AIM: start

THU, 04 OCT 2001 22:15:16 GMT

Slovenia & Terrorism

Hello, Operator?

Cases of arms smuggling through Slovenia clearly show the extent of cooperation between "civilized" and "rogue" states and between promoters and exporters of terrorism under certain geopolitical conditions.

AIM Ljubljana, September 28, 2001

At the beginning of September Slovenian police arrested Austrian national Helmuth Mathe, suspected of trying to smuggle four containers with 48 tons of weapons via Slovenia. This was the biggest shipment intercepted since the mid-1990s. Officially listed as "old machinery," the cargo was loaded in Malesia and was bound for an unknown customer. It is interesting to note that the shipment contained several hundred thousand old, hardly usable weapons, similar to those now being collected in Macedonia. This is why Slovenian police did not rule out the possibility that the weapons were meant to make NATO's Operation Essential Harvest in Macedonia even more successful.

The case has shown the extent to which the difference between the concepts of "good" and "bad" is blurred in international politics. This shipment was discovered, but many others have slipped through. The West's policy towards "terrorist states" is stern, but sometimes it is also incomprehensibly friendly. This makes outbursts of righteous anger, which can be heard in Slovenia more often than before, hard to understand. "This is an attack on normality! It is inconceivable that such scum could live in Slovenia. That would be a major scandal. But if they were living among us, then they would be here illegally..." said Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel immediately after the Sept. 11 tragedy in the U.S., thus giving the go-ahead to a witchhunt against all sorts of "enemies" of the West. Rupel in fact only slightly altered the vocabulary used by the U.S. administration which likes to refer to "rogue" states, and the echoes of Rupel's indignation reached Matjaz Hanzek, Slovenia's ombudsman, who labeled it "racist."

The dispute then changed direction: uncertainties arose as to whether Slovenia should join NATO and thus expose itself to terrorist attacks and as to how the attacks would change the U.S. priorities in regard to NATO's expansion. Since former U.S. defense secretary William Cohen said "NATO's expansion and terrorism are not linked," the prevailing view is that because of the new U.S. war and the latest strategic cooperation between the U.S. and Russia, Slovenia's chances of joining are lower in the short run. The bigger problem is that even after the terrorist attack on New York terrorism was debated in Slovenia as an outside issue, without ever tackling its essence -- that terrorism is primarily a result of the policies pursued by today's countries and that almost all Western states, including Slovenia, do not have a clear conscience.

"I laugh at the games Fortune plays, making at a whim friends into enemies and enemies into friends," Agnolo Acciaiuoli allegedly wrote to his friend Niccolo Machiavelli from exile. Dozens of examples show that this truthful insight has lost little over the centuries. Those linked to the U.S. are the most conspicuous -- Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden and many other former allies of Washington are today the staunchest enemies of the U.S. and the West. The same regretful pattern can be observed in Slovenia. During the wars in the former Yugoslavia, both the news media and official policy wholeheartedly embraced everybody who was an enemy of "Greater Serbia's aggression." Dozens of stories were published describing heroic deeds of all sorts of "freedom fighters," not making any distinction between those who observed the rules of warfare and various mercenaries and fanatics from Islamic countries. While the crimes of Serb paramilitaries were described in minute, gruesome detail, the crimes of others were played down or covered up. Geopolitics influenced official decisions as well. Despite an arms ban, in a bid to assist "victims of aggression" at the beginning of the war Slovenia became a base for smuggling arms and equipment to Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, organized by people close to Osama bin Laden.

Thus in September 1992 four Ukraine aircraft arrived in Slovenia from Khartoum, Sudan, via Budapest. The airlift was organized by Austrian national Dieter Hofmann. The shipment was ordered by a Sudanese citizen with a diplomatic passport, Elfaith Hassanein, who runs a Vienna-based humanitarian organization called the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA). Later it turned out that about 130 tons of weapons destined for Bosnia were stored in aircraft containers. The weapons were part of a shipment that could not be delivered because fighting between Croats and Muslims had erupted in central Bosnia. The shipment was supposed to have been delivered to Bosnian Minister Hasan Cengic. Since the "aid" was organized without the knowledge and mediation of then Slovenian defense minister Janez Jansa, it was suddenly discovered, and people close to then (and current) Slovenian President Milan Kucan, were accused of the smuggling attempt. The trial never ended. Several years later, in 1996, the Washington Post revealed that the TWRA was financially supported by Egyptian Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, and that it was financed by Osama bin Laden. Sheik Rahman is considered the spiritual instigator of the first attack at the WTC in 1993, in which the explosion of a car bomb parked in the center's underground garage, albeit premature, killed six people and injured several thousand more. In July 1993 Sheik Rahman was arrested by the FBI. It is interesting to note that the Czech authorities, particularly because of the people supporting the TWRA, refused to register the organization at the end of the 1990s, while U.S. diplomats, as an anonymous source put it, simply turned a blind eye to the fact.

That this cooperation was much closer shows a report from the Slovenian secret service portraying Dieter Hofmann as "an exponent of a foreign intelligence agency." This cooperation, however, soon ended. In February 1993 a bomb exploded in the WTC, and four weeks later Sudan was declared a rogue state, while Hungary's pro-Western government arrested Dieter Hofmann on a petty charge. The example clearly shows the extent of cooperation between "civilized" and "rogue" states, between "normal" and "abnormal" promoters and exporters of terrorism under certain geopolitical circumstances. Who, then, is honest and who the rogue?

Igor Mekina