Imperial Poker

One of the more persistent misconceptions about the current Emperor is that he is from Texas. He may have lived there for many years, may have even been the governor of the state, but he was in fact born in Connecticut. A real Texan would know a thing or two about playing poker.

There is a great country song by Kenny Rogers, called “The Gambler.” Part of it goes, “You got to know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em/Know when to walk away and know when to run.” It doesn’t seem His Imperial Greatness has ever heard of it, though, because he is trying to raise the stakes even as others are calling his bluff.

The Misunderestimating of ‘No’

Mere days after being clearly informed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Heiligendamm that Russia’s “no” to the proposed independence of Kosovo in fact meant “no,” and not “yes” or even “maybe,” Emperor Bush – basking in the glow of a personality cult in Albania – declared his Empire’s absolute commitment to the separatist Albanian cause.

According to BIRN, the Emperor told his Albanian hosts:

“You get your diplomats working with Russians and EU diplomats to see if there is not a common ground. If you end up being in a position where you don’t, at some point of time, sooner rather than later, you got to say: that’s enough – Kosovo is independent.”

As expected, Serbian authorities condemned Bush’s statement: “The U.S. has to find some way of showing its favor and love for the Albanians other than presenting them with Serbian territories,” Prime Minister Kostunica quipped.

Expectations that Moscow or Belgrade would fold – accept the demands for independence of the occupied Serbian province – have proven wrong on every count. They hold strong cards: international law, precedent, principle, rules, charters and treaties. What is in Bush’s hand?

Arrogance and Stupidity

It appears the Empire is holding nothing but a single Will-to-Power. It has been known for some time now that Bush and his closest followers believed their actions shaped reality itself, and all criticism was merely inconsequential chatter of the “reality-based community.” Now even lower-level bureaucrats, such as Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried, have actually come to believe in this notion.

During his visit to Serbia this week, Fried launched into a diatribe against Serb “denial,” claiming that he was the only one with enough courage to tell the “truth” – which, according to him, is that “Milosevic lost Kosovo when he went to war with NATO and committed atrocities against the Kosovars.”

But it wasn’t Slobodan Milosevic who went to war with NATO – it was the other way around! As for the “atrocities,” the Empire has not managed to produce a single shred of evidence that any of them actually took place, even after eight years of NATO occupation. Meanwhile, Albanian atrocities against Serbs, Roma, Turks and other Albanians have taken place under the very noses of NATO “peacekeepers” and are documented in detail.

The UPI report quoting Fried’s drivel framed the possibility of “ethnic violence” in Kosovo as an expected result of Serb desires for Kosovo “to remain a part of greater Serbia” (sic!) or attempt partition. In fact, it is the Albanian separatists threatening violence against both Serbs and the UN/NATO occupiers, if they do not get their way. “Violence is not acceptable and KFOR will deal with it,” UPI quotes Fried as saying.

Just as they “dealt with it” in 2004?

One has to commend the Department of State for efficiency, however, for putting such arrogance and stupidity in the same package.

A Sham Resolution

A day after Bush was mobbed by adoring Albanians, the self-appointed “Contact Group” met in Stockholm – but without Russia, demonstrating once again the notion of “international community” to be a myth. What emerged at that meeting was a draft of the new UN resolution, replacing 1244 and paving the way to Kosovo’s independence, just as His Imperial Majesty had said.

The principal feature of the resolution, as reported this week, is a four-month “grace period” for talks between Belgrade and the Albanians. As Reuters reports, “After 120 days, if the talks fail, the resolution would automatically put into effect the [Ahtisaari] independence plan.” So the Albanians, who have never shown any interest in negotiating to begin with, would be rewarded for not negotiating by the fulfillment of their demands after four months. This actually is just as absurd as it sounds.

The key to understanding the resolution is in the words of U.S. envoy to the Albanian separatists, Frank Wisner; according to Reuters again, last week he told the Albanians that its aim was “not to delay what the outcome has to be, but to make it clear to the world that every avenue was pursued.”

In other words, the resolution was never meant to pass – merely to offer feeble “evidence” to the world that the Empire still cared for the forms of international law. Once Moscow and Belgrade reject this resolution – as they have – the Empire would claim they “rejected negotiations.” (What negotiations? Precisely.) The same media that reported on the Rambouillet ultimatum as a “peace proposal,” on the Racak firefight as “massacre” and on the bombing itself as “humanitarian intervention” would swallow this – hook, line and sinker. Never mind that the Emperor himself said the talks should be a cover for what’s already been “decidered,” or that Wisner said the same thing to the Albanians.


As the Imperial project lumbers along, leaving death and destruction in its wake, a truly terrible realization is emerging. It’s not that hundreds of millions of people still buy the Imperial propaganda at face value – though that number is dwindling steadily – it’s that the Empire doesn’t care of they do or not. After all, what did the American public do when it became obvious that there were no Iraqi WMDs and the entire casus belli was a fraud? What could it do? The Emperor simply gave them the political equivalent of “Yeah, so what?” and kept on trucking.

Almost two decades of “humanitarian interventions” and “nation-building” that followed the end of the Cold War have significantly lowered the bar of what passed for acceptable in international relations.

In 1999, when the “International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia” (ICTY, a.k.a. the Hague Inquisition) indicted the entire Serbian government in trumped-up charges of war crimes just when NATO’s attack was going particularly poorly, claims that the “court” was political were met with derision and shock in the Western mainstream.

This week, the Head Inquisitor of the Tribunal publicly urged a delay in deciding Kosovo’s status, because that might hinder Serbia’s compliance with her demands.

“It is a political issue and might hamper the cooperation with us,” Del Ponte said. “It would be better if the decision on Kosovo wasn’t made now,” she added. (AKI)

Game’s Almost Up

It is this sort of hubris – a misguided, delusional belief that it is so powerful it can make up its own rules, create its own reality, defy the laws of physics, politics and nature with mere whims – that is at the root of Empire’s rapidly approaching downfall.

Because it does not control the rules of the game; it has merely bent them about as far as they can go. No amount of willpower or conceit will make a High Card beat a Royal Flush.

The Empire is holding when it needs to fold; walking straight into doom where it ought to cut losses and run. It isn’t just a watch George W. Bush lost in Albania, but perhaps the last vestiges of his ability to discern what is real from what is in his mind.

Even the unwaveringly loyal mainstream media found last week’s Albanian excursion a bit much. One AP report on Bush’s visit included the following comment by a California professor: “You know things aren’t going well when you have to go to Albania to have people take to the streets and cheer you.”

The game is up.

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.