President George W. Bush was greeted by thousands of American-flag waving Albanians and a 21-gun salute during his short visit to Albania on Sunday. Predictably, some will believe that this marks the beginning of the end of civilization as we know it.
Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha hailed our president as
"the greatest and most distinguished guest we have ever had in all times".
When was the last time that an American President received this kind of welcome anywhere in Western Europe? Would Bush ever receive the kind of welcome in London, Paris or Berlin that he received in Tirana? Over the weekend in Rome, President Bush's mere presence at the G-8 Summit prompted anti-American riots.
But some conspiracy theorists are sure to claim the reception President Bush received was all just part of some great conspiracy by the entire Albanian nation designed to win US recognition for an independent Kosova. They will claim that Albanians are really all just crypto-Wahhabis just biding their time engaging in taqiyya (Islamic deception), secretly plotting to open up a new front of the global jihad in the heart of Europe at any moment.
The usually cogent Washington Times columnist Diana West recently likened the Albanian Kosovar independence movement in the Balkans to "world Islamization" and raised the specter that this development heralds the revival of a global Islamic caliphate sought after by al-Qaeda. The same people cheering President George W. Bush in the streets of Tirana really want to see Osama bin Laden proclaimed Caliph, so this thinking must go. I have previously written here at The American Thinker about the struggle of Albanians against the forces of radical Islam ("Albania and the Perils of the 21st Century") but the problem in Albania is no different or any greater than it is in my hometown of Hilliard, Ohio, where we have operatives and supporters of al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, HAMAS, and the Somali Islamic Courts Union.
Because of the presence of a very small handful of Wahhabis amongst the Albanians, a few anti-jihadist commentators have taken to comparing Albania with Saudi Arabia. The Wahhabis, however, are almost universally derided by the Albanians as "the pajama people", and radical Islamists have no more taken over Kosova than they have Kansas City.
Then again, for those that have taken the side of the Serbo-fascist government in Belgrade and their bogus claims to Kosova (they lost a battle there against the Ottomans in the 14th Century; does that mean America can make a claim on Vietnam in a few centuries?), there really isn't anything the Albanians can do to win the benefit of the doubt. For them, the Albanians support and cooperation with the US in the Global War on Terror, including the recent announcement that the Albanians are sending even more troops to support NATO operations in Afghanistan, is all a sham and part of the great Islamist conspiracy for the takeover of Europe.
Anyone who thinks I'm exaggerating should revisit an article published just last week by stand-up comedian Julia Gorin at FrontPage, "Allied Assassins?", in which she claimed that Albanian Prime Minister Berisha hosted Osama bin Laden in his former presidential offices in 1995 (no, she isn't kidding, despite the fact that not a shred of evidence exists that such a meeting ever happened). She also warned that President Bush was walking into a virtual Albanian deathtrap in his visit to Tirana on Sunday, where he was to be greeted with bombs, guns and the sinister machinations of al-Qaeda.
Reasonable people can disagree over the status of Kosova, and admittedly, some have legitimate concerns about what will happen to the Serb minority once Kosova's independence is finally recognized by the international community. However, the actions of the Serbian government since seizing the formerly autonomous province in 1990 during the break-up of Yugoslavia, including the poisoning of thousands of Albanian high school students in March 1990 and the attempted ethnic cleansing of Kosova of Albanians in 1999 (prevented only by NATO intervention), have certainly not helped the cause of the Serbian minority.
But the fringe in the US that sees every Albanian as a terrorist, every Muslim a Wahhabi, and Kosovar independence a direct threat to the very existence of Europe, will only read dark omens and looming portends from President Bush's trip to Albania. It's long past time for the tinfoil hats to come off and accept that the outpouring of support and friendship by Albanians is genuine and sincere.
Our intervention in Kosova and our close relations with Albania are among the best US foreign policy successes in recent memory, as the thousands of Albanians greeting President Bush this week with cheers, not jeers, testifies. If only winning over the British, French, German and Italians would be so easy.