2009 in Review

In America, 2009 was to be the year of Hope and Change. Barack Obama became the new emperor in January, drawing record-breaking crowds and promising a radical departure from the era of Bush II. He ended up maintaining continuity – not just with Bush-era wars and practices, but also with Clinton policies of the 1990s. The Clintons attempted healthcare reform on the heels of a recession and failed. Obama launched his healthcare bid in the midst of a developing depression, and it is still unclear where it might be going. Meanwhile, public and private debt went on spiraling out of control, and the dollar continued to slide.

In October, Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, leaving a lot of people, both those sympathetic to the emperor and especially those critical of him, scratching their heads in puzzlement. What had he done to actually deserve it? The award had gone to some questionable characters in years past – in 2008, it was Martti Ahtisaari, who led the farcical "negotiations" about the occupied Serbian province of Kosovo – but Obama seems to have received it just for, well, being Barack Obama.

Underscoring the irony was Obama’s decision in early December to escalate the war in Afghanistan.

Cold War Redux

The past year was also one of rising tensions between Washington and Moscow. In March, Obama’s top diplomat presented to her Russian counterpart a red "reset" button, symbolizing a new beginning in Russo-American relations. Unfortunately, instead of "reset," the Russian translation on the button read "overload." Secretary Clinton laughed it off as a mistranslation. But was it, really?

In July, Obama visited Russia and gave an astonishing speech. The days of empires "dominating and demonizing" countries were over, he said. America would not seek to "impose any system of government on any other country" or "presume to choose which party or individual" should run other countries.

Just two days prior, a newly elected pro-American prime minister in Bulgaria reneged on a pipeline deal with Moscow, before even taking office. Bulgaria then indicated support for the American-backed Nabucco pipeline. In January, during a particularly vicious cold snap across Europe, the American-installed government in Ukraine got into a dispute over gas transit with Moscow. For two weeks, Europe froze, and blamed Russia.

In the long run, however, the gas gambit appears to have backfired. Washington’s client, President Viktor Yushchenko, is likely to lose the upcoming elections to Yulia Tymoshenko, a fellow "Orange revolutionary" who has since concluded that having a working relationship with Moscow may not be a bad idea. Ukraine and Russia negotiated a new gas agreement in December, agreeing to conduct the payments in euros, not dollars.

Rise of the EUSSR

For four years the Eurocrats had fought to ram through their proposed constitution, only to see it shot down when faced with any sort of popular vote. The original proposal was scuttled by referenda in France and the Netherlands in 2005. So it was modified slightly and called the Treaty of Lisbon, which only required parliamentary ratification. Ireland, however, had to hold a referendum and rejected the treaty in 2008 in spite of overwhelming EU propaganda. Not a bother, the Eurocrats said, and made the Irish vote again, in October 2009. By early November, Czech President Vaclav Klaus bowed under pressure and ratified the treaty, helping usher in a European superstate.

The Serbian Stew

After many years of trying to conquer and later control Serbia, the Empire enjoyed a peaceful 2009 on that front. For all its flirting with Russia, China, and the EU, the regime established in the summer of 2008 remained obedient, pledging fealty to Vice President Biden when he visited in May. Challenges to the imperial seizure of Kosovo amounted to a feeble judicial review before the World Court. Belgrade even implicitly recognized the occupied territory as separate, when it did not object to the EU’s exclusion of Kosovo residents from visa-free travel granted to Serbians in December.

Backed by the Empire, the government in Belgrade also pushed through a new bill giving state-like powers to the northern province of Vojvodina. Adoption of the bill coincided with the EU announcement of visa-free travel. With most of the media sympathetic to the government or directly under its control, and most political parties collaborating with the Empire, there are no avenues for popular discontent. When the patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church died in mid-November, the government and its media handmaidens were shocked to witness over half a million people silently lining the streets of Belgrade for the funeral procession.

Bosnia, Again

With many Clinton-era officials returning to power on Obama’s coattails, there was mounting pressure in Washington to revive an aggressive policy on Bosnia. Hardly a month went by without people who’ve played a role in mismanaging Bosnia calling for more of the same. "Fixing" Bosnia became an obsession, usually involving scrapping the Dayton constitution and establishing a centralized state. That was even spelled out as a principal goal of the "international community" in an op-ed penned by five major meddlers on Dec. 29.

In October, the U.S. and EU launched new talks aimed at "reform," which not only failed miserably, but ended up being barely warmed-up proposals that had failed three years earlier! It was just one of the signs that the fictional edifice built up in the Balkans was beginning to crumble. In May, a new book appeared challenging the credibility of the crown witness in the Srebrenica case, bringing into question the Official Truth about this "worst massacre since WWII." And in June, former U.S. ambassador to Serbia William Montgomery published an op-ed in the New York Times challenging the Empire’s entire Balkans policy.

Making things even more interesting was Turkey’s renewed interest in the Balkans, as Ankara’s foreign minister publicly embraced the agenda of restoring the Ottoman Empire during a visit to Sarajevo in October.

Hardly a Consolation

Much of what happened in 2009 exposed the naked reality of "democratorship," tyranny practiced in the name of democracy and human rights, but in all actuality having little to do with either. No one dares say the Empire has no clothes, though, faced with mountains of laws and regulations, wars without end, and constant propaganda. Everyone is kept in a state of fear, whether of "climate change," pandemics, terrorism, or any number of other things we’re told only government can fix if it takes more power. And though it keeps on taking, somehow the fixes never happen, and there is always more to fear. That this state of affairs cannot last forever, and in fact may collapse as soon as the money used to fuel it becomes sufficiently debased, hardly seems like a consolation.

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.