Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Remember the last 'good' war?

No, not WWII, and not Vietnam--more recent than that. And not Afghanistan and Iraq--earlier than that and a war that Democrats called "just."

Give up? It was the Paschal bombing of Serbia, to save the suffering Albanians of Kosovo. It was easy to forget: We fired NATO at it and went back to sleep. Then when the alarm finally went off, we were just too busy and . . .

Well, while we were busy finding out who'd win at Survivor, the Kosovo Albanians turned it around. Over the past five years (what's an exit strategy?), they have worked to push the Serbs out of the province, killing and raping Serbs, locking them out of business, schools, towns and hospitals, systematically dismantling the cultural heritage of the region (remember the Taliban and the Buddha statues? Remember the Holy Virgin of Ljevis Cathedral? I didn't think so.)

So what's all this got to do with the price of butter?

I'm glad you asked.

It seems that presidential contender John F. Kerry has issued a
policy statement on Kosovo that has the Albanians overjoyed and the Serbs terrified (and at least one Greek hopping mad).

I first heard about it when someone forwarded a copy of said Greek's letter to Kerry laying out why the Greek will be voting for a Republican for the first time in the 2004 election. I couldn't quite relate to his shock at Kerry's leaning on the issue, because after all, Wesley Clark supports Kerry, but aside from that, I wondered if the statement was true or an urban legend.

The truth is even more interesting. Apparently Kerry made a statement, says Blic, a Serbian newspaper, "primarily intended for voters of Albanian descent." I found nothing about it in the major news sites or on Kerry's website and only bites of it in the jubilant Albanian and despairing Serbian news sites. I finally found it, in an attachment to a comment on a Serbian news story.

The statement itself is pretty plain vanilla. There's a lot of mush about peace and prosperity and ending corruption and allowing self-rule, which the parties to the conflict are reading the same way, proved by their opposite reactions. More troubling is that a presidential candidate announces an aspect of his foreign policy only to people of a certain ethnic group, who are likely to vote for him based on the policy. I have the old-fashioned idea that all voters ought to have some indication of the candidate's plans--even voters of the "wrong" ethnic group.

Here's the statement:
July 23, 2004

John Kerry: Working Together with Albanian-Americans

Senator John Kerry issued the following statement:

I am proud to receive support from Albanian-Americans. For generations, Albanians coming to America have assumed eagerly the responsibilities and opportunities of citizenship. The newest generations of Albanian-Americans have carried on this tradition in a way that makes your ancestors – and all who love America -- proud. As Americans, you have built our communities, creating economic opportunity and prosperity. You value family, community, responsibility, and opportunity. And many Albanian-Americans have given their lives in our armed forces over the last century, proudly serving our country and protecting our freedoms.

I promise as president to promote policies that protect the communities you have built and preserve the values you have honored. We will take care of our elderly, make health care more readily available, promote education, help small businesses, and provide equal opportunity for all.

I also appreciate the strong bonds Albanian-Americans have with their friends, families, and brethren in South-Eastern Europe. These ties make our strong country a great nation. They remind us of the values that brought us here and of the hope and opportunity that remains elsewhere. They help America build our friendships and forge alliances. It is no accident that Albania has sent troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, that Albania has been steadfast in the war on terrorism, or that the Albanian people are among the most pro-American people in the world today. It is a tribute to the network of connections that knits together not just governments but people who share the same values. You have done that for both your country today and for the countries of your ancestors.

I believe that stability, democracy and prosperity in the Balkans are in America’s best interest. My administration will re-establish America’s leadership in the Balkans, particularly when it comes to Kosovo. The Bush administration has turned its back on the region, hollowed out our security presence, and left the people of the region without the opportunity to govern themselves.

At a time when the populations of these countries took courageous steps to break from the past and were desperately looking to consolidate momentous reforms, the Bush administration chose to do as little as possible. It has missed an historic opportunity.

My administration will act quickly to address the issues facing Kosovo. Kosovo's future status should be decided as soon as possible. The people of Kosovo must be able to determine their own future, including how they want to be governed. Proposals to change the territory of Kosovo or to partition it along ethnic lines do not help build a multi-ethnic society or prepare the region for its future in Europe. As we pursue Kosovo's final status, we want to work closely with others in the region and engage them in promoting a smooth transition. Continued delay - which is all the Bush administration has offered -- hardens the positions of extremists on all sides. The region is vulnerable to nationalists within and extremists from outside; we must help rebuild the institutions that can protect the people of Kosovo so that they will resist calls for more violence and further calamity. Should the region be allowed to degrade it would return to the lawlessness of the Milosevic era and allow criminals to flourish.

We will need your help. We must approach Kosovo’s status in a way that makes its neighborhood safer and more secure. This will take American leadership, alliances, and effort, as it did with Western Europe at the end of World War II. And it will take time; we cannot walk away from Kosovo and the region. I will need your help in building the support we will need in Congress and with the American people to carry out this historic task. With your support, my administration will:

  • Work with our European allies to see that all states of the Balkans are able to take their place as law-abiding members of the key institutions that helped to win the Cold War, including NATO and the European Union.

  • Assist the governments in the region to increase trade, attract investment, and address corruption, human trafficking, and minority rights.

  • Pursue individuals indicted for war crimes. All governments in the region must cooperate to achieve this purpose and bring war criminals to justice. I will also need your help to support more vigorously Albania’s efforts to develop its economy, integrate into Euro-Atlantic institutions, and strengthen its democracy. We will continue to support the efforts of Albanians in Macedonia and Montenegro to become equal citizens of democratic societies.

Not every issue will be easy. America at our best stands for human rights, for everyone. My administration will enlist your support in seeing that the human rights of people throughout the region are respected. This must include the Serbs and other communities of people who want to live in Kosovo. Otherwise, it will be more difficult, if not impossible, to achieve lasting peace and prosperity in the region and to fulfill the legitimate aspirations of all who live there.

I am proud that we will, together, help make real the dream of Albanians, of Americans, of our allies, and of all who care about our security and freedom, of creating a Europe that is peaceful, democratic, and free from fear and from oppression -- a Europe whole and free, from the Baltic, to the Black Sea – and in the Kerry administration, to the Adriatic.

ALBANEWS archives -- July 2004, week 5 (#5)

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