January 12, 2001

Our War Criminals, and Theirs

I hate to disappoint my Republican readers who fell for Condolezza Rice's jive talk about the US getting out of the Balkans, but you've been had. Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan), fresh from Dubya's meeting with congressional leaders on defense issues, said the President-elect was a bit more cautious about the prospect of pulling out than during the campaign. "I think he recognized the complexity of a number of issues,'' said Levin. "I think he is less committed to very specific major shifts in policy than he might have sounded during the campaign, a little more cautious." The much-vaunted "review" of the Balkan deployment, and other "peacekeeping" adventures around the world was "more of a stated goal rather than a statement of unilateral intent" – in other words, it'll never happen. While it would be in bad taste to say "I told you so," I've never let that stop me in the past, so why start now? Maybe you didn't catch my column posted the day before the election that warned double-talkin' Dubya would go back on his word. If not, go back and check it out, while I just sit here and gloat.


So what's up with Biljana Plavsic, the once highly-touted "moderate" Bosnian Serb leader, hailed by William Shawcross in the pages of the Washington Post for her "brave demarche," and endorsed by none other than Madeleine Albright – why did she turn herself into The Hague to face charges of war crimes? You remember Biljana, the Serbs' "Iron Lady" who, alone among her nationalist compadres, accepted the Dayton Accord and won the fulsome support of secretary of state Madeleine Albright. The US pumped millions into Plavsic's political campaign, and, two weeks before the Bosnian Serb election, Albright paid a visit to Banja Luka, the Bosnian Serb capital, where the two of them toured an electrical substation. As the PBS News Hour reported [September 25, 1998]:

"The power plant had been rebuilt with U.S. aid money – part of millions of dollars in reconstruction aid funneled to the moderate Plavsic leadership by the West. The message, Albright said, was that 'Dayton pays.' But the hard-liner elected instead – the former paramilitary leader Poplasen – had openly campaigned against Dayton's goal of an undivided, multi-ethnic Bosnia."


Dayton pays, all right – you get airfare to The Hague and a nice warm cell. How quickly friends turn into enemies in the Balkans: one day the American secretary of state is practically pleading with the Bosnian Serbs to elect Biljana Plavsic their president, and openly promising cold hard cash in return for their votes, and the next thing you know she's being indicted, hunted down, and paraded in a show trial as the epitome of human evil. Why, it seems like only yesterday when Senator Joe Biden showed up in Banja Luka to encourage Plavsic to stick with it. In a meeting with Plavsic, Biden said he came there in order to give full support to "Mrs. Plavsic's persistence in the implementation of the Dayton agreement."


This bizarre turnabout began last summer, when it became clear that Plavsic, once touted as a "moderate" worthy of Western support, had been secretly indicted by the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The suspicion arose when, according to reports in the local media, four to six armed men in uniform tried to get into the Banja Luka apartment building where Plavsic resides. Having arrived on the scene in either "green vehicles" or "a jeep with dark windows and diplomatic license plates," the men told Bosnian Serb police on guard that they were there to "visit a friend." With "friends" like that, Plavsic doesn't need any enemies. A few weeks prior to this incident, the Grand Inquisitor of the ICTY, Carla del Ponte, had announced that it was time to come up with more "creative" ways of dealing with alleged war criminals who were out of the Tribunal's reach.


Thus was born "Operation Tango," launched by British special services, in which Serbs under secret indictment in The Hague were kidnapped and bundled off to the nearest NATO base. Dragan Nikolic and Stevan Todorovic, among others, were seized by gangs of paid thugs, reportedly Serbian ex-paramilitaries. The price for Nikolic was 30,000 Deutschmarks, according to the Central Europe Review, while Todorovic went for 20,000. Before the last tango in Banja Luka, Plavsic voluntarily turned herself in, personally shepherded to the airport by the American ambassador. All very suspicious, especially given Plavsic's history as a US sock puppet.


You have to remember that the US went all out to elect Plavsic president of the Republika Srpska, the Bosnian Serb component of the UN's Bosnian protectorate – and that US officials were stunned when, in spite of all their machinations, Plavsic was trounced. The response from our champions of "democracy" and "pluralism"? Western officials in occupied Bosnia at first delayed announcing the election results for two solid weeks, claiming "technical reasons" for the long wait, and then promptly disqualified a good deal of the opposition after they had won election to the regional assembly. As Newsweek put it, "Western officials in Bosnia are now in the process of destroying democracy in order to save it." While the magazine assured us that "Western officials had the best of motives," they noted with baffled dismay that

"The zeal of the international community seems only to have provoked an extremist backlash. The Serb part of Bosnia voted out a moderate, President Biljana Plavsic, even after US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright vowed that jobs and development money would dry up if Plavsic lost. Instead, the Bosnian Serbs elected Nikola Poplasen, who is considered even more radically nationalist than [Radovan} Karadzic."


The candidates' speech was stringently regulated – virtually the whole of the opposition's nationalist platform was deemed inadmissible "hate speech" – and millions were poured into Plavsic's campaign coffers. Naturally, the Bosnian Serbs turned out in record numbers to vote for the nationalist parties, as would any people with the least amount of backbone. One can only hope that Americans would react similarly in the same circumstances – or is that too much to hope for these days?


The indictment of Plavsic ought to be a lesson to Serb collaborators: Zoran Djindic, please take note. Apparently the NATO-crats decided that, with the prospect of a US withdrawal from the Balkans staring them in the face, it was time to ratchet up the "war crimes" propaganda – and Plavsic, unlike Dr. Karadzic or General Mladic, was available. The indictment and trial of Plavsic will serve as a backdrop for the coming debate on the US role in the Balkans, retrospectively justifying the NATO intervention and implicitly making the argument that yet more intervention is required. It will also set up the trials of Karadzic and Mladic, once the Tribunal gets its hands on them. This docudrama and morality play, seemingly modeled after the Moscow Trials of the 1930s, will all lead up to the big production number: the trial of Slobodan Milosevic, whose fate is the subject of ongoing negotiations between the NATO-crats and the government of President Vojislav Kostunica.


That a leading US client is being held up as the ICTY's prime example, so far, of a Serbian war criminal is a development that the US government can only look on with chagrin. This indictment is directed, first of all, against the US: it is the European response to the incoming administration's professed desire to steer clear of Balkan shoals. It is a direct shot across the bow, and how George W. Bush reacts to this challenge will set the tone for our policy in the region for the next four years. That decision may have already been made, as Senator Levin makes all too clear, in which case the blackmailing of the US is sure to continue into the indefinite future. For what is bound to come out at the trial, aside from the usual propaganda about how the Serbs are the modern-day equivalent of the Nazis, is the role of the US in supporting Plavsic after the Bosnian civil war had somewhat subsided. Did Madeleine Albright endorse a war criminal?


Well, why not? Albright is, after all, herself a war criminal. Wasn't it Madame Albright, the Madame duFarge of the New World Order, who engaged in the following badinage with Leslie Stahl of CBS on Sixty Minutes [May 12, 1996]?:

Lesley Stahl: "Speaking of US sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And – and you know, is the price worth it?"

Madeleine Albright: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price – we think the price is worth it."


Not even the Nazis at Nuremberg tried to justify their crimes in this brazen a manner: for the most part they either claimed not to have known, or asserted that they were only following orders: although I could be wrong on this, I can't recall the name of a single Nazi official who claimed that the Holocaust was "worth it." But what in the name of God could possibly be worth 600,000 lives, most of them children and the elderly – what "policy objective" could justify their deaths, and by what standard? By the standards of moral monsters like the outgoing US secretary of state, it is worth it – because, to her and her ilk, individual lives are nothing, and power – American power – is all. This is what it really means to be a war criminal.


If Bush and his advisors think they can forge an artificial "unity" around war hysteria and the demonization of the Iraqis, they are bound to run into the same opposition that Albright & Company ran into in Ohio, in 1998, when the Clintonians were threatening Iraq with military force in a desperate effort to distract the public from the President's satyriasis. At that famous "town hall meeting" televised by CNN, Albright and her minions were confronted with outright hostility from outraged Americans who wanted to know why we were sending "messages" to Saddam with the "blood of the Iraqi people," as one questioner put it. "How," he wanted to know of Albright, "can you sleep at night?"


Mad Madeleine was ready for him, however, and came right back with a declaration of US foreign policy that defines the basic assumption of Republican as well as Democratic policymakers:

"What we are doing is so that you all can sleep at night. I am very proud of what we are doing. We are the greatest nation in the world and what we are doing is being the indispensable nation, willing to make the world safe for our children and grandchildren, and for nations who follow the rules."


This theory – or, rather, conceit – of American indispensability underlies the most basic tenets of US foreign policy, whether carried out by Democrats or Republicans. We let you sleep at night secure in the knowledge that America makes the rules – and disobedience is not an option. Our children and grandchildren, the children of the West, will be safe – but it's open season on the rest of humanity, i.e., the Iraqis, the Serbs, perhaps the Russians, and almost certainly the Colombians. Their children are doomed to starve from the effects of murderous sanctions, or die of poisoning from "depleted" uranium or defoliation sprays used in the "war on drugs." Them's "the rules" – and the policymakers of both parties fully intend to enforce them.


I am pleased to announce the addition of a new columnist to the Antiwar.com stable: Chad Nagle, whose work has appeared in these pages before: he is a professional writer and lawyer licensed in the District of Columbia, and has been published in the Wall Street Journal Europe, the Washington Times, and several other periodicals. Mr. Nagle traveled extensively throughout the ex-USSR from 1992-97 as a research consultant. Since mid-1999, he has traveled widely in the former Communist bloc on behalf of the British Helsinki Human Rights Group. His first column is a first-person account of his recent trip to the former Yugoslavia, and it is fascinating. By all means, check out Chad.

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"Behind the Headlines" appears Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with special editions as events warrant.


Past Columns

Our War Criminals, and Theirs

The American Dracula

NATO's Poisoned Arrow

The New Bolivar: Hugo Chavez and the Rise of Pan-American Nationalism

No to the International Kangaroo Court

Know Thy Enemy

The Canonization of Colin Powell

Big Government Invades the Internet

The New Cold War: Who's Afraid of Vladimir Putin?

The Case for Pessimism

The Gore Coup: No Justice, No Peace – No Exit

Bush or Gore: Pick Your War

Gore, Bush, and the Imperial Style

Neo-Nazis and Neocons: An Unholy Alliance

Al Gore – The O.J. Simpson of American Politics

Coup d'Etat 2000 and the Madness of Al Gore

Slobo and Gore: Peas in a Pod

Gore Coup Radicalizes Republicans

The Dimple That Shook the World

Listen Soldier, You Can Stop the Gore Coup

Two Ways to Steal an Election

In Occupied America: Rage Against "The Regime"

Al Gore's Beer Hall Putsch

A Message to My Readers

The Real Victors: Nader & Buchanan

Buchanan's "Hail Mary" Pass May Work

Doubletalkin' Dubya: Bush Backtracks on Kosovo

The Nader Moment

The Smearing of Ralph Nader

Nader Sells Out

America's Fifth Column

Bush, the Balkans, and the Bipartisan "Division of Labor"

Hilary, the War Goddess

Vidal's Valediction: The Golden Age

Norman's Narcissim: Podhoretz in Love

The Middle East: War Without End

Classic Raimondo: Isolationism for Beginners

Notes on the Serbian Revolution and Other Matters

Revolt of the Little Guys

The Clinton-
Gore-Milosevic Connection

Szamuely's Folly: Sympathy for the Devil

Slobo's Gambit: Will It Work?

Adventures in Cyber-Politics, Revisited

Curtains for Milosevic

Dubya's Kosovo Deception

The Return of Pat Buchanan


The Vindication of Wen Ho Lee

Against the EU: Danes Resist Assimilation

UN Millennium Summit: Globalist Dream is Your Worst Nightmare

Iraq and the US – Our Fantasy Island Foreign Policy

Classic Raimondo: Allied Vultures Pick at Iraq's Bones

Colombia – The Deja Vu War

Passage to Cartagena: An Inauspicious Visit

Invasion of the Party-Snatchers

Blowback: Read This Book!

Bush on Kosovo – Turning on a Dime

The Kosovo Fraud: Will They Ever Admit It?

The Outing of Ralph Nader, and Other Atrocities

Why Kosovo? Follow the Money!

Additional Justin Raimondo Archives

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against US Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (forthcoming from Prometheus Books).


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