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."