Empire’s False Concern

Just when one thinks the Empire is not capable of any further hypocrisy, word comes from Brussels that the mandarins of the EUSSR are "a little worried" about Serbia.

Come again? After 15 years of demonizing the Serbs, blaming them for every incident of violence in the Balkans, bombing them in two countries and overseeing their ethnic cleansing from three, replacing the government of Serbia with a quisling regime, then treating the quislings like dirt, the Empire is a little worried the Serbs might feel a bit resentful? Such piercing insight has not been seen in Washington and Brussels since the Iraq war was predicted to be a "cakewalk."

"Losing" Serbia

The observation was first made by Douglas Hamilton of Reuters, in an analysis dated June 15, titled "Serbia On the Ropes Has the West a Little Worried." Addressing the aftermath of Montenegro’s secession, Hamilton says, "Setbacks and dashed hopes are part of the daily news diet here, but the past six weeks were exceptional even by Serbian standards." Between the loss of Montenegro and the oft-announced impending independence of occupied Kosovo, there are fears Serbs are becoming hostile to the West.

Not satisfied with stating the obvious, Hamilton backs it up with patent falsehoods: "The U.S. and EU do not want Serbia reverting to chauvinism. They want it embedded in the West, not on the ropes, or at bay, or off the reservation in a region known for radical solutions."

Hamilton’s "analysis" was followed up three days later by Daniel Dombey and Neil MacDonald of the Financial Times, who wrote that "European Union diplomats also fear Russian backing for hardliners in Serbia who question the need – or the inevitability – of a ‘European future’ for southeastern Europe." And what better way to underscore the supposed benefits of that need and inevitability, then through the fact that "the world’s big powers intend to resolve [Kosovo’s] ‘final status’ and largely favor independence for the ethnic Albanian majority."

From what Hamilton, Dombey, and MacDonald are saying, clearly any resentment for the West in Serbia is a result of Russian meddling and irrational Serbian hatred of goodness, and is in no way, shape, or form related to U.S. and EU policies in Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, and Kosovo.

Reaping What You Sow

The consensus in both Washington and the European capitals for the past 15 years or so has been that Serbia was to blame for all the Balkan conflicts and instability. As a result, both the U.S. and the EU have supported every other nationalist movement in the region that sought to achieve its goals at Serb expense.

Slovenian separatists pitched their 1991 secession as an escape from "Communist Serbia," even though it was the rest of Yugoslavia they scorned as well. Franjo Tudjman’s regime in Croatia was able to blatantly violate UN resolutions and an armistice it signed, destroying the Serb community in that country almost completely during the 1995 military operation directly backed by the U.S. In Bosnia, Islamic fundamentalist Alija Izetbegovic was able to secure international support for his usurpation of the government and declaration of independence that started a civil war with Serb and Croat communities; through sleight of hand, over 60 percent of Bosnia’s inhabitants (Serbs, Croats, Jews) were declared interlopers, and the Muslim population became "Bosnians," somehow entitled to all of the land and the right to self-determination while others had neither. In Macedonia, which also seceded in 1992 but – unlike Izetbegovic’s regime – honored its treaty with Belgrade about the withdrawal of the old Yugoslav military and thus avoided war, a small contingent of UN peacekeepers was deployed for years to prevent war, right on the border with Serbia. When the war finally came, it was across the Albanian border.

In 1997, Washington and Brussels got another "ally" in the region when the former Communist apparatchik Milo Djukanovic decided it was far more profitable to side with the Empire than with Belgrade. His campaign for Montenegrin independence, in the course of which the ethnic identity, history, and culture of Montenegro’s people has been systematically distorted, falsified, and denied, received enthusiastic support and lavish funding from the West.

After almost a decade of tacit support for Albanian separatists in the Serbian province of Kosovo, in 1998 the U.S. and some European capitals backed a terrorist movement that sought to achieve Kosovo’s separation by force – the KLA. An orchestrated diplomatic and media campaign of demonization described Serbia’s anti-terrorism campaign as "genocidal" and resulted in a blatantly illegal NATO invasion in 1999. The subsequent occupation of Kosovo, technically by the UN but in practice by NATO, has seen systematic violence against the lives, property, and culture of non-Albanians, Serbs in particular. Despite being in complete control of the province, neither NATO nor the UN have shown any inclination to stop, condemn, or reverse the consequences of this violence, the result of which is a 90-percent-plus Albanian majority that "democratically" demands independence and treats the remaining Serbs like the kaffirs of apartheid South Africa. Furthermore, Washington and Brussels have also backed armed Albanian groups in Macedonia and inner Serbia (Presevo valley), despite their terrorist tactics.

Evidence clearly shows that the collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s and afterwards was not a consequence of some imaginary "Serbian aggression," but a pattern of Imperial aggression seeking to "balkanize" the region through the creation of compliant mini-states.

Kosovo, Again

Any people, anywhere in the world, facing this set of circumstances would be hostile to the Empire several times over. In fact, there are nations that ferociously hate the United States over far less. The Serbs do not, however – not yet, anyway.

What characterizes both the Financial Times and Reuters analysis is a distinct cognitive dissonance – the utter and total inability to make the obvious causal connection between U.S./EU policy in the region and Serb sentiment.

A good illustration of the absurd universe inhabited by the Western press is Nicholas Wood of the New York Times, who wrote on June 12 that the occupied Serb province of Kosovo was likely to become independent soon: "Diplomats who represent the United States and Britain in the talks say they believe that the only solution Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians will accept is independence."

Wood also repeats the figure of 10,000 supposedly killed in Kosovo, specifically referring to them as "mostly ethnic Albanian civilians." He also refers to the Bosnian Serb Republic as "the area seized by Bosnian Serb forces during the 1992-1995 war," and sees nothing incongruous with reporting that Kosovo Albanians are protesting the "separatist" moves of Kosovo Serbs, who are trying to organize local defenses against daily terror attacks committed by Albanians.

Yes, clearly, the Serbs are the separatists in Kosovo.

Here’s the truly mind-boggling part. Reuters Hamilton quotes former U.S. ambassador to Serbia William Montgomery, who says the events in Montenegro made the Serbs "less cooperative, more negative, and more aggressive … at the very time the West needs their cooperation on Kosovo, whose 90-percent ethnic Albanian majority is expected to get independence this year with or without Serb approval."

If "the West" doesn’t care about Serb approval, why would it need Serb cooperation?! And if such cooperation was really needed, why did the West support the separation of Montenegro, knowing what sort of reaction it would produce in Serbia? Why has it continued to browbeat Serbia on every occasion, demanding ever more and offering absolutely nothing? Surely, this is the worst experiment in persuasion, well, ever.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

That Serbia today is weak, confused, and angry, Brussels and Washington have only themselves to blame. A decade of sanctions, threats, aggression, occupation, humiliation, extortion, and false promises would have tested anyone’s patience. For a decade, everything was said to be Slobodan Milosevic’s fault; but in 2000, Milosevic was deposed, and Serbia’s subsequent rulers have been downright sycophantic toward the Empire ever since. But if anything, Serbia has been kicked around even more, and the demonization of Serbs in the Western mainstream has gotten even worse. The brief hope in the aftermath of 9/11 that America’s awakening to the danger of Islamic terrorism would help change some of its Balkan policies was crushed shortly thereafter. No matter how many demands of the "international community" the government in Belgrade fulfills, often at the expense of its own sovereignty and laws, all it ever gets is more demands, and comparisons with either Wilhelmine or Nazi Germany. For a nation that has suffered greatly at the hands of both, it is the paramount insult to go along with its grave injuries.

Contrary to propaganda, Serbia has always sought a relationship with the West. Milosevic tried to deal with the West as an equal partner in an international system governed by law, not realizing that such an attitude marked him as "uppity" in the New World (dis)Order. His successors tried a groveling approach, to no greater effect. The appeals of Kostunica and Tadic for "partnership" and "reciprocity" fall on deaf ears in Washington and Brussels, who expect nothing short of unquestioned obedience.

This expectation will not change, despite the "concerns" in Brussels. Pressure will continue to force Serbia to accept the separation of Kosovo, assume responsibility for the 1990s wars, and obey any demands of the Hague Inquisition. No government in Belgrade can survive this sort of policy for long; the fact that Kostunica has done so illustrates his remarkable political dexterity, but without any actual achievements beyond staying in power, he will be doomed come next election. Both Brussels and Washington are keenly aware of this.

The question, then, is why the continued flogging of Serbia, if it’s bound to bring the Radicals to power? And the only logical answer is that to the Empire, it makes absolutely no difference whether the government in Belgrade is "tyrannical" or "democratic," "ultranationalist" or "pro-Western." To those who desire to "solve the Serbian question" by crushing Serbia, both sycophancy and defiance will be treated with equal hatred and contempt.

Once the people of Serbia understand they have nothing to gain by crawling before the Empire, and nothing to lose by resisting its dictates, they will see the clarity of the choice facing them. Standing against the Empire does not mean "going against the whole world." Bowing to it does.

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 Antiwar.com debuted in November 2000.