July 2008

The propaganda bin of Balkans

by Limbic on July 31, 2008

[Preamble: This post takes issue with a few paragraphs of a very long and overall excellent report from Kosovo. I have the author at a disadvantage as I am nitpicking over words and phrases that perhaps I have misinterpreted and that perhaps require more context. Please judge for yourselves by reading the article first before this commentary.]

“Why is it that the worst extremes of jingoism and racialism have to be tolerated when they come from an Irishman?  Why is a statement like “My country right or wrong” reprehensible if applied to England and worthy of respect if applied to Ireland (or for that matter to India)? For there is no doubt that some such convention exists and that “enlightened” opinion in England can swallow even the most blatant nationalism so long as it is not British nationalism. Poems like “Rule, Britannia!” or “Ye Mariners of England” would be taken seriously if one inserted at the right places the name of some foreign country, as one can see by the respect accorded to various French and Russian war poets to-day.” – George Orwell’s review of “Drums under the Windows” by Sean O’Casey [ The Observer, 28 October 1945]

Michael Totten has published another instalment of his Balkan series, this time a look at secularism and Islamism in contemporary Kosovo. I get the feeling he is trying to get the point across that Kosovo is not some Islamist beach-head in Europe as some have claimed, but a highly secular country filled with nominal Muslims who are really more pro-American Europeans than anything else.

The article inadvertently makes a powerful case for showing that Albanian Nationalism is THE enormously powerful core value that binds the society. Totten quotes Stacy Sullivan on the KLA, “their only religion was Albanianism.” To me this reads that Nationalism has the same fervour and power as religion, that Albanians – regardless of which national territory they are in – see themselves as first and foremost Albanian, with national and religious loyalties following.  This makes Serbian radical nationalism look comparatively mild.

I wish Michael had got the Serb side of the story. He speaks to many Albanians – many of them scholars and diplomats – and they freely comment on what they think Serbs think, but we do not hear from a single Serb.  I think this is a glaring oversight for Michael. He really should have found the time to speak to Serbs, especially moderate Serbs and the embattled communities living in NATO guarded ghettos in the South of Kosovo.

Through the series we keep hearing from nasty Serb characters, and we are constantly told of Serb malignancy, yet it is the non-Serbs who betray their bigotries and prejudice.

Even Professor Xhabir Hamiti from the Islamic Studies Department at the University of Prishtina, opined:

“But here [Kosovo]…we haven’t had anything to do with Serbs and the Slavic language and the Slavic culture. Our culture is different, our language is different and they hate us.”

And “they” hate us, huh? “They” are are the Serbs, who we learned in previous dispatches are “not all bad”.

I suppose Professor Hamiti has failed to notice that far from having nothing to do with Slavic Culture and Language, Albanians in Kosovo have been living cheek by jowl with Serbs for hundreds of years. Almost every Kosovo Albanian speaks Serbian. The two cultures are deeply embedded in each other and the future of peace and prosperity for all means the continued integration and fostering of respect of these neighbour’s cultures.

The Kosovo government or their EU/UN overseers know this. Michael photographed billboard’s celebrating tolerance, but they compete with desecrated churches, sign posts with Serbian blackened out and the casual racist comments and attitude of like those of Professor Hamiti.

One key passage Michael writes:

“Kosovo’s war, then, wasn’t religious. It was ethnic. Christians did not fight Muslims; Serbs fought Albanians. Serbian nationalists ethnically-cleansed Kosovo’s Catholics right along with the Muslims”

And in turn Albanian Nationalists Ethnically Cleansed non-Albanians: the Roma, Gorani (Muslims) and Serbs from Kosovo. Today in Serbia and Croatia nationalism is in steep decline, yet we are pouring in support and aid to Albanian Ethnic nationalists. It reminds me of the quote by Orwell at the start of this post.

“Why is it that the worst extremes of bigotry and racism have to be tolerated when they come from an Albanian?  Why is a statement like “My country right or wrong” reprehensible if applied to Serbs and worthy of respect if applied to Kosovo (or for that matter to Croatia)? For there is no doubt that some such convention exists and that “enlightened” opinion in the West can swallow even the most blatant nationalism so long as it is not Serbian nationalism. ”

Michael writes,

“90 percent of all Kosovar Albanians, Catholic and Muslim alike, were displaced from their homes by Milosevic’s armed forces during their ethnic-cleansing campaign. In 1999 they were allowed to return to their homes under NATO protection. Enraged mobs then set to firebombing Serb houses and Serbian Orthodox churches.”

He, like so many, has forgotten what actually happened. There was no “campaign”. Those people were displaced more by the bombing and by the terrifying reports they were getting from the West  than anything real on the ground.
When 2,000,000 refugee’s fled the Swat Valley in Pakistan after the Pakistani government attacked the Taliban, no one declared that they were “ethnically cleansed”. They were doing what civilians do when war starts, they fled the fighting.
Two years of insurgency and counter-insurgency did not cause a refugee crisis, yet three days after the NATO bombing commenced, people started pouring over the borders?  To claim it was because orchestrated “ethnic cleansing” belies the facts.
When the bombing stopped, the Albanian civilians flooded back. And when they got back, they continued the campaign of ethnic violence and harassment that had been under way since 1996, but now without the retraining presence Yugoslav soldiers to protect the non-Albanian minorities.

Five years later, in 2004, violence exploded in Kosovo once again following rumors that Serbs chased Albanian children into the Ibar River where they drowned. Serb and Albanian gunmen fired shots at each other from their respective sides of the river. Mobs of enraged Albanians burned Serb churches and houses for three days. According to U.N. spokeswoman Isabella Karlowitz, 16 churches and 110 houses were destroyed. Dozens were killed. Hundreds were wounded…Neither Catholic citizens nor Catholic churches were touched in either of these spasms of violence.”

So the the hatred is reserved for non-Albanians. So what? In the 21st Century we have a large block of people in the region showing signs of fanatical transcendental nationalism (“The religion of Albanianism”)  and they are oppressing their national minorities (the few remaining Serbs, Roma and Gorani) yet it is Serbs that command worry and attention. It is Serbia – which underwent  regime change nearly 10 years ago – that is the bad boy of the region, whilst Kosovo and Albania – hotbeds of radical nationalism – are glorified thanks to their being “allies” to the friend starved US.  And it is not over, Serbs are still oppressed in contemporary Kosovo. The excuse? Putative Serb wrongs nearly a decade ago.

Albania and Kosovo aren’t the only countries in the Balkan Peninsula where ethnic Albanians live. They also inhabit a portion of southeastern Montenegro near the Albanian border.

Michael forgot Serbia, where hundreds of thousands of Albanians live in peace and have done so for hundreds of years. Their only problems are intra-Albanian rivalries and blood feuds. How does that square with all the propaganda about the oppression of Albanians? The only place in Europe where there has been peacetime ethnic cleaning of national minorities in the 21st century is…..KOSOVO. Tell me again why we are harassing the Serbs, the victims of this aggression and nationalism?

Finally, in the comment of the piece, someone writes:

“I have found your [Michael Totten’s] writings on Kosovo very interesting but I have seen numerous pictures of burned out churches and interviews with Serbs that indicate they are not at all welcome in Kosovo now. I also have to question references to genocide since the death tolls were 100’s of thousands less than we were told they were to justify bombing civilian targets in Yugoslavia.”

Michael responds,

“The death toll in the war, by the way, was less because NATO stopped Milosevic long before it could turn into another Bosnia. “

This is of course the great post-fact speculation that is used to justify what was a baseless and illegal act of war. The singular fact that everyone should keep in mind is that the justifications for the bombing all turned out to be baseless. The supposed massacres and war crimes that were touted as justifications were as unreal as the Iraq’ “Weapons of Mass Destruction”. Nearly a decade of desperate search has revealed nothing to support NATO’s lies in the build up to war. The mass migration of Albanian civilians started after the NATO bombing started, not as a result of Serb Ethnic cleansing (there had been serious fighting since 1998) but as a response to the bombing and the chilling propaganda exaggerations put out by NATO’s black ops propagandists.

For a thorough demolition of anti-Serb propaganda and an account of the injustices against then, see “Travesty” by John Laughland.

Michael J. Totten: The Bin Ladens of the Balkans, Part I

{ 3 comments }

Trouble outside

by Limbic on July 29, 2008

Serbian Gendermes (Riot police) redeploy shortly after violent clashes with hooligan protesters from a pro-Karadzic rally

Earlier this evening the pro-Karadzic rally called by the Serbian Radical party turned violent (B92 report now online).

It all happened very fast, with a group of hooligans spotting a relatively isolated unit of riot police, putting on masks and attacking.

I think the incident could have been prevented by a more organised police response. The police were deployed side-on to the advancing hooligans (lining the road), and it took their commander way too long to order them to redeploy as a phalanx (lined up across the road).

They also nearly had a perfect opportunity to isolate and arrest the worst troublemakers. At around 21:48, the hooligans were forcing the police back down Makedonska, away from the junction with Decanska. Just then a unit of 30 cops suddenly appeared from Decanska and walked single file into Makedonska, trapping the hooligans between themselves and the other unit, who were now counter attacking. Unfortunately it took those cops too long to figure out that the people running past them were fleeing from their colleagues 200m away. They did eventually try to close the trap but they only managed to arrest 5 or 6 people (giving them a thorough hiding in the process).

Here is my time line from earlier…

21:42 – I am watching live on TV events I can hear right outside my window…Hooligans putting on masks and appearing to tool up on Makedonska.

21:43 – Now attacking cops with firecrackers and bottles.

21:48 – Cops are in a bad position, lined up longways on Makendonska. Another unit walked into it. One firebomb and flares. Cops withdraw down Makedonska towards Politika. Teargas used. Now its stirring up the main crowd at Trg Republika like hornets.

21:49 – Teargas used. Looting on Makedonska. Baton charge!

21:53 – Cops holding (just) corner of Decanska and Makedonska. Stone bins broken up for missiles. Reinforcements in vans heading up 29th November with sirens on.

21:56 – Cops using rubber bullets and flashbangs. Very badly organised. Some running off into battle without support then turning around to exhort their colleagues to follow. Bunched up. Very dangerous if there are petrol bombs.

22:01 – Cops have cleared Makedonska in a series of baton charges. Fighting now on Trg Republika. Ambulances helping wounded cops on Makedonska. Three or four with head injuries. Plain-clothes cops now emerging [ I saw this cop in the orange shirt on B92 chatting to colleagues after this incident]. A commander talking into his radio furiously. A stream of injured cops keeps heading down Makedonska to the staging area near Politika. Two lines holding the mob at the eastern edge of Trg Republika. Massive police reinforcements arriving from Kolarceva (the units guarding Parliament?).

22:04 – Cops being brutal to hooligans they catch but where has the mob gone? I can hear them, sounds like they are on Despota Stefana (29th November). This is dangerous becuase the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is nearby on Skadarlija. Flashbangs on or near George Washington.

22:18 – Fighting, sirens. Chaos on Republic Square (Trg Republika). News reports fighting on Knez Mihailova street too (the main pedestrian street in Belgrade). Random vandalism and looting on the north eastern side of the square. Police reinforcements seem to be flooding in now. You can tell immediately the difference between the full time (and properly trained) riot police  – the Gendarmes – and the ordinary cops-in-armour. The Gendarmes are well organised, orderly and hold a line. They also have blue helmets (not white), smaller blank shields  and distinctive red shoulder patches. Here is a Genderme unit guarding Knez Mihailova. The other police units were a rabble. They were very nearly overcome on Makedonska. The fire-bomb panicked them.  Tatjana Aleksic (a call in reporter on B92) sounds like she was crying as she described some of the violence (tear gas?)

22:30 – It looks like the expert riot police have taken charge with the rest holding and guarding. There are intermittent bangs from huge fire-crackers or police flashbangs. I think the mob may have headed north west towards Student’s Park (Studenski Trg) and Dorcol. Targets there are the Mosque and possible (although unlikely) the Jewish Center on Kralja Petra, but this afternoon I saw hundreds of riot police posted there. I am hoping they have just dispersed, but somehow I am doubtful even though the rioters were clearly opportunists and not organised at all.

22:31 – I am off out to see what’s up.

23:22 – OK I am back, and I have some great photos and detailed report (to follow).

23:31 – Makedonska and the area around Trg Republika are covered in rubble, but there was no looting there as I previously thought. Not even a broken window. Trg Republika is now quite, guarded by exhausted looking riot cops and the smell of teargas is still strong. There are TV crews and photographers roaming around. A spotted a surprising number of foreigners, I met on group who were loudly asking directions right next to a group of serious hooligans who simply ignored them. There is trouble elsewhere, becuase every now and again the police Intervention Squad (the guys in Range Rovers) would roar through in convoy. There is nothing going on at Makedonska, Trg Republika (Republic Square), Kolarceva and as far as I could see or hear up Terazija. In short, the city centre seems to be safe again. There are lost of ambulances, I saw them loading up at least one guy with a serious head injury. There were a group of police officers desperately trying to find out what had happened to one of their colleagues, six or seven of them on phones and radios trying to get word. I felt very sorry for them, they looked very worried.

23:52 – Cops officially declare situation is under control. About 25 cops and a similar number of protesters injured.

UPDATE: Here are my picture and Videos!

Riot police secure the junction of Makedonska and Decanska streets shortly after violent clashes with hooligan protestors from a pro-Karadzic rally

Riot police secure the junction of Makedonska and Decanska streets shortly after violent clashes with hooligan protestors from a pro-Karadzic rally

The view down Makedonska towards where the police positions were. Riot debris covers the road.

The view down Makedonska towards where the police positions were. Riot debris covers the road.

Another view of the damage on Makedonska.

Another view of the damage on Makedonska.

The view towards nearby Trg Republika (Republic Square). The hooligans where pushed back onto the square where some of the heaviest fighting took plac.

The view towards nearby Trg Republika (Republic Square). The hooligans where pushed back onto the square where some of the heaviest fighting took place.

A 15 man riot squad rests shortly after fighting with hooligans at this junction.

A 15 man riot squad rests shortly after fighting with hooligans at this junction.

The section commander of these cops appeared to be getting instructions by phone. I noticed many police using mobiles and wonder if the police communications system was overwhelmed?

The section commander of these cops appeared to be getting instructions by phone. I noticed many police using mobiles and wonder if the police communications system was overwhelmed?

Belgrades fancy stone bins were broken up to make missiles for the rioters.

Belgrade’s fancy stone bins were broken up to make missiles for the rioters.

A Russian news crew filming the after-math.

A Russian news crew filming the aftermath.

A Russian news anchor report live from Belgrade. Seconds after this photos ws taken a group passing hooligans shouted Hvala Rusija - Thanks Russia!

A Russian news anchor reports live from Belgrade. Seconds after this photos ws taken a group passing hooligans shouted “Hvala Rusija” – Thanks Russia!

An exhausted riot squad guards Trg Republika

An exhausted riot squad guards Trg Republika

A foreign woman gets her son to pose at a smashed bin for a series pictures. She and her partner were laughing and joking, completely oblivious to the fact that the area was still dangerous, with large groups of angry tear-gassed young men still present.

A foreign woman gets her son to pose at a smashed bin for a series of pictures. She and her partner were laughing and joking, completely oblivious to the fact that the area was still dangerous, with large groups of angry tear-gassed young men still present.

A well known local drunk showed up carrying this purloined light shade. He was uttetly confused and asked me What happened here? (literally What was here?, as though it was the work of Godzilla)

A well known local drunk showed up carrying this purloined light shade. He was uttetly confused and asked me “What happened here?” (literally “What was here?”, as though it was the work of Godzilla)

Exhausted police rest at a bus stop.

Exhausted police rest at a bus stop.

A group of policemen desperately try and get news of an injured colleague via phone and police radio.

A group of policemen desperately try and get news of an injured colleague via phone and police radio.

One mans riot debris is another mans treasure trove. This chap and his partner collect tin cans for recycling (they get a few dinars for each can). The hooligans had kindly upset all the bins so it was a bonus day for him.

One man’s riot debris is another man’s treasure trove. This chap and his partner collect tin cans for recycling (they get a few dinars for each can). The hooligans had kindly upset all the bins so it was a bonus day for him.

B92 TV interviews outraged citizens.

B92 TV interviews outraged citizens.

The bad boys of the Serbian police, the notorious Intervention Squad, were rushing around in a 9 vehicle convoy, which is the biggest show of force I have seen from them.

The bad boys of the Serbian police, the notorious Intervention Squad, were rushing around in a 9 vehicle convoy, which is the biggest show of force I have seen from them.

Here are the Intervention squad zooming off in search of troublemakers elsewhere…

{ 5 comments }

Karadzic: The Other Side of the Story

by Limbic on July 28, 2008

.

“The prosecution has strong incentives to try to tell the story of the war, rather than focus narrowly on successful conviction. This is the international tribunal’s signature case — especially after the termination of the Milosevic prosecution — and it will be heavily institutionally invested in the outcome and the legacy it creates, the more so because this will be one of its last cases…Many passionate advocates for Bosnian justice expect the court not simply to produce legal outcomes concerning specific acts, but to contribute to a rich, deeply textured condemnation of the principal contributors to the war as a whole, and in a proper historical context.” – Timothy William Waters, Law Professor who helped prepare Milosevic indictment, commenting in the New York Times on the upcoming Karadzic trial at the ICTY and its explicit political and historical purpose [Source].

There is near universal delight about Karadzic’s arrest. People across the world are all happy he has been caught. As one friend wrote from the Isle of Man, “People talk about how great it is that Karadzic was arrested, which of course we all agree with, but they have no idea why. “

Here in Serbia the response is one of apathy, with some tiny outbursts of half-hearted protest and the press luridly focusing on Karadzic’s alter ego, Dr Dragan David Dabic.

It all seems so simple, everyone knows the story: Karadzic is a genocidal maniac who, together with his dog of War, Mladic, led a bloodthirsty nation of nationalist aggressors as they ethnic cleansed large swathes of Bosnia using genocide (Srebrenica), mass murder, mass rape and forced migration.

Its a pretty clear case of a bad guy (one newspapers went so far as describe Karadzic as “a devil in disguise“) being caught and now finally facing justice in a fair trial.

Or so it seems.

In recent days I have read three excellent articles that challenge the conventional wisdom about Karadzic (and Mladic).

The first is “Karadzic’s Arrest: Bosnian Myths Rehashed” by Srdja Trifkovic . Published in Chronicles Magazine, this essay is one of the most cogent defenses of Bosnian Serb position I have read so far. Here is an excerpt:

At the outset of the last Yugoslav crisis, the Serbs’ basic argument—even if seldom stated with simplicity and coherence—was clear when freed from rhetoric: they had lived in one state since 1918, when Yugoslavia came into being. They reluctantly accepted Tito’s arbitrarily determined internal boundaries between the six federal republics—which left one third of them outside Serbia-proper—on the grounds that the Yugoslav framework afforded them a measure of security from the repetition of the nightmare of 1941-1945; but they could not swallow an illegal ruse that aimed to turn them into minorities, overnight and by unconstitutional means, in their own land.

Even without the vividly remembered trauma of the Second World War, they reacted in 1991-1992 just as the Anglophone citizens of Texas or Arizona might do if they are outvoted, one day, in a referendum demanding those states’ incorporation into Mexico. They demanded the right that the territories, which the Serbs have inhabited as compact majorities long before the voyage of the Mayflower, not be subjected to the rule of their rivals. In the same vein the Protestant Ulstermen demanded – and were given – the right to stay apart from united Ireland when the nationalists in Dublin opted for secession in 1921. In the same vein the state of West Virginia was created in 1863, incorporating those counties of the Commonwealth of Virginia that refused to be forced into secession. The Loyalists of Ulster and the Unionists of West Virginia were just as guilty of a “Joint Criminal Enterprise” to break up Ireland, or the Old Dominion, as were the Serbs of Bosnia-Herzegovina who did not want to be dragged into secession against their will.

Yugoslavia was admittedly a deeply flawed polity, and there could have been no rational objection to the striving of Croats, and even Bosnian Muslims, to create their own nation-states. But equally there could have been no justification for forcing over two million Serbs west of the Drina to be incorporated into those states against their will, and without any guarantees of their rights. Yugoslavia came together in 1918 as a union of South Slav peoples, and not of states, or territorial units. Its divorce should have been effected on the same basis; the boundaries of the republics should have been altered accordingly.

This is, and has been, the real foundation of the Yugoslav conflict ever since the first shots were fired in the summer of 1991. Even someone as unsympathetic to the Serb point of view as Lord David Owen conceded that Josip Broz Tito’s internal administrative boundaries between Yugoslavia’s republics were grossly arbitrary, and that their redrawing should have been countenanced at the time of Yugoslavia’s disintegration:

Incomprehensibly, the proposal to redraw the republics’ boundaries had been rejected by all eleven EC countries… [T]o rule out any discussion or opportunity for compromise in order to head off war was an extraordinary decision. My view has always been that to have stuck unyieldingly to the internal boundaries of the six republics within the former Yugoslavia… as being the boundaries for independent states, was a folly far greater than that of premature recognition itself.

[From: Karadzic’s Arrest: Bosnian Myths Rehashed by Srdja Trifkovic, Chronicles magazine, July 2008]

The second is by “The Plight of the Bosnian Serbs” by John Laughland (I am currently reading and thoroughly enjoying his book “Travesty“, about the Milosevic trial).

Laughland is a superb writer, scholar and essayist. His book travesty is brilliant and this article is a good introduction to some of his ideas.

He ends this article with a point about Srebrenica and the huge efforts to have the mass murder classified as “genocide”:

Unfortunately, there is a very clear political reason why it has been so categorised. The Muslim president of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Haris Silaijdzic, said carefully on CNN the day Karadzic was captured that Karadzic’s trial was only the beginning of the process by which justice would be done in Bosnia. He said that there were hundreds of thousands of Muslims who had been ethnically cleansed by “Karadzic and Milosevic” and that their project therefore remained in force. The clear implication of what he was saying was this: if the very existence of the Bosnian Serb republic (the autonomous region within Bosnia carved out from the republic during the civil war) is found, in a court of law, to have been had as its president a man, Karadzic, who is convicted of genocide in the process of creating it, then its status would be illegitimate and it should be abolished. The Muslims continue to claim control over the whole of the territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina, while the Serbs merely want the preservation of their considerable autonomy within it.

In other words, far from bringing peace to the Balkans, it is quite possible that a conviction of Karadzic for genocide will reopen the Dayton settlement and egg the Muslims on to claim control over the Serb republic too. Under such circumstances, it is inevitable that the Bosnian Serbs would try to proclaim formal secession from Bosnia, just as the Kosovo Albanians did from Serbia.

In Travesty he notes of the grossly exaggerated claims of Serb atrocities putatively committed in Kosovo, that the West was desperate to also have these classified as “genocide”. What is so important about having a crime classified as “genocide” or not? Surely establishing the fact that unlawful mass murder took place is sufficient?

Not when you are not seeking justice at all, but rather pretexts for war and intervention:

These claims of genocide had a general and particular function. Their general function was to work as war propaganda. Their particular function was a legal one. Genocide is a specific crime under international humanitarian law, coming under “universal jurisdiction’, and the existing treaties on it require all states to prosecute those accused of it. NATO leaders pretend that this meant there exists a right to “humanitarian intervention” where genocide is occurring, while in fact there is not. [From pg.11, “Travesty” by John Laughland, Pluto Press (2007)]

So this is why one keeps hearing about genocide in Kosovo even though there was none.

Laughland’s book is a revelation. It is an utter demolition of the bogus justifications for the bombing of Yugoslavia, the idea that the ICTY is anything but an illegal political instrument for conducting show trials and that the Serbs are overwhelmingly to blame for what transpired in Yugoslavia.

I will explore Laughland’s arguments about the ICTY in a separate post, but suffice it to say that after reading only the first few chapters of the book, I am completely convinced – as a relative neutral – that the “rich, deeply textured condemnation of the principal contributors to the war as a whole” that the ICTY is expected to deliver will be a grossly biased distortion of history based on show trials. It is yet another example of how lies pass into history.

The third and final article is by the Mick Hume, on of the UK’s best skeptics and questioners of convention:

It seemed strangely fitting that Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was found in an elaborate disguise when he was finally arrested, accused of genocide. Many in the international community have spent more than a decade dressing up this unexceptional local nationalist leader as a Hitlerian monster.

…The moral crusade to turn the Serbs into the new Nazis, pursued after the Yugoslav civil war through the hunt for Karadzic on charges of genocide, has served as a strange sort of therapy for many in the West. By branding the Serbs as evil, they have found a way to make themselves feel righteous. In the process, they have distorted the realities of Yugoslavia’s civil wars, risked diminishing the history of the Nazi Holocaust, and paved the way for further disastrous Western interventions.

That last point makes the Western crusaders even more determined to hang on to their anti-Serb banners today. The Balkan wars of the 1990s marked the high tide of the liberal left’s new moral case for international intervention in the affairs of nation states. The Iraq debacle has since left the credibility of that cause in tatters. The notion that they were taking a stand against the new Nazis in Bosnia and Kosovo has become just about the only thing the pro-interventionists can hold on to as proof that they are on the side of right.

…Neither I nor anybody else at spiked supports Karadzic. During the war in Bosnia he acted as a self-important petty nationalist with a romantic dream and a ruthless streak. And he was far from alone in that. The campaign to demonise Karadzic and nail him for genocide before an international war crimes tribunal, however, has been a politically motivated circus that serves interests other than justice. The fact that he has been arrested as a diplomatic stunt to help the new Serb government gain entry to the European Union is in keeping with a campaign that has been politically loaded from the start.

Read the entire article over at Spiked.

If you give these three articles a fair read, I doubt you will be able to tolerate the simplistic accounts of events one reads in the media. You may even see Karadzic in an entirely new light, not of saint or even innocent but just one of the three wartime Bosnian leaders, the one who happens to be Serb – and therefore automatically on the wrong side.

One can, as I do, deplore Srebrenica (and the other crimes of that war) accept it was “genocide” but simultaneously see the ICTY as a sham designed in part to lend legitimacy to an account of history that is based on falsehoods that lay disproportionate blame on the Serbs to justify aggression against the Serbs after the fact.

I still maintain that we need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to counter exactly the sort of politically motivated falsehoods currently being added to the record by the ICTY.

I think that Karadzic and Mladic should stand trial, but fair trial, in open court with exactly the dame rules of evidence and due processes respected in UK and US criminal courts. I also think the civilian leadership of the other warning parties should be indicted in the same way the Serbs were. Of the 17 civilian (non military, police or militias) indictees, 15 are Serb, 1 is Croatian and 1 is Albanian. The Albanian is indicted for contempt of tribunal for refusing to be a witness in a case.

This indicated that either (A) the Serbian politicians were considerably worse than their Bosnian, Albanian and Croatian counterparts or (B) the ICTY has an objective an attack on the ideological and political underpinnings of the Serb position, not just acts that were war crimes. The more I read on this subject the more I tend to believing B.

{ 0 comments }

Last summer I was enjoying a drink with a friend in his apartment overlooking the Thames and Canary Wharf. His adorable little three year old daughter was entertaining us with songs and dancing and other antics. At one point she sat on his knee and asked what he was drinking. After he told he it was beer she asked if she could taste it, which is what you would expect a curious child to ask. He said yes, but before he could raise the glass to the child’s lips his wife exploded in anger and shouted “No! What are you doing? Do you want them to take her!?”

It transpired that “them” were local social workers who had taken an interest in the child, lets call her M, after they had discovered some bruising on her back (she had fallen). They had subjected her mother to what she describes as fierce interrogation. Why is she so small, is she being fed properly? Where did these bruises come from etc.

Now two minutes with this family would convince anyone that M is both adored and adoring. One might even say as an only child she is bit pampered. M is healthy, her parent are wealthy working professionals and she lacks for nothing. Despite this he mother lives in fear that the social workers will get the wrong idea. Someone swearing in front of the chid caused near panic because she might repeat the word in front of the social worker, same with the beer incident, “what would happen if they found out we gave her beer!”.

It all seemed a bit paranoid to me, so I gently suggested as much. “They are taking children all the time”, M’s mother told me, ” in secret courts. Parents are genuinely scared of messing with these people”.

I knew that the family courts were absurdly cruel to fathers and that Father For Justice were making good progress in righting the injustices there. But secret draconian courts confiscating children. I thought she had lost her mind.

I was wrong.

In December 2006, Camilla Cavendish, a journalist from the Times newspaper, learned of a dreadful case that just gone through the family courts, a routine case of gross injustice that had come to typify the family courts.

The nub of the case is this. A woman, let us call her Janie, gave birth to her first and only child a year ago. That baby was taken away from her and subsequently put up for adoption. Not because of her own failure to care for the baby — her own love and care never seem to have been in question. No. She has lost her baby because of a suspicion that her husband John may have injured another child in his previous marriage almost ten years ago.

The suspicion was no more than that. John was never charged with anything, let alone convicted. Social workers were never sufficiently worried to take that first child into care. Since his divorce John has shared custody of that child perfectly amicably with his ex-wife. Yet the same local authority which left the first child with him has forbidden him to see this new baby. And his new wife, despite having nothing to do with the first case, may never see her baby again. [Family courts are the B-side of the law, The Times, December 21st 2006]

Cavendish was so outraged by this case started investigating the Family Court and the UK’s care system. What she discovered was so shocking that The Times newspaper launched a campaign for justice in the Family Courts.

As readers have found out more about the family Courts and the care system outrage has grown and the campaign had gathered strength. The issue is now finally getting serious political attention.

The Times published three must read articles and a follow-up 10 point plan to restore justice.

  1. Family justice: the secret state that steals our children – Every year thousands of children are taken from their parents, largely on the say-so of ‘experts’. It is a secret and sometimes unjust process and the system must change
  2. Family courts: the hidden untouchables – In the second of the special articles, they explain how family courts operate in secrecy
  3. Family justice: your word against theirs – In the third of their special articles, they look at the pernicious types of allegation that are almost impossible for parents to disprove
  4. Family justice: what we can do to protect our children – A ten-point plan to make our courts system fairer

When one reads the 10 point plan, one has to marvel that one has to be campaign for these rights and provisions in a court that has the power to take away people’s children, for many a fate worse than death.

  1. Open family courts to the press in all but exceptional circumstances (as recommended by the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee).
  2. Let any parent or carer accused of abuse call any witnesses they need in their defence. At the moment, they are routinely refused permission to do so.
  3. Give automatic permission for parents who are refused legal aid to get a lay adviser to help them present their case. This is routinely refused.
  4. Remove the restrictions that prevent families from talking about their case (as recommended by the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee).
  5. Review the definition of “emotional abuse” across local authorities, to make sure that it cannot become a catch-all for overzealous officials.
  6. Provide an automatic right for parents to receive copies of case conference notes and all evidence used against them in court, just as they would in a criminal trial.
  7. Create an independent body to oversee the actions of social services, with proper sanctions. If that body is to be the General Social Care Council, make it easier for parents to go directly to that body rather than having to face delays from the local authority.
  8. Let children in care waive their right to privacy if they wish to speak out. For gagging children is surely not consistent with promoting their welfare.
  9. Restructure CAFCASS, the Family Court Advisory Service, from being an organisation that reports on the parents to the courts to one that actively promotes the parenting needs of children. The primary focus should cease to be assisting the court process. It should be diverting parents away from contested hearings into the making of parenting plans.
  10. Review the recent legal aid cut-backs that are deterring lawyers from taking on these complex family cases. It is quite wrong that desperate parents are unable to find a lawyer to help them in their time of need.

    [From Family justice: what we can do to protect our children | Camilla Cavendish – Times Online]

I hope that Ms Cavendish wins an award for this great and just campaign. If you live in the UK, you really should visit the campaign website and write you your MP.

{ 17 comments }

The Eastern European Megamafia and Serbia

by Limbic on July 27, 2008

In June this year author & Balkanologist Misha Glenny was interviewed by B92 about his new book on organized crime “McMafia”.

The interview gives a fascinating insight into the role of organized crime in the Balkans, in particular their central role in the recent Balkan wars.

I have quoted the interview extensively here in a few sample questions:

B92: Can you define the moment when organized crime started to develop, or to proliferate in Serbia, or in the former Yugoslavia?

Glenny: I think that as a process it happened between 1988,1989 and 1991, by the time the war broke out in Croatia and the federal structures had completely collapsed. Then, all sides, particularly Serbia and particularly Croatia, very quickly Macedonia and Slovenia as well had created their paramilitary armies which were indistinguishable from the gangsters on the streets. And it’s no coincidence that all of the major criminal figures, in Serbia or in Croatia, for example, had a role to play in the war as well.

B92: In what way did their cooperation develop during the war?

Glenny: Well, here in Serbia, and in Croatia, and in Bosnia, one of the things that was going on was that the war was used as an excuse for, what one would call in Marxist terms, Primitive Capital Accumulation, i.e. in the battlefields, if the Croat unit or the Serb unit took an area, than, there would be a paramilitary team that would clear it of all its goods.

Television, fridges, whatever they could get their hands on. Sometimes, in the case of Eastern Slavonia, entire vineyards, oilfields and so on, and they would use this to start building up a criminal empire. Now what I felt when I was researching this about the 1990s, is because in the key instances there was a cooperation between gangsters and paramilitaries of all sides, i.e. Croats and Serbs cooperating together, Serbs and Albanians cooperating together in the heroin trade for example, that actually I came to review my belief about what happened in 1990s.

The real engine behind the wars was very little to do with nationalist conflict, and all to do with organized crime. Finding the way of seizing as much economic power in the various areas of the former Yugoslavia as possible, and establishing themselves as the key economic players in these countries.

B92: What was the role of the state? What was the role of the security services in Eastern Europe when it came to the development of organized crime?

Glenny: It was different in the former Yugoslavia from everywhere else. And that is because the slide to war meant that the state remained more powerful in Yugoslavia than it did, say, in neighboring Bulgaria. So, in neighboring Bulgaria, what tended to happen was that large number of security forces in 1989, 1990, were sacked from their jobs, and they were unemployed. They then used their skills of surveillance, creating criminal, or creating underground networks, killing people, smuggling – in Bulgaria, smuggling was very important – they became the new organized crime.

Here in Serbia or in Croatia, it was different because UDBA [former Yugoslav secret service] basically remained intact. It split along national lines obviously, but essentially the networks remained consistent with the state, and what they did was to develop a relationship with the paramilitaries, with the organized crime gangs, and so when you come on to something like cigarette smuggling from 1994 onwards, all of the states were getting their percentage, their cut from allowing the cigarette trade to go on through. They became mutually dependent.

B92: You say in your book that the Russians love their Slavic brothers, but that in the world of organized crime and weapons trade, one could hardly notice that.

Glenny: This is really important for me. The realization. When looking at the arms flows coming out of Ukraine and Russia, once the arms embargo was imposed on all republics of the former Yugoslavia, the amount of weaponry that went into Croatia from Ukraine and Russia is really quite astonishing. It was their primary source, the largest percentage of weapons coming into Croatia came from Russia and Ukraine and so, you know, it’s an example of how the mythology of strong political bond between, say, Moscow and Belgrade, is just that. When it comes to money, nationalism plays really insignificant role.

B92: Can you describe the role our criminals had in the development of organized crime? What was the role of the criminals from the former Yugoslavia?

Glenny: It was the very important role. And the reason why it was the important role is partly because of the specific function of the transit zone. For drugs, for women, for cigarettes, all going to the European Union, and it’s important to remember that this trade in Europe was driven by the huge demand of the EU citizens for drugs, illegal migrant labor, women, and so on… and it had a very important role there.

But, the other thing was the issue of the war, as a smoke screen for this activity, the so called fog of war), and also after the imposition of sanctions on the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, i.e. Serbia and Montenegro. Those sanctions were a disaster. Because Serbia and Montenegro were self sufficient in food, all they needed to get was oil, and all the surrounding countries were very, very weak, going through tough transitions. So over night in 1992, you’ve created the Pan-Balkan Mafia.

This was where the Bulgarians the Serbs, the Croats, the Romanians, the Hungarians, the Greeks, the Albanians, everyone became involved in supply of oil to Serbia, and then in order to finance the wars, the transit of goods and services out through the Balkans and into the EU. And that was an absolutely massive increase. Now, this all drew the attention of secret services in the European Union and the United States. They knew that there was a hell of a lot going on in the Balkans, they didn’t exactly know what to do about it, but its role in the 1990s, and in the first few years of the post millennium period, the “naughties” as we called them, was really important.

B92: You have dedicated the last chapter of your book to the future of organized crime. How is it different from what it is today?

Glenny: ….It is interesting for me to observe Bulgaria, where criminal elements are at this time more powerful than in Serbia, but Bulgaria is now an EU members. I think that organized crime and its power in Serbia are directly connected to Serbia’s links with the EU. If Serbia becomes an EU member, it will receive all sorts of incentives that are perhaps not visible now, but that are necessary, above all financial injections into the economically devastated areas. These areas are southern Serbia for example, near the borders. These are the generators of organized crime.

There’s Belgrade, too, of course, where most of the money is. If Serbia becomes an EU members, the organized crime problem will slowly diminish in the 10 to 15-year period. That has happed in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, to a lesser degree in Poland, although that’s a specific problem. I’m sure it will happen in Bulgaria too. EU membership will destroy organized crime or bring it to an acceptable level. If, however Serbia remains outside the EU, then possibilities for organized crime to consolidate and increase its influence in the country will open up. [From B92 – Insight – Off the air – “Criminals, key business players”]

{ 0 comments }

Anatomy of a Nationalist Protest

by Limbic on July 27, 2008

Yesterday afternoon I decided to attend one of the daily protests in support of Radovan Karadzic that are being organized by Serbian ultra-nationalists.

Here are a selection of pictures from the event, which was entirely peaceful, but in many ways utterly bizarre, especially when Mladic showed up…

A riot police staging position near Studenski Trg (Students Square). These vans are parked about 300m away from Trg Republika (Republic Square) where the rally is taking place.

A riot police staging position near Studenski Trg (Student’s Square). These vans are parked about 300m away from Trg Republika (Republic Square) where the rally is taking place.

This was the scene playing out as I arrived, about 20 minutes before the rally started in earnest. The music is, to my ear at least, unmistakeably Turkish. I have always be surprised at just how Turkish so much of the radical nationalist music and culture seems to be, even though it is completely understandable after 500 years of Turkish occupation. The instrument you hear being played is a Gusle, the same one played by Karadzic in his favourite pub in Belgrade.

The children in the picture were dancing a traditional dance just before this photo was taken.

The children in the picture were dancing a traditional dance just before this photo was taken.

Here is another eulogy to Karadzic, also sung in a distinctively middle eastern / Turkish way:

A man wearing a karadzic tshirt looks on as marshals prepare for the rally.

A man wearing a Karadzic t-shirt looks on as marshals prepare for the rally.

Protestors line up and sing patriotic songs

Protesters line up and sing patriotic songs

A weeping woman gives a three fingered nationalist gesture to onlookers

A weeping woman gives a three fingered nationalist gesture to onlookers

The protesters were mostly older people and tough looking young men. It looked like a few families had come up to Belgrade from Republika Srpska too.

Older people made up the majority of the protesters. There were also some tough looking young men and a few families, but the families looked like they had come up to Belgrade from the Republika Srpska.

The man on the left standard Serbian three fingered salute. The man on the right is making a strange new three fingered salute used by many protesters later.

The man on the left standard Serbian three fingered salute. The man on the right is making a strange new three fingered salute used by many protesters later.

The crowd was smaller than this picture suggests

The crowd was smaller than this picture suggests

The view from the podium

The view from the podium

A riot policeman jokes with colleagues. The police outnumbered the protesters three to one.

A riot policeman jokes with colleagues. The police outnumbered the protesters three to one.

A grinning man gestures to his poster of Radovan Karadzic.

A grinning man gestures to his poster of Radovan Karadzic.

A priest chats to a lady in the crowd. He later joined the protest leaders on the podium.

A priest chats to a lady in the crowd. He later joined the protest leaders on the podium.

This man stood there for hours holding his newspaper above his head. The old and the poor seemed to make up the bulk of the people at the protest.

This man stood there for hours holding his newspaper above his head. The old and the poor seemed to make up the bulk of the people at the protest.

A severe looking young man from 1389.org.yu keeps an eye on the crowd. To his left a man wears a Putin t-shirt. Russia remains the great hope for these protestors.

A severe looking young man from 1389.org.yu keeps an eye on the crowd. To his left a man wears a Putin t-shirt. Russia remains the great hope for these protesters.

Some onlookers wore clothes that matched their political eccentricities.

Some onlookers wore clothes that matched their political eccentricities.

From this angle you can see the protest was tiny.

From this angle you can see the protest was tiny.

When the rally got underway in earnest, people gathered behind the speakers to sing patriotic songs then listen to the speeches.

When the rally got under way in earnest, people gathered behind the speakers to sing patriotic songs then listen to the speeches. Notice the priest in the middle of teh picture in front of the man with the yellow shirt.

The rally appeared to end with some obligatory chants of “Ra-do-van Kara-dzic”

A phalanx of riot police standing-by near the protest. The speech-makers specifically appealed to the crowd not to drink, not to commit any acts of aggression or crimes and to leave the police and journalists alone.

A phalanx of riot police, known locally as “Ninja Turtles”,  standing-by near the protest. The speech-makers specifically appealed to the crowd not to drink, not to commit any acts of aggression or crimes and to leave the police and journalists alone.

Another squad of riot police, but they were hidden around a corner away from the rally.

Another squad of riot police (aka “Ninja Turtles”), but they were hidden around a corner away from the rally. Notice that their shields are different from the unit near the rally, suggesting that these are a reserve riot squad (ordinary cops in riot kit) not the specialised Gendermes.

{ 7 comments }

Pallywood tactics started in Bosnia?

by Limbic on July 24, 2008


 

Someone posted this video on my Facebook account in response to my recent article on Karadzic.

Setting aside who did what to whom in Bosnia this video does reveal that Pallywood tactics were used by the Bosnian Muslims in a very similar way that Palestinians and Hezbollah use them.

It does seems a feature of the Muslim way of war to stage incidents, use human shields (like firing from a hospital) and to co-opt the power of the US by bamboozling its public with well produced propaganda.

 

{ 0 comments }

Superb flash maps showing the spread of religion and democracy.

[From Maps of War ::: Visual History of War, Religion, and Government]

{ 0 comments }

My latest piece, exploring the Karadzic arrest,  has just been published over at Pajamas Media

Pajamas Media » Shocked Serbians Celebrate Karadzic’s Capture

{ 0 comments }

My latest piece, exploring the Karadzic arrest,  has just been published over at Pajamas Media

Pajamas Media » Shocked Serbians Celebrate Karadzic’s Capture

{ 0 comments }