September 12, 2002

The Day Nothing Changed
Balkans and September 11

"The world has changed. Nothing is the same any more." Those were the two most common sentiments last year, in the shell-shocked aftermath of Black Tuesday, as the horrors of war stopped being something that happened elsewhere.

A year later, those phrases ring hollow – along with the pledges to fight "terrorism" and "evil."

On September 13, 2001, this column warned:

"One cannot fight terrorism and use it at the same time. Understanding this would be a giant leap forward in the struggle against all those who treat human beings as 'collateral damage,' and who see nothing wrong with mass murder, as long as it serves their purpose."

Such understanding never happened. Instead, there was plenty of "collateral damage," duplicity, occupation, hypocrisy, stupidity, and malice. Within two weeks, lofty pronouncements had fallen flat in the mud of Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia.

'Our' Terrorists And Theirs

The first real test in the aftermath of Black Tuesday was not Afghanistan, but the Balkans – specifically, the relationship the U.S. had with Islamic fundamentalists among the Bosnian Muslims, and the Albanian separatist movements in and around Kosovo. Both have had connections with Osama Bin Laden and his associates. The time was right to re-examine America's Balkans policies of the past decade, and possibly even extricate itself from an Imperial commitment in the peninsula that seemed irrelevant and wasteful in the light of the new "War on Terror."

Was this done? No. Quite to the contrary, Washington has accepted the predictable whitewash of Balkans terrorists by the infamous International Crisis Group, and chose to continue all its Balkans policies. Results have been predictable: the continued growth of militant Islam in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the escalating violence of Albanians in Kosovo and Macedonia. These developments have not only been tolerated, they've been helped by Imperial actions, especially the ongoing vilification of Serbs and Macedonians.

Viper in the Bosom

As late as last October, six Algerians given Bosnian citizenship by the Izetbegovic regime were arrested on suspicion of plotting terrorist attacks on U.S. installations.

Yet thanks to massive amounts of propaganda, there has been an entrenched belief in the West that the Bosnian Muslims had fought for a multi-ethnic, democratic Bosnia and peaceful coexistence with all, and were innocent victims of aggression and genocide by vicious, nationalist Serbs and Croats.

Asked why these scions of multi-ethnic democracy and religious tolerance tend to erupt into rage after losing soccer games, while chanting "Allah-u-akbar" and waving the green banners of Jihad; or why their children join Wahhabi cults and go off to fight "holy wars" in distant foreign lands, apologists usually retort that all that has to be a reaction to the West's indifference to atrocities they have suffered.

Yet there is a mountain of evidence contradicting the explanation that militant Islam in Bosnia is a recent, reactive phenomenon. One could find it in Bosnia's Ottoman past, as the bulwark of Dar-al-Islam against the Western infidels. It was certainly present during World War Two, when the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Mohammed Hajj Amin al-Husseini helped organize a Waffen SS Division made up of Bosnian Muslims.

Alija Izetbegovic has certainly always been an Islamic militant, ever since his youthful days in the Nazi-sponsored "Young Muslims." In 1970, he wrote and published "The Islamic Declaration," a blueprint for creating Islamic states out of secular societies. In 1990, he manipulated his way into leading Bosnia's collective presidency, undermined all attempts to negotiate an inter-ethnic settlement, and eagerly pushed Bosnia into internecine warfare by insisting on its international recognition as a unitary state.

Though he retired from public office in 2000, reportedly at U.S. request, Izetbegovic has continued to pull the strings of Bosnian Muslim politics. Even if his party does not regain power in the upcoming election, an allegedly "moderate" splinter party heavily influenced by his ideology looks likely to make gains. Almost every Bosnian Muslim politician has been in Izetbegovic's orbit at one time or another.

So while militants are a minority in Bosnian Muslim ranks, their ideology dominates Muslim politics. And thanks to the myth of multi-ethnic victimhood, it enjoys American and European support.

Reign of Terror….

Murder; arson; assassination of political opponents; ethnic cleansing; regular acts of violence against civilians; killing of law enforcement and other government officials; destruction of holy places: had anyone done this in the United States, they would have been instantly labeled terrorists. Yet the "Kosovo Liberation Army" has done it for five years, the last three on UN's payroll.

Kosovo is an international aberration: a piece of one country's sovereign territory occupied by the UN and NATO after an illegal aggression, it has been used as a launching pad for aggression against inner Serbia and the neighboring Macedonia. Yet both have been dismissed as "human rights" issues, and their perpetrators given amnesty and lucrative political appointments.

Two weeks ago, a group of "unidentified gunmen" attacked several remaining Serbs as they gathered wood near the Kosovo village of Gorazdevac. They then shot at the UN police that attempted to intervene, and even attacked the Italian occupation troops that were called to help. One assailant was captured and, unsurprisingly, turned out to be Albanian.

It might be understandable that the UN and NATO have chosen to ignore the Albanian militants' incessant attacks on Serbs, which have so far killed several thousand and forced over 300,000 out of the province. But one would think they would go ballistic when their own come under fire. It has happened before, in Mitrovica and along the demarcation line with inner Serbia, and both times the NATO response has been subdued but firm.

Now, however, the UN is choosing to blame the Serbs for the terrorist attack in Gorazdevac. Adding insult to injury, a UN spokesman is blaming "lack of funds" for the UN's inability to let the expelled Kosovo Serbs return to the charred ruins of their homes. And this after they'd spent millions building four-story homes for immigrant Albanians, or funding the "Kosovo Protection Corps"!

… In Guise of 'Human Rights'

One could possibly find some justification for Albanian militants' terrorism in Kosovo, if it stayed in Kosovo. But it continues to plague the neighboring Macedonia, where the "peace" forced upon the Macedonians as a result of the KLA's "human rights" struggle in 2001, is claiming new victims almost every day.

Two police officers gunned down at a traffic stop; five civilians abducted, one tortured, as a reaction to arrests of the perpetrators. Yet the militant Albanians who claimed responsibility (a terrorist trademark) were allowed to escape, after US and European pressure on Macedonian authorities.

Even if Macedonians were allowed to suppress terrorism in their own country, and they aren't, what chance of success do they have when the terrorists can simply retreat into the safe haven of NATO-occupied Kosovo? Discoveries of Albanian weapons caches along the border with Macedonia have become routine, and no one has been held responsible – certainly not the UN and NATO, ostensibly in charge of keeping the "peace".

Malicious Manipulations

What other conclusion is one to draw from all this, than that "terrorism" is labeled as such only when directed against Americans and regimes Washington supports?

How can anyone, in face of this prima facie evidence that the U.S. is backing Balkans factions whose actions are undeniably terrorist in both methods and aims, argue that the U.S. is fighting a "War on Terror" and "evil" all over the world?

But it gets worse. Now the paladins of "humanitarian bombing" are using what they got away with in Bosnia and Kosovo to further new bloodshed, all under the guise of "fighting terrorism." Yet what is "regime change" other than an effort to replace a government through use of force: a textbook definition of terrorism?

A few months back, when the International Criminal Court formally came into being – based on the US-created ad hoc "tribunals" for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia – Washington insisted on immunity for its "peacekeepers" across the world, using Bosnia as a hostage. Then it set out to bully Bosnia, Croatia, Yugoslavia and other states into signing bilateral immunity agreements.

Empire, Forever?

As flags, ribbons and mellow speeches commemorated the anniversary of that cruel Tuesday morning a year ago, did anyone wonder about the widening gap between American leaders' rhetoric and deeds? Did anyone ask how it was possible to bomb one country in support of terrorists, yet bomb another in a war against them?

Fifty years ago, Garet Garrett wrote, "We have crossed the boundary that lies between Republic and Empire. […] And now, not far ahead, is a sign that reads: 'No U-turns'."

The aftermath of Black Tuesday was a golden opportunity to redefine America as a Republic, not an Empire. It was missed. Instead, September 11 seems to have become a "bloody shirt," bestowing instant approval onto anyone who invokes it in defense of any action. In an act of supreme cynicism, an Oscar-winning Bosnian director recently attempted to link it with the 1995 events in Srebrenica.

Surely, the victims of September 11 deserve better.

– 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 appears every Thursday.


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