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?

This entry was posted in A Fistful Of Euros, Life, Not Europe, Transition and accession, Vampires by Doug Merrill. Bookmark the permalink.

About Doug Merrill

Freelance journalist based in Tbilisi, following stints in Atlanta, Budapest, Munich, Warsaw and Washington. Worked for a German think tank, discovered it was incompatible with repaying US student loans. Spent two years in financial markets. Bicycled from Vilnius to Tallinn. Climbed highest mountains in two Alpine countries (the easy ones, though). American center-left, with strong yellow dog tendencies. Arrived in the Caucasus two weeks before its latest war.

13 thoughts on “Standing Watch in the Balkans

  1. Dear Tomas Ruta,

    My apologies for being very direct but the only ridiculous person here is you and others like you that see things that do not happen.

    Tell me, do you see aliens too?

    It is absolutely clear that W removed the watch himself and the video below demonstrates beyond doubt that the President took it off.

    Once again, accept my apologies for shattering your vision of reality.


    Dear Doug,

    It is still interesting to know what your friend in US Embassy in Tirana thinks, even if he tells the “official line.”


    Filan Fisteku

  2. Goodness, that question could be asked about a lot of the current administration’s actions and policies, couldn’t it?

  3. This kind of innuendo regarding GWB’s watch is a hate crime against us Klepto-Americans and our brethren, the sainted NGO looters and UN functionaries. Please let me know if you have enough money to make it worth my while to sue you for defamation.

  4. Mitch, I know where you can get about half a bazillion that’s been stranded in banks since the untimely death of their Nigerian beneficiary. Should I forward you the e-mail contact?

  5. The following video shows beyond doubt that the watch was not stolen:

    W clearly takes off his watch and puts it in his pocket.

    So, Tomas Ruta I hope you don’t see aliens too because your statement that “everyone saw” something that cannot possibly be seen is laughable at best.

    Now, put that in you pipe and smoke it!

  6. Much as I’m interested in the fate of a cheap timex I am at a loss trying to rationalise the mind numbing enthusiasm of the crowd.

    Perhaps George has found himself a place to retire.

    Move over Norman – a new hero is in town!

  7. Dear bganon,

    You might be “at a loss trying to rationalise the mind numbing enthusiasm” of Albanians for America and President Bush, however I am “at a loss trying to rationalise” why can’t you understand it. Let me explain why:

    1. If it wasn’t for the United States of America Albania would not exist as a country today and it would share the fate of Kosovo in the north and Chameria in the south. And I am not talking about the United States of America and its allies, but the United States of America alone. President Woodrow Wilson is considered as a hero of Albania and Albanians.

    2. Since the fall of Communism in Albania the United States have been the closes ally of the country providing aid and assistance worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Albanians are extremely grateful, unlike many nations in the region.

    3. Without the guidance and support of the United States of America Albania would not have been able to get to close to becoming a NATO member. Albania is expected to join NATO next year and the help of the United States in this long and difficult journey is greatly and deeply appreciated loudly and proudly by the Albanian political leadership as well as the ordinary people.

    4. Since the fall of communism in Albania the United States of America has not set a foot wrong in the Balkans as far as Albanians are concerned. They have strongly supported the development of democracy and democratic institutions in the country, they have strongly supported the just fight for the human rights of Albanians in former Yugoslavia, be they in Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro or Serbia itself, and they have pursued justice and arrest of all war criminal regardless of their ethnicity.

    5. The United States of America-led NATO has bombed a third country, i.e. Yugoslavia, in defence of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. This was a historic event when the United States of America rallied its allies to defend the rights and freedoms of America despite the fact that the United Nations would not sanction such action due to a Russian niet, i.e. veto. Now, for us Albanians that is a historic act that created a historic ally and we must show to them that we are grateful. And its not just the Americans, we are also very grateful to Great Britain, Germany, and to a lesser extend France and Italy.

    6. The unequivocal and the unusual diplomatic openness of the United States of America’s support for an independent Kosovo deserves all the respect, love, passion and loyalty of the Albanians everywhere. For the President of the United States of America to come out so openly in Tirana and declare indisputable support for an independent Kosovo even before the Kosovar officially declare their independence is an act that Albanians appreciate, are extremely grateful for and will earn the loyalty of the Albanian people for generations to come.

    I would go on and on and on about thousands upon thousands of reasons why the Albanian people feel so attached, grateful and (as the banners in Tirana said) proud to be partners with the United States of America. President George W. Bush or any other president of the great Albanian ally will always receive the warmest of the warmest welcome in Tirana, Prishtina, Shkup, Presheva or Ulqin.

    In fact, we Albanians sometimes wonder why the Serbs don’t show similar affection towards the Russian leadership when they have supported Serbia for centuries – we even think this might amount to ungratefulness – but then the situation in Serbia is too complex even for Serbs to understand, let alone the outsiders. Kostunica wants Serbia to join the EU but threatens them not to recognise the independence of Kosovo, want to join NATO but relies in Russia as its strategic ally. Weird, weird stuff.

    Anyhow, I hope I have clarified some of the matters that were confusing you.

    Best regards,

    Filan Fisteku

  8. Dear Doug Merrill,

    Just a note to thank you for updating your post with a link to the video from the other angle. It makes your post more balanced and, most importantly, more accurate.

    The next question is: who came up with this lie and what were their motives? It’s a legitimate question and it’s completely comprehensible that Albanians are very unhappy about the people that not only lied, but helped spread the lie.

    Kind regards,

    Filan Fisteku

  9. Thanks Filan. There is one general point that I’d make first of all you are talking about the United States – we are talking about George Bush. I would hope that you would see the difference.

    To make an analogy which brings back my school days, your reply reminds me of the hated school bully who pushes everybody around but because there is always a couple of guys the bully doesnt push around (too weak or another bully) you get this ‘well he’s alright with me’ view. My opinion always was that an individual should be judged above all on his actions and not simply on how his actions affect you.

    Everybody knows George Bush’s record around the world. Its no surprise that he is protested in practically every country he visits. But not necessarily because the citizens of those countries think his policies on their countries are wrong. No, they protest him because of his actions in other countries. They protest him because of how his policies threaten the future of the planet or simply because he’s a warmonger. A critical view is a sign of a developed society imo. Conversely hero-worship of a politician is the opposite.

    You mention pride a number of times. I’d be very embarassed indeed if my fellow citizens reacted in the same way towards Russians, Americans or Serbian leaders. Particularly so if they had a record like George Bush.

    Having said that thanks for reminding me on Woodrow Wilson which is a valid point.

  10. To paraphrase the unlamented Rumsfeld: The Albanians were cheering the American president that they had, not the one that they wish they had. (No really, when was the last presidential visit? Or when the next one will be?)

    And were rowdy enough to make him fear for his watch, apparently.

  11. Good point, Doug. Albanians in Fushe Kruje were cheering for US of A, not specifically Bush. The same US of A that stopped Europe from giving Albania away to it’s neighbors.

    May I also add the opposite, that I’m freaking proud, that in Albania at least, nobody went out to protest. Bush protesting is becoming f*ing trite. Get a life Europeans and work to make things right, rather that just complain!

  12. It’s not that difficult to understand why Albanians love the US and GWB. They’re surrounded by enemies (Serbia, Greece, Macedonia and, to a lesser extent, Montenegro) and generally not well liked by other European countries. The only strategic ally would be Turkey, but it’s tied up elsewhere.

    The US, on the other hand, is far enough away not to be bothered by the details and can instead appreciate the strategic value of Albania as a bridgehead in the Balkans and a lock on the Adriatic. Also, Albania isn’t about to ask questions about being used as a platform for the shadier parts of the War on Terror.

    The Albanians are right to love the US. If you’re small, poor and without any real friends you should be grateful to the big guy who says he will protect you – no matter who he is.

    About Russia and Serbia. I think the danger is that while Serbia isn’t particularly keen on becoming an ally of Russia, the EUs and USs confrontational policy (with regards to Kosovo) may in the end push Serbia to seek refuge in an alliance with Russia.

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