The following was written in 2005 and references the “humanitarian intervention” in the former Yugoslavia. Current events highlight its continued relevancy.
We live in a world of constant deception. In the long run, most positions of power and influence are controlled by men of ambition who never really mean what they say or say what they mean. Like a skilled poker player, the successful organizational politician has learned to never show his hand. His rise to the top greatly aided by craftiness and deceit, his rivals bested through skillful maneuver. The ability to "out fox" the opposition is a skill greatly admired.
U.S. Presidents lie all of the time. It’s part of the job. You can’t be an empire without military intervention, which, in turn, requires selling warfare through massive deception. The left is generally aware of the massive (and clumsy) deceit concerning Iraq, hence, all of the "Bush lied, people died" bumper stickers. On the other hand, the American/German dismemberment of Yugoslavia was welcomed by much of the left as a necessary and praiseworthy humanitarian intervention. The skillful American/German exploitation of ethnic divisions, rivalries and ambitions, combined with the military destruction of the Yugoslav infrastructure was strongly supported by most of the left. Only a few lefties maintained a critical perspective and saw through the massive propaganda and deception.
A bit of history. Between 1960 and 1980, the Yugoslav economy grew at an average of 6.1%. Good economic conditions served to ameliorate ethnic divisions and tensions. Divisions, I might add, that continued to be exploited by western intelligence agencies in their never ending quest to divide and conquer. Unfortunately, Yugoslavia became ensnared in the World Bank/IMF debt trap. By the end of the 1980s, the Yugoslav economy was more-or-less run by the IMF, with the familiar and predictable results. Industry declined, poverty increased, and social services began to be cut. Additionally, money was targeted to the republics (Bosnia, Croatia, etc) while the central government was de-funded. This weakened the central government and created economic pressure for separation. Also, the central government was blamed for the consequences of IMF policies.
In 1990, the U.S. congress passed the Foreign Operations Law of 1991 which, among other things, specified a cut-off of all aid, credits and loans to Yugoslavia within six months. The World Bank and IMF were directed to follow suite. The only money to be permitted was to go to the right-wing separatist forces. It was, in effect, a declaration of economic war against Yugoslavia. The CIA predicted a bloody civil war as a consequence. Of course, that was the intent.
Following the break-up of the former Soviet Union, the U.S. and Germany had decided that their imperial interests were best served by breaking-up Yugoslavia as part of the overall plan to return Eastern Europe to Third World status as a supplier of raw materials, cheap labor, and markets for the Western economies. The plan for Yugoslavia called for an independent Croatia (along the lines of the independent Croatia established by Hitler during World War II), a Muslim dominated Bosnia-Herzegovina, and a greatly weakened Serbia. For propaganda purposes, what little was left of Yugoslavia was referred to as Greater Serbia to create the impression of aggressive expansion.
Throughout the conflict, which was created and fomented by the U.S. and Germany, massive aid flowed to the right-wing separatist forces. In Bosnia, for example, the separatist Muslims (moderate Muslims were pushed aside) were armed, trained and funded by the U.S., Germany, and various Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Aid included Mujahadeen fighters from Afghanistan including elements of al-Qaida. Both the Croatian and Bosnian separatist forces carried out massacres and massive ethnic cleansing of Serbs. These forces had been trained by the U.S. and were being advised by U.S. military officers. Former NATO commander U.S. General John Galvin planned and executed a successful Bosnian offensive in 1995.
All the while, the U.S. media predictably engaged in a massive propaganda campaign demonizing the Serbs, who were compared to the Nazis. Tales of rapes and death camps were orchestrated by our jingoistic press in support of the Imperial crusade. Nothing new there. This time, however, Jewish groups, women’s groups, and all manner of nominally left-leaning NGOs joined in the hysteria. People who knew nothing about the area took leave of their common sense and were stampeded into supporting a highly destructive, flagrantly illegal bombing campaign. It was the most effective propaganda campaign I have ever seen, and proof that when a Democrat makes war, there is no real opposition on much of the so-called left. As for the Right, when have they ever protested against U.S. aggression?
And what are the consequences of Bill Clinton’s "humanitarian" intervention? For the people of the former Yugoslavia, it has been a disaster. This is particularly true for the Serbs who have been ethnically cleansed from Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo, and have had Serbia destroyed by the U.S. led bombing campaign. Bridges, roads, power generation, water purification, hospitals, and TV stations were defined as valid "military" targets. Depleted uranium continues to poison the countryside. They have been reduced from a decent life to Third World paupers, all the while being blamed for the consequences of U.S./German geostrategic intervention. All of the groups now live in countries whose economies are directly administered by the IMF, with the inevitable consequences of neoliberalism. Countries, I might add, that are now too small to be economically viable. Once again, the Great Powers have Balkanized the Balkans.
On the other hand, the Imperial powers did just fine. A united and expansionist Germany took a big step toward establishing a new Mitteleuropa. The U.S. got to establish new military bases in the region, including the strategically located camp Bondsteel in Kosovo. These serve as instruments of power projection and military domination and control. One of the biggest victories for the U.S. was the ability to transform NATO into a U.S. controlled, out-of-area strike force. NATO is well on its way to becoming a U.S. controlled mercenary army.
My primary reason for focusing on the "humanitarian" intervention in the Balkans is to highlight the ubiquitous use of fraud and deception by the elites to garner public support for destructive policies. Also, to discuss the reason that Bill Clinton was able to engage in unprovoked aggression with virtually no opposition on the left. Basically, the reason is that the majority of the left tend to think of the Democrats as good guys and the Republicans as bad guys. Therefore, the left tended to believe the Clinton administration (and allied NGOs) on faith, and to give unqualified support. As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
How to avoid being fooled? The first step is to avoid the good guys versus bad guys world-view. Further, it is critically important to understand that the men of power and their information spinners (media, PR, etc) lie all of the time as part of their job. Most probably believe their own lies. It is also critically important to be aware that the U.S. is a national security state empire. A national security state stimulates and controls its economy through military spending. In order to justify this spending, the U.S. needs to engage in ongoing military confrontations, preferably with a weak and defenseless country which can be attacked with impunity. The business of America is war. Added to this is the reality of empire. Empires don’t engage in humanitarian interventions, they conquer and occupy, subjugate and exploit, kill and terrorize. Finally, simple common sense tells you that you bomb a country to destroy it, not to save it. That, of course, was the unstated purpose of the bombing: to destroy what little remained of the former Yugoslavia for geostrategic reasons.
The "humanitarian" intervention in Yugoslavia exemplifies what should be a core truth for progressives: we are surrounded by constant deception and fraudulent mythology. Only by removing our ideological blinders and honestly confronting the systemic and structural dynamics of elite behavior can we begin to perceive reality for what it is. Actions speak louder than words. Ignore the lies. Evaluate the actions. Draw the obvious conclusions. The United States is a corporate/elite controlled national security state empire. All analyses of foreign and domestic policy must be grounded in that reality. A key component of opposition is to shatter the mythology which camouflages this reality.
See also “Keith’s NO EMPIRE blog” at: http://saskck.blogspot.com