Medical Aid for Kosovo
2 CLOCK TOWER PLACE #510
MAYNARD, MA 01754
THE MACEDONIA MESS
Monday, March 26, 2001
By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
SUPPORTERS of the 1999 NATO intervention in Kosovo,
and those sympathetic to the claims of the Albanians, have every
right to be concerned about the conflict that has erupted in Macedonia,
Kosovo's small, hitherto-peaceful neighbor. To put it simply: Albanian
nationalist extremists are betraying their people and their Western
Photos and news reportage from Macedonia show a familiar post-Yugoslav
pattern: Guerrillas in the hills rain shells on the cities, tanks
run through villages, homes are left in flames, refugees flee across
the borders and civilians are shot down in the streets.
In a recent and shocking incident, worldwide news video showed two
Albanian men, a father and son, riddled with bullets by Macedonian
troops while apparently trying to throw grenades at a checkpoint.
Kosovo Albanians are stirred by these images to think they should
run to sign up in the so-called National Liberation Army, which
is fighting in Macedonia. Meanwhile, Slavic Macedonians, the majority
in the country, are ready to label all Albanians - that is, at least
30 percent of their citizens - as terrorists.
There's plenty of blame to go around in this latest Balkan horror
show. NATO "saved" Kosovo but installed an international administration
that failed in its mission to reconstruct the country, leaving the
people unemployed and restive.
For their part, Slav Macedonians have refused to allow the Albanians
higher education in their own language and other recognition of
their full citizenship. Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski,
taking a leaf out of the book written by former Serbian dictator
Slobodan Milosevic, accused the U.S. and Germany of encouraging
the guerrillas to attack his country - even while he was receiving
intelligence and promises of military aid from Washington.
But Albanian patriots - including hundreds of thousands living in
the New York area - need to send a message to such hotheads as Ali
Ahmeti, alias Abaz Gjuka. Ahmeti, the head of the armed group operating
in Macedonia, is a renegade from the former Kosovo Liberation Army
(KLA). A founder of the KLA's underground organization in Kosovo,
he fell out with the group's main leader, Hashim Thaci, who went
on to stand alongside Madeleine Albright at the Rambouillet conference
that preceded the NATO intervention.
Ahmeti was reportedly booted out of the KLA for irresponsibility
and extremism that the main leaders feared would sabotage their
fight for Kosovo. Now, with Kosovo stagnating under foreign administration,
Ahmeti has found his hands freed to set Macedonia afire.
He's getting plenty of help from some Albanian media. The Albanian-language
daily paper Bota Sot (World Today), published in Switzerland and
read as far afield as The Bronx, lifted photos of the grenade-throwing
incident but airbrushed out the grenade, to make it look like the
two men were innocent victims.
Albanian-Americans, moved by such propaganda, may contribute money
and lives to the armed conflict in Macedonia - a campaign that threatens
to drive their people back into isolation and even worse desperation.
NATO and the West put lives on the line, including those of thousands
of American service men and women, to rescue the Kosovo Albanians
from deportation and murder. It was the right thing to do. The Albanians
came out of the obscurity and impoverishment in which they had lived
for generations and began to construct a European role for themselves.
Thousands of foreigners went to Kosovo to try to help them in that
The aftermath of the intervention was flawed and many Albanians
feel disappointed. But an effort as big as that NATO undertook also
imposes responsibilities on those who received the help of the West.
NATO should press the Slavic Macedonians to proceed cautiously lest
they widen the war. But the Albanians in Macedonia should immediately
end their insurgency. Setting your own house on fire is no way to
keep warm, now matter how cold it is outside.
Stephen Schwartz, author of "Kosovo: Background to a War," has lived
and worked in Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania.