October 24, 2002

Casus Belli
Balkans The Key To Iraq War?

[Lat. casus – opportunity, occasion; bellum,-i –war]

Not a day goes by in which the inhabitants of the Balkans are not reminded, in some way, that they are servants of the Empire. On top of the visible legacy of imperial intervention, its hidden consequences also crop up regularly to deepen the region’s misery. Adding insult to injury, Imperial occupation is promoted as an example for the rest of the world. Finally, having used the Balkans as chump change in global power games once already, it is doing so again, in preparation for its invasion of the Middle East.

A Sound Investment

After all, the conquest of the troublesome peninsula was not conducted in a fit of absent-mindedness, or purely for the sake of appearances. A demonstration of Empire’s awesome power and "indispensability" was certainly a calculated part of the interventionist strategy, but there were other reasons for which to mount a "splendid little war" in the Balkans.

For one, it put the kibosh on any plans by Europe to assert independence from its dominant Atlantic sibling. It set precedents for further use of Imperial force – anytime, anywhere – and established a strategic location from which such force could be deployed. Not a few commentators have mentioned that championing the causes of Balkans Muslims was used to calm down their disgruntled Middle Eastern brethren.

Now it seems that the servants of His Elevated Majesty, Emperor of the Known World, are finding new uses for this tortured corner of Europe.

Occupation as Freedom

Contrary to all visible evidence, one foreign policy partisan recently argued that the occupation of Kosovo was so successful, it has outdone itself. "Victim of its own success," he called it, proceeding to argue that because Kosovo was so wonderful, its blissful goodness should be spread to other disadvantaged corners of the world.

Come again?

Kosovo is a terrorist- and criminal-infested hellhole, where violence and slavery flourish, and where life is in the best Hobbesian tradition, "nasty, brutish and short." Especially true in the case of surviving Serbs, this is no less applicable to many "liberated" Albanians, who are scared to death of testifying against their terrorist tormentors, even to Imperial procurators.

This may be the vision of what the Empire wishes to impose on the rest of the world, but is it something the world is supposed to embrace? If so, no one can say they weren’t warned…

Democrisy and Hypocracy

So Kosovo may not be the perfect example, some would say. What about Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, or Macedonia? Aren’t they now simply exemplary democratic states? Well, yes – and that is largely the problem. Bosnia is another protectorate, where politics is a deadly joke. Macedonia has been subverted and turned into an apartheid society by the insidious Treaty of Ohrid.

Serbia just held presidential elections, in which the people’s favorite was clearly not favored by the Empire. So when the Prime Minister arranged for a boycott that would render the vote invalid – and succeeded – the various pro-Imperial NGOs, an alphabet-soup of supposed "guardians" of democracy, said nothing.

In its sister republic of Montenegro, the regime of Milo Djukanovic, an opportunistic, power-hungry crook, was given a new lease on life, thanks to the continued flow of donations from the Imperial treasury that make up most of the tiny republic’s budget. Djukanovic also happens to be a champion of "European integration" and "multi-ethnicity," two favorite buzzwords among Balkans vassals. A mercenary if there ever was one, he still has a mission to accomplish: separate Montenegro from Serbia, at all cost.

And Croatia? Its government refuses to extradite a general accused of war crimes, not on principle, but because it will be politically risky. On the other hand, its president is all for the extradition – though not on principle, but because it is politically correct (to the real masters of the Balkans, that is).

All of these countries are in perpetual crisis – politically, economically, socially – and its only benefactors are their ruling elites and their foreign masters. Do any of these paragons of democracy actually sound appealing? And if so, why?

Criminal Commerce

Over the past few days, sensationalist reports from Sarajevo and Belgrade "revealed" that a Bosnian Serb airplane factory and a Yugoslav arms dealership may have sold some spare parts to Iraq. Seemingly striking, the story is but a tip of the propaganda iceberg.

An anonymous Serbian engineer claimed last month to have built several shelters for Saddam Hussein, which the US would not be able to destroy by bombing alone. And when US and Russian troops took uranium fuel from Serbia’s nuclear research facility in Vinca this August, reports encouraged speculation that the fuel could have ended up in hostile hands, with Iraq topping the list.

Now it is said that Slobodan Milosevic, currently embarrassing the Hague Inquisition, was "allied with Saddam" Hussein. But the only thing they had in common is the undying enmity of the Empire. If this guilt-by-association trend goes on, overzealous reporters might extend the already over-inflated balloon of charges against Milosevic to include "conspiring against the U.S. government" as part of the nonsensical "joint criminal enterprise" the Inquisition is trying so hard to argue into existence.

Certainly, the antebellum Yugoslavia did quite a bit of business in the antebellum Iraq. So did the United States, Britain, France, and the then-USSR. The old Yugoslavia also had business interests in Libya, Nigeria, Kuwait, Iran, Malaysia, Algeria, Syria, even the United States. Many countries saw Yugoslavia’s business came with no strings attached and no threat of force, unlike the competition from the West.

Though the Emperor’s mouth is full of pronouncements about "free trade," any trading not allowed by the Empire is considered a crime nowadays. And if it happens to be trade that could help a country to defend itself from invasion, so much the worse.

The Living Example

Apparently, leaders of the Empire are so desperately determined to invade Iraq, they are seeking a pretext for attacking as far away as the Balkans.

One of the chief reasons for this column’s existence has been the notion that the world should learn from the experiences of the former Yugoslavia and avoid its tragic fate. The Balkans has buried more illusions and crushed more dreams than most other places on the planet. One of the exceptions, ironically, is the Middle East. Yet just as "peacekeeping" in the Balkans was the overture to interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo, the planned attack on Iraq is supposed to be the staging point for the entire Middle East.

Well, as Santayana might put it, those who learn nothing from history are doomed to repeat it.

There was another power, not so long ago, which had come to virtually dominate the Balkans, and sought to invade the last obstacle to its total supremacy. When its heir to the throne met a bullet fired by a young assassin, the Empire had its pretext – but so did its enemies.

Viennese courtiers’ desire to crush Serbia led to World War One, which destroyed not just Austria-Hungary and several other empires, but most of European civilization as well.

When roaming the graveyards of empires, whether in the Balkans or in the Middle East, ignorance, arrogance and stupidity are not assets.

Just so no one can say they weren’t warned.

– Nebojsa Malic

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

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