Saturday, January 29, 2011

Blind Spot

Reading James Bovard's review of Derek Leebaert's "Magic and Mayhem: The Delusions of American Foreign Policy From Korea to Afghanistan," I am struck by how persistently the Balkans shows up as a blind spot for critics of the U.S. foreign policy.

Leebaert puts together an interesting read about how arrogance and ignorance have led the policymakers down disastrous paths, yet he offers the 1999 Kosovo war as a contrasting example of success! Bovard disagrees, and it is worth quoting him at length:

Leebaert actually understates the U.S. debacle rate abroad. He hails the American-led NATO bombing of Serbia: “The 1999 eleven weeks’ war over Kosovo was undertaken by a coalition of Western governments, preceded by two months of negotiation that legitimized and clarified its objectives, then followed by a UN peacekeeping mission. The presence of overwhelming backup forces nearby as well as American military leadership resting on political good sense and seasoned diplomacy further increased the chances of success.”

What success? After NATO planes killed hundreds if not thousands of Serb and ethnic Albanian civilians, Bill Clinton could pirouette as a savior. Once the bombing ended, many of the Serbs remaining in Kosovo were slaughtered and their churches burned to the ground. NATO’s “peace” produced a quarter-million Serbian, Jewish, and Gypsy refugees. At least the Serbs were not murdering people for their body parts, as the Council of Europe recently accused the Kosovo Liberation Army of doing to Serb prisoners in recent years. (“When the transplant surgeons were confirmed to be in position and ready to operate, the [Serbian] captives were … summarily executed by a KLA gunman, and their corpses transported swiftly to the operating clinic,” where their kidneys were harvested for sale.)

Perhaps even worse, Clinton’s unprovoked attack on Serbia set a precedent for “humanitarian” warring that was invoked by supporters of Bush’s unprovoked attack on Iraq.

That the Serbs were vicious, genocidal fascist aggressors who could have only been stopped by an American intervention - details such as law and truth be damned - is an article of faith in the U.S. mainstream, and it is not often someone like Bovard dares to defy it. It takes a lot of courage to go against the self-appointed guardians of Official Truth.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Saakashvili's Agenda

A suicide attack on a crowd at a public place, Monday's bombing of the Domodedovo airport had all the trademarks of a jihadist operation. Several comments on my essay about it, however, cautioned that one had to make a distinction between actual jihadists, and terrorists in the service of Empire.

Then Prime Minister Putin made a enigmatic statement yesterday that the attack was not connected to Chechnya. Were the terrorists, as the Russophobic Washington Post speculated, from Ingushetia or Dagestan instead? Could it have been, as Lilia Shevtsova of Carnegie's Moscow office speculated for the WaPo the other day, a "Russian nationalist"? (Shevtsova seems like a Russian analogue of Serbia's Sonja Biserko and Natasa Kandic, so I didn't take her seriously.)

Enter Mikhail Saakashvili, the tie-chewing American satrap of Georgia, gloating over the attack and calling it "payback" for the August 2008 humiliation Moscow's border garrison inflicted on his NATO-trained military.

Yet from his remarks to the The Independent, it seems Saakashvili was just enjoying the opportunity to stick it to Moscow, rather than claiming responsibility for the attack or knowing who was behind it. Crass, sure. But even a bumbling idiot such as Saakashvili ought to know that offering oneself up as a possible perpetrator of a terrorist attack against Russia - or cheering the terrorists on, for that matter - is pure idiocy. Especially since Putin told him that Moscow would "crush" the terrorists "like cockroaches."

So, what is he trying to accomplish, then?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Terrorism and Jihad

As I was waiting in the RT studio this morning, to comment on the PACE considerations of the Marty report (which ended up being adopted, by an overwhelming majority vote), I heard about a poll they were conducting in the aftermath of the Domodedovo Airport bombing. Something like 60% of the respondents said they did not believe terrorism could be defeated.

They are right. Because, you see, terrorism can't be defeated. But terrorists can.

The purpose of terrorism is to effect coercion through instilling fear (Latin: terror). Governments routinely use coercion, and particularly bad ones believe that the only reason people obey laws is the fear of consequences (oderint dum metuant and all). How is that not terrorism? Well, there's an element of hypocrisy involved, to be sure. Just as printing money at home is a felony, but when the Federal Reserve does it it's called "quantitative easing."

There is one distinction, I suppose. Very few governments resort to arbitrary arrests and executions (and once they do, they usually aren't around for long thereafter). Terrorists kill randomly. By doing so, they don't just challenge government's monopoly of force, but strike at the very heart of a government's existence. The primary purpose of a state, you'll recall, is to provide security. This is why governments the world over have a rule not to negotiate with terrorists. If they do, they undermine their own raison d'etre.

Of course, if the terrorists are fighting for something that the government can afford to give up, accommodation eventually happens. And let's not forget that in today's world, you're only a terrorist if you dare attack the "good guys" (i.e. us). If you are bombing, killing or maiming "them" (i.e. others, the designated enemy), you become a "guerrilla" or "rebel" or "freedom fighter." If you secure support of a powerful state, you can even carve out a state of your own, declare yourself prime minister or president, and make quite a comfortable living practicing criminal activities with impunity.

Though nothing has been confirmed just yet, the prime suspects in the bombing of Domodedovo airport yesterday are members of a jihadist organization from the north Caucasus. Russophobes of all stripes will no doubt suggest that the best course for Moscow would be to withdraw from the area. These are the same people who would never contemplate, much less condone, American withdrawal from Iraq or Afghanistan - even though these are countries half the world away that Washington chose to invade, while Chechnya is part of Russia's own territory.

They also ignore the fact that Moscow actually did leave the Chechens alone. Russian troops retreated from the region in 1996, leaving it at the mercy of jihadists. Did they settle down and build a peaceful, prosperous nation? No - they made Chechnya into a black hole of jihadist banditry, and began invading the surrounding areas.

If the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing humanity he did not exist, then the greatest service Bush the Lesser ever did to the Prince of Lies was invading Iraq. By doing so, he helped create a perception that there was no such thing as jihad, and that the principal dynamo of Muslim grievance was the occupation. Yes, it plays a part. And so does the existence of Israel (the "occupation of Palestine" actually refers not to the territories taken in 1967 from Jordan and Egypt - but to the existence of Israel, period). But where was Israel in 1453, when Mehmet II sacked Constantinople? Where was "Crusader aggression" in 732, when Charles Martel stopped the Muslims at Tours? That, by the way, is in France - a long way from Arabia.

We're looking at two different things here, then. One is the imperial impulse in Washington (or London before that), which results in murderous overseas adventures and the backlash they inspire. The other is the commandment to the followers of Mohammed's teachings to spread the faith by fire and sword and slay the infidel wherever they find them. Many people ignore one of these aspects, trying to explain the world strictly through the prism of the other. That's a mistake.

This is why Afghanistan is not Kosovo, and why Chechnya is not Iraq. Picking a fight halfway around the world is not the same as having to defend your own life, at your own doorstep. Of course, in the world according to Emperors on the Potomac, the latter is a crime and the former is statesmanship.

In the ensuing confusion, jihad advances.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Starting off the new year is this interesting news item:

"The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kosovo on Tuesday passed a regulation which prohibits the movement in the province of vehicles with new Serbian Interior Ministry (MUP) license plates inscribed with the first letters of the Kosovo cities on them.

The license plates are being issued by MUP since the beginning of 2011, and the regulation was issued by outgoing Interior Minister of Kosovo Bajram Redzepi."

If you thought this originated somewhere in the self-proclaimed "Republic of Kosovo," you would be wrong, however. The source of this story is the Serbian state news agency, Tanjug.

That, by the way, should be written TANJUG, as it stands for "Telegraphic Agency of the New JUGoslavia." With Yugoslavia gone the way of the telegraph, some may question the reason for Tanjug's continued existence. But how then, I ask you, would the Serbian public be brainwashed into accepting the "Republic of Kosovo" as an actual state?

Over the past 15 years or so, I've become intimately acquainted with the Western news media. There is nothing inherently evil about the inverted-pyramid structure of the news story; it does precisely what it was designed to do, leading with the important information and providing the details later. The real trick is choosing the words and phrases to plug into the template. Search engines are a wonderful thing. They can show us how many ostensibly independent and separate news outlets have used the exact same, or sufficiently similar, phrases to describe an event or persons involved, often indicating that the original phrasing came from the same source.

Words have power. Compare the effects of calling someone a "war criminal" or "war crimes indictee" with a more accurate (but oh-so-not-demonizing) "defendant" or "suspect." Designated victims are never "breakaways" or "rebels" - those terms are reserved for the designated enemies. By calling the Muslims of Bosnia "Bosnians" and the Albanians "Kosovars," the Anglophone media have deliberately endorsed these groups' claim to the territories in question. One famous example of how deep this deception went was the 1990s argument that the US should have bombed the Serbs "as soon as they crossed the border" of Bosnia. Given that the Serb presence in Bosnia dates back to the first mention of the word "Bosnia" in recorded history, the US would have needed a time machine for the task...

Long story short, by using the terms such as "Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kosovo" and recognizing Rexhepi as a government official, Tanjug is implicitly recognizing the legitimacy of the state declared by the Albanians in the occupied Serbian province. As is the Serbian Secretary for Kosovo-Metohija Oliver Ivanovic, whom the article quotes describing Rexhepi as an "outgoing minister who now holds his mandate only in technical terms.”

No, Oliver, he has no mandate, and no legitimacy, because he represents an illegal government, illegally proclaimed on Serbian territory. But, hey, I hear logic is hard...

I find it ironic that the Albanians often blast the handful of Westerners who dare question their claims as "Serb propagandists" who "repeat Tanjug lies". Yet here is Tanjug, taking their "Republic of Kosova" at face value, giving their "officials" respect and stature they in no way deserve. Some "Serbian propaganda," that. They ought to be called TANK ("Telegraph Agency of New Kosovia") instead.

As the old saying goes, the fish rots from the head. Not only is the Tanjug story unacceptable from the standpoint of its official mission - it is a state news agency, after all - it is also sloppy and poorly written. This sort of incompetence is merely a symptom of the general collapse of all standards of professionalism, ethics and decency under the quisling regimes installed in Serbia since the October 2000 coup, and this latest one in particular.

Merely overcoming the two decades of Western media demonization, or the consequences of blockade and war, is a gargantuan task. But the Serbs also have to deal with decades of destructive social engineering that have poisoned almost all aspects of their society. The idiotic behavior of Tanjug is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Bear in mind, however, that Serbia is not the Titanic...