Notes on the News
by Gwydion M. Williams
In the New World Order, an authoritarian leader who has several times been endorsed by free elections is either ‘the people’s choice’ or ‘a dictator’. Likewise a military campaign by the armed forces against armed secessionists is either ‘police action’ or else ‘tyranny’.
Nations behaving as nations is either natural or monstrous, depending on short-term power politics. In 1914, the Serbian claim to Bosnia-Herzegovina was seen as so utterly fair and right that Britain was happy to start the Great War in Serbia’s defence. Yet now Serbians are not supposed to be entitled even to lands that are the heart of their ethnic identity.
Sovereignty is such an important principle that it would have been wrong to take ethnic-Serb regions away from Croatia, or to split Bosnia-Herzegovina along ethnic lines. Yet when it comes to ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, somehow the West finds a loophole in Serb sovereignty.
Ethnic Albanians fleeing Serbia indicates that the Serb government is criminal. Ethnic Serbs who fled Croatia in the face of a Croatian army created and trained by the USA indicates something else. (No one cares to say just what, but the two situations are found to be existentially quite different.)
In most of Eastern Europe, existing borders remain just where the Soviet Union drew them in the 1940s. These borders had changed several times within the first half of the 20th century, and could arguably change again. Yet in most cases the borders laid down by Joseph Stalin are treated as sacrosanct. One must assume that any potential secessionists were told they would get no support from the West, that their cause is hopeless and unwelcome to the world’s only Superpower. Nothing is allowed to change, apart from the amicable separation of the Czechs and Slovaks.
Eastern Europe’s old and overlapping nationalities faced a wholly foreseeable crisis when Leninism faded and socialism was discarded. The only available ideology was nationalism, and extreme nationalism has flourished everywhere. Anti-semitism and hatred of gypsies etc., which was there before Leninism, has re-emerged more strongly now that Leninism has gone.
But only in Yugoslavia was there any question of changing existing borders. The pretext was that the constituent members of the Yugoslav Federation were sovereign, and could therefore secede without any obligation to give up minority areas.
Only in Former Yugoslavia did secessionists know they would get support from outside powers. Only in Former Yugoslavia has their been war.
Kosovo was never sovereign even by Western definitions. Yet a rule that was sacred last year may be discarded the next, and war was made inevitable by a reasonable expectation of Western intervention regardless of the legalities of the matter.
Wars happen when people think they can win them.
I did take note and make my own small protest when Serbian nationalists originally deprived Kosovo of its autonomy. Decisive action then might have preserved the status quo, with Kosovan autonomy respected but secession ruled out. It would have been a sane solution. But the New World Order has never been interested in the status quo. It wants constant turmoil and it generally gets it.
In the New World Order, there is no consistence and no true morality. Serbs have been driven out of territories that they have held for centuries, yet Reduced Serbia is still treated as if it were expansionist power.
Only in the New World Order can a state be regarded as expansionist because it declines to allow foreign troops from unfriendly powers onto its sovereign territory. Nor have the media made much mention of the Yugoslav opinion that the proposed “peacekeeping” agreement would have created a loophole in Serbian sovereignty and allowed the “peace keepers” to rule Kosovo just as they wished.
No one seems to remember Lumumba and the Congo war of the 1960s. Lumumba was unwise enough to treat the UN as if it were indeed an International Policeman. But the UN forces under US influence then helped the secessionists whom they were supposed to be suppressing. Creating a precedent for the later Biafran secession from Nigeria, a war in which the USA took a different view of eternal moral values and helped in the long slow bitter crushing of the secessionists.
If multiethnic Yugoslavia could not be maintained, then the United Nations should have partitioned it cleanly. But it was easier to let things drift, and then find someone to demonise when this lead to ethnic conflict.
Sovereignty was upheld for Bosnia, so that a simple and sane separation of three utterly different and mutually hostile populations could not be done. Was done by the people themselves, slowly and unfairly and horrifically.
Now NATO is preventing the Serbs from ruling part of their own sovereign territory
The Gulf War was fought on the pretext of UN power. But it was planned as an Anglo-American war, it just happened the UN was in the main submissive. When they try doing their job, as at present, they are ignored.
The Gulf War could end in victory, because Iraqis knew their claim to Kuwait was dubious. But all Serbs consider that Kosovo is Serbian and cannot be given up.
Also Iraq was fashioned by Britain out of three unrelated provinces of the Ottoman Empire. Iraqi identity is uncertain and Arabs have had a long experience of losing wars. Whereas Serbs managed by their own determination to win themselves free from that same Ottoman Empire, and then survive being overrun by the Nazi war machine. Serbs do not lightly admit defeat. Besides, even small victories like shooting down a Stealth bomber make a difference.
Do you think Milosevic wants to be remembered as the man who lost Kosovo for Serbia? Or that any other conceivable Serb leader would agree to this?
[Another mistake – the Serbs did give up.]
Ethnic cleansing is the cry. It comes oddly from the USA, land of the shyster and the home of the last slave plantations in the English-speaking world. A nation which got rid of most of its unwanted people, the original Native-Americans. And which also has been hopelessly bad at integrating its former slaves and other minorities that are unable to blend in with the all-white norm.
Britain’s record is very imperfect. But Britain’s non-white minorities are not living separately from the white majority, as is increasingly the case in the USA. It took Britain a lot longer than the French to accept a multiethnic identity, but we have done it.
Britain’s one serious ethnic conflict is in Northern Ireland, where everyone knows that the border may change eventually, incorporation in the Irish Republic, or perhaps an independent Protestant state. As in Former Yugoslavia and as in Kosovo, war is a rational option.
If International Law were a serious and impartial matter, a disintegration of the Northern Ireland Good Friday agreement would presumably be followed by the forcible imposition of a Serbian peacekeeping force. To be followed by Nato bombing of London, if instant harmony between Protestants and Catholics did not result.
The trouble in Kosovo is that Albanians do not want to be governed by Serbs, and would ideally like to live in an extended Albania. But Serbs consider that Kosovo is theirs, and would no more allow its separation than the USA would allow the secession of California or Texas if these should ever have an ethnic-Mexican majority.
California and Texas were taken from Mexico by an expansionist USA in the 19th century, part of a failed scheme for a grand slave-owning empire based on the Southern USA. The US claim to almost all of its territory is much worse than the Serbian claim to Kosovo, or the Chinese claim to Tibet. But such comparisons are never ever made.
The ‘peacekeeping’ agreement proposed for Kosovo would have meant that Nato would have brought in a ground force large enough to take Kosovo by force, and with a legal pretext under the agreement for doing so. Military opinion is definite that it would be immensely costly to now take Kosovo using ground troops.
The Serbs considered that the proposed ‘peacekeeping’ agreement would have destroyed their sovereignty and pave the way for secession or separation. Indeed, there have always been some Western voices calling openly for this, and probably more behind the scenes. If a conflict begun by armed secessionists can then be used as a pretext for putting in an outside force, the US would have a formula for snipping off minority areas from sovereign states, but only when they chose.
I’m not against the abolition of sovereignty. But only as part of a coherent world order with impartial judgements. Not a system where identical cases are judged quite differently, according to a not very enlightened understanding of Western interests.
US foreign politics has always been a creator of chaos. Only during the Cold War were they locked into a stable system.
The USA has never allowed Latin America to settle into a stable order. It has successfully created chaos in East Asia now the Cold War is over.
If the bombing was meant to help the Kosovo Albanians, then it was a crazy concept. In a crisis, nations must be expected to act like typical nations. Serbs rally round the only available leader. They hit out at the only available targets.
Do people remember the Birmingham Bombings, and the wave of anti-Irish feeling that followed in Britain? This was only eased by the arrest of some plausible suspects, the people later jailed as the Birmingham Five, and much later released when it was proved beyond doubt that these were not the guilty parties.
In Northern Ireland, with an unresolved war, there has been a complete separation of the communities, with sectarian symbols on display by both sides to show who owns this piece of soil.
In Kosovo, it looks as if the West’s decision to try to impose peace with bombs will end ruinously for the people it was supposed to help. The Serbs have concluded that short of unconditional surrender, their only option is to retake Kosovo and expel its ethnic Albanians. (The process began before the actual bombing, but at the same time as it became clear that bombing was going to happen, and when all of the existing outside observers were withdrawn. Given what has happened elsewhere, in Bosnia and in formerly Serb areas of Kosovo, it was crazy not to anticipate that this would happen.
Always assuming that the US military planners really did not to anticipate that this would happen.
US politics work by an unmentionable but solid and definite hierarchy of ethnic and religious groups. Serbs are white and Christians, so it would not be acceptable to treat them as the Iraqis were treated. Ethnic Albanians are mostly Muslims, and the USA is not really very much bothered if they suffer.
Was the war ever really meant to help the ethnic Albanians? Or was it just a good excuse to see how the latest generation of weapons make out against a passably strong opponent?
Smart weapons are getting a good test. (Weapons that are not smart enough to stay out of a pointless war or fly off to a safe haven, of course.) It is also significant that the only aircraft lost (as of 2nd April) was a ‘stealth’, was this one of the tests?
It may be that stealth does not really work under battlefield conditions. Or that there are counters good enough for the Yugoslavs to know. There is also a story that a stealth bomber in cloud becomes very visible to radar.
There has been a lot of rain over Yugoslavia during the air war. No one on the Nato side has so far cared to cite the Will of God, the weather had been mostly what a Serb would be praying for.
The world has also seen Serbs dancing on the fallen stealth aircraft that was supposed to attack them with no risk to American lives. Seen a Serb holding up a sign saying “Sorry, we didn’t know it was invisible.” Could an enthusiastic machine-gunner have done the job? No one yet cares to give the details.
If the USA military had begun to suspect that ‘stealth’ was an expensive failure, they have gained a lot by finding out now. Gained an excuse to drop the program, before they build any more billion-dollar aircraft that only work well over the Arizona desert.
It has also been shown that East Europeans can not be safely pushed around in the way Arabs have been. The same is also probably true of East Asians, certainly the USA seems to be doing no better now against Yugoslavia than they did against North Vietnam.
Is it just a coincidence that Russia has now been given a virtual blank cheque from the IMF, agreement that they can borrow money to pay off their existing debts? Or has the air war confirmed that US hegemony is limited and cannot be pushed too far?
The war seems also to have used up a lot of the stocks of cruise missiles, more are urgently needed. The military-industrial complex will be crying all the way to the bank. And the very real suffering of the displaced ethnic Albanians is unlikely to worry them. And more than they have a conscience about all the non-white allies who suffered when they ran away from South Vietnam.
The USA holds out against any US citizen ever being tried by any foreign court. Are refusing to sign up to various treaties that might make them liable.
Nato’s role is being promoted as being to “upholding international law everywhere”. (Mary Kaldor, Prospect, April issue). This lady is good enough to call it “A Benign Imperialism” – just the way the original 19th century Imperialists saw it, as they exterminated inconvenient natives in North American and Australian, or used the Royal Navy as “muscle” to stop Imperial China interfering with the free trade in opium from Hong Kong.
International law has been intentionally kept vague and biased, and a US President can do anything he likes. Bush decided that Iraq must be punished, and the rest of the world came into line.
The world as seen the US president documented as a liar and adulterer. This does not disqualify him from being US President, indeed. The voters knew what sort of man he was and decided they liked him better than the alternatives, that is their right. But it does make him unfit to be keeper of the world’s conscience.
Likewise a Congress where they swore to act as impartial judges during the Impeachment, and then voted strictly on party lines, and with an eye on opinion polls.
A US pilot who was flying too fast and too low and kills more than a dozen people in a ski-lift is found not guilty of manslaughter. That’s why the US don’t want a proper system of international law, only a US court could be relied upon to deliver verdicts like that.
Nato rules were devised so as to stop US service people answering to European courts. Instead they go home to America to answer for alleged crimes committed in Europe. With utterly predictable results.
The navigator of the same jet admitted concealing and then destroying a videotape that would have shown just what he and the pilot were up to. A news report on the BBC web site from 30th March mentioned that he could be jailed for as long as 10 years for this blatant and deeply suspicious obstruction of justice.
In fact he ended up jailed for zero years. Not even a fine, he just lost his job. While the pilot, presumably, might even now be flying over your own home town.
It’s a new development that the mass killing of Europeans can be treated like that. Perverse verdicts and stupid acquittals were the norm where the victims were Afro-Americans, always and down to the resent day, unless guilt is embarrassingly clear. The same would be true of almost anyone in the Third World. But Europeans too? Clearly, there is a shift of attitude.
In the film Easy Rider, a lawyer says to the bikers that he can get them out of jail unless they’ve killed someone. Rather, unless they’ve killed someone white.
It’s not changed that much. Reagan stopped it changing, showing he could easily gather racist votes. Whole Republican strategy is how to get racist votes without losing those who would refuse to vote for a party they saw as racist.
Americans are very good at not seeing what they do not want to see.
“Oral sex between married, consenting heterosexual adults is illegal in 15 of the 50 US States. Adultery is still a crime in 24 of them. In Alabama it is presumably okay to have sex with a donkey (there is no law against bestiality there)”
But a married couple who engage in oral sex are breaking the law. There is also an Alabaman law against selling or distributing vibrators – all this was reported in The Guardian, March 9th 1999
Such laws reflect the values of a rural community, I suppose. I myself would defend their right to live that way – no one has to live in Alabama, after all. But do we then entrust ‘international law’ to a nation whose politicians depend on such characters for their continued power?
Mr Anwar Ibrahim was trying to play the same game in Malaysia that Slobodan Milosevic did successfully play in former Yugoslavia. He was out to emphasis the rights of the largest fraction of the mixed population. But when the existing Malaysian leadership try to suppress him, he becomes a hero to the West.
Mr Anwar Ibrahim pushed an odd mix of Muslim sectarianism and submissiveness to foreign capital. He was supported for much the same reason as Afghanistan’s mix of tribalists and hard-line Muslims were supported.
The western media have downplayed democratic success of Mahathir Mohammed, Malaysia’s prime minister. He has maintained a popular secular alliance that balances the interests of the Muslim Malays, 60% of the population, with the non-Muslim ethnic Chinese and various other peoples.
The Islamic Party of Malaya, expressing desire of a majority of Malays to take more. But they also oppose the successful restrictions on foreign capital that Mahathir Mohammed imposed during the Asia crisis.
In the New World Order, it is OK to be an extremist Christian or Muslim so long as your true God is Mammon. OK to spread sectarianism so long as the Rights of Money are respected.