GENEVA - One of the most brilliant statesmen I have met, Pakistan’s former Foreign Minister Shabzada Yacoub Khan, predicted to me in 1991 that the coming twenty years would be marked by worldwide political fragmentation as the 20th Century’s nation states broke up into smaller entities.
How right he was. The latest example: the dramatic re-Balkanization of the Balkans, which reached its next to final act this week as tiny Montenegro, population 630,000, voted to secede from its union with Serbia and become an independent micro-state.
The multi-ethnic geopolitical Frankenstein called Yugoslavia created by the victorious allies at the end of World War I was supposed to impose stability under French `guidance’ on the chronically unruly Balkans. Britain got most of the Mideast as a prize of war; France got the Balkans, Syria and Lebanon.
But Yugoslavia quickly became a cauldron of ethnic, religious and tribal tensions between Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Bosnian Muslims, Albanians, Montenegrins, Magyars, and Macedonians.
Yugoslavia was Europe’s version of Iraq, another unnatural, inherently unstable multi-ethnic state created by Britain’s Imperialists to control the Fertile Crescent’s oil.
Only iron-fisted rulers could make these fractured nations work: Tito in Yugoslavia, Saddam in Iraq. When they were gone, disintegration and civil war ensued.
Montenegrins were historically a nation of fierce mountain warriors who were never totally conquered by the Turks. Even though virtually identical in culture, race and religion to Serbs, a majority of Montenegrins sought to escape being tarred with the brush of Serbia’s crimes in Bosnia and Kosovo, and subjected to ongoing EU sanctions over Belgrade’s continued hiding indicted mass murderers Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic.
We wish Montenegro well and commend Serbia for peacefully accepting this inevitable divorce. Once Serbia settles the bitter Kosovo question and purges itself of its war criminals, it, like the other small states that emerged from Yugoslavia’s wreckage, will prosper in peace under the umbrella of the European Union.
Hopefully, the EU has learned the lesson of its disastrous failure to manage Yugoslavia’s break-up and its shameful resumption of Europe’s traditional national rivalries in the Balkans during the 1990’s that delayed effective action to end the massacres of Balkan Muslims.
Were it not for reluctant but ultimately decisive American intervention, the Balkans could still be plunged into ethnic terrorism and political chaos.
All Balkan peoples, even Serbs, owe the United States thanks for kicking out the criminal Milosevic regime, preventing a general Balkan war, and fostering democracy in the region. This was America at its best. Luckily for the Balkans, it had no oil, and Bill Clinton, for all his domestic problems, was then president. Had President Bush been in office, things might have been very different.
The final act in the death of Yugoslavia may come before year’s end. The former Serb-ruled province of Kosovo, now an EU-run protectorate, is 95% ethnic Albanian and clamoring for independence. The EU has long sought to thwart or delay both Montenegrin and Kosovar independence.
But now, with Montenegro’s secession from what was formerly Yugoslavia, independence for Kosovo’s long oppressed Albanians is logical and likely inevitable. If independence for 630,000 Montenegrins is acceptable, why not for two million Kosovar Albanians?
The Kosovars have run out of patience with EU stalling tactics and are muttering about renewed fighting to gain independence. Unfortunately, neither the EU nor Kosovar Albanians have come up with a workable solution to the problem of Kosovo’s 75,000-100,000 remaining embattled Serbs. Serbia bitterly refuses to grant independence to Kosovo, which it has ruled, and tried to ethnically cleanse at least three times, since the 1912-1913 Balkan Wars.
For Serbia, the painful psychological loss of Montenegro and Kosovo, and death of the dream of Greater Serbia, will more than compensated for by accession to the riches of the EU and absolution of Serbia’s recent crimes.
For long-suffering Kosovars, independence will at least bring them the right to misrule themselves. Naturally unruly Albanians have not so far shown much aptitude for fruitful self-government, but they may yet learn the arts of better governance under EU and American guidance.
So a great historic drama of our time is almost ended. Yugoslavia, evil child of WWI’s rapacious victors, is nearly gone. Good riddance.
Now, let’s turn to that other monstrous offspring of post-World War I imperialism, the modern Mideast.
The campaign to promote anti-Iranian hysteria and hatred was richly illustrated this week as a fraudulent story written by a well-known Iranian royalist propagandist was trumpeted by the neoconservative media. According to this canard, Iran was going to make Jews wear yellow stars.
A huge uproar ensued. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, the chief North American mouthpiece of Israel’s militant rightists, blazed the story by Amir Teheri, a mountebank and humbug of the Ahmad Chalabi Schhol of Levantine lies. Canada’s self-appointed defender of Greater Israel, the National Post, furiously repeated the story. Both papers have been fomenting war with Iran.
The whole story was, apparently a grotesque fabrication and a perfect example of how the neocon media shamelessly uses Dr Goebbel’s Big Lie technique. First the disgraced New York Times propagandist Judith Miller, now this. Readers, beware!
Watching members of the US Congress jump to their feet and applaud Israel’s visiting Prime Minister Olmert like trained seals was a gripping example of just how much influence the Israel Lobby has over Congress. This after Olmert made pretty clear he would reject Bush’s `Mideast Roadmap’ and go ahead with unilateral division of the Occupied Territories in violation of international law and UN resolutions.
As leading Israeli thinker Uri Avnery recently observed, if the Lobby told Congress to repeal the 10 Commandments, it would jump and do so. No wonder the US is in such a mess in the Mideast.
Enron’s Skilling and Lay are going to jail, likely for life, for lying to investors and investigators. But what about the chief executives who lied the US into war and a $300 billion financial disaster (that may grow to $1 trillion). What about the president who suggested to Tony Blair that the best way to provoke Saddam Iraq to war was to paint US planes in UN colors and hope Iraqi AA would fire at them. Remember how Dr. Goebbels proposed that German troops be dressed in Polish uniforms and used to attack German border posts, thus providing a casus belli? Such déjà vu!