January 24, 2002

Ten Years in the Twilight Zone
A Brief Overview of a Morbid Experiment

When the French king and the Holy Roman Emperor signed a peace treaty in Munster, Westphalia, on October 24, 1648, they were hardly aware that by ending Europe's worst war to date they had also established the foundations of the modern system of international relations. The Treaty of Westphalia introduced and enshrined the principle of territorial sovereignty, without which modern nation-states would have been impossible.

Three and a half centuries later, their heirs – aspiring to lord over the creation of a new European superstate – chose to casually reject this legacy. On January 15, 1991, the European Union formally recognized the declarations of secession by two of Yugoslavia's federal republics, Slovenia and Croatia, declaring Yugoslavia no longer existed.

At best, this was a heavily assisted suicide of an already dying country; at worst, an act of incalculable malice. Whatever it was, it plunged the people of Yugoslavia into the abyss they've been in ever since.


Between the outbreak of the Wars of Yugoslav Succession1 and the end (?) of Macedonia's Apartheid Rebellion, both the Balkans and the world changed beyond recognition. The "hour of Europe," heralded by Yugoslavia's enthusiastic executioners, was more like the proverbial fifteen minutes. Having shrugged off the unpleasant distractions of Somalia and Haiti, the United States rolled into the Balkans in full force, leveling anything in its path and rewriting history as it went along. With massive amounts of propaganda supplementing brute force, the United States used the Balkans to assert its position as the world's "indispensable nation," the global Empire incarnate.

The Empire's scions claim to have brought "peace" to the Balkans, along with "democracy" and "human rights." All they really brought were subjugation, kleptocracy2 and conquerors' privileges: sex slavery, drug-running and widespread organized crime in general. None of the problems between Yugoslav peoples has been resolved – with the possible exception of Croatian and Albanian distaste for Serbs, largely cured by mass expulsions and, equally, mass murder.


Last November, Bosnia entered its sixth year of existence as the Empire's protectorate divided, impoverished and despairing. To make matters worse, the Empire's erstwhile Arab and Afghan allies, who also helped out during the war in Bosnia, had just committed mass murder in New York and Washington. Soon thereafter, five Algerians and a Yemeni – who stayed in Bosnia and were even granted citizenship by a grateful Muslim regime – had been arrested at US urging, based on the CIA's claims they were connected to Al-Qaeda.

The men had violent criminal records in Bosnia, but no hard evidence linked them to terrorism. So the six were released last week – into the custody of the US military. At US urging, they were stripped of their citizenship, then shipped to the luxury cages in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, while their families and supporters rioted outside the Sarajevo city jail.

A loyal vassal of the Empire for years, the Muslim regime in Sarajevo thus found itself in dire straits. The current government is still mostly Muslim, though it includes many of Bosnia's Croat and Serb Christians. Both facts prevent it from dealing with the issue of its predecessor's dalliances with militant Islam in a forceful manner. On one hand, Bosnian Muslims still depend on support and aid of many Middle Eastern charities. On the other hand, many of those charities are suspected fronts for organizations the US labels "terrorist" – and the US does not tolerate any debate on this particular subject right now.

If they crack down on the fundamentalists, the Muslim authorities risk the full wrath of the "holy warriors," with Bosnia's Christians the first likely target. But if they do nothing, the fundamentalist influence will grow and Bosnia might find itself on the US blacklist as "collateral damage" in the War on Terrorism.


The Empire's "help" is also felt in Serbia these days. The future of its union with Montenegro is so obfuscated by Imperial meddling, many people are increasingly willing to settle for any solution, to the benefit of various politicians with illegitimate aspirations.

As if that were not tragic enough, Serbia's 18-headed hydra of a government is busy not only plundering its citizens through the destruction of banks, but also destroying the state from the inside. The Serbian Parliament is likely to approve the "omnibus" law proposed by several power-hungry separatist parties in the ruling coalition, giving the northern province of Vojvodina its Communist-era "autonomy."

In practice, this would mean creating a separate state within Serbia – a crazy idea if there ever was one. The repressive statism of Zoran Djindjic would be replaced by the even more repressive statism of Nenad Canak and other self-proclaimed "Vojvodina leaders," in comparison with whom Djindjic appears downright saintly. President Kostunica's party, far from opposing this madness, is actually advocating a proposal to divvy up Serbia into five sub-states – six, counting the occupied Kosovo.


Djindjic himself is staying out of the division debate, content that he would end up ruling all the fiefdoms anyway. He is also very busy setting up his own national security council, which would take control in a "crisis situation." Given Djindjic's political and academic credentials in the field of power-grabbing through provoking crises, this should be a red flag for every Serbian patriot – well, that, and his choice of ambassador in Washington.

Namely, Djindjic's allies in the government approved the choice of Stojan Cerovic for Yugoslavia's second Ambassador to the Empire, after the first – Milan St. Protic – was recalled late last year. Cerovic has no diplomatic credentials, but he does have a history of maligning the Serbs to his employers in the US Institute of Peace and elsewhere. This has been enough to force many American Serbs to bitterly  denounce Djindjic and his private diplomacy, but few voices of opposition were heard in Serbia itself, as usual.


These are but the most egregious examples of distilled evil that has festered in the darkness of the Balkans under Imperial rule, and the list is far from complete – nor is there enough space here for it to be. But this brief overview would be sadly lacking without the news that the new governor of occupied Kosovo is none other than German diplomat Michael Steiner. Formerly a deputy governor of Bosnia, Steiner advised the German Chancellor for a while, before resigning in a scandal involving several German officers, an airplane at the Moscow airport and caviar that apparently wasn't there.

Word is that Steiner has quite a taste for caviar, and that he is not known for diplomacy or tact. So while Kosovo is awash in murders, theft, slavery and extremely distasteful politics – not to mention the whole bit about it being occupied territory of a nominally sovereign state – at least its occupiers and their subjects will now be treated to some sharp German wit and lots of caviar.

As a historical footnote, Steiner's appointment means that for the first time since World War One, Bosnia and a part of Serbia will be ruled by an Austrian and a German, respectively.


Certainly, the demagogues that came to lead the successor states of former Yugoslavia bear a great deal of culpability for the present sad state of affairs in the once-promising region. Their involvement with outside powers, however, and those powers' incessant meddling in the Yugoslav crises, has exacerbated these consequences exponentially.

The recognition of Slovenia and Croatia created a precedent for future "diplomatic aggression," destruction of countries by recognition of their seceding parts. Political pressure in Macedonia, proxy warfare in Croatia, outright force and occupation in Bosnia and Kosovo were all meant as precedents for other parts of the world – their authors admitted as much, publicly.

Principles, logic, tradition, law and just about everything else that even remotely resembles sanity and civilization were tossed aside for the sake of a grand experiment in statist imperialism. How well that has worked one can see from the examples above. Having performed the most gruesome procedures on human beings declared lab rats, the Empire turned its morbid curiosity to other places. The experiment continues, with less haste than before. The Balkans lab rats are still alive, though horribly mangled by the experience, and still inhabit their despoiled cages hoping for a better tomorrow or a release from the nightmare of their existence.

It sounds like a chilling script for a Twilight Zone episode. Only it's all too real.



[1] Since no one contested the constitutional right of Yugoslav republics to secession, but rather their stubborn insistence on international recognition of arbitrary Communist borders, the 1991-95 wars were fought over the division of territory – i.e. succession of Yugoslavia's property. The subsequent conflicts in southern Serbia (Kosovo, Presevo) and Macedonia were wars of Albanian separatism, and thus completely unrelated to the Succession Wars.

[2] By strict definition, any government is a "kleptocracy" – i.e. it rules by stealing the property of its citizens (through "taxes"). Therefore, statist writers commonly misuse the term to describe corrupt regimes. A kleptocracy is not corrupt, it is simply a state entirely devoted to plunder.

Text-only printable version of this article

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, and contributed to the Independent. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia and Serbian politics, many of which have been published by the Serbian Unity Congress. His exclusive column for Antiwar.com appears every Thursday.


Archived Columns

Ten Years in the Twilight Zone

Wastelands of Imperial Reality

Off to a Bad Start

Operation Enduring Stupidity

Balkans Christmas – All Year 'Round

A Trojan Horse in Belgrade

Where the Shadows Lie

Republic Day

Surrender in Kosovo

A False Choice for Kosovo

Death by Protectorate

Perverted Justice

The Meanings of Madness

Arrogance of Power

Reflections on Revolution

War Without End

Battle in the Balkans

Intersections of Fate

Macedonia's Tragedy Masquerading as Farce

A Day to Remember

The Serbian Standoff

Macedonia's Futile Surrender

Murdering Macedonia

Rambouillet Repeated?

Empire's Willing Servants

Kostunica's Choice

Betrayal in Belgrade

The Empire Shows Its Hand

The Return of Kings

Meditations On The Edge Of The Abyss


Terms of Betrayal

Presevo – A False Victory

The Balkans: Land of Delusions

Enemies at the Gates

ICG's Blueprint for Destruction

Kosovo: Between Death and Taxes

Madness in the Mountains: Montenegro's Looming Secession

A House Divided


Empire at the Gates

Macedonian Maelstrom

Pax Americana

The Fourth Balkan War

Mayhem in Macedonia

Surreal Realm

Santayana's Curse

The Croatian Conundrum

March of the Black Eagle

Showdown in Belgrade

Out of the Shadows

With a Grain of Salt

Crusade's End

The Worst of Times

Moments of Transition

Dιja Vu

The Crucible

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