Category Archives: Serbia

The Anti-President

Raids by U.S. commandos in Afghanistan. (I could be talking about 2001 or 2018.)

A U.S. drone strike in Yemen. (I could be talking about 2002 or 2018.)

Missions by Green Berets in Iraq. (I could be talking about 2003 or 2018.)
— Nick Turse, Chronicles Magazine, July 2018

The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images.
— Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, 1967

The U.S. is now a endless machine for war profiteering and endless war itself. Simultaneously a hyper Imperialist machine directed toward global hegemony. Domestically it is a McCarthyesque empire of propaganda and censorship and mass incarceration. On both fronts it is a machine for channelling money directly to the ruling class.

The U.S. has 900 military bases around the world. Everything is contracted out. Where once soldiers and marines built their own barracks and peeled their own potatoes, the new military is one in which construction, maintenance, and operations are handed over to private companies, many of whom have as their sole reason for existence, to service the US war machine.

…U.S. bases overseas have become a major mechanism of U.S. global power in the post-Second World War era. Alongside postwar economic and political tools like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the United Nations, the collection of extraterritorial bases—like colonies for the European empires before it—became a major mechanism for “maintaining [U.S.] political and economic hegemony,” advancing corporate economic and political interests, protecting trade routes, and allowing control and influence over territory vastly disproportionate to the land bases actually occupy. Without a collection of colonies, the United States has used its bases, as well as periodic displays of military might, to keep wayward nations within the rules of an economic and political system favorable to itself.
— David Vine, Monthly Review, 2014

Many of these bases are as large as small cities. Camp Liberty in Iraq has concrete sidewalks, traffic signals, spas and cinemas as well as coffee shops and Burger Kings. Generals and Admirals employ private jets, and siphon off taxpayer money for vacations at luxury resorts and shopping trips for their wives and family. The bookeeping has been described as functionally fictive. The vast amounts of monies misplaced or unaccounted for is in the trillion of dollars. Everything….from shower heads to gym equipment, to electrical cable is from private firms that usually have spent small fortunes lobbying Pentagon officials or even state department higher ups to *win* these contracts. So ponder that a moment: TRILLIONS of dollars. When anyone asks why *we* are still in Afghanistan after 17 years, this is but one of the answers.

As the FOB2012 conference neared its end, I asked another conference attendee (who asked that I not use his name) if during his wartime deployments in Iraq he had seen the problem Major Elliott had described of a base with private security guards protecting privately contracted cooks, who were cooking for the same private security guards, who were protecting the privately contracted cooks. “A lot,” he replied. It’s the “self-licking ice cream cone”—by which he meant a self-perpetuating system with no purpose or function except to keep itself going.
— David Vine, Monthly Review, 2014

The U.S. has accepted that they are now fighting generational wars. There are children born in just the special-op fronts, the hot spots that Special Operations forces fight in, who are now of fighting age. Teenagers who have never not known American occupation. From Iraq to Afghanistan, to Somalia, to Libya, to Yemen, to Philippines and Niger and Syria there are conflicts that the U.S. seems intent on keeping active. The idea of solution is now forgotten.

And watching Donald Trump and his traveling insult party it struck me that only such clearly intentional behavior and statements could make a ghoulish war criminal like John Brennan attractive to the American public. And then something began to nag at me.

While Trump is seeking to develop a framework for authoritarian rule—including the cultivation of far-right and fascistic forces based on anti-immigrant chauvinism—there is not an ounce of democratic content in the campaign of his critics within the state and political establishment. In the name of opposing Trump—and the supposed Russian plot that sustains him—they are developing their own arguments for dictatorship.
— Joseph Kishore, WSWS, August 18, 2018

Brennan has, besides suggesting intensifying foreign theatres of operation, now openly outlined a plan for Orwellian thought control at home, and wholesale censorship of dissent.

More from Joseph Kishore…

This is the significance of Brennan’s column, “President Trump’s claims of no collusion are hogwash,” published in the print edition of the New York Times on Friday. The pages of the Times were turned over to Brennan by James Bennet, the newspaper’s highly-connected editorial page editor, brother of right-wing Democratic Senator Michael Bennet and son of Douglas Bennet, a former top State Department official with CIA connections. { } More than Russia, the targets of Brennan’s attack are domestic organizations and individuals. He writes: “Electoral politics in Western democracies present an especially inviting target, as a variety of politicians, political parties, media outlets, think tanks and influencers are readily manipulated, wittingly and unwittingly, or even bought outright by Russian intelligence operatives.” Who are these “politicians, political parties, media outlets, think tanks and influencers?” The answer is: Anyone who does not accept uncritically the narrative of the intelligence agencies and the military, including the lies used to justify war in Syria and aggression against Russia.

The liberal class in the U.S. is now embracing with laudatory accolades the most malign sadistic authoritarians possible. Men like Brennan, James Comey, Robert Mueller, and nary a peep from them about the confirmation of serial torturer and all around liar Gina Haspel. With Vietnam there were massive protests against the war. Today there are none. Nobody cares in the U.S. They do not care it is year 17 in the occupation of Afghanistan, or that in Yemen there is such human suffering that statistics are an insult to even mention. Shoot a school bus in Yemen? Unfortunate but hardly headline news. Google and Facebook are now in the process of widespread censoring of dissenting voices. How dare anyone criticize the ogre John McCain. That is *hate speech*. Hollywood continues to avoid ANY criticism EVER of the U.S. military or domestic police forces. In fact, they continue to produce one jingoistic narrative after another in which service in the armed forces is uniformly expressed as a noble choice, a honorable patriotic sacrifice. Hollywood is, in fact, creating (and has done for two decades at least) a indelible mythology of fascistic martial love.

But that is really the core of what is nagging at me.

The curious exaggerated response in the U.S. to the Trump presidency is understood, partly, by the failure of previous conflicts and even by 9/11, to produce a sense of national regeneration in the usually willing masses. No amount of revisionist history about Vietnam or Korea produced a real national sense of military purpose. Grenada and Somalia just didn’t, frankly, kill enough people. This is a Puritan nation that has never left its roots in blood atonement. Organized corporate owned sports provides only a limited refuge from the crushing economic reality. Not many are fortunate enough to feel pride in what they do. And deep down nobody really believes the lies. They may work overtime and very hard to do so, but I don’t believe they do. But hating Trump has now become, at least in part, a new mythology for America. For the educated classes anyway, Trump is now the anti-president.

…one of the syndromes that people working with Vietnam veterans suffering from PTSD was something called John Wayne Syndrome where the young men had internalized the John Wayne model of heroism and one of their problems was they felt they had failed somehow to live up to that model.

And that’s the psychology we’re talking about here. You internalize a model of heroic behavior from the media that purvey the myths that shape your society. And there’s a whole spectrum of responses you might have in relation to that internalized model.

You might not do anything yourself. You might simply consent that the government or somebody act on your behalf, you don’t make the war yourself, but you consent that somebody make the war for you, kill the bad guy for you.
— Richard Slotkin, Interview, Truthout 2013

I remember Slotkin (whose trilogy on the American West is essential reading) pointing out that the first significant shift in consciousness for America was …“1890, the moment when the landed frontier of the United States was officially declared ‘closed’, the moment when ‘frontier’ became primarily a term of ideological rather than geographical location.” And that is when Americans began to codify this idea of violence and conquest as acts of purification and nobility. One must cross into *Indian territory*, or for many, just into Mexico — for these symbols and tropes of white supremacism represent a metaphoric shadow world that must be overcome in order to be reborn as a proud white American. The U.S. has fought no wars that could be sold as heroic without inordinate amounts of propaganda and indoctrination in a sort of kitsch patriotism. I think of the Chris Kyle memorial event at the Cowboys Stadium where fifty thousand people showed up. But it is likely that 99% of the wars in human history also needed propaganda. Just, perhaps, not quite at the level we see today.

But such observations must be understood against a backdrop of an eroded education system, a society of screen and anti-depressive addictions. There is no way to grasp the mental illness in play today. For the anti Trump hysteria, and that is what it is, comes out of a kind of backhanded schadenfreude. The disfigured mental state of America has arrived at some kind of critical mass. (As an aside vis a vis Lacan, in his one actual public speaking appearance -Catholic University of Louvain, mid 70s- he opened his lecture by asking the audience “can you bear the life that you have”?

Today, the sense of misery in the U.S. is acute and operative in about three different registers. There is the exponential spike in homelessness and poverty, and that is obvious. But there is another register of psychic torment and depression that blankets life on a day to day basis. And it is a sense of this absolute counterfeit existence — coupled to feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, and inadequacy that is causing widespread depression and driving more and more desperate narratives of American privilege. And no wonder, I mean look at the most powerful men in the country; Trump, the Koch Brothers, Mike “Domionist” Pompeo, John fucking Bolton…I mean JOHN BOLTON for christ sake, and Brennan, the Clintons and their posse, and Jeff Bezos and Zuck, not to mention Pierre Omidyar, and these are just off the top of my head. Not a single person in that list is not reprehensible. Then the DC think tanks. And there is no way to overestimate the influence of these institutions; The Brookings Institute, CATO, Council on Foreign Relations, RAND Corporation, Heritage Foundation, Center for American Progress, Center for Strategic and International Studies – the list goes on. These places advice the State Department and Pentagon, the intelligence agencies, Unified Commands of the Marines and Navy, not to mention congress and the Attorney General, and the Executive Branch. As I glanced at the bios of the leadership at CSIS I came across this in a bio…..”…held the Zbigniew Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy”. These people live in an alternate universe. They are Martians. But they are very powerful. That is the reality we live in.

So no wonder misery is endemic. And I guess the question begged here is how did the most powerful nation on earth (though defining powerful is perhaps useful) arrive in the hands of people who think the Brzezinski chair in Global Suffering is something to aspire to?

But this sense of the counterfeit is in no small measure the result of the lost counter culture, and alternative press. Again during Vietnam there were important writers protesting and speaking everywhere. Papers like the East Village Other, the L.A. Free Press. Berkeley Barb, et al had importance. People were rejecting the idea of ruling class privilege. They also understood the ruling class were the real criminals. Today Google would just erase them. Now we get Rachel Maddow, Fox News and Jordan Peterson. Where once Robert Bly and Alan Ginsburg gave readings to protest the war, in trips they paid for themselves across the entire country. Today were have celebrity war pimps like Angelina Jolie and George Clooney.

We have a 1950s throwback cracker as AG. If a movie is made of these years it’s too bad Strother Martin has passed on because he was born to play Jeff Sessions. But I digress. (And George Kennedy as Mike Pompeo?). I gotta stop.

I was reading Paul Goodman recently. Whatever place in the annals of American letters that Goodman may finally rest, there is a serious shortage of that kind of wisdom out there today. And Goodman was remarkably prescient as well as wise.

I keep resorting to the metaphor school-monks, the administrators, professors, academic sociologists and licensees with diplomas who have proliferated into an invested intellectual class worse than anything since the time of Henry VIII. Yet I am convinced – as they got their grants and buildings and State laws that give them sole competence — that the monks are sincere in their bland faith in the school. The schools provide the best preparation for everybody for a complicated world, are the logical haven for unemployed youth, can equalize opportunity for the underprivileged, administer research in all fields, and be the indispensable mentor for creativity, business-practice, social work, mental hygiene, genuine literacy — name it, and there are credits for it leading to a degree. The schools offer very little evidence of their unique ability to perform any of these things — there is plenty of evidence to the contrary — but they do not need to offer evidence, since nobody opposes them or proposes alternatives.
— Paul Goodman, Compulsory Miseducation

Over fifty years ago William Burroughs, a contemporary of Goodman, was asked what he thought of contemporary America:

At the official level a nightmare. Difficult to believe that people in positions of power who form the foreign and domestic policies of America could be so stupid and so basically ill-intentioned.

So what we are seeing today is not new. What is new is this phenomenon of the anti-president. All the things that were not really believed in by themselves become valuable, even sacrosanct symbols of an imaginary Good America.

I was told by a teacher recently that her high school students are hugely reluctant to volunteer answers in class. Later she asked one why. The student said everyone was afraid of being made fun of on social media later that night. Best to keep quiet and invisible. This does not portend well for the future of the West. Burroughs added a bit later (in the under-read The Job) about the term nightmare. He said it’s less a nightmare than a non dream. For the ruling class, dreams must be eradicated. The masses cannot be allowed dreams.

Only today, I think, there is — either by accident or design — a manufactured dream. The dream of stopping the anti-president. The obvious contradictions are brushed aside. After all, this is mythology. I remember Robert Bly noting that when a society confuses the mythic with the real, it is a sign of terminal sickness in that society. Witch burning is an example. Of course, there were historical and economic determinants involved in both the wave of European witch hunts in the 16th century (see Sylvia Federici) and those in Salem. But nonetheless the populace believed in witches. They believed the Church propaganda. Today, the hatred of Trump is so exaggerated that only a deep conviction in something bigger than just politics has to be involved. Hating Trump has become a secret handshake among liberals. A part of spiritual self improvement, right alongside Yoga classes and TM.

Of course, Trump is horrid. And somewhere in him, or somewhere in the story of how he got elected, he knows this or at least suspected it. I was put here to be who I am and ergo, I was put here to be hated. He plays to it. He insults the queen for cryin’ out loud. What a cad!

There is another aspect to this, though. One that has to do with how the U.S. government and the ruling elite are expressing their own hysteria. A quick survey here, then.

Mike Pompeo is another example of the foulness that holds power in the U.S. Pompeo has helped form something called the Iran Action Group. What this is, and Pompeo and Mattis openly state this, is an organization devoted to orchestrating a coup d’etat in Iran. They want to overthrow a sovereign government by any means necessary. If this seems a contradiction given the hand wringing and howls of indignation about Russian collusion in OUR elections; well, it is. It’s a breathtaking contradiction. But such is the hubris and arrogance of the U.S. government. What, you might well ask, has Iran done to us? The answer is nothing. Oh rather, it has offended those who stride the corridors of power in the U.S. by not doing what it was told.

Look at the official list of American enemies. Iran, China, Russia, Venezuela, Cuba, Syria, and the DPRK. What do they have in common? They are independent. They have refused all those World Bank and IMF overtures to drain profit from the country. They don’t accept U.S. bases in their country. And they refuse to allow western Capital to buy up their resources. The horror!!!

So, the US government, and in particular Pompeo’s CIA, will form committees and pay for studies (from the aforementioned think tanks) to figure out how to kill the leaders (like Gaddafi, and Lumumba) of these recalcitrant nations, or exile them or TRY to kill them. But most of all, to get rid of them and replace them with compliant client governments. For the only acceptable form of foreign government is a vassal state. All those leaders who have defied US diktats, have suffered endless persecution. Why were Chavez and Milosevic demonized? What did they do? Why was the former Yugoslavia bombed, broken up, and its president illegally kidnapped and stuck in a prison? And then handed over to an ad hoc tribunal for a show trial meant to demonstrate how good and gracious is the U.S. (and its European clients) but they couldn’t even get that right. So they dropped the trial from their TV line up. And Milosevic died in jail. Chavez and Milosevic and Castro and Gaddafi et al — were not threats to world peace. They were not tyrants.

I have said before, if the US targets you, then you deserve to be defended. Full stop. Only the most privileged of leftists make distinctions about whatever they don’t like and get mealy mouthed and start using racist terms like “thug”. Or call independent states “regimes” just like Mad Dog Mattis does.

You know that cognitive dissonance must be rampant when the two biggest U.S. allies are Saudi Arabia and Israel. I mean, the Saudis are set, as I write this, to publicly behead a woman’s right activist (and her husband). For….*protesting*. This is our ally. We sell them billions in weapons. We train them. We visit them and they visit us. Or Israel. I mean Israel is an official apartheid state now where politicians openly call Arabs “dogs” and “vermin”.

The Iran Action Group is illegal by all and any international legal conventions. No matter.

I want to add, again, Pompeo is another Christian extremist in this administration and one with a deep hatred of Islam. Back in 2015

…Pompeo, then a Congressman, attacked Barack Obama, who, according to him, took the side of the “Islamic East” in its conflict with the “Christian West”. “Every time there has been a conflict between the Christian West and the Islamic East, the data points all point to a single direction.
— Peter Beinart, The Atlantic, 2017

Pompeo’s Islamaphobia is shared by Pence and, really, the entire Trump cabinet. But this is the standard sensibility of the contemporary evangelical community. And why that is so hard for people to recognize is beyond me. But I want to get back to the state of consciousness in the U.S.today. To the new mythology…or pseudo mythology anyway.

A recent survey by the Mental Health Foundation found that at one point last year, 74% of adults in the UK were so stressed that they felt overwhelmed and unable to cope. One-third were suicidal and 16% had self-injured at some point in their lives. These figures were much higher among young people.

In the United States, death rates are rising steadily, especially for middle-aged white men and women, due to “desperation,” which includes deaths from drug and alcohol addiction as well as suicides and many car accidents. An pidemic of distress seems to be affecting some of the richest nations in the world.
— Manuel E. Yepe, Counterpunch, August 2018

When Richard Nixon switched his Vietnam policy from winning the war to “rescuing” US POWs, he was consciously reclaiming another American myth which was the basis of the Puritans’ earliest literature: the captivity narrative. This pointed the way for the revisionist Rambo histories of Vietnam, whose betrayal scenarios blamed loss on dissenters at home. What was Ronald Reagan, asks Slotkin, if not America’s last attempt to reclaim the beliefs American myths told Americans should bind society together, even when they were known to be untrue.
— Michael Carlson, Irresistible Targets, 2008

These two things, then. Epidemic levels of extreme anxiety and depression, and the system’s doubling down on the mythology of individualism and the frontier; but a doubling down that has meant an ever more distilled nativist zealotry. Those who went to Chris Kyle’s memorial are the NASCAR flyover state true believers, but now liberal America is, as I say, buying in. For them, there seems no alternative. For the liberal, the educated classes in America, the status quo is sacred. And they would rather have any version of Brave New World, than to contemplate actual radical change. You know where the most rabid bulging eye, popping veins, hatred of communism can be found? In white liberal America. And it was Malcolm X. who said “The white liberal is the worst enemy to America, and the worst enemy to the black man.” It is the new fall collection for American Exceptionalism.

The liberal educated white American is now shoehorning some contradictory ideological threads into this new belief system. Trump is a fascist they say (true, but he isn’t the first) and stopping Trump eclipses all other concerns (like Obama’s bloody policies, or Bill Clinton’s, or Bush’s etc, etc). And this sense of purposeful hating of Trump is a bit like the new frontier. One must cross into the land (or underworld…or maybe high rise…I don’t know) of Trump evilness to come out the other side, reborn, redeemed. Trump is a kind of prismatic reincarnation of Reagan, I think. Those who hated Reagan and those who loved Reagan are on the same side regards Trump. And again, it is clear there are elements in the system, the so called deep state if you like, that want Trump gone. Right? That is the common wisdom out there. And there is truth in that perspective I think. I think. But it’s not the whole truth. For Trump serves the interests of even those who seem to want him gone. Why are we to believe this CIA and NSA and Pentagon cabal hate Trump and want him impeached? Why? What is he doing to hurt them? It seems to me he is carrying out policy that serves their interests. The ruling class is always united in the end. His statements are only that. I mean the guy *tweets* for Christ sake. A compulsive tweeter, in fact. He is probably not much in charge of anything, I suspect. He doesn’t know the names of countries, or their histories. He is a typically ignorant American.

But domestically, that is where the real story is unfolding. That’s all Americans care about anyway. They have no idea where Yemen is, or Syria. They have no idea where Vietnam is, for that matter. They DO-NOT-CARE. But Trump’s pandering to white racists and all the Christian evangelicals, and, of course, Jeff Sessions; those things do have a Trump imprint. And it’s ugly. And that ugliness was always there. I mean, literally always there. Since Salem, in fact. Since the first slave ship landed in Virginia. Remember the civil rights fight? Remember there were race riots early in the 20th century in at least a dozen cities. It’s not new. Trump didn’t invent it. But he has allowed it to surface again. And it is in this Manichaean melodrama of the NEW Exceptionalism meets the old racism that the surreal and hallucinatory story of American madness is playing out. The United States is sinking under the weight of its contradictions, ideologically, and it’s also materially crumbling. And it is economically propped up in part by those trillions of dollars associated with the defense industry. With those 900 bases. And with an expanding NATO. I mean if NATO gets much bigger there wont be many places for NATO to attack. And that’s a sobering thought. The homeless encampments around every city in America are the legacy of so called American Century. That is the end of the line for Western capital and rugged individualism. The postscript to Manifest Destiny is a nation of absolute misery, over medicated, and trying hard to NOT see the misery around them. To not see their neighbors have moved….to the nearest homeless encampment. Not see that yet more record days of heat have arrived. Not see that everything is poisoned and wrapped in plastic anyway. Of polluted lakes and scorched earth. A nation of narcissism and despair in equal measures. But at least they can hate Trump together. In that sense the Anti-President is a gift.

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.

Kosovo at Delicate Crossroads Between East and West

The people of Kosovo were and still are cheering for joy. The European Commission (EC) recently decided that Kosovars won’t need visas any more to visit EU countries. Up to now, getting such visas was a horrendously complicated and bureaucratic procedure, especially hurtful, since Kosovo, with a population of about 1.8 million Kosovars living in Kosovo, has a diaspora estimated at 800,000 to a million, most of them in western Europe. For Kosovars, with close-knit families, 90+ percent Albanian Muslims, being able to visit their relatives and friends is a priority. So, this sudden EU opening up, was a great “gift” and a tremendous relief. But, at what price? What happened? Why did it happen this turnabout by the treacherous EU?

Let’s go back to a bit of history.

Kosovo, a strategic pivot in the center of the Balkans; a landlocked country surrounded by Montenegro, Albania, Serbia and Macedonia. Kosovo, carved out from Serbia during or after the Clinton Administration invoked war – the infamous 69 days of bombing Serbian troops in Kosovo, following a ten-year period of systematic US-NATO- European vassals’ destruction of Yugoslavia, arguably the most prosperous country in Europe at the time.

You may want to recall, the dismemberment of Yugoslavia, started with the “Ten Days War” on Slovenia in 1991, followed by the Croatian War (1991-95); then the Bosnia War (1992-95); and the Kosovo War (1998-99), culminating with the Clinton induced 69-day NATO bombing of Kosovo, under the leadership of Wesley Clark, head of NATO in Europe. The latter under the pretext of freeing the Kosovo Albanians from Serbian Milosevic’s atrocities.

Of course, how Milosevic was used by the West to literally slaughter his neighbors, so far hardly anybody has dared to analyze and write about. He was on trial by the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. He was actually awaiting a court decision on his request to subpoena former President Clinton, as a witness, when he was suddenly found dead in his cell on 11 March 2006. The Dutch court coroner immediately certified that Milosevic died a natural death. Strangely, his death came less than a week after the star witness in his trial, former Croatian Serb leader, Milan Babic, was found dead in the same prison. Babic’s testimony in 2002 described a behind the scene political and military command structure headed by Milosevic. Babic served a 13-year prison sentence. His sudden death was said to be a suicide.

Too many Serbs die suddenly in The Hague to be called ‘coincidences’. In October 2015, Dusan Dunjic, a forensic pathologist, was found dead in his hotel room, just hours before he was due to testify as a key defense witness in the trial of the Bosnian Serb and genocidal general Ratko Mladic, who was on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity during the 1992-95 Bosnian war. Dutch police said, “we have no reason to suspect that a crime had been committed”. They gave no further detail. Case closed.

This is just to make the point that the murderous and atrocious Balkan wars were western instigated from the very preparation – including through decades long Fifth Column type – infiltration in Yugoslavia’s institutions.

Today, Kosovo lacks recognition from sufficient countries to be considered a “real country”. Kosovo is not a member of the UN, because she has only been recognized by 114 of the current 193 UN members. It needs two thirds of UN members recognition to apply for UN membership. Kosovo, of course, is not a member of the EU either, only 23 of the 28 EU countries recognize her as a country. The reasons for it are multiple and complex. But Kosovo, with a surface of 10,900 km2, and less than 2 million inhabitants, prides herself with having already two military bases, one US – a huge one, and a “subordinate” NATO base – what else.

Like all the Balkans, Kosovo wants to get into the EU as fast as possible. But, they are far from even getting onto the “accession” path – which is like the runway to fly into the EU. When you get to accession status, you have pretty much fulfilled all or most of the EU conditions and are now accepted to negotiate. And ‘accession’ is a privilege that, aside from some rather ridiculous EU conditions, depends pretty much on Washington’s use for a country, once it has become part of the overall EU vassalage. Kosovo is no priority. The US military is already there and NATO has a base – so what more is needed for right now? The EU today in many countries is considered identical with NATO.

Kosovo is hungry though, to get into the EU, so hungry, it can be easily blackmailed – and bribed – into accepting almost anything, in order to gain kudos with Brussels. The best blackmail object is visas, or the waiver of visas, particularly to western Europe, where most of the Kosovar diaspora lives – an estimated 800,000 to one million people.

Montenegro, an EU candidate on fast track, NATO member since 2017, is building or expanding a NATO base right at the border to Kosovo. In fact, it requires Kosovo to give up some 8,200 ha of her land to Montenegro, the new ‘demarcation line’ (see map – red areas are Kosovo concessions to Montenegro). According to “Prishtina Insight”, the Kosovo Parliament ratified a few weeks ago the “land concession”, also called the “Demarcation Deal with Montenegro” with 80 votes against 11 opposition. And this amidst several teargas canister explosion episodes initiated by the opposition in Parliament.

This was the deal: Kosovo give up a stretch of 8,200 ha of your land to Montenegro and you will get visa-free entry to all of Europe. Blackmail only the west in its greed and hegemonic drive is capable of exercising over countries. Identifying their weak spots – in the case of Kosovo, the desire to get easy access to their relatives and friends living in Europe, and then hitting them with an “offer” they can’t refuse.

In fact, going by the strict rules of the EU, which can only slightly be bent to accelerate access, lest more ‘honest’ EU members might protest, none of the Balkan countries are complying with the EU access regulation. Most of them are far from doing so, for multiple reasons; i.e., drug dealing, high crimes in human and organ trafficking, as well as more down-to-earth environmental conditions.

However, the EU and Washington are pushing for the pretty arbitrary target of 2025, simply because they are afraid that the Balkans may drift eastwards into the realm of Russia and on a larger scale, China. Most educated Kosovars are much more “awake” than the average European. While intellectually they may know that east is where the future lays, their trauma of being persecuted and killed by the Serbs under Milosevic, is still strong and they are leaning towards the west. Ideally, though, what they want is full independence, being able to choose their allies that best suit them, as every sovereign nation should be able to do. Not having to confront the dilemma, ‘you are either our friend or our enemy’ – which is how the west attempts to buy the Balkans’ politicians.

The western push to prepare and forge these former Yugoslav republics into EU-NATO vassals is enormous. Every military base the Balkans allow to be built in return for being integrated into Europe, is for the west a step closer to Moscow – an increased threat for the Kremlin, so the western empire believes. If these new Balkan nations play their cards right, they may have it both ways – becoming EU members, benefitting from EU subsidies and trade advantages, while leaning eastwards to Russia and China, and eventually the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the new Silk Road, China’s One Belt Initiative (OBI), the multi-trillion-dollar equivalent economic development plan, on course to span the world.

This article was first published by New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

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.

Remembering the War on Yugoslavia, 1999

The ethnic map few understood. Should make it clear that cutting up Yugoslavia in independent republics could not be done without bloodshed. (1)

Yellow = Serbs, Dark Green = Muslims, Light Blue = Croats, Light Green = Slovenes, Orange = Montenegrins, Pink = Albanians, Darker Blue = Macedonians

*****

March 24, 2018, marks the 19th anniversary of NATO’s illegal and illegitimate bombing of Yugoslavia, Serbia and its Kosovo province during 78 days. It has – one is tempted to say, of course – been conveniently forgotten by the West itself.

It was masterminded by the United States under Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright after the so-called negotiations between Serbs and Albanians in Rambouillet outside Paris (the parties never met face-to-face)

While Clinton may be best remembered for his relations with Monica Lewinsky and his wife, Hillary Clinton, some of us also remember him (and Albright) for bombing Afghanistan, Sudan, Bosnia-Hercegovina and contributions to the proportionately largest ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia – of Croatian Serbs out of Croatia’s Krajina, Eastern and Western Slavonia where they had lived for about 400 years, in Operations Storm and Flash in 1995.

Clinton was also the President who started the expansion of NATO against assurances about never doing so given by leading NATO politicians to Mikhail Gorbachev. But the former Yugoslav republics are now NATO members (Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro). Clinton also upheld the sanctions on Iraq’s innocent citizens even after 500,000 had died.

By an objective analysis of the contemporary history of interventionism and militarism, Russia’s response to the de facto coup d’etat in Kiev by [allegedly — DV editor] annexing Crimea would, one should expect, be compared with such fundamentally important and international law-violating policies and, likely, found to be minor in comparison. But that, naturally, is impossible for those who have reasons to be in denial of their own wrongdoings and large parts, therefore, of the post-Cold War history.

With a history like that – and more since then – it is no wonder that the West/NATO must blame everything evil on virtually everybody else: Russia, Syria, Iran, North Korea and China in particular. In psycho-political terms, it’s called projection while others might call it amnesia or attention-diversion that fit new crimes.

*****

Yugoslavia’s dissolution was surely caused by internal dynamics accumulating over a decade after Josip Broz Tito’s death. But the international so-called community’s involvement could, in the macro-historical perspective, be viewed as at least as destructive, if not more. The understanding of the hugely complex conflict formations in the Yugoslav space was unknown to 99% of the Western governments and their diplomats – having no other mental patterns than the Cold War and, thus, casting the Serbs as the evil, expansive Orthodox Russians and the rest as freedom-seeking peoples who ought to belong to “us”.

They thought it was about ethnicity while ethnicity was just a vehicle for mobilisation of warfighting energies and exploitation of traumas from the Second World War. They thought that conflict-resolution was about reducing complexity down to two parties, one good and one evil and that peace-making would succeed if they supported the former and punish the latter.

With such a deficient intellectual toolbox, with such amateurish Diagnosis of Yugoslavia’s problems, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Prognosis was wrong too and that the kind of final Solution – dissolution, split-and-rule and rewarding extremist nationalism and humiliating Russia – turned out catastrophic.

A good doctor causes minimal pain and blood loss. Western conflict doctors, accompanied by their arms traders, spilt as much blood as possible, on top of what the various domestic governments, private warlords and paramilitaries of Yugoslavia were able and willing to do to each other.

*****

Tito (Photo: Jan Oberg)

To make this Western – remember, Russia was in turmoil and could play no role – quackery succeed, at least in their own eyes, the self-appointed peacemakers of our world had to produce a number of novel tricks – all of which makes the long-term effects of this Yugoslavia’s dissolution more significant than the fall of The Wall.

Among such politico-military inventions one would perhaps in particular point to these:

• Since this was the first larger conflict after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, everything seemed possible, no need to take into account what Russia might do because it could do virtually nothing.

• Splitting with violent means an existing founding member state of the Non-Aligned Movement and of the UN;

• Bombing without a UN Security Council mandate (and undermining any UN success);

• Recognising Slovenia and Croatia out of Yugoslavia while the criteria for declaration of independence (such as control over a territory) were not met;

• Recognising these two republics out of Yugoslavia while not having the slightest idea about what to do with the remainder of Yugoslavia and, thereby, making the war in Bosnia-Hercegovina impossible to avoid.

• Inventing the peace enforcement idea in the UN Agenda for Peace report that contravened everything the UN stood for and enabled one-sided military action by outsiders;

• Inventing the idea of humanitarian intervention – and using it where there was no genocide (or plan of it, certainly not in Kosovo either) or other historically, uniquely huge, humanitarian catastrophe, and having never since contemplated such interventions to stop such mass-killing calamities elsewhere;

• Bombing relentlessly and shamelessly over 78 days one country, Serbia, in order to create a new state out of it, Kosovo – the second Albanian state in Europe;

• Threatening the destruction of the capital, Belgrade, unless President Slobodan Milosevic withdrew from Kosovo;

• Establishing a special Tribunal in the Hague for only this conflict and Rwanda, a tribunal which, to the very end, was marked by strange procedures and biases that, hardly surprisingly, fit the political patterns and deficient conflict diagnosis practised by the West.

• While one can certainly argue that the UN was undermined by many other wars before those in Yugoslavia, Vietnam not the least, it can be argued that it was here the UN became a victim of systematic marginalisation and accused of being useless and even complicit in its policies and on-the-ground missions – to the extent that the UN has not been thought of as a central peace-keeper, -maker and -builder in any of the large conflict zones since 1999.

• And it is, finally, the conflict in which commercial marketing companies – such as Ruder Finn – were brought in to secure an advantageous but deceptive global image of Croatia, Bosnian Muslims and Kosovo-Albanians. Powerful narratives that serve certain interests but not truth in any sense didn’t start with Syria. Neither did monopoly media’s loyalty to their governments and addiction to simplifying two-party narratives that were particularly misleading here, in one of the world’s most complex conflict formations.

Those of us who were more or less permanently on the ground in all parts of Yugoslavia – had been there decades before and followed it closely after, tended to see things in rather different perspectives and would maintain that the outside “help” Yugoslavia received from the international so-called community was a kind of cynical euthanasia rather than a genuine help to recover.

*****

Kosovo and TFF’s mediation and peace plan

This author served as goodwill mediator/adviser to three governments in Belgrade and to the non-violent leadership team of Dr Ibrahim Rugova in Kosovo. They wanted an independent state but only through non-violent means – and were therefore soon marginalised by the West which, with the particular contribution of the German intelligence service BND and the American CIA, instead invested in the darkest and most criminal circles in Kosovo and set up the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA/UCK) which later served as a kind of army on the ground for NATO’s bombing raids.

We developed a plan for a negotiated solution to the conflict based on a total ceasefire, UN presence and monitoring and a three-year negotiation process. It was shaped like an international law document. As far as we know, it is the only plan that was widely discussed and presented in details in both Serbian and Albanian media.

It turned out soon to be all in vain. The US and NATO allies had other plans – and they were not about peace. The Rambouillet meetings were totally fake, meant only to secure that Belgrade would say No and the Albanian Yes. Then Assistant Secretary of State, James Rubin, formulated it so well – people thought: Today the Serbs have chosen war and the Albanians peace. He said it to his wife, Christiane Amanpour on CNN – State war policies and monopoly media already then in symbiosis.

How was it done? Well, in the first round of talks the Albanians had stalled while the Serb team went along with a plan presented by Madeleine Albright. That was not what they wanted, so she later produced an Appendix to the text – to be used to turn the talk results around 180 degrees: The Appendix stipulated that NATO forces should be deployed to Serbia, should not be legally responsible for damage it may cause to Serbian property and not pay for the use of harbours and airfields.

Who would not have smelled a rat here? NATO could then have started a war from inside Serbia itself, having already a first contingent on the ground, or they could move to arrest President Milosevic at some point. Surprise, surprise: The Serbs said no and the Albanians were enthusiastic.

That was the pretext to NATO bombings 19 years ago. Plus the – presumably nicely staged – massacre in the village of Racak. A US head of the OSCE-related KVM monitoring mission, Mr William Walker, with a less than clean-handed past in the CIA, arrived immediately and, before any analyses had been made, declared it the work of the Serbian government.

*****

TFF’s team of Yugoslavia experts, psychologists, media people, peacemakers etc. was on the ground everywhere, conducted interviews on all sides (some 3000) and roamed around with flak jackets also where no embassies were found. No Western government ever took any interest, except former US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and his team whom we had a long conversation with in a late evening at his hotel suite. A delightful intellectual with a heart, a moral man – who was quickly sidelined by the Clinton administration and one of the students Vance had taught diplomacy – Warren Christopher.

TFF’s first report, After Yugoslavia – What? in September 1991 was published at the same time as Vance’s team was working on the idea to deploy UN peacekeeping missions in Croatia. That was also a central proposal of the mentioned report.

Over the years, three TFF Associates – Johan Galtung, Hakan Wiberg and Jan Oberg who in total had about 130 man-years of experience with Yugoslavia – wrote the equivalent of about 2000 A4 pages of main comprehensive conflict analyses and peace proposals and some debate articles and press releases. They’re all gathered – as they were written at the time – in the blog 1 report “Yugoslavia – What Should Have Been Done” which is not only the largest peace research publication about Yugoslavia but also a frontal criticism – with alternatives point by point – of how the West practised what must be termed peace prevention.

Yes, there were alternatives.

But those who mastermind wars are not exactly the best listeners.

Back then as today, somebody else paid a high price.

We don’t want to contribute to the special war crimes amnesia of the West.

And we want to remind our audiences that there are always alternatives to warfare.

Remembering the War on Yugoslavia, 1999

The ethnic map few understood. Should make it clear that cutting up Yugoslavia in independent republics could not be done without bloodshed. (1)

Yellow = Serbs, Dark Green = Muslims, Light Blue = Croats, Light Green = Slovenes, Orange = Montenegrins, Pink = Albanians, Darker Blue = Macedonians

*****

March 24, 2018, marks the 19th anniversary of NATO’s illegal and illegitimate bombing of Yugoslavia, Serbia and its Kosovo province during 78 days. It has – one is tempted to say, of course – been conveniently forgotten by the West itself.

It was masterminded by the United States under Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright after the so-called negotiations between Serbs and Albanians in Rambouillet outside Paris (the parties never met face-to-face)

While Clinton may be best remembered for his relations with Monica Lewinsky and his wife, Hillary Clinton, some of us also remember him (and Albright) for bombing Afghanistan, Sudan, Bosnia-Hercegovina and contributions to the proportionately largest ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia – of Croatian Serbs out of Croatia’s Krajina, Eastern and Western Slavonia where they had lived for about 400 years, in Operations Storm and Flash in 1995.

Clinton was also the President who started the expansion of NATO against assurances about never doing so given by leading NATO politicians to Mikhail Gorbachev. But the former Yugoslav republics are now NATO members (Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro). Clinton also upheld the sanctions on Iraq’s innocent citizens even after 500,000 had died.

By an objective analysis of the contemporary history of interventionism and militarism, Russia’s response to the de facto coup d’etat in Kiev by [allegedly — DV editor] annexing Crimea would, one should expect, be compared with such fundamentally important and international law-violating policies and, likely, found to be minor in comparison. But that, naturally, is impossible for those who have reasons to be in denial of their own wrongdoings and large parts, therefore, of the post-Cold War history.

With a history like that – and more since then – it is no wonder that the West/NATO must blame everything evil on virtually everybody else: Russia, Syria, Iran, North Korea and China in particular. In psycho-political terms, it’s called projection while others might call it amnesia or attention-diversion that fit new crimes.

*****

Yugoslavia’s dissolution was surely caused by internal dynamics accumulating over a decade after Josip Broz Tito’s death. But the international so-called community’s involvement could, in the macro-historical perspective, be viewed as at least as destructive, if not more. The understanding of the hugely complex conflict formations in the Yugoslav space was unknown to 99% of the Western governments and their diplomats – having no other mental patterns than the Cold War and, thus, casting the Serbs as the evil, expansive Orthodox Russians and the rest as freedom-seeking peoples who ought to belong to “us”.

They thought it was about ethnicity while ethnicity was just a vehicle for mobilisation of warfighting energies and exploitation of traumas from the Second World War. They thought that conflict-resolution was about reducing complexity down to two parties, one good and one evil and that peace-making would succeed if they supported the former and punish the latter.

With such a deficient intellectual toolbox, with such amateurish Diagnosis of Yugoslavia’s problems, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Prognosis was wrong too and that the kind of final Solution – dissolution, split-and-rule and rewarding extremist nationalism and humiliating Russia – turned out catastrophic.

A good doctor causes minimal pain and blood loss. Western conflict doctors, accompanied by their arms traders, spilt as much blood as possible, on top of what the various domestic governments, private warlords and paramilitaries of Yugoslavia were able and willing to do to each other.

*****

Tito (Photo: Jan Oberg)

To make this Western – remember, Russia was in turmoil and could play no role – quackery succeed, at least in their own eyes, the self-appointed peacemakers of our world had to produce a number of novel tricks – all of which makes the long-term effects of this Yugoslavia’s dissolution more significant than the fall of The Wall.

Among such politico-military inventions one would perhaps in particular point to these:

• Since this was the first larger conflict after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, everything seemed possible, no need to take into account what Russia might do because it could do virtually nothing.

• Splitting with violent means an existing founding member state of the Non-Aligned Movement and of the UN;

• Bombing without a UN Security Council mandate (and undermining any UN success);

• Recognising Slovenia and Croatia out of Yugoslavia while the criteria for declaration of independence (such as control over a territory) were not met;

• Recognising these two republics out of Yugoslavia while not having the slightest idea about what to do with the remainder of Yugoslavia and, thereby, making the war in Bosnia-Hercegovina impossible to avoid.

• Inventing the peace enforcement idea in the UN Agenda for Peace report that contravened everything the UN stood for and enabled one-sided military action by outsiders;

• Inventing the idea of humanitarian intervention – and using it where there was no genocide (or plan of it, certainly not in Kosovo either) or other historically, uniquely huge, humanitarian catastrophe, and having never since contemplated such interventions to stop such mass-killing calamities elsewhere;

• Bombing relentlessly and shamelessly over 78 days one country, Serbia, in order to create a new state out of it, Kosovo – the second Albanian state in Europe;

• Threatening the destruction of the capital, Belgrade, unless President Slobodan Milosevic withdrew from Kosovo;

• Establishing a special Tribunal in the Hague for only this conflict and Rwanda, a tribunal which, to the very end, was marked by strange procedures and biases that, hardly surprisingly, fit the political patterns and deficient conflict diagnosis practised by the West.

• While one can certainly argue that the UN was undermined by many other wars before those in Yugoslavia, Vietnam not the least, it can be argued that it was here the UN became a victim of systematic marginalisation and accused of being useless and even complicit in its policies and on-the-ground missions – to the extent that the UN has not been thought of as a central peace-keeper, -maker and -builder in any of the large conflict zones since 1999.

• And it is, finally, the conflict in which commercial marketing companies – such as Ruder Finn – were brought in to secure an advantageous but deceptive global image of Croatia, Bosnian Muslims and Kosovo-Albanians. Powerful narratives that serve certain interests but not truth in any sense didn’t start with Syria. Neither did monopoly media’s loyalty to their governments and addiction to simplifying two-party narratives that were particularly misleading here, in one of the world’s most complex conflict formations.

Those of us who were more or less permanently on the ground in all parts of Yugoslavia – had been there decades before and followed it closely after, tended to see things in rather different perspectives and would maintain that the outside “help” Yugoslavia received from the international so-called community was a kind of cynical euthanasia rather than a genuine help to recover.

*****

Kosovo and TFF’s mediation and peace plan

This author served as goodwill mediator/adviser to three governments in Belgrade and to the non-violent leadership team of Dr Ibrahim Rugova in Kosovo. They wanted an independent state but only through non-violent means – and were therefore soon marginalised by the West which, with the particular contribution of the German intelligence service BND and the American CIA, instead invested in the darkest and most criminal circles in Kosovo and set up the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA/UCK) which later served as a kind of army on the ground for NATO’s bombing raids.

We developed a plan for a negotiated solution to the conflict based on a total ceasefire, UN presence and monitoring and a three-year negotiation process. It was shaped like an international law document. As far as we know, it is the only plan that was widely discussed and presented in details in both Serbian and Albanian media.

It turned out soon to be all in vain. The US and NATO allies had other plans – and they were not about peace. The Rambouillet meetings were totally fake, meant only to secure that Belgrade would say No and the Albanian Yes. Then Assistant Secretary of State, James Rubin, formulated it so well – people thought: Today the Serbs have chosen war and the Albanians peace. He said it to his wife, Christiane Amanpour on CNN – State war policies and monopoly media already then in symbiosis.

How was it done? Well, in the first round of talks the Albanians had stalled while the Serb team went along with a plan presented by Madeleine Albright. That was not what they wanted, so she later produced an Appendix to the text – to be used to turn the talk results around 180 degrees: The Appendix stipulated that NATO forces should be deployed to Serbia, should not be legally responsible for damage it may cause to Serbian property and not pay for the use of harbours and airfields.

Who would not have smelled a rat here? NATO could then have started a war from inside Serbia itself, having already a first contingent on the ground, or they could move to arrest President Milosevic at some point. Surprise, surprise: The Serbs said no and the Albanians were enthusiastic.

That was the pretext to NATO bombings 19 years ago. Plus the – presumably nicely staged – massacre in the village of Racak. A US head of the OSCE-related KVM monitoring mission, Mr William Walker, with a less than clean-handed past in the CIA, arrived immediately and, before any analyses had been made, declared it the work of the Serbian government.

*****

TFF’s team of Yugoslavia experts, psychologists, media people, peacemakers etc. was on the ground everywhere, conducted interviews on all sides (some 3000) and roamed around with flak jackets also where no embassies were found. No Western government ever took any interest, except former US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and his team whom we had a long conversation with in a late evening at his hotel suite. A delightful intellectual with a heart, a moral man – who was quickly sidelined by the Clinton administration and one of the students Vance had taught diplomacy – Warren Christopher.

TFF’s first report, After Yugoslavia – What? in September 1991 was published at the same time as Vance’s team was working on the idea to deploy UN peacekeeping missions in Croatia. That was also a central proposal of the mentioned report.

Over the years, three TFF Associates – Johan Galtung, Hakan Wiberg and Jan Oberg who in total had about 130 man-years of experience with Yugoslavia – wrote the equivalent of about 2000 A4 pages of main comprehensive conflict analyses and peace proposals and some debate articles and press releases. They’re all gathered – as they were written at the time – in the blog 1 report “Yugoslavia – What Should Have Been Done” which is not only the largest peace research publication about Yugoslavia but also a frontal criticism – with alternatives point by point – of how the West practised what must be termed peace prevention.

Yes, there were alternatives.

But those who mastermind wars are not exactly the best listeners.

Back then as today, somebody else paid a high price.

We don’t want to contribute to the special war crimes amnesia of the West.

And we want to remind our audiences that there are always alternatives to warfare.

Canada’s NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Political Violence

We should be concerned about Jagmeet Singh’s support for political violence. But not the stuff that’s making news. While the media makes much of the new NDP head’s ties/indifference to Sikh violence, they’ve ignored Singh’s leadership of a party/community that has repeatedly backed Canadian aggression.

In a Rabble story on the controversy, Karl Nerenberg described Singh as the “leader of a party that has throughout its history favoured peaceful and non-violent solutions.” As such, Nerenberg called on the NDP leader to “make a stronger statement against any use of violence in furtherance of Sikh goals.”

While not downplaying the terrible human loss in the 1985 Air India bombing or disagreeable aspects of the Khalistan movement, it’s more salient to know Singh’s position on Canadian violence. Contrary to Nerenberg’s claim, the NDP has repeatedly supported Canadian aggression.

Seven years ago the NDP wholeheartedly endorsed bombing Libya, a quarter century ago it applauded the bombing of Serbia and in 1950 it cheerlead Canadian participation in the Korean War. At the beginning of the century important elements of the party backed Canada’s deployment to Afghanistan and the NDP was ambivalent towards Canadian-assisted violence in Haiti.

After the Communists took control of China in 1949 the US tried to encircle the country. They supported Chiang Kai-shek in Taiwan, built military bases in Japan, backed a right-wing dictator in Thailand and tried to establish a pro-Western state in Vietnam. The success of China’s nationalist revolution also spurred the 1950-1953 Korean War in which eight Canadian warships and 27,000 Canadian troops participated. The war left as many as four million dead.

The NDP’s predecessor, the CCF, endorsed the US-led (though UN sanctioned) war in Korea. Deputy leader and party spokesperson Stanley Knowles immediately endorsed the deployment of Canadian naval units to the Western Pacific, which the government sent in case they “might be of assistance to the United Nations and Korea.” Before Ottawa committed ground troops the CCF Executive Council called for them. The CCF started to shift its position on the Korean War when Washington had the UN condemn Chinese “aggression” six months into the fighting.

The NDP backed Canada’s significant contribution to NATO’s 1999 bombing of the former Yugoslavia. Contravening international law, the 78-day bombing campaign killed hundreds and spurred the ethnic cleansing of Albanian Kosovars NATO officials claimed to be curbing. The party only turned critical over a month after the bombing began.

Important elements within the NDP initially supported Canada’s October 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. Two days after the George W. Bush administration declared war, NDP leader Alexa McDonough and defence critic Peter Stoffer issued a “joint statement”, saying they “completely back the men and women in the Canadian military assigned to the U.S. coalition.”

The NDP was wishy-washy on the February 29, 2004, US/France/Canada coup in Haiti and violence that followed. In the days after the US/France/Canada military invasion NDP foreign critic Svend Robinson called for an investigation into Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s removal and asked if “regime change in Haiti” was discussed at the January 2003 Ottawa Initiative on Haiti, where high level US, Canadian and French officials deliberated on overthrowing the elected President. But, subsequent foreign critic Alexa McDonough largely stayed mum as Canada offered military, policing, diplomatic and financial support to a dictatorship and UN force that killed thousands violently suppressing Port au Prince’s poor (pro-Aristide) neighborhoods.

In 2011 the party supported two House of Commons votes endorsing the bombing of Libya. “It’s appropriate for Canada to be a part of this effort to try to stop Gadhafi from attacking his citizens as he has been threatening to do,’’ said party leader Jack Layton. But, the NATO bombing campaign was justified based on exaggerations and outright lies about the Gaddafi regime’s human rights violations as I discuss in detail in The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s foreign policy. Additionally, NATO forces explicitly contravened the UN resolutions sanctioning a no-fly zone by dispatching troops and expanding the bombing far beyond protecting civilians.

Canada also defied UN resolutions 1970 and 1973 by selling drones to the rebels. After Gaddafi was savagely killed, NDP leader Nycole Turmel released a statement noting, “the future of Libya now belongs to all Libyans. Our troops have done a wonderful job in Libya over the past few months.”

Beyond this history, there are good reasons to fear Singh will support Canadian aggression. During the leadership race he allied himself with pro-US Empire MP Hélène Laverdière and subsequently reappointed the former Canadian diplomat as NDP foreign critic. At last month’s party convention he mobilized supporters to suppress debate on the widely endorsed Palestine Resolution. Singh has also said little (or nothing) about Canada’s new defence policy, which includes a substantial boost to military spending and offensive capabilities.

In the interests of a first do no harm Canadian foreign policy, it’s time for a comprehensive discussion of Singh’s views on political violence.

Assassination in Kosovo: The Killing of Oliver Ivanović

I won’t even start with the old rule that when there’s a contract killing, it’s usually the killer who first offers their condolences.

— Nenad Čanak, Radio Free Europe, January 22, 2018

The highest form of scandalous patriotism is real estate, often blood soaked, and almost always fortified.  What one controls is often less important as who is doing so. In the case of Kosovo, attempts at control, overt and covert, have been exerted for years. Officially, Serbia lacks de facto effectiveness, a state of affairs in place since the aftermath of the 1999 bombings by NATO.  Neither does Albania, which also acts as a stalking counterpart in the region. Kosovo itself occupies a legal twilight zone, tormenting those in search of certainty, puzzling international legal scholars and experts in the field of recognition.

The territory itself has been pockmarked over the years with ethnic displacement and redistributions.  Concentrations of Serbs, for instance, can be found across the Ibar River, many having fled in the wake of avenging Albanians in 1999.  Governance has been shot to pieces.  Security incidents take place during the course of each week.

Various groups, elements, and bands of not so merry creatures have done their best to insinuate themselves into the ethnic and loose framework of this fragile entity.  Such conditions have been facilitated by the less than forceful assertion of control by NATO and the United Nations, notably over matters touching on security. In such a vacuum, vigilantism and crime thrive in abundance.

Oliver Ivanović, who was gunned down on January 16 outside his party office in Mitrovica, was one such figure to rise out of this anarchic storm. A Serb who nonetheless still engaged Albanian counterparts when needed, his political awareness was such as to be inaccurately labelled as a moderate.  The informed pragmatist would have been more accurate.

No figure of prominence can ever function in the politics of Kosovo without cracking the odd egg, if not skull.  Reputations are often made in the cauldron of most resistance and greatest defiance.  Ivanović became known for being the front man of the self-styled bridge watchers, keen to ensure that Albanian influence stopped before the town of Mitrovica.

Ivanović, however, had noticed a change in local conditions, notably touching on Mitrovica itself. Albanians were, for one, no longer the largest threats, the irritations in the ointment.  The agents of disorder and decay could be found within.

In September, he made an observation that caught much attention: “Fear is pervasive in Metrovica, not of Albanians anymore but of Serbs, local criminals who ride around in SUVs without license plates.  Drugs are sold on every corner.  And the police only watch.  It is obvious that they are afraid of the perpetrators or the perpetrators are part of the security structures themselves.”

A contract, or contracts, were duly made on his life, though in the fetid depths of misrule, it remains unclear who was the group behind the trigger.  Vuk Dračković of the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement spotted the traits of political murder similar to those of the 1990s.  Ivanović had been the conciliator, the voice of reason, a figure of negotiation, all factors earning him demerit points with his enemies.  The bullets for Ivanović were “aimed at the Brussels agreement, the internal dialogue on Kosovo’s future, the stability of the region as a whole, and Serbia’s European path.”

Nenad Čanak of the League of Social Democrats for Vojvodina sees a picture a few steps removed, smoked and cured in the great tradition of Balkan conspiracy.  Russia, he suggests, might be involved, as the killing potentially provides an opportunity for Moscow to “act as the peacemaker” thereby causing “the international community [to turn] a blind eye to Crimea and the Donbas and accep[ting] the usurpation of parts of the territory of a neighbouring country, which Russia supports.”

In the aftermath of the death, political figures are treading on water. Serbia’s Aleksandar Vučić took stock and paid a visit to Mitrovica, a point that immediately drew comments from such figures as Dejan Jovic, who called it his kosovski momenat, or “Kosovo moment”.  This was hardly meant to flatter: the late Slobodan Milošević paid a trouble-stirred visit in 1987 promising that “no one should beat you again”.  The blood was rushing, hearts were aflutter, and the separatist feelings were biting.

As Gordana Knezević noted, the greeting for the Serbian leader on this occasion was different.  1987 had been all bluster and nationalist stirring, spotting and detecting enemies.  Now, the log of concerns was more immediate, tangible and desperate: a fear of local ruination, despoliation and lawlessness.  His response to such insecurity was similarly more contained.

Some fairly pointless speculations have been made in assessing this brutal incident.  One view is that this was blood shed with potential, a murder with decent consequences.  People, for one, will start talking: in Pristina, in Belgrade, in Kosovo.  This aspirational view is well and good, but will hardly be of comfort to those who hanker for that most novel of ideas in Kosovo: stability.

Trapped in Zurich and Waiting for Belgrade

The stick insect with pale lips, a jaunty manner, and the sense of still being attached to mummy gave a definitive statement of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.  “The plane cannot be located.”  It had a name; it had an identity. It was even registered on the screens of Zurich airport.  But everything else was, quite literally, up in the air.  In this day and age, a multi-million dollar commercial aircraft doing its rounds is bound to turn up on some scene, to urge itself into commercial and tangible existence.  Not so for Herr Stick Insect, who seemed determined to excite and concern his inquirers with dedication.

And what of this ephemeral, invisible flight?  Instant fears are fired in the imagination: did the plane vanish into a legend, forever trapped in the gurgling fantasies of a deluded culture?  Did it suffer a terrible demise at the end of a faulty missile strike?

Humble flight JU 373 of Air Serbia was not going to disappear into the annals of flight martyrdom or conspiratorial mayhem.  There was nothing of the jitteriness of Malaysia Airlines here, the tragic doom, the murderous calamity.  No rocket was aimed; no mythological creature had made its presence felt. It was simply being incorrigible.

There were, however, initial reasons of concern.  It had rerouted to Stuttgart in a manner that seemed erratic, and had not, as it were, told the personnel at Zurich why.  This is the Serbian magic; remaining very much an enthusiast of Europe, it sings the tune from another, eclectic scoresheet.  We are happy to play with you, but in our way.

Passengers going to Belgrade from London on this flight were left perplexed.  Those waiting for JU 373 were huddled, oblivious and even, to some extent, obedient.  This was Switzerland, and back home, they knew that queues were as common as smoked grills and rakija.

Queuing in the Serbian psyche has a near military quality to it, far more developed and essential than that of the English. The Englishman, as George Mikes claimed, could form a queue of one.  But for the Serbian sense of existence, the queue is the truest of collective affirmations, be it against injustice, infirmity, and plain incompetence.  They have seen it all, and they are promised to see more.

Even in these circumstances of technical challenges and weather disruptions, the challenged machines that require tuning in the face of an indignant mother nature, cultural assumptions on the part of the Swiss gate keepers seem to dominate.  The Serbs, like bovine subjects awaiting their fate, sit there at a gate that has no flight, and promises none.  “We seriously lost them,” comes the stick insect about JU 373.  He doesn’t seem particularly concerned, and holds the Zurich airport line with stern officialdom.  “You simply have to wait.”

To get to Belgrade today is proving to be quite a challenge.  Having ventured from London via the hub that is Zurich, gnomes and all, the weather has been furious and unrelenting.  The Piccadilly line from Hammersmith station was already taking a generous soaking, and the train was filled with glares and perfumed stares.  Bulky men sported suitcases a tenth their size.  Women, in distinction, had enormous expanses of luggage.  No one seemed particularly enticed by the prospect of having to venture through the monster that is Heathrow’s Terminal 2, named after the imperishable monarch that is Elizabeth II.

In Zurich, the alternative options on offer for reaching Belgrade do little to inspire.  Each suggests terminal boredom, lounge torture, purgatorial torment.  Serbia remains an exotic territory, a vantage point of curiosity.  But more broadly speaking, if one is stranded, Frankfurt figures.  This offers a dreaded and draining option, the sort that you would happily scuttle and convey back to your less impressive acquaintances and enemies.

The devil’s option of flying via bustling Frankfurt and losing several hours of your life before the next destination has a certain ominous power to it.  The cogs of European travel need oiling, the machines refuelling.  When there is a glitch, airport apparatchiks seem to speak in automated statements: “You shall go via Frankfurt.”  The central nature of the city in the European infrastructure is indispensable in that sense.

It is very much a statement about air traffic on continental Europe and the bumbling confidence Frankfurt is exerting, all dominating and confident.  With the issue of Brexit pounding the British government into paltry dust; with companies relocating and readjusting assets, management staff and portfolios; with decisions being made for the new year, this is a city that is being bathed in mercantilist glory.  German financiers and planners are planning their raids and relocations, their next triumphant decisions that will lure the funds that have been seen to be the sacred preserve of Britannia.

JU 373 eventually materialises, if only several hours after time.  The stewardess, sharp neat uniform, a dream of geometry with a professionalised cut cap and a blue dotted scarf, large lips that seem to dance off her words as they escape to reach their target, and a voice that as smoked as the country’s cured meats, tells you to know the instructions well. You are in the exit row, and responsibility is heavy.  There is no other option:  you are not merely a guest of nature, but a guest of Air Serbia, so behave.

Her countrymen are also there to keep her busy.  The Serbian tendency to pounce mid flight, to leap to the storage areas and cabins with a growl and a cheer, and throw off the seat belts with the disdain of a liberated patient from a sanatorium speaks volumes.  Signs are there to be avoided; signals exist to be scorned.  “Please remain seated with fastened seat belts!”  The bark is greeted with quiet refrain.  Everyone is tired.  The captain is unintelligible, his words an inscrutable slur.  But for those on this flight, the oak tree calls, its ancient message vast and deep; the solemnity of the Orthodox occasion signals and holds its followers.  They simply want to go home, and clap with furious delight on touching down.

Remember the Balkans?

“The Balkans” – this notion that signifies more a state of mind than geographic location, usually derisively associated with powder kegs, ancient hatreds and “Asiatic” primitivism “in the heart of Europe” – has long ceased to occupy the headline pole position of the Clinton era. Used since the 1990s mostly as code for the violent dissolution of former Yugoslavia and the various spillover effects regionally and beyond – the term and its theme have been since displaced by waves of other real (and some imaginary) news, only occasionally to briefly flash back through mainstream Western media. The recent flare with the final verdicts of the Hague tribunal (ICTY) – replete with the almost ritual hara-kiri of a convicted Croatian general in open court – is no different, as it will quickly fade back into apparent oblivion. However, this is a good opportunity to bring up some of the many lessons and occasional pointers still relevant today.

To clarify – this is not a requiem for the Hague kangaroo court, as many measured reviews of the subject have been done to date. Let’s simply summarize that this caricature of the Nurenberg war tribunal has failed miserably in its purported main goals of bringing truth, justice and reconciliation to an area in dire need of it, along with a greater accountability in world affairs. Quite the contrary: its glaring political dependence, selective local justice and, above all, complete blindness to any outside culpability – all have considerably set back these necessary processes. They will simply have to wait for some more dispassionate – and more autochtonous – vehicle for the dispensation of real justice. Likewise, a critical analysis of the South Slav national project – and specifically, of the post-WW II socialist, nonaligned Yugoslavia – is beyond the scope of this short note. Suffice it to say that this was a country of some relevance, warranting careful study that eschews glib and summary pronouncements. So, the main focus here is to briefly explore a couple of key issues going forward.

At first it is hard to see much hope in the post-Yugoslav wasteland: a familiar picture of dysfuntional banana-republics with corrupt quasi-democratically elected governments (fiercely nationalist locally, pliably globalist beyond), botched privatizations, plundered public assets, brain-drain exodus, rampant unemployment, torn safety nets…  Although Serbia fits well this general mold, there are important differences. Specifically, there is resistance to joining the EU – certainly on the demeaning terms of territorial dismemberment currently proposed, but increasingly in general as well – along with almost universal aversion to entering NATO, a declared military neutrality with refusal to participate in the anti-Russian sanctions regime, and an increasing openness to economic partnerships and investments from China, Russia, Gulf states etc. These are not policies that the Serbian power structure can abandon easily, regardless of outside pressure or its neighborhood with virtually universal membership (or aspiration) to both the EU and NATO, with Western-sponsored propaganda ceaselessly implying that resistance is futile: “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”. Many suspect that they would if they could – numerous WikiLeaks dispatches show regular promises made to US/EU interlocutors to that effect — except for the amorphous but ominous pressure of the Serbian body politic.

In many ways, this might appear paradoxical. In the aftermath of the wars, sanctions and international ostracism — followed by a disappointing “transition” and copiously aided in all that by Western propaganda outlets — the Serbian body politic at large has become mostly dispirited and apathetic. The collapse of the larger country at the dawn of the New World Order was never properly fathomed, the response mostly reactive and ambivalent, the disappointment of apparently lost (both shooting and information) wars quite thorough. An objectively most honorable collective history for much of the 19th-20th centuries gave way to bitter feelings of resentment, self-doubt and insularity.

Nonetheless, the Washington-Brussels-Berlin axis somehow failed to secure the needed coup de grace, with the requirement of Serbia formally abandoning its occupied Kosovo province in exchange for further EU accession steps never materializing – despite the fact that every Serbian government since 2000 has been anointed (if not effectively appointed) by Washington.  However, these politicians — and, in particular, the currently well-entrenched government of the (grossly misnomered) SNS Progressive Party — are generally well aware of the local “red lines” whose crossing could easily lead to loss of  the driving seat and associated privileges (not to mention some more vital values). Relatively calcified over the years, this state of affairs is unlikely to change without major shifts.

There have certainly been many objective outside factors from our century that may have contributed to this: from the 9/11/01 attacks, to the ensuing US-led military misadventures in Asia, the Great Recession, the irrevocable demise of the EU project (in its current form), refugee crises, the rebound of Russia and rise of China – to name but a few. Nevertheless, this is not an accident — there is a deeper historical logic to it all, in some ways related to the genesis of Yugoslavia itself — that might help explain it better (with possible elaboration to be left for another time).

The movement behind this process is admittedly messy — mostly intuitive, heterogenous and spontaneous. It lacks a real “vanguard”, claiming only token representation in the national parliament, with any attempts at better articulation and organization facing forceful discreditation methods by the government and its captive media. It frequently seems flirting dangerously close to the fringes of retrogressive movements that are no different than various chauvinistic counterparts regionally and in much of Europe. It often appears unaware of its natural allies in a broader struggle. Nonetheless — and this is important to understand — there is a real and progressive element here that must not be discounted. The reality is that the pulse of this broadly understood Serbian public opinion has, willy-nilly, informed key elements of its government’s policy for some time now, and remains the bulwark precluding this last East European domino to fall in line with basic imperial precepts. And while their exploits hardly make Western media headlines, the constant stream of sundry Eurocrat commissars and ministers, along with plenipotentiary DC apparatchiks — visiting Belgrade with various carrot and stick combinations — is pretty conspicuous and just as clearly indicates their staunch interest in addressing the issue on their terms.

The Serbian body politic was the backbone of a functional and prosperous Balkan federation once before, and it has the potential to be a catalyst for positive and unifying processes again. Of course, for this resistance to yield any broader anti-imperial fruit, a few more dots need be connected.  Likewise, there should be no illusions of this being an easy or straightforward process. For starters, some of the painful but required regional truth and justice issues from the opening paragraph are still ahead, and the many salutary lessons from Yugoslavia’s collapse will have to be understood better. Furthermore, a currently missing realization of the real common goals with other regional forces — for example, the Greek Left, most certainly including its KKE Communist Party — will have to emerge. However, the stakes are simply too high for this not to be attempted in earnest, loudly barking populist ruling regimes notwithstanding. The disillusionment among the masses in the rest of the Balkans is too high not to be harnessed. And history has repeatedly shown that once the globalist neoliberal “prosperity lifting all boats” narrative runs its local course, the choices become rather stark: either a nationally-aware but internationally-oriented progressive coalition, or the scourge of xenophobic reactionary demagoguery. Let’s hope for the former, with the metaphor of the Balkan Sprachbund prevailing over its derogatory tinderbox alternatives.