Macedonia or how the West started the first Balkan war of the millenium.

Back in 1998, at the end of the Balkan winter, just as the war season was coming round again, an assortment of Western diplomats, led by the Americans were visiting Belgrade. Amongst their other statements, they managed to state, explicitly, that the West viewed the then nascent KLA as a terrorist organisation.

For Milosevic, this was the green light. You can do what you like to terrorists and to him, an American envoy using those words passed a clear message. He could do what he liked to those people and the Western world would stand aside.

Madeline Allbright back pedalled furiously on the statement of her representatives but the damage was done and trying to turn off that green light failed. Finally, the site of tanks, artillary pieces and helicopters raining fire down on Albanian civilians grew too much and Madeline tried to make amends by starting a war with Serbia.

So, three years later, what happened in Macedonia? Robin Cook led a crew of diplomats who travelled to Skopje with the message that the Albanian Rebels were terrorists and should be stopped. So what was the result and what do we see on CNN each evening?

Again, the weapons of war are shelling and rocketing Albanian villages. Ramshackle tractors are seen carrying terrified families away from their devestated villages and Macedonian politicians and Generals smack their lips and talk about driving "these people" out of the country.

If that is not ethnic cleansing then I am Madeline Albright's love child.

At the same time that this is taking place, Western governments and media are setting out to demonise the Abanian rebels by claiming that they want to break away from Macedonia and form a new greater Albania including not just Albania, Kosovo and parts of Macedonia but also great swathes of land in Greece, Serbia and Montenegro. But this is just not true. The only evidence that anyone has of this has been an old historical map showing the ethnic Albanian population hundreds of years ago. That does not amount to a land grab and any claim that it does is a best a disingenuous misrepresentation and at worst a cycnical manipulation of the truth to justify ethnic cleansing.

The Albanian rebels in Macedonia do have demands which amount to fair and equal treatment in an undivided Macedonia. It is worth evlauating their demands and grievances and I shall write about those soon.

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