Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Chasing a Non-Story

A strange story appeared in the New York Times on March 5. (A version of the story also ran in Australia's The Age the following day. However, The Age's version leaves out the most interesting part, so it's somewhat less useful here.)

Nicholas Wood, writing from Novi Sad, tells of a bizarre incident in which a family was told its father had passed away, only to find representatives of a private funeral home at their doorstep minutes after the hospital's call. Only trouble was, the patriarch was not dead - merely transferred to another ward, and the nurse, seeing the empty bed, jumped to conclusion. She also, allegedly, called the funeral home with the tip, so she could get a "finder's fee." The funeral home director denies the existence of such an arrangement, but Wood's sources in Serbian healthcare testify it is commonplace.

So far, it's a relatively harmless exercise in scorn ("OMG, Serbia's healthcare is so corrupt, nurses call funeral homes to get paid for dead people! Such savages!"), the kind of which wafts from every NYT article about Serbs and Serbia. But then Wood decides to take it to the next level:

"The collusion between health workers and funeral homes echoes a scandal that emerged in Zodz, Poland, in 2002. Prosecutors there investigated a similar trade and found that ambulance workers were deliberately arriving late at emergencies to increase their chances of finding business for funeral homes.

Prosecutors also discovered the widespread use of a muscle relaxant, which they believe was used to kill patients. Two doctors and two ambulance workers are on trial charged in the deaths of 18 people.

No evidence of such practices has come to light in Serbia..."

So, an ethically dubious practice of alerting funeral homes of deaths in hospitals has, in Nick Wood's mind, a lot in common with a criminal affair in Poland, where healthcare workers actually murdered their patients or deliberately allowed them to die. What exactly is the correlation? There isn't any. Oh, but Wood's choice of phrase ("No evidence... has come to light") implies that something like that may have happened in Serbia, it's just that no evidence has been found, yet. A false analogy, garnished with slick verbiage, leaving the impression that Serbian health workers are so corrupt, they are killing their own patients for a payout from funeral homes. Of course, Wood's story claims no such thing; but if it didn't mean to suggest it, why in the heavens did he mention the completely different, unrelated affair in Poland?

This reeks of the same technique used when mentioning "Srebrenica" in the mainstream press, where the (inaccurate) mention of "8000 unarmed men and boys" is inevitably followed with the qualifier, "the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II." And since it's part of the world's collective consciousness that WWII = the Holocaust, there is the Srebrenica = Holocaust (hence Serbs = Nazis) parallel the figure of speech is meant to invoke.

I have no idea how NYT decides on headlines; those choices are probably made in a New York newsroom, not by field reporters like Wood. This one was, "In Serbia, Deaths Set Off a Lucrative Race for Profit." It is by no means an ode to free enterprise (funeral homes), but a piece of filthy propaganda aimed to suggest that Serbs profit from death. The original non-story (nurses tip off funeral directors; amusing, but not criminal) is thus transformed into a vessel for demonization.

Think I'm reading too much into it? If you replaced "Serb" and "Serbian" with, say, "Kenya" or "Kenyan", there'd be an outcry that NYT engaged in racism. But Serbs, man, them you are allowed to hate. Doesn't everybody?

Friday, March 03, 2006

Our Man Agim

Prologue: Tuesday afternoon I received a phone call from a friend in Washington, who told me of information from a trusted source that Bajram Kosumi, "Prime minister" of the provisional Albanian government of occupied Kosovo, will be forced to resign and replaced by than Agim Ceku. 
"Can they do that?" my friend asked. 
"Sure they can, " I replied. "They are the Empire, and Kosumi is a client; they can do anything in Kosovo." 
Well, except protect non-Albanians, their property and culture, anyway - but why belabor the obvious?

On Wednesday, Reuters reported that Kosovo PM Bajram Kosumi resigned from office, "under pressure" from "Western mentor states shepherding the U.N.-run Serbian province through talks that could lead to its independence." UN's viceroy and steadfast partisan of the Albanian cause, Soeren Jessen-Petersen, commented: "...we want to support Kosovo, but at the same time we want the leaders and the people to work very, very hard to earn that which they want to see in Kosovo."

(Handy translation: We = Empire; Kosovo = Albanians. Carry on.)

And sure enough, Kosumi's successor is Agim Ceku, the butcher of Krajina and the highest-ranking "military" commander of the terrorist KLA (Hashim "Snake" Thaci was its political leader). He is a natural choice to fill the shoes of Ramush "Golden Boy" Haradinaj, another KLA veteran who resigned as Prime Minister last March to face charges before the Hague Inqusition - which promptly released him and sent him back to Kosovo. Writes Chris Deliso of Balkanalysis.com:

"There's certainly no one as good as Ceku at removing 'unnecessary delays,' especially if it involves removing unnecessary populations."

So let's review here. First Bush II adopts a Balkans policy strategy written by the Clintonites, which amounts to secession of Kosovo, secession of Montenegro, a Muslim-dominated centralized Bosnia and preferably the smallest, weakest Serbia imaginable. Then Kai Eide, the Whitewasher of March, green-lights the final-status talks despite the UN standards (from "standards before status") manifestly nowhere near being met. Then Martti Ahtisaari, who was instrumental in tricking Belgrade to sign a truce in 1999 that NATO interpreted as unconditional surrender of Kosovo, and who then joined the Serbophobic and pro-Albanian ICG, is chosen to chair the negotiations. Then, following the death and beatification of Ibrahim Rugova, American and UK diplomats openly declare that independence of "Kosova" is inevitable, and Belgrade should deal with it. Now the "international community" shows the precise extent to which it controls the Kosovo Albanians, by forcing their top officials (Nexhat Daci, speaker of the Albanian parliament, was also forced to resign) out to make way for their KLA pets.

Despite his involvement in the deliberate slaughter of Serb civilians in present-day Croatia (for which the Inquisition has hounded his immediate superior, Ante Gotovina), Ceku not only didn't get indicted, he was put on UN payroll as commander of the "Kosovo Protection Corps," a sinecure for KLA veterans established after the occupation. When Ceku was arrested on a stopover in Slovenia, on a perfectly valid and legal Interpol warrant based on criminal charges in Serbia, he was bailed out by Viceroy Harri Holkeri who declared that "Serbia-Montenegro no longer had jurisdiction over the citizens [sic] of Kosovo." Holkeri displayed no such decisiveness during the Albanian Kristallnacht a few months later, hiding instead with the best of the rabbits.

After all this, can anyone in Belgrade who still has even a single functioning brain cell honestly believe that the "international community" (i.e. Washington, Brussels and satellites) has anything but an Albanian "Kosova" in mind? There is no doubt about it any more.

The plot to separate Kosovo from Serbia de jure as well as de facto should be the primary concern of whoever heads the government in Belgrade. Not chasing Ratko Mladic, or negotiating the possibility of a theoretical consideration of a promise to maybe negotiate the notion of eventually entering the EU - the preservation of Serbia's territorial integrity, here and now. Acquiescing to the "independence" of "Kosova" is treason. Trouble is, these days treason is trendy in Belgrade. It's progressive, civilized, "democratic" even...

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Left, Right and Liberty

From an essay by Anthony Gregory, today at LRC:

To love liberty is to oppose the state’s timeless assault on it, whether wearing the cloak of tradition and cheered on by bloodthirsty generals, corporate suits and social conservatives, or donning the mask of humanitarianism and equality and trailed by a parade of social workers, bureaucrats, unionists, humanities professors and multilateral warmongers. [...] But the ugly thing about politics is, no matter how unsavory one side gets as it is exercising and vying for power, the power itself can always corrupt the other side. Left and right can turn on a dime, but the potential of the state itself to grow and worsen is ultimately constrained only by the laws of economics, by human nature, and by a public opinion inclined to resist the state’s advances, regardless of the garb it wears.