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The War Nerd September 18, 2003
Albania: Great and Greater
By Gary Brecher Browse author Email
Page 3 of 3
One thing I've noticed studying up on guerrilla war is how these guerrilla/terrorist groups are always so big on corpses. They hate everybody alive, but they just love their dead comrades' corpses. In fact, you're worth more to the Movement dead than alive. Alive, you're an amateur. You probably don't even know how to shoot straight, never mind rigging up a decent bomb. ("Hey, Commander Lami, is it the red or the green wire?" "Jeez, Hamze, let's just try it and see what hap -- " )

But once you're dead, you're great propaganda. Your funeral is a guaranteed big-turnout demonstration with ten thousand patriotic loonies marching behind the flag-top coffins trying not to gag at the smell (just look at the latest news from Gaza or the West Bank), and your grave is like a free recruiting billboard. I

But these guys aren't harmless own-goalers. The reason Lami and Hamze were trying to blow up that railroad bridge is that it was the one semi-safe way Serbs could get from northern Kosovo to Serbia. With the bridge blown, Kosovo Serbs have to travel by car. And civilians in cars are sitting ducks. It doesn't matter how much of an amateur you are, you can still manage to shoot up a car full of civvies with a good reliable "bullet hose" like the AK. So in this weird kind of way, Lami and Hamze did something with real military importance while getting themselves blown up. They made sure Serb-hunting season stayed open for their friends in the AKSh waiting in the bushes for a Yugo full of Serb civilians to putt-putt into the killing zone.

Mainstream reporters get upset with groups like AKSh because they won't play nice, keep killing civvies -- so the reporters start saying they're just a tiny band of extremists, nobody really supports them.

Don't you believe it. I'd bet money that when the AKSh waxed those kids in the pond, people danced in the streets. These 50-man armies couldn't last a month without at least passive support (silence) from civilians.

Besides, people like to keep score. In America it's the Dow Jones or the NBA standings, in Kosovo it's how many of us they got vs. how many of them we got this week. Hell, it's probably more interesting than the NBA. Faaaan tastic.

Another way mainstream correspondents try to write off guerrilla groups is saying they're "mere bandits, not freedom fighters." The press is already trying this with the AKSh, like this bit from a Brit paper:

"The AKSh represents few ethnic-Albanians. Its core consists of some 50-70 cigarette smugglers drawn from both sides of the border with Kosovo. Their latest violence has been largely prompted by their desire to stop Macedonia's police from shutting down their smuggling routes and putting them behind bars."

These reporters just won't face facts. Fact is, in a lot of the world "smuggler" and "bandit" and "freedom fighter" pretty much mean the same thing. You start out as a guerrilla and you end up smuggling to buy weapons. Or you start out a smuggler and you end up fighting the foreign troops because they want to put you out of business. There just isn't some simple line here. Was Robin Hood a smuggler or a freedom fighter? Depends on whether you ask the Sheriff or the peasants.

And that's the real scary thing about hellholes like Kosovo: once you try, it's just not that hard to understand.

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Gary Brecher
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