in Iraq continues
to worsen, amidst daily reports
American and civilian
deaths, the administration is embarking on a whitewashing
campaign designed to prove that things aren't so bad in an occupied
country that offers no
exit for the US. However, due to its dizzying speed, today's global
media so useful for governments' propaganda purposes can turn on its
masters, without even having to try very hard.
for the War Party, there really is nowhere to turn for good news. The
of Afghanistan is being tainted by charges of sleaze, rampant
and pesky resurgences
the old Taliban gang. And, much further afield, an even earlier
failed intervention is unraveling, having arrived at its logical conclusion.
Protests: 'Out With the UN! We Don't Need You Here!'
internationals really should have known better. Protected by special
badges, shiny cars, air-conditioned offices and plenty of disposable
income, the UN corps in Kosovo presumed some sort of inviolability,
some dispensation from on high that would leave the Kosovars eternally
awe-struck and grateful.
the case, as an eye-opening
recent dispatch from the Guardian indicates. Kosovo's Albanians
are sick and tired of being babysat by internationals who they've found
to be both callous and corrupt.
They blame them for misappropriating large sums of money from public
coffers, for fueling the explosive increase in prostitution and other
mafia-supported services, and for prolonging the status quo of limbo,
one that prevents the resolution of vital issues like property ownership
all of which have kept foreign investors at
arm's length from Kosovo. As the Guardian's Helena Smith
first chant came from the back of the crowd. 'Go home!' yelled a youngster,
as he stood in Pristina's dusty Mother Teresa Square, the site last
week of Kosovo's first post war demonstration.
with the UN!' screamed an elderly woman, producing a placard that conveyed
the same message. 'We don't need you here!'
locals grapple with price increases and worsening poverty, it is the
'internationals' who have become symbols of the contradictions threatening
to tear the UN protectorate apart. Across the province, men and women
appear disgusted by their foreign guardians' 'corrupt' beneficence and
depraved 'colonial' ways.
came to keep the peace and now they're causing tensions,' said Qamile
Blakcori. 'We are very grateful that Western forces saved us from the
Serbs, but now it's time they go.'"
to the report, everyone from the street all the way to the highest political
offices has reason to criticize the internationals an ominous sign
for the UN mission:
week's protest, timed to coincide with the start of historic but widely
unpopular reconciliation talks in Vienna with the Serbs, is just the
beginning,' says Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi.
ruled 5,000 miles away from New York is simply not working,' he snapped.
'With no road maps, or political deadlines, or sense of resolving their
unclear international status as a non-state entity, Kosovars are fast
was especially galling to Kosovars was the brazen "corruption" within
the mission,' said Rexhepi, who was elected in March 2002. He added
that not only was the UN refusing to grant his people more self-rule,
it was also abusing power 'at the highest levels.'
malpractice reluctantly confirmed by Western diplomats had made
him 'feel very ashamed'. A lot of the misplaced funds, he suspected,
were local taxes. 'Unmik claimed it has zero tolerance for corruption
and organised crime, but there is serious corruption involving huge
amounts of money right at its core,' he lamented."
Hydra's Head of Complexities
the situation is more complicated still.
Were the foreigners to immediately pull out of the province, and were
the issue of Kosovo's
final status to be decided, would the economy suddenly start to
grow? Or would the sudden removal of Kosovo's economic life-support apparatus
swiftly bring about the patient's demise?
is the additional complexity of negotiating sovereignty
a total mess in the case of Kosovo. Regarded as a Serbian province by
both Serbia and (in theory, at least) the UN, Kosovo is regarded as
a shining example of a 19th-Century nation-state
by Albanian nationalists, some of whom also see it as merely a sub-state
of a larger hypothetical Albania.
But Serbs are reluctant to let it go, and it is not unlikely that in
the end it will be partitioned making an already puny, untenable nation
Guardian relays, the West is beginning to understand that Kosovo
is setting the precedent for a future of failure worldwide:
readily admit that any of the alternatives independence, partition,
continued international stewardship are unlikely to satisfy everyone.
just like Iraq, whatever we do is going to affect the entire region,'
said one senior EU diplomat.
is a perfect example of the confusion the West is likely to get into
if it doesn't think through the political implications of its military
strategy. If we go on like this we're going to have to set up a colonial
forget the silent majority of decent, common Albanian people who just
want to live in peace, without headaches and intimidation from mafia
groups and militias. Yet the economic and political dislocation that
will accompany any international withdrawal is only likely to put more
of these thugs, not less, into power. The Kosovo experience since 1999
has been of a timid UN rewarding former militants and war criminals
by keeping them armed and in power through just changing
their uniforms. And the same timid, unaccountable UN has allowed
this unsavory bunch to run roughshod,
driving out or exterminating Serbian,
and Macedonian Muslim
to Turn Now?
short, we have a situation whereby a large, frustrated group of people
have found a common enemy to replace their previous one. However, they
needed and still need both. The Serbs gave Kosovo's Albanians a feeling
of nationhood, a strident victimology and a common cause. As predicted,
this sentiment of Albanian unity proved an evanescent one, collapsing
immediately after NATO's bombing campaign ceased. At that point, with
nationalistic unity no longer necessary, Kosovo's Albanians turned to
settling their own internal scores.
said above, the Albanians also need the internationals. They provide
a lucrative market for the legal and illegal service industries alike,
as well as employment in NGO's and other aid groups. Kosovo has also
received generous international grants, and its international limbo
has shielded it from some of the most common coercive measures in the
Western arsenal. Kosovo may be "freed" soon, but what will happen to
its hard-won sovereignty when its political decisions are made by groups
like the IMF? Currently, Serbia is still responsible for Kosovo's
international debt though it doesn't pay any taxes to Belgrade. Indeed,
being a protectorate or a province is sometimes more comfortable than
having to go it alone.
Kosovo whether partitioned or not will have to come crawling back
to someone. But to who? Certainly not Serbia. Even though a majority
of the people in both places may not want it, joining the even-poorer
Albania may be Kosovo's only hope. The West failed to understand that
if a province has historically been poor, there is usually some good
reason why and not merely, as Albanian nationalists claim, that it
was forever ignored by Belgrade. In fact, part of the reason Yugoslavia
split was that more affluent regions like Croatia and Slovenia were
fed up: they felt their tax remittances were disproportionately being
siphoned into poor Macedonia, and sucked into the vertiginous black
hole of Kosovo.
that's pretty much the only way to describe it. Kosovo embodies all
of the worst Balkan qualities. It is like a centrifuge, a vortex in
which all of the incongruent discourses of the region and the West have
come to jostle and grate, with increasing speed and volatility. That
the West even thought it could successfully intervene there in the first
place was sheer folly. It has caused far more problems than it solved
though it has made many people very rich while doing so.
back, one is baffled at the stupidity of the "experts" who launched
this adventure. At how they could possibly have failed to see the necessary
outcomes of the intervention: the destruction of minorities; the destabilization
of Macedonia; the reversion to mafia rule; the corruption, Western and
domestic; the lack of long-term economic viability, and most crucially,
the lack of a clear exit strategy.
Surges, But the Truth Speeds Up Too
the end, considering the wide knowledge and experience of the war planners,
it becomes hard to believe that the Kosovo job was done for any other
reasons than political posturing, corporate war profiteering, manipulating
cheap nationalism, and giving
NATO a reason to live.
as Iraq is now showing, history won't let the world get away with the
same thing twice. In Iraq, popular dissent arrived so fast that we might
say the events themselves have sped up. They are impatient, having gotten
used to all the same characters the international aid groups, the opposition
leaders, the ethnic infighting, the foreign contractors
previously encountered in Kosovo. They don't waste time anymore, as
they did in Kosovo, in guarding their secrets in seed form. Now, in
the age of terror, they bloom forth immediately and die just as fast,
stripping themselves of any meaning or significance save to remind
us that invading Iraq was a really bad idea.
there will be no second Kosovo. This time it will be much worse. Yet
with the acceleration of volatile events, fortunately, we will also
see an acceleration of truth. The one that reminds us that, when planning
folly abroad, there is a basic need to plan for all eventualities in
advance, and to not undertake a course of action if it is likely to
end in disaster. This is the truth that the Bush Administration is so
feverishly trying to obscure right now. Unfortunately for everyone now
in Iraq, we can have faith that the events there will violently outpace
them but so will the truth, eventually.