For all the supposed intractability of Balkan territorial disputes, and in particular the dispute between Serbia and Kosova over the legitimacy or otherwise of Kosova’s secession from Serbia, there is every reason to believe that this particular conflict will gradually subside, to the point where it is no more actual than the conflict between Ireland and the UK over Northern Ireland, or between Spain and the UK over Gibraltar. This is clearer if we step back from the bitterness of today’s politics and take a more historical perspective.
There exists a misconception that Serbia is a loser in the ‘New World Order’. This is true only insofar as contemporary Europe is a continent made up of ‘losers’. The developing democratic European order, based on the framework of the EU and NATO, is predicated upon the defeat and frustration of every regional imperialism. The catastrophic defeat suffered by Serbia, in its attempt at imperial expansion in the 1990s, is broadly equivalent to the defeats suffered by Bulgaria in the 1910s, Greece in the 1920s and Romania in the 1940s; each of these states was, despite enormous effort, militarily beaten and exhausted and forced to accept more modest borders than its political classes had wanted. On a smaller scale, Croatia, too, was defeated in its attempts to expand into Bosnia during the first half of the 1990s, and learned the futility of petty imperialism. It is the defeat of all these little imperialisms that has enabled the Balkan states to move toward integration with one another and with Europe more broadly, just as the entire project of European integration is base upon the fact that both French imperialism in Europe, as practised by Napoleon I and Napoleon III, and German imperialism in Europe, as practised by Wilhelm II and Hitler, have been thoroughly crushed.
Just as it is obvious that the states of Europe must accept their past territorial losses and narrower borders if they are to coexist peacefully and prosper together, so it is equally obvious that problems will occur when states refuse to accept these losses, as was the case with France after 1871 and Germany after 1919. The Middle East has been destabilised for sixty years by the Arab states’ refusal to recognise their defeat by Israel. Refusal leads to policies of revanchism and to further conflict and war. Whether the state or states in question are justified in feeling aggrieved at their territorial losses is, ultimately, irrelevant; even a state whose borders were drawn undeniably unfairly – such as, for example, Hungary after 1919 – must accept these unfair borders if it is to avoid further self-destruction.
Serbia today falls into the category of defeated states unwilling to recognise their defeats. The question is to what extent Serbia’s apparent refusal to accept the loss of Kosovo will jeopardise Balkan stability.
The situation already looks brighter than it did eight months ago, in the immediate aftermath of international recognition of Kosova’s independence. Then, the Serbian government of Vojislav Kostunica, supported by the anti-Western nationalist segment of the Serbian political world (Kostunica’s Democratic Party of Serbia, Tomislav Nikolic’s Serbian Radical Party, Velimir Ilic’s New Serbia and others) appeared ready to pursue a policy of ‘self isolation’ from the European framework; of rioting, embassy-burning and low-intensity border-warfare vis-a-vis Kosova, at the same time as breaking off relations with democratic Europe and orienting itself exclusively toward the authoritarian Russian regime of Vladimir Putin. This political course was ultimately less about Kosova than about rejecting the liberal-democratic European model in favour of the authoritarian-nationalist Russian model. Yet in parliamentary elections this spring, the Serbian electorate rejected this option, resulting in the coming to power of a pro-European government under Mirko Cvetkovic. The Serbian electorate was, of course, split two ways in the election, but the very fact that Kosova’s independence was actually followed by an increase in the pro-Europeans’ share of the popular vote was the significant factor.
Consequently, instead of violence, embassy burning and isolation from the EU, the new Serbian government is waging the conflict over Kosova by peaceful, diplomatic and legalistic methods, while simultaneously pursuing Serbia’s European integration. The strategy of Prime Minister Cvetkovic and President Boris Tadic – of opposing Kosova’s independence, but not allowing it to interfere with Serbia’s pursuit of EU membership – is probably representative of the majority viewpoint among the Serbian population. In other words, while most Serbian citizens are not ready to accept Kosova’s independence, nor are they willing to sacrifice European integration for Kosova’s sake. Thus, the worst-case scenario – of the dispute over Kosova resulting in another war – has been averted with the defeat of Kostunica and the Radicals.
In evaluating the likely outcome of the current Serbian diplomatic and legalistic campaign over Kosova, we can rule out two outcomes.
The first is that Kosova might be one day returned to Serbian rule. With Kosova’s independence recognised by the USA, Japan, Canada, South Korea, most EU members and a total of fifty-one UN members at the time of writing, the possibility of Serbia regaining Kosova can safely be discounted. President Tadic appeared to recognise this himself in his suggestion last month that, if Serbia is unable to recover Kosova, partition of the country might be an acceptable alternative.
Yet the partition of Kosova is the second outcome to the conflict that can safely be ruled out. The territorial partition of a sovereign state, on the basis of a border drawn by a neighbour, is simply not politically possible in contemporary Europe. This is demonstrated by the precendent of Bosnia in the first half of the 1990s, when even though the Serbs appeared to be winning the war; and even though the Western alliance at the time was much readier to accommodate Serb territorial ambitions than it is today; yet still it proved politically impossible fully to partition Bosnia. The closest the international community came to doing this was with the Owen-Stoltenberg Peace Plan of August 1993, which offered the Bosnian Serb entity the possibility of seceding from Bosnia, but even this plan was abandoned when the Bosnian government rejected it. The second precedent that demonstrates the impossibility of partition is the precedent of Cyprus. Even though Turkey is a very large, powerful and important country and a NATO member, and even though it has been completely militarily victorious in Cyprus, yet still no other country is ready to recognise Cyprus’s partition, so Turkey itself has been forced to backtrack on the issue.
There is, therefore, no possibility whatsoever that Serbia, which lost the war and which is a much smaller, weaker and less strategically important country than Turkey, will succeed where the latter has failed, and achieve diplomatic recognition of the partition of its neighbour. Of course, some supporters of the Serbian cause over Kosova claim that the recognition of Kosova’s independence itself amounts to an act of partition of an internationally recognised sovereign state – i.e. Serbia – and that therefore the precedent has already been established. But this disregards the fact that Kosova’s independence stemmed from the fact that it never really was simply part of Serbia, nor was it seen as such by the powers that recognised it. Ultimately, international recognition of Kosova’s independence from Serbia originates in the fact that Kosova had been a constituent element of the former Yugoslav federation in its own right. There is no plausible basis on which Serbia could claim a similar status for the area of northern Kosova it covets. As for Serbia’s case against Kosova’s independence before the International Court of Justice (ICJ): even a Serbian victory, which is very far from certain, would not persuade the Western powers to reverse their recognition of Kosova – any more than Nicaragua’s victory against the US before the ICJ in 1986 could force the US to pay reparations to Nicaragua.
Of course, Serbia has achieved a form of de facto partition of Kosova, and maintained Serbian rule over the area north of the Ibar River. Thus, the Kosova Question today amounts to the question of how far Kosova will be integrated and function as a unified state, or conversely, how far it will remain formally unified but de facto partitioned, like Bosnia. The most that Serbia could achieve would be the establishment of the equivalent within Kosova of Bosnia’s ‘Republika Srpska’. But to achieve this, as was the case with Bosnia, Serbia would have to give something in return; i.e. recognition of Kosova’s independence. Just as, if Turkey wishes to achieve international recognition of the Turkish entity in northern Cyprus, it will have to accept this entity’s inclusion in a formally unified Cyprus. And the Serbian political classes are not yet ready to accept Kosova’s independence, even on such terms.
The most likely scenario, therefore, is that in the interests of stability and good relations with the EU and US, Serbia will gradually establish a modus vivendi with Kosova, without formally accepting its independence, while maintaining the Serb enclaves as entities outside the control of the Kosovar government – a de facto ‘Dayton Kosova’. A precedent for this would be Ireland’s de facto acceptance of the loss of Northern Ireland to the UK, which went hand in hand with a formal territorial claim to the North that was not dropped until the end of the twentieth century.
Such a modus vivendi would also involve a modus vivendi between the Serbs and Albanians in Kosova. There are strong reasons why the Kosovar Serbs should welcome such an arrangement. Total Serbian rejectionism vis-a-vis Kosovar independence would ultimately have the same effect on the Kosovar Serbs that, nearly two decades ago, total Serbian rejectionism vis-a-vis Croatian independence had on the Croatian Serbs. In other words, it would bring disaster upon them by making it impossible for them to live alongside the majority population in their own country. This would equally be the case even if Serbia succeeded in holding on to northern Kosova; partition would be a catastrophe for the Kosovar Serbs, two thirds of whom live south of the Ibar River, which is why the Kosovar Serbs’ representatives have condemned partition as something that would ‘wipe out’ their community.
Serbia’s only alternative to a modus vivendi with Kosova would be for it to continue the policy it has been pursuing up till now, of attempting to destabilise the new state to prevent its consolidation and functioning, and to prevent the region stabilising on the basis of its acceptance. But destabilising Kosova will not bring Serbian repossession of the territory any closer; nor will it bring about an international acceptance of partition. All it would achieve would be to damage the stability and prosperity of the region, and damage also Serbia’s relations with the rest of Europe. Since this is not in Serbia’s interests, such a policy is unlikely to be maintained in the long run.
There is an additional factor in the equation that may serve as a positive incentive against total Serbian rejectionism. The more unstable and dysfunctional Kosova is, the more it will serve as a centre of international organised crime, possibly even of terrorism, from which Serbia, as its neighbour, can only suffer.
There remains, however, a wild card: Russia, whose policy of confrontation with the West, manifested most explicitly in its invasion of Georgia, is likely to escalate in the years to come. Some Serbian politicians might be tempted to join with Russia in making life difficult for the Western alliance in the region, by causing trouble in Kosova. But any such troublemaking cannot overcome the reality of complete Western military, political and economic dominance in the Western Balkans. For Serbia to join with Russia in stirring up instability in this region would be a case of what the Serbs call inat, or bloodymindedness; of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face – it would damage Serbia much more than it would damage the West.
The bottom line is that Serbia cannot fundamentally change the outcome of the Kosova conflict, no matter what it does. All it can do is influence how slowly or painfully the situation is normalised. Paradoxically, Serbia may come to feel that it is in its own interests to help Kosova succeed as a state, even if it cannot, for the forseeable future, bring itself to recognise this state formally.
This article was published yesterday on the website of the Henry Jackson Society.
This is a guest post by Quintin Hoare
Hardly a day goes by without some domestic or foreign voice being raised to lament the deplorable state of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Even official EU spokes-people scarcely attempt any longer to deny the country’s dysfunctional political structures, or to hide their frustration with its squabbling politicians – a frustration mirrored by that expressed by Bosnian commentators with the international players whom they blame for their condition. A measure of the problem is the fact that the country’s prospects for European integration lag behind even those of Serbia.
In the past couple of weeks, two former US diplomats who played significant roles in the 1995 peace agreement in Bosnia – the Dayton accords – and both of whom may harbour ambitions for fresh roles in an Obama administration, have spoken out in sharply contrasting ways about the 1995 settlement that created the country’s present political order.
On 17 October Peter Galbraith, former US ambassador to Croatia (1993-8), in an interview with the Sarajevo daily Dnevni Avaz described the wartime political and military leadership of the Bosnian Serb rebels as ‘fascistic and genocidal’, then continued: ‘Maybe it would have been better, and the region would have been more stable, if we had allowed their total defeat [in autumn 1995] instead of opting for a compromise’.
The compromise in question, of course, was Dayton – itself the outcome of an earlier compromise that in May 1994 established the so-called Contact Group, made up of Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the USA (later joined by Italy and the EU). The Contact Group resolved previous differences (see Brendan Simms’s authoritative Unfinest Hour, London 2001) between US policy on the one hand, British and French on the other – but did so essentially on the latter’s terms. It adopted the formula that was to underpin Dayton according to which 49% of the country’s territory would go to the Serb supremacist movement led by Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, both of whom have since been indicted with genocide by the international war-crimes tribunal in The Hague. This territory, from which practically all its non-Serb population had been deported, and to which few would be allowed to return after the war, was constituted as Republika Srpska (RS). More fundamentally, however, Dayton was a concession to their mentor and paymaster, the Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, subsequently also charged with genocide, in the hope that, satisfied in Bosnia, he would become a ‘factor of stability’ in the Balkans. That this hope was quite unwarranted became obvious a few years later, when a triumphant Milosevic initiated yet another genocidal war, this time in Kosovo. But whereas Serbia was in the end expelled from Kosovo, it retained its presence in Bosnia, which in turn ensured Bosnia’s continued division and instability.
This much is clear: the cause of Bosnia’s continued instability lies in the US – and Western – decision not to end for good a fascistic and genocidal project that keeps it divided.
A few days after Galbraith’s lucid intervention, however, the principal negotiator of the Dayton peace settlement Richard Holbrooke struck a very different note in a 22 October article for The Guardian (co-signed by Paddy Ashdown, high commissioner in Bosnia-Herzegovina from 2002 to 2006). Under the sensationalist title ‘A Bosnian powder keg’, this began with the misleading elision: ‘American leadership brought an end to Bosnia’s three-and-a-half-year war through the Dayton peace agreement’. This assertion is questionable in a number of ways.
First, on the issue of American leadership. It is true that US policy following Yugoslavia’s break-up was far less willing than such European governments as those of Major and Mitterrand simply to accede to Belgrade’s war aims. It is likewise true that the American decision to coordinate a first serious use of air power against RS forces with a successful large-scale ground offensive by allied Bosnian and Croatian units proved decisive. However, the decision not to inflict a total defeat on Mladic’s retreating troops but instead to impose a cease-fire leaving the opposed forces in situ was less commendable. And the Dayton peace agreement was imposed only after these events, not in order to stop military operations that had already been brought to a halt, but in order to articulate a settlement according to the Contact Group’s agreed formula, upon which Washington had long been negotiating directly with Slobodan Milosevic through the good offices precisely of Richard Holbrooke. A settlement that the Bosnian leaders in Sarajevo would be induced to accept.
Secondly, and following from the above, the Dayton peace agreement, which endorsed Milosevic’s main war aim of dividing Bosnia, was the least likely way to bring about a stable peace. On the contrary, by endorsing Bosnia’s de facto division, it ensured a continuation of the war by different means, with the aim of achieving what the military weakness of Belgrade and its Bosnian satraps for the moment made unattainable: Bosnia’s break-up. In short, the United States imposed a settlement that was neither necessary, nor moral, nor workable.
All sides involved in the Bosnian war agree today that the Bosnia-Herzegovina which emerged from the peace settlement imposed at Dayton is unviable. Where they differ is on how to proceed from here. The major defects of the settlement, which are of both a practical and a principled nature, are obvious, including as they do: de facto partition on the basis of existing military positions; de jure division into ethnically based ‘entities’ (one of which, RS, includes an ethnic designation in its very name); destruction of the nationally equitable constitutional and civic order under which Bosnia-Herzegovina had functioned since the end of World War Two, and its replacement by one enshrining ethnic separation at every level; provision for Serbia and Croatia to establish special relations with the two entities, RS and the Federation; absence of any provision for a functioning central government, with most real powers being devolved to the entities; lack of a binding agreement on the return of refugees; the list could be extended. No country could function under such conditions, which are a travesty of the normal order pertaining to a democratic state.
Unlike Galbraith, however, Holbrooke makes no connection between the terms upon which Dayton settled Bosnia’s future in 1995 and the country’s alleged impending collapse today. His argument is that, if only the US and the EU were to concentrate their minds anew, the Dayton peace agreement could be made to work. Their main task should be neither more nor less than ‘finding ways to untie Bosnia’s constitutional knot’ – which, however, precisely lies at the heart of that agreement. Here in a nutshell is the main problem of current US and EU policy: how to change Dayton while professing full commitment to it. The RS leader Milorad Dodik has adroitly played on this contradiction by calling every attempt to reform Bosnia’s dysfunctional structure an attack on Dayton. Uncomfortable as it may be for Holbrooke, Dodik – the main target of his criticism – has in fact been the staunchest defender of the agreement that he helped to craft.
Two mantras have thus been endlessly repeated since 1995, both of which sound plausible but contain at best only particles of truth. The first is that if Dayton were observed and implemented as intended by its architects, the way would be open for Bosnia to become a viable state. The second is that only the Bosnians themselves can in the last instance achieve this. The first has ostensibly inspired the activity of the Office of the High Representative (OHR) over the past thirteen years, while the second has been the OHR’s alibi for the poor results achieved.
In reality, the first major – and defining – acts of the ‘international community’ (in the shape of OHR and NATO) after Dayton were to prevent key aspects of its implementation: the RS authorities were given a free hand to ethnically cleanse (of Serbs!) areas of Sarajevo like Grbavica or Ilidza due to be handed over under the terms of the accords; and Bosniak and Croat refugees from territory controlled by RS were forcibly prevented from returning en masse to their homes (in sharp contrast to what happened in Kosova once NATO moved in).
Nevertheless, it would be wrong to suggest that successive High Representatives (HR) have done nothing towards implementing aspects of the Dayton agreement. Paddy Ashdown, himself, indeed (who only months earlier had offered a very different and far more honest appraisal of the situation in ‘Bosnia is on the edge again’, The Observer, 27 July), did more than any other HR to transform the Dayton set-up pragmatically ‘from within’, notably by cajoling or bullying Bosnia’s politicians to agree to a significant transfer of powers to the centre – the ‘real progress’ that he now says has been largely reversed in the past two years, above all by Dodik.
Hobrooke and Ashdown are nevertheless right to describe Bosnia as a ‘bigger and more dangerous challenge’ to peace than Kosovo. This for two reasons. First, because a Bosnia-Herzegovina independent from both Serbia and Croatia has been a foundation stone of the regional settlement reached at the end of Second World War, when Yugoslavia became a federal state with Bosnia as one of its republics. This settlement, breached by Milosevic in 1991-2, was not reconstituted at Dayton – despite the agreement’s nominal endorsement of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s territorial integrity – precisely thanks to the settlement’s division of Bosnia into Serb and non-Serb parts. Unlike Croatia, which no longer harbours any designs on Bosnian territory, successive governments in Serbia (perhaps excepting that of Zoran Djindjic) have treated RS as effectively part of Serbia, while the EU and the US have regularly turned a blind eye to Belgrade’s interference in Bosnia’s internal affairs. This Serbian dimension of Bosnia’s problematic state was well identified in Ashdown’s earlier text, but unfortunately vanished from ‘A Bosnian powder keg’. A key condition to be met by Serbia in its progress towards European integration should be that it ceases treating RS as anything other than an integral part of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Any secession of RS from Bosnia-Herzegovina, furthermore, would inevitably re-open a Croatian dimension to the latter’s crisis, since Zagreb could not allow the country to break up, so would be obliged to engage there once again, if only to uphold Bosnia’s integrity. This prospect greatly exercises Croatia’s leaders, and explains their increasingly open criticism of Dodik’s provocative rhetoric and obstructive behaviour.
The second reason why the situation in Bosnia demands urgent attention is linked to the European desire in the medium term to bring the rest of the Balkans into the EU. The ease with which the latter has in Bosnia’s case allowed overlapping sovereignties to be created – in the form of dual citizenship, special agreements and territorial claims – has not merely enabled the criminal underground to survive the war, but also helped to consolidate its stranglehold on the Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian judicial systems. Absorption of these countries, at a time when their administrations do not fully control their borders, will pose a grave threat to the EU’s own internal security. Holbrooke and Ashdown are right to point out that the EU is leaving itself with few tools to heal Bosnia-Herzegovina, despite its strategic position in the region. It may be that EU officials cling to the hope that all these grave problems can somehow be resolved during the process of negotiating Serbia’s and Bosnia’s entry; but why this should happen in the light of a decade of failure remains to be explained. The time has come for EU and US politicians to bite the Bosnian bullet and finally end the country’s division one way or another. Where there is a will, the way will be found.
Here’s a patriotism test for dummies.
Take a look at these two photos.
The photo on the left is of the Partisan Stjepan Filipovic, who fought to free Serbia from the Nazis in World War II. As commander of a battalion of Serbian Partisans, he was captured in combat by the collaborationist Chetniks, who handed him over to the Germans. As he was being hanged, he called upon the Serbian people to fight the Nazis and their Serbian collaborators.
The photo on the right is of the Serbian quisling prime minister Milan Nedic, meeting with the German Fuehrer Adolf Hitler to request the establishment of a Great Serbia. Nedic had loyally helped Hitler to crush the Serbian Partisans and exterminate the Serbian Jews.
Who was the greater Serbian patriot, Filipovic or Nedic ?
It’s not a difficult question to answer for anybody with a shred of political decency or morality (nor should anyone’s answer be changed by the knowledge that Filipovic was originally from Croatia, and that the Partisans were, unlike Nedic, opposed to a Great Serbia and fought tooth and nail against its supporters).
Yet today, the Serbian fascists – when they aren’t too busy physically harassing unarmed women – are trying to convince the world that they ‘are’ Serbia. In other words, anyone who condemns their disgusting activities is supposedly attacking ‘all’ Serbs and engaging in ‘Serb bashing’, as I have learned anew after posting my last article here, which was a statement in support of the Serbian human-rights activist Sonja Biserko, who is currently suffering a campaign of harassment from the gutter press and the neo-Nazi movement in Serbia.
I appreciate that the sheer shamelessness of the fascists’ claim may be difficult for any normal person to grasp, so I’m going to elaborate. The fascists have long argued that they should be free to kill, rape and torture; wage wars of aggression against neighbouring states and carry out genocide; destroy mosques or burn libraries – but nobody should condemn or even mention this behaviour, because to do so is to be ‘anti-Serb’; to engage in ‘Serb-bashing’. Today, failure to respect the right of fascist thugs to bully and harass human-rights activists is likewise ‘Serb bashing’.
On the other hand, if you want physically to assault a Serbian human-rights activist, murder a dissident Serbian journalist or even assassinate the democratically elected Serbian prime minister, then not only is this not seen as ‘Serb bashing’, but it is seen as the height of patriotism. To attack Serb democrats and human-rights activists is not to attack all Serbs; indeed, it isn’t to attack any Serbs at all, because any Serb who supports democracy and human rights automatically stops being a ‘proper’ Serb in the eyes of the fascists.
Put differently: a ‘Serb basher’ is not someone who actually bashes or even murders Serbs – like the neo-Nazis who physically harass Sonja Biserko or the assassins of Zoran Djindjic, not to mention the people who besieged and bombarded the Serb residents of Sarajevo for three and a half years. No; a ‘Serb basher’ is anyone who speaks up for Serbian democrats, or Serbian human-rights activists, or for ordinary Serbian citizens who don’t want to fight endless, unwinnable wars with the rest of the world.
If the mentality of the fascists in Serbia is still difficult to comprehend, I invite readers from outside Serbia to imagine how they would feel if their own countries’ fascists claimed that they ‘were’ those countries. In other words, how would English, Scottish or Welsh readers feel if supporters of the British National Party claimed that they ‘were’ Britain, and that any attack on them constituted ‘Briton-bashing’ and an attack on ‘all’ Britons ? How would German readers respond to the claim that condemning the Nazis was ‘German-bashing’ ? How would American readers take the suggestion that condemning the Ku Klux Klan was ‘American-bashing’ ?
Can you imagine anything more impudent ? I can’t.
But are the Serbian fascists right ? Are they really the ‘true’ Serbian patriots, while the Serbian democrats and human-rights activists are all traitors, Western stooges and not really Serb at all ?
What is the record of the Serbian fascists – the supporters of Slobodan Milosevic, Vojislav Seselj and others, now represented most prominently by the Serbian Radical Party and most crudely by groups such as ‘Movement 1389’ and ‘Obraz’ ?
1) They deliberately destroyed the state of Yugoslavia, with which most Serbs identified, in order to replace it with a ‘Great Serbia’;
2) They initiated and fought a series of wars against Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and the Albanian population of Kosova, which resulted in military catastrophe; brought about Serbia’s bombing by NATO; killed tens of thousands of Serbs and turned hundreds of thousands more into refugees; impoverished the once-prosperous Serbian people; and blackened Serbia’s image internationally;
3) Having ruined Serbia economically and robbed it blind, they are now doing their best to keep it out of the EU and ensure its continued international isolation, while countries that were once considered poorer cousins, such as Bulgaria and Romania, are peacefully enjoying the benefits of international acceptance and EU membership.
What a glorious patriotic record ! Shame on Sonja Biserko, Natasa Kandic, Zoran Djindjic and other ‘bad Serbs’ for dissenting from this programme. And shame on us ‘Serb bashers’ for complaining about it. Just think: if people like Sonja in Serbia, and people like me in the West, had just kept quiet, Milosevic, Seselj, Karadzic and co. might just have been able to conquer Bosnia and much of Croatia, and wipe out much of the Croats, Bosniaks and Kosovar Albanians without the outside world noticing. And then wouldn’t everything have been just fine ?! There’d be a Great Serbian state stretching to the outskirts of Zagreb, in which most non-Serbs would have been quietly exterminated, without the country suffering from any negative international media coverage whatsoever !
And now – oh, the cheek of it ! Not content with foiling these exalted, noble grand schemes, we Serb-bashers have the nerve to make a noise when the poor, defeated fascists want quietly to beat up a few human-rights activists without causing a stir. Must we kick a man when he’s down ? Having denied them a Great Serbia, can’t we at least allow them the satisfaction of bumping off Sonja Biserko ? Have we no shame ?! Why, one can’t even form a neo-Nazi gang and attack unarmed women without provoking negative coverage from the Serb bashers. What’s the world coming to ?
I’m not joking – this is actually the way these people think. Readers are directed to Sarah Franco’s blog Cafe Turco, where Sarah and I came under attack from a couple of charming individuals who came to the defence of the neo-Nazis. You can read the exchange here. One of them, a certain Ivan Sokolov of Hartford, Connecticut, had previously emailed me to inform me of his view:
‘I feel that the Orthodox people had every right to burn all the mosques they could throughout the 19th century.’
A second such individual, who went by the monikers ‘Slavonic’ and ‘Not a slave’, had this to say about me:
‘MAH is very forgiving towards the Turks. The Turks, you see, are approved ethnic cleansers. That’s because 1) they are solid NATO allies and 2) they are friendly to Israel (very important for the Henry Jackson Society). MAH can’t get them fast enough into Europe (with Israel to follow?).’
Has everyone got that ? I’m a servant of the Zionists.
Any further comment would be superfluous. But if anyone would like to join the Neocon-Zionist Conspiracy to overthrow the Aryan Race in Serbia, do please get in touch. Fascism in Serbia is increasingly a defeated, marginal phenomenon, but it is no less dangerous for that to those brave Serbs who, like Sonja Biserko, are under attack from it. Even the current pro-European government in Serbia was forced to encompass a fragment of the Milosevic regime, in the form of Ivica Dacic’s Socialist Party of Serbia, in order to take power: Dacic’s control of the Serbian interior ministry may explain why the harassment of human-rights activists is allowed to continue. Until the last dregs of Serbian fascism have finally been mopped up, Serbian freedom and Serbian democracy can never fully flourish.
Picture: Serbian human rights activist and patriot Sonja Biserko – the sort of opponent that Serbian fascist thugs are brave enough to take on physically.
On Saturday evening, Sarah Franco, Max Spencer-Dohner and I paid a visit to our dear friend and comrade Sonja Biserko, a Serbian human-rights activist and patriot who has, perhaps more singlemindedly than any other individual, spent the past two decades fighting to free her country from the darkness that has engulfed it, and to drag it out of the Hell that its political classes have pushed it into. The warmth and gentleness of that evening has been in my mind, as this heroic woman has been the target of yet another act of physical harassment by the dregs of the Serbian fascist movement that has started and lost four wars in the past two decades.
The previous Tuesday, the office of Sonja’s organisation, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Belgrade, was attacked by a gang of about a hundred hooligans belonging to the neo-Nazi sect ‘Movement 1389’, who shouted threats, daubed a swastika on the door of the building and were prevented from doing worse only by the police.
The day after we visited her, two more thugs turned up at Sonja’s flat; one stood outside her front door, the other at the entrance to her building, and threatened and abused her. This kind of harassment has been made possible by the lynch-campaign waged against her by the Serbian gutter-press. Her address, as well as the address of her parents, was published in the rag-sheet Tabloid, in an article about her entitled ‘A lesbian who is seeking revenge’. Three days ago, a letter attacking her was published in another rag-sheet, Kurir, written by the imprisoned gangster Milorad Ulemek, murderer of former Serbian president Ivan Stambolic and Serbian prime minister Zoran Djindjic. This delightful individual described Sonja as a ‘maggot’ who had ‘attacked my Church, my army; she attacked everything that I love, honour, respect and value. She attacked everything for which I am ready to give my life to protect in order to protect that which I love’ [sic].
Although the actual acts of violence and harassment to which Sonja has repeatedly been subjected are the work of scum on the margins of society, the lynch-atmosphere has been created by more mainstream and ‘respectable’ nationalist political and ‘intellectual’ figures. When, following international recognition of Kosova’s independence in February, the Serbian government of Vojislav Kostunica and his allies from the far-right Radical party orchestrated an orgy of vandalism in Belgrade directed against Western embassies and intended to intimidate democratic and pro-European elements, the overrated nationalist film-director Emir Kusturica denounced Serbia’s human rights’ activists as ‘mice’ hiding in ‘mouseholes’ who ‘lie for money’ and ‘denigrate the Kosovo myth’. The former Serbian footballer Dusan Savic recently accused Sonja of having been given ‘the task from Washington and Brussels’ of ‘destroying the Serb identity’ and ‘killing the Serb nation’. Serbian pulp novelist Momo Kapor, meanwhile, wrote that ‘theoretically I, as a Serb nationalist, can become a mondialist, but Biserko can never, from an exceptionally ugly woman, become beautiful.’
Of course, one can understand why physically harassing and intimidating a sixty-year old woman might be appealing for the fascists in Serbia. They have shown themselves to be amongst the most cowardly fighters in the history of modern warfare. Unwilling to fight the Germans or even the Italians in World War II, then routed by the Yugoslav Partisans; beaten by the Slovenes in ten days of fighting in 1991; beaten by the underarmed Croatian Army in 1991-92, and rescued from defeat by the hated ‘Western imperialists’; driven from the whole of central Croatia in a mere few days in 1995; beaten by the Bosnians and Croatians again in the autumn of 1995, despite their massive superiority in weaponry, then rescued from defeat by the ‘Western imperialists’ for the second time; and beaten by NATO in 1999 without having managed to kill a single NATO soldier – the Great Serb chauvinists have shown time and time again that they flee before any opponent who actually fights back against them. [NB It is not the ordinary Serbian people and soldiers who are cowards; Serbs fought extremely bravely and heroically in the Serbian Army in World War I and as Partisans in World War II, and would undoubtedly have been ready to fight NATO in a ground war in Kosovo in 1999, had Milosevic’s Great Serbian regime not been so ready to capitulate].
Consequently, bullying unarmed women is about as far as their bravery will stretch. Indeed, they have shown themselves more than capable when it is a question of raping women and killing children, old people and other unarmed civilians, or torturing prisoners in concentration camps. The Serbian fascist politician Vojislav Seselj himself told Irish journalist Maggie O’Kane in 1993 that, had his paramilitary forces really raped all the Bosnian Muslim women they were accused of raping, they would really have to have been supermen. Indicatively, Seselj and his fellow chauvinists stand openly in the tradition of the Chetniks of World War II, who collaborated with the Nazis. Sonja’s father, by contrast, was a Partisan from a Serb Orthodox family in Knin in Croatia, who came to Belgrade in 1945. Inevitably, the heirs of the Nazi collaborators denounce Sonja as a ‘traitor’, a ‘Croat’ and a ‘lesbian’ for the crime of dedicating her life to fighting the same enemy her father fought in World War II.
There is no greater evil than misogyny, and misogynistic abuse or actions are among the best indicators of the evil of a cause. The degeneration of the French Revolution – in its origins, progressive and emancipatory – into an orgy of bloodshed and intolerance was starkly symbolised by the brutally misogynistic trial of Marie-Antoinette; Edmund Burke had been more than a little justified when he lamented a few years earlier that ‘little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her [Marie-Antoinette] in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honor and of cavaliers. I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult. But the age of chivalry is gone.’ According to the Italian Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s proto-fascist ‘Manifesto of Futurism’ of 1909, published in a journal edited by a friend and mentor of Mussolini, ‘We want to glorify war – the only hygiene of the world – militarism, patriotism, the anarchist’s destructive gesture, the fine ideas that kill, and the scorn of women. We want to destroy museums, libraries, fight against moralism, feminism, and all opportunistic and utilitarian cowardices.’
Of course, misogynists do not necessarily hate all women; they often respect those who conform to their ideals of what a woman should be: ‘chaste’, ‘virtuous’, respectful of the patriarchal order, etc. Indeed, there is nothing the chauvinist mind hates more than a woman who refuses to conform: e.g. one who is sexually liberated; or a feminist; or a lesbian. Fascists and bigots from the Islamic world target ‘un-Islamic’ women with particular viciousness: gang-raping them; throwing acid in their faces; stoning them. One of the young Islamic terrorists who planned to attack the London nightclub ‘Ministry of Sound’ in 2004 expressed his belief that the ‘slags dancing around’ would deserve what they got. Fascists take a particular delight in targetting the weak and vulnerable, whether Jews, gypsies, disabled people, homosexuals, immigrants or anyone else; their hatred of women falls into this category.
Violent misogyny has its own inglorious tradition in Serbia. The roots of Serbia’s twentieth-century disasters can be traced back to a psychopathological misogynistic crime: the murder of King Aleksandar Obrenovic and Queen Draga in 1903. Chauvinistic hatred focused on the fact that Queen Draga was older than her husband; that she was incapable of having children; and above all that she had a sexual history before her marriage; the king was despised for marrying this supposedly ‘immoral’ woman. The army officers who murdered them in May 1903 stripped their corpses naked and mutilated them before throwing them out of the window. In place of the relatively civilised Obrenovic regime, this coup brought to power in Serbia ultranationalist elements whose expansionist adventures dragged Serbia, first into a genocidal war of conquest against the Ottomans in 1912, then into war with Bulgaria, then into the disaster of World War I, which claimed the lives of perhaps a quarter of Serbia’s population. As one eminent anti-nationalist Serbian historian told me, Serbia still has not healed itself of the murders of 1903.
The promotion of women’s emancipation by the Communist-led Partisans in Yugoslavia during World War II, and the presence of women in the Partisans, provided the occasion for misogynistic propaganda on the part of both Croat and Serb fascists and collaborators. According to one Croatian Ustasha source, the Partisans ‘are in many places bloodthirsty, particularly the female persons in their ranks’. For his part, the Nazi-collaborationist Chetnik leader Draza Mihailovic complained: ‘Communist women are recognisable by the fact that they are immoral; using free love they approach and seduce our men, particularly those who place fun above duty.’ The Partisan victory over the Ustashas and Chetniks in 1945 represented a massive step forward for women’s emancipation. Conversely, when the Great Serb chauvinists attempted – largely successfully – in the 1990s to destroy the modern, multiethnic Bosnian republic and society established by the Partisans and Communists and to replace it with an ethnically pure Great Serbian state, their campaign involved the mass rape of Bosnian women.
So when we stand in solidarity with Sonja Biserko against her attackers, we are not merely speaking up for a principled and heroic individual, and for a free and democratic Serbia. We are speaking out against the very lowest form of scum that the human race is capable of producing.
Army general Veljko Kadijevic (pictured), former Secretary for People’s Defence in the government of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia, therefore the top Yugoslav military commander at the time of the 1991 war in Croatia, has been awarded Russian citizenship. Kadijevic was, after Slobodan Milosevic, probably the single individual most responsible for launching Serbia’s war of aggression against its neighbours in the early 1990s. Thanks to him and to his deputy, Chief of Staff Blagoje Adzic, Milosevic’s regime in Serbia was able to employ the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) to wage its war of conquest in Croatia, and subsequently in Bosnia. Without this army, Serbia would have lacked the military superiority over Croatia and Bosnia that made this war of conquest feasible.
Kadijevic was a traitor to Yugoslavia. In his memoirs, published in Belgrade in the 1990s, he admits that his policy from the spring of 1990, when non-Communist regimes came to power in Slovenia and Croatia, was to bring about the ‘peaceful’ exit of these republics from the Yugoslav federation – with appropriate territorial concessions on Croatia’s part, of course. This policy has been confirmed in the published diary of his ally, Borisav Jovic, the former Yugoslav president, Serbian representative on the federal presidency and president of Milosevic’s Socialist Party of Serbia, who admits that he and Kadijevic planned ‘forcibly to expel’ Slovenia and a dismembered Croatia from Yugoslavia. So Kadijevic’s war in Croatia had nothing to do with preserving Yugoslav unity. Nor was he motivated by loyalty to the Yugoslav constitutional order. In 1991, he travelled to Moscow to seek the support of his Soviet counterpart, Dmitry Yazov, for a projected military coup in Yugoslavia (Yazov was, it will be remembered, an equally treacherous conspirator involved in the coup against Mikhail Gorbachev later that year).
Thus, Kadijevic saw his job as ‘defence minister’ as defending ‘Yugoslavia’ from its own government and presidency. Although he vacillated between support for military dictatorship to keep Yugoslavia united, and support for the break-up of Yugoslavia and establishment of a Great Serbia, it was the latter policy for which he eventually opted. Yet Kadijevic was, at all times, a close ally of Milosevic’s regime in Serbia and enemy of the other Yugoslav republics (except for Serbia’s satellite Montenegro), ready to violate his duties toward the Yugoslav presidency, which was constitutionally his supreme commander, in the interests of this alliance. Before Franjo Tudjman’s Croatian nationalists had even had a chance to take over the reigns of power in Croatia, in the interval in 1990 following their electoral victory over the former Croatian Communists and during the handover of power, Kadijevic carried out the disarmament of Croatia’s Territorial Defence, in close consultation with Jovic, who was then Yugoslav president. Thus did Kadijevic begin the Serbian war of aggression against Croatia, before Tudjman’s regime had even had a chance to be guilty of anything whatsoever. Yet subsequently, when Croatia’s Stjepan Mesic became Yugoslav President, Kadijevic simply ignored Mesic’s instructions to the Yugoslav army, as he gloatingly recalls in his memoirs. In other words, his ‘obedience’ to his supreme commander, the Yugoslav presidency, was entirely dependent on whether the latter was pursuing Serbia’s policy or not. The war Kadijevic and the Yugoslav army waged against Croatia was totally illegal and unconstitutional; it was not authorised by the Yugoslav presidency (partly because there was no functioning presidency – Serbia having blocked the election of a Yugoslav president in May 1991, effectively leaving the country without an executive).
Kadijevic’s enmity was not, however, limited to Yugoslav politicians such as Mesic who supported Croatian independence; he was a sworn enemy also of Yugoslav Prime Minister Ante Markovic, a man who – unlike Milosevic, Jovic and Kadijevic himself – actually supported a united Yugoslavia. And although Kadijevic was sacked by the Belgrade regime before full-scale war in Bosnia was launched, he was instrumental in preparing the ground for the destruction of Bosnia – the one Yugoslav republic aside from Macedonia that actually wanted to keep Yugoslavia together (Milosevic’s Serbia declared its independence from Yugoslavia back in September 1990 – before Alija Izetbegovic was even elected to power in Bosnia – then formally announced its secession for the second time in March 1991, when Milosevic stated that Serbia would no longer be bound by the authority of the Yugoslav presidency).
Kadijevic is himself a native of Croatia, from near the town of Imotski, and despite his support for the Great Serbian war-drive in 1990-91, is of ethnically mixed background, with a Serb father and a Croat mother. He was, nevertheless, the man responsible for destroying the Croatian town of Vukovar in 1991; in his published diary, Jovic describes Kadijevic’s policy in Croatia as one of ‘destroying cities’. Not surprisingly, therefore, Croatia issued an Interpol warrant for Kadijevic’s arrest. Now, however, Russia’s award of citizenship to Kadijevic definitely stymies any possibility for Kadijevic’s extradition, as Russian law forbids the extradition of Russian citizens.
Russia’s sheltering of this Yugoslav traitor and mass murderer is, of course, what one would expect from the regime of Vladimir Putin, a man who is, in many ways, a kindred spirit of Kadijevic’s. One would, indeed, have been stunned if Moscow had respected Kadijevic’s international arrest warrant; Putin’s regime has not exactly been notable for its respect for international law. Yet Moscow might not, at least, have been able to get away with this quite so easily had the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague itself indicted Kadijevic.
The sad truth is, however, that neither Kadijevic nor his former deputy Adzic has been indicted by the Hague tribunal. The two top military officers of the army that was formally Yugoslav but de facto Serbian, who presided over the planning and launching of the wars against Croatia and Bosnia, were ultimately not considered worthy of prosecution by the ICTY’s prosecutors.
The same cannot be said for the two top military officers of the army that defended Bosnia. Sefer Halilovic and Rasim Delic, chief of staff and commander of the Bosnian army respectively, were both indicted by the Hague tribunal, despite the cases against them being extremely weak. While Halilovic was wholly acquitted by the judges, Rasim Delic was last month acquitted of most of the charges against him, including murder, but found guilty only of ‘cruel treatment’ of prisoners at the village of Livade and the Kamenica camp in the period July-August 1995. He was sentenced to three years in prison which, given that he has already spent nearly half that time in custody, means that he will be out soon.
Delic was, unlike Kadijevic, a professional officer who played no role in politics until full-scale war in Bosnia broke out in the spring of 1992. Up till that time, he had been simply a loyal soldier of the Yugoslav army, but he then joined Bosnia’s defenders. Given his lack of political ambition and his readiness to serve President Izetbegovic unquestioningly, he was promoted to the top post in the Bosnian army in 1993 in place of the self-willed Halilovic. During the last two years of the Bosnian war, 1993-95, he quietly allowed the Izetbegovic regime and the ruling Party of Democratic Action to assume full control over the Bosnian army, turning it into a politicised instrument of their own rule.
For all that, it is remarkable – given the degree of the brutality to which Bosnia and its population were subjected by the forces of Milosevic’s Serbia and Radovan Karadzic’s Bosnian Serb rebels – just how small-scale were the war-crimes carried out by the Bosnian army. Despite being Bosnia’s top commander for over two years, Delic was convicted only of failing to prevent or punish the cruel treatment of twelve captured Serb soldiers in a single village and camp in July and August 1995. The troops responsible for these abuses, furthermore, were not regular Bosnian soldiers, but foreign mujahedin, whose agenda was not that of the Bosnian army as a whole and over whom Delic’s authority was uncertain. Although two of the members of the ICTY’s three-judge panel felt that Delic could have punished the mujahedin for the abuses in Kamenica, presiding judge Bacone Moloto argued in a dissenting opinion that Delic ‘did not have effective control over the EMD at any time from the time of his assumption of duties as the Commander of the Main Staff of the ABiH…until the EMD was disbanded’ (the ‘EMD’ or ‘El Mujahed Detachment’ being the Bosnian army’s unit of foreign mujahedin). Be this as it may, there is no suggestion that Delic ordered the abuses. His crime may be compared in scale to the largest crime carried out by Serb forces in the same period, under the direction of Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic himself: the genocidal massacre of 8,000 Bosniak men and boys at Srebrenica.
So there we have it: the contrasting fates of generals Kadijevic and Delic. The first was an orchestrator of the war and of the destruction of Yugoslavia, who ordered the conquest of Croatia, presided over the destruction of Vukovar and siege of Dubrovnik, and laid the ground for the attack on Bosnia. The second was a professional officer who avoided politics until his country was attacked, and then led a military campaign notable for abuses that were small and few enough that the prosecution had difficulty pinning anything at all on him. The second was indicted by the ICTY; the first was not. This is the work of what some would have us believe is an ‘anti-Serb tribunal’.
While we are on the subject of the ‘anti-Serb bias’ of the ICTY – all part of the global German-American-Vatican-Comintern-Zionist-Islamist conspiracy to frame Milosevic, Karadzic and their lovely, merry men as bad people – it is worth comparing the treatment of the crimes at Livade and Kamenica with those at Vukovar. The top Bosnian commander was indicted for crimes carried out by irregular forces in a particular locality, while for the much larger-scale crime carried out at Ovcara following the capture of Vukovar, only middle-ranking Yugoslav officers were indicted. For the murder, torture and cruel treatment of 194 patients taken from the Vukovar hospital following its capture by the Serbs, Mile Mrksic was sentenced to twenty years’ imprisonment. Veselin Sljivancanin received five years imprisonment for aiding and abetting the torture of the victims, while Miroslav Radic was acquitted of all charges.
Yes, that’s right – the ‘anti-Serb tribunal’ at which Naser Oric and Sefer Halilovic were acquitted, and at which Rasim Delic received only a three-year sentence, also acquitted one of the three Yugoslav officers accused over the massacre of Vukovar hospital patients at Ovcara, and sentenced one of the others to only five years.
And if that’s evidence of ‘anti-Serb bias’, then I’m Sarah Palin.
In fairness, the ICTY’s shocking, disgraceful record in prosecuting the top military leaders of the Bosnian people’s struggle against genocide while failing to prosecute the top military leaders of the side carrying out the genocide should be seen in context. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) last year found Serbia guilty of failing to prevent and punish genocide at Srebrenica, but acquitted it of graver genocide-related charges that might have involved financial compensation for the plaintiff. Despite its indisputable role in organising, arming and financing the Bosnian Serb army responsible for Srebrenica, Serbia got away scot free. Likewise, Dutch courts recently ruled that neither the United Nations nor the Dutch state could be held responsible for the failure to prevent the Srebrenica massacre; the Dutch because their soldiers (‘peacekeepers’) who failed to defend the enclave were under UN command; the UN because it enjoys immunity. So the ICTY’s record, poor though it is, is probably no worse than the record of international justice and the courts in general.
Justice for genocide victims ? Just ask General Kadijevic…
I apologise to my readers for the absence of posts recently. I have been on holiday, and am currently attending a conference abroad. Normal blogging activity will hopefully resume after I return home on Sunday.
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