July 4, 2002

Bosnia As Chump Change

It may have slipped in under the radar by now that the United States vetoed an extension of the UN mission in Bosnia this weekend, since the UN could not be blackmailed into granting US troops immunity from the new International Criminal Court. Since the Security Council refused to compromise, and the threat of veto has already been publicized, there was little else the Empire could do.

Retreat? We Just Got Here!

Contrary to some speculation, this was not a setback for the Imperial occupation of Bosnia. If only! No, the UN mission Empire's legate vetoed involved 46 American police instructors, mainly concerned with training the local constabulary to put the "force" in "law enforcement." Since Bosnia's police specialize in shaking down drivers on the country's poor excuse for roads while ignoring an explosion of organized crime that has taken control of society, one could say the mission's abrupt ending would not be a major loss – despite the panicking pleas of Bosnian authorities to the contrary.

Even that judgment could be premature, though, as the mission was provisionally extended for three more days to give the rest of the world a final chance to bow to Empire's wishes.

Above the Law

Why such a fuss over a handful of peacekeepers? Actually, less: according to Tuesday's Washington Post, there are 677 police officers, 34 military observers and exactly one peacekeeper serving in 15 UN missions. So the veto has nothing to do with the US peacekeepers, or Bosnia. It was simply the first mission up for renewal, and the first to fall prey to blackmail from Washington. The Empire is really after no less than a recognition that it is above international law.

When he vetoed the extension, US Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte said it clearly:

"We will not ask them [US personnel] to accept the additional risk of politicized prosecutions before a court whose jurisdiction over our people the government of the United States does not accept… With our global responsibilities, we are and will remain a special target, and cannot have our decisions second-guessed by a court whose jurisdiction we do not recognize." (Reuters, June 30)

The sheer temerity of this, coming from the very people who just about pulverized a country into submitting to just such a court just three years ago, is almost unfathomable. Almost, because it has long been obvious that leaders of the American Empire reject all laws and even common logic.

What one does is not important. What matters is who one is: a world Empire, obviously, has "global responsibilities" and "cannot have its decisions second-guessed." If you're anyone else… tough luck. Take your place in line for ICC, ICTY, NATO bombing, UN occupation, etc. Backed by American bombs, human rights reign supreme and sovereignty is the thing of the past. Did you not receive the memo? Or should NATO bomb Belgrade again?

In Arrogant Honesty

This doctrine comes from the very top of Imperial establishment. A few years back, Robert Kagan, a notorious neo-conservative ideologue at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, co-wrote with William Kristol a foreign policy doctrine based on "benevolent global hegemony" of the United States. Kagan may not be the father of American Empire – unfortunately, there are many who could claim the dubious distinction – but he is certainly one of its foremost advocates. This past weekend he addressed his flock, appropriately, from the Washington Post's editorial page. The unfiltered arrogance of power that simply oozes from Kagan's text is responsible for its shocking honesty.

"American officials fear some independent-minded prosecutor, answerable to no one, might someday bring charges against an American for war crimes," he explained, citing the bombing of "Slobodan Milosevic's Serbia." This may sound right and reasonable, until it becomes obvious that Kagan believes the very notion that Americans might commit war crimes to be beyond comprehension, and the terror-bombing of Serbia to be the epitome of justice.

What, Me Crazy?

He proceeds to ridicule the Europeans and other "less influential and less worthy nations," (my emphasis) for trying to create a world "where rules and laws are more important than military power." That obviously cannot be allowed, for "As the world's most powerful democratic power, the United States is called upon—yes, called upon—far more frequently than any other nation to dispatch its troops overseas for any number of purposes."

It's not as if Kagan is claiming the US is fighting a holy war on behalf of the rest of the world. He makes no such claim. To him, it's the self-evident truth:

"America's entire global strategy is built around projecting military power anywhere at any time […] the United States, which has the lion's share of responsibility for defending the rest of the civilized world against rogue states, will have to worry every time it sends troops into hostile territory." (my emphasis).

Well, why shouldn't a country worry when it sends troops into foreign territory? Wouldn't that be naked aggression, and thus a crime against peace? Ooops, that's logic speaking. None of that in Kagan's world.

Kagan's insane ramblings are especially dangerous since neither he, nor his think-alikes who run the Empire, actually understand how insane they are. The idea that the United States is special, divinely anointed to rescue the world from darkness of sovereignty and free choice is pathologically demented. But who dares object, when the Empire has the ships, the bombs, and the planes to deliver them?

Defenders of Empire

Signs that the insanity is not rampant are deceiving. For example, while that same Washington Post supposedly endorses the ICC and accuses His Elevated Majesty of overreaching with the UN veto gambit, it actually defends Imperial conquest and complains that the ICC might "constrain the Kosovo-style humanitarian interventions that human-rights groups rightly advocate." How nice of them to clear that up, no?

What About Bosnia?

It's not going anywhere any time soon. Sure, its former viceroy Wolfgang Petritsch claims that it is now a "functioning state with a clear European perspective." Him and his two predecessors have had their way in the hapless protectorate for six years now, and what do they have to show for it? Well, they did impose unified license plates, the new flag looks snazzy – and yes, lest we forget, they rebuilt an entirely new repressive state apparatus, in place of the one destroyed by the war. Perhaps most importantly, Petritsh oversaw the imposition of new constitutional principles that set up ethnic quotas in public service. Human rights, at last!

That is, until one is reminded that Bosnia had all that – a repressive state apparatus, snazzy symbols, unified license plates and ethnic quotas – under Socialism and just before the war, and they didn't do a thing to stop the bloodshed. In fact, they made it inevitable.

But what would Petritsch know of logic, reason or facts? The former Imperial viceroy got the job because of his efforts in staging the Rambouillet "talks," that infamous failed attempt by Mad Madeleine Albright and Tricky Dick Holbrooke to blackmail Serbia into accepting NATO occupation, while calling it "peace."

Chump Change

The 1995 conquest of Bosnia was merely a stage towards occupying Serbia, thus completing the conquest of the Balkans and installing the United States as the "benevolent global hegemony" that could unleash "humanitarian bombing" anywhere in the world, without so much as by-your-leave from the UN or anyone else. A brave new world, indeed.

Empire's lofty pronouncements of "peace" and "justice" ring absurdly hollow in the Balkans, and not only because the "humanitarian intervention" in Bosnia is used as a weapon of blackmail against international law. Empire's own commitment to hunting "war criminals" (i.e. anyone but itself) and trying them by the (loyal, as opposed to "independent") Hague Inquisition has long been pure politics. But it is truly pathetic when Imperial stormtroopers ransack the empty house of Radovan Karadzic, former Bosnian Serb leader who's been evading capture for years, just to show they can.

Whether its paladins vent their impotent rage against Iraqi children, Serbian hospitals, Afghan weddings or Radovan Karadzic's hardwood floors, fact remains that Empire sustains itself only through brute force designed to instill fear, not respect.

All the empty pronouncements about law, justice, human rights, and peace are just that: empty. And the objects of their "salvation" are just that: objects. Chump change, to be used and abused in forwarding the only agenda the Empire really ever cared about: power.

Quite a far cry from "inalienable rights" to "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness" from 226 years ago. How sad.

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.


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The Balkans: Democracy Triumphant

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Bitter Balkans Ironies

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War Without End

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Intersections of Fate

Macedonia's Tragedy Masquerading as Farce

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Macedonia's Futile Surrender

Murdering Macedonia

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The Return of Kings

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Kosovo: Between Death and Taxes

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Empire at the Gates

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Pax Americana

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