Thursday, May 16, 2013

Twisted Projections of Conjured Present

Just as I warned back in January, the race to blame the Great War on the Evil-Serbs-and-Russians (properly pronounced in the same breath) is on.

Austrian view of the Serbs in 1914, now the Anglo-American mainstream
In the New York Times' Sunday Book Review, Reuters editor Harold Evans gave a glowing review to Christopher Clark's "The Sleepwalkers", which blames Serbia for "expansionism" and "terrorism," and Russia for "creating a narrative to justify taking up arms", by "shift[ing] the moral onus from the perpetrator to the victim." Naive France and gullible Britain got suckered in, and thus the Great War began.

This is, of course, patent nonsense. The French wanted a war of revenge for 1871, and this seemed as good an occasion as any. Britain chose to go to war, and while Sir Edward Grey couldn't imagine the actual horrors the war unleashed, his famous comment about the "lamps going out all over Europe" more than suggests he was aware something horrible was about to happen. Does that sound like being suckered in by the wicked, wily Russians to you?

Barbara Tuchman began her "Guns of August" with the parade of European royalty at the 1910 funeral of  Edward VII of England - "on history’s clock it was sunset, and the sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendor never to be seen again."

Clark, on the other hand, opens his book with the 1903 May Coup, which Evans gleefully cites in gory detail:
"King Alexandar and Queen Draga, betrayed and defenseless, huddle in a tiny closet where the maid irons the queen’s clothes. They are butchered, riddled with bullets, stabbed with a bayonet, hacked with an ax and partially disemboweled, their ­faces mutilated beyond recognition and the bloody half-naked remnants tossed from the royal balcony onto the grounds."
Those horrible Serbs, murdering their defenseless king that way! Such savages! Let's set aside the inconvenient fact that the squeamish Brits were busy at the time setting up concentration camps for Boer civilians. Clark doesn't explain why the Obrenovic king was killed, as such hatefacts would interfere with his precious narrative. So the reader doesn't get to understand the heavy-handed absolutism of the Obrenovics, their servitude to Austria at the expense of their country and people, and the long string of abuses and humiliations heaped on both the ordinary Serbs and the military. His marriage to Draga Masin, a rich merchant's divorced daughter who went so far as to invent a pregnancy to appear likeable, was just the last straw. While I can't in good conscience approve of the method of their dispatch, they well deserved to be overthrown.

But Clark needs to show that Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijevic "Apis" was an evil, murderous conspirator who deliberately started WW1 out of his Serb nefariousness, so the context of the May Coup, Austria's abusive relationship with Serbia, and just about everything relevant to the situation gets shoved aside.

He does, however, cite "historians of gender" to argue that all of the politicians involved were men, and had masculinity issues. Such depth of analysis! Lest he be considered insufficiently postmodern, Clark also deems Austria's ultimatum to Serbia - long considered a standard of shamelessness and bad faith - as “a great deal milder” than the 1999 NATO ultimatum to Serbia. Considering that Rambouillet was patterned after the Austrian ultimatum, and that its purpose was to make the war inevitable, I'd say Clark missed the point by such a wide margin here, he ended up shooting himself.

This is technically supposed to be a review of two books, Clark's and Sean McMeekin's "July 1914", but Evans spends most of his time on Clark. I get the impression McMeekin was brought along to make the case against Russia. He had previously written a book called “The Russian Origins of the First World War,” and Evans relies on him to make the claim that "Russia’s crime was first in escalating a local quarrel by encouraging Serbia to stand up to Austria-Hungary and then accelerating the rush to war."

So, if only Austria had been given a carte blanche by the rest of Europe - as it had by Germany - to curb-stomp the "terrorist, expansionist" Serbian savages, there would have been no WW1 - and perhaps Britain would still bestride the world. What a load of hummus.

I can understand the lament over world empire lost. I can understand the desire to blame the perennial Other - the Orthodox Slavs - for the myriad of sins of the Catholic and Protestant West. I even understand the twisted projection of conjured present - with Serbs as the arch-villains the white-knighting humanitarian West needs to defeat to save the Muslim damsel in distress and win her affections - to a traumatic event a century prior; in both cases, facts are discarded or suppressed when they interfere with the narrative.

But when the modern Anglo-American historians and politicians end up sounding like Kaiser Wilhelm - whom Clark cites at one point as saying, "Stop this nonsense! It was high time a clean sweep was made of the Serbs,” - then one can only conclude they represent a civilization that has deeply lost its way.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Truth, not Absolution

In this week's column over on, I wrote of eerie similarities - too many to be coincidental - between the policies of the EU and the Atlantic Empire and those of the Third Reich. Specifically, I underlined the parallels between the dismemberment of Yugoslavia between 1941-45 and the one of 1991-95, as well as the hostility towards Russia.

via Wallpapers Online
Mind you, there is a distinction between arguing that the West today is implementing specific National-Socialist policies and simply calling them Nazis, which would be both facetious and inaccurate. To focus on labels and not the substance is a mark of postmodern who/whom-ism, which is not my thing.

One of the readers, however, made a comment I want to expand on here:
Guest, May 11:
"...The only thing that held Yugoslavia together for 35 years was its supreme leader, Marshal Josip Broz “Tito”...."
This, I think, is both a wrong conclusion and harmful to Mr. Malic's argument itself. It is a convenient myth in the West that Yugoslavia was a low hanging fruit, ready to be picked, after Tito's passing away. That is not so.
West has vested interest in promothing that falacy and thereby absolving itself of the horrendous crimes perpetrated on the people of Yugoslavia and of any responsibility for attacking and dismantling a sovereign state.
A handful people with an ax to grind (Tudjman, Izetbegovic, Jansha,) and other anti-Yugoslav elements were supported by the West and assisted in bringing about what is now where Yugoslavia once was.
I do not understand Mr.Malic gifting these criminals an absolution by repeating the myth created in the West, that Yugoslavia existed only because of Tito. Mr. Malic is a good analyst, but, for some unknown reason, naively promotes this myth.
Where to begin? Perhaps with this 2005 essay about Tito, which contains the same argument as I've laid out, albeit much condensed, in the column.

Pointing out facts about the Communist approach to Yugoslavia, the internal boundaries, ethnic engineering and the 1974 Constitution does not, and never shall, absolve the murderers of Yugoslavia, internal or external. Just as pointing out the problems of the first Yugoslavia doesn't validate the Axis invasion and dismemberment of it. Though the Communists certainly did just that, arguing that the "rotten" old Yugoslavia deserved to be destroyed and then reborn in a "revolution".

As I've noted in another essay, the Serbs have paid with millions of lives for believing the lie that those who identified as Croats and Muslims considered the Serbs their kin. Some have, and perhaps given enough time and peace, that could have become the belief of the majority. But time and peace were not to be had. The bitter truth is that becoming Catholic (in Austrian-held lands) or Muslim (in Turkish-held lands) meant escaping the life of oppression and contempt in which the Orthodox Serbs were held by both empires. These converts did not see the Serbs as their kin, but as their inferiors. And in some cases, officially sanctioned victims.

This was the problem with the first Yugoslavia, which King Aleksandar tried to fix by promoting the idea of "one nation, three faiths." After Aleksandar was assassinated in 1934, Regent Prince Pavle tried appeasing the Croats, a policy culminating in 1939 with the unprecedented creation of their own ethnic province (Aleksandar's provinces were geographical, named after rivers). Not two years later, Croat officers sabotaged Yugoslav Army units, Croat civilians greeted the Nazi tanks with flowers, and the Ustasha regime of Ante Pavelić found plenty of those willing to slaughter Serbs with knives, pickaxes, mallets and whatever else was handy.

To argue that Croat atrocities were somehow caused by "Serb oppression" is to ignore the rabid Serbophobia of the Croat identity as articulated by Starčević and Frank, and adopted by Radić and Pavelić. Or the fact that similar atrocities were perpetrated during WW1 in Serbia by the Austro-Hungarian occupation forces. Among them were many that would later welcome the "Independent State of Croatia," including a metalworker from Zagorje called Josip Broz.

Broz supposedly became a Communist during the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, survived the purges of the 1930s and became leader of the Yugoslav Communist Party (KPJ) in 1937. Almost a decade prior, at the 1928 congress in Dresden, the KPJ had decided that Yugoslavia needed to be destroyed, and that the "captive nations" such as Croats, Macedonians, Albanians and Slovenes needed to be "liberated" from "Greater Serbian tyranny."

During the war, the priority of Tito's partisans was establishing pro-Communist institutions, preparing for the inevitable Axis defeat. Their primary target was not the Germans, but the royalist resistance of General Mihailović, which tried to help the Allied war effort by sabotaging roads, railways, and communications and harassing German garrisons. Both sides were aware that they could not defeat the Germans alone; Tito waited for the Soviets, Mihailović waited for the British. In the end, the Soviets showed up, and the British sold out Mihailović.

Triumphant, Tito executed Mihailović, declared the monarchy abolished and the exiled king undesirable, and proceeded to reinvent Yugoslavia. The result was a compromise between the vision from 1928 and practicalities of the time. Why break up a country, when you can rule it as pharaoh? Under Tito, Slovenia exploited the rest of the country for raw materials, Croatia had the entire coastline, and Serbia was cut up into "autonomous provinces" and reduced to WW2 occupation borders (more or less). But the worst part was the imposed doctrine of moral equivalence, in which the royalists were just as evil as the Ustasha, or the Waffen-SS recruited from Muslim populations. Serb guilt for "Chetnik atrocities" (real and imagined) and "oppression" of others in the old kingdom was supposed to balance out the Croatian genocide of Serbs.

Still the Croats were not happy. Even Tito's Yugoslavia was too stifling for them. As Communists in Serbia  (e.g. the so-called "liberals" like the book-banning Latinka Perović, today the gray eminence of the most rabidly pro-Empire "liberal democrats") plumbed the depths of self-hatred, in Croatia they demanded more Croatian pride! Though Tito purged both party leaderships, he gave the Croats most of what they wanted: the 1974 Constitution empowered the republics at the expense of the federal government. Serbia, however, was paralyzed by the requirement that both provinces approve every single decision of the republic legislature, effectively giving the Albanian-dominated Kosovo and a pro-Croat establishment in Vojvodina veto power over Belgrade's affairs.

Such was the situation that Slobodan Milošević sought to repair in 1987-89, only to be accused of "nationalism" and "greater Serbian hegemonism" - both by the self-hating Communists in Serbia that he'd purged, and the leadership of Croatia and Slovenia, who felt their privileged position within Yugoslavia would be endangered. I am not sure Milošević ever understood that the second-rate status of Serbs in Tito's Yugoslavia was never a bug, but a very deliberate feature - he never spoke of it that way, and kept defending Yugoslavia till his dying day. But the party leaderships in other republics understood Tito's setup entirely too well.

This was no "handful of malcontents" as Guest implies in his commentary - Kučan received overwhelming support for his separatist policies in 1990. Tuđman's plan to separate Croatia and expel the Serbs was never challenged by the Croatian opposition. Albanians have laid claim to certain territories since at least 1878, long before there was ever a Yugoslavia, or Tito, or Milošević. Only in the case of Bosnia was there a handful of zealots that ended up running things.
Izetbegović, however, did manage to set himself up as the leader of Muslims - with American help, and the war played no small part in the process - and the parameters he set remain the framework of Bosnian Muslim politics even today, no matter which party nominally runs things.

If you read the mainstream Western propaganda about Yugoslavia's demise, you'll notice very quickly that it rejects the notion of internal conflict between Yugoslavia's inhabitants. Rather, it sings paeans to Yugoslavia's multiethnic diversity and peaceful cohabitation, disturbed only by the periodic eruptions of "Greater Serbian ultranationalism." So to save Yugoslavia, they had to destroy it:
"The consequences of this campaign are extraordinary. In view of the fact that a small set of conspirators in Belgrade again were able to foment trouble... the radical elimination of this danger means the removal of an element of tension for the whole of Europe."
Does this not sound like something an EU commissar or State Department errand boy would say? Was it written by Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Wesley Clark, Richard Holbrooke, Madeleine Albright, or any of the "judges" or prosecutors at the ICTY? Though it could have come from any of them, the quote in question is actually from Adolf Hitler's address to the Reichstag, on May 4, 1941, following the conquest of Yugoslavia and Greece.

Again, pointing out Yugoslavia's flawed premises doesn't absolve those who destroyed it, be that the West in the 1990s, or Hitler fifty years prior. It does, however, explode the premise that Yugoslavia was some sort of "Greater Serbian" project, or that those who destroyed it from within not once but twice were somehow oppressed or terrorized.

Once the Serbs themselves realize this, as well as the disturbing fact that Hitler and the Atlantic Empire apparently share the same view of them, they may rebel against the doctrine of "Serb guilt" and end the policy of capitulation to Imperial demands. Which probably explains why these issues remain a taboo topic, even today.