In the Balkans, two weeks can pass like a day or like an eternity. As television, the press and even the Internet increasingly focus on Afghanistan, the peninsula drops off the news radar – barring some major calamity its inhabitants would rather avoid. Over time, however, the numerous small and ignored events open a way for such a calamity, making it seem sudden and unpredictable. Most observers base their understanding of the peninsula – and especially the Yugoslav crisis – on calamities, thus missing the point entirely. For the devil, as usual, is in the details.
Terrorism as Popular Sentiment Take, for example, Macedonia. It has been over two months since the Euro-American envoys forced the government to sign the Treaty of Ohrid, pledging to institute preferential treatment for Macedonia's seditious Albanians in exchange for the disbanding of their "liberation army" (UCK) – which NATO had first labeled "terrorist," then accepted as peacemakers.
Last week, Macedonian police patrols finally returned to the villages (still?) controlled by the UCK. Unlike normal police forces anywhere in the world, they did not set up shop at the police station, but merely toured the villages and retreated at nightfall. By Tuesday night, Albanians made it abundantly clear what they thought of the police's return, as explosions rocked both the local police station and the municipal government building.
Never mind that the police visited their beat under escort of German NATO peacekeepers and OSCE monitors – nannies assigned to make sure they do not "provoke" the violent separatists. Even that much re-establishment of Macedonian statehood was unacceptable. Given that OSCE is an organization dedicated to "security," and that NATO was one of the guarantors of the treaty, one would think both organizations would have condemned the bombings. All the BBC reported, offhandedly, was that:
"Officials from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the explosions caused superficial damage and injured nobody."
So as long as they cause only superficial damage and injure no one, bombs are a legitimate medium of political expression? Neither OSCE, nor NATO, have claimed otherwise.
Campaigning in Kosovo Political expression is certainly allowed to take many forms in the Empire's most recent Balkans protectorate. Three weeks before the scheduled elections for a "legislative assembly" in Kosovo, offices and activists of two Albanian parties continue to be targets or attacks. Just the other day, two men linked to Ibrahim Rugova's LDK party were shot dead, and another, former member of the original UCK ("Kosovo Liberation Army") was wounded. Last week, an office of the party led by former UCK commander Ramush Haradinaj "accidentally" burned to the ground. The only party whose members and offices have not been attacked is that of UCK's leader Hashim Thaci. Under ordinary circumstances, this would have made him a prime suspect. In NATO-occupied, UN-administered Kosovo, political assassinations seem to be an acceptable form of democratic discourse.
Knowing all this, Kosovo Serbs must soon decide whether to take part in the vote at all. The UN satrap would like them to participate, and he plans to say so in a meeting with Yugoslav President Kostunica in Belgrade today. If the Serbs do vote, however, they will be giving legitimacy to the already certain victory of Albanian separatists. Though the UN is adamant that the assembly would not have the power to organize a referendum on independence (so what exactly is it for, then, except to waste taxpayers' money?), many Serbs do not trust the world organization's assurances. They have done so, and suffered the consequences, too many times already.
The OSCE, which in addition to baby-sitting Macedonian police also organizes Kosovo elections, says the Serb boycott would be "intolerable." As opposed to the current living conditions of the remaining Serbs, who are confined to ghettoes enclosed by barbed wire and guarded by NATO troops, lest Albanians shoot them, torch their homes or blow them up.
Broke in Bosnia Bosnia, the pride and joy of nation-builders throughout the Empire, has been proving less than stellar recently. Just last week, the US and UK embassies closed under threat of terrorist attacks. They reopened Tuesday, after the arrests of five Algerians suspected of terrorism.
As the country's Muslim leaders struggle to disassociate themselves from religious militants who aided their cause during the war, the other half of Bosnia has more pressing concerns. Hospitals across the Bosnian Serb Republic (RS) closed Tuesday, as health-care workers began a general strike. Most health care in RS is government-owned and funded from the state coffers, which currently stand rather empty. Six years of foreign occupation and semi-colonial rule by a series of "high representatives," along with the imposed compromise solution to the country's ethnic enigma (which was no solution at all), have resulted in little or no economic recovery from the wartime devastation and prewar recession.
The International Crisis Group recently issued a report advocating harsh measures against the RS, even endorsing its destruction if that would prove feasible. So far, however, the Imperial satraps in Sarajevo have already censored the RS media, banned one political party, fired one President and imposed two governments, not to mention arresting two former presidents and one sitting government minister on criminal charges. Its current government, which was almost banned after the elections because the United States disliked their outcome, is already broke. There is little else anyone can do to hurt the Bosnian Serbs, short of wanton aggression. Unfortunately, they just don't have the good sense to oblige their imperial foes by practicing terrorism.
Their Day in Court Meanwhile, the appeals court of the Hague Inquisition released three Croats from the village of Ahmici, who had been convicted of war crimes in connection with the massacre that happened there in 1993, after deciding their trial was "critically flawed." Deeming the trial a "miscarriage of justice," the ICTY appeals judges indicated that the prosecution used unreliable and even conflicting witness reports, that the trial judge ignored witness statements that helped the defense, and that the case could not stand based on the evidence presented. Bosnian Muslims from Ahmici did not care about legality – many interviewed by the AFP were witnesses in the trial, and they were seething over the release.
At the same time, Yugoslavia pressed charges against European NATO members at the European Court of Human Rights, claiming that by bombing the offices of the Serbian television network in 1999, these countries violated the European Human Rights Charter. What is the NATO members' defense? That Yugoslavia never signed the Charter, so whatever the countries who did sign it did to Yugoslavia surely must not have been a violation of human rights.
Messages in Madness Now consider all this, together. Elections that get overturned depending on their outcome. Governments that cannot make decisions, but only waste their impoverished people's tax money. Court cases in which guilt or innocence is based solely on the identity of the accused. Human rights defined as freedom to murder police officers and be subsidized by the state in return. Freedom of expression defined as setting off bombs. Terrorists roaming free until they threaten to attack Americans.
What, exactly, did the Empire hoped to accomplish when it sent "peacekeepers" into the Balkans, and set up two protectorates? To establish peace, stability, democracy, freedom? If so, it failed. But if the purpose was to weaken the EU, sideline the UN, reinvent NATO, create precedent for worldwide intervention, occupation, neocolonial protectorates and widespread violations of international law and sovereignty… then the Balkans has been a magnificent policy success.
Some of Empire's former policymakers and pundits recently boasted that Bosnia and Kosovo were examples of America "helping Muslims." Yet how truthful is that? Instead of realizing their war aims – of an integrated Bosnia and an independent Kosovo, respectively – both the Bosnian Muslims and Kosovo Albanians have to put up with NATO occupation and foreign administration with near-unlimited powers.
It is hard to see how the Empire's behavior in the Balkans could help but have bearing on events elsewhere in the world, from Somalia and Afghanistan to Colombia and Taiwan. But the message is not one of commitment, consistency or conscience. What the US and its allies have done in the Balkans so far only shows belligerence, extreme dishonesty and hypocrisy, even to the people they purportedly wish to help.