovered to be wanted war criminal (The Examiner, July 27)

The United States actually supported Muslim terrorists who fought the Serbs in Bosnia.

…his participation in the persecution of Bosnian Serbs during the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The federal indictment alleges that in July 1992 Sakoc abducted, kidnapped, tortured and raped a Bosnian Serb woman and aided and abetted the brutal killing the rape victim’s elderly mother and aunt.

“While President Bill Clinton’s administration and his media sycophants painted the Serbian military as war criminals and supported the Croat and Muslim sides in the conflict, we later discovered the Muslims were as brutal and merciless as — if not more brutal and merciless than — the Serbs,” said crime and terrorism analyst Bradley Schreiber.

[Mr. Schreiber, where’ve you been? Please speak up a bit more often.]

The suspect also allegedly aided and abetted arsonists involved in torching the victims’ family home.

The Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina assisted the federal investigators in locating and capturing a man they claim is a ruthless war criminal. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center also assisted the FBI in this investigation.

I got the following letter last week:

Dear Julia,
…I was in Kosovo in 2012 for a period of 6 months with Italian Army (I’m Italian Reserve Officer) and I just can say that what I/we saw there is some kind of “science fiction”! My English is not so good to explain or to describe what I mean. An example, once I was talking with an Albanian man and he told me that all the Orthodox churches are Albanian, not Serbian, and that in reality the construction of the churches in Kosovo is Catholic style, not Orthodox (he wasn’t an architect or an arts expert!) Then, I realized what they want to do — to eliminate the spiritual, moral and historical relation of the Serbian population in Kosovo and Metohija with their tradition, religion, churches, everything. It’s terrible. […]

Indeed, we’ve visited that theme many time before — about de-Serbifying the ancient Serbian monasteries, with tourists being told “Kosovo monasteries” and “Kosovo” culture and “Kosovo” history where Serb things are concerned. (Though the more agenda-honest Albanian above does one better, skipping right over the “Kosovo” part and going straight to “Albanian,” Kosovo’s final destination.)

Relatedly, last month Nebojsa Malic emailed me a choice paragraph from Daniel Greenfield’s blog Sultan Knish:

Conquered peoples were expected to become Muslims. Those who resisted were repressed as Dhimmis. But those who submitted and became Muslims suffered a much worse fate, losing major portions of their traditions and history. They were expected to define themselves as Muslims first and look back to the great day when their conquerors subjugated them as the beginning of their history. Their pre-Islamic history faded into the mists of the ignorant past.

Nebojsa asked rhetorically, “Does this not fit two groups of Muslims we know?”

He’s referring, of course, to those “non-Muslimy” Albanians and Bosniaks, the latter a fictitious nationality made up mostly of Serbs whose families caved in generations ago.

To underscore the main point here, in reference to the lands that Albanians have had their eye on, that paragraph could easily read:

Conquered peoples were expected to become Albanian. Those who resisted were repressed as Dhimmis. But those who submitted and became Albanians suffered a much worse fate, losing major portions of their traditions and history. They were expected to define themselves as Albanians first and look back to the great day when their conquerors subjugated them as the beginning of their history. Their pre-Albanian history faded into the mists of the ignorant past.

And so we have Turks, Jews, Roma, Serbs and others in Kosovo who have “Albanized.”

Here NATO assists Kosovo’s remaining indigenous population and original religion to accept its second-class existence, as its traditions and history are repackaged. And the North Atlantic Council hopes the natives understand they need to be happy about this “bold” “progress” they’ve made in coming to terms with their fate in the hands of their conquerors, as they begin their Newborn Kosovo history.

(Worded otherwise: “The Secretary General [Anders Fogh Rasmussen] welcomed the landmark agreement on normalising relations between Belgrade and Pristina. ‘This is a very important step. I congratulate all those who helped to make it happen…The future of this region lies in moving forward…’ The Secretary General made clear that NATO and KFOR will continue to guarantee security in Kosovo and remain ready to deal with any attempts to undermine the progress that has been made…The Secretary General also led a visit of the North Atlantic Council to the Patriarchate of Pec…[and] repeated his commitment to the security of the monastery and its religious community, and stressed the progress achieved in the process of transfer of the guarding responsibility of special cultural and religious heritage sites in Kosovo.”)

“I hope the Serbian government will realize that the Serbs in Kosovo are treated with respect as a minority, and that it will in time help Kosovo separate.” — George W. Bush, 2008

Continuing with last week’s Kosovo Corruption theme, I meant to post a recent update to this story:

Former UN official presses $1 million demand (AP, Oct. 12, 2011)

James Wasserstrom says he was fired from his U.N. job in Kosovo, detained briefly at the border, had his apartment in Pristina searched and was humiliated by “wanted posters” posted at the U.N. mission after he reported suspicions of corruption.

On Wednesday, Wasserstrom will ask for $1 million in damages in a high-profile test case of the U.N.’s new court system for employee issues. It replaces the secret, delay-plagued system that legal experts in 2006 called “dysfunctional” and critics said heavily favored U.N. management.

Under a whistleblower protection policy signed by then-Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2005, all U.N. employees are to be offered protection from retaliation.

But Wasserstrom, a U.S. citizen, says his job with the U.N. Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo was eliminated in 2007 after he reported on colleagues he suspected were taking kickbacks from local officials in the energy sector.

He says he was briefly arrested by U.N. police and his office was searched and taped off for months while the mission investigated him for what it called conflict of interest, after Wasserstrom signed a consulting contract to start after his U.N. job ended.

While the U.N. Ethics Office said the treatment of Wasserstrom “seemed to be excessive,” it said it found no evidence that the actions against him were retaliatory. [Of course not!]

Wasserstrom’s attorney, Mary Dorman, said it took several years to obtain many of the documents she needed. “The S.G. fought it all the way,” she added, referring to current Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Wasserstrom’s case is the most high-profile test of the new U.N. Dispute Tribunal…its hearings are open and its decisions are binding on U.N. senior officials, including the Secretary-General.

Wasserstrom worked for the U.N. for 25 years. While the U.N.’s Office of Internal Oversight Services was investigating his suspicions about his colleagues, the U.N. mission in Kosovo announced what it called a long-planned elimination of his position, Dorman said.

Wasserstrom seeks more than $1 million for lost wages, compensation for defamation and mental distress.

“What happened destroyed his U.N. career,” Dorman said.

So a man works for the UN for 25 years, apparently without incident. Until he gets assigned to Kosovo. And he meets his career’s end…in Kosovo. Gee, what is it about Kosovo? First, this means that a lifelong UN worker/believer has witnessed something in Kosovo that he hasn’t in the rest of the corrupt UN’s assignments for him. Second, it means that — as we know — everyone else is playing ball in Kosovo. And if you don’t, you stick out. Third, the nature and commitment of the retaliation seems to have surprised — and scared — the man. (And, as we’ll see below, shocked a judge in its unprecedented fierceness.) What is it about Kosovo? It’s of course also interesting that the first high-profile test case of the UN’s new internal tribunal has to do with Kosovo. And, again, what is it about Kosovo that has even the Secretary-General’s office not cooperating?

UN whistleblower asks US to withhold UN payments (AP, April 13, 2013)

A United Nations whistleblower who won his case alleging corruption in the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Kosovo but received only 2 percent of the $2.2 million he sought in damages and costs asked the U.S. government Monday to withhold 15 percent of its payments to the global organization.

James Wasserstrom, an American citizen, alleged corruption involving senior officials in the U.N. peacekeeping operation in Kosovo in 2007 and was awarded $65,000 by the U.N.’s Dispute Tribunal last month. He is now a senior anti-corruption adviser at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

Wasserstrom told a news conference Monday that he was sending a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and key Senate and House lawmakers asking that they implement the 2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act requiring a 15 percent withholding of U.S. funding if an organization does not take steps to implement “best practices” to prevent retaliation against whistleblowers.

In the letter to Kerry, Wasserstrom said he was the lead anti-corruption officer at the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Kosovo in 2007 when he received reports of misconduct and corruption involving three top U.N. officials as well as officials in the Kosovo government.

“The corruption allegations involved a 10 percent kickback scheme to a Kosovo minister, to be shared with a senior (U.N. peacekeeping) official, for awarding a contract to a favored bidder,” he said. “The amount of the payoff was $500 million.”

Wasserstrom said he collaborated on an investigation with the U.N.’s Office for Internal Oversight Services or OIOS, the agency assigned to combat internal corruption.

When senior U.N. colleagues found out about his whistleblowing, he said, “they took drastic retaliatory action” — closing his office, abolishing his post, searching his home without a warrant, seizing his property and putting up “Wanted” style posters at the gates of all U.N. buildings to restrict his entry. He said false charges were also made against him, leading to a Kosovo criminal investigation which ended quickly with no charges and a U.N. administrative investigation which cleared him of wrongdoing.

Wasserstrom told Kerry the U.N. peacekeeping mission also leaked news of the investigations to the local and international media “defaming me and doing serious damage to my professional and personal reputation.”

In June 2007, Wasserstrom said he sought whistleblower protection from the U.N. Ethics Office, which commissioned a full investigation by OIOS. The agency called the actions against him “extreme” and “disproportionate” but found no evidence of retaliation. As a result, he said, his whistleblower protection ended in April 2008, and seven months later he was terminated, ending a 28-year U.N. career two years before retirement.

Wasserstrom then went to the U.N.’s Dispute Tribunal saying the Ethics Office and OIOS failed in their responsibilities.

In June 2012, Judge Goolam Meeran upheld his complaint, ruling that he was subjected to “wholly unacceptable treatment” and “appalling” acts in violation of the rule of law and human rights. The judge ordered a hearing on damages.

Wasserstrom asked for $2.2 million for losses in wages, benefits and pension as well as mental distress, defamation, damage to his professional reputation and violations of his rights.

In a March 15 decision, Meeran said “the tribunal finds it difficult to envisage a worse case of insensitive, highhanded and arbitrary treatment in breach of the fundamental principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” He also said that “as an institution charge[d] with the responsibility of uncovering acts of retaliation the effectiveness of the Ethics Office leaves much to be desired.”

Wasserstrom was awarded $65,000.

“This is not justice,” Wasserstrom told reporters Monday. “It is a travesty, and what a strong message it sends to whistleblowers: Even if you win, you lose. You will be worse off than if you had not come forward at all. And for retaliators, don’t worry. There are no consequences for you.”

Wasserstrom said the U.S. should encourage the U.N… “to take steps to implement best practices in whistleblower protection before that time.”

Asked what the chances were that Congress will agree to withhold the U.N. funds, Wasserstrom said, “I’m optimistic because I think the evidence is indisputable.”

Not all of us are so optimistic. After all, complaining to the U.S. about Kosovo Corruption is a bit like complaining to a mafia enforcer about the Godfather.

And let’s not even get into the irony of appealing to Kerry about something concerning Kosovo. Kerry is the establishment, and it was at his 2004 Democratic Convention that the KLA’s Hashim “The Snake” Thaci was an invited guest. Not to mention Kerry’s campaign being financed by the KLA to begin with.