Eastern Mediterranean warming for war. Economically depressed Greece and isolated Israel squaring up to swaggering Turkey. There is no way Israel will allow anyone to break its legitimate blockade, so if the Turks insist on the escort, its literally war.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said his country will in future escort aid ships travelling to the Gaza Strip.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Mr Erdogan also said Turkey had taken steps to prevent Israel unilaterally exploiting natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean.

He spoke amid a growing row over Israel’s refusal to apologise for a deadly raid on an aid ship last year.

Turkey has already cut military ties and expelled Israel’s ambassador.

It has also said it will challenge Israel’s blockade of Gaza at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Relations between Turkey and Israel have worsened since Israeli forces boarded the Mavi Marmara aid ship in May last year as it was heading for Gaza. Nine Turkish activists were killed during the raid.

Israel has refused to apologise and said its troops acted in self-defence.

In his comments to Al-Jazeera, Mr Erdogan said Turkish warships were “authorised to protect our ships that carry humanitarian aid to Gaza”.

“From now on, we will not let these ships to be attacked by Israel, as what happened with the Freedom Flotilla,” he said, referring to the Mavi Marmara incident.

Last time the USA talked them down. Next time Erdogan, who is hardening in his extremism now that he has cowed the Turkish generals, may actually instigate an armed conflict.

If he does, the Turks will go the same way as all the previous attackers of Israel: To the annals of defeat.


BBC News – Turkey ‘to escort Gaza aid ships’ amid row with Israel.


The Eastern European Megamafia and Serbia

by Limbic on July 27, 2008

In June this year author & Balkanologist Misha Glenny was interviewed by B92 about his new book on organized crime “McMafia”.

The interview gives a fascinating insight into the role of organized crime in the Balkans, in particular their central role in the recent Balkan wars.

I have quoted the interview extensively here in a few sample questions:

B92: Can you define the moment when organized crime started to develop, or to proliferate in Serbia, or in the former Yugoslavia?

Glenny: I think that as a process it happened between 1988,1989 and 1991, by the time the war broke out in Croatia and the federal structures had completely collapsed. Then, all sides, particularly Serbia and particularly Croatia, very quickly Macedonia and Slovenia as well had created their paramilitary armies which were indistinguishable from the gangsters on the streets. And it’s no coincidence that all of the major criminal figures, in Serbia or in Croatia, for example, had a role to play in the war as well.

B92: In what way did their cooperation develop during the war?

Glenny: Well, here in Serbia, and in Croatia, and in Bosnia, one of the things that was going on was that the war was used as an excuse for, what one would call in Marxist terms, Primitive Capital Accumulation, i.e. in the battlefields, if the Croat unit or the Serb unit took an area, than, there would be a paramilitary team that would clear it of all its goods.

Television, fridges, whatever they could get their hands on. Sometimes, in the case of Eastern Slavonia, entire vineyards, oilfields and so on, and they would use this to start building up a criminal empire. Now what I felt when I was researching this about the 1990s, is because in the key instances there was a cooperation between gangsters and paramilitaries of all sides, i.e. Croats and Serbs cooperating together, Serbs and Albanians cooperating together in the heroin trade for example, that actually I came to review my belief about what happened in 1990s.

The real engine behind the wars was very little to do with nationalist conflict, and all to do with organized crime. Finding the way of seizing as much economic power in the various areas of the former Yugoslavia as possible, and establishing themselves as the key economic players in these countries.

B92: What was the role of the state? What was the role of the security services in Eastern Europe when it came to the development of organized crime?

Glenny: It was different in the former Yugoslavia from everywhere else. And that is because the slide to war meant that the state remained more powerful in Yugoslavia than it did, say, in neighboring Bulgaria. So, in neighboring Bulgaria, what tended to happen was that large number of security forces in 1989, 1990, were sacked from their jobs, and they were unemployed. They then used their skills of surveillance, creating criminal, or creating underground networks, killing people, smuggling – in Bulgaria, smuggling was very important – they became the new organized crime.

Here in Serbia or in Croatia, it was different because UDBA [former Yugoslav secret service] basically remained intact. It split along national lines obviously, but essentially the networks remained consistent with the state, and what they did was to develop a relationship with the paramilitaries, with the organized crime gangs, and so when you come on to something like cigarette smuggling from 1994 onwards, all of the states were getting their percentage, their cut from allowing the cigarette trade to go on through. They became mutually dependent.

B92: You say in your book that the Russians love their Slavic brothers, but that in the world of organized crime and weapons trade, one could hardly notice that.

Glenny: This is really important for me. The realization. When looking at the arms flows coming out of Ukraine and Russia, once the arms embargo was imposed on all republics of the former Yugoslavia, the amount of weaponry that went into Croatia from Ukraine and Russia is really quite astonishing. It was their primary source, the largest percentage of weapons coming into Croatia came from Russia and Ukraine and so, you know, it’s an example of how the mythology of strong political bond between, say, Moscow and Belgrade, is just that. When it comes to money, nationalism plays really insignificant role.

B92: Can you describe the role our criminals had in the development of organized crime? What was the role of the criminals from the former Yugoslavia?

Glenny: It was the very important role. And the reason why it was the important role is partly because of the specific function of the transit zone. For drugs, for women, for cigarettes, all going to the European Union, and it’s important to remember that this trade in Europe was driven by the huge demand of the EU citizens for drugs, illegal migrant labor, women, and so on… and it had a very important role there.

But, the other thing was the issue of the war, as a smoke screen for this activity, the so called fog of war), and also after the imposition of sanctions on the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, i.e. Serbia and Montenegro. Those sanctions were a disaster. Because Serbia and Montenegro were self sufficient in food, all they needed to get was oil, and all the surrounding countries were very, very weak, going through tough transitions. So over night in 1992, you’ve created the Pan-Balkan Mafia.

This was where the Bulgarians the Serbs, the Croats, the Romanians, the Hungarians, the Greeks, the Albanians, everyone became involved in supply of oil to Serbia, and then in order to finance the wars, the transit of goods and services out through the Balkans and into the EU. And that was an absolutely massive increase. Now, this all drew the attention of secret services in the European Union and the United States. They knew that there was a hell of a lot going on in the Balkans, they didn’t exactly know what to do about it, but its role in the 1990s, and in the first few years of the post millennium period, the “naughties” as we called them, was really important.

B92: You have dedicated the last chapter of your book to the future of organized crime. How is it different from what it is today?

Glenny: ….It is interesting for me to observe Bulgaria, where criminal elements are at this time more powerful than in Serbia, but Bulgaria is now an EU members. I think that organized crime and its power in Serbia are directly connected to Serbia’s links with the EU. If Serbia becomes an EU member, it will receive all sorts of incentives that are perhaps not visible now, but that are necessary, above all financial injections into the economically devastated areas. These areas are southern Serbia for example, near the borders. These are the generators of organized crime.

There’s Belgrade, too, of course, where most of the money is. If Serbia becomes an EU members, the organized crime problem will slowly diminish in the 10 to 15-year period. That has happed in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, to a lesser degree in Poland, although that’s a specific problem. I’m sure it will happen in Bulgaria too. EU membership will destroy organized crime or bring it to an acceptable level. If, however Serbia remains outside the EU, then possibilities for organized crime to consolidate and increase its influence in the country will open up. [From B92 – Insight – Off the air – “Criminals, key business players”]


The deadly convenience of Victor Bout

by Limbic on July 1, 2008


ISN Security Watch has a great two part series on the real Lord of War, notorious international arms dealer Victor Bout.

Bout was arrested in Bangkok in March 2008 and is on remand awaiting trial.

He first came to my attention when contacts at SEESAC told me about the scale and ruthlessness of his operation.

Wikipedia has a good introduction:

Viktor Anatolyevich Bout (Russian: Виктор Анатольевич Бут) (born January 13, 1967 near Dushanbe, Tajik SSR, Soviet Union) is a Russian former GRU major and arms dealer. Bout is suspected of supplying arms to the Taliban and Al Qaeda and of supplying huge arms shipments into various civil wars in Africa with his own private air fleet. Nicknamed “the Merchant of Death”, he is the subject of a book by that name written by Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun. According to Lee S. Wolosky, he is “the most powerful player in the trafficking of illegal arms.”

Recent reports suggest he is also operating in Iraq using front companies and Cargo Airlifts (Airline Transport, Air West, Aerocom and TransAvia Export). Bout came to officials’ attention in the 1990s, when he was accused of supplying arms to rebels in West Africa after a cease-fire agreement had been brokered. At that time he owned or was using many airlines, including Air Cess and Centrafrican, which were later forced to shut down by authorities. He also supplied arms to the deposed regime of Charles Taylor in Liberia.

In May 2006, when 200,000 AK-47 assault rifles allegedly went missing in transit from Bosnia to Iraq, one of Bout’s airlines was the carrier. Bout’s business partner is Hasan Čengić, the former Deputy Prime Minister of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, according to Slobodna Bosna and Douglas Farah. Bout was arrested in Bangkok, Thailand on March 6, 2008, five days after the Colombian government found the computer of FARC’s (Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia) leader alias “Raul Reyes” in a long term camp site in Ecuador . – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victor_Bout

Bout’s arrest is actually a serious worry to many governments, not least of which the US government, with whom he has done business. You can read all about this character at ISN Security Watch – “The deadly convenience of Victor Bout” Part 1 and Part 2 .

Also see his official website: http://www.victorbout.com/


“Lippmann…argued in his best-selling book called Public Opinion that democracy was fundamentally flawed. People, he said, mostly know the world only indirectly, through “pictures they make up in their heads.” And they receive these mental pictures largely through the media. The problem, Lippmann argued, is that the pictures people have in their heads are hopelessly distorted and incomplete, marred by the irredeemable weaknesses of the press. Just as bad, the public’s ability to comprehend the truth, even if it happened to come across it, was undermined by human bias, stereotype, inattentiveness, and ignorance. In the end, Lippmann though citizens are like theatregoers who “arrive in the middle of the third act and leave before the last curtain, staying just long enough to decide who is the hero and who is the villain“. – “The Elements of Journalism” by Bill Kovac and Tom Rosensteil (2001)

In day-to-day life, as in science, we all resist fundamental paradigm change. Social scientist Jay Stuart Snelson calls this resistance an ideological immune system: “educated, intelligent, and successful adults rarely change their most fundamental presuppositions” (1993, p. 54). According to Snelson, the more knowledge individuals have accumulated, and the more well-founded their theories have become (and remember, we all tend to look for and remember confirmatory evidence, not counterevidence), the greater the confidence in their ideologies. The consequence of this, however, is that we build up an “immunity” against new ideas that do not corroborate previous ones. Historians of science call this the Planck Problem, after physicist Max Planck, who made this observation on what must happen for innovation to occur in science: “An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents: it rarely happens that Saul becomes Paul. What does happen is that its opponents gradually die out and that the growing generation is familiarized with the idea from the beginning” (1936, p. 97). –  “How Thinking Goes Wrong: Twenty-five Fallacies That Lead Us to Believe Weird Things” by Michael Shermer

Michael Totten has posted the latest in his series on the Balkans, this time covering Serbia (outside of Belgrade), Republika Srpska and Bosnia & Hertizigova, Croatia and Montenegro.

After massive battles in the first two parts (1 & 2), I was pleased to see this one was much more balanced and fair.

The report is only mildly anti-Serb in the sense that all the nasty characters and places are Serb, all the decent folks are non-Serbs. That said, he did plug “Old” Belgrade nicely.

What follows is my response to Michael. It will make no sense unless you read the original article.

These articles and their subsequent discussions highlight the Serb predicament.  The double standards, the denial of Serb victimhood, the libels against the Serbs (as though they did not have enough real crimes to be guilty for) and a distinct lack of empathy, it is all there, mostly in the comments. They highlight the fact that what was true of Lippmann’s 1920’s America is doubly true of the Balkans today (and the ongoing debates about its past, present and future).

The Serbs are permanently established as villains, the rest – Croats, Albanians and Bosnian Muslims – are all designated victims or heroic resistors of Serbian aggression. The very word “Serb” is a loaded word. One finds that even on websites like Michael Totten’s, commentators are welcome to post openly hateful libels against Serb whilst merely pointing out that the libels are based on half-truths, cherry picking, hasty generalization or lies,  will get your banned or warned.

As H. L. Mencken noted “For every complicated problem there is a simple and wrong solution”. In the Balkans it is blame the Serbs. In the Middle East, blame the Israelis, elsewhere it is typically blame the Americans.

As I noted in my Pajama’s Media article I believe that most Serbophobia is based on what British journalist Nick Davies calls “flat earth news”, a story – in this case Serb villainy – that appears to be true and is widely accepted as true, such that eventually it becomes a heresy to suggest that it is not true — even if it is riddled with falsehood, distortion, and propaganda.

People are deeply ignorant about the Balkans and its recent history (not to mention medieval or pre-history). All they know is what they picked up in that third act, namely that the villains are Serbs. This exploited by  anti-Serb bigots whose favourite tactic is to point out Serbs wrong-doings, but out of context and without comparison. This is, of course, the fallacy of Selective Observation.  When  one addresses this fallacy by noting the wider picture or pointing out that Serbs comparatively blameless/innocent/not guilty, one risks being accused of being a bigot attacking the groups one is comparing the Serbs against.

A good example of this is the Serbs-as-WW2-collaborators-and-Jew-killers libel. One an Albanian-American commentator kept trying to claim that “Serbs” were anti-Semites becuase – oh the irony – a Croatian documentary about Serb collaborators in WW2 claimed as much.

As I noted in the comments:

Lets say that it is true that 11,000 Jews were killed by Serb collaborators in WW2, how does that crime stack up against the crimes in context of the time and region?

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum states that:

“The Croat authorities murdered between 330,000 and 390,000 ethnic Serb residents of Croatia and Bosnia during the period of Ustaša rule; more than 30,000 Croatian Jews were killed either in Croatia or at Auschwitz-Birkenau.”

At the same site we read that Romania killed 270,000 Jews and Hungary killed 500,000 Jews.

The People of Albania, to their credit, were heroic in hiding and protecting Jews in Albania. To their discredit, though, they had an Albanian SS Division and they too had collaborators who handed over Jews. The number of Jews handed over was tiny, but this is because there were only 2-300 Jews in the entire country.

The picture was different outside of Albania proper.

“Between 1941 and 1944, nearly 600 Jews from Greater Albania were sent to their deaths in various concentration camps around Europe. It is for this reason that many historians disagree over the role of Albanians in the Holocaust. While Albanians may have attempted to rescue the Jews in Albania proper, the government was aware of the round-up and deportation of Jews from the Kosovo region.” [Jewish Virtual Library]

She kept trying to libel the Serbs as anti-Semites based on their putative historical crimes and I was forced to post Jewish and Israeli holocaust sources to expose her blood libel, but in doing so I was forced to point out Albanian and Croatian wrongs.

She was doing to Serbs what was done to Jews for centuries, making up lurid and patently false charges of brutality and evil that the ignorant and bigoted public accept as true. And this is just one example of many. The anti-Serb comments on the Totten articles are a veritable example sheet of fallacies: Proof by Anecdote, hasty Generalizations, Straw Man, Guilt By Association, Biased Sample…the list goes on.

Oddly enough I am not that worried about the more active and open bigots. Their one-sidedness and extremism tend to serve as warning to the more intelligent readers (the ones who matter) . Self-advertising hater-mongers are not the danger, it is the soft bias that causes the most trouble.This is where people like Michael enter the story. Despite his protests to the contrary, I detected a clear, lack of sympathy towards the Serbs (so far anyway).

This conforms with what I have observed about biases in general, even in their mildest forms, they strangle empathy. On example is Michael driving around with a Belgrade registered car getting paranoid about being mistaken for a Serb, but yet completely failing to imagine what it must be like for a real Serb to face that constant aggression and hostility.

Who cares if some independent US journalist “does” the Balkans and comes out against the Serbs based on his few hours in country?

Well I care.

Michael certainly seems to have left with a negative impression of Serbia (and Serbs) that is completely at odds with experiences reported by most visitors I have spoken to. I think this is becuase he arrived with that “impression” and he saw only what reinforced it, not what is really here at all.

His visit was way too brief for him to really experience the country and he spoke to only the ultra-liberal wing of the political spectrum (imagine getting your US “facts” from Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, John Berger and Naomi Klein). No wonder he left with the same impression he arrived with.

The problem, as I note below, is that this is an influential independent journalist who is also, I believe,  a completely honourable and well intentioned person.  His voice carries weight and it is precisely people like him that need to be engaged or otherwise, lies pass into history.

The basis of so much Serbophobia and anti-Serb reporting is that so many lies have already passed into history about this country, its people and its recent history.

One of the gravest problems is that the urgent requirement for Serbs to own up to and repudiate what was done in their name is scuttled by gross exaggerations, lies and being blamed for things they did not do. It is further aggravated by negative characterizations of the Serbs growing like mushroom on the back of previous negative characterizations.

Serbs will not be able to grant justice to those they wronged until the wrongs against them are at least recognised, if not redressed. It is for this reason that I take the fight to the comment sections of blogs and spend my precious time countering the bigotry I find there.

Here are my commerts posted on Michael Totten’s blog post.

[click to continue…]


Michael Totten on Belgrade and Serbia

by Limbic on June 2, 2008

This post is a about Michael Totten’s report “A Dark Corner of Europe” Part 1. You need to read this article for this post to make sense. Michael Totten’s article is mostly very good article, and I, perhaps unfairly, am focussing only on the negatives here.

Michael Totten is a great independent journalist who I have followed avidly over the last few years, especially as he reported from Lebanon.

He is supposedly the master of independent journalism and canny travelogues but my respect for him has been slightly tarnished after he visited Belgrade – my adopted home town – and filed a hatchet job about it that completely contradicts what every other visitor is reports. He suggests, in essence, that Belgrade is a “dark corner of Europe”, a squalid xenophobic and anti-Semitic hell hole full of “Communist architecture”.

Well OK, that may be a bit of a stretch, but the article is negative, at times snide (especially the photo captions), misleading about Belgrade (and Serbia) and very one sided in that is only presents an ultra-Liberal view of the situation here from the perspective of a local film-maker (Filip David).

The Belgrade of Michael’s report is nearly unrecognisable to me, a resident of three years. It says nothing about the real Belgrade that I have lived and worked in for three years, the booming vibrant cosmopolitan party town that rapidly growing numbers of appreciative visitors are flocking to in greater and greater numbers. Unfortunately I think it tells us plenty about Michael’s lack of research, poor planning, paucity of diverse contacts on the ground and his previously revealed touch of Serbophobia .

Perhaps an analysis of his post is in order to help illuminate some of the unfair points?

Michael and the Taxi Driver

The post starts off with Michael and Sean being berated by a taxi driver, who rips them off.

Even cursory research about Belgrade would have revealed the many warnings about the Taxi Mafia who operate from Belgrade airport.They have pretty much cleared out of the airport now, but for many years they have been a pest that both rip off visitors and ruin people’s first impressions of the city.

Well informed visitors simply call one of the many legitimate taxi companies or go to the taxi desk at arrivals and order a legal taxi. A ride into to any part of the city would normally not cost more than 1000 dinars (or on a Sunday, maximum 1500).

The Taxi Mafia are criminal scum, and as you would expect they represent the worst of the country. It comes as no surprise that the cab driver took his opportunity to berate Michael and Sean.

Michael writes that he was afraid to reveal he was a journalist, some 9 years after the bombing, and was worried for his safety because of then recent embassy attacks. It was an unfounded fear, because even in 1999 – at the hight of the bombing –  foreign journalists and citizens were treated (as they are now) with kindness, respect and hospitality. Take for example Marko Hoare, a British journalist and Balkan expert:

During the Kosovo War of 1999, I lived for more than a month in an ordinary Belgrade suburb, solely in the company of the native people of Belgrade and without any contact with other foreigners. Several times, during and immediately after this war, I crossed the Serbian international border. During this period, on not one single occasion did I, as a Briton, experience so much as a curse or a rude word from any Serbian citizen or border guard, despite the fact that my country’s airforce was bombing their country. One border guard even said to his colleague, in front of me, that what NATO was doing had nothing to do with me, but was the fault of higher powers. The Serbian people, for the most part, are not hooligans and do not engage in random acts of mob violence and destruction. Why should yesterday’s demonstrators have attacked McDonald’s restaurants, when during the Kosovo War the local management of these restaurants patriotically (as they saw it) supported the Serbian defence against NATO ? McDonald’s posters in 1999 Belgrade displayed the colours of the Serbian flag and promised a share of their profits to a fund for military invalids. Those who view themselves as engaged in a righteous act of national self-defence (as most Serbian people, however misguidedly, genuinely did in 1999), do not degrade themselves with acts of rioting and looting. One rioter was burned to death in the attack on the US embassy; this wave of violence, which has already produced dozens of injuries in recent days, is already violent in comparison with the revolution that overthrew Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000. [Emphasis mine Source]

Michael and the Hotels

Michael complains about the horrible Hotel Royal and denounces Belgrade’s hotels. He writes:

Most of the city’s hotels are in so-called New Belgrade. They are overpriced, far from the city center, and surrounded by communist-era monstrosity architecture.

No, they are not Michael. The two biggest ones are (Hyatt and Intercontinental), but most hotels are in the Old Town (Stari Grad). Many ARE overpriced, but that was because until now most visitors were businessmen – a captured market – and there was no competition.

Things have changed radically. A whole new generation of excellent and affordable hotels have opened in and around the Old Town. Had you done your research you would have found out that the Hotel Royal is one of the worst hotels in the city. Why did you not try Le Petit Piaf or Hotel City Code or any one of the brilliant hotels nearby?

Michael Looks for A Party

Michael and Sean set off in search of some fun, but only found a Ethno-Karaoke bar and a Turkish themed dive.

Michael you walked UP Kralja Petra, you should have walked DOWN to Strahinjica Bana (aka Silicone Valley) one of Belgrade’s famous “strips” where you would have found hundreds of glitterati partying on the many bars and restaurants. I have no idea what Karaoke Bar you found, but you were 100m away from Bar Central, a world class cocktail bar with brilliant music and crowd (it is out of shot to the left in the photo captioned “Belgrade after midnight”).

Had you asked anyone, they would have directed you to one of the clubbing areas (like the river party boats).

If only you had made contact with any of the expatriates in Belgrade we could have guided you away from the crap bars and shown you Belgrade’s incredible nightlife.

Belgrade is deservedly famous for being a fantastic party town. It is a real pity you did not have someone to show you around. Even people like Tom Merchant, founder of award winning travel company Black Tomato, have praised Belgrade lavishly , as have The Times of London , the New York Times and dozens more.

Michael and the Writer

Michael interviews a local writer who speaks for the ultra-liberals of Serbia.

I support the Liberal Democratic Party so the early part of Mr Filip David’s interview with Michael Totten  pretty much sums up what I think about much of the politics here.

That said, I am a foreigner and I have my own biases. But Mr David is unrepresentative of Serbs in general, and presents a deeply negative view of Serbia that even I would dispute.

Imagine I went to America and interviewed Michael Moore then reported back that his was the authentic voice of the USA? Well that is kind of how many Serbs will feel about Michael’s encounter with Filip David.

At times Michael and Mr David veer into speculation, generalization and stereotypes. They try and pass off Serbian anti-Americanism as the product mere propaganda and conspiracy theories.

It is true that the lunatic fringe and the Radical Party peddle absurd anti-Semitic and anti-American conspiracy theories but do not let that obscure the fact that Serbian anti-Americanism is firmly rooted in rightful outrage over the Clinton administration’s illegal and murderous bombing of the country in 1999. That bombing campaign is now widely seen to have been the result of being duped by the KLA, an attack on a sovreign state in supported Muslim separatist ethnic nationalists who went on to Ethnically Cleanse Serbs, Gorani and Roma from Kosovo and then turn the province into a corrupt and violent mafia state.

Had you Michael diversified his interview subjects, he may very well have come to understand that even those who support Kosovo independence here are outraged at the bombing and the general bullying manner in which post-Milosevic democratic Serbia has been treated by the US, EU and UN.

At one point Michael shocked me with this throw-away comment, writing:

Kosovo’s current prime minister Hashim Thaci, who really is a bit sketchy, was recently and absurdly accused of harvesting and selling Serb body parts. When you throw The Protocols of the Elders of Zion into the mix, it’s a good idea to fact-check what you hear – which is frankly good advice in the Balkans in general, not just in Serbia.

Well Michael here is what you do not know: Those allegations came from noted UN prosecutor Carla Del Ponte in her book “The Hunt”. The do sound like rubbish, but as Human Rights Watch have noted, the underlying fact is that hundreds of Serbs have been “disappeared” since 1999 and the KLA are directly implicated. HRW have called for an investigation:

NEW YORK — A senior Human Rights Watch (HRW) official has called on Priština to investigate the fate of more than 400 missing non-Albanians in Kosovo.

In this way, Fred Abrahams argues in a commentary carried by BIRN, “it would prove it cared for all its citizens, regardless of ethnicity”.

Carla Del Ponte’s book, Abrahams says, with allegations concerning the possible trafficking of prisoners’ organs from a mysterious yellow house near the Albanian town of Burrel, “has led to Serbian officials exaggerating the claims, while officials in Priština and Tirana called them a slanderous lie”.

“The accusations and denials obscure a fundamental point. Whether or not it’s proven that a trade in human organs took place, no one denies that about 400 people – most of them Serbs – went missing in Kosovo after the war. [Source]

So he is not “a bit sketchy”, he oversees a government that allows the ongoing sectarian violence against Serbs, a government which is the inheritor of power from the KLA – a state department listed terrorist organisation and mafia enterprise that is directly implicated in the mass murder of both non-Albanians and Albanians in Kosovo.

For more on the Albanian organ harvesting case and Albanian mass murderers being freed by the Hague after killing all witnesses, see:



You might notice that the point is not about whether the Organ Harvesting is true or not, but the blanket refusal of UN and other bodies to investigate alleged crimes against Serbs and other non-Albanians in Kosovo.

It is the double standard that irks Serbs. Every ridiculous claim but its enemies are reprinted as gospel truth whilst acknowledged war crimes like the abduction of 400 Serbian civilians remains investigated (and unreported) to this today.

Snide Remarks

Michaels photo captions are very snide at times. For example in one photo he captions a picture of Belgrade’s military museum and writes:

Serbia likes to show off its military hardware in public. “They’re just like Russians,” Sean said and laughed when he saw this. “And Arabs,” I said.”

Well no, Michael, it is a museum. Do American’s like to show off their military hardware in public too? I mean what the hell is the Intrepid doing moored at New York?

Serbia had not been bombed

During a walking tour Michael “saw virtually no evidence that Belgrade had ever been bombed.” A walk down Kralja Milena would have provided you with all the evidence required. There are multiple shattered building right across the road from the US Embassy.

Later he sees,

“[The] bombed-out Belgrade TV station building…[which]…stood out as one of the few remaining demolished buildings from the air campaign. It seems to be left as a show-piece. It’s hard to say, though, if this building was left in its condition to wave the bloody shirt against Americans or against the Milosevic regime.”

This is an interesting point because I have wondered why so many ruins have been left in place. Serb opinion is split. Some say it is, as Michael says “to wave a bloody shirt”. Other people have told me there are unexploded bombs, that it is massively expensive to clear the sites and that there are fears of Depleted Uranium. I am not sure if any of that is true.

Michael reveals his ignorance about what really happened in Kosovo

Michael writes that

“[Milosevic’s] ethnic-cleansing campaign turned 90 percent of Kosovar Albanians into refugees”.

This is a half-truth, and as such is one of the enduring anti-Serb myths of the war.

The typical story starts with genocidal Serbs picking on poor defenceless Albanians and ends with trains of Albanian civilians pouring out of Kosovo terrified for their lives, the survivors of ethnic cleansing and genocide.


That is the KLA/Western Media version and has no bearing on reality. It was all media warfare.  The story should have started back in 1981 with the Pristina riots. It should have charted the KLA insurgency and, murderous campaign against Albanian rivals. It should include the ethnic warfare against Serbs that culminated in the Serbian Army being deployed to fight the KLA insurgency.

And of course the the story did not end with the Kosovar civilians leaving in droves. We later discovered that the massacres and ethnic cleansing claimed by NATO and the KLA did not happen. The civilians fled because they were warned to by the KLA and because they were terrified by the news reports from the duped Western media. They all returned home within a few months. And then they set about hounding, persecuting and ethnically slaughtering non-Albanians so that 90% of non-Albanians have been permanently Ethnically Cleansed from Kosovo since the NATO bombing.

So please shut up about the temporary, propaganda-driven KLA-orchestrated media stunt and pay some attention to the real outrage of Kosovo: The hundreds of thousands of deracinated Serbs, Gorani and Roma (not to mention the hundreds of missing, probably dead abductees), the illegal bombing of Serbian civilians, the human slave trafficking, the drug smuggling, the ongoing oppression of minorities in Kosovo. That is the real outrage in this story. You may very well see it first hand.

Since you are going to Kosovo. Make sure you visit the embattled Serb communities living in razor wire surrounded ghettos, guarded by foreign soldiers and under daily attack from Albanian sectarian violence.

Head to the south of the province, try and visit the village of Velika Hoca and the town of Orahovac. What you find will shock you.

Safe in Belgrade

Towards the end of the first instalment Michael asked Filip David “I feel like we’re safe here, is that true?”. Mr David replies “Yes, generally. But sometimes you will have somebody say they don’t like you if they hear you speak English.”

Michael notes that no-one had been rude to he or Sean. I think it is worth noting that Belgrade is one of the safest cities in the world. There is virtually no street crime and xenophobia is so are as to be almost unheard of. An American is in more danger in London than Belgrade where the overwhelming majority of encounters will be hospitable and helpful – more so than any Western European capital.

Final thoughts

Michael, if you read this, please get in touch with me next time you are in Belgrade. I am a fellow writer on Pajama’s Media [here and here ], a fan and an ideological fellow traveler.

I will introduce you to ideas that you have not explored, for example how it was the KLA who mastered Hizbollah-style media warfare and used it to dupe the West into unnecessary and illegal aggression against Serbia. I will give you Western conservative’s account of what happened here. I guarantee that there is a vast and nuanced complexity to the situation here that you are missing right now, a complexity that I can help explain.

And I will take you out and show you a proper Belgrade good time, I will make sure you are put up somewhere decent and I will get you to the airport for free.

Do we have a deal?


Open Serb hatred must be answered

by Limbic on February 22, 2008

Belgrade Holocaust memorial
Belgrade’s Holocaust Memorial – one of several in a city populated by a people famed for their resistance to the Nazis

I am used to reading lies and vitriol about Serbs and Serbia but an article emailed to me today is one of the most racist, hateful and biased articles I have read in a serious publication.

The article is by Stephen Schwartz writing in Pajamas Media, a website I used to respect (mostly because of having superb writers like Victor Davis Hanson), but I am not so sure now.

Any friend of Serbia needs to read the article and respond to it forcefully. You need to comment, you need to write to the editor and you need to spread the word about it.

I want Mr Schwartz to rue the day he penned this disgusting and hateful piece of racist bunk.

This is my response to the article:

[Update: Pajamas media allowed me to publish a comprehensive response: Kosovo and the Myth  of Serbian Depravity]

Serbs are an heroic nation who suffered 500 years of brutal Turkish oppression. They were allied with Britain, America and France in both WW1 and WW2. During WW2 they fought a heroic campaign of resistance against the Nazis. 250,000 Serbs were murdered in death camps by the Nazis and their Croatian and Bulgarian allies.

The arson attack on the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade and similar violence against other embassies was the work of a tiny number of well organised football hooligans whose numbers are dwarfed by the 500,000 peaceful protestors who thronged the streets.

Embassies are symbols of their countries – as are flags – and they are routinely attacked in civil disturbances or protests directed at countries. Serbia has rightly been criticized for failing to adequately protect the embassies, but similar attacks by Iranians, Pakistanis and others on US and Danish embassies were not denounced in the security council emphasizing yet again the anti-Serb bias in the US, EU and Security Council.

In the article Mr Schwartz draws attention to the murder of Bosnian children by Serb snipers in Bosnia nearly 15 years ago as sarcastic evidence of Serbian “bravery”. He states that Serbs “interpret diplomacy as aggression and attempted genocide”. That is Serbs as in YOU my dear Serbian friends. This man is accusing you of believing this. The irony is that faux diplomacy, backed by bombs, has indeed led to the attempted genocide of Kosovo Serbs who live in fear and are subjected to near constant attack from the Albanian majority.

Schwartz believes that the actions of a few hundred hooligans somehow rebukes the unassailable facts of the situation: that the bombing was both utterly wrong and completely illegal; that Kosovo independence contravenes International law and established precedent; that that Serbia is remorselessly bullied by the US and that Kosovo is a dangerous precedent created by a duped West in support of quasi-fascist Albanian Ethnic Nationalism.

Schwartz believes the Albanians are merely securing their freedom from Serbian fascism, yet since 2000 a democratic Serbia has never shown even a trace of aggression against neighbours or minorities, whereas the Albanians of Kosovo have repeatedly demonstrated their fascistic and nationalist tendencies in unrelenting violence against minorities and the large scale ethnic cleansing of Serbs, Gorani and Roma from Kosovo.

Schwartz claims Serbs do not change. He states it. How dare he parade his bigotry like this? Imagine declaring this of any people of country. It is hate speech.

Schwartz castigates the saner voices in US politics for their pro-Serbian stance. He accuses them of being “deniers”, cunningly invoking the idea of Holocaust Deniers and all the opprobrium wearers of that label rightly deserve. He claims that they (pro-Serbs) deny the reality of Srebrenica and Racak. That is not true. Srebrenica is undeniable and a horror that must neevr be repeated. Racak is hotly disputed and for good reason, the evidence is contradictory.

What pro-Serbs find galling is that all we ever hear is about Srebrenica and Racak, yet we never hear about the hundreds of massacres of Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia and Kosovo. How many Americans know about the massacre of Serbs in and around Srebrenica in 1992-1993? Go and read the UN document “Memorandum on War Crimes and Crimes of Genocide in Eastern Bosnia (communes of Bratunac, Skelani and Srebrenica) committed against the Serbian population from April 1992 to April 1993.” That and other documents detail the massive scale of crimes against Serbs by Bosnians and Croats in Bosnian. Schwartz does not see fit to mention the genocide of Serbs by Croatian Ustase in WW2 nor Operation Storm – the largest ethnic cleaning of the Yugoslav Wars – where 500,000 Serbs were deracinated. Mr Schwartz, like so many Serb haters, only every discusses one side and draws attention on to the crimes of the Serbs never the equally vile crimes AGAINST the Serbs.

Schwartz goes on to state his most outrageous lies: that the Serbs sold out the Jews in WW2. He repeats the half-truth that Belgrade was the first “judenrein” city in Europe. He completely omits the fact that it was quisling pseudo-government that made that declaration. That a massive Serbian partisan movement fought the Nazis so hard that Hitler called the Serbia “The Cauldron”. He does not mention that 250,000 Serbs were killed in Nazi death camps along with ten of thousands of Jews and Roma. He does not mention that the Bosnians has their own SS division – the Handschar Division (see Hitler and the Mufti http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6OK1Pi3xV8 ) – manned by Bosnian Muslims and commanded by Croatian Ustase Nazis. He completely fails to mention the fact that numerous Nazi hunting and Holocaust memorial organisations have acknowledged and praised the Serbian people for their part on helping save Jews from Nazis.

He makes the ludicrous claim that the Partisans were mostly non-Serbs! This is a bald lie. He goes on to defame the Chetniks too, again offering neither argument nor support for his claims. Mr Schwartz loves to talk about Serbs slitting Bosnian throats, but what does he has to say about this video confession of a Bosnian Muslim soldier cut the throats of Serbian children, after raping them in front of their dying parents. See it for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZbp1PIkbAk

Schwartz then goes on to attack the Serb lobby in the US. He describes Serbs are “troglodytes”! since when did it become acceptable to describe entire nations as using words like this? He mocks the Serbs contributions to the WW2 war effort.

He then goes on to claim of Serbs (aka YOU) that “Serbs hate Muslims because Muslims wash before praying”. There you have it. No modifier. No conditionals. Bald, nutty assertion. Where does he get this? An unnamed Serbian “Theologian” said this once. Does this mean I can take the ranting of Jesse Jackson or Michael Moore or a street corner loon and make claims about ALL Americans now? Did you know that ALL Americans thing Europe is a country? Evidence: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o31GDLgDyD0 . Additionally, US Americans have no maps and “The Irak” needs our help: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj3iNxZ8Dww .

Mr Schwartz then goes on to state a series of lies, biased speculations and pure hate speech against Serbs and Serbia. As usual, it is free of evidence or logic.

He castigates the violence and asserts it is proof of Serbian rottenness, that the rioting is “Serbian statesmanship”. He ignores the riots and anti-US violence across the world. He seems blind to the frequent and much more deadly Albanian riots in Pristina, where UN and US property has been destroyed, hand grenades thrown and people killed.

He decries Lawrence Eagleburger – brilliant statesmen and experienced diplomat – as a Serbian apologist because he is merely neutral, and acknowledges that whilst the Serbs are not blameless, they are in no way responsible for the mess in Kosovo. He states that Eagleburger ” appeared surprised by the embassy attacks” when the opposite was true. On CNN Eagleburger explained that the attacks were inevitable and expected when you subject a people to bullying, aggression and bombardment.

Schwartz once again insults Serbian culture and civilisation by denying its links to Kosovo, and saying hat the mass rapes in Bosnia (carried out by all sides) and bombing of Dubrovnik (a crime carried out by the Yugoslav National Army NOT Serb, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Dubrovnik ) as examples of Serbian culture. I have never, ever met a single Serbs who does NOT deplore the crimes carried out in their name.

Why are the actions of armed forces of Yugoslavia suddenly Serbian actions? What about the Bosnian and Montenegrin and Kosovo Albanians soldiers who advanced to attack the surrounding area and occupied Prevlaka, Konavle, Cavtat? Are people of the USA to be judged on the actions of their armed forces too? Is Abu Graib American culture Mr Schwartz? My Lai? The illegal and unjustified bombing of Serbian civilians in 1999? The US support of Operation Storm? Is this American “culture”?

Schwartz states that the Serbs “tried to expel two million Albanians from their homes in Kosovo”. They did no such thing. They tried to suppress an insurgency. The KLA frightened their own people into fleeing. There were no massacres then, it was war – war started by Albanian terrorists. The talk of massacres and Bosnian style mass rape was all lies. Perhaps research from Israeli scholars will help convince Mr Schwartz? Read about how NATO framed the Serbs and how Albanians oppress Serbs: http://www.hirhome.com/yugo/freezer1.htm and http://www.hirhome.com/yugo/kosovo.htm

Mr Schwartz ends his tirade by saying “The whole world knows who the aggressors were in ex-Yugoslavia”. Not quite Mr Schwartz, they known the Myth of the Balkans wars. They know the simplistic propaganda supported version of Serbs as bad guys, everyone else as victims. They THINK they know what happened, but history is revealing the truth. Yes, Slobodan Milosevic was an ethnic nationalist out to save his communist are by adopting nationalism. But so was the Father of Croatia Franco Tudjman. They were all rotten: Slobo, Tudjman, – all murderous, lying, self-serving nationalist scum. Yet it is only the leaders of Serbia and the Bosnian Serbs called to account. Only their record is examined, their crimes publicised, their wrongs highlighted. Of course everyone THINKS they know what happened because they have been fed the usual media pap. Unfortunately for people like you Mr Schwartz, Iraq has made the people of the world much more cynical and wise to US lies and deceptions. Mere claim backed with “Trust me” or “Read my lips” no longer works. You and your kind – Lying hate-mongers – and dying off. Schwartz is a sentimental radical nationalist exactly like the thugs who attacked the US embassy. They are brethren and identical except Schwartz espouses freedom and hotdogs whilst the hooligans of Serbia are about Kosovo and Rakia.

America’s embassy in Belgrade is not burning. Your is flying again. The hooligans who rioted and looted are being rounded up. A minor incident is long over.

Serbs are now well on their way to a prosperous and peaceful future in the EU. It is Independent Kosovo that is likely to rot as the black hole of Europe, not Serbia. It has nothing but mafia money and aid, which is nit enough to sustain it. It is true it is a hub for slave trading women, arms selling and drug trafficking but even those “earnings” tend to find their way to Swiss bank accounts or the shops and bars of London.

Mr Schwartz and his snide tirade deserves to be answered fully. I would like to dance on the ashes of his career and reputation. Help make that happen by circulating this rebuttal to everyone you know.


While Lebanon Boils, Watch Bosnia

by Limbic on July 25, 2006

Douglas Farah: While Lebanon Boils, Watch Bosnia

There is concern among Bosnian contacts that, if Iran feels things are going badly in Lebanon and that the war needs another front, it would take little to ignite Bosnia. It would not be hard to do and the international presence in Bosnia is greatly reduced. So is the intelligence capacity developed in the late 1990s. Several key intelligence-gathering units have been dissolved in Bosnia in the past six months, meaning the West is more blind there than any time since the mid-1990s.

To date Iranian intelligence maintains a huge apparatus in Bosnia and several dozen, if not hundreds, of trainers with the elite units of the Bosnian military. In addition, several hundred mujahadeen who fought in Afghanistan and then Bosnia remain scattered around Bosnia, many of them still with the elite Bosnia units or in the intelligence apparatus.


Gaza beach hoax…Hamas staged it?

by Limbic on June 23, 2006

In Aftermath of a Media Storm, Honest Reporting looks at the aftermath of the Gaza beach incident and questions of Palestinian credibility.

It devestates the claims that this was an Israeli attack.

Even the anti-Israeli poster boy, Marc Garlasco, the widely quoted “expert” who opined after the incident that it was definately an Israeli attack, has conceded that it was a likely to be a piece of unexploded ordinance left on the beach (which is what Israel claimed all along).

Superb debunking job by Honest Reporting.



Israel Defense Forces Navy Unleashes Death Shark Against Terrorism

Israel has been well known in leading the global defense industry out of its very survival since 1948. And in doing so has developed several “James Bond” futuristic, lethal weapons over the years. In the most recent unveiling the Israel Navy has now deployed a speedboat drone capable of reaching enemy targets hundreds of miles from Israel shores.

The unmanned speedboat is equipped with a remote-controlled machine gun capable of being operated with laser accuracy up to a range of 50 kilometers, reportedly the first of its kind in the world.

Private defense analysts who have studied photos of the “Death Shark” or what the IDF brands as the “Protector” state that the Rafael Industries weapon is equipped with at least four cameras, as well as a sonar or radar system and electro-optics capable of providing a three-dimensional image. The cameras are said to operate with the same distance and high definition as satellite cameras, being able to capture a licence plate number and the barrel of gun from a distance of 10 miles.

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Richard Miniter on Disinformation & War on Terror interviewed by Kathryn Jean Lopez on National Review Online:

“Everything you know about the war on terror is false? Well, not quite. But Rich Miniter has homed in on 22 myths, which comprises his new book, Disinformation : 22 Media Myths That Undermine the War on Terror.”

Here is an excerpt from the interview:

Lopez: Still, aren’t you just a little bit paranoid to blame myths on anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism?

Miniter: C.S. Lewis once said that the greatest advantage that the devil has is the belief that he doesn’t exist. We need to realize that anti-Semitism, which has been declining for decades on these shores, is making a comeback on campuses, websites, and even in Upper West Side dinner chatter. As these views become acceptable — as they already have in Europe — they threaten to divide America against itself. Much of the disinformation spread by Arab state-run media is basically an appeal to anti-Israeli and anti-American sentiment. We have to be honest about the threat we face. Or as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace said the other day, in this war, ideas “are as important as bullets.” That means we have to knock down even the nutty ideas of our enemies.

Lopez: Iraq isn’t Vietnam? But 2,000 of our military men and women have died.

Miniter: There are so many differences between the Vietnam War and the Iraq war that I had to write a 10,000-word chapter just to present all of the evidence. Basically, Iraq is Vietnam in reverse. Vietnam began with a small but growing insurgency and ended with tanks and division-strength infantry assaults on our forces. In Iraq, we destroyed the tanks and vanquished the army in a few weeks. The insurgency in Iraq is estimated today at 20,000 men. In 1966, Viet Cong and North Vietnamese regulars had combined troop strength of 700,000. By 1973, they had 1 million men under arms. North Vietnam had two superpowers supplying cutting-edge weapons; the most the insurgents in Iraq can hope for is car-bomb expertise from Iran and Syria. Ho Chi Minh was a compelling leader whose propaganda promised a better life for peasants. Al-Zarqawi is a Jordanian street thug who gets no respect in Iraq and offers no vision of a better life. I could go on and on about all of the important differences. Once you read this chapter, you will be able to shoot down liberals at cocktail parties for the next 20 years.

As for the 2,000, why does the press treat brave men and women as mere statistics? Instead of merely telling us that they died, don’t we owe it to these fallen soldiers to say how they died? Many of them died heroically, saving the lives of others.

Read on here.