Once More, With Irony

It had to happen, sooner or later, or else the irony would not be complete: news has emerged this week that oil has been discovered in Bosnia. Granted, the find is nowhere near as big as the Middle Eastern fields, but given the precious liquid’s current paucity in the world, chances are it will be hotly contested. That is, of course, the very last thing Bosnia needs. But such is the way of things in the Balkans.

Boon for the Colonial Office

Imperial viceroy “Paddy” Ashdown, accused of running Bosnia like a raj before, has truly perfected the insufferably arrogant colonial style of management, and the media are just lapping it up. For example, when he promoted Bosnia’s tourist potential in late May, he spoke as if he owned the place, and even joked that his house, “Hotel Ashdown,” was “completely full right through the summer.”

Meanwhile, the unruly natives torpedoed the proposed education law, more charities were identified as terrorist fronts, and the ever-present nagging activists again clamored for the head of Radovan Karadzic. Ethnic politics stepped in again, followed by visits from Head Inquisitor DelPonte and NATO boss Scheffer, both insisting that catching “war criminals” was a prerequisite for Bosnia becoming a NATO satellite. All in all, it had been a typical month in the Bosnian Protectorate.

Then the news came of a big oil find in the Serb Republic. So far, there have been few official reactions, but chances are many oil companies are angling frantically to claim the new fields, and are no doubt soliciting support of the White Tower, the viceroy’s HQ in Sarajevo. It should not come as a surprise if Ashdown launched a push soon to centralize the country’s oil industry, as he has tried with the electrical monopolies.

Great Expectations

Now the other Imperial satrapy, Kosovo, may not have oil – or much of anything, really, according to statistics – but it has plenty of expectations. With the departure of broken viceroy Holkeri, many wonder who will replace him. According to Reuters, there are six likely candidates: two are Italian, one is French, one Dutch, one Norwegian, and one Slovak – all in some way involved in the UN, NATO, or OSCE. The choice would probably telegraph the Empire’s intent towards the occupied Serbian province.

Albanians obviously hope it tilts towards independence, as do many of their friends among the occupiers. Some even suggest Bill Clinton for the role, which is not as incredible as it sounds. He is nearly worshipped by the Albanians, and though Serbs despise him, no one’s cared for their feelings on anything for a while now. The likely trouble is, Clinton doesn’t seem the type to do anyone’s bidding but his own. He was, after all, the Emperor for eight years. Why settle for heading a provincial occupation?

Ignorance, Again?

Meanwhile, the steady stream of articles in hometown papers featuring naïve Americans who “serve” in Kosovo, and display their appalling ignorance thereof, seems to be continuing. “The U.N.’s commitment is to a multi-ethnic society where people of different cultures and ethnicities can live together … That’s what we’re working for,” says a judge from Omaha, Nebraska, after just two weeks in Kosovo. He was surprised Serbs and Albanians speak different languages, and even have their own names for towns (!), but assured the hometown crowd that “he’s seen no overt evidence of the tension and distrust between Kosovo’s Albanians … and its Serbs.” Well, hooray, then: the March pogrom never happened, and everything is hunky-dory!

One can understand deliberate propagandists such as the ICG or IWPR, who bend facts to favor their proclaimed support of Kosovo independence. But either people like this judge – and another judge’s wife, mentioned last week – are hopelessly ignorant and suddenly feel the need to share it, or there might be a concentrated effort underway to depict a deliberately distorted image of Kosovo in the U.S. As Balkans conspiracies go, it would not be the first, or the last.

The Men in the High Castle

There is hardly anything conspiratorial in the U.S. desire to build a new Embassy on top of a citadel hill overlooking Skopje, Macedonia. The Empire simply wants the best view, high above its conquered subjects. It’s about power, nothing more.

And while power-lust also explains the interference in Macedonian party politics, the way it is conducted looks decidedly more conspiratorial. Ever since the Ohrid surrender (though maybe even earlier), Macedonia has been a virtual protectorate of the Empire, enjoying but a pretense of sovereignty. Those competing for its nominal leadership probably know they are nothing but footmen to the ruling foreigners.

All Things Political

Macedonia’s northern neighbor, which has so far stubbornly resisted foreign domination (albeit with little success) is similarly foundering from a political affliction. In late may, the Serbian cabinet announced plans to slash corporate taxes, showing that its new government knew at least something about economics. Soon thereafter, it was reported that the plan was scrapped under pressure from the IMF and the World Bank; so much for economics, then, or spine.

Everyone’s eyes are on the upcoming presidential election, scheduled for June 13, which polls predict will be won by Radical candidate Tomislav Nikolic. So, when authorities arrested the man charged with running the sugar scam that defrauded the EU by several million euros, he claimed it was a political accusation aimed against an opposition presidential candidate. The AP, reporting on the questioning of six former high-ranking officials of the Djindjic government suspected of illegally selling off a major steel mill to a U.S. investor, noted that the investigation was being conducted by “Serbia’s new, nationalist government, which succeeded Djindjic’s reformist Cabinet.” As a former minister in that cabinet went to trial, suspected of espionage and treason, he also complained of political railroading. Notes UPI: “Nationalists in Serbia have long been accused of using underhanded tactics to undermine reformists.”

Anyone see a pattern here?

Meanwhile, in Montenegro, the editor of an opposition daily described as “a thorn in the government’s side” was killed in a drive-by shooting Monday. Dusko Jovanovic had published a lot of dirt on the Djukanovic regime, and even discovered the identity of a secret witness at the Hague Inquisition, which then indicted him for contempt. But since the Djukanovic regime has international apologists, while the present Belgrade government does not, instead of treating Jovanovic’s murder as a government hit everything is done to deflect the blame.

This kind of obsession with politics, where nothing seems to have meaning unless it can be interpreted in a political light, is downright unhealthy. To make matters worse, some friends of Empire are beginning to complain they are being abandoned, and that their noble endeavor to bring “human rights” and “democracy” to the benighted savages is in peril. Their petulant whining speaks volumes about the supposed nobility of their work, but it is also misplaced. Former U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia, currently the envoy to Greece, recently set forth reassurances that the Empire has not lost interest in the Balkans. So the news just keeps getting “better,” really.

Stop The Madness!

A recent poll suggested that most Serbians favor social democracy and joining the EU. They would also like to “live in a community with a low level of criminal activity and corruption, want a solid standard of living, employment opportunities and a fair judicial system.” They do not realize – for whatever reason – that they cannot have both; or worse yet, that the former is not conducive to the latter. Such misconceptions aren’t endemic to Serbia, but rather shared throughout the former Communist bloc. One might go so far as to deem them collective psychosis. Then again, they aren’t the exception, but rather a rule. Just look at the amount of support for the Iraq war in the U.S. Politicized societies dwell on mass hysteria, and it seems just about everyone on Earth has gone hopelessly political.

Maybe “hopelessly” is the wrong word, though. There is always hope, no matter how grim things may get. On the other hand, the longer the Empire runs things, and the longer the locals persist in their dangerous delusions, the worse things will get, and the harder it will be to eventually make them right.

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.