December 27, 2003
by Srdja Trifkovic
On December 18 at a conference in Herzliya (Israel) Prime Minister Ariel Sharon delivered the most important speech of his career. He announced a set of measures that will not only “shape Israel’s character during the next few years,” as he put it, but may well shape the Middle East for decades to come.
Robbed of rhetoric the speech made five key points: First, Sharon will seek to impose his solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict unilaterally (“if the Palestinians do not make a similar effort toward a solution of the conflict, I do not intend to wait for them indefinitely.”)
Second, he says that he remains committed to the “Roadmap” launched last spring-“based on President George Bush’s June 2002 speech”-but “the achievement of full security” has to come first: the Palestinians must “uproot the terrorist groups,” “create a law-abiding society which fights against violence and incitement,” and “transform the Palestinian Authority into a different authority” before progress in the political process can be made.
Third, if the Palestinians fail to do so in the next few months, “Israel will initiate the unilateral security step of disengagement from the Palestinians.”
Fourth, the Plan will include the redeployment of the Israeli Army (IDF) along the newly-built security fence and “a change in the deployment of settlements” that will seek to remove all Jewish settlements from the areas beyond the fence.
And fifth, the fence “will not constitute the permanent border of the State of Israel” but “as long as implementation of the Roadmap is not resumed, the IDF will be deployed along that line.” The “Disengagement Plan” will be “realized,” however, if the Palestinians continue to postpone implementation of the Roadmap, and “they will receive much less than they would have received through direct negotiations as set out in the Roadmap.”
That Sharon has already made up his mind to proceed unilaterally is clear: he will be the sole judge of whether the Palestinians have made “steps which will enable progress toward resolution of the conflict,” and the verdict is preordained. His insistence on President Bush’s June 2002 speech as the alleged basis of the “Roadmap” is especially significant. In that speech Mr. Bush made harshly critical remarks about the Palestinian Authority, saying that “peace requires a new and different Palestinian leadership… not compromised by terrorism.” He told the Palestinians that they had to eradicate corruption, reform security services, create an independent judiciary, empower the legislature, and “build a practicing democracy based on tolerance and liberty.” As the London Times commented at the time, his speech “was so pro-Israel that it might have been written by Ariel Sharon.” Mr. Sharon now invokes that speech, knowing that the post set up by Bush was so high that no current or likely future Palestinian leader could hope to cross it. Sharon’s scenario is greatly helped by Yassir Arafat’s ability to reclaim the center stage of Palestinian politics. The ageing PA Chairman’s primary objective is now as ever to enhance his personal power regardless of consequences for the position of his people. This suits the Israeli prime minister who has a welcome alibi for the intransigence to which he had always inclined.
Sharon’s intentions cannot be understood separately from the geography of the new “security fence” (for official Israeli map see here) and the pace of its construction. It will be mostly completed by mid-2004, by which time Sharon will declare that the Palestinians’ failure to eradicate terrorism and carry out other reforms justify Israel’s “unilateral security step of disengagement.” He will proclaim that the “Road Map” is sadly no longer a viable blueprint for peace, and proceed with de facto partition of the occupied territories. The areas under Palestinian control-barely one-tenth of the pre-partition Palestine-will be surrounded by the fence itself, and by a string of relocated Jewish settlements and Israeli military outposts behind it. Those areas will be de facto annexed to Israel. As is clear from the map of the fence, Palestinian enclaves will be nominally contiguous, but they could be cut into a dozen mutually unconnected enclaves at a moment’s notice by the IDF.
The Palestinians will protest-they are doing it already-but to no avail. The rest of the Arab world is demoralized and unwilling to confront the United States. “What Can We Do?” asks the headline in the leading Saudi daily Al-Hayat (December 26), and answers succintly, nothing: the Palestinians can either accept the fait accompli under American, European and Arab pressure, or the unbalanced war goes on forever:
“Sharon is changing facts in Palestine, whereas Bush is changing facts in the entire Middle East. Sharon has started benefiting from the Iraq war, just as George Bush has started exploiting it. The Europeans, who think they are doing what should be done, are assuming a role that was drawn for them… Let us let this disaster complete its course and then we’ll see how we deal with it.”
In Washington neither party will dare criticize Israel in the critical stage of the presidential election. Even last week, after some hesitation, the Administration decided to pretend that Sharon’s speech was somehow constructive and conducive to peace. “We are very satisfied with the speech,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan announced: “The Prime Minister has underlined an aspect which is comforting to us. He reiterated and reaffirmed his support of the road map and the commitments he took on at the Aqaba Summit.” (Only a day earlier McClellan had stated that “the U.S. believes that an agreement must be negotiated.”)
In the short term-meaning the next few years-Sharon will be the winner, with a discredited Arafat and a helpless Arab world on one side, and a docile duopoly in Washington on the other. In the long run, however, time is not on Israel’s side, demographically and psychologically. As the Israeli commentator Uri Avnery notes, if Sharon succeeds in executing his plan a new chapter in the 100-year old Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be opened, the Palestinians will fight against this plan, and their struggle will intensify the more it progresses:
“All possible means will be employed: firing missiles and mortar shells over the separation barrier, sending suicide bombers into Israel, and so on. Probably, the violent fight will spill over into many other countries around the world, both on the ground and in the air. There will be no peace, no security.”
The latest Palestinian suicide bombing that killed four Israelis at a bus stop outside Tel Aviv on Christmas Day is both a hint of the post-separation future and a fresh argument for Sharon’s supporters. An unnamed Israeli official promptly commented that if anyone gets blamed for fencing the Palestinians in-“this nightmare of being penned like cattle”-it should be Arafat. By the same token, Sharon will have to share the burden of blame for future terrorist attacks because of his refusal to acknowledge that Israel’s security is ultimately correlated to the extent the legitimacy of its existence is accepted by its Arab neighbors. Even with the fence, and the Palestinian Authority reduced to a few pathetic enclaves, the price of short-term security gains will be long-term radicalism on the Palestinian side.
While Sharon’s shortsightedness should be a matter of regret for Israel’s friends, the willingness of the U.S. Administration to go along with his design-and to pretend that the Israeli prime minister is being constructive-is pathetic. It serves no definable American interest and it is not conducive to Israel’s long-term peaceful, prosperous survival. Sharon’s “disengagement” will present ever more starkly Israel’s true long-term choices: it will either reach a compromise based on the withdrawal from all occupied territories, evacuation of most settlements, and acceptance of truly sovereign Palestinian statehood, or else it will have to “remove” the Arabs inhabiting those territories to Jordan and bring millions of fresh Jewish settlers from around the world.
December 19, 2003
SARTRE AND ISLAMIC TERRORISM
by Srdja Trifkovic
It is not often that a line in a newspaper makes me jump and pace the room. It happened this morning as I belatedly came across an article in the Guardian (November 26) about two young Turkish Kurds, Azad Ekinci and Feridan Ugurlu, who blew themselves up in two separate attacks on the British consulate and HSBC bank in Istanbul five days earlier.
The London daily’s correspondent reported from their native town in eastern Turkey that “Ekinci was kept indoors by an overly protective mother-until he met Mesut, who had a taste for Jean-Paul Sartre and connections with the Islamist guerrilla group Hizbullah.” The pair soon became inseparable: “They were so tight, one couldn’t go without the other to the toilet,” said Adul Ali Benghizou, a middle-aged man who knew the two well. “Ekinci was a bit isolated, but when he met Mesut he changed. Mesut was obsessed with existentialism and Jean-Paul Sartre.” The pair soon went to the battlefields of Bosnia and Chechnya as volunteers for jihad.
For once it all came together: Sartre as inspiration for suicidal terrorism, young existentialists volunteering to fight for Izetbegovic’s Islamistan in Bosnia, the unexplored link between Jihad and homo-eroticism.
The road from Sartre to terrorist violence is pretty straightforward. The effect of existentialism on a young, impressionable person can be compelling. It is appealing to an adolescent to be told that he is whomever he chooses to be, a lawmaker unto himself, that the only authority is his freedom. That realization soon turns to anguish, however, when our thinking teenager realizes that the price of freedom is meaningless existence, that life is “useless passion.” In Sartre’s own words, it is “very distressing that God does not exist, because all possibility of finding values in a heaven of ideas disappears along with Him.” The inevitable result is despair, the realization that we cannot ultimately rely on anyone else for anything, “given that man is free and that there is no human nature for me to depend on.” We are all alone in our “unhappy consciousness,” in a world not of our making and not of our choosing.
This is powerful stuff, and there are only two ways out of it: suicide, or self-immersion in an ideological opiate. Sartre opted for the latter, by accepting the Marxist conceptions of history, economics, and politics. (In addition he made a lot of money from peddling ideas such as these, spent days smoking Gauloises in Cafй de Flore, and employed his live-in mistress as procuress of much younger women for an endless string of one-night stands.) Even after he was expelled from the Communist Party Sartre remained a typical fellow-traveler and an advocate of leftist and Third World revolutionaries. In the final years of his life, however, he replaced both existential dread and Marxism with Jewish messianic utopianism. In an interview with his friend and associate Bernard-Henry Lйvy (formerly Pierre Victor), published shortly before his death, Sartre dwells on his discovery that “the messianic idea is the base of the revolutionary idea.”
To a young Kurd, however, Islam offers the natural alternative to existential Angst, with its mix of the messianic base and revolutionary superstructure. It is a totalitarian political ideology (like communism) with 72 dark-eyed houris and 28 “scented boys” hereafter. Had Sartre lived longer-he died in 1980 at the age of 75-he could have ended his spiritual quest by kissing the carpet in the direction of Mecca. The notion is far from preposterous: after all that was the final destination for another ex-Communist philosophe, Roger Garaudy, who converted to Islam in 1982 at the age of 68.
Sartre’s sidekick, Bernard-Henri Lйvy (or BHL as he is known in Parisian gossip columns) is already halfway there. This media personality and the author, most recently, of an adoring Sartre: The Philosopher of the Twentieth Century, was one of the most outspoken Western advocates of the Muslim side in the Bosnian war, so much so that he had the gall to declare that the policy of Alija Izetbegovic “has been demonstrably against the establishment of an Islamic state.” In his lunatic account of world affairs the Muslims are always sufferers at the hands of the Orthodox Christians and always innocent of any wrongdoing, in Chechnya and Kosovo no less than in Bosnia. Sartre’s most prominent disciple professes disdain for jihadist fundamentalism but advocates an invented “moderate Islam” in its stead, with the recently deceased author of the Islamic Declaration as the role model. The “siege” of Sarajevo became a stage for his non-stop self-serving media appearances.
Thanks to Bernard-Henri Lйvy more than any other man, the capital of France-and until not so long ago the intellectual capital of the world-has succumbed to the culture of victimology and anti-Western self-hate. His most tangible contribution to his countrymen and the rest of us has been to promote and encourage the Muslim sense of victimhood. Together with the likes of George Soros, Susan Sontag, and countless others like them, he has fed the minds of potential suicide bombers with a political pap that nourishes and legitimizes their rage.
As befits a purveyor of victimology, the one thing to which Levy seriously objects to in the Muslim world is the legal ban on homosexual intercourse. In July 2002 he signed a petition, addressed to Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, protesting the trial of a group of young men accused of homosexual practices. In Pakistan they’d be lashed, in Saudi Arabia executed. And yet-to come back to Azad Ekinci and Feridan Ugurlu-all over the Islamic world suppression and unavailability of liaison between males and females outside the prearranged wedlock has produced latent sexual tension that has sought and found release in homosexual liaisons through the centuries. When the two suicide bombers’ neighbor remarked to the Guardian’s correspondent that “[t]hey were so tight, one couldn’t go without the other to the toilet,” the allusion to the nature of their friendship was unmistakeable. Those denied access to licit sexuality have sought and obtained outlets that produced chronic contradictions between normative morality and social realities.
Historically, this state of affairs was not concealed from Western observers who were fascinated, shocked, and often attracted by the outward appearances of rampant, barely concealed pederasty. By 1800, a European traveler to Egypt wrote that “the inconceivable inclination which has dishonored the Greeks and Persians of antiquity constitutes the delight, or, more properly speaking the infamy of the Egyptians” and that “it has seized the poor as well as the rich.” The “contagion” in question was spelled out more bluntly by an earlier writer, Thomas Sherley, describing the Turks: “For their Sodommerye they use it soe publiquely and impudentlye as an honest Christian woulde shame to companye his wyffe as they do with their buggeringe boys.”
A 17th century French visitor to the Middle East went so far as to claim that Moslems were bisexual by nature, and many male authors gave descriptions of “licentiousness” (lesbianism) among women in harems and bath houses. Homosexuality became known to the English as the “Persian” or “Turkish” vice.
This peculiar aspect of the Muslim world has never disappeared. The sight of men, even soldiers in uniform, strolling along a street hand in hand, strikes first-time visitors as extraordinary even today. The fascination of Western authors like Gustave Flaubert, Oscar Wilde, or Andre Gide, with this aspect of the Islamic world continues in the “gay culture” of our own time. One of its Kulturtraegers finds “something extremely sensual and potent about the image of the Islamic male.” “You only have to compare the stiff, asexual frigidity of Bush and his bookmarmish wife,” says he, “with the moist-eyed, sensitive and soft-spoken quality of the bearded Bin Laden, feminine yet virile, with his multiple wives and vast progeny, to grasp the difference.”
The author has intuited something important, and dangerous. The Guardian told us that “Ekinci was kept indoors by an overly protective mother,” and mothers fixated on their sons create preconditions for what is known in clinical psychology as the “lost object homosexuality.” The cry for the missing father, that emanates across the Moslem world into the endless void from a hundred thousand minarets five times each day, can never be answered. The hatred that motivates Bin Laden and his “feminine yet virile” followers such as Azad Ekinci and Feridan Ugurlu is not the normal aggressiveness of the child for the father at the Oedipal stage but hard-core psychotic homosexuality of the son abandoned by his father, a condition that can lead to homicidal, delusional paranoia. In Istanbul on November 15, mixed with Sartre, it killed 25 people including the British consul-general.
The two youngsters would have been wiser to follow the example of Saddam Hussein in their choice of books. According to a Knight Ridder report (December 16), in the hut where he was hiding among a dozen books piled on top of a chest near a bed “[t]here was a book on interpreting dreams, volumes of classical Arabic poetry titled Discipline and Sin, and Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.”
This is excellent news. Saddam is most unlikely to get out of his present predicament alive but, judging by his bedside reading, his soul is on the way to recovery. Not only is he grappling with the important issues of “discipline” and “sin,” he is also following Raskolnikov’s path from murderous madness to his Lazarus-like rebirth and, finally, an eminently Christian acceptance of guilt, repentance, and quest for atonement. The outcome of Saddam’s trial is immaterial here; his spiritual recovery won’t help him in the eyes of the law but will in the eye of God. If Saddam accepts Fyodor Mihailovich’s message he has an opportunity to begin his life anew. He is guilty of many horrible crimes but his guilt will lose its demonic hold and in the remaining few months of his life, in his prison cell, he may even experience “a presentiment of future resurrection and a new life.”
December 16, 2003
SADDAM HUSSEIN, A SECULARIST POLITICIAN
by Srdja Trifkovic
Saddam Hussein’s capture proves three things: that he is indeed a secularist as often alleged, that even in adversity he remains an inveterate politician, and that Karl Rove is not in charge at the White House.
Only someone who rejects religious faith, and accepts only the facts and influences derived from the tangible world, can value his earthly life so highly that he would risk the unspeakable humiliation we all witnessed last Sunday rather than end it by making a hopeless gesture of resistance.
Only a true politician-along with some prostitutes and most neoconservative journalists-can be so utterly devoid of shame.
Last but not least, if Karl Rove were in charge Saddam would not be in American jail today. He would be allowed to rot for ten more months in his rodent-infested hideouts around Tikrit, at all times alertly but discreetly shadowed by the U.S. special forces. His capture would happen next October, when it would be worth a few percentage points to Bush. Now they’ll have to do Usama, or bring back Elvis, for the same effect.
Saddam’s going out “with a whimper,” as Donald Rumsfeld put it, is undeniably a coup for the Bush Administration and a much-needed morale booster for the troops on the ground. The jubilation may be only temporary, however. Rocket-propelled grenade attacks and suicide bombings will not stop. From Saddam’s looks and whereabouts it is evident that he was not commanding and controlling anyone. The attacks on Americans, their allies and their local helpers are fed by a mix of nationalist sentiment and Islamic radicalism that resents foreign presence. It is Usama Bin Laden, not Saddam, who inspires some resisters, while others may be stimulated by Saddam’s pathetic performance to show to the world that they are not a breed of barefaced cowards. Feelings of many Arabs were reflected in the admission of the leading Palestinian daily Al-Quds (December 15) that the footage of Saddam’s physical examination “is painful to watch and reflects the Arab nation’s state of humiliation and degradation.” Humiliation and degradation breed violence. As Israeli columnist Guy Bechor noted in Yediot Aharonot on the same day, “There is a Middle East paradox at play here: not only will his capture not stop terror, it is even liable to spur it… The Americans will yet pay a heavy price for those pictures.” With Saddam’s capture some of those Iraqis who did not want to be associated with him may be encouraged to join the resistance that will take a more nationalistic form.
Saddam’s trial will present a separate dilemma. He richly deserves to hang but the mechanism of achieving that end is tricky. An “international” trial has been wisely ruled out. Slobodan Milosevic’s televized show-trial at The Hague had many Serbs who had always loathed him cheering him on, because, whatever his real offenses, the stated case is largely bogus. The US is right to accept for Saddam an option, trial in his own country, that had been explicitly and erroniously rejected in Milosevic’s case.
Mr. Bush says that there should be a trial in which the Iraqi people are “very much involved” and that can “stand international scrutiny.” The two goals may be incompatible, and a special tribunal set up in Baghdad recently to decide on the fate of the most important heads of the old regime is a poor model. Ahmad Chalabi of the Iraqi Governing Council has already made the unambiguous statement that “Saddam will be punished for his crimes.” He did not qualify the satetement with “if found guilty,” and he does not have a jail sentence in mind. Mouwafak al-Rabii, a Shiite member of the Council, opined that death is the only appropriate punishment. Asked if the death penalty could be considered, Governing Council leader Abdelaziz al-Hakim said: “Yes. Absolutely.” The government structure to which they belong has no mandate and no legitimacy, however, and nothing short of a general election can provide it. Saddam’s family know that his prospects would be grim if he is tried in Iraq. His daughter Raghad Saddam Hussein-who, along with her sister Rana, has sought asylum in Jordan-said the family wanted her father to be tried by an international court rather than a special tribunal.
Handing Saddam over to Chelebi and his colleagues so that they can administer what would amount to summary justice-even if they are reconstituted as Iraq’s sovereign government in the meantime-is not a promising start for the new Iraq that, according to Mr. Bush, should now embark unhindered on the task of building democracy. A hundred talking heads and editorial writers nevertheless claim that Saddam’s trial would be “cathartic” for the Iraqis (funny how these buzz-words spread like computer viruses around the globe). That is worthless psycho-babble. Doing a Ceausescu on Saddam would be in tune with the Iraqi political tradition-its last king, Faisal II, was murdered with his entire family in 1958 by General Abdul Karim Kassem, who was in turn murdered by Saddam’s mentor Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr-but let us not pretend that the deed would purify or enoble anyone, or cleanse anyone’s sins. Saddam delendus, indeed, but no pompous pieties about it please.
There is also the embarrassing matter of what Saddam may disclose about his foreign contacts in the course of his trial, provided that the proceedings are public and the defendant is free to talk. He may provide some interesting details, for instance, on how the United States gave him the tools-allegedly including anthrax and bubonic plague virus-to make his Weapons of Mass Destruction during the Iran-Iraq war in the eighties. The Riegle Report of the Senate Banking Committee (1994) told only a part of the story when it concluded that the US provided Iraq with ‘dual-use’ materials “which assisted in the development of Iraqi chemical, biological and missile-system programs.” He may additionally explain if his meeting with Donald Rumsfeld in Baghdad in 1983 had anything to do with such goings-on.
Saddam could also recall the good, old days in 1988 when Washington lobbied to prevent international condemnation of Iraq’s chemical attack against the Kurdish village of Halabja, instead attempting to place the blame on Iran. He may also disclose details of a covert program carried out during the Reagan Administration that provided Iraq with critical satellite intelligence and battle planning assistance, at a time-as The New York Times put it in 1992-“when US intelligence agencies knew that Iraqi commanders would employ chemical weapons against Iran.” He may provide some new information on how Great Britain secretly assisted him in building a chemical plant, although H.M. Government was fully aware that deadly gasses were used against both Kurds and Iranian troops in the 1980s. (The warning about possibilities to make chemical weapons was dismissed by Paul Channon, British trade minister at that time, who said that abandoning the project “would do our other trade prospects in Iraq no good.”) He may give us his own version of that notable meeting with then-US Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, on July 25 1990-only eight days before he invaded Kuwait-when she stated that the US has “no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.” Saddam’s public trial may prove “cathartic” in all kinds of unexpected ways.
On second thoughts Mr. Bush may conclude that delivering Saddam to Mr. Chelebi et al for a quick and irreversible dose of Arab justice may not be a bad idea after all. He should declare a glorious victory and leave Iraq. The American occupation has derived its legitimacy from the need to remove the “remains” of the old regime. With Saddam’s capture the President has an excellent opportunity to speed up the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis, to internationalize the transition, and to withdraw all U.S. troops before next November’s election day. Dr. Wolfowitz will disagree and do his best to sabotage any such policy, but that is because he does not care about Bush’s reelection and he does not care about American lives. Those in the Administration who do should go on the offensive now, and prevent the neocons from claiming that Saddam’s capture proves their policy is working.
And yes, Karl Rove should point out to his boss that the scenes of GIs’ joyous homecoming would be almost as useful next October as Usama’s capture.
December 12, 2003
WOLFOWITZ’S PREMEDITATED BLUNDER
by Srdja Trifkovic
Most Americans who think about such things implicitly assume that the U.S. foreign policy-whether they agree with its conduct or not-is coherent and rational. In foreign policy analysis the prevalent model of the “unitary actor” likewise assumes procedural rationality and instrumental consistency of the “decision-making community.” The circumstances of France under Napoleon, Russia under Stalin, or America under Reagan were vastly different but they are all studied and rated on the basis of the decision-makers’ ability to identify their goals, to match them against a set of strategic objectives, define the options, assess the costs and benefits, and finally to make decisions and implement policy that optimally matches their perception of their country’s, or their person’s, or group’s, best interest.
Judged by these criteria, the foreign policy of the United States at the end of 2003 is neither coherent nor rational. There is no unity of purpose and no unity of action. This conclusion follows from a sequence of very strange events in the space of one week.
On December 6 the Associated Press reported that “President Bush and his top aides were cajoling, imploring and even sweet-talking allies” into sharing the burden of Iraq with America. In a reversal of previous policy Washington declared that it wanted greater roles in Iraq for the United Nations and NATO. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were sent to Europe with a new, less confrontational message, initially delivered by Mr. Bush in London two weeks earlier, that the reconstruction of Iraq and the war on terror both demand allies, partnerships, and the cooperation of international organizations.
Mr. Rumsfeld was anything but his usual abrasive self when he met the alliance defense ministers in Brussels on December 2 and declared that Washington “welcomes more help in Iraq.” When he went on to declare that “maybe we ought to try to do a better job of communicating,” his audience could hardly believe this was the same man who was so dismissive of the “old Europe” less than a year ago. Rumsfeld even refused to repeat his previous criticism of the European Union’s intention to create a military planning cell that could run crisis management operations independently of NATO.
Only days later, addressing his NATO colleagues in Brussels, Mr. Powell urged the Alliance “to examine how it might do more to support peace and stability in Iraq, which every leader has acknowledged is critical to us.” He later told reporters that “it was striking today that as we discussed the possibility not a single member spoke against it or talked about reasons not to do it.” NATO foreign ministers did not exactly embrace the idea but they left the door open for such possibility if a suitable political framework could be agreed upon.
As the New York Times commented in the aftermath of Rumsfeld’s and Powell’s tour, “there is a universal recognition among NATO members that the rift both within the Atlantic alliance and between Europe and the US has to be repaired if the alliance is to remain viable.” The new mood went so far that President Jacques Chirac, the most outspoken opponent of the war in Iraq among NATO and EU members, started talking of a more active French role in the Alliance and even in Iraq. His officials hinted that France had not discarded a contingency plan send between eight and ten thousand soldiers to Iraq if the political structure was right.
Then came the bombshell. On December 9, Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz released a memorandum dated December 5 announcing that countries that had opposed the Iraq war would be barred by the U.S. from bidding for billions of dollars of reconstruction contracts, ranging from equipping the new Iraqi army to rebuilding and refurbishing power and water plants, roads, oil installations and communications systems. Those contracts would only be given to companies from the United States, its coalition partners and force contributing nations, Wolfowitz said. In a sentence masterfully Marxian in its infathomable dialectics he declared that “limiting competition for prime contracts will encourage the expansion of international cooperation in Iraq and in future efforts,” and that “every effort must be made to expand international cooperation in Iraq.”
Wolfowitz’s statement was the diplomatic equivalent of a barrel of gasoline being thrown into a barely extinguished fire. “We noted this news with amazement,” German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said. Canada’s incoming prime minister Paul Martin found it “very difficult to understand” that such a statement could be made. France and the European Union threatened to review the decision to determine if it violated commitments made by the United States in international agreements brokered by the World Trade Organization to open member-states’ government contracts to foreign competition. “This is a gratuitous and extremely unhelpful decision,” declared Chris Patten, the European Union’s commissioner for international relations, and his language could not have been any stronger in a diplomat.
The anouncement effectively torpedoed a major American initiative led by the former secretary of state James A. Baker III to reduce Iraq’s foreign debt of over $120 billion, much of it owed to France, Germany and Russia. “We are not going to write off any debts,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov immediately declared. A senior official at the State Department was quoted as saying that Mr. Baker is “the one who’s going to be carrying the water” and deal with the consequences of Wolfowitz’s move. Baker’s visits to Russia, Great Britain, France and Germany next week will proceed as scheduled, but after the announcement on contracts it is most unlikely that he will persuade any of those countries to forgive Iraq’s debts.
Wolfowitz’s timing was particularly embarrassing for President Bush personally, since he had scheduled telephone conversations with French President Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Russian President Vladimir Putin for the following day (December 10) to discuss debt forgiveness. Instead of pressing his interlocutors for concessions he was subjected to their cold questioning about the decision. It is inconceivable that Wolfowitz was unaware of the arrangement at the time of making his announcement.
Most foreign commentators have accused Mr. Bush of insensitivity and arrogance, while most domestic commentators complained of his ineptitude. The New York Times set the tone by declaring that “President Bush has reversed field again and left the European allies angry, the secretary of state looking out of step, and the rest of us wondering exactly what his policy really is.” It is remarkable that Wolfowitz himself was not included among those deserving reproach. The implied assumption is that the Assistant Secretary of Defense was simply acting as a loyal official carrying out his assigned tasks, and that the President was to blame if the result was an impression of illogicality and incoherence in his team’s policy.
In another article, however, the Times interestingly revealed that “White House officials were fuming about the timing and the tone of the Pentagon’s directive.” Unnamed White House sources revealed that he was “distinctly unhappy” about having to deal with foreign leaders who had just learned of their exclusion from the contracts. Whatever his true feelings on the matter, in public the President defended Wolfowitz’s announcement: “Our people risked their lives. Friendly coalition folks risked their lives. And, therefore, the contracting is going to reflect that.” Colin Powell remained silent, however; a top State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, reflected his boss’s feelings when he called the whole affair “a train wreck.”
Why should Wolfowitz-an experienced, skillful, and highly intelligent operator-choose such a bad moment to make the announcement, and adopt such a gratuitously insulting tone? At the technical level, why was a memo written on December 5 released exactly four, and not ten or twelve days later, which would have given Bush and Baker an opportunity to launch the campaign for debt reduction without immediate hindrance? At the policy level, why was Wolfowitz allowed to impose the exclusion order in the first place-for it is clear that the policy was his, and that Bush condoned it against the better judgment of Powell and others-when it is so diametrically opposed to the thrust of this Administration’s policy in previous weeks?
To cut the long story short here’s why, and the explanation is eminently Unfit to Print. Wolfowitz is guilty neither of ineptitude nor of incoherence. Over the past three years his every statement and every move proved that he is rational and coherent in pursuit of his objectives, but those objectives are not identical with the stated goals of the Administration as a whole. To use the jargon, his behavior is personally functional but systemically dysfunctional.
Far from seeking cooperation and partnership, Wolfowitz and other neoconservatives want to create a permanent rift between the United States and Europe. His famous Vanity Fair admission last spring, that in seeking justification for war against Iraq “for bureaucratic reasons we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on,” likewise caused furore in Europe. It made a mockery of Powell’s claim that Iraq was being attacked because it had violated its “international obligations” under its 1991 surrender agreement, which required the disclosure and removal of its WMDs. Just like his December 9 announcement, Wolfowitz’s Vanity Fair admission appeared irrational and at odds with the Administration’s stated policy objectives. In both cases a heavy spanner was thrown into the works of “rebuilding Iraq” through international consensus and cooperation.
Wolfowitz’s behavior is coherent and logical only if his true objective is to make sure that the US remains the only outside power that matters in the Middle East. Since he is neither mad nor stupid his December 9 announcement must be seen as a deliberate move to preempt and torpedo Bush’s, Baker’s and Powell’s initiative to get Europe, NATO and the UN involved in Iraq. He and his neoconservative allies do not want any foreign involvement there, except on their terms and under their control. They want the United States to remain engaged on its own, with all key decisions made by themselves and not through some multilateral mechanism that would be inevitable if NATO were to send troops and Europe to forgive debts. Wolfowitz’s claim that “every effort must be made to expand international cooperation in Iraq” is a brazen lie, the exact opposite of his true intent.
Wolfowitz’s premeditated blunder may have the additional objective to help detach President Bush from the remaining ties with his father’s friends and advisors who still hope to pull him away from the neocons. In the final analysis the neoconservatives may be more interested in discrediting Baker, Powell and others like them personally than in controlling the occupation of Iraq. The Big Prize for them is to isolate Bush from competing counsel so they can completely control policy in the next administration.
Is George W. Bush aware of all this, and is he willing, or able, to do something about it? The answer will be known if Dr. Wolfowitz remains at his post three weeks from now. In a normal, well-ordered country, his actions over the past week-whether caused by malice, ineptitude, or stupidity-would be punished by immediate dismissal. If he remains at his post it is to be feared that America is no longer a normal country.
December 11, 2003
NEOCONS BLACKMAIL BUSH?
by Srdja Trifkovic
On December 9, the Washington Post published a strange article, called “How Dean Could Win,” by the editor of the Weekly Standard William Kristol.
“Could Dean really win? Unfortunately, yes,” says Kristol and reminds us that “the Democratic presidential candidate has, alas, won the popular presidential vote three times in a row-twice, admittedly, under the guidance of the skilled Bill Clinton, but most recently with the hapless Al Gore at the helm.” Kristol’s scenario for Bush’s defeat looks increasingly unlikely given the bullish macroeconomic indicators of the past few weeks, but isn’t completely implausible.
Kristol points out that demographics-the ever-increasing numebrs of Hispanics-favor Dean. Good economic news notwithstanding, Bush is the first president since Hoover under whom there will have been no net job creation, and “the first since Lyndon Johnson whose core justification for sending U.S. soldiers to war could be widely (if unfairly) judged to have been misleading.” He will be running for reelection after two years of GOP control of both houses and the voters prefer divided government. Dean is running a “terrific” primary campaign, the most impressive since Carter in 1976. His liberalism is exaggerated: he governed as a centrist in Vermont, and he can accuse Bush of expanding deficits and threatening Social Security.
So far so conventional, Kristol then comes to what is his main point. Don’t Bush’s response to 9-11, and his overall leadership in the war on terrorism, remain compelling reasons to keep him in office, he asks, and proceeds to give an ambiguous answer:
They do for me. But while Bush is committed to victory in that war, his secretary of state seems committed to diplomatic compromise, and his secretary of defense to an odd kind of muscle-flexing-disengagement. And when Bush’s chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., said on Sunday with regard to Iraq, ‘We’re going to get out of there as quickly as we can, but not before we finish the mission at hand,’ one wonders: Wouldn’t Howard Dean agree with that formulation? Indeed, doesn’t the first half of that sentence suggest that even the most senior of Bush’s subordinates haven’t really internalized the president’s view of the fundamental character of this war? If they haven’t, will the American people grasp the need for Bush’s continued leadership on November 2? If not, prepare for President Dean.
The only way to read this bizarre paragraph is this: Bush better lay off Israel and stay deep in Iraq, or else Bill Kristol’s friends will back Dean.
Unthinkable? Not at all! The Democrats probably would not have gone to Iraq in the first place, but if they inherit it with US troops still patrolling the streets of Mosul they may prove to be wonderfully appreciative of what the Weekly Standard calls the “fundamental character” of the war. The notion of “nation-building,” of spreading democracy and bringing human rights to the benighted foreign masses, has always been the Democrats’ specialty. The preoccupation with making the Middle East safe for Our Unsinkable Aircraft Carrier has also, historically, resonated with them more deeply than with the GOP.
Dean’s own view is that “now that we’re there, we’re stuck.” whoever is elected in 2004 will have to live with it: “We have no choice. It’s a matter of national security. If we leave and we don’t get a democracy in Iraq, the result is very significant danger to the United States.” Last summer he declared that “bringing democracy to Iraq is not a two-year proposition”: “Having elections alone doesn’t guarantee democracy. You’ve got to have institutions and the rule of law, and in a country that hasn’t had that in 3,000 years, it’s unlikely to suddenly develop by having elections and getting the heck out.” Dean would impose a “hybrid” constitution, “American with Iraqi, Arab characteristics. Iraqis have to play a major role in drafting this, but the Americans have to have the final say.” He is almost as hawkish on Afghanistan, where “losing the peace is not an option” and “pulling out early would be a disaster.” Five times the current level of troops are needed, he told The Washington Post last August.
This sounds like an approach Bill Kristol can live with. Some weeks before his Washington Post article he had already mused on the problem of an essentially sound President-by virtue of having internalized the Kristol Weltanschauung-who is being stabbed in the back by his dovish, spineless minions: “The president eloquently makes the case for a necessarily and admirably ambitious foreign policy. Yet his own administration’s deeds threaten the achievement of his goals.” Rumsfeld was singled out because of his “dogmatic” commitment to a small Iraqi force although America is “losing the peace” whereas the only acceptable exit strategy is “victory.”
Kristol’s neoconservative friends have used Bush with skill over the past three years but they still do not trust him. They know that before running for presidency he had no strong views about any foreign topic, the Middle East included, and they only trust people with strong views, their views. They were eager to furnish Bush with key advisors, most notably in the person of Paul Wolfowitz. But Kristol is now telling Bush that some of those advisors are not sound and that they must be replaced-or else it will be doubted if even the President had “fully internalized” the neoconservative view of the war’s “fundamental character.”
The Weekly Standard crowd’s disdain for Colin Powell a self-styled “Rockefeller Republican,” has been a weak Secretary of State, whose lack of strong principles and firm convictions has been used by his colleagues with very strong views to set the agenda. That not even Rumsfeld pleases them any longer is a novelty, and singling out those two, as well as Andrew Card, may hint at the scope of Kristol’s friends’ personnel ambitions for 2004. They know that the Bush family has the reputation for being uncomfortable with ideologues, and they remember George H.W. Bush’s 1991 unprecedented row with Israel and its lobby in Washington. Bush-father had defeated Saddam and liberated Kuwait yet within months he was described as a practitioner of “if not anti-Semitism, then something very close to it,” as an American Jewish Congress leader famously put it. They also remember, and feel emboldened by, their contribution to Bush Senior’s 1992 defeat.
President Bush’s reply to Kristol should be to fire Wolfowitz, announce the target date for the withdrawal from Iraq, and invite the authors of the unofficial Geneva Accord to the White House for a well-publicized chat. Whatever Mr. Bush loses with Kristol and other Benevolent Global Hegemonists he will more than gain with all real Americans.
December 8, 2003
by Srdja Trifkovic
President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia scored a major victory at the fourth post-Soviet parliamentary election in Russia on Sunday. With just over 37 percent of the vote it became the biggest party by far in the new State Duma (parliament). Thousands of candidates belonging to 23 parties competed for some 110 million votes but only 55.7% of voters cast their ballots, slightly up from the previous elections in 1999 when the response was 53 percent.
In addition to United Russia only three parties have exceeded the 5 percent minimum required for Duma representation: the Communist Party of Russian Federation (KPRF) won 12.7 percent, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) 11.8 percent, and the Rodina (Motherland) bloc 9 percent of the vote. The latter two parties are likely to act as Putin’s allies: Zhirinovsky’s LDPR had supported the president on all key issues in the old Duma, while the Rodina is widely perceived as a Kremlin-approved group that enjoyed its tacit support in order to undermine the Communists. The potential majority Putin now commands may give him enough votes to change the constitution so he can run for a third presidential term in 2008.
Rodina’s success is nevertheless remarkable, considering that this was the first electoral test for a party that came into being only three months ago and consists mainly of former Communists. Its co-leader Sergei Glazyev, an economist, did well by focusing his attacks on the mega-rich and unpopular oligarchs. His demands for an end to their ability to evade taxes were well received by many impoverished Russians on fixed incomes. His co-leader Dmitry Rogozin insisted on the need to protect interests of Russians left outside the country after the collapse of the USSR and advocated a more assertive foreign policy. He says the reason for his party’s success was simple: Russians were sick of “poverty, banditry and the violence in the Caucasus.”
Such themes resonated with the voters so strongly that the Kremlin became worried that Rodina might do too well in the elections and could become a potential rival, rather than a junior partner to Putin’s United Russia. That will not happen for the time being as both Glazyev and Rogozin will seek to consolidate their position and establish themselves as a permanent fixture on the country’s political scene. Glazyev in particular is seen as a strong figure with considerable appeal among the disillusioned communist voters.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s populist-nationalist LDPR also did well, doubling its vote from 6 percent in 1999. Zhirinovsky’s proven willingness to support Putin’s legislative agenda-his fiery rhetoric notwithstanding-was rewarded by the party’s increased access to state television. LDPR’s extra votes also came mainly from disillusioned communists. Zhirinovsky is unlikely ever to repeat his 1993 success when he won more than one-fifth of the vote, and 12-15% range is his party’s likely niche for the foreseeable future.
The main losers are Gennady Zyuganov, the communist leader, and the two parties routinely described as “pro-Western” and “reformist,” Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces, known by its Russian acronym SPS.
Under Zyuganov’s leadership over the last decade the communists have seen a steady erosion of their support. The Party’s share of the vote was halved from 24 percent in 1999 and Zyuganov’s future as party leader must be in doubt. His accusations that the election was fixed and “had nothing to do with democracy” ring somewhat hollow: While there is no denying that the state media favored United Russia and its de facto allies, this election was by all accounts no less fair than the ones before it and therefore cannot explain the Party’s collapse.
The main problem of the Communist Party is that of identity and target audience. Its attempts to re-invent itself as a pro-market party of the democratic Left have failed to attract the middle class while at the same time alienating its core constituency: the industrial workers, the pensioners, the poor, and the Soviet-era nostalgists. The Party is likely to face an internal split that may result in the emergence of a doctrinaire Marxist-Leninist party and a social-democratic one.
Zyuganov has experienced a defeat, but the “pro-Western reformists” have been routed. The SPS (Gaidar, Chubais) and Yabloko (Grigory Yavlinsky) will retain purely symbolic representation in the Duma by winning a few single-mandate districts, which make up one-half of the 450-member chamber. Such a decisive defeat for the parties of oligarchs and liberals was partly due to their inability to forge a formal alliance despite years of negotiations.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) praised the Russian Election Commission “for its professional organization of these elections,” but said that media coverage favoring United Russia resulted in apathy from voters who felt the result was a foregone conclusion. “Given that procedures on election day were conducted in a technically correct way, it is even more regrettable that the main impression of the overall electoral process is of regression in the democratization process in Russia,” said Bruce George, president of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.
The losers in Moscow are predictably saying that their defeat heralds Russia’s return to Soviet oppressive practices at home and aggressiveness abroad-a theme that is bound to be repeated in much of foreign commentary. Yavlinsky says that Russia was experiencing the rebirth of a single-party system. SPS’s Boris Nemtsov was even gloomier: he said that the winning parties would act together to tighten an authoritarian grip on the country and pursue “antagonistic relations” with Russia’s neighbors and the West. Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev-long retired from politics but sympathetic to the “pro-Westerners”-also deplored the defeat of “reformist” forces and warned against single-party domination could result in a “Soviet Communist-type situation.” SPS’s spokeswoman Irina Khakamada went even further by describing Rodina’s success as a sign that “the national socialists were coming.” (Zhirinovsky’s answer to Khakamada was “Calm down and go and give lectures abroad.”)
There will be certain changes of policy in Moscow, not of the system itself. Ten years after the first post-Soviet parliamentary election Russia’s political spectrum appears more nationalist, less pro-market than in Yeltsin’s early years. As the arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovsky indicates, Putin’s establishment is also likely to be less forgiving to the tiny oligarch class that has grown rich by squandering the country’s resources, especially to those of its members who display political ambitions. On the whole the business community appears pleased with the prospect of continuity and stability, however, and Russia’s equity and bond markets have started the week on a bullish note.
Russia is likely to adopt a more assertive foreign policy after Putin’s re-election as president next March, but that is only to be expected in the aftermath of NATO’s harmful and unnecessary enlargement and in view of the continuing Western ambiguity over Chechnya. The key to a fruitful and mutually beneficial relationship between Russia and the United States is still the liquidation or transformation of NATO. Either as an auxiliary tool of U.S. policy, or as a means of European impact on that policy, an alliance that has outlived its reason for existence should not be revived because of President Bush’s current difficulties in Iraq. Its very existence perpetrates the sense of Russia’s continued status as an implicit adversary of the United States. In the long term, as we have stated before, a wider paradigm shift in the U.S. foreign policy is needed, based on the creation of a genuine Northern Alliance-that of Russia, Europe, and North America-that would be able to face the many threats (most notably that from militant Islam) our common civilization will experience in this century. This shift should be coupled with either the abolition of NATO or Russia’s inclusion in it as an equal and welcome partner.
December 4, 2003
THE FORTHCOMING SERBIAN ELECTION
by Srdja Trifkovic
The forthcoming parliamentary election in Serbia (December 28) is likely to result in a major realignment of the political spectrum in Belgrade.
The big losers will be the ruling DOS coalition. That coalition has now disintegrated, and of its 17 mainly insignificant political parties only the Democratic Party (Demokratska stranka, DS) of the late Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic is fairly certain to cross the threshold of 5 percent of all votes cast that is needed for parliamentary representation. Tainted by many corruption scandals and unable to kick-start the economy and improve dismal living standards, Serbia’s government has made itself additionally unpopular by its abject submissiveness to the dictate of the “international community” epitomized by the war crimes tribunal at The Hague.
The main winners will be the nationalist Serbian Radical Party (Srpska radikalna stranka, SRS) led by Vojislav Seselj-now incarcerated in The Hague-and the centrist Democratic Party of Serbia (Demokratska stranka Srbije, DSS) led by the former Yugoslav president Vojislav Kostunica. It is also probable that the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) of ex-President Milosevic-also imprisoned at The Hague-will make a modest comeback.
Had Kostunica forced an early election over two years ago, say in the aftermath of Milosevic’s illegal extradition to The Hague (June 2001), he would have been the clear winner. Back then his party could have won an absolute majority in the 250-seat Parliament. But Kostunica has missed the boat. On too many occasions he has wavered, succumbing to the invariably bad advice of his former chef-du-cabinet and de facto principal advisor, Ljiljana Nedeljkovic. One notable example was his behavior during a political crisis caused by the murder of a former security service operative in August 2001. Kostunica first declared that an early parliamentary election was the only way out of the impasse-thus causing panic in the ranks of DOS-but within days he inexplicably declared that elections would have to wait until the new constitution was drafted and enacted. His opponents could breathe a sigh of relief: that they had the power to ensure that no new constitution would be enacted in the lifetime of this parliament. As Michael Stenton accurately commented at that time, “It is difficult for those who do not relish power for power’s sake to wield it competently. Kostunica could already have trounced his opponents had he enjoyed the cut and thrust of politics, but he preferred to leave the direction of affairs to other hands, and then to offer dignified reproof of a dilute patriarchal kind. He offers guidance but does not want to impose the sacrifices that significant statesmen draw upon on their people.”
Since that time on more than one occasion Kostunica was given all the rope he needed to hang DOS, and each time he had failed to use it. Over two years ago the DSS declared the government to be so corrupt that it withdrew its one minister from Djindjic’s cabinet. This proved to be a meaningless gesture, as it was not accompanied by a sustained campaign to force an early election. It was detrimental to Kostunica’s credibility, since it was perceived as an abdication of responsibility. It meant that the DOS coalition was given a free hand to indulge in corrupt practices, and notably in rigged privatization deals and to squander the remnant of Serbia’s profitable enterprises (cement factories, sugar refineries, breweries, tobacco processors, etc).
By now Serbia has grown tired of waiting for Kostunica the politician to discover the inner fire to burn away his gloomy view of what is possible. The main winners are Seselj’s Radicals. The party’s acting leader, Tomislav Nikolic, has an effective message for the voters: “We don’t want the votes of those who feel that they’ve done well under DOS. We are the party of those who are unhappy with their lot and who have not done well under DOS!” In addition, unlike Kostunica, the SRS is unambiguous in its rejection of The Hague tribunal and of Serbia’s association with NATO. Aware that they will not have to share the burden of governance, the Radicals can afford to be intransigent. Sickened by DOS, many Serbs see the vote for the Radicals as the clearest way to voice their disapproval of the past three years. Not for the first time-the memory of October 2000 is still fresh-they will vote less “for” a party and its program, and primarily “against” their present rulers.
Kostunica’s party will do reasonably well, although less well than it could have done a year or two ago. It will attract the votes of those Serbs who feel disdain for DOS but who also fear and reject the populist demagoguery of Seselj’s party. As a somewhat disillusioned DSS supporter says, “Voja [Kostunica] is still the only game in town.” With roughly a quarter of all seats it will need to look for coalition partners, however, and Kostunica has already declared that he would not enter a coalition with either the DS or the Radicals. It is equally unimaginable that he would contemplate a coalition with the SPS or with the small Serbian Unity Party (Stranka srpskog jedinstva, SSJ) founded by the late warlord Arkan.
Kostunica’s probable coalition partners is a group of economic experts known as G17 and recently constituted as a political party led by Miroljub Labus. It is a self-avowedly “reformist,” anti-nationalist, pro-Western party. This means that G17 will compete for the same one-fifth of the electorate targeted by the DS-and will probably score no more than a half of its vote. Even if Kostunica’s tentative coalition includes a couple of smaller party coalitions likely to be represented-Vuk Draskovic’s Serbian Renewal Movement (Srpski pokret obnove, SPO) and Velja Ilic’s Nova Srbija (NS), for instance-it will remain short of the 126 votes needed for effective governance.
SEATS IN NEXT SERBIAN PARLIAMENT: A TENTATIVE FORECAST
SRS (Seselj): 70
DSS (Kostunica): 60
SPS (Milosevic): 30
DS (Tadic): 30
SPO-NS (Draskovic-Ilic): 15
G17+ (Labus et al.): 20
SSJ (Pelevic): 10
Ethnic Minority Coalition: 15
If by the end of this month Serbia’s new parliament looks approximately like this, Kostunica will face a number of choices. The worst mistake he could make would be to succumb to Western pressure and yet again to include the Democratic Party in his coalition. In that case Serbia would witness a replay of the past three years, with the DSS delivering the votes, and its treacherous and corrupt “partners” enjoying the fruits. More significantly, the people who will vote against DOS on January 28-a good four-fifths of the electorate-will feel cheated and betrayed if the DS is allowed back into power. In that case social unrest that has been quietly simmering for months may erupt into street violence.
Kostunica would be better advised to try forming a minority government-with the G17 or without it-in the hope that the nationalist bloc (Radicals and Socialists) will quietly let him govern by default, i.e. by not voting against him. If Kostunica announces that there would be no further extraditions to The Hague and that Serbia-Montenegro would not join NATO’s “Partnership for Peace,” Seselj’s and Milosevic’s followers may do just that. For as long as Kostunica remains true to his self-styled “moderate nationalism” they are unlikely to join the “pro-Western” parties-the Democrats and a small coalition of their allies (ethnic Hungarians led by Jozsef Kasza, Sanjak Muslims led by Rasim Ljajic, and Vojvodinian separatists led by Nenad Canak)-in voting against the DSS-led government.
That would be an inherently unstable solution, but the new parliament should not be seen as a four-year solution anyway. Its main task will be to produce a new constitution within two or three months, and to call a general presidential and parliamentary election soon thereafter-probably not later than St. Vitus Day (June 28). Only then will Serbia have a “normal” government, devoid of the burden of Milosevic’s constitutional straightjacket and his successors’ quasi-legal shinenigans.
October 10, 2003
LORD ASHDOWN’S BALKAN FIEFDOM
UNELECTED AND UNACCOUNTABLE, INTERNATIONAL ADMINISTRATORS RUN BOSNIA LIKE A COLONY
by Srdja Trifkovic
In the last two centuries Balkan states have been manipulated by the powers of “Old Europe” to slow and control the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. They were created, enlarged, and shrunk as the need arose. During the two world wars the territories inhabited by South Slavs were used as bargaining chips for alliance construction, while their ethnic loyalties and aspirations were never taken too seriously.
The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina (1992-1995) confirmed this trend. It was the most destructive segment of the War of Yugoslav Dissolution that began when the republics of Slovenia and Croatia seceded in the summer of 1991. The war’s chief outcome was a transformed NATO coupled with the renewal of American influence in Europe to an extent not seen since before the Vietnam War.
International intervention could not alter the underlying centrifugal dynamics of Bosnia’s deeply divided communities, however. It was due to foreign involvement that the war took longer than it would have done, and the future of the Serb entity (Republika Srpska, RS) is perhaps more uncertain, but the settlement that followed Dayton is not unlike a plausible compromise that could have been reached in April 1992.
Over the ensuing eight years Bosnia has become the “international community’s” first major experiment in nation-building. Its experiences show that international bureaucrats are no more virtuous or high-minded than the old rogues who governed nation-states. Two years ago we reported on the case of Thomas Miller, the former United States ambassador in Sarajevo, who is said to have conspired in the summer of 2000 with Milorad Dodik, then the RS prime minister, to divert $500,000 of an American aid package to the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign. Our sources said that Miller was behind the scheme “because he is a committed Democrat, just like all other key U.S. officials in Bosnia: Jacques Klein, Ralph Johnson and Robert Berry all rooted for Gore.”
The alleged diversion of funds was neither the first nor the last impropriety involving foreign funds in post-Dayton Bosnia. In the summer of 1999, the Office of the High Representative-the U.N. proconsulate in Sarajevo that wields the real power in the hybrid country-confirmed that more than one billion dollars had been lost in postwar Bosnia through tax evasion, customs fraud, or embezzlement of public funds. Much of that money was simply stolen from international aid projects, worth over five billion dollars in 1996-1999 alone. Another form of institutionalized corruption involved international officials who lobby on behalf of companies from their countries. Lower down the scale, foreign bureaucrats-especially those from Eastern Europe and the Third World-were accused of involvement in smuggling of American cigarettes that arrived from Montenegro and were trans-shipped to the EU.
Things have become even worse since Paddy Ashdown, a failed British politician with a life peerage, replaced Petritsch in May 2002. According to a report published last summer by the European Stability Initiative, a prominent German think-tank, Ashdown displays a “bewildering conception of democratic politics” and his exercise of absolute powers in Sarajevo is frustrating the establishment of a democracy. As the Guardian commented on the report last July, “Lord Ashdown intervenes at will in routine economic and political matters in Bosnia.” The German study criticized the former leader of Britain’s Liberal Democrats for turning Bosnia into “European Raj” and using the methods of the British in India in the 19th century. It warned that the excessive powers vested in the “high representative” discourage local political initiative and reinforce a culture of international dependency. The report singled out Ashdown’s alarming authoritarian tendencies: he imposed on average 14 decrees every month, compared with an average of four in 1999. It concluded that there are no checks and balances on his powers and no accountability, whether locally or internationally:
[OHR can] dismiss presidents, prime ministers, judges, and mayors without having to submit its decisions for review. It can veto candidates for ministerial positions without needing publicly to present any evidence. It can impose legislation and create new institutions without having to estimate the cost to Bosnian taxpayers. The HR is not accountable to any elected institution at all.
Such arbitrariness and lack of accountability are not detrimental only to the political life in Bosnia. They are having a negative impact on to the functioning of its economy and to the development of a free market-as a British company, Energy Financing Team (EFT), has learned the hard way over the past nine months.
EFT is an energy trading and investment group that was in the forefront of the development of a regional electricity market in the Balkans and in the refurbishment and expansion of the generation and transmission network in the war-ravaged former Yugoslavia. Since 2000 it has provided the financing that links electric energy producers and users in southeast Europe, and it absorbed risk in an area where the capital markets are still developing. It has been successful in a series of international public tenders to buy surplus power from the Republika Srpska, selling it to the neighboring utilities that have shortages (notably Albania, Montenegro and Croatia). It has also provided financing for the purchase of goods and the completion of civil engineering works in the Bosnian-SerbRepublic, receiving repayment in the form of deliveries of energy. The largest of these projects involves the completion of a reservoir tunnel in which EFT has invested almost 30 million dollars.
In theory EFT should deserve praise from Ashdown and his team, because it promotes the establishment of a competitive free market economy. It has single-handedly “monetarized” electric energy in the region. It effectively advances the cause of inter-communal harmony by operating across political and ethnic boundaries, and facilitates economic reintegration of former war zones. With several infrastructure projects in Bosnia it is creating jobs and bringing investment to an area still considered too risky by most other Western companies, thus reducing the need for British, American and other Western taxpayers to continue subsidizing the region indefinitely.
In practice, however, EFT was singled out for criticism by an OHR-approved auditor for its allegedly corrupt practices in obtaining contracts. It appears that the company has become collateral damage in Paddy Ashdown’s crusade for a more centralized, more tightly integrated Bosnia-Herzegovina, in which the entities would eventually lose all of the remaining attributes of independent statehood.
Ashdown is known to believe that the leading political groups in the entities-and especially the Serbian Democratic Party in the Republika Srpska-derive their power from the control of three public companies that generate substantial amounts of money: power, telecoms, and forestry. Believing that these sectors exhibit widespread corruption, OHR decided to audit the main state-owned companies running them. In the case of the electricity utilities Ashdown’s strategy had as a clear secondary goal the ‘softening up’ of opposition to power sector restructuring, i.e. the merging of the Serb, Croat and Muslim utility companies into all-Bosnian conglomerates.
The Special Auditor-an American CPA with prior savings and loan experience and without any known expertise in the energy sector-issued a report into the Bosnian-Serb electric utility company (EPRS) on February 25, 2003. It harshly condemned its operations and management, and in immediate response Ashdown ordered the dismissal of the RS energy minister and of the Director-General of EPRS. The Special Auditor directed some severe criticism at EFT, particularly in regard to its dealings with EPRS. The criticism focused on the alleged dominance of EFT in the tenders and its involvement in the reservoir tunnel project.
The accusations were made without proper investigation, without standard audit practice and test procedures, and without warning. Many claims were made on the basis of hearsay: “we were told” appears more than once in connection with serious allegations. It was full of factual errors, claiming, for example, that EFT’s contracts specified certain favorable terms that would apply in the event that EPRS generation capacity was unavailable. The contracts show the opposite: there were no favorable terms but on the contrary EFT was committed to providing emergency energy supplies in case of reduced generating capacity. It is noteworthy that at no time did the Special Auditor contact EFT. Its first warning came when the report began to be comprehensively leaked in Nezavisne Novine newspaper in early 2003.
Once the report became public EFT responded immediately by instructing its London solicitors, Clyde & Co, to produce a detailed 10-page rebuttal of the Auditor’s comments and allegations. At a subsequent meeting with Ashdown and his aides it was agreed that EFT would submit a detailed dossier defending its name and reputation. EFT produced this dossier-two inches thick and 270 pages long-in less than a week. In addition, five reports by separate RS commissions that have investigated individual transactions have all concluded that EFT’s conduct had been entirely blameless.
Following the presentation of its dossier EFT has sought redress from the Office of the High Representative with the support of the British Foreign Office. It has asked for a statement from OHR and/or OSCE (the Special Auditor’s employers) that the company had co-operated fully with the Special Auditor, that it has produced a substantial amount of data and documentation, and that all concerns raised by the report have been fully allayed. Such assurances are essential if EFT is to continue normal operations. The effect of the Auditor’s allegations has already harmed its business operations in countries as diverse as Switzerland and Hungary.
More than eight months after the report’s publication and five months after the company’s detailed dossier was presented to Ashdown, EFT is still waiting for a formal response from the “international community’s” proconsular team in Sarajevo. So far it has received only a terse one-sentence written reply from the auditor-a letter saying “We disagree with your response” -that is spectacular in its haughtiness and arrogance. It is currently considering its further options (and I have provided consulting services to EFT in what I believe to be a just and worthy cause). Furthermore, Deputy High Representative Donald Hays, an American diplomat deeply steeped in the Clintonite-Albrightesque mindset, has continued to slander EFT in private communications. As a direct consequence of his efforts the company is now being shunned even by the RS government.
In a normal country, with political, legal and moral checks and balances in operation, this behavior would not be possible. In Lord Ashdown’s Balkan fiefdom it is commonplace. The immediate effect of the affair is a major reduction in the generation of electricity in the RS, harming its budget and increasing the price of electricity for neighboring importers. Its long-term consequence will be to make other foreign companies weary of operating in a market where ad-hoc decisions by unelected and unaccountable foreigners can alter the rules of the game literally overnight. Thanks to such behavior by its despotic but by no means benevolent rulers, Bosnia is in shambles: Since the end of the war in 1995, it has received almost $6 billion in reconstruction aid, but the beneficiaries were assorted crooks, international bureaucrats, and foreign contractors. It is now ranked economically behind Albania; in South Eastern Europe, only Moldova is poorer.
This matter deserves urgent attention by Western political leaders and legislators, in view of the fact that their taxpayers have been underwriting Bosnia, Inc. for the past decade. Indulging Messrs Ashdown, Hays and others by allowing them to continue running Bosnia like a feudal fiefdom is not only unnecessary and detrimental to peace and stability in the Balkans, it costs money.
Furthermore, people like Ashdown and Hays directly undermine the war on terror by continuing to support the Islamist side in Bosnia. Both were recently particularly active in giving credence to the Muslim claim that 7,000 of their men were killed at Srebrenica in 1995, and in arranging Bill Clinton’s visit to unveil a monument there. That figure has been repeatedly challenged-most recently by the International Strategic Studies Association-as “vastly inflated and unsupported by evidence.” ISSA warned that one-sided interventionist policies permitted al-Qaida forces and radical Islamists to take root during the Bosnian war, clouding the future of the region, and addd that the “memorialization” of false numbers in the monument perpetuates regional ethnic hatred and distrust. ISSA President Gregory Copley accused Ambassador Hays of using the power of the Office of the High Representative to force Bosnian Serb elected officials to sign a fraudulent document accepting the official version of events in Srebrenica:
It is significant in that the former US Clinton Administration fought this war unquestioningly supporting only the Croat and Muslim factions and disregarding the historic alliance of the Serbian peoples with the US. Then, after the war, the Clinton Administration failed to follow US tradition in helping to heal the wounds of war, but, rather, perpetuated ethnic divisions and hatreds… Unfortunately, all of the policies and officials put in place in the region by the Clinton Administration remain. The current Bush Administration has neglected the Balkans and has, instead, allowed the Clinton policies to continue, which has meant that divisive politics continue. This, then, requires the ongoing commitment of US peacekeeping forces in both Bosnia.
Copley added that, according to intelligence obtained from Islamist sources, that the monument was intended to become a shrine for radical Islamists in Europe and site for annual pilgrimages. In his words, Hays and Ashdown seek “to vindicate Clinton Administration policies of support for the radical Islamists.”
Such behavior by Bosnia’s foreign administrators discredits the very term “democracy” by associating it with the voluntaristic whims of a small coterie of arrogant bureaucrats. In the parlance of these new rajahs, “democracy” does not signify broad participation of informed citizens in the business of governance; it denotes the desirable social and political content of ostensibly popular decisions. Accordingly, if the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina vote for nationalist political parties-as they did, overwhelmingly, a year ago-such “wrong” outcomes are not seen by Ashdown & Co. as an exercise of democracy but as its violation.
And yet, in spite of Ashdown’s efforts, eight years after the Diktat of Dayton the international nation-builders’ goal of a “multiethnic” Bosnia remains as elusive and probably as impossible as ever. If the old Yugoslavia was untenable and eventually collapsed under the weight of the supposedly insurmountable differences among its constituent nations, it is still unclear how Bosnia-the Yugoslav microcosm par excellence-can democratically develop and sustain the dynamics of a viable polity. The full implications of this fact will become known when Ashdown becomes a minor footnote in the history of the Balkans, and when the outside powers lose their present interest in upholding the constitutional edifice made in Dayton.
November 24, 2003
ISLAM AND SLAVERY: THE CONCEALED TRUTH
Excerpts from a Lecture by Srdja Trifkovic
Xavier University of Louisiana, New Orleans, November 14, 2003
by Srdja Trifkovic
The ongoing campaign for so-called Reparations rests upon the allegation that that the European civilization in general—and its trans-Atlantic heirs, the founding fathers of the United States in particular—should be taken to task for the fact that they practiced slavery. That is somewhat ironic since the Western civilization is in fact the only civilization in history to have created from within itself a successful movement to condemn and abolish slavery.
It is a matter of historical record that other civilizations, and most notably Islamic civilization, have not achieved this. The world of Islam has never striven to do so without external prompting. To this day the only places in the world where one can buy a slave for ready cash are Moslem countries. The slaves in question are almost invariably black, and the countries in question are primarily Mauritania and Sudan.
While both the Old and New Testaments recognized slavery, the Gospels do not treat the institution as divinely ordained. The slaves are human, and all men are equal in the eyes of God regardless of their status in this life: “there is neither Jew nor Greek,” says St. Paul, “there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Slavery was to early Christians a fact of life, and a thing of men.
The Kuran, by contrast, not only assumes the existence of slavery as a permanent fact of life, but regulates its practice in considerable detail and therefore endows it with divine sanction. Muhammad and his companions owned slaves, or acquired them in war. Muhammad’s scripture recognizes the basic inequality between master and slave, and the rights of the former over the latter (Kuran, 16:71; 30:28). The Kuran assures the Muslim the right to own slaves (to “possess their necks”) either by purchasing them or as bounty of war (58:3). Its author, Muhammad, had dozens of them, both male and female, and he regularly sold, purchased, hired, rented, and exchanged slaves once he became independently wealthy in Medina after the confiscation of Jewish property. The bounties are lawful to the Muslim, theologian ibn Timiyya wrote, and slavery is justified: “It is lawful to kill the infidel or to enslave him, and it also makes it lawful to take his offspring into captivity” (Ibn Timiyya says,Vol. 32, p. 89). In line with the racist views of Muhammad about his own people, the Arabs, as “the nobles of all races,” they were exempt from enslavement (Ibn Timiyya states,Vol. 31, p. 380).
The four caliphs who came after Muhammad discouraged the enslavement of free Muslims, and it was eventually prohibited. The assumption of freedom as the normal condition of men did not extend to non-Muslims, however. Disobedient or rebellious dhimmis were reduced to slavery—that is, if their lives were spared—and prisoners captured in jihad were also enslaved if they could not be exchanged or ransomed. In 781 7000 Greek prisoners of war were enslaved after a battle at Ephesus. At the capture of Thessalonica in 903, 22,000 Christians were sold into Muslim slavery. The same happened in 1064 in Georgia and Armenia. In Africa Arab rulers regularly raided sub-Saharan black tribes and captured slaves, claiming their raids to be jihad; many Hindus were enslaved on the same pretext.
Divine sanction of slavery means that disobedience to one’s master carries everlasting punishment, while obeying the master is the slave’s only path to paradise: “There are three (persons) whose prayer will not be accepted, nor their virtues be taken above: The runaway slave until he returns back to his master, the woman with whom her husband is dissatisfied, and the drunk until he becomes sober” (Mishkat al-Masabih, Book I, Hadith No. ii, 74). While maltreatment was deplored, there was no fixed sharia penalty. The slave had no legal powers or rights whatsoever. A Muslim slave-owner was entitled by law to the sexual enjoyment of his slave women. The Koran mandated that a freeman should be killed only for another freeman, a slave for a slave, and a female for a female (2:178). The Tradition says that “a Muslim should not be killed for a non-Muslim, nor a freeman for a slave” (The Commentary of al-Baydawi, p. 36).
The slave trade inside the Islamic empire and along its edges was vast. It began to flourish at the time of the Muslim expansion into Africa, in the middle of the seventh century, and it still survives today in Mauritania and Sudan. The Spanish and Portuguese originally purchased Black African slaves for their American colonies from Arab dealers. Every year, for about 600 years, the Nubian kingdom was forced to send a tribute of slaves to the Muslim rulers in Cairo. Nubians and Ethiopians, with their slender features and thin noses, were preferred to the equatorial Bantus, for whom hard toil and lowly menial tasks were generally reserved.
Black slaves were brought into the Islamic world by a number of routes—from West Africa across the Sahara to Morocco and Tunisia, from Chad across the desert to Libya, from East Africa down the Nile to Egypt, and across the Red Sea and Indian Ocean to Arabia and the Persian Gulf. There are notable differences between the slave trade in the Islamic world and the trans-Atlantic variety. The former has been going on for 13 centuries and it is an integral feature of the Islamic civilization, while the influx of slaves into the New World lasted less than three hundred years and effectively ended by the middle of the 19th century.
It is estimated that ten to twelve million Africans were taken to the Americas during that period. The number of captives taken to the heartlands of Islam—while impossible to establish with precision—is many times greater. Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that there are tens of millions of descendants of slaves in the Americas, and practically none in the Muslim world outside Africa. For all its horrors, the Atlantic slave trade regarded its victims as valuable assets whose lives and progeny should be preserved, admittedly not for altruistic but primarily for economic reasons. In the Muslim world, by contrast, slaves were considerably cheaper, far more widely available, and regarded as a dispensable commodity. They were not allowed to have families, and most men were brutally castrated even before reaching the market.
In the early Caliphate, in Mesopotamia, considerable numbers of black slaves were used as labor on large estates, but the practice effectively ceased after a mass rebellion in the ninth century that at one moment even threatened Baghdad. Since that time the Muslim heartland has been apprehensive of using large contingents of male African slaves working in one location. They were used primarily as domestic servants, or, in the case of women, as sex objects: some harems had hundreds of concubines. In North Africa black slaves were also used as soldiers blindly obedient to their masters.
Many African slaves were eunuchs, and the method of their mutilation, before they could fetch the best price in the Islamic world, defies imagination:
Castration was admittedly against the Islamic law, but its letter—the “spirit” being non-existent—often offered a pragmatic way out for the imaginative believer. Regarding African captives, a handy contrivance was to buy already castrated slaves whose mutilation occurred prior to the wretch’s importation into the lands of the Faithful. The dealers thus had a clear incentive to perform the operation themselves along the route. For African captives nothing short of “castration level with the abdomen” would do; no mere removal of the cojones, like with the Slavic and Greek captives, by the mere removal of testicles. Only such radically castrated eunuchs were deemed fit to be guardians of the harem: that way there was no risk of their damaging any of the property in the harem. The mortality rates were enormous [Islam’s black slaves—an interview with Ronald Segal by Suzy Hansen].
In the period of its decline the Ottoman harems and landed estates were filled by Christian slaves captured in the Caucasus, until the Russian liberation of the area in the early 19th century. The Tatars raided surrounding Christian lands from their stronghold in the Crimea and sold tens of thousands of captured Eastern Europeans in the slave markets of Istanbul and other Turkish cities until the Russian annexation of the peninsula in 1783. Another important source of European slaves was piracy, with its autonomous power-base in the Barbary Coast of Algiers. The captives of the Barbary corsairs could be freed by ransom or conversion. The rest were sold at auctions, and many died from fever, starvation, or the lash. Women were taken into harems as concubines of their captors.
The abolitionist sentiment in Europe and America was inseparable from Christian faith and world outlook. William Wilberforce and the Clapham Sect, inspired by the Wesleyan Revival, lobbied for abolition and finally succeeded in having the legislation adopted at Westminster that abolished slavery in the British Empire and turned Britain into a determined foe of slave traders everywhere. The evangelical revival movement provided momentum to the abolitionist movement in the United States.
Islam provides no analogous abolitionist imperative. Hoping to curtail the trade, in 1842 the British Consul General in Morocco made representations to the Sultan asking him what measures, if any, he had taken to abolish slave trade. The sultan replied, in a letter expressing bewilderment, that “the traffic in slaves is a matter on which all sects and nations have agreed from the time of the sons of Adam”:
The sultan continued that he was “not aware of its being prohibited by the laws of any sect, and no one need ask this question, the same being manifest to both high and low and requires no more demonstration than the light of day.” The sultan was only slightly out of date concerning the enactment of laws to abolish or limit the slave trade, and he was right in his general historic perspective. The institution of slavery had indeed been practiced from time immemorial [Bernard Lewis. Race and Slavery in the Middle East, OxfordUniversity Press 1994].
Just as Britain and France were finally working to shut down the Atlantic slave trade in the early 19th century, it was picking up in East Africa and most of the slaves were being sold to kingdoms in Arabia and the Persian Gulf. The Arabian Peninsula in 1962 became the world’s penultimate region to officially abolish slavery (Mauritania formally followed suit in 1982), yet years later Saudi Arabia alone was estimated to contain a quarter of a million de facto slaves.
A network of trade routes and markets extending all over the Islamic world and far beyond its frontiers lasted until well into the 20th century. To find truly endemic, raw anti-Black racism and slavery today one needs to go to the two Islamic Republics in Africa, Mauritania and Sudan. In both countries those phenomena have their origin in the early period of Islamic expansion. As Negro kings and princes embraced Islam, they cooperated with the Arabians in the exportation of human cargo. Interestingly for a faith supposedly free from racial prejudice, Islamic judges declared that “[t]he master does not have the right to force the female slave to wed to an ugly black slave if she is beautiful and agile, unless in case of utmost necessity” (Ibn Hazm, Vol. 6, Part 9, p. 469).
Black people had been enslaved on such a scale that in Arabic the term black became synonymous with slave. The mixed-race, predominantly Negroid but self-avowedly “Arabic” denizens of the transitional sub-Saharan zone were indoctrinated into treating their completely black southern neighbors with racist disdain. (To this day it can be dangerous to one’s life to ask a dark-looking but Arabic-speaking Sudanese or Mauritanian Muslim if he was “black.”) The collaborators eventually surpassed their Arabic mentors in raiding tropical regions to capture slaves, mutilating the males by radical castration, raping females, and depopulating entire regions in the process.
For the black populations in Sudan and Mauritania independence marked the end of a slavery-free respite under colonial rule. In both countries the forceful imposition of the wearing of the traditional Muslim dress, the jalabia, was followed by the compulsory circumcision and the giving of Arabic names to children as a precondition for entry into state schools. Slavery was “abolished” several times in Mauritania since independence, last on July 5, 1980. Yet the Anti-Slavery Society’s findings (1982) and those of Africa Watch (1990) point to the existence of at least 100,000 “full-time” slaves and additional 300,000 half-slaves, all of them black, still being held by Arab-Mauritanians. Even the head of state from 1960 to 1978, Mokhtar Ould Daddah, kept slaves behind the presidential palace (John Mercer, Anti-Slavery Society Report of 1982). The Mauritanian government has not tried to eradicate slavery and failed; it has not tried at all Even the old Arab practice of forming slave armies was revived in Mauritania, where thousands of Haratines were forcibly recruited, armed, and sent to take over black African villages in the south and massacre the inhabitants:
“The Haratines who have been settled on the lands of expelled blacks have been armed by the authorities and asked to organise their own defence. AI has been informed that some authorities are profiting from the subordination ties between masters and Haratines to enroll the latter in this militia. In general this militia does not simply defend itself when attacked, but undertakes punitive expeditions against unarmed civilians living in the villages. In some cases, Haratines who object to this gratuitous violence are threatened with reprisals by the security forces who escort them on these expeditions [Amnesty International report on Mauritania, October 1990].”
In 1983, the Arab-controlled government of Sudan instituted strict Islamic law in the entire country and subjected black Christians and other non-Muslims of the south in its decree. Then in 1992 a religious decree (fatwa) was ordered that gave justification to the military onslaught against non-Muslims. Since that time the United Nations and human rights groups have documented countless cases of slavery. People are taken as war booty to perform unpaid household labor and other tasks, or to be used for sexual gratification. The State Department had sent an assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Dr. Susan Rice, to investigate the problem. Her report was a horrific account of rampant slavery, with interviews with former slaves. It was quietly shelved by the Clinton Administration, however, and denied media attention that it richly deserved by the standards of prevalent victimology.
Sudan shows that genocide need not be perpetrated by huge massacres. There are more insidious but equally effective ways of killing large numbers of people. The government in Khartoum is doing so by attrition: it is slowly and methodically grinding down the society and economy of the Nuba and starving the entire population. Meanwhile, in the garrison towns and Orwellian-sounding ‘peace camps’ the government is remolding the political and social identity of the Nuba by force: the aim is to transform them into a deracinated underclass, the loyal servants of an extremist Islamic state. In each army attack, soldiers first arbitrarily gun down anyone they find. The government does not pay them salaries: their pay is the booty from the raids on Southern villages. The elderly and sick are usually killed on the spot and their food granaries set ablaze. The main objective of ‘combing’ is to capture live, fit civilians:
Thousands of men, women and children are captured when their villages are surrounded, or are snatched while tending their crops, herding their animals, or collecting water. Many people run to hide in caves to escape government attacks, but they are driven even from these refuges by hunger and thirst, or by attacks using tear gas. Captives are taken to garrisons, forced to carry their own looted possessions, or drive their own stolen animals in front of them. These captives—or ‘returnees,’ as the government calls them—usually never see their families or villages again. Many are tortured. Women are raped and forced to work, often in special labour camps. All but the youngest children are separated for ‘schooling’—i.e. conversion to Islam [Facing Genocide: The Nuba of Sudan, published by African Rights on 21 July 1995].
The government also uses food as a means for luring Southern Sudanese Christians into its “peace camps” located in the desert. Food distribution in them is carried out exclusively by Islamic organizations, which use the promise of food as a means of converting Christians and animists to Islam. The technique is very simple: if one does not bear an Islamic name one is denied food. Without any means of alternative support the choice is, as ever, Islam or death (Sabit A. Alley’s paper delivered at the 19th Annual Holocaust and Genocide Program, Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, March 17, 2001).
That it cannot be otherwise is explained by contemporary Islamic scholars who are frank in admitting that Islam does not prohibit slavery but makes it lawful in two instances: for prisoners of war, and for “the sexual propagation of slaves which would generate more slaves for their owner” (Dr. ‘Abdul-Latif Mushtahari You Ask and Islam Answers, pp. 51, 52. The author is general supervisor at the AzharUniversity in Cairo). In Pakistan’s NorthwestFrontierProvince, girls as young as five are auctioned off to highest bidders (“Sale of children thrives in Pakistan” by Andrew Bushel, the Washington Times, January 21, 2002).
Afghan girls between the ages of 5 and 17 sell for $80 to $100. The price depends on the colors of their eyes and skin; if they are virgins, the price is higher. Mr. Arbab, an older man with a white shovel beard and a green turban, absently fingers his prayer beads as he calls out prices for the children. The girls are generally sold into prostitution or, if they are lucky, they may join harems in the Middle East [ibid].
It is richly ironic that the founders of the Nation of Islam have urged African Americans to renounce Christianity as a tool of the oppressors and that Elijah Muhammad’s son upon dissolving the American Muslim Mission, urged its members to become orthodox Muslims and thus “come home,” spiritually at least, to their African roots. The shackles of ignorance are more enduring than those of iron. The violent and inherently discriminatory message of the Koran is a huge problem for all Muslims. We cannot solve it for them, and we should not be asked to deem the problem solved by pretending that the Koran is a pacifist tract. Humans can reintepret scriptures when necessary, but until Muslims themselves renounce the ideals of jihad, terror, slavery and subjugation we must have the guts to call a religion of war by its right name.
“As a man thinketh, so is he.” The real problem of the Muslim world is not that of natural recourses or political systems. Ernest Renan, who started his study of Islam by praising its ability to manifest “what was divine in human nature,” ended it—a quarter o a century and three long tours of the Muslim world later—by concluding that “Muslims are the first victims of Islam” and that, therefore, “to liberate the Muslim from his religion is the best service that one can render him.” The West is yet to learn, fully, the lesson that my Balkan ancestors were forced to learn six centuries ago: that Islam is a collective psychosis seeking to become global, and any attempt to compromise with madness is to become part of the madness oneself. The quarrel is not of our choosing, and those who submit to that faith must solve the problem they set themselves.
November 22, 2003
RICHARD PERLE, A CLINTONISTA
by Srdja Trifkovic
Not many media outlets in the United States have taken note of Richard Perle’s frank admission, on November 20, that the invasion of Iraq had been illegal.
In a remarkable break with the official position of the Bush Administration, Mr. Perle told an audience in London that “in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing.” He admitted that “international law… would have required us to leave Saddam Hussein alone,” but that would have been morally unacceptable. French intransigence, he added, meant there had been “no practical mechanism consistent with the rules of the UN for dealing with Saddam Hussein.”
Mr Perle’s remarks bear little resemblance to official justifications for war repeatedly put forward by the White House: the alleged right of self-defense by the United States in the face of the supposed threat posed by Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs). His remarks are remarkably similar to Bill Clinton’s justification for the war against Serbia in the spring of 1999. Clinton claimed that the bombing of Serbia was the response to Milosevic’s genocidal campaign against the Albanian population—and that claim turned out to be as real as Saddam’s WMDs. Clinton also bypassed the Security Council and he also responded to accusations of the war’s illegality with the claim that the U.S. was defending “the very values” that had given the West its meaning for centuries.
Both Perle and Clinton subscribe to the same radical legal and moral doctrine, that what they deem to be “right” is justified even if it is admitted to be illegal. This is a revolutionary concept that undermines sovereign statehood of nations abroad and the rule of law at home. The “evolving” concept of international legality was invented by the multilateralist Left to justify Bill Clinton’s aggression against Serbia in March 1999. At that time “humanitarian intervention” was eagerly embraced by those same Euro-Socialists—Schroeder, Solana, Prodi, et al.—who were in the forefront of opposition to President Bush’s war in Iraq. With the bombing of Belgrade they paved the way for the erosion of sovereign statehood, the pillar of the Law Between Nations since 1648.
Whereas the attack against Serbia was a leftist-internationalist conspiracy to destroy the nation-state and thereby to demolish the very concept of the nation as we know it, the war against Iraq was a conspiracy by neoconservative “global hegemonists” primarily focused on enhancing Israeli security. The underlying identity of the globalist “Left” and the imperialist “Right” is made explicit by Perle. The latter’s only original theoretical contribution to the concept of “humanitarian intervention” is the doctrine of pre-emption, inaugurated in September 2002 and tested last spring.
Neither in March 1999, when the order was given for the U.S. Air Force and its assorted European minions to attack Yugoslavia, nor in March 2003, when the invasion of Iraq started, had the marching orders been preceded by a declaration of war from Congress for “the common defense of the United States.” In neither case was the order given by the President as a means of repelling a sudden attack on America by a foreign aggressor, or as a measure intended to rescue Americans abroad from unexpected peril. In both cases the concept of national sovereignty that had formed the basis of Western politics and the rule of 1aw ever since the Peace of Westphalia (1648) was violated in favor of the Clinton-Perle Doctrine of Higher Justification, itself a copy of the Brezhnev Doctrine of Limited Sovereignty that was used to justify the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968. And just like after 1968, when just beneath the drab surface anti-Sovietism was rampant throughout the Soviet bloc, Western Europe’s antipathy to the policy of the present Administration is increasingly turning into anti-Americanism. The icy welcome extended to Mr. Bush by the British public earlier this week is similar to that in Germany, France, Italy and other West European countries.
These “doctrines” negate the nation-state, subvert the law, and provide the ever-present alibi for perpetual war. Legal formalities are passe, and moral imperatives—never sacrosanct in international affairs to start with—are replaced by situational morality, dependent on the would-be victim’s position within Clinton’s or Perle’s value system.
November 11, 2003
ARMISTICE AND REMEMBRANCE
by Srdja Trifkovic
They will not grow old, as we who are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them or the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we shall remember them.
But shall we? In this morning’s New York Times I could not find any reminder of the fact that today is the day when the Great War ended, when the guns fell silent on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. The link between today’s Veterans Day and the Armistice Day of yore has been severed. If remembrance is what makes us what we are, we are no longer we.
The Great War, to most Americans, is as little known and therefore as irrelevant as their very own War Between the States. Even those who think they know are likely to see the Armistice through the prism of post-Christian liberal-democratic optimism: the war helped rid the world of the bane of colonialism and Europocentric arrogance. In this same vein dialectic materialism passed itself for “philosophy.”
In reality the Great War was the most important event in the past two thousand years and arguably the most tragic event in all of history. It marked the end of an often unjust but on the whole decent world, and opened the floodgates of hell: Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Tito, and countless lesser demons were all its heirs and beneficiaries.
To have a hint of its human cost it is necessary to walk through some of the cemeteries dotting the gently rolling hills of Picardy and to visit the ossuary at Douaumont with the remains of 130.000 unknown French and German soldiers who fell on the battlefields of Verdun. The ossuary is some 500 feet long and inside it there are 18 alcoves, each containing a pair of tombs covering a vault with six hundred and thirty cubic feet of bones.
To understand its cultural cost it is only necessary to look around us. As an Islamic deluge threatens to replace rapidly dying Europeans within a century, as America continues its futile quest for global dominance and its cultural suicide at home, it seems incredible that a mere century ago, the European, Christian world dominated the planet. The suicide of 1914 was a catastrophe rooted in an imperial hubris of neoconservative proportions.
It was not an unintended accident, however: its direct cause was the crisis between Austria-Hungary and Serbia. The shots fired in Sarajevo were seen in Vienna as an opportunity to settle the scores with a small but tough and increasingly assertive adversary while there was still time to do so. With a blank check hastily granted from Berlin, the Monarchy presented Serbia with an ultimatum that contained extravagant demands, and that was not meant to be accepted: Austria-Hungary willed the war, and rushed into it, fuelled by a heady brew of crude Serbophobia that was renewed with gusto in the 1990s. The Monarchy activated the system of alliances and ignited the continent.
Even before Sarajevo Vienna had sought German support for a “preventive” war against Serbia and it presented the forthcoming conflict as a test of strength with a wider continental significance. The popular Viennese jingle of August 1914, Alle Serben mussen sterben, indicated that the Central Powers’ agenda was dictated for once from Vienna—something that Bismarck would never have countenanced.
President Wilson’s Fourteen Points—the device that was allegedly meant to end the war in early 1918—espoused the principle of self-determination. It threw a revolutionary doctrine at an already exhausted Europe, a doctrine almost on par with Bolshevism in its destabilizing effect. It unleashed competing aspirations among the smaller nations of Central Europe and the Balkans that not only hastened the collapse of transnational empires, but also gave rise to a host of intractable ethnic conflicts and territorial disputes that remain unresolved to this day. But being a good liberal, Wilson did not allow realities on the ground to get in the way of his creativity. His concepts of an “enlarging democracy” and “collective security” signaled the birth of a view of America’s role in world affairs which has created—and is still creating—endless problems for both America and the world. It is Wilson speaking through President George W. Bush who declared, only a week ago, that America not only “created the conditions in which new democracies could flourish” but “also provided inspiration for oppressed peoples.”
Two decades after Wilson, burdened by Clemenceau’s untenable revenge of Versailles, Europe staggered into a belated Round Two of self-destruction. Before 1939 it was badly wounded; after 1945 mortally so. The result is a civilization that is aborting and birth-controlling itself to death, that is morally bankrupt, culturally spent, and spiritually comatose. We are living—if life it is—the consequences of what had ended on that November morning at Compiegne.
November 7, 2003
THE MYTH OF AN ISLAMIC GOLDEN AGE
by Srdja Trifkovic
Speech to the Highland Park-Highwood Lions Club, November 6, 2003
The disdain of Western Civilization, and the corresponding urge to glorify anything outside it, especially if it can be depicted as a victim of the West, is a well-known phenomenon of the contemporary academia. One of the forms it has taken in recent years is the attempt to artificially inflate the historic achievements of other civilizations beyond what the facts support. The noble savage myth is a commonplace; what is more complex is the myth that has been bandied about the supposed “golden age” of Islamic civilization during the Middle Ages.
The myth of an Islamic Golden Age is needed by Islam’s apologists to save it from being damned by its present squalid condition; to prove, as it were, that there is more to Islam than the terrorism of Bin Laden and the decadence of the oil sheiks. It is, frankly, a confession that if the world judges it by what it is today, it comes up rather short, being a religion that has yet to produce a democratic or prosperous society, or social and cultural forms admired by neutral foreign observers the way anyone can admire American freedom, Japanese order, Israeli courage, or Italian style.
Some liberal academics openly admit that they twist the Moslem past to serve their present-day intellectual agendas. For example, some who propound the myth of an Islamic golden age of tolerance admit that their goal is,
“to recover for postmodernity that lost medieval Judeo-Islamic trading, social and cultural world, its high point pre-1492 Moorish Spain, which permitted and relished a plurality, a convivencia, of religions and cultures, Christian, Jewish and Moslem; which prized an historic internationality of space along with the valuing of particular cities; which was inclusive and cosmopolitan, cosmopolitan here meaning an ease with different cultures: still so rare and threatened a value in the new millennium as in centuries past.”
In other words, a fairy tale designed to create the illusion that multiculturalism has valid historical precedents that prove it can work.
To be fair, the myth of the golden age of Islam does have a partially valid starting point: there were times in the past when Moslem societies attained higher levels of civilization and culture than they did at other times. There have been times, that is, when some Moslem lands were fit for a cultivated man to live in. Baghdad under Harun ar-Rashid (his well-documented Christian-slaying and Jew-hating proclivities notwithstanding), or Cordova very briefly under Abd ar-Rahman in the tenth century, come to mind. These isolated episodes, neither long nor typical, are endlessly invoked by Islam’s Western apologists and admirers.
This “golden” period in question largely coincides with the second dynasty of the Caliphate or Islamic Empire, that of the Abbasids, named after Muhammad’s uncle Abbas, who succeeded the Umayyads and ascended to the Caliphate in 750 AD. They moved the capital city to Baghdad, absorbed much of the Syrian and Persian culture as well as Persian methods of government, and ushered in the “golden age.”
This age was marked by, among other things, intellectual achievement. A number of medieval thinkers and scientists living under Islamic rule, by no means all of them “Moslems” either nominally or substantially, played a useful role of transmitting Greek, Hindu, and other pre-Islamic fruits of knowledge to Westerners. They contributed to making Aristotle known in Christian Europe. But in doing this, they were but transmitting what they themselves had received from non-Moslem sources.
Three speculative thinkers, notably the three Persians al-Kindi, al-Farabi, and Avicenna, combined Aristotelianism and Neoplatonism with other ideas introduced through Islam. Greatly influenced by Baghdad’s Greek heritage in philosophy that survived the Arab invasion, and especially the writings of Aristotle, Farabi adopted the view—utterly heretical from a Moslem viewpoint—that reason is superior to revelation. He saw religion as a symbolic rendering of truth, and, like Plato, saw it as the duty of the philosopher to provide guidance to the state. He engaged in rationalistic questioning of the authority of the Koran and rejected predestination. He wrote more than 100 works, notably The Ideas of the Citizens of the VirtuousCity. But these unorthodox works no more belong to Islam than Voltaire belongs to Christianity. He was in Moslem culture but not of it, indeed opposed to its orthodox core. He examples the pattern we see again and again: the best Moslems, whether judged by intellectual or political achievement, are usually the least Moslem.
The Moslem mainstream of this time, on the other hand, emphasized rigid Koranic orthodoxy and deployed Greek philosophy and science solely to buttress its authority. “They were rationalists in so far as they fell back on Greek philosophy for their metaphysical and physical explanations of phenomena; still, it was their aim to keep within the limits of orthodox belief.” But when the thinkers went too far in their free inquiry into the secrets of nature, paying little attention to the authority of the Koran, they aroused suspicion of the rulers both in North Africa and Spain, as well as in the East. Persecution, exile, and death were frequent punishments suffered by the philosophers of Islam whose writings did not conform to the canon.
On the other side of the Empire, in Spain, Averroлs exercised much influence on both Jewish and Christian thinkers with his interpretations of Aristotle. While mostly faithful to Aristotles method, he found the Aristotelian “prime mover” in Allah, the universal First Cause. His writings brought him into political disfavor and he was banished until shortly before his death, while many of his works in logic and metaphysics had been consigned to the flames. He left no school.
From Spain the Arabic philosophic literature was translated into Hebrew and Latin, which contributed to the development of modern European philosophy. In Egypt around the same time, Moses Maimonides (a Jew) and Ibn Khaldun made their contribution. A Christian, Constantine “the African,” a native of Carthage, translated medical works from Arabic into Latin, thus introducing Greek medicine to the West. His translations of Hippocrates and Galen first gave the West a view of Greek medicine as a whole.
The “golden age” of Islamic art lasted from AD 750 to the mid-11th century, when ceramics, glass, metalwork, textiles, illuminated manuscripts, and woodwork flourished. Lustered glass became the greatest Islamic contribution to ceramics. Manuscript illumination became an important and greatly respected art, and miniature painting flourished in Iran. Calligraphy, an essential aspect of written Arabic, developed in manuscripts and architectural decoration.
In the exact sciences the contribution of Al-Khwarzimi, mathematician and astronomer, was considerable. Like Euclid, he wrote mathematical books that collected and arranged the discoveries of earlier mathematicians. His “Book of Integration and Equation” is a compilation of rules for solving linear and quadratic equations, as well as problems of geometry and proportion. Its translation into Latin in the 12th century provided the link between the great Hindu mathematicians and European scholars. A corruption of the book’s title resulted in the word algebra; a corruption of the author’s own name resulted in the term algorithm.
The problem with turning this list of intellectual achievements into a convincing “Islamic” golden age is that whatever flourished, did so not by reason of Islam but in spite of Islam. Moslems overran societies (Persian, Greek, Egyptian, Byzantine, Syrian, Jewish) that possessed intellectual sophistication in their own right and failed to completely destroy their cultures. To give it the credit for what the remnants of these cultures achieved is like crediting the Red Army for the survival of Beethoven in East Berlin under Walter Ulbricht! Islam per se never encouraged science, in the sense of disinterested enquiry, because the only knowledge it accepts is religious knowledge.
As Bernard Lewis explains in his book What Went Wrong? the Moslem Empire inherited “the knowledge and skills of the ancient Middle east, of Greece and of Persia, it added to them new and important innovations from outside, such as the manufacture of paper from China and decimal positional numbering from India.” The decimal numbers were thus transmitted to the West, where they are still mistakenly known as “Arabic” numbers, honoring not their inventors but their transmitters.
Most social and natural scientists, whose work demands certain assumptions about the nature and history of man, society, institutions, and the universe, would be deemed heretical by Islamic standards. The result is a climate of intolerance that inhibits the development of the Muslim world to this day. The intellectual foundation of Islam nurtures—in the words of a Pakistani-born author, Ibn Waraq – “a curious tendency to believe that non-Muslims either know that Islam is the truth and reject it out of pure obstinacy, or else are simply ignorant of it and can be converted by elementary explanations; that anyone should be able to oppose Islam with a good conscience quite exceeds the Muslim powers of imagination, precisely because Islam coincides in his mind with the irresistible logic of things.”
As a result, after the brief period of flourishing, first in Baghdad and then in Spain, the history of Islam has been that of a long decline without a fall. What started as a violent creed of the invaders from the desert soon ran out of steam, but the collective memory of earlier successes lingered on. It was still invoked as the proof of the divine approval and superiority. The fact that history was no longer on the side of Islam was for centuries blurred by the success of Turkish arms. It was not until 1683 that the menace to Europe was finally crushed at the gates of Vienna, but for long before that the Islamic world had little interesting to say, or do. Not even a prime location at the crossroads of the world could supply an antidote to the slow poison of Islamic obscurantism. The Ottoman interlude concealed and postponed the latent tension between the view of world history as the fulfillment of Islam and its triumph everywhere on the one hand, and the reality of the squalor and decadence on the other. The nature of the problem has always been spiritual. Like all totalitarian ideologies, Islam has an inherent tendency to the closing of the mind. The spirit of critical inquiry essential to the growth of knowledge is completely alien to it. All known episodes invoked to counter this simple fact happened in spite of Islam, not thanks to it.
When the Ottomans realized that something was seriously wrong, their view of knowledge remained that of a commodity that could be imported and used. Western engineers, military officers, and doctors trained their Muslim students, but the latter never managed to produce more than what was imparted to them. The problem was insoluble: Islam wanted the fruits of Western culture, but not the culture itself. Western discipline, cohesion, ingenuity, and prosperity were rooted in the individual pride of free and egalitarian Greek hoplite squares, Swiss pikemen and German Landsknechts. Instant gratification—inherent to the Muslim mindset ever since Muhammad resorted to divine intervention in his lust for his daughter-in-law—could not be gratified so easily in this instance. Getting the results—jets, computers, life-saving drugs—but avoiding the undesirable trappings of critical inquiry and debate, has been the impossible task of despots ever since. There was no creative spark from within that could use foreign novelties to transform the Muslim society and jumpstart it into modernity.
The task facing a narrow segment of urban intelligentsia in the Muslim world that seeks to reform Islam into a matter of personal choice separated from the State and distinct from the society is frankly impossible. This has always remained a minority view in the world of Islam, and even its apparent triumph in Turkey under Mustafa Kemal remains tentative at best. If and when Turkey becomes a true democracy, that instant it will become Islamic and anti-Western.
The predominant response of the Muslim world to the crisis caused by western superiority has been the clamoring for “Islamic solutions.” Both traditionalists and fundamentalists postulate the superiority of their faith and its divinely ordained world leadership, and both regard the early success of Islam as a natural result of the strict and uncompromising observance of all tenets of that faith. The subsequent decline and the temporary superiority of the unbelievers is both resented—creating the culture of anti-Western otherness—and feared. The failure of the umma was understood as a consequence of the failure of the Muslim world to be “truly Islamic.” The revival of the model of early Islam in a modern form absolutely mandates the reaffirmation of uncompromising animosity to non-believers and the return to violence as a means of attaining political ends. Islamic terrorism, far from being an aberration, became inseparable from modern-day jihad. It is legitimized by it, and it is its defining feature.
While it would be simplistic to claim that Islamists routinely cheat in representing their history to the rest of us, it is closer to the mark to say that they are prone to construct an invented reality for themselves. To understand the reality of Islam’s record with its non-adherents, one should not compare it to Judaism or Christianity but match it against modern totalitarian ideologies, notably Bolshevism and National Socialism. Each explicitly denied the legitimacy of any form of social, political, or cultural organization other than itself. In the name of Allah and Islam, more people were killed in one year of Khomeini than during the preceding quarter-century of the Shah. It is easy to eliminate enemies who have been dehumanized, like when Khomeini announced, “In Persia no people have been killed so far, only beasts.” Hitler’s or Stalin’s forma mentis was different from that of Khomeini only in quantity, not in quality. The latter’s statement that the Muslims have no choice but to wage “holy war against profane governments” until the conquest of the world has been accomplished—an eminently orthodox and “mainstream” statement of Islamic world outlook, different only in its frankness from the pitch of Muslim apologists in the West—had a familiar ring to it. It was Nikita Khrushchev’s “We shall bury you” wrapped in green instead of red. The Kremlin ruse called “peaceful coexistence” was but jihad under another name.
Always reliant on the plunder of its neighbors and robbery of its non-Muslim subjects, Islam was unable to create new wealth once the conquerors had run out of steam and reduced the vanquished to utter penury. Pre-Islamic Egypt was the granary of Europe, just like the pre-Bolshevik Ukraine; now both have to import food. Pre-Islamic Syria and Asia Minor suffered a similar fate under Caliph Umar to the highly developed and prosperous East Germany and Czechoslovakia after 1945. Both Islam and Communism oppose the preconditions for successful economic development in principle as well as in practice. In both cases, attempts to copy Western methods of production failed because they were not accompanied by the essential changes of social, political, and legal structure; the problem of Ottoman experiments with modernization were remarkably similar to the tinkering with various “models of socialism” a hundred years later.
Alexis de Tocqueville has expressed many opinions that have retained their prescient freshness in our own time. It is therefore unsurprising that his final word on the subject of Islam is as valid today as it was when first written over a century and a half ago:
“I studied the Kuran a great deal … I came away from that study with the conviction that by and large there have been few religions in the world as deadly to men as that of Muhammad. As far as I can see, it is the principal cause of the decadence so visible today in the Muslim world, and, though less absurd than the polytheism of old, its social and political tendencies are in my opinion infinitely more to be feared, and I therefore regard it as a form of decadence rather than a form of progress in relation to paganism itself.”
October 31, 2003
ITALY’S IMMIGRANT INVASION
by Srdja Trifkovic
A flotilla of rickety boats bringing up to five hundred illegal immigrants landed on Italy’s southernmost island of Lampedusa on October 28. Many more vessels were reported to be on their way from Libya, the country that is quietly facilitating the exodus.
Only nine days earlier, on October 19, the Italian coast guard boarded a disabled wooden fishing boat near the island. On board they found 15 Somali illegal immigrants alive, and 13 of them dead. The authorities were told that dozens of others had been tossed overboard during the hellish 16-day voyage from the Libyan port of Zuwarah.
The death toll was even higher last June, when two hundred illegals drowned after their overloaded trawler sank off Sicily. Many more boats packed with migrants from Africa and Asia land somewhere along Europe’s southern coast almost every day. Their numbers are unknown, but the cumulative effect is not in doubt: it is estimated that Italy is currently home to one million Third World migrants, overwhelmingly Muslims from North Africa, Somalia, and the Middle East.
The Italians are facing an invasion, and losing their nerve. Giuseppe Pisanu, Italy’s minister of the interior and top official responsible for controlling the country’s borders, declared that the October 19 incident was “a dreadful tragedy that weighs on the conscience of Europe.” His reaction is incongruous but characteristic of the liberal mind. If “Europe” should feel guilty that people who have no right to come to its shores are risking their lives trying to do so illegally, then only the establishment of a free passenger service between Tripoli and Palermo—with no passport or customs formalities—would offer some relief to that burdened conscience.
Umberto Bossi, Italy’s Minister of Reforms, is the only influential member of Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right cabinet who demands strict enforcement of the country’s immigration laws. When he suggested that boats carrying illegals should be prevented from landing by force, his stand earned him the label of a “racist” and a “xenophobe.” Even his partners from the “post-Fascist” National Alliance (AN) are wavering. The AN now favors giving the vote to non-citizen immigrants. Some ministers in the center-right coalition favor abolishing all quotas on immigrants in the name of economic necessity, as Italy’s population ages and dwindles.
The unceasing deluge of illegals is being slowly accepted by many Italians as inevitable, and therefore unworthy of resistance. Once they reach Lampedusa, halfway from Sicily to Africa, the illegals are shipped to the mainland while their “asylum” applications are processed. Once there, they disappear. The results are visible in certain parts of Milan and Turin, which now resemble Algiers or Tripoli. In Venice—as Oriana Fallaci laments—little rugs with “merchandise” have replaced the pigeons of Piazza San Marco, and in Genoa the marvelous palazzi that Rubens so admired “have been seized by them and are now perishing like beautiful women who have been raped.”
The phenomenon we are witnessing in Italy today was forecast and diagnosed with uncanny precision over three decades ago by French novelist Jean Raspail in his Camp of the Saints. He predicted a conquest of Europe by Third World boat people supported by the enemy within—politicians, professors, talking heads, churchmen—who had already quashed in the minds of young Europeans any vestige of “the triumphant joy at feeling oneself to be part of humanity’s finest” and replaced it with a “monstrous cancer” of self-loathing. “It wasn’t a matter of tender heart,” Raspail says, “but a morbid, contagious excess of sentiment.” Sr. Pisanu could have been his model.
Population explosion and utter dysfunctionality of most Third World societies, coupled with the spiritual enfeeblement and demographic collapse of Europe, has produced predictable results. In all creation disease and frailty invite predators. Both the loss of the will to define and defend one’s native soil, and the loss of the desire to procreate, send an alluring signal to the rest: come, for no Western nation has the guts to shed blood—alien or its own—in the name of its own survival. As Raspail says his Afterward,
“the proliferation of other races dooms our race, my race, irretrievably to extinction in the century to come, if we hold fast to our present moral principles. No other race subscribes to these moral principles—if that is really what they are—because they are weapons of self-annihilation.”
Those “moral principles” are traced by Igor Shafarevich, in his Socialist Phenomenon, to Utopianism—the yearning for man’s God-like absolute freedom that cannot stop short of the freedom to choose death over life. Short of a miraculous last-minute recovery, Europe’s choice of death will become irreversible within a decade. On Italy’s present form no miracle is to be expected.
October 30, 2003
THE BURDEN OF BEING A SERBIAN-AMERICAN
Address at the First Annual Banquet of the Serbian-American Congress on October 26, 2003
by Srdja Trifkovic
The founders of the Serbain-American Congress have been told, more than once, that it is too late—too late to prevent the demonization of the Serbs that had started over a decade ago, too late to prevent the sanctions, to save the Krajina, to improve on Dayton, to stop the bombing, to preserve Kosovo. The implicit view of the skeptics is, (1) that the Serbs have been unfairly beaten in a crooked game, and (2) that the game is over, and therefore unworthy of re-visiting.
The founders of the Serbian-American Congress are well advised to take note of this attitude and to address it with patience and tact. The response should be, briefly, that the disastrous outcome of the past decade has not sated the appetite of Serbia’s foes, but—quite the contrary—encouraged their belief that the rump of Serbia is a candy store with a busted lock; and that it is therefore vital for the Diaspora to have an articulate voice that would seek to counter the trend.
The present Balkan reality is far from encouraging. Last February the state known as Yugoslavia was dissolved and replaced with a loose union of its last two republics, Serbia and Montenegro. There are people—in Zagreb, Sarajevo, Prishtina, Novi Pazar, Podgorica, Subotica, The Hague, or WashingtonD.C.—for whom this event did not mark by any means the end of fragmentation of the area. They do not envisage an era of dust-settling, confidence-building and overall stabilization ahead. Determined to continue slicing the Serbian salami, they do not seek harmony but turmoil; they do not want a lasting peace and reconciliation, but a permanent crisis in which the Serbs will continue to be permanent culprits. They sense, or seek to create, new opportunities for mischief. They keep developing fresh scenarios for the next act in the old play of turning Serbia into the black hole of Europe and treating the Serbs—collectively—as pariahs.
It may be too late—for now—to do much for the Krajina Serbs, but it is nevertheless not too late:
1. To save the SerbRepublic in Bosnia-Herzegovina (Republika Srpska, RS);
2. To retain at least the nominal Serbian sovereignty over Kosovo and Metohija in perpetuity, and to maintain physical presence and control in certain parts of the province;
3. To re-examine Belgrade’s relationship with The Hague Tribunal;
4. To act decisively to prevent the advanced Muslim plans for fomenting a crisis and eventually effecting the secession of the Rashka region, mistakenly known to most foreigners by its Turkish name of “Sanjak”; and
5. To encourage pro-unionist forces and pro-Serb sentiment in Montenegro.
The task of the Serbian-American community is to place all of the above in a clear context of the American interest, to act as Americans with an ethnic sensibility and not as Serbs with a grafted American identity. They must not argue the “Serbian case”—whatever it may be—in the name of abstract justice, let alone of Serbian interests per se. They must act in the only manner their arguments can appeal to a patriotic American: does it matter to me, or to my country?
A good example is offered by The Hague Tribunal, an international war crimes court where we are witnessing an ongoing travesty of justice. The Serbian-American Congress’s pitch on The Hague should be that the “tribunal” is as legal and has as much legitimacy as a Green Party Ad-Hoc Environment Court that would seek to impose greenhouse-gas taxes on American companies. Recent indictments against four Serbian generals—yet again on the utterly spurious grounds of “command responsibility”—prove that the ICTY is not an instrument of reconciliation. It is the child of the 1991-1995 propaganda project of expounding Muslim innocence in the light of Serbian guilt.
We should ask our fellow Americans: who really wants this court? Not those who care for U.S. interests, including the preservation of American judicial sovereignty against the monstrosity known as the International Criminal Court (ICC)! The Hague is wanted by various Balkan players with transparent and undistinguished motives, and by the lawyers and bureaucrats who live on it. Theyll rule the world if they are not stopped. The precedent of The Hague will subvert American sovereignty, especially vis-а-vis the ICC, and pave the way for “global justice.” The Serbian-American Congress should say that the Serbs are painfully aware that a variety of war crimes and crimes against humanity against all ethnic groups and by all of them have been committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia since 1991. It should accept that a judicial process should be an integral part of such reconciliation, but also assert that The Hague Tribunal is emphatically not a mechanism of judicial retaliation capable of achieving those goals—least of all in the bloodiest battlefield of all, the former Yugoslav republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
After eight years of misrule by a succession of proconsuls appointed by “the international community” Bosnia is in shambles: Since the end of the war in 1995, it has received almost $6 billion in reconstruction aid, but the beneficiaries were assorted crooks, international bureaucrats, and foreign contractors. It is now ranked economically behind Albania; in South Eastern Europe, only Moldova is poorer. This reality should be presented to our legislators, decision-makers, and the media through the prism of American interests in the region, through the lens of the war against terror, but also with reference to the fact that American taxpayers have been underwriting Bosnia, Inc. for the past decade. It should be stressed that indulging global apparatchiks by allowing them to continue running Bosnia like a feudal fiefdom is not only unnecessary and detrimental to peace and stability in the Balkans, it costs American taxpayers’ money.
It should be pointed out that Bosnia’s current tsars, “High Representative” Paddy Ashdown and his American deputy Donald Hays, directly undermine President Bush’s war on terror by continuing to support the Islamist side in Bosnia. Both were recently particularly active in giving credence to the Muslim claim that 7,000 of their men were killed at Srebrenica in 1995, and in arranging Bill Clinton’s visit to unveil a monument there. That figure has been repeatedly challenged as vastly inflated and unsupported by evidence, calculated to perpetuate regional ethnic hatred and distrust. Ambassador Hays used the power of the Office of the High Representative to force Bosnian Serb elected officials to sign a fraudulent document accepting the official version of events in Srebrenica. The monument unveiled by Clinton is intended to become a shrine for radical Islamists in Europe and site for annual pilgrimages. Contrary to the Bush Administration’s stated policy, Hays and Ashdown seek to vindicate Clintonian policies of support for the radical Islamists. Ashdown’s eulogy at the funeral of Alija Izetbegovic, an Islamic fundamentalist and war criminal, offers the cue for the first public act of the Serbian-American Congress: to demand Ashdowns replacement, on the grounds that he has compromised himself as not only partial to one side in Bosnia—the Muslim side—but also that he has become actively detrimental to America’s own efforts in the war against terror.
As for Kosovo, if a dozen well-known KLA allies and apologists, such as Bill Clinton and Richard Hollbrooke, and pro-Albanian lobbies parading as think-tanks, start simultaneously clamoring for its independence—making identical or similar statements—it is almost certain that their efforts will be presented as a pressing policy issue very soon. The campaign started in earnest last May. The opening salvo was fired by Paul Williams and Janusz Bugajski of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Then Daniel Serwer of the United States Institute of Peace, James Dobbins, director of the International Security and DefensePolicyCenter at the Rand Corporation and a key advocate of the war against Serbia in the Clinton administration, and Charles A. Kupchan, director of European studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, all joined the chorus. The billionaire “philantropist,” currency speculator George Soros, even went to Belgrade to tell the Serbs that it was in their interest to support the independence of Kosovo. His unsubstantiated claim that Serbia could be put into the “fast-lane to European integration” in exchange for Kosovo’s independence paved the way for Hollbrooke’s absurd and fraudulent claim that Serbia has to choose between Kosovo and European integration.
These pro-Albanian lobbyists privately package Kosovo’s independence in “realpolitical” terms in their pitch to the Bush administration. They claim that doing a big favor to a Muslim community—the Albanians—could be used to improve America’s standing in the Muslim world. The precedent already exists in Mr. Rumsfeld’s pointed invocation, during the war in Afghanistan, of America’s interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo as the conclusive proof that the United States is not a priori anti-Muslim. The KLA’s Washingtonian friends will claim that strip-mining Serbia costs nothing and yields rich rewards in giving America leverage in appeasing enraged Muslim opinion around the world.
The Serbian-American Congress should counter such pressures by pointing out that granting Kosovo independence would be a mistake—and not only because it would reward mass ethnic cleansing and murder, carried out on a grand scale by the Albanians ever since the beginning of the NATO occupation four years ago. More importantly, from the standpoint of American interests, Kosovo’s independence would condone the principle that an ethnic minority’s plurality in a given locale or region provides grounds for that region’s outright secession. That precedent may yet come to haunt America in the increasingly “Latino” mono-ethnic and Spanish mono-lingual Southwest.
In geopolitical terms giving independence to Kosovo would terminally alienate the Serbs, whose cooperation with Washington is crucial to making the Balkans finally stable and peaceful at a time when American energy, money and manpower is more pressingly needed further east. Almost as worryingly, it would create an inherently unstable polity that would be an even safer haven for assorted criminals and Islamic extremists than it is today. And finally, no responsible American leader wants to re-ignite the war in neighboring Macedonia, where the current semblance of peace is absolutely predicated upon the continuing status quo in Kosovo.
It is to be hoped that the Bush team will not commit itself to continuing the failed, discredited Clinton-Gore “nation-building project” in Kosovo that culminated with the bombing of Serbia in 1999. That event marked an illogical, immoral, and untenable rearrangement of the Balkan architecture. It is in America’s interest to have it reversed, not ratified and made semi-permanent. There are ample arguments against Cilnton’s model of the new Balkan order that seeks to satisfy the aspirations of all ethnic groups in former Yugoslavia—except the Serbs. Whatever is imposed on them in this moment of weakness, the Serbs shall have no stake in the ensuing order of things, causing chronic regional imbalance and strife for decades to come. That is not in America’s interest, and therefore should not be condoned.
Strong and valid arguments of the Serbian-American community exist, they need not be invented but coherently defined and convincingly presented. The task is not impossible, but it requires energy, creativity, and money. It is a worthwhile investment into the future of Serbian-Americans as a self-respecting community that has made, and is continuing to make, a hugely disproportionate and on the whole splendid contribution to the knowledge, strength, and wealth of this great country of ours.
October 29, 2003
YOUNG GERMANS EMBRACING ISLAM:
REICHSFUHRER HIMMLER DELIGHTED
by Srdja Trifkovic
According to a recent Agence France Presse report (October 25), Germans are converting to Islam in increasing numbers. They are also “getting younger and younger,” according to Muhammad Herzog who runs a Muslim cultural center in Berlin. He is quoted by the AFP as saying that “many are looking for new lifestyles and some sense of direction.” Herr Herzog converted to Islam as far back as 1979, when he realized that “the Qur’an gathered together everything I had ever believed in.”
Islamic Institute archives now contain records of 12,400 people born in Germany to German parents who are now “certified” Muslims. The total Muslim population of Germany is approaching four million—most of them Turks—but it accounts for close to one-fifth of all newborn babies in the nation of 80 million.
The writing was on the wall over a decade ago, when the number of Muslims stood at three million and the number of mosque associations exceeded 2,000. By that time already the Turks in Berlin had entire sections of the city closed in on themselves. The trend of establishing and supporting the enclaves of a parallel culture, hostile to the host-country’s lifestyle and values, is by now well-established not only in Germany but also in France and Britain.
The fact that increasing numbers of young Germans want to join an alien and hostile ghetto within the country of their birth is unsurprising. Estranged from their parents, ignorant of their culture, ashamed of their history, those young converts are making a logical step on the path of alienation that alternatively leads to madness, drugs, or suicide. They accurately sense that “those who subscribe to Islam and its civilization are aliens, regardless of their clothes, their professions or their places of residence” (Sam Francis), and they choose to be aliens.
On present form the burgeoning Muslim population of Europe will never be “westernized,” that is to say, made as willing as Christians to see their religion relativized, then mocked, and its commandments misrepresented or ignored. It is even less likely to be Christianized: that cannot happen unless there is a belated, massive, and unexpected recovery of Western spiritual and moral strength. Europe therefore faces two clear alternatives: defense—impossible under the current banner of multiculturalism—or submission and eventual acceptance of sacred Arab places as its own.
Islamic activists in Europe trust in the latter, and with good reason. They know that the host-societies have lost the capacity to define themselves vis-а-vis “the other.” They also know that their own immigrant brethren have no kinship with the host-societies and no desire to establish any (except to partake in their wealth, know their women, and eventually take over their lands, while nurturing contempt for a society willing to grant them every indulgence without a fight).
Their utter disdain for the secular-democratic institutions of the host-countries notwithstanding, Muslims gladly invoke those institutions when they clamor for their “rights”—including the “right” of Algerian girls to have their heads properly covered in French state schools, or the “right” of a Muslim child not to face the effrontery of a cross on the wall of an Italian classroom (newswires, October 28). Like their Bolshevik predecessors they demand democratic privileges to organize and propagate their views while knowing that—given the power to do so—they would impose their own beliefs and customs, and eliminate all others, on the pain of death.
As I had predicted in The Sword of the Prophet (2002), extreme Islamic “peace and tolerance” manifested on 9-11 did not spell the end of another kind of extremism: the insistence of the ruling European elite that their countries are not based on ethnicity and on a cultural tradition rooted in Christianity. The rulers of Europe, their collective will recently visible among the founding fathers of the European Union’s Constitution, facilitate the advance of Islam by destroying the sense of community based on kinship, language, faith, and culture. They are promoting functional nihilism, thus ensuring an apparent paradox: the urge of young Germans to convert to Islam is stronger now than before 9-11. This confirms that Islam’s strategy of reliance on the spiritual “Death of the West” is sound. It also fits a pattern set by recent history; similar surges followed the outbreak of the Gulf War and the fatwa against Salman Rushdie.
It is befitting rather than ironic that Germany’s conversion to Islam was desired, six decades ago, by an anti-Christian par excellence, Reichsfuehrer SS Heinrich Himmler. His hatred of “soft” Christianity was matched by his liking for Islam, which he saw as a masculine, martial religion based on the SS qualities of blind obedience, absence of compassion, and readiness for self-sacrifice. By creating an SS division composed of Bosnian Muslims Himmler was only taking the first step in the planned grand alliance between Nazi Germany and the Islamic world. One of his closest aides, Obergruppenfьhrer Gottlob Berger, boasted that “a link is created between Islam and National-Socialism on an open, honest basis.”
To many young Germans Usama Bin Laden is as admirable a figure today as Adolf Hitler was to many of their grandparents in 1929: a charismatic and dangerous man with a cause for which people are ready to die. Millions of their forefathers did not grapple with the complexities of the Great Depression when it was easier and more satisfying to submerge one’s identity and suspend judgment in the scream of Sieg heil! Likewise the grandchildren, even when hungry for spiritual nourishment, refuse to solve mental puzzles. Tackling the meaning of Incarnation, Trinity, or Fall is not even an option when a readily available alternative offers simplicity and instant gratification. It is as easy to say “Allah is great; there is no Allah but Allah, and Muhammad is His prophet,” as it is to gulp a gram of Ecstasy.
In the cities still dominated by ancient spires and domes the starkness and terror of the Cross have been forgotten; the image itself is being removed from sight. The young converts’ newly arrived co-religionists know, and thrive on the fact that Islam is well on the way to supply the only religious tradition left standing in Western Europe.
October 22, 2003
OBITUARY OF ALIJA IZETBEGOVIC
by Srdja Trifkovic
Alija Izetbegovic, the leader of the Muslim faction in the three-cornered ethnic and religious war in Bosnia-Herzegovina (1992-1995) died in Sarajevo on October 19 at the age of 78.
Izetbegovic was born in 1925 in the northern Bosnian town of Bosanski Samac into a family of impoverished Ottoman aristocrats (beys) whose identity was not “Bosnian” except as a social-geographic fact. His father, an accountant, moved the family to Sarajevo in the 1930s, where Izetbegovic completed his primary and high school education, and—after World War II—the law school.
A devout Muslim from his early years, Izetbegovic was 16 when Yugoslavia was invaded in 1941 and Bosnia-Herzegovina handed over to the newly-proclaimed “IndependentState of Croatia.” Like many Muslims Izetbegovic avoided identifying himself either with the Ustasa regime and its anti-Serb atrocities or with the two resistance movements, Royalist Chetniks and Communist Partisans, whose rank-and-file was overwhelmingly Serb. He was sympathetic to the Nazi-sponsored campaign to assert a “Bosniak” Muslim identity, however, and in 1943 joined the Young Muslims, and organization sponsored by El Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, that provided thousands of volunteers for the 13th SS Hanjar (“sword”) division composed solely of Bosnian Muslims. Izetbegovic’s wartime activities earned him a three-year jail sentence from Tito’s victorious Partisans; that was not to be his last spell in prison, however.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Izetbegovic was a well-known and respected figure among the Islamist-minded Muslim intellectuals. His reputation was enhanced by the publication, in 1970, of the Islamic Declaration, a pamphlet that earned him a second jail term some years later. The Declaration advocated Islamic moral and religious renewal, and political and armed struggle for the establishment of an Islamic polity: “The Islamic movement must, and can, take over power as soon as it is morally and numerically so strong that it can not only destroy the existing non-Islamic power, but also build up a new Islamic one.” Its author asserted the “incompatibility between Islam and non-Islamic systems. There is no peace or coexistence between the Islamic faith and non-Islamic social and political institutions.” IzetbegovicДs disdain for “Western” values was particularly evident in his dismissal of the Kemalist tradition: “Turkey as an Islamic country used to rule the world; Turkey as an imitation of Europe is a third-rate country the like of which there is a hundred in the world.” He accepts the “achievements of Euro-American civilization”, but only in the sphere of “science and technology.” True to the shari’a-based “Pact of Umar,” he allows that the non-Muslims may have religious rights within an Islamic state—but only “on condition that they are loyal.” His goal is umma, the creation of a single Muslim polity, “religious, cultural and political, since “Islam is not a nationality, but it is the supra-nationality of this community.” This “united Islamic community” will rang “from Morocco to Indonesia.”
Izetbegovic came to national prominence as a political leader of Bosnia’s Muslims in early 1990, when the break-up of the League of Communists set the stage for multi-party elections in Yugoslavia’s six federal republics. In Bosnia-Herzegovina dozens of new parties came into being, but only three of them mattered—all three organized firmly along ethnic, that is, national-confessional lines. The Muslims led the field with the establishment, in March 1990, of Stranka Demokratske Akcije – SDA (Party of Democratic Action), with Izetbegovic at its helm. At first some Muslims expected that the SDA could represent the interests of their community without becoming “Islamist,” but Izetbegovic firmly promoted a clerical line. One of the founders of the SDA, Adil ZulfikarpasicД, who wanted the party to be “a civic, liberal organization,” was sharply rebuked by IzetbegovicД, who told him that “five hundred imams” would play a key role in it.
At the first multiparty election (fall 1990) the three nationalist parties were absolute winners. In the Assembly in Sarajevo, of 240 seats the Muslim SDA won 86 seats, the Serb SDS took 72 seats and the Croat HDZ 44. The three parties soon agreed on a power-sharing arrangement. IzetbegovicД was elected President of a seven-member, multi-ethnic rotating presidency; a Croat took the post of prime minister and a Serb the presidency of the Assembly.
Those three parties represented real, traditional national diversity as against a Yugoslav-Titoist synthetic, composite identity. After almost five decades of Communism this was a blast of fresh air; it was not necessarily the precursor of war. It was a natural response to the decay of communist authority. Had Yugoslavia not been breaking up in 1991-92, this emphasis on traditional identities would have passed as a natural democratic readjustment to reality. The parties representing Serbs, Croats, and Muslims were not simply in coalition; they were natural allies while Bosnia remained at peace—although they would become just as natural enemies if Yugoslavia were to fall apart.
Izetbegovic was a man of strong character and deep convictions. He was a sincere opponent of secularism and an advocate of Shari’a law and political Islam. But while he was a pan-Islamist in global terms, once he assumed the Presidency he started acting locally as a strictly “Bosniak” nationalist, claiming, for instance, that the Muslims were a nation with a separate language. He also asserted that for “almost a thousand years Bosnia has existed as a distinct political entity.” While devoid of any basis in reality, this claim was meant to foster Bosnian-Muslim nationalist identity. At the same time he presented a pluralist face to the West, using the rhetoric of of multi-ethnic and multi-confessional coexistence. The Islamic Declaration was reprinted in Sarajevo in 1990 with Izetbegovic’s approval, indicating that he had not abandoned the positions dating back to 1970 or even earlier. The Serbs and Croats of Bosnia have been censured by some media in the West for insisting that Izetbegovic should be taken seriously as an Islamist. In fact there is no community in Europe where such opinions as his would not cause extreme concern.
Izetbegovic faced a dilemma after the elections of 1990 regarding the future constitutional arrangements for Yugoslavia, and Bosnias place in it. Earlier in that year nationalist forces had already triumphed in Slovenia and Croatia. In December Slobodan MilosяevicДs Socialist Party of Serbia gained an overwhelming victory in Serbias elections. The media in different federal republics had been busy pursuing openly nationalist themes, and the politicians were never far behind. In the referendum held in December 1990 the Slovenes voted for an independent and sovereign state. By March 1991 Slovenia was no longer sending conscripts to the federal army.
On 25 June 1991 Slovenia and Croatia declared independence, a move that triggered off a short war in Slovenia and a sustained conflict in Croatia. These events had profound consequences on Bosnia and Herzegovina, that “Yugoslavia in miniature.” The three parties managed for most of 1991 to cooperate in the power-sharing exercise, but by the end of that year they all had their separate agendas and concerns. The Serbs adamantly opposed the idea of Bosnian independence. The Croats predictably rejected any suggestion that Bosnia and Herzegovina remains within a Serb-dominated rump Yugoslavia. As for IzetbegovicД, already in September 1990 he argued that Bosnia-Herzegovina should also declare independence if Slovenia and Croatia secede: “If necessary, the Muslims will defend Bosnia with arms.” The moment that Izetbegovic declared he would not remain in a Yugoslavia without Croatia he made the Republic a hostage to events outside its boundaries, and war became a near-certainty. On 27 February 1991 he went a step further by declaring in the Assembly: “I would sacrifice peace for a sovereign Bosnia-Herzegovina, but for that peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina I would not sacrifice sovereignty.”
Rising inter-ethnic tensions in the summer of 1991 were aggravated by IzetbegovicДs burgeoning contacts with the Islamic world. In July 1991, during a visit to Turkey, he put in a request for Bosnia to join the Organization of Islamic Countrieswithout consulting his coalition partners, and in spite of the fact that it had a Muslim plurality, but certainly not a majority.
Some Muslims were concerned by what they perceived as Izetbegovics fatalistic acceptance of huge risks in pursuit of independence. ZulfikarpasяicД went to see IzetbegovicД in mid-July 1991, and obtained his agreement that he should contact the Serb leaders and negotiate with them on future constitutional arrangements. The result was “the Belgrade Initiative” providing for a Serb-Muslim power sharing arrangement. It was immediately rejected by IzetbegovicД, however. To this day, ZulfikarpasяicД remains convinced that a unique chance to secure peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina had been lost, and he places the responsibility firmly on Izetbegovic.
A key development that escalated tensions occurred during the night of October 14-15, when Izetbegovic’s deputies joined forces with the Bosnian-Croat HDZ to push through the Assembly a “memorandum” proclaiming sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina, paving the way for its formal secession from Yugoslavia. The vote was taken in spite of Serb protests, SDS deputies having walked out, and by a simple majority although two-thirds of deputies’ votes were required by the Constitution. By that time the question of Bosnia and Herzegovina had become internationalized. In September the EC organized a peace conference under the chairmanship of Lord Carrington. Attached to the Conference was an arbitration commission headed by the French constitutional lawyer Robert Badinter who was to rule on recognition claims by Yugoslav republics. At that time it was assumed that any recognition of former republics would follow an overall Yugoslav settlement. On 29 November Badinter ruled that Yugoslavia was in a state of “dissolution”, rather than an existing country from which republics were seceding. This was a controversial opinion, and it pushed Bosnia closer to war. By the same yardstick applied by Badinter, it could be argued that Bosnia itself was as deeply in the process of “dissolution.”
On 23 December Germany jumped the gun and recognized the independence of Slovenia and Croatia. On 9 January 1992 the Bosnian Serbs responded by announcing the formation of an autonomous Serb Republic within Bosnia and Herzegovina, warning that they would secede if Bosnia were to proclaim independence. The Croat-Muslim coalition in the Bosnian Assembly nevertheless decided, on 25 January, that a referendum on independence would be held at the end of February. This vote was taken, as in October 1991, in disregard of the Serb opposition, and in violation of Bosnia’s constitution.
The referendum on independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina took place on 29 February and 1 March. The Serbs duly boycotted it, determined not to become a minority in an independent, Muslim-dominated Bosnia- Herzegovina. In the end 62.68 percent of all voters opted for independence, overwhelmingly Muslims and Croats; but even this was short of the two-thirds majority required by the constitution. This did not stop the rump government of IzetbegovicД from declaring independence on 3 March.
Simultaneously one last attempt was under way to save peace. The Portuguese foreign minister Josй CutileiroPortugal holding at that time the EC Presidencyorganized a conference in Lisbon attended by Izetbegovic, Karadzic, and the Croat leader Mate Boban. The talks went surprisingly well at first, and the three parties agreed that Bosnia-Herzegovina should be a single, independent state internally organized on the basis of ethnic regions—the so-called “cantonization.” The breakthrough was due to the Bosnian Serbs’ acceptance of a single, independent Bosnia and Herzegovina, provided that the Muslims give up on a centralized, unitary state. Izetbegovic appeared to accept that this was the best deal he could make, but soon he was to change his mind.
Just as Germany had recklessly pushed for early recognition of Slovenia and Croatia in December 1991, the United States played a key role in the recognition of Bosnia-Herzegovina three months later. It has been suggested that the U.S. actively encouraged IzetbegovicД to reject the EC-sponsored Lisbon plan. The key event was the meeting in Sarajevo between IzetbegovicД, who had recently returned from Lisbon but was already criticizing the agreement reached there, and Warren Zimmermann, the US Ambassador in Yugoslavia. The American view, according to Zimmermann, was that “a Serbian power grab” might be prevented by internationalizing the problem. So when Izetbegovic said that he did not like the Lisbon agreement, Zimmerrmann remembered later, “I told him, if he didn’t like it, why sign it?” A high-ranking State Department official subsequently admitted to The New York Times that the US policy “was to encourage IzetbegovicД to break with the partition plan.”
Once he knew that American recognition of independence was imminent, Izetbegovic had no motive to take the ongoing EC-brokered talks seriously. Only had Washington and Brussels insisted on an agreement on the confederal-cantonal blueprint as a precondition for recognition, he could have been induced to support the Cutileiro plan. But after his encounter with Zimmermann Izetbegovic felt authorized to renege on tripartite accord, and he believed that the Clinton administration would come to his assistance to enforce the independence of a unitary Bosnian state. Josй Cutileiro was embittered by the US action, and accused Izetbegovic of reneging on the agreement. Had the Muslims not done so, Cutiliero concludes, “the Bosnian question might have been settled earlier, with less loss of life and land.”
More than a decade later it cannot be denied that Izetbegovic’s role in Bosnia’s descent to war was crucial. In early 1992 most Muslims were prepared to accept a compromise that would fall short of full independence—especially if full independence risked war—but Izetbegovic demanded a leap in the dark. His motive was less fear of being left “alone” in Yugoslavia with the Serbs than the pressure that was put on him first by the German government acting unilaterally, then by the EC following his lead, and finally by the Clinton administration. Had the pressure been the other way, it is scarcely possible to doubt that Izetbegovic’s choice would have been more cautious – even if we see him as tempted by Islamist ambition. And if Bosnia had stayed inside Yugoslavia, it is plain that the Serbs would not have fought. Milosevic would have had no mechanism for controlling the republic. The wars in Yugoslavia would have ended with the cease-fire in Croatia of 2 January 1992.
Germany, the EU and the US, some of them perhaps unwittingly, handed Izetbegovic his strategy on a plate: to provoke the intervention of the powers that offered diplomatic recognition. The subsequent crimes of the warring parties, however severely they must be judged, were the consequence of a great, complex, and international blunder, they were not pre-existing strategies which explain Izetbegovic’s decision to secede.
The effect of the legal intervention of the “international community” with its act of recognition was that a Yugoslav loyalty was made to look like a conspiratorial disloyalty to “Bosnia”—largely in the eyes of people who supposed ex hypothesi that if there is a “Bosnia” there must be a nation of “Bosnians.” This was a major success for Mr. Izetbegovic’s political objectives, and a major disaster for all three nations that live in Bosnia—as well as for the interests of the United States in the Balkans.
Once the war started the Serbs had an edge in weaponry but the numeric advantage lay with the Muslims, who were able to win in the end with international help. Even before the first shots were fired, Acting Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger made it clear that a goal in Bosnia was to mollify the Muslim world and to counter any perception of an anti-Muslim bias regarding American policies in Iraq. The subsequent portrayal in the American media of the Muslims of Bosnia as innocent martyrs in the cause of multicultural tolerance concealed the fact that the war was not only ethnic but also religious in nature. A few lonely voices in the U.S. warned that Izetbegovic did not want to establish a multiethnic liberal democratic society, but they were ignored. The U.S. Army Foreign Military Studies Office saw the situation more clearly than the politicians when it stated, in 1993, that ideal of multi-ethnicity “may appeal to a few members of Bosnia’s ruling circles as well as to a generally secular populace, but President Izetbegovic and his cabal appear to harbor much different private intentions and goals.”
The parallel demonization of the Serbs was a school text case of media-induced pseudo-reality in the service of an Administration that had decided to side with Islam in the Balkans. In a complex conflict with confusing and contradictory pieces, Americans were offered a powerful package that simplified the equation into a clear-cut morality play: saving the Muslims would thus expiate for not saving the Jews of Warsaw or Budapest fifty years earlier. Izetbegovic’s Western apologists dismissed his Islamic Declaration as a passing indiscretion “taken out of context.” The Parisian ex-communist “philosophe” Bernard Henry-Levy even declared that Izetbegovic’s policy “has been demonstrably against the establishment of an Islamic state.”
President Clinton was still in the White House, however, when a classified State Department report warned that the Muslim-controlled parts of Bosnia were a safe haven for Islamic terrorism and that hundreds of foreign mujaheddin—who had become Bosnian citizens and remained there after fighting in the war—presented a major terrorist threat to Europe and the United States. The findings of the report were summarized in the words of a former State Department official: Bosnia was “a staging area and safe haven” for Osama bin Laden’s terrorists.
The threat of Islamic fundamentalism in Europe finally persuaded the U.S. and other Western nations to oppose the presence of foreign mujahedeen in Bosnia as part of the November 1995 Dayton peace agreements, which specifically called for the expulsion of all foreign fighters. But Izetbegovic calmly circumvented the rule by granting Bosnian citizenship to several hundred Arab and other Islamist volunteers, thus ostensibly eliminating their “foreign” status before the accord took effect. By 1996 even The Washington Post—normally supportive of Clinton’s Balkan policy—confirmed that “the Clinton Administration knew of the activities of Bin Laden’s so-called Relief Agency, which was, in fact, funneling weapons and money into Bosnia to prop up the Izetbegovic Muslim government in Sarajevo.”
From that point on Washington had complained periodically and ineffectually to Izetbegovic about the continued presence of the mujahadeen in Bosnia, but to little avail. In 1999 the U.S. established that several suspects linked to Bosnia were associated with a terrorist plot to bomb the Los AngelesInternationalAirport. Some months earlier an Algerian with Bosnian citizenship tried to help smuggle explosives to a group plotting to destroy U.S. military installations in Germany. The State Department tried to force his deportation from Bosnia, but only when the U.S. threatened to stop all economic aid Izetbegovic agreed to do so.
Izetbegovic stepped down in 2000, but he had prepared a cadre of Islamic hard-liners loyal to him. They were deeply embedded in Bosnia’s state structure, and to this day they are suspected of operating their own rogue intelligence service that protects Islamic extremists. In addition to being a terrorist base, Bosnia has become a staging post for illegal Muslim immigrants from the Middle East making their way into Western Europe. Most of them are economic migrants, but European officials fear that many terrorist operatives and their potential recruits are slipping in. In 2000 up to 10,000 migrants a month were smuggled through Bosnia to Western Europe. Senior Muslim politicians in Sarajevo were not interested in stopping this trade in human cargo, and they had no reason to try. To most of them, and especially to the political class nurtured on Izetbegovic’s ideology, it is a great and good thing to help as many of their co-religionists as possible settle in the infidel West.
In the aftermath of 9-11 no effective anti-terrorist strategy is possible without recognizing past mistakes of U.S. policy that have helped breed terrorism, starting with Dr. Brzezinski’s unholy alliance with jihad 14 years ago. Eight years of the Clinton-Albright Administration’s covert and overt support for Izetbegovic and his ilk have been a foreign policy debacle of the first order. Its beneficiaries are Osama bin Laden—since 1993 a Bosnian citizen, compliments of then-President Izetbegovic—and his co-religionists in Sarajevo, Tirana, and Pristina. If we are to take the War on Terrorism seriously, such blunders need to be recognized and rectified. Taking a long and sober look at Alija Izetbegovic’s political record and legacy would be an important first step.
October 18, 2003
TURKS IN IRAQ: A BAD IDEA
by Srdja Trifkovic
Question: How do you forge the sense of Iraqi national unity among its disparate, antagonistic ethnic and religious groups?
Answer: Tell them that you are bringing Turkish soldiers into the country!
The US plan to bolster its forces in Iraq with Turkish troops has produced a remarkable spectacle of Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites rejecting the plan in complete unison. The Sunnis still carry traumatic collective memories of the Turkish rule prior to 1918, when Ottomans treated Arabs as second-class citizens. They also suspect Turkey of unrelinquished hopes in the oil-rich region of Mosul. The Kurds are unsurprisingly even more vocal: the separatist Kurdish Labor Party of jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan has vowed to attack Turkish troops if they deployed in northern Iraq. Abdullah’s brother, Othman Ocalan, says that the PKK will “step up military resistance and no one will be able to stop us from defending our people.” Many Iraqi Kurds also accuse Ankara of trying to stir up ethnic tensions between them and Iraq’s Turkmen minority. The Shiites, over two-thirds of Iraq’s population, are equally wary. One of their leaders told Radio Free Europe (October 17) that the Shia community “can agree to British and American occupation, but not to Turkish.” Many Shi’ites additionally distrust Turkey as Sunnite by tradition and secular by constitution. They suspect that Turkey would support their Sunni co-religionists and thus undermine the ambitions of Iraq’s Shia majority.
Those three communities may distrust or even detest each other but they share a deep disdain for their former rulers. Among the two-dozen surviving members of Iraq’s US-appointed Governing Council there is complete unanimity against the proposed Turkish deployment. On October 16 Masoud Barzani, leader of one of the two main Iraqi Kurdish parties and a key member of the Governing Council, threatened to resign over the issue and warned that the presence of Turkish troops in Iraq would have “dire consequences.”
Those consequences would be dire indeed, for seven main reasons:
The security situation would deteriorate—Instead of helping pacify Iraq, the presence of Turkish soldiers in the country would fan the spirit and acts of resistance. That presence would be as provocative to the Iraqis—Kurds and Arabs, Sunnis and Shiites alike—as that of Russian peacekeepers in Kabul or Kandahar would be to all Afghans, regardless of their tribal affiliation. The Turks will be gleefully targeted for attacks—last week’s bombing of the Turkish embassy in Baghdad is an early omen—and they would retaliate, triggering off a spiral of violence. The Turkish military has already warned that its troops would respond to any attack, and—judging by the Turkish army’s past performance in operations against Kurdish areas of eastern Turkey—that response would be robust in the extreme. That is exactly what those Iraqis who favor armed resistance would like to happen.
The burden on US forces would increase—By definition the objective of bringing foreign soldiers into Iraq is to relieve the heavy burden on US troops there. In the medium to long term that burden would only grow heavier due to Turkish military presence. As the Turks are singled out for attacks, get involved in bloody firefights, die in ambushes and retaliate, the US military will face an impossible dilemma. It will either assume the role of peacekeepers-of-last-resort, separating restive natives and Turkish peacekeepers, or else it will support its Turkish protйgйs unreservedly. Either way its commitmentand death tollwill increase, rather decrease.
The transfer of power to the Iraqis will be delayedThe issue of Turkish troops is already becoming a test of strength between Paul Bremer, as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, and the Governing Council he appointed. Mr. Bremer will have to make the final decision on the deployment of Turkish troops. If he decides to bring them in anyway, that decision will have been made against the Council’s will. It may lead either (a) to the Council’s disintegration, with some or all members resigning, or (b) to the terminal loss of its credibility. Most Iraqis will see the Council as an American lapdog if its members swallow the bitter pill and rubber-stamp Turkish deployment—or else as irrelevant, if the Turks come in spite of its opposition. Either way the goal of turning Iraq into a functioning polity and withdrawing U.S. forces will be more distant than it would have been without the Turks.
Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation will be even less likely—With Mr. Bush’s “Roadmap to Peace” moribund, the President should balance his short-term needs—such as Turkish soldiers who (he hopes) will share the burden with the GIs—with his long-term Middle Eastern strategies that ought to entail some degree of Arab good will. All Arab countries are at best uncomfortable and at worst may be openly hostile to the Turkish role, which they see as not only serving Americans but also Israel interest. Unsurprisingly, the Sharon government favors a Turkish military role in Iraq, and this fact is reflected by the neoconservative consensus in Washington that the Turks should be brought in as soon as possible. Paul Wolfowitz and his ilk want Turkish troops in Iraq in order to alienate it from the European Union and to fans anti-Turkish hostility in the Arab world that would keep its Israeli alliance alive even under the Islamist PKA government.
Last but by no means least, a Turkish military contingent in Iraq almost guarantees that flawed U.S. assessments and policies in the region will continue. When the Turkish parliament voted on October 7 to send the troops, the move was gratefully seized on by the Bush administration. And yet that same parliament voted seven months ago to deny its territory to the U.S., at least temporarily shattering the prevailing dogma in Washington that Turkey would remain “secular” and an American asset come what may. With its 10,000-strong Iraqi contingent Turkey hopes to regain American favors on the cheap (and let the U.S. taxpayers foot the bill). Even at this early stage Turey is already being cocky: Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister and AKP leader, wants Turkey to command its own troops within a self-contained region, rather than simply provide reinforcements to the U.S. The Turks also expect to be handsomely rewarded for their contribution, and judging by last February’s haggling, its demands will be steep.
In conclusion, far from favoring the arrival of a Turkish contingent to Iraq, the Administration should discard the idea as detrimental to peace and stability in Iraq, to the establishment of meaningful self-rule in the country, and—most important of all—detrimental to the prospect of an early American withdrawal. That is, and should be, Mr. Bush’s overriding concern.
October 8, 2003
JIHAD, THEN AND NOW, PT. II
by Srdja Trifkovic
Islam, the West, and the Serbs: Matica Srpska, September 11, 2003
Fast-forwarding to our own age, it is remarkable that in this era of rampant victimology the persecution of Christians by Muslims has become a taboo subject in the West. A complex web of myths, outright lies, and deliberately imposed silence dominates it. Thirteen centuries of religious discrimination, causing suffering and death of countless millions, have been covered by the myth of Islamic “tolerance”-a myth is as hurtful to the few descendants of the victims as it is useless as a means of appeasing latter-day jihadists. The silence and lies, perpetrated by the Western academe and media class, facilitates the perpetuation of religious discrimination and persecution even today.
The upholders of the myth of Islamic tolerance are secular Western freethinkers who hate persecution and discrimination, sexual, racial, religious, or any other, with one exception: when Christians are the victims. Recent attempts by some apologists for Islam in the West-notably a British journalist by the name of Noel Malcolm-to present the sordid and cruel Ottoman overlordship in southeast Europe as “tolerant,” or even enlightened, are as intellectually dishonest as they are factually insupportable.
Even after September 11 the myth lives on all over the Western world, perhaps even more strongly than before. Attempts by Islamic apologists to assure the West of the “spiritual” definition of Jihad brush up centuries of very physical “striving” by generations of Muslim warriors. It is true that “Muslims are called by the Qura’an and the example of the Prophet of Islam to strive for Peace through all available means,” but the “Peace” that is called upon believers to implement is impossible unless it is established under Islamic rule (“A Christian Perception of Islam: the Struggle for Dialogues and Peace,” Palestine Times, 8/1997). This is exactly the same definition of “peace” as that used by the Soviet empire in the period of its external expansion (1944-1979). The jihadi campaigns fought by the Muslims in Spain, France, India, Iran, throughout the Balkans or at the gates of Vienna, were as defensive as Stalin’s war with Finland, or the “counterattack” against Poland by his German colleague.
While Islam differs in its details from other utopian ideologies, it closely resembles them in scope and ambition. Like communism and fascism, it offers a vanguard ideology; a complete program to improve man and create a new society; complete control over that society; and cadres ready, even eager, to spill blood (Daniel Pipes. “There Are No Moderates: Dealing with Fundamentalist Islam.” National Interest, Fall 1995). In all cases the lust for other people’s possessions and sheer power over their lives have been justified by a self-justifying ideology that perverts meanings of words, stunts the sense of moral distinctions, and destroys souls.
The Western world has refused for decades to take stock of this phenomenon and to devise defensive strategies. Wore still, in the final phase of the Cold War the strategy of effective support for Islamic ambitions in pursuit of short-term political or military objectives of the United States has helped turn Islamic radicalism into a truly global phenomenon. The underlying assumption was that militant Muslims could be puffed up, used, and eventually discarded-like Diem, Noriega, the Shah, the Contras.
The Kaiser lived to regret giving passage to Lenin on that sealed train in 1917, but in Washington the lessons of that episode remained unlearnt. In 1998, former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski described how the Carter Administration had instigated Islamic resistance to the pro-Soviet government in Afghanistan and thus maneuvered Moscow into military intervention (French original is here). Asked if he had any regrets about the consequences of that operation almost two decades later, Dr. Brzezinski was indignant: “Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? … What matters more to world history, the Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?” But isn’t Islamic fundamentalism a world menace today?-he was asked. “Nonsense!” he replied, “There is no global Islam.”
Dr. Brzezinski would probably choose his words more guardedly today, but it is a matter of amply documented record that, despite the Islamic revolution in Iran that had taken place only months earlier, the policy makers in Washington had not treated Islamic fundamentalist ideology in adversarial terms until it started attacking America. Having enlisted militant Islam in the destruction of communism, the ruling establishment used it to erode the reliquiae reliquiarum of Christian roots in the Western world through Muslim mass immigration. The assumption has been that the Islamic genie released by Dr. Brzezinski’s excellent idea could be controlled through Muslims’ immersion in the consumerist subculture, and through their children’s multicultural indoctrination by state education.
For most Muslim countries demography is a political weapon. They will gladly export their surplus population to Europe and America, aware that the bigger the diaspora, the greater the political influence it will exert. Maintaining the loyalty of the diaspora has been a top priority. The result is that Islam is today the fastest growing faith in the Western world, and 20 million inhabitants of the European Union are self-avowedly Muslims. If present trends continue, by 2020 Muslims will be over 10% of the population of Europe, and exceed ten million in America. This population is expanding by immigration and an enormous birth rate that far exceeds that of the indigenous population. In 30 years the Muslim population of Great Britain rose from 82,000 to two million. In Germany there are four million Muslims, mostly Turks, and over five million across the Rhine in France, mostly North Africans. There are a million Muslims each in Italy and the Netherlands, and half-a-million in Spain-that is, more than in the last two centuries of the Caliphate of Cordoba. A tenth of all babies born in EU countries are Muslim, and in the moribund Brussels the figure was over 50%. With the expanding numbers and the creation of distinctly Muslim neighborhoods in many European cities, the initial detachment of culture from territory has been reversed and the bold notion of conquest by demographic rather than military means entered the activists’ minds.
The blueprint was developed over two decades ago, in 1981, when the Third Islamic Summit Conference of Kaaba adopted the “Mecca Declaration.” It stated, inter alia,
We have resolved to conduct Jihad with all the means at our disposal so as to free our territory from occupation. We are convinced of the need to propagate the precepts of Islam and its cultural influence in Muslim societies and throughout the world.
In the ensuing two decades a new mosque was opened somewhere in the Western world. Pledges to propagate Islam were advanced irrespective of the fact that the signers of the Declaration openly oppressed non-Muslim communities in their own lands, or prevented them from being established at all. Radical Muslims dominate the Islamic life in the West, to the point that moderates, even if they exist, hardly have a voice. They control major Muslim organizations, a majority of mosques and newspapers. They manipulate the public and politicians hiding under non-profit ‘religious charities,’ and the buzzword of human rights.
This reality is denied by western secularists. The old liberal-secular antipathy to Christianity has converged with political correctness to produce a climate wherein it is easy for the Muslims to lie about the true nature of Islam. Defense against such lies is difficult when it is deemed “insensitive” to respond to them with facts and in plain language. This refusal is justified by “sensitivity” and “multiculturalism.” Post-national, secular host governments do not see their countries as real communities, rooted in the continuity of shared memories and cultural legacies. They do not see them as entities that ultimately belong to the majority of people inhabiting them and bearing their name, and not to whatever random melange happens to be within their boundaries at any given moment in time. This extends to both sides of the Atlantic. In America, two years ago today, it had fatal consequences.
Is defense possible? The totalitarian nature of Islam makes the threat different in degree to that faced during the Cold War, but not in kind. It demands a similar response. Perhaps only one in a hundred communists was an active Soviet spy; maybe not one in a hundred Muslim immigrants is an active bin Laden asset. Nevertheless, managing the communist risk fifty years ago entailed denying entry visas (let alone permanent residences or passports) to self-avowed Party members. Like communism, Islam relies on a domestic fifth column to subvert the enemy. It also relies on an army of fellow-travelers, on “liberal academics and opinion-makers [who] sympathize with Islam because it is a leading historical rival of the Western civilization they hate” (Philip Jenkins in Chronicles, September 2001). But once it is accepted that Islam does not recognize a priori the right of other religions or outlooks to exist-least of all atheistic secular humanism-a serious anti-terrorist strategy will finally become possible. It would need to include an immediate moratorium on all immigration from the risk-nations. Westerners are being indoctrinated into the dogma that unceasing immigration on a vast scale is unstoppable because it is due to inexorable global market forces. This is not true. Free citizens must not submit their destiny, and that of their progeny, to a historicist fallacy. Immigration can and should be subject to the democratic will of the people.
In longer-term strategy a wider paradigm shift in the U.S. foreign policy is needed, based on the need for a genuine Northern Alliance of Russia, Europe, and North America, coupled with either the abolition of NATO or Russia’s inclusion in it as an equal and welcome partner. The prerequisite is to revise Samuel Huntington, who mistakenly puts Orthodoxy in the same league with Islam vis-a-vis “the West.” This is absurd. Cold War nostalgists of Paul Wolfowitz’s ilk should discard their blinkers. Their overall attitude toward Orthodox nations today is strongly reminiscent of that of the West toward the East as the dying Byzantine, Bulgarian, and Serbian states faced Ottoman conquest in the 15th century. The West then was explicit: We will help you if you submit. The Serbs are being told today, again, that unless they unquestioningly submit to the West’s tutelage in political, social, moral, and economic matters, they again will be thrown to the wolves.
What are the prospects for restoring-or rather creating-a sense of unity among Europeans, East and West (including trans-Atlantic ones)? A pessimist view holds that nothing much can be done: the regimes of all the major states of the West are controlled by revolutionary elite classes that hate Christianity and European civilization. To many of them the enemy is not Islam but the traditional culture and belief systems. The only way for the West to reclaim its identity and refuse to allow itself to be infiltrated and finally destroyed by Islam is for the Christophobic elites-the real enemy within-to be subjected to democratic control. Only then will it be possible to contain Islam. The first task, then, is to expose the enemy within the West, manifested in the neo-imperial hubris and globalization that destroys identities and thus paves the way for Islam. The second is to help people trapped in Islam to become free.
There is a huge problem for all Muslims-the violent message of the Koran. We cannot solve it for them, and we should not be asked to deem the problem solved by pretending that the Koran is a pacifist tract. Humans are perfectly capable of reintepreting scripture when necessary, but until Muslims themselves renounce the ideals of jihad, terror, tax and subjugation we must have the guts to call a religion of war by its right name.
“As a man thinketh, so is he.” The real problem of the Muslim world is not that of natural recourses or political systems. Ernest Renan, who started his study of Islam by praising its ability to manifest “what was divine in human nature,” ended it-a quarter o a century and three long tours of the Muslim world later-by concluding that “Muslims are the first victims of Islam” and that, therefore, “to liberate the Muslim from his religion is the best service that one can render him.”
The West is yet to learn, fully, the lesson that the Serbs were forced to learn six centuries ago: that Islam is a collective psychosis seeking to become global, and any attempt to compromise with madness is to become part of the madness oneself. The quarrel is not of our choosing, and those who submit to that faith must solve the problem they set themselves. Until they explicitly and permanently renounce jihad, Serbs and Westerners would be well advised not to allow their differences-real and complex as they are-to prevent them from acting together before it is too late.
October 4, 2003
JIHAD, THEN AND NOW, PT. I
by Srdja Trifkovic
Islam, the West, and the Serbs: Matica Srpska, September 11, 2003
The objective of my introductory remarks is to outline the tenets, historical record, and implications of Islam as political ideology and program of action, as they pertain to the Serbs and “the West.” They will be of necessity sketchy, and I suspect they contain nothing that will be new to our panelists. Their purpose is to set the scene for our audience gathered here in this wonderful hall today.
Islam is not “only” a religion; it is a complete way of life and an all-embracing social, political and legal system that breeds a Weltanschauung peculiar to itself. It is traditionally divided into dogma, Faith (Iman), and practice (Din). The principal tents of Islam, its doctrine, law, and outlook, are presented in the Kuran, the “recited Tradition.” The most important article of faith is expressed in the formula “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is His Prophet.”
The Kuran’s chief theological message is that of Allah’s absolute transcendence and lordship-implying the impossibility of human free will: Nothing will ever befall us save what Allah has written for us (Al-Badr spokesman Mustaq Aksari, CNN, September 19,2001). Any notion of freedom distinct from that implicit in the total submission to that will is impossible. To paraphrase Marx, in Islam “freedom” is the realized necessity of submission. “Freedom” in its non-Islamic sense is impossible, and the yearning for it sinful.
In addition to tawheed, the unity of Allah, and risallah, the recognition of Muhammad’s prophethood, Muhammad introduced the “five pillars” of Islam that are the basis of its practice: recital of the original formula of belief (shahada), prayer (salat), fasting (sayam), almsgiving (zakat), the pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj), and-last but by no means least-the participation in the holy war, jihad. A bona fide Muslim has to follow them all. It is noteworthy that all but one-jihad-are rooted in pre-Islamic, pagan beliefs and practices. Jihad is Muhammad’s one fully original contribution to humanity.
To summarize, Islam is a religious doctrine, but it is also much more than that. It is, and had been ever since its emergence,
1) a self-contained world outlook;
2) a way of life that claims the primary allegiance of all those calling themselves “Muslim,” from Sarajevo to Sumatra, from Mecca to Marseilles; and
3) a radical political ideology that dictates violent practical action known as jihad.
In the last twelve years of his life, following his historic escape from Mecca to Yathrib, Muhammad had progressively transformed himself from the founder of a small sect into the leader of a violent cult, and finally into the head of a totalitarian state. The metamorphosis was complete when Muhammad revealed that when Allah decides to destroy a people for transgression and disobedience, He destroys them utterly.
The destroying does not happen all by itself, however, and Allah orders the believers to make sure his will is done: “O Prophet! Rouse the Believers to the fight,” the Koran orders, and promises that twenty Muslims would vanquish two hundred unbelievers; if a hundred, they will vanquish a thousand. The faithful must fight the unbelievers, and be firm with them. “And slay them wherever ye catch them.” The end of the fight is possible only when “there prevail justice and faith in Allah,” the two being synonymous. The vanquished must pay the jiziya (poll tax) with the hand of humility.” Once it is all over the victors, good Muslims, inherit the lands and property of the vanquished (17:16-17).
Muhammad’s practice and constant encouragement of bloodshed, pillage, rape and mutilation-amply legitimized in the Koran and in the Traditions-are unique in the history of religions. He imbued his followers with a profound belief in the value of bloodshed as opening the gates of Paradise, and prompted Muslim rulers of “infidels” to refer to their prophet’s example to justify mass killings, looting, and destruction.
That Muhammad believed in uniting theory and practice was confirmed in the manner he applied all of these injunctions, starting with the destruction of three Jewish tribes of Medina. Already in his lifetime the founder of Islam established the model for subsequent relations between Islamic conquerors and non-Muslim subjects in all times and all places. The view of modern Islamic scholars, that “Islam must rule the world and until Islam does rule the world we will continue to sacrifice our lives,” (Al-Badr spokesman Mustaq Aksari, CNN, September 19,2001) is neither extreme nor remarkable from the standpoint of traditional Islam. It sees the world, and treats it, as an open-ended conflict between the Land of Peace (Dar al-Islam) and the Land of War (Dar al-Harb). Dar al Sulh is a possible intermediate stage when the Muslims are a minority and need to adopt temporarily a peaceful attitude in order to deceive their neighbors. Mecca before Muhammad’s move to Medina is the model for which the Muslim diaspora in the Western world provides contemporary example. Jihad resumes as soon as the Muslim side feels strong enough to dispense with pretense. Only after the Islamic Empire had been established the notion of an “inner” jihad-that of one’s personal fight against his ego and sinful desires-also came into being, but it was predicated on the assumption that the external, real jihad was nearing its completion. The concept of spiritual struggle was never meant to replace, let alone abrogate the original, warlike meaning.
The Muslims may contemplate tactical ceasefires, but never complete abandonment of jihad, short of the unbelievers’ submission; according to the Kuran, “Those who believe fight in the cause of God.” For the fallen and victorious alike, the rewards are instant and plentiful: “Let those fight in the cause of God who barter the life of this world for that which is to come; for whoever fights on God’s path, whether he is killed or triumphs, we will give him a handsome reward.”
The conquered peoples were “protected persons” only if they submitted to Islamic domination by a “Contract” (Dhimma), paid poll tax-jizya-and land tax-haraj-to their masters. Any failure to do so was the breach of contract, enabling the Muslims to kill or enslave them and confiscate their property. The cross could not be displayed in public, and the people of the book had to wear special clothing or a belt. Their men were not allowed to marry Muslim women, their slaves had to be sold to a Muslim if they converted, and they were not allowed to carry weapons. They had to take in Muslim travelers, especially soldiers on a campaign. Muhammad was dead for only a decade when his second successor and son-in-law Umar announced these terms to conquered Christians.
The resulting inequality of rights in all domains between Muslims and dhimmis was geared to a steady erosion of the latter communities by the attrition and conversion. Millions of Christians from Spain, Egypt, Syria, Greece and Armenia; Latins and Slavs from southern and central Europe, henceforth lived under shari’a. They endured for centuries the lives of quiet desperation and occasional acute agony. The dynamics of Islamization were at work, always following the same pattern determined by the ideology and laws of jihad and shari’a. The objective in all cases, and the outcome in most was also the same: to transform native Christian majorities into religious minorities. In the ensuing centuries what has happened to the Christian majorities in the Middle East, North Africa, Bosnia, and Kosovo, has also happened to the Hindus in the Subcontinent. In 1941, in what would become Pakistan, there were approximately 25 per cent Hindus and 30 per cent in what would later become Bangladesh; in 1948, only 17 per cent in Pakistan and 25 per cent in Bangladesh; in 1991, a bare 1.5 per cent remained in Pakistan and less than 10 per cent in Bangladesh.
October 1, 2003
VOJISLAV KOSTUNICA, THE PRESIDENT-IN-WAITING
by Srdja Trifkovic
As the visitor enters Dr. Vojislav Kostunica’s headquarters the atmosphere and decorum are-not only by Belgrade standards-eminently presidential. The oak-paneled walls, the conference room with a magnificent view of the KalemegdanPark, the villa’s elite neighborhood right next to the French Embassy, all testify that the occupant is not just another opposition politician.
That Kostunica, the last president of Yugoslavia, remains the people’s choice of future Serbian president, was reconfirmed by an opinion poll published September 30. The leader of the Democratic Party of Serbia remains the most popular politician in the country by far, although his foes in the ruling coalition have systematically vilified and slandered him for months. Kostunica has already won an election for Serbian president, only to be denied the post last fall by a Milosevic-era law requiring more than 50 percent of the electorate to vote in order for the result to stand. The Serbian government has refused to repeal the controversial turnout law, thus effectively compromising its “reformist” credentials and displaying its willingness to resort to Milosevic’s authoritarian legacy in order to keep Kostunica out of office.
Kostunica regards his absence from top office as a temporary and not unwelcome break in what has been and promises to continue being a remarkable political career. Looking back at his turbulent two and a half years at the helm of the last Yugoslavia he sees the problem of the relations between Serbia and Montenegro as the greatest burden. “By reading Thomas Fleming’s book on Montenegro we get pretty clear picture of the situation there,” he says. “What we have here is a phenomenon of practically the same nation, the same family, in some strange way being artificially divided into two families and two nations”:
Very important in these relations is the fact that Serbia Montenegro were the only two independent states of the former Yugoslavia. They reached their independence after the Congress in Berlin in 1878 and both of them-but particularly Montenegro-are very conscious of its statehood. We’ve tried to resolve this with a very strange sort of Constitution, the so-called Constitutional Charter that will enable these two state units to remain within one state from the international point of view, but also to save their own autonomy … We are in favor of a larger state. It is very important that this state is both middle European and Mediterranean. The advantage of this strange state union is that Montenegro is on the coast of the Danube and Serbia is on the coast of Adriatic Sea. [There are] other advantages of this state union, like the fact that Serbs and Montenegrins are of the same origin, and that many of them live in Serbia-proper. On the other hand we have all witnessed problems and difficulties when states disintegrate, such as social problems and vengeance. I am still an optimist. I think anything is possible in the Balkans. This state goes through the American experience with federalism. Being first a loose federation and than becoming “a more perfect Union.” What we have today will develop in the direction of a more perfect Union.
Montenegrins are divided, Kostunica says, and in a referendum it is not enough to have a bare majority. He invokes the Canadian experience with the referendum in Quebec and the Clarity Act of 2000:
I believe that under normal circumstances-that means free and fair elections or referendum-there would be a majority, not overwhelming, but a majority nonetheless, in favor of Montenegro staying within the state union… As things have changed in Serbia after Milosevic, they will change in Montenegro as well after Djukanovic. They were partners in this game for years. Djukanovic would have never made his career without Milosevic.
As for Kosovo, Kostunica is adamant that resolving its “final status” by granting it independence is out of the question. He believes that all sides will be forced to look into some unconventional solutions that will make Kosovo a part of the Union of Serbia and Montenegro with a high degree of autonomy, with the Serbs in Kosovo and their historical and cultural monuments enjoying a high degree of autonomy within Kosovo:
One might think of the institutional solution such as the Republika Srpska in Bosnia-Herzegovina or South Tyrol in Italy. That solution must be within one state, however: Kosovo must stay within Serbia, and Serbia and Montenegro within their Union. The idea of an independent Kosovo would cause immediate and enormous problems not only to Serbia-Montenegro but also to other states in the neighborhood, and specifically to Macedonia and Northern Greece.
As for the internal situation in Serbia, Kostunica sees the biggest problem in corruption and organized crime that have jointly established control over Serbia’s government:
It is not only a specific relationship and a marriage between the government, the organized crime and corruption in Serbia. It is more serious. In many ways the organized crime is controlling the government. One might say that we have some sort of para-government in Serbia, with an official and an unofficial government. This may be compared with the experience of some Latin American countries, but in my estimation in some ways it is even worse than that … We lack the rule of law, or as the Germans would say, Rechtstaat. The institutions are weak and the criminals are strong … [which] is why we have ministers that have their own private businesses and firms engaged in all sort of illegal activities.
Kostunica is adamant that fresh parliamentary elections must be held before the presidential ones. The parliamentary elections in December 2000 were against the former regime, says he, they were not for something positive:
The only solution for Serbia to go on is to have an early election. It is regularly scheduled for December 2004, but that would be too late. The situation in the society I very difficult. The rate of unemployed has increased since October 2000. The economy is practically dead, and its profitable parts have been sold. The government tries to use tricks to show that things look better than they are. For example the average salary is calculated according to the number of persons who actually get their salary. But, we have many people who are employed but have not received their salary for a few months, or a year, or even more than a year. These people are not included in these numbers.
On the external front Kostunica sees more support for the integrity of the common Serbian-Montenegrin state in Brussels that in Washington. This, he says, is partly due to the power of money deployed by the Albanian mafia in the US:
The most prosperous, the most dangerous and the most influential criminal group, not only in Serbia and Montenegro but also in the region as a whole, is the Albanian Mafia. It is engaged in all sorts of trafficking, drugs and so on. It poses a serious danger to the region as a whole. Practically all the activities of the supporters of Kosovo independence and also some American lobbies are financed by the Albanian Mafia.
Had there been more reasoning and will in Serbia not to accept everything and not to offer more that it is asked by the international community, Kostunica says, the country would have been better off. When it comes to the cooperation with the Hague Tribunal there would be more space for maneuvering if there was will for that maneuvering, like Croatia. And also, I think that there is a chance if you rely more on Brussels and European countries such as France, Italy, and Russian Federation. It is possible, particularly after this division over the Iraq war. There is a room for that. But there must be a will and common strategy.
Looking to the future, Kostunica sees as his first task after returning to power the drafting of the new Constitution; then an effort to make the current loose link with Montenegro stronger; to strengthen links with the Serbs living in the Serbian entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina; and to build the rule of law within Serbia:
From the very beginning of my career I got two characteristics: One was that I was a nationalist, or as they would say in Washington, a “moderate nationalist.” The second one was the “legalist” label. That has to do with my efforts to build a rule of law as a basic principle in this country. I was attacked because of that … We really need to have strong institutions, rule of law, stable state and an independent judiciary. Our judiciary has been destroyed, abused by the minister of justice who controls the apparatus, dismisses judges etc. The most important institution in the Federalist Papers is the least dangerous branch of government-the judiciary. For countries in transition the most important branch of government is the judiciary. The rule of law, an independent judiciary, giving Parliament a chance to be independent of the government, that is the separation of powers, and something we need.
Kostunica concludes by stating that he would not run in the recently called presidential election. He says that that the purpose of the authorities was to call a presidential election that is certain to fail in order to postpone the parliamentary elections at any cost. And yet parliamentary elections are badly needed, for many reasons. He repeats that people voting at the previous general election in December 2000 were voting “against” the old regime rather than “for” the government we have today. The result, he says, is an Assembly that does not represent the will of the people today, and no longer reflects the will of the people back in December 2000.
September 27, 2003
WESLEY CLARK: THE SCORE
by Srdja Trifkovic
Many public affairs commentators are guilty of concealing their ideological and personal preferences from their audiences and grinding their axes under the guise of value-neutral analysis. Neoconservative ultra-Zionists parading as American patriots, apologists for jihad pretending to be serious scholars of Islam, and promoters of racial discrimination dressed up as civil rights activists, are among the first to come to my mind; but the list is endless, and the culprits are to be found at all ends of the political spectrum.
“Objectivity” is bunk, of course, but coolness, detachment, and seriousness are admirable conservative traits that can be upheld even as we retain the awareness of what we cherish and the clarity of what we abhor. For that reason I have decided not to write a comprehensive expose of General Wesley Clark, following the announcement of his presidential bid last week. I loath that man so deeply that coolness and detachment would be feigned, and scathing sarcasm-however concealed-would be real. Our readers deserve better. Like a conscientious juror I declare myself unfit to pass the judgment on this one, and hereby let others speak for me. The selection is neither random nor “balanced,” it belongs to the News Unfit to Pint. You’ve been warned.
Instead of keeping the juiciest plum for the finale let us have it for starters. A well documented episode from the Kosovo war-for which we provide just one of many credible sources-indicates that Clark is singularly ill-equipped to be the commander-in-chief of the most powerful armed force the world has ever known:
If Nato’s supreme commander, the American General Wesley Clark, had had his way, British paratroopers would have stormed Pristina airport threatening to unleash the most frightening crisis with Moscow since the end of the cold war. ‘I’m not going to start the third world war for you,’ General Sir Mike Jackson, commander of the international K-For peacekeeping force, is reported to have told Gen Clark when he refused to accept an order to send assault troops to prevent Russian troops from taking over the airfield of Kosovo’s provincial capital. Jackson was deadly serious… The Russians had made a political point, not a military one. It was apparently too much for Clark [who] ordered an airborne assault on the airfield by British and French paratroopers. General Jackson refused… Jackson got full support from the British government for his refusal to carry out the American general’s orders. When Clark appealed to Washington, he was allegedly given the brush-off.
-the Guardian, London, August 3, 1999.
Unlike Wellington and Schwarzkopf, Clark’s not a muddy boots soldier. He’s a military politician… Known by those who’ve served with him as the ‘Ultimate Perfumed Prince,’ he’s far more comfortable in a drawing room discussing political theories than hunkering down in the trenches where bullets fly and soldiers die.”
-Col. David Hackworth-the most decorated American soldier alive-in his 1999 commentary “Defending America (http://www.hackworth.com/20Apr99.html)
As for his ability as a military leader, Gen. Clark failed on two counts-the air campaign and his plan for a ground campaign… Gen. Clark is the kind of general we saw too often during the Vietnam War and hoped never to see again in a position of responsibility for the lives of our GIs and the security of our nation. That it happened once again we can thank that other Rhodes scholar from Arkansas.
-Col. George Jatras, Starts & Stripes (European edition), October 13-19, 2002
The air campaign against the Serb military in Kosovo was largely ineffective. NATO bombs plowed up some fields, blew up hundreds of cars, trucks and decoys, and barely dented Serb artillery and armor. According to a suppressed Air Force report obtained by NEWSWEEK, the number of targets verifiably destroyed was a tiny fraction of those claimed: 14 tanks, not 120; 18 armored personnel carriers, not 220; 20 artillery pieces, not 450. Out of the 744 ‘confirmed’ strikes by NATO pilots during the war, the Air Force investigators, who spent weeks combing Kosovo by helicopter and by foot, found evidence of just 58… The Air Force protested that tanks are hard to hit from 15,000 feet, but Clark insisted. Now that the war is long over, neither the generals nor their civilian masters are eager to delve into what really happened. Asked how many Serb tanks and other vehicles were destroyed in Kosovo, General Clark will only answer, ‘Enough.’ … At the end of the war the Serbs’ ground commander, Gen. Nobojsa Pavkovic, claimed to have lost only 13 tanks. ‘Serb disinformation,’ scoffed Clark. But quietly, Clark’s own staff told him the Serb general might be right… His team found dozens of burnt-out cars, buses and trucks-but very few tanks. When General Clark heard this unwelcome news, he ordered the team out of their helicopters: ‘Goddammit, drive to each one of those places. Walk the terrain.’ The team grubbed about in bomb craters, where more than once they were showered with garbage the local villagers were throwing into these impromptu rubbish pits… They briefed Gen. Walter Begert, the Air Force deputy commander in Europe. ‘What do you mean we didn’t hit tanks?’ Begert demanded. Clark had the same reaction. ‘This can’t be,’ he said. ‘I don’t believe it.’ Clark insisted that the Serbs had hidden their damaged equipment and that the team hadn’t looked hard enough. Not so, he was told. A 50-ton tank can’t be dragged away without leaving raw gouges in the earth, which the team had not seen… Interviewed by NEWSWEEK, General Clark refused to get into an on-the-record discussion of the numbers.
-“The Kosovo Cover-Up,” Newsweek, May 15, 2000, by John Barry And Evan Thomas
We are going to systematically and progressively attack, disrupt, degrade, devastate and ultimately destroy these forces and their facilities and support unless President Milosevic complies with the demands of the international community.
-Gen. Clark in Los Angeles Times, 26 March 1999.
He presided over the massive use of depeleted uranium weapons, which poisoned Yugoslavia’s water supply and agriculture, leading to an extremely high rate of miscarriages and childhood cancers… Clark called the destruction of a Yugoslav train filled with civilians by a NATO missile ‘an uncanny accident.’ He said the same each time that NATO bombed civilian targets.
-Mitchel Cohen in http://www.counterpunch.org/cohen09172003.html
[Clark] would rise out of his seat and slap the table. ‘I’ve got to get the maximum violence out of this campaign-now!’
-Washington Post, 21 September 1999, p. 1.
A man of gargantuan vanity, arrogant to subordinates and subservient to superiors, obsessed with micro-management, and politically savvy at the expense of military expertise… One officer who served with Clark termed him “The poster child for everything that is wrong with the [general officer] corps,” and said that under Clark’s command, the 1st [Armored] Cavalry Division at Fort Hood was “easily the worst division I have ever seen in 25 years of doing this stuff.”
-CounterPunch; November 12, 1999
Certainly the Waco onslaught bears characteristics typical of Gen. Wesley Clark: the eagerness to take out the leader (viz., the Clark-ordered bombing of Milosevich’s private residence); the utter disregard for the lives of innocent men, women and children; the arrogant miscalculations about the effects of force; disregard for law, whether of the Posse Comitatus Act governing military actions within the United States or, abroad, the purview of the Nuremberg laws on war crimes and attacks on civilians.
-Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, CounterPunch http://www.counterpunch.org/cockburn09182003.html
This was the war, remember, where the first attack was made on a radio station, the Serb Radio and Television building. Since then we’ve had attacks twice on the Al Jazeera television station. First of all in Afghanistan in 2001, then killing their chief correspondent, and again in Baghdad, this year. This was a general who I remember bombed series of bridges, in one of which an aircraft bombed the train and after, he’d seen the train and had come to a stop, the pilot bombed the bridge again. I saw one occasion when a plane came in, bombed a bridge over a river in Serbia proper, as we like to call it, and after about 12 minutes when rescuers arrived, a bridge too narrow even for tanks, bombed the rescuers. I remember General Clark telling us that more than 100 Yugoslav tanks had been destroyed in the weeks of that war. And when the war came to an end, we discovered number of Yugoslav tanks destroyed were 11. 100 indeed. So this was not a man, frankly whom, if I were an American, would vote for, but not being an American, I don’t have to.
-Robert Fisk, interviewed by Amy Goodman, http://www.indybay.org/news/2003/09/1647153.php
September 4, 2003
INDONESIA, THE UNSTEADY GIANT
by Srdja Trifkovic
On September 2 an Indonesian court acquitted a Muslim cleric of heading the Jemaah Islamiyah, a terrorist group associated with al-Qaeda, and plotting to overthrow the government. In a surprise verdict certain to raise doubts about Indonesia’s willingness to fight terrorism, the court sentenced Abu Bakar Bashir to four years in prison on a far lesser charge of “having knowledge of a plot to overthrow the Indonesian government” and violating immigration laws. In his evasive and occasionally jumbled ruling the presiding judge, Muhammad Saleh, declared that “the acts of treason were proven” but “there has not been enough evidence to prove Abu Bakar Bashir was the leader of treason acts of trying to oust the lawful government.”
Prosecutors had demanded a 15-year sentence for Bashir’s involvement with the group that has been blamed for many bombings in Indonesia and the Philippines, including the string of attacks on churches throughout Indonesia on Christmas Eve 2000 that killed 19 people. Bashir was arrested in the immediate aftermath of the spectacular Bali bombings that claimed over 200 victims, 88 of them Australians. His group was also suspected of a car bomb attack on the Jakarta Marriott hotel that killed 12 people on August 5. Throughout his imprisonment and trial he defiantly claimed that the Jemaah Islamiyah did not even exist, and that he had been framed by the CIA and Israeli intelligence.
Joyous cheers from hundreds of Bashir’s supporters greeted the ruling, some of them apparently assuming that he was cleared of all charges. The lesser sentence notwithstanding, they had ample reason to celebrate: the outcome reflects the government’s unwillingness to risk fresh terror attacks and street violence that had been threatened in case of the guilty verdict.
The result is widely seen a victory not only for Bashir, the founder of an Islamic boarding school in Central Java, but also for the growing Islamist movement in the most populous Muslim country and the fourth most populous country in the world. Of Indonesia’s 210 million people close to nine-tenths are Muslims, dispersed over an elongated archipelago consisting of thousands of islands. The aftermath of Bashir’s trial is bound to present a fresh challenge to the government of President Megawati Sukarnoputri. Her coalition government depends on the support of moderate Muslim parties, but she also wants to be seen in Washington as a reliable partner in the “war against terror.”
Over five years after Indonesia’s long-time dictator Suharto stepped down in May 1998, the country faces the dilemma familiar to other Muslim countries experimenting with an alternative to authoritarianism: is “democracy” in the Muslim world inevitably synonymous with “Islamization?” Can the Indonesian state-constructed in an arbitrary manner, and composed of widely different ethnic groups and cultures spread across an elongated archipelago-survive the twin challenges of religious radicalism and ethnic-religious separatism?
Suharto was not a devout Muslim but he nevertheless used Islamic fanatics as allies for his own political ends. This was notably the case in his clampdown on Chinese communists and their alleged accomplices that killed over 500,000 people, many of them Christians, in 1965, and in the war against East Timor that claimed 200,000 Christian lives-a third of the former Portuguese colony’s population-in the aftermath of the Indonesian invasion in 1975. Suharto’s anticommunist credentials nevertheless enabled him to preserve the support of the U.S. government for over three decades. During his rule the nation’s unity was enforced from above. He imposed a veto on discussion of racial, ethnic and religious issues. He was a self-described nation-builder but the structure that he left behind proved to be fragile.
In the first post-Suharto elections in 1999 the winner was Abdurrahman Wahid, a Muslim cleric. The most notable event of his brief tenure was a year-long terrorist campaign of persecution, destruction of property, and killing of Indonesia’s Christians by a group of Islamic militants. The worst atrocities were committed on the island of Ambon, where an upsurge in violence followed the arrival of 2,000 members of Laskar Jihad from Java and South Sulawesi. While the authorities were careful to condemn violence, the government’s response was inadequate and lukewarm. The Army’s reluctance to confront attackers prompted rumors that military intelligence service was involved in the running of Laskar Jihad. By the time the campaign finally abated in 2001, thousands of Muslim migrants from the overpopulated islands of Java and Sulawesi had taken over the homes and the lands of expelled Christians on Ambon.
The political establishment in Jakarta, prompted by the military, soon exploited Wahid’s undeniable incompetence to initiate his impeachment by parliament-thus paving the way for the rise of Megawati Sukarnoputri, the daughter of Indonesia’s first post-independence leader Sukarno. Her administration relies on support from two dissimilar quarters: a powerful general, Susil Bambamg Yudoyono, is her closest advisor. At the same time her vice-president-elected by parliament, not chosen by her-is Hamzah Haz, the leader of a supposedly moderate Islamic political party.
The challenge to Megawati from the radical camp does not come only from the Laskar Jihad. In Jakarta the “Islamic Defenders Front” became prominent by smashing up bars and discos as symbols of Western decadence, while the Jemaah Islamiyah hit the headlines in the aftermath of the bombing in Bali. The government responded with emergency legislation broadening its powers of detention, but with the disappointing outcome of the Bashir trial it is not a tool likely to be used with much enthusiasm again.
As Indonesia prepares to hold its first direct presidential election next year it remains in a state of chronic crisis. The Islamic challenge embodied in Bashir’s anticlimactic trial comes atop latent separatist sentiment in Aceh and Papua, an uncertain decentralization process, and periodical outbreaks of inter-communal violence. The Indonesian putative nation-state was the product of a Dutch colonial regime that sought administrative efficiencies rather than the dynamics of a coherent, unified polity. Over half a century after independence no such polity has developed. Militant proponents of the global caliphate see in this unsteady giant an opportunity the like of which they have never had before.
August 25, 2003
EXIT STRATEGY FOR IRAQ
by Srdja Trifkovic
“Let this be clear,” declared a Norwegian international bureaucrat last Thursday, “The UN is not pulling out of Iraq, but we are reorganizing our operations and work with fewer staff.” Fifty percent fewer, to be precise. One important consequence of the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad that killed 23 and wounded a hundred is the fact that from now on other countries will be reluctant to commit troops, policemen, or administrators to Iraq. The signal from the bombers was unambiguous: whoever comes to Baghdad now, under whatever auspices and flag, will be treated as an American stooge, and targeted accordingly.
Those attackers are variously described as diehard Saddam loyalists, Iranian agents, Al-Qaeda operators and Syrian infiltrators. While it is possible that some or all of the above are involved in the daily attacks that have claimed close to a thousand lives thus far-150 of them American-it is unlikely that without their involvement all resistance would cease. Violence against Americans, all olther foreigners and their Iraqi helpers is fed by a restive population, especially in the Sunni center, that resents foreign presence and wants it ended by whatever means possible.
The sentiment is old-fashionedly nationalist. It will remain, and grow, an as long as American troops remain. Bringing more US troops would only make things worse, and in any event the option is unattractive to the Administration only months before the election year. It would prefer to have someone else’s troops share the burden of occupation, possibly under UN auspices.
In the immediate aftermath of the war an approach by the Bush Administration to the UN with an offer of a Security Council-sanctioned mission in Iraq would have been welcomed in “Old Europe” and elsewhere. In those heady days, however, the notion of sharing the fruits of victory with those who had opposed the war was regarded as unthinkable in Washington.
Four months later the roles are reversed: Secretary of State Colin Powell is lobbying for a Security Council resolution that would bring soldiers from various member-countries-under US command-to help maintain a semblance of law and order in Iraq, but its approval is unlikely. Iraq is “decomposing” and must recover its sovereignty, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said, adding that a new U.N. resolution that would bolster its occupying forces would simply “see the cycle of violence worsen.” Other Council members also say that the UN political role must be expanded before any troops are approved. India will not commit its long-promised 17,000 soldiers to the Iraqi multinational force without a broader UN mandate.
If the Security Council refuses to adopt the kind of resolution that Washington wants, it will be a blessing in disguise. It is in the interest of the United States to hand over power in Iraq to a local government-or perhaps several governments, running the Kurdish north, Sunni center, and Shiite south respectively-and to withdraw all soldiers as soon as possible. The democratic credentials and ideology of those authorities taking over from the US are immaterial.
On the other hand, if Iraq were to become a UN-approved and managed mission, the outcome would be disastrous for all concerned. The troops-including many Americans-would stay until the job of “nation-building” is complete, that is to say for ever. A self-perpetuating, self-serving and corrupt bureaucracy would inevitably emerge, a la Sarajevo and Pristina. Even if the blue helmets were placed under US command, the political decision-making process would become de facto multinational and “multilateral.” American soldiers would continue to die, but their deaths would be even more senseless than they are today.
Mr. Powell can help prevent all that, by remembering his own “doctrine” from a decade ago, by applying its terms to what is becoming the Iraqi quagmire, and by resigning if his colleagues from the Pentagon overrule him yet again.
August 20, 2003
NATO IN AFGHANISTAN
by Srdja Trifkovic
To the founders of NATO the spectacle of its deployment in Afghanistan would appear surreal. Created specifically to counter the Soviet threat in Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is now being deployed outside Europe, in a distant Central Asian country, in a peacekeeping mission of indefinite duration (the UN mandate is bound to be extended in June 2004) and with a vague political purpose.
On August 11 NATO officers formally took charge of the 5,000-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul, which is responsible for security in the country’s capital and its immediate environs. This may be only the beginning: there have been demands for extending the force’s mandate beyond Kabul, and they will be renewed as the rest of Afghanistan descends into lawlessness and violence. Aid agencies in the field report daily cases of murder, extortion, kidnapping and robbery committed by Afghan warlords who have nominally pledged loyalty to the central government. The US-sponsored Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs), composed of soldiers and aid workers, have failed to challenge the control of local warlords over the country. At the same time attacks by the suddenly resurgent Taliban on government officials and policemen occur almost daily. The magnitude of the problem is evident not only in the frequency of such attacks but also in the size of Taliban units in the field. Whereas a typical skirmish previously involved small units of a dozen fighters, last month a battalion-size unit of over two hundred Talibans attacked a government checkpoint at Spin Boldak. The cost in lives is also rising: 65 people were killed in such attacks last week alone, and earlier this week a provincial police chief and his entourage were killed in an ambush.
On the face of it, the deployment of NATO in Afghanistan is a resounding success for Washington. Retired General Montgomery Meigs, a former commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, stated frankly what senior Administration figures undoubtedly think when he said that the Afghan operation “shows the increasing relevance of NATO as adjunct of U.S. policy and strategic interests for the future.” Having the Alliance at its disposal for tricky and dangerous missions, and retaining the overall political and military control, appears as a win-win situation for the U.S. It can now lead “the willing” into a war whenever it considers this necessary and right, and then leave it to the Alliance to clean up.
Some Europeans have a different scenario in mind. They see NATO’s deployment beyond its traditional zone of operations-unthinkable a few years ago-as an opportunity to repair transatlantic relations and at the same time to increase their leverage by putting their money, and men, in the field. “Old Europe’s” editorial commentary is indicative of the politicians’ objectives. Influential French papers say that Afghanistan should not be the only mission outside of Europe for the Atlantic Alliance, and-remarkably-advocate its active involvement in Iraq. In Germany a Frankfurter Rundschau commentator sees in the deployment an opportunity to overcome “the misguided separation” between anti-terror war and “nation-building.” A Belgian editorialist went so far to declare “the time when the Bush administration could push through its assertive international agenda is over.” A British commentator says that some Europeans have concluded that the only way they can make an impact on what they see as blatantly unilateralist U.S. policy is to share the burden on the ground at first, and to demand a role the decision-making later: “What they want is to turn NATO into a sort of Eurocorps.”
Either as an auxiliary tool of U.S. policy, or as a means of European impact on that policy, an alliance that has outlived its reason for existence has been revived. On both sides of the Atlantic NATO will be declared to have a new tangible purpose, although that purpose will be viewed differently by different actors and although its transformation represents a tacit admission that the Alliance did not know what to do with itself. If peacekeeping missions in Central Asia are its response to the challenge of finding a new role, then its revised brief may as well include disaster relief and social work all over the Third World.
NATO’s involvement in Afghanistan, however apparently useful to Washington in the short term, may prove detrimental to U.S. interests simply by virtue of perpetuating an unnecessary and obsolete organization. Its very existence perpetrates the sense of Russia’s continued status as an adversary of the United States. The process of transformation of NATO’s military structure and the political decisions on the alliance’s expansion and on its new role are being pushed forward, neither with Russia’s equal participation. In longer-term strategy a wider paradigm shift in the U.S. foreign policy is needed, based on the creation of a genuine Northern Alliance-that of Russia, Europe, and North America-that would be able to face the many threats (most notably that from militant Islam) our common civilization will experience in this century. This shift should be coupled with either the abolition of NATO or Russia’s inclusion in it as an equal and welcome partner.
August 15, 2003
LIVING THE GOOD LIFE IN SERBIA
by Srdja Trifkovic
An English romantic poet has said that we should not revisit the haunts of our youth, and that we should be especially careful in avoiding those that elicit sweet memories. Being close to fifty I realize how wrong he was: nearing the end we increasingly cherish the sights, smells, sounds, and other memories of many decades ago. Our passions are never more genuine than we are young, our taste buds never more responsive, our hearts never more tender. The minds grow presumably wiser, but the wise know that the mind is the least reliable part of who we are.
The setting of all that early turmoil marks us for life, and I was fortunate that mine was provided by an ancient city at the confluence of the Sava and the Danube that refuses to succumb to its rulers and defies its destroyers. Belgrade was ruled by Josip Broz Tito-an inveterate Comintern agent of uncertain Hapsburg parentage-for five long decades, and bombed by the Turks in 1867, by Austria-Hungary in 1914, by the Luftwaffe in 1941, by the USAF in 1944 and again in 1999. Its ability to remain itself is miraculous, and heartening to all upholders of real communities and real traditions. I long for it ever more acutely with each passing year, even as I realize that I can never come back to it.
Its charm eludes depiction. It is not the architecture: Prague is more stunning, Budapest more Panonian, Istanbul more oriental, and Athens more ancient. Some travel writers plunge into platitudes, describing Belgrade as being on the border between counterpoised worlds, Eastern and Western, Northern and Southern, Orthodox and Catholic, Christian and Muslim, Balkan and Central European, etcetera… but they miss the point of the city’s focus on good life, rather than stones, bricks, or self-definition. They seek to untangle the “meanings” and they miss the substance of the last metropolis in Europe that refuses to be multiculturalized and Americanized.
A few perceptive outsiders get it perfectly. They grasp that Belgrade is not about architecture, or imagined cultural contexts, but about some good people and about very good living. Belgrade’s skyline is underwhelming but its cuisine is heavenly. Its cars are rickety but its girls are divine. Rebecca West, writing almost seven decades ago, remembered “too large a lunch as is apt to be one’s habit in Belgrade, if one is man enough to stand up to peasant food made luxurious by urban lavishness of supply and a Turkish tradition of subtle and positive flavor.” Three generations later the soups, stews, and meats are just as good. Here’s Eve-Ann Prentice, the former Times of London Belgrade correspondent, musing poetically in last Sunday’s Observer (August 10):
Most people grimace or laugh scornfully when I suggest that Serbia is great for a holiday. Surely it is still full of war criminals, a place of dark deeds, mafiosi and communist-style backwardness? Sitting in the Dacha restaurant in Belgrade, surrounded by Serbian folklore icons and wall-hangings, eating and drinking some of the purest organically produced food and drink available on the planet, it is tempting to believe I am having the last laugh. Especially when the bill for a hungry gathering of 12 comes to less than Ј70 [$100], including tip. No GM or processed food here; economic necessity means that almost everything is home-grown-and it tastes that way. With a penchant for locally smoked ham, grilled meat, stuffed vegetables, specialist breads, salads, pickles and soft Kajmak cheese, most Serbs eat enormous amounts and yet stay enviably slender.
It is past midnight, and if you are weary of after-hours jazz, or in no mood for a dose of home-grown Chieftains sound-alikes (and these “Orthodox Celts” will instantly transport you to Dublin), you are old-or you may be just jet-lagged and ready to follow my wife and me on a tour of the Old City starting at 3 a.m. It is perfectly safe: there have been over a hundred unresolved murders here over the past decade, but only a few victims have been innocent bystanders to the many mafia hits. Random muggings are unheard-of, which may change if and when Serbia joins the European Union and is forced to adopt its immigration and asylum laws. In the meantime you are safe to venture out at any time of day and night.
The early-dawn life consists of courteous, apparently sober young people drinking espressos and beer in street cafes near the Cathedral, or next to the Prince Michael Street. There’s the obligatory cigarette smoke and quiet conversation everywhere, people having a good time without having an attitude. These are the veterans of the night before, the insomniac remnant of the routine which-regardless of whether it’s weekend or not-entails going out, meeting friends, and having “a good time.” Here this simply means being alive, explains Ms. Prentice:
Spectacularly beautiful young women who look as if they have stepped from the fashion pages of Cosmopolitan, students, young men in sports clothes, musicians and writers link arms in camaraderie as they wander the cobbled streets of the nineteenth-century Skadarlija Bohemian quarter, the pedestrianised Knez Mihailova Street teeming with luxury shops or Republic Square with its dozens of pavement cafes. Most Serbs go out for the evening after 10 pm and most nightspots are open until at least 2 am-yet there is rarely any sign of drunkenness or offensive behaviour… Last winter I slipped on ice in an unlit back street in Belgrade at gone two in the morning. Most Serbs can spot a foreigner a mile off (and know we are Croesus-rich by comparison), so I was unnerved when several huge, crew-cut young men emerged from the shadows and rushed towards me. I needn’t have worried-they were solicitude personified, lifting me to my feet and ensuring I was not hurt. Far from snatching my handbag, they carefully picked the bag and its scattered contents from the pavement and handed it back to me.
Don’t tell any of this to anyone: we don’t want the cat out of the bag. Belgrade is the ideal destination for those keen on adventure that is safe yet challenging, for those who love meeting the real locals who stubbornly refuse to be multiculturalized, rather than the gaudy paid performers; but it will cease to be so if the word gets out.
To stop the squeamish, here are the negatives. There are very few fast-food joints as Americans know them. The four remaining McDonalds restaurants-one of them obscenely situated in a 19th century stately home-are going quietly bankrupt, and their local real-meat, real-taste competitors are flourishing. Imported wine, Scotch whisky, bourbon and cognac are prohibitively expensive. You have to settle for the Montenegrin red and the Fruska Gora white, coarse and earthy as they are. As for the spirits, you’re stuck with the plum brandy, sliwowitz. It is the obligatory Serbian eye-opener with your morning Turkish coffee, strong-50% by volume-and rough to the uninitiated. It gives you a bad hangover if you are careless. It gives you a good one, curable with a double shot first thing in the morning, if you are not.
No, Belgrade is not for a Yuppie seeking a Western-standard “city break.” Many hotels-such as the centrally positioned Palace-have seen better days, what with a decade of sanctions and six decades of communism. They are nevertheless scrupulously clean, comfortable and friendly. The horror of similarly priced but dubious Italian or French establishments is unknown here. “It is a bit like going on a hen or stag party weekend to Dublin with an extra dash of zaniness thrown in,” says Ms. Prentice, and she seems to know both cities. For the young there’s also the shopping that defies belief.
My eldest daughter Aleksandra (23) and her next sibling Natalija (18) love Serbia for all kinds of reasons, but in Belgrade a highlight of their stay was the enthusiastic purchase of top-quality, recent release CDs and DVDs at $1.50 apiece. Their makers may have been in violation of copyright laws of some foreign countries-that we’ll never know-but we’ve been assured otherwise. You can also have a genuine Versaci tank-top for $25, a pair of Blahnik shoes for $59, or a Cartier watch for $99: no lay person will ever tell the difference, they say.
Yes, life is good in Belgrade-unless you belong to one of its many inhabitants eking out a living on a pension or salary of three hundred dollars a month or less, and with many prices not much below those at your local WalMart (with the notable exception of housing). Even poverty is tolerable in good company, however. On a steamy summer night you may decide to stay at home but you are likely to end up hosting an impromptu party for unannounced friends and family. Such nocturnal happenings, with dzezva-fulls of strong coffee, with dozens of burning Lucky Strike cigarettes, and a bottle or two of home-made booze, are commonplace at all social levels.
Go to Serbia’s heartland, and you are in for more surprises. Gucяa (Goocha) is a small, neat market town of three thousand in central Serbia, situated amidst the rolling hills, pastures and orchards. The landscape is reminiscent of central Pennsylvania or the Lower Austrian foothills. It has a main street with cafes, shops, a bank and a municipal office. It has a neo-Baroque church with two marble plaques bearing the names of hundreds of local boys and men killed in the Great War. It also has a farmers’ market, a comfortable small hotel-and the central square dominated by the larger-than-life bronze figure of a man in traditional Serbian peasant attire blowing a trumpet.
The trumpet makes Gucяa different from every other place in Serbia, or anywhere in the world. Once a year, in the first weekend in August, this sedate but apparently boring place undergoes a massive transformation. Its church yard and playing fields are invaded by huge catering tents, its sidewalks are taken over by beer and barbequed meat vendors, and every remaining square foot of its space is taken over by up to three hundred thousand celebrants of Serbia’s traditional brass band music. As a New York Times reporter put it two years ago, “If you thought ‘wild celebration’ and ‘brass band music’ sounded like a contradiction in terms, think again. Brass band music, Serbian style, is often a trumpet-driven high-energy explosion, prompting frenzied dancing on tables.”
Most visitors are here only for a day, mercifully, or else the movement would be impossible. The standard routine is to go from one tent to another and listen to different bands, to eat the famed Wedding Feast Cabbage (sauerkraut, smoked pork and lamb slow-cooked on charcoals in massive earthen pots), and to have a couple-or a dozen-steiners of fresh, unpasteurized beer along the way. Unlike the best performances at normal music festivals, here they take place offstage, as bands work the crowd. Several dozen-men brass orchestras play different tunes simultaneously, within twenty yards from each other, competing for attention and tips. Banknotes are stuffed into their instruments, and some ostentatious revelers will part with a few coveted hundred-euro bills to be musically accompanied to their cars or hotel rooms.
The feast of eating, drinking and dancing is crowned each night with a massive kolo of youngsters in the central square, around the statue. Returning from such events in the early-morning hours my Western-born and educated daughters enthused that this is better than Woodstock: traditional, not created; rooted, not globalized. The trumpets have understated patriotic credentials: they were introduced to Serbia in 1804, during Black George (Karadjordje) Petrovic’s uprising against the Turks, and have taken root as a defiantly domestic instrument in time of adversity and joy alike. “Where else can you see sex bombs, punk-rockers, shepherds and politicians dancing hand in hand as if they had known each other for ages?” asked a French diplomat who made the three-hour drive from Belgrade for the weekend.
Go and rent Emir Kusturica’s “Underground,” or “Time of the Gypsies,” available at your local Blockbusters and in many public libraries. Listen to that haunting, frantic, sublime sound of horns and trumpets, and you’ll understand. Listen and imagine two-dozen such bands competing for the coveted “Golden Trumpet” award, or playing simultaneously in adjoining impromptu restaurants. It is insane, intoxicating, defiant, and wonderful.
August 14, 2003
A BALKAN TRAVELOGUE (1)
by Srdja Trifkovic
After a fortnight in the Balkans, spent in at least three and perhaps as many as five countries, the task of writing a concise report intelligible to a non-specialist outsider presents a challenge almost as formidable as explaining the recent war itself.
Take the number of countries visited: to the uninitiated, Serbia-Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia add up to three. Montenegro’s ruling separatists would insist, however, that the union with Belgrade-inaugurated under European Union auspices earlier this year-is a temporary device, confederal in nature, which implicitly accepts Podgorica’s de facto independence. By visiting Serbia and Montenegro, they’d argue, I was in two countries that merely happen to be represented by one UN seat for the time being. That view is disputed by many Montenegrins who are loath to be separated from their kinsmen in Serbia-which explains the separatists’ reluctance to stage a referendum and decide the issue once and for all-but in the Balkans the will of the people seldom stops their rulers’ determination to do what they know is best for them.
Bosnia-Herzegovina illustrates the point even more aptly. Its foreign rulers, headed by a failed British politician by the name of Paddy Ashdown, want to blend the two entities established under the Dayton Accords-the Serb Republic (Republika Srpska) and the Muslim-Croat Federation-into a centralized, unitary state ruled from Sarajevo. They insist on establishing the type of “multiethnic” arrangement imposed from above that had failed so tragically in the broader, Yugoslav context. Their efforts continue to be frustrated, however, by the stubborn refusal of “Bosnians” of all three faiths to return to the model of enforced unity that produced the war in the first place. Last fall they expressed their preferences by voting en masse for the three nationalist parties, and even within the “Federation” its Muslim and Croat components remain firmly segregated. While the entities lack the legal attributes of sovereign statehood, it is difficult to imagine the three communities staying together under any “Bosnian” framework once the “international community” stops propping up the Dayton edifice. Go from Serb Trebinje to Croat Mostar to Muslim Gorazde and on to Serb Visegrad, and you’ll grasp that in reality Bosnia-Herzegovina is three countries, not one, and that a majority of its citizens do not see it as a permanent answer to their aspirations.
In Serbia the gap between the rulers and the citizenry is also wide-wider, in fact, than at any time under Milosevic. The ruling DOS coalition is composed of an array of small political parties, all but one without prior parliamentary representation. They have been able to take power solely due to ex-president Vojislav Kostunica’s blunder in accepting them under his aegis at the general election in December 2000. Having consequently conspired to rob him and his party of power and influence, the Dossists (“Dosovci”) continue to rule without electoral legitimacy and under a series of dubious quasi-constitutional arrangements calculated to postpone the day of reckoning at the polls. They need the time primarily to complete the sellout of Serbia’s remaining profitable companies to themselves and their cronies.
A series of privatization-related scandals most recently included the disclosure of two middle-ranking government officials’ involvement in money-laundering schemes through bank accounts in the Seychelles. One of the two men, Nemanja Kolesar (32) initially offered the eccentric explanation that he was given hundreds of thousands of euros from his parents-not known for independent wealth-as a wedding present, but subsequently changed the story and claimed that the money was lent to him by the other accused, Zoran Janjusevic. In reality the money came from the kickbacks that they (and possibly other government officials) received in connection with the privatization of a cement factory near Popovac, in central Serbia. The funds were paid into their Seychelles bank accounts as soon as the company was sold to the Swiss company Holcim.
It is now clear that the clampdown on crime in the aftermath of Zoran Djindjic’s assassination last March-the famed “Operation Sword”-was no more than the crackdown by government-sponsored oligarchs on their less savvy former associates who had fallen out of favor. The real powers behind the throne, such as the King of Balkan Tobacco, Stanko Subotic known as “Cane,” remain inviolable, just as Berezovsky had been at the time of his clampdown on Gussinsky. “Once the redistribution of assets is complete it will matter but little who is the nominal power holder,” says a former senior government advisor now in deep disfavor: “Serbia will be but another oligarch-ruled satrapy, part-Paraguay, part-Moldova.”
Aware of their unpopularity, some government leaders-most notably Serbian prime minister Zoran Zivkovic, federal defense minister Boris Tadic, and foreign minister Goran Svilanovic-court foreign support and favors, including the offer of Serbian troops for US-led “peacekeeping” operations around the world. Their latest gesture, summary retirement of 16 most senior generals-including many who had distinguished themselves in resisting Clinton’s war against the Serbs in 1999-is widely seen as a mortal blow to the ability of the Army to respond to similar future threats. Premier Zivkovic said the decision would help usher in a “young and reformed army leadership”; the true meaning of his words may be found in the parallel statement by an advisor to the Union’s figurehead president Svetozar Marovic, to the effect that the “reforms” will end when the army is reduced to an anti-terrorist and peacekeeping-trained force of between 15 and 25,000 men.
Many Belgrade intellectuals are despondent by all this. “The twentieth century was an era of the Imperialism of the Lie, but we have now stepped into a new epoch, a century of the Globalized Lie,” says former Yugoslav president Dobrica Cosic, a leading writer and foremost dissident of the Tito era. Ours is still a totally ideological society, says he: “Communist lies have been replaced by democratic lies, lavishly funded by foreign powers-that-be. The regime has been changed, but the rule of the Lie in public discourse has not.”
Cosic’s lament was echoed in a gloomily satirical poem, “A Contribution to the Critique of the Reformist Spirit,” by Matija Beckovic, whose work is not unknown to Chronicles readers:
This is the triumph of the First Century!
Hey, this is no longer the First but the Second Century!
Surely we are not going to resort in the Third Century to the methods of the Second!?
The Fourth Century is the end of the darkness of all previous centuries!
Some among us still do not grasp that this is the Fifth, and no longer the Fourth Century!
We are the children of the Sixth Century, freed from the prejudices of the Fifth!
The Seventh Century is miles ahead of its predecessors!
Is the Eighth Century not the end of the Seventh?
A hundred years was needed to grasp that we live in the Ninth, not the Eighth Century!
Let’s be worthy of the Tenth Century, of which the boldest minds of the Ninth could but dream!
The Eleventh Century is mercifully beyond the bloody Tenth Century!
Let us not allow the Eleventh Century to be repeated in the Twelfth!
With the dark experience of the Twelfth, we can boldly face the Thirteenth Century!
How long this tyranny? This is the Fourteenth Century!
How long this injustice? This is the Fifteenth Century!
How long this misery? This is the Sixteenth Century!
Down with the horrors of the Sixteenth, this is the victorious Seventeenth Century!
The Eighteenth Century gives us a chance never to repeat the Seventeenth!
The Nineteenth Century is a successful exit from the tragedy of the Eighteenth.
The Twentieth Century has been and remains the crown of the humanity’s century-long strivings!
The Twenty-First Century is not the end of the Second, but the beginning of the Third Millenium!
(To be continued. Tomorrow: Why everyday life in Serbia still can be joyful.)
July 29, 2003
ROAD MAP IN BALANCE
by Srdja Trifkovic
After a faltering start in Aqaba on June 4, followed by several promising gestures and statements on both sides (including a unilateral three-month ceasefire declared by Palestinian militants on June 29), the latest Middle Eastern peace process is stuck again. A meeting last Sunday between the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, and his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas (a.k.a. Abu Mazen)-the fourth since the “Road Map” was launched-ended in failure to agree on the steps to be taken next. (It even “included shouting on both sides,” according to a participant.) Israel demands permanent security guarantees instead of a temporary truce and a determined crackdown by the Palestinian Authority on militant groups such as Hamas and the Islamic Resistance Movement, while Palestinians demand Israeli withdrawals in the West Bank, a halt on the construction of Jewish settlements, and the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.
President Bush will attempt to keep the Middle East peace process alive with meetings with Abbas this coming Friday and Sharon next week. The two leaders are heading to Washington hoping that the Americans will force concessions from the other side. “We want the Americans to be in a position of doing some muscle flexing on Abu Mazen and say, ‘It’s time for you to cash in a few of your chips’,” a senior Israeli official is quotes as saying. “We are trying to demonstrate that the U.S. has to pressure both sides, that it’s a give-and-take process,” a Palestinian official responded. “There’s been no action on the part of Israel to show they are going to end the occupation, and that’s why the road map is off-track.”
Regional commentators agree on at least one thing: that President Bush’s “personal and massive involvement” is the most vital factor for the roadmap’s survival. Writing in The Financial Times of London on July 22, two Jordanian diplomats, Hasan Abu Nimah and Ali Abunimah, say that the “road map” is in serious trouble “because the Bush administration, the plan’s chief sponsor, has allowed Israel to reinterpret it so that it is gutted of the elements that offered hope of progress.”
Since Israel depends on the US for the military and diplomatic backing that allows it to continue its occupation of Arab land indefinitely, the authors say, “the success or failure of the plan lies in Washington’s willingness to confront an Israel that remains committed to the settlements and opposed to a genuinely independent Palestinian state.” So far Israel has continued to carry out substantial construction projects in the occupied territories. It has also accelerated work on a concrete wall that has in effect annexed large swaths of the West Bank to Israel and cut off many Palestinian towns and villages from the rest of the occupied territories:
These facts on the ground make a genuine two-state solution increasingly unattainable in practice. But, politically, the road map has already been emptied of the content that would make such an outcome possible in the first place. By recognising Israel within its 1948 borders, Palestinians have already conceded 78 per cent of historic Palestine-in which they were the overwhelming majority until Israel’s creation. In exchange, they expect full independence and sovereignty in the remaining 22 per cent-the whole of east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In this goal, they are supported by a vast body of international law and United Nations resolutions.
Yet when Mr. Sharon stated in Aqaba that “we can also reassure our Palestinian partners that we understand the importance of territorial contiguity in the West Bank for a viable Palestinian state,” he was essentially ruling out a full Israeli withdrawal. The authors note that “contiguity” is an issue only in the context of a continued Israeli presence on Palestinian land. They allege that Sharon wants a Palestinian “state” based on an arrangement in which Palestinians are given limited self-government within a greater Israel where they have no civil or political rights:
“As the Bush administration does nothing to check Israel-and simultaneously piles pressure on the deeply unpopular Mr. Abbas, whose appointment as Palestinian prime minister it engineered-it is only a matter of time before the situation explodes in a new and sustained round of violence,” the authors say, and conclude that perhaps the only hope of saving the process lies with strong intervention by the European Union, which nominally co-authored the road map:
Hitherto, the EU has acquiesced in US leadership, even when it has disagreed with US positions. And the US has been willing to ignore Europe on those rare occasions when it has asserted itself, as the Iraq crisis demonstrated. But, ironically, US difficulties in Iraq may give Europe the leverage to demand real action towards Palestinian freedom and Middle East peace as a prerequisite for help in extricating the Americans from their own unraveling occupation of Iraq.
Somewhat surprisingly the Israeli foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, also declared that Israel would welcome a greater EU role in the Middle East if it is ‘more balanced.’ Speaking in Brussels last Monday he said he was pleased with the EU’s involvement in putting pressure on the Palestinians to rein in those supporting violence.
It is most unlikely that this statement signifies any greater willingness by the Israelis to accept Europe’s substantial involvement, however. Mr. Sharon’s recent trip to London and Norway has failed to drive an open wedge between the Europeans and PA President Yassir Arafat. He knows that he’ll always have a far more sympathetic partner in Washington, and the one most unlikely to push for serious Israeli concessions only months before the presidential campaign is to start. Sharon is eagerly awaiting the election year, during which both parties will be weary of alienating a powerful voting bloc. As an Israeli commentator noted in the Maariv daily (July 21), Mr. Bush wants quick results in the Middle East in order to cast away evidence of his failures in Iraq and in the economy, but “starting in January 2004, the government of Israel and its leader will have a consequential influence on the shaping of the U.S. policy regarding the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians… the window of opportunity will begin to close and, should Sharon want it, seal altogether until at least January 2005.”
Aware of the fact that political clock is ticking in America some European editorialists say that unless the United States exert real pressure on Israel now, the “map” will indeed lead to nowhere. The Guardian thus warned on July 22 that Israeli foot-dragging over its implementation should not be tolerated: “As in the past, it is to be feared that Mr. Sharon will portray any new but limited Israeli ‘concessions’ as a great and risky good-faith gesture, beyond which he cannot at this point safely go.” In return, he will seek increased US pressure on the Palestinians, especially over disarming Hamas and Islamic Jihad, plus other, bilateral favors: “This is an old game that Mr. Bush should refuse to play. As ever, Israel holds most of the cards.”
Mr. Abbas, by contrast, has very few. Unless President Bush gives him a few trump cards by exacting concessions from Mr. Sharon-such as the release of most Palestinians held in Israeli jails who have not been convicted of violent crimes-he may be ousted by the Palestinian parliament or else resign himself, as he had already threatened to do. Helping Abbas survive and building him into a credible and effective figure is a necessary albeit not sufficient prerequisite for making eventual progress on the fundamental issues-the right of return, the status of Jerusalem, and the final borders. Mr. Bush would be well advised to ensure that Mr. Sharon brings some gifts to Washington that he was not willing to deliver directly to Mr. Abbas in Jerusalem.
July 23, 2003
NEOCOSERVATISM, WHERE TROTSKY MEETS STALIN AND HITLER
by Srdja Trifkovic
The neoconservatives are often depicted as former Trotskyites who have morphed into a new, closely related life form. It is pointed out that many early neocons-including The Public Interest founder Irving Kristol and coeditor Nathan Glazer, Sidney Hook, and Albert Wohlstetter-belonged to the anti-Stalinist far left in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and that their successors, including Joshua Muravchik, and Carl Gershman, came to neoconservatism through the Socialist Party at a time when it was Trotskyite in outlook and politics. As early as 1963 Richard Hofstadter commented on the progression of many ex-Communists from the paranoid left to the paranoid right, clinging all the while to the fundamentally Manichean psychology that underlies both. Four decades later the dominant strain of neoconservatism is declared to be a mixture of geopolitical militarism and “inverted socialist internationalism.”
Blanket depictions of neoconservatives as redesigned Trotskyites need to be corrected in favor of a more nuanced analysis. In several important respects the neoconservative world outlook has diverged from the Trotskyite one and acquired some striking similarities with Stalinism and German National Socialism. Today’s neoconservatives share with Stalin and Hitler an ideology of nationalist socialism and internationalist imperialism. The similarities deserve closer scrutiny and may contribute to a better understanding of the most influential group in the U.S. foreign policy-making community.
Certain important differences remain, notably the neoconservatives’ hostility not only to Nazi race-theory but even to the most benign understanding of national or ethnic coherence. On the surface, there are also glaring differences in economics. However, the neoconservative glorification of the free market is more rhetoric, designed to placate the businessmen who fund them, than reality. In fact, the neoconservatives favor not free enterprise but a kind of state capitalism-within the context of the global apparatus of the World Bank and the IMF-that Hitler would have appreciated.
Some form of gradual but irreversible and desirable withering away of the state is a key tenet of the Trotskyite theoretical outlook. The neoconservatives, by contrast, are statists par excellence. Their core belief-that society can be managed by the state in both its political and economic life-is equally at odds with the traditional conservative outlook and with the non-Stalinist Left. In this important respect the neoconservatives are much closer to Stalinism and National Socialism. They do not want to abolish the state; they want to control it-especially if the state they control is capable of controlling all others. They are not “patriotic” in any conventional sense of the term and do not identify themselves with the real and historic America but see the United States merely as the host organism for the exercise of their Will to Power. Whereas the American political tradition has been fixated on the dangers of centralized state power, on the desirability of limited government and non-intervention in foreign affairs, the neoconservatives exalt and worship state power, and want America to become a hyper-state in order to be an effective global hegemon. Even when they support local government it is on the grounds that it is more efficient and responsive to the demands of the Empire, not on Constitutional grounds.
The neoconservative view of America as a hybrid, “imagined” nation had an ardent supporter eight decades ago: in Mein Kampf Adolf Hitler argued for a new, tightly centralized Germany by invoking the example of the United States and the triumph of the Union over states’ rights. He concluded that “National Socialism, as a matter of principle, must lay claim to the right to force its principles on the whole German nation without consideration of previous federated state boundaries.” Hitler was going to make a new Germany the way he imagined it, or else destroy it. In the same vein the Weekly Standard writers are “patriots” only insofar as the America they imagine is a pliable tool of their global design. Their relentless pursuit of an American Empire overseas is coupled by their deliberate domestic transformation of the United States’ federal government into a Leviathan unbound by constitutional restraints. The lines they inserted into President Bush’s State of the Union address last January aptly summarized their Messianic obsessions: the call of history has come to the right country, we exercise power without conquest, and sacrifice for the liberty of strangers, we know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation: “The liberty we prize is not America’s gift to the world, it is God’s gift to humanity.”
Such megalomania is light years away from a patriotic appreciation of one’s nation. A psychotic quest for power and dominance is the driving force, and the “nationalist” discourse its justification. The reality is visible in ultimate distress: Towards the end of the Second World War Josef Goebbels welcomed the Allied bombing for its destruction of the old bourgeois cuckoo-clock and marzipan Germany of the feudal principalities. Driven by the same impulse, Bill Kristol’s “national greatness” psychosis seeks to sweep away the old localized, decentralized America of bingo parlors and little league games.
Most heirs of the Trotskyite Left are internationalists and one-world globalists, whereas all neoconservatives are unabashed imperialists. The former advocate “multilateralism,” in the form of an emerging “international community” controlled by the United Nations or through a gradual transfer of sovereign prerogatives to regional groupings exemplified by the European Union. By contrast the neoconservative urge for uninhibited physical control of other lands and peoples bears resemblance to the New European Order of six decades ago, or to the “Socialist Community” that succeeded it in Eastern Europe. Even when they demand wars to export democracy, the term “democracy” is used as an ideological concept. It does not signify broad participation of informed citizens in the business of governance, but it denotes the desirable social and political content of ostensibly popular decisions. The process likely to produce undesirable outcomes-an Islamic government in Iraq, say-is a priori “undemocratic.”
Whereas the Trotskyite Left is predominantly anti-militarist, the neoconservatives are enthusiastically militarist in a manner reminiscent of German and Soviet totalitarianism. Their strategic doctrine, promulgated into official policy last September, calls for an indefinite and massive military build-up unconnected to any identifiable military threat to the United States. Their scribes demand ‘citizen involvement,’ in effect, militarization of the populace, but the traditional ‘citizen soldier’ concept is reversed. Their goal is to get suitably indoctrinated young Americans to go and risk their lives not for the honor and security of their own country, but for the missions that have to be misrepresented to the public (e.g. the non-existant Iraqi WMDs) in order to be made politically acceptable. As Gary North has pointed out, neoconservative foreign policy is guns before butter: “Butter always follows guns, but this is regarded as the inescapable price of American regional presence abroad.”
The neoconservatives’ deep-seated distaste for the traditional societies, regimes, and religion of the European continent, particularly Russia and East European Slavs, is positively Hitlerian. The sentiment was most glaringly manifested in the 1999 NATO war against the Serbs: William Kristol’s urge to vicariously “crush Serb skulls” went way beyond the 1914 Viennese slogan “Serbien muss sterbien.” In terms of strategic significance for the United States, however, the neocons’ visceral Russophobia is mush more significant. In the aftermath of the Cold War the neoconservatives have continued to regard Moscow as the enemy, enthusiastically supporting Chechen separatists as “freedom fighters” and advocating NATO expansion. Their atavism is comparable to Hitler’s obsession with Russia, an animosity that was equally unrelated to the nature of its regime. It is only a matter of time before some neocons start advocating a new Drang nach Osten, in the form of an American-led scramble for Siberia.
The neoconservative mindset is apocalyptic (which is a Nazi and Stalinist trait), rather than utopian (which characterizes the Trotskyite Left). The replacement of the Soviet threat with the more amorphous “terrorism” reflects the doomsday revolutionary mentality that can never rest. New missions and new wars will have to be engineered, and pretexts manufactured, with the same subtlety that characterized the “attack” on the German radio station at Gleiwitz on August 31, 1939. Even the tools for the enforcement of domestic acquiescence are not dissimilar: the Patriot Act followed 9-11 as smoothly as the suspension of the Weimar constitution followed the Reichstag fire. Echoing the revolutionary dynamism and the historicist Messianism equally common to fascists and communists, Michael Ledeen wrote that “creative destruction” is America’s eternal mission, both at home and abroad, and the reason America’s “enemies” hate it: “They cannot feel secure so long as we are there, for our very existence-our existence, not our politics-threatens their legitimacy. They must attack us in order to survive, just as we must destroy them to advance our historic mission.”
The neoconservatives’ mendacity apparent in the misrepresentation of the Iraqi crisis to the American people recalls the Goebbelsian “hypodermic needle approach” to communication, in which the communicator’s objective was to “inject” his ideas into the minds of the target population. “Why, of course, the people don’t want war,” Goering said when it was all over, in his prison cell in Nuremberg in 1946:
Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a communist dictatorship … That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.
It does indeed. Goering’s observation is echoed in our time by the Straussian dictum that perpetual deception of the citizens by those in power is necessary because they need to be led, and they need to be told what is good for them. On this, at least, Trotsky, Stalin, and Hitler would all agree. (As Hitler had said, “The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble.”) In the Straussian-neoconservative mindset, those who are fit to rule are those who realize there is no morality and that there is only one natural right, the right of the superior to rule over the inferior.
That mindset is America’s enemy. It is the greatest threat to the constitutional order, identity, and way of life of the United States, in existence today. Its adherents have only modified the paradigm of dialectical materialism in order to continue pursuing the same eschatological dream, the End of History devoid of God. They are in pursuit of Power for its own sake-thus sinning against God and man-and the end of that insane quest will be the same as the end of the Soviet empire and of the Thousand-Year Reich.
July 04, 2003
MUSHARRAF AT CAMP DAVID
by Srdja Trifkovic
Two weeks ago Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf became the first South Asian leader to be invited to Camp David. Encouraged by the honor thus bestowed and by Washington’s post-9-11 largesse he asked President Bush for many things, from six billion in aid to updated F-16 fighters. He did not get them all-most notably those planes-but for a military dictator with links to militant Islam who makes and proliferates weapons of mass destruction, he did very well indeed. He did get a five-year, $3 billion package, some arms, and partial debt relief. No less important to Musharraf was Mr. Bush’s refusal to comment on domestic political situation in Pakistan, giving the General a free hand in dealing with his political opponents.
Mr. Bush’s continued pretense that Musharraf is an essential ally in the “war against terror” is acceptable as a political expedient, but it would be very dangerous for the Administration to start believing its own propaganda to the point of trusting the man’s sincerity. In practical terms, any military assistance to Pakistan should be made contingent on four conditions:
1. Musharraf’s permanent and verifiable end of support for cross-border terrorism in Kashmir;
2. Serious clampdown on medressas and other Islamic institutions in Pakistan that breed terrorists;
3. A thorough purge of the Pakistani army of all officers implicated in previous dealings with the Taliban and other Islamist movements in Afghanistan; and
4. Pakistan’s strict observance of nuclear non-proliferation, most notably vis-а-vis North Korea.
In addition, Mr. Bush’s stated objective of seeing Pakistan develop into a “moderate” Islamic state cannot be advanced if Washington continues to turn a blind eye to the nature of the regime in Islamabad. Pakistan’s rival India-the most populous democracy in the world-has taken note of the fact that Musharraf became the first military dictator to be welcomed by President Bush into the homely warmth of Camp David on the very day Colin Powell was expounding on the importance of democracy at the World Economic Forum. As the Indian Express editorialist noted, democracy and freedom do not seem to be worthwhile American objectives:
How else to explain what the man most responsible for building the Taliban into an evil, religious terrorist group is doing in Camp David? How else to explain President Bush’s promises of $3 billion of aid to a man whose nuclear scientists were in consultations with Al-Qaeda to help Osama bin Laden build his own nuclear weapon? … Islamic fundamentalism is not a person but an idea, a mindset, and there is sufficient evidence that this mindset has permeated the whole fabric of Pakistani society… There was a time that the American President could get away with befriending military dictators and lecturing the world about democracy at the same time. That time ended on Sept. 11.
By contrast, Pakistani commentators expressed satisfaction that the country’s nuclear program was not discussed, “meaning thereby that America has recognized (and accepted) it.” Instead of asking for the rollback of the program, Washington only demanded of Musharraf not to transfer the nuclear technology to another country-and specifically to stop helping North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. The Bush administration went to war with Iraq over its alleged “weapons of mass destruction,” and has put pressure on the regime in Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear project. Its soft-pedalling over the role of Pakistan as a proliferator is assumed to be the administration’s view that Pakistan is a key player in the “war on terror,” but almost three years after 9-11 it should be obvious that Musharraf will not reverse Pakistan’s adoption of Islamic ideology. His army is commanded by officers whose loyalties are divided at best. They have allowed countless Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters to slip across the border from Afghanistan into Pakistan and to stay out of the U.S. military’s reach. Musharraf ‘s government has ordered the release of many Islamic militants detained after September 11, and it has backtracked on its promise to control the Islamic schools that are breeding new terrorists.
A degree of cooperation with Pakistan in Mr. Bush’s anti-terrorist campaign is perhaps inevitable, just as various Cold War alliances with nasty Third World regimes were sometimes necessary, but the relationship should not go beyond the pragmatic, give-and-take link based on limited objectives. It is impossible to contemplate a strategic alliance with a man of General Musharraf’s ilk. Far from being a latter-day Mustafa Kemal, he fits in with the political tradition of Pakistan since her earliest days. She was the first modern state to be established on openly Islamic principles. Always on the verge of bankruptcy, she has, for most of her 55 years, been under military dictatorships. The Taliban and other Islamic terrorist movements were born of ideas conceived on the battlefields of Afghanistan and spread by Pakistan’s political, military, and religious establishment. These movements enjoyed the support of the Pakistani military-intelligence structures, especially its powerful Inter-Service Intelligence Agency (ISI).
The facts surrounding Pakistan’s nuclear program, its links with Muslim terrorists in Kashmir and with Islamic extremists elsewhere, have long been clouded by the denial and the feigned optimism that have characterized Washington’s relations with the Muslim world for decades. It is high time to acknowledge that, as an avowedly Muslim state, Pakistan suffers from the many defects inherent in her origins, including underdevelopment, illiteracy, oppression, and poverty. As long as the country’s Islamic character is explicitly upheld, Pakistan cannot develop an efficient economy or build a civilized polity. It is a burden, not an asset, to the United States, and should be treated as such.
Long-term American interests and diplomatic pragmatism, as well as morality and justice, dictate a far closer relationship between the U.S. and India. It is a great economic and political power in the making, its democratic credentials are real, and its historical memories and political culture make it America’s natural ally in the struggle against militant Islam.
July 01, 2003
EXCLUSIVE: INTERVIEW WITH VOJISLAV KOSTUNICA
SERBIA IS NOT A BLACK HOLE IN EUROPE
by Srdja Trifkovic
Dr. Vojislav Kostunica is no longer Yugoslavia’s president: his post has ceased to exist, together with the country itself, when the Union of Serbia and Montenegro came into being four months ago. He should be Serbia’s president instead, having won two rounds of presidential elections last fall, but his political opponents deprived him of that position by a nifty piece of subterfuge. The late Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic and an array of small parties forming the ruling government coalition used an obsolete law enacted by Slobodan Milosevic as a tool to effectively annul the election. That law, initially devised to secure Milosevic’s rule in perpetuity, demands that a majority of all registered voters (“fifty percent plus one”) cast their ballots in order for a general election to be valid. It now provides the formal basis for the current government’s real objective: an illegitimate extension of its mandate.
Kostunica is out of power, but not for long. He is still the most popular politician in Serbia by far, and his return to top office is merely a matter of time. When that happens there are things that he intends to do differently. When we met last Tuesday in his elegant headquarters in the old part of Belgrade—a great improvement over Tito’s kitchy, cavernous office across the Sava river—he admitted that when he came to power in October 2000 he had not fully appreciated the depth of depravity and corruption of his erstwhile partners in the anti-Milosevic coalition: “I was wholly focused on the task of rebuilding the state and its institutions, but now I realize that this was impossible for as long as people connected with criminals and disrespectful of the rule of law remained in government.” In announcing that his first task will be a thorough clean-up of Serbia’s tainted political elite Kostunica retains his usual calm manner and somewhat monotonous delivery, but his words display determination and energy that many say he had lacked during his first mandate.
Kostunica is especially concerned that the current government will make hasty decisions in foreign affairs that will haunt its successors. He points out that Belgrade is on the brink of signing a bilateral agreement with the United States on non-extradition of U.S. personnel to the ICC—even though Serbian citizens are still being hunted by, and delivered to, the war crimes tribunal at The Hague. Saying “no” to Washington under these conditions is “an easy decision to make for a reasonable government, for reasonable authorities,” he says, “but at this moment reason is not something that is prevailing in Serbia-Montenegro.” He sees Serbia’s future in European integration, not in accepting the status of an American satellite:
Europe is much closer to us than Washington, of course, but at this moment Washington seems to be nearer to Serbia-Montenegro and some other post-communist countries. To the authorities in Serbia-Montenegro in particular, responding to demands from Washington—on the bilateral agreement, or on NATO membership—seems to be more important than the issues of daily life, of the survival of people, of resolving the problems of poverty, increasing unemployment, difficult conditions of refugees. It would be reasonable and wise to follow the European road, and to use the explanation—the need for European support—that might be understood even by Washington. That, however, is not the approach that is prevailing in Serbia-Montenegro at this moment.
Another looming decision to which Kostunica is adamantly opposed concerns Serbia’s membership in NATO. If the country’s political elites listened to what the people of Serbia-Montenegro think about NATO membership, he says, the answer would be clearly negative: most Serbs feel that Europe, and in particular such European countries as France and Italy, are much closer to them, not only geographically, but also politically, culturally, and economically, than the United States:
Even if “Partnership for Peace” is a political necessity, NATO is not a necessity. It is not justified politically, and it is unacceptable emotionally, having in mind the bombing of Serbia in 1999. If we had a more responsible leadership in the country, then the call for NATO membership would not be something to be thought about at this moment. It is sometimes said that by staying outside NATO this country would be a “black hole” in Europe, but there are other examples of such “black holes” in Europe that are not doing badly at all—take the case of Switzerland, which for many years had not even belonged to the United Nations. There are specific reasons for our country to stay out of NATO, and this is an instance of a clear disagreement between the position of authorities in Belgrade and what the public at large thinks.
Kostunica is also concerned that the current government does not have a coherent counter-strategy to the increasing pressure for a quick “final solution” to Kosovo. “There is a tendency among a part of the political elite in Belgrade to seek a quick and easy solution to the Kosovo problem by getting rid of it,” he says, but undue haste is not necessary: in his view, an independent Kosovo would not be in accordance with the prevailing tendencies in the region, in Europe, and in the so-called international community:
The problem is too serious to be solved overnight. We are very far from the so-called final status for Kosovo. First of all it is necessary to implement the Security Council resolution 1244 from 1999. It is necessary to provide more safety for the Serbs and other non-Albanians in Kosovo and to secure the return of IDPs [internally displaced persons]: less than one percent of Serb refugees have returned to their homes in Kosovo.”
What we have at the moment is the so-called architecture of Kosovo institutions, Kostunica says, but that has nothing to do with the respect for safety and human rights:
“There are institutions, there are no human rights. The new international administrator for Kosovo has an opportunity to make a fresh start. The previous three mandates have not been successful Kouchner’s, Haekkerup’s, and particularly Steiner’s. The last of them is a clear example of failure. There is still a chance to put things right and I feel that one should think in those terms. At this moment it is not necessary to talk of what Kosovo means for the Serbs and how fundamental it is for the Serbian national and cultural identity. Let us, instead, focus on what has been written down in Resolution 1244. Let us think what would be the consequences of any radical ‘solution’ at this moment, what would any change of any frontier in the region mean for the rest of the borders. There is no other solution than working slowly but steadily on the implementation of Resolution 1244, on returning IDPs, finding different forms of decentralization.”
The Serbs can feel safer only in their own municipalities, Kostunica concludes, and some sort of network of those municipalities should be set up in Kosovo as a form of devolution that would make the return of refugees possible.
Kostunica’s views on these and most other domestic and foreign issues are in tune with the prevailing popular opinion in Serbia. Almost three years after the fall of Slobodan Milosevic, however, the gap between the will of the people and the decisions of the political establishment remains as wide as ever. It is ironic, and by no means incidental, that Kostunica keeps winning elections hands down and losing power. If “democracy” had anything to do with the political system that reflects the collective will of the people, he would lead the nation while the heirs of the late Dr. Djindjic would sit on the far back benches of Serbia’s Parliament—or be unemployed. But democracy, as it is currently propagated in the Balkans by the “international community” and as it is practiced by its local favorites, is defined not in terms of freely expressed political will of informed citizens, but through the looking glass of ideological preferences of political forces external to the region. The net result is that the enthusiasm and idealism of the popular uprising of October 2000 have been replaced by an all-pervasive cynicism.
June 21, 2003
EUROPE’S NEW CONSTITUTION: NO SUPERSTATE, YET
by Srdja Trifkovic
Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, the anthem of the European Union, accompanied the official presentation of the Union’s draft constitution last week. The 75-page document was prepared by a 15-member “Presidency” representing 105 members of the Convention on the Future of Europe, headed by former French president Valery Giscard d’Estaing. The insanely grandiloquent Ode to Joy quite properly makes a sensible person weary of any event it accompanies—such as Hitler’s birthdays and East German state ceremonies—and the launching of the EU constitution was no exception. Its preposterous Preamble opens with a quote by Thucydides (“Our Constitution is called a democracy because power is in the hands not of a minority but of the greatest number”). Both in sentiment and style it would be approvingly signed by any Jacobin fanatic sitting at the Evкchй:
Conscious that Europe is a continent that has brought forth civilization; that its inhabitants, arriving in successive waves since the first ages of mankind, have gradually developed the values underlying humanism: equality of persons, freedom, respect for reason,
Drawing inspiration from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe, the values of which, still present in its heritage, have embedded within the life of society its perception of the central role of the human person and his inviolable and inalienable rights, and of respect for law,
Believing that reunited Europe intends to continue along this path of civilization, progress and prosperity, for the good of all its inhabitants, including the weakest and most deprived; that it wishes to remain a continent open to culture, learning, and social progress; and that it wishes to deepen the democratic and transparent nature of its public life, and to strive for peace, justice and solidarity throughout the world,
… etcetera, etcetera; you get the idea. The best that can be said of the document is that in some important respects it does not appear to be quite as bad as some anti-federalists had feared. The EU shall in future have “legal personality” and a president, but the dreaded word “federal” has been dropped in favor of the more vague “Community way.” Any European State can join or leave the Union. The proposal that the EU’s current designation be changed to “United Europe” has been abandoned, and Article 1 of the constitution recognizes that the Union derives its power and authority from the member states:
Reflecting the will of the citizens and States of Europe to build a common future, this Constitution establishes the European Union, on which the Member States confer competences to attain objectives they have in common. The Union shall coordinate the policies by which the Member States aim to achieve these objectives, and shall exercise in the Community way the competences they confer on it.
The federalists had hoped for an “improvement” in the machinery of foreign policy making but they have failed. The crisis surrounding the war in Iraq demonstrated the divisions within the Union on a major foreign policy issue and led to a weakening of the original proposal. The new post of EU “foreign minister” (possibly under a different designation) will combine the roles currently played by Common Foreign and Security Policy Commissioner Javier Solana and the External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten, but the position will not have any additional powers. There will be no qualified majority voting over CFSP: intergovernmental procedures will continue to rule most, if not all, policy decisions.
To Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jack Straw all this was sufficient to attack the Euro-skeptics’ “myths and hysteria” that surrounded the constitution’s public presentation. “The treaty confirms the EU as a union of nations, not a super-state,” he said, pointing out that there would be no substantial expansion of Union-wide powers, and no radical overhaul of its existing Treaties and competences: “We are talking about a Treaty which can bring much needed clarity to European citizens, which equips the Union with the machinery it needs to embrace the challenge of enlargement.”
The main bodies of the Union will be a Council with Ministers from each member state; a European Parliament with MEPs from each member state; a slimmed-down executive European Commission of 15 full members; and a Court with Judges from each member state. The European Council (member-countries’ prime ministers in concert) will be in charge of the Union’s political direction. Acting within its guidance the Commission will propose EU laws, and the Council will decide on them, often by majority vote, and jointly with the European Parliament.
The novelty comes with the proposal for a President of the EU Council of Ministers, with a mandate of up to five years. By replacing the current system of six-monthly rotating presidencies, it ensures that the major countries, such as France, Germany, Italy, and Britain, will retain most influence, since the president will be elected by qualified majority. Future smaller members of the club, such as Malta, Slovenia, and the Baltic countries, will not be able to grandstand as Greece, Denmark, Ireland, and Luxembourg had been able to do at times over the past decade. They may fret at the strengthening of the Council and the weakening of the Commission, which is seen as the champion of the small countries, but they will not be able to change the end result.
On balance, however, the beleaguered British and Continental Euro-skeptics have little to celebrate. Article 10 establishes the primacy of EU law over national law, and Article 15 also hints at supra-nationalism by obliging member states to “actively and unreservedly support the Union’s common foreign and security policy in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity. They shall refrain from action contrary to the Union’s interests or likely to impair its effectiveness.” In the economic sphere, “[t]he Union shall have competence to co-ordinate the economic and employment policies of the member states.”
Furthermore, a legally binding Charter of Fundamental Rights, including labor and social policies, forms the entire second part of the document and presents as great a threat to national sovereignty and good life as any overt federalist declaration. It introduces references to equality and non-discrimination, specifically with reference to homosexuals, and invokes the need to combat “social exclusion” and respect “diversity.” The Constitution and EU law are to have “primacy over the law of member states” formally making the EU superior to national constitutions and parliaments. Member-states can only act “to the extent that the Union has not exercised, or has decided to cease exercising, its competence.” In case of doubt, the European Court will have the power, under Article 28, to “ensure respect for the Constitution and Union law” and to rule on the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which is to be made legally binding.
All this has prompted a British representative on Giscard’s commission, Conservative MP David Heathcoat-Amory, to assert that the entire exercise was integrationist by nature. He warns that the constitution will mean more decisions on foreign policy, criminal justice, economics and employment being taken in Brussels. He is calling for a referendum on the constitution—something that Prime Minister Blair has rejected so far—saying that “this must be challenged by all who believe that democracy is more important than expedience, and that constitutions must be decided by the people.”
The draft will be presented to EU leaders at next Friday’s summit in Salonika, and its details will be subsequently discussed by an intergovernmental conference (ICG) next fall. The formal approval will come some time after May 1 of next year, when the next round of enlargement is supposed to take place.
Even if it is subsequently subjected to a test of electoral acceptability—and nine out of ten Britons demand a referendum—it is clear that the EU constitution in its present form cannot significantly impact, let alone overhaul, the current structure of the Union’s institutions. That structure will remain inherently bureaucratic rather than democratic, reflecting the aspirations and interests of the post-national, post-Christian ruling elites rather than the people. This was amply demonstrated in the Convention’s specific support for unnatural lifestyles in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and in its refusal to include Christianity in the Preamble as part of Europe’s “cultural, religious and humanist inheritance.”
Even so M. Giscard would claim that he has come some way to meeting his critics: when he first unveiled the preamble—penned by his own hand—it included specific references to Greece, Rome, and the Enlightenment, with a yawning thousand-year gap in between. The pagans and Voltaire would approve, but an overwhelming majority of all Europeans who have ever lived would turn in their graves.
June 14, 2003
GAMES SURROUNDING KOSOVO
by Srdja Trifkovic
If a rifle figures above a mantlepiece in Act I it is likely to fire in Act III. Likewise, if a dozen well-known KLA apologists and pro-Albanian lobbies parading as think-tanks start simultaneously clamoring for Kosovo’s independence—making identical or similar statements in a ten-day period—it is almost certain that their efforts will be presented as a pressing policy issue before the summer is out.
The pursuit of Kosovo’s independence from Serbia provides “the only prospect for long-term stability in the Balkans” and must not be postponed, claim Paul Williams and Janusz Bugajski in a report (“Achieving a Final Status Settlement for Kosovo”) published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Bugajski, until recently a lavishly paid consultant for Milo Djukanovics kleptocratic little fiefdom, seems to have lost some of his enthusiasm for the cause of Montenegrin independence now that the retainer has ended; but the analysis vis-а-vis Kosovo is the same: the only way to achieve peace and stability is to cut another slice from the depleted Serbian salami. Until and unless this is done, the ethnic tensions in the region and political and economic stagnation in the Balkans will continue. The authors argue that a “freely elected” government in Kosovo would reduce the potential for social unrest and promote the rule of law and pluralism.
Only days earlier, on May 21, the House of Representatives Committee on International Relations held an open hearing (“The Future of Kosovo”) and heard Daniel Serwer of the United States Institute of Peace declare that the “specific problems” of today’s Kosovo “include failure of the Serbs to participate consistently in the Kosovo Assembly and continuing Serb control in the north.” Among those invited to testify were spokesmen for the Albanian-American registered lobby groups and their congressional supporters; not one invited speaker represented the interests of Serbs and other non-Albanians in Kosovo, or the position and concerns of Serbia.
James Dobbins, director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the Rand Corporation and a key advocate of the war against Serbia in the Clinton administration, joined the chorus by saying that the unresolved nature of Kosovo’s status as potential independent state continues to be an obstacle to reconciliation between the ethnic groups in the region: “I always believed that the only result that would satisfy a majority of the people is some form of independence.”
Charles A. Kupchan, director of European studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, bewails that “the Balkans as a whole have slipped off the radar screen” and sees the formal separation of Kosovo from Serbia as a welcome opportunity to put the region back on the map. Kupchan added that the situation in Kosovo holds important lessons for the United States’ effort at nation building in Iraq.
The billionaire “philantropist,” currency speculator George Soros, even went to Belgrade on May 27 to tell the Serbs that it was in their interest to support the independence of Kosovo. At a conference in Belgrade’s Hyatt Regency, Soros said that Serbia could be put into the “fast-lane to European integration” in exchange for Kosovo’s independence. Only days before his trip Soros wrote an article in London’s Financial Times (May 22) saying that Kosovo’s independence would be the logical end of Yugoslavia’s disintegration and that Macedonia in particular should be given some assurance that Kosovo’s independence does not herald any further fracturing of Balkan states.
In Washington the consensus among political analysts, including those who oppose any change in Kosovo’s status, is that these pro-Albanian lobbyists intend to package Kosovo’s independence in “realpolitical” terms in their pitch to the Bush administration. They will claim that doing a big favor to a Muslim community—the Albanians—could be subsequently presented as a counterweight to the coming adjustment of the “Road Map” to reflect Mr. Sharon’s many objections, both already stated and yet pending.
The precedent already exists in Mr. Rumsfeld’s pointed invocation, during the war in Afghanistan, of America’s intereventions in Bosnia and Kosovo as the conclusive proof that the United States is not a priori anti-Muslim. The KLA’s Washingtonian friends will claim that strip-mining Serbia costs nothing—the heirs of Zoran Djindjic in Belgrade will do exactly as told, whatever is demanded of them—and yields rich rewards in giving America leverage in appeasing enraged Muslim opinion around the world.
It is to be hoped that this time the bad guys will not succeed. If the Administration goes along with these proposals it will make a mistake for seven main reasons:
1. It will reward mass ethnic cleansing and murder, carried out on a massive scale by the Albanians ever since the beginning of the NATO occupation four years ago;
2. It will condone the principle that an ethnic minority’s plurality in a given locale or region provides grounds for that region’s secession—a precedent that may yet come to haunt America in the increasingly mono-ethnic and mono-lingual Southwest;
3. It will terminally alienate the Serbs, whose cooperation is crucial to making the Balkans finally stable and peaceful, at a time when American energy, money and manpower is more pressingly needed further east;
4. It will create an inherently unstable polity that will be an even safer haven for assorted criminals and Islamic extremists than it is today;
5. It will reignite the war in neighboring Macedonia, where the current semblance of peace is absolutely predicated upon the continuing status quo in Kosovo;
6. It will contribute to further deterioration of relations with the Europeans and Russians with no tangible benefit to the United States;
7. It will commit itself to continuing the Clinton-Gore “nation-building project” in Kosovo that culminated with the bombing of Serbia in 1999—an illogical, immoral, and utterly untenable rearrangement of the Balkan architecture which it would be in America’s interest to reverse, not ratify and make semi-permanent.
This time the “realists” have ample arguments against Cilnton’s model of the new Balkan order that seeks to satisfy the aspirations of all ethnic groups in former Yugoslavia—except the Serbs. Whatever is imposed on them in this moment of weakness, the Serbs shall have no stake in the ensuing order of things. Sooner or later they will fight to recover Kosovo, whatever its “status.” The Carthaginian peace imposed on them today will cause chronic regional imbalance and strife for decades to come. That is not in America’s interest, and therefore should not be condoned.
June 13, 2003
IRAQ EXIT STRATEGY: WINNING WAR, LOSING PEACE?
by Srdja Trifkovic
Since WMDs were not the real reason for attacking Iraq, the question of the war’s true purpose remains unresolved. Almost two months since President Bush announced that “major combat operations” had come to an end the United States appears strangely uncertain of its post-war mission. Dozens of American soldiers have died in accidents and, much more worryingly, in hit-and-run attacks by assailants unknown: mysterious “diehard Saddam loyalists,” Tehran-prompted Shiite fanatics, and bandits who thrive on chaos are all suspected. The number of “peacetime” casualties—averaging a soldier a day—may soon exceed that of combat losses suffered in March-April. The cost of lives apart, keeping some 160,000 U.S. troops in situ costs $3 billion a month (a hundred million a day, seventy grand a minute). Furthermore, the cost of Iraq’s reconstruction—a pressing task regardless of the country’s final political framework—is also unknown, including the distribution of potentially lucrative contracts among many Western hopefuls.
From the realist perspective the cost of Iraqi occupation would be lamentable but necessary and therefore tolerable, if the purpose of blood and money thus expended was spelled out with clarity, honesty, and coherence. This has not been done so far. Since there is no statement of purpose, no exit strategy, and no timetable, widely divergent views and scenarios are vying for the status of “policy.” Although candidate George W. Bush campaigned against Clinton-era “nation building,” his administration now finds itself engaged in the second such operation in the last two years. As we enter what promises to be a long, hot summer of Arab discontent, the mission in Iraq remains open to ad-hoc definitions and manipulative interpretations by special-interest groups within and around the Bush Administration.
The confusion surrounding post-war strategy in Iraq was the subject of a Cato Institute conference last Tuesday (“Getting Out and Moving On: The Second Gulf War and Its Aftermath,” June 10). A dozen analysts of different persuasions shared the podium in two sessions. The resulting debate was somewhat unusual for Washington, where many policy scribes refuse to talk to people who are not their political and ideological allies.
The debate was opened by John Hulsman, the Heritage Foundation Realist-in-Residence, who sees two dangers in Iraq: leaving the place too soon, and staying too long. The first won’t happen: nobody within the Administration is suggesting that the U.S. should pack up and quit regardless of subsequent outcomes. The second danger is real: in the flush of victory the rhetoric in Washington is all too often millenarian, Hulsman says. This rhetoric treats “Iraq” as a nation-state, as a defined and a potentially stable polity that needs a strong dose of American political and economic models of good life. In reality, he warns, the goals, challenges, and expectations of different ethnic and religious groups within Iraq are not reducible to a common denominator. Three different Ottoman provinces of old have not forged a sense of common destiny or common nationhood over the past eight decades. Being an “Iraqi” does not come before one’s Sh’ia, or Kurdish, or even local, tribal-clannish identity.
Since repeated attempts at centralization have failed, in Hulsman’s view the best the United States can do is to recognize this reality and to promote decentralization within a loose framework of the country’s external borders:
First, the Kurds should be given self-rule, and their autonomous polity can be viable in view of the substantial fossil fuel reserves in the northern third of the country. (Oil revenues should be divided on the basis of two-thirds to the regions, one-third to the center.) At the same time Kurdish separatism should be strongly discouraged, and secessionists should be threatened with the unleashing of the Turk if they get too bold.
Second, the Shi’as in the southern third, the country’s plurality, should be allowed to build an autonomous Allahocratic polity—if that is indeed what they long for—and to enjoy the fruits of their own region’s oil wealth. At the same time they should be made aware of the price to be paid—including U.S.-sanctioned re-imposition of Sunni dominance—if Basra’s links with Tehran become too close for America’s comfort.
Third, the Sunni Arabs in the middle (just over a third of the population) should be encouraged to find a silver lining in what is “objectively” a bad scenario for that erstwhile ruling stratum. They will no longer lord over the rest, but Baghdad will still be the capital and the commercial center and the country will remain one in terms of international law and internal commerce.
Hulsman’s model is self-avowedly not exciting. It relies on a mix of rewards and threats for each of the key groups to fit into an American interest-based model of country management. It is non-millenarian, it takes into account “the world as we find it, not as some of us want it to be.”
Joshua Muravchik, a resident scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, countered Hulsman’s expose with an unabashedly ideological blueprint for culture-altering action by the U.S.. His concept was stated vis-а-vis Iraq but he claims that it may apply to any other polity in the region. The goal for Iraq, and the rest of the Middle East, should be democracy. The people want it; the countries need it, even without knowing it. The question is whether it is doable, and how America can make it happen. In Muravchik’s view, democratizing the Middle East is not only a moral imperative but also a demand of U.S. national security. September 11 was a quantitative watershed—thousands of Americans were killed, not dozens, as in Somalia, or hundreds, as in Beirut—but it was not a qualitatively new event. Assorted Arab and/or Islamic terrorists had been killing Americans for years, and 9-11 merely raised the benchmark. The next stage may be to kill Americans not by thousands but by tens or hundreds of thousands, but the underlying threat is the same. It is rooted in the “sick political culture” of the Middle East, delusional, tyrannical, and violent. It is diseased, but it can be cured by democracy.
Can it be done? Muravchik’s categorical answer is “yes”: two-thirds of all governments around the world are now democratic, he claims, which is twice the score of three decades ago. Africans, Latin Americans, and Asians have all chosen the path of liberty. Although no Arab country is democratic, and there has been little progress over the years, he sees no intrinsic reason why the Arab-Muslim world cannot change. It had been claimed that Japan could not become democratic because of its cultural traditions, and similar claims had been advanced at different times about Germany, about other Asian, Latin American, or traditionally Roman Catholic countries—and all have been proven wrong. Iraq can and should be made democratic under American guidance, Muravchik argues, even if it takes years to achieve—but the task is not beyond the United States, the main engine of the spreading of democracy in the world. It entails training a new elite and building new institutions. The first task is to have elections for the constitutional assembly; a general election should follow the adoption of a democratic constitution. All along, strong American presence and commitment is essential to success.
Christopher Preble, director of foreign policy studies at Cato Institute, presented a diametrically opposed view. He warns that a long period of military occupation is the surest way to turn victory into defeat. The United States can be “engaged” in Iraq without maintaining a quasi-permanent armed presence on the ground. Maintaining permanent bases in a hostile landscape is not militarily justified, and the latest war proves that temporary facilities and long-distance operations will get the job done. Keeping an occupation force to “promote democracy” is even less justified, as it will produce the opposite result. It will breed resentment and anger, and provide recruits for terrorist networks. Every day that the U.S. remains in Iraq in the pursuit of a particular system of government, Preble says, the moderates will grow weaker and the extremists will become emboldened: “This is the classic Catch-22 of nation-building efforts. The harder an occupying government tries to build a nation, the higher the likelihood that the citizens of the nation being ‘built’ will grow to resent the efforts of well-meaning foreigners.”
Preble’s view is that American efforts in Iraq should be limited, focusing solely on the swift transitioning to an Iraqi interim government empowered to move toward self-rule. Beyond that, the United States must be willing to accept the wishes of the Iraqi people and should not assume that a friendly government can or should be imposed at the barrel of a gun. It is possible that a “democratic” Iraq will not be friendly to the United States, but the only American concern should be whether it threatens American security.
The second session, chaired by Doug Bandow, started with Alan Tonelson’s frontal attack on neo-Wilsonian impulses in American foreign policy making, manifest in the “mission” to bring democracy to the Middle East. This urge is dysfunctional and dangerous, Tonelson says, it is bound to increase risks and undermine U.S. security. The claim that we must resolve social, political and economic underlying reality that produces threats to the United States is the blueprint for disaster. The “problems” with Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries are nothing but the defining and enduring problems of human condition. Only a spontaneous, organically evolving process of day-to-day interactions may produce enduring political institutions. Even of those problems could be solved by the United States, doing so would produce the risk of imperial over-reach or else demand America’s wholesale shift to war economy footing. What we need instead is more hedging, in the Middle East and elsewhere, including a meaningfully national-security-oriented immigration policy. In U.S. foreign policy the answers begin at home.
Leon Hadar pointed out the parallel between the aftermath of Gulf War One and the situation today: in both cases we encounter inflated expectations and exaggerated claims (“Peace Process Reloaded”). What we’ll get instead is another addition to the graveyard of Great Middle Eastern Expectations. The latest episode in the “peace process” is reminiscent of G. B. Shaw’s quip about marriage as “triumph of hope over experience.” In Iraq, too, the old British imperial script is being re-enacted with a neo-Wilsonian soundtrack. The promoters of “democracy” in the region should realize that the Middle East is a kaleidoscope in which everything impacts everything else. An outside power may enter and change the configuration, but it cannot control the outcome. The result of American “engagement” may prove detrimental to U.S. interests: is an ultra-religious Shia Iraq better than Saddam’s Iraq? “Democratization” of the Middle East would bring to power various forces far more hostile to the United States than many current (undemocratic) regimes are right now. It is far more advisable to engage the Europeans, to whom this region matters far more than to the United States, and to lower the expectations. In Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, Hadar concludes, American policy-makers should resist “social conceit” and pursue specific and definable interests.
On balance most participants were in agreement with this view, but pessimistic about the ability and willingness of the Bush administration to refrain from a long, dangerous, and ultimately self-defeating entanglement. In informal discussions after the conference several analysts have expressed the opinion that the Iraqi mission is already in trouble, and may turn into a major electoral liability for the President unless an exit strategy is devised and applied in the very near future.
May 31, 2003
OPTIONS FOR IRAN
by Srdja Trifkovic
Is Iran next? That question seems far more urgent today than it was two weeks ago. The Washington Post declared, on May 25, that the White House “appears ready to take on an aggressive policy of trying to destabilize the Iranian government.” BBC’s Washington correspondent Justin Webb reported on May 29 that a new, tougher stand by the Bush administration “could conceivably end in an Iraq-style standoff, perhaps even in a war.” Moscow’s Nezavisimaya Gazeta claimed on the same day that Washington has drawn up plans for military action against Iran using not only its newly acquired bases in Iraq, but also some in Azerbaijan. Hong Kong’s Asia Times noted, in its May 31 issue, that in the U.S. “one can already hear orchestrated drums beating for a regime change in Iran.”
In Saddam’s case three arguments for the regime change had been invoked before the war: his links with terrorists, his possession of weapons of mass destruction, and the brutality of his regime. Senior U.S. officials now level the first two of those charges against Iran, and their language is strongly reminiscent of anti-Saddam rhetoric a year ago. The third accusation concerns Teheran’s alleged interference in Iraqi affairs, specifically its supposed encouragement of Shiite militants in southern Iraq.
Teheran’s support for terrorists is treated as an established fact. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said matter-of-factly that al-Qaeda terrorists were present in Iran, and U.S. intelligence sources say that the planners of the deadly suicide bombings of three housing complexes in Saudi Arabia on May 12 were based in Iran. Mr. Rumsfeld also warned that an attempt to remake Iraq in its image would be “aggressively put down.” Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Richard Myers told NBC TV on May 26: “The issue with Iran is pretty clear. We have to eliminate the safe havens where the terrorists are, and Iran of course has some of the al-Qaeda members. The reports are that al-Qaeda has been in Iran off and on for some time, particularly after our actions in Afghanistan.” Gen. Myers also declared that “Iranian-backed forces and organizations are in Iraq right now trying to influence events there, to the coalition’s detriment.” The senior Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, Jane Harman, says Teheran should have been the focus of attention all along because of its support for the Hezbollah and because of its nuclear program. “It is time for a free Iran,” Michael Ledeen concludes in the tone of Cathago delenda: “Revolutions don’t happen by themselves.”
On the nuclear issue, it seems likely that Iran is building several uranium-enrichment facilities in violation of its signing of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. On May 29 an Iranian opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), reported at a Washington press conference the existence of two previously undisclosed uranium enrichment facilities. The group claims the government in Teheran is trying to protect its weapons program from air attack by dispersing plants. While it makes perfect sense for Iran to seek security in nuclear weapons in order to avoid Saddam’s fate, its nuclear program—if proven—would present a direct challenge to President Bush’s repeatedly stated intention not to permit “the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.”
Each of those three charges has the potential to become the next casus belli; taken together, they form a powerful mix and may provide justification for pre-emptive action in accordance with the national security strategy inaugurated last September. That action is unlikely to take the form of outright military attack, however. The debate on Iran within the Administration is far from over. Officials are split about whether to isolate, destabilize, or engage the mullahs. Mr. Rumsfeld’s team is promoting an aggressive policy as usual, and the State Department is advocating multilateral approach, dialogue, and quiet diplomacy. “Our policy towards Tehran is not destined to change,” says Colin Powell, but he never has the last word. We may safely predict that he will lose this argument, just as he has lost all others, but even assuming that the hawkish line prevails it is unlikely that there will be another war.
An Iraqi-style invasion would present enormous difficulties. Iran is much bigger than Iraq, with three times the population. While its regime of Shiite clerics is authoritarian it is not a terminally corrupt autocracy of Saddam’s ilk. When Iraq attacked in 1980 it was shown that the regime could count on considerable popular support on nationalist, rather than religious grounds. People would resist an American attack—and it would have to be a strictly American undertaking: not even Britain would support it. With the ongoing mess in Iraq, and with the chronic instability in Afghanistan unresolved, not even the most hawkish of Mr. Rumsfeld’s advisors are audacious enough to advocate an “Operation Iranian Freedom” any time soon.
What we are likely to witness instead is a mix of political pressure, psychological operations, and covert action. The Iraq-based Mojaheddin-e-Khalq, a group within the umbrella Iranian resistance council, will be removed from the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations and allowed to expand its operations. Its activists will receive CIA money and training, and infiltrate Iran from US-controlled safe havens. Government-funded institutions in Washington, such as the National Endowment for Democracy, will channel funds to Iranian reformists, the independent media, and student organizations. There will be pressure on the EU to limit links with Teheran. Russia will be asked to cancel its nuclear power contract. (The Russians will agree, albeit at a price—contracts for Lukoil in Iraq, say—and justify that decision by saying that it is not in its interest to have a radical Islamic regime with a nuclear potential in its southern neighborhood.) Specific U.S. demands on Iran will concern short-notice inspections of its nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency—echoes of Hans Blix here—and an end to its support for the Hizbullah and hard-line Palestinian groups.
While the Europeans will drag their feet they will be keen to avoid another Iraq-style confrontation; the Russians will be bought; while Israel and its friends in Washington will enthusiastically support this course. The Jerusalem Post set the tone by declaring, on May 23, that the prime danger to U.S. national security is in the dark allies of Teheran. The U.S. should be using all its leverage throughout the world to prevent the ayatollahs from acquiring nuclear weapons, the paper says: “The price the U.S. paid in 1990 for ignoring Saddam Hussein in favor of pressuring Israel was the Gulf War. The price it will pay for repeating the mistake with Iran will be a nuclear nightmare.”
Will it work? Iran’s “Islamic democracy” allows a degree of pluralism and a strong reformist movement has taken root in all the usual places: students, middle classes, the young and educated. The danger is that increased U.S. pressure will play into the hands of Islamic militants and open the reformers to the charge of treason. Pro-government papers in Teheran, such as Jomhuri-ye Eslami, are already suggesting that “the enemy is preparing the ground for its lackeys,” and are calling on the country’s law enforcement and the judiciary “not to wait for their superiors before acting decisively.” The destabilization of the relatively moderate Khatami government may result in a regime more reminiscent of the darkest days of Ayatollah Khomeini. It may indeed prove to be less stable, but also more dangerous and unpredictable.
The pressure will almost certainly prompt the regime to accelerate its nuclear weapons program, rather than cancel it. The case for doing so is reinforced by the example of North Korea: having nuclear weapons seems to be the only reliable means of avoiding Saddam’s fate. Even if no Russian technology is available, Pyongyang may be tempted to fill the gap—even by providing a couple of fully assembled, off-the-shelf weapons.
The fundamental question is simple: why should the United States do anything in particular “about Iran”? The claim that it is harboring and helping Sunni terrorists remains unproven, and—if true—would represent a major shift in policy, the one that could and should be reversed under coordinated international pressure. If it seeks nuclear weapons, it is only following in the footsteps of other regional powers, Israel, India, and Pakistan. The notion that it would seek to threaten the United States is preposterous, and that is the only threat that should determine U.S. policy. If it takes an interest in its co-religionists in Iraq, it is doing no more than Pakistan in Kashmir—and certainly less than Turkey in Cyprus. In any event, if Iraq’s Shia majority wants a theocracy it will have it in the end, regardless of Iranian prompting or American disapproval. The place, and the region, should be left to their own devices. Constructive American disengagement from the Middle East is a sound alternative to ever-greater commitments that are risky, expensive, and ultimately futile.
May 30, 2003
THOSE WHO JOIN WILL BE SORRY, THOSE WHO DO NOT WILL PAYSERBIA IN NATO?
An Interview With Srdja Trifkovic
On Thursday, May 29th, Serbia’s top-circulation daily newspaper, Glas Javnosti, published a full-page interview with our foreign affairs editor on the subject of Serbia and Montenegro’s proposed membership of NATO’s Partnership for Peace PfP) program (www.glas-javnosti.co.yu/danas/srpski/T03052801.shtml). Complete translation follows:
Dr. Srdja Trifkovic on the dilemma: Does Serbia need NATO, does NATO need Serbia?
by Srdja Trifkovic
The visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels by Serbia-Montenegro’s defense minister Boris Tadic on May 7 marked another step towards Belgrade’s formal inclusion in the so-called Partnership for Peace, the first step to eventual membership in the North Atlantic Alliance. That this option was in the works became obvious last fall, when two semi-official emissaries from Washington visited Belgrade and said that, in the opinion of President George Bush, Serbia ought to join NATO by 2006. We ask Dr. Srdja Trifkovic, Director of the Center for International Affairs at The Rockford Institute, what advantages would Serbia derive from its membership in PfP and then NATO.
Absolutely none. Partnership for Peace is a waiting room that imposes significant obligations on its members and yields no returns. As for NATO membership, the first point worth making is just how morally problematic it would be to join an organization that carried out an aggressive war against Serbia in 1999, subjected it to 78 days of brutal bombing, and then occupied a part of its sovereign territory [Kosovo] from which the Serbs have been expelled.
That NATO burst into Kosovo as an illegal occupier, thanks to the terrorist bombing of Serbian cities and villages, is beyond any doubt. That occupation is illegal, and Serbia has an inalienable right, sooner or later, to recover its sovereignty over its territory. By entering Partnership for Peace, and perhaps NATO, Serbia would become an accomplice in its own carving up. It would lose the only asset left after the war of 1999: the moral status of a victim of aggression. Let us be clear: By entering NATO Serbia would implicitly accept that the military intervention against it had been justified, with all consequences that would follow from such an admission.
Of course there had been some individuals in Serbia then, as there are some now, who think that this would not be a bad thing, that those were just deserts. By joining NATO they want Lord Robertson to become their secretary-general, and Jamie Shea their spokesman. If such a far-reaching decision was subjected to the democratic decision of the citizens–as it would have to be–there is no doubt they would reject it with disgust.
Wouldn’t it be costly to stay outside NATO?
Quite the contrary, its membership would be very costly. As we’ve seen in other East European countries, by joining PfP and then NATO they were obliged to attune their military to certain standards. Already impoverished, Serbia would be expected to buy expensive military hardware, primarily American-made, that is unnecessary to its real defense needs. How would it help Serbia to have F-16 fighters in the struggle against Albanian terrorists in the region of Bujanovac and Presevo? As we’ve witnessed in Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic, billions of dollars spent on NATO membership are not even subjected to public debate.
Would it not be dangerous for Serbia to be the only Balkan country outside NATO?
There are well-meaning commentators who think that the country should join Partnership for Peace, and then NATO, so as to obtain a more just treatment for Serbia by the power holders in the outside world. There is no proof for this claim. Such membership does not guarantee, by itself, that disputes among members will be mediated in a just and even-handed manner. Specifically, possible disputes between Serbia and central authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina over the status of the Republika Srpka, or between Serbia and Albania over the status of Kosovo, or between Serbia and Croatia over the return of refugees and their rights, would not be necessarily judged more favorably for the Serb side than before. A good example is provided by the disputes between Greece and Turkey.
In 1974 Turkey carried out an illegal invasion of Cyprus and ethnically cleansed the Greeks from the northern part of the island. This naturally caused deep anger in Greece and was deeply detrimental to Greek national interests, but Greece was powerless to do anything. Both countries were NATO members, but that did not mean that they enjoyed equal treatment. Quite the contrary, throughout the Cyprus crisis it was clear that the Americans were supporting Turkey, not because the Turks had law and justice on their side – which they did not – but because the United States regarded Turkey as a far more important strategic partner.
The advocates of NATO membership also mention processes of integration from which we should not be excluded?
Serbia needs to be integrated into Europe, and North Atlantic Alliance is increasingly seen as a barrier to the process of European integration. Furthermore, let us not forget that by joining NATO a state agrees to have its sovereignty curtailed. It will no longer have a single service, a single document marked “Top Secret,” that will not be subjected to the oversight and control from the outside.
American intelligence officers will no longer need to pay for information obtained from their local agents in cash or restaurant meals. [NB: Allusion to the scandal surrounding former Yugoslav Army Chief of Staff, General Momcilo Perisic. He was videotaped in a restaurant last year by the Yugoslav military counter-intelligence as he handed a folder with secret documents to an American “diplomat” in Belgrade by the name of John Neighbor. Mr. Neighbor gave Gen. Perisic an envelope filled with $100 notes, and was about to pay the bill as they were both apprehended. The diplomat was swiftly withdrawn by the State Department; Gen. Perisic enjoys immunity from prosecution as a government coalition deputy.] Partnership for Peace will be only the first step in a process that demands the full subjugation of the armed forces to the “civilian control.”
When we see who are the “controllers,” both domestic ones who are at least known and foreign ones who are not, we can appreciate the catastrophic consequences of such a move. It is unfortunately in line with the determination of Djindjic’s political heirs to dismantle all institutions – from the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts to the University – in which the concept of defining and maintaining Serbian national interests has not been completely eradicated.
Would we get something in return?
Nothing! It is obvious that from the point of view of the United States, as the chief NATO Power, all former Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe are to be treated as American satellites and a counterweight to the “Old Europe,” that is, to the Franco-German axis within the European Union. That “Old Europe” is trying to resist faits accomplis, and from the standpoint of national strategy it is a far more natural geopolitical partner to Serbia. Geographically, economically, and culturally the Serb lands also belong to the Mediterranean, Danubian-Panonian, and Central European regions. It is within those parameters that Serbia should evaluate its interests and create its bilateral alliances. NATO membership would disrupt that process. Serbia would tie its hands by entering an organization that, after the collapse of the USSR, has no justification for its continued existence – except as an auxiliary tool of maintaining the only remaining superpower’s global hegemony.
It is not far-fetched to expect that Serbia would be obliged to participate in military interventions similar to the one it has been subjected itself, or else to send its military contingents as part of some future “coalition” in the deserts of Arabia or the wastelands of Central Asia.
Are Serbia and Montenegro obliged to join these organizations [PfP and NATO]?
The basic obligation of political decision-makers in Serbia and Montenegro is to their citizens, and not to some mystical “international community.” That obligation entails defining and promoting national interests in a pragmatic, value-neutral manner. Insistence by the present power structure in Belgrade on drawing closer to NATO would be interpreted by the “Old Europe” as opting for the ranks of the newly-fangled American satellites. Those European countries could respond with certain moves that are detrimental to Serb national interests – specifically in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Let us not forget that in those provinces it is the EU that has controlled all key positions through its local bosses, from Westendorp and Petritsch [in Bosnia] to Haekkerup and Steiner [in Kosovo]. If there was any intent in Belgrade to creatively model different foreign policy scenarios, I think that the current rivalry between the dominant states of the EU on one side and the United States on the other would offer considerable scope for action. Unfortunately, with the current ruling team that is not possible.
[Interviewer: Boba Borojevic]
March 22, 2003
SADDAM’S DISAPPEARANCE: MYSTERIOUS OR COREOGRAPHED?
by Srdja Trifkovic
Among the many reasons for war stated at different times, in its diplomatic efforts at the Security Council and elsewhere the Bush Administration opted for the mission to “disarm Iraq” of its weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). The official casus belli was supported by claims of reliable and detailed U.S. intelligence data that could not be fully disclosed without jeopardizing the sources. No such weapons have been found thus far, however, and even if some are eventually discovered in a hospital basement or a deserted warehouse a few cynics will inevitably suspect that the evidence is suspect.
With the beginning of armed action on March 20 the emphasis suddenly shifted to regime change. That this was the war against Saddam personally, and for Iraq’s liberation, was reflected in the very name given to the operation. It therefore stands to reason to expect that the endeavor will be considered neither complete nor completely successful unless the dictator was captured or otherwise accounted for. And yet the mystery surrounding Saddam’s apparent disappearance is beginning to be downplayed by various U.S. civilian and military officials in a manner that may suggest a prearranged deal.
Contrary to some early reports there is no doubt that Saddam survived the initial “Shock and Awe” attack on March 20. In one video, made three days later, he accurately referred to the downing of an Apache helicopter, and in another there was a plume of smoke in the background consistent with the position of a target hit the previous night.
On April 7, we are told, the Air Force made another attempt on his life, this time based on real-time intelligence of a forthcoming meeting between Saddam, both his sons and several top Ba’ath Party officials. A B-1 bomber dropped four tons of precision-guided ordnance on Al-Saah restaurant in Baghdad’s upper-crust suburb of Mansur where the meeting was supposedly taking place. In the aftermath of that attack Saddam, his sons, and most of his key aides simply vanished. Within days U.S. military sources suggested that communications “chatter” from Iraqi lower ranks indicated that he was dead. On April 10 London-based Arabic newspapers Al-Hayat and Asharq al-Awsat quoted witnesses as saying Saddam appeared near the Azamia (transliterated in some reports as Aadhamiya) mosque in northern Baghdad on April 9—the day Saddam’s massive statue was pulled down and its decapitated head dragged through the streets—but the news was not given any prominence in the U.S. media. Those reports corroborated an account by a former Iraqi army officer given to Reuters.
The bombed-out site of the house in Mansur has been in American hands for over a week—and the mystery of Saddam’s fate started taking strange turns. Some U.S. officials declared that he was probably killed on April 7, but “the odds of finding Saddam and his sons in the debris are doubtful as Saddam loyalists have had plenty of time to sift through the dust” and remove any remains. This is contradicted by the ability of forensic scientists to identify DNA traces of thousands of different victims even in the incalculably bigger pile of rubble in New York’s Ground Zero. But Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld nevertheless warned at an April 11 briefing that no conclusive proof may be forthcoming: “These sites are not like this press room. These are big places with lots of acres.” Gen. Richard B. Myers, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, declared that “digging in rubble” is not a priority. On April 13 the White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. opined that the Iraqi dictator is probably dead but that the evidence remains inconclusive.
There is no visible rush to establish the facts. Knight-Ridder Newspapers and others reported Thursday that there was no sign that U.S. forces were looking for Saddam’s remains at the site in Mansur, though there was a steady stream of pedestrians who stopped and gawked at the rubble-filled hole. Mourning banners mark the site for people known to have died, and “the mystery surrounding Saddam is only deepened by the disappearance of some of the best-known, most dreaded members of his Baath Party—not killed, not captured, not lynched by angry neighbors. Just vanished.”
Earlier this week other US officials started stressing that the success of the campaign does not hinge on Saddam’s fate. “If we don’t find every one of them, but we can account that the regime is not in place, then we have succeeded and we believe we have succeeded,” Brigadier General Vincent Brooks told journalists at US Central Command in Qatar. The new pitch was based on the assertion that we may never know the truth, but the issue is in any case irrelevant. On April 17 hundreds of daily newspapers all over the United States carried an Associated Press dispatch from Qatar under the headline “Saddam, Dead or Not, Is History.” His case is already treated as “an unsolved mystery” that may not matter a great deal since his “unmourned demise” is an accomplished fact and his images are fading fast from the streets of Iraq. “It really doesn’t matter where he is. There is no chapter of Saddam Hussein to close,” Abdel Moneim Said, head of Egypt’s Al Ahram Center for Strategic Studies, was quoted as saying. Even if no one ever knows what happened, it will not have any political impact: “The story of Saddam will gradually vanish; a week from now, probably, he will be totally forgotten.”
According to our usually reliable sources in the British intelligence community, however, what we are now witnessing is a prearranged performance. They assert that a deal had been cut with Saddam even before the first shots were fired, “in which the US would pretend they had killed him and his gang and in exchange there would be no fighting.” Only days before the war Saddam was offered the option of going into exile by Mr. Bush, the theory goes, but he felt that he could not give up without a token fight. That fight was also necessary to the United States in order to establish the kind of control over Iraq that would not have been possible in case of internal regime change. Allowing Saddam and his entourage to slip out of the country, assume new identities, and quietly enjoy their billions of stolen dollars was considered a price well worth paying in return for a quick, relatively bloodless victory that also turned out to be much cheaper than originally estimated in Washington.
This scenario seems to have been confirmed by subsequent events. According to our British sources, the odd bits of fighting here and there, especially in the first week, “may have just been a warning to the US not to renege on the first deal.” The American government is known to break promises, and “Saddam was too wily to trust them.”
The lack of truly significant captures—never mind the half-brother who allegedly headed the Iraqi intelligence twenty years ago—is certainly odd. Like the lack of a battle in Tikrit, it is also natural if they have all gone, including not only Saddam but also information minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, the president’s powerful sons, Odai and Qusai, Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, and Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan.
Our informants assure us, however that the facts of the case concerning Saddam’s disappearance will not remain obscure for ever: “this will spill out later as the spooks are boiling mad and in the mood to tell us things again.”
April 14, 2003
“OPERATION FREEDOM”: WHO’S NEXT?
by Srdja Trifkovic
The “evolving” concept of international legality was invented by the multilateralist Left to justify Bill Clinton’s aggression against Serbia in March 1999. At that time “humanitarian intervention” was eagerly embraced by those same Euro-Socialists—Schroeder, Solana, Prodi, et al.—who were in the forefront of opposition to President Bush’s war in Iraq. With the bombing of Belgrade they paved the way for the erosion of sovereign statehood, the pillar of the Law Between Nations since 1648. The one-worlders duly snatched Kosovo for the benefit of KLA pimps and dope-pushers and claimed a great and glorious victory, but in the aftermath of the war in Iraq the fruits of that victory belong to a very different group: to the neoconservative unilateralists in the United States. Their own version of “humanitarian intervention” is the doctrine of pre-emption, inaugurated in September 2002 and tested this spring. Its advocates will call the initial result an unqualified success, and the precedent is likely to be applied to new operations containing “freedom” in their name.
There are dozens of countries as worthy of liberation from brutal oppression all over the globe. In the Middle East Saudi Arabia should top the list, the ugliest Islamo-Fascist freak show the world has ever seen. To the north of the region recycled Communist apparatchiks rule most former Soviet Central Asian republics with an iron hand. Further east, in addition to North Korea, the likes of Pakistan, Burma, Vietnam, and of course communist China come to mind. In Africa the candidates are a penny a dozen, from the unspeakable Robert Mugabe in the south to the mass killers and enslavers of Christians in Sudan and Mauritania. In Europe the prime candidate is Serbia, in which more egregious human rights abuses have been taking place in the aftermath of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic’s killing on March 12 than under Milosevic. None of the above will be hit, however, either because they are irrelevant (Africa), or because they are too powerful (China), or because their governments are our obedient servants (Pakistan, Serbia, etc). The candidates for liberation have to satisfy several important conditions: they should be
1. Relevant to the prevailing Washingtonian ideological mindset;
2. Militarily easy to conquer;
3. Easily Hitlerized; and
4. Unlikely to obtain significant foreign political support.
“Operation Cuban Freedom” is possible even without being probable. Ideologically relevant to the Bush Administration, weak, evil, and isolated? A candidate with impeccable prima facie credentials on all four counts can be seen from Key West on a clear day. Economically Cuba is a basket case, and its military has not been able to replace its ageing Soviet hardware for a generation. The popular base of the regime is shaky, and shrinking with the ageing leader’s inability to deliver anything beyond seven-hour speeches.
The recent roundup and jailing of dozens of government opponents, and the summary shooting of three would-be hijackers of a ferry to Florida, may have been a sign that the regime is losing its sureness of touch. Any regime that sentences opposition journalists to 20-plus years in jail after a one-day trial is in serious trouble. It is also easily demonized, and in Castro’s case demonization would be justifiable. Behind the 1960s radical chic, the beard, the cigar, there’s a nasty and brutal dinosaur. The Cuban American National Foundation wants him indicted for crimes against humanity, and its chairman Jorge Mas Santos openly talks of the need for a swift “regime change” in Havana. Exiles argue that the army would not fight, that the people would be delighted to be liberated, and that for Castro’s sake many a Marx’s orphan will protest all over the Western world but no other country would lift a finger. There would be demonstrations outside American embassies in Mexico City, Caracas, or Bogota, they say, but that does not matter.
The end-of-regime party on the streets of Havana would be much more fun than the one in Baghdad, and there would be far less looting because there’s precious little to loot anyway. The problem is that the operation would be too risky to contemplate in a pre-election year. Maybe no more than ten percent of Cubans would resist, but those who do would do so with gusto. The fallout in Latin America could be seriously unpleasant, with leftist populists Chavez back in the saddle in Venezuela and Lula firmly in power in Brazil. What constitutes a suitable casus belli? We have not heard of Cuban WMDs so far, and its once-rampant connections with terrorists such as Carlos seem to have abated. Castro will be dead within a decade anyway, perhaps sooner, and the ensuing regime change will probably produce the same final outcome without any messy pitfalls. “Operation Syrian Freedom” brings us to a more likely candidate. On April 13 President Bush accused Syria of having weapons of mass destruction and of providing refuge to escaping Iraqi leaders: “We believe there are chemical weapons in Syria,” the President said. “Each situation will require a different response and, of course … first things first. We’re in Iraq now, and the second thing about Syria is that we expect cooperation.” These words should give President Bashar al-Assad some food for thought. Mr. Bush pointedly refused to say whether the United States might threaten war against Syria if it did not cooperate with U.S. demands. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also did not discount possibility of armed action. On the same day The Washington Times quoted anonymous U.S. government officials as saying that two Iraqi biological weapons scientists were among those making it to Damascus. In addition watch out for fresh accusations that Syria provides support and refuge for Hamas, Hezbollah, and other radical Islamic groups terrorist groups operating in Israel and Lebanon. “There’s got to be a change in Syria,” Rumsfeld’s deputy Paul Wolfowitz declared weeks ago, and he knows things that Mr. Bush may not even suspect yet. James Woolsey, the former CIA director, last week described Syria as a “fascist” regime that has to be replaced. And finally, Richard Perle, out of his old post but not out of the Administration’s favor, declared last Friday that the United States would be compelled to act if it discovered that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction have been concealed in Syria. The risks of intervening in Syria could be higher than in Iraq, but the signs seem clear: it may well be next, regardless of what its leaders do or say. It is certainly far more likely to be “liberated” than other often mentioned candidates, such as Iran and North Korea. Iran is too big, too populous, and full of people who are fanatically willing to die as martyrs. It would fight, possibly quite well, and even if temporarily defeated it cannot be held under occupation. Any new, “democratic” regime in Teheran would be no more stable than that of the late Shah, with the same or similar final outcome. North Korea has nuclear bombs, its also has literally tons of chemical and biological weapons, and it could obliterate the city of Seoul even with its conventional artillery. Its leader is unpredictable and possibly reckless. In extremis he would unleash all that he has and the results would be ghastly, for millions of South Koreans and tens of thousands of U.S. troops stationed south of the 38th parallel. The fact that we are calmly contemplating the possibility of the United States waging wars against half-dozen countries around the world that are not directly threatening American security indicates the extent to which the world—and America itself—have changed over the past decade. International relations are now dominated by “doctrines” that have replaced the Law of Nations in the name of ideological constructs. Both the Doctrine of Pre-emption today and the Clinton Doctrine four years ago were based on the old Brezhnev doctrine, which was used as a pretext for the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968. The communist Brezhnev Doctrine, the multilateralist-globalist Clinton Doctrine and the unilateralist-neoconservative Preemption Doctrine all negate the sovereign nation-state and provide a “modern,” self-validating, Gnostic replacement for the traditional model of politics between nations. In doing so they undermine the concept of nationhood itself.
April 12, 2003
THE AMAZING VANISHING IRAQI ARMY
by Srdja Trifkovic
A week is a long time in politics but now we know that it can be even longer in war. It was only a week ago that we, among others, warned of the dangers of storming Baghdad, “with three divisions of the Republican Guard and unknown thousands of irregulars embedded into the sprawling city’s residential quarters.” While pockets of disjointed resistance still remain to be mopped up in some parts of the capital and the north of the country is yet to be secured, it is now clear that the Iraqi military has collapsed without a real fight.
The outcome of this war had never been in doubt, but the magnitude and speed of that collapse are nevertheless puzzling and deserve closer scrutiny. In terms of numbers and equipment available to it the Iraqi military was theoretically a foe worthy of respect. Its past performance was mixed but by no means abysmal. It suffered serious reverses in the early stages of the 1980-1988 Iraq-Iran War, but it did not disintegrate even when casualties started running into hundreds of thousands. In the closing stages of that war, when the Iranians turned the tables on the attackers and entered southern Iraq, it fought reasonably well and held its ground in the face of relentless attacks by human waves of Khomeini’s Pazdarans. In 1991 the Iraqi army was comprehensively beaten by the U.S.-led coalition in Kuwait, losing almost a half of its inventory, but the crushing magnitude of that defeat—in addition to the enormous superiority of the Coalition—was due to Saddam’s military ineptitude. Placing tight columns of slow-moving armor on open roads and trying to hold thinly spread, fixed defensive positions was exactly what General Norman Schwarzkopf wanted him to do. With the Coalition completely dominating the air the Iraqis were doomed, no less than Rommel in Tunisia in 1943, or Rundstedt at the Falaise Gap in 1944.
The ensuing demoralization and meltdown of regular troops did not spread to the Republican Guard units, as the rebelling Shias of southern Iraq learned to their peril. Even after the fiasco in Kuwait the Iraqi army remained the largest in the Middle East and nominally the strongest in the Gulf, numbering 430,000 regular troops and close to half-million reservists and militiamen. The UN sanctions had prevented refurbishment of its military, but of its 2,000 tanks about 800 were T-72s or better and it also had 2,000 armored vehicles of other types, up to 2,000 artillery pieces, as well as countless mortars, mines, RPGs, and small arms. The Iraqi army certainly lacked offensive capabilities, its air defenses were practically gone, and its ability to halt US-UK advance in open field non-existent. Nevertheless, its scope for fluid defense—passive deceit, dispersal into urban areas, and guerrilla tactics—was considerable. Skillfully deployed, boldly handled and aptly commanded, even with its limited resources it could have created difficulties of the kind encountered by the U.S. troops in the first week of the war. Hit-and-run tactics, surprise raids on supply columns, and resistance from fortified urban strongholds offered the regime its only even remotely viable strategy for survival: to gain time, to cause civilian suffering, to inflict casualties on the “Coalition,” to prompt third-party political pressure, and to hope for eventual rise of domestic opposition to the war in the U.S.
That none of this happened was primarily due to the interdependent issues of morale and the nature of Saddam Hussein’s regime. To put it somewhat crudely, that regime combined the lethal brutality of other Oriental despots (Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Kim) with the operatic inefficiency of Mussolini. Saddam’s claim from 1980, that “Iraq is as great as China, as the Soviet Union, as the United States,” was almost as ridiculous as the Duce’s pretense to parity with the great powers of his time. The boast of a “million-men army” of the former was as hollow as the latter’s myth of the otto milioni di baionette. In both cases the ambition of the leader was at odds with the capacity of his power base. Saddam could deal with the Kurds, and Mussolini with the Ethiopians, but against first-class powers they were out of their league. In both cases bluster was the substitute for strategy, and defeat preordained by the unwillingness of the leader to test his assumptions against reality, and the understandable reluctance of his entourage to question those assumptions. One immediate consequence of Saddam’s autocratic rule was an officer corps unable and unwilling to take risks and display initiative. Iraqi commanders of tactical units in previous two wars, lieutenants and captains of 12-15 years ago, could have provided Saddam with a pool of battle-tested, experienced candidates for top brass positions today. This did not happen: political loyalty—defined as blind obedience to the leader and tribal kinship—was the ticket to promotion, while even the suspicion of the slightest disagreement with Saddam was tantamount to a death warrant. The climate of fear and insecurity reigned supreme in the Iraqi military ever since Saddam summarily executed over three hundred senior officers in the aftermath of a failed major offensive against Iran in 1982. The result in the field was predictable: the bridges over the Euphrates, to take a small but significant example, were not blown up because retreating commanders lacked specific order to do so. The paralysis was comparable to what happened in the Red Army in the aftermath of Stalin’s purges of 1936-38, leading to the near-complete immobility of its command and control structure in the first months of the Barbarossa.
This brings us to another parallel with 1941, the importance of political warfare. Had Hitler called his attack “Operation Russian Freedom,” had he presented it from the outset as the war against a cruel, dictatorial regime and not against the Russian people, the Wehrmacht could have staged a victory parade in the Red Square within months. Stalin was saved by the self-proclaimed goal of the Reich to conquer the Lebensraum in the East and clear it of the Slavic Untermaensch. He hastily reopened the churches, invoked the ghosts of Suvorov and Kutuzov, and went on to fight the “Great Fatherland War.” Saddam tried to do something similar, invoking Allah, pan-Arabism, and even Nabuchodonosor, but—unlike the Russians—his long-suffering subjects knew that the option of surrendering was available and that it offered some interesting possibilities. We should not be misled by the scenes of joy in Baghdad into believing that most Iraqis actually like having American troops in their streets, but very few were prepared to risk their lives to prevent it from happening.
Support for Saddam did not “collapse at the first whiff of gunpowder,” as Richard Perle had predicted. Nevertheless, the character of his personal regime precluded the creation of necessary conditions for a sustained, patriotically motivated defense of Iraq. It is almost finished; once the job is done let us hope that Mr. Bush will have the wisdom and prudence to leave Iraq to the Iraqis.
April 10, 2003
AN INNOCENT ABROAD: POWELL IN BELGRADE
by Srdja Trifkovic
Secretary of State Colin Powell made a brief visit to Belgrade on April 2. It was the third visit by a top American official to the Serbian capital since June 1991, when then-Secretary of State James Baker made a failed bid to persuade Serb, Croat, and Slovene leaders to preserve the old Yugoslav federation and avoid war.
Twelve years ago Mr. Baker left Belgrade expressing disdain for his interlocutors and saying how sorry he felt for the people of Yugoslavia. Mr. Powell, on the other hand, was full of praise for the Serbian government. Following a meeting with Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic, he stated that that he came to Belgrade “to demonstrate strong United States support for Serbia and Montenegro” following the assassination, on March 12, of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic (see this). Of Djindjic’s successors at Serbia’s helm Mr. Powell said the following:
“I am absolutely delighted with what I have heard about the commitment that they have made to reform. Reform of the type started by the late Prime Minister, and reforms that are underway and the aggressive action that is being taken against criminals and others who would corrupt and destroy your society, are the greatest tribute you can pay to your late Prime Minister… I am especially pleased to hear how the people have come to the support of the government in these efforts. Success against organized crime and reform of the military will improve cooperation with The Hague Tribunal, an important element of Serbia and Montenegro s international obligations. By carrying through on these obligations, Serbia and Montenegro can look forward to NATO s Partnership for Peace and moving closer to E.U. membership… Just as we are here to help you to achieve democracy, the United States will do everything we can to support Serbia and Montenegro in your aspirations to become an integral part of Europe.”
Later on Mr. Powell reiterated these sentiments: “There is no limit to the areas of cooperation that I think are ahead of us now that the government has committed itself so firmly to reform, so firmly to getting rid of corruption, so firmly to eliminating criminal elements and working with the people in a unified effort to move forward and make this a better society, transparent society, one that will in due course allow this nation to take its place fully in the transatlantic alliance.”
It is hard to believe that Mr. Powell’s compliments were paid to that same government that has used the state of emergency for the past four weeks as a crude but effective tool of crushing dissent, gagging the media, and silencing all forms of political opposition to its own illegitimate rule. Over seven thousand people have been arrested since March 12—the equivalent of 200,000 Americans being locked up in the aftermath of John F. Kennedy’s assassination four decades ago. Not one is officially admitted to have requested medical assistance—a statistical near-impossibility—and none are allowed to see a lawyer for thirty days. Hundreds remain locked up and strictly incommunicado, but that is not enough for Serbia’s justice minister who demands the doubling of remand period to sixty days. There is no end in sight: the state of emergency is limited to thirty days by statute, but a deputy Prime Minister says that it would last “until Serbia is crime-free.” That may well mean ad calendas Graecas.
Just one week after the imposition of the state of emergency, the clampdown on the media in Serbia prompted protests abroad. The International Federation of Journalists issued a statement warning that draconian measures would only make matters worse “by creating an atmosphere of intimidation, fear and ignorance” (). The IFJ specifically protested the closure, on 18 March, of two daily newspapers—Nacional and Dan—as well as the weekly magazine Identidet and several independent radio and TV stations. The closures followed government claims that they carried reports critical of its response to the killing of Djindjic. The IFJ accused the Serbian government of actions “that smack of the worst media controls since the dark days of Milosevic rule.” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White issued a statement condemning the behavior of the Belgrade authorities: “You cannot build democracy by violating human rights and you don’t build public confidence by imposing censorship,” he said and demanded that the restrictions on media be lifted: “Censorship and intimidation were the tools of organized crime in the 1990s. It undermined public accountability and protected the criminals. The last thing the government should do now is to re-impose the very conditions that permit organized crime to flourish… It may be necessary to purge the political and state institutions of individuals who are contributing to the current instability, but there is no excuse for restricting the exercise of professional and independent journalism. The people have a right to know what is being done and to subject the authorities to proper scrutiny.” The following week, on March 25, Human Rights Watch issued a statement in New York saying that restrictions on rights imposed by the Serbian government violated international law. In a letter to Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic it specifically condemned “measures that restrict basic rights.” The organization singled out the ability of the police to detain anyone who “endangers security” for up to thirty days, without access to a lawyer, family members, or judicial review of the detention order. HRW expressed concern over the incommunicado detention without judicial review, particularly in view of many cases of reported ill-treatment of detainees. It urged the Serbian government to lift the ban on contact between detainees and their lawyers and families. The group also suggested that the Serbian government open its detention facilities to independent monitors, saying that could facilitate effective prosecutions, since detainees might otherwise allege at trial that any confession before the investigating judge was extracted under threat of torture or ill-treatment by police during their incommunicado detention. It specifically reminded the Serbian government that its obligation to respect the right to life applies fully, even under the state of emergency. The Serbian minister of interior recently announced that the authorities would “liquidate everybody who resists the police” in its investigations, which goes beyond the strict limitations on the lethal use of firearms by law enforcement officials under international law. And finally, the group joined the IFJ in calling on the government to rescind the ban on media reporting of the reasons for introduction of the state of emergency.
“It is difficult to see how coverage of the social and political circumstances leading to the March 12 assassination and the state of emergency could hinder the investigation, ” said Elizabeth Andersen, executive director of HRW’s Europe and Central Asia division. “Even in these difficult times—maybe even especially now—the authorities must uphold human rights and the rule of law.” The atmosphere of fear and physical and legal uncertainty nevertheless worsened and now equal the darkest times of Milosevic. The killing of Djindjic was probably the result of an intra-gangland settling of scores, the result of the slain Prime Minister’s support for one gangster outfit—the notorious Surcin Clan—against another, the Zemun Clan. This view seems to be supported by the apparent immunity enjoyed by the Surcin gang during the current clampdown. According to one Belgrade source, “it’s like the Russian government’s so-called clampdown on the mafia three years ago, which was in fact Berezovsky’s day of reckoning with Gussinsky.”
At the same time Djindjic’s heirs embarked on constructing increasingly implausible conspiracy theories. At the end of March Deputy Prime Minister Cedomir Jovanovic accused former federal president Vojislav Kostunica—universally known as the paragon of legality and integrity—for having contributed to the “criminalization” of Serbia together with his namesake Vojislav Seselj, the leader of the nationalist Radical Party, and creating the “climate” conducive to Djindjic’s killing. The government subsequently declared that the killing “was part of a plot by self-styled patriotic forces, led by war criminals, war profiteers, patrons, and the inspirers of criminal policies from the ranks of the regime party of Slobodan Milosevic.” Emboldened by the support received from Mr. Powell, the authorities in Belgrade intensified the campaign of vilification of their opponents. Attacks on Djindjic’s policies by opposition parties before March 12—a normal part of the political life—were retroactively called “creation of the climate of murder.” Justice Minister Vladan Batic described those behind Djindjic’s killing as “fanatic disciples” of Milosevic in the army, police, and the courts, who wanted to turn back the clock. Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic said the people guilty of killing Djindjic were also suspected of involvement in war crimes and would be extradited to The Hague if indicted. The conspirators who, we are told, called themselves the “Hague Brotherhood” (sic!) allegedly hoped that the assassination would create widespread chaos and pave the way for a coup. Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, who said that “unbelievable” things were emerging in the Djindjic investigation, indirectly contradicted Batic by saying that it was Seselj who gave orders for the “physical elimination” of Djindjic. Covic claimed that the instructions, which also included the murder of both himself and Education Minister Gaso Knezevic, were given at a “farewell lunch” just before Seselj surrendered to the Hague Tribunal.
“Unbelievable” indeed. Attempts to link the alleged assassins with Kostunica are regarded as frankly ridiculous even by people unsympathetic to the former president. However implausible, they led to the arrest of his former security adviser, Rade Bulatovic, on April 8, along with the former Army security chief General Tomic. The arrests appeared to foreshadow a looming crackdown against Kostunica himself and his Democratic Party of Serbia, which remains the most popular political party by far. Kostunica immediately responded by accusing government officials of links with organized crime, and claimed allegations against his associates were politically motivated: “The tragedy of Djindjic’s assassination and the state of emergency are being used for a crackdown against political opponents,” he said, and asked: “Can you imagine anyone in America condemning the Republicans for Kennedy’s assassination?” The campaign against Kostunica indicates the real government agenda: to eliminate political and media opposition in advance of the lifting of the state of emergency, so that a snap election—with a preordained result—can be called before the opposition recovers and regroups.
Five days after Mr. Powell’s visit, on April 7, Human Rights Watch issued another statement, this time urging the Serbian Government to immediately open its detention facilities to independent observers and lift the ban on contact between detainees and their lawyers and families. It made its request immediately following the accession of Serbia-Montenegro to the Council of Europe, stating that even in times of emergency “no person should be held in isolation without communication with family or a lawyer for more than a few days.” Elizabeth Anderson warned that the “extended incommunicado detention of suspects violates Council of Europe norms.” HRW statement concluded that “the absolute and continued isolation of the detainees is disproportionate to any possible threat to Serbia’s stability.”
Last but by no means least, on the same day, April 7, the Financial Times of London reported that senior European diplomats accredited in Belgrade have warned prime minister Zivkovic against authoritarian policies and demanded the lifting of the state of emergency as soon as possible, reminding him that its extension beyond 30 days was illegal. The diplomats were not named but our source says that they included the ambassadors of France, Germany and Italy.
Our source adds that the efforts of European diplomats will not be taken seriously “for as long as the government of Serbia believes that it is fully authorized by Washington to proceed with its clampdown.” Colin Powell provided that authorization, whether he was aware of it or not. To Mr. Powell’s hosts it became obvious that “democratic reforms” do not signify broad participation of the country’s citizens in the business of governance—although he mysteriously claimed that Djindjic’s heirs enjoyed popular support for their measures—but it denotes the desirable social and political content of government decisions. The outcomes, such as “full cooperation” with The Hague quasi-tribunal—are preordained; the process of reaching them is indicative of “democratic reforms,” thousands of incommunicado arrests notwithstanding.
Mr. Powell’s only excuse for the consequences of his Belgrade visit is ignorance: he was not told by the U.S. Ambassador in Belgrade, William Montgomery, what the real score was, and his desk officers in Washington also kept him in the dark about the dark side of “the aggressive action that is being taken against criminals and others who would corrupt and destroy [Serbian] society.” That excuse is no defense, however: just ask The Hague tribunal.
March 22, 2003
SERBIA AFTER DJINDJIC: THE PLOT THICKENS
by Srdja Trifkovic
The imposition of the state of emergency in Serbia, immediately following the assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic on March 12, was supposedly justified by the need to take resolute measures against the country’s powerful underworld that stands accused of masterminding the murder. Ten days later the mystery surrounding Djindjic’s murder and its aftermath looks more complex and inscrutable than ever. The questions cannot be asked aloud, since Djindjic’s successors are using the state of emergency as a blunt but effective tool of crushing dissent in the media and silencing all forms of political opposition to their own, increasingly illegitimate rule.
The first point that needs to be made is that the state of emergency is illegal. The Government of Serbia is constitutionally empowered to declare it in a given part of its territory, but not to impose it throughout the Republic. That authority is one of the few prerogatives retained by the president of the common state of Serbia and Montenegro, the post currently held by Svetozar Marovic of Montenegro. Since Marovic is an ally of the Montenegrin capo di tutti capi Milo Djukanovic, he is not in the least bothered by such legal niceties for as long as the separatist mafia in Podgorica remains free to conduct its own business as usual.
The second point is that the state of emergency legally cannot be open-ended—theoretically it is an extreme measure limited in duration to a maximum of thirty days—and yet it will probably remain in force for a long time regardless of the statute book. Serbia’s acting president, National Assembly speaker Natasa Micic, has declared that the state of emergency would remain until Djindjic’s murderers have been apprehended and brought to trial. Djindjic’s close aide Cedomir Jovanovic, the 29-year-old student-cum-henchman who has been nominated for the post of a deputy Prime Minister, went one better by saying that the state of emergency would last “until Serbia is crime-free.” With the likes of Jovanovic—a notorious drug-addict—in charge, that may well mean for ever.
In the meantime the atmosphere of fear and physical and legal uncertainty exceeds the darkest times of Milosevic. My usually well informed sources had to resort to temporary e-mail accounts in Internet cafes to communicate what is considered too dangerous to spell out on an open telephone line. Their most intriguing message is that Djindjic’s killing could have been an inside job. Why was Djindjic’s usually tight and efficient security detail so lax on the day of the murder, they ask. Why was the entire area overlooking the back yard of the main government building left uncovered? How was it possible for the three assassins to walk in and out of a building directly facing what should be one of the best guarded spots in the land?
According to one theory, Djindjic’s insatiable power-hunger and sheer hubris eventually doomed him. He was too self-confident and started taking unnecessary risks. In one instance he initially granted one of his former associates the contract for the completion of a freeway from Belgrade to the Hungarian border, but then changed his mind, took the concession away, and gave it to another “businessman.”
Other analysts accept that Djindjic had become too cocky but reject the notion of the underworld connection to the killing. “The mafiosi prefer carefully targeted, clearly goal-oriented killings of smaller fry,” says Zvonimir Trajkovic, who advised former leader Slobodan Milosevic in the early years of his rule and who is a rare interlocutor not insistent on anonymity. Hitting the top politician is counter-productive from their point of view, he says: “You don’t send a message that way, you only cause the kind of reaction that is bad for business.” He is convinced that Djindjic was the victim of political forces within his own establishment, possibly supported from the outside, that prefer Serbia devoid of any strong personality—regardless of that leader’s political preferences.
According to our sources, a named key suspect—Milorad Lukovic known as “Legija,” who headed an elite police unit, the Red Berets, until last year—is almost certainly not the culprit: “Had he pulled it off, there would have been a fully-fledged coup and a new government, not just one death.” Our sources also agree that hundreds of arrests over the past week have not taken the authorities any closer to naming suspects. Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic made a fool of himself when he announced that two of the three suspected gunmen in the assassination had been identified. Appearing on the main state TV channel, he showed a photograph of one of the suspects, and called him “one of the most clearly identified perpetrators.” That photo subsequently turned out to have come from the stolen ID document of a person who bears a strong resemblance to an alleged suspect, but had no involvement in the plot.
Serbia’s hundreds of thousands of strike-prone workers are equally uninvolved in the plot, but the state of emergency has taken their one last weapon away from them. A wave of strikes that swept Serbia’s impoverished industrial heartland in February and early March is over, thanks to the inability of unions to organize public meetings and criticize government policy under the emergency legislation. Two popular daily newspapers have been shut down, and most editors operate in the stifling climate of self-censorship.
More menacingly still, Djindjic’s successor as prime minister of Serbia, Zoran Zivkovic, has announced that there were political motives behind the assassination and that “certain political parties will have to be banned.” His words were echoed by a senior member of the ruling DOS coalition, Social Democratic Party Chairman Slobodan Orlic, who said that two opposition parties effectively provided the “political inspiration of the assassination.” He alluded to the Serbian Radical Party, headed by Vojislav Seselj, who gave himself up to the UN’s war crimes tribunal in The Hague last month, and to the Serbian Unity Party founded by the late paramilitary leader Zeljko Raznatovic known as Arkan. Both parties are ationalist, and both have benefited from the widespread disillusionment with the government’s chronic inability to deliver on its many promises.
Our sources stress that a snap election may be called immediately after the end of the state of emergency—whenever that may be—meaning that no real campaign would be possible by the repressed parties: “Using Djindjic’s death to engineer another four years of loot and plunder for his DOS cronies, even without him on the scene, would provide the true answer to the only real question arising from his death: CUI BONO?”
A BLOODY TRADITION
Mar. 17, 2003
By Srdja Trifkovic
The assassination of Serbia’s powerful prime minister Zoran Djindjic outside the main government building in Belgrade last week is an event of tectonic magnitude, even in a country that has seen more than a fair share of crises, wars and violence over the past decade and a half.
The sudden death of indisputably the most powerful man in Serbia creates a power vacuum unlikely to be resolved swiftly or smoothly.
Djindjic was known to his rivals as the “little Sloba” – an allusion to his political style, similar to that of the former, now disgraced Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. He recognized power as the only currency of politics. Nominally a “pro-Western reformist” and a “democrat,” in pursuit of power he was prepared to disregard constitutional and legal niceties.
Djindjic’s political credo was aptly summarized in his message to a long-time colleague and later foe, Dragoljub Micunovic, whom he replaced as the leader of the Democratic Party eight years ago: “If you want immortality, go to church, not into politics.”
His flamboyant style and lack of scruples gave him the edge over his long-time rival and former federal president Vojislav Kostunica. The latter’s meticulous legalism proved to be – for the time being, anyway – his political undoing. Last month’s transformation of Yugoslavia into a loose union of its last two remaining republics, Serbia and Montenegro, was widely seen as Dindjic’s victory because it led to Kostunica’s removal from office.
Only months earlier, Serbia’s failed presidential election was a boon to Djindjic: The clear winner was Kostunica, but fewer than 50 percent of voters went to the polls, and the result was accordingly voided. (Djindjic deliberately engineered the outcome by refusing to remove an old 50 percent rule from the statute book.) The resulting constitutional imbroglio enabled Djindjic to continue running the government by default and to keep postponing the country’s long-overdue general election.
By creating an inherently unstable situation in which he could run Serbia free from institutional checks and balances, Djindjic made the task of rebuilding stability in the aftermath of his sudden disappearance from the scene that much more difficult.
The military, to take one example, is widely expected to play an important role in the present state of emergency – especially since the record of the police in dealing with political murders is poor – but its top brass are demoralized and demotivated. Furthermore, it is commanded by the supreme defense council of Serbia and Montenegro, a body currently controlled by the Montenegrin separatists from the Party of Democratic Socialists, which creates a potentially fatal disconnect between the Army’s supposed stabilizing role and its political masters. They may have a very different agenda of their own.
The immediate question, who pulled the trigger and why, is unlikely to be resolved any time soon. Belgrade has seen a host of political murders in recent years, including that of Ivan Stambolic, Milosevic’s predecessor in the post of Serbian president; federal defense minister Pavle Bulatovic; and top policeman “Badza” Stojicic.
Violent death is something of a tradition among Serbian leaders, including the legendary leader of its uprising against the Turks, “Black George” Petrovic (1817), Prince Michael Obrenovic (1867), King Alexander Obrenovic (1903), King Alexander Karadjordjevic (1934), and the aforementioned Stambolic.
Some were luckier, but not much: Prince Milos Obrenovic was exiled in 1842, Prince Alexander Karadjordjevic was deposed and exiled in 1858, King Milan Obrenovic was deposed and exiled in 1889, and the last King, Peter II, died in exile during Tito’s rule. Two of Serbia’s recent presidents, Slobodan Milosevic and Milan Milutinovic, are incarcerated at The Hague.
Whoever succeeds Djindjic is well advised to keep his or her life insurance policy well endowed and up to date.
REQUIEM FOR YUGOSLAVIA
February 9, 2003
On February 4 the Federal Assembly in Belgrade formally dissolved the state known as Yugoslavia and replaced it with a loose union of its remaining two republics, Serbia and Montenegro. The lower chamber of the Assembly voted 84-31, confirming an earlier 26-7 vote in the upper chamber. Yugoslav state institutions will continue to operate until a new parliament, president and a council of ministers are appointed in the coming weeks. The agreement is a curious mix of federal and confederal elements and provides for near-complete sovereignty for the two republics, which will be linked only by a small joint administration running defense and foreign affairs.
It remains to be seen whether this event marked the final demise of the troubled Balkan federation. The status of Kosovo remains moot. It is formally part of the new state, just as it had theoretically belonged to the old one, but it is an international protectorate under de facto rule by Albanian criminal gangs. Albanians want nothing less than full independence. They now form an overwhelming majority, as most Serbs and other non-Albanians—ethnically cleansed following the occupation of Serbia’s southern province by NATO in 1999—have not been able to return. In Montenegro the separatists are in power and have no heart in the project mediated by the European Union. They already claim that at the end of the three-year trial period Serbia and Montenegro will inevitably go their separate ways.
Few tears will be shed over Yugoslavia’s disappearance from the political map of Europe, except among a small group of Western diplomats and academics familiar with the country back in President Tito’s heyday. They have a tendency to muse lyrical about the virtues of the old Yugoslav federation. Many of those old Balkan hands have fond memories of the place as it used to be before 1991, and tend to overlook its structural defects that had been present all along.
In reality, from the very moment of its creation, on the ruins of the old Europe at the end of the Great War, until its bloody disintegration seven decades later, Yugoslavia was and unstable entity, constantly beset by national problems. Those problems were dealt with in different ways and with different intentions. They all failed: from the triune centralism of 1919 to the Royalist integralism of 1929; from the quasi-federalism of the Serb-Croat Agreement of 1939 to the Stalinist dictatorship of 1945; and finally, from the postmodernist chaos of Tito’s last period—embodied in the Constitution of 1974—to the doomed attempt of his successors to keep the show on the road, amidst the collapse of communism and the emergence of the new “benevolent global hegemony.”
Those national problems proved impossible to solve, in the “first,” royalist Yugoslavia (1918-1941) no less than the “second,” communist one (1945-1991). Structural deficiencies of each and every “Yugoslavia”—as a state, society, and polity—were fundamental. In no incarnation could it devise a viable political system. It was not a viable entity, but an inherently flawed creation. This simple fact was the root cause of its speedy and ignominious collapse in 1941, and its final disintegration in 1991-1992.
From the outset the issue of Serb-Croat relations was at the core of the Yugoslav problem. Those relations, plagued by an ambiguous legacy of the previous century, were irreparably poisoned by the creation of a deeply flawed common state. The act of unification in 1918, and the decades that followed, drew the final wedge between the two nations “separated by the same language.” Serb-Croat relations would have remained ambivalent but tractable, had the two peoples not been forced under the same roof; it is inconceivable that they would have been any worse than they are today.
Yugoslavia came into being at the end of the Great War On December 1, 1918 the deputies from Croatia’s and Slovenia’s assemblies in Zagreb and Ljubljana came to Belgrade with the offer of unification to Serbia’s Regent Alexander Karadjordjevic. The proclamation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, as the new state was initially known, caught the Allies by some surprise. They were prepared to see Serbia expanded into Hapsburg areas with large Serb populations, but until the very end they were reluctant—perhaps rightly so—to dismember Austria-Hungary. Even President Wilson’s Fourteen Points originally envisaged “autonomous development” for the Dual Monarchy’s nationalities, rather than sovereignty outside its framework. But his espousal of the principle of self-determination unleashed competing aspirations among the smaller nations of Central Europe and the Balkans. They not only hastened the collapse of transnational empires, but also gave rise to a host of intractable ethnic conflicts and territorial disputes that remain unresolved to this day.
Given Serbia’s full century of political and cultural independence prior to Yugoslavia’s birth, its contribution to the Entente in the Great War, and the Serbs’ numeric plurality in the new state, some degree of Serb predominance in its power structure was to be expected. Crudely applied, however, it was often perceived as “hegemony” to the non-Serbs, creating deep resentment especially in Croatia. The Serbian political establishment did not grasp the fact that in 1918 most Croats longed for the creation of their sovereign state, just as most Serbs—had they been asked—would have preferred a strong, secure Serb state to the new amalgam that was forced upon them.
The Serbian establishment erred by default rather than design. Challenges of nation building demanded a new thinking and a departure from the established prewar patterns of political action. And yet it was the old approaches, received political wisdom, and confusion of wishful thinking and reality that prevailed, on all sides, in the first ten years of the new state. The legacy of different cultural, political and religious traditions—most obvious in the case of Serbia and Croatia—was underestimated. This legacy, coupled with uneven economic development and different aspirations of the three “tribes” of the newly-promulgated “nation” could not be overcome by a centralist constitution and unitarist slogans. The Yugoslav dilemma was, in essence, a clash between the Jacobin etatisme, represented by the predominantly French-educated Serbian political establishment, and the old Hapsburg constitutional complexity of historic units.
Separatist tendencies, present most notably in Croatia throughout Yugoslavia’ existence, proved enduring because they were rooted in its mainstream political tradition. This tradition gave rise to an ideology that rested on the axiomatic claim of insurmountable differences—political, cultural, and even racial—between Serbs and Croats, and that produced an unabashedly violent brand of Balkan chauvinism. This ideology had found its radical expression, in the first half of the twentieth century, in the Ustasa (“insurgent”) movement founded by Ante Pavelic between the two world wars. During the Nazi occupation Pavelic and his followers were brought to power and soon embarked on an orgy of genocidal violence against the Serbs who composed a third of the population of the “IndependentState of Croatia.” They also killed all Jews and Gypsies they could lay their hands on.
After the Second World War the victorious Communist regime attempted to sweep the bloody legacy of World War II under the carpet, in the name of (Croat) Marshal Tito’s policy of obligatory ‘brotherhood and unity.’ In the ensuing 45 years the wounds remained unhealed, merely concealed. Tito’s “federalism” was but a misnomer for a grand game of divide et impera, in which the salient objective was to carve up the Serbs, over 40 percent of the population, into as many different units as possible. The Montenegrin and Macedonian “nations” were hastily invented in 1945, and—absurdly—the Muslims of Bosnia were also proclaimed to be a “nation” 15 years later. Tito’s raving voluntarism created a chaotic cauldron that depended on Tito himself as the ultimate arbiter. The communist Yugoslav federation existed as a permanent mechanism of keeping old passions and animosities on the slow burner, and thus providing the ruling clique with legitimacy. “Were it not for us, you’d be at each others’ throats.” When the ruling clique disintegrated, in the absence of the dictator who died in 1980, the threat turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The most pernicious, and—as it turned out—the most permanent legacy of Tito’s system concerned the boundaries among the federal units. By recognizing the secessionist republics within those boundaries, the “international community” became a de facto combatant in the war of Yugoslav Secession. It “mediators” accepted a role that was not only subordinate, but also squalid. Lord David Owen, for one, conceded that Tito’s boundaries were arbitrary and should have been redrawn at the time of Yugoslavia’s disintegration. “It is true that there could not have been a total accommodation of Serb demands,” he wrote, “but to rule out any discussion or opportunity for compromise in order to head off war was an extraordinary decision.” He concluded: “to have stuck unyieldingly to the internal boundaries of the six republics within the former Yugoslavia as being the boundaries for independent states, was a folly far greater than that of premature recognition itself.” By intervening in Yugoslavia “Europe” turned a dispute into a catastrophe.
The real European catastrophe occurred well before the nightmare of 1939-45, and even before the fatal year of 1914. It took place in the decades when science and progress and the loss of faith left a gaping hole that the nice, civilized bourgeois society could not fill. The birth of Yugoslavia, a by-product of the Great War, although effected by bourgeois politicians rather than Bolshevik conspirators, was indicative of a similar malaise. It rested on 19th century notions of South Slav unity, which fitted rather uneasily into the realities of 20th century Europe. The unification of the South Slavs occurred fifty years too late: the differences had developed too highly for an exercise in Gleichschaltung from above to be successful. The rushed and improvised unification was based on an ad hoc deal between unrepresentative elites. The resulting edifice had remained fundamentally unhappy and inherently unstable throughout the 83 turbulent years of its existence.
ISLAM AS SEDITION
February 3, 2003
It is wrong to say that Muslims have simply “replaced” communists as the main threat to the West; they are but two faces of the same menace, of the closed society and the closed mind. The totalitarian nature of Islam, akin to Communism and Nazism, makes the threat different in degree to that faced during the Cold War, but not in kind. It demands a similar response.
Perhaps only one in a hundred communists living in the West was an active Soviet spy; maybe not one in a hundred Muslim immigrants is an active Bin Laden asset. Nevertheless, managing the communist risk 50 years ago entailed denying entry visas (let alone permanent residences, college training, or passports!) to self-avowed Party members. Doing the same now, with Bin Laden’s potential recruits, is the key to any meaningful anti-terrorist strategy.
It is time to pay attention to the fact well known to INS officials: that all too often the attitudes of Muslims who want to live in the United States change rapidly once their status in America is secure. When applying for admission and while awaiting green cards, in interviews with U.S. officials they complain about the lack of freedom in their native country, citing specific instances in the area of human rights and politics. But as soon as they gain permanent residence, let alone citizenship, they suddenly turn against their host nation and begin to praise the virtues of an Islamic state, forgetting their pleadings with immigration officials to accept their application. Current precautions at the ports of entry are a welcome, necessary and useful first step in protecting America, but they must not be the last. A thorough and systematic background check of each applicant, coupled with psychological tests and one-on-one in-depth interviews with specialists qualified to detect such “dual personality” traits in potential immigrants, need to be introduced for all newcomers from the countries at risk, as well as for Muslims from non-Muslim countries, like the “Frenchman” Zacarias Moussaoui.
The alternative is a non-targeted, sweepingly general, clampdown on civil liberties that will be as ineffective in curbing Islamic extremism as it will be undoubtedly successful in making life less pleasant and less dignified for the peoples of the West. A coherent long-term counterterrorist strategy, therefore, must entail denying Islam the foothold inside the West. Like Communism, Islam relies on a domestic fifth column-the Allah-worshiping Rosenbergs, Philbys, Blunts, and Hisses-to subvert the civilized world. It also relies on an army of left-wing fellow-travelers who sympathize with Islam partly because it is a leading historical rival of the Western civilization they hate and partly because they long for a romanticized and sanitized Muslim past that substitutes for the authentic Western roots they have rejected. Those roots must be defended, in the full knowledge that those who subscribe to Islam and its civilization are aliens, regardless of their clothes, their professions or their places of residence.
The West faces two clear alternatives: defense, or submission and acceptance of sacred Arab places as its own. Western political leaders, including President Bush, have every right to pay compliments to Muslim piety and good works, but they should be as wary of believing their own theological reassurances as they would be of facile insults. Islamic populations and individuals draw very different things from their religion, its scripture and traditions, but anti-infidel violence is a hardy perennial. The challenge remains-how to prevent theocratic terror from winning support, and how to prevent it sheltering behind secular-liberal toleration.
While it is proper for democratic government to refrain from legislating the practice of religion in any way, Islam is a special case because it is, on its own admission, much more than “just a religion.” It needs to be understood and subjected to the same supervision and legal restrains that apply to other cults prone to violence, and to violent political hate groups whose avowed aim is the destruction of our order of life.
Once it is accepted that “true Islam” does not recognize a priori the right of any other religion or world outlook to exist-least of all the atheistic secular humanism -a serious anti-terrorist strategy will become possible. The current terrorist threat to the United States comes almost exclusively from the members of the Muslim community. Critical to reducing the chance of an attack in the future are an immediate moratorium on all immigration from the risk-nations, an expansion of the Border Patrol to the point of zero-porosity, a radical reduction of visas issued to nationals of states that harbor or produce terrorists, abandonment of amnesty debate and the swift and rigorous deportation of all illegal aliens, and especially those from rogue nations that threaten America.
We are being indoctrinated into the dogma that the trend is inevitable, that economically motivated, unceasing immigration on a vast scale is unstoppable because it is due to inexorable global market forces. This is not true. Free citizens must not submit their destiny, and that of their progeny, to a historicist fallacy. Immigration from Islamic nations, and indeed all others, can, and should, be subject to the democratic will of the American people. They have every right to defend themselves and their way of life.
The struggle against terrorism starts with knowing thy enemy. A new paradigm on Islam, immigration, and Western identity are needed. Then, and only then, will human intelligence assets be usefully deployed to identify, target, and then destroy the individuals and networks dedicated to our destruction. All will be in vain unless murderous Islamic extremism, manifested on September 11, spells the end of another kind of extremism: the stubborn insistence of the ruling liberal establishment on treating each and every newcomer as equally meltable in the pot.
Reducing and gradually ending unnecessary and harmful dependence on Middle Eastern oil is probably the easiest to achieve of all prerequisites for the policy of survival. Greed has always blinded power-wielders to danger, however, and it still does, and I am grateful that the President has included this important issue in his State of the Union address.
Yes, Islam has an inherent advantage over the tepid ideology of multicultural mediocrity in that it offers Allah in the place of nothing. Its adherents should not be condemned for maintaining their traditions. We should blame ourselves for refusing to acknowledge the facts of the case and failing to take stock of our options. People did not take Mein Kampf seriously, at their own peril.
The Qur’an’s exhortations to the believers to annihilate the non-believers, to confiscate their land and property, to take their women and enslave their children are equally frank, and the fruits visible through the centuries. We have no obligation to “respect other cultures” and ideas when those cultures and ideas lead to human suffering, misery, and servitude. We have every right to protect our ideas and way of life by openly proclaiming the superiority of our principles. Our problem is not prejudice about Islam, but folly in the face of its violence and cruelty.
There is a huge problem for all Muslims-the violent message of the Qur’an. We cannot solve it for them, and we should not be asked to deem the problem solved by pretending that the Qur’an is a pacifist tract. Humans are perfectly capable of reinterpreting scripture when absolutely necessary, but until the petrol dollars support a line of Islamic exegesis that can renounce the ideals of jihad, terror, tax, and subjugation we must have the guts to call a religion of war by its right name.
Islam is a collective psychosis seeking to become global, and any attempt to compromise with madness leads to becoming part of the madness oneself. No one who believes that jihad is the right or duty of all Muslims, or who promotes adoption of Shari’a law or reestablishment of the caliphate, should be allowed to settle in any Western country, and every applicant should be asked. The passport of anyone preaching jihad should be revoked. This may be called discrimination but the quarrel is not of our choosing. They will scream “Discrimination!” and we’ll reply “Sedition!”
Those who submit to that faith must solve the problem they set themselves. Islam discriminates against us. Until the petrodollars support a Qur’anic revisionism that does not, we should resist it by all means available. Secularists and believers of all other faiths must act together before it is too late.
Statement Delivered at 30th Annual Conservative Political Action Conference
Washington, DC, Saturday February 1, 2003.
THE JUSTIFICATION FOR WAR
It’s the Oil (and the Power, and Israel), Stupid
February 2, 2003
During the Cold War, occasional resorts to war or threats of war by the United States were justified by the need to keep communism in check. This justification had the advantage of being based on a real threat-notably in Berlin in 1949, in Korea in 1950, and during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. The result was a degree of clarity and honesty: We were going to fight not only because we were virtuous upholders of the law of nations, or defenders of the Free World, but primarily because it was in our geopolitical interest to do so.
The old urge to cloak the use of American military power in missionary righteousness returned after the fall of the Soviet Union. James Baker’s frank statement-that the Gulf War was all about oil-was contradicted by President George H.W. Bush, who preferred to speak of a moral action against Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. Clinton’s interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo were likewise presented in “humanitarian” terms, but Richard Holbrooke subsequently boasted that the real reason was global hegemony: “We are re-engaged in the world, and Bosnia was the test.”
The attack on Iraq seems imminent some time in 2003, and the gap between the stated reasons for that war and the underlying motives of the decisionmaking community in Washington seems wider than ever. As the Washington Times noted last August, “the Bush administration began by making plans to get rid of Saddam Hussein, and realized only later that it might need to explain why . . . It is still groping for a good excuse.”
That groping has produced a string of unconvincing reasons for attack. The earliest was terrorism. Various stories of contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda all proved false, however. The “moral case” for war has also been advanced, notably by National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice and by the British government. This led some to question whether other regimes whose human-rights abuses are on par with Saddam’s-notably in Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Sudan, Mauritania, as well as any number of sub-Saharan despotisms-would also be targeted.
Uncomfortable with such implications, the proponents of war eventually focused on the claim that Iraq has, or may be acquiring, “weapons of mass destruction.” Vice President Dick Cheney even said that Saddam Hussein poses a “mortal threat” to the United States. The intelligence community came under intense pressure to produce support for such assertions, but the evidence is still missing. Initial U.N. inspections in November and December 2002 did not support the claims. President Bush’s decision in November to seek U.N. approval for his plans drew America even further away from a real debate on the pros and cons of the war. The bottom line is that war with Iraq either is justified on the grounds of this country’s well-being and security or it is not. To make such a determination, the United States has no need of the United Nations or its Security Council. By going through the world body, the Bush team bypasses the crucial issue of U.S. national interests.
Since none of the stated reasons can withstand critical scrutiny, the question of the Bush administration’s likely true motives needs to be addressed. Outside the United States, numerous mainstream commentators maintain that the Iraqi crisis cannot be separated from three factors: the dream of America’s multinational corporations to secure control of Middle Eastern oil reserves, the desire to exercise global hegemony, and the influence of Israel and her friends.
Regarding oil, the Times of London explained on July 11, 2002, that an American victory “would open Iraq’s rich new oilfields to Western bidders and bring the prospect of lessening dependence on Saudi oil. No other country offers such untapped oilfields . . . Iraq’s proven reserves of 112 billion barrels are second only to Saudi Arabia’s 256 billion barrels.” The windfall could be even greater: Oil-industry experts estimate the reserves to be over 200 billion barrels, concentrated primarily in the three huge oil fields in the south-Majnoon, West Kurna, and Nahr Umar-each of which exceeds the reserves of Kuwait. As an expert told the Times, “There is nothing like it anywhere else in the world. It’s the big prize.”
This bonanza for American oil companies long banished from Iraq would have the additional advantage of undermining the strong position of Russia’s Lukoil and France’s Total-Fina-Elf in Iraq’s oil production. Former CIA director James Woolsey bluntly declared last summer that France and Russia “should be told that if they are of assistance in moving Iraq toward decent government, we’ll do the best we can to ensure that the new government and American companies work closely with them.” Otherwise, he warned, “it will be difficult to the point of impossible to persuade the new Iraqi government to work with them.” Since “the new Iraqi government” will be roughly as independent as that of Mr. Kharzai’s in Kabul, Iraq’s oil would become a U.S. asset and quite possibly be used to offset the costs of waging war against her.
Glutting the market with huge quantities of easily extractable Iraqi oil in early 2004 would reduce energy costs and boost economic recovery in the run-up to the presidential election later that year. Paying under a dollar per gallon of unleaded would be a tangible benefit of Mr. Bush’s policy that millions of Americans would remember and appreciate every day. American control of Iraqi oil would also make a mockery of OPEC and very painfully demonstrate to the Saudis that their clout is spent. The ensuing mutual violation of production quotas possibly would destroy the cartel or render it ineffective for years. Last, but by no means least, Russia’s oil revenues would take a hit at a time when modest economic recovery is under way, making planned exploration of new wells in Siberia uneconomical.
The second real reason for the war is the pursuit of a global empire in which the United States would finally be acknowledged as the indisputable planetary sheriff, judge, and jury. A careful reading of President Bush’s National Security Strategy, unveiled last September, presents the specter of open-ended political, military, and economic domination of the globe by the United States. The men and women who form the nucleus of the President’s team formulated all the key elements of this strategy years ago, but September 11 made its execution possible.
The strategy defines two main categories of enemies: “rogue states” and “potentially hostile powers.” Both warrant preemptive strikes “by direct and continuous action using all the elements of national and international power . . . We will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting pre-emptively.” The United States not only will confront “evil and lawless regimes” but will put an end to “destructive national rivalries.” To that end, the administration “intends to keep military strength beyond challenge, thereby making the destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless, and limiting rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace.” Iraq is the ideal test case of the new doctrine. She has already been named a “rogue state” countless times, and she is weak and friendless.
An attack on Iraq would resolve a key requirement of the National Security Strategy: a drastic expansion of overseas military commitments. “The United States will require bases and stations within and beyond Western Europe and Northeast Asia, as well as temporary access arrangements for the long-distance deployment of U.S. troops.” Conquering Iraq offers the chance to seize those “bases and stations” in an all-important region. Strenuous negotiations in the closing months of 2002 with Saudi Arabia and Turkey about the use of military facilities in those countries (including a substantial bribe promised to the Turks for providing the key air base at Incirlik) must have confirmed to the Bush team that the United States should acquire bases in the Middle East that would be under direct U.S. control, not subject to the political whim of the host government. “The new Iraqi government,” whatever its shape, is bound to be willing to oblige.
With a 99-year lease on the port of Basra and the air base at Mosul, and a string of garrisons guarding the oil fields, the Bush administration would make a giant leap forward in implementing the key requirement of the National Security Strategy. Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia would all be intimidated by the presence of GIs on their borders. At least in Syria’s case, things could easily go beyond intimidation if Damascus does not pull out of Lebanon and allow Israel to settle her scores with Hezbollah. (What will happen to the Palestinians in these proceedings is not too difficult to imagine.) The next cakewalk could be Axis of Evil member Iran, by then surrounded by U.S. power. Be on the lookout for the suggestion that the War on Terror cannot be declared over until Tripoli has been taken, too.
The main long-term benefactor from a series of wars between America and assorted Muslim countries would be Israel, the third real reason for the war against Iraq. Ever since the Six Day War enhanced the special relationship between Israel and the United States, Israeli governments have been trying to coax the United States into war against the Arabs and Iran. This was a perfectly rational strategy from the Israeli point of view: If successful, it would permanently bind the richest and most powerful country in the world to its “only reliable Middle Eastern ally.” It would also deepen the schism between the United States and the Muslim world and make it equally permanent. The War Party is unwilling to acknowledge this motive, but Gen. Wesley Clark, former NATO supreme allied commander, let the cat out of the bag last August: “Those who favor this attack now tell you candidly, and privately, that it is probably true that Saddam Hussein is no threat to the United States. But they are afraid at some point he might decide if he had a nuclear weapon to use it against Israel.”
The friends of Israel in the policymaking community in Washington do not see the fall of Saddam as the end of their assignment. They are contemplating a thorough reconstruction of the Middle Eastern political architecture to take advantage of latent tensions among antagonistic ethnic and religious groups. Balkanization is the word that best describes their intent. A weakened, divided Iraq would greatly enhance the position of Israel vis-a-vis its largely hostile environment. The fact that Iraq is not a monoethnic and monodenominational nation gives rise to interesting possibilities, which may explain the curious absence of public statements from Washington on U.S. intentions following Saddam’s downfall. Regional experts suspect that the United States would be content to see Iraq effectively broken into three areas: the heartland, focused on a Baghdad controlled by Sunni Muslims; the marshlands of the south, where Shiite Muslims are in the majority; and the northern third of the country, where the Kurdish minority already exercises de facto autonomy. (That the oil fields would remain under direct U.S. control hardly needs stating.)
None of these entities would be allowed meaningful self-rule, however. The establishment of a full-fledged Kurdish ministate in northern Iraq would not be allowed, because Turkey, which has had problems with her own restive Kurdish minority for decades, greatly fears that scenario. As the New York Times reported last August, “Turkish officials have warned that they are prepared to go to war to prevent the Iraqi Kurds from declaring a kind of mini-Kurdish state within Iraq.”
On the southern flank, the Shiites, if they were to declare their own autonomous statelet, would naturally gravitate toward their coreligionists in Iran. The friends of Israel inside the Beltway would thus be provided with the pretext to demand a preemptive U.S. strike against Tehran. We would soon be reminded that Iran, too, is part of the Axis of Evil, that she supports terrorism, and that she has weapons of mass destruction.
We are being driven into a potential quagmire, and no real questions are being asked. What started, in October 2001, as a legitimate military response to terrorist attacks has degenerated into an hubristic powerplay that may engage the United States in an open-ended war against a large segment of the Muslim world. To grab Iraq’s oil is no substitute for devising an energy policy that would free the United States from her dependence on Muslim-controlled fossil fuels once and for all. To use the war on Iraq as a stepping-stone on the road to a global American empire is mad, evil, and, ultimately, self-defeating. To wage war in order to pursue the agenda of another country is absurd.
If it can be established beyond all reasonable doubt that the regime in Iraq means ill to the United States and has the wherewithal to pursue its malevolent design, then let us have this war. Anything short of that yardstick is mendacity designed to deceive the American people and to advance the ambitions of certain groups whose interests should not be equated with those of the nation as a whole.
Srdja Trifkovic is Chronicles’ foreign-affairs editor and the author, most recently, of The Sword of the Prophet: Islam-History, Theology, Impact on the World.
STEPHEN SCHWARTZ: SELF-LOATHING “JEW-FOR-ALLAH” DEBUNKED
January 17, 2003
While Schwartz’s “scholarship” on Islam is worthless, his failure to acknowledge in his many diatribes that he is a convert to the religion of Muhamad is obviously mendacious. He is either secretly ashamed of his new identity, or he wants to mislead his readers and editors; perhaps both. In view of what Islam teaches about the Jews, however, self-loathing is probably the most applicable diagnosis of Schwartz. This “Jew-for-Allah” now belongs to the religion whose founder, Muhammad, declared urbi et orbi: “verily, Allah teaches us, and we believe it, that for a Muslim to kill a Jew, or for him to be killed by a Jew, ensures him an immediate entry into paradise and into the august presence of Allah.” [. . .] Schwartz, as a Muslim, believes that [this] is literally the word of Allah. He seems oblivious to the fact that Baghdad’s Caliph al-Mutawakkil was the first to designate a yellow badge for Jews in the 9th century, setting a precedent that would be followed centuries later in Nazi Germany. [. . .] So is Schwartz just another self-hater in the tradition of Otto Weininger, or is he a genuine convert to the “religion of peace and tolerance”? Either way, people who employ or publish him owe us an explanation for his and their failure to acknowledge this significant fact: that he is a Muslim. The attempt to turn Schwartz, a.k.a. Suleyman Ahmad, a.k.a. Comrade Sandalio into an author will come to haunt all those helping him in his latest self-invention, especially when this deeply troubled and unstable man decides to turn a new page in his Odyssey.
Last Monday (January 13) a slanderous attack on me by one Stephen Schwartz was published by Frontpagemag.com. Calling me “the noted Islamophobe,” Schwartz claimed that I am closely identified with “the Russian ‘red-brown’ (Communazi) newspaper Pravda” and that I was “the main public advocate in the West for the regime of Slobodan Milosevic” (http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=5517).
Two days later, on January 15, David Horowitz published the following Apology and Correction Regarding Serge Trifkovic on FrontPageMagazine.com:
Frontpage regrets characterizations of Serge Trifkovic, author of Sword of Islam, that were made in an article by Stephen Schwartz (CAIR’s Axis of Evil) to the effect that Trifkovic is an Islamophobe, is associated with Pravda or Antiwar.com, and “was the main advocate in the West for the regime of Slobodan Milosevic.” Serge Trifkovic is not associated with either Pravda or Antiwar.com. He was not a supporter of Slobodan Milsoevic. He is not an Islamophobe nor would Frontpage have given extensive space to a summary of his book if he were. Frontpage regrets any pain or injury this may have caused to Mr. Trifkovic.-David Horowitz.
The site also published the following Reply to Stephen Schwartz by me:
It is troubling and disappointing that Frontpagemagazine has allowed Stephen Schwartz to slander me. Had the diatribe been launched privately I would never have stooped to replying, directly or otherwise, to this deeply troubled man. Since FPM has seen it fit to provide the vehicle, however, I have no choice but to react.
To be called “the noted Islamophobe” is not only an invitation to a fatwa, it is doubly sinister coming as it does from a convert to Mohammedanism.
Schwartz writes that “Trifkovic is much more closely identified [with] the Russian ‘red-brown’ (Communazi) newspaper Pravda.” This comes as a genuine surprise to me. What foreign websites carry my articles is beyond my control, but since I have never written anything for Pravda or spoken to anyone associated with it, this slanderous little aside only reinforces the way in which Mr. Schwartz has not allowed mere facts to stand in the way of his creativity.
Schwartz accuses me of being in league with Slobodan Milosevic’s apologists at Antiwar.com – although the site’s only mention of my name in this context came in the form of a scathing personal attack by one of its former columnists: “Kostunica’s American worshippers, including Fleming and his Chronicles colleague Srdja Trifkovic continue to indulge themselves in their puerile fantasies.” (George Szamuely, Antiwar.com, September 29, 2000)
But it is the claim that I was “the main public advocate in the West for the regime of Slobodan Milosevic” that is as unfunny as it is untrue. It is also hurtful to me personally in view of the many risks I have taken with my long and well documented position vis-a-vis Mr. Milosevic. Let us therefore leave rhetoric aside and look at a small segment of verbatim quotes from my extensive record of articles and interviews on the subject of the former Serbian president, starting 13 years ago and continuing until our time:
“Slobodan Milosevic is cynically exploiting the nationalist awakening to perpetuate Communist rule and his own power in the eastern half of Yugoslavia.” U.S. News & World Report, June 18, 1990
“Communist leader Slobodan Milosevic needs outside enemies to halt the erosion of his popularity… Yugoslavia could be well on its way to becoming the Lebanon of Europe.” U.S. News & World Report, November 12, 1990
“Demagogue and populist.” The Yugoslav Crisis and the United States. Stanford: Hoover Institution, 1991
“Trifkovic said he [was] critical of the authoritarian rule of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and has called for his removal from office and democratic reforms.” The Plain Dealer (Cleveland), Sunday, September 6, 1992, p. 6-B
“Trusting] Milosevic is like giving a bloodbank to Count Drakula.” The Times (London), Thursday, November 23, 1995, p. 16
“Milosevic has used his newly-fangled international legitimacy [after Dayton] to stifle even further all political opposition and to reassert state control.” The Phoenix Gazette, Tuesday, March 19, 1996, p. B5
“Milosevic is afraid of having Mladic and Karadzic delivered to The Hague not because of the possibility of a Serb backlash in Serbia itself, but because those two know quite a lot about Milosevic’s own role in the early days of the Yugoslav war, in ’91 and ’92.” BBC World Service TV, Newsdesk (live) 10:25GMT, Wednesday, 29 May 1996
“For Mr. Milosevic, the very existence of any alternative to his own power is not legitimate. Even the current faзade of multi-party system he allowed only under pressure, treating it as something odious and temporary.” The Phoenix Gazette, Wednesday, December 18, 1996, p. B4
“The sanctions had proved an absolute boon to Milosevic. He could blame them for the abysmal economic situation in the country, which was in fact due to the structural defects of an inefficient socialist economy – an economy he was unwilling to reform… Milosevic could observe with calm equanimity the exodus of about a quarter of a million predominantly young and well-educated urban Serbs. Those who had provided the backbone of political opposition to his government were emigrating, and he was staying.” Chronicles, June 1997
“An incorrigible communist and blunderer.” The Philadelphia Inquirer, Saturday, September 6, 1997
“Milosevic… manipulates these crises to preserve his power. With each new surrender he is temporarily converted by the West from the Beast of the Balkans into the Necessary Partner. This outcome would be awful for Serbia. The nation should lose its tyrant, not its borders.” The Times (London), Thursday, March 18, 1999
“Albright and Milosevic manipulate each other and deserve each other… He had always been a recycled Communist apparatchik who manipulated the thetoric of nationalism in order to extend his shelf life. And his behaviour had always been personally functional, but systematically, from the viewpoint of Serb interests, dysfunctional. That’s why Serbs are in such a dire predicament right now.” CNN, Friday, March 26, 1999.
“Milosevic [is] a misshapen tyrant who will not flap his wings as long as he can feed on the evr-shrinking innards of Inner Serbia.” The Philadelphia Inquirer, Monday, November 22, 1999, p. A15
“Serbia, thanks to Milosevic, acquired the image of the last bastion of communism in Europe.” Testimony to the Canadian House of Commons, February 17, 2000
“Milosevic in Serbia and President Franjo Tudjman in Croatia were both busy establishing a quasi-dictatorial post-communist regime, and they needed vulgar nationalism – for a time – to outbid the most vulgar nationalists.” The Oxford Companion to Politics of the World. Oxford University Press, 2001, p. 80
“Something has snapped in the minds of many Serbs. They can now visualize Serbia after Milosevic. They can visualize Serbia without sanctions and without the shame that he has brought upon his people… And once they lose their respect, they will loss fear. And once they lose fear, they may end up lynching him.” CNN Headline News, live, Saturday, September 30, 2000, 6:10 p.m. Eastern
“Like some crazed anti-Midas, in his 13 years of chaotically autocratic rule Milosevic destroyed everything he touched… [He] cared not a hoot for his people’s interests or dignity, and turned his country into a corrupt, mafia-infested basket case. Milosevic’s arrogance and low cunning were matched only by his utter inability to devise a coherent strategy of anything – including his own political survival… It will take Serbia decades to recover from this awful man.” ChroniclesExtra Online, April 14, 2001
The list goes on, but this small sample should suffice. Of course I opposed the misguided NATO intervention in the Balkans, and the systematic misrepresentation of the wars of Yugoslav succession by the likes of Schwartz. In doing so I was in good company on both Left and Right, and on both sides of the Atlantic-but that is a different story.
In his Reply to Trifkovic, published immediately after this article, Stephen Schwartz expressed surprise that his comments would elicit such a violent reaction from me, “when the attacks on [Trifkovic] by CAIR, and his service to Radovan Karadzic, have not done so”:
I mention Karadzic because Srdja Trifkovic has conveniently left out of his self-defense the fact that according to his own biography, he was a political consultant for two members of the Milosevic regime who served its aggression in the Balkans. These are Radovan Karadzic and Biljana Plavsic. Trifkovic may cite all the comments he wants about Milosevic, but I would remind him that many witnesses were present when I debated him at Stanford a decade ago. In that debate, he defended the Milosevic regime, while I criticized it.
After that came the following Final word from me:
In regard to our Stanford debate: I repeated, more or less, the key points from my Hoover paper, which is available to the curious. My presentation was above all a defense of the Serbs’ right to self-determination, and not a “defense of Milosevic.” I have met Karadzic during my many trips to the Balkans but I never “worked” for him. Yes, I was Plavsic’s consultant during her brief presidency (1998), when she was persona gratissima in Washington, where I accompanied her during her visit in May of that year. She was certainly not a “member of the Milosevic regime” – quite the contrary, she was his determined foe, which made it possible for me to help her, and made her attractive in the eyes of the U.S. Administration.
That was the end of the affair as far as Frontpagemag.com is concerned. It is not the end of the story, however. The piquant twist is that Stephen Schwartz is a convert to Islam. He is a self-avowed “Jew-for-Allah” (http://www.jews-for-allah.org/Jewish-Converts-to-Islam/Suleyman-Ahmad.htm) who has taken to calling himself Suleyman Ahmad, but he keeps this significant fact concealed from his readers. Why? He provides the answer, too:
“Since accepting Islam, I have proceeded carefully in informing my friends, neighbours, co-workers, and others. . . I want to proceed in a way that will do the most for the welfare of the Ummah and for better relations between all believers in la ilaha illallah.”
Since “the welfare of the Ummah” is his main motive, everything is allowed, including lies and slanders. His attack on me was part-and-parcel of Schwartz’s second motive: to demonize any opposition to jihad along Europe’s eastern rim (Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Cyprus). “I speak Albanian and was involved with the KLA struggle almost from the beginning,” he even boasts, forgetting that in view of the KLA’a distinguished record such admission may make Schwartz interesting to the office of the prosecutor at The Hague war crimes tribunal.
Schwartz’s attempts to promote the “tolerant,” Turkish variety of Islam, as opposed to the “bad” Wahhabist variety was comprehensively demolished by Andrew Bostom in National Review Online:http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-bostom120602.asp. As Bostom reminds us, it was not Arab Wahhabism but “enlightened” Turkish variety of Islam that gave us the blood levy (devshirme), the Armenian genocide, the eradication of the Christians of Anatolia, and the SS divisions Handzhar and Skanderbeg. But such petty details do not concern Schwartz. His morbidly obsessive demonization of the Serbs is inseparable from his willingness to adopt in toto the justifications of an Islamist regime in Sarajevo with ties to the Iranians and a drug-running, white-slaving mafia in Kosovo.
While Schwartz’s “scholarship” on Islam is worthless, his failure to acknowledge in his many diatribes that he is a convert to the religion of Muhamad is obviously mendacious. He is either secretly ashamed of his new identity, or he wants to mislead his readers and editors; perhaps both. In view of what Islam teaches about the Jews, however, self-loathing is probably the most applicable diagnosis of Schwartz. This “Jew-for-Allah” now belongs to the religion whose founder, Muhammad, declared urbi et orbi: “verily, Allah teaches us, and we believe it, that for a Muslim to kill a Jew, or for him to be killed by a Jew, ensures him an immediate entry into paradise and into the august presence of Allah.”
Muhammad’s wholesale slaughter of the Jewish tribes in Medina was accompanied by his suitably grim revelations in the Koran. According to the Muslim holy book, the Jews “rebelled and disobeyed the Command of Allah, and became extremely arrogant.” They have drawn on themselves wrath upon wrath, and their just reward in the form of “disgracing torment” yet awaits them. So Allah brought them down and cast terror into their hearts, had some killed and others made captives, “And He caused you [Muslims] to inherit their lands, and their houses, and their riches, and a land which you had not trodden before” The Muslims are able to do so because the Jews are cowards: “If they fight against you, they will show you their backs, and they will not be helped” Until the Day of Resurrection they will be afflicted with humiliating agony. They are accursed for their obstinate rebellion and disbelief, so “We have put enmity and hatred amongst them till the Day of Resurrection.” Even the stone behind which a Jew hides will say, “O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him.” They have incurred the Curse and Wrath of Allah, who transformed them into monkeys and swine. “Indignity is put over them wherever they may be”; “they have drawn on themselves the Wrath of Allah, and destruction is put over them” because they disobeyed Allah and used to transgress beyond bounds. They cling greedily to this life even if it is humiliating and villainous life, “And verily, you will find them the greediest of mankind for life.” Schwartz, as a Muslim, believes that all of the above is literally the word of Allah. He seems oblivious to the fact that Baghdad’s Caliph al-Mutawakkil was the first to designate a yellow badge for Jews in the 9th century, setting a precedent that would be followed centuries later in Nazi Germany.
Talking of yellow badges, let us not forget that Schwartz’s admiration for Islam was shared by the architect of the holocaust, Heinrich Himmler. Himmler’s hatred of “soft” Christianity was matched by his liking for Islam, which he saw as a masculine, martial religion based on the SS qualities of blind obedience and readiness for self-sacrifice, untainted by compassion for one’s enemies. By creating an SS division composed of Bosnian Muslims Himmler was only taking the first step in the planned grand alliance between Nazi Germany and the Islamic world. One of his closest aides, Obergruppenfьhrer Gottlob Berger, boasted that “a link is created between Islam and National-Socialism on an open, honest basis. It will be directed in terms of blood and race from the North, and in the ideological-spiritual sphere from the East.”
So is Schwartz just another self-hater in the tradition of Otto Weininger, or is he a genuine convert to the “religion of peace and tolerance”? Either way, people who employ or publish him owe us an explanation for his and their failure to acknowledge this significant fact: that he is a Muslim. The attempt to turn Schwartz, a.k.a. Suleyman Ahmad, a.k.a. Comrade Sandalio into an author will come to haunt all those helping him in his latest self-invention, especially when this deeply troubled and unstable man decides to turn a new page in his Odyssey.