Berlusconi III: Revenge of the Sithio

Haven’t we seen this movie before? Will it be any better this time? Can Italy afford another round of Silvi B?

I know what could make this a great term of office! Start a new campaign: Tyrolia is only Italian! Because it’s worked so well for Greece

Update: I see that David is as enthusiastic as I am.

More on Karabakh, Much More

Not too long ago, Doug Muir wrote about why Nagorno-Karabakh may be coming soon to a front page near you. Back in the mid-1990s, I wrote something much longer on the conflict there. (PDF, ca. 500K) Money quote:

Two of the least useful questions for consideration of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh are “Who’s right?” and “When did it start?” Both parties have legitimate claims, and both have legitimate grievances.

The 1994 cease-fire, which was relatively new when I wrote the piece, has held up ever since, at least at the macro scale. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the Minsk Group, which was also relatively new when I wrote the piece, hasn’t solved the conflict. There’s a reason the piece is titled “Intractable Problems.” Actually, there are several. (The analysis is also a bit OSCE-centric. The organization is obviously not the only lens one could choose to look at Karabakh, but I chose it because it was useful for getting at overall questions of European order and transition.) The potentially worse news is what Doug wrote about: Azerbaijan has heaps of oil money and is putting significant chunks of it into rearmament. That may or may not tip the strategic balance, but it certainly raises the chances of renewed conflict. The sequel to the piece linked here was always going to be titled “Just Add Oil and Money.” Maybe it’s time to dust off the sources.

An unpleasant anecdote from 1999

Via the invaluable B92 website comes a nasty little story from Albania.

In her book, “The Hunt”, to be published in Italy on April 3, the former Hague Tribunal Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte states that, during investigations into war crimes committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, against Serbs and other non-Albanians, the prosecutor’s office was informed that persons who disappeared during the Kosovo conflict were used in organ smuggling operations.

Yah, that’s right. Organ smuggling.

More below the cut. Continue reading

Brown shadows

One of the things that’s generally known about Germany, but not often spoken about for various reasons(1), is how much continuity there was between the Third Reich and the early days of the Federal Republic. A certain degree of continuity is inevtiable any time a government changes; even the Bolsheviks brought back a lot of Tsarist officials simply because no one else knew how things worked. But the questions for West Germany after the war are how many, for how long and at what level?

Over time, and thanks in no small measure to confrontations in the late 1960s, more and more German institutions have taken an honest look at who did what to whom during the Nazi period, and where they ended up afterward. The answers to the three questions have often been quite a few, for their whole careers, and at leadership levels. Several forces have gotten companies and institutions to be more truthful about their activities from 1933 to 1945, and the continuity between that period and the postwar era. One such has been the simple passage of time. People who would have been expected to pay a price are now retired, or dead. No doubt, knowledge is coming at the cost of justice.

The latest institution to undertake such an examination is Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt, or BKA). Credit to the BKA’s current president, Jörg Ziercke. He didn’t have to do it, and he didn’t have to let it be done so thoroughly. What has turned up in a study by historians is a remarkable number of SS men who went on to leadership positions in the BKA. Files used by the Gestapo to harass and persecute Roma and Sinti were taken over by the BKA, and harassment continued well into the postwar era, in some form at least into the 1980s. The views on “criminal biology” formed during the Third Reich were still influental at the BKA into the 1970s. The essential stories are here, here and here, from the newspaper whose web site still could be better organized. (I had hoped to translate these for this post, but real life kept getting in the way. The story hasn’t really made it into English-language media yet.) There was also a Sunday article, complete with charts of who from the SS rose to what position in the BKA, but I can’t find it online. The English-language Spiegel online has a summary here.

The questions resonate in the present, as post-Communist countries continue to wrestle with the legacies of their dictatorships. Who rose to power? Who did they step on to get there? What are the demands of justice in a new era? Other European countries have their own debates, and indeed their comforting myths, about collaboration, about wartime acts, about the fates of fellow citizens.

There aren’t any easy answers, especially more than half a century later. One good side effect is that the revelations may prompt Germany’s main intelligence service, the BND, and the constitutional protection office (Verfassungsschutz) to examine their pasts. With luck, they will be as honest as the BKA.

(1) Soviet occupation of Central and Eastern Europe was a key reason at the time. As years passed, additional reasons came to include embarassment, fear of personal consequences, unwillingness to bother the old folks and now the passing of people with firsthand knowledge and consequent general ignorance. Another is that Germany has turned into a reasonably well functioning democracy despite the Nazi pasts of many people in its institutions.

Standing Watch in the Balkans

As big-media Matt says, it’s all over the net already, but the question of whether Bush’s watch was stolen in Albania is a convenient hook to link to this hilarious but tasteless guide to what various groups of Europeans think about one another. Albania is near the end, in the Balkan section.

I have a friend in the US Embassy in Tirana, but she’s probably sworn to tell only the official line. Alas.

Update: Commenter FF points us to the reverse angle on the play. Interestingly, the current administration is telling the truth. And speaking of Albania, can I just say that Wag the Dog was a hell of a lot funnier during the Clinton years?

Quick-Reaction Alert

So France gets a new president. So I’m jumping from the window, running to the AFOE control room..

Nicolas Sarkozy’s first act as President has been to go for a “retreat” in the monastic surroundings of a giant yacht belonging to media boss Vincent Bolloré, who claims to have no business with the French government. Well, well, well.

Except for this one, under which his SDV Group logistics firm gets the job to carry the French diplomatic bag. €5.6 million to you. Or this one, of indefinite value, under which his firm gets the job of transporting cash (and medals!) by air for the Ministry of Finance. That is, Sarko’s old job.

Or, finally, this one, under which SDV gets the contract to provide all the French Ministry of Defence’s air charters, for some €36 million. Hat tip to Arnaud Labrousse, and these guys.

Tramp the Dirt Down

Somebody is worried that Slobodan Milosevic might escape from death. And so, they dug up his corpse and drove a stake through his heart.

Seriously. They really did it.

One might also want to read this.