- The Washington Times - Friday, December 28, 2001

Croatia back in chaos?

I read with interest Jeffrey T. Kuhner's Dec. 26 Op-Ed column on Croatia and its difficult road to democracy, "Not yet Bush of the Balkans." Mr. Kuhner is right in critically assessing the pervasive Balkanesque cronyism and corruption in Croatian politics. Yet he briefly and only sketchily mentions the large-scale massacres and removal of thousands of Croat civilians and competent professionals by the former Yugoslav communist security apparatus, which is still partially alive in Croatia.

One's view of what happened in ex-communist Yugoslavia and later in the late President Franjo Tudjman's Croatia depends on the observer's vested interests, his ethnic prejudices and his historical perspectives. One thing remains certain, though: Croatia lacks solid elements of civil society and ignores the Western rules of meritocracy.

Similar to other post-communist countries in the region, modern Croatia is deeply infected by the legacy of communist mendacity and double-dealing and the spiral of silence and civic fear. Waffling empty Western-imported cliches about human rights and market democracy, the revamped Croatian diplomacy shows amazing signs of provincialism and incompetence. What a would-be democratic Croatia needs is a solid dose of re-education and decommunization.

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Undoubtedly, a staggering number of Mr. Tudjman's officials were recycled communists who briefly put on display a feigned Croat patriotism. Was not the current President Stipe Mesic also Mr. Tudjman's pal until their fateful split in 1994?

These remarks may seem of minor importance, but what is worrisome is the present ungovernability of Croatia. Mr. Mesic and Prime Minister Ivica Racan may have good intentions about the country's future. Yet, good intentions do not suffice to make a good politician or make a country safe for entry into the rich men's club of the European Union or NATO.

Furthermore, the coalition government at bureaucratic loggerheads with Mr. Mesic has an unsavory international reputation as a coalition of five swingers making poorly mimicked passes at the European Union. Apparently, this is because of a naive effort to extract a certificate of good democratic behavior or some putative charity from credulous EU and U.S. taxpayers. With mutual mudslinging within this motley crew of four diverse parties, a question remains: Is Croatia a governable entity?

Mr. Tudjman did his best to bring Croat ex-communists and anti-communists together. His motto was "reconciliation." The present Croatian government is doing exactly the opposite; it is unstitching the country and driving a wedge between expatriate and homeland Croats, between the former communists and the right-wing opposition figures, and between the politically correct and politically incorrect.

Outside of regurgitating in broken English and in the old wooden communist lingo slogans such as "free market" or "necessity for economic transition," the present political class in Croatia is a carbon copy of the late "homo sovieticus" universe albeit with the mandatory and feigned liberal veneer.

Forty-five years of communist and Titoist terror brought about negative selection and depleted the Croatian society of honest, law-abiding and professional Croatian politicians irrespective of their ideological creed. Hence, the country is gripped by paralysis and slated for long-term instability.

Slowly, but surely, Croatia is pushing its way back into a still unnamed and unknown chaos.


Novi Zagreb, Croatia

Byrd flies with short memory

It seems that some of our politicians have very short memories. Just three months ago, 19 men from the Middle East hijacked four airliners and caused death and destruction of a magnitude that this country had never seen. A bill to track visa holders visiting the United States was not allowed to come to the floor of the Senate before it adjourned. It was stopped by the action of one man: Sen. Robert C. Byrd, who has long been known as "the king of pork" for providing countless jobs and financial windfalls for his constituents. Now, however, he forever will be known as "the man with the shortest memory in the Senate."


San Diego

History sheds different light on U.S. sanctions against Azerbaijan

Allow me to make several points regarding your Dec. 23 editorial "The importance of Armenia and Azerbaijan."

As you state, Americans are not very knowledgeable about realities in the region. This is especially true with regard to the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan as well as to the consequences of Armenian aggression against my country. It is an internationally established fact that Armenia has occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan, turning almost a million of my compatriots into refugees and internally displaced persons. Yet even experts writing on these issues sometimes present a distorted picture of the situation, be it intentionally or involuntarily.

Lack of knowledge is the main reason why the powerful Armenian lobby has succeeded in misrepresenting the cessation of normal trade relations, quite natural between two warring parties, as a blockade. Thus, it misled the U.S. Congress into adding insult to injury and passing Section 907 of the 1992 Freedom Support Act, containing sanctions against Azerbaijan. Despite the opposition of successive U.S. administrations to 907, it was only after September 11 that U.S. policy on this matter was reconsidered.

As far as Armenia's "admirable restraint" and "gracious response to the relaxation of U.S. sanctions against Azerbaijan" are concerned, I would like to set the record straight. After September 11, the president of Armenia himself went on record viciously opposing any modification of Section 907. At the same time, a high-ranking Armenian delegation was dispatched to Washington to enforce this position.

We do welcome the Bush administration's engagement in the process of peaceful settlement of the ArmenianAzerbaijani conflict, and the congressional decision to provide the president with authority to waive 907 is an important step toward making this engagement truly unbiased. That is precisely the sort of U.S. involvement in world affairs that is needed to counter the aggressive separatism that, merged with international terrorism, threatens to destroy our values and way of life.

Finally, with respect to both Armenian-Azerbaijani and Turkish-Armenian relations, I believe the only way to settle these kinds of disputes is to look to the future, not appeal to what took place or is claimed to have taken place in the past.



Embassy of Azerbaijan


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