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Archive for the tag “Yugoslavia”

Between mountains

Between MountainsBetween Mountains by Maggie Helwig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At one level this is a love story. Daniel is a journalist who has been reporting on the Wars of the Yugoslav Succession. He meets Ljilja, who is an interpreter at the war crimes tribunal at the Hague. One of her professional obligations is confidentiality, she should not speak to journalists about anything she hears. And Daniel’s obligation as a journalist is to report what happens, while protecting his sources. They are attracted to each other, but their professional obligations are in conflict.

Once a month a small group of us meet at a cafe for informal discussions of Christianity and literature and when we met last week my wife Val mentioned this book, which she had just finished reading. I’ve already mentioned some of the things that struck her in a report on that gathering here Neoinklings: alienation and otherness | Khanya. One of the bits she read out at the gathering was about the Orthodox monks at Decani in Kosovo, who gave asylum to those fleeing from the violence, and urging people to talk instead of fighting.

And that is really what the book is about — the inability to communicate, which breaks down into violence.

One of the things that struck me, and which is alluded to in the book in passing, is that at the very time when South Africa was turning from violent confrontation to talking, and abandoning apartheid, much of Eastern Europe was going in the opposite direction. I’ve also dealt with this more fully in this article Nationalism, violence and reconciliation, which I think also gives some of the background story for this novel. And so the book rings true.

I recall a member of our church, a school teacher who originally came from Dubrovnik, whose father was an Orthodox priest, saying that people she had grown up with and gone to school with, whom she had regarded as friends and neighbours, would no longer talk to her, no longer answer her letters, because of the hatred being fostered between different ethnic groups.

And the descriptions of those rising ethnic barriers captured for me the essence of the spirit of apartheid. Yugoslavia was entering a nightmare that we were just leaving. One of the characters, accused of war crimes and awaiting trial…

He had felt the cold clear satisfaction of a job done well, the decisive pleasure of colours shifting on a map, the weight of a gun at his waist. But only because it had to happen, there was a force of history behind him, if it had not been him it would have been someone else, anyone else, history would have its way.

And I could picture the apartheid apparatchik in his office in Pretoria, looking at his map with satisfaction on receiving a report of these people moved from that area, those people moved to this place, as the territory and its population changed to conform to the Platonic ideal of a map in his office.

And again the same character in the novel, echoing the same faceless bureaucrat in Pretoria:

To be able to say, I will draw this line here, and these people will be on the other side of it. Apart from us. So that we can be alone, and pure and safe, and these people will be the darkness of the other side. No one who has not had this chance could understand the sweep of it. The exaltation.

And there it is again, the essence of the unclean spirit of apartheid, exorcised from South Africa, moving to the Balkans, but not excluding the possibility of returning. No, not at all.

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New Statesman – Blair must be arrested

New Statesman – Blair must be arrested:

Now consider the Proceeds of Crime Act. Blair conspired in and executed an unprovoked war of aggression against a defenceless country, of a kind the Nuremberg judges in 1946 described as the ‘paramount war crime’. This has caused, according to scholarly studies, the deaths of more than a million people, a figure that exceeds the Fordham University estimate of deaths in the Rwandan genocide.

In addition, four million Iraqis have been forced to flee their homes and a majority of children have descended into malnutrition and trauma. Cancer rates near the cities of Fallujah, Najaf and Basra (the latter ‘liberated’ by the British) are now higher than those at Hiroshima. ‘UK forces used about 1.9 metric tonnes of depleted uranium ammunition in the Iraq war in 2003,’ the Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, told parliament on 22 July. A range of toxic ‘anti-personnel’ weapons, such as cluster bombs, was employed by British and US forces.

Hat-tip to Neil Clark: who notes

Let’s just hope that when Blair is finally in the dock, he doesn’t come up against a judge like Judge Griffith-Jones.’Started an illegal war which led to the deaths of 1m people’? ‘Took part in the illegal bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as well?’
Well, you have a rather respectable background and you’re not a lower-class yobbo so I’ll only give you three months in jail.’

In May 1999 someone set off nail bombs in various places in London, and Tony Blair went on record as denouncing this as “barbaric”. And at the same time there were news reports that Father Milivoje Ciric, who left a special service in his church to help victims of a Nato bombing, has been decapitated by a follow-up blast. This is a typical terrorist tactic — set off a bomb, and when a crowd gathers to help the injured, kill even more people with a second blast. You can read about the incident here, and see pictures here.

The nail bombs, of course, were barbaric. They were designed to cause the maximum injuries. But Natos cluster bombs were designed to do exactly the same thing, only far more efficiently. Look at the pictures, and see Tony Blair’s handiwork. Yes, it is truly barbaric.

As the playwright Harold Pinter noted on his web site, quoting the Socialist Review, www.haroldpinter.org – Serbia and Kosovo:

When the bomb went off in Old Compton Street, Mr Blair described it as a barbaric act. When cluster bombs go off in Serbian marketplaces, cutting children into pieces, we are told that such an act is being taken on behalf of ‘civilisation against barbarism’. Mr Blair is clearly having a wonderful time. But if Britain remains America’s poodle, she is now a vicious and demented poodle. The Nato action is in breach of its own charter and outside all recognised parameters of international law. Nato is destroying the infrastructure of a sovereign state, murdering hundreds of civilians, creating widespread misery and desolation, and doing immeasurable damage to the environment.

Barbaric? Yes. But as the prophet Nathan said to King David, “Thou art the man.” (I Sam 12).

But there is one crucial difference, for it is recorded that King David repented, but Tony Blair has not.

Iraq Inquiry witness lies through his teeth

A top Foreign Office legal advisor, Sir Michael Wood, told the British Iraq inquiry that the invasion of Iraq had no basis in international law, and that he had told government ministers that.

Fair enough, so far, so good.

But then he went on to contrast it with the 1999 Nato attack on Yugoslavia, which he said was justified because of the humanitarian situation, with hundreds of thousands of people being driven from their homes.

That is pure propaganda spin.

Yes, thousands of people were driven from their homes in that conflict, but only after the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia had begun.

That doesn’t mean that driving people from their homes was a good thing, but the historical fact is that it was in retaliation for the Nato bombing, it was not the cause of reason for the Nato bombing.

Sir Michael Wood lied through his teeth.

New NATO: Germany Returns To World Military Stage

New NATO: Germany Returns To World Military Stage:

‘If somebody had announced in 1989 that, well, the Berlin Wall has come down, now Germany can unite and send military forces back into Yugoslavia — and what is more in order to enforce a partition of the country along similar lines to those it imposed when it occupied the country in 1941 — well, quite a number of people might have raised objections. However, that is what has happened, and many of the very people might who have been expected to object most strongly to what amounts to the most significant act of historical revisionism since World War II have provided the ideological cover and excuse.’ [6]

The campaign was not without effect in Germany as subsequent events have proved and has been accompanied by the rehabilitation, honoring and even granting of veteran benefits to Nazi collaborators, including former Waffen SS members, in Croatia, Estonia, Latvia and Ukraine in recent years.

Yesterday Yugoslavia, tomorrow the world!

By successfully demonifying the Serbs, and transferring the guilt of its Nazi past to them, Germany has succeeded in perpetuating the past rather than burying it.

Karadzic Arrest: A Boost for Serbia – TIME

Karadzic Arrest: A Boost for Serbia – TIME:

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic’s latest lair wasn’t a cave or a safe house; no hidden compartments or special security details shielded him. Instead, it turns out that one of the world’s most wanted men was hiding in plain view in the drab, anonymous housing blocks of Novo Belgrade, a suburb of the Serbian capital. He was nabbed not by NATO, whose forces had spent 13 years in a vain and sometimes desultory search for him, but by the security forces of Serbia, the country whose fantastic designs for grandeur he had once so ardently tried to further. Now Karadzic, 63, faces a trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for genocide and crimes against humanity committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

And we now wait with bated breath for the USA to get a similar boost by arresting and handing over Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright for war crimes in Yugoslavia; and George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld for war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. And for Britain to get a similar boost by arresting and handing over Tony Blair for war crimes in all three — he’s probably the biggest war criminal in recent times.

Compared with these, Karadzic is a relatively small fish. But of course the big fish usually get away. If Tony Blair were occupying a cell next to Karadzic I might believe that the Hague Tribunal is not a kangaroo court. As it is, it’s nothing more than a Nato propaganda organ.

And when I read the propaganda (including the Time article above, still churning it out after all these years), I begin to wonder if Radovan Karadzic isn’t Bosnia’s Bram Fischer. I don’t know enough about him, of course, to make such a judgement, but I wonder. Perhaps the truth will emerge at the Hague, or perhaps, like Slobodan Milosevic, he will conveniently die before it does. And then we’ll be left wondering just whose convenience was served.

US, Germany agree to recognize Kosovo after Serbia elections – The Boston Globe

The US and Germany, which fuelled the Wars of the Yugoslav succession in the 1990s, are planning to fan the embers to a flame again.

US, Germany agree to recognize Kosovo after Serbia elections – The Boston Globe:

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia – The United States and Germany have agreed to recognize Kosovo and get the rest of Europe to follow suit after the province declares independence following the Serbian elections next month, according to senior European Union diplomats close to negotiations over the future of Kosovo.

In a recent conversation about the future of Kosovo, EU officials said President Bush and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany had agreed it was imperative to secure the stability of the western Balkans by coordinating the recognition of Kosovo after the second round of Serbian elections planned for Feb. 3.

They said Washington was aggressively pressing the EU to ensure that the recognition of Kosovo was not delayed by even a week.

Remember how it started?

As Samuel Huntington (1998:282) described it in his book The clash of civilizations:

The breakup of Yugoslavia began in 1991 when Slovenia and Croatia moved toward independence and pleaded with Western European powers for support. The response of the West was defined by Germany, and the response of Germany was in large part defined by the Catholic connection. The Bonn government
came under pressure to act from the German Catholic hierarchy, its coalition partner the Christian Social Union Party in Bavaria, and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and other media. The Bavarian media, in particular, played a crucial
role in developing German public sentiment for recognition. ‘Bavarian TV’, Flora Lewis noted, ‘much weighed upon by the very conservative Bavarian government and the strong, assertive Bavarian Catholic Church which had close connections with the church in Croatia, provided the television reports for all of Germany when the war began in earnest. The coverage was very one-sided’… Germany pressured the European Union to recognise the independence of Slovenia and Croatia, and then, having secured that, pushed forward on its own to recognize them before the Union did in December 1991.

Austria and Italy promptly moved to recognize the two new states, and very quickly other Western countries, including the United States, followed. The Vatican also played a central role. The Pope declared Croatia to be the “rampart of Christianity,” and rushed to extend diplomatic recognition to the two states before the European Union did. The Vatican thus became a partisan in the conflict, which had its
consequences in 1994 when the Pope planned visits to the three republics. Opposition by the Serbian Orthodox Church prevented his going to Belgrade, and Serb unwillingness to guarantee his security led to the cancellation of his visit to Sarajevo. He did go to Zagreb, however, where he honored Cardinal Alojzieje Stepinac, who was associated with the fascist Croatian regime in World War II that persecuted and slaughtered Serbs, Gypsies and Jews.

The focus then moved to Bosnia, where John Major agreed to recognise Bosnia’s independence in return for German support for Britain’s position on the Maastricht Treaty, thus condemning Bosnia-Herzegovina to a bloody civil war. And what was the result?

As Brendan O’Neill (Comment is free: The Bosnian connection) notes:

Far from being radicalised by the failure of the west to act, large numbers of Muslims were radicalised by western intervention in the Balkans. Their movement to Bosnia was facilitated by Washington’s support for a military gateway between the Islamic world and Bosnia, and inside Bosnia they fought with a military outfit that Washington armed. They were also inspired to take up arms against the Serbs by western media depictions of the Serbs as sub-human savages who deserved ‘punishment’. The mujahideen meted out such punishment, in the form of stabbings, beheadings and forced circumcisions, as well as ordinary warfare.

Many of the mujahideen who fought in Bosnia went on to become al-Qaida operatives. They learned their trade of simplistic moral fury and brutal violence on the battlefields of Bosnia, where they were enticed and inflamed to execute holy war against the Serbs by western meddling and western media coverage.

And now it’s Kosovo — deja vu all over again!

From communist youth to Orthodox monks

Most of us have read in the newspapers and seen graphic images on television of the violence and destruction of the Wars of the Yugoslav succession, when Yugoslavia tore itself apart (often with outside assistance) during the 1990s.

But even in the midst of the destruction, there were signs of hope, as some, at least, pursued more preaceful ideals. Among these is a new generation of Orthodox monks. They grew up under the communist system, indoctrinated at school with atheism, and now have turned to a life of prayer and repentance.

There is much talk nowadays, especially in “emerging church” circles, about a “new monasticism”, but in the former Yugoslavia the youth have opted for a restoration of the old monasticism.

And now the man who has been at the centre of the monastic revival in Serbia, His Grace Artemije, Bishop of Raska and Prizren, will be visiting South Africa, and will speak on the topic Orthodox monasticism, and the revival of the monastic life in Serbia after communism at St Thomas’s Orthodox Church, Sunninghill Park, Gauteng on Saturday 5th May 2007 at 5:00 pm. If anyone is interested in attending, you will find more information here. Anyone who is interested in Christian monasticism, new or old, is welcome to attend.

How to get there

From Johannesburg, Pretoria, East Rand, West Rand, take the N1 freeway to the Rivonia Road offramp, then turn North towards Leeukop prison. About 2km from the freeway exit the road narrows, and just before it narrows there is a turn-off to the right, and almost immediately one turns to the left, then right again, and the entrance to the church parking is just round the corner. There will be a sign that says “Church Parking” at the gate.

If you have any questions, please use the comment form below.

Bantustans for Europe? Should Kosovo be independent?

Is Europe about to get its own independent homeland of Bapetikosweti? The Nato attack on Yugoslavia in 1999 (which was every bit as foolish as the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, lest anyone think that there is any significant difference between the two major US political parties) not only failed to solve the problems of Kosovo, it exacerbated them.

One of the things that seemed odd to me, as a South African, was that just at the time that we were at last abandoning the follies of apartheid, Europe seemed to be embracing them. The following extract from an article by Jan Oberg puts the situation in a nutshell:

One of the most dangerous and unrealistic ideas circulating today in international politics is that the Serbian province of Kosovo is a “unique” case.

So much blood has been shed and so many international administrations and peacekeeping forces have ruled in dozens of other regions around the world facing a similar situation involving separatism. Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Palestine, Northern Cyprus, the Basque region, Chechnya, Northern Ireland, Tibet, Taiwan, Kurdistan …

People in all of these areas, and many more, are following the Kosovo story very closely, especially given that most of them have suffered more violent conflicts and have waited for the solution of their problems much longer than the province of Kosovo.

Given the continuous pressure on the Serbian community in Kosovo, it is easy to imagine that the independence of the province would most certainly lead to a mono-ethnic Albanian Kosovo. Serbs who left would never come back.

Such a result would completely undermine the arguments of those who supported the NATO bombings in 1999, which were said to be carried out for the “multiethnicity” of Kosovo. The 1999 bombings would be seen as a campaign for Kosovo’s independence, which is a long way from the proclaimed goals of the “humanitarian intervention.”

It has been an open secret for a while now that “goodwill advisers” have been suggesting to the team of the United Nations chief negotiator for Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari, to find a legal basis for the “uniqueness” of Kosovo in order to avoid setting a precedent that could affect other regions of the world.

But Ahtisaari should avoid a “one- time solution” that gives independence to Kosovo. Breaching international law might appease Albanian separatist aspirations in Kosovo, but it would certainly open a Pandora’s box of separatist causes worldwide.

Jan Oberg, Lund, Sweden. Director of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research

Aleksandar Mitic, Brussels. Chief Analyst at the Institute 4S and TFF Balkans team leader

There is also a longer and more detailed article about the ethnic cleansing that has been taking place under Nato supervision here.

Apartheid didn’t work in South Africa, where its detractors sometimes referred to it as “balkanisation“. And now it has been re-exported to Europe, where the voices calling for the Bantustanisation of the Balkans are growing louder.

It’s a strange, strange world we live in, Master Jack.

The demonification of Serbia

There has been very little publicity in the Western media about the International Court of Juctice’s ruling that Serbia was not responsible for many of the war crimes that the Western media had accused, tried and convicted it of. Here is one of the exceptions.

Slobodan Milosevic was posthumously exonerated on Monday when the international court of justice ruled that Serbia was not responsible for the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica. The former president of Serbia had always argued that neither Yugoslavia nor Serbia had command of the Bosnian Serb army, and this has now been upheld by the world court in The Hague. By implication, Serbia cannot be held responsible for any other war crimes attributed to the Bosnian Serbs.

The Western Confucian asks whether Mr Clinton will soon be shipped off to the Hague to face trial. Or Messrs Blair and Bush, for that matter. There are also interesting comments here and here.

Nobody came out of the wars of the Yugoslav succession smelling of roses. Horrible atrocities were commited on all sides. But the attempts of Western politicans and the Western media to demonify the Serbs and lay all the blame on them must rank as one of the more disreputable spin attempts of the 20th century.

The situation was summed up rather well by Samuel Huntington, in his The clash of civilizations and the remaking of the world order:

The breakup of Yugoslavia began in 1991 when Slovenia and Croatia moved toward independence and pleaded with Western European powers for support. The response of the West was defined by Germany, and the response of Germany was in large part defined by the Catholic connection. The Bonn government came under pressure to act from the German Catholic hierarchy, its coalition partner the Christian Social Union Party in Bavaria, and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and other media. The Bavarian media, in particular, played a crucial role in developing German public sentiment for recognition. ‘Bavarian TV’, Flora Lewis noted, ‘much weighed upon by the very conservative Bavarian government and the strong, assertive Bavarian Catholic Church which had close connections with the church in Croatia, provided the television reports for all of Germany when the war [with the Serbs] began in earnest. The coverage was very one-sided’… Germany pressured the European Union to recognise the independence of Slovenia and Croatia, and then, having secured that, pushed forward on its own to recognize them before the Union did in December 1991.

Austria and Italy promptly moved to recognize the two new states (1991) Slovenia and Croatia, after German recognition and pressure, and very quickly other Western countries, including the United States, followed. The Vatican also played a central role. The Pope declared Croatia to be the “rampart of Christianity,” and rushed to extend diplomatic recognition to the two states before the European Union did. The Vatican thus became a partisan in the conflict, which had its consequences in 1994 when the Pope planned visits to the three republics. Opposition by the Serbian Orthodox Church prevented his going to Belgrade, and Serb unwillingness to guarantee his security led to the cancellation of his visit to Sarajevo. He did go to Zagreb, however, where he honoured Cardinal Alojzieje Stepinac, who was asociated with the fascist Croatian regime in World War II that persecuted and slaughtered Serbs, Gypsies and Jews (Huntington 1998:282).

Kosovo

Nilkola writes on Kosovo

The EU has just sent a high level delegation to Serbia to ‘press’ the Serbian government to take part ‘positively’ regarding UN talks on the future of Kosovo. I dont take kindly to the United Nations meddling into the internal affairs of my country, but I take even less kindly to the EU poking its nose in. We’re not even part of the EU. Who do these arrogant bastards think they are. Does Serbia send special envoys to tell Spain to allow the Basques to have independance. Do we threaten them with withdrawal of an assortment of economic goodies if they dont play ball.

At a time when all kinds of people, including the Orthodox Peace Fellowship, are trying to dissuade the US government from invading Iran, it is as well to remember that the other US political party was in power when Kosovo was invaded, and the problem is no nearer to solution than it was before the invasion. All that NATO (the North Atlantic Terrorist Organisation) succeeded in doing was exacerbating hatred, and making peace unattainable.

When the Butcher of Belgrade left the White House, the Butcher of Baghdad moved in. I’m not sure that he’s crazy enough to want to invade Iran as well, but perhaps he wants to add the Terror of Tehran to his epithets.

But none of these invasions has solved anything.

But perhaps Serbia should bomb Madrid until the Basques are given their freedom. After all, everyone else is doing it.

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