Hillary W. Bush's War

By Michael I. Niman, ArtVoice (etc.) 2/28/08


Try this one out on your friends and family. Ask them to name all the wars that we’ve fought or funded since they were born. Few Americans can do this. Think about it. So many wars and so few concerns. Why do these wars start? How do they end? Do they end? Who gives a damn? Britney’s trying to have a baby.

The 1990s were a particularly bloody period—and a downright rough time to be a cartographer. Americans learned new words, like “Kyrgyzstan” and compound appellations like “Kohistan-Badakhshan.” Suddenly the Risk board sort of made sense, but maps had the shelf lives of tomatoes. We also lost terms like “Serbo-Croatian,” while dusting off old ones like “Balkanization.”

And then there was Kosovo. This was Bill and Hillary’s war. But let’s back up here—quite a bit. In the 1350s Kosovo was the heartland of Serbia, and the population was close to 90 percent ethnic Serbs. Now remember, this is a real slow-spinning part of the globe where people have long memories and somewhat short lives, and Kosovo still has a mythic lure for the Serbs. By the 1990s, however, no matter how the Serbs remembered it, Kosovo was close to 90 percent Albanian. Albania had undergone a rough few centuries, resulting in a country that really sucked by the end of the Cold War, hence the 500-year exodus.

When I was a kid, very few Americans were aware of the existence of Albania. It was, and still is for that matter, the poorest nation in Europe. During the Cold War it was run by a tragically comical and rather peculiar dictator, Enver Hoxha, whose legacy was cemented with his government’s construction of 750,000 odd little bunkers scattered around his gray-on-gray nation. Hoxha was a Stalinist to the end, even denouncing the Soviet Union when it finally denounced Stalin in the late 1950s. By the 1970s Hoxha had broken ties with both the Soviets and the Chinese, declaring his Hoxharian regime to be the only true communist nation. He had a mélange of silly followers among upper middle class college kids in the US, but little support in his own hunger-ravaged country. During his reign, Albania’s biggest export was people. Hoxha’s bunker-laden country was a twisted parody of itself.

Next door to Albania was Tito’s Yugoslavia. They held their own pretty well resisting the Nazis in World War II, eventually developing one of the Soviet Bloc’s strongest economies and all that wonderful infrastructure we’ve subsequently seen blown to hell in a nasty series of “my accent is purer than yours” wars. The idea that Hoxha’s Albania would one day rise and seize Yugoslavia’s historic heartland wasn’t on my radar any more than the possibility that my gerbil would escape and force my neighbor’s German Shepherd to learn ballet. Of course the idea of a “can’t keep his dick in his pants” Arkansas dope-nonsmoking warmongering peacenik rising to the presidency wasn’t on my radar either.

By the late 1990s, with much of what we now call “the former Yugoslavia” up in flames and ethnically Balkanized, Kosovo burst into our lexicon. It seems the “everyone else is a xenophobic dumbfuck so why not us” virus finally reached the ancient Serb heartland of Little Albania. What happened next is up for contention, but by most documentable accounts the Albanian majority violently set upon the Serb minority. Since Kosovo is part of Serbia, however, the Serb government, who were among the last folks left calling themselves “Yugoslavians,” sent troops in to quell the slaughter. And I just can’t imagine them being polite or civil.

Here’s where the US comes into play. The American media started echoing unconfirmed reports of “genocide” by Serbs against Albanians—something to the tune of 4,500 ethnic Albanian men executed and another 100,000 missing. For the record, these allegations were never fully corroborated by the international tribunal that was formed after the war for the specific purpose of investigating such claims. Oops again. But we’re Americans. We don’t need facts to justify war—especially when rumors are so much juicier. So off we went, ostensibly to save the Albanian people from genocide. More on why we actually went in a moment.

Our idea of war in this case was to have our air force sloppily rain down wholesale death from above, with few boots on the ground. We now know that Bill Clinton’s war targeted civilians and littered both Serbia and Kosovo with radioactive weapons whose debris is still causing major health problems for both the conquered and the liberated. We hit an open air market with cluster bombs. That was officially a mistake. We blew up an urban commuter train in the Serb capital—nowhere near Kosovo. That one turned out to be intentional. Commuter trains run on tracks and bridges that could also be used to move weapons within Serbia. Think blowing up the New York Thruway during a traffic jam, calling it a military target since convoys occasionally run from Fort Drum to points west. Sure, the attack was a war crime, but we instead decided to impeach Clinton over a blowjob.

For sport, we bombed the Chinese embassy, killing three and wounding another 20 people. We claimed our maps were lousy and TomToms weren’t invented yet. And we blew up chemical plants, unleashing a ghastly stew into the Danube River, just to see what would happen, I guess.

In a harbinger of things to come under W’s regime, Bill Clinton ordered the military to bomb Serbia’s main TV station, killing 16 people—another clear and unprosecuted war crime. The same raid took out the CNN office in Belgrade as well. This was a legitimate military target because, well, er, you know, journalists, they, uh…

The American press shamelessly gave this gross war crime a pass, paving the way for George W’s regime to bomb Al Jazeera’s offices in both Kabul and Baghdad as well as a hotel full of unembedded reporters also in Baghdad.

The 1999 war in Serbia and Kosovo finally ended with an armistice agreement between NATO and the Serb government, brokered by the UN, guaranteeing the geographic and national intergrity of Serbia while allowing limited local autonomy for Serbia’s Albanian Kosovar population. NATO troops took over “peacekeeping” in Kosovo with Serb troops barred from that portion of their country. That was the deal.

The war sort of ended for a while—at least officially. As NATO peacekeepers hunkered down, the Albanian mafia quickly took control over much of Kosovo. Albanian racists forced around a quarter million non-Albanian Kosovars from their homes, transforming areas that were ethnically diverse for a half millenia into ethnically pure Albanian communities. Non-Albanians fled en masse. In hindsight, while the alleged wholesale persecution of the majority by a minority, the ostensible reason for our going to war, might never have happened on the scale we were told it was happening, our little war paved the way for the Albanian majority to terrorize Kosovo’s minorities. I guess we didn’t see it coming. Or maybe we just didn’t care.

In fact we had something else on our minds. That was the construction of Camp Bondsteel—a permanent, 1,000-acre US occupation base on Serbian territory strategically near the border of Macedonia. Before George W ever set foot in the White House, Halliburton already had built this fortress and started to run its concessions, making the company Kosovo’s largest employer—a sort of Wal Mart in hell.

This little American city is an unwelcome squatter on Serbian territory—sort of like our little Gitmo cyst in Cuba. But it’s another “we’re digging in and staying for good” situation. Last week when Kosovo’s genocidal-maniacs-turned-favored-statesmen declared independence, both George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton were quick to recognize the “new nation.” Did I mention that “free” Kosovo welcomes Camp Bondsteel and a further enhanced US military presence?

Hillary Clinton actually went a step beyond W on this one, brazenly referring to Kosovo not by its common name but by the Albanian name, “Kosova.” Quite predictably, the Serbs went apeshit, and rioters trashed the US embassy in Belgrade. The failure on the part of the Serbian police to protect sovereign US diplomatic territory, according to both an enraged W and a verbose Hillary Clinton, amounted to a violation of international law—an ironic charge, at least from Bush, who never before recognized the existence of such law. One has to assume that neither George W, nor Hillary Clinton, saw the 1999 US war against Serbia, or the US bombing of Belgrade’s Chinese embassy, as a violation of international law. This is par for the course for W, but a new tack for attorney Clinton, who seems to be shaping up her cowboy creds in hopes of a showdown against John McCain at the OK corral. International treaties, and our word, be damned.

A sovereign Kosovo means Camp Bondsteel gets to stay. And we get to permanently project our military power further east toward the Caspian oil fields. This, of course, upsets the Russians to no end.

I don’t see what benefit can come from continuing to poke the Russians with needles just for the sake of humiliating them. Things didn’t turn out too well when we did that to the Germans after World War I. It took them just 20 years to rise up as heavily armed demons from hell—and the rest is history. Too bad Bush doesn’t follow history and Clinton is too obsessed by her present ambition to care. Let’s see, the Cold War ended when? And how have we been treating the Russians since then? For the record, the Russians are close allies with the Serbs. And the Russians have told the world in no uncertain terms that our military encroachment onto their former sphere of influence is a no-no. Oh yeah, and they have lots of nuclear bombs—which makes them the only partner we have if we want to bring on the apocalypse.

There’s another problem with the Bush-Clinton recognition of “Kosova.” Aside from reminding the whole world once again, only now in bipartisan fashion, that our word and our treaties are worthless, the precedent threatens to light a dozen powder kegs and incite all sorts of xenophobes with utopian visions of ethnically pure Vaterlands.

It’s simple—a local government declares its independence. If they have something we want, we recognize them as a new democracy. This can happen anywhere. Think, for example, Quebec, where Francophones regularly threaten to succeed from Canada. Remember the Quebec Hydro project? The plan to flood a France-sized area of northern Quebec in order to run hydroelectric plants, seemingly for the production of hydrogen for fuel cells? Ostensibly defeated due to environmental concerns—like predictions that it would alter global weather patterns—the plan was simply ahead of its time. An independent Quebec would assure US energy companies control of the Quebecois hydrobooty.

Let’s shift over to another part of the world. Think Chechnya. That would be a fun one for a President McCain to unilaterally recognize. Can you say “first strike”? Are we ready for another round of global borders in play? Spain’s Basque region. Kurdish Turkey. Greek Macedonia. Hell, think Texas. I’m not saying some of these folks don’t have legitimate gripes or righteous cases for sovereignty. It’s just that the Bush-Clinton model of “go for it and we’ll back you” threatens to wreak massive havoc, fuel wars and negate the legitimacy of international institutions such as the UN that have been succeeding in thwarting dozens of wars.

This is typical Bush foreign policy. As for Hillary Clinton, she probably thinks her hawkish machismo will play well in Texas and Ohio. And for Hillary, there is no tomorrow without Texas and Ohio. If a few small countries go up in flames along the way—oh well. C’est la guerre.

ęCopyright 2008

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