October 9, 2003

Visiting the Vassals
Former Potentates Tour Balkans Sycophants

by Nebojsa Malic

Following in the footsteps of Bill Clinton, two more former Imperial dignitaries have toured the occupied Balkans this past weekend. Onetime stepfather of Bosnia Richard Holbrooke and former Kosovo viceroy Bernard Kouchner visited Sarajevo and Pristina, reminiscing about their glory days. The adulation of local media and politicians must have made them believe they actually mattered once again, and they were even followed by an entourage of Western journalists for good measure.

This traveling circus of nostalgic former power-mongers underscored once again the nature of Imperial occupation, and highlighted the widespread sycophancy of petty Balkans tyrants towards the outsiders who keep them in power.

Holbrooke Unleashed

The publicity-grabbing former envoys' mission was to support local Imperial clients and campaign to "keep America in the Balkans" (NYT).

As usual, the abrasive and flamboyant Holbrooke hogged the limelight. In a commentary for Dnevni Avaz, a militant Bosnian Muslim daily, he denounced the ruling Bosnian Serb party as "Nazis who should disappear," and heaped praise on the ailing Muslim leader Izetbegovic as someone Bosnia "could not have existed without."

In another interview, for the daily Oslobodjenje, Holbrooke argued that Bosnia should have a "stronger central government" and called the Dayton Accord "a living document… a framework, not a straitjacket."

Kosovo Albanians got Holbrooke's support for independence and advice on how to improve their image by publicly denouncing the ongoing murders of Serbs.

Now, Holbrooke's sympathies for Izetbegovic and his cause are well-known, as they were published in his 1998 memoir. Nor are his sympathies for Kosovo Albanian militants a secret, not since his famous sit-down with the KLA when they were still mysterious bandits. He has advocated Kosovo independence before, most recently this July. The man is remarkably consistent for someone who believes in "living" Constitutions.

He is also utterly irrelevant – a former official of a former government, and widely loathed by his former State Department colleagues. As Serbia's deputy PM Nebojsa Covic commented in a rare moment of integrity, "Hoolbroke is a typical politician who lost his job, then came back to a conflict zone to try and find a new one." (Glas Javnosti, 7 October)

Political Marketing

Covic may be wrong about Holbrooke's lack of official capacity. While Kouchner is a member of the European Parliament, Holbrooke is officially a civilian. A question arises, then, as to who exactly paid for their extravaganza? Neither the US government nor the EU bureaucracy appears a likely candidate. Holbrooke and Kouchner might somehow be men of considerable means, but should hardly be able to afford such a trip. The New York Times provided the answer Wednesday: the private-jet tour was funded by "two private foundations," one of which remained anonymous, while the other was an American pseudo-governmental set up to campaign for the Empire. Suddenly the mission becomes much clearer… Holbrooke and Kouchner weren't looking for a new job – they already had one. If their remarks sounded just like paid celebrity endorsements, it is because they were.

For that matter, so was Clinton's speech in Srebrenica last month. Several Bosnian sources indicate that Clinton was paid $250,000 by the Muslim ethnic party, the SDA. His brief sojourn in Kosovo may have been funded by the Albanians in a similar fashion. Such "investments" tend to disparage the plaintive remarks about the crushing poverty of those Imperial protectorates, demonstrating that while the people of those democratic satrapies are indeed destitute, their rulers have no such troubles.

A Little Less Conversation

The way things are going, Kosovo Albanians could certainly use some good press. In just under a week, a "Kosovo" delegation led by the new viceroy Holkeri is supposed to meet with the highest Serbian officials, purportedly to discuss "technical issues" such as license plates. While official Belgrade looks forward to the meeting in Vienna, Albanians are not happy at all, and seek to delay or sabotage the talks.

It is hard to see why. Yes, the fact that Serbia is still invited to talk about its occupied province seems to counter the painstakingly crafted impression that Kosovo's separation was a fait accompli. Yet there is no indication that Serbia will be asked about anything more than the manner in which to renounce Kosovo.

Several sources have opined that the Vienna talks might open a way to final status negotiations. While this seems unlikely, any such talks would necessarily revolve around the present status of Kosovo: a territory almost ethnically purely Albanian, administered by the UN and NATO on behalf of the KLA and other Albanian separatists. Now, the Vienna talks will also be attended by EU and NATO bigwigs Javier Solana and George Robertson. They are both "heroes" of the 1999 war, and to some extent the architects of today's Kosovo. So what are the KLA afraid of?

There is one piece of the puzzle that does not fit. The EU agency in charge of selling off government property in Kosovo has just stopped the process, citing "legal problems." Could it be that the EU bureaucrats have finally realized they can't sell off property they have stolen through an illegal occupation? It would be too much to hope.

Either way, Kosovo Albanians are so distressed with their slip from Imperial graces – real or imagined – they have eagerly embraced Holbrooke's support as if it were official, and even made him an offer of "peacekeepers" for Iraq and Afghanistan.

A Vassal's Offering

What prompted "President" Rugova and KLA "general" Agim Ceku to offer their services was the news that Belgrade has offered some 700-1000 men for NATO's mission in Afghanistan. Truth be told, it would be far easier to imagine the KLA keeping the Pax Americana in Mesopotamia and Bactria than Serbian soldiers. Not because, as some have suggested, the Serbs' presence would "enrage Muslims," but because of everything that has happened between the Serbs and the Empire in the past decade or so.

Perhaps that is precisely what the ruling cabal in Belgrade had in mind when it made the offer: that an offer of cannon fodder to Washington could somehow overcome a decade of demonization. There is little chance of that, but it is far more likely that many of those who go will never return.

According to the New York Times, the US wanted "combat troops ready to take casualties," and the Dossie sycophants were happy to oblige. Serb troops would be based in Kandahar, a region rife with Muslim militants along the Pakistani border. The location makes casualties a certainty.

So, here is a defeated, dismembered, brainwashed, demonized and disappearing nation, offering its young men as a blood levy to its conqueror yet again. And the Empire-worshipping vermin have the nerve to claim it as a success!

Insult and Injury

Actually, the whole affair is even worse. Not only will Serbian troops be soldering thousands of miles from their homeland, for NATO – which bombed them in 1999 and still occupies a portion of their country – they will do so under German command.

Kaiser's Germany cruelly occupied Serbia from 1915 to 1918. Hitler's Germany did it again between 1941 and 1944, massacring entire towns and sponsoring a genocidal Croat regime that slaughtered Serbs wholesale. The current German government was a most enthusiastic supporter of the 1999 Kosovo war.

Not only are Germans not contrite about any of this, especially Kosovo, their Chancellor sees nothing wrong with coming to visit Serbia later this month. Schroeder must have figured that since French President Chirac and former NATO GenSec Javier Solana have already triumphantly paraded through Belgrade, he might as well follow their example.

And the DOS regime - remnants of a foreign-backed putsch led by the deposed and the dead – is welcoming him with open arms. Go figure.

Shills and Revelations

Despite their fraudulent claims of international respect, Dossie groveling before the Empire is inversely proportional to the amount of favor Serbia enjoys in Washington. It is obvious that the current rulers of Serbia are obsessed with winning – and staying in – Empire's good graces, no matter the cost (to their subjects, not them personally). However, they are by no means alone in this obsession. In the minds of former Yugoslavs – and many other a nation in the world – even the illusion of Washington's blessing equals the divine dispensation of ancient kings.

One example is the recent visit of the Bosnian Croat leader and current chairman of Bosnia's tri-partite Presidium to the US, during which he met with government officials, Croat lobbyists and supporters in Congress. Soon thereafter, a professional Croat apologist published a commentary in the Washington Times, urging support for Croatia's annexation of Bosnian Croat lands and its role as a "bulwark of Christianity" against the bloodthirsty Muslim terrorist hordes and mass-murdering Serbian barbarians.

Ironically, there were several morsels of truth, and even an inkling of logic, somewhere in the middle of the specious screed. They were wrapped in such exaggerated nonsense, though, that a Reuters commentator had a field day denouncing it all as malicious fabrications. In a piece co-written by one Muslim and two Albanian correspondents, one Mr. Hamilton claims there is absolutely no terrorism in the Balkans (ha!), while the paragons of tolerance that are Bosnian Muslims and Kosovo Albanians worship America with everlasting gratitude, rather than plot its demise; those who claim otherwise are simply vile nationalists. Of course, they say, both Muslims and Albanians know that "tolerating extremism" would be the sure way to "kill U.S. support for united Bosnia and Kosovo's hopes of independence from Serbia."

Oops. So there is such support, then? There goes plausible deniability. Fervor often makes for such rash confessions.

Futile Sycophancy

Its military power has established the Empire as the supreme arbiter in the former Yugoslavia, much as Tito used to be in the Old Days. Eagerness to gain the hegemon's favor is a natural reflex of servile governments, perfectly exemplified by the current ex-Yugoslav regimes. To compensate for their international sniveling, they are predictably callous and abusive towards their own populations.

Everything points to the conclusion that foreign policy of Yugoslavia's successors has become focused solely on currying favor with the Empire. Those who have such favor (Bosnian Muslims, Albanians) seek to keep it, those who lost it (Croats) seek to regain it, and those who didn't have it at all (Serbs) seek to gain it. Such is this obsession that even former representatives of Imperial power such as Clinton, Holbrooke and Kouchner, are worshipped by groveling vassals when they drop by for a visit.

Yet whatever the ex-Yugoslavs do will make little difference. Certainly, there is no shortage of kind words for the sycophants, but the Empire always ends up doing whatever favors the expansion of its power at any given moment. Some high-ranking individuals may harbor paid sympathies that color their actions and judgment, but the machine as a whole is indifferent to anyone's cause but its own.

That cause has already destroyed the lives of many Balkan inhabitants, even as it has enriched their petty tyrants. But it is only a matter of time before those tyrants learn that Imperial support won't always be there, and to their great detriment.

– Nebojsa Malic

comments on this article?

Please Support Antiwar.com

Send contributions to

520 S. Murphy Ave., Suite #202
Sunnyvale, CA 94086

or Contribute Via our Secure Server
Credit Card Donation Form

Your contributions are now tax-deductible


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

Visiting the Vassals

Return to the Crime Scene

Citizen Clark?

The Lost Terror War

Balkans Online

The Black Hole of Nation-Building

Fresh Blood in Kosovo

Empires and Balkans Don't Mix

The New Janissaries

The Worthy Balkans Booklist

Worthless Words

Liars, Halfwits, Inquisitors and Thieves

The Serbian Lincoln?

Paragons of Empire

Remember Kosovo?

Retrospect: Balkans And the Big Picture – A Year Later

Bosnia's Founding Stepfather

The Folly That Is Europe

Lies Reporters Tell

Worshippers of Power and Violence

After 'Liberation,' Democracy

Empire's 'Liberation'

Bolsheviks in Belgrade

Seeking Scapegoats

The Argument of Force

Alley of the Damned

Death of a Manager

From Kosovo to Baghdad

Genocide Games

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

Back to Antiwar.com Home Page | Contact Us