27 December 2012

US to Bosnians: Here's What Your Constitution Should Say


Last month saw the publishing of a new proposal for the reorganization of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Muslim-Croat entity in the State of Bosnia and Herzegovina). That is not remarkable in itself. Since most everyone in the Federation, Croats and Muslims alike, agree the entity is dysfunctional and would benefit from a reorganization it is only to be expected various blueprints for reform would be brought forward. What is more newsworthy is the making of this newest draft has been financed by the US Embassy in Sarajevo.

American Paper

The reform proposal was drawn up by the "Law Institute in Bosnia and Herzegovina", an NGO that is so grassroots the address of its website appears in English (www.lawinstitute.ba). The document it has produced comes with the note it is "financially supported by the Embassy of the United States", but that "all standpoints, opinions and conclusions indicated in this document, do not necessarily reflect attitude of the U.S. Department of State".

Naturally the Americans will not tie themselves down to every detail and turn of words in the document, but it is just as obvious they would not have funded the drafting of  a proposal they disagreed with. What is more the US Ambassador in Bosnia has just recently stated constitutional reform of the Federation has the backing of the United States, and the US Embassy is the only entity mentioned as having "financially supported" the making of this draft. It is safe to conclude this is the American proposal for the reform of the Federation of BiH, which the US State Department has paid for in full.

How is This Normal?

Before moving on to the contents of the proposal, let us first take a step back and consider what should by all rights be an abnormal and outrageous state of affairs. Why should one sovereign nation even have a proposal for the reorganization of another, supposedly likewise sovereign, nation in the first place?

Nigeria does not come up with drafts for internal reform in Chile. North Korea does not spend money on drawing up plans for constitutional reform in Tanzania. Russia does not finance proposals for the internal reorganization of Belarus, or Armenia. The United States itself does not waste breath presenting plans for their internal reform to China or France, and Bosnia and Herzegovina certainly does not fund the drawing up of blueprints for the territorial reorganization of the United States of America.

19 December 2012

Voluntaryist Reader


Just to inform anyone who follows me here, that I've also took up blogging at The Voluntaryist Reader. It is a collaborative blog recently started by over a dozen libertarian radicals with diverse interests such as politics, philosophy, economy and history. So check it out and bookmark it if sparks your interest, either the main page, or else just my archives (two posts so far).

07 December 2012

Wrong Kind of Croat


Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač, two senior officers of the Croatian army have been released by the ICTY which has reversed its decision from last year when it ruled they be imprisoned for the duration of 24 and 18 years respectively. At the time the court ignored the implication of its sentence. If the two accused were guilty of a "joint criminal enterprise" (whatever that is) for carrying out Operation Storm as the ICTY said they were, then logically so too was the Clinton administration which had backed and green-lighted the offensive via ambassador Galbraith. The recent acquittal is no less damning for the theater in Hague, however, and merely lays out the level of its pro-Imperial slant in a different way.

The arbitrariness of the ICTY may now be shown quickly that much more easily just by comparing its respective records on the Croatian Army (HV), and the army of Bosnian-Herzegovian Croats (the HVO). Given that at the time, Croatia, and the Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina were led by one and the same political party (the HDZ) and that Croats of BiH were reliant on assistance from Croatia and sincerely appreciative of Zagreb there is no real reason to expect qualitative differences in their respective armies, as regards their politics, radicalism or propensity for atrocity. Neither should then one expect that HV and HVO members would be found guilty of war crimes at a just court of law at wildly different rates, given that these two forces took part in fighting with roughly comparable gore levels.* Is this the case with the ICTY?

The disposition of the ICTY toward other participants in the wars in the Balkans in the 1990s is glaringly obvious and may be laid out as a few simple rules. The non-natives, the Americans and the NATO Europeans do not get indicted at all. Bosnian Muslims and Albanians are indicted sparingly, and only to be cleared of guilt, or to receive slaps on the wrist. The designated native black hats, the Serbs, are prosecuted with vigor and receive heavy punishment.

ICTY's relationship with the Croats has been less clear-cut. They have been indicted far more sparingly than the Serbs, but also far more frequently than anyone else. Their cases have seen verdicts and sentences all over the place and included instances of dramatic reversals (Blaškić, Kupreškić, Gotovina). In fact in the recent judgment the appeals body split 3-2 to acquit Gotovina and Markač, so at least seemingly it was close to making an opposite decision.

That said, the last month's acquittal of Gotovina and Markač are less of a surprise than had been their earlier sentencing to long-term imprisonment. The latter outcome was unusual, because it went against the rule of thumb for Croats at the ICTY, which could be observed beneath the seeming ambiguity. The two senior Croatian army officers were the wrong kind of Croats to be condemned as criminals of war by the Empire-sponsored court. They were from Croatia when it takes a Bosnian-Herzegovian Croat to really wet the inquisition's appetites.

07 November 2012

Albright's Hate Crime


Madeline Albright is another US policymaker who has outed herself as an anti-Serbian chauvinist. Her charming exclamation the other day ("disgusting Serbs") puts her right there with the most candid of them, Richard Holbroke ("murderous assholes") and Joe Biden ("illiterate degenerates").

As Albright was promoting a book of hers in the Czech Republic the members of a local society, the Friends of Serbs in Kosovo, pulled a Jeremy Scahill on her and attended her book signing in Prague, but asked her if she could sign, not her book, but "her other works that made her famous in the Balkans", meaning the posters with images of the consequences of her policies they had brought along. Rather than attempt an inept and panicked defense like Wesley Clark had done when famously confronted by Scahill, Albright tore up the posters, stood up and shouted, and in the end proclaimed the Czech activists to be "disgusting Serbs".

That is some heavy stuff objectively speaking. That is in the sense that if Albright were to utter an equivalent, say "disgusting blacks" she would rightfully create many problems for herself and tarnish her reputation with the guardians of political correctness in her country. But since she only revealed her revulsion for the Serbs it will have no consequence of that sort. This is because anti-Serbian bigotry is not actually politically incorrect.

It should be kept in mind that the anti-Serbian hysteria of the 1990s had not been generated by rogue hate merchants well beyond the margins of polite society, in the way anti-black, anti-Jewish, or anti-Muslim chauvinism are. It was generated by mainstream liberal politicians, intellectuals and journalists, which is to say by the very people who think of themselves as the indispensable guardians of political correctness and are otherwise the first to pounce on anything culturally insensitive or racist. In fact expressing revulsion for the Serbian people (aka 'Milošević's willing executioneers') has perversely been one way for public figures to cement their PC-ness and to demonstrate their moral righteousness with the PC crowd in America. Contempt for the Serbs as such never put one outside trendy, polite society, it could actually help one get in. 

While that is offensive, no one needed to care, if it was not that that type of attitude had real life consequences. In the first place a fact must be faced that Western intervention in the Balkans was not driven only by considerations of power and geopolitics, but also a straightforward feeling of hatred and malice against the Serbs, which is evident from the number of high-ranking officials who at the time, or since have revealed themselves to harbor such feelings. In the second, the xenophobic attitudes toward the Serbs determined what the intervention could get away with. We may recall that NATO conducted its bombing of Yugoslavia in an atmosphere where Thomas Friedman of the New York Times could, openly and without repercussions for his reputation, demand the bombing be conducted in a less surgical manner so as to kill a greater number of civilians, and his counterpart at the Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer could hail Serbian civilian deaths. Crazy and vicious stuff, but coming, not from some obscure KKK newsletter, but from Pulitzer Prize-winning opinion makers, writing for the two biggest American regime dailies.

23 October 2012

Tim Judah Out-Nonsenses Himself



The most enjoyable side benefit of the debt crisis impacting the EU has to be the opportunity to observe the distress it is causing its cocky and authoritarian supporters. Take Tim Judah, for example, a reporter from the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, but who is better known for his Balkan-themed works of dilettante, bubblegum history, which have won him a wholly undeserved reputation for balance and sobriety on the account that his fare was about 2% less toxic than the poison served up by his still more successful colleagues, the likes of Christine Amanpour and Ed Vulliamy. Judah's beloved EU is in trouble, and it shows. Distressed as he must be, he has penned what is probably his most embarrassing piece to date.

In the piece, spurred by the recent awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU, Judah admonishes "those who are against it [the EU]". Like a teacher who who implores children to not engage in food fights, but to think of 'poor starving children in Africa' instead, Judah implores Union Europeans to think why the poor "ex-Yugoslavs" appreciate the EU so much, and to support this institution on their behalf, or for the same reason these simpler "ex-Yugoslav" people do. Yepp, it's condescending as hell and the problems with it hardly stop there. Let us address them in order.

First there is the presumptuous title: "Ex-Yugoslavs Know Why EU Deserves a Nobel Prize". Having made a career of writing myths about Yugoslavs and misnarrating their quarrels Judah now thinks he may speak in their name. As an actual "ex-Yugoslav" I can say I do not see that the EU deserves any peace prizes. I can, however, say I believe the EU and the Nobel Prize deserve each other, both being completely worthless. Most of all I think it is not the place of a British hack to try to speak on my behalf.

Judah begins the body of his text by drawing a parallel between anti-EU dissent and nationalism that "ripped apart the former Yugoslavia":
"The bile that has poured from so- called euro-skeptics since the Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Prize to the European Union is not surprising. To a journalist who has covered the Balkans for more than two decades, it is also reminiscent of the nationalism that ripped apart the former Yugoslavia. Back then, though, no one spoke of Yugo-skeptics."
Here Judah implicitly draws a parallel between the European Union and Yugoslavia. Naturally, this means having to gloss over the crucial role in ripping apart Yugoslavia that was played by the EU itself. Judah attempts to draw a moral alignment between the former Yugoslavia and the EU, when the EU's actual alignment when it counted was with the "Yugo-skeptics".

He follows up with a desperate howl of a man who has found himself on a losing side of an argument and wants to shut down discussion before this is made apparent to all. Apparently unable to counter their points Judah laments that the critics of the EU in member states are not finding themselves demonized and dismissed out of hand:
"Today, if Serbs, Croats or Albanians used the language of anti-Europeans further west, they would be labeled extreme nationalists and a threat to stability, without so much as a blink of an eyelid."
Consider this is a statement given in a piece attempting to shame the Union Europeans into being more like the allegedly Union-appreciating "ex-Yugoslavs". Judah would actually find it preferable if conditions in Union Europe were such that anti-EU dissent was met with high-pitched accusations of "extreme nationalism" and "threatening stability". He would like it better if the opponents of the EU were not afforded the benign label of 'Euro-skeptics' and the associated access to polite media, but were vilified without a second thought, just as would any "ex-Yugoslav" nationalists not to the West's liking.

02 October 2012

How Stalin Purposefully Lengthened WWII


One thing I left out of the review of The Japanese-Soviet Neutrality Pact below and the book mentions is that it is very likely that in late 1944 the USSR was passing information obtained by espionage against the Western Allies to Japan. Stalin likely decided to do this for fears that Japan may capitulate to the Western Allies before he was ready to attack it himself, which would deprive him of the opportunity to get the Soviet Union into a needless war that would cost it 35,000 casualties.

It is not known how good a use Japan made of the information received from the Soviets, and if Moscow in acting this way indeed prolonged the war in Asia and the Pacific as Stalin had intended. What is certain, however, is that Stalin was successful in purposefully prolonging the war in Europe. He did so when he stopped the fantastically successful Vistula-Oder Offensive when it was apparent it could have reached Berlin in February 1945 virtually unopposed.

Having launched the Vistula-Oder Offensive on January 12th the Red Army made fantastic progress and covered hundreds of kilometers in just a few weeks. By February 1st it had secured multiple bridgeheads on the Oder river which placed it 700 kilometers to the west of its initial positions on the Vistula and a mere 60 kilometers away from Berlin (the Western Allies were still 500km away on the Siegfried Line). Due to how speedy its advance had been and how many German forces it had swept away in the course of its advance the Red Army now gazed at the approaches to Berlin that were only very lightly defended. Accordingly, the Soviets begun the second phase of the winter campaign on the Berlin strategic axis. They were to drive forth again, after only a few days of respite and punch through to reach and take the city as quickly as possible.

It was not to be. As David Glantz, the preeminent American historian of Soviet military operations in WWII explains (1, 2), on February 8th, or thereabout, Stalin suddenly halted the renewed advance in its early stage. The Soviet dictator directed the Red Army forces involved to concentrate on Pomerania and Silesia instead, and transferred others to Hungary from where the Soviets would advance on Vienna. By the time the drive on Berlin was resumed two months later, just a day after Vienna had been taken, the Germans had had time to regroup and a much harder fight awaited the Soviets to reach and take the German capital. In the various offensives that the Soviets launched after the February advance on Berlin had been aborted no fewer than 290,000 Soviet troops were killed and 960,000 were wounded. Many of these losses could have been avoided, but for Stalin's decision to pass over the opportunity to take the Hitler's lightly-defended capital and go for well-defended secondary targets instead.

23 September 2012

The Japanese-Soviet Neutrality Pact

Soviet troops on the march in Korea, October 1945

What follows is a review of a book, The Japanese-Soviet Neutrality Pact, from the pen of the Russian diplomatic historian Boris Slavinsky. The book is a little dry at times, but that is to be expected considering the source material it tasks itself with bringing to light is mainly made up by reports from diplomats. Despite that there are pieces of very important information in there, some of which may not be found anywhere else. Here are some of the things I learned reading it:

  • The Tripartite Pact was presented by Ribbentrop as a treaty aimed at deterring Americans from entering the German and Italian war in Europe and the Japanese war in the Far East. Moreover it was sold to the Japanese as a treaty the Soviet Union would be encouraged to join herself so as to boost the capacity of the alliance to deter the Americans. Specifically to address the concerns of the Japanese the text of the treaty included an article which spelled out that the pact was not aimed at the Soviet Union.

  • Albeit the opposite is widely believed, Stalin was actually receptive of the idea of joining the Tripartite Pact under certain conditions. It was actually the case that when the USSR stated its conditions, which included the end of German presence in Finland and German assistance in securing a Soviet presence on the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, that it was rebuked by Hitler and nothing came of it.*

  • The Japanese were for the main part taken aback by the German invasion of the Soviet Union and did not regard it as a welcome course of action, but as a severe breach of trust by the Germans. Nonetheless the Japanese continued to see Germany, which after all was at war with the British Empire and on a collision course with the United States, as a key ally.

  • Despite the initial shock, the Japanese nonetheless saw the German invasion of the Soviet Union as a likely opportunity for their own territorial aggrandizement and had every intention of eventually breaking the freshly-signed Japanese-Soviet Neutrality Pact of April 1941. They planned to attack the Soviet Union to take a large chunk of the Russian Far East for themselves, but only once the USSR would be all but beaten by the Germans. Appropriately they undertook a covert mobilization in July-August 1941 as a result of which their army in Manchuria doubled in size. Initially the Japanese figured their own invasion may come in 1941, had by September 1941 moved its projected date to spring of 1942, then again postponed it for the third time to 1943, and finally moved it back indefinitely.

18 September 2012

Sitcom Diplomacy

"I miss the smell of villages burning. I miss the way they used to run from our tanks in fear."

Community
is a sitcom that takes place at a fictional American community college. Here is a transcript of the conversation from a scene from its 2nd season episode Custody Law And Eastern European Diplomacy:
Britta (female lead): Oh, I'm so sorry, but could you just not tell Troy and Abed that we went out tonight.

Lukka (one-time character for the episode): No problem.

Britta: It's just that they're really worried if you and I, you know... see each other that it's somehow going to affect your friendship with them

Lukka: Hey don't worry, don't worry. I can keep a secret. I'm from the Balkans there are many things I try not to talk about.

Britta: [sighs] Lukka, I know it. I know there is pain in there. Just so you know you can talk to me about anything

Lukka: [sighs] So much killing. The corpses stacked like firewood, the rivers red with their blood. I miss it so much.

Britta: [begins to kiss him then yanks away suddenly] Wait, just to clarify, when you say you miss it it's like you have survivors guilt, like you wish you were back over there defending your motherland right?

Lukka: Yes, I miss cleansing our fields and forests of the unclean people who stole my country. I miss the smell of villages burning. [laughs] I miss the way they used to run from our tanks in fear. [Is interrupted by a trumpet sound] Ah damn it, my neighbor is Jazz musician. Hey Spencer, come on now, I got woman in here. [knocks on the wall of his apartment, but the trumpet keeps going at it] Great, he really knows how to kill the mood.
So then we have a storyline based around a comedic twist where beneath the appealing exterior of a seemingly friendly and outgoing person, lurks the black heart of a Balkan genocidiare. It's pretty punchy for a sitcom, you have to give the writers that. I suppose an appropriate tagline for their plot would be "If you're dating a boy from the Balkans make sure he doesn't enjoy ethnic cleansing".

09 September 2012

Forgivable


The Herald (a Scottish broadsheet) on the manager of the Serbian national football team (link):
"SUCH is the reputation of Sinisa Mihajlovic that one could forgive the SFA if bars are being hastily erected around the technical area at Hampden in deference to the imminent arrival of the Serbia coach."
Yepp, you read that right. A serious, "quality" British paper has no problem suggesting it would be fine to cage their guests from Serbia when they come over to take part in a sporting event. You may think suggesting some people may be treated with as with apes would be just a tiny-bit politically incorrect in 2012, but if some people happen to be Serbian, you would evidently be wide off the mark.

(The quote is a byline to a poor background article on the manager of the Serbian national football team published in the build up to the football match between the national selections of Scotland and Serbia that was held yesterday in Glasgow. The Scottish Football Association showed more class than that and despite the indulgence granted by The Herald treated their guests with hospitality and dignity, not enclosing their opposition's manager with a cage.)

23 August 2012

An 'A' for Effort

Old Vienna

 Some nonsense that I ran into recently:
"Some researchers believe "Hitler" is a Czech name, and, if that is the case, Hitler was a genetic member of the vast Slavic linguistic family in Europe. Hitler's friend from his hometown of Linz, August Kubizek (a Czech name), also came to Vienna and they roomed together."
It's an amusing claim that immediately reminded me of a similar one that it compliments perfectly, made by Robert Kaplan in his 1990s smash hit Balkan Ghosts:
"Twentieth-century history came from the Balkans. Here men have been isolated by poverty and ethnic rivalry, dooming them to hate. Here politics has been reduced to a level of near anarchy that from time to time in history has flowed up the Danube into Central Europe. Nazism, for instance, can claim Balkan origins. Among the flophouses of Vienna, a breeding ground of ethnic resentments close to the southern Slavic world, Hitler learned to hate."
It is really interesting how a few people will try so hard to pin even Adolf Hitler on East Europe, or the Slavic world and into how dubious territory they they are willing to go for the purpose. If you believe both of the claims above, then Hitler was a "genetic member" of Slavdom in the first place, and he became a nasty guy and the founder of Nazism after he internalized an aspect of culture of the uber-nasty Balkan Slavs of Vienna.

Such labor in trying to make the connection between the two, Hitler and East Europe, or alternatively Hitler and the Balkans, or the Slav world, goes to show how strongly the two must be connected in the mind of the person making the claim. For some people, their understanding of the character of their own part of the world simply requires East Europe and/or the Balkans be another word for a hate crime. And if squaring that with some inconvenient historical facts means having to enter some incredibly bizarre territory to make the German and the Westerner Adolf Hitler into a potential Slav or an Eastern/Balkan European, then so be it.

21 August 2012

An Own Goal


An excerpt from the preface to the second edition (2000) of Borderlands of Western Civilization (Oskar Halecki, 1952), by one Andrew Simon, professor emeritus of University of Akron:
"Nations of Orthodox Christianity never experienced the great intellectual movements that define Western civilization. Peoples who were subjected to the oppressive Ottoman rule for 500 years learned to accept corruption, intolerance and despotism and appeared to be quite willing to live under Communism to its end, without a trace of resistance. These countries needed no occupying Soviet armies to keep them in line."

"Ethnic or religious intolerance and despotism led to systematic rampages of genocide: the slaying of 8,000 Jews in Jassy on June 29 of 1941 by the Romanian authorities, the murder of 7,000 Bosnian Moslems in Srebrenica by the Serbs in July of 1995 were driven by the same hyper-nationalistic and xenophobic mentality characteristic of the east."
I'm highlighting this because of how dumb it is. So a retired professor from the United States will write, without a hint of self-consciousness, that a massacre in Romania in 1941 in which 8,000 Jews were killed defines the mentality of the east. But wait a minute, wasn't the Iaşi pogrom only one incident in a much larger event known as the Jewish Holocaust? And isn't it the case that as Romania authorities murdered up to 400,000 Jews in the Holocaust (just over one half of the Jewish population under their control), the German authorities murdered the other 5.6 million (virtually the entire Jewish population under their control)?

So if the Iaşi massacre tells us something very important about that east which lies beyond the "borderlands of Western civilization", then why would it not be the case that Auschwitz-Birkenau should tell us something very important about the Western civilization itself? Why wouldn't it be the case the (greater) German role in the Holocaust would be equally revealing of mentality that is characteristic of the west, just as the (smaller) Romanian role can supposedly define the east?

It's stupid. If one wishes to highlight the East Europeans' comparative moral inferiority it's probably a good idea to, at the very least, leave aside such crimes in which the greater part of the killing was actually carried out by Westerners.

The actual value of the passage is in succeeding to showcase perfectly the characteristic xenophobia and the dimwitednes of academics who wish to make Western civilization into a moral category and assign it moral mastery over the lands to its east.

19 August 2012

The Magic of Laissez-faire

Occupied Ukraine — Romanian zone in yellow

An excerpt from Hitler's Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe (Mazower, 2008) regarding life in the Romanian occupation zone in the Ukraine:
"The Romanian administration's unrivaled venality did have some benefits. It allowed people to buy their way out of requisitioning, death sentences and forced labour duties. It also let people buy their way into business: abolishing price controls and distributing licenses to anyone who paid, the Romanians simply took their cut and stood back as individual enterprise galvanized the local economy. Looted property — especially Jewish — injected capital. In Odessa itself, new hairdressers, cafés, shops, taverns and movie theatres flourished. German visitors were astonished at the availability of food, the well-stocked restaurants, snack-bars and stands selling home-made jams, sweets and bread rolls, which stood in such sharp contrast with the misery in those parts of the Ukraine under their control. Here, for a brief moment between the early 1920s and the collapse of communism in 1989, the inhabitants of Odessa — in the midst of of total war and genocide — embraced capitalism.

In a way, it worked. After the spring of 1942 there was no food scarcity, and following that year's harvest there was, by the standards of the region, something approaching plenty: peasants and others with the access to the market prospered. Even German journalists were impressed. 'It was known everywhere that life in Transnistria was incomparably better than anywhere else in the occupied territories in Europe,' noted a young Russian black marketeer. Wading through the mud of a dirty northern Transnistrian town, he found

something which distinguished it from all the other towns of Russia and the Ukraine under German occupation: an abundance of food in the market... There was fat, so rare in the Ukraine. There was bacon, butter, vegetable oil, meat  — which we had almost forgotten existed: pork, chicken goose — and many other things that made our eyes pop. Moreover it was inexpensive. We bought a lot more than we needed, enough for a week."
Once again, it would seem the only thing needed for there to be abundance, is to leave people the hell alone, which is what Romanians in Ukraine did, provided they paid their bribes. In Pridnestrovie in 1942-44 it even worked to create a condition of plenty in the context of a ruthless occupation and disturbances associated with large-scale war.

Also another thing that is worth nothing, the episode is another example of the rule that anything positive that fuses with the state becomes negative and vice versa. Generally speaking you would value administrators with integrity more so than those without it, but when talk turns to state administrators that is not necessarily the case at all. Ukrainians under Romanian occupation would have fared far worse if Romanian officials took their duties more seriously and refused to lessen the harshness of the occupation regime in exchange for bribes ordinary Ukrainians could afford.

15 August 2012

Slavs – The Devil's Instrument of Intolerance on Earth



Check out the excellent commentary on the campaign of the British media against Ukraine, and Poland, the hosts of Euro 2012 football championship over at Brendan O'Neill's blog and Spiked Online: The fear of 'racist' Ukraine, Where are these stadiums of hate?, England’s football fans more racially enlightened than the BBC.

The story is thus; in the run up to the Euro 2012 sections of the media in Britain became fascinated with Poland and Ukraine and spent a great deal of time talking about them. The aspect of the two Euro host countries which so captivated them was their alleged racism. Supposedly the two Eastern European countries were drowning in dangerous racists who would make visiting them to enjoy the Euros a risky proposition for any black or Asian football tourists, and an ugly experience for anyone else.

In reality, despite the fear mongering of the British press, this year's Euro hosted by the Polish-Ukranian Asiatic hordes passed exactly like those before it. Clearly the British fear-mongers then had not been talking about the societies in Ukraine and Poland as they actually exist, but about the unpredictable and retrograde Slav-Tartars that inhabit them in their imaginations.

This is understandable. Analysis of Poland and Ukraine as they actually are would take work, but have uncertain appeal. The comic-book like characterization that was conjured up in its place, however, is sure to be exciting, believable and gratifying, all at the same time.

It is exciting because it tells of the exotic, in this case of hordes of fascist-salute-giving Eastern racists. It is believable because it builds upon the long tradition in the West to understand Eastern Europe as a nasty and primitive counterpart to itself. It is gratifying because it tells the Brits the fact their land is not being overrun with violent, racists thugs is actually something of an accomplishment, seeing the Poles and the Ukrainians are allegedly not capable of reproducing it.

That a number of people in Britain took twisted pleasure in convincing themselves there lurks in Poland and Ukraine an exotic and primitive menace should be rather inconsequential to an Eastern European. At most one can feel a measure of compassion for the individuals who having fell for the hack's hysteria missed out on a pleasant enough tournament they were otherwise going to attend.

Nonetheless the anti-Polish/Ukrainian campaign of the buildup to the Euro 2012 should not escape without comment seeing it is merely the most recent manifestation of long-held Western European ideas about the East. Ideas which periodically — though they did not this time — end up serving as the rationale for the attempted exercise of power by Western against Eastern Europeans.

Since the Enlightenment it has been a kind of a hobby horse of much of the Western European intelligentsia to define their lands by contrasting them with those of Eastern Europe. The Westerners are permanently eager to find in the eastern half of the continent defects to which they could compare their own alleged overcoming of such imperfections and therefore showcase their supposed greater immersion with civilization. In other words their understanding of their place in the world rests on the idea of Eastern Europe as the nearest other, as the former, or the mirror forms of themselves. It is conceded that in a very primordial sense the two, Western and Eastern Europe may be alike, but always with the understanding that the West has since developed and civilized while the East has remained under-civilized, or worse, counter-civilized by developing in a rogue, illegitimate direction.

28 July 2012

Translated


Examining the incoming links on blog statistics I found the blog has passed a landmark of sorts. It turns out recently somebody took the effort to translate one of the posts into another language and republish it, which to my knowledge is the first time this has happened. The language in question is Czech and the website a Czech independent news portal Czech Free Press, which translated my Sarajevo-themed piece The Siege That Wasn't. So on the off chance that you a.) read Czech and b.) missed the post when I published it here check out the Czech version, here. Also thanks to CFP for the translation and the reposting.

25 June 2012

Massacre in Kandahar or: How Did 'Our Bobby' Become a Serb?

Bobby Bales, US Army sergeant

One major part of media reaction to the Kandahar Massacre has been to explore the perpetrator's all-American background. We learn Robert Bales is suburbia-bred, former high school footballer, a family man, a patriot, even a local hero. He may have 17 charges of murder to his name, but the media can not help themselves but humanize Robert Bales, American child killer.

It points to the US media's fascination with an apparent contradiction — how could 'one of us' ever be a war criminal? It isn't that the media is trying to garner sympathy for Bales, or outweigh some of the bad with the good as some have suggested. Instead the media is echoing the mystification of America as to how one of its own could behave like a foreign psycho. If Bales' former Cincinnati neighbors reacted to news of the massacre with disbelief it could have been perpetrated by their 'Bobby', the media have been similarly mystified as to how come an American could ever commit an equivalent of throwing babies out of incubators.

One answer that is emerging and threatening to become the definite one is the narrative of Bales as an all-American on the outside, but in fact an outsider to American society. Some reports are determined to paint Bales in this manner. We learn that he may have been a family man, but he had also assaulted a woman! He may have been a patriot, but he also defrauded pensioners! He may have been a four-tour combat veteran, but he was trying to keep from being deployed again on the account of a possibly minor injury! He may have been on a high school football team, but he was not its biggest star! (eek!) He was strange from the start, and only seemingly fit in, but beneath the veneer of all-American normalcy lay a black sheep (!), is the message.

True or not, none of this is very relevant. What if indeed Bales was flawed? He was nonetheless good enough for the American government to pay him tens of thousands of dollars for his service per annum. Good enough to put on a US Army uniform and make sergeant. Good enough to earn a dozen US Army medals, ribbons and badges. Good enough to be, we can safely assume, on many occasions approached by strangers eager to thank him 'for his service'. Good enough to receive rounds of applause on planes, as American soldiers often are, and be thrown parades. Good enough to be handed a rifle and shipped to Afghanistan to wield power over ordinary people there leading peaceful, civilian lives. Denial that Bales fit in the American mainstream is critically undermined by the fact many of the same people who would now disown him as a renegade, would have just weeks ago swooned over him as an American military man.

Bales is undeniably an all-American then, yet the other day The New York Times had to refer to him as a "war crime suspect". When you consider that a "war crimes suspect" (always plural) is a term normally reserved for Serbs, Bosnian Croats and Africans, a term ubiquitous in the coverage of the Balkans, but never ever applied to Americans, you can understand the mystification the massacre has posed to America. It is a produce of an incredible level of willful self-delusion.

24 June 2012

The Feats of the Soviet Arms Production: How Did They Do It?


I
n 1942, the grimmest year of the Second World War, the Soviet Union could produce only a quarter of steel and coal produced in Germany. The size of the Soviet industrial workforce at that time was one half of the pre-war high of 12 million. At its low after the Axis summer offensive it temporarily fell to just 5.5 million. The size of the German industrial labor pool at the same point in time was 11.5 million, down slightly from the pre-war force of 13.6 million workers.*

Through 1944 the German industrial workforce was always at least 2-3 million larger than the Soviet workforce. This even before counting the many millions of foreign laborers in Germany and the workers in German-occupied Europe. It was only in early 1945, when the Soviet Army smashed to the Oder, that the size of the German industrial workforce shrunk bellow that of the Soviet Union.

Despite this the Soviet Union outperformed Germany in production of most every category of weapons, save ships, and did so for every year of the war, including 1942. In that year the USSR produced 25.000 aircraft to Germany's 15.000, 24.000 tanks to Germany's 9.000, and over 49.000 pieces of medium and heavy artillery to Germany's 12.000. How was the Soviet industry able to perform this outstanding feat?

One possible answer could be the support in raw materials, transport vehicles and technology provided to it by the USA under the Lend-Lease act, but this fails to explain the performance of the Soviet industry in 1941 and 1942, before Lend-Lease had had any meaningful impact. Another explanation could be the slightly lesser level of mobilization of German industry for the needs of the war effort before 1943/44. This, however, fails to explain how come the Soviet Union was able to outproduce Germany even in the pre-war years when Germany had a higher portion of its industry labor for the needs of rearmament than did the Soviet Union. Finally it could be claimed the difference had something to do with the Allied bombing of German cities, but actually there is little evidence of Allied strategic bombing succeeding in disrupting German production before late 1944. So while all these arguments help answer the question, even taken all together they do not provide a fully satisfactory answer.

It must be then that, 
at churning out vast quantities of weaponry, Soviet armaments industry was, for whatever reason, simply better than its German counterpart. Though it may sound counter-intuitive to some, laborer for laborer the Soviet, fully state-run, industry was hands down more efficient at supplying its military than its German counterpart that was ostensibly state-run to a lesser degree.

09 May 2012

The Siege That Wasn't


Weeks ago was 6th of April, the anniversary of the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia. The global press focused on 6th of April as a different Yugoslav anniversary, however. News outlets all over the world (eg the BBC, Al-Jazeera, the Associated Press), spent the day reporting it marked 20 years since the beginning of a four year siege of Sarajevo. But did it really? Without a doubt what has been dubbed The Siege of Sarajevo begun on 6th of April 1992, but was that event really a siege?

It is said The Siege of Sarajevo was the longest siege in modern history, having lasted until February 29th, 1996. This is interesting because the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina formally ended on December 14th, 1995, and was de facto over by November 21st, 1995. This means there is a claim Sarajevo was subject to a siege which actually outlasted the war by three months.

Yet how is it possible to maintain a siege in peacetime? Obviously that is impossible. That there is a siege means there is active warfare, and that there is active warfare means there is a war. In fact The Siege of Sarajevo could only last three months into peacetime, because it wasn't a siege in the first place.

The Bosnian Serb Blockade of Sarajevo

By common sense definition a siege is a military blockade of a fortress or a city maintained for the purpose of capturing said fortress or city. The city of Sarajevo was until February 29th, 1996 encircled by Bosnian Serb troops, but not every encirclement or blockade is a siege. A blockade that is not enforced for the purpose of capture, but is instead its own purpose is just a blockade.

The truth of The Siege of Sarajevo is that the "besieging" Bosnian Serb Army had neither the ability nor the intent to ever capture the city. The Bosnian Serb forces around Sarajevo were significantly outnumbered by the Bosnian Muslim forces inside the city. The advantages the Serbs held and which enabled them to keep Sarajevo bottled up was a one-sided superiority in artillery and control of the elevated terrain around the Sarajevo basin. Neither of these would have counted for much if they ever attempted to take the city block by block, however.

03 April 2012

Diplomatic Incident

Russians, according to chief American "diplomat" in Moscow

Over at the excellent The Kremlin Stooge blog, I was made aware of a telling diplomatic incident that took place a few days ago. Dealing with Russian reporters American ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, accused them of spying on him and went on to lambast Russia as a "barbarian country". The juiciest part of McFaul's outburst reads:
“Aren’t you ashamed of doing this? This insults your country, do you understand this?"

"It looks like I am in a barbarian country. This is abnormal. It never happens in my country, in England, Germany, or China. It happens only here and only with you.”
It's rather interesting, drop an American functionary in the imagined Rednecklandia otherwise known as Eastern Europe and suddenly the representative of a nation barely 200 years old, suddenly starts to think of himself as kin to a Roman, or a Greek forced to deal with abnormal barbarians refusing to conform to long-established norms of civilized societies.     

Later, after his comments were made public by the reporters, McFaul retracted his words. In a Twitter post he claimed to have "misspoken in bad Russian", that his characterization as "wild" was meant for the actions of the television he was dealing with and not the country, and that actually he respects Russia:
"Just watched NTV. I mispoke[sic] in bad Russian. Did not mean to say 'wild country.' Meant to say NTV actions 'wild.' I greatly respect Russia."
Notably his retraction-via-Twitter did not come with an actual apology for "misspeaking". The explanation offered is also bung. The context makes it clear McFaul meant exactly what he said.

Aside from being a hothead outraged with the barbarian ways of Scythians, oops, make that Russians, McFaul is also a State Department "expert" on color revolutions, who has authored essays, books and given lectures on this topic. That's right, official Washington could not find a more appropriate person to send to parley with the Russians than a "diplomat" with expertise in "spreading democracy" and regime subversion in post-Communist Europe. Indeed, after taking the post of ambassador to Russia this January it took the guy exactly two days to host a meeting with Russian opposition figures and foreign-backed NGOs.

McFaul's appointment to the post of ambassador to Russia itself signifies the extent to which "American diplomacy" has become an oxymoron and with what level of arrogance Washington approaches the rest of the world. For all of McFaul's theoretical expertise, there isn't the slightest chance of a color revolution in Russia. This makes his efforts with the opposition seem comical and his appointment seem borne of delusion. Probably a more appropriate appointee for the chief diplomatic posting in Moscow would have been an official whose expertise is actually in diplomacy. It may have spared DC some embarrassment and at least one diplomatic gaffe.

07 March 2012

Kosovo: Farce and Justice


News pieces concerning Kosovo in Western outlets will seldom go without mentioning that Albanians make up 90 percent of its population. Pick a Kosovo-themed news piece at random and it is likely its background paragraph will include a phrase like "Kosovo's 90 percent Albanian majority", "Kosovo is 90 percent ethnic Albanian" or "Kosovo, whose population is 90 percent ethnic Albanian". In fact such assertions regularly found their way into news reports before the massive expulsions of non-Albanians in 1999 actually made this the case in reality. Particularly around the time of NATO attack on Yugoslavia, but even as early as 1990.

It is easy to determine why a typical background paragraph in a Kosovo story, will include this information, but little else. The purpose is to frame the story as dealing with a territory that is for all intents and purposes Albanian. It is ultimately intended to elicit a response of disbelief at the cheek of the Serbs for even claiming it as their own, or for having it included in their state in the first place. This particularly seeing the same reports will, if at all, describe the Serbian attachment to the territory as stemming from the fact it was at one point a part of the Serbian medieval empire, and a place of a certain large 14th century battle. Arguments then, which if truly formed the basis of Serbian claim to Kosovo would indeed point to its exceeding weakness.

Demographics of a contested region indeed provide the strongest possible argument for a claim over it. As such some information of such nature should probably be a part of any report from a trouble zone like Kosovo. When that information is reduced to a tiny tidbit such as "90 percent ethnic Albanian" it may, however, be leaving out a great deal and be potentially misleading. Imagine, for example, an eight-unit apartment building. Let us say that six of the apartments are owned by Chileans who each live alone. That the other two apartments, on the other hand, are occupied by two separate Norwegian families each with nine members. In this case for every Chilean occupant of the building, there are three Norwegian occupants. Having in mind the structure of the ownership, however, would it make sense at all to say this apartment building is mainly occupied by Norwegians and leave it at that?

Reality of the matter is that Kosovo is as Serbian as South Dakota is Sioux (and in much the same way). Essentially all the place names in Kosovo are of Serbian origin. The only toponyms with Albanian names are of settlements that are exceedingly recent. The name "Kosovo" itself is Serbian. There is no Albanian name for it, instead the Serbian name is used slightly adapted. This is only natural seeing that there is no record of mayor Albanian presence in the territory before the 18th century. Serbs have lived in Kosovo since there was such a thing as a Serb, but Albanians are largely newcomers from the highlands to the west, in northern Albania.

To Albanians Kosovo started out, not as a home, but as a place to raid. As many other tribal highlanders the tribesmen of northern Albania nurtured a raiding culture. For the prospect of plunder and recognition they would raid each other, as well as organize annual incursions into lowland Kosovo. Serbian agriculturalists there were hardly the only such in the world at the time to be subject to recurrent raiding. Many such populations prospered regardless and eventually made themselves impervious to such attack. Situation of Christian Serbs in Kosovo was uniquely precarious, however, since they were required by Islamic law in force in the Ottoman-ruled Balkans to go unarmed. With them unable to defend themselves the most exposed areas gradually cleared of their Serbian inhabitants who fell back to safer areas. Albanians attracted by the superior land in the lowlands moved in their stead, thus beginning the process of ethnic shift in Kosovo.

19 February 2012

Kosovo: No New Demarcations


Serbia has never suggested its occupied province of Kosovo be partitioned between itself and an Albanian state. Despite this there has been, for years now, a stream of messages rejecting, warning against and condemning phantom aspirations for such a partition coming from officials and think-thanks in the West. This tiresome raising of alarm against partition seems nothing so much as an affected self-delusion aimed at creating the impression that structure of international law and treaty obligations that provide such an overpowering arguments for Serbia's position actually stand in her way.

Western officialdom wishes partition was the Serbian position, because were that the case it would have an overpowering counter-argument against it (that is now held by Serbia). For this reason it is inclined to pretend this is the "real" Serbian position hiding under a mask of protestations to the contrary. Once again the Empire's reality is not that which is real, but that which would best suit the Empire reality to be.

Additional reason for the affected self-delusion may be an attempt to goad Belgrade into coming out in favor of partition. By pretending the prospect of Serbia striving for partition is something it makes it uneasy it may be hoping the Serbs may come around to seeing it as an effective strategy to accomplish at least limited goals in Kosovo themselves. In reality for Serbia to drop the argument for the Kosovo as a whole would play into the hands of the Empire and make its intent not to return any part of Kosovo to Serbia's control far easier.

In addition to representing a foolish strategy to try to accomplish anything with, a push for partition of Kosovo by Serbia would mean colluding with the enemy toward an end that would see the rights of the great majority of those people from Kosovo who Serbia can claim to speak for be violated.

17 February 2012

On Syria


Three articles on Syria these days that should not be missed. First, Diana Johnstone's take at CounterPunch, the most interesting part of which reads:
"Last month, on this site Aisling Byrne called attention to results of a public opinion poll funded by no less than the Qatar Foundation, which cannot be suspected of working for the Assad regime, given the Qatar royal family’s lead position in favor of overthrowing that regime. The key finding was that “while most Arabs outside Syria feel the president should resign, attitudes in the country are different. Some 55% of Syrians want Assad to stay, motivated by fear of civil war – a specter that is not theoretical as it is for those who live outside Syria’s borders. What is less good news for the Assad regime is that the poll also found that half the Syrians who accept him staying in power believe he must usher in free elections in the near future.”"

"This indicates a very complex situation. Syrians want free elections, but they prefer to have Assad stay in power to organize them. This being the case, the Russian diplomatic efforts to try to urge the Assad regime to speed up its reforms appear to be roughly in harmony with Syrian public opinion."
For all the comical moral indignation of the United States and associated powers over Russia vetoing a proposed UNSC resolution condemning Assad it is Russian diplomatic efforts which are in rough harmony with the Syrian public opinion, which is to say with the desires of moderates and regular people who are stuck in the crossfire between the two warring camps and fear the consequences of chaos and further polarization. They aim to reach what a seems a  reasonable compromise that would deliver something to everyone but the fiercest partisans of government and opposition, and furthermore could offer a way out that is highly preferable to the likely alternative.

It remains to be seen if the two are really connected, but with the Syrian government announcing willingness to adopt a liberalizing constitution it may be the efforts of Moscow are already bearing first fruit.

USA's insistence this is an all-or-nothing affair, apparent from its egging on the insurrectionists and its refusal to accept anything less but for the Syrian regime to momentarily dismantle itself, meanwhile works to frustrate the possibility of compromise reform and to escalate violence that is already threatening to develop into a civil war.

12 February 2012

Western Press: A False Friend to Russia's People Power



What a difference 19 years or so makes. The coverage of the recent anti-government rallies in Moscow in the Western press has been extensive and hugely positive. News piece after news piece put the rally organizers' attendance estimate in the headline, remembered to point out that participants had braved extreme weather to attend, and humanized the protesters by reporting on their white ribbon symbol, their chants, placards, their demands and backgrounds. Many also generously labeled the protests "the largest since the collapse of the Soviet Union".

Compare this to the treatment by the Western media of Russia's other massive demonstrations since the collapse of the Soviet Union — the 1993 rallies in support of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation. When Boris Yeltsin initiated his presidential coup against the Supreme Soviet tens of thousands of citizens turned to streets in revolt. Yeltsin responded by ordering force, but protesters stood their ground. Instead in most places it was Yeltsin's police which gave ground. Before long a mass of fifty to one hundred thousand people enraged by attempted violent suppression was seemingly unstoppably conquering Moscow's streets, as initially combative police essentially hid. The protesters' fortunes changed, however, when they failed to overcome live fire to take over Ostankino state television center and when Yeltsin rallied the military to his side, and armor and special forces units joined the bloody crack down.

Western governments backed Yeltsin through the putsch to the hilt, and the Western press followed their lead. According to them Yeltsin throwing the last pretense of the rule of law to the wind to dissolve the parliament which the Constitution and the Constitutional Court were explicit he could not do and remain the president was a "bold gamble" against "obstructionist" legislature, a part of "his attempts to break Russia out of its history of authoritarian rule". To hear them tell it what happened next was essentially that "pro-Communist demonstrators" — an instantaneously disqualifying characterization, particularly in 1993 — went on a "rampage in Moscow" in support of "rebel legislators" engaged in an attempted "coup", which if successful would have resulted in "turning the clock back on Russia's uncertain march toward democracy".

Western anglophone media could not have been less charitable to the Moscow protesters. The most hostile reporters and columnists spoke of a "Moscow mob directed by Russian totalitarianism's last-gasp fanatics", of "the rag-tag Communist rabble supporting the parliament", of "Rutskoi's ragtag army of Communists, neo-Nazis and just plain hooligans dedicated to restoring the old Soviet Union", of an "unruly band of malcontents - ranging from anti-Semitic fascists and nationalists to fervent monarchists and hard-line Stalinists", or of "neo-fascists, Stalinists, priests, and Cossacks crying out in unison". Contempt for Russians who had turned to street demonstrations was palpable.

24 January 2012

Croatia Did Not Vote


Sunday 43.5% of eligible voters turned out for the EU membership referendum in Croatia. 66% of these voted in favor of membership. Politicians breathed a sigh of relief; the danger the referendum would fall loomed large in their mind, but this outcome did not materialize Sunday. Since November 2010, when popular opposition to EU membership briefly overtook support, there was great uneasiness among the Europeanist power elite, that was evident from the over the top and sometimes panicked way in which they conducted their pro-membership campaign.

For one thing Sunday there was no campaign silence otherwise customary for polls in Croatia, enabling the government to continue to advertise for membership into the very day of the vote and make the most of the far greater visibility of its publicly funded pro-EU campaign, compared to that of the underfunded, but spirited, grass roots anti-EU effort (operating under condition of television lockout). In an even more controversial development, a few days earlier the Minister of External and European Affairs (apparently "European affairs" are not external) warned retirees that unless Croatia joined the EU they would not receive their pensions:
"I do not want to be overly cruel, but if we do not enter the EU you will not receive your pension! I can be repugnant to you, but do not let your life to be repugnant to you. That is what it is about! We are in dire straits! Vote for the future of this country!"*

The result of the referendum indicates the aggressiveness of pro-membership campaign paid off. But how did it arrive at its success and who did it achieve victory over? The key is that as the political class demonstrated its determination to stoop to whatever depths necessary to see the absorption into the EU would not be thwarted, the voters correctly figured membership was a foregone conclusion they could do little to affect in the end. Subsequently, those undecided did not bother to look into the matter at all, and numerous opponents, as well as many supporters, did not bother to visit the poll and cast a vote according to their conviction.

The abysmally low turnout of only 43.5%  indicates that government pro-EU efforts did not so much convince the many opponents of EU status to come around, as it had the effect of deterring them from taking part in the vote. In the end 56.5% of the electorate stayed at home, 14.5% came out to express their disagreement with membership, 29% their agreement. The government's pro-EU effort then was not so much carried out in the context of competition between supporters and opponents of membership, as it represented a war of the power elites against any notion of people power — a struggle the latter lost handily. This, however, represents a defeat for opponents as well as supporters of joining the EU, provided they care for prospect of real democratic decision making at all.



*The statement was given in the context of hysterical scaremongering of how voting against EU membership would mean Croatia would "lose" its credit rating "inside the week [of the vote]", which would have the effect of raising interest rates and sending the economy on a catastrophic downward spiral. It is interesting the first thought of the Minister if the country ran out of funds was for retirees who would be left without pensions rather than say, ministers who would be left without their salaries. One almost supposes the Minister assumed the funds to pay the latter would always be found, no matter how low the credit rating. It is also interesting how the politicians saddling the country with debt becomes an argument to be even more sure to let them have their way. Surely if one's main concern is the debt crisis it is only sensible to attempt to frustrate the plans of the buffoons responsible for it instead?

18 January 2012

Croatia: Popular Sanction EU Style


Croatia is not, and will not be a member of the European Union until at least July 2013, but that has not stopped it from adopting the worst practices of the EU already. Next Sunday its citizens will vote whether to join the EU, and do so under the understanding that should they pick the wrong option, they will have to vote again.

The referendum scheduled for 22nd January is allegedly binding, meaning that should it pass the national assembly will be obligated to ratify the EU accession treaty. Should the referendum fall, however, the Minister of External and European Affairs has explained it will just be repeated six months, or one year later. A Yes vote then is binding, but seeing July 2013 is still far away, a No vote this Sunday may not even postpone the accession.

Naturally this is having a demoralizing effect on the opponents of Croatia joining the EU, which makes it all the more certain the referendum will pass at the first time of asking. Indeed, opinion polls indicate those who are opposed to EU membership are considerably less likely to turn out than those in favor. With the widespread understanding the government will make sure the country joins one way or the other, many opponents will not bother to engage in a symbolic, but futile act of registering their opposition.

Another factor which is skewing the field is that the campaign against the EU is wholly reliant on voluntary donations to the cause, but the government pro-EU campaign can spend money from the state budget. The latter has therefore been appropriately lavish, mailing a slick propaganda brochure to every private home in the country, setting up a propaganda telephone call center and buying up add space on 17 local television and 80 radio stations (which is to say the majority of TV and radio stations in this country of 4 million people). As large as it is the significance of the immediate pre-referendum campaign, however, pales in comparison to the significance of the sustained pro-EU campaign of the last 15 years on the national public television, which at one point stooped to such depths as to broadcast a series of EU-themed propaganda shows aimed at children (produced in cooperation with the European Commission).