The ‘Right’ to Remain Silent

In a world where “democracy” means anything the Empire wants it to mean, and is used as a tool of conquest, it stands to reason that Powers that Love Democracy meet any actual instances thereof (flawed as they may be) with unrelenting hostility. Conversely, any abuses of democracy – such as elections in occupied Kosovo – are routinely praised as the paragon of virtue. Anyone who thinks this doesn’t make perfect sense is simply too “reality-based.”

Thus the same people who just three weeks ago urged Kosovo Serbs not to boycott the sham elections in that occupied province (with no success), urged the inhabitants of Macedonia to boycott a referendum on redistricting, which was actually meaningful – and didn’t find it the least bit troublesome.

Cheering Failure

“Macedonia was a rung higher on the ladder to EU and NATO,” proclaimed Reuters Monday, gloating over the failure of the referendum due to low voter turnout. The failure was met with resounding hurrahs from Brussels and Washington to their lowliest acolytes on the front lines. EU foreign policy commissar Javier Solana actually congratulated Macedonians for sinking the referendum. Even al-Jazeera (!) jumped on the bandwagon, celebrating the defeat of an “anti-Muslim move.”

Just what exactly was the Macedonian referendum about, to rile up the Empire so?

The Opposite of Truth

Such a question is perfectly legitimate; the shrill chorus of detractors never once managed to say why precisely rejecting the redistricting law would be a threat to peace, ethnic coexistence, and Macedonia’s path to EU and NATO. Instead, the Empire and its media handmaidens plied a series of misconceptions so common to their view of the Balkans.

One of the main accusations was that the referendum opposed decentralization. However, the law that actually passed in the Sobranie was not about decentralization, but redistricting. Under the new law, Macedonia would actually have fewer municipalities, so that would be a centralization of sorts. The new boundaries were purposefully drawn to create a substantial Albanian presence in the capital and give Albanians administrative control over the few remaining enclaves of Macedonians in the west of the country. The “rights” Albanians have demanded since their violence resulted in the Ohrid Agreement are actually entitlements at taxpayer expense.

The referendum, organized in scrupulous observation of Macedonian laws (unlike, say, the UCK terrorism through which some Albanians expressed their aspirations), was the people’s last resort to indicate their displeasure to the government. It was taken as insolence, both by Skopje authorities and the Empire, and treated accordingly: with threats, lies, and manipulation. Facing such overwhelming opposition, it is perhaps understandable why so many Macedonians decided to give up.

All the Dirty Tricks

Pressure and threats started as early as Oct. 11, and grew steadily ever since. At the end of October, NATO’s deputy chief, the UK European Minister, and the EU special envoy all spoke against the referendum. Perhaps the most irritating was the EU envoy, one Michael Sahlin, whose obnoxious drivel was eagerly aired by IWPR.

But the dirtiest tricks were reserved for the weekend of the referendum, when Washington dropped a diplomatic bomb of recognizing Macedonia under that name. At the insistence of Greece, the country had previously been known as “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).” The move was correctly identified as an attempt to derail the referendum, but the full extent of statist deviousness was yet to come. As celebrations extended into Saturday, the government in Skopje suddenly lifted the ban – a strange one – on bars and clubs operating past midnight. A government that tries to get its people too drunk to vote: is that not just the apotheosis of democratic values?

Why Macedonia?

At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be a reason behind Empire’s relentless malfeasance in Macedonia. What could possibly drive Washington and Brussels to crush Macedonians at every turn and appease Albanian aspirations? Some speculate, and not without reason, that the Empire is afraid of antagonizing Albanians. That may be giving Albanians entirely too much credit, however. Though many of them no doubt think they are driving Imperial policy, it is more likely they are being taken for a ride.

EU’s policy in the Balkans – if there is such a thing – is murky. In all likelihood, Eurocrats see the region as territory to be annexed eventually. With conflict devastating their economy and society, Balkans countries are clamoring to join up, and the EU is more than happy to oblige: just fill out 10,000 pages of forms and wait in line…

Washington’s goals are less difficult to discern: control of the Balkans as a strategic pivot toward both the uppity Europeans and uppity Russians. Richard Holbrooke wrote unabashedly in his memoir that the Bosnia intervention sought to re-establish “American leadership.” Europeans know it; in a recent Guardian column, Jonathan Steele argues that’s “leadership” Europe no longer needs:

“An alliance which should have wound up when the Soviet Union collapsed now serves almost entirely as a device for giving the U.S. an unfair and unreciprocated droit de regard over European foreign policy.”

As for the Russian angle, it is obvious not just from the deployment of American assets in the Caucasus and Central Asia under the guise of the “war on terror” – even as Washington supports Chechen terrorism –but also from the attempts at conquering Ukraine and Belarus through “democratic” revolutions.

Macedonia, sitting as it does between Bulgaria and Albania (countries that have traditionally supported outside empires), and between Serbia and Greece (countries that have not), is key to Imperial control of the Balkans. And there you go.

Managed Mayhem

Despite constant talk about “stability” and “peace,” the Empire wants neither. Stable and peaceful nations cannot be controlled or bullied into obedience; they must be persuaded, and the Empire considers itself above persuasion. The strategy seems to be “divide and rule,” first developed by Romans and perfected by the British. At this point, it is worth remembering the U.S. system was modeled after the Roman Republic, while its foreign policy has been dominated by admirers of British imperialism for well over a century; that such a philosophy became dominant is not at all surprising.

In the Balkans, Yugoslav leader Tito had employed this particular strategy for 35 years. He kept Yugoslavia at peace by sub-dividing Serbs and encouraging others’ ethnic separatism, then slapping it down whenever it got too far out of hand. Tito’s “peace” was nothing more than managed social warfare – precisely what takes place in any democratic political system.

Futile Submission

To the Empire, the Balkans is an interesting strategic area, and the historical/ethnic/religious feuds of its inhabitants are merely a useful way of establishing control. The legitimate aspirations of Albanians, Macedonians, or anyone else don’t matter; whatever helps the Empire control the region does. There is no logic, no principle in the actions of the Empire, except power.

Albanians seem to have a grasp of this, whether because they are currently favored by Empire, or because their tribal society is based on violence. Macedonians, on the other hand, appear clueless. Like Serbs, who lack any semblance of cohesion in dealing with Imperial occupiers of Kosovo, Macedonians have adopted a “strategy” of appeasement not as a means to some end, defined or otherwise, but as an end in itself.

No wonder the Empire is walking all over the Serbs and the Macedonians. If they cannot articulate what they want, much less fight for it, the Nietzschean Empire sees them as weak, “slave people,” deserving to be dominated by their betters.

Just where have we heard such rhetoric before?

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.