Insult to Injury

Triumph of the Imaginary Balkans

Last week’s media flurry over the alleged arrest of Gen. Ratko Mladic – reported by certain Serbian media as fact, then denied by officials both in Belgrade and The Hague – coincided with the start of "negotiations" in Vienna between the representatives of Serbia and the separatist Albanians, determined to claim the occupied province of Kosovo as a state of their own. But was it a coincidence? Provided that Mladic has not, in fact, been arrested and that Belgrade and the ICTY aren’t co-conspirators in an effort to hide it from the Serbian public, someone had to start the rumor of the general’s demise. Since the "scoop" can be traced to B92, an outspoken champion of pro-Imperial Jacobins and self-appointed scourge of "Serb nationalism," it seems likely that Mladic’s fictitious arrest was a contrivance aimed at rattling the Serbian government at the start of its futile talks with the Albanians, and ahead of the coming talks with the European Union.

Ratko Mladic stayed on the reporters’ tongues this week as well, as the International Court of Justice in The Hague (not to be confused with the International Tribunal, the infamous ICTY) began hearing the case against Yugoslavia (now Serbia-Montenegro), on behalf of the Izetbegovic regime in Bosnia, which filed the suit in 1993 accusing Belgrade of "genocide."

Another Burlesque at The Hague

As is so often the case, most reports misrepresent the facts from the very first sentence. This isn’t a "Bosnian" lawsuit, but a private undertaking of the Bosnian Muslim ruling party (SDA), from a time when it claimed itself to be the only legitimate government of the country. Bosnia’s Serbs and Croats are adamantly against it and have denied it government approval and funding.

Though framed in the language of international law, the "evidence" the lawsuit invokes consists purely of propaganda (media reports about the Bosnian War) and decision of the Hague Inquisition – a quasi-legal institution outside the framework of international law – that what happened in Srebrenica in 1995 constituted "genocide." Of course, that verdict was handed down in 2001, eight years after "Bosnia" filed the lawsuit.

Even though the ICTY decision in the Krstic case deliberately avoided establishing the exact number of alleged victims, their age, status (as combatants), or manner of death, the mainstream media have no problem describing allegations about Srebrenica as facts. "[C]lose to 8,000 unarmed men and boys were executed and thrown into mass graves," claims Marlise Simons in the New York Times, writing about the ICJ hearing. A paragraph or two earlier, she asserted equally blithely that "Serbian forces, acting in concert with local Bosnian Serbs, set out to create Serb-only regions in a policy known as ethnic cleansing." Neither of these are facts – they are speculations, and malicious ones at that. Obviously "fit to print." If this is what Sarajevo’s "evidence" will look like, the ICJ can save its breath; "Bosnia" has no case.

The litigants, however, have a powerful motivation. "Bosnia" (actually, the SDA, in the minds of its leaders one and the same) is not only demanding billions of euros’ worth of war reparations from Serbia, but – writes Simons in the NYT – "Bosnians [sic] are seeking greater recognition for their suffering and an implicit confirmation of their moral superiority over their neighbors."

If the show trial of Slobodan Milosevic several miles away is all about establishing a falsified narrative of the 1990s Balkans tragedy as a grand conspiracy by Serbia against everyone else, the "Bosnia genocide suit" is all about affirming the victim ideology of the Bosnian Muslims and their resulting self-righteous intolerance. One expects the ICTY to display utter contempt for logic and law – it was, after all, set up as a kangaroo court, with the purpose of show trials – but the ICJ surely ought to know better.

If only that were the case. The court had decided back in 1999 that it could not hear Belgrade’s case against NATO, because then-Yugoslavia was not a recognized UN member. (The original Yugoslavia was one of the UN’s founders in 1945, but its membership was "suspended" in 1992 when the UN admitted the newly seceded Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia. The junta that overthrew Slobodan Milosevic in 2000 applied to UN membership as a new state.) It has declared itself competent to hear this case, though, because… well, because. If this is the highest instance of international justice, then there really is no international law.

Desperate Pleas

The few struggling Serbs in Kosovo have long since stopped believing in such phantoms as "international law," though they still hope and pray for justice. Bishop Artemije of Kosovo visited Washington again this month, pleading with the Imperial government not to reward Albanian ethnic cleansing and genocidal destruction of Serbian religious, cultural, and private property. His words fell on deaf ears, as the State Department waxed happy over the sham "talks" in Vienna.

Imperial media once sang praises to the bishop, back when he collaborated with the occupation authorities and made statements condemning the "atrocities of the Milosevic regime." But when he refused to be an instrument of Kosovo’s separation, and spoke up about the suffering of Serbs under NATO’s occupation, he was viciously attacked.

The destruction of Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban was decried as an attack on world cultural heritage and invoked as justification for the U.S.-sponsored overthrow of the Taliban in 2001. The attack on the Golden Mosque in Samarra last Thursday drew considerable media attention, as it resulted in deadly sectarian violence throughout Iraq. But the "West" has been utterly silent at the systematic destruction of over 150 Orthodox churches, chapels, monasteries, and even cemeteries in Kosovo. That silence is not inexplicable. The perpetrators of this "cultural cleansing" are designated victims of the Kosovo conflict and allies of the U.S. government, and it took place under the noses of NATO occupation troops and the UN government. Bishop Artemije always gets a polite reception in Washington, but no one ever hears what he has to say. To acknowledge it would be too embarrassing.

Jihad, at Last

Earlier this week, however, British TV network Sky News aired a story about the presence of mujahedeen in Bosnia (video). Video footage shown by reporter Tim Marshall shows bearded "holy warriors" – both local Bosnian Muslims and foreigners – on parade, on the march, desecrating churches and torturing Serb POWs. One segment clearly shows a mujahedeen commander shaking hands with Alija Izetbegovic, the "secular" and "tolerant" Muslim leader who personally reviewed the "holy warriors" (and whose presidential decree established their units, under his direct command). Further revelations include the names of several high-ranking international terrorists who fought in Bosnia, some of whom are close associates of Osama Bin Laden.

Arguments that Bosnian Muslim authorities engaged in jihad even as they presented a face of multi-ethnic democracy and tolerance to the West have been dismissed by Muslim apologists as "Serb propaganda" and "revisionism." They will no doubt try to discredit Sky’s report in a similar fashion. Or perhaps not; reactions to the jihad in Bosnia are likely to be similar to those concerning the nonexistent WMD in Iraq: "So what?" And besides, isn’t the victimhood and sanctity of "Bosnians" about to be confirmed by the ICJ? Sky’s revelations may well be the proverbial day late and dollar short.

Empire’s "Truth"

Though the term "Balkans" refers to the entire peninsula south of the Danube to the Mediterranean, in this column and in the mainstream press over the past decade it has referred mostly to what used to be Yugoslavia. That country has been murdered most foully, and its carcass is now picked apart by Imperial vultures. To add insult to injury, they are declaring those who tried to protest this to be aggressors, murderers, and criminals.

Never mind that the Serb community in present-day Croatia, which survived even the Nazi-sponsored genocide in the 1940s, is now virtually nonexistent. Never mind that the Izetbegovic regime in Bosnia waged a jihad against Serb and Croat "infidels," hiding behind tall tales of quarter-million killed, thousands raped, and "death camps." Never mind that Albanians have systematically cleansed Kosovo of its non-Albanian population; destroyed their property, from homes and shops to churches, cemeteries, and monuments; and even changed the names of cities, towns, rivers, hills, and roads throughout the province. All this so they can claim independence based on being a 90-percent-plus majority, and alleged abuses under the previous Serbian government. The unholy trinity of Imperial government, Imperial media, and Imperial "courts" maintains that a grand conspiracy of Serbs is to blame for the Balkans tragedies of the 1990s. As evidence, they invoke their own propaganda, assertions, and allegations.

The world public swallows it whole. It’s not happening to them, after all. Not yet.

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.