Feb 16, 2005 12:42 pm


U.S. Army Major General Virgil Packet, NATO Commander of the multinational Stabilization Force in northeastern Bosnia made a similar point."With a 1,400 kilometer border, Bosnia and Herzegovina was formerly a sanctuary for terrorism, but now it is a gateway for terrorism," he said.

That is the message emanating from the fascinating article entitled HOW TO OUTFLANK AL QAEDA IN THE BALKANS by Joel E. Starr. his article should be both a call for action and a lesson for all those who believe that Iraq would be better off if the US followed the European advice. Indeed, I am constantly shocked by the lack of world attention to the danger posed by the ongoing Al Qaeda presence in the Balkans.

Here are some nuggets: 1. Money is not the answer:"unemployment running as high as 70 percent among a 1.9 million population (90 percent of whom are Kosovar Albanian Muslims). This is particularly disturbing because since 1999 the European Union and the United States have contributed a total of $2.8 billion to Kosovo for reconstruction and humanitarian assistance, as well as for economic and community development.

In Croatia, despite ongoing Westernstyle reforms, unemployment is close to 20 percent, which, while low for the region, is still unacceptable. In Macedonia, the figure is more than 40 percent among a population of 2 million, of whom 30 percent are Muslim. 2. Why do the Muslims have higher umemployment? Maybe because they tend to be excellent small business owners and that is almost impossible in current tax environment:

Another drag on the economies is the tax burden placed on businesses. Bosnia, for instance, imposes multiple levels and types of taxation, from federal down to local level. Tax structures vary widely and are punishing. For example, it takes 59 days on average to register a business in Sarajevo, and payroll taxes on businesses there can run as high as 60 percent of wages paid.

It is estimated that up to 147 taxes could be levied on a single business in Sarajevo, many requiring collection every week. Financial experts regard such measures as"nuisance taxes," which cost more to administer than the revenue they generate, and drive legitimate medium and small enterprises out of business or underground.

"Up to 147 taxes could be levied on a single business in Sarajevo, many requiring collection every week"

3. These economic circumstances turned the population into"a welfare state" dependent on hand out and they come -

Mosques are still being built at an astounding rate, according to the officer."Most are from money sent home by the Albanian diaspora, but many are financed by Saudi and Iranian donors ­ and there are strings." Mostly, these donors simply try to limit the women's dress and behavior, and have not had much success."But they are still trying," the officer said,"and when associated radical fundamentalist charities are willing to pay women whose husbands are without jobs to wear the veil, the offer becomes more tempting by the day.""The bottom line," the officer concluded,"is that, if we show continued economic and security support, the Muslim people can be our secret weapon in wartime; they want to give back."

We keep hearing that the problem is the absence of global taxation because we know how to end poverty. Well, I cannot think of a better place to start.

Calling Jeffery Sacks . . . Calling Tony Blair . . . Schroeder . . Fisher . . .

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