Illusion of Triumph

There is a fascinating study just waiting to be written on the topic of Bosnia’s political jokes, evolved over the centuries to express opinions of governments that didn’t much care for freedom of speech. One such joke tells of a man who, after the Bosnian War, emigrated to the West somewhere. Visiting his relatives in Bosnia after a while, asked how things were in his new homeland, the man replied: "They are about 20 years behind us." The relatives were perplexed; shouldn’t that be ahead, not behind? No, the man replied, "Things there are still okay."

Though it is impossible to pinpoint its origin, the joke was first heard in the fall of 2008, as the first wave of the financial crisis hit. It was the fifth year of the Iraq occupation, and the sixth since Emperor Bush II proclaimed a grand strategy to Balkanize the world. As is usually the case with government designs, that didn’t quite work out as planned.

The Forgotten War

There has been much talk in the American and British media about the 10th anniversary of the illegal invasion of Iraq. Few, if any, have noted that it wasn’t the first illegal war of aggression waged by the Empire; that dubious honor goes to the 1999 attack on Yugoslavia. Nor is the media likely to dwell on the second anniversary of "saving" Libya from itself, not after working so hard to bury last year’s Benghazi fiasco.

Zero mention was made of the worst pogrom against the surviving ethnic Serbs in Kosovo, nine years ago. What one UN official compared to Kristallnacht, and an American admiral described as ethnic cleansing has been sent to the Memory Hole, because the pogrom’s perpetrators were never punished. Instead, they were rewarded with "independence."

Another reason the Balkans is being overlooked in what passes for Empire’s soul-searching is that, unlike Iraq, interventions there are still considered a "success". Croatia was ethnically cleansed of Serbs and is about to join the EU. Bosnia-Herzegovina has not relapsed into open warfare, though the Empire itself keeps trying to unravel the tenuous peace there. And Serbia seems to be at the cusp of validating the 1999 aggression, by recognizing "Kosovo" as an independent state.


Currently, both the government and the opposition in Belgrade are under Imperial control– and the one parliamentary party that isn’t (anymore) has no stomach for a fight. Burned by a "revolution" that brought them servitude, the Serbs seem unwilling to revolt again.

Another factor in that might be the fate of Zoran Djindjic, the man who led the Empire-backed coup in 2000. There are indications that, by early 2003, he had become disillusioned with being a puppet. On March 13 that year, he was gunned down under mysterious circumstances. If his former masters were behind Djindjic’s death, it was a message that none could hope to exit the Faustian bargain. Djindjic was certainly forced to serve the Empire even in death, as propaganda made him into a martyr for the quisling cult currently breaking Serbia.

Currently, that quisling leadership is "negotiating" with the EU about the ways for Serbia to recognize Kosovo in fact, without doing so explicitly. Yet Brussels, Berlin, Washington and the Albanian regime in Pristina are unwilling to accept anything less than unconditional surrender.

Slobodan Milosevic, the man overthrown by Djindjic, famously refused to surrender and kept fighting even at his show trial. He died mysteriously in Imperial custody on March 11, 2006 – captive, but not conquered, just like Serbia right now. Its people’s tolerance for abuse may be high, but it isn’t infinite. Once pushed beyond what they are willing to tolerate, the Serbs have historically made it very unpleasant for the people responsible. Will they do so again? Can they?

The Empire is betting they cannot.

The Confiscation Caper

Last weekend, the EU tried to strong-arm Cyprus into confiscating a portion of private deposits in the island’s banks, as a condition for giving Nicosia a "bailout." This was presented as a one-time "tax" on savings, or through euphemisms such as "haircut" – but the depositors rightly saw it for what it was: outright theft. Coincidentally, or maybe not, Russia does a great deal of its international banking via Cyprus. After a polite but steely warning from Vladimir Putin, the Cypriot government decided it feared Moscow more than Brussels (or Berlin), and rejected the EU demands. Brussels isn’t giving up, though, and the drama is still developing.

Setting aside the possibility that the pressure on Cyprus could ultimately be directed at Russia – which would have serious implications for the relations between Moscow and Berlin – the proposal shows just how desperate the bankster class is, seeking to pillage the general public in order to make up the losses from speculative blunders. Whatever happens to the proposed "tax," now that it has been introduced as a possibility odds are it might reappear elsewhere, and soon.

A similar scenario unfolded in what used to be Yugoslavia. Back in the 1960s, the socialist regime allowed its citizens to open foreign currency savings accounts. There were many Yugoslavs working abroad, either on short-term contracts or semi-permanently, and the accounts were a way to tap into their remittance stream.

At the time, Yugoslavia also enjoyed plenty of easy credit from the west. In the 1980s, however, when the bills came due, the IMF demanded austerity measures. The citizenry’s domestic savings were wiped out by galloping inflation, while the government restricted access to foreign savings, declaring them redeemable in Yugoslav currency only, at the official – and woefully inadequate – exchange rate. The resulting collapse of confidence in the system created fertile ground for demagoguery that led to the Yugoslavia’s violent break-up. During the scramble for secession, many of these accounts were outright confiscated by the separatist governments. The surviving depositors are still litigating for redress.

So, as the joke has it, the West really is behind the times.

Antiquity’s Forgotten Lesson

The erroneous beliefs that Balkans interventions were a success and that Serbia is conquered help disguise the actual weakness of the Empire and its EU satellite. Yet as Brendan O’Neill pointed out after the death of Hugo Chavez, there was a time Washington could overthrow regimes in Latin America pretty much at will. Likewise, the Empire is frustrated by the current President of the Bosnian Serb Republic; but where its viceroys once used to remove elected officials at a whim, today they do not dare. Instead, they seem to be trying for a "color revolution".

Empire’s "strategy" for victory in Serbia really depends on Belgrade’s willingness to submit. Ironically, this is the same mistake the Bosnian Serb leadership made during the Bosnian War. By simply refusing to capitulate, Belgrade cannot lose. These days, that’s as good as winning.

The Empire, on the other hand, cannot win. All else aside, its publicized goal of world domination is simply out of reach. All the guns in the world are useless if the other side cannot be compelled to submit. Force can only settle the matters of power, not right. Like Athens of antiquity, the Atlantic Empire crushed the Melians because it could, and squandered its strength on a misguided Syracuse expedition. Yet not only did Athens lose the war to Sparta, its vaunted democracy was lost as well.

There is still time for Empire to become America once again. There are still things it could do to avoid the grim fate predicted in that Bosnian joke. Unfortunately, the joke seems more likely to actually come true.

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.