Friday, June 29, 2007

Good Riddance

The outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Serbia, Michael Polt, has been a stereotypical Imperial envoy: ignorant, arrogant, abrasive, disdainful, boorish... He has even outdone his colleague, Germany's ambassador Andreas Zobel; for while Zobel has cleverly kept his trap shut after sticking both feet in it back in April, Polt has continued to use every public appearance to proclaim his government's support to the illegal separation of the occupied province of Kosovo.

It seems that the Serbian government has had quite enough of him, at long last. Prime Minister Kostunica's spokesman, Srdjan Djuric, has skewered Polt twice this week. The first comment came on Tuesday, after the Ambassador abused the event marking the 60th anniversary of the Marshall Plan to give yet another speech about the "need" for independent Kosovo.

The sneering Polt asked a rhetorical question during his tirade: "What if we were to tell you today that we were wrong and that Kosovo is yours, and that we are withdrawing our forces from Kosovo by Saturday. What then?"

Polt was obviously expecting the terrified Serbs to beg the Americans and other NATO troops to stay and continue their occupation, so even more Serbs could be ethnically cleansed, even more churches could be destroyed, and even more Albanians could illegally settle in the province. No such luck; instead, Djuric reacted by commending the ambassador on an "interesting new suggestion" that signaled American acceptance of Serbia's territorial integrity.

The departing ambassador walked into another blunder on Thursday, when he criticized Prime Minister Kostunica's remark that the U.S. and Serbia were locked in "a new battle for Kosovo." According to Polt, there is no battle; America is a friend of Serbia, and all the hostility is purely one-sided.

Djuric replied: "Friends don't seize one another's land... If this means the U.S. is abandoning its support for the independence of Kosovo... then we can talk about friendly relations between our countries. " He followed up by asking "whether [Mr. Polt's] country would consider Serbia a friend if Serbia were advocating the creation of a new state on American territory."

Of course, Polt was spewing nonsense on both occasions. Washington doesn't have friends - only servants and victims. And the U.S. can no sooner withdraw from Kosovo than it could from Iraq - even though in both cases withdrawal would be the right thing to do. But this is the first time someone in the Serbian government (even if only a spokesman) openly told the Americans that their departure, far from being lamented, would be a good riddance.

The Big Lie of NATO

Anyone who followed the 78-day war of aggression the North Atlantic Treaty Organization waged against what was then the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia knows that NATO officials can lie, and have done so with impunity.

But it shows a special kind of arrogance when even the highest official of the Alliance, secretary-general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, lies without hesitation.

At a conference today, Scheffer responded to criticism from Afghanistan, where 90 civilians died in NATO operations just this month, with this claim: "Let me make one point unmistakably clear - Nato has never killed and will never intentionally kill innocent civilians."

This right here is postmodern "morality;" actions are deemed moral or immoral based on their perpetrator. So when NATO invades a country, bombs civilian targets, destroys utilities, targets reporters, sponsors ethnic cleansing and destruction of cultural monuments, that's "humanitarian intervention" and beyond reproach. But if anyone else is so much as accused of doing any of these things, that's "genocide."

Civilians die in war. That is why starting a war was declared a supreme international crime, back in 1945. Scheffer presides over an Alliance that has violated that law with impunity. So yes, Jaap, you did intentionally kill innocent civilians. That much is unmistakably clear.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Ahtisaari's Real "Rubbish"

Following a report in the Bosnian magazine Fokus, Serbian officials have requested an investigation into allegations that UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari had taken bribes from the Albanian mafia.

According to the magazine, surveillance carried out by the German intelligence (BND) produced evidence of Ahtisaari accepting cash and bank transfer payments from Albanian mafia figures.

The former president of Finland was appointed in 2005 to oversee negotiations between Serbian authorities and the provisional Albanian government set up by the UN in the occupied province, following the 1999 NATO invasion. In February this year, he unveiled his "proposal" for the province that would see it detached from Serbia but functioning as an EU protectorate.

Ahtisaari's spokesman, Remi Dourlot, dismissed the magazine's allegations: "This is a rubbish story, which is actually from a Republica Srpska magazine."

Fokus is indeed published in the Bosnian Serb Republic (RS), but what is Dourlot's point, exactly? That allegations are preposterous simply because they come from a Serb magazine?

Dourlot's dismissal of the story isn't news in itself. But the reasoning he gave - or lack thereof - may just be another important piece towards completing the Ahtisaari puzzle. There is plenty of speculation about Ahtisaari's past and his motives in being at the forefront of carving up Serbia, but it is futile to argue he is not hostile to Serbs.

Prior to his appointment as the UN envoy for Kosovo, Ahtisaari was NATO's envoy to Belgrade during the 1999 war. Afterwards, he became a board member of the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based NGO openly supporting Albanian and Montenegrin separatists and Bosnian Muslim centralizers. During the sham "talks" he conducted in Vienna in 2006, he told the Serbian delegation that Serbs bore collective responsibility for what happened in the Balkans during the 1990s. And earlier this year, after his "proposal" was snarled up in Russian objections, Ahtisaari was quoted by Simon Tisdall of the Guardian (in an article supporting the Albanian agenda, no less):

"If the EU cannot do this, it can forget about its role in international affairs. If we can't do this during the German presidency, we should give up and admit we can't do anything."
One can understand the desire to have the EU assert itself diplomatically - however misguided - but what do the Germans have to do with it? Could Ahtisaari's vision of European unity be closer to Quisling's than DeGaulle's?

But then there is the issue of cold, hard cash. The Fokus story named names, listed numbers of bank accounts. In this day and age, it is entirely too easy to verify a story and prove it right or wrong - provided that people want to hear the truth in the first place.

Given that the Empire's case for Kosovo independence is built on violence and lies and that everything concerning the Albanian organized crime is swept under the rug, Dourlot's dismissal of the Fokus story as "rubbish from a Serb magazine" calls forth a phrase well-known to political reporters: "Believe nothing until it's been officially denied."

Monday, June 18, 2007

Bush of Albania

I have resisted temptation to write about the Emperor's Albania trip. I had nothing to add to Neil Clark's brilliant piece, nor was there anything more to say about the purloined watch drama than was in plain sight on YouTube and elsewhere.

If the self-proclaimed autocrat of the known universe wants to make a complete idiot of himself, he's more than welcome to do so. At least this time no one got killed.

Scanning the news stories from the past week, however, my eye caught on this quote by Nancy Snow, identified as "professor of communications at California State University, Fullerton" in an AP report by Paul Chavez:

"You know things aren't going well when you have to go to Albania to have people take to the streets and cheer you."

And there you have it.

The Smoldering Fuse

Much as it pains me to say a kind word about Richard Holbrooke, the chief architect of the Dayton Accords, there's no escaping the fact that his brainchild has managed to keep a lid on armed conflict in Bosnia for over a decade. The way it was written, it could have even settled the fundamental issue over which the war was fought: the concept of government in a state inhabited by three mutually hostile ethnic groups.

The way it was implemented, unfortunately, attempted to shove the country back into the insane paradigm of 1991, with "citizen state" being used as a veil for domination by one community over the others. Countless "reforms" since 1996 have endeavored to create a strong central government at the expense of the entities. What Bosnia needs, on the other hand, is a less powerful government at all levels.

The reason Serbs, Croats and Muslims fight is only partly based in history; the simple truth is that, with the concept of government inherited from the socialist Yugoslavia (which copied it from the USSR), the state has entirely too much control and influence over every aspect of human action. This is statism in its purest form: extortion, violence, robbery, theft. Coupled with the troubled historical heritage, no group trusts the other with such power, but the lure of its privileges is too strong for anyone to contemplate the obvious solution: abolish most of it, and with it the temptation.

One of the reasons the military reform succeeded was the abolition of conscription. Once the military stopped being a tool of social engineering, politicians had no use for it anymore. Unfortunately, this is a lesson that escaped just about everyone, from the locals to the still substantial number of foreign bureaucrats administering, "training" and "overseeing" the country. With the Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik drawing a line in the sand and refusing to dismantle the Serb Republic any further, and Bosnian Muslim leader Haris Silajdzic leading a political jihad to achieve just that, passions are rising again and the fragile peace (or rather, absence of war) in Bosnia looks as if it won't last for long.

A week ago, I received a note from a friend who works in Sarajevo (and wishes to remain anonymous, for obvious reasons):

I am getting more and more worried about this place. [One] of my top staff and a very smart, educated guy, just spent 45 minutes in my office ranting about the political situation. Basically, he made the case for why Bosnia cannot exist as a sovereign state, but he, like everyone else, refuses to see the implications of his own arguments. Instead they call for "radical action," "imposed solutions," "abandoning politics," etc. Almost fascist-feeling, cult of action, will-to-power type stuff...

The people are delusional. They blame Dodik for everything. They say the country has gone backwards in the last two years, and imply it is because of the "disfuntional state institutions." I say the country has progressed, because the people have clearly, democratically spoken, and now we know where people stand. Plus, because reforms have been achieved despite the "disfunctional state," granted only under Dodik in the RS. Perhaps if they wanted the Serbs to have an interest in state institutions, they should have made the Federation work years ago, so the Serbs would be begging to be part of the dynamic economy next door. But instead they squabbled over insignificant details, made Srebrenica the focus of every speech, and divided up the spoils. Besides the "dysfunctional state" is the only kind that fits the state of the country now - it perfectly reflects the dis-united, aimless people.

They cite historical examples, and then misinterpret every one of them. They pray for the US to finally wake up and impose their (Bosniaks') vision on the country. They threaten war if Dodik achieves his (federal) aims democratically...then accuse Dodik of being a threat to the peace.

And suddenly I am hearing people - respected, educated, important people - talking about the failure of democratic institutions, and the consequent need for "radical action"....

The temperature is rising here. Croatians are hopeless. Bosniaks are radicalizing. Serbs are trying to be pragmatic (in my opinion), but they will be ready to respond if someone tries to use force agains them. The US seems to be trying to disengage - they want to impose window dressing reforms and then hand over responsibility to Brussels....

Things certainly sound grim.

Friday, June 15, 2007


Kurt Waldheim, former Austrian president and UN Secretary-General, died yesterday.

In the Balkans, he will be remembered primarily as a Nazi officer involved in atrocities against Serbs and Jews in western Bosnia.

Robert Fisk has an interesting and informative obituary detailing Waldheim's "career" in the Belfast Telegraph and the Independent.

So here's a war criminal who not only "escaped justice" but eventually rose to the highest office of the UN, the very organization which later (overstepping its already generously broad mandate) established the illegal "tribunal" for political persecution of Balkans leaders (and some more than others). And no, that's not a typo.

Having covered up the genocide the Nazis and their allies conducted in Yugoslavia during World War Two, the Empire - which, after all, has those very same allies today - fabricated a "genocide" supposedly committed by the Serbs, and has used the "tribunal" as a tool of political pressure to ensure Serb submission. For years we've been hearing about "war criminals eluding justice" and "ending the culture of impunity." The hypocrisy is astounding.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Giving Like He Means It

George Walker Bush the Lesser, Emperor-Aspiring of the Known Universe, Decider, Defender of Democracy, Liberator, Light of Lights, Overmind Most Powerful, etc. etc. visited Albania this weekend. It's one of the few corners of the world where he is not reviled, mostly because Imperial troops (albeit under his predecessor) occupied the Serbian province of Kosovo eight years ago and made it safe for Albanian ethnic cleansing. In fact, His Glorious Serendipity's visit to Tirana fell on the 8th anniversary of the armistice that ended the 1999 invasion.

As a propaganda organization affiliated with the Empire reports, His Elevated Majesty told Albanian Prime Minister Berisha:

“You get your diplomats working with Russians and EU diplomats to see if there is not a common ground,” said Bush, indicating that if there no compromise on Kosovo’s independence the US may act on its own toward the region.

“If you end up being in a position where you don’t, at some point of time, sooner rather than later, you got to say: that’s enough – Kosovo is independent,” said Bush.

Commenting on this pronouncement by His Hegemonic Enormity, Serbian Prime Minister Kostunica said that the Empire "has a right to support certain states and peoples in accordance with its interests, but not by making them a present of something which doesn't belong to it... The U.S. has to find some way of showing its favor and love for the Albanians other than presenting them with Serbian territories."

Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether Albania and the Albanians have done anything to deserve Imperial favor and love (ha!), Kostunica has a point here. Even His Most Worshipful Greatness cannot give away what is not his (occupation does not mean ownership, see), so Kosovo is right out. However, he could reward his Albanian vassals with the State of New Jersey. From what I hear, it would not be all that hard.

Friday, June 01, 2007

The Unbearable Emptiness of Democracy

(originally posted on Сиви Соко, May 9. 2007)

The past few months of political intrigue around the new Serbian government are one of the best case studies for the vacuity of democracy in modern times.

What is democracy, really? The Greek compound that meant "rule of the people" in Athenian practice denoted a political system in which decisions were made by a simple majority of present citizens (excluding women, slaves, children and foreigners). Socrates and his disciples spent a long time debating human motivations, nature, truth, virtue and justice, because they had to. Democracy itself was blind to virtue or vice; the will of the majority at any given time was supreme, even though that same will could be completely different the following day. Athenian philosophers thus devoted their lives' work to figuring out a way to make the majority's decisions good and moral. They never found one. Socrates was democratically sentenced to death for "blasphemy and corrupting the youth."

What is democracy today? Is it just multi-party elections? Tolerance of political opposition? Freedom of the press, speech and thought? Everyone talks about democracy, but no one dares say what it means. When Serbian political magazine НСПМ reprinted one of my columns last year - in which I assailed the arbitrary definition of democracy by the Empire - I was criticized by another contributor for disputing "universal values.” What values?

How can something that's absolutely undefined can be some sort of universal value, or a moral and ethical category? Yet "democracy" is being presented as both.

For four days this month, Tomislav Nikolic was the Speaker of the Serbian assembly (Skupština). It's a largely administrative post, charged with presiding over the sessions and making sure the rules of order and conduct are followed. Now, it is true that under extreme circumstances, the Speaker could become the President of Serbia; this was used by the late Prime Minister Djindjic, who appointed his crony Natasa Micic to the spot just before arresting and extraditing President Milutinovic to the ICTY. However, given the atmosphere in the Serbian assembly, one would think only a hardcore masochist would want a job best described as "herding wildcats."

Nikolic's election was protested by EU commissars. A scheduled delegation from Brussels canceled its visit. The world media (otherwise known for their fair and impartial coverage of Serbs, right?) are spreading panic about Nikolic being an ”ultra-nationalist” etc. President Tadic, head of the Democratic Party, said Nikolic's election was ”harmful to state interests” and a ”democratic Serbia.” Or was that a Democratic Serbia?

Tadic's party has been negotiating (or not) for months with the old PM Kostunica about a new government, without results. They claim they got the most votes, so they can dictate the make-up of the government. One teeny little problem with that argument is that the Radicals actually got the most votes. But that's an inconvenient truth, and thus overlooked in "democratic" discussion. Because, you see, only the "democratic bloc" can act democratically and build democracy in a democratic state... At which point I'm getting flashbacks to an 1980s cartoon where every Smurf smurfs smurfingly the entire smurfing day!

The United States is (yes, singular, alas) the self-proclaimed pinnacle of democracy, a country that has arrogated itself the right to spread this concept of government throughout the world (by force if need be), and to judge everyone else's degree of democracy. So they are bothered by Nikolic, or Milosevic, or Lukasenko, or Putin - but not by a star like Saparmurat Niyazov. This recently deceased "president" of Turkmenistan, who declared himself a prophet, erected hundreds of golden statues to himself, abolished libraries and imposed his own book as the only literature Turkmens would ever need, etc. Turkey is considered a "democracy" even though the military has to stage a coup every couple of years to prevent Islamic radicals from getting into power via ballot-box. Boris Yeltsin, the recently deceased president of Russia, democratically sicced tanks on the parliament in 1993, with the roaring applause of Washington. Now that same Washington is jeering his successor Vladimir Putin for "autocracy" because he cracked down on NGOs receiving funding from abroad without adequate tax paperwork. I wish someone would try that sort of stunt in the "democratic" US of A, where no one messes with the IRS. In fact, the IRS is a favorite tool for cracking down on dissidents and undesirables, even though some years back there were those tanks and teargas in Waco...

Come to think of it, Bush the Lesser got fewer votes than Al Gore in November 2000, thus becoming Emperor - er, President - on account of some shady voting in Florida. Relative thing, this democracy. Once all is added up, it turns out democracy is whatever the government in Washington or the commissars in Brussels say it is. At least the autocrats in Washington are elected; who voted for Olli Rehn, Javier Solana, or their fellows? To be clear, I honestly don't think being elected gives anyone legitimacy, but one can't exactly pontificate about the be-all-and-end-all character of democracy without even bothering to at least respect its forms!

Did the Radicals get the most votes in the January election? Yes. Was it shocking that their leader became Speaker of the assembly? Yes, but it should not be. Was Nikolic's election democratic? Absolutely. That this bothers people whose mouths spew democracy daily is just proof of their hypocrisy. Either that, or that they don't know what democracy means. I'm not sure what's worse.

Now, it's a whole different story that the Radicals refuse to propose a government of their own, because it's easier to criticize the "democrats" from the sidelines. It's as if politics were a reality-show contest rather than the very serious business of running a country in crisis. That's why I cringe at the popular expression in Serbia, the "political elite." If this is "elite," then no wonder Serbia is in trouble.

American Founders, back in 1791, didn't put a word about democracy in their Constitution (which had seven articles and ten amendments). It is said that Benjamin Franklin, asked about what the Convention had produced, replied, "A republic, if you can keep it." Ask an American today if his country is a republic or a democracy, he'll say "A democracy, of course." Poor Franklin was right about the "if" part.

It was no accident that Orwell attempted to describe totalitarianism through the abuse of language. Every time I hear modern political discourse I get a feeling I'm listening to exercises in blackwhite doublethink of doubleplusgood duckspeakers.

Democracy isn't half the things the "democrats" of all stripes claim it is. Nor is it intrinsically good or moral. It is simply a decision-making process in a political system that assumes the will of the majority is the best way to reach a solution. As to the validity of that assumption, I suggest you talk to Socrates.