From Kosovo to Baghdad

As the frustrated Empire attempts ever harder to justify the unjustifiable and launch an invasion of Iraq with some sort of placating pretext, it was inevitable that the precedent of Balkans interventions would come up again.

Richard Holbrooke, former foreign policy hitman for the Clinton regime, complained in the Washington Post on February 23 that Bushites have lost the "leadership" he and his masters had created through Balkans interventions:

"in 1999, the Clinton administration and our NATO allies decided to bomb Serbia (for 77 days) without even seeking U.N. approval, after it became clear that Russia would veto any proposal. This contrast with the supposedly muscular Bush administration is especially odd when one considers that Saddam Hussein is far worse than Slobodan Milosevic, and that Iraq has left a long trail of violated Security Council resolutions, while there were none on Kosovo."

Holbrooke may be arrogant, condescending, boorish, mendacious and insufferable, but he is at least open about it. What he is saying here is that the US and NATO literally got away with the international law equivalent of premeditated murder, and that Bush should have used that same approach in Iraq. Justification? Who needs one!? Earlier in the piece he quipped:

"one should never underestimate the persuasive power of power itself, as we saw with the powerful and precise use of air power in Bosnia in 1995 and Kosovo in 1999." (emphasis added)

Nowhere in the entire article does he mention the supposedly "humanitarian" character of Empire’s Balkans interventions, while in this one sentence alone, he uses "power" four times. While this may not be (but is) indicative of Empire’s priorities, it is clearly enough indicative of Holbrooke’s.

False Challenges

Holbrooke’s musings were quickly challenged by Bush 41’s henchman James Baker, and Viagra pitchman Bob Dole, just four days later. Well, sort of. While he hotly denied Holbrooke’s charge that Bush 41 didn’t "finish the job" in 1991, Baker agreed with Holbrooke’s urging Bush 43 to attack now, debate later. Dole, on the other hand, rode his favorite hobbyhorse by charging that Holbrooke and the Clintonites did too little, too late to save the "beleaguered Bosnians" from "Serbian attack." Neither actually disagreed with Holbrooke’s main argument about the usefulness and desirability of force – laws and even common decency be damned. But this is what passes for ‘debate’ in Washington nowadays: the concept of mass murder as ‘statesmanship’ is uncontested, and the only disagreement is with details.

Exercises in Justification

That same week, another debate played itself out on the pages of the International Herald Tribune. Wolfgang Petritsch, former Imperial viceroy of Bosnia, rejected comparisons between Kosovo 1999 and Iraq 2003, sounding almost like a voice of reason. But when one is arguing against Veton Surroi, that’s not hard. Indeed, Surroi’s comparison of Hussein with Slobodan Milosevic from a few weeks back is riddled with madness, of which this is but a pinnacle:

"Change will only come when the bombs begin to fall."

Surroi’s belief in the healing power of bombs is simply sick. And he is actually considered a ‘moderate’ among the Kosovo Albanians!

Petritsch’s IHT byline, however, identifies him as "chief EU negotiator at the Rambouillet peace talks in 1999." Given that Rambouillet was simply an Empire-engineered extortion designed to create a pretext for NATO’s attack, Petritsch’s professed belief in international law and UN legitimacy rings manifestly hollow.

Both Holbrooke-Baker/Dole and the Petritsch-Surroi debates focus on appearances of Imperial intervention, but never question its validity. Until it is recognized that the Empire had no right to use force in Serbia in 1999, nor does it have that right in Iraq now, comparisons between the two are merely exercises in justification.

Beware of Kosovo

That is not to say that Kosovo does not offer plenty of hints as to what may be coming soon to Iraq, from terror-bombing to fabricated atrocity stories. If the Balkans is anything to judge by, those who survive can expect an Imperial protectorate, in which they will be kept in check with armies of bureaucrats, ‘revenge attacks’ and occasionally, Imperial force. It won’t be a ‘liberation,’ as the Emperor proclaimed, but a nightmare.

Far from being a shining example of Imperial virtue, Kosovo is a ‘twilight zone’ where logic gives way to madness and nonsense is elevated to wisdom. When Kosovo Serbs tried to preserve what’s left of their lives and property in the occupied province, Albanians roared that any "division of Kosovo" would be "unacceptable," while the Imperial viceroy condemned "institutions which are based on mono-ethnicity." Yet Albanians saw nothing wrong in dividing Serbia (of which Kosovo is, after all, a part), while NATO’s occupation has created a 95% mono-ethnic (Albanian) Kosovo, with the remaining Serbs and others serving as a fig leaf of ‘multi-ethnic’ legitimacy.

Even Albania condemned the Serb autonomy as something "unacceptable" (that word again) that would "damage ethnic coexistence" (!). As if the official Tirana is unaware that ‘coexistence’ in Kosovo today means militant Albanians murdering Serbs – and even fellow Albanians – with impunity, and destroying priceless monuments of culture.

The ‘War Crimes’ Scam

Critics will contend that ‘impunity’ ended when four KLA terrorists were indicted by the Hague Inquisition last week for torturing and murdering Serbs and Albanians. Specifically, Empire’s favorite sycophants, the Human Rights Watch, said the indictments "defeat the claims of the Tribunal’s critics that it was ignoring abuses committed by Kosovo Albanian rebels." Well, no it does not. Had the ‘Tribunal’ been truly interested in ‘abuses’ by the KLA, it would have indicted Hashim Taqi, Agim Ceku and Ramush Haradinaj long ago. That’s assuming it is a legitimate institution to begin with, which it isn’t. Given the Inquisition’s political nature, assuming that the small-fry KLA were indicted specifically to create a pretense of fairness would not be far-fetched at all.

It’s not the first time the Hague Inquisition came up with ‘indictments’ at the most opportune moment; Milosevic was indicted when NATO’s attack needed a legitimacy boost. Several Croatian generals have been indicted as ‘proof’ of even-handedness (and HRW commented on them the exact same way as above), and Bosnian Serb politicians were hauled off in chains once their usefulness on the ground ended.

One of them, Biljana Plavsic, was just sentenced to 11 years in prison – a virtual life sentence for the 72-year old. Plavsic’s lawyers were shocked with this reward for her spectacular ‘confession’. On the other hand, some Bosnian Muslims protested the sentence as "lenient". Death isn’t good enough? There goes the empty talk of ‘reconciliation’.

This outcome was painfully obvious months ago. Confessions did not help the victims of Stalin’s show trials – why would they help the victims of Empire’s? Ironically enough, Plavsic and associates fought against a regime allied with Al-Qaeda. So much for the ‘War on Terror,’ too.

And now, in yet another re-run of the Balkans in the Middle East, the Empire is campaigning to get Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi officials indicted for ‘war crimes’, whether from 1991 or in the war that hasn’t happened yet. This nightmarish combination of Kafka and Philip K. Dick is only possible because of the Hague Inquisition.

Effects of Intervention

One more thing to keep in mind is the impact of Imperial intervention in Kosovo and the subsequent occupation of the province, and the likelihood of similar effects in Iraq.

That NATO bombed, invaded, and got away with it meant international law no longer had any meaning. In addition to the loss of life and destruction of property stemming from the bombing, there was a mass expulsion of non-Albanians from Kosovo, a NATO-sanctioned ethnic cleansing that remains a problem to the present day. Countless medieval cultural treasures in Kosovo have been deliberately destroyed. Iraq is rife with remnants of the most ancient human civilizations; how many will perish in the planned missile storm? The ‘liberated’ Kosovo has been a haven for traffickers in drugs, weapons and sexual slaves, as well as a base for terrorist movements in Macedonia and Presevo Valley. Now the rot is spreading to northern Serbia, where ethnic and political separatists jockey shamelessly for power. Even the current policy of ‘regime change’ was tested on Serbia first, with Kosovo as leverage. Thanks to it, Serbia is now ruled by a gang of thieves with dangerous delusions, who owe their positions of power (nearly absolute in Serbia, however petty in global terms) to the Empire.

The Ring of Madness

The circle is thus complete. Scratch the surface of any conflict, and you’ll find the Empire there; if not this one, then its predecessors. And everywhere it goes, death and despair follow. The power of empire cannot be abused – its very use results in evil. Tolkien was right: power is the fiery Ring, an end unto itself. Power for power’s sake, to paraphrase Holbrooke.

Is it not obvious, from everything here, what Imperialism produces? It is a parasitical madness that infests and afflicts nations, leading inevitably to rot and death. First in the areas the host conquers – the Balkans, the Middle East, or anywhere else – but eventually, it reaches the host itself, and kills it just as brutally as it killed its other victims. There may yet be time to stop this vile madness, but only if there is readiness to learn the real lessons of the Balkans, rather than debate the details of evil.

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.