October 11, 2001

Arrogance of Power

As American and British missiles obliterate what little there is left of Afghanistan much the same way as they pounded Serbia thirty months ago, US media gleefully announce the revenge phase of "America’s New War" against world terrorism. Yet halfway around the world, between Kabul and Washington DC, a massive body of evidence testifies that this war is the same old one, and that all terrorism is definitely not on its target list.

In the papers and on television, attacks on Afghanistan are described in terms echoing those of NATO’s 78-day war against Serbia. Again, the US is "degrading" the foe’s military capabilities by devastating urban areas; again, the foe’s statements are censored or discounted as "dangerous propaganda." Even the manner of fighting is the same – missiles at dawn, rhetoric at noon. Clearly, the Empire is re-fighting its last war. Only now, instead of Jamie Shea, Ari Fleischer runs the Office of Official Truth.


By using the same methods and rhetoric in fighting Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda as they did fighting Slobodan Milosevic and the Serbs, what sort of message is the Empire sending? Perhaps that the war 30 months ago was as justified as this one, or that Milosevic and Bin Laden are simply different incarnations of pure evil? Few warmongers in Washington would disagree with either conclusion.

In this brave new world, jihad can be America’s enemy in Afghanistan but its friend in Bosnia. Depending on whether their victims are Americans, Serbs or Macedonians, murderers are defined as "bloodthirsty terrorists" or "rebels" fighting for "American values." Self-defense is a sacred right when claimed by the United States, but a crime against humanity when claimed by Serbia, Macedonia, or anyone else. Serbs are monsters when they fight the mujahideen, who are monsters when they kill Americans. And so on. It doesn’t matter. If the Empire’s behavior in the Balkans this past month is any indication, the "war on terror" was never more than a catchy sound bite for CNN.


Take, for example, tiny Macedonia. Trusting the good intentions of the United States and Europe, its leaders let the Western envoys craft a proposal that would end the seven-month reign of terror by the separatist Albanian "army." What they got was the monstrous Treaty of Ohrid, in which the Albanians are granted special privileges and a parallel society at the government’s expense, in exchange for giving up some 3000 rifles to NATO. Macedonia was even strong-armed into granting amnesty to all Albanian separatists, despite the horrendous crimes they committed.

When Macedonian police tried to reenter the areas conquered by the separatists, however, NATO quickly intervened and "advised" the government in Skopje that this would be a bad idea. Albanians, who see NATO as their savior, wholeheartedly agree and claim they only feel secure because a NATO force of 1000 troops and a yet unknown number of foreign observers are around. The troops and the observers are there to protect the separatists, not some 150,000 ethnically cleansed Macedonians who are now trying to get home. Albanians "don’t feel safe" with Macedonian police around, but Macedonians should merrily stroll into the outstretched arms of the "disbanded" separatist mob. And as far as the US is concerned, this is perfectly normal and even desirable.


Life doesn’t make any more sense in either of the two Western protectorates in the Balkans. A few weeks from now, the UN will stage a sham election for a "legislative assembly" in Kosovo, composed almost entirely of independence-minded Albanians. To maintain a pretense of fairness, 10 seats out of 120 will be reserved for the remaining Serbs, who live in ghettos enclosed by barbed wire and guarded by NATO’s occupation troops. If the Serbs show up at the polls, they will legitimize the occupation authorities of a province that was taken from them by force, in exchange for a token presence in an institution of Albanian statehood. If they boycott the poll, the UN governor will simply appoint ten Serbs to serve as quisling assemblymen. Yet the US and its NATO allies see this lose-lose "choice" as a right and proper way to establish democracy.

Establishing a legislative assembly in a territory occupied by NATO (and "administered" by the UN) is definitely prejudicial to the eventual political solution of Kosovo’s status. Then again, so is the occupation itself. Ah, but that is "old" logic. In the "new" world, all of this makes perfect sense, and is perfectly consistent with American values.

That is probably why the International Crisis Group, a notorious militant "think tank," has no qualms about advocating the destruction of the Bosnian Serb Republic. According to ICG’s newest report, the Serb Republic is a creation of genocidal aggression, and should not have been recognized in the Dayton Accords to begin with.

This is an old argument, most notably championed by Bosnian Muslim politician Haris Silajdzic and his mentor, Alija Izetbegovic. Both extensively cooperated with the mujahideen during the 1992-95 Bosnian War; both have since "retired" from politics at the Empire’s polite urging, Silajdzic only after September 11. Yet the ICG declines to comment on the panic among Bosnian Muslims after the WTC and Pentagon attacks, focusing its white-hot wrath on their favorite target and sole culprit for everything that has ever gone wrong in Bosnia: the Serbs.


Not wishing to lag behind, the Hague Inquisition issued another major indictment on Tuesday. This time, it accuses Slobodan Milosevic of crimes during Croatia’s war of secession (1991-92). The long list of alleged crimes, from murder, torture and looting to "ethnic cleansing," hides the real heart of the Inquisition’s latest endeavor. Fifteen other people were cited as Milosevic’s accomplices. Of them, eleven are government officials. Among them are two former presidents of the disintegrating Yugoslav federation, two top Yugoslav generals, several security service officials, and even a former president of Montenegro, Momir Bulatovic. Combined with the previous indictments for alleged crimes in Bosnia and Kosovo, all Serb leaders of the past decade have now been accused of war crimes.

The Inquisition stated with incredible self-assurance that:

"The purpose of this enterprise was the forcible removal of the majority of the Croat and other non-Serb population from approximately one-third of the territory of the Republic of Croatia, an area [Milosevic] planned to become part of a new Serb-dominated state."

Well of course it was – so what if there is no evidence of this whatsoever? Old jurisprudence retreats before the new.

Two and a half years after helping the NATO war effort in Kosovo by declaring Milosevic a war criminal, the Inquisition has finally revealed its true purpose: all Serb leaders and policies of the past decade are to be declared criminal and genocidal. This would make European and American interventions in the Balkans legal and legitimate, annul the existence of the Bosnian Serb Republic, cement the ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Croatia, form a basis for secession of Kosovo…

This three-ring circus in robes, a kangaroo court established outside the law to further the Empire’s political objectives, claims to be a legitimate UN body. Yet its actions can only be described as "legal terror" against the people of the Balkans. Those Muslims and Croats jailed by this "court" have been mainly lower-ranking officers and politicians, sacrificed to establish the "tribunal’s" credibility where there can be none.


So, as it becomes abundantly clear, rumors of a possible policy shift after Bush fils came to power, or after the horrible tragedy of Black Tuesday, were greatly exaggerated, and can be attributed to wishful thinking. Nothing that has happened in the Balkans over the past month – nothing – indicates that the Empire is the least bit willing to change its ways.

Playing favorites among the "savages," the Empire pits Serbs, Croats, Muslims, Albanians and Macedonians against each other in a game of endless war, increasing its dominion over the peninsula every day. Convinced of its absolute righteousness, infused with the boundless arrogance of power, it crushes the Balkans even harder under the boot of "democracy" and "human rights." When it attacks Afghanistan, at least it claims to be motivated by vengeance.

Unless all those missiles, bombs, planes and troops are really meant to avenge the commitment to absolute power and complete invulnerability, which died with the thousands of innocents on September 11.

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.


Past Articles

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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