Friday, March 19, 2004

Silence About Serbia

Maybe the problem is having a memory. Anybody remember what the big deal was in the summer before September 11, 2001? Go ahead, take a moment to think about it. I'll wait. OK, time's up. The Chinese, after a mid-air collision forced down a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft, held the crew captive; and it took a while to have the plane released back to us. There was also a good deal of buzz about the potential for Chinese control of the Panama Canal. Then we were attacked by al-Qaeda's suicide pilots, and there wasn't another word to be heard about anything to do with China.

Before that, the "big deal" was the situation in Kosovo, where, we were told, the Serbs were pursuing the "ethnic cleansing" of Albanians from the region. In response to the efforts being made by the government of Serbia, led by Slobodan Milosevic, to keep control of the province of Kosovo, in 1999, NATO forces, at the initiative of the United States, started a massive bombing campaign which finally forced the Serbs to surrender control of their territory to NATO and UN "peacekeepers"; and which allowed the Albanian "Kosovo Liberation Army" (KLA) to move into political power in the province.

What has followed has been, truth be told, an exercise in ethnic cleansing in reverse. According to official sources, the "oppression" of Kosovo by the Serbs cost some 10,000 lives, most of them persons of Albanian background. Since NATO and UN control began, some 3,000 Serbs have now been murdered; and a quarter of a million Serbs who had lived in Kosovo have been forced to flee. In the most recent round of violence, murders and arson have taken place with reports of busloads of Albanians being brought to Serbian enclaves. Fourteen churches and monasteries, most hundreds of years old, have been burned, most being destroyed. As I am writing this, reports are surfacing that the monastery in Devic, built in the 14th century, has been abandoned by the KFOR troops, and is now burning; and KFOR has alerted the sisterhood dwelling at the Sokolika monastery near Zvecan, giving them warning to be ready to evacuate with 30 minutes notice, as KFOR "cannot protect the monastery."

KFOR has some 18,500 peacekeepers in Kosovo. According to the U.S. Army's home page, some 5,000 of these are American GI's. American troops have been in Kosovo since 1995. Is there anything in the news about any of this? I checked the online version of the Arizona Republic, our local paper. Zip, nada, zilch, nothing. Then I checked the online version of the San Francisco Chronicle (you know, a major newspaper in a major city). The same: nothing. Lots of news of the war in Iraq, and of casualties, and protests; but about Kosovo? Nothing. There was, at least, one link on the msnbc web site. But the only way to get any real details was to go to Google, enter "Kosovo," and then click the "News" tab.

The conclusion seems unavoidable. Ethnic cleansing of Albanians requires NATO intervention; but ethnic cleansing of Serbs deserves only silence. Allow me for a moment to be stupidly and politically incorrect. Could it have anything to do with the fact that the Albanians are Muslims, while the Serbs are Orthodox Christians? Of course not, you'll say. But let us then factor in the reality that, not too far away from the Balkans, is the region which controls the vast majority of the world's reserves of petroleum -- and this oil is located under territories controlled by Muslim peoples (or rather, their rulers -- grand democracies such as the one found in Saudi Arabia). Who do we (the USA) support? Oil-poor Christians; or Muslims, whose co-religionists have the oil our economy requires? OK, although U.S. foreign policy looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it isn't necessarily a duck -- right? Call me suspicious.

There are members of Congress who have raised questions about what is happening in Kosovo. But until I start reading reports about what is happening in my local paper (I won't see it on the news until after Pascha, 'cause the TV is off until then), I'll continue to wonder why there is silence about Serbia.