If This Goes On…

On one of the Communist-era housing projects in the western part of Sarajevo – a slab of concrete once gray and foreboding and recently painted a shade of ochre to give it at least a semblance of warmth – there is a graffito in dark red spray-paint: "If elections changed anything, they would make them illegal." It’s hard to imagine anyone in Bosnia has heard of Emma Goldman, but her words ring true; there is a marked tendency for the same people to end up in power after every election, even if they have to change party affiliation in the meantime. All of Bosnia’s communities are always promised change – but they always end up losing what little change they have in their pockets.

A careful look reveals a similar pattern in the neighboring Serbia. Since the October 2000 coup, lavishly supported by the Empire, the Democratic Opposition (DOS) bloc has broken down into feuding camps, but if one looks at the cabinets from the time of Zoran Djindjic to the present, certain names tend to appear as permanent fixtures. For example, Mladjan Dinkic and Bozidar Djelic have always somehow been in charge of fiscal and monetary policy, no matter whether the government was in the hands of Djindjic, Zivkovic, or Kostunica. Serbia may have spent the past eight years in the metaphorical wilderness politically, but its economic policy has always been in the hands of a small party called G17-Plus. It is a mighty strange coincidence that G17 is now part of the "democratic reformer" bloc, promising Europe and wealth, as if they weren’t the ones behind the disastrous mismanagement – indeed, outright pillaging – of the country already despoiled by war and a decade of internationally imposed isolation.

Goldman’s dictum about elections certainly applies to the United States. Democrats and Republicans may argue loudly with each other – and among themselves – on a multitude of issues, but they all agree that each and every one of them requires forceful government action. And when they do argue about foreign wars, which isn’t often, it is mostly about the justifications and tactics, not about the merits of those wars or – Heaven forbid! – their legality and legitimacy. No matter who ascends to the White Marble Throne next January, their answer for everything will be force. Armed with the world’s biggest hammer, the rulers of Imperial America see everything in the world as a nail.

Unacceptable, Provocative, and Illegal

The Serbian province of Kosovo was occupied by NATO and the UN in 1999. In 2001, the occupiers organized elections to legitimize the Albanian separatists, led by the terrorist KLA. Whenever the province’s Serbs refused to collaborate with the quasi-state institutions thus established, the occupiers would denounce "pressure from Belgrade" and "outside manipulation," claiming that the Serbs really wanted to "integrate" into the "Kosovar" society, but were coerced not to. In reality, there was tremendous pressure from the UN and NATO on both the Kosovo Serbs and Belgrade to "integrate" and accept the land-grab of Kosovo as inevitable.

Serbia is holding general elections, scheduled for May 11, and intends to open polls in Kosovo – or at least in Serb-inhabited areas that refuse to recognize the occupied province’s independence, illegally declared by the Albanian government earlier this year. The principal sponsors of "independent Kosovo," the U.S. and the UK, are raising a storm in the UN about the Serbian vote, calling it "unacceptable," "a provocation," and – this is really rich – "illegal"! Yes, you heard it right: it’s provocative, illegal, and unacceptable to hold elections in one’s own country, but it’s perfectly acceptable – a pinnacle of virtue, even – to invade countries halfway around the world using fabricated pretexts and engage in torture and atrocities. People who resist can be, and are, killed with impunity.

To further drive that point home, the Empire’s kangaroo "tribunal" for war crimes recently acquitted Ramush Haradinaj, Empire’s fair-haired boy in Kosovo, who commanded KLA units that committed horrendous atrocities against Serbs, Roma, and even Albanians who would not support the KLA’s cause. Two years earlier, Naser Oric, the Bosnian Muslim commander of Srebrenica who both ordered and took part in murdering Serb civilians, was convicted – and promptly released by the same "court."

But there is no court for Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Richard Holbrooke, Wesley Clark, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, Tony Blair… Not in this world, anyway.

Democracy, Imperial-Style

The Empire swears by democracy, but how does that translate in reality? In the immediate aftermath of the 1999 war, the taxpayer-funded National Endowment for Democracy – through its Democratic and Republican institutes – waged a campaign to topple the government of Slobodan Milosevic. No expense was spared to tutor the willing opposition politicians, journalists, and activists in tactics and tricks. The end result was the October 2000 takeover of power, ostensibly a "popular democratic revolution" that was neither popular nor democratic. If tales of "suitcases of cash" or the self-righteous boasting of American officials that they brought about "regime change" in Serbia weren’t evidence enough, "revolutions" following the same script down to a letter soon took place in Georgia and Ukraine. It was later revealed that some of the Serbian activists "trained" by the NED were "advising" their counterparts in Tbilisi and Kiev.

How is it that the so-called "popular movements" can appear out of thin air and disappear again, once their purpose – "regime change" has been served? How is it that Eastern Europe, capital-starved from decades of Communism, then plundered wholesale by crooked transition regimes, somehow seems to support more non-governmental organizations and activists than enterprises and businesses? The answer is blindingly obvious even without inspecting their financial records, but upon said inspection it becomes impossible to refute: they are actually agents of Empire, bought and paid for.

The same goes for the media established to spread Imperial propaganda, which can somehow always afford the latest American shows and movies, even though there is no way they could have ever earned that money from domestic advertising markets. Sure enough, even a cursory investigation shows their money comes from "independent foundations" that are fronts for governments in Washington or London or Brussels…

The Serbian Aberration

Elections certainly change nothing in Europe. The real power has long since passed to the bureaucrats in Brussels. If Europeans vote for the "wrong" party or candidate, they are ostracized and bullied till they change their minds. If they reject additional centralization of power at a referendum, their rulers will find a way around it, or simply make them vote again and again, until the desired result is achieved. Democracy as practiced today is a hollow cult, imbuing the state with godlike attributes in the service of those who seek power for power’s sake.

This is why the upcoming Serbian election is something of an anomaly. For the first time in nearly a decade, there are sharp distinctions between the opposing blocs. The EUphoric "democratic reformers" advocate unconditional obedience to the Empire, and their campaign appeals in equal parts to greed and fear. They don’t really have a coherent economic program – only more of the same, as seen since 2000. The "patriots" don’t have an economic clue either, but they are opposed to the Empire on principle and appeal to traditional values. Even if it were somehow possible to live prosperously at the price of dignity and identity, they ask, would such a life be worth living?

Those living in the U.S. or the EU no longer have the chance to even ask that question, let alone vote on it. In a couple of weeks, Serbian voters will have that chance. Malicious propaganda aside, elections can’t bring prosperity. Voting doesn’t put food on the table – though those elected can certainly take it away. Prosperity comes from the willingness and ability to work, trade, create, and invest. How likely are any of those to happen in a society that rejects dignity, honor, and law? The answer ought to be clear.

H.L. Mencken once observed that "democracy is a theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." In the 1847 epic "The Mountain Wreath," by the Serbian bishop, prince, and poet Njegos, a Turkish vizier speaks thusly: "The common folk are like stupid cattle, servile only when their ribs are cracking." Was he right?

On May 11, we 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 Antiwar.com debuted in November 2000.