Into the Bosnian Quagmire
Editorial note: This is an excerpt from a pamphlet published in 1996, Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans. We republish it now, in successive installments, because the rise of Barack Obama as the putative Democratic presidential candidate augurs the rise of a new liberal internationalism the very same sort of policy that led us to bomb Belgrade, one of the oldest cities in Europe, and paved the way for the establishment of the gangster state known as Kosovo.
This was deemed a “humanitarian intervention”: we were told that the Serbs were “ethnically cleansing” the Kosovars from their own territory, and that tens of thousands had been slaughtered. As is the case with other more recent military actions, it all turned out to be a crock: the tens of thousands dead shrunk to a few thousand, including victims from both sides in what was, after all, a civil war.
Hillary Clinton recently had the nerve to call the Kosovo war an example of “how it should be done.” If the near-complete emptying of Serbs from Kosovo and Bosnia, the burning of churches, and the establishment of a radical Muslim enclave in the heart of Europe is a Clintonian “success,” then one has to wonder what failure would look like.
It isn’t just Hillary, however, whose penchant for “humanitarian” interventionism poses a potential danger to peace. Barack Obama, too, has shown a weakness for this militaristic form of moral self-indulgence. He is surrounded by advisers of the “liberal internationalist” school, such as Samantha Power, who pines to send U.S. troops to Rwanda and criticized the Clintons for not dispatching troops to the Balkans fast enough.
It was the Kosovo incursion that set the stage for the Iraq invasion, from the rhetoric of “liberation” to the mechanics of “nation-building.” Operation Allied Force had all the elements that were later developed to the max in Operation Enduring Freedom an allied group that provided phony “intelligence,” i.e., war propaganda, and had the same hubristic, hectoring style. Militant interventionists, such as John McCain, jumped on board the war bandwagon because they realized that a precedent had to be set in the post-Cold War world, an assertion of American hegemony.
Today, we are all paying the consequences.
– Justin Raimondo
The great historian Charles Austin Beard aptly summed up American foreign policy since World War II as “perpetual war for perpetual peace.” It is a policy, upheld by both parties and by the elites, that has reached its tragic climax in the U.S./NATO occupation of Bosnia.
Twice before, Americans answered the call of Europe to defend the West, and each time was the occasion of a global conflagration, a world war in which millions were sacrificed on the altar of the war god. As American troops pour into the Balkans, a region tortured by civil war for more than 400 years, it may not be long before the opening shots of World War III are fired.
Through three world wars, two hot and one cold, the champions of global intervention have held off the popular wave of what they disdainfully refer to as “isolationism” i.e., the policy of the Founding Fathers who warned against the dangers of European intrigues and entangling alliances. Today, they can hold it off no longer. The American people, more concerned with the war for the streets of America’s cities than any foreign squabble, are not in a world-saving mood.
Among the elites, however, the crusading spirit burns as brightly as ever. Aggressively marketed by the intelligentsia, and loyally supported by the leadership of both major parties, this militant internationalism has survived even the end of the Cold War. But the dissolution of the Soviet Empire and the absence of any external threat, either real or imagined, to the United States has imposed on the interventionists a new vocabulary, and, indeed, dictated a whole new style.
This new look was partially unveiled in the Haiti operation, and has now made its formal debut with the dispatch of U.S. “peacekeepers” into the Bosnian quagmire. In the language of the post-Cold War interventionists, there are no soldiers, or occupiers, but only “peacemakers,” albeit heavily armed ones. The largest military operation in Europe since World War II was launched in the context of a “peace accord.”
This “peace agreement” the so-called Dayton Accord, is a monument to the hypocrisy and cynicism of the Clinton Administration and its Republican fellow-travelers in the foreign policy realm. For this phony peace accord opens the way to war in the Balkans, in the first place because the representatives of the Bosnian Serbs were systematically excluded from the negotiations; indeed, they were not allowed to even see the accord until after it had been agreed to by all other parties.
The negotiators were isolated at an air force base in Dayton, Ohio, until all agreed to the plan put forward by Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke. With Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic playing the role of conciliator, the recalcitrant Croats and their Muslim allies held out for 21 days. When they finally emerged from seclusion, and the Clinton administration announced the content of their agreement, virtually no one was satisfied.
The Bosnian Serbs denounced the Muslim absorption of all of Sarajevo, and immediately held a popular referendum, in which the accord was rejected overwhelmingly. The Islamic regime of Alija Izetbegovic, President of Bosnia-Herzegovina, was perhaps the bitterest in protesting what the Muslim government views as the de facto partition of Bosnia. In America, this bitterness was echoed by the sandals-and-beads crowd, personified by avante garde literary critic Susan Sontag, who wailed: “So Bosnia is to be partitioned. So might instead of right has triumphed. Nothing new in that.”
Interventionism as Camp: The Case of Susan Sontag
Sontag has made several pilgrimages to Sarajevo, where she grandstands for the photographers and makes propaganda for the Muslim fundamentalist regime. Aficionados of literary arcana may dimly remember her as the chief promoter of “camp” the exaggeration of certain characteristics to an absurd degree as an aesthetic sensibility. Politically, she is the archetypal trendsetter and arbiter of intellectual fashion: the pattern of Madame Sontag’s recent zigs and zags maps the ideological gyrations of the American intelligentsia. Years of apologetics for totalitarian socialist regimes were followed by Sontag’s abrupt conversion to the cause of anti-communism. On February 9, 1982, she spoke at a meeting held in New York in support of Poland’s Solidarity movement. In a veritable orgy of self-flagellation, Sontag berated herself and her fellow leftists:
The émigrés from communist countries we didn’t listen to, who found it easier to get published in Reader’s Digest than in the Nation or the New Statesman, were telling the truth. Why didn’t we hear them before, when they were telling us exactly what they tell us now? We thought we loved justice; many of us did. But we did not love the truth enough.
She furthermore told the assembled “American Workers and Artists for Solidarity” that “Communism is fascism.” Well, so it is as Ludwig von Mises, the great libertarian philosopher, and his pupil, the Nobel-winning economist F.A. Hayek, pointed out in the early 1940s. (This idea was hardly original with Sontag, and in fact predated her by half a century: it was a common theme of the pre-World War II Right; see John T. Flynn’s book As We Go Marching. On the Left, this same theme the evolution of the Soviet, German, and American systems into a worldwide “managerial” system was given voice by James Burnham in The Managerial Revolution, and Bruno Rizzi, in The Bureaucratization of the World. Although the only credit Ms. Sontag disdainfully gave for her deep insight was to the Reader’s Digest, she somehow failed to mention Hayek’s seminal book on the subject, The Road to Serfdom a condensed version of which was indeed published in the Digest.)
Sontag’s aesthetic theory of Camp is reflected not only in her politics but in the style of her inflated rhetoric. Equating the Serbs with the Nazis, Sontag bemoans the Dayton Accord as a postmodern Munich: “It’s as if the Western advance of the Wehrmacht had been halted in late 1939 or early 1940 and the League of Nations called a conference among the warring parties at which Germany was awarded half of Poland the invading Russians got 20 percent,” and the poor Poles (i.e., Muslims) were left with the rest, their capital (read: Sarajevo) a lone outpost surrounded by enemy territory.
This kind of rhetoric, the shrillness of which used to be employed in singing paeans to Castro’s Cuba, is automatically suspect. Are the Serbs really the moral equivalent of the Nazis, who, one will remember, exterminated some 6 million Jews and others? The bombastic Sontag compares the ragtag forces of the Republika Srpska to the “Wehrmacht” when in fact the Bosnian Serbs have no air force to speak of, and in fact were themselves subjected to merciless bombing (including civilian targets) by U.S. warplanes. Some “Wehrmacht”!
Today, Sontag and the Left-interventionists whitewash the Izetbegovic regime and downplay or deny the Islamic fundamentalism integral to the ideology of Bosnia’s ruling party; yesterday, this same New Left crowd whitewashed Stalinism, depicted Ho Chi Minh as a benevolent “agrarian reformer,” and downplayed the Marxist fundamentalism that animated the Sandinistas and other shining examples of “Third World liberation.” Bosnian Muslim President Alija Izetbegovic, in his book The Islamic Declaration, condemns the cultural influence of the infidels and states: “there can be neither peace nor coexistence between the Islamic religion and non-Islamic social and political institutions.” What this means in terms of the kind of state he hopes to construct is that “the upbringing of the people, and particularly means of mass influence the press, radio, television, and film should be in the hands of people whose Islamic moral and intellectual authority is indisputable.”
That many of the intellectuals who rallied to the defense of Salman Rushdie, and who routinely deplore the influence of religious fundamentalists in the U.S., are now championing the cause of the Ayatollah Izetbegovic is surely one of the stranger ironies of recent history.
In her renunciation of Bolshevism, Sontag upbraided herself and her comrades for trying to “distinguish among communisms: for example, treating ‘Stalinism,’ which we disavowed, as if that were an aberration, and praising other regimes outside of Europe which had and have essentially the same character.”
While Sontag and her New York literary crowd presumably have no enthusiasm for the Khomeinite regime in Teheran, they attempt to distinguish between at least two strains of Muslim fundamentalism, the Asiatic version represented by Iran and the supposedly cosmopolitan and thoroughly Europeanized version prevalent in Bosnia’s ruling circles. How long before we are treated to yet another conversion by Madame Sontag, who will suddenly discover that Islamic fundamentalism, like Communism, “is fascism”?
Interventionism and the Politics of “Diversity”
On the surface, the Left has done a complete about-face. Yesterday’s peaceniks have suddenly become the biggest warmongers on the block. But in fact the Left-militarists haven’t really changed: they have merely reverted to type. With Communism dead and all but buried, their allegiance has shifted form socialist internationalism of the woozy Wilsonian variety.
The Clinton Administration is the perfect vessel of the new Wilsonian internationalism. In seeking an explanation for the incredible political risk undertaken by an Administration not known for its principled stands, no commentator seems to have come up with a coherent theory as to what motivated the President to do what he said he would never do put American ground forces in the Balkans.
If we look at the details of the Dayton Accord, however, there is in its convoluted and detailed provisions a certain logic. For it is not just an agreement to silence the guns, but a blueprint for the Bosnian body politic. Embedded in its complex clauses is a single-minded (and even fanatical) devotion to the concept of Bosnia as a model of multi-ethnic diversity.
The plan, drafted by the U.S. State Department, divides Bosnia into two sub-entities: the Serbian region and the “Croatian-Muslim Federation.” The country will therefore have multiple presidents; and not only that, it will also have multiple armies, and, presumably, government officials in triplicate feeding at the public trough. (This plan truly has Bill Clinton’s stamp all over it.) These parallel structures are supposed to lead to a permanent peace between factions that have been battling for four-hundred years. Instead, this schizoid state can last only as long as U.S./NATO troops are there to prop it up.
The whole constitutional structure of the Bosnian state, as envisioned by Richard Holbrooke & Co., is like an intricate and very expensive machine designed to perform only one function: to break down. The legislative process, for example, is for all intents and purposes blocked from taking any action. To begin with, there are three ethno-religious legislative bodies (Croat, Serb, and Muslim) in addition to a national parliament or assembly. Two thirds of this national assembly is to be elected from the territory of the Muslim-Croat Federation, and one third from the Republika Srpska. The “collective Presidency” will be elected on the same basis. According to the Bosnian constitution adopted by its founding fathers in Dayton, any presidential decision can be reversed if one-third of the presidents disagree with the majority. In this case, the matter will be referred to the “appropriate” ethnic parliament. If this sub-parliament backs up its national representatives by a two-thirds vote, the challenged decision does not take effect.
In a classic case of psycho-political projection, the Dayton Accord imposes on the signatories a system apparently modeled on the modern American campus, where each ethno-religious minority has its own ethnic studies department, its own dormitories, and its own campus organizations. In the imaginary state of Bosnia-Herzegovina, its American architects have erected a model of “multiculturalism,” an edifice perfectly suited to the fragmented and inherently contentious structure of Bosnian civil society.
Bosnia’s “collective presidency” is an attempt to replicate the relative calm of the immediate post-Tito era, when the Communist Party of Yugoslavia adopted a similar system. Indeed, the provisions of the Dayton Accord detailing the constitutional structure of the Bosnian state are merely a more elaborate variation on the old Yugo-Communist system.
President Clinton, in his speech at the signing of the Dayton Accord, seemed to hark back to the good old days of Titoist Yugoslavia when he declared that “Bosnia once found unity in its diversity.” Although he never once mentioned the old Communist dictator, or spoke of history in anything other than vague generalities, what else could he have possibly meant? For in fact, except for the relative quiet of the Tito era, Bosnia has been the scene of fierce ethnic and religious wars dating back to “at least the 11th century,” as Clinton himself pointed out in his remarks at the June 1995 economic summit.
How heavily the burden of history militates against peace in the region was underscored in the speeches of the signatories at Dayton. Croatian President Franco Tudjman traced the roots of the problem all the way back to the Treaty of Versailles, and even “going back to the partitioning of the Roman Empire.” Tudjman’s long litany of historical grudges, ending in a denunciation of “Yugo-Communist aggression” on behalf of “a Greater Serbia,” seemed more like the prelude to a declaration of war than a proclamation of peace. Alija Izetbegovic, President of Bosnia-Herzegovina, was equally unrelenting: “My Government is taking part in this agreement without any enthusiasm but as someone taking a bitter yet useful potion or medication.”
Only Slobodan Milosevic, President of Serbia, had anything conciliatory to say: “For my part,” he said, “I am convinced that the common language will be found in the relations among the peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina and that despite the agony they have passed through, these peoples are at the threshold of solutions that will enable them to live in peace.”
The question that every thinking American must be asking, at this point, is why must Serbs and Croats be forced to live under Bosnian suzerainty? The answer is that Clinton’s crusade for “multiethnicity” abroad is but a projection of the liberal domestic agenda: racial victimology, affirmative action, and a wholesale assault on property rights in the name of “multiculturalism.” In the hierarchy of victim groups, the Bosnian Muslims have acquired international celebrity status. Not since Hollywood discovered the inherent nobility of the Native American has a victim group’s misfortune been the focus of so much media attention.
The history of the Balkans as presented by Susan Sontag, columnist Anthony Lewis, and the U.S. State Department, in which the Bosnian Muslims have been depicted as the hapless victims of genocide, is a carefully edited and abbreviated version of the events that have shaped that tortured land. But if we are going to characterize a people as an official victim group, and accord it special favor and privileges, it is necessary to trace the historical roots of the Bosnian civil war, and discover the original injustice, the catalyst that set the conflict in motion.
Serbia’s Fight for National Sovereignty
Any objective search for truth and justice must start by acknowledging that the Serbians have been historically victimized, perpetually thwarted, and used as a pawn by the great European powers. This pattern is repeated, in varying degrees, in the case of nearly all other Balkan peoples, but history reveals the Serbs have suffered more than their share: first, under the Byzantine Emperors, and then, since the 12th century, under the oppressive Ottoman Empire. The threat from Austria and Hungary, particularly from the Habsburgs, never abated. The fact is that Serbia has had a long and bitter fight for its sovereignty that has only recently culminated in the establishment of a stable and sovereign state.
The first “ethnic cleansing” in the Balkans took place during the Turkish invasion and the subsequent mass exodus of Serbs from the ancient Serbian homeland of Kosovo. The invaders separated young Christian children from their parents and raised them up as devout Muslims: these were known as the Janissaries, and they were given special privileges by their conquerors, including rights to lands expropriated by the Turks. These native Christians, forcibly converted to Islam, made up the “comprador” ruling class of the Turkish governors, or pashas, and as tax collectors and spies for the Turkish colonial administration.
After having finally won its independence in the general collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Serbia faced another threat: the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a veritable prison-house of peoples which sought to absorb not only Serbia but all the remnants of the decayed Ottoman Empire, and thus block the advance of Russian influence to the shores of the Adriatic. For the Serbs and South Slavs in general had always looked to the Russians, their Slavic and Greek Orthodox big brothers, for protection against the treachery of the Habsburgs, the Bulgarians, the Turks, and especially the unpredictable and volatile Albanians. It was the Austrians, however, whose campaign of subverting and denying Serbian national sovereignty was particularly provocative. Austro-Serbian enmity ignited two Balkan wars and, in the end, sparked a general European conflagration.
Landlocked and entirely dependent on Austria for access to needed supplies, the people of Serbia were held hostage by Austrian tariffs and the complete lack of any seaport. The collapse of the Ottoman “sick man of Europe” intensified the Austrian campaign against the Serbs, as the Great Powers moved into the resulting power vacuum. This took the form of a diplomatic and political offensive on behalf of the Albanians, who, the Austrians insisted, must have a state of their own. That this passion for the right of national self-determination should have suddenly overtaken the Habsburgs naturally had nothing to do with the fact that Serbia was once again denied access to the Adriatic. It was only a coincidence that Austrian financial interests would continue to reap enormous profits.
The Habsburgs used the Muslim minority in much the same way the Ottoman and Seljuk Turks had used the Janissaries: as a lever to block the rise of Serbian independence and the growing movement on behalf of the South Slavs for self-government with an Adriatic federation. This the Austrians and the Germans could not tolerate, because South Slav unity would cut them off form their Turkish allies, the weak but still functioning third arm of the Triple Alliance. Austria was bent on war.
The mysterious assassination of the Austrian archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the Habsburg throne, in Sarajevo, did not serve the interests of Serbian nationalists; yet the Austrian press launched a campaign that accused the assassin of being in the pay of the Serbian government, although no proof was ever offered. In spite of the fact that the Serbians agreed to most of Vienna’s humiliating demands such as suppressing certain Serbian nationalist newspapers this response was rejected out of hand. Europe was plunged into a war that would give rise to a century cursed by collectivism, totalitarianism, and mass murder. That is the legacy of Great Power meddling in the Balkans.
Another legacy of the Great Powers is Titoism, which was propped up and installed not only the Soviets but also with the vital help of British intelligence, without whose assistance Tito would never have come to power. As the Soviet army advanced closer to Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill made the decision to abandon the anti-Communist resistance movement, the Chetniks, led by Colonel Drazha Mikhailovich. British intelligence then worked with Tito’s Partisan movement to destroy the Chetnik resistance, often working in collaboration with the Germans, pro-Axis Croatian Ustashi, and Moslem Militia units (incorporated into the German S.S.) to eliminate all Chetnik influence.
In the Western fellow-traveling press, the truth was exactly reversed, and it was Mikhailovitch who was smeared as a Nazi collaborator. In the view of the Partisans (and their friends in the West), all who opposed the Communist advance were “objectively” in league with Hitler. The Chetniks met the same fate as the members of the Spanish POUM and Anarcho-Syndicalists who were denounced and “liquidated” by the Communist-dominated Loyalist government. In Yugoslavia, Communist agents, working within British intelligence, betrayed and destroyed the Chetnik resistance movement, and handed the country over to the tender mercies of the Titoists, who promptly established a Communist dictatorship. In spite of Croatian President Franco Tudjman’s fanciful rendition of Balkan history synopsized in his Dayton speech, it was the defeated Chetniks (mostly Serbians), who bore the brunt of what Tudjman calls the “Yugo-Communist assault.”
Marxism and Ethnicity in the Workers’ Paradise
If the roots of the ethno-religious civil war in Bosnia can be traced back as far as the 12th century, it is necessary only to look back to the Tito era now being painted by leftists as a time of peace and brotherhood to see how the problem was not only exacerbated, but positively nurtured by the Communist regime. Under Tito, the Muslim minority was granted complete autonomy and special subsidies amounting to billions of dollars, which were pumped into the poor province of Kosovo, inhabited mostly by Albanian Muslims. Some 100,000 Serbs had been forced out of Kosovo in World War II, and some 150,000 to 200,000 were forced out in the turbulent period from 1961-1981.
Granted the status of a “Socialist Autonomous Province” within the Yugoslav federation, the Muslims of Kosovo and Bosnia soon adapted to the advantages of life under Tito, and, for the moment, put their separatist agenda to the side. But beneath the enforced placidity of Stalinist Yugoslavia, the ethnic cauldron was set to bubbling, and it was not long before the heat was turned up.
The Albanian Muslim minority used the Titoist system of institutionalized victimology to their own advantage in innumerable ways. With eight percent of the Yugoslav population, Kosovo alone was getting 30 percent of the federal subsidies. The money was used by the local authorities to buy up land from Serbians and sell it (at cut-rate prices) to Albanians.
Funds poured into the region, with 24 percent of International Monetary Fund loans going to Kosovo in the 1970s. In spite of this outpouring of generosity, the Albanian Muslims and their Bosnian cohorts still incessantly bemoaned their plight. This massive redistribution of wealth from the industrialized north to the underdeveloped south did not succeed in anything but creating a culture of entitlement and resentment.
In a commentary on ethnic tensions in Tito’s Yugoslavia, Serbian authors Alex N. Dragnich and Slavko Todorovich ask the question “in view of all this aid how come Kosovo lagged so far behind other parts of the federation?” After wiping out illiteracy, and raising the expectations of Albanian youths who had nothing to look forward to under Communism, the result was a militant xenophobia fostered among the Muslims. “The Albanians,” write Dragnich and Todorovich,
Tend to blame others for their plight; they are prone to accuse the other republics and nationalities of “exploitation” and see themselves as victims. Can it be that aggressive Albanian nationalism, which used to accuse Serbs of not educating Kosovo Albanians, will now charge Serbs with overeducating Albanians?…Distancing themselves from other Yugoslav peoples by insisting on a separate, ethnically pure, narrow Albanian cultural orientation (which makes them unemployable in a linguistically Serbo-Croatian work environment), Kosovo Albanians have isolated themselves form the rest of the Yugoslav community.
This separatist movement endemic among Muslims throughout the former Yugoslavia, and today embodied in the Izetbegovic regime was encouraged and abetted by the Titoists, in spite of the Communist efforts to install a centralized dictatorship. In Kosovo, and elsewhere, Serbians and Croatians were taught in Albanian language schools, and official business was carried on in Albanian; the Serbo-Croatian backlash was inevitable. As Dragnich and Todorovich put if: “It is paradoxical indeed that the Serbian [Communist] efforts to bring Albanians in only contributed to keeping them out; that the federative philosophy of freeing peoples for the sake of individual development and the broadening of internationality ties, in fact imprisoned them in their own nationalistic confines. Serbian Communists are asking themselves in disbelief: after all we have done for Kosovo, is it possible that the Albanians are less happy in the ‘new communist Yugoslavia’ than they were in ‘rotten royalist Yugoslavia?'”
Victimology, ethnic particularism, and the Yugoslav version of affirmative action and Welfare Statism eventually culminated in the ethnic riots of the seventies and eighties, in which the Kosovo region was the storm center of a resurgent Albanian and Muslim separatism. The “multi-ethnic” state of Communist Yugoslavia, far from being some lost paradise of ethnic diversity, was instead a boiling cauldron of racial and religious animosity. The Titoists redistributed the wealth from prosperous Slovenia, and the Western regions of Croatia and Serbia, to the perennially underdeveloped republics of the south and east. Instead of healing age-old ethno-religious rivalries, the socialist egalitarian schemes of Tito, who bent over backwards to appease minority groups, not only opened up old wounds but also inflicted new ones.
The Dayton Accord seeks to recreate this untenable and inherently divisive system in the mini-state of Bosnia-Herzegovina This project can only fail. The great tragedy is that the failure will unfold with some 30,000 American troops in the very midst of a vicious civil war.
Peaceniks for War: The New Pop Fronters
Clinton is being praised by the liberal media elite for his brave, principles stand; for once, says the “Let Clinton Be Clinton” crowd, Bill is standing up for moral idealism over political expediency. Such a view, far from idealistic, is deeply cynical, considering the source. For while it is true that the polls are overwhelmingly opposed to the Bosnian misadventure, it is also true that a poll taken of the elites that really run this country would yield very different results. The entire foreign policy establishment, and the leadership of both major parties, is gung-ho for intervention. Since when does joining the chorus of Establishment opinion qualify one as either principled or brave?
The interventionist Popular Front is the broadest since the Second World War, extending all the way from Susan Sontag to Bill Kristol, from Ron Dellums to Richard Perle. The target of the New Pop Fronters is ostensibly the same enemy that united the first one: the threat of fascism. Slobo Milosevic is the latest in a long line of ersatz “Hitlers” that have come down the pike in recent years: Manual Noriega, Saddam Hussein (Bush opined that the Iraqi leader is “worse than Hitler”!) and Russia’s Zhirinovsky have all been compared to this archetype of evil. These rather disparate figures a central American caudillo, a pan-Arabist ideologue, and a well-financed Russian clown who calls for the restoration of the Russian Empire have two characteristics in common: 1) They are all nationalists, of one sort or another, defiant of supranational bodies, like NATO and the United Nations, that presume to intervene in their internal affairs, and 2) All committed the heinous sin of putting what they perceive as the interests of their own countries first, over and above foreign economic and political interests and pressure groups.
In the post-Cold War world, the search for anew enemy has ended. The enemy is nationalism, whether Serbian, Panamanian, Russian, and especially the American variety (rendered invisible and derided as “isolationism”). That is why we have been hearing so much about Hitler lately, half a century after his death. Hitler, you see, is alleged to be the prototypical nationalist: in the view of the Establishment, all nationalists are, therefore, potential Hitlerites.
The Left-interventionists take this rhetoric seriously, and literally: what we need, they say, is a world government, a stronger version of the United Nations with its own armed forces and the power to tax. (And, of course, a World Central Bank.) With American taxpayers bearing the lion’s share of the financial burden, a global peace will be enforced by U.S. soldiers wearing blue helmets.
The militancy of the Left-interventionists is most pronounced, ironically, enough, among certain factions of what we used to call the “antiwar movement.” In the postwar era, this movement was identified with the Left, with such groups as the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, the U.S. Peace Council, the pro-Soviet peace group, as well as the traditional pacifist organizations. In the Sixties, the peace movement expanded exponentially and came to be associated with the New Left. When the U.S. withdrew from Vietnam, the peaceniks busied themselves campaigning for nuclear disarmament (Remember the Nuclear Freeze movement?). With the signing of the INF treaty and the winding-down of the arms race, the movement was in trouble; after the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, it was practically kaput. Once peace had broken out, there was no longer a need for a peace movement. Yet the movement like all movements had taken on a life of its own. Too many people depended on it for incomes and prestige to allow it to go out of business. And if peace doesn’t sell anymore, then it is time to find another gimmick that will keep the wheels turning and the cash flowing. If peace is passé, then why not war?
While such a turn may seem untenable, indefensible, and more than a little absurd, what else are we to make of the view of one Al Fishman, a prominent member of the Board of Directors of Peace Action, whose rabid internationalism has turned him and his fellow peaceniks into the biggest warmongers on the block?
Peace Action is the former Sane/Freeze group, which claims to represent 50,000 members in California alone. Fishman’s statement on the Bosnian intervention, quoted in a Peace Action compendium of comments by various peace activists, is worth quoting in full if only to document the degeneration of what used to be called the peace movement:
The concept of the fragmentation of the modern nation-states on the basis of ethnicity, race, or religion is a threat to the development of world stability and peace anywhere and everywhere in the republics of the former Yugoslavia, in Rwanda. In Canada (Quebec). Not only is such fragmentation economically harmful to all the separating parties, but its foundation is essentially racist, based as it is on the presumed inability of people of different races, religions, or ethnic origins to live together in equality .Some of us are genuinely fearful of the potential for U.S. casualties in Bosnia Others of us are deeply suspicious of any use of U.S. troops based on the dozens of interventions in behalf of predatory interests in our nation. The Dayton accords are meant to halt the killing and devastation, provide the “right of return” or compensation for refugees, cool down tempers and provide mechanisms for peaceful conflict resolution, channel assistance into economic rebuilding, and cooperate with the War Crimes Tribunal.
This is the new peacenik dispensation: the nation-state is sacred. No nation-state anywhere must be allowed to “fragment.” In Fishman’s view, wars are not started by these nation-states, but are the fault of those who dare rise against them and threaten “stability,” which is now equated with peace.
To begin with, Fishman is apparently unaware that this argument fatally undermines his conclusion; for if all nation-states are inviolable, their boundaries frozen in pre-cold war stasis, and must be defended by the so-called peace movement at all costs, then the breakaway republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina should immediately rejoin the rump Yugoslav federation of Serbia and Montenegro whose president is Slobo Milosevic.
It is not only Yugoslavia that must not be allowed to fragment, says Fishman, but even independence for Quebec, which would come about as the result of a plebiscite, is not permissible. Given the vehemence of his anti-nationalist rhetoric, one can only wonder if he would call on the Canadian government to send in the troops in the name of “peace,” naturally. But also in the name of fighting “racism” which, according to Fishman, is the cause of the unwillingness of the Bosnian Serbs to live under the rule of a Muslim republic.
While Fishman’s view is admittedly extreme and of limited significance, except as an ironic footnote on the ultimate fate of the “peace” movement, it is useful in understanding the logic that has propelled virtually the entire Left, even some professed Marxists, into the camp of the War Party. Like all so-called extremist positions, Fishman’s merely takes his given premise the sanctity of the nation-state and applies it consistently. The great problem with Fishman’s view, however, is that it is derived from the wrong premise. What used to be the central organizing principle of the peace movement i.e., peace via noninterventionism has now been displaced by knee-jerk defense of the political status quo!
This is an argument that some Right-interventionists can certainly agree with. That was, in fact, exactly the attitude taken by the Bush Administration during the early days of the Soviet decomposition, when the U.S. State Department (and the President) refused to recognize the governments of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia long after they broke away from the Kremlin.
Atrocities and War Propaganda: Separating Fact From Fiction
The Fishman Doctrine of universal states has captured the imagination of the former peace movement and the Left generally in large part due to the atrocity stories that are now being energetically circulated by the war party. Given the history of the region, no one doubts that atrocities and “ethnic cleansing” have occurred on all three sides. But the media’s portrait of the Serbs as the reincarnation of the Nazis is war propaganda at its crudest.
Much sympathy was generated for the Muslims as the victims of this war when the central market of Sarajevo was bombed on February 5, 1994; 68 people died. While the incident was characterized in the media as a Serb assault on innocent civilians, a UN analysis of the crater demonstrated that the Bosnian Muslim government was responsible for the blast. The government of Bosnia-Herzegovina had fired on its own citizens as part of a propaganda campaign to gather sympathy and support in the West.
When the Bosnian government forces withdrew from the UN “safe area” of Srebrenica, there were accusations by this same Bosnian government that a massacre had taken place. A UN investigative team headed by Hubert Wieland, of the UN Human Rights Commission, traveled to Srebrenica, and to Tuzla, where many of the refugees had fled, and could find no eyewitnesses to the alleged slaughter.
There much-touted “safe areas,” which the Serbs are accused of invading and pillaging, in fact served as havens for Muslim military activities. As UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali put it in a report to the Security Council: “In recent months the [Bosnian] government forces have considerably increased their military activity in and around most safe areas, and many of them, including Sarajevo, Tuzla and Bihac, have been incorporated into the broader military campaign of the [Bosnian] government’s side.”
Another example of how the myth of Muslim victimology has been peddled by the mass media is the August 28, 1995 bombing of a Sarajevo marketplace that killed 37 people and was the pretext for the U.S./NATO bombing of Serbian positions. But in fact there is ample evidence that the Serbs were not the source of that bomb, including the testimony of a Russian, a Canadian, and two U.S. administration officials (who have wisely chosen anonymity), who explained that the mortar had not come from a mortar tube and that the explosion had been caused by a shell whose source was quite nearby.
CNN carried reports of the Sarajevo marketplace bombing for weeks on end, reporting that this was a Serb atrocity; there was no mention of the high price paid by Serbian civilians in the subsequent bombing raids.
George Kenney, who resigned in August 1992 from Bush’s State Department to protest alleged “appeasement” of Serbia, now declares that “I’ve been on a learning curve ever since,” and has come over to the view that Bosnia “is our Vietnam experience all over again.” In a revealing article in the New York Times Magazine, Kenney challenged the contention of the interventionists that 250,000 had died in the Bosnian civil war. Kenney’s estimate was 25,000 to 60,000 deaths, total for all sides, with Muslims and Croats responsible for crimes equally horrific as any committed by the Serbs. As Kenney writes in The Nation:
a careful search through press reports shows unambiguously that estimates for hugs numbers of fatalities came originally from the Bosnian government without documentation; journalists repeated them without corroboration, or even attribution, until the charges stuck.
Radovan Karadzic, president of the Republika Srpska, and General Ratko Mladic, commander of the Bosnian Serb army, have been declared “war criminals” by the self-proclaimed International War Crimes Tribunal, and the Dayton Accord codifies the indictment, with Administration officials declaring that Karadzic and Mladic will be arrested on sight. This indictment sets the stage for a righteous war of “liberation” against the “fascist” and “racist” monsters of Serbia, and also allowed the negotiators of the phony peace accord to elbow the Bosnian Serbs aside and deny them any real representation at Dayton.
No one disputes that Karadzic and especially General Mladic are some pretty tough customers, but why does this Tribunal ignore Bosnian crimes? And those crimes are not limited to lobbing bombs at their own citizens. An independent Bosnian Muslim statelet by Fikret Adbic, a successful businessman, declared its autonomy last year, and was viciously attacked by Bosnian government troops. Centered around the city of Bihac, in the northwest part of the country, the Muslim dissidents were crushed in an all-out military offensive aided and abetted by the United States, in which no less than six U.S. generals took part in the planning. Adbic’s democratically-elected government, which sought a Muslim-Serbian reconciliation, was dispersed, along with most of the population: “cleansed” out of their autonomous Republic of Bihac, the dissident Muslims took refuge among the supposedly fascistic and racist Serbs.
In a move that threatened to completely derail the Dayton Accord, the Bosnian government arrested Serb soldiers and officers found in their territory and charged them with “war crimes.” This is a violation of the agreement, which empowers NATO forces, not the factional armies, to make such arrests. Andrew Cummings, the British officer in charge of NATO’s Joint Operations Center, denounced the arrests as “inflammatory and provocative.” But the supposedly impartial International Tribunal has, in effect, legitimized the Bosnian provocation by declaring that it will look into the charges against the detained Bosnian Serb officers, opening the way for a campaign of terror against Serbs who must now live under Muslim rule in Sarajevo.
The fact is that the so-called International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia is far from an impartial judge. To begin with, it is concerned only with such crimes as have been committed since 1991, a stratagem that allows the judges to ignore the atrocities that occurred in the region during 1941-45. This is the only way that the interventionist propaganda campaign can hope to attach any credibility to the claim that the Serbs have conducted a second Holocaust: by evading the fact that, during World War II, the Bosnian Muslims (in units organized by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem) and the Croatian Ustashi were the co-perpetrators, along with the Germans, of the real Holocaust.
Secondly, there is the question of the Tribunal’s composition. The fact that the Bosnian civil war is essentially a religious war wrought among the Muslims, Catholic Croats, and Orthodox Serbians, means that the credibility of any such Tribunal depends on its nonsectarian character or at least some degree of doctrinal parity. Of the 11 judges, 4 are Islamic, 4 Roman Catholic, and 3 are generic secularists. None are Orthodox.
A key element of the Tribunal apparatus, the Commission of Experts, is headed by Mammoud Cherif Basiouni, a devout Muslim; it is his job to direct the collection of evidence, a key function that he performs with a certain bias. All of this is subsidized chiefly by two Muslim countries, Pakistan and Malaysia, who have so far put out 93 percent of the money for the tribunal.
Under these circumstances, it is hardly surprising that the Serbian government will not deal with or recognize the Tribunal. However, several private Serbian organizations have submitted evidence to the Commission, documenting war crimes committed by Muslim, Croat, and especially mujahedin units of “international volunteers.” To date, the Commission has made no official reply: no doubt to give the perpetrators time to be “deported” to their home countries. This would also be useful as an indication of the Izetbegovic regime’s apparent willingness to comply with American demands that the mujahedin get out.
Another fact of the war propaganda that has bamboozled the Left is the charge that the Serbs have engaged in mass rape of women, especially Muslim women; and not in any haphazard way, in which rape is a byproduct of the general atmosphere of violence, but as a systematic campaign designed to demoralize and degrade whole populations. Starting in 1992, charges that the Bosnian Serb arms had raped between 20,000 and 100,000 Muslim women have been widely reported in the press; this was the left-wing feminists’ cue to jump on the “Save Bosnia” bandwagon. Ms. magazine opined that the male chauvinist pigs of the Bosnian Serb army had gone into the pornography business, and that the purpose of the mass rapes was to produce films! At 100,000 rapes, that is a lot of footage: but why were none of these films ever found? In January 1993, the European Community issued the much-touted “Warburton Report,” which did much to enlist the feminists as cheerleaders for the Bosnian intervention. Amid all the hoopla and publicity, a dissenting member of the EC investigative team, Simon Veil, revealed the truth: the commission’s estimate of 20,000 rapes committed by the Bosnian Serb army was based on the testimony of four people, two women and two men. Another major source of the EC report was the Croatian Minister of Health, hardly an objective source. Newsweek upped the ante when it reported as fact that up to 50,000 women had been victimized by the Bosnian Serb army. This estimate was based on interviews with 28 women,
As Jerome Bony, a French television reporter, put it: “When I was 50 kilometers from Tuzla, I was told: ‘Go to the Tuzla high school grounds. There are 4,000 raped women.’ At 20 kilometers this figure dropped to 400. At 10 kilometers only 40 were left. Once at the site, I found only four women willing to testify.”
The American Left of the nineties, for whom victimology and group rights has replaced Marxist socialism as an animating ideology, has been well-prepared to accept and enthusiastically endorse interventionism and militarism in the name of political correctness. Under the pressure of the events in the former Yugoslavia, the loony internationalism of the liberal elite has overwhelmed the traditional antiwar proclivities of the Left. Led by the rabidly anti-secessionist Al Fishman, and a gaggle of “feminist-socialists” who pant at the thought of a way (a real war) against male chauvinists and rapists, the peace movement is beating the war drums. A more pathetic sight has not been seen in many a year.
Read more by Justin Raimondo
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