Ivo Skoric on Mon, 12 Oct 1998 17:12:35 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Scorched Earth Tactics

Scorched Earth Tactics
By Ivo Skoric (New York)

I already forgot when was the first time that the U.S. mentioned use of
force against Serbs unless they cease their February
(http://balkansnet.org/raccoon/kosovo.html) offensive in Kosovo.

The cold facts are that Kosovo is a province of Serbia, not a separate
republic of former Yugoslavia. Therefore, Kosovo has no automatic claim to
sovereignty, given by the international community to Slovenia, Croatia,
Bosnia and Macedonia that succesfully seceded from Yugoslavia. Historic
claims over Kosovo region are equally wighted both from Serbian and from
Albanian side. Albanians lived there for centuries, maybe for millenia,
given that they are the indigenous Balkan people. Serbs moved in with the
rest of Slavs following the fall of Roman empire (or perhaps before, when
they were kept as slaves). Serbs built their first kingdom from Kosovo.
Today Kosovo is mostly Albanian (90%) populated.

Recognizing the ethnic structure of Kosovo, communist Yugoslavia gave it a
special autonomous province status - part of Serbia, but with the wide
self governance rule. That status Milosevic revoked shortly after taking
power in Serbia. Relatively mild protests from the other republics
gradually grew to full-blown secessionist movements of their own.

Now, three wars, thousands of dead and millions of refugees later, the
conflict returned to where it begun.

On one hand we have the internationally recognized right of Serbia to
govern its province as it pleases. On another hand we have universally
recognized right of human beings to shelter, freedom of movement, access
to medication, food and education. Which one will we put forth?

As months are passing and more and more Albanians are in Kosovo mountains
unprepared for the coming winter, are we going to hand more resolutions to
Milosevic, so he can ridicule them? As he did in Croatia and in Bosnia. In
Belgrade, he says, everything seems to be calm at the Drenica-Junik front.
There, the Serbian troops continue to shell and burn the villages. This
game repeats over and over again.

For various reasons Security Council became an ineffective tool of
enforcing universal policy. It is primarily a stomping ground of the
nations and their policies. And national policy is impervious to the blood
of plebs, as history teaches us. There the nations try to promote their
interests, not the interests of the humankind in general. China needs to
be against the action against Milosevic, because that makes China
important in the world policy-making arena.  Russia needs to do the same,
because Serbs are practically the only ones who said "we want Russians,"
when practically everybody else in their own Warsaw Pact getto deserted
them with utmost disdain. Russia shows the world, and more importantly it
shows to the people at home, that they still mean something in the world -
at the expense of the thousands of human lives in the Balkans.

European nations are mainly concerned with two things: avoiding refugees
and playing it "nice" with both bankrupt former superpowers.  So far,
Milosevic offensive did not create a wave of refugees, since they are all
displaced in Kosovo mountains. Therefore, Europe does not need use of
force against Milosevic. They can find the situation tragic, and the loss
of life overwhelming, and they can call Milosevic a liar, but they can
also hedge this rather assertive statements with a very patient approach -
like we are ready to use force when the time comes (hoping that media will
just get tired and the time will never come).

The U.S., that by popular misconception won the cold war, are, despite the
obvious military might, and despite their unbending economic optimism, in
fact in bad fiscal shape, partialy due to the enormous military debt,
which was required to force Soviet Union into submission. Obviously, they
are going to shy away from any Vietnam-era type of adventurism. The U.S.
however needs to appear as a world leader
(http://balkansnet.org/history.html). As the Americans envision their
president not only as the country's top executive, but also as "the
trustee of the nation's consience" (H. Hyde, Judiciary chairman), the role
in old world more properly awarded to a Queen or a figurehead president,
they also tend to envision themselves as the trustees of the world's
conscience, therefore they need to take a stand in cases of obvious human
tragedies like Kosovo. But they don't need to act upon them, as both Bill
Clinton and Henry Hyde have to be against drugs and against pre-marital or
extra-marital sex, but they don't neccesarily need to practice the same -
unless caught, of course.

They need to be embarassed. Their public craves the embarassment of public
figures. To the point that less and less people may decide to take any
public role, less and less people shows up to vote for them, anticipating
that whoever is voted for would ultimately prove being an embarassment,
because everybody is human, and all human is embarassing to a nation that
aspire to be the trustee of the world's conscience, a hubris previosly
allowed only to the Gods and Roman Emperors (the emblems of 'fascio' adore
the wall of American Senate, as they did the wall of Roman Senate, and the
Italian fascist uniforms, for that matter).

That's how Dick Holbroke got embarassed at the EMI award ceremony on
September 9th. He sat in the public of 900+ people, when Karmen Jelincic,
a co-producer of the two EMI awards winning documentary about violation of
women in Bosnia "Calling the Ghosts"  (http://balkansnet.org/mandy.html),
in her speech said: "If this is Prijedor 1992, you'd all be arrested and
sent off to the concentration camps, because the intellectuals were first
to go." The fact is that Zeljko Mejakic, commander of Omarska camp, and
the leader of the 'rape squad', who personally violated two women in the
documentary (they, both lawyers, went to The Hague to demand his arrest),
is still at large in Prijedor walking free amidst thousands of American
and othet nations troops mandated to arrest known war criminals. And
Karmen noted - the same thing now is repeating in Kosovo, and what are we
doing again? Writing resolutions, and issuing one after another of empty
threats. Dick rose in anger (cameras of the free electronic media stopped
broadcasting, saving the American network viewer from the generous
spectacle of the hurt vanity), shouting at her that she just had
embarassed him, and that she did not know what she was talking about. He
then walked out of the room.

Dick Holbroke is going to be the U.S. representative to the U.N. His
greatest achievment was to confine Croatian, Bosnian and Serbian leaders
to their quarters in an American air force base, dine them in the hangars
with Stealth fighters and cruise missiles, and haze them succesfully into
an agreement that made America (and HIMSELF) look good, but which they
shelved immediately following their release from detention and return to
their positions of ultimate power. An achievement of putting Serbs, Croats
and Bosnians in the same room without them slicing each other troats,
although seeming so unattenable, was done informally on numerous parties
at my place and more structured first every week and then every month at
the Balkan Dialogue group meetings at the American Friends Service
Committee.  There was no coercion and no show of force. The meeting
moderator, Jack Patterson, used only a stop-watch to limit each person to
an allocated time, so that everybody gets a chance to speak. Jack always
believed that this behavior is normal, and not a consequence of his divine
ability to bring people who would actually under other circumstances
definitely kill each other in the same room and have them talk to each
other. Accidentaly, Jack, too, became a representative to the U.N., in a
sort, since he represents Quakers, and they are not a nation, so his
position is advisory, but I guess he and Dick will have a chance to meet
sometimes and compare their notes on the Balkan peoples.

Before summer both NATO and the Greater Serbia staged large concurrent
military maneuvres, mostly as a show of their air-force capabilties.
Americans showed all their toys, but they flew just to the Albanian-Kosovo
border and back. Milosevic displayed all his (less than twenty) Mig-29s
and some other flying objects which would not stand a classification of
combat aircraft in the time of F-117s.  Yugoslav air-force did an aerial
show. Yugoslav politicians showed up to the spectacle, including Dr.
Seselj, the Serb ultra-radical nationalist, who at that time immidiately
started dreaming of bombing New York and Washington. The public was given
free Coca-Cola and big Macs (it is not clear if this was a part of the
American free market enterprise approach, or the courtesy of CIA, showing
that America already conquered Serbia in a way).

Since then, nothing happened. The Kosovo situation, although continuing to
unravel in the region, became absent from the world's conscience by the
virtue of its trustee being preocupied with other news: first the two
American embassies were blown into pieces in Africa. Then, the Monica
Levinsky report got released. From the report we learned that American
policy in Bosnia was decided sometimes under an unusual set of
circumstances - President Clinton discussed it with Sen. Sony Callahan
while receiving oral sex from Monica Levinsky. Most males would agree that
during blow job even more gruesome human tragedies than some quarter
million displaced people in some remote area in South-East Europe would
seem quite immaterial. Hidden from the media busy moralizing about should
the president go or not for lying to his family and the world about his
love affair with an intern half his age, American intilligence community
pursued clues in the bombing of embassies. On a day of his utter
embarassment, when he had to admitt to the world that, yes, he lied,
Clinton was also called to give his approval for a Tomahawk expdeition
into Afganistan and Sudan - countries carefully chosen for their lack of
international support. Expensive missiles shattered some tent cities in
the middle of Afghan dessert. They also destroyed a pharmaceutical factory
in the downtown capital of Sudan. The only clue the U.S. had that this
factory is actually a terrorist endeavor was that a CIA agent some time
ago picked up a handful of dirt from the factory's backyard and - bingo -
CIA found larger than normal traces of a chemical used in production of
nerve poisons in that handful of dirt. This was a real show of force. Real
clues took the U.S. to Albania - which was too awfully close to the "Wag
the Dog"  theme to be bombed publicly, and after all - it was expected
that Albania would prove a valuable NATO ally in its pursuit against the
Greater Serbia, so the 'things' were done quietly: on the same day that
Tomahawks were launched into Sudan and Afghanistan, the U.S. and Albanian
agencies arrested ten foreign nationals in Elsaban (60 km south of Tirana)
and seized communications equipment, bulletproof vests, weapons, passports
and other forged documents. Urged by Americans, Albanian authorities also
launched an investigation of the Arab-Albanian Islamic Bank in Tirana, all
to the great pleasure of Slobodan Milosevic, since American hawkish stance
on Kosovo suddenly became dropped, derailed and postponed by the links of
portions of the Albanian structures to the Osama Bin Laden terrorist

The other thing were elections in Republika Srpska. In the discussion
(Channel 13) between Christopher Bennet and Robert Gelbard talk on why
moderate Serbs lost in Bosnian elections, the most remarkable was how they
both learned how to pronounce "Republika Srpska"  (considering how 'srpsk'
must be difficult to mouth by a English-speaking person). Whatever
happened to that woman that looks like a Madeleine Albright clone (they at
least seem to be using the same hair color, don't they?)? Why did Biljana
Plavsic, the American candidate among the Serbs in Bosnia, loose? Bennet
hinted that we should examine our policy in Bosnia. But man is he boring
to listen to. Gelbard, speaking in a language of the talk-show, on the
other hand is full of common places like: "Serbs are still nationalistic."  
Yeah, and the sun still gets up every morning, right? American presence in
Plavsic's political campaign was simply made to obvious for any reasonable
patriot to vote for her - I am saying not only the nationalist extremists.
Americans hoped that they can buy the vote with Big Macs and Coke, but
they forgot that economy is more complex.  At the same time they tried to
present themselves as friends to Banja Luka they were issuing threats and
re-instating sanctions to Belgrade over Kosovo atrocities, and Belgrade is
still Banja Luka's primary trading partner. American policy in Kosovo run
into American policy in Bosnia. While West was waiting for the outcome of
Bosnian elections, still hoping in Plavsic's victory, Milosevic nearly
finished his blitzkrieg on Kosovo.

With embassy bombings being solved and suspects arrested or punished
otherwise, and with Bosnian elections over and lost, the U.S. can now
again concentrate on its tough stance over Kosovo. As suddenly as Kosovo
disappeared from the front page of New York times on the day of embassy
bombings, it re-appeared one recent day with a large colored picture of a
dead-white face on a bucolic background: a massacre of civilians always,
for media purposes, should take place in the outrageously beautiful
natural settings. Threats with formiddable force (Pentagon decided to
commit B2 bombers; that would be their first combat situation, now that
they gave up bombing of North Korea - they were initially sent to Guam
following the Korean missile launch over Japan) are however still just
threats. Every day we read in newspapers how there is a new resolution -
UN, NATO, OSCE, whatever - deploring Serbian actions in Kosovo and moving
"one step closer" to using force. That reminds me about the race between
Achilles and the turtle, a sophist example in which Achilles is always one
step closer to the turtle, but never manages to catch up with her.

The summary of the current world position on Kosovo is not much different
of what it was on Bosnia several years ago: China and Russia would let
Milosevic do what he wants, Europe would use force against him, but only
if the Security Council authorize it, which would never be the case since
China and Russia will opose such a resolution, particularly on grounds
that Kosovo was a province of Serbia, not a republic of Yugoslavia (giving
sovereignty to Kosovo, would also mean that places like Chechenya and
Tibet deserve independence - an excellent point for Belgrades Radio B92 to
join the Global Dance For Planetary Peace - Earthdance - techno rave in 29
countries that will donate its entire income to the Tibetan victims of the
Chinese oppression, except for B92 which is going to give its proceeds to
Montenegrin High Commissioner for Refugees, responsible for refugees from
Kosovo displaced in this republic). The U.S. favors bypassing the U.N. and
leaving the decision to NATO (which then leaves China and Russia out of
the loop). Europe is divided over that - British are prone to side with
Americans, but Germans and French, more dependent on good relations with
Russia, or, alternatively, more eager to asume a foreign policy role more
robust and more adequate to their powerhouse economies, tend to rely on
Security Council. Since this is not Africa or Middle East, the U.S. would
not dare launching missiles without, at least, German approval. American
insistence on bypassing UN, has less to do with their rush to help Kosovo
Albanians than with their imperative need to win the position of the world
leader. Hence the Russian oposition and German hesitance. While this
painful diplomatic deadlock slowly unravels, Milosevic has free hands to
scorch Albanian villages in Kosovo - actually to scorch most of Kosovo,
which looks more and more like a backdrop for some B Hollywood science
fiction about the near and imperfect future. One would just hope that
Jean-Claude Van Damme or Ralph Lundgreen would jump out of somewhere and
kick those Serbs ass once for good.

Coming to that, I wonder whatever happened to that KLA? Largely trumpeted
as a 'terrorist' organization, or, alternatively, as a wide liberating
movement, ostensibly financed by the world's Albanian gentry (who
allegedly send 3% of their anual income to support the cause), and well
armed through the spill-off of weapons from Albanian military caches
during the Albanian upheavals that brought Berisha down (and Berisha, some
think, armed Kosovars himself, too), it is now all but dead. It is known
that KLA leaders (but it is not known who they are) are not media
friendly, and that they are hard-core communist Yugoslav Army officers of
Albanian ethnicity, or Bosnian Muslims ("on loan" from Bosnia), basically
the same cast of people like their Serbian opponents, as it was in Croatia
and Bosnia. The Balkan wars show a general failure of guerilla warfare.

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