Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Kosovo: Clinton's 'Good War'

/ fiction / humanitarianism / kosovo/
Continuing a rather extensive discussion that has been going on in this site's comment section about the Kosovo aggression, following a relevant post, I would like to present Diane Johnstone's latest article on the Kosovo debacle. This is an argument against Kosovo's independence, and a rather accurate (IMHO) description of the aftermath of the military intervention that led to the creation of one of the most ethnically pure states in the Balkans, a true haven of human rights, in the name of multi-culturalism and tolerance. What isn't described in the article is the sort of destabilization the Kosovo precedent has already wrought on the neighbouring Republic of Macedonia and in Southern Serbia - and how explosive this precedent is as far as minority nationalist expectations in the Balkans are concerned... But not only the Balkans... look how lovingly the Kosovo method of dealing with minorities is brought as a shining example by other, much more powerful, would-be repeat cleansers... It is indisputable that the international indifference to the ethnic cleansing processes in Kosovo (and to a lesser extent - because they will be hopefully rectified soon - in Krajna) is the stuff that fuels every crazed nationalist's wet dreams.
But this isn't the end of it... That some serious sort of trouble is brewing in Kosovo is not in doubt, as the KLA seems not happy with the NATO forces in the province as well. It's fascinating to watch how non-commital the "resolution proposals" being suggested are.

On a related issue, the Milosevic trial continues its farcical course. There seems to be no real evidence of Slobo's involvement in any crimes against humanity except in the most indirect sense of being responsible for the atrocities committed by his officers... John Laughland comments on the dire predicament the ICC is in, and notes:
The possibility is now real that a conviction of Milosevic can be secured only on the widest possible interpretation of the doctrine of command responsibility: for instance, that he knew about atrocities committed by the Bosnian Serbs and did nothing to stop them. But if Milosevic can be convicted for complicity in crimes committed by people in a foreign country, over whom he had no formal control, how much greater is the complicity of the British government in crimes committed by the US in Iraq, a country with which the UK is in an official coalition? This is not just a cheap political jibe but a serious judicial conundrum: the UK is a signatory to the new International Criminal Court, and so Tony Blair is subject to the jurisdiction of the new Hague-based body whose jurisprudence will be modelled on that of the ICTY. So if Slobbo goes down for ten years in Scheveningen jail because of abuses committed by his policemen, then by rights his cell-mate should, in time, be Tony.

(Laughland has in the past also argued about how the Hague is an anti-Nuremberg.)
That's not to say he's innocent - just that one could not seriously expect to dig up the sort of evidence that could stand up in a court of law - at least about his direct involvement in war-crimes.

It seems that only a Serbian court could successfully prosecute Milosevic, specifically for the Stambolic murder. This International Court can only invent a guilty verdict based on the available evidence (or lack thereof). To try to blame Kosovo on Milosevic alone was, anyway, idiotic. This is an unresolved minority issue dating back at least a century. It could be argued that in 1999 Milosevic was supported by more Serbs than at anytime else in his political career. Note also that a number of the NATO countries involved were at least as guilty of atrocities against secessionist minorities as Yugoslavia...

Anyway do not forget this was the direct precedent for the Iraq war. It was equally illegal, it did not have the approval of the Security Council, and it established the right of the Superpower to bomb and attack whoever it wished. Remember all that when Kerry takes office and we all discover how "anti-war" he truly is - at which point the French and the Germans will join the good cause of civilizing the natives in Iraq - in the same way they brought peace, multiculturalism, harmony and understanding to Kosovo...

Boris Kagarlitsky concludes, in an article about the March killings in the province:

The point is not that the West backed the wrong side in the conflict. Serbian nationalists are no more decent and honorable than the Albanians who incite riots and murder. In feuds like this there are no good guys, just the bad and the very bad. And determining who is who with any certainty is impossible.

The point also is that sovereignty should be treasured, at least until we discover a democratic, just and egalitarian way of doing international politics - otherwise humanitarianism becomes the cruel excuse of a new, politically correct but more violent, imperialism.

More (including further discussion of the points Doug Muir raised in our previous comment exchange) in the comments below...

1 comment:

talos said...

old comments


…Some answers regarding the earlier discussion http://www.teckni…) we had with Doug Muir:

- The war in Kosovo was sold to the citizens of the western democracies, not as an operation to remove Milosevic, but to prevent "genocide and ethnic cleansing" and establish a "multi-ethnic Kosovo". It rather dubious whether there would have been sufficient support for this aggression among western (and certainly European) populations had the official reason been the removal of an elected despot (and technically he was an elected president - these were not Saddam-like non-elections, he had previously lost the local elections, in 1997). Therefore the issue of whether the bombing had been the main reason of Milosevic's departure from power is moot. Not least because one can safely venture a guess that, should a fraction of the money thrown to support this attack on Serbia had been spent on supporting the "democratic opposition", the odds in favor of a similar, but bloodless defeat of Milosevic were high. Whether even this would have been legitimate is another question. The fact of the matter is that none in the “democratic opposition” inspired any sort of confidence among even their supporters. Kostunica is maybe the exception – yet he is even more nationalist than Milosevic – probably more of a realist also, though certainly not a great statesman.

- I don't buy for a second the idea that Milosevic was undeposable. As I mentioned above he had lost the local elections and it was only through the gross incompetence of the three main opposition figures that he managed to survive: the clown, the western stooge and the nationalist, were farcical as a political alternative. Would you vote for Vuk Draskovic as president of anything? Yet they still would have won and Milosevic would have been forced to step down, had the Albanian Kosovars voted for them, something that they could still have done in the 2000 elections and again didn't consider it important enough – or actually considered it to be counter-productive: the Albanian nationalists wanted Milosevic running things in Belgrade and not some more moderate and pro-western leadership – because their stated goal was not “human rights” within Yugoslavia, but the creation of an independent mono-ethnic Albanian Kosovo (or even a union with Albania should it have proven realistic). So the only reason Milosevic was not deposed earlier is gross incompetence of the (spectacularly unimpressive) political opposition and the decision of the “oppressed” Albanian minority in Kosovo to support their oppressor! Hardly the stuff that justify an armed intervention, especially by a group of countries at least three of which have done the same or much worse to minorities within their countries (Turkey Britain and Spain) and most of which have consistently supported and helped perpetuate massive atrocities all over the world (in Iraq, in Turkey, in East Timor, in Latin America etc.)

- The net result of the loss of Kosovo as far as the political climate was concerned was more apathy and more Seselj. You are making a mistake in comparing Seselj with either Lepen or the PRM. We're talking Zhirinovsky here. We're talking, as you know better than I do, deranged hoodlums and murderers. Again, the comparison with Croatia would be informative: imagine the HSP this close to winning the elections! See also how Croatia is slowly taking back the Krajna refugees, without anyone having to actually bomb Zagreb. There is no doubt that the loss of Kosovo, and the way it happened was a boon for the most extreme nationalists in Serbia – as well as the death knoll for public participation in the “democratic process”.

- The incapacitation of the economy started with the oil and trade embargoes and concluded with the bombing… Milosevic's gang plunder and mismanagement surely played some part, but I'm not at all sure that plunder and mismanagement are not happening this very moment. The brilliant economic policy of rushing to sell all your national assets in a damn hurry, is kind of shortsighted and limited as to the number of years it can actually provide some income… Witness this year’s decline in Serbian revenue, compared to the past couple of years. But I would certainly count the effects of the embargo as the most disastrous punishment on the Yugoslav economy. Next to the masses of homeless refugees. Slobodan Milosevic was no Socialist and no Nationalist either: he was an opportunist who willingly climbed on the privatization horse as fast as he could and - you’re right !- the Greek companies engaged in the exploitation of Balkan resources gained a foothold during the Milosevic years. Yet Greece is still as much of a presence in today’s Serbia as it was during the Milosevic years and the same holds for pretty much all the countries in the Balkans… Business interests have a way of transcending political regimes… (As an aside: Greek firms come armed with a competitive advantage: the sort of intuitive knowledge of how to manage corruption that makes them thrive in a Balkan environment – unlike their Western European counterparts – thanks in no small part to the obscene levels of government corruption they have to face at home…)

- The fact of the matter is (and I doubt that you’re suggesting otherwise) that a huge majority of Serbs would certainly not consider the bombings as a gift. I can’t think of anyone more entitled to determine the “benevolence” of the bombs and the bombers than the Serbs themselves. They clearly are still not thrilled.

- More importantly there is still the moral principle that no one has the right to kill people indiscriminately (the children in Alexinac, the passengers in the train, the farmers in the Kosovar convoy…) in order to achieve a political objective – especially if that objective is (as you claim it was) the removal of an elected president (and I don’t care if the said president is Satan incarnate). There is absolutely no justification for this sort of terrorist actions under international law. The ends do not justify the means.

- But that’s not all: as I mentioned in the post, there is no doubt that Kosovo was a first act in a new, resurgent cycle of raw imperialist violence meant to intimidate into total submission any country remotely even considering going against the directives of the superpower. For me the greatest threat to democracy and peace was not an already defeated power-mad strongman in the middle of the Balkan peninsula, barely clinging to whatever power he held and selling off as much as he could to the biggest bidder. The greatest threat was and is the legitimization of naked aggression and the US inspired dialectic of “humanitarian violence” that lead inescapably to the horrors of Afghanistan, Iraq and who knows what else next. More so, as it was exposed in the Kosovo debacle that there is no day-after strategy for the vanquished, because once the spotlight is away, once it has been decided that the “good guys” won, they are left, like natives always have been under the west’s colonial yoke, to tend to whatever mess the “civilizers” left behind.

2004-07-13 18:26
Doug Muir:

Talos: if you've been looking in at my own blog, you may have noticed that it's been very quiet lately. A busy time here — work, travel with children — so I may not have time to respond to this for a while,

Two quick points. One, Diana Johnstone is not a particularly good source. Two, Kosovo hasn't "wrought destabilization" in Macedonia. Inter-ethnic tensions and violence there comfortably predated the NATO boming. Yet today Macedonia is muddling along, and may even be moving forward.

The major parties there recently reached a new agreement on new district borders, administrative decentralization, and the status of Skopje. The agreement still has to be ratified by Parliament, and then it still has to be implemented… but if it works (if!), then it will be a major step forward and an example for the whole region.

It's going to take some time to know. But even if it doesn't work, let's keep in mind that the ethnic conflict there has been cold rather than hot for the last couple of years. Macedonians aren't killing each other at the moment, and haven't been for a while. Macedonia is a poor country, and some strange and ugly stuff goes on there, but the two major ethnic groups are rubbing along in sullen peace. So "Kosovo has destabilized Macedonia" just isn't so.

Note that the Albanians of Macedonia have had a loud, fierce and public internal debate over independence vs. federalism. More on this later, perhaps.

As to putting Milosevic on trial in Belgrade: get real. Serbia can't even prosecute Djindjic's killers properly. The Hague tribunal has horrific problems, no question — Carla del Ponte was a horrible choice for prosecutor, and in many respects it's gone downhill ever since. But "Slobo should be tried by Serbs" is just not a meaningful response to that; it's wishful thinking, with no connection to reality on the ground in Belgrade or anywhere else.

And now I really do have to run. As I said, more in a bit, when and if.

Doug M.

2004-07-24 05:32

Ok no responses from me here then… I'll be off for at least a month away from any sort of computer screen anyway…

September then possibly…

2004-07-24 23:52