Category Archives: (Ex-)Yugoslavia

Zombie NATO Is Obsolete; Militarists Try To Revive It Through Expanded Targets

NATO leaders’ meeting at The Grove hotel and resort in Watford, north of London, on December 4, 2019 (Al Drago for The New York Times)

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) held an abbreviated two-day meeting this week in London on its 70th anniversary. On display was a zombie alliance that is bitterly divided on multiple issues and has lost its purpose for existing. Rather than recognizing it is time to end this obsolete military alliance, they decided to expand their activities, search for a purpose and conduct a study to determine their strategy.

NATO is a cold war relic, an anti-Soviet tool continuing to exist 40 years after the Soviet Union ended. NATO was created one month after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in September 1945, with 12 members. This was ten years before the formation of the Warsaw Pact, which was founded on May 14, 1955.  NATO was not formed to combat the Soviet Union’s Warsaw Pact, although that was the previous excuse used for its existence.

When President Trump campaigned for office he correctly declared NATO was obsolete, but then he reversed course in April 2017. As president, he has pressured the 29 member-countries to increase their military spending. Between 2016 and 2020, NATO’s budget increased by $130 billion – twice as much as Russia’s total annual military spending. NATO members are expected to contribute two percent of their gross domestic product to the military.  NATO’s total budget is 20 times that of Russia and five times that of China.

It is time for the US to withdraw from NATO and for the alliance to disband. It serves no useful purpose and is a cause of global conflicts and militarism.

NATO meeting, President Donald Trump, right, and President Emmanuel Macron on March 3, 2019. (Credit: Al Drago for The New York Times)

Internal Conflicts: An Alliance That Cannot Agree On The Definition Of Terrorism

NATO shortened its summit because internal divisions threatened to blow up the meeting.

On December 3, before the meeting, Trump and French President Emanuel Macron held a testy joint press conference. Macron told The Economist last month that NATO was suffering “brain death” because of the poor US leadership under Trump. Trump called Macron’s comments “very insulting” and “very, very nasty.” Macron and Trump are also at odds over Trump’s handling of the military conflict between Turkey and Syria, what to do with captured foreign Islamic State fighters and a trade dispute.

A late Tuesday video showed world leaders ridiculing Trump at the summit. Trump abandoned plans for a Wednesday news conference and branded the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, “two-faced.” He cut short his attendance at the summit avoiding the final press conference.

While combating terrorism is one of NATO’s supposed tasks, Macron said: “I’m sorry to say that we don’t have the same definition of terrorism around the table.” Macron warned that “not all clarifications were obtained and not all ambiguities were resolved”. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to hold up efforts to protect the Baltics against Russia unless the alliance branded the Kurdish militias as “terrorists.” He later backed off and allowed NATO to go forward with increasing battalions on Russia’s borders to “protect Poland and the Baltic region” against fanciful threats from Russia.

NATO is facing four crisis areas. First, a deep political crisis including quarrels among the leading military members, accusations, and substantial differences of strategy and purpose. There is also a legal crisis as it consistently operates outside – indeed in violation of – its own goals and purposes and in violation of the United Nations Charter. Third, a moral crisis resulting from its wars against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria…all catastrophes that caused unspeakable suffering, death, and destruction to millions. And, finally, an intellectual crisis, as an echo chamber alliance that sings only one tune: There are new threats, we must arm more, we need new and better weapons and we must increase military expenditures.

NATO protest in Washington, DC, April 2019

NATO’s Search For A Purpose

Rather than facing the fact that they are no longer serving a useful purpose, and despite their internal conflicts, NATO leaders did manage to pull together a final declaration.

Their declaration pointed the way to NATO expanding its military forces on a global scale that will result in creating instability and military conflicts to justify their existence. NATO has a history of brutal military attacks, including the brutal bombing and destruction of the former Yugoslavia and the Balkans in the late 1990s, regime-change wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, where it still has troops. And, the destruction of Libya that has left the country in chaos. NATO also worked with the United States in the violent coup in Ukraine in 2014.

NATO is playing its role as a military force that supports the US national security agenda. It continues to target Russia as “a threat to Euro-Atlantic security.” In reality, NATO creates that conflict by expanding eastward and putting weapons, bases, and troops along the Russian border. This violated a promise made by Secretary of State James Baker to the final Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. In a February 1990 meeting, Baker said three times that NATO would not expand, “not one inch eastward.”  NATO’s expansion has been a major provocation in generating the New Cold War with Russia.

NATO is planning Defender 2020 the third-largest military exercise in Europe since the Cold War ended. Some 37,000 troops from 15 NATO nations will be involved including some 20,000 US troops who will be flown from their bases in the United States. Scott Ritter points out the costs associated with these exercises against Russia are considerable, along with the cost of raising, training, equipping and maintaining forces in the high state of readiness needed for short-notice response to an imagined attack by Russia. This is part of increasing confrontations along Russia’s borders, where a total of 102 NATO exercises were held in 2019.

Earlier this month, NATO said they’d formally rejected a Russian request to prohibit installing missiles previously banned under the now-defunct Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in Europe. The Russian request was made directly by President Putin, who fears “a new arms race” following both Moscow and Washington pulling out of the landmark 1988 INF treaty. Despite the facts, NATO blames Russia for the demise of the INF treaty. The French president brought out the reality: “Today would everyone around the table define Russia as an enemy? I do not think so.”

At this year’s summit, the NATO leaders “for the first time” discussed China as a collective security challenge. Prior to the meeting, CNN reported that NATO was falling in line with the anti-China strategy of the United States as NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance needed to start taking into account that China is coming closer to us.’” He pointed to China “‘in the Arctic, … Africa, … investing heavily in European infrastructure and of course investing in cyberspace.”

Despite Stollenberg’s push to make China a target of NATO, their members could only agree on a  declaration that said: “China’s growing influence and international policies present both opportunities and challenges.” NATO members know that China is a benefit to the economy of their nations and that the Belt and Road Initiative connecting China to Europe through the Middle East and Africa is likely to be the defining source of economic growth this century.

NATO has also joined President Trump’s call for the militarization of space, declaring “space an operational domain for NATO” in their declaration.  Related to this, they also pledged to increase their “tools to respond to cyber attacks.”

In April we reported that NATO seeks to expand to Georgia, Macedonia and Ukraine as well as spreading into Latin America with Colombia joining as a partner and Brazil considering participation (not coincidentally, these two nations border Venezuela).

NATO is also bringing nuclear weapons to the Russian border. The Washington Post reported, “A recently released — and subsequently deleted — document published by a NATO-affiliated body has sparked headlines in Europe with an apparent confirmation of a long-held open secret: some 150 US nuclear weapons are being stored in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.” Raising questions: Under whose control are these weapons held? Are host countries permitted access to US nuclear weapons? Are the host nations informed? Do NATO’s practice deployments involve nuclear bombs and missiles? The Brussels Times reported this summer that  “In the context of NATO, the United States [has deployed] around 150 nuclear weapons in Europe.”

NATO’s search for a purpose has led to a fundamental strategic review of the alliance’s purpose. Members know their mission is unclear and their purpose is questionable.

NATO protest in Italy

70 Years Of Destruction Is Enough, Time To End NATO

The 70th anniversary of NATO is an opportunity to honestly examine the history of NATO destabilization, wasteful military spending, and destructive military attacks. It is also an opportunity for people to urge the end of NATO. On April 4, 2019, NATO foreign ministers met in Washington, DC to celebrate its 70th anniversary, peace and justice activists held a week of actions in protest, disrupting meetings, shutting down an entrance to the State Department and taking the streets. This past week there was a large anti-NATO protest in London.

Scott Ritter believes NATO is as good as dead writing “NATO is on life-support, and Europe is being asked to foot the bill to keep breathing life into an increasingly moribund alliance whose brain death is readily recognized, but rarely acknowledged.”

Ajamu Baraka of Black Alliance for Peace declares: “Today [NATO] is the militarized arm of the declining but still dangerous Pan- European Colonial/capitalist project, a project that has concluded that the stabilization of the world capitalist system and continued dominance of U.S. and Western capital can only be realized through the use of force.”

It is time to demand an end to this destructive alliance as a step toward ending white supremacy, colonization, the destructive military-industrial complex, and the exploitative capitalist economy.

Arrmenian Genocide Resolution Reaffirms G-word is a Tool for US Realpolitik

Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in an overwhelming bipartisan majority to officially recognize the Armenian genocide more than a century after the atrocities were committed. The motion was a departure from decades of U.S. government refusal because of its realpolitik considerations of regional ally and fellow NATO member, the Republic of Turkey. The Ottoman Empire’s successor state and the Turkic state of Azerbaijan remain the sole nations in the world that explicitly deny the mass extermination and expulsion of 1.5 million Ottoman Armenians constitutes “genocide.” While the U.S. had previously acknowledged that war crimes were committed beginning in 1915, Washington refrained from using the ‘g-word’ to avoid fallout with Ankara despite the international community consensus. President Donald Trump would be the first commander-in-chief to utter the term if he follows suit, but that scenario is unlikely as the proposal came in reaction to his green-lighting a Turkish invasion of Kurdish-held Northeastern Syria with a U.S. troop withdrawal that was unpopular with lawmakers.

In 2015, WikiLeaks revealed Trump-opponent Hillary Clinton’s email exchanges on the issue with her foreign policy adviser, Jake Sullivan, during the 100th anniversary. The disclosure gave a rare look inside the suspected cynical reasoning behind Washington’s longstanding lack of formal acknowledgement. Sullivan wrote:

Friday is the 100th Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. I presume the Armenian groups will be looking for a statement or a signal from the campaign on whether she will call it a “genocide” if she is elected president. As a Senator and candidate, she was unequivocal in recognizing the genocide. As Secretary of State, she did not use the term genocide but rather focused on future reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia. The White House has studiously avoided using “genocide” so far. There is an internal debate now about whether to change that posture given that it is the 100th anniversary. But in all likelihood they won’t change. Two questions: Do you all agree that she should embrace the position she took as Senator and candidate, even though she did not take it as SecState? Do you all agree that we should just wait until we are asked as opposed to doing something proactive? Sorry to bother with this, but as you all know this matters enormously to Armenian-Americans.

Campaign manager John Podesta replied, “quote the Pope.” Just two years into his papacy, Francis had described the mass killing of Armenians as the “first genocide of the twentieth century” which drew Turkey’s ire, but Clinton would never recite the Argentine holy father’s words despite her team’s encouragement. Her decision speaks to the power of the Turkish and Azeri lobbies which have spent millions bribing and extorting U.S. politicians for decades to prevent recognition of the Ottoman crimes against humanity by the legislature and any such proclamation by an American head of state. What an insult to the Armenian-American community which waited generations only to see the step finally taken under such dishonest circumstances. The measure has since been blocked in the Senate by neocon warmonger Lindsey Graham of South Carolina shortly after his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, but the changes that brought about the ill-fated resolution should not go unexamined.

Turkey is often said to be the ‘bridge between East and West’, as its transcontinental territory extends across both southeastern Europe and western Asia. An ally during the Cold War with NATO’s second largest army, it was the U.S. placement of Jupiter ballistic missiles in Izmir which sparked the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 after Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev retaliated by deploying intermediate-range nuclear missiles to Havana in an effort to thwart Washington from gaining the upper hand. Turkey has remained vital to geo-strategic interests as the point connecting Europe and the Middle East, but the rise of Moscow under Putin on the world stage has threatened to throw the Atlanticist alliance into disarray along with Washington’s reckless disregard for Ankara with its incorporation of the Kurds into the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) coalition in the Syrian war. The U.S.’s arrogance that it could maintain an alliance while supporting Kurdish militants regarded as terrorists by Ankara marked a turning point in their relations with the prospect of Turkey exiting NATO suddenly no longer an impossibility.

When the neo-Ottoman sultan Erdoğan signed on with the U.S.-Saudi-Israeli attempt to oust the secular Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad, he did not anticipate it facilitating a potential Kurdish state on Turkey’s doorstep. The likelihood of U.S. involvement in the failed 2016 coup d’etat attempt against him and Washington’s harboring of rival Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen did not help matters, nor did Turkey’s retaliation by purchasing Moscow’s S-400 missile defense system in noncompliance with its NATO commitments. It is ironic that it took Trump’s throwing the Kurds under the bus queuing the Turkish offensive to result in the house finally acknowledging the ‘other holocaust’, as many Kurds themselves were participants in the slaughter of the Armenians a century ago. Nevertheless, the resolution is further sign of the geopolitical alignment shifting and the inevitable decline of U.S. hegemony with its plans to redraw the Middle East derailed by Moscow. No one should be fooled into believing that Congress is motivated by anything other than a desire to punish Turkey for making the U.S. look bad while rebuking Trump for deviating from the bipartisan consensus of endless war.

Coincidentally, just as the row between the traditional allies of Washington and Ankara resulted in U.S. legislators affirming the Armenian genocide, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been mired in controversy for having awarded an accused “denier” of such atrocities in the Balkans. The Austrian-born playwright and novelist Peter Handke, perhaps best known for penning the screenplay to Wim Wenders’s art house classic film Wings of Desire, was the recipient of the 2019 prize for his body of work. Despite such career achievements, Handke has been plagued by scandal for his political activism, namely opposition to the NATO intervention in Yugoslavia during the 1990s. An Orthodox Christian convert, Handke was a member of the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milošević when the former Serbian president was held for war crimes in the Hague Tribunal and even spoke at his funeral after he mysteriously died while in custody in 2006.

Long before the U.S. opportunistically declared what was done by the Young Turks to the Ottoman Armenians to be genocide, they were using the label to mischaracterize the Yugoslav wars as the basis for NATO’s Orwellian-styled ‘humanitarian intervention’ against Serbia. Even though ethnic cleansing was committed on all sides in what was fundamentally a civil war, the heroes and villains were preselected based on the Serbian alliance with Moscow and the time-honored anti-Russian strategy of aligning with Islamists designed by Zbigniew Brzezinski that began with the arming of the Afghan mujahideen against the Soviets. After instigating the ‘USSR’s Vietnam’ in Afghanistan, the Atlanticists applied this same strategy to the Balkans and the North Caucasus to undermine post-Soviet Russia.

Winston Churchill famously referred to the Balkans as the “soft underbelly” of Europe during WWII when it was under Axis occupation. During the Yugoslav Wars, it once again become Europe’s ‘weak spot’ as the West supported the al-Qaeda elements in Bosnia and Kosovo against the Serbs. Mass media would never report the war crimes by the Bosnian mujahideen and Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) nor the ethnic cleansing of thousands of Serbs from Krajina in Croatia. When the Srebrenica massacre of military-age Bosniaks made international headlines in 1995, it became a PR-managed event designed to fixate world attention exclusively on one of many such killings that took place in the enclave by both sides in order to give grounds for NATO intervention without approval from the UN Security Council.

The late, great media critic Edward S. Herman, who proved to be more principled on the matter than his Manufacturing Consent co-author Noam Chomsky, summed it up in his final column before his death in 2017:

Milošević had nothing to do with the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which Bosnian Serbs took revenge on Bosnian Muslim soldiers who had been ravaging nearby Bosnian Serb villages from their base in Srebrenica under NATO protection. The several thousand Serb civilian deaths were essentially unreported in the mainstream media, while the numbers of Srebrenica’s executed victims were correspondingly inflated.

In the years since, the inter-ethnic war has been widely referred to in the West as the “Bosnian genocide”, with Srebrenica a microcosm to misleadingly summarize the entire conflict. Thankfully, Moscow has vetoed efforts by the UN Security Council to condemn it as such. The truth is that the dice were loaded from the very beginning, as NATO’s kangaroo court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), was initiated as a U.S. policy option to disproportionately prosecute Serbs for war crimes with a clear bias against them, as revealed in a declassified CIA document from 1993 which states:

11. Establish a War Crimes Tribunal. Serb paramilitary leaders charged with war crimes might attempt terrorist operations in the West. The Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian Governments might harbor some high-ranking war criminals while turning over those considered expendable. They may even rid themselves of war criminals to cover up war crimes.

Most West Europeans — with the exception of Greece — probably would support this option.

Muslim states would approve a War Crimes Tribunal and publicizing Serbian atrocitiesEven treatment of Bosnian transgressions, however, would be regarded as tilting in Belgrade’s favor. [bold added]

This would explain why a Bosnian war criminal like Naser Orić, who commanded the assaults on Serb villages that resulted in the retaliatory killings of Bosniaks in Srebrenica, was acquitted while Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladić received a life sentence. Meanwhile, the Bush administration made it clear that the U.S. would respond with military force if the Hague ever attempted to charge U.S. personnel with war crimes in the American Servicemembers Protection Act of 2002, also known as the ‘Hague Invasion Act’, an astonishing display of bullying of the international community even for U.S. imperialism. The ICTY would be one of two rigged judicial organs created by the UN Security Council before the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the other being the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 1994.

Although NATO did not directly intervene in the small African country’s civil war, it spun a similar one-sided account where the Tutsi heroes and Hutu villains were predetermined even as mass slaughter was committed by both factions. Rwanda had been a Belgian colonial territory following WWII where the favored Tutsi minority ruled the landlocked country under a monarchy that subjugated the ethnic Hutu majority until they revolted in 1959 and expelled more than 300,000 Tutsis to neighboring countries. Decades later, Tutsi refugees based in Uganda seeking to repatriate formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front army led by Paul Kagame and in 1990, the RPF invaded the small nation in a guerrilla campaign. The assault came following the assassination of Rwanda’s Hutu President, Juvénal Habyarimana, after his plane was shot down in a probable ‘false flag’ operation that was pinned on Hutu extremists. Despite the fact that the RPF started the armed conflict, the West transposed reality and painted the Hutus as pure villains in the violence that would follow.

No one disputes that anywhere from 800,000 to 1 million Rwandans were killed in the ensuing bloodshed. However, the figures of a “genocide” of Tutsis debunks itself, given that there were significantly less than a million of them in the country at the time with the highest estimate at 600,000. The simple fact is that the majority of the victims could only have been Hutu, considering there were at least 400,000 surviving Tutsis in the country after the war was over, thus the remaining number of victims in all probability were Hutu. Since the war began with an offensive by the RPF, that the lion’s share of victims would be their opponents is only to be expected except perhaps to Western propagandists and their newspeak that Kagame was conquering the country to “stop a genocide” while committing one himself. Even though the Kagame regime would go on to commit further atrocities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), this would not prevent the media from maintaining its portrayal of him as a hero. However, the BBC of all news organizations would produce a must-see documentaryRwanda: The Untold Story, that challenged the official story in 2014 but not without stirring controversy.

Historically, the politicization of “genocide” began from its earliest implementations. Coined by Polish-Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin, he devised the term from the Greek word “génos” (group or race) and the Latin append “-cide” (killing), supposedly with the Armenians in mind. It was said that if the Genocide Convention of 1948 been ratified during the inter-war period following the annihilation of the Armenians, it could have prevented future atrocities against European Jews in WWII, citing a reputed quote by Adolf Hitler, “who after all, remembers the Armenians?” from a speech just prior to the invasion of Poland in 1939. Of course, for the Zionists this was at the exclusion of other, inferior groups victimized by the Germans whose sins the Palestinians are still paying for many decades later.

From the get-go, the g-word was a political football during the Cold War in order to legislate history with a pro-Western bias. In spite of having survived Nazi persecution himself, Lemkin argued in his writings that the Soviet Ukrainian famine of the 1930s qualified despite the myth of deliberate starvation having been concocted by their Ukrainian nationalist collaborators who fled to Western Europe and North America in order to escape penalty for their war crimes. Stories of the “man-made” hunger were then publicized in the pages of American sensationalist newspapers owned by media tycoon William Randolph Hearst, a Nazi sympathizer who ran columns by Hermann Göring and Adolf Hitler himself, as well as the yellow press of his UK equivalent, Lord Viscount Rothermere, an open supporter of Nazi Germany and British fascist Oswald Mosley. Nevermind that Moscow had liberated both the European Jews and Armenians in both world wars, respectively. The post-war attempt to classify the Holodomor hoax as “genocide” instead of the mass destruction of indigenous peoples across the world by European settler colonialism was the beginning of the West’s conflation of Nazi Germany with the USSR in order to separate the former from its own legacy.

Ultimately, the Genocide Convention is as politicized witha pro-Western partiality as institutions like the Nobel Foundation. While its literature award is accustomed to controversy, so too is its peace laureate which has repeatedly bestowed its honor to questionable choices, if not outright war criminals. In 1973, it infamously awarded then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger for negotiating a cease-fire between the U.S. and North Vietnam, even though he was by all accounts responsible for prolonging the Vietnam War, along with a laundry list of other destructive policies in his tenure that many feel warrant prosecution for crimes against humanity. This includes the secret U.S. bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War which facilitated the CIA-backed Khmer Rouge’s rise to power. The tens of thousands of deaths from Operation Freedom Deal would not be included with those attributed to the “genocide” by Pol Pot whose regime would be used to demonize communism, despite his Western support and that Phnom Penh was liberated by Vietnam. Later in 2009, just a year into his first presidential term Barack Obama became the Peace Prize recipient not for anything he had actually done but in a vacuous gesture as “a call to action.” The first African-American to hold the office would go on to drop hundreds of thousands of bombs on seven different nations. Then again, the accolade itself is inherently paradoxical considering that among Alfred Nobel’s list of accomplishments was success in arms manufacturing.

When Slobodan Milošević was being slowly murdered in custody in the Netherlands, Peter Handke was one of the few public figures brave enough to come to the former Serbian president’s defense, but he was not alone even amongst his fellow Nobel Laureates. The late British playwright Harold Pinter, one of the most influential dramatists of the 20th century, also lent his name as a signatory to the Slobodan Milošević International Committee. During a five decade career, Pinter was a dedicated anti-war activist in his private life and used the occasion of his accepting the literary honor in 2005 while still in poor health to deliver a powerful, scathing indictment of U.S. foreign policy in his Nobel Lecture. Since his name was announced, Mr. Handke has been the subject of relentless, unjustified attacks as a “genocide denier” and should be granted the same relative level of respect Pinter was paid when he was its honoree. It is likely geopolitical factors at play making Handke the subject of a smear campaign, with the restart of the Cold War and the need to demonize all things Russia-related with whom the Serbs share a brotherhood. Be it the case of Mr. Handke or the congressional exploitation of the Armenians, it is clear “genocide” is nothing more than a political construct earmarked for the usage of empire.

No, Srebrenica did not “inspire” Christchurch

Earlier this month, popular ‘progressive’ news website The Intercept published an article entitled “From El Paso to Sarajevo: How White Nationalists Are Inspired by the Bosnia Genocide”, written by journalist and staff writer Murtaza Hussain. The piece argued that many of the perpetrators behind mass shootings and domestic terrorism in the West — from the convicted far right extremist behind the 2011 Norway attacks to the suspect charged in the recent mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand — were influenced by ethnic cleansing committed by Serbs against Bosnian Muslims during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s.

Hussain uses a one-sided and Western-centric account of the inter-ethnic conflict in the Balkans to assess the Islamophobia burgeoning in Europe and the United States today. His analogy employs the same misreading used by NATO to facilitate the dismemberment of the former Yugoslavia and justify its illegal military intervention and war crimes against Serbia. It is an irresponsible variety of yellow journalism that should be ruthlessly critiqued whenever it appears, especially at a news organization which purports to be “fearless, adversarial journalism that holds the powerful accountable.” It also does nothing to help address the growing foundations of fascism by diverting attention away from its real origins.

Hussain begins by accurately noting that the Australian-born suspect behind the massacre at Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Center in Christchurch, New Zealand, Brenton Tarrant, during his live-stream video prior to the carnage, played the song “Remove Kabab” (Serbia Strong”), an upbeat patriotic tune that pays tribute to former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić. Removed from the context of the Yugoslav Wars, the Serbian folk song and its accompanying wartime propaganda video were rediscovered by Western right-wing fanatics like Tarrant when it became a popular internet meme among the online fringe as an anthem for the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in reaction to the influx of refugees from the European migrant crisis. The infamous convicted terrorist behind the July 2011 mass shooting and car bombing in Norway, Anders Breivik, also expressed affinity for the Serbs in his epic manifesto and was cited as an influence by Tarrant. However, despite the article title the author provides no evidence whatsoever to support the implication that the El Paso shooter, 21-year old Patrick Crusius, was in any way motivated by the Balkan conflict.

Brenton Tarrant also wrote the names of several historical Serbian military figures who fought against the Ottoman Empire in previous centuries in Cyrillic on his semi-automatic rifle used to carry out the slaughter. Curiously, he also wrote ‘Skanderbeg’, a legendary national hero of Albania who as a medieval military commander, defected from the Ottoman Turks and prevented their expansion toward western Europe in the 15th century. Despite his historical legacy of rescuing ‘Christendom’ from an Islamic empire to which Tarrant was likely referring, Skanderbeg holds varying significance to different peoples and for the predominantly Muslim Albanians he is viewed as a source of national pride and identity.

During WWII when Albania was under the Axis Powers sphere of influence, it was Muslim volunteers who formed the nucleus of the 21st Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Skanderbeg (1st Albanian), whose foremost victims were Christian Orthodox Serbs, in addition to Jews and Roma. In the Yugoslav Wars, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), de-listed terrorist group backed by NATO which fought against Serbia, sought to establish the modern equivalent of the ethnically pure ‘Greater Albania’ as envisioned by Benito Mussolini during WWII in the Kosovo protectorate. So if the Australian-born gunman was incited by Balkan history, it is because he was as confused and unknowledgeable about the complex subject as Hussain, given that he also wrote the number 14 on his firearm in reference to “the 14 words” from Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

Before falsifying the history of the Yugoslav Wars, Hussain does correctly observe that:

The Balkans are often condescendingly stereotyped as a backward region stuck in the grip of old prejudices. In reality, Serbs, Croats, and Muslims had lived together as compatriots in the former Yugoslavia for a long time before violent demagogues came to power; it took years of effort during the late 1980s and early 1990s for ultranationalist leaders to drum up the level of fear and hatred necessary for war to start.

Unfortunately, the author does not bother to investigate why they had successfully lived together in harmony as southern slavs for decades (under socialism), nor how such leaders took power and incited the different ethnicities into warring with each other as the country disintegrated, as if everything occurred in a vacuum. Following WWII, partisan leader Josip Broz Tito had indeed united the various Yugoslav peoples in congruity under a popular motto that the country consisted of ‘six republics, five nationalities, four languages, three religions, two alphabets — but one Yugoslav.’ Even the most fervent critics of socialism admit the republic was a relative success as it enjoyed freedom from being undermined by economic embargo as a neutral ‘non-aligned’ country during the Cold War after relations soured between Stalin and Tito and it became a strategic buffer between the West and the Soviets.

Following Tito’s death in 1980, a series of austerity programs sponsored by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were put into effect and much like a recent study concluded regarding Weimar Germany in the 1930s, the gutting of the welfare system and the social fabric led to a resurgence of right-wing nationalism in the Balkans. Yugoslavia went through the same neoliberal ‘shock therapy’ as Chile the decade prior when Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger sent the CIA to “make the economy scream” to prevent Salvador Allende from taking power, as well as post-Soviet Russia which the author’s The Intercept colleague Naomi Klein described so thoroughly in The Shock Doctrine. Yet for Hussain, the driving force in Yugoslavia’s downfall was bigotry itself, somehow isolated from the disaster capitalism forced upon it.

As only an empire denialist could overlook, Hussain makes no mention of the “encouragement of racism” on the part of U.S. imperialism, beginning with the coercive diplomacy of the 1991 Foreign Operations Appropriation Act which instigated the separatist movements by providing aid exclusively to the republics that seceded and declared independence at the exclusion of the Yugoslav government. After the bill was passed by congress at the behest of the George H.W. Bush administration, only the federation of Serbia and Montenegro remained under the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. According to a declassified memorandum, the CIA had already been anticipating this collapse for several years.

Suddenly, much of the population consisting of the many different ethnic communities of the Balkans found themselves trapped within various newly formed ethno-nation states overnight that were not their own. They then began establishing proto-states within these new republics, spurring violent conflicts and territorial disputes resulting in ethnic cleansing (on all sides) across the country. Yugoslavia did not implode simply because of its own internal contradictions, but was the subject of exploitation by a more powerful outside actor seeking to economically and militarily dominate the Caspian Sea region in order to gain access to its crude oil and natural gas resources.

Serbian nationalism only saw a resurgence within Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina once Serbs became hostages under new hostile regimes, when we were told by the NATO acolytes in corporate media that it was Belgrade who were the real nationalists even though most Serbians still identified as Yugoslavs and generally wished to preserve the federation being partitioned. In fact, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague posthumously concluded that the late Serbian and Yugoslav president Slobodan Milošević, who died mysteriously while in custody on trial in the Netherlands, was not responsible for war crimes committed during the Bosnian war. When Radovan Karadžić was convicted by the ICTY, it was determined the Bosnian Serbs acted on their own accord and were frequently at variance with Belgrade on the execution of the war:

Based on the evidence before the Chamber regarding the diverging interests that emerged between the Bosnian Serb and Serbian leaderships during the conflict and in particular, Milošević’s repeated criticism and disapproval of the policies and decisions made by the Accused and the Bosnian Serb leadership, the Chamber is not satisfied that there was sufficient evidence presented in this case to find that Slobodan Milošević agreed with the common plan.

Serbs certainly committed their share of war crimes, but why do Western journalists dare not speak of the thousands of Serbs ethnically cleansed in Croatia from the self-proclaimed quasi-state of Krajina? Or the mass deportations of Serbs from Kosovo in the years since? The innocent heroes and stigmatized villains were pre-selected and to do so would be actual “fearless, adversarial journalism.” Many of the war crimes committed by Muslims against Serbs and Croats in the Yugoslav Wars were by foreign mujahideen volunteers whose ranks even consisted of two of the future 9/11 hijackers — the Saudi nationals Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi — who allegedly seized American Airlines Flight 77 and crashed it into The Pentagon. Their barbaric acts included beheadings of Serb victims that were likely inspired by the Ustaše who did the same in WWII.

Hussain repeatedly refers to what took place in Bosnia as a “genocide”, citing the dubious Srebrenica massacre in July 1995. While it is certain that a horrific war crime took place in the town, to use such a politicized term is a slanted parroting of the NATO interventionist narrative. Virtually all of the victims were Bosniak Muslim men and boys as the Bosnian Serbs had specifically evacuated women and children from the enclave and the disputed, highly inflated quantity of Bosniak victims were mostly likely a combination of fatalities from the battle for the town and retaliatory summary executions by Bosnian Serbs once they besieged the territory. Prior to the incident, Srebrenica had been under the protection of the UN peacekeeping forces which Bosnian Muslim warlord Naser Orić had used to shield his militias following their routine attacks on neighboring Serb villages whose losses also numbered in the thousands. UN General Phillipe Morillon testified that the Srebrenica massacre was motivated by retribution for the war crimes committed by Orić:

JUDGE ROBINSON: Are you saying, then, General, that what happened in 1995 was a direct reaction to what Naser Orić did to the Serbs two years before?

THE WITNESS: Yes. Yes, Your Honour. I am convinced of that. This doesn’t mean to pardon or diminish the responsibility of the people who committed that crime, but I am convinced of that, yes.

If there were deliberate killings of large groups based on their ethnonationality on all sides, then what occurred was part of a civil war, not “genocide.” Noam Chomsky observed that while NATO based its intervention on the g-word, one of its member states in Turkey was carrying out far worse atrocities against Kurds and that to use the term was an insult to the victims of the Nazis in the region’s past. Who were the principal victims of the Ustaše and the Nazi puppet regime of the Independent State of Croatia during WWII? Serbs. It is also incredible that for a journalist so fixated on neo-fascism, Hussain did not find it significant that Bosnia and Herzegovina President Alija Izetbegović had been a literal member of the 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS “Handschar” (1st Croatian) in his youth during WWII when Bosnia was under the Ustaše and did three years in prison under Tito for his offense.

Why did the UN peacekeepers fail to protect Srebrenica? It is an important question considering it brought the real turning point in the war. Not long after, NATO launched Operation Deliberate Force against Ratko Mladić’s forces resulting in the Bosnian Serbs capitulating to a return to negotiations in the Dayton Accord later that year. The former mayor of Srebrenica, Hakija Meholjić, claimed the town was deliberately sacrificed as part of a ‘red line’ agreement between Izetbegović and U.S. President Bill Clinton in a ‘false flag’ to prompt the NATO intervention, as shown in a 2008 Wikileaks Cable:

Meholjic suggested that Bosniak leaders “sold” Srebrenica to the RS (and abetted genocide) when “key members of the international community started saying publicly that enclaves cannot survive.” (Note: Oric, who left Srebrenica in 1993, was not asked to defend it in 1995; ever since there have been accusations that the then Bosnian leadership deliberately allowed the enclave to fall.

Hussain truly loses any remaining “progressive” credibility when he goes on to praise the Otpor! political organization which organized protests that led to the ouster of “dictator” Milošević (actually thrice democratically-elected) in 2000 following the three month NATO bombing campaign the previous year which left Serbia with the highest cancer rate in Europe from the use of depleted uranium ammunition, “justified” by the same lopsided argument made in the article. Otpor! was portrayed as a bona fide, grassroots movement while behind the scenes it was the recipient of millions of dollars from the US government through “soft power” NGOs and CIA-fronts like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and George Soros’ Open Society Institute, financed by the non-profit industrial complex or what author Arundhati Roy has called the “NGO-ization of resistance.” The success of Otpor! became the formula for Western regime change operations via indistinguishable “pro-democracy” Color Revolutions throughout Eastern Europe in the ensuing decade. Documentary filmmaker Boris Maligurski’s The Weight of Chains series is an excellent overview of the history of Yugoslavia and its first two installments are highly recommended, while the trailer for the forthcoming third film was just released.

Perhaps the reason Hussain unquestioningly heaps praise upon Otpor! is the enormous undisclosed conflict of interest on the part of The Intercept’s ownership in billionaire entrepreneur and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, who established the site’s parent organization First Look Media. In The CIA as Organized Crime, journalist and author Douglas Valentine explains how Omidyar’s “philanthropic” investment firm co-financed with the U.S. State Department many of the NGOs in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution such as Center UA which flipped the 2004 Ukrainian election results to a pro-Western candidate. It went on to do the same funding the Euromaidan protests and subsequent coup in 2014 and both so-called Color Revolutions were modeled on the Otpor! movement.  Then, again, the entire premise behind First Look Media is suspect considering it made its name covering the revelations by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden while Omidyar’s eBay simultaneously owns Paypal, one of the biggest backers of NSA surveillance. What better way to commandeer dissent then to throw money at journalists?

Hussain also eagerly mentions that “Russian volunteers” participated in the killings at Srebrenica, omitting the equal number of Greek militiamen. This is another instance of thinly veiled Russophobia and the assignment of guilt towards Moscow for the rise of the far right in the West. Its intention is to include Russia within The Clash of Civilizations narrative which is itself a hypothesis for ‘remaking the world order’ through a division and conquering of Eurasia. Hussain does so by isolating the Yugoslav Wars from its context and weaponizing the region‘s history so as to deflect fault for the Islamophobia in the Anglosphere. However, Samuel P. Huntington excluded the Christian Orthodox nations of Russia and Serbia from his “core civilizations” and rather considered them ‘torn countries’ among the major civilizations. In Brenton Tarrant’s mind he may have been elevating the Yugoslav Wars through his act of terrorism, when all he accomplished was provide ammunition for the Western yellow press to further slander the Serbian victims of U.S. imperialism and drag their name through the mud for something they had nothing to do with.

As for the mass shooting in El Paso, the author should try directing the blame closer to home. One can’t help but be reminded of the brilliant observation made by documentary filmmaker Michael Moore (before he became a shill for the Democratic Party) who made a connection between the Columbine High School shooting and its occurrence in the midst of the unilateral “humanitarian intervention” in Yugoslavia on the day the U.S. dropped the most amount of bombs in the Kosovo campaign which he further examined in his film Bowling For Columbine. President Clinton had to give two press conferences the morning of April 20th, 1999 — one addressing the Columbine massacre and another giving an explanation for the NATO killing of civilians in Serbia.

American society is suffering from a severely disconnected collective psyche when it fails to make a connection between mass shootings domestically and its endless wars abroad, the real catalyst for the Islamophobic reaction to the refugee crisis. U.S. gun culture is a product of the Cold War which conditioned a mass psychology of fear and liberals shedding crocodile tears who think gun control legislation is somehow a solution to the problem when it would only put a small band-aid on a much deeper wound are unwilling to explore the real roots of the issue. It’s true the U.S. is the only country that suffers from routine mass shootings like in El Paso and Dayton, but the U.S. is also the only country with 800+ military bases in more than 80 countries around the world while currently bombing 7 different nations. America is an insecure, terrified country that resolves everything with violence, at home and abroad, and until this connection is recognized, mass shootings like El Paso will likely continue just like our wars.

Bill Clinton in Kosovo

War in the name of morality provides as many reasons for historical shudders as war in the name of self-interest, for at least the latter may be easier to call off when self-interest calls for compromise.

— Lawrence Freedman, Review of International Studies, July, 2000

The Balkans has often been prone to seizures of mysticism, glum prediction and predation.  But one character felt at home as he addressed his audience in Kosovo, himself having been afflicted by a certain evangelical urge.  This month, former US President Will Jefferson Clinton, keeping company with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, were rubbing shoulders with officials and stage hands in Pristina to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the Kosovo intervention by NATO in March 1999.

It was a chance Kosovo’s president Hashim Thaçi was not going to let pass.  In being awarded the Order of Freedom, Clinton was all praise.  “I think the whole world today with all this turmoil, can look to Kosovo as an example of a democracy and a commitment to prove, grow, and live in peace with one’s neighbours.”  Being Clinton, his words have a profound lightweight quality, albeit dressed up as grave and morally hefty.

Nonetheless, they struck the appropriate, ceremonial note.  Thaçi glowed with appreciation.  “We thank you for the just decision to stop the Serbian genocide during 1999.  We are very grateful for the support of the US to Kosovo. The story of Kosovo is a story of joint success.  You are our hero.”

Clinton duly responded, expressing pride at having been the “president of the United States when you needed someone to stand up and say no more ethnic cleansing, no more people running out of their homes, no more killing innocent civilians, there’s got to be another way.”

Misnamed humanitarian interventions are nasty, untidy things.  They ride on the wave of emotional simplification, embellished by the force of ghastly imagery and eye-moistened grief.  As UK Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd would note as the crisis in Yugoslavia deepened in blood in 1992, taking a swipe at the seductions of the idiot box in a much quoted speech at the Travellers’ Club in London, “the selection of these tragedies is now visible within hours to people around the world.  People reject and resent what is going on because they know it more visibly than before.”  As news reporter Martin Bell would reflect, a variant of this point had been made by the essayist and novelist G.K. Chesterton: “It’s not the world that has got so much worse, but the news coverage that has got so much better”.

Yet such coverage can be suspect not because it inaccurately portrays horror, but that it does so from one, captured vantage point.  Participants assume the roles of innocent victims and stained perpetrators.  The NATO intervention, given its Clinton white wash, removes references to attacks on Serbian civilian targets and infrastructure and the acceleration of the cleansing efforts by Serb forces in Kosovo-proper after the bombings began, suggesting a less than rosy account of Operation Allied Force.

The neatness of such commemorative occasions as took place in Pristina unduly purifies. It ignores such assessments as those from Robert Gelbard, Clinton’s special envoy to the Balkans, who deemed the Kosovo Liberation Army “a terrorist group” in comments made on February 23, 1999. In March that same year, Gelbard appeared before the House International Relations Committee to modify his response, claiming that the KLA had “not been classified legally by the US government as a terrorist organisation.” That said, he did explain to law makers that “terrorist” acts perpetrated by the KLA had “provided an excuse for [Serbian President Slobodan] Milošević.”

Even with the embers still bright, Jeremy Harding remarked in an August issue of the London Review of Books how “in the former Yugoslavia, a loss of any kind often insinuates itself into the annals of gain, while short-term winners – Kosovo Albanians, for instance – can barely distinguish what they are meant to have won from all the have lost.”

Serbia’s Foreign Minister, Ivica Dačić, if predictably, had a rather different reading of the anniversary.  When the 78-day aerial bombing initiated by a US-led NATO force commenced on the rump of what was left of Yugoslavia, it did so without UN Security Council authorisation, a rebuff to the UN Charter. Those powers, Dačić said accusingly, became colonisers. The pathway to Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence had been less paved than bombed, and this small stretch of territory became a European headache of monumental proportions, punctuated by annual clashes between the Albanian majority and Serbian minority ever fearful at their own expulsion.

Last year’s decision to transform the Kosovo Security Forces into a more traditional military fighting force could hardly be said to be in line with neighbourliness, but realities on trodden Balkan ground were always rather different from Clinton’s distracted interpretations.

While Clinton was being cheered in Pristina, the humanitarian credo in international relations had a vital co-conspirator in British Prime Minister Tony Blair.  It was Blair who girded the Kosovo intervention with a doctrine and flogged it before assemblies and fora with gravity and conviction.  Before the Chicago Economic Club in April 1999, he drew back the curtains on the “Doctrine of the International Community”, showing the usual spin and ease with terms that proved to be the hallmark of New Labour.

Central to the meretricious doctrine is a contention that cruelty has one face – or a set of faces – clearly discernible, and, to that end, identifiable for punishment. “No one in the west who has seen what is happening in Kosovo can doubt that NATO’s military action is justified.”  Bismarck, he contended, was wrong to suggest that the Balkans were not worth the bones of one Pomeranian Grenadier. “Anyone who has seen the tear-stained faces of the hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming across the border, heard their heart-rending tales of cruelty or contemplated the unknown fates of those left behind, knows that Bismarck was wrong.”  Hurd, hard boiled realist, would have recoiled; but Blair was the prime minister of image, the confection, the sound bite.

The Kosovo intervention remains an object lesson on how misguided the messianic instinct can be. Coupled with the astonishing shallowness that governed much of the President Erect’s time in office, one marked by squalid scandal and the desperation for foreign distractions, NATO gave birth to a monster that has been reprised in several forms since.

The worst of these is the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine, a cheeky number that discards the “right” to intervene in favour of an obligation to protect.  But the record of this less than illustrious doctrine is patchy, even disastrous.  The International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty in 2001 tried to underpin the interventionist doctrine with procedural caveats – the need for verification of atrocity, for instance, and the logistical requirement that infrastructure would be spared – but such neat precautions disappear in the red mist fog of war. As unfolded in Libya in 2011, cruise missiles do little in the way of promoting humanitarian, let alone humane outcomes.

NATO: No Need, NEXIT

“EXIT NATO!”  was the glaring title on a huge screen greeting the several hundred participants of the Anti-NATO Conference in Florence, Italy, on 7 April 2019. Officially it was called The International Conference on the 70th Anniversary of NATO, sponsored by Global Research of Canada and the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW). I had the privilege to attend this important forum.

Following the EXIT NATO poster, was another huge slide decorating the conference wall proclaiming that NATO, as a reward for all their work for Peace, should be rewarded with the Peace Nobel Prize. No doubt, nuclear armament and eventually nuclear wars to be fought by NATO – by whom else – will make the world a safer place. Wars are actually good for Peace. They are also good for economics, but they are particularly good for Peace.

I’m not kidding you – these are declarations one can read – and has been able to read since practically 9/11, in such prominent “Truth News” papers like the Washington Post and the NYT.   So, why not the Peace Prize to NATO? It wouldn’t make much difference.  Considering the track record of the Nobel Prize Committee, it would fall right into place.

Other than that, the conference basically outlined the atrocities committed by NATO, its associate and crony terrorist armies, ISIS, Al Qada, Al Nusra and so on, changing names for revolving terrorists, recruited and trained by the CIA and funded by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, and, of course the US directly or through her many State Department funded and subsidiary NGOs, like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and many others. And, of course, not to forget a prominent funder of terrorism, Turkey, who is now trying to make a smiling face to Russia and the east, even flirting with the idea of entering the club of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO); on the one hand purchasing Russian military defense systems – the S-400 – and at the same time US fighter planes F35, dancing on as many weddings simultaneously as they can. Who would trust Turkey under Erdogan? Turkey also still hosts one of the most strategic and most dangerous nuclear-equipped NATO bases literally between east and west.

The Conference recalled the Cold War. By now everybody knows – really? – well, for those who don’t – that the so-called Cold War was one of the best propagated and fakest news of the 20th Century. It’s a brilliant idea that sprung out of the McCarthy Nazi-era – like NATO itself – to arm the US to the teeth, maximizing profits of the military industrial complex, under the pretext of halting the advancement of the Soviet Union into just liberated western Europe, just liberated from Hitler’s Nazi-Germany. Never mind that western Europe has been saved by the Soviet Union who lost 25-30 million people and basically their transport and production infrastructure. Yes, it was not the so-called allies – US, UK and France – they came in last, when the bulk of the job was already done by what is today Russia. But, of course, no western history book would tell you the truth. In fact, it must be said here too that the US funded Hitler’s war against the Soviet Union with money channeled from the FED, through Wall Street banks, and eventually through the Rothschild dominated Bank for International Settlement (BIS), located in Basel, Switzerland, right at the border to Germany, from where it was easy to pass the money on to the Reichsbank – Hitler’s Central Bank. Yes- that’s how the US was already then dancing on various fiestas at the same time; on the one hand bombing Germany and, on the other, financing Germany’s war against what the US already then perceived as an archenemy – The Red Scare – the Soviet Union. Well, these acts of treason then were the precursors of NATO today.

Anything socialist is evil for the US, still today. Trump, himself, and his minion clowns — Pompeo, Bolton and Pence — are lambasting Venezuela and Cuba for being evil and destructive socialist countries and that socialism will not be tolerated anywhere by the falling empire – sorry, falling it is – of the United States of America.

The other purpose of the Cold War farce was to make the Europeans believe that they were under a constant threat of a Soviet invasion, that they had to arm themselves also to the teeth – imagine war-recovering Europe having to spend their money on arms for no use! – and, of course, most of these weapons had to be bought – yes, you guessed it – from the US military industrial complex meaning more profit for the war oligarchs. The Anglo-media giants even created a virtual barrier between western “free” Europe and the bad-bad Red Scare, the Soviet Union, the Iron Curtain. Yes, the Iron Curtain; children in school were indoctrinated to be aware that the enemy is hiding behind the Iron Curtain, and that the enemy always comes from the East. Hilarious, when you think back. At that time (almost) everybody believed it.

And the third, or perhaps first objective of the Cold War, was to block the Soviet Union from developing a viable and autonomous economy with which they could thrive, as most socialist countries do, until they are boycotted, punished and financially “sanctioned” into suffocation by the west. These illegal financial manipulations with and within sovereign countries’ economies, are, of course, illegal by any standards of international laws, laws that have become meaningless in the light of US / NATO power, scary nuclear power. These acts of financial and human rights high crimes are only possible because of the all dominating, fraudulent US-imposed – and NATO-protected – western monetary system.

The NATO-driven Cold War, a constant nuclear threat towards the Soviet Union, was intended to force Russia also to arm for their defense, instead of being able to use their economy’s added value to rebuild their devastated country. The USSR was never a threat to Europe. There was never an intention of the Soviet Union to invade western Europe. The same today, we are being made believe that Russia wants to invade Europe.  That’s why NATO needs to build all these military bases at the door step to Russia. Russia is by far the largest country, territory-wise, in the world, they don’t need to add more land. Historically, neither Russia or China have a record of expansionism.

In the end, the NATO-led Cold War managed to dismantle the Soviet Union by ‘buying’ some corrupt Soviet leaders, so that the new Russia, whose socialist system just was made to collapse, unprepared with legislation for what was to come – privatization by fire-sale of their entire economy. Like vultures, the financial institutions, IMF, World Bank, agents of the FED, descended on Moscow to literally steel by indebting whatever had any value. This misery still has not entirely abetted, as the Russian Central Bank was restructured, following the image of the FED – today, under President Putin, much has changed and was reformed; however, the financial sector is still heavily invaded by the Atlantists – or what you may also call the Fifth Columnists. And, of course, even those are protected by NATO as NATO issues threats, nobody knows from where they come, but you know who executes them, in case of…

The Florence Anti-NATO Conference also recalled some of the most abject killing sprees of NATO in its 70 years of existence, the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Ukraine – the Maidan massacre followed by the so-called Ukrainian civil war – and the crowning of sorts, the ten-year war on Yugoslavia, the total destruction of Yugoslavia, with the final blow 1999, the merciless bombing of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. Why Yugoslavia? Let’s dwell just a moment on this war of cruel destruction and killing because it is so typical for Pentagon-driven wars of annihilation. Yugoslavia, a socialist country, in the 1970s and 80s under Maoist President Tito, had a prosperous economy, much more so than the rest of Europe. The US-dominated west cannot let a socialist economy flourish. Other countries, especially stagnating western Europe, could get ideas.

Remember, socialism is evil. So, with what is today called the “Balkanization” – cut into pieces – of Yugoslavia was the old-old tactic of divide to conquer, as well as by creating internal chaos, the western powers kept control of the people, and eventually NATO was able to advance closer and ever closer to the Russian border, by occupying former Yugoslav republics with NATO bases (Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia and Kosovo is waiting in the wings), in addition to the further expansion east to Romania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, not to mention the former Soviet Republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

This expansion east, ever closer to Moscow, is a flagrant breach of a promise made by the allied forces. In 1991, then German Foreign Minister Genscher promised Russian President Gorbachev that NATO would not move one inch further east than Germany. In fact, he assured Gorbachev that NATO would not move into what before the German unification was Eastern Germany. This promise was unfortunately never recorded in writing, and Gorbachev was miserably betrayed. As we know by now, a betrayal by the west is very normal.In the meantime,12 more NATO bases east of Germany, including in former East-Germany, were built.

In their 70 years of existence, US-NATO, allied and proxy forces, as well as mercenaries, have killed between 20 and 25 million people around the globe, in wars and conflicts – in the eternal war against “terror” – that was “justified” by self-inflicted 9/11, the start to the final phase of the PNAC – Plan for a New American Century – to reach Full Spectrum Dominance.

Wars have a cost – a financial, economic and a social cost. The US official military budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 is US$ 700 billion; for FY 2019 Trump proposes US$ 750. If approved it would be a 40% increase in the last 9 years. But that’s not all. This is just the officially published figure. The real cost for the war, defense and security apparatus to which also the opaque CIA and associated secret services count is well over a trillion dollars, perhaps as much as US$1.5 trillion per year.

The US has currently about one million military personnel stationed in 175 countries around the globe. The Pentagon maintains about a thousand military bases in more than 100 countries. The war cost, in currently seven war theatres, is prohibitive – medical costs for veterans, for social services to returning veterans – and we are not talking about the cost of off-battle ground lives; i.e., by ever-mounting suicide rates. The Veteran Administration released a study that covered suicides from 1999 to 2010, showing that roughly 22 veterans were dying by suicide per day, or one every 65 minutes.

The reality is most likely a much higher figure – and the despair and human depression from anxieties related to the never-ending wars has increased exponentially in the last 9 years – more suicides, more desperation, more broken families, entire generations of kids with fathers at war. This cost cannot be put in figures of dollars and cents.  It’s a social cost that bears its toll in years, perhaps generations from now.

The US spends per capita ten times more than the rest of the world together on military / war expenses. President Trump requests European NATO countries to increase their military budget by contributing more to NATO, first up to 2% of GDP, threatening he may decide to withdraw NATO from Europe, if Europe does not comply with his request, still making believe that NATO is a defensive force  protecting Europe — from what and from whom?  Good-bye NATO. This is the moment to call Trump’s bluff.

But NATO – the Trans-Atlantic Treaty Organization – has also gone overseas to Latin America. NATO has since 2013 a Cooperation Agreement with Colombia, where the US has 5 military bases which will automatically convert into NATO bases. NATO is also negotiating with Brazil’s new Nazi-leader, Bolsonaro, to enter Brazil, and, as such being a threat and a potential attack force to topple the Venezuelan democratically elected socialist government. Washington makes no secret – they want Venezuela’s hydrocarbon resources, the world’s largest reserves, gold and other minerals of which Venezuela is rich. NATO is perfect to do the dirty job.

But it gets worse, this Trump clown or the masters behind him, had recently the audacity to ask for a European military budget increase to 4% of GDP – or else…. Yes. Let’s decide for else. Good riddens, NATO.

The overall NATO budget is well over a trillion dollars per year – yes, per year. And that is – people of Europe, people of the world! – that is to finance a killing machine that bulldozes countries into the ground with bombs and tanks, that kill indiscriminately civilians and other countries’ defensive military, countries that have never done any harm to the United States, nor to Europe which follows the Washington mandate like a bunch of vassals, what Europe has become.

Imagine what could be done with more than a trillion dollars or euros per year in terms of building up education, health services, public infrastructure, and other social services and expand these services to developing countries, to those very countries that are now bombarded mercilessly by NATO! This, dear People of Europe, is your tax money. Do you want it to be spent killing people around the world for Washington’s world hegemony?  NATO does not protect you. NATO has been designed as an aggressive force. You were just never told. But look out of the window, the window of your ‘safe space’, and you will see the squandering of your tax money.

NATO is invading the space of Russia and China, countries that are seeking friendly relations with the rest of the world, they are seeking a multi-polar world, but encounter instead a response of aggression. NATO is preventing the natural, namely friendly relations and trading as equals within the huge Continent Eurasia, of which Europe has been artificially separated as a continent. This tremendous landmass Eurasia, includes also the entire Middle East and connects to Africa. This enormous mass of land and people and resources does not need the west, the west called America.

Wouldn’t it be wise for countries and people of Eurasia to just live sovereign lives, with friendly interactions, trading as equals not with a one-upmanship as is currently the norm for trading between the rich OECD nations dominating the World Trade Organization (WTO), with the rest of the world- which depends on trade but is always on the losing end?

One more point that needs to be understood. Europe, the European Union as it was conceived and is limping along today, has never been the idea of Europeans, but was born during WWII in the heads of the CIA, then transplanted into some “willing” European heads and then ‘defended’ by NATO – the “unifying force”. Europe has no Constitution, only a number of non-binding accords, like Maastricht and Lisbon – but no Constitution that holds it together, that outlines a common vision in defense, in economic development, in monetary policy. The European Union results in a bunch of countries, some even hostile to each other. They have a common currency, the Euro, without even having a common economic base and development objective. This currency, forged as the little brother of the US-dollar, equally is nothing but fiat money, no backing whatsoever; this currency is not sustainable. So, the currency barely 20 years old, will eventually collapse or fade, and so will the European Union. It hasn’t happened yet, because NATO is holding it together, because Brussels is nothing but a puppet of the Pentagon. It is Washington through the Pentagon, and through NATO that is running Europe.

People of Europe, is it that what you want? Your tax money spent killing people and destroying countries around the globe, and having lost all independence, autonomy as a country, as well as monetary sovereignty – by being run by a military killing machine, called NATO?

It’s time to kill NATO, rather than being killed by NATO. Exit NATO now. It’s time for NEXIT.

No To NATO: Time To End Aggressive Militarism

“No to NATO” Protest Washington DC, March 30, 2019 (Photo from UNAC)

This week, the Foreign Ministers of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries met in Washington, DC. NATO was greeted with bi-partisan support from Congress and by protesters who held actions and events from Saturday, March 30 through their meeting at the US Department of State on April 4.

US foreign policy is not the fabled “good cop” bringing peace to the world, but rather a policy of domination using military, economic and political power to accomplish aims for US transnational corporations and US empire. From the Iraq, Libyan, Syrian, Afghanistan and Yemeni wars (in particular) people understand the US uses its power in destructive ways that create chaos, suffering, refugees and death throughout the globe. But, few people understand the role of NATO.

At the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, April 4, 2019 (Photo by Margaret Flowers)

The mythical NATO is an organization that keeps the peace in the world, but, in reality, it has always been an aggressive military force to protect western capitalism and provide cover for illegal interventions. When the US is unable to get the United Nations Security Council to approve military action, NATO provides a multi-national approach to wars as occurred in Serbia and Afghanistan among others. When Congress will not grant authority for US military action, as in Syria, NATO participation becomes the legal cover for massive military attacks by the United States.

While NATO provides a veneer of legality, in reality, it does not have any international legal authority to go to war any more than the United States has. Even NATO military attacks require either (1) UN authorization through the Security Council, or (2) a direct military attack and a self-defense response. The NATO wars are illegal under international law, just as unilateral wars by the United States are illegal.

Yves Engler writes that NATO was created not to stem Soviet aggression, which was the public justification, but to prevent the growing political left from succeeding in taking power after World War II. It was also an alliance to maintain unity among the historic colonial powers in the midst of former colonies gaining their independence from western domination.

At the time NATO was founded in 1949, there was little possibility of aggression by the Soviet Union after a war that killed 25 million Soviets. The Soviet Union and Russia were never a threat to the United States as historian Peter Kuznick explains. We discussed the history of NATO and its current role in global militarism with Engler on our podcast, Clearing the FOG, which airs on April 8, 2019.

This dynamic continues today. Since the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Warsaw Pact, NATO has become “imperialism’s global strike force,” according to Danny Haiphong. Any country that dares to assert its sovereignty and use its resources to meet its people’s needs becomes a NATO target.

Yet, there are liberal politicians who continue to fall for the lies about NATO. Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed the NATO Support Act. All 208 Democrats who voted (26 didn’t), voted for it, including many progressives such as Pramila Jayapal, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar.

Black Alliance for Peace, (left to right) Paul Pumphrey, Ajamu Baraka, YahNé Ndgo and Asantewaa Mawusi Nkrumah-Ture at No 2 NATO in Washington, D.C.

NATO In Washington, DC

NATO foreign ministers came to Washington, DC this week for a series of events culminating with a meeting in commemoration of its 70th-anniversary on April 4, which was also the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968 and the anniversary of his “Beyond Vietnam” speech in 1967 where he connected the triple evils of racism, militarism and the extreme consumerism of capitalism. The primary focus of the week was how NATO can combat Russia.

The protests began on March 30 when hundreds of people met across from the White House to call for an end to NATO as well as opposition to the economic war and threats of military attack against Venezuela. People described the vicious NATO attack on Yugoslavia that included an aerial bombardment from March 24 to June 10, 1999, involving 1,000 aircraft flying 38,000 combat missions, despite the UN Security Council voting against the attack as did the US House of Representatives. The bombing included attacks on civilian infrastructure as well as military targets, destroyed the country, killed thousands and created a mass exodus of 850,000 refugees.

Protesters also described the expansion of NATO from 12 to 29 countries with a particular focus on nations bordering Russia. This occurred despite US promises to the Soviet Union that NATO would not seek to expand after they disintegrated. The collapse of the Warsaw Pact in 1989–1991 removed the de facto main adversary of NATO, which should have led to its dissolution but instead has led to its reorganization and expansion. Now, NATO seeks to expand to Georgia, Macedonia and Ukraine as well as spreading into Latin America with Colombia joining as a partner and Brazil considering participation (not coincidentally, these two nations border Venezuela).

On Wednesday, when seven NATO foreign ministers, a US senator and a member of Congress, among others spoke at the Center for European Policy Analysis’ “NATO at 70” conference, they were confronted by multiple protesters who were able to get into the highly-restricted conference. Dozens more demonstrated outside. Protesters described NATO as a war-making alliance that should be abolished.

During the week, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had a friendly meeting with President Donald Trump where they talked about expanding NATO and having NATO members spend more money on militarism.  When Stoltenberg spoke before a joint session of Congress, he was given repeated bi-partisan standing ovations. In his speech, he called for more funding and applauded Trump’s efforts to increase funding for NATO.

The next day when NATO foreign ministers met at the State Department, hundreds of protesters were outside showing opposition to NATO. A coalition of peace groups came together for this protest and events throughout the week calling for disbanding NATO. Breaking from the bi-partisan support for NATO, Howie Hawkins, who announced an exploratory committee for Green Party presidential nomination, joined the protests calling for an end to NATO and dramatic cuts to the military budget.

Following the State Department protest, activists marched through DC to the memorial of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King on the anniversary of him being killed by the government in 1968. People talked about King’s legacy as an opponent of war being denigrated by the NATO meetings. They also echoed King’s call for a ‘Revolution of Values’ that puts the necessities of the people and the planet before the profits of big business interests that are protected by NATO.

Outside the State Dept (Photo by CODEPINK)

Ending NATO and Moving Beyond Militarism

Our task of educating the public about the real purpose of NATO was highlighted by a conversation we had with a Park Police officer at the King Memorial. We were protesting without a permit and he was telling us we had to leave. We explained that King protested without permits and we were echoing King’s message of nonviolence and an end to war. The officer responded, “you are stretching King’s message by protesting NATO.”

His comment crystallized our task. People do not realize what NATO really is. Our first task is to educate the public about the real role of NATO as a military alliance that has waged war around the world. This includes Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Libya, and Syria among others. Once the public understands the true role of NATO, we must make our demands clear — end NATO.

The world needs to move beyond militarism to mature and legal forms of dispute resolution by creating courts that prosecute war crimes and the crimes against humanity of all countries, including members of the UN Security Council, and putting in place agreements that end the threat of nuclear war, the most destructive form of war.

Who Orchestrated the Breakup of Yugoslavia and How?

Twenty-five years ago, on 24 March 1999, Operation Allied Force began – the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia that led to the country’s dismemberment – and the independent state of Kosovo was proclaimed. Yet these events were far from historically contingent, as some people claim. So who orchestrated the breakup of Yugoslavia and how?

These days, few remember that the Bulgarians were at the start of it all. Even the Bulgarians themselves don’t like to think about it.

In early March 1999, Bulgaria’s National Intelligence Service told Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) that it had information about a secret plan by the Yugoslav General Staff, codenamed Operation Horseshoe, to destroy/expel the entire Albanian population of Kosovo and Metohija by 1 April. The BND passed the information on to the German Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs, Joschka Fischer, who took it extremely seriously and immediately called for a military intervention in Yugoslavia, something that went against the pacifist position of the Green party from which he had been appointed foreign minister.

In reality, however, what the Bulgarians had was a map of Kosovo and Metohija that showed the positions of the 52nd Pristina Corps of the Third Army of the Yugoslav Military and police units. Visually, the position of these forces did actually resemble a horseshoe. No one stopped to think that the name of the document contained the word “potkova“, however, which is specific to the Bulgarian and Croatian languages and would be “potkovica” in Serbian. Since the main advocate for aggression against Yugoslavia was Germany, the Germans cited this plan as the primary reason for a bombing campaign, and the name of the “document” thereafter used the German word Hufeisenplan.

Map of Kosovo

It was only some ten years later that MEP Nadezhda Neynsky (Mihaylova), Bulgaria’s foreign minister in 1999, clarified that the Bulgarian intelligence services had warned the Germans that the information in the “plan” had not been fully confirmed.

But NATO had been present in Kosovo long before the spring of 1999. A NATO-facilitated ceasefire in the region had been signed on 15 October 1998, under which Yugoslav troops returned to their places of permanent deployment. Monitoring of the ceasefire was entrusted to NATO. As part of Operation Eagle Eye, NATO diplomats and military experts were present in Kosovo to observe the situation. Thus, NATO was well aware of all the Yugoslav army’s positions in Kosovo and Metohija and did not need the Bulgarian intelligence services’ “confirmed information”.

Towards the end of 1998, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), a Kosovo Albanian terrorist group, was on the verge of defeat, but the Albanians felt protected by NATO and continued fighting. The ceasefire collapsed and Albanian militants attacked police patrols and Serbian villages. By the beginning of 1999, the KLA had increased its terrorist activities and the situation in the region had become extremely difficult. The Yugoslav army was forced to resume its anti-terrorist operations knowing full well that NATO was not going to be happy.

In January 1999, a battle took place for the village of Račak, which the KLA had turned into a stronghold with trenches, underground bunkers and machine-gun nests. The exact number of Albanians killed in Račak is still not clear. The KLA and its supporters in Washington maintain that there were casualties among the local population. Yet a forensic examination showed that all of those killed had gunpowder traces on their hands, and the state of the civilian clothes they were wearing was not consistent with the wounds and injuries received.

After talking with KLA field commanders, however, American diplomat William Walker and his military advisor, British General John Drewienkiewicz, insisted that Serbian soldiers had massacred women and children in Račak. Even the Hague Tribunal was subsequently forced to exclude the “incident in Račak” from the list of charges against Slobodan Milošević due to a lack of evidence. In 1999, however, Walker and Drewienkiewicz were adamant.

US diplomat William Walker visits Racak on 19th anniversary of the massacre.

Veteran US diplomat William Walker, whose declaration of a massacre in Racak paved the way for the 1999 NATO bombing campaign in Kosovo, visits the village today on the 19th anniversary of the massacre. In Kosovo, he is revered as a hero.

In the end, William Walker played a key role in shaping public opinion in English-speaking countries. He maintained to the last that he had seen the headless corpses of women, children and “older men, with gray hair” with his own eyes, even when it had been completely refuted, including by Western experts. In fact, it was William Walker’s vocal position that ultimately made NATO and especially the US favour military action against Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria’s “Potkova” plan showed up at just the right time.

In February 1999, talks were held at the ancient Château de Rambouillet on the outskirts of Paris between the Serbian government and Kosovo Albanians under the auspices of the Contact Group (NATO+Russia). They were a complete failure.

NATO representatives recognised Kosovo as an autonomous province within Serbia, but called for the following: all Yugoslav army units to withdraw from Kosovo; a force of 30,000 NATO troops to be deployed in Kosovo; an unhindered right of passage for NATO troops on Yugoslav territory; and immunity for NATO and its agents to Yugoslav law.

These were controversial conditions for the occupation of Yugoslavia and the complete loss of state sovereignty. Yugoslavia and Russia refused to sign the “agreement”.

On 23 March 1999, Belgrade agreed to recognise the political part of NATO’s proposals (the autonomy of Kosovo), but once again refused categorically to allow NATO troops access to its territory, as well as withdraw its own troops from Kosovo.

On 24 March 1999, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana ordered the commander of NATO troops in Europe, US General Wesley Clark, to begin the assault against Yugoslavia. That evening, the whole of Yugoslavia, including its key cities (Belgrade, Pristina, Podgorica, Novi Sad, Kragujevac, and Pančevo), was subjected to air strikes. Overnight, the American warship USS Gonzalez fired 18 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the city of Niš.

From the very beginning of the NATO aggression against Yugoslavia, there was a clear discrepancy between the stated objectives and the operation being carried out. Initially, NATO had estimated that it would take two to three days to “end the genocide of the Albanian population of Kosovo” by attacking Yugoslav military facilities south of the 44th parallel. Should the country’s leaders continue to resist, then the attacks on targets south of the 44th parallel would be expanded and last up to a week. If Belgrade still refused to make concessions, then the whole country would be targeted, including the capital.

In reality, however, the whole of Yugoslavia, including Belgrade, Novi Sad and Podgorica, was attacked just hours after the operation began. Instead of the original two to three days, the air strikes continued for two and a half months.

The plan categorically ruled out a ground operation. A direct confrontation with the Yugoslav army on the ground was viewed as unacceptable given the predicted losses and the possible escalation of the conflict into a prolonged war due to the nature of the Serbian and Montenegrin mentalities and the resistance of these peoples to external aggression.

Throughout April and May 1999, the air strikes were relentless. Every bridge over the Danube River was demolished, up to 80 per cent of Yugoslavia’s industrial potential was wiped out, and every television and telecommunication tower was purposefully and totally destroyed. At the same time, the first strike on the General Staff building in Belgrade only took place on 30 April (three officers were killed and around 40 injured). The Americans bombed the Chinese Embassy building in Belgrade, believing that it contained radar equipment the Chinese were using to share information with the Serbian Air Defence. Chinese diplomats and embassy staff were killed in the attack.

 

A Serbian civil train, bombarded by NATO aviation at Grdelica bridge on April 12, 1999. At least 15 passengers were burnt alive.

On 12 April, an American F-15 fighter jet attacked a railway bridge over the South Morava river in the Grdelica gorge, destroying a Belgrade–Athens passenger train. Dozens of people were killed, some of whom were reduced to unidentifiable body fragments. General Wesley Clark and NATO Secretary General Javier Solana tried to defend the pilot. The British attacked the city of Niš with cluster bombs – a prohibited weapon designed to destroy enemy personnel. The bombs hit a hospital and a busy market.

On 4 June 1999, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević agreed to a peace agreement. On 12 June, NATO forces moved into Kosovo from Macedonia. On 20 June, the 52nd Pristina Corps of the Yugoslav Army left Kosovo.

Several thousand missile and bombing raids were carried out over Yugoslavia during the NATO aggression. Several tens of thousands of bombs and missiles were dropped with a total weight of more than 22,000 tons. Hundreds of industrial plants, oil depots, power plants, and infrastructure including hundreds of road and railway bridges were destroyed or seriously damaged. A large number of historical and architectural sites and monuments were destroyed, along with hundreds of schools, universities, libraries, and more than 20 hospitals. Nearly 40,000 homes were completely destroyed or damaged.

Several thousand people died as a result of the bombing, including hundreds of children. The total material damage was $103 billion.

Why did a “humanitarian intervention” aimed at “preventing the genocide of Kosovo Albanians” result in the complete collapse and breakup of Yugoslavia?

Monument to the children killed during NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, Belgrade, Serbia

The NATO aggression in 1999 was actually the final stage of the West’s solution to a crucial geopolitical task – the destruction of Yugoslavia. Following the fall of the Soviet bloc, it was not a viable option for Washington and its allies to have a country in Europe capable of pursuing independent policies and defending its own interests.

The cruel, cold-blooded and truly inhuman nature of the operation was meant to show everyone what awaits should they be brave enough to stand in the way of “Western democracy”. The political and military leaders of Yugoslavia and then of Serbia were among the first to experience hybrid warfare techniques and what is now commonly referred to as “fake news”.

Is Russia an Adversary?

The question is finally being asked, by the president himself: what’s wrong with collusion? Or at least his lawyer asks the question, while Trumps tweets:

Collusion is not a crime, but that doesn’t matter because there was No Collusion.

The problem, of course, is that of collusion with an alleged adversary. Russia, we are constantly informed, is one such adversary, indeed the main state adversary, with Putin is its head.

Adversary is a very strong term. The Hebrew word for adversary is Satan. Satan is the ultimate symbol of evil in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Satan tempted Eve at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, causing her to eat the fruit, and so evil entered the world.

Just like some want you to think that evil entered the (good, pristine) U.S. electoral process due to this Russian adversary in 2016.

(Sometimes listening to TV pundits vilifying Putin I find Luther’s famous hymn floating through my head:

For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe.
His craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal.

Luther’s referring to Satan, of course. But the current mythology around Putin — as someone who still, like Lenin and Stalin before him, and the tsars of old, wishes us harm; is an unbridled dictator with a powerful great nuclear arsenal; is the wealthiest man on earth; and hates democracy — resembles the mythology around the Adversary in the Bible.)

But let us problematize this vilification. When did Russia become a U.S. adversary? Some might say 1917 when in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution Moscow became the center of the global communist movement. But surely that period ended in 1991 with the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the USSR.

Throughout the 1990s the U.S. cultivated Boris Yeltsin’s Russia as a friend and even aided the drunken buffoon in winning the 1996 election. Bill Clinton and Yeltsin signed the Start II treaty. Harvard professors advised Moscow on economic reform.

The Russians were not pleased by U.S.-NATO involvements in the former Yugoslavia, a traditional Russian ally, in 1995 and 1999, and the expansion of NATO in the latter year (to include Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary) in violation of the agreement between Ronald Reagan and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989 that in return for Russia’s acceptance of German reunification NATO would not spread “one inch” towards Russia. They protested meekly. But Russia was not an adversary then.

Nor was it an adversary when, in 2001, under its new president Vladimir Putin, it offered NATO a route through Russia to provision forces in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks. The real change only came in 2004, when NATO suddenly expanded to include Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. This brought alliances forces right to the Russian border.

It was a clear statement by the U.S. to a friendly country: We are your adversary. But, of course, the Pentagon and State Department always pooh-poohed Russian concerns, denying that NATO targeted any particular country.

Four years later (2008) NATO announced intentions to draw Ukraine and Georgia into the alliance. Meanwhile the U.S. recognized Kosovo as an independent state. Kosovo, the historical heart of Serbian civilization, had been wrenched from Serbia in 1999 under the pretext of a “humanitarian” intervention that included the first bombing (by NATO) of a European capital city since 1945. The province had been converted into a vast NATO base.

Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili, emboldened by the prospect of NATO membership and western backing, attacked the capital of the separatist republic of South Ossetia, provoking (as the Russians explain it) a proper punitive response: the Russo-Georgian War of August 7-16. After this Moscow recognized South Ossetia and a second breakaway republic, Abkhazia, in a tit-for-tat response to Washington’s recognition of Kosovo.

Now Russia was labelled an aggressive power—by the power that had carved up Yugoslavia, and invaded and occupied Iraq on the basis of lies and killed half a million in the process. Plans to include Georgia in NATO had to be put on hold, in large part due to European allies’ opposition (why provoke Russia?) but the U.S. intensified efforts to draw in Ukraine. That meant toppling the anti-NATO elected president Viktor Yanukovych.

The U.S. State Department devoted enormous resources to the Maidan coup in Kiev on February 23, 2014. Its agents helped topple the government, ostensibly for its failure to negotiate an agreement for Ukrainian associate membership in the EU, but really to bring pro-NATO forces to power and expel the Russian Fleet from the Crimean Peninsula where it has been based since 1783. Moscow’s limited support for the Donbass ethnic-Russian separatists and re-annexation of Crimea were, of course, depicted by the U.S. as more aggression, more mischievous opposition to “U.S. global interests.”

But from Moscow’s point of view these moves have surely been defensive. The main problem is (obviously) NATO and its dangerous, unnecessary and provocative expansion. Throughout his presidential campaign Trump questioned the continued “relevance” of NATO. Characteristically he focused on budget issues and allies’ failure to meet the goal figure of 2% if GDP for military expenses (misleadingly depicting investment shortfalls as a betrayal and rip-off of the victimized U.S.). But he did—to the alarm of many, and probably to Moscow’s delight—express little enthusiasm for the alliance’s historical purpose.

The most rational proposition Trump voiced before his election that the U.S. should “get along” with Russia. That is, get along with the so-called adversary. Trump as we all know had been in Russia on business, hosting the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013, and maintains interest in building a Trump Tower in the city. He has met and befriended Russian oligarchs. He quite possibly sees Russia as just another country, like Germany or France.

If “the French” had had dirt on Hillary, would it have been okay to “collude” with them to influence the election result? France is, of course, a NATO ally. Would that make it different? Now that the president and his layers are openly questioning whether “collusion”, per se, is even illegal, the specific nature of the colluder becomes more relevant.

Russia is an adversary.

Russia is an adversary.

Putin in Helsinki acknowledged to a reporter that he had hoped Trump could win, because he had expressed hope for better relations. He might have added that he dreaded the prospect of a Hillary victory because of her warmongering and characterization of him as a Hitler. Naturally the Russian media favored Trump over Clinton at a certain point when he emerged as a credible candidate. So when Trump on July 27, 2016 called on Russia to release Hillary’s missing emails (“if you’ve got ’em”) the Russians probably felt invited to make contact through channels. And when informed that they had dirt, Don Jr. wrote: “If that’s what you say, I love it.” (Who can blame him?)

Let’s say there was some collusion after the June 6 Trump Tower meeting. Trump has suddenly acknowledged that the meeting with the Russians was indeed to “seek political dirt.” He adds that this is “totally legal,” and this may be true. Some are now saying that Don Jr. may have violated a federal statute (52 USC 30121, 36 USC 5210) forbidding any foreign person to  “make a contribution or a donation of money or other thing of value, or expressly or impliedly promise to make a contribution or a donation, in connection with any Federal, State, or local election.’ and for anyone to knowingly solicit, accept, or receive from a foreign national any contribution or donation prohibited by [this law].” But the language is vague. If a Canadian speechwriter works gratis for a U.S. political candidate, in order to help him or her win, is this not “a thing of value” intended to affect an election?

If Paul Manafort, Don Jr. and Jared Kushner had met with Canadian agents in Trump Tower I doubt there would have been any controversy. The fact is, Trump won the election and many of those stunned by that wish to undermine him using revived Cold War-type Russophobia. They insist:  He worked with our adversary to undermine our election. And now they hope they’ve got him on this charge.

*****

Five years ago a young man named Edward Snowden (now living in forced exile in Russia) revealed to the world the extent of the U.S.’s global surveillance. He showed us how the NSA wiretaps EU meetings, popes’ conversations, Angela Merkel’s cell phone and maintains metadata on virtually all U.S. residents. He showed us what the contemporary advanced state can do in this respect. We should suppose that Moscow has, if not similar capacity, at least enough expertise to hack into the DNC emails or John Podesta’s g-mail account. Is that surprising?

What none of the TV anchors is allowed to say needs to be said again: The U.S. interferes in foreign elections all the time, including Russian ones. It should surprise no one if Russian intelligence responds in kind. The point is not the provenance of the leaked emails but their content.

Those horrified by the leaked material complain that their release was designed to “undermine faith in our democratic system.” Really? Don’t the workings of the system itself undermine one’s faith in it, once they are exposed? Was it adversarial of the leaker to inform us that the DNC had no intention of allowing Bernie Sanders to win the Democratic nomination, and thus that the process was rigged? Was it unfriendly to reveal that Podesta was hoping the media would hype Trump, as an easy target for his candidate?

The question that will no doubt be debated in the coming days is whether seeking dirt on a political opponent from any foreigner is indeed illegal, or whether there are specific legal ramifications of meeting with someone from an “adversary” country. But it seems to me that Russia has not been defined as such officially. So we may have a discussion less about legality than the politics of Russophobia.

I am happy to see Trump besieged, rattled, possibly facing impeachment. But to bring him down on the basis of “Russian collusion,” on the assumption that Russia is an adversary, would only advantage the warmongers who want no-fly zones over Syria and military support for the Kiev regime against the Donbas separatists. Vice President Pence I believe favors both.

Trump has said that he cannot host Putin in Washington this year, or until the Russian Hoax witch hunt is over. But Putin has invited him to Moscow. One senses he wants some agreements with Trump before he is ousted by his gathering adversaries, including the press, courts, Democrats, select Republicans, turncoat aides and he himself sometimes in his unguarded tweets.

Canada’s Military shapes Coverage of Deployments

To the military, shaping media coverage of deployments is what roasting a marshmallow is to a summer camper’s S’mores; there isn’t one without the other.

Even before beginning a small “peacekeeping” mission the Canadian forces’ have an elaborate media strategy.

At the end of June Chief of the Defence Staff Jonathan Vance brought journalists with him on a visit to Mali. They toured the facilities in Gao where an advance team was preparing for Canada’s UN deployment to the African nation. An Ottawa Citizen headline described Vance’s trip as part of an effort at “selling the public on the Mali mission.”

The tour for journalists was followed by a “technical briefing” on the deployment for media in Ottawa. “No photography, video or audio recording for broadcast purposes” was allowed at last week’s press event, according to the advisory. Reporters were to attribute information to “a senior government” official. But, the rules were different at a concurrent departure ceremony in Trenton. “Canadian Armed Forces personnel deploying to Mali are permitted to give interviews and have their faces shown in imagery”, noted the military’s release.

None of these decisions are haphazard. With the largest PR machine in the country, the military has hundreds of public affairs officers that work on its media strategy. “The Canadian Forces studies the news media, writes about them in its refereed journals—the Canadian Army Journal and the Canadian Military Journal — learns from them, develops policies for them and trains for them in a systematic way,” explains Bob Bergen, a professor at the University of Calgary’s Centre for Military and Strategic Studies. “Canadian journalists simply do not access the Canadian Forces in the scholarly fashion that the military studies them. There are no peer-reviewed journals to which they contribute reflections on their success or failure as an industry to cover the 1991 Persian Gulf War or the 1999 Kosovo Air War.”

While the tactics have varied based on technologies, balance of power and type of conflict, the government has pursued extensive information control during international deployments, which are invariably presented as humanitarian even when motivated by geostrategic and corporate interests. There was formal censorship during World War I, WWII and the Korean War. In recent air wars the military largely shut the media out while in Afghanistan they brought reporters close.

Air wars lend themselves to censorship since journalists cannot accompany pilots during their missions or easily see what’s happening from afar. “As a result,” Bergen writes, “crews can only be interviewed before or after their missions, and journalists’ reports can be supplemented by cockpit footage of bombings.”

During the bombing of the former Yugoslavia in 1999 the CF blocked journalists from filming or accessing Canadian pilots flying out of Aviano, Italy. They also refused to provide footage of their operations. While they tightly controlled information on the ground, the CF sought to project an air of openness in the aftermath of the Somalia scandal. For 79 days in a row a top general gave a press conference in Ottawa detailing developments in Yugoslavia. But, the generals often misled the public. Asked “whether the Canadians had been targeted, whether they were fired upon and whether they fired in return” during a March 24 sortie in which a Yugoslavian MiG-29 was downed, Ray Henault denied any involvement. The deputy chief of Defence Staff said: “They were not involved in that operation.” But, Canadians actually led the mission and a Canadian barely evaded a Serbian surface-to-air missile. While a Dutch aircraft downed the Yugoslavian MiG-29, a Canadian pilot missed his bombing target, which ought to have raised questions about civilian casualties.

One reason the military cited for restricting information during the bombing campaign was that it could compromise the security of the Armed Forces and their families. Henault said the media couldn’t interview pilots bombing Serbia because “we don’t want any risk of family harassment or something of that nature, which, again, is part of that domestic risk we face.”

During the bombing of Libya in 2011 and Iraq-Syria in 2014-16 reporters who traveled to where Canadian jets flew from were also blocked from interviewing the pilots. Once again, the reason given for restricting media access was protecting pilots and their families.

Since the first Gulf War the military has repeatedly invoked this rationale to restrict information during air wars. But, as Bergen reveals in Balkan Rats and Balkan Bats: The art of managing Canada’s news media during the Kosovo air war, it was based on a rumour that antiwar protesters put body bags on the lawn of a Canadian pilot during the 1991 Gulf War. It likely never happened and, revealingly, the military didn’t invoke fear of domestic retribution to curtail interviews during the more contentious ground war in Afghanistan.

During that war the CF took a completely different tack. The CF embedding (or in-bedding) program brought reporters into the military’s orbit by allowing them to accompany soldiers on patrol and stay on base. When they arrived on base senior officers were often on hand to meet journalists. Top officers also built a rapport with reporters during meals and other informal settings. Throughout their stay on base Public Affairs Officers (PAOs) were in constant contact, helping reporters with their work. After a six-month tour in Afghanistan PAO Major Jay Janzen wrote: “By pushing information to the media, the Battalion was also able to exercise some influence over what journalists decided to cover. When an opportunity to cover a mission or event was proactively presented to a reporter, it almost always received coverage.”

In addition to covering stories put forward by the military, ‘embeds’ tended to frame the conflict from the perspective of the troops they accompanied. By eating and sleeping with Canadian soldiers, reporters often developed a psychological attachment, writes Carleton professor Sherry Wasilow, in Hidden Ties that Bind: The Psychological Bonds of Embedding Have Changed the Very Nature of War Reporting.

Embedded journalists’ sympathy towards Canadian soldiers was reinforced by the Afghans they interviewed. Afghans critical of Canadian policy were unlikely to express themselves openly with soldiers nearby. Scott Taylor asked, “what would you say if the Romanian military occupied your town and a Romanian tank and journalist showed up at your door? You love the government they have installed and want these guys to stay! Of course the locals are smiling when a reporter shows up with an armoured vehicle and an armed patrol.”

The military goes to great lengths to shape coverage of its affairs and one should expect stories about Canada’s mission in Mali to be influenced by the armed forces. So, take heed: Consume what they give you carefully, like you would a melted chocolate and marshmallow coated graham wafer.

The Woes of Luka Modrić: Croatia, Nationalism and Football

Juraj Vrdoljak of Telesport was convinced.  “I think half the population didn’t show up to work on the morning after the win against England.” The victory had inspired early shop closures, a feeling of rampant escapism. “Croatia is a country with a deep economic crisis.  Every day, life is really hard.  It’s full of bad stories and tough times.  There is lot of poverty.  A lot of people are emigrating.”

Members of Croatia’s football team have become national talismans of endurance, the shock troops of resilience and hope.  Ivan Rakitić, when he takes the field against France, will be playing his 71st match of the season, the most than any top-flight player this year.  Luka Modrić remains unflinching in the midfield as the team’s general.  Domagoj Vida has been granite in defensive solidity.

Football teams can be held up as mirrors of the nations they represent. This sociological gazing can always be taken too far, a scholar’s fruitless pondering, but Croatia’s national side is instructive.  It was Dinamo Zagreb’s Zvonimir Boban who stirred matters with his heralded assault on a police officer engaged in a violent scuffle with fans in a match against Red Star Belgrade.  Croatian football was fashioned as a vehicle of protest and dissent against what was seen as a Serb-dominated federation.

In time, football kicks became shells and bullets in the murderous dissolution of Yugoslavia.  To this day, a legend stubbornly holds that the truculent Bad Blue Boys of Dinamo and the countering Deljie of Red Star precipitated the first shots of that war.

Starting with its current inspirational captain, the link between social ill and patriotic performance can be seamless.  When he finishes the tournament in Russia, Modrić will have to turn his mind back to his relationship with mentor and former Dinamo Zagreb executive Zdravko Mamić, a towering figure who finds himself facing a six-and-a-half year prison sentence for corruption and fraud.  From Bosnia and Herzegovina, he does battle with the authorities, attempting to avoid extradition after fleeing Croatia.

A bursting feature of the case mounted against Mamić involved claims of ill-gotten gains from transfers of Modrić from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham Hotspur in 2008 and Dejan Lovren to Lyon in 2010.  Modrić, it seemed, was implicated in signing an annex to his Dinamo contract, suggesting a 50-50 split of any future transfer fee.  What was significant was the timing – 2015 as opposed to any earlier dates.  Through his tenure, suggestions that Mamić had conducted a “silent privatisation” of the club were rampant, producing inflated transfer prices and a cult of acquisitiveness.

Modrić, having been billed as a star witness who initially supplied anti-corruption investigators with gold dust on Mamić’s penchant for cooking the accounts, notably in terms of pocketing millions of euros of the transfer fee, froze in the dock.  His memory, it seemed, had failed him; the contract annex was not signed, as he initially claimed, in 2015 but 2004.  This testimony was effectively rendered worthless.  Croatia’s captain now faces the prospect of a perjury charge that carries a possible sentence of five years in prison.

The Croatian Football association, in an official statement in March, was not having a bar of it, unsurprising given the powers that be within the country’s football hierarchy.  The body insisted upon “the principle of innocence and considers every person innocent until proven otherwise.”  It was also “deeply convinced of the correctness of Luka Modrić’s testimony before the court in Osijek, and especially because of Modrić’s behaviour since his first appearance for the Croatian U-15 team in March 2001 to date.”

While every inch the commander in the field, with his team keen to impress in their following, not all Croatian supporters are in the Modrić tent of fandom. The Bad Blue Boys have found themselves split in loyalties over the years, with some, such as Juraj Ćošić, forming a breakaway team, Futsal Dinamo. “Zdravko Mamić,” claims football sociologist Ben Perasović, “is a typical member of the new rich class.”  It is a class that continues to afflict Croatian football with their depredations, a looting tendency that is only now being reined in with mixed success.

The other team members have also shown this side to be rather prickly. Vida, and the now sacked assistant coach Ognjen Vukojević, were caught on film making comments supportive of Ukrainian nationalists in the aftermath of the side’s defeat of Russia in the quarter-finals.  FIFA’s benevolence prevailed, and the centre-back was permitted to play in the semi-final against England.

Such a background adds more than a touch of complexity, with all its discomforts, to the World Cup final against France.  Croatia’s team will not merely be facing their opponents on the field in a battle of wits and tenacity. Off it, pens and knives are being readied and sharpened, with prosecutions being prepared.

Even now, the team is being written off by the smug pundits of football orthodoxy, though with less disdain than before.  Three matches on the trot into extra-time suggest imminent exhaustion, a possible overrunning by a more refreshed French team. But desperation, in meeting talent, can be the most potent of elixirs.  This Croatian team has pushed the sceptics to the edge, and threatens to leave them there.  And with players like Modrić, adversity remains their closest companion.