"This would not be my preferred migration, or invasion, route to anywhere."
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The War Nerd Weekly

Radio War Nerd, Dispatch #3

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for your intrepid correspondent on the mean streets of Albania. Yeah, it finally happened, I almost got killed by an Islamist militant.  That’s how I’m telling it anyway.

See, there’s this weird Turkish pizzeria on our street, named “Reccip Tayyip Erdogan,” the full name of the right-wing Turkish politician currently waging war on the Kurds. And to emphasize how Islamic their pizza is, the place has painted the curbs outside bright green. It’s brand new, a big development in this secular, hard-drinking Albanian beach neighborhood where shorts, crop-tops and plenty of Raki are the norm. You can feel the excitement of the owners every time you pass the place—especially when an obvious tourist like me passes by. The only hard looks I’ve gotten since arrival have come when I walk past Erdogan Pizza Co.

So I still don’t know if it was a coincidence or not when one of their delivery scooters nearly bounced me into traffic. Katherine and I were crossing a vacant lot to get to the main road, picking our way carefully through the various critter-corpses and other trash. You learn to watch where you put your feet in places like this. But that leaves you vulnerable to blindside hits from speeding Islamic pizza-delivery maniacs. Out of nowhere, this young mozzarella militant zoomed by me on his scooter, sending me tripping into the feral scrub and old cat corpses, as he sped off to deliver a Giant Erdogan Kurd-Krushin’ Special, hold the prosciutto.

As I got up, brushed myself off, and looked at him vanishing in the distance, I thought—the way you do after these near-misses—“Was that intentional?” You’d prefer they are, somehow—gives life some meaning or whatever. But nah, it wasn’t political, most likely. More likely it’s because as a foreigner, my ducking and dodging skills aren’t as good as I think they are. Probably because my training was in Saudi and Kuwait, where deliveries are made by one’s fellow foreign serfs, mostly South Asian. Those guys don’t have the confidence to run people over, they’re the ones who get run over, with impunity by the locals. Here, the deliveries are made by Albanian citizens, with full grazing rights in the pedestrian sense of “grazing.”

And they’re poor enough to risk death for a delivery, too. That’s why we have yet to see a single visible migrant here. Albania is too poor to draw Syrian or African immigrants. The Albanian government has officially offered to accept 75,000 Syrians, which is 75,000 more than the much richer countries of Saudi Arabia or Kuwait have invited, but we haven’t seen any Syrians here. Albania is not part of the migrant routes to Germany, where most of the refugees are trying to go. You understand why not once you’ve spent the night on a bus from Greece: Nothing but mountains, one ridgeline after another, all night, while the Albanian pop blares and the woman in the seat in front vomits into a plastic bag. This would not be my preferred migration, or invasion, route to anywhere.

If there was any money here, the mountains would seem easier for migrants to cross. But this is a dirt-poor country, and migrants avoid it. This is one of those odd 21st-C. tradeoffs. If you want to avoid all the supposed horrors of foreign migration, there’s a simple cure just waiting for you: Give all your money away. To me, preferably.

Yeah, that’s a good scam now that I think of it, the “Xenophobe’s Hospice Donation Fund.” How it works is, you and your fellow citizens of whichever aging, childless, nervous first-world country band together, put all your money and the deeds to your property in a big sack, and send it to me. Once I can verify that you are now totally penniless as a community, I can guarantee you will not be bothered by pesky refugees, any more than this Albanian town has been. It’s pure cultural hegemony around here, to the point that the locals wave black banners with the claim “Autocthonous.” Yeah, you want triumphant nativism? Get poor! 

When you’re poor, you have billions of invisible defenders against foreign invaders. I’m talking about giardia, this smiley-faced little swimmer that swarms in the tap water of Albania. It affects about 10% of the population at any time, and I helped to keep that percentage up to form about ten days ago. Since then it’s been the gastro-intestinal circus, a real sound-effects LP. It’s the kind of local culture that keeps invaders at bay. Haiti had the mosquitoes to convince the French to leave, but the temperate zones have to go for smaller, quieter un-welcoming committees like giardia.

Even the Albanian seashore seems designed to discourage invaders. I’ve never seen a sea like the Adriatic here in Durres. It looks great at first…but then you notice people standing half a kilometer offshore, in water up to their knees. It’s so shallow the few fishermen trying to pull in a prawn or two in the early morning have to push their flat-bottomed boats out for the first km. Unless you planned to invade in a shallow-draft Mississippi steamboat , you’d be out of luck in Albania. 

Out there in the deep-water world, the big news lately has been drone-centric. A very interesting story came out of the UK, where the progressive press was in a rage about the killing of two UK citizens, Reyaad Khan and Ruhul Amin, by British drones. Not the accent, I mean, the UAVs.

And the only thing that these dudes did to get their asses droned was join Islamic State and slaughter a bunch of people:

“Like many Isis militants, Khan – who also went by the name of Abu Dujana – was a prolific social media user. He would often post graphic messages on Twitter, boasting of his murders and violent plans. These included: 'Executed many prisoners yesterday', 'The brother that executed James Foley should be the new Batman,' and 'Anyone want to sponsor my explosive belt? Gucci, give me a shout'. One post featured images of bloody corpses, which Khan said belonged to a group whom he and other militants had captured and executed.”

Yeah, not somebody I’d waste a lot of tears on. But the Guardian’s coverage of these deaths had a strange mournful, shocked tone. Right after this summary of horrors committed by young Mister Khan, the story continues: “Before he fled to Syria, Khan was a politically active and promising teenager.”

The comments had the same horrified tone, that it could come to this, the UK gov’t killing UK citizens, especially those who’d once been “promising teenagers.” This would come as a surprise to anybody from Northern Ireland, because there was never any such moan from papers like the Guardian over the half-century that the UK gov’t was killing other UK citizens, either directly or through UVF/UFF/UDA/LVF death squads. There was a massive silence from the English press, even (or rather especially) its progressive wing, while people like Pat Finucane were being assassinated.

I guess he was never a “promising teenager” in the way that the mass murderer Reyaad Khan was.

Weird, huh? Why would the Guardian weep and moan more over a pig like Reyaad Khan than an assassinated human-rights lawyer like Finucane, who never hurt anybody in his artificially-abbreviated life? 

Two reasons: Drones and Irish. Two queasy topics. First the drones, the less queasy of the two. Drones scare people, I mean more than is reasonable. They summon up old robot-horror movies, even though they’re actually human-controlled in a way that other, nastier weapons like land mines are not. Pat Finucane was killed by a good ol’ human death squad using the traditional weapons of a state-sanctioned NI killing: A sledgehammer for the front door, and two highly illegal handguns. A handgun is a pretty horrible weapon, actually, but a familiar one, cozy almost. It doesn’t scare people like drones do, with their blank eyeless noses circling above us like angry little gods.

And then there’s the fact that Reyaad Khan, despite his nightmarish career as a mass murderer, is simply an immigrant kid to Guardian readers, someone who must have been, at some point, a “promising teenager” (why, by the way? Why must every mass killer have been a good kid at some point? Anybody remember any actual kids, FFS?). Actually, Khan sounds like he was always a disgusting egomaniac who found a quicker and bloodier way to get famous at somebody else’s expense. 

Pat Finucane, by contrast, was a Northern Irish Nationalist/Catholic. Those people are never promising teenagers, as the Chapel-derived British left sees them. You find sympathy for them only in odd corners of the British right, for reasons that go way back to convoluted Jacobite myth—but never on the British left. 

At any rate, that’s the only way I can explain this explosion of editorial sewage on behalf of a pig like Reyaad Khan from UK progressives who watched a half-century of state-sponsored killings of other UK citizens with a notably dry eye. 

Ah, the Hell with it. Much more fun to watch videos of animals attacking drones like this onehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9F8sPBsR9Lo

Watch it with the sound off—who added that R. Kelly song, “I believe I can piss on underage girls”? The video is a delight, especially the dogs. When you see that Staffie chest-butt the drone out of the air, it’s like the best moments of Terminator, watching the meat sacs win against the machines for once. That’s why videos like this are so popular, that chance to watch us animals beat the machines.

So for the sentimentalists among us, the animal fans, there are drone-killing dogs; for the more pundit-minded suckers, there are stories like this, “Above and Beyond: Humanitarian Uses of Drones.”

Just another way of controlling the drone-phobia. It reminds me of those Cold-War stories, “Atomic Energy, Our Friend in Peace!”

Of course the real drone money is in warfare. China has just announced the launch of its biggest, most obviously offensive-minded drone, the “Rainbow 5,” as big, heavy, and munition-ready as our own Reaper.

The skies will be busy with many a little raptor, if things get interesting between any two or more rich nations any time in the near future, and not one of them will have a heartbeat. We won’t have to listen to any bruised-up pilots making their confessions — or screaming as they’re burned alive — which is some comfort. You can torture a drone all day, but it won’t become a pity-object, an ex-“promising teenager.”

Anyway, we’re out of Albania at the end of the month. I always wanted to come here, even when it was the most closed-up Stalinist country in Europe. A little giardia has been worth it, just to see those mushroom bunkers, and watch the packs of feral dogs and stray cows fighting on the beaches. It gets harder to scratch new memories on the rusty old brain, and Albania has etched some good hard ones. A little too hard now and then—giardia and five flights of stairs was pushing it a little-but we’re bringing one of those “Autocthonous” flags home with us, and that alone is worth the admission fee.

Next week, we'll post our fourth Radio War Nerd podcast. Thanks again to everyone for supporting this humble guerrilla project, and keep the comments coming. 

—War Nerd

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