March 7, 2002

Bitter Balkans Ironies
Can things get any worse? Yup.

If there ever was just one sentence that could perfectly describe the Balkans in all its intricacy, this would be it: Just as one thinks that things could not possibly get any worse, they do. As said before here, the veins of irony and misery seem to run deep and bitter throughout the beleaguered peninsula. So pervasive is their presence that despair seems the order of the day every day, and laws of logic apply only to those labeled insane. See for yourselves.

The British Are Coming!

Bosnia-Herzegovina is getting a new viceroy in May. According to the BBC, the new Lord Protector will be former Liberal Democrat, Paddy Ashdown. Having been ruled by a Swede, a Spaniard and an Austrian (again), Bosnia will finally experience the joys of British rule. Yet given Albion's record of administering foreign lands, one might forgive the people of Bosnia for being less than enthusiastic.

Cyprus; India; Iraq; Ireland; Israel ("Palestine mandate"); Kuwait; Nigeria; Pakistan; South Africa; all of these territories were governed by the British during their Great Imperial Experiment – which the current Empire so eagerly wishes to replicate. In all instances, between arbitrary borders and ethnic/religious favoritism, these areas went from bad to worse and have never recovered. Where the British actually settled, such as in North America, Australia, and New Zealand, the native population was simply exterminated to the point where they could no longer make trouble. Something close to a billion people in this world have good reasons to rue the day the British Empire came to town. Will Bosnia now join the list?

Putting The "Vice" In "Viceroy"

In all fairness, Ashdown should not be judged solely by his ethnic identity. That's what the Empire does. So let him be judged by his accomplishments.

He got involved in the Bosnian war very early, as one of the first European politicos who saw posturing in the Balkans as a means of scoring political points at home. After some initial statements that clashed with the "party line" of the world press at the time, Ashdown, being a good politician, adjusted his tune. By 1998, he was testifying of the "international nature" of Bosnia's civil war at the Hague Inquisition, and  was an active cheerleader of the "humanitarian intervention" in Kosovo, as Tony Blair's special envoy.

This is really the first time that this position is filled by someone with such unabashedly prejudiced positions on the Bosnian situation and the Balkans crisis in general. With the near-absolute power in the job description, politicians and bureaucrats around the Empire should be fighting tooth and nail over becoming the overlord of Bosnia. So why Ashdown? Were there no other takers – highly unlikely! – or was he chosen deliberately, because of his prejudice?

For six years, Bosnia has had to put up with foreign overlords who redefined the letter of the Dayton Peace Agreement any which way they wanted, ruling by decree, dismissing elected officials and dictating laws to the legislature. Bosnia's Constitution was reinterpreted ad absurdum to mean something it could not conceivably mean, or simply ignored, all for the purpose of creating a central state. Ashdown has already announced that his goal would be helping Bosnia "achieve full statehood in Europe." Never mind that in the current EU statehood means very little, Bosnia's actual "statehood" would mean an end to Ashdown's job. And which political office has ever abolished itself?

Operation Embarrassing Truth

Last Saturday, a Macedonian police patrol fought and killed seven gunmen. Five were identified as Pakistani citizens, armed with automatic weapons and in possession of UCK insignia. According to the Macedonian police, these were some of the mujahedin who fought alongside the UCK (NLA) last year, and were now planning to attack Western targets inside Macedonia. The mujahedin also fought alongside the UCK (KLA) in Kosovo, with NATO's help. According to the head of Albania's intelligence service, Osama Bin Laden was in Albania just a few years ago, before he became "The Evil One."

The event was grudgingly acknowledged in Empire's European reaches, though some cast doubts on its veracity. Certainly, the more interesting topic was the squabble between NATO and the EU over who would get to take charge of occupying Macedonia.  On this side of the Atlantic, the news was more interesting from the perspective of potentially embarrassing the close friendship between the US and the militant Albanians in the region.

Either way, the Macedonians cannot seem to get an even break. So what if they were right all along? Being the Empire means never having to say you're sorry. Given the previous Balkans experiences with admitting the obvious long after it could do any good, things in Macedonia are likely to stay the same – and more's the pity.

Heroes, NY Times-Style

Given the Al-Qaeda link to the Albanian militants in Macedonia, allegations end evidence of their involvement with the UCK in Kosovo – a much bigger operation – seem a lot more serious now. What a bitter irony for all, but especially "Taliban John" Walker Lindh, if he had a chance to read the March 4 New York Times. Consider this: he went to Pakistan, joined the Taliban there, got caught last year, and now awaits trial for treason. Yet 400 other American citizens established an entire brigade of the KLA almost four years ago and went to fight in Kosovo, unhindered.

Three of them, the Butyqi brothers, were buried in New York this past weekend, with full honor guard of uniformed KLA (which was supposedly "disbanded" in July 1999!). The New York Times celebrated them as freedom-fighting heroes, who bravely fell for truth, justice and the American Way (as Senator Lieberman put it). Representative Engel (D-NY) came to their funeral. Their caskets were escorted by none other than William Walker, the famously "neutral" originator of the "Racak massacre" hoax. The Official Paper of Record even had them compared to the Sullivan brothers of World War Two.

Both the Butyqis and Walker Lindh were US citizens, fighting for foreign militias that were recognized as terrorist and engaged in documented atrocities. Yet Taliban John is now in jail, and the Butyqis get a heroes' funeral. Why? Because the KLA was – and still is – a US ally, and thus by definition good, virtuous and immune to charges of terrorism, no matter what it does, or what it really fights for.

Yes, so just and noble was the Butyqi brothers' cause, they were killed while (allegedly) helping three Roma men escape the "freedom" they – with a little help of NATO bombs – helped achieve. Does irony simply have to be so cruel?

A Forgotten Discovery

After fourteen days of proceedings against Slobodan Milosevic, the Hague Inquisition has only managed to prove its penchant for embarrassing incompetence. Not used to having its power challenged, having previously dealt with meek defendants willing to cut deals or blame others, it has faced shockingly strong and competent resistance from Milosevic. Most of its witnesses have been revealed as either ignorant, perjurers, or both. This most likely necessitated the use of "protected" witnesses last Friday, in closed proceedings. Since no transcripts were made available, no one knows who these people were, what they spoke of, and whether their claims could be verified in cross-examination – assuming one was allowed.

The press was more interested in reporting on the agony of those Serbs who eagerly supported the Inquisition, or spinning last week's testimony of one Halit Barani, a "human rights activist" who supposedly parried with Milosevic. Had they known who Barani was, they might have thought twice.

On New Year's Eve 1999, some 6 months after NATO's occupation of Kosovo, the Wall Street Journal carried a report debunking many lies about the alleged Serb "genocide" of Kosovo Albanians. Many claims were exposed as fraudulent in the article, among them the notorious lie about thousands of Albanian bodies thrown into the shafts of Trepca mines. The purveyor of this claim was one Halit Barani, a "human rights" activist who worked mostly with the help and resources of the KLA.

The article was written by Robert Block and Daniel Pearl.

The very same Daniel Pearl who was killed last month by Muslim militants somewhere in Pakistan.

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 appears every Thursday.


Archived Columns

Bitter Balkans Ironies

Of Hubris, Heretics, and Hermits

Masters of Mendacity

The Trial

Exercises In Wishful Thinking

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

Déja Vu

The Crucible

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