A Tale of Jupiters and Cattle

Ancient Romans had a saying: Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi, meaning "Jupiter may do what cattle may not." The modern notion of law explicitly rejects this concept of double standards. And yet, it is as much in force today as it was two thousand years ago, in the age of Caesars.

Following the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States government bombed, invaded, and occupied Afghanistan, accusing its Taliban rulers of sheltering al-Qaeda terrorists who claimed the attacks as their own. Less than two years later, Washington invaded Iraq, claiming the country possessed weapons of mass destruction and harbored terrorists – claims that have been repeatedly proven false since. But despite the protests, few governments actually condemned U.S. aggression, or went beyond words in opposing it.

Last week, Israel invaded Lebanon, following a terrorist attack by Hezbollah from its bases in the south of that country against Israeli military and civilians. There has been widespread condemnation of Israel’s actions, with even Washington hypocritically urging "restraint" (as if it has shown any itself!), but also a tacit acknowledgment that when a country is attacked, it has the right to respond. It is the intensity of the response that most question.

In 1998, then-Yugoslavia was attacked by an Albanian terrorist group, operating in the Serbian province of Kosovo as well as camps in Albania. In response, Belgrade invaded Albania, the Yugoslav Air Force bombed Tirana, and its navy blockaded Durres or Vlore. Washington urged "restraint," but said that Yugoslavia had a right to defend itself.

Oh, wait. Not only did none of this happen, but it was NATO that bombed and invaded Yugoslavia in support of Albanian terrorists, who were declared "freedom fighters" and "victims of human rights abuses." It was American, British, German, Turkish, and other satellite troops that occupied a portion of Yugoslav territory and turned it over to the terrorist KLA. NATO even set up an "exclusion zone," where Yugoslav military and police were forbidden to go but KLA terrorists operated with impunity, launching attacks in the Presevo Valley.

If an outside observer were to try and make sense of this, he would immediately conclude that the old Roman rule is still very much in effect; that Americans are Jupiter, that Israel is Jupiter-light, but that Yugoslavia is definitely in the cattle category.

No Justice for Serbia

Last Wednesday, the Washington Post carried an op-ed article by Serbia’s Prime Minister, Vojislav Kostunica, who was visiting Washington that week in a bid to present his government’s proposal for the solution of Kosovo’s status. The province has been occupied by NATO for over seven years now and turned into a quasi-state administered by the KLA, where most non-Albanians have been killed, expelled, or forced into ghettos. Albanians demand independence, and are endorsed by a powerful chorus of lobbyists, policymakers, diplomats, "analysts," and such. Serbia’s proposal offers them independence in all but name, autonomy unprecedented in Europe, or anywhere else in the world – but so far that offer has been flat-out rejected by the Albanians as well as their patrons in Washington and Brussels.

"Depriving a democratic country of a part of its territory simply because one ethnic group that has aspirations for that territory threatens violence is impermissible," wrote Kostunica. That is certainly what the international laws, treaties, and conventions say. But then there is the Empire, which does not recognize any of them any more, and does as it wills. And it’s the Empire that has supported the KLA all these years.

While staking Serbia’s claim out in legal terms, Kostunica also appealed to the ideologues of democracy:

"If people stop believing in the rules of democracy, if they start thinking that a set of rules is applicable to one nation but not to others, if they feel betrayed by powerful institutions, and if the standards and norms of behavior for relations among individuals and nations alike are trampled upon, then people will lose faith. And where faith is lost, there can be no democracy."

One can’t be sure whether Kostunica understands that "democracy" is just the word used to justify whatever the Empire does, same as "socialism" was once invoked to justify all manner of atrocities. It has lost all meaning: a "democratic" election is whenever candidates preferred by Washington or Brussels win, and it’s "undemocratic" if they lose; a "democrat" is whoever supports them, etc.

So when he claims that, "by defending an inalienable part of its territory, Serbia may even be defending the future of democracy as a way of life and a view of the world," the question is whether such a way of life is worth saving. If what it produces are Kosovos, Iraqs and Afghanistans, Lebanons and Gazas… what is the point?

One thing is certain: in a world where nations are divided into Jupiters and cattle, justice and law as Kostunica understands them have long since ceased to apply.

Rotten "Compromise"

Leaders of the G-8, the self-proclaimed club of the most powerful countries in the world, issued a statement Monday urging Serbia and the Albanians to "do everything possible to find a compromise solution with the goal of preservation of multi-ethnic Kosovo," reported Interfax.

Some Serbian analysts are optimistic, believing that this could be a diplomatically veiled way of denying independence to the occupied province. After all, if Kosovo became independent, it would stop being multiethnic very quickly; the UN has admitted to making contingency plans for a mass exodus of Serbs and other non-Albanians. However, NATO and the UN have mouthed off for years about their commitment to "multiethnic" Kosovo, while on their watch the province has been thoroughly ethnically cleansed and its Serbian Orthodox heritage put to torch.

Another telling phrase is that the G-8 has urged the Kosovo Albanian leaders to "observe internationally accepted standards for dealing with ethnic minorities." If by that they mean the Serbs, then Kosovo’s independence is a foregone conclusion; one cannot be an "ethnic minority" in one’s own country, only in someone else’s.

What appears to be taking shape is a "compromise" that essentially involves a facetious attempt at splitting the difference between Belgrade and Pristina: the Albanians will get their independence, but they will have to put up with more foreign meddling to ensure that some Serbs to stay in Kosovo, as a testament to its "multi-ethnicity."

It’s a terrible idea for both the Serbs and the Albanians; the former will lose everything, the latter will grow even more hateful and violent, blaming the remaining Serbs for the presence of foreigners. The only benefactor would be the "international community," whose failed politicians would continue to receive sinecures as governors, overlords, observers, representatives, emissaries, or whatnot, with hefty salaries, substantial powers, and no accountability. If this is a "compromise," one shudders to think what an extreme solution would look like.

Worry not, though. In a world where Jupiters determine the fate of cattle, we’re certain to find out.

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.