Serbia’s Turn

Balkans Drama Enters Final Act

Although supporters of separatist Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic celebrated victory on the evening of May 21, it took another 10 days and EU envoy Frantisek Lipka’s tiebreaker vote to validate the results of the Montenegrin independence referendum. On May 31, Montenegro became a de facto independent state, although its formal recognition is still pending.

While Serbian President Boris Tadic rushed to offer congratulations even before Lipka’s decision, official Belgrade remained silent until it was obvious Brussels was validating the separatist victory. On Sunday, the chairman of the Serbia-Montenegro state union abolished his office (and presumably, the country with it). On Monday, the Serbian National Assembly voted by the narrowest of margins to declare statehood itself, striking down Yugoslav symbols inherited by the union, including the old national anthem.

Future historians may argue at length about the exact timing of Yugoslavia’s death: whether it was in 1991, when a European Union (then EEC) commission ruled the country out of existence; or in 2003, when its last remnant was renamed “State Union of Serbia and Montenegro,” again by an EU envoy (Javier Solana); or on May 31, 2006, with Montenegro’s secession dissolving the Union, yet again with assistance of an EU envoy (Lipka). There is no arguing that Yugoslavia is dead, however. And it appears to be Serbia’s turn next.

The Open Wound

In June 1999, after 78 days of terror bombing, Belgrade accepted what seemed to be a compromise and allowed NATO troops to enter its province of Kosovo under UN auspices. Within days it was obvious that the armistice was a subterfuge, a way for NATO to occupy the province and turn it over to the Albanian separatists and the terrorist “Kosovo Liberation Army.” Massive ethnic cleansing of Serbs, Roma, Turks, and other non-Albanians that followed – over a quarter of a million people – was dismissed by embedded journalists as somehow spontaneous “revenge attacks” by righteous victims of “Serb oppression.”

The widespread destruction of Serb property, heritage, culture, and lives has been systematically covered up or dismissed, or even perverted into an argument for appeasing Albanian separatists, as was done in the aftermath of the March 2004 pogrom. None of the pogrom’s organizers were ever apprehended, much less punished; this was par for the course – by then, it was perfectly normal for known Albanian terrorists to mysteriously vanish from high-security U.S. military installations, no questions asked. Albanians were able to organize and supply an insurgency in Macedonia throughout 2001, without any interference from NATO. And in March ’04, most NATO troops stood idly by as the pogrom unfolded, while official Western media spun a story of Serbs killing Albanian children as an excuse for the savagery.

The UN-established (and almost entirely Albanian) “provisional government” of Kosovo was tasked with achieving standards of democratic behavior before any talks on the province’s future could start. None of the standards were ever met, yet the UN green-lit the talks last fall anyway – and appointed as the top mediator none other than Martti Ahtisaari, the diplomat who negotiated the June 1999 subterfuge and subsequently served as president of an international lobbying group that has consistently advocated an independent, Albanian Kosovo. His colleague on the board was Gen. Wesley Clark, commander of the 1999 NATO invasion. Clark, a failed presidential candidate, nevertheless maintains a political organization, and has actually recently cited Kosovo as intervention done right in a Memorial Day solicitation to donors.

Blind Eye to Violence

Eclipsed by news from Montenegro was the latest wave of anti-Serb violence in Kosovo. A series of attacks culminated with the roadside ambush and killing of a 23-year-old Serb near Zvecan last week. Yet UNMIK and the Albanian authorities continue to maintain that these were “isolated incidents” or ordinary crimes, not ethnically motivated violence.

In response to this obvious idiocy, Serbs from the region have declared a state of emergency and severed ties with the provisional government, though not with UNMIK as initially reported. Meanwhile, NATO has begun beefing up its presence around the Serb-inhabited enclaves in the north, while Serbian papers allege – and the UN does not deny – the existence of “contingency plans” for over 70,000 Serb refugees if Kosovo becomes independent (and Albanian).

Belgrade’s proposals for greater local autonomy for Serbs living in Kosovo, who obviously cannot trust the Albanian government any more than Albanians claim they can trust Belgrade, were rejected by Ahtisaari and his team on grounds that any “moves to partition the province would invite fresh violence and population movements.” But that is precisely what is happening right now, and has been happening for the past seven years!

Hypocrisy Unbound

Although official Belgrade rejects the independence of Kosovo, the very fact that its negotiators have descended to proposing autonomy for the remaining Serbs suggests it has accepted the status quo created by NATO bombs and KLA terror. Self-serving “arguments” that Kosovo’s separation would embolden nationalist forces and destroy “democracy” in Serbia are similarly a defense Serbs would be better without. Prime Minister Kostunica maintains that separating Kosovo from Serbia by force is illegal – but so were NATO’s 1999 war and the subsequent occupation, and the post-Milosevic regimes in Belgrade have condemned neither. And the government, its “liberal democratic” critics and the supposedly “nationalist” Radical opposition all agree that Serbia needs to join the European Union, the sooner the better. It is hard to argue for one’s sovereignty and integrity while eagerly campaigning for its abolition.

But while Belgrade’s actions lack logic, the hypocrisy of the so-called “international community” is stunning. Not only do Imperial officials see no evil when Albanians rampage across Kosovo, they howl in protest when Bosnian Serbs imply that if Montenegro and Kosovo can secede, so could their republic. The U.S. ambassador to Sarajevo has labeled the idea “unacceptable” and “out of the question,” because Bosnia was a sovereign state with internationally recognized borders. But… so is Serbia. In fact, the UN resolution authorizing the UN/NATO administration of Kosovo explicitly guarantees the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia, while the Serbia-Montenegro charter drafted by none other than Javier Solana – who led NATO’s war in 1999 – establishes the union as Yugoslavia’s legal heir, and Serbia as the sole successor to the Union. While some sophists have argued that with Yugoslavia’s demise UNSCR 1244 is null and void, the law is clear: Kosovo is part of Serbia.

This is why NATO, the UN, and the Albanians haven’t the slightest intention of obeying the law. Their actions over the past seven years or more have demonstrated this with undeniable clarity. In order to achieve their desired objective – an independent, Albanian-dominated Kosovo – they are willing to circumvent, ignore, or outright violate any laws that stand in the way.

What After Law?

Civilization is based on law. Not just any law, but the highest law, that against murder and theft. Some call it God’s, others the law of Nature, but one thing is clear: without it, there is no civilization – only the savagery of the powerful, and the suffering of those who are not.

The actions of NATO and the KLA in 1999 and thereafter are clearly in violation of that law.

When the “negotiations” between Serbs and Albanians began earlier this year, one UN official told a French newspaper that the plan was for Serbia to undergo “voluntary rape” – that is, declare that its violation in 1999 was somehow consensual, and give up the occupied Kosovo in exchange for a handout from NATO or the EU. And while this could actually work with the sort of politicians that run Serbia these days, the Empire seems reluctant to even offer a handout, demanding that Serbia simply “accept reality.” They aren’t denying the rape happened – they are denying it was a crime.

Replacing the law with force works only as long as those who do so have the monopoly on force. NATO’s inability to break Serbia in 1999 – until it wormed its way into Kosovo through diplomatic subterfuge – suggests that Empire’s iron fist isn’t so fearsome after all. Empire’s failure in Iraq drives the lesson home, as the rapidly conquering armada finds itself constantly outmaneuvered by non-state opposition.

In their drive to assert hegemony after the collapse of Communism, leaders of both the U.S. and Europe have made enemies of all and sundry. The last remnants of power, wealth, and influence they’ve inherited from the ages of glory past have been squandered, and the civilization that created them almost destroyed. And for what: a few dollars more, when the dollar is worth less by the day? The West is long past laying the foundations for its self-destruction; the demolition is in full force, masquerading as the construction of “progress.”

The idea of law being based on an objective definition of justice – do not murder, do not steal – and applicable to all, irrespective of their power or rank, was arguably the greatest Western contribution to civilization. Now that idea lies trampled on the bloody hillsides of the Balkans – and the deserts of Mesopotamia, and dozens of other places in the world – replaced by the barbaric concept of “might makes right.” But turnabout is fair play; and when the West inevitably loses its might, it will have to hope that whoever holds the whip hand next is acquainted with the virtue of mercy, a quality that is rapidly disappearing in today’s world.

Read more by Nebojsa Malic

Author: Nebojsa Malic

Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia, and Serbian politics. His exclusive column for Antiwar.com debuted in November 2000.