Category Archives: (Ex-)Yugoslavia

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.

The Balkanization of South America and the Role of Fifth Columns Throughout the World

During the recent meeting in Caracas of the Venezuelan Presidential Economic Advisory Commission, in mid-June 2018, President Maduro said something extremely interesting, but also extremely disturbing, nonetheless highly important for the region to be aware of. Mr. Maduro mentioned Yugoslavia, the foreign induced local conflicts, the breakup and dismemberment of Yugoslavia, starting with the “Ten Days War” on Slovenia in 1991, the Croatian War (1991-95); the Bosnia War (1992-95); the Kosovo War (1998-99), culminating with the Clinton induced 69-day NATO bombing of Kosovo, under then European NATO leader Wesley Clark (today the Repentant – in retrospect it’s easy to be sorry), pretending to save the Kosovo Albanians from Serbian Milosevic’s atrocities. How Milosevic served as a patsy for the imperial forces is another story.

All of this would not have been possible without a decade long preparation by several Fifth Columns infiltrated and trained in and outside of Yugoslavia, the only country in Europe that in the 1980s and 90s flourished, with general well being above that of the average Europeans, who were suffering recessions and increasing inequality, the beginning of xenophobia in the age of nascent neoliberalism. There was no extreme poverty in Yugoslavia, but prosperity without excesses for everybody. There was economic growth under a loose Mao-model socialism which could, of course, not be allowed to persist, lest it might serve the world as an example. Besides the breakup of Yugoslavia into chaos was needed to create mini-states that are in conflict with each other, some of them still today, and that could be ‘accommodated’ against a hefty ‘fee’, of course, to accept the installation of NATO bases ever an inch closer to Moscow’s door step.

Well, Mr. Maduro saw and sees it clearly. History repeats itself all too often, especially when it comes in the form of western neoliberal-neofascist atrocities, as people’s memories are dulled with lie-propaganda. In fact, there is hardly any real news, only ‘fake news’ in the western mainstream media. Mr. Maduro envisions that “their” plan for Latin America is similar to what “they” did to Yugoslavia. He is probably right. All signs point into this direction.

A pact between Colombia and NATO, a so-called “Security Cooperation Agreement” was first signed in June 2013 but prepared way before. Records of first communications to this effect, by Juan Manual Santos, then President of Columbia and Peace Laureate in 2016 for his traitorous Peace Agreement between the Colombian Government and FARC (vaya-vaya! Doesn’t this speak volumes by itself?), can be traced back to early 2012.

President Hugo Chavez was the first one to warn his Latin American partners of the imminent clandestine infiltration of NATO into South America. Nobody listened. Today it’s a fact, too late to fight against. NATO troops are occupying gradually all seven American military bases in Colombia. They are just simply converting from US to NATO bases – sounds more palatable than US bases – for sure. In the minds of unfortunately still most uninformed or mal-informed people, NATO stands for security. NATO – the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – in South America. What an oxymoron! Well, it is the same ‘security’ farce as is NATO in Afghanistan and bombing the Middle East.

Venezuela is full with Fifth Columnists. They are the ones that facilitate the highly speculative and inflationary manipulation from Miami of the black-market US dollar rate in the streets of Caracas; they are the ones that emulate the food shortages in Chile 1973, successfully disappearing duly paid-for imported merchandise, mostly food and medical supplies, ending up as smuggle-ware in Colombia, leaving empty supermarket shelves in Venezuela. All meant to instigate people to stand up against their government.

So far, this strategy has failed bitterly. On 20 May 2018, President Maduro has been overwhelmingly re-elected, under the most internationally observed elections the world has ever experienced, and the result was “the cleanest, most democratic elections we have witnessed in our history of worldwide 92 election observations”. So said the US-based Carter Institute.

Yet, the Fifth Columnists are relentless. Worldwide. They are immersed in the government apparatus, institutions, military, police – even Parliament and very important in the financial system, possible in the central bank. They “allow”, or rather promote, the manipulation of the US-dollar black market, causing sky-rocketing inflation and lack of food and medicine on supermarket shelves. They disrupt electricity, internet and water services. The approach is similar in every country that refuses to bend to the empire’s dictate. In Russia, Iran, China, Syria, South Sudan, possibly even in Cuba they are in control of the financial system – that’s also how they are easily being financed, through the dollar-based monetary fraud of the west, to which most countries still have some links – fortunately every day less.

Take Russia, the Central Bank is still largely run by the Fifth Columnists, whose ‘chief’ is Putin’s just recently re-appointed Prime-Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, an arch-Atlantist. The structure of the Russian Central Bank is even today mainly a remnant of the Russian Reserve Bank, designed by the FED after the collapse of the Soviet Union, with the help of the UN-masked Bretton Woods crooks, the IMF, World Bank.

Similarly, part of the masked international promoters of instability, are the Bretton Woods regional associates, the so-called regional development banks, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), African Development Bank (AfDB) and their sub-regional cohorts. In the nineties, the Gang was joined by WTO (the World Trade Organization). And here they are, the world’s three most hated international UN-backed financial and trade organizations, IMF, World Bank and WTO. All three are promoting fundamentalist “free-marketeering” across the globe, especially throughout the southern hemisphere (though Greece and southern Europe do not escape), indebting and enslaving countries to the western corporate oligarchs. All well-structured to control the world’s financial system – so as to march towards world hegemony of a One World Global Economy. We are almost there, though not quite yet. There is always hope. Man’s last shred to hang on to life is HOPE. And only Man can translate hope into reality. So, as long as we have life, it’s not too late.

Why is it so difficult, say, impossible to get rid of them, the Fifth Columnists, the vermin of any unaligned political system? Why did President Putin re-assign Medvedev as his PM?  Mr. Putin knows that he supports a network of Atlantist oligarchs that seek nothing more than to ‘putsch’ him, Mr. Putin, and ultimately to destroy the rather egalitarian, though capitalist-based, economic system Russia has enjoyed for the last almost 20 years, becoming self-sufficient in agriculture, food, industry, high-tech science, pharmaceuticals. Russia has developed herself into an exemplary “Resistance Economy”, ready to be emulated by any western-named ‘rogue’ state that is sick and tired of the Empires boots and bombs and forced ‘democracies’ through ‘regime change’.

There are many western countries that just wait for a leader, one that moves head-on. Russia, China, Venezuela, Iran, Cuba, are shining examples. They are gradually escaping the yoke of the dollar-dominated western economy.

So, why are countries like Russia, Iran and maybe Venezuela afraid to get rid of their Fifth Columnists? For fear of a civil war, of a blood bath? Yes, we have seen the violent unrest they caused in preparation of the two major democratic elections in Venezuela in the last 12 months, the National Constituent Assembly (30 July 2017) and the Presidential Elections on 20 May 2018, when altogether close to 200 people died. The media immediately blamed the death on police and military oppression and violence but the only armed protesters were those armed and funded by Washington, and responsible for more than 80% of the death. Chavistas cheered for their Government with their bare fists.

The question remains in the room – why does Mr. Putin not get rid of them, the Fifth Columnists?  Would they cause a civil war?   It seems to me they wouldn’t have sufficient supporters in Russia, but they could disrupt the internal economy, as the Russian internal financial systems, especially private banking, is still in the hands of these Atlantists. They are also in China, but it appears that President Xi Jinping has better control of them.

How about Iran? Why are they still able to hold on to and fight for ‘western deals’; i.e., the upholding of the Nuclear Deal that Trump has stepped out from and now is sanctioning Iran ‘with the most severe sanctions the world has ever seen’, sounding similar to what he said to Mr. Kim Jong-un, the ‘Little Rocket Man’, with whom Trump then made peace a few weeks later?  Or something like it. One never knows with the Donald what the meaning of Trump’s trumpeting is, other than screwing up alliances and creating physical and sociopsychological chaos. He is also threatening European corporations, mostly oil companies, with heavy sanctions if they dare maintain their contracts with Iran.

Many cave in. Among them, the French-UK owned Total, Italy’s Eni and Saras, Spain’s Repsol and Greece’s Hellenic Petroleum. In the case of Total, according to the director of the Venezuelan branch, instead of filling their contracts with US-“fracking” oil, as Trump would expect, they are negotiating with Russia, to fulfill their obligations in Europe and elsewhere. “We cannot trust Brussels to fend for us, therefore we have to fend for ourselves”, the Total representative said.

Iran doesn’t really need the Europeans to buy their oil. Europe constitutes only about 20% of the Iranian hydrocarbon market – an amount easily taken up by China. The same with other European corporations that may choose similar ways of self-protection – cutting ties with Iran – like the Peugeot-Citroen automobile giant. Iran doesn’t need them. That these sanctions and EU corporate reactions to the US sanctions, are causing hardship and unemployment in Iran is just western propaganda, a vast exaggeration, at worst a temporary affair. As Mr. Rouhani said, we might go through a short period of difficulties but will recover rapidly by becoming self-sufficient. And that’s true. Iran is well embarked on their “Economy of Resistance”, aiming at self-sufficiency through import-substitution and orienting themselves towards eastern markets.

In fact, Iran is already part of the Eurasian Economic Community and will soon become a full-fledged member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).  So why can Iran not get rid of their Fifth Columnists? This is a question I can only answer with “fear from bloody civil unrest, prompting possibly western military intervention”.

Back to Venezuela, it could be similar fears that prevent the Maduro Government from taking drastic actions, like declaring a temporary state of emergency and drastic measures of de-dollarization to stop inflation and speculation, and strengthen the local currency, the Bolivar, by backing it with their internationally accepted cryptocurrency, the Petro.

On 20 May 2018, six million Venezuelan’s mostly Chavistas, voted overwhelmingly for President Maduro and his Government, a 68% majority, representing a solid block of people supporters. If you have the choice between an artificially made-to-starve population and a crumbling what used to be a solid block of 6 million Chavistas behind you but gradually disappearing because of lacking actions by the government, what do you do? Perhaps the only way is to economically isolate the Fifth Columnists or Atlantists, despite their apparent control of the economic system. What Atlantists are actually controlling is the dollar-based economy. Quitting the dollar-base, they may become rather powerless.

Venezuela faces a dire dilemma: Die or be killed. Venezuela has already started moving out of the dilemma, with the creation of the totally dollar-detached Petro, the government controlled blockchain currency based on hydrocarbons and precious minerals. Today, Venezuela imports about 70% of their food, and guess from where?  You guessed right – from the US of A. Thus, de-dollarization at first sight is a challenge.

Therefore, a massive diversification of imports, and efforts to become food self-sufficient, is in the order. Venezuela has the agricultural potential to become 100% food self-sufficient. In the meantime, Russia, China and other Eurasian countries will substitute. Venezuela may apply for SCO membership. Why not? After all, China has already about 50 billion dollars’ worth of investments in Venezuela, mostly in hydrocarbons, and just declared making another 5-billion-dollar equivalent loan to refurbish the Venezuelan petrol industry. China and Russia have big stakes in Venezuela, an excellent defense strategy. Now, Venezuela’s membership in the SCO would be another big step away from the dollar economy.

The Balkanization of Latin America is already happening. When Mr. Maduro referred to the 7 US bases in neighboring Colombia, aka, now NATO bases, with a porous 1,500 km (out of a total of 2,000 km) uncontrollable jungle border with Venezuela, and even open and welcoming borders with Peru, Ecuador and Brazil, he said it all. It will be easy to suffocate any uprising – NATO will do it, by now the generally accepted world police, as generally accepted as the recently intact, totally unelected and self-appointed world government, the G7. They are now crumbling, thank heaven for Mr. Trump’s egocentric pathology, his “Let’s make America Great Again”; and thanks to Mr. Putin’s non-intervening but strategic sideline observance.

Will Trump continue to provide majority support for NATO? He recently warned the Europeans to contribute their share; i.e., increasing their NATO contribution to 2% of their GDP – or else. Well, what is “else”?  Reducing NATO, an enormous cost to the US?  And counting on the CIA-trained and NED-funded destabilizing insurgents (NED = National Endowment for Democracy, a state department financed “regime change’ and “democratization” NGO) throughout the world? Insurgents in alliance with the local Atlantists? Will this be enough in a rapidly changing international monetary and payment system?

The US scheme for Balkanizing Latin America, and by extension the world, is as porous as the 1,500 km long tropical forest border between Colombia and Venezuela. The hegemony of the dollar-economy hangs in the balance. Only drastic actions by victimized but courageous countries, like Venezuela, Iran and Russia can break the balance and destroy the western monetary hegemony.

Fighting Where We Stand

In our hyper-alienated and media-saturated societies, struggles for collective liberation are all too often reduced to a contest of ideas. Rather than fighting tooth and nail against conditions of exploitation, oppression and ecological devastation, we often instead find ourselves mired in an endless cycle of argument, critique and debate. But while theory can and should play an important role in informing our actions and helping to build relationships based in trust and mutual understanding… at the end of the day, any meaningful practice of collective autonomy requires the capacity to actually defend territory.

Though they often draw inspiration from one another, struggles for territorial autonomy – if they are to be successful – must be based on local realities. After all… defending a physical space means fighting where we stand. And so the battle to defend a squatted social center in an urban neighbourhood will necessarily look very different from one waged by Indigenous land defenders against the encroachment of pipeline companies through their territories. But though these struggles may assume different forms, they stem from a shared resolve to draw a line in the sand and to defend it… come what may.

In this month’s episode of Trouble, subMedia showcases three ongoing land defence struggles: the Unist’ot’en Camp, located on the unceded Wet’suwet’en territories of so-called “British Columbia”; the autonomous spaces movement in Ljubljana, Slovenia and the eco-defence occupation known as La ZAD, in Notre-Dame-des-Landes, France.

Toronto Van Attack: Toxic Msculinity and the Canadian Forces

Progressive online commentary about Monday’s van attack in Toronto has focused on the influence of “toxic masculinity”. The analyses should be expanded to include the alleged perpetrator’s ties to a powerful patriarchal institution that is Canada’s biggest purveyor of violence.

Early reports suggest alleged mass murderer Alek Minassian may have targeted women and been motivated by sexism. Before carrying out his horrific attack he posted on Facebook about the “Incel Rebellion”, a community of “involuntarily celibate” men who hate women, and praised misogynistic US mass murderer Elliot Rodger. Minassian reportedly wrote: “Private (Recruit) Minassian Infantry 00010, wishing to speak to Sgt 4chan please. C23249161.The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”

It should surprise no one that alongside his call for an “Incel Rebellion” the misogynist Minassian cited his (short) military service. Last fall he joined the Canadian Forces, which has one hundred thousand active members and three hundred thousand retired members. A 2015 investigation led by former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps found a “culture of misogyny” in the CF “hostile to women and LGTBQ members.” While women now represent 15% of military personnel, the Deschamps report concluded that “the overall perception is that a ‘boy’s club’ culture still prevails in the armed forces.”

Until 1979 women were excluded from the Royal Military College. Until 1989 women were excluded from combat roles in the CF. In 2000 the submarine service was finally opened to women.

A 1992 Department of National Defence survey found that 26.2% of female CF respondents were sexually harassed in the previous 12 months. Subsequent investigations have shown steady improvements, but 27.3% of women in 2016 still reported having been victims of sexual assault at least once since joining the CF. The Deschamps review “found that there is an undeniable problem of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the CAF.” In 2017 plaintiffs in five separate cities united to sue over sexual assault, harassment and gender-based discrimination in the CF.

When Nichola Goddard became the first female CF member to die in Afghanistan it came to light that she wrote her husband about sexual violence on the base. Goddard wrote about “the tension of living in a fortress where men outnumbered women ten to one” and “there were six rapes in the camp last week, so we have to work out an escort at night.” But, the CF only admits to investigating five reports of sexual harassment or assault in Afghanistan between 2004 and 2010. Valerie Fortney, author of Sunray: The Death and Life of Captain Nichola Goddard said she “hit a brick wall” when seeking to investigate sexual harassment in Afghanistan.

Male veterans have repeatedly engaged in gender-based violence. Last year Lionel Desmond killed his wife, daughter, mother and himself while Robert Giblin stabbed and threw his pregnant wife off a building before killing himself in 2015.

After the worst incident of patriarchal violence in Canadian history members of the elite Airborne Regiment reportedly held a celebratory dinner to honour Marc Lepine. In 1989 Lepine massacred fourteen women at the Université de Montréal while shouting “you’re all a bunch of feminists, and I hate feminists!”

Not only is the CF a patriarchal social force, it is the country’s greatest purveyor of violence. The Canadian military spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year promoting militarism and during the past quarter century it has fought wars of aggression in Libya, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia and Iraq (not to mention helping to overthrow an elected government in Haiti and engaging in gunboat diplomacy in a number of locations).

To a large extent the CF is the institutional embodiment of toxic masculinity and therefore it’s not surprising that Minassian was drawn to it. His connection to an organization that receives over $20 billion a year in public funds while upholding patriarchy and promoting violence ought to be part of the discussion of this horrible act.