Thursday, December 27, 2012

Transplanting Conflict: Presevo is Serbia!

Parallel with the pressure on the ever-obliging Serbia from the direction of the official Brussels, the Kosovo final solution is being pushed onto the Serbian nation, as basic principles of good conquest strategy mandate, through manufacturing of threats to escalate the conflict beyond the territory of the province. The renewed provocations against the Serbian government by the Albanian leadership at the far south of Serbia are indications of this dangerous, but tactical escalation.

As all the conflicts in the Southeast Europe are, the Kosovo conflict is just a battle in the imperial conquest of the region and the Albanians are a mere cannon fodder, which, in the short-term, get to advance some of their own nationalist agenda under the umbrella of the larger imperialist effort. Since this is a matter of the Albanian people being pitted against the regional obstacle of the North Atlantic imperial community, the Serbs, only fools can think this is a Kosovo-confined conflict. The Serbian government's troubles are not confined to Kosovo Albanians, as a small, but concentrated Albanian minority inhabit the strip of Serbia's territory outside of Kosovo, around towns of Preševo and Bujanovac in South Morava valley. This particular population has been thrown into the conflict by their Western sponsors before, during the 2000-01 uprising, and it looks like its being leveraged against Serbia again these days. (To be clear, the difference between Albanians within Kosovo and those living and operating outside of it, in the rest of southern Serbia and in Macedonia, are ethnically and ideologically non-existent. They all propagate and fight for a Greater Albania, they all serve the same imperialist agenda, whether they know it or not, and they only have slightly different short-term objectives.)

These days, the government of Serbia, which many hoped would reverse the Kosovo policy of the previous, Boris Tadić-led government, in fact intensified that approach, breaking all the rules of political engagement with secessionists and foreign oppressors, as well as its own Constitution. Ivica Dačić, the Prime Minister, has so far shown way more eagerness to comply with the demands of the European Union for the recognition of Kosovo's independence. The man who, during the election campaign, expressed willingness to use military force to keep Kosovo within Serbia, now eats lunch with Hashim Thaci, the Kosovo Albanian leader and a terrorist who still plays a key role in ripping Kosovo away from Serbia and ridding it of its Serbian population.

Regardless of the fact that Dačić has been overly compliant and eager to please, the pressure on Serbia is intensifying in the form of radicalization of the Albanian population in Serbia outside of Kosovo and undermining of the state authority in the area, as if any radicalization is needed. In fact, the militant, armed groups within this population only need an order to pull the trigger.

I wrote about the monument commemorating a notorious World War II fascist in Novi Pazar, Aćif Efendi, and from this perspective, it appeared to have been just a prelude, a sort of a test for Serbia's government, which we see growing into a chain of similar provocations in the Preševo area. I might have not mentioned that Aćif Efendi, the fascist militia leader of the Novi Pazar Muslims, was an ethnic Albanian, although the Muslim militia he was leading was largely non-Albanian.

In Preševo, a monument was recently erected to honor the fallen members of the so-called Liberation Army of Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa (OVPBM), a KLA-organized insurgent militia whose attempt at transplantation of conflict from Kosovo to Preševo valley the Yugoslav Army and the Serbian police defeated in 2001.

In Veliki Trnovac near Bujanovac, the 2012 Albanian Flag Day - the major pan-Albanian national holiday - was commemorated with the grand opening of a museum honoring one of the killed commanders of the terrorist OVPBM, Ridvan Qazimi. On the same day, November 28, the town of Bujanovac woke up to a model of a yellow-colored house placed symbolically at the central square. Albanian organizers of the festivities, many of whom were former members of OVPBM, claimed it was a house in the Albanian city of Vlore, where the independence of Albania was declared in 1912, but to local Serbs it represented the house in northern Albania where, according to the Dick Marty report to the European Parliament, kidnapped Serbs were butchered for organs. Be it as it may, the Serbian sensibilities were seriously offended, but their Albanian neighbors didn't seem to care.

Now, the main question is: outside of sensibilities, what is the problem here? Besides the fact that such forms of celebrations offend and logically radicalize, which leads to more bad blood, and in the Balkans, sow seeds to bloodshed when the imperialist powers find the bloodshed convenient, there is a huge question of the legitimacy of the Serbian government when it comes to the response to these activities.

The local glorification of an Albanian fascist in Novi Pazar was a cause for Dačić and, mainly, Aleksandar Vučić, his first deputy, to go berserk, threaten political reprisals and forget about it after several days. The plaque to an Albanian fascist still stands in Serbia. Serbia does penalize Serbian ultra-nationalist, anti-fascist and anti-EU youth, but doesn't do anything about the glorification of fascism by the leaders of a Muslim minority. It's almost blasphemous to fall short of condemning Serbia's own collaborators with Hitler, who never donned Nazi uniforms and never contributed a unit to Hitler's war efforts, but the man who under fascist insignia killed Serbs in Serbia gets a monument. Staying the course towards the EU mandates such passive behavior of Serbia's government towards attack on its legitimacy, I guess.

The three anti-Serbian manifestations in the South Morava valley have been a subject of scorn from Dačić on and off, but no definite legal action has been taken. Dačić, ever a dilettante, demanded that the Albanians who erected the Preševo monument remove it, or else. Of course, after the Aćif Efendi plaque stayed, why would the Preševo Albanians be afraid of the Serbian government and Dačić? Dačić's threats haven't materialized, of course. I'm not even saying that he should have sent police to the tear down the monument, just that he should have followed legal procedure, order the appropriate government department to investigate the matter and proceed according to law. If it's legal to erect a monument to an enemy of the State, so be it. If a glorification to an ethnic Albanian terrorist doesn't incite ethnic hatred, then let it stand. But ever a dilettante and ever a populist, he disregarded the law, took the issue out of the state institutions and conveniently did nothing with it, postponing the resolution until an opportunity to earn brownie points arises. The threats and charges swirled only to create an impression that the man who's quitting on Kosovo and dining with Thaci is actually a hard-line nationalist, even an authoritarian, with whom one doesn't mess. The parliamentary debate on the Preševo monument issue produced no results. Dačić is reviving the issue these days, primarily as a distraction in the run-up to the next round of what he called "negotiations" with Thaci, but also as a good populist way to draw attention to himself in response to President Nikolić's bargaining platform for Kosovo.

The local Albanian leadership, however, have been throwing down a challenge: come and take it down! Encouraged by the fact that Serbia will do absolutely nothing that disappoints Brussels, not even respect its own laws, the Preševo Albanian leaders can afford to stick a finger in her eye. The smoke and mirrors display continues and the only way these monuments will be removed is as a counter-favor for Dačić leaping into a full Kosovo recognition.

The transplantation of conflict doesn't, however, get hindered with Dačić's game of interchangeable attempts at winning brownie points from the Serbian people and from Brussels. The threat of an Albanian violent expansion beyond Kosovo is real and imminent, as the Preševo valley is included in the Greater Albania designs since 1878, and as Serbian official Milovan Drecun warned on Thursday of an accumulating presence of armed militia on the Macedonian side of the border* and on the Kosovo side of the administrative line.  In 2000 and 2001, when it quelled the insurgency spilling over from Kosovo, Serbia had much more independence in acting to protect its sovereignty than in 2012. In other words, there is not one reason to believe Serbia will buy the safety of the remnants of its territory by quitting on Kosovo and the Preševo valley is the most serious contender for the next flashpoint of anti-Serbian violence.

*A third of Macedonia's population are ethnic Albanians, and the power has been shared on an equal basis between the Slav-speaking majority and the Albanian-speaking minority after the Albanian insurgence in that country in 2001.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Line Across the Heart: Advanced Degree of Treason

Serbia, covered in snow, has drawn a line across its heart that won't melt away when the snow melts. If I wanted to be romantic, that's how I could put Serbia Prime Minister's decision to implement the shadowy agreement "negotiated" between Boris Tadić's administration and the Kosovo Albanian secessionist structures, under the watchful eye and whip of Brussels headmaster for the Balkans school of imps, Catherine Ashton. Now, we can joke all we want, but since yesterday, Serbia agreed to place customs checkpoints in the middle of its internationally recognized territory.
This is not a recognition only in the fact that to recognize Kosovo, official Serbia has to say it and it didn't say it. In fact, it insists it will refuse to say. But even this advancement of the unconstitutional policy related to Kosovo changed this outsider's entire view on the degree of Serbia's ruling elites co-optation into the Western imperialist agenda against its own country and people.

In my book, the state revenue, including the customs revenue, is one of the pillars of a state, whether that state is recognized under the selectively upheld UN system or not. An occupying power like NATO can indeed execute a land grab, disregarding the UN system and the internationally agreed legal principles, but the aggrieved party, in this case Serbia, only lost the occupied piece when it signed it over to the occupier. First Boris Tadić violated Serbia's Constitution by authorizing the ''footnote'' deal with Priština in February of this year, then Ivica Dačić went a step further and put his own stamp on it, with, to make matters even more embarrassing, Hashim "the Snake" Thaci sitting across the table and, undoubtedly, gloating. On December 10, the first border crossing recognized as such by both sides opened up more than a year after the North Kosovo Serbs repelled the attempt of the Albanian secessionists to do the same by force. Yes, the spin coming out of the Serbian government's lousy PR circles is that the Jarinje checkpoint is an administrative crossing, despite the fact that agreement under which the embarrassment went down is flagrantly named the Integrated Border Management. Now, one doesn't have to be an English Ph.D. to be laughing at the attempt to spin the unspinnable using incorrect translation. I'm not laughing, however, and neither is any Serb who recognizes the gravity of this development that borders on treason, no pun intended.

This is an issue of Serbia sovereignty, not of policy or ideological direction. It is even less understood when measured against the purported justification for the capitulation, the accession to the European Union. I say purported because even if this reason is justified, it is not immediate. Serbia is trading Kosovo for a date to start negotiations with the EU, who, as we all know, doesn't negotiate with its future members, but simply devours them once it transforms their internal affairs to its liking. Serbia is trading its sovereignty for a chance to embark on a road towards a complete loss of sovereignty. Yes, if someone else tells you how to run your affairs, how to make your money, how to spend your money, you have no sovereignty, regardless of the fact that your state has its own color on the political map of Europe and a slumbering chair in the UN General Assembly.

This is also an issue of democracy. Let's pretend for a second that people actually do elect their political leaders and not just legitimize one group of imperial bureaucratic servants over other groups. Boris Tadić first took the Kosovo issue out of the jurisdiction of the UN Security Council, whose Resolution 1244 was the only act of international law which legitimately defined the relationship between Serbia and its occupied province. Eager to please his whip-cracking Western masters, he happily disregarded the one document that lent Serbia a chance to fight for Kosovo in a setting where 2 out 5 power players refused to tear down the international legal system and recognize the Albanian secession. He violated Serbia's Constitution that relied on 1244 when it specifically named Kosovo as its unalienable part. He allowed Brussels to take over the Kosovo standoff without the authorization of democratically elected National Assembly, which led to the implementation of the Ahtisaari plan, whose draft was rejected by Serbia and internationally. We know the consequences: EULEX arrived to Kosovo and the Albanians declared their independence in all of Kosovo, not only in the parts they controlled. Then they demanded recognition and the abolition of the free Serbian institutions in North Kosovo.

Serbian patriots expected a reversal of this treasonous and undemocratic policy with the May 20 victory of former nationalist Tomislav Nikolić and the formation of a coalition cabinet led by Ivica Dačić, a Slobodan Milošević disciple. I wrote about the importance of the change and the hope that Serbia's defenses could only strengthen in comparison to the effects of the Tadić rule. In the face of knowledge that Serbia's independence in making decisions based in self-interest seriously deteriorated under Tadić, I hoped for a more balanced and sensible approach by the new administration. I was almost certain that the Kosovo and EU policies would undergo rethinking, reconsideration, if not readjustment under what was possible under the accumulated circumstances. As no administration has an obligation to affirm any part of the policy of previous administrations, especially if the old policy was unconstitutional, I expected the Tadić policy at least submitted to the judicial review of the Constitutional Court, if not reversed outright. However relieving and hopeful his decision to abandon the coalition with Tadić's Democrat Party and form the cabinet with Nikolić's Progressives was, Dačić's continuation and even escalation of Tadić's Kosovo policy put his cabinet on the same treasonous course with Tadić.

Now, Dačić was a Tadić ally and a minister from 2008 to 2012, but it was clear that Tadić had dictatorial and unconstitutional tendencies around which his cabinet, led by Mirko Cvetković, had very little constitutional mandated independence. When Dačić, and Nikolić for that matter, swore by their EU-affirming values in the election campaign, it sounded so unbelievable and mind-boggling considering their past that we waived it off as campaign rhetoric forced on them through the circumstances of political subjugation to the EU that Tadić masochistically invited and accepted. Six months into their joint rule, Dačić not only still swears by the EU, but keeps going farther than Tadić in dancing to the music being played from Brussels. I maintained hope for a period of time that Dačić, the flip-flopper that he is, could be playing all sides for the benefit of Serbia, but some lines are not to be crossed and when they are, there is no purgatory that can wash one off of the blemish of treason. Statesmanship is indeed a game of realpolitik, but it is game of trust and confidence as well. And there can be no trust in Dačić after this, with Nikolić, as supportive of Dačić's course as he's been, not instilling a lot of confidence either. If Dačić is going rogue, Nikolić sure has enough pull to sanction him. The ruling clique, however, is united behind Dačić to the point where even the insofar staunch leaders of the North Kosovo Serbs are being seen as succumbing to the new reality.

Serbia is faced with coming into the final stretch of its own dissolution that not only rips off a part of its already-occupied territory, but tears down its defense against such attempts in the future. Vojvodina, its northern province that derived its autonomy from the same anti-Serbian Communist decrees as did Kosovo, has been a target of subversive activities hiding behind human and minority rights for some time. Raška, the region with a relatively significant Muslim minority, has been a hotbed of fascism revival and Wahhabi growth, two elements naturally hostile to the home state. Their connection to the ever aggressive pan-Bosniak nationalism rooted in radical Islam has been a manifestly growing concern to the regional stability. The degree of brazenness with which these subversive forces operate was best manifested in erecting a monument to the local World War II Muslim fascist leader in Novi Pazar that went ignored by the Serbian government, which chose to look away out of fear of offending local sensibilities.

Breaking down the barriers set up by the defense of Kosovo breaks down defenses everywhere, unless Dačić and Nikolić decided to follow the counter-intuitive logic of Milošević and allow themselves to be convinced that if they gave up Kosovo, the North Atlantic imperial designs would stop there, leaving Raška, Vojvodina or Albanian-dominated municipalities in the South Morava Valley undisturbed. Imperial designs don't stop, they get stopped.

The human dimension of the disaster a Kosovo recognition would bring about is as significant as the geopolitical one. The four municipalities of North Kosovo, inhabited and controlled by local Serbs, which have in effect been the target of the IBM agreement due to their unwillingness to subject themselves to the Priština secessionist regime, are now faced with a very real ethnic cleansing prospect. They repelled several attacks of NATO in 2011, they held a referendum affirming their desire to remain a part of Serbia, they froze in the cold standing at Jarinje and trying to prevent the border crossing between them and Serbia from being built, they've been shot, beaten, pepper-sprayed, yet they stood firm. In order to defend their homes, they need the help of their government and now, their government is telling them to stand down and stand over on the other side of the border.

More than 200,000 Serbs have already been cleansed from the Albanian-controlled parts since NATO boots arrived it in 1999, while approximately 50,000 still live in ghettoized enclaves south of Ibar River, most of them fighting for bare survival, but refusing to abandon their ancestral homes. Some areas have been completely cleansed of Serbs. It is clear that the remaining enclaves are a part of the Albanian display of tolerance intended to create an impression that Serbs can indeed co-exist with Albanians in an Albanian-dominated society. Random unpunished murders and robberies of isolated local Serb homes, together with the non-existence of legal system that could even investigate the organ trafficking allegations or more than 1000 cases of murder of local Serbs, make the Kosovo Serbs unconvinced that they won't be attacked and expelled en mass as soon as the trouble in the North is resolved and the pretense of tolerance is not needed anymore. But check out the continued hypocrisy of the Albanian leadership: they demand Serbia's unconditional recognition of their sovereignty based on the fact that they inhabit and control the land, while they refuse to bargain even over an autonomous status within so recognized Kosovo for the North Kosovo Serbs, also inhabiting and controlling their land. With their Western sponsors supporting such a blatant manifestation of the logic of power against the logic of rights, what can local Serbs expect from their Albanian neighbors but a continuation of terror?

Seeing all this, the official Belgrade still decided to sell the lives of Serbs in exchange for a shaky promise of a paradise lost that is the European Union. Betraying the Constitution, abandoning its endangered citizens and brethren, exposing Serbia to renewed aggression and butchering and doing it all to please an imperialist structure that spent its entire history aiding Serbia's enemies, thus becoming one - all of this begs a question: whose interests does the Dačić administration advance? Not those of the Serbian people. A Serb in North Kosovo is the same as a Serb in Belgrade; if you betray the interests of one, you've betrayed the interests of all. Furthermore, if you've violated the Constitution, you've abolished the mechanism that awarded you the legitimacy to rule; the election that brought you to power is null and void if the democratically adopted Constitution doesn't bind you. In short, Mr. Dačić and all the power that derives from the power of his position ceased to be legitimate the moment he kicked to the curb the source of that power. And if this is correct, if the Serbian government is not bound by the interests and democratically expressed desires of the Serbian people, the next question is: who does it answer to? I fear the answer to this question logically and naturally justifies not only a call for an overthrow of the illegitimate government, but, as Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, "when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce [the people] under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

Monday, November 19, 2012

Imperial Justice 101: The Lesson of Adis and Ante

Adis Medunjanin, a Bosnian Muslim kid from Queens, New York, who allegedly plotted to blow up New York City subway system, aiming to kill numerous Americans, was sentenced to life in prison on November 16. The same day, Ante Gotovina, the Croat general who commanded over the most horrific ethnic cleansing operation in Europe since the World War II, namely, the expulsion of more than 220,000 and murder of more than 2,000 Serbs in the Serb Republic of Krajina, in early August of 1995, was freed by the Hague Tribunal together with his partner in crime, Mladen Markač. (Another perpetrator, general Ivan Čermak, was freed last year.) These two verdicts go to show how one fares as an enemy of the North Atlantic imperial system in comparison to its friends and allies. They are a message to other potential political criminals that it is ok to kill people selected as enemies of the North Atlantic imperialism, while it is wrong and punishable to be against it.

Now, I am a New Yorker and a Serb. I condemn anyone who plotted to kill innocent civilians, not only in the city I live in, but anywhere on the planet. I know this is a moot point and a little hypocritical one at that, if you are paying taxes and buying bullets that strike innocent hearts, but, unfortunately, for billions of people, including yours truly, the only way to fight injustice is to yell "Injustice!"

Anyway, if the Medunjanin kid really was plotting to bomb New York City's subway,* I applaud the U.S. courts for dishing out the harshest punishment, thus protecting the American civilians from the enemy that its government created and let in. Yes, the Bosnian Muslims are reputed allies and, I'd say, friends of the U.S. government, whose military fought alongside them against the Bosnian Serbs. The war brought a lot of them to America, and many of them are Muslim first, Americans probably never. Some decide to act upon that difference, like Medunjanin or Sulejman Talović, the Bosnian Muslim terrorist who killed five people in Utah in 2007. While I understand when a Palestinian wants to kill Americans, I feel a special kind of contempt towards Bosnian Muslims who kill Americans. As a man of high moral standards, I condemn ingrates who stab their friends in the back, which is how these Bosnian terror cells and individuals - and Albanian ones for that matter - repay for the Americans aiding their war against Serbs.

Croats, on the other hand, knew better. When Franjo Tuđman undertook the Operation Storm, the final solution for the Serb-inhabited, UN-protected Serb Republic of Krajina, in August of 1995, he did it with American blessing and, reportedly, aid. Testimonies from the fleeing Serbs of NATO planes bombarding their convoys while the Croats were shelling and chasing them are numerous and undisputed. Ante Gotovina was the Croat hero who succeeded in liberating and cleansing this UN-protected entity of its population. He fought on the side of the North Atlantic Empire and he received a recognition for it from the legal arm of the Empire, the Hague Tribunal, which doesn't even have any legal ground for being around. Anyway, Gotovina did the imperial bidding, he wasn't trying to kill Americans but actually succeeded in killing Serbs, and that is, apparently, fine under the international law.

Oh, how convenient this rogue term "international" is... When it comes to killing Serbs, in the Operation Storm or in the NATO butchering of Serbia in 1999, the international law doesn't apply. Hell, even the U.S. Constitution goes out the window (which shows that the American nation does not hire the American military anymore, but that's a different issue), since the U.S. Congress did not approve going into war against Serbia in 1999 either.

So now we have these two simple situations: one, an alleged plot to kill Americans worthy of a life-in-prison sentence, and the other, an imperial military operation that successfully drove 220,000 Serbs out of their ancestral homes and killed more than 2,000 of those unable to run for their lives or unwilling to abandon their land. Now, under what kind of international justice system - let's pretend this is a non-imperialist category that can indeed exist - the first situation warrants a life in prison in the country that is a standard-bearer of the international rule of law agenda, while no one is held accountable for the mass murder and the expulsion of a quarter million people, a crime way more horrific than mere plotting to kill? I stand corrected: a crime way more horrific if one applies moral standards and common sense, not if one holds "the international law" principles over it.

The fact that the entire Croat nation went into ecstasy over the Hague decision to free the mass murderers and that the Serbs were astonished by the verdict, despite the court's anti-Serb history, are both effects of these two nations' understanding of their respective positions in international relations. Croats showed a continued high understanding and zealous reverence for the nationalist agenda of their leadership, irrespective of heinous crimes committed in the name of it, while Serbs were puzzled by both the fact that the Western Europe and the United States - whom they call "international community" instead of the North Atlantic Empire - would insult them like that and that Croats would show such a disregard for Serbian sensibilities. The Serbian public showed a continued and alarming lack of understanding of international politics and, what's more surprising, an astounding, even stupefying, shortage of historical memory by which this disappointment in Croats was made possible, despite early warnings of this particular outcome to this particular case.

The most important message here is the imperial one and it is clear and terrifying; to all those that didn't get it in the past two decades: killing Serbs is fine by us and if you do it, make sure you consult us, so it's done right.

*considering the numerous cases where FBI agents were reportedly initiating and fomenting potential terror cells for career gains and budgetary purposes, i.e. fabrication of a reason to operate, it is hard to believe anything that mainstream media report on these terror plots

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Voting Out of Spite: The American Serb No-Choice Ballot

I live in the United States and I voted in yesterday's general election. I'm concerned with the dilapidated economic conditions, high unemployment, increasing trade deficit, increasing debt, increasing income gaps, decreasing personal freedom, finance-controlled state subduing popular dissent, lack of preparedness and response to Hurricane Sandy, high cost of living and many other social, political and economic issues that should concern a member of a particular society. But, I am a Serb in the United States. And I don't vote on issues. Not on the domestic policy issues, at least. Now, it's not like either President Obama or Governor Romney would care about issues of common people outside the campaign rhetoric, but a participant in a democratic process should, I guess, pick a candidate who is closest to what he or she cares about, in simplest terms. An American Serb generally doesn't vote FOR anyone, but AGAINST a Biden, a Clinton, a McCain, against whoever Madeleine Albright supports, against whoever bombed Serbia, recognized Kosovo...

I really hate the fact that the bridge tolls in my area cost me an arm and a leg, but even if I have a choice of voting for someone who swore not to rob me blind, I'd still vote based on his or her position on Kosovo. True, no U.S. presidential candidate stood with the Serbs since Woodrow Wilson, and no matter how hard an American Serb looks, he'd be hard pressed to find a candidate with no affiliation to anti-Serb agenda. Does that leave us with no choice but not to vote at all?

In 2004, calls within the American Serb communities to vote for George W. Bush took on a dimension of a campaign. Websites, newspaper ads and internet debates really engaged the American Serb Diaspora. Wait, was Dubya a friend to the Serbs? Didn't his administration pounce to recognize Thaci's Cartel State in 2008? Didn't the worst act of ethnic cleansing in the 21st century occur on his watch against the Kosovo Serbs in March 2004? All true, but in 2004, it was John Kerry, his opponent, who inexplicably promised to recognize Kosovo during the campaign, although Kosovo was far from being a foreign policy priority or a campaign issue. It was John Kerry who received more than half a million dollars in one evening from the Albanian-American community led by Florin Krasniqi, a well-known arms dealer, via the notorious Serb-haters Richard Holbrooke and Wesley Clark, who took the money over in the Cipriani ballroom in New York. Of course Serbs were going to vote for Kerry's opponent. The movement in the Serbian community was not ignored by Kerry, who wrote a letter to the Serbian community in Pittsburgh, addressing the issues Serbs held him in contempt over.

In 2008, the campaign in support of John McCain's opponent was not that vigorous, but a lot of Serbs did clamor for Ron Paul, a man whose Congressional voting record was clean of anti-Serbian activity. Barack Obama was a political novice and his anti-Serbian record was acceptable, but having selected another notorious Serb-hater Joe Biden as his VP choice, it was no surprise that many Serbs abstained from supporting either of the major candidates. Today, faced again with Obama, with Biden and the Clinton family by his side, it's no surprise to hear the American Serbs calling for a Mitt Romney vote. I won't be the Serb who voted for Romney, the epitome of the financierism devouring the world, just because Biden is the alternative. It is increasingly difficult for the American Serbs to find a place on the ballot to circle and not to feel guilty.

I left half of my ballot empty. I considered going "white ballot" and leave the entire ballot blank, but I felt it is my right to at least write a name in. If I wasn't a Serb, I'd weigh the issues. I'd weigh a Wall Street bankster against a sketchy lawyer for South Chicago slumlords. I'd weigh which of the two politics would provide me with less of a reason to move back to the even greater uncertainty of Serbia. I'd weight which of the two groups of very similar campaign donors is less hostile to a common man. But with financial feudalists behind Romney, with Joe Biden plus the welfare state next to Obama, it was really not a choice for me. But since I vote with the Serbian heart rather than with an American mind, if Romney extended an appropriate message into Serbian communities, Serbs like me, despite the disgust towards financierism, would be swayed.

In November of 2004, Ohio Republican Senator George Voinovich expressed gratitude to Ohio Serbs for voting Republican and helping Bush win in this swing state in which Serbs were traditionally voting Democratic due to their strong union affiliations. He even went as far as to hint at the Serbian support being crucial in communities where Serbs reside in large numbers. In 2012, no one will thank Serbs, as Serbs are politically non-existent in the United States. Now, Bush did recognize Kosovo in 2008 and the U.S. foreign policy was still strongly under the paw of the remnants of the Clinton State Department, but the mobilization momentum was very important for the gain in political weight the American Serbs carry. Perhaps influencing the presidential elections is far fetched, but there are Congressional districts where Serbs could significantly affect election outcomes, if they were organized into voting blocks.

While the election of 2004 appeared to have increased Serbian community's participation, bolstered by the hope that its choice may aid a Serbian cause, or at least prevent a greater evil, the momentum thus gained hasn't been capitalized on. The government of Serbia hasn't reached out to the American Serb community with initiatives to further utilize its voting power. The Serbian Unity Congress, for a while the most promising American Serb organization, appeared to have been completely co-opted into its leaders' personal political ambition, detached from the American Serb interests and interest of Serbdom. Serbs live in large numbers in such swing states as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, even Florida. In Ohio, President Obama won by 100,000 votes last night. There is a lot more than 100,000 Serbs in Ohio to cajole, if they presented an organized voting block worth sucking up to. There is a voting potential vastly unappreciated and neglected out there.

The American Serbs do have numbers to posit themselves in voting blocks that could demand their voice to be heard, but the power of their numbers hasn't been shaped into a political movement nor has their voice been articulated into a message that could produce an electoral demand. Voting AGAINST a candidate, on any level, is an inadequate effort at a spiteful personal satisfaction, which is fine but largely futile, but voting FOR a candidate who promised even the slightest gain for the American Serb communities in exchange for our vote is a political engagement on a more serious level, even if the results are not seen immediately.

Meanwhile, I'll continue leaving half a ballot empty and throw dice on the rest of it as no candidate will do anything for me. And I can't blame anyone since I haven't asked any candidate to do a thing for me and my community.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Secret Handshake with the Snake


Hashim ‘’The Snake” Thaci is a war criminal and a terrorist, according to Serbia’s government and probably every Serb this side of Nataša Kandić agrees with this assessment.  President Tomislav Nikolić has reiterated that, while being aware that the official Belgrade must continue talking with the Kosovo Albanian secessionists, he refused to meet with the suspected war criminal sitting in the chair of the so-called Kosovo Prime Minister. On Friday, however, a bombshell piece of news broke the Serbosphere: Ivica Dačić, Serbia’s Prime Minister, just finished meeting with Hashim Thaci in Brussels! No announcement in Serbian media, no hint that this is the new official course Serbia is taking towards the Kosovo secession issue, just a “this-just-in” news report of the event that just happened, followed with cries by the patriotic side of the Serbosphere, accusing Dačić of treason, his Socialist Party spin masters patting their leader on the back for carrying the “heavy burden” and dealing with the Kosovo issues resolutely and the co-opted Serbian media following suit.
I will not delve into the implications. I want to dwell on the reactions to the actual meeting from both Serbs and Kosovo Albanians.
First, let’s look at how one would expect either side to react.
Thaci was arrested in Budapest in 2003 and let go immediately after the intervention of the then-UNMIK head Michael Steiner. The arrest was based on Serbia’s international arrest warrant from 1997, which hasn’t been withdrawn by as late as 2010, according to Snežana Malović, Serbia’s Minister of Justice in the Mirko Cvetković cabinet. All reports point towards it still being in effect. The well-publicized report to the Council of Europe by the Swiss Deputy Dick Marty put Thaci squarely at the center of the organ extraction and trafficking operations, but the failure of the Hague Tribunal’s investigators to even touch the subject was as glaring an evidence as any of Thaci being protected from high circles of European politics. The Interpol does not list him as a person wanted by Serbia, but Malović accused the international police agency of refusing to list him claiming he enjoys diplomatic immunity. He is a diplomat of which internationally recognized country or an intergovernmental agency exactly? In any case, Thaci is considered a criminal in Serbia, a leader of the Albanian takeover of Kosovo and a devil himself. Yet, in the face of the sentiment that should be grounds enough to refuse any dealing with Thaci and to renew the calls for his arrest, Dačić allows himself to be summoned to Brussels by Catherine Ashton and to shake hands with the symbol of Serb suffering and the dismemberment of Serbia.  If Barack Obama even floated the idea of meeting Osama bin Laden, instead of assassinating him (reportedly), Joe Biden would be nesting behind the big desk in the Oval Office now and the Clintons would laugh. Yes, Thaci is the Serbian Osama bin Laden and it would be reasonable to expect that a meeting with him at the highest level would cause riots in Serbia.
On the other hand, one would expect the Kosovo Albanians to gloat over the fact that Serbia was forced to place the resolution of the status of their secession as the top national priority by Belgrade and that the Serbian Prime Minister himself was forced to have a sit-down with their warlord and the drug cartel master. Borislav Stefanović, the former negotiatior of technical terms, was an emissary, an apparatchik who signed off on all the Albanian demands that his boss, Boris Tadić, had agreed to from Belgrade. Forcing Dačić, however, to stoop down to Thaci’s level must be a reason to gloat, right? Wrong.
Let’s now see how diagonally opposite to the expectations the reactions have been.
On Monday, while Belgrade was peaceful, as it was the entire weekend and as if its Prime Minister didn't just shake hands with the Snake, Priština was rioting! The followers of Albin Kurti, the leader of the Self-Determination Movement, clashed with police, trying to overrun the Kosovo Parliament in a protest over the meeting. They accused Thaci of treason and carried banners calling for a cessation of talks with Serbia and a move towards unification with Albania. Kurti and his movement are an ultranationalist challenge to the rule of Thaci’s crime ring and this wasn’t the first time they used force against the Thaci regime. But an instance in which Thaci, despite the war crimes and terrorism baggage, got to sit at the same table with Serbia’s Prime Minister in the process of what might end up being a recognition of Kosovo’s independence, was not likely to become a cause for a protest by radical ultranationalists. Yet it was.
In Serbia, only one political party – the extra-parliamentary and now largely irrelevant Serbian Radical Party – openly accused Dačić of treason. While the Albanians consider any conversation with Serbia a treason, Serbs haggle over banalities such as whether Dačić shook Thaci’s hand – allusion to Tadić’s embarrassing handshake with Thaci in Croatia after his presidential election loss – instead of asking the Prime Minister, the President and their media the only legitimate question here: When exactly has it been decided and to whom exactly was it announced that the new official course in “defending” the southern province was embarked onto? Why was the meeting kept secret until it ended? And why was Serbian media playing deaf-mute? If the Prime Minister is meeting with Thaci, that’s a new, self-depreciating, shameful course for Serbia. But even Vojislav Koštunica’s Serbian Democrats characterized the meeting only as “damage to Serbian national interests.”
The media, most of which is still controlled by the Democratic Party-imposed cadre, has done a great job of misinforming the Serbian public and minimizing the effects and reverberations such a colossally important event was bound to cause. The fact that no media outlet – to my knowledge – announced the meeting is indicative of the confluence of interests that created the context. Serbian media’s pro-Western editors, ever trigger-happy when a chance to embarrass the new government presents itself, stayed embarrassingly quiet and passed on the chance to call Dačić out in the run-up to the meeting.  I can understand why the outlets close to the government or inching towards its good graces kept they air waves and presses shut, but I can only explain this momentous development on the former Tadić regime media side by pointing towards their cue givers in Brussels who wanted nothing to undermine the preparations for the historic event. They couldn't afford to allow a negative reaction in Serbia a week before the meeting to shake Dačić's resolve. I mean, why would, otherwise, the outlets such as Blic or B92 spare Dačić? Only a week or so before these same outlets blasted Dačić for misspeaking at a German World War II victims’ commemoration, when he blamed “criminals” who have murdered Serbs in the past for blocking Serbia's EU bid today. Now, this is attack-worthy and the Thaci meeting is not? It wasn't a big deal that no one informed the Serbian media that there was going to be a meeting of historic proportions? The media spin that followed was best depicted in the quote they beat us over the head with: ‘’’I told him (Thaci) that Kosovo is as much mine as it is his, I was born in Kosovo,’ noted the premier.’’ You officially met with the war criminal, unannounced, almost secretly, without regard to the official policy of the rest of your government, that’s what you did. Who cares what you told him?...
And just to touch on the actual implications of the meeting… Whoever waves this meeting off as a chess move, know that Serbia is several moves behind and very uncomfortable with the clock. Talking with Kosovo Albanian officials is one thing and regardless of the context in which the Serbian public places the Kosovo secession, their attitudes are a reality and cannot be ignored. Talking with Hashim Thaci, on the other hand, is out of question as a circumstance resulting from any kind of strategic maneuvering, because it not only sends contradictory message from the very top of the Serbian government, one that shows no coherence and no elements of leadership, but it also departs from the set bargaining attitude, however feeble, and, more importantly, from the self-respect position that every negotiator must establish and project.
Treason or not, Dačić’s handshake with the Snake charts a new course in Serbia’s politics: one that opens Serbia up for anything, one that has no aces up its sleeve, one that goes all in against the weathered Brussels big stack bullies who brought Serbia to its knees in the first place and who don’t even have to hide behind a poker face anymore.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Generals and Efendis: Leveling the Field of Sins

Among other well-publicized issues, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić drew more positive attention to himself in the past few days by calling to accountability a fellow minister who participated in the ceremony of unveiling of a commemorative plaque in honor of a well-known Fascist from the World War II era. Namely, Minister Sulejman Ugljanin, a Bosniak from the Raška region, was present at the commemoration of one Aćif Hadžiahmetović, better known as Aćif Efendi, in Novi Pazar. Vučić asked for a special meeting in which the rest of the cabinet criticized Ugljanin for supporting a local move that showed disregard for the anti-Fascist tradition of the Serbian people and for the victims of the Fascist militia leader in question. The cabinet decided it wanted  the plaque removed. Ok, there you go, problem solved. 

Well, hold your horses, this is the Balkans where no solution is quick...

Some of the Western-collaborationist Serbian media characters drew a parallel between Vučić criticizing Ugljanin and his support for the rehabilitation of the Serbian Chetnik commander, general Draža Mihailović, whom the media-dominating Western puppetry in Serbia still considers a Nazi collaborator, based on the Yugoslav Communist determination that Nazi collaborators were all who didn't join the Partisans. Of course, I expected nothing less from the anti-Serb foreign-sponsored cohorts of Serbia's NGO world, but regardless of their quickness to justify any anti-Serb action, a thorough historians' effort should finally be undertaken to clarify who's who of Serbia's World War II bloody waters. Now, I and many other Serbs know a hero of two world  wars and the first resistance fighter against Hitler in the occupied Europe cannot be equated with a Fascist crony, but the Serbian nation, for the sake of understanding its own role in the recent European history and to shut the mouth of the anti-Serb agitators, has to get this part of their history straight. 
Vučić and Ugljanin aside, ghosts of the World War II German occupation of Serbia and the civil war that ensued parallel with the anti-Fascist resistance haven't stopped roaming its mountains and valleys since one side in the conflict, Tito's Communists, was brought into power by the Red Army and Winston Churchill. The Allies won, and the Communists won, and they each wrote a version of history that glorified their noble purposes and vilified their enemies. Fine, every victor in history has done that without much regard for facts or justice. The evil of Italian Fascism and German Nazism was defeated and the Nuremberg trial told the story of the war as the offspring was supposed to learn it. The offspring of the warring South Slavic factions, however, learned several different versions of the story and the fall of Yugoslav Communism in 1990 opened a Pandora's box of unresolved historical disputes that very much affected the state-building and reconciliation processes. 

Without going into the well known historical detail, I want to stick with Aćif Efendi's case versus the cases of Serbs accused by the Communist regime of collaborating with the Nazi occupier. Who he was, the history knows. Tito's Communists executed him for ''collaborating with the occupier'' which was a vague qualification. The local Serbs see Aćif Efendi as an enemy whose  Fascist Sandžak Muslim Militia killed thousands of Serb Orthodox peasants in the Raška region (or Sandžak, as local Muslims call it). This Sandžak Muslim Militia fought as a Nazi paramilitary appendix until it was defeated. It targeted Serbs, without differentiating their Royalist or Communist allegiance. To be clear, the Nazi Germans were the aggressor and the occupier of Yugoslavia as well as the dominant military force, capable of committing the most severe atrocities of all the warring factions. Those who fought alongside it were its appendices with similar capabilities, incomparable to the lesser capabilities of the resistance fighters, either the Communists Partisans or the Royalist Chetniks. These two were just guerrilla, fighting the Nazis and their domestic collaborators such as the Croats or the Sandžak Muslims, as well as each other. To fight each other, each side on more than occasion put aside the fight against the Germans. Aćif Efendi was, no doubt, a German helper and a fighter against the resistance movement of both varieties, enabled to commit mass murder on a scale his Nazi mentors were notorious for. And his Sandžak Muslims had every right to form their own fighting units and side with whoever they thought would further their causes. The Raška Muslims have every right to decide whether the likes of Aćif Efendi were their heroes. They just have be considerate of the feelings of the Serbian majority.

Here I have to introduce the key question: what is the sin, being a Fascist, a collaborator or a loser of the war? Were the traitors those who joined the occupiers, those who collaborated with them, those who turned against the king and the exiled government, or those who simply ended up losing the war?

When Harry Truman decorated general Dragoljub Mihailović, commander of the Yugoslav Army in the Fatherland, a.k.a. the Serbian chetniks, secretly so he didn't have to explain himself to the new Communist government of Yugoslavia who executed Mihailović two years earlier, it was understood at the time that an American president  wouldn't award the Legion of Merit to a Fascist collaborator, but to a proven anti-Fascist. In the middle of the American anti-Nazi war, Hollywood, ever ready to side with the ideals projected by Washington, made a movie about general Draža, called Chetniks! The Fighting Guerrillas, and the Time Magazine put the famed warrior on its front page, celebrating him as the only anti-German fighter in the entire occupied Europe. Thus, Draža was definitely anti-Fascist not only because some Serbs thought so, but because his important contemporaries conceded so and supported him as such. If he was a Nazi collaborator, I doubt the Americans would side against their interests and recognize Draža. Although the Communists, the victor in their rebellion against the legitimate Yugoslav government, executed both the general and Aćif Efendi, their judgement should solely be analyzed from the perspective of them winning and exerting a retribution on the losers. Aćif Efendi was not a Fascist because the Communists executed him, but because he fought alongside the Germans and the Italians. Draža fought against both occupying armies, and the mere fact that his Communist enemy sentenced him to death doesn't make him a collaborator with the occupier but simply the enemy of the Communists.

It is time to introduce another key character, way more fitting this discussion. General Milan Nedić collaborated with the Nazis as he hesitantly accepted his appointment to head the provisional government of the German-occupied Serbia. Even he is still on a level of collaboration below Aćif Efendi because Nedić did not contribute a single fighting unit to the German war efforts against the Allies. Nedić's sin was in that he did not join the resistance against the Germans, effectively impeding it through the German-controlled Serbian Volunteer Corps, thus rendering himself a traitor to the Serbian cause, although his mere position as a collaborator helped save hundreds of thousands Serbs escaping Croatian genocidal policies. Considering this, as well as the fact that the German official retribution policy in the occupied Serbia mandated the execution of 100 Serb civilians for one German soldier killed by the resistance fighters, on one level Nedić cannot be blamed for disregarding the geopolitical and imperial alliances between Great Powers to try and save lives of the Serbian people facing extermination. To save the Serbs, Nedić sold out on his World War I hero reputation. Outside of the fact that Nazism turned out to be an absolute evil, Nedić's blame has to be revisited and analyzed more honestly. Was it better that he accepted the position to act as Hitler's puppet or that the Germans allowed Croat and Bulgarian Fascists to overrun Serbia? He had no obligation to fight for the imperial causes of Stalin, Roosevelt or Churchill at the expense of the Serbian nation, just like Aćif Efendi had no obligation to join Partisans or Chetniks. If Nedić didn't succumb to the Nazi pressure, I wonder how many Serbs would have survived the occupation. While Mihailović is slowly being legally rehabilitated in Serbia, Nedić's rehabilitation is a national taboo. 

One conclusion is that Aćif Efendi is nowhere near the Mihailović comparison and whoever compares the anti-Nazi fighter with a Nazi crony is deluded or malicious and doesn't have the truth and the reconciliation at heart. General Mihailović should be taken out of this discussion altogether. If there are heroes, he is a hero to the Serbian people, no question about that. But if Aćif Efendi joined the Nazis to better the chances of his Muslim brethren in cleaning the area of Serbs or protecting his people against the Communists or the Chetniks, this should be stated and analyzed from the appropriate angle. If he was perhaps wrongly accused of , this should be revisited too. Even if this wouldn't remove the Fascist label from his name, but it would enable Serbia and its Muslim minority to open more honest discussions, desperately needed. 

If Croats can glorify their Fascist past unimpeded and be accepted and protected by the EU as such, then the table in the Fascist-anti-Fascist debate have turned in the whole of Europe and Europe is not so anti-Fascist anymore. Then Serbia has to look past the Communist-borne notions and decide how it wants to view its World War II past. It has to decide whether its Muslim minority can be allowed to celebrate its anti-Serb Fascists. If a case is made that they could, then Serbia should have no regard for those offended by a Nedić rehabilitation either.  Any discussion of a rehabilitation of Fascists like Aćif Efendi must be predicated on the rehabilitation of the Serbian Nazi collaborators like Milan Nedić, Dimitrije Ljotić or Kosta Pećanac. If the Bosniak minority in Serbia is justified in offending the sentiments of the Serb majority by glorifying Fascists, then the Serb majority should start looking at its own Nazi collaborators who saved Serbian lives under a different light. Nazi or Fascist collaboration is in no way greater a sin than actually being a Nazi or a Fascist.

It is just for Serbia to start looking at its own past and teach its own offspring the truth without much concern for geopolitical and ideological mandates imposed by foreign, often anti-Serbian, interests and doctrines.