The War Empire Forgot

The September morning six years ago that saw three hijacked jetliners slam into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon has often been called "the day everything changed." What really changed was Americans’ skepticism of their own government – a fact that has been abused ever since. The man from Crawford who campaigned on the promise of a "more humble foreign policy" and against Clintonian "nation-building" quickly became Emperor George, launching two foreign wars in rapid succession and asserting the right to attack anyone, anywhere, for any reason. The rest of the world was either "with us or against us," and the same stark choice was given to the American people.

All of this was justified by a perpetual "war on terrorism." That war, it turned out, was against many things – but terrorism was not one of them.

These Are Not The Jihadists You Are Looking For

Once it was established that Islamic militants were behind 9/11, many analysts believed that Emperor Bush would start paying attention to the Balkans. The presence of mujahedin – "holy warriors" engaged in jihad for Islam – in Bosnia has been one of the best-known secrets of the 1992-95 war. Not only did the regime of Islamic fundamentalist Alija Izetbegovic welcome thousands of "Afghans" and other jihadist volunteers, it established domestic mujahedin units and encouraged the foreigners to settle in Bosnia after the war. Izetbegovic’s government also designated all Bosnian Muslim soldiers who died in the war as shaheed, "martyrs for the faith."

The U.S. not only knew about this, but also actively aided the Bosnian regime, turning a blind eye to illegal arms shipments from Iran. Several Clinton administration officials got a slap on the wrist during the 1996 Congressional investigations, but nothing more.

Bush’s "War on terror" never came to Bosnia, though. Evidence of terrorist activities, connections, training camps, financing and recruitment was handled quietly, swept under a rug, or simply ignored. In August 2005, Bosnian Muslim weekly Slobodna Bosna quoted Jacques-Paul Klein, a senior U.S. official in Bosnia, "as having confirmed to the Security Council that Islamic terrorists were active in Bosnia, but added that it was good they were concentrated in one place, because ‘the rest of the world would be safe.’"

Emboldened by this neglect, the radical Islamist elements in Bosnia have grown stronger over time. Last month, U.S. deputy viceroy Raffi Gregorian met with a hailstorm of protest from the Muslim community for even suggesting there were terrorist sympathizers in Bosnia. Meanwhile, Bosnian Muslim "political scientists" have developed a new definition of terrorism, according to which Islamic terrorism cannot – and therefore, does not – exist!

Keys To Understanding Jihad

Two recently published books argue that Bosnia – and the Balkans in general – is crucial to understanding modern jihad. Similar works in the past – Evan Kohlmann’s Al-Qaeda’s Jihad in Europe was published in 2004 – met with wall of silence, and the mainstream media is certainly treating John R. Schindler’s Unholy Terror and Chris Deliso’s The Coming Balkan Caliphate the same way.

Schindler used to be an NSA analyst and counterintelligence officer, and now teaches at the Naval War College. His Unholy Terror: Bosnia, Al-Qaeda and the Rise of the Global Jihad argues that Bosnia "played the same role for al-Qaeda in the 1990s that Afghanistan did in the 1980s," providing a training ground for a generation of jihadists.

Deliso, who runs and has been a columnist for as well, goes beyond al-Qaeda and Islamic terrorism, examining the penetration of radical Islam throughout the Balkans, from Bosnia and Kosovo, the Serbian province of Raska, as well as Bulgaria and Macedonia. His work also quotes testimonies from UN and NATO insiders, showing that the West has deliberately turned a blind eye to Islamic activities in the Balkans, as Muslim radical have been considered allies against the evil Serbs.

This perception of Islamic radicals as allies of the U.S. in the geopolitical sense cannot be stressed enough. Recall that Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s National Security Advisor, boasted of his brilliant idea to support a fanatical Islamic movement in Afghanistan in the 1970s as a way to hurt the Soviet Union. Afghanistan did hurt the Soviets, but it also gave birth to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. U.S. policy in the Balkans – on the surface absurd and arbitrary – begins making a twisted sort of sense if Bosnia and Kosovo are seen as the modern Afghanistan, and Serbs as the surrogate Russians…

Further food for thought along these lines can be found in "The Bosnian Connection" by UK journalist Brendan O’Neill, which argues that both modern liberal imperialism and al-Qaeda’s jihad were forged in the fires of Bosnia, with each side manipulating the facts of the war to bolster their own narrative.

This explains both why liberal-imperialists like Tom Lantos (D-Ca.) believe they can purchase the friendship of the Muslim world by holding forth Bosnia and Kosovo as examples where America "saved Muslims from genocide," and why the jihadists just don’t care.

Interventionists in the West, knowing little or nothing about Islam, assumed the Islamic world would react to their support of Izetbegovic and the KLA as they would have reacted. Instead, Islamic militants saw Bosnia and Kosovo as instances of the "Crusaders" standing idly by while Muslims were slaughtered wholesale – an idea, ironically enough, bolstered by the hysterical propaganda and "advocacy journalism" of mainstream news outlets in the West.

The ‘War’ at Home

Even as Emperor Bush and his supporters have argued that "we’re fighting terrorists over there so we don’t have to fight them over here," jihad has already arrived on American shores.

Last week, the Salt Lake City police closed their investigation of Sulejman Talovic’s February 2007 rampage, without establishing a motive for the attack. The Deseret Morning News quoted Chris Burbank, SLC police chief, as saying that the motive "may have died" with Talovic. This is the same Burbank who said, back in February, that he had ruled out jihad as the motive, considered that notion "hate speech," and intended to fire anyone who dared investigate along those lines.

On Valentine’s Day, Talovic shot nine people at the Trolley Square mall, five of them fatally, before getting killed by an off-duty police officer that happened to be on the scene. As soon as it was established that the shooter was a Bosnian Muslim refugee, the media went into overdrive – while information about the victims was virtually nonexistent, Talovic himself was subject of many three-handkerchief pieces about his suffering at the hands of evil Serbs in Bosnia, fully exploiting the fact that his family passed through Srebrenica (in 1993) on its way to the US. This Stockholm syndrome went so far that citizens of Salt Lake City took up donations for Talovic’s family, which paid for Talovic to be flown to Bosnia and buried in a splendid Islamic ceremony. Detective Burbank’s determination to see no jihad was rewarded with a promotion. The massacre was ruled a "mystery" – to anyone who refuses to see the obvious, anyway.

In May 2007, six men were arrested in a FBI sting on charges of plotting a terror attack on Fort Dix, New Jersey. Four of them were ethnic Albanians – a fact that emerged only after several days of media obfuscation, in which they were called "Yugoslavs" or even "Serbian citizens." One of the suspects was a member of the KLA, while the other three were illegal immigrants from western Macedonia.

These are all examples of non-Arab terrorists, the "white al-Qaeda" of which Balkans sources have warned for years. But because such facts do not fit the official narrative – namely, that Muslims (Bosnian, Albanian, etc.) are solely the innocent victims of evil Serbs – the warnings have fallen on deaf ears.


Could the reason for this be what Chris Deliso says is "Serbian lobby’s tendency to sensationalize and even provide false information incriminating the Albanians"? A handful of blogs that wax hyperbolic does not a lobby make, though. And either way, the Serbs’ propensity to see jihad everywhere certainly doesn’t excuse the tendency of Western media to see no jihad at all.

In the aftermath of the Fort Dix arrests, a rare voice of protest arose from the Washington Times, where an editorial (no longer accessible online) fired a broadside at American journalists:

"But when a fact – ‘Albanian’ – emerges, report it. The public has a right to know. The sanitization of language is at war with the public’s right to an understanding of the facts. […] ‘Yugoslav’ is a sanitizer. […] As long as our news organizations fail to report the facts they know to be true, they are failing to do their job. They should not engage in ‘perception management’."

In this day and age this comes across as quaint. The media have done nothing but "perception management," particularly when it came to jihad, or the Balkans.

Author: Nebojsa Malic

Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia, and Serbian politics. His exclusive column for debuted in November 2000.