A few week ago, I wrote the following two letters to two newspapers, responding to a pair of unrelated articles. I don’t think either was published, but in case the authors have a Google alert on their names, I wanted to reprint them here. (I did forward the first letter to the writer’s place of business, and my note introducing the letter appears below first). The bio for Mr. Duncan, writing for The UK’s Independent, says that in addition to selling Kosovo tours, he performs in a traveling production of the musical “Hair Spray.” The world would be better served if he stuck to that.

Dear Sirs,
Since I wrote the letter-to-the-editor below a bit too late, it’s unlikely to get published. Still, I wanted Mr. Duncan to know that the astonishing ignorance and callousness displayed in his Independent article of Sept. 14 didn’t go unnoticed by everyone. Below was the letter I submitted to the editors. If Mr. Duncan knew or cared one fig about the Albanians’ century-old supremacy and macabre racism, he would rag on them as mercilessly as I do instead of promoting tourism to boost their ethnically cleansed “Pristine” state.
Thank you.
Julia Gorin, U.S.A.

Dear Editor:

In a year that started with headline news about the mass exodus from Kosovo (50,000 since last year, out of a country of only 1.8 million), it is certainly a puzzle how The Independent could print Peter Duncan’s tone-deaf article (“Kosovo: Harmony prevails in this corner of the Balkans,” Sept. 14.) As Albanians flee their ill-gotten but supposedly beloved “Newborn” that the U.S. and UK helped them secure by virtually dismantling the post-WW2 international order, they cite the futureless existence there. And yet Mr. Duncan writes, “The Kosovans display the energy of a people that are fixed on a secure future.”

A reader’s eye-rolling doesn’t end there, as Mr. Duncan next dutifully repeats the simplistic blood libel that the Serbs had tried “to remove the ethnic Albanians from the region.” Really? Belgrade tried to empty a province of 90 per cent of its population? Even the international criminal tribunal reluctantly found this absurdity was never the case. After all, where were the millions of eager Serbian sophisticates lining up at the border to fill up the empty land and tackle peasant life?

Mr. Duncan nonetheless credits that late-‘90s canard for Kosovo’s statehood. As if Albanian Yugoslavs hadn’t been warning about the nationalists’ irredentist plans since the 1970s; as if the first attempt at secession in 1991 never happened; and as if NATO wasn’t already on the ground in Kosovo by early 1998, even though the Serbs’ supposed first atrocity didn’t happen until January 1999 (the Racak “massacre” that was proven to be a firefight between police and rebels).

Then Tony Blair is hailed for breaking with international norms on Albanian behalf (by acting without a UN resolution, along with Bill Clinton), even while George W. Bush is (correctly) berated by the same minds for doing the same with Iraq (the latter at least made an effort at appearances).

I realize it’s just a travel piece, and that Mr. Duncan has an interest in hyping a place he sells trips to, but a little fact-checking, please. A newspaper should still have standards. Then again, when it comes to Kosovo, there never have been any. That’s how the “standards before status” requirement for statehood was nixed and Albanians were simply given their second state despite the ongoing violence they pursued against non-Albanians. It’s certainly easy, and bizarre, to speak of “harmony prevailing” where there are virtually no other ethnicities to have harmony with. “Now the country is at peace,” Mr. Duncan closes, “the minarets have been restored.” Indeed. They’ve doubled.


Dear Editor:

Congratulations to The Globe for being brave enough to publish Stephen Kinzer on Russia (“Russia is Not the Enemy,” Sept. 19). The accompanying artwork — a fearsome (Russian) bear baring its teeth at a terrified American family that doesn’t see the hand of Uncle Sam inside the puppet — was pitch perfect. I would adjust only the part where Mr. Kinzer says that what gets our goat is Russia not playing by our rules: actually, we’re the ones who haven’t been playing by our rules: for 25 years the Cold War’s sore winner went about dismantling the post-WW2 international order — of which it was itself an architect — while Russia took numerous stands to uphold it. We promptly dubbed this Russian obstructionism.

After lying prostrate for years as we bombed and encircled its neighborhood, Russia is finally delivering the war that Washington has spent 25 years poking it in the eye to achieve, comfortable as the latter is with a familiar enemy while at a loss on how to deal with real ones. Enemies that profess themselves such on a daily basis, and do kill Americans. Too many of us have fallen for the decoy, Russia, and it’s too bad that innocent Americans — like hapless third worlders who are victims of their unrepresentative leaders’ policies — will pay the price of Washington’s intrigues. Mr. Kinzer is right that imagined enemies can be more dangerous than real ones.