by Eric Margolis
February 25, 2008
NEW YORK – The Bush Administration has lurched for so long from one foreign policy disaster to another, we have almost forgotten what it’s like to see the United States do the right thing.
But we did last week, and a very welcome sight it was. After decades of oppression and struggle, the 2 million Albanians of the former Yugoslav/Serb province of Kosovo finally achieved their long-sought independence. This was the final welcome act in the death of the abortive state, Yugoslavia.
The United States was the first major power to recognize the new Republic of Kosova – as it should henceforth be called. There were almost as many American flags in the streets of its capitol, Prishtina, as Albanian ones. President George Bush deserves a hearty salute.
The United States had once more rescued the Albanians. In 1918, victorious Serbia was about to annex tiny Albania to gain its deep-water Adriatic ports. US President Woodrow Wilson ordered Serbia back, saving Albania.
After Communist demagogue Slobodan Milosevic sought to build a Greater Serbia in the 1990’s through ethnic terrorism, Washington forced NATO to halt Serb genocide in Bosnia.
In 1999, while Europe watched impotently, Milosevic’s forces killed 13,000 Kosovar Albanians, blew up mosques, gang-raped Muslim women, burned Albanian villages and drove one million Albanian Kosovars into frigid winter fields where they would have died of exposure without outside help. The United States saved the Kosovars by launching a short air war on the Serbs.
Outraged Serbs claimed they were victims of an American-German conspiracy. Kosovo was their historic medieval heartland, they insisted, Serbia’s very soul. But by 2008, Kosova’s population was 2 millions Albanians and only 60,000-80,000 Serbs and gypsies, mostly in the Mitrovica enclave. About 100,000 more Kosovo Serbs had moved to Serbia.
Historic claims are often of questionable value. Kosovo was indeed the heartland of medieval Serbia after Serb tribes invaded the region in the 6th Century AD. But the original inhabitants were Illyrians – ancestors of today’s Albanians.
Serbs sought to ethnically cleanse Kosovo of Albanians three times: in the 1911-12 Balkan Wars after they seized it from the Ottoman Empire; in 1945; and in the 1990’s. This brutal record, and persecution of Albanian Kosovars in the post-Tito era, invalidates any legitimate claims Serbia has to Kosovo.
Wounded pride aside, Serbia is better off without Kosova. History teaches it’s often counter-productive to try to retain by force a region that wants out (the US Civil War is a strong exception).
Serbs, an intelligent, talented people, became international pariahs after the demagogue Milosevic intoxicated them with Nazi-style bogus historic mythology, primitive nationalism, and anti-Muslim racism. Serbia’s future lies in European Union, not in dubious medieval mythical glories.
America once again saved Albanians from extinction. By contrast, it was noteworthy that Romania refused to join Britain, France, Germany and Italy in recognizing the new Kosova republic. That’s because Romania also has its own dirty secret. The post-World War I Treaty of Trianon was ever bit as evil and immoral as the 1938 Munich Pact. At Trianon, the victorious allies handed over 66% of the Hungarian people to Romania, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. Romania got the lion’s share, including Transylvania. Hungarians want freedom from Romania.
Albanians were also divided between Albania proper, and Yugoslavia’s provinces of Kosovo and Macedonia. So Albanians and Hungarians remain Europe’s divided peoples.
But there is no hint free Kosova will anytime soon join neighboring Albania. The Kosovar leadership under able PM Hasim Tachi, rejects any talk of union; so does Albania’s capable prime minister, Dr Sali Berisha. Kosovars are not eager to merge with impoverished, struggling Albania; they want to be in the EU.
It certainly is a tonic seeing people abroad joyously waving American flags and blessing the United States. This is what my America used to be about. I pray that under new presidential leadership, the USA will resume this honorable tradition as liberator and defender of human rights.
copyright Eric S. Margolis 2008
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