Sunday, March 22, 2009

In like Flint

This is a remarkable article. On the one hand, it contain a shocking revelation - that Slobodan Milosevic's intelligence chief was also a CIA spy. (Actually, the revelation itself is some weeks old, and it is now alleged that he also worked for Russian intelligence, which is not mentioned in the Herald article). This is not the first time that the CIA has been found to have high-level involvement in the former Yugoslavia. Their involvement in training KLA militias in 1998-99, while working as OSCE officers, was revealed in 2000. Still, the implications of this are obviously sweeping. It would suggest that the US government not only had some unseen leverage in the war on the Serbian side, but that it had insight that enabled it to decisively influence negotiations at key points with a reasonable expectation as to the outcome. So, if Zimmerman told Izetbegovic to scuttle the Lisbon agreement, he probably had reason to know that it would lead to years of war. It means that when the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs was supporting militias such as Arkan's Tigers or the Red Berets, the US government knew before anyone else did. What did it do with this information? On the other hand, the article is so full of inaccuracies and absurdities that it is hard to take it seriously.

First of all, Jovica Stanisic is not facing charges at the International Criminal Court, but at the ICTY. There is a huge difference in terms of the standing and legitimacy of each court. Secondly, even the ICTY does not charge that genocide took place in Croatia, or Kosovo, or anywhere outside Srebrenica, and even then it doesn't say that it was driven by Slobodan Milosevic. Yet, the reporter just keeps repeating 'genocide' as if this is supposed to have a hypnotic effect on the reader. What the indictment [pdf] actually alleges is an ethnic cleansing campaign in Krajina, and BiH. And at this point the key word remains 'alleges'. I don't doubt that substantial portions of the indictment are accurate, by the way, or that they would be shown to be such even in a court that wasn't as ridiculously biased as the ICTY. But that is hardly the point. The point of these falsehoods is to convey yet again that the fall of Yugoslavia is essentially a narrative of Greater Serbian expansionism checked only by exiguous 'peacekeeping' constraints, and that the current judicial process has more legitimacy than it actually possesses.

The story also asks us to believe that the CIA's influence was entirely benign, that it sought only to attenuate the causes of war, and that it used Stanisic to do so. This is because the CIA has taken the step of submitting classified documents to the ICTY to, er, 'clear up' their role in this affair. Obviously, we are not going to be told the truth either by the CIA, or by Stanisic in the context of a plea-bargain. But is a sign of the CIA's successful management of the news agenda that the revelation has produced not radical questioning but a further regurgitation of the propaganda memes of the 1990s, in a way that pro-actively whitewashes the CIA. The only question that the reporters asks is whether the US let the world down by being so 'equitable' to the Serbs at Dayton, as if that was the major problem with that lousy settlement. Should the US not have "unmasked" Karadzic and Milosevic and "demanded their surrender"? This would, of course, have entailed an invasion, and potentially quite a bloody one - but implicitly it would only have added to America's righteousness.