Monday, March 26, 2007

Absence of Principle

In July 2004, I posted on the blog some translated excerpts from an interview with Morton Abramowitz, published in the Serbian magazine NIN. Abramowitz is the founder of the International Crisis Group, a major figure in the Council on Foreign Relations, and somewhat of a guru to Madeleine Albright, Richard Holbrooke, and other "stars" of U.S. policy-making in the Balkans. At the forefront of interventionism in the 1990s (to the point of advising the KLA at the 1999 Rambouillet "talks"), he has scaled down his public profile since, but has remained steadfast in his pursuit of the American Empire.

NIN was interested to hear from Abramowitz because they knew he spoke for the Democratic foreign policy establishment, and since the Kerry-Edwards ticket still looked like it might unseat Bush the Lesser, it looked like good foresight. Little did they - or anyone else - know that Abramowitz's notions of "aggressive solutions" would be embraced as official policy by the Bushites in the spring of 2005, culminating eventually in Ahtisaari's proposal.

This is what Abramowitz said then (emphasis added).

On Kosovo Albanian politicians:

“Their ability to cooperate is almost nonexistent, except when it comes to the independence of Kosovo. About that, they do not argue. This is why the West must establish a dynamic towards realizing that plan, because the Kosovars [sic] aren’t capable of doing it themselves.”

On multi-ethnic Kosovo:
“We all want a multi-ethnic state in Kosovo because that is the politically correct position. […] Unfortunately, the problem is that Serbs do not believe in Kosovo as a state. So, if you are considering a multi-ethnic Kosovo in which Serbs are safe and Albanians run the show, that is feasible, but it is far from what we call a functioning state. … [There can be no functional state] while the status of that state is unresolved. So long as Serbs believe in the return of Serbian authority to Kosovo, there will be no progress.”

On Serbia’s plans to enter the EU:
“EU membership is certainly a vital decision and goal for Balkans countries, especially for Serbia which first has to make a choice. If it wants to be a part of the EU, Serbia must give up Kosovo.“

On U.S. and the Balkans:
“America, of course, has strong interests in the Balkans and Washington very much cares about successfully finishing everything that has been done in the Balkans so far. […] In case of Kerry’s victory, Dick [sic] Holbrooke would be one of the main candidates for Secretary of State, which would probably result in a much more active role of the U.S. in the Balkans. Other candidates are [Senator Joseph] Biden and [Sandy] Berger. In any case, Holbrooke has the most personal interest in the Balkans and actual success in the region. I speculate, but I think that with Holbrooke as Secretary of State, the U.S. would seek the resolution of the Balkans situation much more aggressively. […] With a new administration and someone like Holbrooke, who is deeply interested in the region, the possibility of accelerating Kosovo’s independence is much greater.”

On Greater Albania:
“There are strong elements among the Albanians who will demand the unification of Albanian territories, but I think the West can control that and prevent it from happening. I am convinced that the U.S. believes the independence of Kosovo is inevitable, while the creation of Greater Albania can be prevented.”

On Bosnia:
“You will not get the [Bosnian] Serb Republic. Why? Because Bosnia is a result of the Dayton agreement which we have to honor, and this question will not be opened. That would mean our approval of ethnic cleansing and everything we fought against. Bosnia is a quasi-state, I agree. [But] the Serb republic is a horrible creation of Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic… Everyone knows that Dayton legitimized status quo and created the Serb Republic because we stopped the Croats from expelling all the Serbs from Bosnia. And that was humane of us. Were it not for Dayton, the Serb Republic would not have existed, and all the Bosnian Serbs would have been in Serbia now. We could not allow half a million [sic!] Serbs to be expelled.”

No context for Kosovo:
“All that can happen is that Serbs and Kosovars [sic] agree on the partition of Kosovo. If you don’t succeed in that, there will be a united, independent Kosovo. Those are the only practical solutions.[…] The only thing on the table is Kosovo and how it might be partitioned. […] What you will get for letting Kosovo go is membership in the EU, better life, growth and prosperity. […] As I said, setting the Balkans in order would require some delicate and hard compromises that can only be achieved of all the countries involved have a clear goal at the end of the road.”

To sum it up: questions of law, sovereignty and self-determination (especially when it comes to Serbs) are irrelevant to the Empire, which Abramowitz hopes will return to its “aggressive” policies in the Balkans if the Democrats win power. The sacred issue of practicality demands that Serbs surrender both their self-determination and their sovereignty for an empty promise of better life in the EU (into which, though I did not note it here, Abramowitz cautions they would enter only after completely submitting to the ICTY’s demands for “war criminals,” surrender of Kosovo notwithstanding).

But his line about the “humane” effort of the Empire to save the Bosnian Serbs from extinction that befell their western brethren is by far the most cynical and demented argument presented here. It is as if he assumes no one read Holbrooke’s memoir, in which Croatia is identified as Empire’s “junkyard dog,” armed and supported for the explicit purpose of countering Serbian claims; why should the Serbs be grateful to America for leashing its attack dogs, instead of angry that they were unleashed to begin with?

Ironically, at the time I had glossed over the most important thought in the entire interview, and didn't bring it up until November 2004. Answering the reporter's question about the self-determination of Bosnian Serbs as opposed to Kosovo Albanians, Abramowitz said this:

"My answer is that there is no entirely rational answer; you seek perfect reasoning, which does not correspond to reality on the ground."

Ponder this for a moment. There is "no entirely rational answer," he says. Because logic does not, and cannot, apply to Serbs. How else would ethnic cleansing be legal only when aimed at Serbs, self-determination be unacceptable only when those who wish to practice it are Serbs, borders be sacred only if they don't belong to Serbs? These are not minor quibbles, but fundamental issues; Abramowitz rejects "perfect reasoning" but the "reality" he preaches means no reasoning at all!

With this in mind, my end-of-the-year column in 2004 concluded with these passages:

What seems to govern events in the Balkans under Imperial rule is something that, for lack of a better term, could be termed the "Abramowitz doctrine": a complete absence of any principle that would be valid for all. Indeed, a complete absence of any principle at all, except power.

Completely different rules are in force for Serbs and for Albanians, or Bosnian Muslims; certainly, no external rules whatsoever apply to the Empire, in any of its manifestations. What "rules" that exist are made by Imperial viceroys, commanders, envoys, commissioners, and advisors, on the spot and without any need (or regard) for internal consistency. The ends – ultimately elusive, but hiding under the platitudes of "justice" and "Euro-Atlantic integration" – justify any and all means, while any resistance to them is a priori considered criminal.

The Ahtisaari Plan is just the latest manifestation of this nightmarish "order" which the Empire seeks to impose on the Balkans.


Roger Cohen, one of the "star reporters" of the Bosnian War and a columnist for the International Herald Tribune, apparently wrote a screed recently blasting former British foreign secretary Douglas Hurd for daring to protest the war in Iraq. Hurd, opined Cohen, should keep quiet, since he stood idly by while the evil Serb aggressors were committing genocide against the poor defenseless "Bosnians," etc, ad nauseam.

Cohen's text didn't register on my radar. I was a little busy observing the anniversary of the 2004 Kosovo Kristallnacht, and about half a dozen other more important things pertaining to this corner of the world than the ramblings of some American Serbophobe.

Fortunately, the indomitable Taki Theodoracopulos seized on the opportunity to school Cohen in a bit of European history. After describing the centuries of Muslim invasions, often aided and abetted by power-hungry European nobles, Taki finishes thusly:

Hurd was right when he blamed ancient hatreds and warring factions for keeping cool and detached in the Balkans. If anything, Blair and Bush should have attacked the Muslim infiltrators in Kosovo. Instead, they went and attacked the only secular state in the Middle East. We armed and trained bin Laden in Afghanistan. He was given Bosnian citizenship soon after, and when his gang went down to Kosovo and began to blow up 500-year-old churches, we bombed a European city on the gang’s behalf. Cohen should shut up.

Bravo, sir.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Jihad's Other Victims

During the 1992-95 civil war in Bosnia, hundreds of Islamic militants from all over the world came to fight for the "beleaguered Bosnians" in what they considered a part of the ongoing jihad against the infidels. Many stayed after the war's end, marrying local women and taking over ethnically cleansed villages, where they would establish theocratic communities based on Wahhabi Islamic teachings.

Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic wrote as early as 1970 (PDF) about the need to "re-Islamize" the Muslims as a way to improve their position in the world (Izetbegovic devoted a lot of space in his Islamic Declaration to the pathetic state of contemporary secular Muslim countries, comparing them most unfavorably with the former Ottoman Empire - a Caliphate, whose fall he blamed on the Western infidels). The Bosnian war provided him with an opportunity to put his ideas in practice. Izetbegovic's rejection of any agreement with the Bosnian Serbs started the war in the spring of 1992; his troops clashed with their erstwhile Croat allies from 1993 to 1994; and a portion of Muslims loyal to a rival politician in Western Bosnia were declared "traitors" and mercilessly repressed in 1995. Parallel to his efforts to establish a "Bosniak" nation, Izetbegovic and his followers sought to ensure its Islamic identity. Turkish and Arabic phrases that were once used only in religious context became commonplace; the new "Bosnian" language abounded with words borrowed from Turkish, Arabic and Persian, often resurrected from century-old linguistic oblivion; and new mosques appeared in every neighborhood.

In addition to their fighting prowess (which remains dubious), foreign mujahedin were one of the instruments of "re-islamization." Their integration into the "Bosnian Army" (ARBiH) enabled the Izetbegovic regime to transform it from a self-proclaimed "people's self-defense" force into a heavily Islamic organization. Thanks to universal conscription, the subsequently demobilized soldiers would come home more receptive to the message spread by immigrant imams from Saudi Arabia, Iran, and elsewhere in the Islamic world. As a side note, every Muslim soldier who died during the war was considered a "martyr" in a jihad, and given the appropriate burial. Izetbegovic himself is buried in a "martyrs' cemetery" in Sarajevo

After the war, hundreds of new mosques were built by foreign donors - most prominently Saudi Arabia - and the imams preaching there introduced a new, different version of Islam. Adherents to Wahhabi teachings were soon easily identified by long beards, distinctive headwear, and rolled-up trousers. The carefully nurtured atmosphere of hatred and mistrust of Bosnia's Serbs and Croats, coupled with a persecution complex and victim mentality (according to which the Bosnian Muslims were victims of "genocide" not just in the 1992-95 war, but multiple times in the 20th century, ever since the Ottomans were forced out), created fertile soil for widespread discontent. Jobless, frustrated men turned to the mosques, where the foreigners plied them with money and promises, if only they turned to the "true" faith.

From helping the "Bosnians" in their jihad against the Serbs and Croats, to recruiting "Bosnians" for the greater jihad in the West was but a small step. Mirsad Bektasevic, a.k.a. "Maximus," who was convicted earlier this year of a plot to conduct terrorist attacks against foreign embassies in Bosnia. Sulejman Talovic's rampage in Salt Lake City last month was in all likelihood an act of Islamic terrorism. Though Talovic was pitied by the American media as a victim of the Bosnian war (Americans even collected donations to fund Talovic's funeral; he was buried in Bosnia - as a martyr for the faith!), information that has surfaced recently indicates that he was in fact a jihadist, and that his shooting spree was a premeditated attack on "infidels" planned with the help of a "friend" at a nearby mosque. According to the young woman who claims to be Talovic's long-distance girlfriend, he had told her the night before the attack that tomorrow would be the "happiest day of his life."

Many Balkans Muslims, however, resent the heavy-handed attempts by the Wahhabis to impose their view of Islam as the only one allowed. There have actually been physical confrontations between the official Islamic clergy and the Wahhabis, both in Bosnia and in the Raska region of Serbia, which has a significant Muslim population. Last November, three people were injured in a shooting clash between the Wahhabis and traditional Muslims in Novi Pazar. And just last week, four men were arrested in Novi Pazar, when Serbian police raided a nearby Wahhabist camp and found weapons, explosives, and terrorist literature.

Serbia's leading expert on Wahhabi terrorism, Darko Trifunovic, was quoted by the Italian news service AKI on that occasion: "[T]here is no doubt that the main victims of the divisions in the Muslim community will be Muslims themselves."

With the well of coexistence with Serbs and Croats already deeply poisoned, fratricidal violence in Novi Pazar, and young Muslims being recruited for jihad across the world, it appears the bill is already coming due.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

All about the Germans?

Simon Tisdall of the Guardian echoes the blustery bloviations of Richard Holbrooke from Tuesday’s Washington Post, seeking to blame Russia for a "possible new war in Europe."

Per Holbrooke, if Albanians don’t get exactly what they want, they will start a war – but it will really be Russia’s fault, and Serbia’s (of course), not theirs. Or, heaven forbid, that of London and Washington, who were behind the 1999 occupation of Kosovo and have supported Albanian separatists since.

In and of itself this British parroting of American imperialist drivel wouldn’t be extraordinary, were it not for some choice words from Martti Ahtisaari, the ICG – er, UN – envoy charged with finding a way to independence – er, a solution (there I go again, evil Serb that I am) for Kosovo…

According to Tisdall, Ahtisaari dismisses several EU members’ concern about the potential fallout from such a toxic precedent as seizing a country’s territory in clear violation of international law, UN, OSCE, NATO and other charters, calling it “mithering” (sic). Tisdall quotes from “a recent interview” Ahtisaari gave in London:

"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." (emphasis added)

Um, what’s the German presidency have to do with anything? Is Germany supposed to be the strongest power in the EU, and therefore if it cannot force a decision on this, its power is largely fictitious? Or is it that Germany is a driving force behind EU involvement in the Balkans? Let's not forget, it was Germany that in 1991 strong-armed its EU fellows into recognizing Croatia and Slovenia - one of the first in a chain of illegal and illegitimate actions outside powers have taken in the region in the past decade and a half. In 1999, Germany was one of the most vocal supporters of (and participants in) NATO's aggression in Kosovo, turning the Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine and Bundeswehr loose on the world for the first time since 1945. Ahtisaari’s words make it sound as if his frantic attempt to separate Kosovo from Serbia is really all about German-led EU asserting its imperial prerogative and imposing a “solution” to Balkans “savages,” sticking it to Russia in the process.

Maybe it is.

But now we have proof that it's not some "Serb conspiracy theorist with delusions of victimhood" saying it, but a Chairman Emeritus of the ICG Board of Trustees.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Baby Doth Protest Too Much

Last week, a Brit named Ed Alexander posted on his blog ("Balkan Baby") an account of his 2006 visit to a Mitrovica cafe, owned by an Albanian who impersonated Hitler. Within a couple hours the link had made its rounds, and feedback started coming. Julia Gorin, a conservative commentator who has raised some excellent questions about the Balkans, gave full credit to Alexander for documenting this monstrosity. I mentioned it on Sivi Soko, as part of a story on Nazis and their sympathizers in the Balkans. I also included information from a Slovakian paper, Format, which covered that very same cafe some months before Alexander and his friends paid "Hitler" a visit. All of this stuff was scrupulously credited (though I probably should have explicitly noted that Alexander took the photo of the bill featuring the swastika).

Seems like Alexander is "a bit put out," though. He resents the fact that and Julia Gorin "were very selective in the way they quoted" him. He describes Serbianna as a "Serbian nationalist website which tries to incite hatred and fear towards Bosnians, Croats, Kosova Albanians and anybody else that they choose to take a swipe at," while Julia is a "perennial right-wing commentator" (what's wrong with that?) he tars by association as "crony" of George Bush, "Islamophobe" and "warmonger." Well, now, who's being unfair here? Who is being racist, bigoted, intolerant or unprincipled?

What did Mr. Alexander expect, that such a bombshell of a story would remain private? He posted it - so obviously he wanted it to become public. He was given credit. So, he "wrote very favourably about the Serbian residents." Pardon me if I don't care, especially since he very graphically sympathizes with the "Republic of Kosova" (sic!) which has done its utmost to eradicate those very Serbs. If he had been quoted out of context, or misrepresented, then I would be sympathetic. But he was not - not by Julia, not by Serbianna, and not by me. Maybe by Kurir - I actually agree a great deal with his assessment of what passes for their investigative journalism - but the photo they used was from the Slovakian paper, and I'd wager the stuff he could not recognize in their coverage came from the same source.

Is anything any of us noted about his story factually untrue? Did we make anything up?

Mr. Alexander has a sizable chip on his shoulder, believing himself to be a member of some vast righteous majority - or, in his terms, "those of us who want the Balkans to progress, to admit its wrongs as to display its wonderful culture in the best possible way," while painting those who disagree with him as "nationalist Serbs, Serbs who had been duped by what they read in Kurir and a handful of American Bushites."

Seems to me like he suffers from myopia, an exaggerated sense of self-importance, and a dangerous set of delusions such as the belief in blooming bombs.

I see it almost every day. Westerners come to the Balkans and fall in love with its authenticity, but then wish to remake it into suburban Des Moines or Birmingham, so they can feel more comfortable. What they can't seem to understand is that it's the very authenticity they seek to destroy that endeared the place to them to begin with - and that both the hospitality and hatred are part of it. They desire "progress" of the same kind that made their own homelands such cultural voids, quagmires of welfare statism and political correctness. They see the world as a series of theme parks. Not their fault, I suppose; it's all they know. But it irks me when they try to forcibly remake my corner of this earth (yes, I live in the U.S. at the moment - that in itself is a long story, and one I intend to address at some point) into their distopian horror. We have enough imported delusions as it is.

Ed Alexander is entitled to his opinions, of course. But methinks he doth protest too much.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Humanitarian bombs, again

I've seen many terrible things since the outbreak of Yugoslav Succession Wars in 1991, whether live or on television screens, in newspapers or online. But this image, accompanying a Seattle Times opinion piece this weekend, filled me with revulsion such as I haven't experienced at least since 2004, and the photos of the March pogrom in Kosovo.

The op-ed itself is fluff. Written by Deborah Senn, in places it seems copied out of ICG's handbook: Serbia's people, she says, "have the intellectual skills, determination and know-how to create a prosperous future, as long as their nation can leave behind the nationalism and ethnic divisions of the past."

Senn gushes over "well-educated and eager young people" who can make a "giant leap" and "[write] a new chapter in its colorful history — this time as a tolerant, pluralistic country"...

Never mind any of this naive, liberal-imperialist bovine excrement. Look at the picture the Seattle Times editors ran next to the article.


Flowers in blue, white and red - the national colors of Serbia - are blooming from the ground seeded with bombs. This is the message: (American) bombs bring democracy, prosperity, tolerance.

Well, Ms. Insurance Inspector, you can take your bright shining future and shove it. Serbia is not latte-sipping lumpen-studentariat gushing over the newest Western celebrity craze and blaming the "evil old regime" for every ill sent its way by the Empire in the past decade. That Serbia which you envision is never going to exist, save in the demented imaginations of western imperialists and domestic sycophants. If it gets its act together, Serbia will bloom and grow - not out of those "humanitarian" bombs of yours, but despite them. In defiance to them.

And you better hope and pray that some time down the line, when the American Empire is no longer the most powerful military force in the world (which may be sooner than you think), someone else doesn't decide to "humanitarianize" Seattle the way Americans "brought democracy" to Belgrade.

For shame.

Friday, March 09, 2007

A compliment, of sorts

So I'm a little behind the times (which is ironic; it'll be self-explanatory in a second), but I just saw Bruce Sterling's op-ed in last weekend's Washington Post. Most of the piece is talking about the "dot-green" revolution sweeping the globe, as more and more people get on the "global warming" bandwagon, but at one point he mentions this:

Serbia may be the world's single-greatest locale for a professional futurist. Awful things happen there faster than awful things happen anywhere else. The Balkans is a tragic region that denied stark reality, broke its economy, started multiple unnecessary wars, and basically finger-pointed and squabbled its way into a comprehensive train wreck. It suffered all kinds of pig-headed mayhem, all unnecessary.
So what's the good part? They never gave up around here. On the contrary: There's a certain vivid liveliness in the way they're scrambling and clawing their way out of yawning abyss. The food is great, the women dress to kill, and sometimes they even laugh and dance.

You don't have to predict the future when you live in it.

See, Sterling now lives in Belgrade. He is married to Jasmina Tešanović (of the "Women in Black," B92 and such crowd), which helps explain the scornful analysis of "unnecessary mayhem," but he is still capable of seeing the essence of the people: the "vivid liveliness" and determination. His wife's colleagues in the "human rights" industry lament and harangue on a daily basis the "primitive backwardness" of Serbia, and desire to drag it into "modernity" at all costs (preferably without Serbs)... but if Sterling is to be believed, Serbia is already living in the future.

It's a compliment, of sorts.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Jacobins in Serbia

Here's a Photoshop parody I received from a friend, via email. It's the cover of a faux-magazine called Les Jacobins, with a tagline "Your source of demagoguery."

That is Čedomir Jovanović, leader of the "Liberal Democrats" on the cover, powdered up like a French revolutionary.

Some of the topics from the front cover:
  • "Serbia without Serbs"
  • "A thousand questions... one answer."
  • "Democracy, that's me!"
  • "Global warming caused by... Serbs?"
Whoever did this... I like his sense of humor. The most appropriate response to the neo-Jacobin nonsense of Chedists and their ilk is indeed ridicule.