August 30, 2001

A Day to Remember

Amidst the continuing vivisection of Macedonia, terror in Kosovo and political struggles in Yugoslavia, it was hard this week to remember an important anniversary. Yet it was exactly six years ago, on August 30, 1995, that NATO first entered the Balkans' wars as a combatant, opening the path to all subsequent interventions, occupations and "disarmament" missions in the region.

Following an explosion at the Sarajevo marketplace on August 28, blamed immediately on Bosnian Serb artillery, NATO unleashed Operation Deliberate Force – a coordinated attack on Bosnian Serbs by US aircraft and Anglo-French ground troops stationed near Sarajevo. The bombing lasted three weeks, and was accompanied by a massive offensive of Bosnian Muslim and Croatian armies, driving hundreds of thousands of Serbs from their homes in Western Bosnia. Richard Holbrooke, head US envoy in the Balkans, described it as "bombs for peace." One look at today's Bosnia ought to be enough to see that what Holbrooke called peace others rightfully call Hell.

With Deliberate Force ended the UN role of impartial peacekeepers, however flawed it may have been. Blue Helmets were replaced by NATO and other "regional organizations," responsible only to the self-appointed rulers of the world. The road went on to Kosovo 1999 (Operation Allied Force – not "Merciful Angel," as some mistakenly believe) and Macedonia 2001 (Operation Essential Harvest), each cementing the position of NATO and the US as the masters of the Balkans, always at the expense of people who actually live there.


Nowhere is this more evident than in today's Macedonia. Barely two weeks ago, Imperial legates forced the Macedonian government to agree to rewrite their Constitution, and institute a second official language and ethnic quotas, submitting thus to the worst kind of identity politics so beloved in the Empire itself. This past week, the expeditionary force of 4,500 Imperial auxiliaries (since the Legions were too busy elsewhere) arrived in Macedonia, tasked with collecting a "credible" number of weapons from the separatist UCK.

Since NATO is to be but a glorified chambermaid, picking up weapons voluntarily surrendered by the UCK (which has no obligation under the Treaty of Ohrid to do so), it would look extremely stupid if Operation Essential Harvest produced a paltry yield. So its commanders negotiated with the UCK a credible number of weapons to be turned in, somewhere around 4,000. Macedonian government protestations that the figure is absurdly low were met with scorn and ridicule by NATO commanders and Western press alike.

As NATO strives to preserve its own credibility at the expense of reality, UCK leader Ali Ahmeti gains stature by the day. Yesterday's terrorist, Ahmeti is today's peacemaker. Already the media point out that his credibility is crucial to NATO's success – as if the endless repetition of the world "credibility" is calculated to create a credible illusion of trust in both NATO and Ahmeti's (newfound) good will. But it is just that – an illusion.

It is a testament to the twisted character of Imperial intervention in Macedonia that the truth, usually the first casualty of war, has now become the first casualty of peace.


This week, Macedonian pilgrims and refugees streamed back into the torched, looted and ethnically cleansed village of Leshok, to celebrate a major Orthodox Christian holiday. This is the same village where the rampaging UCK demolished a 13th Century Orthodox monastery just ten days ago. Yet NATO was displeased by the visit of ethnically cleansed Macedonians, fearing a "confrontation" with Albanians and wary of a "nationalist" presence among the pilgrims.

On the eve of NATO deployment, the UCK blew up a motel near Tetovo. They tied two security guards to the explosives, causing the blast to scatter their body parts among the ruins. This gruesome act of terror made no sense, until it emerged that the motel was located in the hometown of Macedonia's patriotic Interior Minister, Ljuben Boskovski, who has strongly opposed any concessions to the UCK. Having failed to kill Boskovski once, the UCK felt a need to send him another message. Not surprisingly, the Western press brushed everything off as irrelevant to the greater mission – NATO's exercise in credibility....

Faced with NATO's cordial acceptance of terrorists, it is no wonder that Macedonians feel betrayed. Yet Reuters, for example, feigns ignorance. It claims the Macedonians see NATO as having sided with the UCK in Kosovo, and believe it failed to stop the influx of weapons from that occupied province, as if neither were factual truth. Who exactly is living under delusions here?

Even if there were any truth to claims of one British paper of a "relentless government and media campaign" against NATO, Macedonians did not need any more reasons to stone a British jeep and kill sapper Ian Collins in the process. He and the other 4,499 Imperial troops camping with the UCK represent the Empire's rape of Macedonia brought to its most ironic extreme – even more ironic than the media using the young soldier's death for an anti-Macedonian campaign.


NATO's merry adventure in Macedonia predictably drew back to the surface a refrain of numerous warmongering pundits that peace in Macedonia would be accomplished through the independence of Kosovo. Following no discernible logic, proponents this argument – among them, recently, Albanian president Rexhep Meidani and a Blairite pundit in Britain – claim that an independent, Albanian Kosovo would discourage Albanian separatism in Macedonia, Serbia's Presevo valley and Montenegro. And since water boils at 100 Celsius, at 200 it will surely freeze, right?

NATO-occupied Kosovo is indeed a paragon of virtue in the Balkans. Ten days ago, an Albanian family was machine-gunned to death as it drove through the UCK heartland. Kosovo's occupation authorities, military and civilian, immediately condemned "acts of violence [that] threaten the progress toward self-government and a democratic future," while the Reuters report tried to fit the attack in the context of Albanian "revenge attacks" against Serbs for "repression" under Milosevic.

Just a few days later, it turned out that the father of the massacred family was a police officer in pre-1999 Kosovo, loyal to his country and not the UCK. Immediately, it was the victim's own fault that his family was massacred; it was due to his involvement in allegedly "terrible crimes" supposedly committed by Serbs, local Albanians told the London Sunday Times. Thousands routinely showed up to funerals of UCK members killed in battles with Serbian police and the Yugoslav Army. Few came to the funeral of the 50-year old Hamza Hajra and his family, who, in the words of a local Albanian, "deserved to die."


It seems almost surreal, but what has happened both in Kosovo and Macedonia can be directly traced to August 30, six years ago. Though there is ample evidence of covert US operations in Bosnia and Croatia as early as 1992, it was on this very day in 1995 when the line was clearly crossed – and NATO entered the Bosnian War.

Despite serious warnings of long-term consequences and numerous voices of dissent, the Empire decided to set its boot on the Balkans and enter the same morass that has ruined the Romans, the Ottomans, the Austrians, the Germans, and perhaps even the Soviets to some extent. The die was cast. With every new intervention, every new "humanitarian" war or "peace," the clearer it becomes that Empire has become a reality. Garet Garrett's description seems eerily fitting.


With belief in their own inexhaustible righteousness, the Empire is slowly crushing the Balkans under the boots of its troops, which now count on memories of their Nazi predecessors to maintain morale.

However tempting, it would also be disingenuous to pin the blame for the bloodshed in former Yugoslavia on the Empire alone. The existing ethnic politics, religious fanaticism, old-fashioned greed and power-lust were more than enough to ignite conflicts. But without Imperial intervention, these conflicts would not have taken such a high toll in lives and property.

It was Imperial intervention that tied a complex, post-Communist region into a Gordian knot. The road from EEC (today's EU) interference in the secession of Slovenia and Croatia to US meddling in Bosnia, Kosovo and now Macedonia was long and curvy. But, predictably, as local leaders scrambled to enlist diplomatic and military support from outside powers, diplomatic interference quickly grew into military involvement, then outright occupation.

Before the Imperial intervention, formalized six years ago, liberty, progress and peace in the Balkans were already hard to attain. Until the Empire leaves – one way or another – they will remain impossible.

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.


Past Articles

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

Bandits on the Border

It's the Spelling, Stupid

Zoran Djindjic: Serbia's Richard III

Wheels of Injustice

The Tragedy of Bosnia

The Suspended Castle

Hand Of The Empire: Decision in Kosovo

Introduction: The Balkans Babylon

ITN: Case Closed

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