Thursday, October 23, 2008

Harping Has-Beens

What do Paddy Ashdown and Richard Holbrooke have in common? If you said "Serbophobia" that would be correct, though entirely too obvious. No, another thing they have in common is that Bosnia was the high point of their careers. Holbrooke had famously "negotiated" the peace agreement that ended the fighting in the 1992-1995 civil war (but not the war itself, which merely moved to the political sphere). Ashdown was the viceroy of Bosnia for three years, ruling the Balkans country like a personal fief.

After Bosnia, Holbrooke served for a while as the U.S. ambassador to the UN. He hoped to become Secretary of State in either the Gore or Kerry administration, but his hopes were foiled both times. He had gambled on Hillary Clinton, and lost. Though he still likes to pontificate in the U.S. press, Holbrooke is in effect a private citizen.

Ashdown was likewise spurned after his disastrous Bosnia reign. In what could be considered the ultimate humiliation for an aspiring colonial government, he was rejected out of hand by the Karzai regime as the proposed special envoy for Afghanistan. I'm not entirely sure what he's into these days, except that he's not involved with his former party, the Liberal Democrats. Since they got rid of Ashdown, they seem to be doing better than ever, by the way.

Now, Paddy has tried to raise a ruckus in the British media for several months now, claiming that the sky is falling in Bosnia and that the Empire needed to "do something" to stop the evil, genocidal Serbs hell-bent on destruction of that multi-ethnic paradise. After his first hysterical episode, back in July, Ian Banks demolished his argument and demonstrated that Ashdown was either clueless, or malicious. I'll say he's probably both.

Two days ago, Ashdown teamed up with Holbrooke, and once again they ranted, raved and railed against the evil Serbs threatening Bosnia, supposedly as proxies of the even eviler Russians, and "Europe" and the U.S. had to "do something" to stop it, or else. It's fact-free, Serbophobic, imperialistic rubbish, really, typical of those two.

Normally I would not give a flying rodent's posterior that two Serbophobic has-beens are polluting the press with their drivel. Most Balkans coverage is offal, really, and the latest Ashdown-Holbrooke oeuvre doesn't stand out in any way. However, their screed has resonated in the region and beyond; apparently, it was republished by the Muslim nationalist daily "Dnevni Avaz." At that point, it showed up on the radar of the local Reuters correspondent, so it made the wires. Somehow, in the process of quoting the opinions of two imperialist has-beens, they begin to sound like facts. Idiotic nonsense, such as the claim that Croats want a strong central government, or that Muslim leader Haris Silajdzic wants to "end ethnic division" (so that is how one spins "desires Muslim dominance" these days), was thus presented as self-evident truth.

The disturbing amount of attention and approval the Ashdown/Holbrooke philippic seems to have attracted suggests that the spirit of Empire is still alive and well in the West, even as the body of it is shrivels and dies from fatal financial disease. In truth, I would be a whole lot more alarmed if the Atlantic Empire and the EUSSR actually had the wherewithal to mess with Bosnia again, as they have done over the past twenty years or so. But it is no longer 1992, or 1995, or 2004. The Empire they helped create by lying through their teeth in and about Bosnia is finally collapsing under the weight other lies.

That isn't to say they can't try, if they come into positions of power once more. There's still a whole lot of potential for mischief in the Empire, and still entirely too many willing quislings in the Balkans who seem as oblivious to Empire's current condition as others were to the fate of the USSR in the early 1990s. Vigilance is definitely called for.

Still, I can't shake the impression that Dick and Paddy are just trying to bring back the good ol' days when they had their grubby little paws on the closest thing to absolute power any diplomat or politician had ever seen. I can certainly understand why they would want it back. But why should the rest of us give a damn?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Whose Order?

Commenting on a recent incident in Serbia, where several hooligans attacked a young lady at volleyball practice and broke her arms (!), a Serbian blogger called "Jane" doesn't buy the establishment explanation. It isn't the "traumas of the 1990s", she avers, but:

Could the problem be the current zeitgeist, recently adopted by just about everyone? The ethics promoted by the state and society today go something like this: Power is its own right. The only right is the right of the strong. The strong are always right - if they demand something, give it to them. Do not fight those stronger than you, no matter the cause or circumstance. Yesterday doesn't matter, tomorrow is far away, the only thing that matters is now. You want something, take it. Take it today.

How can we expect the youth of today to obey any sort of moral code, when the state itself rejects it altogether? Why should anyone want to submit to humiliation in a country that keeps being humiliated? Why not play by the state's rules? There are two players in that game: the strong, thuggish one that can take anything he wants with impunity; and the weak, pathetic, incompetent victim who accepts the beatings, approves of them, and continues to crave the companionship of the strong, no matter how hard the beatings get.

I could not agree more. When people see the state act this way, when they see the individuals who act this way become rich and powerful (even to the point of calling themselves "elite"), it is but a matter of time when the bulk of the people will start acting and thinking the same way. At some point, belief in the "law of the jungle" becomes necessary for survival. Because human nature demands some kind of order, some kind of rules, no matter how irrational.

Among other things, the demise of Yugoslavia was made possible by the collapse of the values that country was built on. Once upon a time, Tito was everything. But by the time Yugoslavia began to crumble, he'd been dead for a decade, and the promised Marxist utopia had failed to arrive. What came were the bills for debts previously incurred, higher by the day. Then came the demagogues, and with them a "new order" favoring those that did the taking and the killing.

The violence "Jane" was talking about isn't limited to Serbia. Croatian crime pages are filled with similar stories: beatings, murders, ambushes, suicides. Bosnia is no different, either. There once used to be a sort of honor among thieves (not much of one, for they were, after all, thieves), now even that is gone. Violence has become random, unthinking, animalistic. There is no order anymore. There are no rules. And the leading exponents of such behavior are the very people whose job description requires them to uphold the rules and protect order. Instead, they merrily destroy both - in order to eventually save the people from themselves, I guess, by establishing a new set of rules, a new order, better suited to their ends.

Or have they done so already?

Friday, October 10, 2008


In these dark times, just as I think the world can sink no further into depravity and decadence, something usually happens that proves me wrong.

Anyone who ever won the Nobel Peace Prize should feel revolted and disgusted that this year it was awarded to Martti Ahtisaari. Oh, supposedly the ex-president of Finland helped Namibia become independent, made peace in Aceh (hey, aren't they still fighting?) and mediated in Iraq (no comment), but we all know what really drove the awards committee: Ahtisaari's services to the Empire in first ensuring the NATO occupation of Kosovo in 1999, then engineering the "peace plan" that handed this Serbian province to Albanian terrorists in February this year.

The Nobel committee has made some questionable decisions in the past, but this is truly beyond the pale. What he did in Kosovo was not peacemaking, not in 1999 and certainly not in 2006-2008. He was a hatchet-man for NATO and the Atlantic Empire, a phony, a fraud. Even if he didn't receive kickbacks from the Albanian mafia (and those claims were never seriously investigated, but simply dismissed as "Serbian propaganda" - even though they originated from Germany and Finland!), he was still rotten to the core.

If this...thing can get the Nobel Peace Prize, then there is no such thing as peace, and the Nobel Prize is worthless.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Illyrian And Other Myths

Most Albanians today will tell you they are direct descendants of Illyrians, an ancient people that inhabited the Balkans in pre-Roman times. Rome conquered the peninsula early in the first century AD and it is universally assumed that the Illyrians became Romanized. As Goths, Alans, Huns, Magyars and Slavs passed through or settled in the Balkans in the two centuries following the fall of Rome, it was assumed the Illyrians vanished as a distinct population, merging into the overall gene pool of the Slavic settlers. Except, so it is claimed, in the rough country of today's Albania.

The Illyrian hypothesis was advanced by Franjo Rački (1828-1894). A Roman Catholic priest and politician, Rački "promoted the merging of Dalmatia with Croatia ruled by the ban, he wrote discussions about the Croatian nature of Srijem and Rijeka, but he spent most energy on analyzing the relationships between Croatia and Hungary, fighting against the Hungarian expansionism," says his Wikipedia entry.

(As a side note, few today question the "Croatness" of Dalmatia or Rijeka and Istria in general, but in the XIX century these were very much in dispute. Istria was claimed by Italy, as was a lot of Dalmatia, and the dialects spoken there even today sound nothing like the Slovenian-related speech of the region around Zagreb. For "Srijem", see Syrmia/Srem. The only time in history this area was a part of Croatia was 1941-1944.)

Rački also originated the "Bogomil hypothesis," claiming that the Christianity of medieval Bosnia was a heresy that originated in Bulgaria, and had nothing to do with Serbian Orthodoxy. Croat politicians have used this hypothesis to argue that the inhabitants of Bosnia are really apostate Catholics (and hence, Croats). Similarly, conventional wisdom among the Bosnian Muslims is that the "Bogomils" all converted to Islam and became the "Bosniaks" of today, while those who identify as Serbs and Croats are interlopers.

There's а gap in that theory one could drive a carrier battlegroup through: the Ottomans would have considered the so-called "Bogomils" just as Christian as the Orthodox and the Catholics. Therefore, as "people of the Book," they would have been permitted to keep their faith. There are other Christian churches in the East, once persecuted by the Byzantines, that survived under Islamic rule: e.g. Coptic, Maronite, Chaldaean. Yet there are no "Bogomils" in Bosnia. Zero, zip, zilch, nada, not a single one remaining. Bosnia must be the only Ottoman province in which a Christian church simply vanished like it never existed. Strange, is it not?

About a week or so ago, I read a short tidbit in a Bosnian newspaper about the shocking results of genetic research by a Swiss institute IGENEA, indicating that only 20% of Albanians has Illyrian DNA, while it was actually present in 40% or so of Bosnians!

As soon as I returned, I searched for any sign of independent confirmation. What I found suggests that the revelation came as a side effect of research done to settle the issue of Macedonians' (FYROM) genetic origin. Digging some more, I found the following post in the "Antic macedonians" thread of an IGENEA forum:

30% Illyrians
15% Phoenician
14% Hellene
18% Thracian
2% Viking
20% Slavs

30% Macedonian
10% Illyrian
15% Hellene
5% Phoenician
20% Germanic
5% Hun
15% Slavs

IGENEA spokeswoman Inma Pazos has made it clear several times that "our numbers in statistics are an average from more than 150 genetic studies published in Science, Nature or AJHG" and that they were not contacted by the journalist who wrote the story. She also appealed that politics should be kept out of the thread or it would be locked. Fat chance - 90% of the thread's content was in the form of "Hahaha, stupid [insert name of ethnic group here], you are wrong!", and that's putting it politely.

Also, this particular thread does not cite any figures about Bosnia at all - Pazos mentions only Bulgaria, Greece, Albania and Macedonia (FYROM). So I'm not sure where the whole "40% of Bosnians have Illyrian roots" came from. Also, the Illyrian percentage in Albania is listed as 30%, not 20% as cited in most articles.

I've thought for a while that it would be nice to do some genetic testing in the Balkans, on fairly large samples of the population, to put an end to a lot of baseless, politically driven speculation. Romantic nationalism was all the rage in the 19th century, with everyone trying to claim ancient origins. Sure, that was easy for the Germans, but all of a sudden people claimed they were Goths, Gauls, Illyrians...

In fact, the "Illyrian movement" was the name adopted by the Croatian activists of the early 1800s. But unlike these activists, who saw similarities between Serbs, Croats and Slovenes and even went so far as to argue that they shared a language, Rački's contemporary and fellow politician Ante Starčević advanced the idea of Croats as a distinct and superior volk in the late 1860s. This idea eventually triumphed; modern notions of Croatian identity are almost entirely in line with Starčević's work.

Would disproving Rački's theories right any of the numerous wrongs perpetrated by chauvinists who have subscribed to them? Unlikely. But it could at least prevent their further use as "historical" arguments, and that by itself is a step in the right direction. So, let's see some actual science at work - more DNA studies, more actual historiography and history - while the theories of Franjo Rački ought to be retired where they belong, alongside the Piltdown Man and the Ptolemaic theory.