Imperial Relapse

After the mid-March pogrom against Serbs in Kosovo, which clearly aimed at their physical destruction, Empire’s propaganda machine went into full spin trying to cover up the extent of the occupiers’ failure to prevent such aggression. Albanian partisans in the West launched passionate tirades about the necessity of giving the “Kosovars” independence now, and helping them overcome the frustration with evil Serbs that has provoked them into entirely justifiable – if not exactly humanitarian – violence. The Serbian leadership once again demonstrated ineptitude at dealing with a coordinated hostile media campaign, mounting feeble and ineffective challenges to the onslaught of Albanian advocacy. Meanwhile, the Empire escalated the issue of “war crimes,” thus making sure that any news from the Balkans – if it gets past the headlines about the meltdown in Mesopotamia – would deal with a topic whose tone and targets it can easily dictate.

On Paper, Violence Continues

A wave of editorials supporting the Albanian cause began appearing in leading Western papers on the second day of the pogrom, and has continued unabated since. Though differing in tone and angle, the commentaries overlap on several salient points: Albanians are the majority in Kosovo, have been oppressed by Serbs, and would never accept anything but independence, therefore it is the only option; partition is also unacceptable to Albanians, as Kosovo’s borders are sacred; what caused the “violence” in mid-March was fear of Serbs and frustration with uncertainty about future, so the obvious way to solve the problem would be removing the fear (by implication, removing Serbs?) by giving Albanians independence. As days go by and the pogrom recedes in people’s memories – thanks to the widespread reluctance to publish graphic images of Albanian destruction – the screeds get bolder in their assertions, and more brazen in their denial of what has been happening for years.

Paul Williams and Bruce Hitchner co-authored an editorial advocating an independent, Albanian Kosovo on March 23, in the Baltimore Sun. They clamor that “the United States must reassert its leadership in the region” by leading efforts to “provide for the emergence of an independent Kosovo by fall.”

Williams’s claim to infamy is his role as the “legal advisor” to both the Izetbegovic regime in Bosnia and the KLA, and involvement in both the Dayton blackmail and the Rambouillet charade. Hitchner chairs a “Dayton Peace Accords Project,” and has advocated Kosovo independence before, also in tandem with Williams.

Clinton’s point-man in Kosovo James Dobbins claimed in the International Herald Tribune on April 1 that “there are really only two viable options for Kosovo, both involving independence.” Of those, the one that would avoid partition would be “most consistent with existing U.S. and EU policies in the region, and provides the less bad precedent.”

The very same day, journalist Tim Judah “analyzed” the pogrom for BBC by saying that “The problem, then, is how this province will ever be reabsorbed into Serbia – and the likelihood is that it will not. In that case, the problem is how to separate it.” He further insinuated that the Serbian government was willing to give up Kosovo, claiming that a US envoy visiting Belgrade “was reportedly stunned when a top Serbian officially proposed that everyone simply dispense with the niceties and Kosovo be partitioned sooner rather than later.”

Perhaps forced to atone for his earlier sincerity, Nicholas Wood of the New York Times produced a piece on April 3 describing the barbarous destruction of medieval churches as a “cycle of revenge,” invoking as excuses the alleged Serb destruction of mosques during the war and the attacks on mosques in Belgrade, Nis and Novi Sad during the pogrom.

Finally, on April 5, a former “media commissioner” and “political adviser to the UN Kosovo protection corps coordinator” in occupied Kosovo wrote the most overtly formulaic case for the Albanian cause in The Guardian. Not only did Anna Di Lellio dispute the description of the pogrom as “ethnic cleansing,” she blamed it on the Serbs, much like Hashim Taqi some ten days prior.

No Fighting Back?

Response to this media onslaught has been largely muted. Ivan Vujacic, the hapless Serbian Ambassador to Washington, tried to answer Morton Abramowitz’s March 19 editorial with a “Yes, but” approach. One Serbian parliamentarian even tried to present a pragmatic case for Serb “minority self-rule” in Kosovo to the rabidly Serbophobic IWPR, which sounded reasonable but appeared downright foolish in the medium’s context.

It fell to Western commentators – two Canadians and a Brit, with Americans predictably absent – to offer a counter-argument, after a fashion. On the pages of the National Post on March 22, George Jonas described NATO’s Kosovo intervention as an “ethnic cleansing… project sponsored by the West.” In the April 3 edition of the Spectator, diplomatic correspondent Tom Walker describes how while “Kosovo goes to Hell,” he receives “regular emails from Albanian agencies in Pristina arguing that when a Serb village is wiped from the map, it is somehow Belgrade’s fault.” And former peacekeeper and retired General Lewis MacKenzie opined on April 6 (in the National Post, again) that “We bombed the wrong side,” exposing the Albanians’ goals and a deliberate cover-up of information about the recent pogrom:

“The Kosovo-Albanians have played us like a Stradivarius. We have subsidized and indirectly supported their violent campaign for an ethnically pure and independent Kosovo. We have never blamed them for being the perpetrators of the violence in the early ’90s and we continue to portray them as the designated victim today in spite of evidence to the contrary.”

Changing the Subject

The Empire is also trying hard to change the subject from the uncomfortable topic of Kosovo. News from the Balkans over the past week have been dominated by the “war crimes” issue, given a higher profile by a set of new Inquisition indictments, a renewed hunt for Radovan Karadzic, and escalation of Washington’s pressure on Serbia.

A SFOR raid on a church in eastern Bosnia early last Wednesday did not find Karadzic. It did result in severe injuries to the priest and his son, who are still in a coma. NATO claims the two were injured by the explosion used to demolish the church door, and claims the injuries were “completely unintended and an unfortunate consequence,” even as US officials blamed the Bosnian Serbs for NATO’s aggressive behavior and presented the raid as “resolve”.

But according to the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, who protested to the NATO commander in Bosnia, SFOR troops “savagely beat [Fr. Jeremija and his son] using rifle butts, boots and whatever else they had on hand.” Adding to the mystery is the fact that the two men were airlifted to a hospital in Tuzla (where the US has a major military base), rather than the much closer capital, Sarajevo.

Amidst public outcry over the attack, Bosnia’s viceroy Ashdown launched another assault on the Bosnian Serb republic, cutting off all government compensation to the ruling SDS party, until it can submit a financial report to “prove the claims [of somehow aiding Karadzic] were false.”

It is logically impossible to prove a negative, but Ashdown really doesn’t care even if they do; he has absolute power, and has conducted a campaign to undermine the Serb Republic pretty much since he arrived in office. One regional newspaper mentions him giving a statement accusing the Serb Republic of “obstructing reform,” after meeting with its Croat and Muslim vice-presidents (but no Serbs).

On the other hand, Serbia was officially cut off from US foreign aid as of March 31, having refused to submit to demands of the Hague Inquisition. Previously touted as $100 million, the actual value of the aid is closer to $26 million, most of which is going to Kosovo, “democracy-building” and “humanitarian aid” anyway. That’s right, the supposedly “badly needed” aid to Serbia is nothing of the sort, as it actually funds Albanian separatism, pays the missionary intellectuals, and lines the pockets of American NGOs. Its withholding is more a symbol of Washington’s displeasure than anything else.

Wastelands Called Peace

Though it looked for a moment that the sheer vileness of the terror unleashed in Kosovo might shake the pillars of perception, Empire’s aggressive relapse into the usual bullying patterns suggests that impression was deceptive. Two weeks after their policies were burned to cinders, Balkans’ western occupiers are back on their hobbyhorse.

Outside powers have meddled in Balkans issues for centuries, with increasingly disastrous consequences. Even if one stipulates that the most recent meddling (in the 1990s) had a benevolent intent – for the sake of argument, as this is obviously not true – the “problems” it supposedly attempted to solve were by and large the symptoms of the crisis, not its causes. Those causes have been so thoroughly misidentified (often on purpose) that instead of resolving issues, the intervention only made them worse.

By way of example: Bosnia was not a case of “external aggression,” but a conflict over centralized power that would enable one ethnic group to dominate others. The problem in Kosovo was not one of “repression” or “human rights violations,” but of separatism based on ethnic cleansing. The same applies to Macedonia.

Balkans interventions then paved the way to an invasion in the Middle East. Now Iraq has exploded – entirely predictably – just as the Balkans has been imploding for years. In the war-torn leftovers of what was once Yugoslavia, most people are reluctant to start a new war, with the memories still fresh. But their children are growing up schooled not just in hatred, but in the “value” of coercion. They will be the ones fighting the next war, which the Empire’s insistence on imposing and perpetuating fiction is making just about inevitable.

Nearly two millennia ago, in his Life of Agricola, Roman historian Tacitus put these words in the mouth of a Germanic chieftain; Calgacus describes the Romans thus: “Ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.” They create a wasteland, and call it peace.

For a nation that fancies itself the heir to Rome, this is entirely fitting.

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.