February 02nd 2012 07:09:40 PM
A few weeks before the congressional hearing on Kosovo — in which Rohrabacher suggested a land swap — there had been an op-ed by him in the Serb-reviling Wall St. Journal. It was written in a language I’ll call officialdumb, reading like a list of State Department talking points until the part where he proposes the land swap. I gave him too much credit in my blog about the hearing, saying that he gives some consideration to the Serbian side. He does not. His compromise suggestion is based simply on avoiding clashes:
A Balkan Peace Bargain (Oct. 18)
…Over recent months, those Belgrade-backed Kosovar Serbs have become increasingly aggressive and violent against the Kosovar government they refuse to recognize. The peace and stability negotiated between the region’s warring ethnic factions in the late 1990s is now at risk of falling apart completely.
(It’s peace and stability when only Serbs are in danger and getting picked off, mowed down, and bombed.)
On Sept. 27 the situation became even more urgent, when EU-sponsored talks between Serbia and Kosovo broke down. This came after four NATO soldiers and 16 Serb civilians were seriously injured in a struggle over the illegal barricades that Belgrade-backed extremists [sic] had erected throughout North Kosovo. The barricades are part of Serbia’s campaign to maintain the embargo on Kosovar products that it imposed after Pristina declared independence in 2008.
Such warning signs should not be ignored, not least because they threaten to unravel the orderly diplomatic strategy designed to resolve the conflict. Contrary to the peace plans of the 1990s, Belgrade has often repeated its intention to make the current de facto partition of North Kosovo a permanent de jure reality. This has fueled the violent factions currently operating in North Kosovo and could result in a repeat of the senseless killing sprees that the region thought it had left behind.
(Or, at least, which Rohrabacher thought it had left behind. Then again, he was paid good KLA money — including with guided trips to Kosovo — to not notice.)
…The first step should be for the international community to admit that while it has helped Kosovars rebuil[d] their country, revitalize their economy, establish democratic institutions and heal the scars of war since 1999, the hardening informal partition of North Kosovo could undo all they’ve accomplished so far.
So the next step will be a for a bold, new strategy that recognizes Kosovar Serbs’ right to self-determination while respecting Kosovo’s sovereignty. Throughout my career in the U.S. Congress, I have argued that if the Kosovars want to be independent of Serbia, they should be. Likewise, if a majority of people in North Kosovo would rather be a part of Serbia, they should be too.
One option that would be consistent with the right to self-determination and that would bolster long-term stability would be for an honorable transfer between Serbia and Kosovo of roughly equal pieces of territory and population. In North Kosovo the ethnic Serbs would, should they choose to do so by a vote, be transferred to the sovereignty of Serbia.
[sic: Since according to the internationally recognized borders of Serbia, as reaffirmed by UN Resolution 1244, the Serbs wouldn’t need to be “transferred” to Serbian sovereignty, as they are already part of it and have been for the past century and previous centuries.]
Simultaneously, the Kosovar majority in southern Serbia could become part of Kosovo should they so desire. This would offer all parties the opportunity for an equal exchange, based on fairness and self-determination for both sides.
To be sure, there has been a lot of hand-wringing in the U.S. and in European capitals about the viability of land swaps for peace. Critics warn that such exchanges will only set in motion currently dormant conflicts — the ultimate domino effect, leading every disenfranchised minority population to feel that they can and should pursue independence, regardless of the circumstances.
To be sure, that’s what the Kosovo secession set in motion, to no hand-wringing in Washington.
That view, however, is unduly pessimistic. I happen to agree with Austrian politician Erhard Busek, the former head of the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe, who told Serbia’s Novi Magazin last month that “Brussels and Washington say that the borders cannot be changed, but if Pristina and Belgrade would agree among themselves, then the Europeans and Americans would also agree.” If executed properly, the land-and-population-swap option would calm rather than exacerbate hostilities…
Picking up on the land swap idea was a Wall St. Journal writer named Goran Mijuk, who named his piece “Kosovo Calling, For New Ideas.” Like Rohrabacher and everyone else who hasn’t been following the region, he too thinks “new ideas” for Kosovo are allowed even as the U.S. guarantees its terrorist leaders nothing short of everything they demand. But he had two paragraphs worth addressing:
[R]edrawing Kosovo’s border risks opening the Balkan’s Pandora’s box, as it could provoke fresh calls for land swaps and border changes elsewhere in the region. For exactly this reason, Kosovo’s prime minister Hashim Thaci told Swiss media this week that there will “be neither a border change nor land swap” in Kosovo. In the same interview he also refuted the idea that Kosovo’s Serbs should be granted a special status or autonomy.
It’s a joke that Mijuk attributes this responsible concern to Thaci’s “reasoning” for not accepting anything less than the full Albanian national demand. Why “swap” anything (i.e. Presevo Valley) when he plans to get it all in the end? And again, Thaci knows that the dangerous precedent set for the region was his Kosovo itself. The preceding is also a good example of the Albanian side not considering any compromise, much less offering the Serbian minority anything like what Serbia offered its Albanian minority via Kosovo autonomy. Meanwhile, the Serbian side continues bending over backwards to come up with compromises, as the other Mijuk paragraph illustrates:
One such idea, which has been floated by Ivica Dacic, Serbia’s interior minister… is that of a federation. The concept, he told the Serbian press, originated during a lunch talk with German chancellor Angela Merkel, who thought the idea “interesting”, according to Dacic.
But getting back to Rohrabacher. Here’s a video of this freak — who still has photos hanging in his office of himself in mujahedeen attire in the Afghanistan war with Russia — serenading America. And yet he wants you to beware of those “nationalist” Serbs.
I remember attending a Sept. 2006 panel discussion sponsored by the American Council for Kosovo and hearing arguments against Kosovo secession. Before it began, I saw a complacent-looking Rohrabacher sprawled out on the couch, skimming the program. When Council director Jim Jatras passed by, Rohrabacher asked him something to which Jim responded, “No, this is a meeting arguing against Kosovo independence.” At which point he swiftly gathered himself up and sped out of the room. After all, he wasn’t being paid to hold that position, was he. (Recall from a 2010 blog that I wrote: “‘[R]adical Muslim groups have contributed substantial amounts of money to Rohrabacher in order to have him support anti-Jewish groups including Hamas, as well as violent Albanian groups across the the Balkans.’ (Note : After being exposed, Rohrabacher did a one-eighty vis-à-vis Israel; as for Hamas’s Albanian counterparts who have been giving Rohrabacher all kinds of goodies for his loyalty, well who’s going to complain about that? Where is that dastardly Serbian lobby?)”)
Even more entertaining than what I’ve revealed so far was the following excerpt from an article that appeared in the Orange County newspaper OC Weekly, a year after 9/11, recalling Rohrabacher’s mujahedeen days:
“[Rohrabacher] says the Taliban are devout traditionalists—not terrorists or revolutionaries. He believes a Taliban takeover [of Afghanistan] would be a positive development.”
—Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November/December 1996 issue
…”Listen! Hold on!” said Rohrabacher. “I am a bigger expert on Afghanistan than any member of Congress.”
As a speechwriter and special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, Rohrabacher played a key role in the late 1980s getting money and arms, including U.S.-made Stinger missiles, to Afghan holy warriors, then at war with the Soviet Union. He once bragged of being “certainly a major player” in a coalition inside the White House that supported anyone “opposing Communist domination around the world.” In November 1988, he even visited the Afghan front lines during a five-day hike with an armed mujahideen patrol in eastern Afghanistan. Among those fighters he encountered, he later recalled, were “Saudi Arabians under a crazy commander named bin Laden.”
Rohrabacher carried that record to a C-SPAN microphone on Sept. 11…Excoriating the intelligence community, he demanded to know, “Where’s the FBI? Where’s the CIA?” and asked how they would explain their “catastrophic incompetence.”
“I’ve been begging people to do something about Afghanistan,” he said. “And I said if we didn’t do anything about the Taliban, we would pay a dear price.”
The next day, The Orange County Register reported in a top story, “Horror and Hindsight,” that the terrorist attacks “could turn out to be a horrific told-you-so” for Rohrabacher. To make sure his “angry” comments were amplified, the congressman granted multiple television, radio and newspaper interviews and authored an unsolicited column that carried this note: “A must read. You will be livid over the level of incompetency [sic] in our intelligence agencies.” In it, Rohrabacher claimed that the Clinton administration — out of office for eight months when the attacks occurred — had ignored his pleas not to negotiate with the Taliban, a fundamentalist Islamic party controlling most of Afghanistan since 1996. (A hardcore partisan Republican, Rohrabacher remained silent about numerous meetings between George W. Bush’s advisors and the Taliban throughout 2001.) On Sept. 17, 2001, the congressman declared, “There is rage in my soul.”
Right-wing organizations across the nation immediately picked up on Rohrabacher’s anti-Taliban, anti-Clinton statements and hailed him a “hero.”
In fact, Rohrabacher’s post-Sept. 11 finger-pointing was a fraud designed to distract attention from his own ongoing meddling in the foreign-policy nightmare. Federal documents reviewed by the Weekly show that Rohrabacher maintained a cordial, behind-the-scenes relationship with Osama bin Laden’s associates in the Middle East — even while he mouthed his most severe anti-Taliban comments at public forums across the U.S. There’s worse: despite the federal Logan Act ban on unauthorized individual attempts to conduct American foreign policy, the congressman dangerously acted as a self-appointed secretary of state, constructing what foreign-affairs experts call a “dual tract” policy with the Taliban.
A veteran U.S. foreign-policy expert told the Weekly, “If Dana’s right-wing fans knew the truth about his actual, working relationship with the Taliban and its representatives in the Middle East and in the United States, they wouldn’t be so happy.”
Nowadays, Rohrabacher and his numerous aides are quick to provide copies of the congressman’s pre-Sept. 11 rants against the Taliban. They will tell you that he labeled them “a pack of dogs killing anyone” and “the most anti-Western, anti-female, anti-human rights regime in the world.” They will also show you records of the congressman berating Clinton administration foreign-policy advisors for misreading Taliban intentions and for trying to negotiate peace in Afghanistan with the militant Islamic group’s Mullah Mohammed Omar, a bin Laden associate.
What they won’t mention is that Rohrabacher also once lobbied shamelessly for the Taliban. A November/December 1996 article in Washington Report on Middle East Affairs reported, “The potential rise of power of the Taliban does not alarm Rohrabacher” because the congressman believes the “Taliban could provide stability in an area where chaos was creating a real threat to the U.S.” Later in the article, Rohrabacher claimed that:
Taliban leaders are “not terrorists or revolutionaries.” Media reports documenting the Taliban’s harsh, radical beliefs were “nonsense.” The Taliban would develop a “disciplined, moral society” that did not harbor terrorists. The Taliban posed no threat to the U.S.
Although he continues to describe himself as an expert on Afghan history and politics, Rohrabacher was obviously dead wrong on all counts.
Evidence of Rohrabacher’s attempts to conduct his own foreign policy became public on April 10, 2001, not in the U.S., but in the Middle East. On that day, ignoring his own lack of official authority, Rohrabacher opened negotiations with the Taliban at the Sheraton Hotel in Doha, Qatar, ostensibly for a “Free Markets and Democracy” conference. There, Rohrabacher secretly met with Taliban Foreign Minister Mullah Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, an advisor to Mullah Omar. Diplomatic sources claim Muttawakil sought the congressman’s assistance in increasing U.S. aid — already more than $100 million annually — to Afghanistan and indicated that the Taliban would not hand over bin Laden….
After Taliban-related terrorists attacked the U.S. last September, Rohrabacher associates worked hard to downplay the Qatar meeting. Republican strategist Grover Norquist told a reporter that the congressman had accidentally encountered the Taliban official in a hotel hallway.
But that preposterous assertion is contradicted by much evidence:
•Qatari government officials who told Al-Jazeera television on April 10, 2001, that Rohrabacher sought the meeting in advance and that they had assisted in the arrangements. Muttawakil said he agreed to the meeting “on the basis of allowing each party to express their point of view.”
•The congressman himself told other Middle Eastern news outlets that his discussions with the Taliban were “frank and open” and their officials were “thoughtful and inquisitive.” Hardly a casual chat in the hallway.
•Similarly, in an interview with Agence France-Presse, Rohrabacher’s entourage described the meeting as “a high-level talk.”
What’s remarkable is not only Rohrabacher’s attempt to rewrite history after Sept. 11, but there’s also his glaring naivete, evident in his bungling assessment of the Qatar meeting. One member of his entourage, Khaled Saffuri, executive director of the Islamic Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based group that partially bankrolled Rohrabacher’s trip, said he was impressed by how “flexible” Taliban officials appeared. Rohrabacher came away equally impressed. He announced he would travel to Afghanistan to work out details with the Taliban.
But Rohrabacher was out of his league. In the Afghan capital of Kabul the next day, Muttawakil presented Rohrabacher’s plan to the Taliban. Mullah Omar immediately issued a statement denouncing American efforts to orchestrate a new Afghanistan government. “The infidel world is not letting Muslims form a government of their own choice,” he declared.
More darkly, 137 miles east across the border in Pakistan, Osama bin Laden measured the distance between Rohrabacher and diplomatic reality. “I issue a call to the young generation to get ready for the holy war and to prepare for that in Afghanistan,” he said during an April 11, 2001, pro-Taliban rally in Peshawar broadcast throughout the region. “I appeal to you to teach Muslims that there is no honor except in holy war.” The hard-line crowd of 200,000 carried pictures of burning American flags and chanted, “U.S., listen to us! We are the death of you!”
While Rohrabacher waxed optimistic, American diplomats became increasingly suspicious of the Taliban. On April 27, 2001, the U.S. State Department officially rebuked Rohrabacher’s meddling. Alan Eastham, assistant secretary of state for South Asia, told reporters that while the congressman belongs to the president’s Republican party, he did not have authorization for a diplomatic mission. Rohrabacher “did not inform us in advance of his plans with the Taliban,” Eastham said.
News of Rohrabacher’s Qatar meeting with the Taliban was unreported in the U.S. for 16 months. Then, last month, Gerrie Schipske — Rohrabacher’s Democratic challenger in the November elections — issued a press release calling the congressman’s unauthorized discussions “not only illegal but dangerous to our country.” She believes he violated the Logan Act by meddling in American foreign policy and should be prosecuted.
“It is simply outrageous that this rogue congressman engaged in negotiations with the Taliban,” Schipske said. “He needs to explain why he tried to cut a deal on his own and what he promised the Taliban during the meeting.”
According to Schipske, Rohrabacher also lied to Congress about his April 2001 trip to Qatar. “He told the House that he was attending a conference. He did not disclose the meeting with the Taliban. Members of Congress are only allowed to accept paid trips that are connected with their official duties. Negotiating with Osama bin Laden’s protégé isn’t one of them.”
Despite Rohrabacher’s own April 2001 overseas admission of his Taliban dalliance, only a few media outlets on the East Coast picked up Schipske’s press release. Mainstream news organizations in Orange County — including the Los Angeles Times and the Register — have so far ignored this tale of international intrigue. (For the record, the Times OC likely still reels from the congressman’s wrath over its reports of his role in a 1996 voter-fraud scandal; the Register is Rohrabacher’s ideological soulmate and former employer.) […]
And so the congressman’s affinity for the KLA needs little explanation. Rohrabacher went on to defend the KLA and its outgrowths the way he once defended the Taliban.
A March 2010 Mother Jones article went with a version of the story closer to the one Rohrabacher would have us believe: Dana Rohrabacher’s War by Daniel Schulman
In 1988, shortly after winning his first term in Congress, Dana Rohrabacher dabbled briefly in another vocation — freedom fighter. With Afghanistan’s anti-Soviet insurgency a cause célèbre for conservatives, he traveled to the front lines. Sporting a thick beard and traditional Afghan attire, the congressman-elect joined up with a rebel infantry unit whose mission included laying siege to a Soviet position.
When I met Rohrabacher recently at his Capitol Hill office — adorned with mementos of his Afghan adventures, including a tapestry of the legendary mujahideen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud — I asked if he’d joined the battle. “Let’s put it this way,” he said, a glimmer in his eye. “I didn’t carry a gun — most of the time.”
It’s the kind of adventure that has earned the Orange County Republican, who’s 62, a reputation as “colorful,” or, as some put it, “bat-shit crazy.” He’s a banjo-playing, folk-singing, arch-conservative surfer…For almost two years, he ran a quixotic congressional investigation (pdf) into the Oklahoma City bombing, dispatching staff as far as the Philippines to prove that Terry Nichols had ties to Ramzi Yousef, one of the planners of the first World Trade Center bombing. [OK, he gets points for that one.]
“I’d be there with guys in full Afghan garb in the executive dining room of the White House,” he recalls. Michael Scheuer, the former chief of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, says Rohrabacher was one of the few lawmakers who were “interested in Afghanistan to an extent that surpassed how many dead Soviets there were.”
In the years after the Soviets fled Afghanistan in 1989, Rohrabacher says, his “passion” was to bring back the country’s exiled king, Muhammad Zahir Shah, the only figure he believed could unite Afghans. Instead, by 1996, the Taliban had captured Kabul, and Rohrabacher began actively working to undermine them… “I was flying all over the world,” he says. “And I was on my own. You know, I was a real freelancer on that one.”
In the fall of 2001, Rohrabacher’s friend Massoud was assassinated by a pair of Al Qaeda operatives. Upon hearing the news, Rohrabacher wept in his office. Then he phoned the Bush White House in a frenzy: He believed Massoud’s murder was the prelude to a major terrorist attack and requested an immediate audience with then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. He got an appointment for the next day — September 11. […]