February 13, 2003

Excuses and Justifications
Lies, False Gods, and the Health of the State

Being the most destructive endeavor humanity has ever practiced, it is difficult to comprehend why wars seem like such a common phenomenon. That is, unless one realizes that the very root of the civic religion permeating the modern world is in human gullibility, and through it the vulnerability to the sort of mass hysteria war propaganda was designed to produce. Democracy has meant more than just abdication of property rights; it has also brought about the abdication of reason and responsibility.

Dragging any people into war is not an easy task. It is sometimes less difficult if the enemy is willing to fight, as FDR realized to his delight in 1941. But what does one do if the chosen enemy is trying to avoid war? A modern democratic despot needs not fear: there are always excuses and justifications.

Faking History

Though the terms are often used interchangeably, the purpose of excuses is to invest a pending action with a semblance of legitimacy, while justifications are usually conjured after the fact.

For example, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution of 1964 was an excuse. Lyndon B. Johnson invented an incident in the Gulf of Tonkin to get congressional approval for intervention in Vietnam. Though that particular adventure ended in disaster, no one bothered to explain the Resolution's role in it to a great many Americans, who still believe the structure of lies built on it to justify a decade of bloodshed in Southeast Asia.

Even if they are later proven false, excuses accomplish their purpose if they actually manage to help a country slide into war. Once the shooting starts, questions tend to stop – which is why governments love war. As Randolph Bourne put it, "War is the health of the State." This is also when excuses can give way to justifications, which are even more dangerous.

Re-faking History

Justifications are easier to identify and refute, though usually not in time to avert the damage based on their acceptance. Two of the most infamous such misconceptions are that the American Civil War was fought to abolish slavery, and that World War Two was about stopping Hitler's genocide against the Jews. The former dates to the War Between the States itself, and Lincoln's misleading Emancipation Proclamation. The latter has been concocted relatively recently, both as a justification of World War Two for the ignorant masses, and as an excuse for the sinister doctrine of 'humanitarian intervention'. This is, incidentally, why every designated enemy of the Empire is declared to be Hitler Incarnate.

The ongoing Balkans crisis is not the exception to these phenomena, but rather a not-so-shining example of their practice. One could start with Kosovo, 1999. While the Rambouillet ultimatum was used as an excuse to being the bombing, justifications for it changed several times during the 78-day campaign. At first, the bombs were supposed to force the acceptance of Rambouillet, then to stop the 'humanitarian catastrophe,' then to stop the made-up 'genocide', then to 'return the refugees home.' The war crimes accusations leveled against Milosevic and top Yugoslav officials were in service of justifying the attack as well. Almost four years later, it is not uncommon to hear that the purpose of NATO's attack was to 'liberate' Kosovo. Well, if they meant to 'liberate' it from its original inhabitants, cultural and religious heritage and all semblance of civilization, then NATO can chalk up a formidable success…

But who is now even mentioning Rambouillet, the KLA's terrorist nature (or even the KLA itself, for that matter)? The occupation of this Serbian province is treated as a perfectly normal, acceptable and even desirable state of affairs – even by those who purport to challenge it.

A Cover for Treason

Zoran Djindjic's recent, well-publicized campaign to open the discussion about the final status of Kosovo definitely falls into the realm of both excuses and justifications. What he claims are efforts to stop the province's "slide into independence" are really exercises in electoral posturing and attempts to secure a partition of the province, if one is to believe pro-Albanian sources close to the Empire. There is no trace of a principled stand here, no indication that anyone in Belgrade is willing to remind the occupiers that despite NATO's power and UN's resolutions justifying the present situation, Kosovo remains an illegally occupied territory. But by accepting the legitimacy of the occupation, Belgrade has effectively already given up Kosovo.

Something few seem to have noticed is that by pretending to champion Serb interests in Kosovo, Djindjic is both justifying his previous treachery, and crafting excuses for more to come. After all, the Empire and the Hague Inquisition need more Serb heads for their process of justification.


It doesn't really matter that Djindjic is not actually intent on waging war in order to increase his power. If is the power itself that matters, and if Djindjic can get more by sacrificing his people, he will. Other Balkans leaders have done much the same: Croatia's Tudjman, Bosnia's Izetbegovic, the KLA, the surrendering Macedonian regime, and on several occasions, Slobodan Milosevic. Countless people they claimed the right to lead suffered greatly, and for what? Without war, it would have been impossible for Croatia to become Serbenfrei as it is today. Without Izetbegovic sacrificing thousands of his compatriots, his ideas would have never had as much influence among the Bosnian Muslims. Without a campaign of terror, a mass exodus and a NATO aggression, the KLA would have never gained dominion over Kosovo. Without supporting war and then surrendering, Milosevic would have never stayed in power for nearly 13 years.

Being weak and constrained by geography, all of them had to sacrifice their own people. In contrast, the Empire's power gives it the luxury to sacrifice others. Hence the campaign to invade and occupy Iraq, half the world away. But both the Emperor and his Balkan vassals belong to the same brotherhood of politicians, the disciples of polemikophilia – a love of War. And if the health of the state is really the woe of its subjects, well, why would they care? The notion that they should only occurs to the deluded worshippers of Democracy.

False Gods

As yet another orgy of polemikophiles approaches, excuses and justifications are popping up daily, and are almost as soon unmasked as lies. Yet in its arrogance and supreme self-righteousness, the Emperor would rather sacrifice the lives of millions than admit the possibility of being wrong. Gods do not err.

Gods, and false at that – for the false religion of democracy enthrones flawed individuals into positions of near-absolute power every couple of years, and crowns them with a perception of God-like infallibility. Only when those 'gods' are cast down are their misdeeds exposed; but they are replaced by others, and the process continues.

Just as the rulers need excuses and justifications to perpetuate their reprehensible behavior, their subjects buy into these rationalizations to avoid facing the harsh fact that they've abdicated their responsibilities as human beings. For without their worshippers, the polemikophiles would be powerless.

And wouldn't that be something to celebrate?

– Nebojsa Malic

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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. His exclusive column for Antiwar.com appears every Thursday.


Archived Columns

Excuses and Justifications

Yugoslavia's End

Balkanizing the World

A Chauvinistic Farce

The 12 Months of Christmas

More Dirty Lies

Democratic Destruction

Forged Memories

Making the Balkans Connection

Remembering the Obvious

Empire's Playground

Casus Belli

Forward to The Past

The Unbearable Futility of Voting

A Global Balkans

Triumph of the Will

The Day Nothing Changed

Illusions of Truth and Justice

More archived columns by Nebojsa Malic

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