March 15, 2001
Less than two years since the savage NATO attack on Yugoslavia, and a little more than five years since a similar attack in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the "American peace" imposed on the Balkans is beginning to unravel.
In Bosnia, American troops have been "keeping the peace" for over five years, though President Clinton promised to have them back in one. Over those five years, the UN administration and the occupying NATO troops have pushed the local authorities to build a stronger central government, deliberately ignoring the fact that centralization had been one of the underlying causes of the war. A major Bosnian Croat party, marginalized by a coalition backed by NATO and the UN governor, declared the Muslim-Croat federation dead earlier this month, and vowed to organize their own entity within the Bosnian protectorate. A linchpin in making the Dayton Agreement possible, they believe they’d been shut out of power and marginalized by the centralist UN governor. If they have their way, the Dayton Bosnia would unravel like a ball of yarn.
In the south, Albanians in Kosovo have been pushing hard for independence, while their kin in the rest of southern Serbia and Macedonia escalated their attacks on local authorities and demanded NATO intervention. Most militant activity occurs on the borders of the US occupation zone, a fact that has not escaped the increasingly angry Europeans, Macedonians and Serbs.
Events in the Balkans are definitely challenging imperial assumptions about the region. It is far more likely that the Empire would rather go to another war against Belgrade, than admit any wrongdoing, ever.
American assumptions were simple:
Economic well-being – or lack thereof – may have played some part in the inception of the Yugoslav crisis in 1990, but was soon eclipsed by ethnic concerns. In some places, such as Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, wars were fought over power and territory, not money. Throwing money at them could only further disrupt the situation and encourage corruption and crime, which is exactly what happened.
Some political forces in the Balkans itself continue to believe in the economic approach – mostly because they desire money now that they’ve won power. They also exhibit the least amount of understanding and the most obedience. It is the allies and vassals of the US who are currently showing a complete lack of either.
Reporters for the London Observer confirmed last week what Slobodan Milosevic had been saying all along – that the CIA trained and equipped the KLA, and used it as a weapon against Serbia. Now this "bastard army" is "rampaging" across the Balkans, and the US has no idea how to stop it. Well, almost.
After several days of shuttling between the Serbian government outpost in Bujanovac and the Albanian militants in Dobrosin, NATO political officers did manage to have them both sign a document. Albanians flat-out refused at first, but abruptly changed their mind when a clause was added to their version of the document, allowing them to shoot at Serbs freely.
Yugoslav troops deployed into the zone Wednesday, under the watchful eye of NATO helicopters. As the London Times noted earlier, NATO would be monitoring Yugoslav forces, while observing the militants’ compliance would be entrusted to an unarmed handful of EU monitors.
So far, the "ceasefire" appears to be holding, but with the Albanians determined to achieve their objectives, which are completely incompatible with Serbian and Yugoslav interests, it is hard to say if the ceasefire would be of any use, or if it would just precipitate another bloodbath.
Underscoring the murkiness of American involvement in resolving the problem of Albanian separatism is the fact that KLA’s other branch, operating in the hills of northern Macedonia, seems unperturbed by the "truce" in Serbia.
Last week, the militants evacuated their positions on the Macedonian border and moved deeper into the country, in full sight of the peacekeepers who did nothing to stop them. The following morning, US paratroopers triumphantly entered the abandoned village and declared victory. That same day, the militants ambushed Macedonia’s top security official and his entourage, and held them surrounded for hours.
Support for their cause came from seemingly unexpected quarters. Arben Xaferi, most powerful Albanian politician in Macedonia, claimed this past week that he fought for the same goals the militants professed – more rights for Albanians inside Macedonia, but in a different, peaceful way. He also rejected the official government position that the insurgency was imported from Kosovo, giving the "UCK" legitimacy by claiming it was an indigenous force.
Another booster for Albanian militants came from Kosovo itself, where the UN occupation authorities unveiled a plan to turn over daily administration of the province to the Albanians, nudging the occupied territory a step closer to independence despite all the statements indicating otherwise.
Macedonia’s former top cop, Pavle Trajanov, accused the current government for helping the Albanian militants, ignoring their criminal activities as long as they got their share of the drug-and-guns racket. Trajanov also glumly noted that NATO would never turn on its former allies, as that would mean having its troops held hostage in Kosovo.
Trajanov’s words sound almost prophetic, but also very rational. The only way NATO – and the US, the real power behind the Alliance – could deal with Croat and Albanian actions would involve repudiating some of the basic principles that justified the occupation of the peninsula. Acknowledging that the Bosnian war was a civil war over ethnic rights and land ownership, or admitting that the real cause of the Kosovo conflict was Albanian separatism, would be career-ending heresy in the State Department, the White House and the HQ in Mons.
Faced with this impossible choice, the US chose to assail – Belgrade!
Something called the "Centre for European Policy Studies" in Brussels, blamed Milosevic for the actions of Albanians, Croats and even the separatist regime of Milo Djukanovic in Montenegro.
"Milosevic was able to keep together an artificial state through terrorism, but now that he’s gone we’re seeing old fault lines re-emerging," said analyst Nicholas Whyte. (AFP, March 13)
Aside from the fact that it directly flies into the face of all public announcements supporting the integrity of Yugoslavia ("artificial state," held together by "terrorism") in the face of separatist attacks ("old fault lines"), this argument also implies that Milosevic was the key to Serbia’s strength and that the US pushed for his removal for that very reason.
Serbia was weakened by Milosevic’s fall, mainly because its new government tried to appease the Empire by offering numerous concessions and repudiating all policies of the previous regime, good or bad.
Yugoslav ambassador to the US, Milan St. Protic, recently said that Kosovo should stay under NATO occupation for at least 20 more years and that no one was thinking of "restoring Serb domination there." He also said he expected the arrest of Slobodan Milosevic by March 31, a key demand of the US in order to send Yugoslavia a paltry $100 million in aid. Paltry, because that is ten times less per capita than the separatist Montenegro regime of Milosevic-clone Milo Djukanovic received with no strings attached.
The March 31 deadline was underlined again in a three-page list of demands, presented to Belgrade last week by US Ambassador Montgomery. Among them:
[Belgrade daily Glas Javnosti, March 8]
If Belgrade does not comply, The US will:
[Glas Javnosti, March 8]
The last two points leave no doubt that the US stands behind the separatist tendencies of both Djukanovic’s Montenegro and Kosovo Albanians, using them as a weapon against Serbia and Yugoslavia. It also confirms suspicions that Zoran Djindjic, Serbia’s Prime Minister, enjoys more US support than his federal boss, Vojislav Kostunica, since Kostunica is not an obedient puppet as it was expected. The New York Times, Empire’s paper of record, rationalized the demands as "tough but doable." But one glance at the points above makes it clear that they involve actions no self-respecting sovereign state would be able to perform and survive. Maybe that’s the point.
Another shot at Kostunica came several days earlier, when an open letter from Human Rights Watch accused him of being a liar, and demanded his immediate compliance with all demands of the ICTY.
It is worth noting, in the context of American exploitation of power rifts in Yugoslavia, that a special committee of the Serbian government, loyal to Djindjic, has full control over security forces in southern Serbia. One of the committee’s first orders was to impose censorship and ban public statements by army and security personnel, inclined to be loyal to Kostunica and the federal authorities.
The Western press has been busy lamenting the recent events as challenges and attempts to hurt "the West" through causing "instability" in the Balkans. NATO’s only goal – "to pacify the region" – comes from sheer altruism, and NATO officials cannot understand why these pesky natives would want to rock the boat.
It is hard to decide, in the light of facts presented above, whether this line of reasoning is closer to hypocrisy, willful ignorance, or stupidity. One can hardly play dumb in the face of overwhelming evidence that its own policy of Serbophobia is chiefly responsible for the "destabilizing" attacks by Albanians and political dissent of the Bosnian Croats.
Why would the United States seek to pacify the Balkans and keep it as a near-colonial dominion? Justin Raimondo has already answered half the question, and his masterful analysis covers the economic bases brilliantly. The other side of that dirty coin would be the far more slippery motives of power and image, both vital to the US dominance of the modern world. Its armies cannot possibly reach everywhere and fight everyone who could refuse obedience. So, the Balkans was held up as a lesson to everyone of the terrible cost of defying the Empire. It has also been used to regain US dominance over Europe and prevent development of any independent foreign policy on the Old Continent, individual or collective.
Given all that, one would think that it would be the Serbs, Empire’s principal target in the peninsula, that would strive to break the chains of Pax Americana and destroy the Imperial dominance hovering over their heads like a dark cloud. Quite to the contrary, it seems that America’s vassals and allies, current or erstwhile, have done the most damage. That, again, points to a somewhat different conclusion than the Western press would want us to believe. What is happening right now is not a threat to Pax Americana. The people behind it lack the strategic vision and intelligence to mount such a challenge.
When Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic almost sabotaged the Dayton talks by asking for more concessions on the very last day, Holbrooke and the US delegation played frustrated but did nothing. Eventually, Milosevic caved in and gave Izetbegovic one more concession, as it was clear at that point who would benefit from a continuing war. By saving himself and sacrificing two million Serbs, Milosevic delivered the US its big victory.
Much like Izetbegovic in Dayton, Albanians and Croats are now clamoring for more, under the umbrella of their powerful protectors. Interpreting the pliable behavior of the new Yugoslav government as weakness – not entirely inaccurately – Albanian separatists are fighting for their ethnically pure state with firm resolve, unshaken by all the harsh words of the Imperial establishment. Actions to back those words up have been absent, and that’s a sign that Albanians find hard to miss – though the Yugoslav government and the Imperial press seem quite oblivious to it.
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