Another Evil Little War

Twelve years ago, Bill Clinton launched an evil little war in the Balkans, attacking what was then Yugoslavia because he could. The best indicator of that were the ever-changing pretexts for the war, from imposing a "peace" ultimatum and "protecting refugees" (created by the bombing) to stopping a (fictitious) "genocide." Four years later, when Bush the Lesser invaded Iraq, his pretexts were less humanitarian, but no less fictitious. The pattern was obvious even then. Today, the Nobel Peace Prize stands worthless as the Empire engages in yet another evil little war, this time in North Africa. Imperial policy has come full circle, with Barack Obama managing to combine the Clinton restoration with the Bush continuity.

Shifting the Goalposts

Following the 1999 war, which ended with the NATO occupation of the Serbian province of Kosovo, the Empire hired an "independent commission" to whitewash the endeavor as "illegal but legitimate." In actuality, it was both illegal and illegitimate. The war clearly violated the UN Charter, the NATO charter and the U.S. Constitution. Empire’s principal claim to the war’s legitimacy — alleged Serb atrocities against Albanian rebels — was exposed as exaggerated propaganda relatively quickly. Adding insult to injury was the wholesale campaign of ethnic cleansing by the Albanians, which started the moment NATO troops arrived in the province and went on for years with absolute impunity.

Even today, however, criticism of the Kosovo War takes on a "yes, but" form, in which the principal points of NATO propaganda — Serb atrocities, the alleged ethnic cleansing plan, 10,000 dead Albanian civilians, etc. — are taken as unimpeachable facts rather than tailor-made fiction. All that remains of the argument against the war then is that it was "too expensive" and "took too long." So, if the Empire promises and delivers a faster and cheaper war, that would make it all right?

Except there is no such thing, of course. Supposedly limited engagements have a way of turning into full-scale wars, simply because once the forces are deployed, it becomes more about prestige than anything else. Just watch for when generals and politicians start talking about "credibility" being at stake.

Arguing that Empire’s bloody adventures were unsuccessful doesn’t do any good, either. The Empire simply moves the goalposts to define success as it sees fit. Once it becomes clear there were no WMDs in Iraq, the war becomes about "regime change." Kosovo morphs from "destroying the Serbian military" to "bringing democracy to Serbia" to "giving Albanians independence." Libya started out as a no-fly zone to "protect civilians," almost immediately becoming close air support for the rebels, and is rapidly turning into a "regime change" operation.

With Friends Like These

Empire loves "regime change." Tell the people that X, ruling over country Y — which few can find on the map, and fewer still have any knowledge of — is an evil dictator, Hitler of our time, killing his own people who want nothing but peace and democracy (i.e. to be like Americans), and the war is on. Needless to say, X is usually someone who refuses to conform to Empire’s view of the world, divided into servants and victims.

No one stops to think that killing the people of Y to "liberate" them from being killed by X defies all logic. Besides, when the Empire kills that is "liberation." When others do it, it’s an atrocity, war crime, even genocide. And since it is a sacred mission of the U.S. to stop genocides, they somehow keep occurring all over the planet, at convenient times.

The other part of the equation is the group being "helped." In Iraq, the Empire ended up killing hundreds of thousands of people while a few exiles who helped bring the war about pocketed a fistful of dollars. In Kosovo, it was the KLA, a network of organized crime cartels who waged a war of terrorism against the police and civilians and lost — only to be bailed out by NATO at the last moment. Under NATO protection, they have engaged not just in ethnic cleansing, murder and mayhem, but also grisly practices such as harvesting organs from captives.

When bombs failed to effect "regime change" in Serbia, the Empire resorted to subterfuge. Intelligence services and the National Endowment for Democracy trained, paid and supported a legion of cheerleaders to develop a template for "popular revolution," used in many other places since. Yet these supposed "democrats" and "liberals" have been nothing of the sort, wallowing instead in corruption, tyranny, treason and even casual racism.

Then there are the Libyan rebels, who don’t even have a figurehead leader, and prefer posturing for news cameras to actual fighting. It is almost as if their sole purpose was to create a pretext for Imperial intervention; those who argued against it have since been drowned out by the chorus of bomb-seekers. The Western public is somehow supposed to believe these rebels are all about "diversity" (though they very clearly are not). Also, the U.S. intelligence agencies swear that the rebels have no terrorist ties. Just as they swore that Saddam Hussein did. For that matter, one of the "diverse" rebels profiled recently by the Washington Post had fought the U.S. in Iraq, his brother was a suicide bomber who killed U.S. Marines, and another brother is an al-Qaeda leader in Afghanistan. But Abu Sultan declares his undying devotion to the ideals of liberal democracy — so that’s all right, then.

Deeply Immoral, Period

Another way interventionists typically rebuff their critics is by labeling them "isolationists" or "pacifists," or even accusing them of "supporting X" (whoever X is at the time). If they respond by denying support for X, they only help bolster the Empire’s claims that X is an "evildoer" and must be stopped.

The dichotomy between pacifism — renouncing all violence, including self-defense — and interventionism, which redefines "defense" as invading anyone, anywhere, is clearly a false one. Libertarians have consistently opposed Imperial interventions, and the Empire itself, because of their belief in not initiating force. One major failing of the statist morality is that it applies a different standard to certain actions, depending on whether they are committed by private individuals or by the government. Both libertarians and statists would agree that blowing up someone’s house to "help" with a domestic dispute is immoral and insane. And it certainly doesn’t amount to supporting either side in the dispute, either. Yet only libertarians argue that this ought to apply to "humanitarian" bombings as well.

As for "isolationism," if that means taking the advice of the Founders that America ought not "go abroad in search of monsters to destroy," then so be it.

Aggressive wars, against conjured monsters halfway across the world, are clearly unconstitutional and ought to be profoundly un-American. Then again, the Empire shredded the Constitution years ago. Perhaps the best way to stop the current evil little war, and prevent more, is to rectify that particular tragedy first. 

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.