Monday, March 14, 2005

ICG's Tangled Web

Is there some sort of unholy alliance between the NY Times/International Herald Tribune and the International Crisis Group (ICG)? It seems hardly a week goes by without the IHT publishing at least one editorial by ICG board members, sympathizers or partisans, recycling the Group's message about the "independence" of occupied ("liberated," in their parlance) Kosovo.

The latest in this string of atrocities is an op-ed by one John Norris, a "special adviser to the president" of the ICG, who spins the indictment and surrender of Ramush Haradinaj as a "stern test of maturity" in Saturday's IHT.

I'll give the Imperials one thing: they sure can talk pretty. Norris's prose is very persuasive, if one  forgets for even a minute that he traffics in euphemisms alone. Indeed, the vocabulary of the editorial consists almost exclusively of select spin-words and phrases. Thus Ramush is not an "indicted war criminal" like other ICTY prisoners, but a "wildly popular prime minister who has generally said and done all the right things while delivering on a wide array of requests made by the UN administration." The anthropomorphic Kosovo (conjured as a more acceptable image than the KLA, or Albanians) "has languished awkwardly in a netherworld, uncertain whether it would become a country, remain a protectorate indefinitely or be forced back into a desperately unhappy and manifestly unworkable union with Serbia." Notice the use of "forced", "desperately unhappy" and "manifestly unworkable" to describe Kosovo's proper legal status. Brilliant!

When Norris says "many international officials wonder if prosecutors in The Hague lost sight of the forest for the trees in going after Haridinaj [sic] at this exact moment," one is not supposed to ask whether these unnamed multitudes reflect only the Albanian partisans hand-picked by the ICG. Similarly, one is not supposed to understand that the "growing body of sentiment that Kosovo should be granted conditional independence" is actually the KLA/ICG position, presented here as self-evident truth.

But while Norris is true to form in repeating the independence mantra and attempting to manipulate people's sentiments through choice phraseology, he departs from other ICG editorials by addressing himself partially at the Albanians. Consider this:
"Rather than lashing out in anger, they need to understand that the end game for their aspirations is here, and that by continuing to hold their anger in check, avoiding attacks on the Serb minority and forming a government that can make real progress on international standards, they can show they are ready to assume the mantle of statehood."

He follows this up with an appeal to Ibrahim Rugova and Hashim Taqi to "rise above a long history of mutual animus and political rivalry." (Political unificiation of Albanians is somewhat of an ICG fetish, yet they go out of their way to deny its ultimate logical outcome, Greater Albania.) And there you have it, the message every Albanian partisan in the West has been shouting for the past week: keep it cool, play along, and you'll get what you want.

Two questions spring into a skeptical mind. Why say this in the IHT, and not, say, Koha Ditore or Kosova Sot? The NY Times' European avatar is hardly the Kosovo Albanian daily of choice. So, Norris is making his pitch for the benefit of Western audiences as much as that of the Albanians.

The second question is whether another pogrom on the scale of March 17, 2004 would really be such a threat to the Albanian cause. The initial outrage with the raging mob was quickly spun into momentum for accelerated status talks. The ICG itself argues that to delay independence would provoke bloody Albanian violence. Would proof not help their argument?

This, in turn, suggests that while the message to the Albanians may well be genuine, its originators are hedging their bets and preparing the groundwork for another pogrom, which they could blame on "irresponsible elements" among the Albanians or better yet the Serbs, labeled by Norris and others as the only possible beneficiary of further violence. So whether there is a pogrom or not, the ICG has its bases covered.

Oh what a tangled web we weave, when we conspire to deceive...

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