The Mask of Power

Atrocity Porn, Human Rights, and Empire

Three weeks after it went public, the video of Serb militiamen shooting six Muslims in the mountains of Bosnia has turned into a media monster. The supposedly "irrefutable" evidence of Serbian involvement in the Bosnian war or the "genocide" in Srebrenica is nothing of the sort, but that has not stopped the pushers of atrocity porn from imposing their snuff reality on the people of Serbia, and any other unwary victim they may snag in the process.

Disappointed and enraged by the Serbian parliament’s refusal to accept a declaration drafted by a cabal of NGOs, the Empire has continued to push Belgrade to "confess" to the Official Truth and even to "repent" (!). The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution Monday stating that what happened in Srebrenica in 1995 was genocide, and that the Serbs were guilty of it. Only one conscientious congressman voted against such a blatant attempt to impose "truth" by legislative fiat.

In its unbridled arrogance of power, the Empire now seldom bothers to hide that it desires to shape reality itself with nothing more than its strength of will and weaponry. Yet it continues to use high-minded but utterly corrupt concepts of "justice" and "human rights" to cover up its abuses.

Atrocity Spokesmodel

Aware that dwelling on the atrocity video in itself could eventually invite unwelcome questions about its content, character and meaning – as it already has, to some extent – the media have now turned to features about the supposedly intrepid heroine whose brave, tireless efforts have helped bring truth to light.

The Washington Post, a stalwart champion of imperial aggression, carried a puff piece Saturday on Natasa Kandic, the "human rights activist" who has spent the last decade peddling stories of Serb atrocities. Claiming that the video "vindicated" her "long pursuit," the post lavished compliments on Kandic as much as it heaped scorn on the Serbs. She is described as a "human rights sleuth… wisp of a woman with a boyish haircut," a former sociologist who decided to devote herself to documenting injustice when the Yugoslav wars began. At one point, amid the ceaseless ranting about the evil and criminal nature of Serbia, Kandic claims she documented atrocities against Serbs. If only the Post bothered to check as to when and where that miracle may have occurred. Or maybe mentioned that one time when she physically assaulted a Serb refugee from Kosovo who challenged her bona fides.

Another paean to Kandic came out Monday, penned by the Associated Press, as if to make sure the Post‘s message got through. Once again, she is a "nightmare for Serb nationalists" and a "leading rights activists" on a "quest for justice," who – as the AP headline says – "rattled Milosevic’s war heritage." Ah yes, Milosevic, the Empire’s favorite bete noire. Whoever does not believe he single-handedly masterminded and conducted the savage wars that destroyed Yugoslavia (as the AP claims in the story) should expect a slap from Natasa Kandic. Maybe even an indictment from Carla Del Ponte.

Openings and Possibilities

Far from being a noble quest for justice or rights, Kandic and her deeds create an "opening" for U.S. policy in Serbia. So says Roger Cohen of the International Herald Tribune, the one who last fall spoke of "solving the Serbian question." Cohen’s piece is essentially a rehash of the Holbrookean/ICG thesis that only America can solve the Balkans problem because it has "credibility" based on force (and assumed moral rectitude), and that this solution would necessarily involve an independent "Kosova" and a centralized Bosnia-Herzegovina. This thesis has recently become the "new" Balkans policy of Bush II, with an old Clinton hand, Nicholas Burns, at the helm.

Meanwhile, Natasa Kandic’s fellow sociologist Eric Gordy, who has dedicated considerable effort to create a scientific framework for Serbophobia, gave a speech at a NGO conference in Serbia on Monday on the possibilities offered by the Srebrenica video. His speculative assertions presented as facts merit discussion some other time. But one thing he said about the video stood out: "Whatever limitations the film may have as evidence, however, it has had tremendous value as publicity."

And so it does. For the Empire has concerned itself less with evidence of anything it has bothered to assert over the years, so long as it could create the perception in public that would suggest it was true.

Imperial Synergy

Perhaps the most persuasive argument that the invocations of human rights, truth and justice are nothing but a tool of Imperial conquest is a recent book by John Norris, former communications director of Clinton’s Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, and now a special adviser to the International Crisis Group. In his review, Chris Deliso of quotes a passage from Norris’ introduction that strips the veil of lies from NATO’s supposedly noble enterprise:

"As nations throughout the region strove to reform their economies, mitigate ethnic tensions, and broaden civil society, Belgrade seemed to delight in continually moving in the opposite direction. It is small wonder that NATO and Yugoslavia ended up on a collision course.

"It was Yugoslavia’s resistance to the broader trends of political and economic reform – not the plight of Kosovo Albanians – that best explains NATO’s war." (pp. xxii-xxiii)

The "conspiracy theorists" roundly dismissed by the Empire and its Serbian sympathizers turn out to have been right after all. Serbia was targeted because it refused to submit, nothing more.

Hounds of Fury

Now that the myth of Empire’s good intentions in the Balkans – and elsewhere – can be put to rest, the self-proclaimed paladins of humanitarian light take on a different sheen. Not surprisingly, Natasa Kandic, Sonja Biserko, Vojin Dimitrijevic, and dozens of other "activists" on payrolls of various Western near-governmental foundations all turn out to be motivated by something other than love of humanity and justice.

They all rode high in the ranks of Communists who ruled Yugoslavia for decades, specifically the faction that was deposed in the 1987 "anti-bureaucratic revolution," which brought Slobodan Milosevic to power. Their hatred of Milosevic and his "regime" is therefore highly personal. Their disdain for Serbs is ideological, stemming from an obsessive Communist fear of "greater Serbian bourgeois imperialism." And their love of Empire is a love of power.

They are not antiwar – they loved NATO’s intervention in Bosnia and begged it to come earlier; they cheered Kosovo, and begged it to be harder. They aren’t for human rights, either – they spend all their energy demonizing the Serbs, while they absolutely do not care for abuses committed against them (whether during the Succession Wars, or by their own government, e.g.,Operation Saber).

In fact, when one looks at today’s "democrats, reformers, and human rights activists," one will find the very worst scum of a post-communist society, folks who’ve never held an honest job in their life and despise everyone who has. They are wedded to power, pledged to the State, and sworn to the Empire, whose money nurtures their hatred of their host countries. These hounds of Empire are not found only in Serbia, but in every country east of the former Iron Curtain. They are most rabid in Serbia only because Serbia resisted (see Norris, above).

Moral Victory

Showing the atrocity video in Serbia was deliberately intended by "human rights" activists to exploit basic human decency, counting on a natural revulsion at images shown on national television. For the Empire, this represents an opening, and an opportunity. To hear Serbian politicians talk, they are readily confessing to everything and anything, on demand. But the people themselves are beginning to shake their heads and realize they are being played. After all, what sane nation would accept the clearly manufactured blame for starting wars that have systematically robbed it of lives, rights, and patrimony? Who in their right mind would accept responsibility for a trumped-up "genocide" that is an insult to the very real genocides they’ve suffered themselves?

According to its own admission, the Empire’s talk of truth, justice, and human rights is just a "trick and a lie," a cover for an agenda all about power. Its powerful media machinery may have managed to persuade the world that the Serbs were demons, but it has yet to persuade the Serbs. The current campaign of atrocity porn and calls for "repentance" are calculated to do precisely that. What could the Serbs – stripped of their rights, dignity, freedom, land, and even history – do to resist the world superpower and its legions of willing helpers? What could anyone?

Well, not accepting the lies as truth would be a good start. Indeed, it would be a moral victory. And really, is there any other kind?

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.