Balkans, Unhinged

Given the amount of sheer lunacy that has been exhibited in the Balkans over the past decade, both by the Empire and its local vassals, it is tempting to say that things could hardly get any more irrational. And also very, very wrong. For just when you thought it was safe to go back to the Balkans, the idiots in charge of the place decide to reach shocking new limits of both madness and sheer stupidity.

Scare Tactics And Soccer

Two weeks ago, NATO’s occupation troops in Bosnia launched another operation to hunt down Radovan Karadzic, former war leader of the Bosnian Serbs now accused of genocide by the Hague Inquisition. Hundreds of troops, dozens of tanks, vehicles and helicopters, held a backwater sliver of eastern Bosnia under siege for two days. Officially, NATO said it was not after Karadzic per se, but was rooting out his "support network" and "gathering information." Unofficially, what was happening looked suspiciously like a show of force aimed to intimidate the local populace. Whatever it was, it did not work. Very much like the Bosnian "peace process," actually.

"I got a petuliar feelin that putty-tat is up to something…"

No less hare-brained was the idea of holding a friendly game of soccer between Bosnia and Yugoslavia last weekend. In this part of the world soccer is not just a sport – it’s an obsession. Fans don’t just wear their team’s colors: they form gangs and bash other fans’ heads in. Soccer is war, only with rules.

Furthermore, Bosnian Serbs don’t identify with the Bosnian state anyway, and even less so when the national team has no Serb players. So the match was really an internal ethnic conflict, with Bosnian Serbs showing up to cheer for the Yugoslavs, and the Muslims cheering "their" national team. When Yugoslavia handily beat Bosnia 2:0 (in both the junior match and the main event), the enraged Muslims rioted. Serb fans had to be escorted to safety by the police, and several people were injured. Some have deemed it progress that the game took place at all. Officials from both soccer federations tried to put a positive spin on everything. But the game has shown the truth: Bosnia is nowhere near being a normal country, let alone a nation.

Pure Hollywood

The stupidest bit of news about Bosnia came from outside the country, though. Former U.S. Air Force captain Scott O’Grady sued Twentieth Century Fox studio for making "Behind Enemy Lines," a bad, crass propaganda movie (very) loosely based on his experiences in the Bosnian War. O’Grady not only claimed unjust enrichment on part of Fox and demanded billions in damages, but claimed that the movie’s protagonist ruined his image by "using foul language" and "disobeying orders."

Problem is, O’Grady said nothing when the movie was released last year. He said nothing when the first DVDs hit the shelves earlier this summer. He said nothing, until the movie made some money. Now he wants a cut. He may find that a tad more difficult than surviving for six days in the mountains of Bosnia. As things go, he should be grateful Fox embellished his story. O’Grady was shot down by an old, Soviet-made missile, on a clear summer day. Even Hollywood thought that was stupid.

How High?

After the arrests of one former KLA commander and the indictment of another two weeks ago, Imperial troops occupying Kosovo have had to deal with raging mobs demanding their release. According to the rioters, the accused KLA leaders were heroes, not terrorists. Since NATO violated international law to help the KLA, and NATO is headed by the U.S., and the U.S. is fighting terrorism, the KLA can’t possibly be terrorists, right?

Mistakenly believing that the occupiers were really cracking down on terrorists, Serbia’s justice minister Vladan Batic requested the arrest and extradition of Hashim Taqi and Agim Ceku, wanted on charges of terrorism, murder and armed rebellion. The UN response was a predictable "No!", showing that the "crackdown" on terrorists is about as serious as their "war on drugs."

Caring little that Kosovo is a paradise for Albanian heroin smugglers, the UN/NATO occupiers are going after those suspected of growing… marijuana. Such is the zeal to stamp out pot in Kosovo, that earlier this month NATO troops detained Mother Efrosinia, abbess of the Gracanica Monastery, for growing "marijuana" in a monastery field. Never mind that the plant was really industrial hemp, grown throughout the Balkans to make durable natural fabric. Never mind that the 70-year-old abbess was a spiritual leader of a handful of Serbs who barely survived the KLA’s campaign of murder and rampage those same NATO troops did nothing to prevent. Never mind that throughout Kosovo, church lands are being seized by Albanians and the UN does nothing. Never mind that the field in question was used by NATO as a helipad (without compensation, of course), and was effectively expropriated to begin with. So never mind the KLA, those pesky Serbian nuns are the real danger for the 40,000 NATO troops in Kosovo!

Maybe someone should check what the NATO generals are smoking.

Serbian Nukes and Other Tales

Last week it was suddenly announced that a research reactor near Belgrade contained enough uranium to make two nuclear weapons, and that the materials were safely evacuated to Russia with U.S. blessing and assistance.

Most news stories dealt with the possible dangers of the uranium in Serb hands: it might have been sold to Saddam Hussein or Al-Qaeda; Milosevic had invested in a nuclear program; and similar rubbish. Making a nuclear device is actually astonishingly simple, and the hardest part is getting the uranium. Milosevic had enough uranium for two bombs, yet he neither made them, nor sold the material to someone who would have. And it’s not like he couldn’t have used the deterrent, or the money, over the past decade. Belgrade was too civilized, or too stupid – or both – to get into the nuclear game.

Thing is, Milosevic’s Serbia would have never sold weapons to Al-Qaeda. While the U.S. supported the fundamentalist regime in Bosnia and the medieval barbarians of Kosovo, Serbs fought them, and were pilloried as murderers. Now Djindjic’s Serbia… that’s another matter altogether. He sold his soul to the Empire and most of the country to the Germans, so what’s another "pragmatic" deal if it helps fund "reforms"? In that light, maybe the US-Russian uranium evacuation wasn’t such a dumb idea after all…

Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness…

No account of Balkans follies would be complete without the Hague Inquisition, which this week continued its process against Milosevic. After hearing its case demolished by the former State Security head Rade Markovic last month, the Inquisitors returned to the proven practice of calling KLA members to testify of "horrible Serb atrocities."

The newest KLA yarn is that their members killed by NATO bombs at the Dubrava prison near Istok were really "massacred" by Serb guards. Yet if that was so, how come the "witness" not only survived, but was transferred to another prison? Were the Serbs that stupid? BBC’s reporter Jackie Rowland volunteered to testify that the KLA was right, and the AP has already declared her footage "consistent with the testimony." But how, when the testimony wasn’t consistent with itself?

Off The Deep End

Perhaps all this madness in the "trial" chamber has finally unhinged even Milosevic. However canny and resilient he may be in The Hague, he made a total idiot of himself in Serbian politics last week, when he urged his party to back fringe Radical Vojislav Seselj as the joint candidate of the "patriotic opposition." While reasoning that a joint candidate has better chances of beating both government candidates (of which, more later) makes sense, his choice stinks: Seselj is about as popular in Serbia as syphilis.

In all honesty, the past decade in the Balkans has been a continual open season on truth, logic, and sanity. What is happening now is no more outrageous that the original decision to butcher federal Yugoslavia in favor of its "republics," to divide Bosnia so it would be united, or to bomb Serbia and occupy Kosovo to protect KLA’s "human rights" to pillage, murder, rape and burn. So it’s accepted as normal.

But it gets worse. This fall, most Yugoslav successor states are holding elections, the ultimate Balkans reality show. Get ready for politicians to compete for brownie points with Imperial governors, occupation troops, international bankers, European bureaucrats and NATO generals (oh, and their own people, if time and money allow); for the press to show the world the real meaning of "tabloid journalism"; and for the people to yet again stuff the ballot boxes with votes for their next chosen savior, despite having done so for years with disastrous consequences.

Stupidity is infectious, after all.

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 debuted in November 2000.