Like everybody else, I found it amusing – and sad – that the current president, persona-non-grata in 90% of the world’s countries and merely tolerated by the rest, had to flee to the home of an infamous dictator like Enver Hoxha to find a sympathetic audience. But then today, Peter Lucas – a political reporter who just finished a book about Albania – pointed out in a Globe Op-Ed that it wasn’t really Bush they were cheering. It was the US – and Bill Clinton.
Albania’s love affair with the United States did not begin overnight. It started when President Woodrow Wilson, after World War I, stood up to the victorious nations of Europe and insisted that Albania, made up of one of the oldest peoples of Europe, was a true nation and that its borders had to be preserved and protected.
Back then the so-called victorious Great Powers — Britain, France, and Italy — wanted to divide Albania up among its neighbors, as a sort of reward for fighting and defeating the German/Austrian coalition.
Serbia was slated for a piece here, Greece a chunk there, and Italy a section of the coast. But for Wilson standing up for Albania, the tiny, poor and defenseless country would have disappeared. So it is no small wonder than many an Albanian boy born after 1919 was named Wilson.
Albania did disappear for awhile when Italy invaded it in 1939 and occupied the country. After Italy was defeated by the Allies and dropped out of World War II in 1943, the Germans took its place. The Communist Partisans, with some help from the United Kingdom and the United States, forced the Germans out of the country. There was nothing to cheer about, though, when Enver Hoxha and the communists took over Albania.
Hoxha ruled the country with an iron fist, like a small version of Stalin, stamping out freedom, religion, and hope.
When Hoxha died in 1985, communism followed suit a few years later. Once again Albania looked to the United States for hope and guidance. When Secretary of State James Baker paid a visit to the fledging democracy in 1991, the crowds were as large and as enthusiastic as the crowds that greeted Bush on Sunday. Joyous men sought to lift Baker’s limousine and carry it into downtown Tirana like a trophy.
Then came Slobodan Milosevic and his ethnic cleansing of Kosovo in 1999. As hundreds of thousands of Kosovars streamed across the border for safety in Albania, President Clinton dragged a reluctant Europe into following him and his NATO bombing of Serbia that forced Milosevic’s downfall. Once again the Albanian people learned that their security lay not with the states of Europe but with the United States.
When Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited Albania in 1999, she was treated like a rock star. The same treatment was given to Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2003 when he went to Tirana to witness the signing of the Adriatic Charter, a document that is leading Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia into NATO membership
IOW, Bush was once more riding on the coattails of better men and women who came before him, reaping benefits he hadn’t earned and praise he didn’t deserve. Our exalted Emperor isn’t going to take it that way, of course. With him, it’s always “L’etat, c’est moi“. What did he say last week in answer to a question? “Not in my gummint”? So if they’re crazy about the US, they are ipso facto crazy about him. That’s the Imperial Imperative, after all: The Leader is the State.
Which would be yet another sign that our Royal Highness doesn’t quite get the “democracy” thang. Like most American plutocrats in the BushAge, to King George “democracy” may mean “freedom” but “freedom” means the freedom to make money by exploiting peoples’ work, stealing their natural resources, annexing govt power for corporate gain, appropriating public space, privatizing public functions, and looting public money after arranging for “democracy” to be made irrelevant by hijacked elections.
So Albanians are a little behind the curve here. They weren’t worshiping Bush, they were worshiping the ideal of America that Bush has done everything in his power to destroy.
They better pray they don’t discover oil while Junior Chevron is still president. Their illusions could get smashed in a big hurry.