Tuesday marked the tenth
anniversary of the bombing of the nation formerly known as Yugoslavia –
an act of aggression that prefigured America's post-9/11 rampage and set the
stage for our endless "war on terrorism" in many more ways than are
at first apparent.
To begin with, the Yugoslav war, like the Iraq invasion, was predicated on
a lie: that as many as 100,000
Kosovars and others were either killed or "ethnically cleansed"
from Kosovo, and that this was the conscious plan of the Yugoslav military and
political leadership. The 100,000 figure was casually thrown around in the run-up
to the bombing, and "Stop genocide!" was the battle-cry of the War
Party – a curious agglomeration of the usual neocons and the liberal-Left. This
Sontag popular front was greatly aided by the personal intervention of Hillary
Clinton, who hectored her husband, then the president of the United States,
into launching the U.S. attack.
Yet what took place was not genocide but the random brutality of a typical
civil war, and the 100,000 figure is very far from the truth. That number didn't
hold up for very long,
at any rate, and was subsequently revised downward several times: 50,000, 25,000,
10,000. The final body count: less than 8,000, and these included both sides,
military as well as civilians. This is not good, but it is hardly genocide.
Yet people believe the myth of the Yugoslav "genocide" to
this day, just as a great
many Americans continue to believe Saddam Hussein was responsible for the
9/11 terrorist attacks. A lie has only to be repeated often enough before it
enters the popular consciousness as "truth" – that's the first
lesson in any good war propagandist's lesson book. Surely the War Party
had a crack team of liars working overtime back then to put one over on the
American people, beaming nonstop misinformation
24/7, as U.S. warplanes bombed one of the oldest cities in Europe at 20,000
ft. – an act of cowardice that underscored the sheer venality of those who launched
the conflict. We went to war without
UN sanction at the behest of a domestic lobby with a dubious agenda, one that
ran directly counter to the national interests of the U.S. and yet was pursued,
to the end, with disastrous consequences for all concerned. Does any of this
Neocon grand strategist Bill Kristol declared, in the Weekly Standard,
that we ought to "crush Serb skulls." He threatened
to leave the "isolationist" Republican Party, which was voting
against war funding in Congress. Meanwhile, the Democrats were questioning the
patriotism of war critics and demanding that the nation stand united behind
a "wartime president." The somewhat hapless Slobodan Milosevic was
as the reincarnation of Hitler, just as Saddam Hussein was later made into this
larger-than-life despot whose evil achieved Hitlerian dimensions.
History repeats itself: the first time as tragedy, and, in this case, the second
time as an even
greater tragedy – with prospects of more to come.
In the former province of Kosovo, the ethnic cleansing that supposedly occurred
– in which Serbs turned out Albanian Kosovars – has been put in reverse
gear, and the few remaining Serbian inhabitants cling tenaciously to their
enclaves in the north, albeit in greatly reduced numbers. The Serbian population
has been almost entirely driven into Serbia proper, after a reign
of terror that included church burnings and outright murder. All of this
occurred under the noses of the NATO/American forces, who stood by and tacitly
encouraged the rape of what many Serbs regard as the birthplace of their nation.
On this shameful anniversary, it seems somehow fitting that news
is breaking of Richard Holbrooke's promise to alleged Serbian war criminal
Radovan Karadzic that he would be left alone if he withdrew from politics and
abandoned all efforts to ensure the survival of the Republika Srpska, in what
is now Bosnia. According to Charles W. Ingrao, co-editor of a new
study of the Balkan intervention published by Purdue University, a trio
of current and retired senior State Department officials have direct knowledge
of Holbrooke's pledge.
While Milosevic was ritually tried and condemned and the authors of the anti-Serbian
ethnic cleansing campaign lorded it over Kosovo, Karadzic was on the run. For
decade he disguised himself as a health expert and holistic healer, living
under a pseudonym and a bushy growth of beard, putting up his shingle in Belgrade
and Vienna as Dr. Dragan David Dabi. His arrest in Belgrade raises the issue
of the Kosovo war once again.
The tenth anniversary of the bombing was hailed by Kosovo "president"
and accused war criminal Hacim Thaci as commemorating "a
great historic day." Liberals of the Clintonian persuasion and neoconservatives
Holbrooke was recently appointed diplomatic czar and envoy extraordinaire for
front, what the Obama team has always termed the "central front" in
our eternal war on terrorism. The Purdue study and further revelations unearthed
in a Times piece
undermine his credibility at a crucial time.
It was Holbrooke, you'll recall, who played the key
role of the diplomatic arbiter during the Balkan aggression, insisting
on the complete prostration of the Serb minorities in Bosnia and Kosovo and
authoring the Dayton
Accords, in effect the death warrant of the former Yugoslavia and the beginning
of the re-balkanization of the region. Just the man for the job of sowing chaos
in the tribal regions of Pakistan and environs.
Holbrooke wisely refused to put his promise on paper, yet there is apparently
plenty of evidence that such a deal was struck – and that the capture of Karadzic
and his subsequent trial is taking place precisely because he didn't keep his
part of the deal. The Times reports
the testimony of an American involved with the peacekeeping effort in the region,
who spoke to Holbrooke on the eve of the 2000 Bosnian elections:
"'Holbrooke was angry; he was ranting,' the American recalled. He
quoted Mr. Holbrooke as saying: 'That son of a bitch Karadzic. I made a deal
with him that if he'd pull out of politics, we wouldn't go after him. He's
broken that deal and now we're going to get him.'"
Well, they got him, but they can't admit the existence of the deal, just like
they can't admit the deal made by George Herbert Walker Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev,
as the Berlin Wall was falling. Gorbachev agreed to let East Germany go on the
condition that NATO would not advance eastward – and Bush I signed
on. Today, NATO has advanced to
the gates of Moscow and American-made "missile defense" in Poland
and the Czech Republic has the Kremlin looking down a gun barrel. When it comes
to dealing with the Slavs, no agreement is taken seriously by the Americans,
and that includes the INF
treaty signed by Reagan and violated by his successors until, today, we
have a new arms race in the offing, and the prospect of a new cold war as well.
The Kosovo conflict was in many ways but a dress rehearsal for the massive
U.S. military interventions of the post-9/11 era. The Kosovo
Liberation Army (KLA) is merely the Balkan version of the Iraqi
National Congress (INC) – an American-financed-and-armed exile group that
provides intelligence of dubious provenance and a political front to lend U.S.
military action an aura of legitimacy. The chief difference is that, unlike
the KLA, the INC was never a real fighting force and never amounted to anything
When it comes to the Kosovo war, the liberal interventionists who inhabit the
foreign policy councils of the Obama administration, such as Holbrooke and Hillary,
that their version of imperialism is more pragmatic and effective – and even
tout it as a "model" for what is being planned in Afghanistan and
Pakistan. That's what this new emphasis on "multilateralism" is all
about: not a softening of the U.S. approach, but a smarter and more "pragmatic"
militarism, one that involves a long-term "nation-building" approach
that deploys political and economic weapons as well as bombing campaigns and
boots on the ground. The extension of NATO into the wilds of Central
Asia and the
Caucasus will carry this essentially anti-Russian campaign to a new level.
Kosovo, like Iraq, is riven with ethnic and religious warfare that threatens
to break out at any moment into full-scale civil war, which could bring in Serbia
and prompt action by NATO – and you can guess on which side they'll intervene.
This could well be the arena where Obama takes on Putin and gets to pose as
a tough guy even as he launches a diplomatic
blitz in the Middle East aimed at Iran.
On the Russian question, the Obama administration promises to be even more
belligerent and aggressive than the Bush administration. During the presidential
campaign, Obama came out for admitting
and Ukraine into NATO. John McCain's
exhortation, during one presidential debate, that we "watch
Ukraine" is advice well worth taking.
This is one civilizational war that all factions of the War Party can agree
on, and certainly the groundwork has been laid with all the anti-Russian stunts
and rhetoric of the past few years. From the Litvinenko
affair to the Yushchenko "poisoning,"
the propaganda war against the Kremlin has taken on a novelistic air – pulp
fiction, to be sure, and for that reason very effective.
The Kosovo war was essentially the first shot fired in a new cold war against
what is invariably described as "resurgent Russia," i.e., a Russia
without the oligarchs and Yeltsin,
who plundered and weakened the country to the point of complete collapse. Coupled
with inevitable allusions to Stalin and overblown charges that the country is
backsliding into totalitarianism, the Russophobes have been on the march for
the last decade or so, urging in effect a war of civilizations – not against
Islam, as in the neoconservative version, but a struggle pitting the West against
the Slavic East, supporting wars of "liberation" from Georgia to Chechnya
and beyond. Right now, the odds are better than even that we'll allow ourselves
to get dragged into yet another such righteous and harebrained crusade.