Imperial ‘Exemptionalism’

Just as it seemed the Empire was going to embark on yet another evil little war, a miracle happened on the road to Damascus. A sensible solution proposed by Moscow caught the Washington warmongers off-guard, and removed their justification for war. Between that and the overwhelming lack of popular support, the Empire backed down – for now.

Rage Against Russia

In an unprecedented move, the New York Times published an op-ed by Russian president Vladimir Putin, on September 12. Wishing to address Americans directly, Putin laid out a case for international law, reason and caution, and not allying with Al-Qaeda.

While the response of the general public was overwhelmingly positive, the establishment frothed in rage. The Imperial establishment has long been disdainful of the “uppity” Russians not knowing their place in the brave new world. Putin’s chiding about American “exceptionalism” – mentioned in Obama’s speech the night before – incensed them even further.

What the Russian president was objecting to wasn’t so much the notion of Americans seeing themselves as “exceptional” – after all, what nation does not? – but taking this to mean they are exempt from rules they expect everyone else to follow. The last time a world power construed exceptionalism in this fashion, over 20 million Russians died before that misunderstanding was buried by the rubble of Berlin.

The point of Putin’s persuasion was clearly lost on the Beltway bombers. Republican Senator John McCain, who never saw a war he didn’t like, went so far as to publish an anti-Putin rant in the Communist daily Pravda a week later.

Unlike Americans, Russians seem to have learned from history. McCain’s words ring hollow after the decade-long betrayal of Russian trust following Gorbachev’s move to end the Cold War, during which Russia was looted by a pro-American cabal of oligarchs, and humiliated by a belligerent and expanding NATO. The 1999 attack on Serbia was the breaking point, prompting the Russian security establishment to oust the Yeltsin regime in what was effectively a palace coup. Yet despite U.S. officials and US-funded “activists” in Russia repeatedly disputing Putin’s legitimacy, the Russian electoral process is far more transparent and accountable than its American counterpart, and Putin enjoys margins of support US presidents can only envy.

For all that, Russia has never been hostile to the US – only to the notion of a world-spanning absolute Empire the US seems to have become. Demonizing Putin and Russia has actually harmed America’s national security, as Stephen Cohen recently argued. Except the Empire doesn’t care about national interests any more: white-knighting around the world is the default foreign policy in Washington.

A Shining Example

Though Bosnia in 1995 was the pilot episode for “bombs for peace,” the 1999 attack on Serbia is usually considered the first true “humanitarian” intervention. Everything that Putin’s op-ed listed as wrong and irresponsible in Empire’s approach to Syria applies to the Kosovo War: wanton violation of international law, support for terrorism and jihad, false-flag operations and propaganda.

Nor did any of that stop in 1999, when the war officially ended. Just the other day, there was an attack on a EU police patrol, in the north of the occupied province (declared an independent state in 2008). The media quickly implied that the culprits were local Serbs, who have resisted attempts to subject them to Albanian authority.

The particular spot where the EU police was ambushed, however, is in an area controlled by ethnic Albanians, and has already been the site of three attempted false-flag attacks. The last one, in April 2003, failed spectacularly when two terrorists (then members of the NATO-sponsored “Kosovo Protection Corps”) died as their demolition charge went off prematurely.

In all likelihood, the latest false-flag attack is another attempt to brute-force the local Serbs into submitting. Under the terms of the “agreement” between Belgrade and the Albanian “government” in Pristina, existing Serbian institutions in the province are to be dismantled and replaced by new local governments, elected on November 3 under “Kosovian” laws. Belgrade has been pushing hard, but the local Serbs have largely refused to go along.

Altered Awareness

Even as such staunch Imperial allies as the UK withdrew support for a war in Syria, the Balkans client states supported it loudly. One could understand Hashim Thaci, the “Prime Minister of Kosovo,” backing a scenario that put him in power; or Zlatko Lagumdzija, the Muslim foreign minister of Bosnia, joining his Turkish colleague in hyperbolic comparisons of Syria with the Bosnian War. NATO member Croatia has already taken part in the weapons airlift to the Syrian rebels with enthusiasm. But what possessed the regime in Montenegro to clamor for war?

For its part, the occupied Serbia has declared it would “await guidance from Brussels” on what to think about the whole affair. Such behavior is part of the government’s program to “alter the awareness” of the general public into something more acceptable to Brussels and Washington.

After his deputy Aleksandar Vucic went on a media blitz back in August, PM Ivica Dacic followed suit with a recent op-ed in Financial Times (aimed at Western elites, not the masses, since it ended up behind a paywall). In it he waxed pathetic about his “historical” mission to change Serbia into a “normal” country – by giving up land, culture and identity in exchange for a Bright European Future. That such a “future” is most likely to resemble the present of Spain, Portugal, Greece, Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria, etc. is a thought Dacic and his regime absolutely refuse to acknowledge, much less entertain.

To them, it is a heresy, crimethink of the worst kind, to even imagine an alternative to unconditional surrender to the EU and the Empire. They’ve managed to achieve the same level of reality denial as their masters in Brussels and Washington.

A Dangerous Narrative

It is precisely this internalization of Imperial discourse – coming to love Big Brother, to borrow Orwell’s phrase – that enables Empire’s delusions about the world to continue, though. After all, how can they be delusions if someone else believes them as well?

Thus fortified, Washington warmongers are trying to shoehorn Syria into the Balkans narrative, even though in reality a Syrian war would be far more destructive and dangerous, not just to the region but to America itself.

Particularly cynical is the claim that they are doing this to “save civilians.” In 1999, NATO was fully aware that intervention would endanger the civilians in Kosovo more, yet they attacked anyway. Even activists sympathetic to the Empire now hope there won’t be a war against Syria, and don’t have fond memories on being on the receiving end of “democratic ordnance.”

One of the reasons for the (un)civil war in Syria in the first place is that the Empire has already intervened there, from the very beginning. Just like in Kosovo, however, its proxies are being soundly thrashed by the government, so an escalation to overt war is a way to save their hides, as well as Empire’s prestige.

Empire’s blundering on Syria has been compared to that of Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm on the eve of WW1. Perhaps that explains the ongoing push to rehabilitate Berlin and Vienna – while shifting the blame onto Russia and Serbia – as the centenary of the Great War approaches.

Reality is not something that can be changed with enough wishful thinking. There is no such thing as a humanitarian bomb. Those who consider themselves above the law aren’t police, but rogues. So “exceptional” is the establishment in Washington, these simple truths continue to elude them.

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.