In America, Christmas is the time for, among other things, exchanging presents. In the former Yugoslavia – where many celebrate Christmas on January 7, and others not at all – gifts are usually exchanged on New Year's Day. But thanks to the great gift of "humanitarian democracy," delivered by tens of thousands of Santas in NATO fatigues and their countless little helpers in politicians' suits, in this part of the Balkans gift-giving can now last for the entire year. And since the spirit of giving is also the spirit of sharing, why not take a look at some of the more notable gifts bestowed upon some of the most blessed people of the Balkans by their enlightened benefactors and benevolent hegemons? BOSNIA It was very nice of the Empire to remember one of its pet wards of the past decade. Sure, it was very nice of the United States to actively step into the war that made headlines for three years, then conjure an illusion of peace and send thousands of its troops to make it a reality. But that was years ago, under the previous Emperor. What has the United States done for the "Bosnians" lately? Well, for one, its pet court finally came through and declared – sentencing Serb general Radislav Krstic – that genocide against Bosnian Muslims really took place. It is worth noting that the Hague Inquisition (a.k.a. ICTY) never actually proved the existence of a genocide; but because of what it is, and because of who pays for it, assertions are considered enough. It may not seem like much, but Alija Izetbegovic – wartime Muslim leader – is likely to disagree. The legitimacy of his regime and its wartime conduct rests solely on the thesis that they were protecting the Muslims from a Serb genocide. CROATIA Speaking of genocide, the story of one that happened some 60 years ago figures prominently into Croatia's gift this year. With tourist profits falling in the aftermath of Black September, and the current government tangled in a web of war crimes scandals that somehow never came to a conclusion, packages from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum represented a bright ray of sunshine. With all its woes, Croatia could hardly afford to cope with the fact that its Founding Fathers (so to speak) were extremely good at the mass killing of Serbs and Jews during World War II, when they were enthusiastic allies of Nazi Germany. Because the US Government-funded Holocaust Museum seized the physical evidence from the biggest concentration camp, Jasenovac, from its Serb victims and delivered it to the Croatian government for safekeeping, Croatia will now have the freedom to cope with its history at a more convenient time, in a more convenient manner – if ever. KOSOVO Despite the fact that Kosovo Albanians were not granted their dearest wish this season – otherwise, they would have led this alphabetical list as "Albania" – they still got a few things from Santa's bag. One of them is a nice shiny new Assembly, with elections and a President and Constitution and all, so they can play State under the ever-watchful eye of the NATO governor, and with his ever-benevolent guidance. They are supposed to share this wondrous gift with the Serbs, of course, and some remaining Kosovo Serbs are quite thrilled at the prospect. Others would be much more appreciative if they could venture out of their ghettos without the fear of being killed. Of course, one should not get too ambitious. Just last week, two Albanians suspected of blowing up a bus full of Serbs in February were released from jail. The court cited "lack of evidence" and dismissed the case. With the third suspect mysteriously vanishing from the supposedly impregnable US fortress-base Bondsteel this summer, and no attempts to track down the perpetrators and "smoke them out of their holes," it seems as if blowing up Serbs in Kosovo is neither terrorism, nor a crime punishable by law. How is that for coal in the stocking? MACEDONIA Now Macedonia's gift this year was simply precious. There is no other way of describing the Treaty of Ohrid, if one is to avoid being labeled a "hard-line militant nationalist warmonger." For a while it looked as if Macedonia would have to fight a full-scale war against the Albanian "liberation army" on vacation from pillaging in Kosovo. Then, through the merciful intervention of Europe's noted peace activist Javier Solana and America's honest broker James Pardew, Macedonia was prevented from making the dreadful mistake of self-defense, which would have cost its taxpayers millions of dollars for weapons from non-NATO countries. Instead, the Macedonian government happily accepted preferential treatment for the Albanians, establishing ethnic quotas and enforcing bilingualism on the 75% of the population for the sake of the remaining 25%. Ever since then, things in Macedonia have been just wonderful – with the exception of some evil nationalist hard-line warmongers, who simply hate peace. MONTENEGRO Montenegro has not been forgotten in this flurry of gift-giving, either. It may seem to have had a bad year. Milo Djukanovic failed to obtain approval for secession in the polls this spring. Now the republic's inhabitants are experiencing power shortages, California-style, in the midst of a cruel winter. Maybe Djukanovic will tell the people only independence would bring them back light and warmth? Surely, as with everything else in the Balkans, the power shortage must be Serbia's fault…. On a brighter and warmer note, the money from the US treasury continued to flow into Djukanovic's pockets even as US diplomats ambiguously disagreed with his plans for secession. SERBIA For someone who has been on the "naughty" list for so many years, Serbia was simply showered with presents this time around – receiving so many that its neighbors have grown jealous. One could start with the millions of dollars the Empire gave to the Serbian opposition to win the 2000 election, but that would technically be ineligible for this year. Perhaps the greatest gift of the year, then, would be the liberation of Serbia from the presence of Slobodan Milosevic, the Constitution, its legal system and much of its dignity – and all at once! Though the aid money that was promised for Milosevic's head never actually arrived – prompting plaintive words from Prime Minister Djindjic – there was still the $5 million bounty. Since he ordered both Milosevic's arrest and deportation, Djindjic obviously qualifies for the money. Interestingly enough, there is no record of what actually happened to the bounty.… There are other generous gifts, too numerous to mention: ICTY indictments, partially forgiven fabricated loans, generous restorations of Yugoslav property Serbia had owned to begin with, and so on. HUMAN RIGHTS Finally, just before Christmas, the European Court of Human Rights sent a gift to all lovers of human rights and liberties. Last week it ruled that NATO could not be judged for killing 16 Serbian TV workers in April 1999. Apparently, NATO did nothing wrong by bombing Serbia, since any action outside the defendants' territory (i.e. Serbia) is not in the Court's jurisdiction and is not bound by the European Human Rights Convention. Serbia, then, is in NATO's territory when it needs to be bombed, and is outside the territory when the butcher's bill comes due. For this enlightening clarification of humanitarian law, and its celebration of universal human rights, we should all give thanks. Yes, it has been a wonderful year in the Balkans, filled with marvelous gifts coming straight from the heart. The Empire looks forward to blessing the benighted Peninsula with even more treasures in the years to come. Yet in its altruistic benevolence, it asks for nothing in return save absolute obedience and utter submission. Surely, this is a small price to pay for such bountiful rewards. Happy holidays!