PSYOP IN THE FORMER
YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA

SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)

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Flag of Macedonia

When one thinks of Macedonia the image of Philip of Macedonia and the phalanxes of Alexander the Great come to mind. I should point out here that the nation of Greece dislikes the term “Macedonia” used in the context of Yugoslavia and pointed out regularly that this was not the Macedonia of ancient Greece, but a “pretender” state. Some Greeks believed that the name “Republic of Macedonia” implied a territorial threat against Greece and created a great risk of renewed ethnic conflict in the Balkans. Others stated that Yugoslav General Josip Broz Tito selected the name hoping to create conflicts in the region and to obtain Greek and Bulgarian territories. Before WWII the area was known as Vardarska. As the result of the dispute with Greece, the so-called “Macedonia” was admitted to the United Nations in 1993 under the provisional name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). A Greek general went so far as to tell me:

In an article about the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), you refer to it as “Macedonia.” Alexander the Great and Phillip, were of Greek and not of Slavic origin. Because PSYOP mean truth, I ask for the restoration of historical accuracy.

I explained to the general that I was forced to use the name that was on the maps and in the news but promised to make a point of telling readers that they were not to confuse this territory with the ancient home of Greek heroes.

In recent years Macedonia, bordered on the west by Albania and the south by Greece, was a part of Yugoslavia. When Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic started on his campaign of ethnic cleaning in 1992, Bosnia was his first victim. The United Nations put a halt to that aggression. In 1999 Milosevic was on the march again, now attempting to “cleanse” parts of Kosovo and Croatia. This time the North Atlantic treaty Organization (NATO) stepped in and once again the Serbian aggression was rebuffed. This was the beginning of the end for the old Yugoslavian experiment. Milosevic was named a war criminal by the NATO powers, as were his lieutenants Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. Allied PSYOP forces stayed in the area trying to influence the peace movement and bring back economic opportunity and free trade and movement in the old areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Macedonia became a free nation in September 1991, although Greece objected to the name and in fact boycotted the country until 1995.

Macedonia was spared the fighting and the killing. They somehow managed to avoid the bloodshed by seeming to support the (or at least ignore) Serbian actions during the war years. Nations such as the United States and the United Kingdom sent small detachments of troops in an attempt to protect Macedonia and to influence Yugoslavia (now virtually just Serbia) to make no aggressive moves on the area. That was a risky endeavor, because besides Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria, and Albania all coveted parts of Macedonia. Serbia was provocative in regard to these NATO forces and in 1999 took three American soldiers prisoner along the border. NATO stated at the time that:

NATO forces in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are there in the context of a peacekeeping mission. They pose absolutely no threat to Yugoslavia.

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Map of Macedonia

In 2001, The Albanian partisans who fought the Serbs in Kosovo escalated terrorist actions in Macedonia and Yugoslavia. The United States sent a 150-man force of peacekeeping troops to the area along Kosovo's border with Macedonia. Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral Craig Quigley said:

We think that the recent activities by Albanian extremists along the border between Kosovo and former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are exactly opposite what everyone is trying to accomplish in that region.

By moving additional forces closer to the border, we hope that by increasing the numbers, increasing the visibility, increasing the surveillance and patrol activity, we would have some effect in trying to tamp down extremist action that has been taking place in that region.

Macedonian Prime Minister Ljupco Georgievski met with Yugoslav Prime Minster Slobodan Krapovic and signed a military pact citing Albanian terrorist actions allegedly sponsored by Kosovo. Some of the problems in Macedonia concerned the official status of the Albanian language and the structure of the police forces.

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After an agreement was reached, NATO sent “Task Force Harvest” to Macedonia in August 2001 where it was hoped that the Albanian insurgents would turn over their weapons and become responsible peace-abiding citizens. Units were from the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom, Spain, Turkey, the United States, and Iceland. One NATO report states that the Task Force harvested 3,875 weapons, including four tanks and armored personnel carriers. NATO also agreed to leave a peace-keeping force in Macedonia to oversee implementation of the peace agreement. This force, “Task Force Allied Harmony,” was about 700 men in 2003.

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Displays of some of the collected weapons

Although the operation was considered a success, the collection of weapons did not always go smoothly. On the very first day as soldiers were setting up a collection point in Miljevina, a car drove by and four hand grenades were tossed out the window at the surprised troops. The men hit the ground but were surprised to hear no explosions. The hand grenades had not been armed. Apparently the driver was just turning in his weapons and didn’t want to bother with any paperwork. I suspect the troops might have needed some paper afterwards.

One of the most successful units at finding weapons was A Company of the Royal Ghurkha Regiment, part of the British Battle Group that has been operating north of Prijedor. While conducting a patrol on 11 September they searched a barn and found two M55 triple-barreled, 20 mm anti-aircraft guns. They also discovered two 50-calibre mounted machine guns and a number of 82mm mortars. The found another three 82mm recoilless guns near the barn.

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Maj. Gen. Gunnar Lange, Danish Army
Task Force Harvest Commander

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Task Force Harvest Insignia

Note: I had first considered adding this Macedonia information to my article on the PSYOP of the Yugoslav Wars, “PSYOP Against Milosevic’s Yugoslavia” but this operation is really not part of the Milosevic wars and we have enough data and product to merit giving this story its on place on this website.

Task Force Harvest PSYOP

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Task Force members distributing news to locals

Although information is spotty, it appears that the main proponent of PSYOP for Task Force Harvest was the 15th PSYOP Group (UK). I have seen several dozen propaganda leaflets, posters, and newspaper ads prepared by the British group, and if other nations had PSYOP troops in the area I am not aware of it. The role of the 15 (UK) PSYOPS Group is to influence attitudes in order to affect behavior in support of a military commander's mission. This is done with planned, culturally sensitive, truthful and attributable activities directed and disseminated by various means to an approved target audience. The tri-Service Group consists of regular and reserve officers and other ranks, providing operational support, planning, media production, logistic and technical support; with members of all three services ranging from photographers to intelligence analysts and is supported by a small civilian administration support team. The Group has deployed to support all recent military and peace-keeping operations and major exercises throughout Europe. It is under constant development and a current forecast is to increase manning levels for 2006, to 40 Regular and 28 Reserve members.

This is one of those rare cases where we have too much product. As a result, I will just depict selected leaflets that use different PSYOP themes, or those that are particularly attractive, imaginative or noteworthy.

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Headquarters Task Force Harvest

This information leaflet explains to the people of Macedonia exactly why the foreign troops are in the country and quotes local and NATO leaders to give credibility to the message. It stresses voluntary hand-over of weapons trying to defuse any misunderstandings in advance. The leaflet is all text, over the NATO insignia:

Headquarters Task Force Harvest

With joint effort we shall create conditions for the return of peace and stability in the region.

Boris Trajkovski
Skopje, 11 Aug 2001

NATO supports the pursuit of a peaceful solution to the situation in Macedonia.

Task Force Harvest is only in Macedonia to assist in collecting weapons and ammunition voluntarily handed in by the ethnic-Albanian armed groups.

NATO remains impartial in aiding the pursuit of democratic ideals.

Task Force Harvest will redeploy out of Macedonia as soon as its mission to assist in the collection of voluntarily handed-in weapons and ammunition is complete.

A first and critical step in taking the country away from civil war and returning the country to normality has been made. It opens the way for a peaceful solution.

Lord Robertson
Secretary General of NATO
Skopje, 13 Aug 2001

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Weapon Collection Begins

This leaflet, coded D28, explains the purpose of the weapons collection. It depicts the insignia of Task Force Harvest, the letter “TFH” within a triangle, and a non-threatening smiling soldier at the left. The message also explains that the troops have a limited mission and will be out of the country within a month. The text is:

Task Force Harvest

Weapons Collection Begins

Task Force Harvest is operating in Macedonia and the invitation of the Government and with the full cooperation of all main political parties.

Task Force Harvest personnel will redeploy from Macedonia once its 30-day mission to collect weapons and ammunition is complete.

New force. New Mission. New future.

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An Impressive Start

Leaflet S21 tells of the start of the weapons hand-in campaign. It features five photographs depicting NATO troops and collected weapons. The title is:

Task Force Harvest Weapons Collection…and impressive start.

Beneath the photograph of a military vehicle is:

TFH moves in to make the area safe

Two soldiers check weapons:

Each weapon is carefully registered

A group of soldiers and civilians looks at the collected weapons:

Parliamentarians view the weapons haul

A helicopter lifts a crate of weapons:

Helicopters collect the weapons and ammunition

Rockets, mortars and machine guns on the ground:

A collection of usable and capable weapons – out of circulation forever!

New force. New Mission. New future.

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3875

This leaflet coded V26 depicts seven photographs featuring the types of weapons that the Task Force has harvested in Macedonia. Among the weapons are rockets, heavy machine guns and assault rifles. It is self-congratulatory in tone and also points out that the mission is over which should offer relief to any Albanian that feared the continued presence of the foreign troops:

Task Force Harvest has completed its task. The weapons and ammunition collected will no longer be used. The total number of weapons collected is 3875 and includes:

4 tanks/armored personnel carriers
17 air defense weapons
161 mortars/anti-tank
483 machine guns
3210 assault rifles

Plus 397,625 items of explosives/ammunition and mines.

Mission complete!

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After the successful end of the operation the weapons were taken to the BH Steel works in Zenica where they were fed into a Siemens-Martin furnace to be melted down at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The molten steel was recycled into raw steel for construction use. Swords into plowshares in action!

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I have been in Your Country

Leaflet P24 uses the personal touch. While the majority of the Task Force Harvest leaflets are just text, this one depicts Major General Lange, Commander of the task force. He looks out from the leaflet in a sincere manner and says:

I have been in your country for only five months, but within that short time I have seen the need for both collective confidence in the future and a willingness to work together.

Task Force Harvest has made excellent progress over the last couple of weeks; I and all my people have been delighted by the support that we have received and the trust in which we have been held.

There are many challenges, but I believe that with trust and joint effort your fine country can look forward to peace and prosperity.

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Brigadier General Barney White-Spunner

Another Task Force Harvest leaflet featuring an individual depicts Brigadier General Barney White-Spunner, Commander of the British 16th Air Assault Brigade. Spooner led an advance party of about 400 troops into Macedonia in mid-August 2001. His job was to decide if the insurgents were sincere about handing over their weapons before deploying the rest of the 3500-man force. We do not have a translation for this leaflet but the general was widely quoted on several occasions pointing out that the operation was at the request of the Macedonian Government and required the support of all the people of that nation:

We can only do our job with the full commitment and support of everybody in Macedonia. We are not here on a disarmament mission. We are not here on a peacekeeping mission.

At the end of the mission on 21 September 2001, White Spooner spoke again:

When we arrived here, I saw many media statements saying that NATO was unpopular and not wanted. I never believed them, and I believe them even less now. We have received a very warm welcome from the vast majority of people and I would in particular like to thank the Army of the Republic of Macedonia and the regular Police Force for their co-operation.

We have always been aware that we were here at the invitation of the Macedonian Government and I would like to thank all the people of Macedonia for their support.

All weapons were handed in voluntarily by the so-called NLA as they disbanded, and we believe that they represent their true military capability. No organization would hand so many and such good quality weapons unless it was completely committed to the path of peace. Additionally, we have also collected a total of 397,625 items of mines, explosives and ammunition.

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Helicopters are working in your Area

During operations over Bosnia in the early 1990s the Coalition dropped leaflets telling the Bosnians and the Serbians that they were dropping food and their aircraft should not be fired upon. Leaflet O7 serves the same purpose. It reassures the citizens that the strange aircraft overhead are on a humanitarian mission and are not a threat. The leaflet bears six photographs that depict American and European helicopters. They are the Bell 412, the UH-60 Blackhawk, the Gazelle, the CH-47 Chinook, the Puma, and the Lynx MK7. A second similar leaflet depicts just three of the helicopters. The text of leaflet O7 is:

Task Force Harvest helicopters are working in your area.

Task Force Harvest is working in full co-operation with the Macedonian Government.

These helicopters will be operating in Macedonian airspace in support of TFH operations.

They are operating with the permission of the Macedonian Government and should not be threatened in any way.

New Mission. New Force. New future.

Several of the leaflets are in the form of cartoons. They are similar to consolidation and nation-building leaflets because the message is very simple and can be understand easily by less literate people.

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We can do this Together

Leaflet M4 is a perfect example of a leaflet that is easy to read and understand. It depicts two men rowing a boat away from a dangerous waterfall. The precipice represents civil war. The men represent Macedonia and the Albanian insurgents. They row together to escape bloodshed. The text is:

We can do this together!

Yes we can!

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 Danger – Bridge down

Leaflet K7 has the same message though the image is different. A train is depicted speeding down the tracks. It can go left to destruction over a bridge that has collapsed or right to a brighter day. Once again the Macedonian and Albanian men cooperate to turn the tracks toward the brighter day. The text is the same as leaflet M4:

We can do this together!

Yes we can!

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Leaflet 021 also asks for cooperation. It pictures five children building a house of playing cards. It is clear that without them working together the house will fall. The text is:

With a steady hand you can build a firm foundation for the future

The playing cards are labeled with various titles, some of which are:

Tolerance, peace, stability, trust, co-operation, weapons collection, EU (European Union), NATO, Constitutional reform.

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The Big Picture

Leaflet O2 uses the exact same works for pieces of a puzzle that the children are putting together. The text to the right of the illustration is:

Completing the BIG picture

This ends our very brief look at the PSYOP of post-Yugoslavia Macedonia. We have many more images but I believe that we have shown enough to give a good representation of the leaflets and posters that were prepared during the Task Force Harvest weapons campaign. I would like to hear from anyone who took part in this operation. As always, the article is unfinished and more data will be added as it becomes available. Readers with comments or suggestions are encouraged to write to the author at sgmbert@hotmail.com.

    18 October 2005