Democracy in Action

Promoting Terrorists, Again

Milan Babic, onetime president of the breakaway Republic of Serb Krajina (in today’s Croatia), was found dead in his temporary cell at the Hague Inquisition’s Scheveningen prison on Monday, having reportedly committed suicide. Two years ago, Babic had copped a deal with the Inquisition, confessing to one charge of (unspecified) crimes against humanity. For that, he was "rewarded" with a 13-year sentence and the obligation to testify against other Serb defendants upon the Inquisitors’ request. He was in Scheveningen to testify against another leader of Krajina Serbs, Milan Martic.

Dutch authorities declared Babic’s death a suicide, though the Inquisition ordered an investigation. No suicide note was found, nor was his holding cell under surveillance. From Zagreb to Belgrade and in between, there is much speculation about the possible motives for suicide, and even murder.

The suicide story has, for the moment, relocated the limelight from the biggest development in the region last week: the appointment of a suspected terrorist and alleged war criminal to be Kosovo’s provisional Albanian "prime minister."

Our Man Agim

Last Wednesday, Reuters reported that "prime minister" Bajram Kosumi resigned under pressure – supposedly from Albanians, but in fact from "Western mentor states shepherding the UN-run Serbian province through talks" on independence (emphasis added). His party, the Alliance for Freedom of Kosovo (AAK) quickly nominated Agim Ceku as Kosumi’s replacement. Ceku is perhaps most famous for being the "military commander" of the "Kosovo Liberation Army" (KLA). Prior to that, he was an officer in the Croatian Army, where he masterminded one major massacre and a massive campaign of ethnic cleansing ("Operation Storm"), for which the Hague Inquisition is now prosecuting his superior, Ante Gotovina. After the occupation of Kosovo in 1999, Ceku became head of the "Kosovo Protection Corps," a sinecure for KLA veterans funded by the UN – a position he still holds.

Subsequent reports of Kosumi’s resignation and Ceku’s appointment leave out "Western mentor states" and imply internal Albanian politicking; but well-informed sources in the Balkans knew ahead of time that Kosumi’s replacement was orchestrated by Washington. The same interests who supported another KLA commander, Ramush Haradinaj – who resigned last March to answer an ICTY indictment – are now intent on installing another of their KLA pets as the leader of Albanians in Kosovo.

Belgrade has, of course, protested Ceku’s appointment and demanded from the UN viceroy to block it – an action entirely within his authority. Viceroy Jessen-Petersen refused, saying that Ceku’s appointment was "democratic." Empire’s envoy to the Kosovo status negotiations, Martti Ahtisaari, actually said, "Political parties have the right to organize their work as they like. … My task is to deal with the government that happens to be there."

Yet the same Empire that has suddenly discovered "democracy" and respect for governments that "happen to be there" has supported massive purges of elected officials in Bosnia, without warrant or proof, purely on a whim of its viceroy there.

The fact that Slobodan Milosevic, then president of Serbia, represented the Bosnian Serbs at the Dayton peace talks in 1995 is often invoked as self-evident proof that he was in control of their actions in the Bosnian war; what everyone forgets is that Milosevic’s presence was forced by the Hague Inquisition’s indictments of the Bosnian Serb leadership for war crimes during the NATO bombing (just as Milosevic himself was indicted, almost four years later) of Serb positions in Bosnia. No one spoke of democracy, or governments that "happened to be there," back then.

"Storm" Over Kosovo

Far from being some sort of spontaneous militia or "people’s resistance movement," the KLA was a well-organized, centralized entity. It had clear chains of command and responsibility, with Ceku at the top. A top U.S. diplomat called them "terrorists" in 1998 – in what turned out to be an unauthorized exercise of sincerity. Ramush Haradinaj, one of Ceku’s subordinates, was accused of war crimes by the Hague Inquisition (though quickly released, and even allowed to engage in politics, quietly), but Ceku himself was never so much as investigated – not for his role in massacres in Croatia, or responsibility for crimes of the KLA.

In April 2003, two KLA veterans died in a premature detonation as they attempted to bomb a Serb passenger train. The incident led Kosovo’s then-viceroy Michael Steiner to declare the "Albanian National Army" a terrorist organization. The sloppy terrorists were later linked to Ceku’s KPC – by the UN viceroy’s office, no less. That same viceroy, Harri Holkeri, bailed Ceku out of a Slovenian jail when he was arrested in October 2003 on an Interpol warrant, based on Serbian criminal charges against him. Holkeri then declared that "Serbia-Montenegro no longer had jurisdiction over the citizens [sic] of Kosovo." He was far less decisive five months later, when Albanian mobs rioted throughout Kosovo and Holkeri hid with the rest of the Imperial rabbits.

According to a report in Mother Jones from 1999, it was "Storm" that inspired Ceku’s vision of an ethnically pure "Kosova":

"According to a BBC translation of a May 14 Croatian news report, Ceku issued a statement saying: ‘There is only one way out. And we have advocated it from the very beginning: a final defeat of the Serbian army and its expulsion from Kosovo; a defeat similar to the one they* suffered in Croatia.’"

(*Clearly, Ceku’s "they" refers to the "Serbian army" he mentions earlier in the sentence; the expulsion comment is a deliberate comparison to Croatia, where not just the military, but all Serbs in the territories overwhelmed by Croatian forces had been expelled – or killed.)

This is the man the Empire is about to install as the "prime minister" of the occupied Serb province.

Distracted Belgrade

Meanwhile, Brussels and Washington demand of Belgrade to find, arrest, and extradite the former military commander of Bosnian Serb forces, Ratko Mladic, before April. Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica declared Tuesday that "Serbia’s primary interest now is to solve that case and complete cooperation with the Hague tribunal." So long as its "primary interest" is not Kosovo, the Empire ought to be plenty happy.

Of course, Belgrade also has to deal with charges of "genocide" filed before the International Court of Justice by the Bosnian Muslims in 1993. Though the case itself is absurd and – if the ICJ follows its own precedents and international law – will be thrown out, it generates a lot of bad press for Serbia, with media hacks using the pretext to repeat some of the most shopworn lies from the past decade. Even non-stories that can paint Serbia in a bad light find their way to major mainstream papers.

The odds are high that Kostunica’s demand to block Ceku’s appointment will turn into acquiescence once the appointment is made official. Experience suggests that Belgrade may complain about abuse and pressure, but always bows to it in the end.

No Happy Ending

By the time the next round of "talks" on Kosovo’s future – one already decided, if one is to believe the Imperial pundits – starts, Ceku should be comfortably ensconced in the prime minister’s chair. The talks themselves have been pushed back to March 20 from the original date of March 17, which would have coincided with the anniversary of the Albanians’ pogrom of Serbs in 2004. The anniversary will likely pass unnoticed, or worse yet, will be whitewashed by the sympathetic propaganda apparatus, tasked to repeat the message of "inevitable independence."

It isn’t hard to see where things in the Balkans are headed. But instead of peace, stability, and obedience the Empire covets, this course will lead to further hatred, violence, and tyranny. The Empire may be getting its way, but this is one make-believe story that will assuredly not have a happy ending.

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.