An Edifice of Lies

The Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941 unleashed a maelstrom of pent-up violence between its people. Four bloody years later, the Communists emerged as the new power in the Balkans, reshaping Yugoslavia to their liking. Legacies of wartime carnage and genocide were shoved into hibernation, and Tito’s regime proceeded to create its own inter-ethnic conflicts for the next 45 years.

Yugoslav Communism – and Yugoslavia – imploded in 1990 largely as a result of those 45 years of controlled ethnic strife, defrosting the World War Two blood feuds and ideologies in the process. The resulting conflagration again brought forth an outside force that exploited the conflict for the sake of its own objectives, caring not a whit about the combatants and their causes.

Unlike the Nazis, who regarded the Balkans as a peripheral nuisance, the fin-de-siècle Empire saw it as the centerpiece of the New World Order, a place where its global hegemony could be forged more easily, and in better spotlight, than in the deserts of Mesopotamia (though the road led there eventually). Much like the Communists half a century before, the Empire presented itself as a "liberator," and proceeded to trample all over the locals in the name of "higher interests." Just like the Communists, it established a structure based on lies and conflict while proclaiming a desire for stability and peace.

Inquisition Exposed

Instruments of Imperial control range from media manipulation and brute force to quasi-judicial falsifications of history. The Hague Inquisition’s "indictment" of Slobodan Milosevic in the midst of NATO’s 1999 attack on his country was not the first clue that this "court" was a political creation of the Powers That Be, only the most obvious. Now there are more.

Last week’s indictments of four Serbian military and police officials were an attempt to pressure Serbia into giving up Kosovo, says Christopher Deliso of

"[The] West is once again using the Hague Tribunal as a way of taking the pressure off. It hopes to use it both to direct attention elsewhere and to pressure the Serbs into quicker concessions." (Deliso)

According to Deliso, the Empire isn’t really interested in occupying Kosovo much longer, and wants to move on. Albanians are building up the pressure for recognition of their conquest. On the other hand, Serbia’s insistence on law and territorial integrity is seen as an obstacle. Since the Serbs already have the image of villains, and their government is illegitimate, spineless and weak, clobbering the Serbs into submission yet again while appeasing the aggressive Albanians seems to be the current plan. This explains why the KLA enjoys Imperial protection, even when evidence of their bestiality is available to all:

"[The] Hague has proven itself to be a joke, acting only to protect the UNMIK forces on the ground from Albanian reprisals." (Deliso)

It would be bad enough if ICTY’s purpose was just to cover for the unjust occupation of Kosovo and protect its "liberators" from the thugs they "liberated." But the Inquisition goes much further, trying the blame the entire decade of wars and violence on Serbs as a people, and the governments led by Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic as their representatives.

Failure to Intervene?

Another step in that effort was Lord David Owen’s testimony earlier this week, a topic of many tendentious reports. Most news stories focused on Owen’s accusation that Milosevic had the power to force the Bosnian Serbs to accept a controversial peace agreement, but failed to use it. So apparently, Milosevic’s sin was not interference in Bosnia’s affairs – as the Tribunal and legions of his detractors have charged all along – but lack thereof! Yet in cross-examination, Owen admitted Milosevic’s influence over Bosnian Serbs decreased dramatically after 1993.

An AP piece claimed that a remark of Milosevic’s in 1993 showed he "anticipated" Srebrenica, and did nothing to stop it. But Owen said no such thing. Here is what he did say, according to The Independent:

"He feared that if the Bosnian Serb troops entered Srebrenica there would be a bloodbath because of the tremendous bad blood that existed between the two armies."

Why? A Bosnian Muslim journalist, writing in 1993, provides an explanation. Amidst exaggerated claims about starving patriots fighting barefoot with pipe-guns to steal food for their famished families, Haris Nezirovic writes:

"The victories lasted until January 27 when Bosnian units took the key village of Skelani on the Serbian border. Then they stopped. There were no more villages with food and the campaign collapsed. For almost 11 months, the Bosnian army in Srebrenica chalked up one victory after another." (The Guardian)

Serbs charge Muslim forces in Srebrenica with murdering thousands of civilians in this campaign, and at least 1000 more between the summer of 1993 and 1995, while Srebrenica was under UN protection. Milosevic was talking about angry Serb troops taking revenge, and he was obviously not endorsing it, but trying to prevent it from happening!

The AP story cited above also includes this "factoid":

"U.N. prosecutors say the murders at Srebrenica were part of a plan, designed by Milosevic and hardline nationalists in Belgrade, to create a pure ‘greater Serbia’ empty of non-Serbs."

No wonder their case is a wreck. Their main premise is utter nonsense.

Lord Owen’s Lies

So what exactly is David Owen’s sin, given that his testimony was twisted by the ‘court’ and the media? According to historian Srdja Trifkovic of the Rockford Institute, though Owen accused Milosevic of failing to stop the Bosnian war, that failure was really his own. Owen accepted the illegal and unjust decision to partition Yugoslavia along the Communist administrative borders, fully aware that what he was doing was wrong:

"Suppressing one’s own critical and moral judgment in favour of one’s career and personal vanity, or any other ‘higher’ reason, is the hallmark of a bureaucrat, or of a war criminal. Owen is a bit of both…" (Trifkovic)

Moreover, according to Owen’s own admission, the peace plan was deliberately drafted against the Bosnian Serbs. Plus, Alija Izetbegovic’s regime accepted it only when it was obvious the Serbs never would, thus cloaking themselves in trademark false righteousness.

Trifkovic is no fan of Slobodan Milosevic; indeed, he professes a desire to see him "languish in jail," for reasons he elaborates elsewhere. But "to that end Carla Del Ponte’s is the wrong indictment, The Hague the wrong court, and David Owen the wrong witness."

Bosnia’s Shining Example

Logically challenged and truth-deprived as the Inquisition and its witnesses may be, they are by no means the only ones thus afflicted. Writing in the Washington Post on Tuesday, columnist Richard Cohen invoked the example of Bosnia to justify the ongoing disaster in Iraq:

"…by overcoming the lessons of Vietnam (and reexamining the lessons of the Holocaust)… the United States, leading NATO as it always must, put an end to the Serbian rampage in the Balkans. This – the application of force to end a human rights nightmare – was the bottom line for me. The Balkans had proved it could be done. The Balkans had proved that without U.S. leadership, nothing would be done."

Almost every contention in this passage is false. The lessons of Vietnam were forgotten, not overcome. The memory of the Holocaust was perverted into cheap propaganda. The "Serbian rampage" existed only in the imagination of propagandists. The "human rights nightmare" allegedly ended by American force actually continues; the war is physically over, but in the hearts and minds of the people affected, it is still raging. Bosnia was not saved, but damned.

Only the last line is true. Without American involvement, there would have been no war in Bosnia, or the occupation of Kosovo. But that’s not what Cohen had in mind.

He also compared Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein, calling them "unmitigated evil." True, that is the essence of statism – but again, Cohen did not mean it that way. However, even if Milosevic and Hussein are guilty of using violence against their own people and neighbors, how is the US – using violence against scores of countries half the world away – in any position to judge them?

Two years ago, the same Richard Cohen suggested that "bagging" wartime Bosnian Serb leaders Karadzic and Mladic could appease the world’s Muslims angry about the War on Terror. Forget Osama bin Laden, "Osama bin Serb" is who we’re after! Enough said.

Cohen’s drivel merely confirms what has seemed obvious for quite some time: the road to Babylon led through the Balkans, where gradual intervention created precedents that "justified" in 2003 what would have seemed unimaginable in 1991.

A Rendezvous with Entropy

This is why, anxious as it may be to pull back men and money from the Balkans, there is no sign that the Empire is giving up on the conquered region. German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder visited Belgrade and Zagreb last week. In addition to shilling for NATO and the Hague Inquisition, he endorsed the incumbent government in Croatia in the upcoming elections. Given that Germany was instrumental in Croatia’s recognition, Schroeder might think he’s entitled.

Another visitor to the region this week is American undersecretary of State Marc Grossman, on a mission to "underscore continuing commitment" to continuing the failed policies practiced so far.

One might ask why the current Washington cabal is continuing the Balkans policies of its predecessor, when it has had plenty of chances to score political and real victories by reversing them. Certainly, some people in both regimes have been sympathetic to causes of certain Balkans factions, but that is only part of the answer. The reason the Empire "cares" about the Balkans may well be so its arbitrary, overwhelming force that seeks to conquer the world could appear noble and humane to those naïve enough to believe it.

Not very many do. Like the Communist Yugoslavia, the Empire – and the Balkans it created – is an edifice of lies, kept together by force in defiance of both human and natural law. But it can only resist entropy for so long.

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.