A handful of good Serbs should feel no fear in the dust of Kosovo

[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.]

Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch1

I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”
T.S. Elliot – The Wasteland

“they were a good unit but they shouldnt of filmed what they did because it makes us srbe look bad” – unknown commenter quoted by Sarah Franco in her superb post the banality of evil in Serbia.

Sarah Franco was rightly horrified that the person quoted above did not regret the Srebrenica massacre or the Scorpions killing Muslim teenagers, but rather that they had been caught, they were foolish enough to film themselves and therefore make Serbia look bad.

I had the same reaction today when reading Michael Totten’s latest dispatch from the Balkans, where the otherwise charming Luan Berisha  says to Michael:

“Let Serbs come to Prishtina from Belgrade,” Berisha said, “with BG license plates on their cars. Let them come. Nothing will happen. People may not like them, but nothing will happen to them, because 2004 cost us a lot. It cost Kosovo our earlier independence and recognition by the UN. We had to wait another 4 years...If you ask anyone about 2004, they will say what a fucking mistake. It screwed us up” 2

The 2004 he is referring to is the explosion of Ethnic Violence meted out by Albanians to the tiny Serb minority. As Totten notes, “Dozens were killed. Hundreds were wounded” but Mr Berisha is not sorry about murder, looting and wanton destruction of ancient churches, instead he is sorry because it made Kosovars look bad and set back their political ambitions.

Mr Berisha charitably hoped that “not all Serbs are bad” and Michael assured him that he met “a handful” of terrific Serbs.

So there you have it folks, not all Serbs are bad, just most I presume? Or is it just the majority?  I mean if it were a minority one would expect the comment to be “Not all Serbs are good”. No?

Luckily, the “Not all x are bad” cliche seems to apply to just about everyone. That said, it seem to be a big favourite with racists and extremists.

A quick Google reveals one charitable racist informing us that “Not all blacks are bad but not all tigers are killers” 3 . “Not all blacks are bad…I’ve met a few decent ones in my day. Such as my high school principal” says another Stormfront racist 4. Not all Jews are bad 5 too apparently, and I am delighted to report that not all Muslims 6 nor white people 7 nor Americans 8 are bad either.

What strikes me is the type of people who tend to use that phrase in earnest. The sort of people who frequent Stormfront. Enough said.

Here follow some more quotes from Michael’s article and my comments.

[Milosevic] and his Serb allies kicked off four wars in the former Yugoslavia, and the final war in Kosovo threatened to overwhelm and destabilize the rest of Southeastern Europe.  9

This is not quite accurate. Those wars were wars of secession “kicked off” by the nationalist separatists in Slovenia, Croatia, and Kosovo, whilst Bosnia was a civil war.  Occasionally one hears – usually in disreputable online venues – the old canard that “Serbs started and lost 4 wars”. When you do,  you know you are in the realms of historical ignorance and it is best to break off further discussions.

Hardly any tourists visit Kosovo, even though much of it is charming and the prices are lowest in Europe. It is off almost everyone’s radar. Most who think of Kosovo at all still assume it is hostile or dangerous. It is neither. 10

Unless, that is, you are a Serb or Albanian in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“We are more pro-American than you are,” one young Kosovar told me.

“We really like Americans here,” a waiter said when he learned where I’m from. “Americans are our best friends in the world. UK is second.”

“Thank you,” I said. “We appreciate that. Some people don’t like us.”

“Bad people,” he said.  11

Nah, people the US have bombed unjustly and continue to abuse liberally.

One Ilir Durmishi commented to Michael:

“There are good people and bad people in Serbia,” he said. I relaxed. He was reasonable. “Maybe the leadership is bad, but some Serbs are good 12 13

There we have it again. There are some Serbs that are good but the presumption and tacit statement is that most are not. Again, it is only with Serbs that one can get away with this sort of casual bigotry. If I were to claim that merely some blacks, Jews, Muslims, whites or Americans were good I would be denounced as a bigot.

Luan Berisha who we met above lamenting the loss of face that massacring Serbs in 2004 caused, says in the same interview:

“Listen,” he said. “All Albanians, all Kosovars, they feel more close in all ways to the West that to the Arab world. Why? Because still none of the Arab League countries have recognized Kosovo’s independence. The reason why is because Libya and many other countries are linked with Serbia. Israel would have recognized us by now, but politically they can’t. If they do, we are automatically doomed for another 59 countries not to recognize us. I think very highly of Israel. I like Jewish people a lot.” 14

Hey, I love those Israelis too (the vast majority them – like Kosovars – are good), but I have news for you Luan. The Israelis are one of the 149 countries out of 192 that have NOT recognized Kosovo . Only 43 countries have so far. Do you think it is because they all love Serbs?

Could it be that they are deeply disquieted by the illegal and bullying manner in which the entire situation has been managed? Could they be wary of US foreign policy “results” post-Iraq? Could they be genuinely worried that Kosovo is a terribly dangerous precedent?

Incidentally, what the Israelis ARE doing is pouring hundreds of millions into Serbia 15. How does that square with the Serbs-as-anti-Semites libel one keeps seeing popping online?

Michael again…

I spoke to several Albanians who traveled to Serbia recently, and the worst they encountered was rudeness. According to Albanians, it’s the same for Serbs who travel to Kosovo. 16

Yet the Serbs who live in Kosovo keep reporting attacks and intimidation. That said, life generally continues as normal, with many positive signs. From a recent BBC dispatch…

Some of the people I spoke to were returning from Belgrade hospitals, either as patients or carers.

The patients had been receiving treatment for serious conditions, which they could not get in Kosovo.

One was an elderly Albanian travelling with his sick son, another a Bosnian Muslim in his 40s living in southern Kosovo. None had a bad word to say about Serbian doctors. 17

Those doctors must be some of those handful of decent Serbs.  I just wish a handful of unbiased and historically well informed journalists would visit the region and take the time to give Serbs a voice. Who knows they might even find out that not all Serbs are good, but the vast majority are.

17 Comments A handful of good Serbs should feel no fear in the dust of Kosovo

  1. zellmad

    ***I just wish a handful of unbiased and historically well informed journalists would visit the region and take the time to give Serbs a voice.***

    For what it’s worth, I plan to.

  2. Michael J. Totten

    Fair points, Limbic.

    It will take some more time, certainly, before Serbs and Albanians put the past behind them.

    I’ll tell you this, though, for whatever it’s worth. The anti-Serb comments I heard in Kosovo were nothing like the comments I hear in the Middle East all the time against Israelis, Sunnis, Shias, Persians, Kurds, Arabs, you name it. It could be a lot worse than it is.

  3. limbic

    Dear Michael,

    Thanks for stopping by. You are dead right about things being comparatively good. Time heals and in the Balkans people are actually more forgiving than they appear.


  4. Sarah Franco

    without meaning to be presumptuous, I have to say that there are many advantages of being a national from a small unimportant country. the albanians show a fascination for the americans that prevents the american visitors from getting the real picture.
    They feel a need to show their gratitude towards the americans that quite understandable, but this prevents the american citizens from realizing that the albanians do not give them a special treatment because in fact the albanians are excellent hosts. The peoples from Former YU usually are, but the albanians even more. So what they do is that they flatter their visitors a little bit, and the visitors then feel special.

    I don’t agree with the quoted phrase that unbiased journalists should go and give serbs a voice. I would prefer that people go, not necessarily journalists, people who like to travel, just go, see with your own eyes, avoid getting into politics and avoid thinking in ethnic terms. What you will see is that serbs and albanians eat the same food, build houses very similar, dress the same way and are in fact much closer culturally that they like to admit.

    It is always appalling to see how little people know about smaller countries.

  5. Richard

    Limbic I agree with you. The handling of the secession of Kosovo has been a travesty of international law.

    The Serbs have been their own worst enemies by allowing extreme nationalist rhetoric to dominate their public discourse. This marginalises them in world opinion.

    Michael Totten has the merit of actually going to these places and spending time with locals. He is very much an American though in that he sees these issues in American terms rather than from a broader perspective: Do they like us? Will they be reliable allies?

    Also, like so many Americans, he has limited language skills which limits his ability to talk to the locals and influences who he talks to.

    But why dont you start reporting on the region since you live there, speak the language, have a good understanding of the history?

  6. limbic


    Thank you very much for that concise and absolutely spot on comment.

    You last line stung a bit, and it is an important question.

    My problem so far has been that the focus of my work has been sustainable economic development. I am extremely busy on my “day job” so to speak.

    That said I have resolved to spend more time reporting from here, rather than whining about other people’s reports about the region.

    Can I ask do you write anywhere. I suspect I would enjoy your work.

  7. Richard

    Like you I dont have much time. I also worry that if I start my own blog I will become totally consumed by it.

  8. Angélique

    Totten not only drank the Koolaid, now he mixes and sells it. We should all love our best new little buddies, the Muslims.Totten shamefully misreports Kosovo.

    Jonathan Davis, has already taken Totten to task and there isn’t much to add to his comments.

    One thing I would like to add is that a lot of foreign reporters covering Serbia tend to speak to “prominent public figures” that in fact represent a Serbophobic fringe. For example, Totten’s guide to Serbia was “Liberal Democrat” Filip David. Others either validate their prejudice or soak it up outright from the likes of Natasa Kandic, Vladimir Gligorov, Sonja Biserko, Borka Pavicevic… (the list is, unfortunately, very long). That would be like a foreign reporter trying to make sense of America by talking to Jeremiah Wright.

    Now the question is, do the Tottens of this world give these people a chance to smear their country because they don’t know better, or because they do? I’m betting on the latter.

  9. Alphaville

    How Kosovo Created its Own Liberal Islam???

    Tell that to four of the Kosovo Albanian members of Ft. Dix Six, one of whom was a KLA sniper during the war. http://www.postchronicle.com/commentary/article_21280069.shtml

    Or how about the now-renamed bin Laden mosque in Kosovo? http://archive.redstate.com/blogs/demophilus/2007/may/03/us_and_nato_forces_are_used_to_protect_the_osama_bin_laden_mosque_in_kosovo

    Totten is apparently fairly well respected on Iraq, but he’s a complete moron on the Balkans. He thinks that just because he sees Albanian women without covered heads, he is seeing “moderate Islam”. Yeah, right — someone should take him on a tour of the 150+ Christian churches that were destroyed by these “moderate Muslims” — or introduce him to YouTube where he can see it as it happened!

  10. konstantin gregovic

    The easiest way to BAMBOOZLE THE WEST aka Michael Totten kind is to say you are a secular Muslim (impossible to do)…like the genocidal Turks and now the Albis.And the west will easily swallow “moderate” ones in good old “philosophy” keep your friends and allies close (or bomb them occasionally, since it is always cheap to sell out Serbs) and your enemies closer (start the list).

  11. Jeff

    I think I could make a pretty darned good run at establishing for a fair minded person that the Serbs bore the lion’s share of the responsibility for the Post-Yugoslav wars.

    I don’t know why that should be a conversation stopper. I remember well Serbia’s takeover of the Yugoslav state and its financial institutions and its destruction of the rotating Presidency.

    I remember its illegal takeover of the Yugoslav army and the transfer of all of its weaponry into the hands of Serbian forces and persecution and firing of officers–including Serbs–who opposed this destruction of the Yugoslav idea.

    I remember its determination to prevent the republics from seceding in the face of this outrageous behavior.

    I remember its unilateral abolition of the autonomous status first of Vojvodina and then of Kosovo.

    That doesn’t mean that the other Yugoslavs were perfectly innocent. But it means that the overwhelming share of the guilt lies with the Serbs.

    And this is the same attitude that they took when the killed the Yugoslav idea among Croats and Bosnians and Slovenians in the decades following World War One.

    I deny that any of this is “ahistorical”. A great debate topic and I’m happy for anyone to disagree. But “Serbia started four wars” as a loose shorthand for what I’ve said above seems to me to be perfectly sound.

    Serbia and the Serbs who supported her actions in the last decades have a lot to answer for.

  12. limbic

    Hi Jeff,

    Perhaps you could support your memories with supporting evidence?

    Once I understand your references I can comment a bit better.

  13. George

    Jeff, first of all stop hiding under Western name. You Serb-bashing is predictable and you offer very little evidence to back up your assertion.The Serbs have been demonised not because they were the party most responsible for the wars of secession in the 1990s – they were not – but because they have consistently got in the way of the west’s hegemonic ambitions in the region.

    The west wanted Yugoslavia destroyed, with one militarily strong, independent state replaced by several weak and divided Nato/IMF/EU protectorates. “In post-cold war Europe no place remained for a large, independent-minded socialist state that resisted globalisation,” admitted George Kenney, former Yugoslavia desk officer of the US state department.

    The Serbs’ great “crime” was not reading the script. Out of all the groups in the former Yugoslavia, the Serbs, whose population was spread across the country, had most to lose from the country’s disintegration. At a meeting at The Hague in October 1991, the leaders of the six constituent republics were presented with a paper entitled “The End of Yugoslavia from the International Scene” by European Community “arbitrators”.

    According to this story, the wars of the past decade were all started by the Serbs, who sought to destroy Yugoslavia and turn it into a mono-ethnic Greater Serbia.

    The West, well-meaning and indecisive as ever, stood by unwilling to intervene as the Serbs went on their rampage to carve out lands belonging to the other nations of Yugoslavia and drive out all non-Serbs. Not until the United States was finally moved to act to bring the Serbs to heel was peace and independence possible. And, thanks to the efforts of the United States, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia came into being to ensure that there would be no impunity for Serb leaders and their campaign of genocide and ethnic cleansing. Today, tribunal judges supposedly toil away on behalf of the war crimes’ victims, painstakingly trying to balance judicial fairness against the need to ensure that such things never happen again.

    The problem is that not one part of this fairy tale is true. The wars in Yugoslavia started with the electoral triumph of anti-Communist nationalists in Bosnia, Croatia and Slovenia in the country’s first multiparty elections in 1990. Slovenia and Croatia, with encouragement from abroad, particularly Germany and the United States, pushed for independence right away, in violation of the constitution of Yugoslavia. Serbia’s position, in accord both with the Yugoslav constitution and with democratic aspirations, was that the constituent nations of Yugoslavia could neither be forced to stay nor forced to leave Yugoslavia against their will.

    Deconstructing Yugoslav History The so-called international community’s unseemly and irresponsible recognition of independent Slovenia and Croatia in 1991 was not only flagrant interference in Yugoslav internal affairs, it violated innumerable international treaties such as the Helsinki Final Act, the Montevideo Convention and the United Nations Charter.

    Sabotage of peace plans, bad faith negotiations and a yearning to resort to force characterized U.S. policy in Yugoslavia throughout the 1990s. On May 30, 1992, U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali issued a report commending the government of Yugoslavia for the withdrawal of its armed forces from Bosnia and criticizing Croatia for its refusal to withdraw its armed forces, the U.S. sought to suppress this report and to push the United Nations to impose sanctions against Yugoslavia, though not Croatia. Every proposal put forward by the E.U., like the Vance-Owen plan and the Owen-Stoltenberg plan was sabotaged by Washington as it egged on its proxies, Bosnia’s Muslims, to reject everything on the table in favor of the absurd and unrealistic option of a unitary state of the three ethnic groups-something that the United States had insisted couldn’t possibly work at the Yugoslav federal level.

    During this time, the United States was secretly arranging air drops of weapons to Bosnia’s Muslims, in violation of the United Nations arms embargo, as well as facilitating the flow of arms and mujahedin fanatics into Bosnia from Iran and Saudi Arabia. In addition, the United States, Great Britain and Germany were arming and training the Kosovo Liberation Army. The objective was to instigate terror and mayhem so as to provoke a reaction from the Yugoslav authorities that could then be designated a humanitarian crisis and used as a pretext for the armed attack that the Clinton administration had been seeking to launch for years. However, the Serbs were no fools and they refused to be provoked. Consequently, two further frauds were needed. First, there were the alleged killings at Racak. And then there were the bogus settlement negotiations at Rambuillet.

    On Jan. 15, 1999, following a military operation by Yugoslav armed forces against a KLA stronghold at Racak, KLA leaders led OSCE observers to a gully where 45 bodies were piled on top of each other. Without waiting for any investigation, the United States, through Ambassador William Walker, immediately announced that the Serbs had carried out a massacre of unarmed Kosovo Albanian civilians. As we learn more about Racak, the story of the massacre is becoming increasingly hard to sustain. On March 17, 1999, a week before its onslaught on Yugoslavia, NATO organized a press conference at which Helena Ranta, the leader of the Finnish forensic team hired by the OSCE to investigate Racak, announced her findings. Though the Finnish team’s report was never published, the U.S. government, with the New York Times in tow, touted her inconclusive findings as confirmation of William Walker’s initial statement that a massacre had taken place at Racak.

    Recently, Ranta revealed the pressure she was under to make her findings conform with NATO requirements. In an interview with Berliner Zeitung, she declared that she knew at the time of her investigation that there were:

    KLA-fighters buried around Racak.At that time I received information that proved that several Serb soldiers had been killed as well. Unfortunately, we will never know the exact number of Serb soldiers that died that night.When Ambassador Walker said that there was a massacre at Racak, this statement had no legal value. I declared at that time that the OSCE-observers forgot to take all steps necessary to secure a crime scene: isolating the area, refusing admission to all unauthorized persons and colleting all material evidence.[It was clear] that a bunch of governments were interested in a version of Racak that blamed only the Serb side. But I could not provide this version.

    As for the negotiations at Rambouillet, U.S. bad faith was nicely summarized by a State Department official who boasted later: We intentionally set the bar too high for the Serbs to comply. They need some bombing, and that’s what they are going to get. If the Serbs rejected a deal, they would get bombed; if the KLA rejected a deal, the U.S. would simply shrug its shoulders. Thus, the United States insisted on including Appendix B in any accord knowing full well that Serbia, like any other sovereign state, would reject a proposal to allow NATO forces to enjoy unrestricted movement throughout the country as well as complete criminal and civil immunity.

    Except for Appendix B, Slobodan Milosevic is on record as having supported every single peace plan the so-called international community proposed. Yet Stacy Sullivan worries that he might escape a conviction for genocide. That all the evidence points to the opposite conclusion, that his government, unlike that of the United States, sought peace even if it entailed the loss of the historic achievement of the state of Yugoslavia, does not matter in the slightest. The U.S. got its bombing of Yugoslavia that was not justified by any Security Council resolution, any imminent threat of attack on a NATO power, any threat to any of Yugoslavia’s neighbors or indeed any humanitarian crisis since the refugee flow out of Kosovo began after the bombing.

    The Illegitimacy of the Court U.S. policy in the Balkans was cynical and war-mongering. It seems strange that a journal of progressive opinion should unquestioningly accept the doctrine that small nations should simply accept the diktats of great powers. Nor should it unquestioningly accept its claims about humanitarian crises when even the most superficial survey of the historical record will show that it was the policies of the Great Powers that caused these crises. Finally, it is surprising that it unquestioningly accepts that a court largely funded and staffed by the very great powers that had caused so much havoc in Yugoslavia ($17 million in 2003 from the U.S. alone) should act as a disinterested impartial judicial body.

    To prove that day is night a very peculiar kind of court had to be created, one that falls outside of the two chief sources of international criminal law, treaty law and international customary law. The Security Council possesses neither legislative nor judicial functions. It can neither create new international law nor make binding interpretations of existing international law. The UN has no jurisdiction or authority to try, punish or imprison individuals, not even those who have violated international law. Nor is punishment of individuals for international crimes among the Security Council’s enumerated powers listed in the UN Charter. The 1948 Genocide Convention explicitly states that national courts are the appropriate venue to try individuals accused of genocide.

    According to the ICTY’s statute, the waging of aggressive war is not a crime that falls within its domain. This is a curious omission. The most important war crimes court since Nuremberg has decided to dispense with the most important crime under the Nuremberg standard. This is scarcely surprising. Under its rubric, NATO would undoubtedly have been guilty of a crime. Every jurisdiction in the world plainly recognizes the difference between violence committed while acting in self-defense and violence committed while acting aggressively.

    Given this, it is hardly shocking that the court violates every judicial norm whether in the civil law or common law tradition. Indictments are often kept secret and suddenly sprung on the court’s victims. Bail is rarely granted, and detainees can wait years in prison before their cases come to trial. Prosecutor and court are one and the same. There is no jury. Appellate court and trial court are also one and the same. The court is answerable to no one. There is no jury. The court is financed by interested parties like the U.S., assorted NATO governments, U.S. corporations and, of course, the ubiquitous George Soros-this in fact violates the tribunal’s own statute that funding can only come from the United Nations.

    The ICTY’s procedures would be unacceptable in any serious jurisdiction. Hearsay (essentially rumor and gossip) is admissible. Testimony presented at one trial can be introduced as evidence in another trial, without any cross-examination. Prosecutors can present pretrial witness statements as witness trial testimony. Since statements made to, and prepared by, the prosecutor, are essentially prosecutor statements, it means prosecutorial assertions are treated as evidence in chief. Prosecutors can introduce illegal wiretaps whose authenticity has not been established and whose provenance is kept secret. As evidence in a trial of one of the most serious charges known-genocide-any self-respecting court would throw them out.

    Witnesses can testify anonymously or even by videotape. Moreover, the same judges preside over a number of trials at one and the same time in which the same issues are being presented and argued over, which is clearly prejudicial to all of the defendants. Another innovation is the giving of multiple statements, to enable witnesses to remember more and more and thereby to ensure that their statements get closer and closer to the prosecutorial or official version of events. Prosecutorial misconduct is rampant. Witnesses are blackmailed using the threat of indictment to compel them to come up with the right version of the events. Much of the proceedings take place in closed session, ostensibly to protect witnesses but, more likely, to protect the court from serious scrutiny. The tribunal can alter its procedures and rules of evidence as it goes along and apply it ex post facto to ongoing cases. Prosecutors, unlike defense attorneys, take part in this rule-changing process.

    With so many rules rigged in favor of prosecutors, much of what takes place at the ICTY has the character of something out of Alice in Wonderland: Alice laughed: ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said, ‘one can’t believe impossible things.’ ‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’ “Jeff’s” of the world appear to be a devotee of the Queen.

  14. Pingback: LimbicNutrition Weblog › The propaganda bin of Balkans

  15. poetess

    No one wants to believe that a religion is bad. Not Michael or Sean or Christine or millions of others. However a totalitarian theocracy that is anti-Jewish they might believe, is worth watching out for in a political ideology. And that is what Islam is, no if, ands or buts or fanciful delusions of kumbaya. The domination of the kafir, the non-believer, by Islam and the imposition of sharia laws is in the dna of the doctrine. Unfortunately, they will not study the doctrine but rely on “muslimology’ or information from muslims for their reports.

    The less the muslim adheres to the islamic belief system and is more like a kafir, the more ‘moderate’ he is. However, Medina trumps Mecca, and over time with the aid of Saudi money, the kafir qualities are cast aside and supplanted by the doctrinal islam and the mohammedan.

    The mistake Michael makes is accepting that the ideology springs from the muslims, that they have a control over the doctrine and not the other way around. The mohammedan is formed by the ideology whose foundation is the koran, the sira (the bio of mohammed, and the hadith (words and deed of mohammed) and since this doctrine is perfect, inviolate and eternal, no well meaning kafirized muslim can change it.

    If history is any guide and the Saudi and muslim brotherhood influence continue, if Michael should go back in twenty years, he would find a mohammedan dna resurgence and the kafirized muslims leaving for the West.


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