Richard Holbrooke, the Butcher of the Balkans

Judy Woodruff, in her recent obituary of Richard Holbrooke, asked herself why is that "members of the mainstream media are "fawning" over Holbrooke, and whether he had received this sort of coverage while he was alive." This, the article continues,  made her "think about why we often wait until someone dies before we give them credit for their accomplishments. In a somewhat metaphysical tone, she remarks that this is "universal phenomenon; few get their due before they disappear from the scene."


Wodruff admires Holbrooke's humanitarian impatience: "he loved public service so much that he was frequently trying to circumvent the government bureaucracy that slowed things down." His public service was centered around "doing what he could to improve the life of Afghanistan's people – their economy, farming, schools, opportunities for women – anything to give them a positive alternative to the intolerant religious extremism that Taliban militants offer for their future." This is not unusual, because this "brilliant bundle of energy" spent "an adult lifetime absorbed with what were arguably the hardest problems the world has known in that period – the war in Vietnam, the conflict in the Balkans, the HIV-AIDS crisis in Africa, and most recently, Afghanistan."


Well, I would certainly like to recognize the importance of Richard Holbrooke, this "brilliant bundle of energy," humanitarian here who always "believed that we have to get it right," for the history of my own region, the Balkans, and my country, ex-Yugoslavia.


Richard Holbrooke was a war criminal. He helped organize the military and institutional framework for the mass slaughter of Yugoslav people. Since the involvement of the United States in Yugoslav wars, Holbrooke helped block every single peace initiative coming from the Yugoslav people. He is directly responsible for the bombing of Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo in 1999; for the occupation of Bosnia and Kosovo that followed; and for the mass exodus of Romani and Serb civilians from post-war Kosovo.


In my book Don't Mourn, Balkanize! Essays After Yugoslavia, I describe the Yugoslav region after Holbrooke:


"What do the Balkans look like today? They are a patchwork of nation-state remnants, such as Slovenia; the vassals of the international community, like Croatia and Serbia & Montenegro; and the three protectorates under military watch – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia (the latter facing the serious risk of a new civil war, potentially even more brutal than the one that ended in 2002). When it comes to the protectorates, the "international community" has, to date, had two paradoxical solutions: in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the imposition of a "multiethnic at any cost" approach, while in Kosovo, preparations are under way for a "monoethnic independence", at least partially due to the fact that after the occupation of this Serbian province ensued a year-long ethnic cleansing in the opposite direction – of which we hear almost nothing in the Western press – in which nearly all the non-Albanian inhabitants were exiled and over 150 monasteries destroyed. But how do we explain the newly photogenic Bosnia and Kosovo? Perhaps it's best to start with Bosnia which one Russian journalist, correctly it would appear to me, calls the "model for Kosovo". In the Balkans, "success is a real rarity", writes Jonathan Steel, apparently relieved of the burden of the concerned European. Especially in Bosnia, which is more a " patchwork than a real state" (Politika Daily).

Two so-called entities – the muslim-Croatian federation and Republika Srpska – have remained practically "irreconcilable enemies". This "Balkan colony of the international community" is made up of 10 cantons, 14 parliaments and 145 ministries. Sound complicated? The peoples of Bosnia themselves remain perplexed more than 10 years after they were forced to accept this somewhat bizarre arrangement. Government administration accounts for 70% of the national budget. Social services and pensions must be paid out of the remaining funds even as the official unemployment rate in Bosnia hovers above 40%. What follows from this state of affairs? Empty government coffers and corruption so widespread that it is not "part of the system but is the system".

An American diplomat with enviable cultural sensitivity, partial to invoking picturesque historical parallels, has said that, "Bosnia looks like the Wild West of our movies". He's right. To date, more than two billion euros of international "donations" and "development aid" have vanished in Bosnia. Bosnia is an epicenter for arms and drug smuggling and trafficking in women, where local and especially international politicians collaborate with local criminals. Organized crime is the sole remaining domain of a multiethnic Bosnia. Bosnia has been transformed into a protectorate-laboratory in which the "international community" observes how to transform "failed states"- from Kosovo to Iraq- into stable and obedient ones. Paddy Ashdown, our postcolonial Harry Potter, remains at the head of "Dayton's Bosnia".

In January, however, Ashdown will be replaced as colonial governor, or to put it more formally, as the High Representative for Bosnia, by former German telecommunications minister Christian Schwarz-Schilling. Schwarz-Schilling already has nine years of experience as a samurai-diplomat of the international community. He announced himself with racist, anti-Serb statements. According to the Berlin Zeitung, Ashdown, "a former member of the British Royal Navy accustomed to battling in close quarters, is leaving because he was unable to win substantial support during his mandate." He has been "criticized by Serbs, Croats and Muslims as an arrogant colonial ruler."…. In other words, according to the diagnoses of Balkan experts, the people of Bosnia lack the requisite political capacity necessary to be credible on the question of their own constitution. Moreover, the design of the new constitution presupposes a situation in which, at a basic level, decisions are made in Washington and Brussels and carried out according to the political will of Brussels and the "high representative of the international community" who has the responsibility to instruct the Balkan tribes in the political culture.

The truth is that "it is time to rethink the way in which Bosnia is organized" but it is equally true that this project requires abolishing the insulting colonial institution of the high representative and his dictatorial authority and giving decision-making power over the constitution, number of entities and the cantons – the entire political process – and all else to those who actually live in Bosnia.  ……Kosovo, which is usually mentioned in the Western press only when some newsworthy violence erupts, is again a topic of diplomatic concern. The so-called status talks begin this month with an announcement first made by Washington's undersecretary of state, a task which fell to the US after a series of unusual coincidences. The UN has nominated a special negotiator, as has the EU. Does that mean that one phase has already ended? As a reminder, the first phase of the "democratic project in Kosovo" encompassed no more and no less than the "development of democracy", "economic prosperity" and "recognition of the rights of minorities".

Moreover, under the oversight of the NATO council and the UN, the current situation, already one of permanent post-conflict but especially in the aftermath of the attacks on the non-Albanian residents last March, has become increasingly unlivable. The disputes can be summarized formulaically: as long as what Belgrade offers to Kosovo Albanians is "some more than autonomy but less than independence" while Kosovo politicians insist on "more than autonomy, not less than independence", the "international community's" "compromise solution" for this "immature political ambience" is preparation for "independence without autonomy". Anan has nominated the diplomat and former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari as special envoy during the Kosovo negotiations. This nomination comes as no surprise. Few players on the international political scene have such a frighteningly efficient reputation as this former diplomat. Namibia, Yugoslavia, Northern Ireland, Eritrea, and finally Aceh: Ahtisaari has always stuck his fingers into peaceful initiatives.

Now it's Kosovo's turn. By founding the Crisis Management Institute in Helsinki, Ahtisaari sought to create a monopoly on peaceful conflict resolution: where the "international community" lights a fire, Ahtisaari arrives to extinguish it. All you need to do is call him. This Finnish firemans' greatest success was the peaceful settlement in Aceh. If a "lasting compromise" in Kosovo is reached next year the Nobel Peace Prize will certainly not evade his humanitarian grasp, especially as he was already a frontrunner candidate this year. Undersecretary Burns is also visibly worried about stability. Speaking to the US Senate, he opined that NATO will use force if any of the parties to the Kosovo status negotiations employ the threat of violence as a political tactic. In Burns's thinking, the talks may well "bring about independence". The Kosovo Albanians shouldn't rush to begin independence day celebrations just yet though, explained the undersecretary and Balkan expert with a schoolteacher's concern: "They need to prove that they are worthy".When we compare Burns to his colleague however, former US special envoy for the Balkans, Richard Holbrooke, the cowboy-undersecretary begins to look like a poster-boy for political correctness. Holbrooke, famous for his declaration that the "Serbs are shit people", on the occasion of the same Senate outing, said, with now celebrated candor, that Belgrade will have to find a way to let go of Kosovo. To that he added that the province's independence will inevitably lead to the dissolution of Serbia and Montenegro's linkage. Among other things, both Burns and Holbrooke have supported a referendum on independence for Montenegro."



All this was writen before the recent discovery of organ trade in Kosovo (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/12/14/world/main7149845.shtml). People involved in this affair, Hashim Thaci and other leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army, were the same "freedom fighters" that Holbrooke, as the special envoy for the Balkans, appointed as American partners in the Balkans, and, later, as rulers of the "New Kosovo." According the report by Council of Europe investigator Dick Marty, Holbrooke's friends are accused of secretly taking captives across the border into Albania after the war, where many Serbs and Romai citizens are said to have been murdered for their kidneys, which were sold on the black market. Holbrooke was not the only one. Former Special Representative to the Secretary General of the UN in Kosovo, Sergio Vieira de Mell, was often quoted to complain: "Madeleine Albright is in love with Thaci. Jamie Rubin is his best friend. It's not helpful.

Thaci arrived here with the impression that he has the full weight of the American government behind him. He believes he has earned the right to rule." Albreight, Ruben, and Holbrooke were aware if the report, published in March 2000, by former UN Special Investigator for the former Yugoslavia Jiri Dienstbier, who reported to the UN Commission on Human Rights that "330,000 Serbs, Roma, Montenegrins, Slavic Muslims, pro-Serb Albanians and Turks had been displaced in Kosovo – double the earlier estimates. What that means is most of Kosovo's minorities no longer are in their original homes." 

The real legacy of Richard Hoolbroke in the Balkans are two occupied countries, Kosovo and Bosnia, thoushands of dead and injured civilians in Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo, torture and human kidney trade, and more then million uprooted people in the region. He was the real butcher of the Balkans.

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