Slovenia To Get It’s Very Own Guantanamo Detainee


Gitmo, Big O, and Lil’ B. (source and source)

Just as detailed in the now-infamous Wikileaks cable, Slovene PM Borut Pahor and US President Barack Obama discussed the possibility of Slovenia taking in a Gitmo detainee. The discussion apparently bore fruit as the government is mulling changes to the Aliens Act, expanding the possibilities of allowing temporary settlement of individuals for “political, cultural, economic and other reasons”. Political being the operative word, obviously.

Just as obviously, the possibility of a Gitmo detainee in Slovenia raised hair on the backs of defenders of all things Slovenian. Things like “al-Qaida in Slovenia” were being said with some people practically expecting a pair of 757s being parked into the Twin Towers of Nova Ljubljanska Banka across the street from the parliament and similar bullshit.

That resettlement of a Gitmo detainee is closely connected to the general state of Slovenia- US relations is no secret. At first glance it can be considered as a good-will/kiss-up gesture by Prime Minister Borut Pahor to President Barack Obama. After all, the US manhandled Croatia into signing the Arbitration Agreement with Slovenia and is the one player which decides how much clout Slovenia can have in the Balkans. Not to mention the fact that Slovenia is wooing US investors big time.

The fact that recent exploits of Slovenian economic diplomacy in the Arab and North African world have, for the time being at least, turned into desert dust since dictatorships of the area are being revolutionised, only adds to the necessity of being chums with people who still have money.

But I digress. The point is that both Slovenian government and the US Ambassador to Slovenia Joseph Mussomelli are bending over backwards to point out how this is a humanitarian gesture on Slovenian part and how we are helping out our American buddies to clean up this big pile of human rights abuse they’ve accumulated on their door step and with which they would have nothing to do any more, thank you very much.

If this really were the case, then Slovenia would be quite right to flip the bird to Washington, tell the Americans to fuck off and sort Gitmo out for themselves. I mean, why is it that US allies all over the world must now take in people who were denied fair trial, presumption of innocence and every other goodie of Habeas Corpus, whereas the US is now playing dumb and continues to promote democracy and human righst al over the world?

However, the case for Slovenia taking in a Gitmo detainee(s) is quite simple. Courtesy of the once-eternal Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel Slovenia signed the Vilinius Letter, effectivelly joining the Coalition of the Willing and supported the illegal and unjustified US invasion and occupation of Iraq. Slovenia later sent military and police instructors to that country, further involving itself in the mess of George W. Bush‘s making. It is only fair we contribute in resolving the mess too.

We helped fuck it up. We should also help clean it up.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Pahor-Obama: A Very Special Huddle (But Not All That Special)

So, Big O. met Lil’ B. regardless… Yesterday Prime Minister Borut Pahor concluded his visit the United States. This in itself would be of only mild importance had it not been for the infamous Wikileaks cable detailing how Pahor did some diplomatic tit-for-tat and, among other things, told the top ranking US diplomat in Slovenia that this country will consider taking in one Gitmo detainee, but he’d like to speak to President Barack Obama for 20-or-so minutes. And – somewhat surprisingly – did get what he asked for.


Big O. meets Lil’ B. (source: RTV SLO via STA)

Now, fair’s fair and it should be noted that Gitmo and quality-time with the Big O. were only part of a bigger package, much (if not all) of which was discussed with various US players by Slovene delegation which included foreign minister Samuel Žbogar and finance minister Franci Križanič. The fact that the latter was on the scene suggest that preliminary talks with J.P. Morgan over the bank possibly buying a stake in state-owned Nova Ljubljanska banka may actually yield results. Personally, I wouldn’t hold my breath, although it seems that Slovenian delegation mostly got what it came for: pleading a case for US direct investments, American acknowledgement of Slovenia having clout in the Balkans and some face-time with Obama.

Truth be told, this wasn’t an Oval Office meeting. According to the infamous cable Pahor wanted a 20-minute private pow-wow with the US president, but instead got what appears to be a half-hour group huddle in the Roosevelt Room (adjacent to the Oval Office) where the two leaders were accompanied by their entourage.

Furthermore, it must be said that Pahor is not nearly the first Slovene leader to have met a US president. Way back in 1997 Slovenian President Milan Kučan had a private meeting with president Bill Clinton, which according to reports lasted about half an hour and every Slovene President and/or PM sice was either visiting or hosting the President of the United States of America. A year later Cliton was paid a visit by Slovene PM Janez Drnovšek. Then Clinton came to visit Slovenia in 1999 (co-hosted by PM Drnovšek and President Kučan), then we had the legendary Bush – Putin summit in Slovenia only months before 9/11 with Kučan and Drnovšek again playing co-hosts. A year later Drnovšek meets George W. Bush in the Oval office. Two years later, upon entry into NATO, Bush meets with Slovenian PM Tone Rop, whereas two years after that President Bush meets PM Janez Janša, who – again – two years later, in 2008, together with Slovenian president Danilo Türk plays co-host to President Bush while he visited Slovenia on his farewell tour in 2008. And now, two years later, Slovenian PM Borut Pahor visited US President Barack Obama.

Point being that starting with Clinton, Kučan and Drnovšek US presidents regularly met with Slovenian presidents and prime ministers. In this respect yesterday’s meeting is not really so much of a breakthrough as it is a continuation of Slovenia (again) punching above its weight in terms of regional diplomacy. While Slovenian politicos across the board consider themselves specialists on the Balkans issue, fact of the matter is that the moment the US realised that the endgame of Yugoslav wars will be played in Kosovo and took the Kosovar side, Slovenia was slowly but surely sidelined, although Kučan’s and Drnovše’s advice was much sought before the big boys decided to clear things up and finally kicked Milošević’s ass. Slovenia’s “special status” in the Balkans was of course confirmed by the 1999 Clinton visit.

Under Bush the US focused on their war on terror, life, liberty and pursuit of happiness and since at than time Slovenia was still outside NATO looking in, it continued to curry the US favour, often in a less-than-tasteful form (i.e. by co-signing the Vilnius Letter). Fast forward to 2008 and Slovenia has virtually no more clout in the Balkans (economic expansion into the region notwithstanding). Not that we didn’t have information, insight or opinion, it was just that the border dispute with Croatia was becoming an ever bigger mess, often almost on the brink of a shooting war. And if you can’t solve a petty dispute on your border, how can you give advice in the region? But that was solved, courtesy of big case of cojones on the part of PM Pahor and his Croatian counterpart Jadranka Kosor (with a little arm-twisting from Brussels and Washington) and now Slovenia can have a serious go at regional diplomacy once again. And since it is the US which shuffles this particular deck of cards, Slovenia again has to curry their favour, this time in clearing up the human rights mess that is the Guantanamo Detention Camp. Bottom line: although at times it looked more like Slovenia was blowing American dick and a lot of people looked away in disgust, Slovenia always tried whisper into the Americans’ good ear and for the past twelve years it has more or less succeeded.

Having said that, despite heartwarming assurances that Slovenia is an equal partner and all that jazz, it is obvious that yesterday’s meet-up was not a culmination of a long and successful diplomatic streak but a sort of a re-start, which had some good karma to it. However there are things that were conspicuously missing, mostly the fact that Obama did not meet Pahor separately but sort of “invaded” meeting with VP Biden. However, it is plainly obvious that the whole thing was carefully planned, despite a tweet by foreign minister Samuel Žbogar couple of hours before the meeting asking himself whether or not Obama will drop by.

This has all the hallmarks of a diplomacy Pahor-style, where everyone is playing stupid, allowing everyone to get what they wanted. Something like this happened late in 2009 when Bill Clinton came to a Diners event and bored everyone to death for 45 minutes, but refused to meet with Slovene leadership officially, apparently because the State Department will not have him pissing in his wife’s pool. But Pahor being what he is, he engineered a “chance meeting” in downtown Ljubljana. You can imagine the scene: a former US president just happens to be strolling down Čopova Street and the incumbent Slovenian PM by pure chance happens to find himself on that particular street and you’ll never believe whom he met…

The Pahor-Obama huddle is special when viewed through the prism of the Wikileaks cable which caused plenty of embarrassment and produced some very ballsy denials both in Ljubljana as well as Washington. In terms of defying the public outcry which – although largely unwaranted – followed the release of the cable, the meeting is both an achievement as well as a strong commitment of both Slovenia as well as US. However, when viewed on a larger scale of things, it only shows that what we are seeing is a variation of a familiar tune. A pretty good variation, but nothing radically new.

Enhanced by Zemanta

WikiLeaks Slovenia: Someone Never Learned To Read

Horror! Shame! Ignominy!… no, seriously, it’s that funny..

‘What can Slovenia do to secure a meeting between Prime Minister Pahor and President Obama”‘ asked foreign minister Samuel Žbogar, exposes WikiLeaks
Slovenia is again a topic in the exposed secret US diplomatic documents and again the issue is the desire of Slovene PM Borut Pahor to meet US President Barack Obama
According to German Spiegel, foreign minister Samuel Žbogar was inquiring with US representatives as to what conditions must be met to make such a meeting hapen.”


Hillary: “Eeer, Samuel? You remeber those meetings? There’s something you should know…” (source)

This, more or less is the lead of today’s article on RTVSLO (state radio and television) website. This comes only a day after PM Borut Pahor called a press conference and denied allegations of horse-trading with the Americans, basically saying that a) yes, he’d like to meed Obama, b) would be glad to take in a Gitmo detainee regardless and c) he never linked anything to anything else, regardless of what the cable says and when (somewhat predictably, since it’s their document which is causing all this embarrassment) the new US Ambassador to Slovenia Joseph Mussomeli issued a written statement saying basically the same thing, adding that PM Pahor is an honest and honourable man. Someone’s lying.

Or, better yet, someone can’t really read. My money’s on the latter. The infamous Spiegel article has been around for at least 72 hours. Pengovsky was first alerted to it by alcessa. I linked to it again yesterday. It was then linked to again by Žiga Turk (a prominent member of opposition SDS). In short, this shit is old by internet standards.

Even more important, this is part of the same story. Half-wits at RTVSLO – well, their web section at least – for reasons that are known only to them infer that there was a second cable (Slovenia is again a topic… and the issue again is…) which in addition to PM Pahor implicated FM Žbogar as well.

However, there is no “again” here. Not yet, anyhow. Der Spiegel, NY Times, El Pais and Guardian all worked with the same set of documents (the entire 250k+ batch) and they all saw it fit to expose Slovenia-US horse-trading. And save the sole cable posted yesterday by El Pais, none of the cables pertaining to Slovenia have been released by WikiLeaks yet. None. Zero.

Indeed it is still a mystery as to how exactly could they have arrived at such different conclusions: NYT reports US pressured Slovenia. No names are mentioned. El Pais reports Slovenia pressured the US and names PM Pahor and making no mention of FM Žbogar. And Der Spiegel reports Slovenia was horse-trading with the US but mentions Žbogar, omitting Pahor completely. But they all published their pieces on the same day, 29 November 2010 (three days ago), while the general public, which in this case includes Slovene media has yet to see anything more than a single cable from US Embassy Ljubljana. I know I’m repeating myself, but I can not stress this point enough.

To put it in the words of Al Pacino: We’re in the dark here!

Point being, web section of RTVSLO is either making things up or really has a problem reading and/or googling.

(again, many thanks to alcessa for the heads-up)

Enhanced by Zemanta

WikiLeaks Slovenia: Make Me An Offer I Can’t Refuse

Diplomatic incontinence strikes Slovenia too. Once again this sorry excuse for a country is front-and-centre on the international stage, courtesy of Julian Assange and his Wikileaks. OK, so we’re still just a comical sidekick, but there you go. Slovenia was put forward as prime example of US diplomacy bullying other countries into doing what Washington wanted. The story made the timing of my yesterday’s letter to PM Borut Pahor a bit unfortunate, as a plethora of issues was overshadowed by Cablegate – The Slovenian Edition. Well, there’s little use crying over spilled milk.. eerr… cables.


Obama: “Yo B., wassup?!” Pahor: “Make me an offer I can’t refuse” (source)

So, what’s the story (morning glory)? The esteemed New York Times (one of only a handful of media to have been granted advance access to 250k+ US State Department cables) reported that Slovenia was pressured by the current US administration to take in at least one Gitmo prisoner and that Slovenian leadership could look forward to some quality time with Barack Obama in return. The story was picked up by The Beeb and (naturally) every Slovene media. Big bad America picking on someone not even a tenth of it’s size. Not nice.

But then came the twist. Spanish El Pais, another paper with advance access to Cablegate material, posted the “problematic” cable (one of about 900 pertaining to Slovenia). Assuming that he cable is genuine, it was Slovenian PM Borut Pahor who floated the idea of Slovenia accepting a prisoner from Guantanamo in exchange for 20 minutes with President Obama.

And then, another twist. According to Der Spiegel, it was actually foreign minister Samuel Žbogar who was asking around what would the US give in return if Slovenia were to take over a Gitmo detainee. (link kindly provided by alcessa)

Wait. What!?

Yeah, I know. Embarrassing, to say the least. Naturally, all hell broke loose. Spineless begging. Sellout. Corruption. Ass-kissing. Those were prevailing reactions in Slovenia yesterday. However, there’s more to this than meets the eye. We’ll deal with differing versions of the story a bit later on, but for the sake of the argument let’s assume that the cable as published by El Pais is genuine.

The said cable was sent from US Embassy in Ljubljana on 5 January 2010 and detailed a visit by PM Pahor to the embassy on 30 December 2009, where he was hosted by Charge d’Affairs Bradley Freden, at the time the top-ranking US diplomat to Slovenia. The cable summarised the meeting (requested by Pahor) as follows:

CDA [charge d’affairs] and Pahor discussed political and economic priorities for 2010, including the relocation of Guantanamo detainees, stability and integration of the Western Balkans into the EU and NATO, and Westinghouse involvement in the planned second nuclear plant at Krsko.

At this point it should be noted that this was apparently the second such visit Pahor made to the US embassy which (obviously) did not go unnoticed by Freden and was interpreted as “the U.S.-Slovenian relationship [being] one he [Pahor] seeks to cultivate.“.

I won’t bother you with the actual cable, as you can read it here. Let us focus on analysis instead.

Borut Pahor goes shopping

In pengovsky’s opinion this cable shows (if anything) that Prime Minister Pahor, rather than spinelessly licking American ass, actually knows how to play the foreign policy game. Bear in mind that the meeting took place a little less than two months after Slovenia and Croatia signed the Arbitration Agreement on the border dispute, where apparently it was the US who manhandled Croatia into signing the paper which was decried as “high treason” on both sides of the border. Also bear in mind that Slovenia was in 2004 indeed bullied into the “Coalition of the Willing” by the Bush administration just prior to the illegal invasion of Iraq and there was plenty of (needless) embarrassment over a leaked Slovenian cable from Washington on how to handle the imminent declaration of independence of Kosovo. In short, Slovenia-US relations have not been entirely rosy, courtesy of both sides, and PM Pahor saw it fit to keep the current good streak going.

So what Pahor did, apart from going above and beyond the call of duty to show how important the US is (by visiting the embassy in person rather than having the charge d’affairs – then the top ranking US diplomat – come to see Pahor), was actually outlining how he saw US interests in Slovenia and the region. Broadly, these interests include security in the Balkans, a Westinghouse investment into Krško nuclear power plant and relocation of Guantanamo prisoners.

But things don’t just happen by themselves. To make these the above possible, Slovenia obviously wanted something in return. And rather than saying outright what Slovenia wanted, Pahor basically said: “Make me an offer I can’t refuse“. He was, in fact, shopping. With some strings attached. Case in point being Gitmo prisoner(s) where Pahor made it plain that his government was willing to consider the relocation “as long as ‘political’ and ‘financial’ obligations were considered separately“. Translation: show me the money.

The main problem, according to Slovene media was the fact that “PM gently – but unambiguously – linked success on detainee resettlement to a meeting with President Obama. He said that “a 20-minute meeting” with POTUS would allow him to frame the detainee question as an act of support for Slovenia’s most important ally and evidence of a newly-reinvigorated bilateral relationship.

Shit. Fan. Aim. Fire

This is where the shit hit the fan. Outrage was almost unanimous, especially in the media. One of my favourites was the conclusion that for the PM and – by extension – his government “a life of a (possibly illegaly) detained Arab prisoner is worth 20 minutes with Barack Obama” (Delo, yesterday, in Slovene only)

It was as if everyone was oblivious to the fact that the cable says in no unclear terms that Pahor linked Gitmo and meeting with Obama “in a one-on-one pull-aside with CDA“. In other words, he did this after the meeting, unofficially. This was neither his not his government’s official position. He floated an idea. Hinted. Tested the waters, if you will. But he never made it a precondition.

Did Pahor make a mistake?

Yes and no. Foreign policy is a dirty business (and yes, someone’s got to do it). Most of it is trade, tit-for-tat. Taking in Gitmo prisoners is not peanuts. Not just because there is no legal grounds for Slovenia to do it (a law would have to be passed to do it), but also because a) it is a security risk and b) means a country (in this case Slovenia) is really going above and beyond the call of duty to help the US solve a human-rights disaster of their own making.

So Pahor felt he could play the table a bit against the Americans. Maybe he miscalculated. But the point is that he was trading. The trade, however, was not just “Gitmo prisoner for quality time with Obama”, but rather “Westinghouse deal, help in the Balkans and Gitmo prisoner in return for more US investments into Slovenia, (officially) recognising Slovenia as an important player in the Balkans, some plain old cash plus 20 minutes with the Big. O (the last one would help, but is optional).

However, the problem with these 20 minutes of Obama’s time is not that the idea had been floated, but how it was floated. As @DC43 said on Twitter, the other day, this is not something a PM does personally, but has someone from his cabinet talk to someone from the embassy. That way neither side loses face in case the idea is nixed, plus the whole thing is absolutely deniable in case of a leak such as this one.

More mistakes

The mistake Pahor did – and subsequent damage control he and foreign minister Žbogar are engaging in today – is more of an embarrassment than anything else. On the other hand the media, both Slovenian and international, made some serious errors.

As already noted, Slovene media were over the “Gitmo-for-time-with-Obama” thing faster than you can say WikiLeaks. But only 24 hours earlier, they were all over the “US-is-blackmailing-Slovenia” story with virtually the same gusto. While right now no-one disputes authenticity of the cable as published by El Pais, we have yet to see anyone retract their statements about “big bad US diplomacy treating everyone else like shit”. Right now it is as if the original version of the story (published by NY Times) never happened.

Three newspapers with advance access to 250k+ cables. All three of them saw it fit to point out a specific Slovenia-US cable. And every one of them came up with a significantly different interpretation of the cable. How is this possible? The cable is about as unambiguous as they come. This is what makes it interesting. And yet we have three totally different stories. Are interpretations of other cables subject to this “variation” as well? And – last but not least – are most of the cables so uninteresting that a relatively unproblematic Slovenia with its globally unimportant issues is the best they can do?

If any of the above is the case, are we to take Cablegate seriously in the first place?

Enhanced by Zemanta