The United States has a long history of protecting and preserving ancient ruins and promoting antiquities of archaeological value. Dating back to the Antiquities Act of 1906, concerns about preserving cultural, historical, and social areas led President Theodore Roosevelt to proclaim "historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest" as national monuments. Today, the United States is a leader in preserving National Monuments, National Parks, and State or Municipal historically protected areas. But this policy is now in trouble.

The protection and preservation precedent of the United States should not be disrupted, neither locally, nor abroad. Regretfully, proposals to build a new embassy in the archaeologically historic area known as Fortress Kale Gradiste, in Skopje, Macedonia contravenes the Antiquities Act of 1906 and is inconsistent with long standing precedent established by Teddy Roosevelt. The area on and about the ancient Kale Gradiste Fortress is registered as a cultural monument. Regretfully, this has gone unnoticed by both the United States Government and the Macedonian Government.

Where less restrictive alternatives are available, it is generally not U.S. policy to ignore protected areas and erect official government buildings atop ancient graves, ruins, and the like. Todays plan to go forward and build an embassy atop a protected area (especially, when there are several other non-historically protected areas available in the immediate proximity) is not only in direct contravention to American law and precedent, but it also makes bad foreign policy.

There have been numerous public outcries by Macedonian citizens, Archaeological groups, Historians, the Macedonian-American Diaspora, and others in protest of building an embassy on the historic Fortress Kale Gradiste. American Ambassador to Macedonia, Lawrence Butler, has been made aware of the historical and archaeological issues; especially, of the fact that the proposed building of the embassy violates the General Urban Plan adopted by The Macedonian Parliament in 2001. It was the intent of the General Urban Plan to preserve and protect the area around the national treasure.

There are at-least three major points of interest atop the Gradiste site, including the Kale Fortress which was built during the time of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century A.D. There is also a Museum of Contemporary Art, and a French graveyard dating back to WWII. It is Ambassador Lawrence Butler's duty to act responsibly and promote American values and culture, but instead his failure to recognize these issues raises serious questions. As responsible Americans we cannot ignore ancient historical areas. This action does not convey a positive image of Americans because it tells other peoples of the world that effectively the U.S. does not care about their respective historical monuments, yet here in America we go to great lengths to protect and preserve historical monuments.

To build an embassy in this type of area would only promote cultural resentment against U.S. policy and it amounts to a hypocrisy because this action is inconsistent with domestic norms, values, and laws. If Ambassador Butler has forgotten the people he represents, then it is the duty of concerned American citizens and other governmental oversight bodies to kindly remind him that as Americans we do not destroy historic landmarks, instead we work hard to preserve and protect them. A preliminary dig in search of historical and archaeological remnants exposed Muslim graves and other artifacts. Even thought the preliminary dig was quick and shallow (only six feet below the surface), it did expose graves and artifacts that apparently went unnoticed. At bare minimum, further research, digs, and hearings should be required before any permanent damage can be made to the Fortress Kale Gradiste cultural monument.

Steve Gligorov, J.D. is a Macedonian-American

Metodija A. Koloski is a Macedonian-American born in New Jersey, co-founder and coordinator of the Macedonian Association of Students and Young Professionals of Metropolitan Washington, DC