A Most Stubborn Reality

Glitches in Empire’s Matrix

In the virtual reality concocted by the Empire, the lynching of Moammar Gadhafi was a splendid victory for NATO. Never mind now that it was the “transitional rebels” who were supposed to be fighting the “kinetic military action” in Libya — or any such inconvenient details. No, insist the Imperial partisans, the “victory” retroactively justifies everything. Now the Empire has its hands on all that oil and water, while the Libyans are “free” to be “moderate Islamists” (whatever that means) like the Tunisians. Thus ends the Tripoli expedition.

Trouble is, the Imperial Matrix is getting awfully glitchy these days. NATO’s ultimate powerlessness is on display daily in the occupied Serbian province of Kosovo, while an incident in the Bosnian capital on Friday exposed the absurdity of Empire’s Balkans policies. The ever-victorious and all-powerful Empire is nothing but a mirage, a reality-distortion bubble existing only in the minds of its creators and the deluded few that serve them.

Still Standing

Since mid-September, the Serbs in the north of Kosovo have maintained a blockade of KFOR troops attempting to install customs officials of the self-proclaimed independent Albanian state, recognized by the U.S. and most EU members and supported by the “law and order” EULEX mission. Attempts by EULEX and KFOR to establish the writ of Pristina over the Serbs in the north ran into unexpected opposition by the locals, despite the willingness of the quisling government in Belgrade to capitulate. Indeed, the ongoing Serb resistance in Kosovo is threatening to unravel that government entirely, in addition to causing apoplexies in Pristina, Brussels, and Washington.

In mid-October, German commander of NATO’s Kosovo force (KFOR), Gen. Erhard Drews, issued an ultimatum to the Serb civilians blockading the roads in the province’s north: remove the roadblocks — or else. Though he failed to specify what that might entail, he strongly implied he would have to use deadly force. Yet the deadline came and went, and the barricades still stand.

Lest there be any confusion, KFOR and EULEX are clearly in the wrong here. Servicing the self-proclaimed government in Pristina is entirely beyond their mandate. Their claim to be enforcing freedom of movement is likewise false. There has never been any freedom of movement for Serbs in the province, and the ethnic Albanian separatists besieged Russian peacekeepers in 1999 for six months without NATO command lifting a finger to dislodge them.

On Oct. 19, the locals offered to let KFOR supply vehicles through, and remove the barricades entirely if Albanian and EULEX officials withdrew from the checkpoints; Drews refused. On Oct. 27, they went ahead and opened the barricades to KFOR anyway. Drews again rejected any compromise, demanding instead “unconditional and permanent freedom of movement” for KFOR, EULEX, and the Albanian authorities. Not only is that illegal under the terms of KFOR’s deployment, it is also facetious and downright insane.

Bullying, Rumors, and Lies

Gen. Drews is entirely aware that opening fire on the protesters would be a PR disaster. It doesn’t matter that he is backed by the entire mainstream media (e.g., this facetious BBC account of the standoff), when the locals have access to YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter and can counter NATO’s propaganda instantly. This became obvious after the two attempts to tear down the roadblocks by force, when KFOR pepper-sprayed and tear-gassed the civilians (and itself).

Attempts to outflank the locals via Belgrade likewise failed; President Tadic’s meeting with municipal leaders from the north achieved nothing, while the chorus of NATO cheerleaders on the Serbian political stage only made the general population more sympathetic to their besieged kin. The government-controlled media in Serbia then began reporting how the barricades were “falling” or “being dismantled” — only to be exposed as liars by amateur reporters on the ground.

On the other hand, even some government-controlled papers are now reporting that KFOR’s troops besieged at the northern checkpoints are cold, hungry, and overwhelmed by their own refuse. If Drews and his superiors are trying to outwait the locals, they obviously don’t have a very good understanding of their own logistics and morale.

What happens next is anybody’s guess. As seasoned observers on the ground have noted, there is plenty of room for a reasonable compromise. Yet KFOR and EULEX are obstinately deaf, acting as if they are still in charge of things. Meanwhile, the Albanian government is loudly proclaiming its determination to fight — to the last foreigner.

Cracks in the Resolve

The surprising and steadfast Serb resistance seems to have shaken some of the Albanian supporters in the West. Previously rejecting any notion of partition or any other solution that would not result in 100 percent control of the occupied province by the Albanian government in Pristina, voices have begun to appear suggesting otherwise.

Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-KLA), writing in the War Street Journal, suggested a “land swap” idea — exchanging the north of Kosovo for a strip of land claimed by the Albanians in southeastern Serbia. German diplomat Erhard Busek, former head of the abortive “Stability Pact” project, recently said that a mutually acceptable partition deal might not be a bad idea, reports the Journal. Not surprisingly, “Prime Minister” Thaci rejects any talk of partition out of hand. But he is entirely dependent on his Imperial backers. Quite obviously rattled, they seem eager to close the Kosovo situation as soon as possible.

The prospect of buying off the Serbs by giving them back a portion of the territory it had stolen from them is actually a bargain for the Empire. The question now is whether its puppet regime in Belgrade will survive long enough to make the deal and whether they will be able to persuade Thaci and the KLA to accept it. Easily overlooked in all that is the shocking revelation that the Empire may now be willing to bargain in the first place, instead of simply demanding it gets its way or else.

Reaping the Whirlwind

Unfortunately for the policymakers in Washington, Brussels, and Berlin, their Balkans meddling keeps blowing back in their face. On Friday, a bearded gunman opened fire on the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo, Bosnia, injuring several local security officers (but no Americans). After a standoff with the police, he was shot, some reports suggest fatally.

There is much confusion still surrounding the incident, with some reports claiming he was the “lone gunman” and others that he had up to three associates. All, however, agree that he belonged to the militant Muslim Salafi sect (also known as Wahhabi), who reject any coexistence with Christians, advocate a strict Islamic state, and even clash with the bulk of the Bosnian Muslim population, who follow the Hanafi school of Islam.

The terrorist was identified as Mevlid Jasarevic, 23, a Muslim from southwestern Serbia. Some 150,000 Muslims live in the several counties that, along with a piece of neighboring Montenegro, once belonged to the Ottoman sanjak of Novibazar. Many still refer to the region as “Sanjak” or “Sandzak.” In the effort to weaken Serbia, the Empire has backed the campaign of the firebrand Muslim cleric Muamer Zukorlic and organized an ambassadorial group called the “Friends of Sandzak.” Meanwhile, reports by Serbian and Bosnian Serb law enforcement about the Salafist threat have been ignored or denounced as propaganda.

That is unlikely to change, despite the Friday attack. Jihadist terrorism simply doesn’t fit into the mainstream narrative about the Balkans, the Imperial matrix of history-ending omnipotence. As long as it lasts, anyway.

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.