The Balkan Problem Lives On


Alfred Mendes looks at a region of instability which is in danger of being forgotten.

No rational being can gainsay the fact that we now live in a world of instability - and we don’t have to look far to find the reason for this: namely, the world dominance of that inequitable politico-economic system, capitalism, exacerbated by that other destabilising phenomenon, religion. Any doubts we may have over this are soon quelled by the realisation that, day-after-day, our ears are assailed by the media reporting crisis-after-crisis, interspersed with the equally frequent ‘business news’: (fluctuating/unstable interest rates, inflation/deflation - to say nothing of the tenuous condition of companies and banks) - though it must be added that a veil of silence falls over crises when they are superseded by other crises, as has been the case over the past decade-and-a-half in particular: Gulf War, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and now the omnipresent Iraq crisis.

A classic example of this is the Yugoslav crisis of the `90s. It was as if this just ‘came-and-went’ - finished. This is certainly not the case. Now - after four decades of stable government in the immediate aftermath of WW II, and four years after the cessation of open hostilities in the former Yugoslav Republic - it is becoming increasingly evident that stability in the region has not been achieved. To the contrary: ‘The Balkan Problem’ is once again ‘raising its ugly head’ in the shape of still-displaced refugees, very high unemployment (over 40% in Bosnia), collapsed industrial productivity (The IMF foresees a drop in economic aid to Bosnia from $699m to $218m in 2007) - to say nothing of the occasional killing sprees by various militia (the KLA in particular) - all exacerbating the simmering friction between its three ethnic-religious groups, which could easily result in renewed hostilities in the near future.

Viewing an event in hindsight has many advantages, not least of which is that, as time passes, previously unknown facts concerning said event are revealed, thus leading to a clearer understanding of the matter - as will the following revelations (hopefully) confirm.

This was, first-and-foremost, a civil war, the causes of which lead us to believe that the capitalist West - under the leadership of America - played a crucially intrusive role - as illustrated by the fact that, at the US Senate Hearings on Serbia in July 1999, Robert Gelbard (special envoy to the Balkans), James Pardew, and Senator Joseph Biden testified “that the US pays and controls the so-called ‘independent democratic opposition’” by use of the US Congress-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) which has been active in Yugoslavia since 1988 - along with the Soros Foundation. NED had been set up by Congress in 1983 “to try to do openly what the CIA used to do secretly”. [1]

Pertinently, and understandably, NED controls the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) which, in turn, funds the group of economists known as the G17, three of whose leading members are also staff members of both the IMF and World Bank. In 1989, the economist-cum-G17 coordinator, Vaselin Vukotic was appointed Minister of Privatisation under the federal Yugoslav premier, Ante Markovic (a Croat). Vukotic implemented the World Bank-sponsored ‘bankruptcy program’ in Yugoslavia between ‘89 and ‘90, which led to the devastation of the Yugoslav economy, and set the stage for the breakup of the republic. Result?: 50% of Yugoslav industry was broken up, and over 1100 industrial firms wiped out between January 1989 and September 1990 [2] And as if that was not enough, a clause in the U.S. Foreign Appropriations Bill passed in November 1990 stipulated the ending of all loans, trade and aid to the Yugoslav Federation within six months of the passage of the legislation. Funding would not resume to the region until and unless each of six constituent Republics held separate, independent

elections, the results of which the State Department would have approved as congruent with U.S. national interests. [3] Intriguingly, a Belgrade-born cyclist, Milan Panic, who had defected to America in 1995 (where he had subsequently adopted American citizenship and founded a large, successful chemical corporation), returned to the country of his birth and served as its Prime Minister from 1992 to 1993, the crucial early years of its crisis. As revealed by Misha Glenny in his book ‘The fall of Yugoslavia’, Panic“took his new job very seriously and employed a weighty team of Serb and American advisers”. If this was not intrusion - what is?!

The republics of Yugoslavia would soon be embroiled in a long, drawn-out civil war - but before examining this more closely, certain earlier events in World War II should be kept in mind, inasmuch as they proved pertinent to events of said civil war. In Vienna on March 25th ‘41, Yugoslavia - then a kingdom - signed an agreement to join the (German, Italian, Japanese) Tripartite Pact. Two days later, in Yugoslavia,  the royalists were overthrown by a group of officers under General Simovic, which exacerbated the already-existing Royalist-cum-Cetnik vs. Republican schism within the Serbs. Hitler bombed and invaded Yugoslavia on April 7th. In the subsequent war between Heinrich Himmler’s 13 Waffen Gebirgs Division der SS (the Handzar) and Tito’s communist-led Partisans, the Cetniks (avid anti-communists under Draza Mihailovic), cooperated a number of times with the Germans. Two intriguingly pertinent facts to the subsequent Yugoslav crisis are worth noting here:

(a) Alija Izetbegovic, the current President of Bosnia and Hercegovina, had ‘joined the organization "Young Muslims" in Sarajevo on March 5, 1943, and was engaged as a member of the organization in recruiting young Muslims for "SS Handzar Division" in collaboration with Hitler's intelligence service (ABWER and GESTAPO)’... ‘Srebrenica area was under the direct assault of this "SS Handzar Division" during World War II.’..In ‘46 Itzobegovic ‘was sentenced by former Yugoslav Supreme Military Court to three years of imprisonment and two years of deprivation of civil rights, because of his fascist activities.’ And because of his fundamentalism and intolerance of other religions ‘he was sentenced to twelve years imprisonment by the Supreme Court of Bosnia on March 14, 1983’ [4]; and (b) Radovan Karadzic, leader of the Bosnian Serbs in the subsequent civil war, was a committed  Royalist-cum-Chetnik, as he stated in a BBC interview at the time.

One further fact concerning the initial stage of the Yugoslav crisis needs to be kept in mind: it is generally accepted that the subsequent civil war  began in 1992 as a result of the Bosnian President Alija Itzebegovic’s recantation of the Lisbon Plan, an agreement he had made with his Croat and Serb counterparts in Bosnia - the Serb being the Chetnic, Radovan Karadzic.

Now, intervention by one-or-more countries into an internal conflict within another ‘in order to maintain peace in this world’ is, at least, a very risky tactic, inasmuch as what was once no more than an internal conflict could so easily become a much more widespread international conflict - of which the interventionists in this case, America and Europeans, must certainly have been aware. This could only have meant that their declared aim of maintaining the peace was a double entendre in order to hide their true aim - especially as it had been accompanied (as it had been) by their diplomatic machinations and covert  activities, as would be revealed by the following sources (concerned, primarily, with Bosnia):

Chapter 4  of Appendix II of the Dutch-sponsored Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (NIOD) report released in August 2002 supplies detailed (though wordy) information covering said machinations and covert activities - hence the following brief, condensed assessment of same:  clearly revealed in this chapter was the toothless, suborned role of the UN, as exemplified by the ambiguous wording of the frequently-amended Security Council resolutions aimed - ostensibly - at stopping the supply of arms/weapons (most of which came from Iran and Turkey) to the infighting factions within Bosnia, primarily via the well-known ‘Croatian Pipeline’ and ‘Black Flights’ to Tuzla airport - all done with the connivance of NATO. In the reports’ own words “In spite of all the resolutions, UNPROFOR was not given the mandate to monitor or enforce violations of the arms embargo on land; NATO and the WEU did do so at sea”. More  shockingly, it revealed that Turkish, Malaysian, Bangladeshi and Maltese troops serving in UNPROFOR had been selling ammunition on a large scale to the Bosnian army (ABiH)! In view of the fact that,  from its very inception in 1945, the UN’s role has been s ubordinate to that of America, the above is thus hardly surprising. Equally well-covered in the report were the diplomatic ‘behind-the-scene’ activities in Bosnia by officials of the American Administration - such as the Nartional Security Advisor Anthony Lake; the Ambassador in Zagreb, Peter Galbraith (who had been involved in the ‘Croatian Pipeline’); and perhaps best-known - Richard Holbrooke - appointed by President Clinton to act as the architect of a new strategy “to arm the Bosnian Muslims”. [5]

That most publicised event of the Yugoslav crisis, the ‘massacre of Srebrenica’ in the aftermath of its fall on July 11 1995, was pounced upon by the intruding West and its media as demonstrating the evil cruelty of the Serbs - as illustrated by Ted Koppel’s interview with Richard Holbrooke in the ‘New Yorker’ of November 1995, when Holbrooke said “The Vietcong were dedicated ideologues, committed to a long term struggle.. These guys [the Serbs] aren’t ideologues; they’re just murdering assholes”. (Remember, the Vietcong had killed over 58,000 Americans!). This was an alleged massacre of 8000 ‘Muslim men and boys’ - a figure apparently plucked from an atmosphere of ambivalence, based, as it was (according to James Bisset, Canadian ambassador to Yugoslavia in the early nineties) on a Red Cross report, dated September 13 1995, which “stated that 3000 Muslims had been taken prisoner by Serbian forces in Srebrenica and a further 5000 had fled to central Bosnia..” [6]  This ‘massacre of 8000’ is still awaiting confirmation to this day. On the other hand, very  little attention was paid to the numerous massacres of Bosnian Serbs in the Srebrenica enclave between `92 and `93 by the Bosnian army ‘Handzar’ division under the command of Nasser Oric, who had been appointed by Itzebegovic, as was revealed in the infamous kangaroo court known as the international Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague, which had been set up primarily to try Milosevic for ‘crimes against humanity’. Suffice it to say here that, on February 12 2004, General Phillipe Morillon, who had been UN commander in Bosnia in 1992/1993, appeared before the ICTY as a witness in the trial of Milosevic. In his evidence, Morillon confirmed that the Srebrenica enclave had been used as a military base by the Bosnian Muslim army under the command of Naser Oric, adding that “Oric had engaged in attacks during Orthodox holidays and destroyed villages, massacring all the inhabitants. This created a degree of hatred that was quite extraordinary in the region, and this prompted the region of Bratunac...that is the entire Serb population - to rebel against the very idea that through humanitarian aid one might help the population that was present there.” There were several other such attacks, and Morillon concluded his evidence by stating that the fall of Srebrenica was due to the massacres committed by Oric’s forces in 1992 amd 1993. [7]

Less than three weeks later, on August 4 1995, the Croatian army, under the command of Croatian generals Ante Gotovan and Agim Ceku (a Kosovan), launched its massive, effective attack, known as Operation Storm, on West Krajina, in which thousands of Serbs were killed and over 250,000 driven from their homes. The American mercenary group, the MPRI, with assistance from the CIA, had planned and trained the troops for this attack.  In contrast to the event in Srebrenica, there was no official condemnation of Operation Storm. Furthermore, as reported in the Dutch Report  (above), “The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) was never officially informed about these activities of MPRI”. It must be added that nearly all the officials brought to face trial before the ICTY have been Serbs - certainly neither Nasser Oric, nor Ante Gotovina, nor Agim Ceku have appeared before the court! (On the contrary, Ceku was welcomed back to his homeland and in May 1999, was appointed chief-of-staff of the KLA by NATO, and later, after the end of hostilities, appointed head of the Kosovo Protection Corps!)

Here it is essential to confirm that the reference above to the ICTY as a ‘kangaroo court’ is a correct and valid one: it is common knowledge that for decades now - since its arrival on to the global scene as a ‘world’s superpower’ - America has refused to acquiesce to the formation of a truly equitable, just international criminal court - a court before which one-or-more of its own citizens might appear (perish the thought!). Yes, power breeds arrogance. Now, in 1993, the UN again supplied the answer: the formation of the ICTY was approved by its Security Council resolutions 808 and 827, clearly echoing the US/UN relationship noted above in the Dutch Report. That the title ICTY was a blatant misnomer is clearly exposed by the Canadian lawyer, Christopher Black in his article, ‘An Impartial Trial?’. As he notes: in 1994-1995, the US provided it (the ICTY) with $700,000 in cash, and $2,300,000 worth of equipment; George Soros’ Open Society Institute contributed $150,000; The Rockefeller Foundation contributed $50,000; it received funds from the US Institute for Peace, (set up by Reagan in 1984) whose board of directors is appointed by the US President; It is funded by the Coalition for International Justice (CIJ [which was founded by Soros’s Open Society Institute]); and also by the Central & East European Law  Institute (which had been formed by the American Bar Association to promote the replacement of socialist legal systems with free market ones). [8]  Whatever else it may be - it is certainly not an impartial tribunal!

The foregoing is by no means a comprehensive list of the Americans’ under-the-table, illegal activities in Yugoslavia under the umbrella of the ‘international community’, but it is surely sufficient confirmation that the reason they gave for their intervention was no more than a classic case of ‘double-speak’ in order to hide their real aim - namely, by ridding the country of whatever vestige of ‘communism’ it still retained, it would replace it (via privatisation and an influx of capital) with a capitalist economy - thus enabling it to gain access to the rich reserves of oil and gas in the Caspian region, where, in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the USSR, the American oil companies had bought their way into a share of those reserves.

In conclusion, and as stated above, power breeds arrogance, which, in turn, invariably fosters stupidity - and it is difficult to think of any more stupid tactic than intruding into that convoluted, Gordian Knot - the Balkans. For which, a high price will have to be paid in the near future.

Alfred Mendes writes regularly for Spectre on the roots of international conflicts. Measured by visits to the site, he is consistently our most popular contributor.










[8] ImpartialTribunal_Hague.html