Imperial Balkans

With the U.S. elections for emperor – uh, president – just six weeks off, people in the Democratic camp are apparently thinking that Americans are nostalgic for Bill Clinton’s imperialist policies, rather than his charm or (supposed) social or economic accomplishments. John Kerry promises not only to continue Bush Junior’s adventures in Bactria and Babylon, but also revive the Clinton-era interference in the Balkans, which Bush had kept on the back burner. Kerry’s Balkans platform promises to "re-establish America’s leadership in the Balkans … continue to support the ethnic reintegration of Bosnia," and "achieve a solution [for Kosovo] that fulfills the legitimate aspirations of the Albanian majority."

Quoth Kerry: "Long-term stability can come only when all the states of the Balkans are full participants in NATO and the other institutions that helped to win the Cold War and keep Europe safe and democratic."

Nothing less than full conquest will do? No wonder the "choice" between him and Bush is a source of exasperation for many Americans. Yet some still believe that Clinton’s Balkans meddling was somehow different, or better, than Bush Junior’s Middle Eastern misadventures. Of this, they need to be disabused with all due haste. Both have been campaigns of aggression and violence, based on lies and deception, and resulted in most tragic consequences.

"Nation-Building" Disasters

Occupied at the end of 1995 under the Dayton Peace Agreement, Bosnia has been a cause of constant frustration for its foreign masters, as well as its tormented residents. Empire’s heavy-handed efforts at "ethnic reintegration" have stoked the fires of ethnic hatred instead of putting them out. A recent incident in eastern Bosnia has even led some observers to wonder "whether the seeds of a new war are being sown."

Why, certainly! One of the key causes of the war was Bosnia’s centralized government, which enabled one ethnic group to lord it over others. The occupation authorities have built a central government in spite of the Dayton Peace Agreement, and the latest stone in that edifice is a “valued-added” tax, created to provide it with a dedicated source of funding. Bosnia is forcibly being made into something contrary to its founding document, and that simply cannot be a guarantee of peace.

In Kosovo, occupied since June 1999, the situation is even worse. Even though it has been established over time that the official reasons for invading the province were lies, and that the Albanian KLA was a terrorist organization that enjoyed U.S. support, this systematic rape of Western civilization continues unabated. The province is being systematically plundered by the occupiers, under the guise of "privatization." The UN administration is developing a "long-term strategy" for economic development with the all-Albanian "provisional government." There is no security for the beleaguered non-Albanians, only token actions by UNMIK and NATO, thoroughly discredited by the March pogrom. The saddest paradox of all is that the remaining Serbs view the UN/NATO occupiers as protectors, while the Albanians – on whose behalf NATO occupied the province – now see them as an obstacle to finally claiming Kosovo as their own.

This isn’t peace. This isn’t reform, or development. This is Hell.

Troubles in Serbia

Ethnic Hungarian politicians in the northern province of Vojvodina started claiming recently that their people were victims of hate crimes by Serbs. Certainly, while there have been instances of vandalism, death threats and violence, the victims have been Serbs as often as Hungarians or Croats. The Hungarian government relishes the opportunity to meddle, perhaps emboldened by its recent annexation to the EU; its prime minister actually demanded Serbia stop "atrocities" in Vojvodina. President Madl backpedaled from such inflammatory language during his visit to Serbia last week, but Budapest is still determined to escalate things. Just last Thursday, it took the issue to the European Parliament, where Hungarian MEP Gabor Demzsky said that "tolerating anything less than a total safeguard of human rights will make a closer relationship [of Serbia] with the European Union impossible." (Reuters)

Of course, blocking Serbia’s creep toward the EU would be doing it a favor, given the continental super-state’s uncomfortable similarity to the late and unlamented Soviet Union. But too many Serbs see the EU the way Spanish conquistadors obsessed about Eldorado.

Still, how serious is the "Hungarian situation"? In all likelihood, it’s yet another example of ethnic politics fomenting conflict instead of peace. A Serbian government official, quoted at the bottom of a New York Times article about the "harassment" of Hungarians in Serbia, went to the heart of things: at the forefront of the accusations is a washed-up ethnic politician whose party failed to get parliamentary representation last winter, and who seeks to stage a comeback through fear-mongering. Cynical, yes – but entirely plausible; it certainly explains why the alleged "harassment" flared up just now, with local elections approaching.

There is definitely more than meets the eye in all this. Anyone looking at the map of the Balkans must realize that Serbia sits at its center, astride all the major communication routes. Whoever wishes to rule the peninsula must control Serbia. For all the effort put into supporting the shamelessly pro-Imperial missionary intellectuals, the desired control has so far failed to materialize. Accusations of "atrocities" against Hungarians may well be a way of forcing Belgrade to toe the line.

Trials and Denials

Interventions in the Balkans were made possible by a deluge of propaganda that sought to redefine reality in terms that suited the meddlers. From the moment Yugoslavia was defined out of existence, to the contrived pretext for invading Kosovo, the Western public has been exposed to a fog of lies about the Balkans.

Every so often, something pierces that fog. Tuesday’s Cleveland Plain-Dealer fired a salvo of unprecedented ferocity at the Hague Inquisition, saying that the "the ad hoc UN court manages to remind everyone just how politically rigged [the Milosevic trial] is," calling the proceedings an "outright farce" and a lesson in how not to prosecute war crimes. To some observers of the Inquisition this was self-evident a while ago, perhaps even at the very beginning of the "trial." The general public, however, relying on "expertise" of various friends-of-the-Tribunal NGOs that usually get quoted in agency dispatches, lives in blissful ignorance of travesties in The Hague.

Unfortunately, every such stab at truth is drowned in hundreds of lies repeated daily, from "10,000 dead Albanians" to hysterical warnings about "Greater Serbia." The extent of some of these lies, especially in an age where just about anything can be looked up, is astonishing.

Take for example Stjepan Mesic, the current president of Croatia. Back in 1991, he was the Croat delegate the collective presidency of Yugoslavia, implementing the separatist agenda of his then-boss, Franjo Tudjman. Upon returning to Zagreb in December 1991, he told the Croatian parliament: "I’ve done my job; Yugoslavia is no more." (Milosevic trial transcript, p. 10636, line 3-4)

But in a recent online forum on Radio Free Europe – an official U.S. propaganda network – he denied any responsibility for Yugoslavia’s demise, blaming it squarely on everyone’s favorite scapegoat:

"Milosevic sought to break up Yugoslavia and create a greater Serbia. … In the course of carrying out his plan, Milosevic indulged in genocide and other war crimes, and for that he is now answering before the Hague-based war crimes tribunal."

And the moon is made of cheese.

Truth, Smoke and Mirrors

Interventions, nation-building, occupations and "reforms" that have been the hallmarks of Imperial policies in the Balkans for the past 15 years or so have produced the grim reality of today. Of course, they were helped to a significant extent by the moral and social wasteland produced by Communism and its collapse, the fierce ethnic wars, and the persistent concept of omnipotent government in the minds of the slave-minded citizenry. So, even if by some stroke of good fortune the Empire abandons its quest for power in the Balkans, the region’s problems won’t disappear; they will, however, stop multiplying and festering, and that is at least something.

The Balkans is in no way better off than Afghanistan or Iraq. This belief is part of the deception that forms the foundation of the American Empire. The Official Truth about what happened in the Balkans since 1989 makes for a compelling story – but it falls squarely in the category of Popular Fiction. No matter how hard the Inquisition, the media, and wannabe emperors try, their alternate reality is nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

Smoke dissipates, mirrors break. Truth remains.

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.