Congressman Dana Rohrabacher
CONGRESSMAN DANA ROHRABACHER REAFFIRMS HIS SUPPORT FOR ALBANIAN FREEDOM
On Sunday, July 23, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher vowed to continue his support for the quest for democracy in Albania, to advocate for the independence of Kosova, and to work for a just resolution of the crisis Macedonia. Before Albanian American Civic League Board members and their spouses from the tri-state area at a Civic League dinner and fundraiser, the Republican Congressman from California also pledged to speak out against the murder of the Bytyqi brothers, whose bodies were recently discovered in a mass grave in Serbia, calling their death in July 1999 at the hands of special police a “horrible war crime.”
The dinner was held at Le Jardin, a new restaurant in Edgewater, New Jersey, that is owned by Civic League Board member Gazmend Lita and that has a breathtaking view of the Hudson River and the New York City skyline. In addition to Congressman Rohrabacher and his wife, Rhonda, Wall Street Journal editorial board member John Fund attended the event as a guest of the Civic League.
In his opening remarks, AACL president Joseph J. DioGuardi said that, “We have good reason to love Dana Rohrabacher because he has stood firm against the forces of tyranny and communism in the Balkans. He was the first member of Congress to insist that the United States arm the Kosova Liberation Army, and one of the few members who to this day publicly supports the independence of Kosova.” DioGuardi went on to call Rohrabacher a Republican we can trust, because, even though he does not want to commit U.S. troops to the Balkans unless it is absolutely necessary, he believes that America should aid people who want to claim their freedom from tyrants and he refuses to support Communist regimes that try to centralize power and censor the media.
DioGuardi devoted most of his remarks to the recent Albanian elections, in which the Socialist Party “again got away with tremendous manipulation of the election results by controlling the Central Election Commission and the Constitutional Court,” while the OSCE is “again willing to settle for a seriously deficient electoral process.” He also criticized the U.S. government, stating that, “America should have been completely neutral, and yet when Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta visited Washington in May, President Bush ended up in an impromptu photo with him that was used by the Socialists to present the United States as a friend of the current government. DioGuardi told Rohrabacher that “the Bush administration needs to understand who its real friends are, and that a lack of focus on foreign policy issues has allowed others to set our Balkan agenda in a way that jeopardizes prospects for longterm stability and peace.”
Balkan Affairs Adviser Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi spoke next, beginning with a gripping description by Robert Fisk of The Independent about how retreating Serbian troops and paramilitaries transferred Kosovar Albanian corpses in refrigerated trucks under the
watchful eye of NATO to mass graves in Serbia in order to hide evidence of wartime
atrocities. She spoke about the need for the U.S. government to respond to the recent
disclosure of these grave sites and the murder of the Bytyqi brothers in Serbia after the war was over with a renewed effort to demand an accounting of the missing and the release of Kosovar Albanian POWs still languishing in Serbian jails.
Cloyes then appealed to Rohrabacher for his help in bringing the conflict in Macedonia to an end. “We need your intelligence and courage to help disabuse the United States and Europe of the belief that if we keep making small steps in the right direction, everything will be made right in Macedonia and throughout the Balkans.” Instead, she argued that “we must eradicate the root of the Balkan crisis, which is more than 100 years of anti-Albanian racism. Now that the ethnic Albanian political leaders have agreed to the peace platform laid out by U.S. envoy James Pardew and EU envoy Francois Leotard, it is time to insist that the ethnic Macedonian leadership cease their opposition to real reform.” “Unless the West holds fast to the demand for full equality and civil rights for Albanians in Macedonia,” she added, “the country will degenerate into civil war.”
After praising the Civic League for keeping the attention of the House and Senate on the Balkans, Congressman Rohrabacher talked about the parallels between the American Revolution and the fight for freedom in Kosova. He pointed out that the fledgling Continental Army would not have won the war for independence if it had not been for the weapons supplied by the French. “Based on our own experience, the Kosova Liberation Army should have been armed,” Rohrabacher said. Looking back on the stand that he took in Congress in 1998 to recognize the independence of Kosova and to arm the KLA, he said that “if we had armed the KLA then, we would not be where we are today. The ‘freedom fighters’ would have secured their freedom and Kosova would be independent.”
Congressman Rohrabacher made his most recent trip to Kosova and Macedonia this year. He shared his conviction with the Civic League Board that “Albanians have been subjected to terrible injustice, have a passion for freedom, and should be helped.” In the case of Kosova, he said that the Serbs had forfeited their right to hold on to the land and to Kosovar Albanians against their will. Rohrabacher pledged to monitor developments leading up to Kosova’s national elections in November.
In the case of Macedonia, Rohrabacher recognized the discrimination that Albanians faced there. But he also emphasized the importance of Albanians “maintaining the high ground.” He said that at the onset of the conflict, international opinion turned against ethnic Albanians because the National Liberation Army had resorted to violence and were calling for a “Greater Albania.” Whereas now that the ethnic Albanian leaders in Macedonia have collaborated with the U.S. government and the European Union on a peace plan, it is the ethnic Macedonian leaders who are viewed as intransigent and unreliable. Rohrabacher stressed that Albanians should make every effort to be cast in the press as “the stabilizing force in the Balkans,” and he urged the Civic League to do everything it could to promote this image in Washington.