Invasion of the Mind Snatchers

The ancient Greeks had a saying: "Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad." They named such madness hubris, and the subsequent destruction nemesis. One would think the American Empire would at least try and learn from the wisdom of the ancients; yet not only does it repeat their mistakes, it has managed to develop an entire system of delusions, capable of interpreting ancient wisdom to support the very things it cautioned against.

This disconnect was famously documented by Ron Suskind in 2004, who quoted an unnamed Bush administration official (later identified as Karl Rove), contemptuously dismissing the "reality-based community":

"We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

Though Bush II has been out of office for almost three years, there are no indications this worldview departed with him. Quite the contrary;  proof is in the current Emperor’s recent attempt to evade Congressional oversight of the adventure in Libya by calling it a "kinetic military action." Translated from bureaucratese to plain English, that actually means precisely what Obama’s people say it doesn’t: war.

Fire in the Minds of Men

Back in 2005, Bush II heralded an effort to spread "freedom" to every corner of the world, setting "fire in the minds of men". It was a phrase right out of Dostoevsky, via Billington, evoking revolutionary fever. By that point, the world had already seen the first wave of the so-called "color revolutions," the most notable being those in Tbilisi and Kiev. After several of them notably failed, however, the whole project seemed as obsolete as the lies about Iraqi WMDs.

Then came the Sandstorm, or as the Imperial pundits prefer to call it, the "Arab Spring." To hear the mainstream media tell it, the world is once again catching fire, young people everywhere demanding "democracy" and overthrowing the evil regimes oppressing them. Tunisia and Egypt were just the beginning, the "kinetic action" in Libya is all about helping the "democrats", and if there is any fault in Washington, it is for "standing idly by" and "not helping enough".

But is that really so?

A few days ago, an interesting documentary appeared on YouTube. "The Revolution Business" documents the recent revolutions throughout the world, and finds the common thread running through nearly all of them: Otpor.

Originally a student group devoted to protesting what they saw as dictatorship by the Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, Otpor ("Resistance") was co-opted by the U.S. intelligence after the NATO attack on Serbia in 1999. Backed by a propaganda apparatus, "suitcases of cash" and a host of organizations from the CIA to the NED, Otpor spearheaded the October 2000 coup in Belgrade, which ousted Milosevic and brought to power a coalition of "democrats" put together by the Empire.

Serbia was the test case for this new mode of warfare by subterfuge, Patient Zero in a world soon to be infected by "revolutions" that weren’tOtpor was the vector designed for the purpose.

Instruments of Own Demise

The aforementioned documentary spends a lot of time with Srdja Popovic, former Otpor leader that went on to become a professional revolutionary. Otpor having folded years ago into Serbia’s ruling Democratic Party, Popovic now runs an outfit called CANVAS (Center for Applied NonViolent Action and Strategies), lecturing all over the world and training activists in dozens of countries to replicate the Serbian coup. In that mission he is helped by an instruction booklet written by Gene Sharp, a scholar from Boston.

The tactics and techniques of the revolutionaries have been described in some detail, both in Sharp’s book and by outside observers (such as John Laughland). Suffice to say they are all about exploiting the genuine public sentiment — real discontent where it exists, manufactured where it does not — and using the tricks from their toolbox to nudge it in the desired direction.

They always target the young, known for the excess of zeal and shortage of forethought. Who doesn’t want freedom and democracy (meaning the hedonist lifestyle seen in American movies and TV shows)? And here are all these "consultants," teaching them for "free." Even those who dislike and mistrust the Empire find it hard to argue against such gifts without seeming unduly paranoid.

Between the anvil of internal rebellion and the hammer of the Imperial media and diplomatic assault, the "oppressive regime" usually loses its nerve and folds. The "good democrats" installed in power soon start ruling in the interest of the Empire, and the activists realize the "training and consultation" they received weren’t free after all. The Empire always collects its debts. 

Yet the revolutionaries rarely revolt after finding out they’ve been used thus. How can they? Even if they somehow overcome the crushingly demoralizing effect of finding out they were the agents of their own subjugation, that very fact destroys their credibility at home. Having supped from the cannibal pot, they are marked forever.

Willing Executioners

Then there are some who enjoy the taste, and become willing agents of the Empire. Popovic is proud of his revolution-exporting adventures.  He gladly points out that the Otpor logo — a stenciled fist — has been used by local franchises from Ukraine to Venezuela. On several occasions, the backdrop to Popovic is an Otpor poster, showing the fist and the motto,  "Because I love Serbia". It is a particularly vicious lie: in the Serbia the Empire had Otpor create, only those who hate it prosper. 

Popovic does, however, try to obscure his Imperial connections, claiming that CANVAS is an entirely private organization, funded with Serbian money. Why, then, is its name an English acronym? And where did they get the money, in a country first systematically impoverished by a decade of UN sanctions, then bombed to rubble, and finally looted by the Empire’s "democrats"? So looted, in fact, that rummaging through garbage is close to becoming a major branch of agriculture…

Branding Otpor and CANVAS as Serbian is no accident. Few in the world would be inclined to suspect a Serb of working for the Empire, after everything that happened in the Balkans in the 1990s. Washington policymakers have just about admitted that American bombers flew over Belgrade because of "Yugoslavia’s resistance to the broader trends of political and economic reform," rather than any reports of atrocities, exaggerated or fabricated on demand.

Merely defeating and conquering Serbia would not do. The Serbs had to be turned into the Empire’s most dedicated servants: when even a people like that can be so thoroughly crushed, resistance to the Empire must surely be futile.

Curing Patient Zero

Despite its inability to actually achieve global hegemony, the Empire is in no danger of lapsing into "isolationism" anytime soon. Even those establishment figures who demand withdrawal from places like Kandahar only do so because they figure those troops would soon be needed elsewhere. Washington’s mindset is stuck in Bosnia forever — or for as long as the managed perception of fiscal solvency holds up, anyway.

It is to be expected, though, that Washington will turn increasingly to CANVAS revolutions as the preferred tool of conquest, because they are cheaper and overall more effective than bombs. Even so, they aren’t always successful. The revolt fomented in Libya failed, and the current war is an effort to salvage it. Attempts in Russia, Belarus and Iran have failed as well, and Ukraine actually managed to recover from the "orange" takeover. Yet the revolutionary virus will likely continue to spread until something is done about both the vector and Patient Zero.

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.