Deception as a Way of Life

During the Balkans wars of the 1990s, quite a few people who dared question the Official Truth as presented by the Western media and governments frequently complained that reports from Bosnia and Kosovo at the very least distorted the truth, and sometimes even made it up entirely. As intervention escalated and the shape of the Empire became clearer, examples of factual violations increased in number and obviousness. From the Iraqi WMD hoax to the “democratic” coup in the Ukraine, from Racak to the “joint criminal enterprise” theory, the Empire has embraced deception as the principal means of justifying its actions.

Lies and distortions have not only become more frequent, but also more brazen, suggesting that the masses will indeed more readily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one. The very nations that claim dominion over humanity in no small part thanks to their defeat of Adolf Hitler 60 years ago appear to have endorsed, however unwittingly, Hitler’s judgment of human character.

The irony of this is particularly cruel in the Balkans, a region that saw much suffering in WWII. The same nations that supported Hitler back then, as a way of achieving their interests, are today the most dedicated friends of the Empire for much the same reason. The Powers That Be in Washington and Brussels are either unaware of this history, or don’t care.

The Unnecessary Pretext

Less than a century after its liberation from Austria-Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina came under occupation again; first by NATO, nine years ago, then by an EU force last week. The NATO mission, dubbed SFOR, got a fitting farewell Thursday as bandits impersonating SFOR troops hijacked an armored truck carrying 1 million Euros. Its successor, EUFOR, matters more to the EU – which regards it as a test of its fledgling joint military – than to the people of Bosnia, who have long since become an afterthought to their Western “saviors.”

Indeed, word came this week that viceroy Ashdown was preparing to play god again, eagerly contemplating another purge of Bosnian Serbs that would make this summer’s Night of the Long Knives look positively benign. Ashdown, who in practice has near-absolute power, has long pursued a vendetta against the Bosnian Serbs, which should not be surprising given his adulation of the late Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic.

As the pretext for this latest round of repression, Ashdown will likely use the reports that General Ratko Mladic, former Bosnian Serb army commander accused of genocide by the Hague Inquisition, drew a pension from both Banja Luka and Belgrade as late as 2002. Far from being “on Belgrade’s payroll” as Ashdown’s media apologists have maliciously suggested, Mladic earned his pension from Belgrade by serving in the old Yugoslav army, and from Banja Luka by commanding the Bosnian Serb army. Surely Naser Oric – a Muslim commander currently in the Hague dock – also draws a pension from Sarajevo, despite his indictment. And as Serbian President Boris Tadic (surprisingly enough) pointed out, Mladic is receiving a pension “according to the law of this and all countries of the world because it is an acquired right which does not expire because of the fact that someone is wanted for war crimes, not even with a war crimes conviction.”

In a last-ditch attempt to avoid a purge by delivering a few wanted heads to the Hague Inquisition, the Bosnian Serb government has promised bounties to those who surrender by today. One general already surrendered in Serbia, though the Inquisition refuses to admit it as such. Odds are, however, that nothing will help; Ashdown has already decided the fate of Bosnia, and isn’t about to let facts get in the way.

“Apologies” and Numbers

Even as the thunder clouds were gathering, President Tadic paid a three-day visit to Sarajevo. Showing poor judgment at the very least, at a press conference following a meeting with the current president of Bosnia, he blurted out what most media described as an “apology” for atrocities committed by Serbs during the 1992-95 war. What he really said was that everyone owed everyone else an apology for atrocities that were committed, but not surprisingly, reporters heard what they wanted to hear. Since only Serbs committed atrocities (so the Official Truth goes), it is only logical they should be apologizing, while others have nothing to apologize for.

Today’s Bosnia is an edifice of lies that defies comprehension. It took over a year for the Hague Inquisition’s official assessment of the war deaths to become public, most likely because the result demolishes most of the lies about the Bosnian War. Yet wire and newspaper reports still speak of “over 200,000 dead,” a fictitious figure from a decade ago. This nexus of deception is so immense that it discourages any attempt at refutation. Facts are forced into a predetermined context, regardless of the cost.

While Serbia Burns…

But before he discussed Ratko Mladic’s pension or “apologies” for atrocities in Bosnia, Boris Tadic first survived an assassination. At least that is how most media reported an incident in a Belgrade suburb when a mystery vehicle collided with Tadic’s motorcade last Wednesday. But even before the police could issue a statement, Tadic’s party called a press conference and pointed an accusing finger at the “anti-Hague lobby” and “Milosevic followers.”

Tadic’s predecessor at the helm of the Democratic Party, Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, had been attacked by a truck a few days before he was gunned down in March of last year. Two weeks ago, Tadic himself received a well-publicized death threat from a previously unknown group in Austria. Claims of “attempted assassination” naturally found a receptive public.

According to the police, however, the incident was nothing of the sort – if anything, an instance of “road rage.” Apparently, Tadic’s motorcade had blocked the path of one Miroslav Cimpl, a local employee of the U.S. Embassy, who had just dropped his daughter off at a birthday, and was driving home with his Irish setter. As he tried to pass the motorcade, which wasn’t marked as presidential, one of the black SUVs rammed him and nearly drove him off the road. Cimpl panicked and sped off. Latest news from Belgrade indicates he was arrested and thrown in jail for 20 days for “reckless driving” or some such.

The simple truth that Serbia’s rulers driving around in convoys of black SUVs often run roughshod over their citizens was thus spun into hysterical reports of “assassination.” And why? It could not be a coincidence that last Sunday Tadic said he would press for new general elections, seeking to topple the current government. Even Tadic partisans in the West such as IWPR were forced to mention the emerging opinion that the motorcade incident was “blown out of proportion” for political purposes.

Even as Serbia is pressed anew by Washington and the Hague Inquisition, and facing a fresh crisis in its occupied southern province, many of its political leaders seem to prefer fiddling.

Our Man Ramush, Indeed

Even though the Hague Inquisitors emphatically reject Serbian PM Vojislav Kostunica’s reasoning that extradition of high-ranking generals who fought in Kosovo would destabilize the country, when it comes to Kosovo and KLA commander Ramush Haradinaj, that argument is suddenly seen as valid.

Haradinaj was appointed prime minister of the occupation government on Friday, despite loud protests from Belgrade. Despite Serbian claims that “over 400,000 pages” documenting Haradinaj’s crimes exist, UNMIK refused to prevent his appointment. Indeed, UN viceroy Jessen-Petersen said that doing so would mean “saying no to democracy.”

But Haradinaj has been questioned by the Hague Inquisitors, and there are rumors he might be indicted. Already, NATO troops occupying Kosovo are preparing for fresh riots by mobs of angry Albanians, akin to the pogrom seen in March. Reuters reports that “Western diplomats warn of unrest if Haradinaj … is indicted for atrocities in the 1998-99 war against Serb forces.” It also cites NATO GenSec Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who told reporters last Thursday that “there might be a prime minister who might be indicted by the ICTY … which is, to put it mildly, a complicated situation.”

“UNMIK must be hoping Haradinaj is not charged,” opined BBC analyst Gabriel Partos last Saturday. The very thought of Albanians on the rampage gives UNMIK and NATO the creeps. This may help explain why they frantically avoid stroking the Albanians wrong, while they think nothing of insulting Belgrade. But are fears of Haradinaj’s indictment really founded?

The Inquisition has never done anything to inconvenience the Empire. Quite the contrary, its indictments have very convenient timing. Haradinaj may be a bandit and a terrorist, but he is Washington’s bandit and terrorist. To get just a hint of support he enjoys, consider that last Wednesday, Dec. 1, the War Street Journal ran an op-ed supposedly penned by Haradinaj. Three days later, a New York Times correspondent cited language from the op-ed as part of a statement “issued … on his behalf by Luther Pendragon, a consultancy based in London.”

Our Man Ramush is backed by a London PR firm, and a flagship neocon newspaper in the U.S. There is no way Carla Del Ponte is coming anywhere near him.

The Forgotten

While all this plays itself along, the Empire doesn’t seem to notice a new crisis in Macedonia, as Albanians associated with Islamic militants prowl a village near Skopje. Currently, mainstream Albanian politicians are supposedly trying to defuse the situation, but it is unclear what the militants want, and what might happen next.

Having successfully murdered Macedonia, and having pulled out all the stops last month to make sure it stayed dead, the Empire has no interest in suddenly noticing the presence of militant Albanians – possibly Islamic terrorists, no less! – in the supposed peaceful paradise the Ohrid Agreement built. It’s just too … inconvenient.

Wages of Fiction

From the current state of affairs in the Balkans, it is obvious that wishful thinking dominates the facts. Perception is everything. Anything can be twisted to support Imperial agendas, and it is. When truth does out, it is shoved aside, buried, or simply ignored.

That the Empire ignores the truth whenever it does not suit its goals (which, let’s admit, is nearly always), should hardly come as a surprise. But when those trying to resist Imperial encroachment show equal willingness to disregard truth and adopt “practical” fiction, do they really have any chance of success?

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.