Albanian Iso-polyphony

Iso-polyphony is a form of traditional Albanian polyphonic music. It can be divided into two major stylistic groups as performed by the Ghegs of northern Albania and Tosks and Labs living in the southern part of the country. The term iso is related to the drone, which accompanies the iso-polyphonic singing. The drone is performed in two ways: among the Tosks, it is always continuous and sung on the syllable ‘e’, using staggered breathing; while among the Labs, the drone is sometimes sung as a rhythmic tone, performed to the text of the song. It can be differentiated between two-, three- and four-voice polyphony. The phenomenon of Albanian folk iso-polyphony is proclaimed by UNESCO as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible heritage of Humanity”.

Southern Albanian music is soft and gentle, and polyphonic in nature. Vlorë in the southwest has perhaps the most unusual vocal traditions in the area, with four distinct parts (taker, thrower, turner and drone) that combine to create a complex and emotionally cathartic melody. Author Kim Burton has described the melodies as “decorated with falsetto and vibrato, sometimes interrupted by wild and mournful cries”. This polyphonic vocal music is full of power that “stems from the tension between the immense emotional weight it carries, rooted in centuries of pride, poverty and oppression, and the strictly formal, almost ritualistic nature of its structure”.

South Albania is also known for funeral laments with a chorus and one to two soloists with overlapping, mournful voices. There is a prominent folk love song tradition in the south, in which performers use free rhythm and consonant harmonies, elaborated with ornamentation and melisma.

Wikipedia mode off\

I love Albanian polyphony! The article I’ve been quoting is spot on in describing its molodies as complex and cathartic, emphasis on ‘complex‘ first and foremost. This music is challanging, which can be a barrier to appreciation: it is composed on a completely different tonal scale from Western music and features obscure rhythms such as 3/8, 5/8, and 10/8.

My musical taste was forged on Italian pop and US ear-candy dance songs from the early-to-mid ’90s. When first introduced to this music I vehemently rejected it: its archaic chorus arrangements were jarring to my senses and sounded about as pleasant as a herd of feral cats in heat.

I really don’t know when or how I have matured to thoroughly enjoy this stuff! Some of the best songs move me to tears. I have never heard such powerful singing but I didn’t know Iso-polyphony was actually unique to Albania. Here is an educational UNESCO video with excellent background songs.

I came accross this Lab song on YouTube which, randomly enough, uses an image I had created and posted on this blog many eons ago as its background! The song is not my favorite, but since whoever posted it used my image, I gotta link to it. Enjoy!

But perhaps I am being biased toward Southern Music. The North has some pearls too:

Hypnotic stuff, eh? These websites have listed more songs (you need Flash player to listen) should you be in the mood for more iso-polyphony.

Robert Spencer’s Connections: The James Jatras File

Within less than 48 hours, Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch has labored to not only quasi-politely dismiss and marginalize Michael Totten’s reports from Kosovo in the comments section of (lest his positive, non-hysterical message prompt readers to question Spencer’s colorful portrayal of Kosovars as Talibans) but to also attack Glenn Reynolds for allegedly being a cultural relativist for even conceiving of non-Muslim religious activists possibly resorting to violence as a means to further their agendas given the right priming conditions— conditions which Reynolds himself ultimately traces back to the intellectual impotence of nothing but, wait for it, cultural relativism.

Spencer furiously denies any motivational or thematic connection between these attacks on the two prominent bloggers, yet his arguments are complementary sides of the same coin.

Totten is targeted as an impressionable naïve traveler who fails to recognize what Spencer believes to be the inescapable ideological vacuum within any not-yet-radical Muslim community —communities which, according to Spencer, despite any and all current pretensions of liberalism and Westophilia, are essentially unstable oxymoronic applications of Islam which are doomed to gravitate toward radicalism in the long run. Kosovo can be no exception, since a perpetual state of jihad is an inexorable core tenet of Islam. Here I will not dwell on the theological subtleties he employs to reach his conclusion (which I suspect Mr. Spencer would accuse me of misrepresenting anyway), but the bottom line of his dissatisfaction with Totten’s reports seems to boil down to Totten’s portrayal of Kosovars as an overall peaceful, progressive, Westward-oriented, and culturally modern people. To suggest that a population with a Muslim background could merit such positive characterizations (without casting apocalyptic doubts on their future sustainability) is heresy!

It is also heresy to point out, like Glenn Reynolds has, that not only Islam but also other world religions, notably Judaism and Christianity, are quite capable of fostering religious supremacy, bigotry, and violence. According to Mr. Spencer, Judeo-Christianity is fundamentally and qualitatively superior to Islam, so to suggest that there could be a degenerative least-common-denominator into which all three religions could converge under any conditions, reeks of cultural relativism, because it denies Judeo-Christianity’s irreducible superiority.

I can understand some of Spencer’s bias given that he is a Christian, but his position implies an astounding selective repression of common historical facts about Christianity in the West. As one of Instapundit’s readers put it so succinctly:

Robert Spencer writes:

“The most virulently fundamentalist Christian can find no sanction in Jesus’ teaching for the murder of his opponents any more than anyone else can.”

Maybe no one expected the Spanish Inquisition, but I would certainly hope that someone might remember it.

And lest we treat the Inquisition like a distant fairytale, let’s not forget about the very real death-threats and hysterical rallies originating in the US over John Lennon’s “bigger than Jesus” remark just a few decades ago.

But Spencer either doesn’t want to hear it or doesn’t care: Muslims cannot and must not under any circumstances be elevated in anyone’s consideration as civilized, peaceful, modern people, or as allies. Likewise, adherents of Judeo-Christianity cannot be conceived to ever, even under a real or hypothetical incentive structure that consistently rewards violence, lower themselves to acts of hateful aggression: That arena is supposed to be the theological monopoly of the “Religion Of Peace”.

Is it any wonder then, that Spencer’s own religious supremacy reflexively aligns him with “the Christian side” against “the Muslim side” on any complex world conflict where such dichotomy arises, without any internal need prompting him to further scrutinize the objective merits of the contenders or to study the contextual historical scenario of the conflicts? Sometimes even when the conflicts cannot be cogently redrawn along religious lines, as is the case in Kosovo, Bosnia, Croatia, and Slovenia, Spencer seems to have no problem connecting nonexistent dots anyway and ultimately tracing the villains back to his favorite arch-enemy: Islam.

I find it deliciously ironic that Spencer’s official stance on Kosovo today is one of severe ‘skepticism’ and concern over Kosovar Albanians’ vulnerability to cooptation by Islamist extremists, while he himself has been indisputably co-opted by noxious and extremist Serbian Nationalist elements through his involvement with The American Council for Kosovo. From their website:

The American Council for Kosovo is an activity of Squire Sanders Public Advocacy, LLC, and Global Strategic Communications Group, which are registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act as agents for the Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija. Additional information with respect to this matter is on file with the Foreign Agents Registration Unit of the Department of Justice in Washington DC.

The deceptively named American Council for Kosovo is in fact a front group for the Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija, whose president for Northern Kosovo Milan Ivanovic was arrested by the UN administration (he took his sweet time to turn himself in after initially going into hiding) on charges of attempted murder (later dropped) and of leading a violent demonstration, during which at least one hand-grenade was thrown at the police (Ivanovic has been personally accused of this act but evidence was inconclusive for a conviction, hence the dropped charge of attempted murder), and 22 mainly Polish peacekeepers were injured. This is not the only violent demonstration Ivanovic is accused of orchestrating and his organized outbursts have even claimed innocent lives.

Ivanovic said he had not decided yet whether to surrender. “I’ll make a decision after talking seriously with lawyers and members of my family,” he said. He denied having been handed the indictment on 30 July, claiming he had instead been requested either to turn himself in voluntarily and “be locked up in the Mitrovica prison” or become a fugitive from what he termed “an Albanian” law.

Ivanovic described the attempt to arrest him as politically motivated and accused UNMIK head Michael Steiner of seeking to force the local Serb population to flee ahead of the 26 October local elections. He warned that the move to arrest to him “could have very grave consequences” and invited the authorities in Belgrade “to join in and discuss these things.” UNMIK dismissed Ivanovic’s claims.

The Serb National Council for northern Kosovo is believed to be actively supporting a vigilante organization known as the Bridge Watchers. The group operates in the industrial town of Mitrovica, divided between an ethnic Albanian south and a predominantly Serb north. It takes its name from the three bridges dividing the city. Despite UN efforts to make them hand over their weapons and submit to UN authority, the Bridge Watchers continue to act as a sort of parallel police force, claiming to be simply protecting local Serbs from ethnic Albanian attacks.

International officials accuse the group and local Serb leaders of staging seemingly spontaneous violent riots against UN police and NATO peacekeepers, but Serb leaders in northern Kosovo have rejected the accusation.

Opposing UN policies in Kosovo, the Serb leaders in Mitrovica prefer to keep close ties with Belgrade rather than recognize UNMIK’s authority in many areas.

Mr. Ivanovic is a hard-line nationalist by anyone’s definition, a staunch supporter of the neo-fascist Serbian Radical Party— an ultra-nationalistsmelting crackpot of greater scale and proportion than even its name suggests. For starters, the Party organized the recent rallies in Serbia to protest Radovan Karadzic’s arrest, in which the same Ivanovic was visibly involved:

Karadzic’s arrest means a termination of the Republic of Srpska and a kidnapping of Kosovo,” said Milan Ivanovic. “We shall never surrender neither the Republic of Srpska, Serbia, nor Kosovo. We shall never surrender Radovan,” Ivanovic exclaimed and called on the citizens to “fight the oppressors”.

Again, this is from a key leader of the Serbian group which the so-called American Council for Kosovo serves as a front for, in which Robert Spencer is an advisory board member.

The Serbian Radical Party (Srpska Radikalna Stranka — SRS) is an extremely right-wing nationalist organization. Its founder and director Vojislav Šešelj is currently on trial in The Hague, accused of war crimes and atrocities against humanity.

… … … … … … … … … …

The ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party — which once advocated union with Russia and Belarus, and is now tied for first place with a coalition of more pro-Western parties — could enter government alongside nationalist Prime Minister Kostunica’s DSS.

Enough about Ivanovic as I am sure you already get the picture.

At this point I hope you will all excuse my cynicism regarding Robert Spencer’s contorted statements of how no Christian exegete has ever interpreted any genocidal passages in the Bible as a plan for action against unbelievers in his own day, while he openly associates himself with violent genocide proponents/deniers (the typical combination) funded and supported by a Christian Orthodox bishop.

By law, all items distributed by the American Council for Kosovo include the following disclaimer:

“The American Council for Kosovo is an activity of Squire Sanders Public Advocacy, LLC, and Global Strategic Communications Group, which are registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act as agents for the Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija, under the spiritual guidance of His Grace, Bishop ARTEMIJE of Ras and Prizren. Additional information with respect to this matter is on file with the Foreign Agents Registration Unit of the Department of Justice in Washington DC.”

…though the Bishop’s involvement is curiously absent from the otherwise identical notice posted on their website. Let’s close in on the rest of Spencer’s circle at the American Council for Kosovo. One of Spencer’s friends whom he has appointed as Advisory Board member at JihadWatch, stands out in particular. He is James/Jim George Jatras, Director of the American Council for Kosovo:

Where do I begin? In the above-linked-at comment, Spencer smugly concludes that I must have no idea who Walter Duranty is just because I found absurd his parallel between the Stalin idolizing propagandist and genocide denier (whose revisionist bile and fabrications were not sufficiently challenged due to overall lack of access to information/data regarding the USSR) and Michael Totten (who reports from a freely-accessible country with a strong international presence, and which anyone, including Spencer, can visit to see things for oneself).

Since he fancies himself a far more knowledgeable expert of Ukrainian issues than myself, I would assume Robert Spencer ought to know who Viktor Yanukovych is, but for those who do not know, he can be safely characterized as one of Vladimir Putin’s cronies: a Russian proxy embedded within the Ukrainian political system, a corrupt politician, often at the center of electoral-fraud scandals.

James Jatras is not only a proxy of the Serbian lobby, which he openly admits, but also, quite interestingly (though not the least surprisingly), a veritable stooge of Russian interests:

On March 7, 2003 Alex Kiselev signed a written agreement with the law firm of Venable, LLP to provide PR services to Mr. Yanukovych for the amount of $100,000. Alex Kiselev signed and initialed every page of the agreement acting on behalf of Mr. Yanukovych. On behalf of Venable the agreement was signed by Mr. Patrick E. O’Donnell and Mr. James George Jatras. Venable, LLP is tasked to work on improving the image of Viktor Yanukovych personally, rather than the country of Ukraine. Additional amounts are as follows:

– $ 10,000 for arranging a formal state dinner at the US Department of State, “with a success fee of an additional $ 10,000 if these efforts are successful.”

– $ 20,000 for arranging a personal meeting at the White House between Prime Minister Yanukovych and President Bush, “with a success fee of $ 60,000 to be paid if these efforts are successful.”

Since Mr. Yanukovych did not come to Washington in the spring of 2003 as was originally planned, no fees were paid for arranging a State Department dinner or a White House meeting.

… According to the US Department of Justice Supplemental Statement (Form CRM-154) for a six month period ending November 30, 2003, filed by Venable LLP, it is reported on page 5 that Alex Kiselev paid the total amount of $ 341,396.50 for providing PR services on behalf of Mr. Yanukovych. …beginning in March 2003, Kiselev paid $1,041,396.50 to PR firms in Washington to promote Viktor Yanukovych?! So do we have now to accept as true that it was a charitable contribution out of his own pocket?

Venable LLP is also the lobbying firm for The American Council for Kosovo, again through James Jatras.

James Jatras, a Greek American with a long history of pro-Eastern Orthodox and anti-Muslim activism in the Balkans and formerly senior foreign policy analyst for the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee (1998-2002), signed the agreement between Venable and the Serbian National Council of Kosova and Metohija (SNV) on March 22, 2006. Far from being a neutral observer of Balkan affairs, Jatras is a paid lobbyist for the SNV and an Orthodox extremist with deep connections to the Serbian Unity Congress. Jatras has written numerous articles aimed at warning Americans about the threat of militant Islam in Southeast Europe, several of which appear in a magazine connected to Bosnian Serb groups called Chronicles. (Srdja Trifkovic, Chronicles’ foreign affairs editor, was formerly the official spokesperson for indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic.) Jatras was the keynote speaker at the 9th Serbian Unity Congress (more on that later) and a principal in the Serbian-American-made propaganda film, “Yugoslavia: The Avoidable War” produced and directed by George Bogdanich. And during the Kosova war, it was Jatras, in his capacity as senior foreign policy analyst for the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee, who commissioned and circulated Yossef Bodansky’s outrageously spurious report in the House and Senate, entitled “Kosova: The U.S. and Iran’s New Balkan Front,” (more on the Iranian conspiracy theories later) in an effort to block Congressional support for intervention in Serbia’s war against Kosova and to discredit the Kosova Liberation Army.

From another source linked to above:

Chronicles magazine, which published Jatras’ rantings, is also cited by the film in support of its claim that Muslims blew up their own people to arouse international sympathy, and it is connected not only directly to the Bosnian Serbs but also to white Southern neo-Confederacy groups. The magazine is run by Thomas Fleming, who rose to prominence as an opponent of school desegregation in Rockford, Ill., and became a founding member of the right-wing neo-Confederacy group League of the South. Its foreign-affairs editor is Srdja Trifkovic, formerly the official spokesman for Radovan Karadzic and the Bosnian Serb government and a source whom Mr. Bogdanich interviewed for the film but apparently decided not to use.

But we heard enough about the man; let’s now hear from him. Some interesting positions of James Jatras, mostly in his own words:

James Jatras, former assistant to Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) and onetime defense witness for Slobodan Milosevic (that’s right), now directs the American Council for Kosovo, a pro-Belgrade lobbying organization based in Washington. In an interview with the Belgrade daily Vecernje novosti, Jatras advises the Serbian government to be “more aggressive” and to demonstrate its “seriousness” by holding military exercises along the border with Kosovo.

Serbia must stop looking at the United States as if they rule the world, what they like to present themselves as,” Jatras said in an interview.

Thursday for Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti, when asked “how could Serbia be more aggressive without ending up even worse?”

They are but a paper tiger, stop treating them with the respect they do not deserve,” Jatras said of the United States.

“Washington behaves in this way because it believes Serbia will have to accept the fact that part of its territory is to be snatched from it,” he went on, stressing that Belgrade “had to make it clear that this was not the case.”

He added that Serbia shouldin no case join NATO,” (why, that would not go smoothly with Jatras’ master, Vladimir Putin, who is known to go as far as to invade and dismember former Soviet satellite countries in order to prevent them from joining NATO) and that the European Union “should be told clearly that Belgrade will suspend its association process in case Brussels decides to recognize Kosovo.”

I suggest that, come November, half a million people show up on the streets of Belgrade, protesting the U.S. policy. As a demonstration of how serious Serbia is, holding a military exercise in the south of the country should also be considered,” Jatras concluded.

Did I mention that James Jatras is Robert Spencer’s friend, a JihadWatch board member, but first and foremost, an American citizen, who has worked for the US government as the aide of disgraced Senator Larry Craig, but also as senior foreign policy analyst for the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee? We are all too familiar with the self-loathing fetishes of Leftist moonbats, and the kind of seething anti-Americanism they are known to proudly sport. Let’s not, however, confuse suicidal cultural masochists with malicious puppets of foreign interests: the former tend to blow off their self-hatred in the “we” form, whereas stooges like Jatras make calculated statements in the “they” form. Jatras is not a self-hater because he doesn’t even identify with America, which is how he manages to come so close to advocating attacks on US embassies (which Serbs, catching Jatras’ drift, did indeed perpetrate) without batting an eye. He’s just a puppet of anti-American foreign interests to which he has whored out his citizenship.

Some more interesting tidbits before we get into what you must really be itching to hear about, his defense of Milosevic:

At the Serbian Unity Congress convention in 1998, Jatras is quoted as saying that the U.S. government’s policy toward Serbia “was criminal and worthy of being brought to The Hague tribunal.

In other articles, he downplayed Serbian massacres (he even placed the word in quotation marks) in Bosnia, claimed Bosnian Muslims killed their own people as a ploy to gain Western support and referred to “the myth of Muslims as innocent victims in the [Bosnian] war.” (source: The Washington Times, 7/20/97, page B5)

Milosevic’s witness James Jatras publicly denounced former governor and one-time Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis as a “pagan” because, while Dukakis is from a Greek Orthodox family, Dukakis’s wife Kitty (daughter of Harry Ellis Dickson, violinist and long-time conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra) is Jewish.

And this provides a smooth segue way into his disgraceful appearance in Milosevic’s trial, because the prosecutors felt the obscure need to make an issue out of the witness’ bigotry, as if his factual testimony alone were not outrageous enough to discredit him.

The entire convoluted transcript of the hearing can be found here, but its gist is neatly summarized by Slobo’s fans at The claims made by Jatras are truly incredible and I urge everyone to scrutinize them. It all starts coming together now:

Jatras gave evidence about what was contained in U.S. Congressional reports regarding the Iranian arms transfers to Bosnia and Croatia.

Jatras pointed out that the congressional reports had concluded that the Clinton Administration’s scheme to facilitate weapons transfers from Iran to Croatia and on to Bosnia was a secret program, and that the administration had attempted to cover it up.

Interestingly, almost all of these insane conspiratorial reports which Jatras refers to as objective US inside sources happen to be either planted personally by Jatras himself, or originating from the office of Larry Craig, for whom Jatras was working as an aide. In any case, they are not US intelligence reports.

According to Jatras, the Clinton Administration had decided to attack F.R. Yugoslavia long before the indictment against Milosevic alleges that any “joint criminal enterprise” was afoot.

To bear this out, Jatras pointed to a report that he had written in August of 1998 predicting that Clinton would attack Yugoslavia over Kosovo (possibly because it was obvious to anyone with more than two brain cells what Slobodan was preparing to do in Kosovo?).

Jatras said that Racak was merely a trigger used by the Clinton Administration to launch its pre-planned attack against Yugoslavia.

He said that the occupation of Kosovo and the establishment of K-FOR had been planned out well before the bombing even started.

Oh boy…

Milosevic was just a pawn. The Clinton administration and other great conspiratorial powers set him up in order to cover up an arms trading intrigue. The Bosnians, of course, gracefully started killing themselves off to perfect the ploy and frame Milosevic. And the Racak massacre was a calculated self-inflicted “trigger” to get this whole party started.

Can you say crazy or just plain evil?

Jatras mentioned, as an interesting side note, a psy-ops campaign in the Krajina, where after Serbian radio facilities had been bombed, Croatian radio announcements were broadcast that instilled fear in the Serbian population and encouraged them flee from the territory.

Well, actually Mr. Jatras, on August 4, 1995, Milan Martic, the “president” of the “Republic of Serb Krajina” authorities, issued an order calling for the evacuation of all persons incapable of military service from the Knin, Benkovac, Obrovac, Drnis and Gracac municipalities. The decision indicated that the civilians should be evacuated toward Srb and Donji Lapac, with the U.N. base in Knin enlisted to assist with the evacuation. This account is corroborated by Milan Babic in his Hague trial. Segments of the Serbian press attacked Martic for ordering the evacuation and surrendering to Croatian forces without a fight. Others surmised that the Republic of Serb Krajina, Croatian and Serbian government authorities had reached an a priori agreement to surrender the area to Croatian government control.

The Croatian government actually encouraged Serbs to stay, albeit perhaps not entirely sincerely. A good number would have eventually had to leave in any case, because they were residing in the houses of the 200,000 Croatians ethnically cleansed from Krajina in 1992, who would be returning to claim their real estate.

In the specific context of the refugee debate, the Krajina exodus bears comparison with the flight of Palestinians during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, which brought about the creation of Israel. Croatia claims —as has Israel since 1948— that the refugees fled largely of their own accord, under instructions from their leadership, and those specific instructions have been well documented in both cases. Here is a detailed account of the Serbo-Croatian war for those interested.

And if anyone is wondering about the making of such a monster—how a Christian Taliban (in both ideology and appearance) came to be—let’s just say the apple did not fall far from the tree. Stella Jatras, the late mother of James Jatras, is a regular contributor to the anti-Semitic conspiracist site Her consistent praise of Karadzic, sympathy for Milosevic, denial of Srebrenica’s massacre, and overall lunatic revisionism on all Serb-related fronts, can give some insight into the kind of poison James must have been inhaling throughout his entire life. It is worth mentioning that the Jatrases are ethnic Greeks although they sound like Serbian ultra-nationalists. Stella and James Jatras are perfect examples of how ethnic chauvinism and religious supremacy can feed off of one-another in the minds of the demented, and jointly fuel a very predictable kind of hatred.

All that’s been unearthed here is but a whiff of James Jatras’ dark closet, some very rudimentary fragments of which my husband revealed on Robert Spencer’s site two nights ago through the comment sections, and which curiously elicited a defensive volley of verbiage from Jatras himself within just a few hours!

This man is obviously a professional propagandist, and I am actually surprised that the Internet is not littered with comprehensive reports on his outrageous activities and statements. I have no interest in rebutting his entire piece line by line as there are too many lies to counter and it would feel as futile as Don Quixote’s fight against windmills.

Certain claims I cannot ignore, however, nor should I be tempted to, as their debunking is a mere matter of correcting blatant revisionism by providing historical sources. I invite readers to check out his post linked-to-above so that they know exactly what we are talking about:

Regarding Jatras’ “point #1” (i.e. his allusions to jihadist Kosovar violence): So far I have noticed that the claims of Kirk in Human Events regarding attacks in Gjilan, Ferizaj and Prizren seem to all be echoes of earlier attacks by Serbs and then some retaliatory attacks by Kosovars, but as to shooting at KFOR or UNMIK, there is nothing to suggest that these attacks are anything more than old wives’ tales. Searching the KFOR site and The Daily Falcon, which is the newspaper published for the servicemen at Camp Bondsteel, there appears no mention of any hostilities by the Kosovars.

Jatras says:

Neither do the laptop bombadiers in the media, who, as they had in Bosnia, cheered on the great Kosovo “humanitarian intervention” in 1999 to stop a nonexistent “ethnic cleansing” of Albanians — and which led directly to the real eradication of more than two-thirds of the Serbian community, as well as Roma (mostly Muslim, some Orthodox Christian), Croats (Roman Catholic), Jews, and others.

It doesn’t seem like James Jatras ever met a psychopathic butcher he didn’t like, and if he came to Milosevic’s defense, equivocating Karadzic’s crimes is small potatoes by comparison. As is genocide denial… What nonexistent “ethnic cleansing” of Albanians? This one listed in great detail at the State Department? Was this also part of the propaganda and misinformation that the US planted to frame Jatras’ poor friend Slobo?

With all due respect to Mr. Jatras, well actually, wait a minute, I don’t owe him any respect; but I lived in Tirana in 1999 myself and I saw with my own eyes floods of people hosted in soccer stadiums, ravaged families, torn families, everyone looking for each others’ lost relatives feared dead.

And should Jatras contend that I along with everyone who was in Albania at the time were simply collectively hallucinating (nothing would surprise me from him at this point), the stranding of hundreds of thousands of refugees in Albania and Macedonia for months at a time is an indisputable fact, and I can assure Mr. Jatras that these people were not out on a picnic. Insisting otherwise is no less absurd than proposing that September 11th, 2001, was as Photoshop job.

Oh, and I almost forgot: His statistics about the displaced Serbs (who left un-coerced, which Jatras conveniently neglects to mention) are also bogus.

Jatras further says:

With respect to the nexus in Kosovo between religion (Muslim vs. Christian) and nationalism (Albanian vs. Serb), it needs to be kept in mind that sharia rule under the Ottoman Empire ended less than a century ago, in 1912, when Kosovo (then known as “Old Serbia”) was liberated during the First Balkan War. For the preceding centuries, Muslim Albanians had migrated at will over the mountains from Albania, taking over land from which Serbs had fled from reprisals following repeated unsuccessful revolts against the Ottoman caliphate. (That the Serbs are the original inhabitants in Kosovo is beyond question. There are no pre-Ottoman Albanian structures, no Albanian toponyms. There is not even an Albanian word for Kosovo itself, the Albanian term “Kosova” being merely their rendering of the Serbian name — derived from kos, “blackbird,” in reference to the famous 1389 battle — much as we English-speakers call München “Munich” and Roma “Rome.”)

Just like this British historian (one out of many) who is about to prove the factual content of every single clause of Jatras’ every sentence to be false, I do not even think ‘who got there first’ is particularly relevant in deciding the rights and wrongs of any present-day political situation. Still, since James decided to go there:

This is one of the chapters of Noel Malcolm’s excellent and extensively sourced book, Kosovo, a Short History, and it pertains to the issue of “origins”.

The previous chapter brought the political history (if such it may be called) of Kosovo up to the final period of Bulgarian-Macedonian rule, before the territory of Tsar Samuel was reconquered by the Byzantine Emperor Basil the Bulgar-slayer. Medieval Kosovo is often referred to in general terms as ‘the cradle of the Serbs’, as if it had been a Serb heartland from the outset; but the reality was rather different. Just over 800 years separate the arrival of the Serbs in the Balkans in the seventh century from the final Ottoman conquest in the 1450s: out of those eight centuries, Kosovo was Serb-ruled for only the last two-and-a-half— less than one-third of the entire period. Bulgarian khans or tsars held Kosovo from the 850s until the early eleventh century, and Byzantine Emperors until the final decades of the twelfth.

All the toponyms which Jatras has been desperately looking to avoid so he could claim their nonexistence are carefully referenced in the source I just provided. The Albanian name for Kosovo was Dardania, by the way, derived from the Illyrian/proto-Albanian word for “pear” because of the many pear trees lining the region. There is at least one town named Dardha (pear) in Albania today.

Is Kosovo Serbia?

Kosovo remained Ottoman territory until it was conquered by Serbian forces in 1912. Serbs would say “liberated”; but even their own estimates put the Orthodox Serb population at less than 25%. The majority population was Albanian, and did not welcome Serb rule, so “conquered” seems the right word.

So taking into account Albanians’ indigenousness in Kosovo which is exhaustively sourced by Malcolm in his book, as well as by many other independent historians, we have a classic case of projection with respect to Jatras’ statement:

By the same token, the prevailing attitude among Kosovo’s Albanian Muslims, even those with no discernable Islamic piety, reflects their sense of entitlement to mastery over the land and its rayah (essentially, “cattle”) inhabitants. The attitude is hardly different from those of Turks with respect to Constantinople or Arabs to “al-Quds,” no matter how secular they may be: “we” conquered it, and no one can take it back from us.

My husband has politely informed Spencer of Jatras’ connections, the most problematic of which (his defense of Milosevic) Spencer was already aware of and unbothered by. What seems to bother Spencer, to the point of calling me an Islamist agent in so many words (wait for him to squeal “Where did I write that!” as he’s been in a very literalist mood lately but doesn’t want to either eat his words or regurgitate them, but will instead twist them like worms), is when I set the historical record straight about what has happened in the Balkans, and when I condemned the genocide deniers/sympathizers and self-styled holy warriors with, among other epithets, those which the most flaming ones of them proudly self-describe by. For those new to this blog, I am a non-religious Albanian soon-to-be American, and my father is what Mr. Jatras would call a pagan, for coming from an Eastern Orthodox family himself and marrying my mother, a woman of Jewish descent.

I find it curious that Robert Spencer closes both eyes to atrocities perpetrated by Serbs, because if it had only been Muslims on their receiving end, I would understand now (but of course not justify it) seeing where Spencer is coming from, but Serbs have also fought against Croats and Slovenes —their fellow Christians. Yet he takes the side of the most historically aggressive representatives of his own “Religion of Peace.” Could it be that while ostensibly and quite irrationally denying any violence within Christianity, he in fact secretly and perhaps subconsciously admires violent Christianity?

What more is there to say? Going back full circle: no, I do not find any traces of relativism in Glenn Reynolds’ innocuous statement, nor does the outlook that produced his comment represent any hindrance to the West’s response to the jihadist threat. Quite on the contrary, the most significant drag in formulating an appropriate response stems from those Judeo-Christian supremacists such as Spencer and his associates, who discredit the anti-jihadist movement by overstating its scope (uncontrollably screeching “jihad!” even where none is involved) and who, most importantly, see the fight against jihad as a holy war of their own, in which they end up allying with the devil to further their agendas.

With his honest and balanced dispatches from the Balkans, Michael Totten has crippled these Serbian Nationalist front groups’ propaganda efforts just like he had earlier, along with fellow independent journalist Michael Yon, exposed the mainstream media’s coverage of the Iraq war for the self-serving doom-and-gloom panic mongering that it was.

Spencer has made various controversial and often self-mitigated pronouncements regarding Kosovo, but when push comes to shove his on-record position is one of only-time-will-tell “skepticism.” I don’t know how aggressively lobbying on behalf of an organization that seeks to revoke Kosovo’s independence, thus leaving Kosovar Albanians with no time at all to “tell” Spencer or the rest of the world anything, is possibly reconcilable with self-declared above-the-fray skepticism, but I have a more pressing question for Spencer:

What is his position on the Iraq war, and particularly on US efforts to build a stable, peaceful, and pluralistic democracy in the heart of the Middle East? If the prospect of sound self-governance by the liberal, if not nominal, Muslims of Kosovo is such a tough sell for Spencer, then what about the future of Iraq, whose population is incomparably more religiously conservative? Doesn’t intellectual and moral consistency dictate that if Spencer would rather see Kosovars “kept in check” by Serbia’s violent hand, then he should also prefer the “stability” that Sadam Hussein provided Iraqis with to the fanciful prospect of freeing them so they can govern themselves? Doesn’t intellectual and moral consistency dictate that Spencer be rallying it up with over the almost certainly wasteful loss of American lives and resources into as inherently unachievable, or failing that, at least unsustainable, a project as a Muslim democracy? Consistency is a beautiful thing but some of us feel no ethical imperative to be bound by it.

If there is a case to be made against Kosovo’s independence without resorting to revisionism, genocide denial, propaganda, and association with neo-fascist elements, then why doesn’t Spencer make it?

The question is, at this point, purely rhetorical.