The Tyrant of Bosnia

by , July 09, 2004

At the summit in Istanbul last week, NATO refused to invite Bosnia-Herzegovina to join its satellite program “Partnership for Peace.” Even though NATO previously conditioned the invitation on the establishment of a joint military, defense ministry and intelligence service, all of which have been accomplished, the refusal was explained by Bosnia’s supposed “failure to meet its international obligations” – i.e., arrest suspected war criminals wanted by the Hague Inquisition.

Using this excuse as a pretext, Bosnia’s viceroy Paddy Ashdown launched a massive purge in the Bosnian Serb Republic (RS), which he exclusively blamed for the perceived “failure”: 60 Serb officials were proscribed, sacked and banned from holding public office. Ashdown justified the purge by accusing the ruling Bosnian Serb party of corruption, incompetence and aiding “war criminals,” but did not provide any evidence aside from his own assertions. However, this latest exercise of the viceroy’s dictatorial powers threatens the very foundations of the peace agreement that has tenuously held Bosnia together since 1995.

The Purge

Not only did Ashdown fire 60 top RS officials, including Police Minister Zoran Djeric and Assembly Speaker (and SDS party leader) Dragan Kalinic, he also froze all SDS assets and actually expropriated a million Bosnian marks (about $600,000) and turned it over to the central government. He also announced a reform of law enforcement, consolidating it under Bosnia’s central government.

This is but the last in a string of brutal attacks on the Bosnian Serb Republic, dating back to when its elected President was sacked by Viceroy Westendorp on the eve of NATO’s attack on Serbia. Each purge, each “reform” and each new program for “Euro-Atlantic integration” has transferred more power from Bosnia’s two entities to the central government, eroding the arrangement that ended the war in 1995.

Interestingly, the purge was not a surprise to most outside observers. IWPR wrote about its possibility in mid-June, with barely concealed glee. So did the Swiss-based ISN, a propaganda organ of the Partnership for Peace. Only its extent was a novelty.

Like every other tyrant, Ashdown claimed his actions were for the greater good, even the good of the Serbs: “The Serb Republic has been in the grip of a small band of corrupt politicians and criminals for far too long,” he told reporters.

Bogus Charges, Bogus Excuses

If Ashdown truly wanted to root out corruption, incompetence and crime, he would have had to sack almost all public officials in Bosnia. Instead, Serbs are persecuted constantly, Croats occasionally, and Muslims get a free pass. It is glaringly obvious that all the talk of democracy, reforms, war crimes, corruption, etc., is but a bag of excuses, used to browbeat Bosnians into accepting further centralization.

The “Partnership for Peace” case is a perfect example. Earlier this year, membership in the program was conditioned on establishing a single defense ministry and integrating the Serb and Muslim-Croat armies under joint command. This was finally accomplished in March, and the new defense minister was definitely to NATO’s liking. Then Ashdown moved the goalposts and bullied the RS into producing a confession of “genocide” in Srebrenica. When that, too, was done, the goalposts moved again. With Head Inquisitor Carla Del Ponte smugly promising she would get the head of Radovan Karadzic by St. Vitus Day, the issue became his arrest and extradition. Tasked with doing in two weeks what NATO has failed to do in nine years, often spectacularly, the RS finally failed to appease the Great Dictator.

It is not accidental that Ashdown and his backers chose to punish the Serbs over the perceived “setback” in Bosnia’s path to NATO. Membership in the Imperial Alliance and eventually the EU is considered an unquestionable pinnacle of political achievement, and anyone who challenges it risks being branded “ultranationalist” and “obstacle to peace.”

“Bosnia’s membership in the Partnership for Peace and later in NATO would be the best guarantee of long-term peace and stability for the country,” Ashdown told the German press agency DPA. But the truth is nothing of the sort. Joining NATO – a Cold War leftover whose only purpose is to maintain U.S. military hegemony in Europe – is in no country’s interest. Bosnia, a makeshift country whose people can barely agree to coexist – and even that under severe duress – has nothing to offer NATO, nothing to gain from becoming a member.

Backlash

It was only a matter of time before even the browbeaten Bosnian Serbs decided enough was enough. First reactions to the purge indicate it achieved the opposite effect of the one intended: the general population is more resentful of the viceroy and the Hague Inquisition than ever, and the parliamentary opposition, led by the onetime-darling of the West Milorad Dodik, has refused to exploit the political vacuum, vowing instead to protect the institutions of the Serb Republic.

There is no doubt that the purge hurt the ruling SDS party, but it has also led to governmental gridlock. Speaker of the National Assembly, SDS chairman Dragan Kalinic, announced his dismissal by Ashdown from the chamber floor in an impassioned speech, vowing to return some day in triumph. He also warned that “this people will remain … and this will once again be our country.” Then, protesting the purges, government delegates walked out of the Assembly, leaving it without quorum and effectively blocking its work.

Sarajevo daily Dnevni Avaz, a mouthpiece of the Muslim nationalists, claimed Monday that Karadzic and Mladic had been in secret talks with British intelligence, offering to surrender to the ICTY, when the purge occurred. This caused the negotiations to fail. If true, this would mean Ashdown’s actions prevented the very thing they were supposed to accomplish.

The Man Who Would Be King

Appointment of Paddy Ashdown as Bosnia’s viceroy was ill-advised from the very beginning. According to a Washington intelligence newsletter, he was “widely known for his arrogance even before his failure as leader of the British Liberal Party caused him to be shunted to the OHR” [Office of High Representative, the official name of the post]. He was an outspoken supporter of the Izetbegovic regime during the war, and his eulogy at Izetbegovic’s funeral last October endorsed just about all of Izetbegovic’s policies. Given that Izetbegovic’s obsession with a centralized Bosnia was at the root of the bloody civil war, such an endorsement should have cost Ashdown his job. Instead, he grew even bolder in his exercise of dictatorial powers.

Even if the Empire isn’t concerned about their viceroy’s rampage ratcheting up ethnic resentment and threatening Bosnia’s fragile peace, it ought to at least consider that his private war against the Bosnian Serbs has already hurt efforts to combat Islamic terrorists – which, contrary to his repeated denials, do have a presence in Bosnia. His personal grudge against the Serbs blinds him to cold, hard facts, such as that an Izetbegovic confidant is charged with embezzling $4 million; that the Muslim-Croat Federation is a bloated bureaucratic monstrosity; that many shady Muslim charities are fronts for funding terrorism; that the Federation army is mismanaged to such a degree that troops have nothing to eat, let alone fight with. All he sees, like a bull in the arena, is the red rag of the Serb Republic, whose very existence seems to offend him.

Furthermore, whether he is promoting tourism, coercing confessions, or conducting vicious purges, Paddy Ashdown behaves as if he fancies himself the king of Bosnia, like a Kipling character on the 19th century Indian frontier. But his reign should be called what it is: tyranny.

Destroying Dayton

Setting aside the viceroy’s fervent dislike of Bosnian Serbs or his sympathy for Muslims, and even the numerous ethical, political and judicial implications of his dictatorial demonstrations, one thing that he is doing more of and harder than any of his predecessors is dismantling the Dayton Peace Agreement.

Ashdown told IWPR in mid-June that, “Republika Srpska is weakening its legitimacy by failing to meet its international obligations, because the very existence of the RS is based on this.”

This statement alone makes one wonder whether he is reading the same Dayton Agreement as the rest of the world. Nowhere therein is the existence of either the Serb Republic or the Muslim-Croat Federation conditioned on anything, least of all submission to demands hiding behind the euphemism “meeting international obligations.” Yet Ashdown has already implemented a series of what IWPR describes as “constitutional changes that … strengthen state institutions at the expense of the entities.”

Whether Ashdown and his employers don’t have the intestinal fortitude to openly declare their desire to revise the Dayton Agreement by force, or they hold the Serbs in such contempt they simply do not consider it an obligation to respect the treaties made with such “murderous a**holes” (R. Holbroke, 1995), they are shoving Bosnia-Herzegovina back to the situation that ignited the war twelve years ago.

The last time the Great Powers meddled around in the Balkans – and specifically, Bosnia – it caused a backlash that started European civilization’s collective suicide. Apparently, that necrosis has reached such a stage that meddling in the Balkans is again the flavor of the day. It is a measure of how far the West has fallen that two-bit, third-rate political failures such as Paddy Ashdown now play god in the Balkans powder keg.

If not for the sake of the Balkans – which God himself seems to have forsaken – but of European civilization itself, this madman and his enablers must be stopped, before their insanity can unleash something the West will once again come to bitterly regret.

Read more by Nebojsa Malic