|To: John Lacelle who wrote (17440)||3/14/2001 10:36:26 PM|
|From: George Papadopoulos|
|John, your body bags are coming....if Stratfor is right and they tell us about them<g>|
KFOR and Serb forces will be subject to regular hit-and-run attacks by UCPMB bands, and they will suffer numerous casualties through the spring.
Dangerous Ground: Inside the Buffer
14 March 2001
The Yugoslav army entered the ground safety zone along the Kosovo border March
14. Serb forces were deployed into areas near where ethnic Albanian militants
control strategically important villages. But ethnic Albanians are fighting to keep
those villages from Serb control and ultimately will attack KFOR and Serb patrols
in defense of the region. KFOR can expect the number of guerrilla forces to grow
along the border and for its forces, and those of the Serbs, to be under the
constant threat of ambush.
With ethnic Albanian militants fighting for control of key villages inside a 3-mile
ground safety zone established by NATO, the Yugoslav army entered the area
March 14 in order to stem the incursion of the Liberation Army of Presevo,
Medvedja and Bujanovac (UCPMB).
But the guerrillas will target the Serb patrols entering the ground safety zone, as
well as U.S. KFOR units, in order to defend the strategically important villages and
continue the fight for Kosovo’s independence. Moreover, Albanian militants will
recruit heavily for the fight and keep with hit-and-run attacks against multinational
forces in the Presevo Valley.
In an attempt to stabilize the region, KFOR will be forced to consider a build up of
multinational forces along the border to suppress Albanian extremists. But as a
result, KFOR, U.N. monitors and Serb forces will come under regular attacks by
small bands of Albanians who will migrate over territory in Serbia’s Presevo Valley.
Only a major buildup by KFOR’s forces along the border would stem the violence,
and even that is an uncertain proposition.
KFOR’s biggest challenge will be sealing the border from arms traffic and new
UCPMB recruits. Until KFOR can interdict all guerrilla personnel and equipment,
the militants will own the Presevo Valley.
U.S.-KFOR forces, part of what is known as Multinational Brigade East, are
responsible for three zones along Kosovo’s border with Macedonia and Serbia. The
area has become the center of gravity for a potential border war.
The Albanian extremists seek armed control of predominantly Albanian
communities in Serbia’s territory. Albanian paramilitary leaders claim NATO
betrayed them by refusing to declare Kosovo independent and by aligning with new
Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica.
While Serb forces are not allowed near areas under Albanian control, U.S.-KFOR
forces – with notable assistance from British, Scandinavian, Polish, Russian and
Ukrainian forces – are attempting to clean up towns occupied by the militants.
KFOR efforts to contain the Presevo Valley will resemble the cleanup missions by
Russian paratroopers at the end of the1999 incursion by Islamic militants in
These are preventive operations in towns under the risk of rebel occupation.
Keeping these towns from rebel control will require a steady KFOR presence
through the spring and winter.
Other towns inside the ground safety zone are currently under guerrilla control.
These include Dobrosin, Konculj, Lucane, Bujanovac and Veliki Trnovac – all
inside Serbia proper. There are as many as 4000 militants already inside the
ground safety zone between Kosovo and Serbia and there are about 300 militants
inside Macedonia, concentrated southwest of Serbia's Presevo Valley near
NATO will allow only small teams of KFOR liaisons into the ground safety zone
and will help coordinate operations with Serb forces in the Presevo Valley.
Monitors from the European Union and United Nations will be in place to oversee
the actions of Serb forces. KFOR’s objective in the Presevo Valley is to contain
the militants in their strongholds and to rout them from towns under partial control.
NATO’s mission in the Presevo Valley is risky. Guerrillas have launched mortars
inside the ground safety zone from Macedonia, Serbia and Kosovo, and they
regularly engage Serb police. Ethnic Albanian strongholds cannot be overwhelmed
by force, as Serb forces cannot bring anti-tank weapons, artillery or tanks into the
ground safety zone. The matter is such a concern for Yugoslav officials that Serb
Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic and President Kostunica fear NATO has put
Serb forces in harm’s way.
Moreover, there is a strong likelihood multinational forces will be encircled in their
effort to contain the militants.
The UCPMB is expanding its base of influence inside Kosovo, likely following the
refugee traffic. Substantial refugee flows have gone eastward into Kosovo from the
In December 2000, the UNHCR regional office reported 4,900 internally displaced
people sought refuge in Kosovo from the Presevo Valley. Most registered in towns
surrounding Gnjilane and Kamenica, a few miles inside the border across
Dobrosin, the guerilla stronghold. Also, almost 100 people fled to Kosovo for every
person fleeing to Serbia.
Given the freedom of movement within the buffer zone and the flight of most
persons to Kosovo, UCPMB forces are likely to build up forces in the key towns
inside Kosovo. These include Malisevo, Zegra, Toponica and Karacevo, and also
Breznica inside Serbia.
At present, guerilla forces are diffused throughout the region, and KFOR and Serb
forces effectively will become ducks in the barrel while on patrol.
UCPMB forces have confronted police at key transport routes into Serbia from
Kosovo, including Malina Malla, Blace, Mucibaba and Brevnik. These were
probably attempts to monitor traffic at crossing points. Despite calls by ethnic
Albanian moderates, UCPMB field colonels are bracing for war. Their targets will
be KFOR and Serbian personnel patrolling inside the ground safety zone and
outside along the border.
UCPMB will attempt to hold at key points along the border and will use the
mountains as cover. Much like Russia’s problems in Dagestan, KFOR will face a
mobile enemy and will remain unable to isolate the guerilla bands. KFOR and Serb
forces will be subject to regular hit-and-run attacks by UCPMB bands, and they
will suffer numerous casualties through the spring.
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last ReadRead Replies (2)|
|To: George Papadopoulos who wrote (17443)||3/18/2001 9:15:12 AM|
|From: Tom Clarke|
|U.S. Troops Brace for Confrontations With Albanians |
By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 18, 2001; Page A22
CAMP BONDSTEEL, Yugoslavia -- U.S. peacekeepers in Kosovo, watching warily as ethnic Albanian guerrillas launch new attacks just across the border in Macedonia and southern Yugoslavia, are bracing for possible confrontations in Kosovo with the guerrillas or their supporters.
Stepping up patrols on the border to block the flow of men and weapons from Kosovo to the insurgents, the peacekeepers risk becoming targets themselves if the guerrillas feel threatened.
On Friday, U.S. troops seized machine guns, rocket launchers and other weapons from a Volkswagen Golf car near the border.
NATO waged a 78-day bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999 to end a brutal crackdown by that country's Serb-dominated army against an Albanian insurrection in Kosovo. But U.S. Army peacekeeping troops here see the recent attacks as confirmation that the Albanians are now the problem.
NATO has been cooperating more and more closely with its former adversary in the war. Earlier in the week, the alliance allowed Yugoslav troops to reoccupy a 10-square-mile sector of a buffer zone just outside Kosovo, where Albanian guerrillas have been attacking Yugoslav police.
"As the [buffer zone] gets smaller and there's less room for them to maneuver, I think it'll get hotter," said Lt. Brandon Griffin, an 82nd Airborne Division officer who has led patrols near the zone.
U.S. military intelligence officials expect that if Yugoslavs reoccupy the zone sector by sector in the coming weeks, as is the plan, the Albanian fighters inside will be pushed back into Kosovo -- and into the U.S. peacekeeping sector.
Tensions are higher at the Macedonian border as well. On Friday, four German Leopard tanks crossed from Kosovo into Macedonia to protect German logistics troops who are stationed there to support the peacekeeping operation in Kosovo. Officials said this was not an intervention, only a beefing up of security for the Germans.
Almost two years into the peacekeeping mission, it's hard to find Americans in the field who feel much sympathy for the Albanians they came to rescue.
"I got used to thinking of the Serbs as the oppressors, because of Bosnia," said Capt. Christopher Glover, commander of a military police company deployed here from Fort Polk, La., and a veteran of that other U.S. peacekeeping mission in the Balkans. "But here we're really protecting the Serbs from the Albanians."
Serb civilians who remained in their homes when the Yugoslav army pulled out in 1999 are in constant danger from Albanians, who either want revenge or a Kosovo without Serbs.
U.S. troops are guarding isolated Serb enclaves, religious sites and homes. In some Albanian-dominated towns, the remaining Serbs get round-the-clock protection to deter grenade and bomb attacks. Of the approximately 70 locals put in orange suits and held behind concertina wire and chain-link fence at the jail that U.S. forces maintain inside their main camp, about 65 are ethnic Albanians.
Despite these efforts, Albanians manage regularly to terrorize Serbs. Serbian churches have been dynamited. Last month, a bomb was detonated under a bus filled with Serbs, killing seven.
Many Serbs say the peacekeepers are too concerned about taking casualties and should apply their full military muscle to establish order and confiscate weapons used by Albanians during the war against Yugoslavia.
"The Albanians just keep on pushing and pushing and pushing," Capt. Guenther Pearson, a company commander, said with frustration.
Lt. Judd Young added: "Tensions are rising as the attacks are becoming more and more blatant."
The irony is that the Serbs being protected don't particularly like their protectors. And the ethnic Albanians by and large remain friendly with the U.S. troops moving among them.
Riding through the ethnically Albanian town of Kacanik, Lt. John Waters said that the locals bring coffee and bread to his troops when they visit. "The Albanian town, they love us," summarized Spec. Jason Pasko, a paratrooper from Huntington, Ind. Added his friend, Sgt. Joshua Bailey, from Raymond, N.H., "We're like saviors."
By contrast, the only time they were in a Serb town, the two soldiers said, was to put down a riot and they had rocks thrown at them.
Riding through the beleaguered Serb town of Strpce, an isolated enclave near the Macedonian border, Capt. Glover said the populace shuns his troops. "Notice that we don't have all the 'Hey, hello.' " As he said this, he passed two teenage Serb boys. One stared at him, expressionless. The other ignored him..
"The people here are still anti-U.S., anti-NATO," said Young, standing inside a U.N. police station in Strpce that was attacked last month. "They feel we're an army of occupation."
Among the troops, this ambiguous situation seems sometimes to have a demoralizing effect. Staff Sgt. George Cyrus of Montgomery, Ala., invokes the civil rights movement. "I mean, you think about race in America, and history. You can't go on angry forever. Eventually you've got to get over it."
"I find it very frustrating," added Staff Sgt. Robert McCormick, a combat engineer from Niagara, Wis. "You go into a town and they all act nice and friendly, and the next day they have a riot. So I just want to go home."
© 2001 The Washington Post Company
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|To: Les H who wrote (17446)||3/19/2001 10:32:29 AM|
|From: George Papadopoulos|
|This makes much more sense to me than the official line...|
March 17, 2001
Replaying NATO's Greatest Hits
Let us stipulate the following: If NATO – the greatest military force
in the world – wished to stop the ethnic Albanian insurgency in
Southern Serbia and Macedonia it would do so. If the KLA believed
for one moment that its insurgencies were likely to push NATO into
abandoning Kosovo it would wind them up. The conclusion is
inevitable: The KLA launched the two insurgencies in the full certainty
that they would enjoy tacit, if not explicit, NATO – and that, of course,
means United States – support. Let us further stipulate the following:
The objective of the KLA is to detach chunks of Serbia and
Macedonia and to attach them to a future state of Greater Albania.
NATO leaders furthermore know this to be the case. Another
conclusion is inevitable. Greater Albania is very much in conformity
with US plans for the Balkans.
Therefore we must assume that the KLA will not call
off its insurgencies, and that agreements promising
"ceasefires" are not be worth the paper they are
written on. From what we have stipulated above, we
deduce that NATO knows full well that these
"agreements" are not be worth the paper they are
written on. Therefore the "ceasefire" earlier this
week between the Belgrade regime and the Albanian
guerrillas, brokered by NATO, which would allow
the Yugoslav armed forces into the 3-mile wide
buffer zone between Kosovo and Serbia proper, is
clearly a fraud. And NATO knows it to be a fraud.
The KLA has not the slightest intention of permitting
Belgrade to re-establish its authority in Southern
Indeed, the Albanian guerrillas are not even
pretending to take it seriously. Having signed a
"ceasefire" agreement, they immediately announced
that they could not guarantee the safety of any Serb
soldier entering the buffer zone. Presevo Valley
terrorist "chief of staff," Shefket Musliu, declared: "I
and my commanders cannot accept responsibility for
spontaneous actions of local Albanian elements in
Sector C of the Ground Safety Zone." NATO
furthermore imposed all manner of restrictions on the
Yugoslav armed forces entering the zone, thereby
condemning them to almost certain failure. Tanks
and armored cars were out. Helicopters were out. All
air support for ground troops were out. Villages were
out of bounds. Mines were out. Rocket launchers
were out. There was to be no shelling without
NATO’s consent. "We have demanded that they do
not occupy houses, do not enter villages, do not
receive backing from armored cars or use rocket
launchers and antitank weapons," declared a smug
Lieutenant General Carlo Cabigiosu, commander of
The ostensible purpose of the deployment of the
Yugoslav troops is to block off "escape routes" of
Albanian guerrillas into Kosovo. This is a strange
task. The KLA terrorists are coming across the
border from NATO-occupied Kosovo. One would
have thought responsibility for preventing their entry
into Macedonia or the Presevo Valley was NATO’s
and NATO’s alone. According to UN Security
Council Resolution 1244, which had authorized
NATO’s seizure of Kosovo, the "responsibilities of
the international security presence to be deployed
and acting in Kosovo will include:
(a) Deterring renewed hostilities, maintaining and
where necessary enforcing a ceasefire...(b)
Demilitarizing the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA)
and other armed Kosovo Albanian groups...(d)
Ensuring public safety and order until the
international civil presence can take responsibility for
this task...(g) Conducting border monitoring duties as
required." In other words, NATO has massively
failed to live up to almost every single one of its
obligations. Yet this does not stop the United States
from endlessly demanding that Belgrade live up to its
obligations to cooperate with the Hague Tribunal.
NATO’s strategy, as always, is to shift responsibility
for its failures on to Belgrade. Before last October’s
coup, NATO blamed every calamity on Slobodan
Milosevic. Now that Milosevic is no longer there, the
new Yugoslav regime is to be set up for a fall. All too
eagerly Belgrade is marching into NATO’s trap. The
Yugoslav military deployment is bound to fail. There
are two scenarios and only one conclusion. First
scenario: NATO will impose so many constraints on
the Yugoslav armed forces that they will be unable to
get to grips with the KLA insurgency. After a couple
of months, NATO will declare that Yugoslavia had
"failed" and that only solution was possible.
Reluctantly, KFOR must itself take over Southern
Serbia and Macedonia. Second scenario: The
Yugoslav forces begin to get on top of the situation.
Immediately the cry of "humanitarian abuses" goes
up. The KLA will stage massive flights of Albanian
refugees across the border into Kosovo, and
"anguished" Albanians will stage riots in
Kosovska-Mitrovica. Again NATO will declare that
Yugoslavia had "failed" and that KFOR has to take
This, of course, is precisely the KLA strategy.
Concern about Albanians shooting at NATO soldiers
is ludicrous. KLA and NATO march in lockstep. The
KLA wants to run Greater Albania. NATO is there
to facilitate its creation. The media will cheer on
NATO’s expanded mission in the Balkans. We must
bear any burden, we will be told, to make the world
safe for "peace" and "stability." According to Robert
Curis, a senior analyst with the International Crisis
Group, the George Soros-funded outfit always on
hand to advocate military intervention on behalf
noble goals, the current fighting is "a threat to the
stability of the Balkans and therefore to all of
Europe." Once the stakes are this high – nothing less
than the "stability" of "all of Europe" – only NATO
can be trusted to get the job done.
NATO began preparing to expand its mission in the
Balkans quite some time ago. In early 1999, at
Rambouillet, the United States had demanded that
NATO be given free access to all of Serbia.
Milosevic said no and thereby precipitated the
NATO onslaught. UN Security Council Resolution
1244 also failed to deliver what the US wanted. As
soon as the Americans arrived in Kosovo, however,
they began to arm and train KLA fighters to take
over Southern Serbia. According to a recent article in
the Observer, the "CIA encouraged former Kosovo
Liberation Army fighters to launch a rebellion in
southern Serbia in an effort to undermine the then
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic." A
European KFOR commander told the Observer
reporter: "The CIA has been allowed to run riot in
Kosovo with a private army designed to overthrow
Slobodan Milosevic. Now he’s gone the US State
Department seems incapable of reining in its bastard
army." This, of course, is an absurd misreading of
what really took place. The purpose was not
primarily to "overthrow" Milosevic, but to take over
Serbia. This was to happen either by the reduction of
Serbia to US satellite-status or by gradual US military
takeover. The notion that the US State Department
is unable to rein in "its bastard army" is laughable.
Interestingly, the Observer story echoes a recent
BBC report: "The BBC’s Nik Gowing in Davos has
been shown evidence by foreign diplomatic sources
that the guerrillas now have several hundred fighters
in the 5km-deep military exclusion zone on the
boundary between Kosovo and the rest of Serbia.
The sources said that: Certain NATO-led KFOR
forces were not preventing the guerrillas taking
mortars and other weapons into the exclusion zone.
The guerrilla units had been able to hold exercises
there, including live-firing of weapons, despite the
fact that KFOR patrols the zone. Western special
forces were still training the guerrillas, as a result of
decisions taken before the change of government in
Yugoslavia." Again, the European sources cited are
being disingenuous. The United States could bring
the KLA to heel any time it wanted. One has to
assume that Washington policymakers read
newspapers and would therefore be aware of the fact
that Milosevic was no longer in power in Belgrade.
Perhaps they just simply did not know what the
telephone code for Kosovo was.
What we are seeing now is an eerie replay of the
sinister events of 1998. It was then that the United
States began training and arming the KLA even as
officials were condemning it in public as a "terrorist"
organization. It was then that the United States was
forcing Serbia, under threat of bombs, to sign one
"ceasefire" agreement after another, each one of
which would then be exploited by the KLA to
strengthen its position in Kosovo. US support for the
KLA, incidentally, was in flagrant violation of UN
Security Council Resolution 1160, passed on March
31, 1998, which had condemned "all acts of
terrorism by the Kosovo Liberation Army or any
other group or individual and all external support for
terrorist activity in Kosovo, including finance, arms
In October 1998, facing imminent US air strikes,
President Slobodan Milosevic signed an agreement
with US envoy Richard Holbrooke, promising to
withdraw Yugoslav security forces from Kosovo.
This deal imposed obligations exclusively on
Yugoslavia. The Albanians had not had to sign
anything, and were therefore free to continue to
provoke the Serbs, confident that any act of Serb
retaliation would be reported in the US media as
typical Serb barbarity. It was a fatal surrender of
sovereignty. Yugoslavia had been forced to agree not
to suppress an armed insurrection within its own
borders. It would be a matter of time before the
Serbs would be confronted by even more humiliating
As soon as Yugoslavia began withdrawing its forces
from Kosovo, the KLA moved swiftly to take over
positions previously held by the Serbs. The most
sinister feature of the Holbrooke-Milosevic
agreement was the establishment of the Kosovo
Verification Mission (KVM) under the auspices of
the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe (OSCE). The ostensible purpose of the KVM
was to monitor Yugoslavia’s compliance with the
agreement. Its real purpose was to lay the
groundwork for the subsequent NATO attack. The
KVM was largely a CIA operation. Its chief was
former US Ambassador to El Salvador, William G.
Walker, a specialist in covert warfare and
propaganda. Walker maintained close links to the
KLA. He elicited from them critical information
about Yugoslav defenses. As for the KLA, here is
how Roland Keith, a former field office director of
KVM, described their methods: "Upon my arrival the
war increasingly evolved into a mid-intensity conflict
as ambushes, the encroachment of critical lines of
communication and the [KLA] kidnapping of
security forces resulted in a significant increase in
government casualties which in turn led to major
Yugoslavian reprisal security operations…. The
situation was clearly that KLA provocations…were
clear violations of the previous October’s
KLA provocations, on the one hand, and CIA
manipulation of US public opinion, on the other
hand, culminated in the notorious deceit of Racak in
January 1999. Walker had declared to the media of
the world, on the basis of no evidence whatsoever,
that KLA fighters killed in a firefight with Yugoslav
police had been Albanian civilians murdered in cold
blood. Subsequent forensic investigations confirmed
the Yugoslav version of events: No one had been
shot at close range. The dead had lost their lives in
battle. Yet this alleged "massacre" served to fuel the
media hysteria leading up to NATO’s March 1999
The US media, needless to say, maintained their
usual discreet silence when questions about the US
Government’s deceitful conduct came up. A year
ago, the Sunday Times of London reported:
"American intelligence agents have admitted they
helped to train the Kosovo Liberation Army before
NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia…. Central
Intelligence Agency officers were ceasefire monitors
in Kosovo in 1998 and 1999, developing ties with the
KLA and giving American military training manuals
and field advice on fighting the Yugoslav army and
Serbian police. When the Organization for Security
and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which
coordinated the monitoring, left Kosovo a week
before airstrikes began…many of its satellite
telephones and global positioning systems were
secretly handed to the KLA, ensuring that guerrilla
commanders could stay in touch with NATO and
Washington. Several KLA leaders had the mobile
phone number of General Wesley Clark, the NATO
commander." Amazing stuff. Nothing about any of
this found its way into the US media. That the
United States was behind what is taking place
currently in the Presevo Valley was obvious to the
Sunday Times reporters a year ago: "The KLA has
admitted its long-standing links with American and
European intelligence organizations. Shaban Shala, a
KLA commander now involved in attempts to
destabilize majority Albanian villages beyond
Kosovo’s border in Serbia proper, claimed he had
met British, American and Swiss agents in northern
Albania in 1996."
By now, United States involvement with the KLA is
so flagrant and outrageous that even that master of
the inconsequential turn of phrase, Yugoslav
President Vojislav Kostunica has now taken to
accusing NATO of "direct collaboration" with the
KLA in Southern Serbia. KFOR, Kostunica says,
had "enabled and in some way supported or was
helping the terrorists." "Flights of KFOR helicopters,"
he went on, "have been traced that gave he
impression of being used as a sort of logistics support
to the terrorists rather than surveilling [sic] them."
Given these facts then, why would Kostunica want
to cooperate with NATO? Would it not make more
sense for him to publicize NATO’s mendacity? And
to challenge NATO to live up to its obligations and
seal the Kosovo border? But then the Belgrade
regime is bought and paid for. Its orders now are that
it should be the fall guy, the one to blame for the
continued turmoil in the Balkans.
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|To: George Papadopoulos who wrote (17449)||3/21/2001 9:07:30 PM|
|March 21, 2001|
Europe is freaking out
Mad cow disease is a real threat and has helped stoke the fear gripping the continent. But Europeans are now so timorous, they cannot contemplate any risk without panicking
Remy De La Mauviniere, The Associated Press
European leaders have adopted health hazards -- real and imagined -- as the continent's new bogeyman.
LONDON - Spend a little time in Europe, and you start to feel nothing is safe. Over here, cellphones cause brain damage and T-bone steaks are lethal. Flying economy class gives you blood clots. Even that plastic toy bobbing in the bathtub is toxic.
At least that is what Europeans are told. These days, hardly a week goes by without another health scare sweeping the continent. Never mind that many of the warnings are absurd, or based on flimsy science. Europeans are now so jittery, so convinced that modern life is a minefield, that the merest whiff of risk sends them scurrying for cover.
Even as incomes rise and lifespans lengthen, the continent is gripped by a wave of Euro-fear, a shared continental cringe.
"Europe has lost its nerve," says Frank Furedi, a sociologist at Britain's University of Kent and an expert on the new malaise. "Every problem today, however small, is represented as a major disaster."
One health scare is no longer enough for this cowering continent. With the panic over mad cow disease just starting to ease, Europe has found another reason to freak out: the outbreak in Britain and France of foot-and-mouth disease, which does not even affect humans. And that's just for starters.
Every week brings another study suggesting some cherished food, textile, gadget or hobby may be harmful. The phthalates used to soften plastic toys are poisonous; a standard measles vaccine causes autism; electrical power lines trigger leukemia; genetically modified foods are hazardous. Last week, European mothers were warned that babies breast-fed beyond four months are prone to heart disease in later life.
The health scares are often sparked by a single study. Some dominate the headlines for weeks, others disappear after a day. But the net effect is always the same: more confusion, more boycotts, more fear.
The hysteria is a little puzzling. After all, Europe is the birthplace of Rationalism and its population is well-educated. The continent has also weathered some of the most apocalyptic events in human history, from the bubonic plague to the Holocaust and two World Wars. So why have Europeans suddenly turned timorous?
The very real threat posed by the human variant of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), has certainly played a part. Yet commentators blame environmentalists, the media and especially politicians for fostering a culture of paranoia and panic.
To fill the void left by Soviet communism, European leaders have adopted health hazards -- real or imagined -- as the new bogeyman. "Without the old battle between right and left, politicians need a new mission," says Thomas Deichmann, a German writer who specializes in health scares. "Today, the easiest way for them to connect with the people is to pander to their fears about health."
Which makes the European Union panderer-in-chief. Driven by the so-called precautionary principle, which holds that anything that may pose a danger should be banned or heavily regulated, the EU churns out reams of safety measures that all add up to a single message: that not even reasonable precautions and common sense can save us from the health hazards that lurk round every corner.
Under EU rules, for instance, sports stadiums cannot sell off old plastic seats as souvenirs if they contain cadmium -- even though a fan would have to eat a whole seat to be poisoned by the substance. Another EU directive states that every pair of rubber boots must come with a user's manual in 12 languages. A stringent law on gas emissions threatens to bankrupt scores of European crematoria.
Nothing escapes the crusade to make life 100% predictable and safe. A few years ago, the EU famously outlawed bananas with an "abnormal curvature."
The Brussels-based regulators are even trying to reinvent the ladder. Last September, they passed a directive prescribing a wider gap between rungs. The aim is to stop people from indulging in the "high-risk practice" of resting their knees on the next rung up.
The latest rumour from Brussels is that all 50-year-olds will have to retake their driving tests.
"The European Commission is obsessed with eliminating every last risk from human life," says Andreas Hansen, a Copenhagen-based pollster and sociologist. "By treating the public like small children, by nannying them all the time, they are making Europeans into people who cannot contemplate risk, however trivial, however theoretical, without panicking."
The culture of fear stems partly from earlier failures by European officialdom to defend public health. In the 1980s, hundreds died across the continent after eating French soft cheeses and Belgian pâté tainted with listeriosis. Around the same time, the French government allowed HIV-tainted blood to contaminate hundreds of people. More recently, EU governments shattered public confidence by first playing down the risk from BSE, then exaggerating it.
"Europeans have lost faith in the institutions designed to protect their health," says Pascal Linardi, a Paris-based political analyst. "Now, people always suspect the worst, and are reluctant to listen when experts claim something is safe."
A few weeks ago, Europe worked itself into a frenzy over unsubstantiated reports that depleted-uranium munitions had damaged the health of NATO troops in Yugoslavia. Even as scientists called for calm, governments scrambled to contain Balkan War Syndrome.
Sometimes a single death is enough to put Europe on red alert. When a young woman died recently after flying to London from Sydney, experts blamed her death on "Economy-Class Syndrome," where a blood clot forms after sitting long hours in a cramped airplane seat. The British press predicted thousands of deaths, prompting terrified travellers to cancel flights.
To its own surprise, Europe, which launched the Industrial Revolution and still leads the world in fields ranging from genetics to cellphones, is now a continent of technophobes. Every scientific breakthrough leaves the public feeling slightly queasy.
Some see the technophobia as part of the backlash against globalization. Others tie it to Europe's lingering anti-Americanism, since the United States is more inclined to accept advances.
"In North America you find a robust acceptance of progress," says Dr. Furedi. "In Europe people have come to regard progress with tremendous suspicion."
Even modern European philosophers affect a sulky Luddism. Gunter Grass, the German novelist, believes melancholy is the natural European response to the "lusty appeals of progress." Unlike the happy-go-lucky American, he argues, a European is more at home with "knowledge that engenders disgust."
Nowhere is that ethos more apparent than in the debate over genetically modified crops. Many studies show new corn, soyabean and other hybrids to be safe. Canadians and Americans eat them without blinking. But to Europeans they are "Frankenstein foods." Last spring, when trace quantities of modified seeds were found in bags of Canadian seed sold to EU farmers, European consumers went berserk, returning thousands of boxes of cornflakes to supermarkets. Since then, the EU has made it extremely difficult to plant new genetic hybrids here.
Technophobia also sours Europe's love affair with cellphones. Even as they chatter into their handsets, Europeans are haunted by research suggesting the transmission signals can fry the human brain.
The key word here is "suggesting." Every EU health scare feeds on the lack of conclusive scientific evidence. Having long ago transferred their faith from priests to scientists as the ultimate guardians of the truth, Europeans now find the men and women in white coats don't have all the answers.
Researchers disagree, for instance, on whether earphones reduce or increase the risk of radiation from cellphones. By the same token, no one really knows how BSE jumps from cows to humans, or how long the incubation period is.
Grey areas allow the media to speculate wildly. In Germany, even the stodgy Frankfurter Allgemeine likened BSE to the 14th-century Black Death: "Once it broke out, bubonic plague spread like wildfire. BSE is capable of doing the same." Since 1995, BSE has killed 84 people, far fewer than die on Europe's roads every day.
Yet the culture of fear may not last forever. Some think Europeans will eventually regain their nerve.
"Over the long term, people are not satisfied with irrational arguments all the time," says Mr. Deichmann. "One day, Europeans will grow tired of all these health scares."
What, one wonders, will they worry about then?
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