Monday 12 November 2001

Macedonia Teeters on the Edge of Peace

I wrote this article from Skopje for TIME magazine, which ran it on 12 November 2001.


"There will be problems," NATO spokesman Mark Laity said back in late September. "There will be violence. There will be incidents." Laity was absolutely right: On Nov. 11, Albanian rebels clashed with government forces yet again, this time leaving three policemen dead and dozens of Macedonians held hostage near the city of Tetovo.

Before this flare up, NATO's Essential Harvest operation had ostensibly fulfilled its task of collecting thousands of weapons from the rebel Albanians of the National Liberation Army (NLA). The mission was being replaced by operation Amber Fox, the German-led NATO effort to protect international observers. But this latest incident has been accompanied by the appearance of a new group, the Albanian National Army (ANA), which claimed responsibility for the killings of the policemen. No one can be sure what role they will now play.

Lessons from Kosovo

This is a piece I wrote from Pristina for TIME magazine. It ran on 12 November 2001. I was reminded of it in early April 2011, when the editor of an American magazine asked me if they could reprint it as part of an examination of international intervention over the past decades in light of current events in Libya.


Two-and-a-half years after NATO bombers attacked Yugoslavia to force a resolution to the Kosovo conflict, the breakaway region is holding its first general elections on 17 November. The election will lead to a 120-seat assembly and a president, institutions that will hold little power but have great symbolic significance.

Most Kosovars feel they know the outcome of those elections already. Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) is likely to win a majority just as it did in local elections last year, and Rugova will likely be Kosovo's first president. The campaign has mostly been straightforward and without incident, and this lack of excitement is generally seen as a victory for the international community. Being in Kosovo as U.S.-led bombing continues in Afghanistan, I cannot help but think back to 1999 when the same bombers were pelting this country. Like many people here, I find myself wondering what lessons Kosovo holds for the international community and Afghanistan today.

Friday 12 October 2001

Rumors of War in Abkhazia

In Tbilisi in autumn 2001, I wrote this for TIME magazine, which ran it on 12 October.


The outbreak of war is on everyone's mind here in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. But it's not the Afghan bombing just across the Caspian Sea that people are worried about. Georgians have their own rapidly escalating local war to deal with: the Abkhaz problem is flaring up again.

Thursday 13 September 2001

Sympathy for the Devil

On the morning of 12 September 2001, I got on a plane to Skopje, Macedonia, and while I was there, I wrote this for TIME magazine.


Early on the morning of 11 September, I thought that my next day's travel to Skopje, Macedonia was somewhat risky. After all, there had been a smoldering civil war there for months and the current ceasefire was shaky at best. But, of course, 11 September is the day the entire world became a war zone, so flying to this tiny battlefield in the Balkans seems no different than staying in London as far as personal security is concerned.

I rather wonder why I'm going, to be honest. I mean, who cares about Macedonia now? I say that not because I am insensitive to the very real suffering of victims and their families in Macedonia and not because the scale of the killing in the U.S. eclipses many times over everything that has happened in Macedonia during the past years. I grew up in New Jersey and looked at the twin towers every day of my life for nearly two decades and say this because the world will never be the same again. With civilians considered military targets, it's only a matter of time before free societies become more militarized.

Thursday 11 January 2001

Made-for-TV Revolution

The Guardian ran this on 11 January 2001, picking up a piece I'd published in Central Europe Review. At issue was how most of the Western media were getting a story very wrong: simply seeing what they wanted to see.


On 12 December 2000, the Council for Czech Television, the oversight board of governors for Czech public service Television, recalled Executive Director Dušan Chmelícek. Eight days later, on 20 December, Jirí Hodac, formerly head of news at Czech TV and a man with 11 years experience working for the BBC's Czech Service, was chosen to replace him.

It was a hasty move, and many were shocked that the Council had not asked potential candidates to submit project proposals and had not gone through a rigorous selection process. The Council took just eight days to perform its most important function: choosing the head of the most important media outlet in the country.

They had their reasons, of course, but those reasons seem bitterly ironic now. Their intent had been to avoid the outside political pressure that they felt would mount upon them with each passing day a decision was not made. Make a quick decision just before the holiday, and hope the political parties don't notice.

To say it backfired would be the understatement of the year; the snap decision triggered a labour dispute that quickly boiled over into a national political crisis. So much for the holidays.