Over the past month or so, violence in Israel has commanded most of the world's attention, leaving the now-dormant volcanoes of conflict such as the Balkans to smolder in relative obscurity. Compared to the daily images of carnage in the West Bank, news from the peninsula is positively bland: more dickering over constitutional changes in Bosnia, the endless saga of war crimes extraditions in Serbia, riots and diplomatic tiffs in Kosovo, and so on. Empire's conquest of "Southeastern Europe" is just about done. Now it's the Middle East's turn. Deja Vu Yet far from becoming irrelevant, the Balkans is now more important than ever. It is being invoked by Empire's warmongers as an example of what to do in the newly conquered vassal lands. It is also serving as a template for more interventions around the world. But most disturbingly, its propaganda war experiences are being most astutely abused by the belligerents in the current conflict. As in Bosnia, images of civilian deaths are used as excuses for murder. As in Kosovo, talk of "human rights" and "justice" is being invoked as a pretext for aggression. The twin demons of "genocide" and "ethnic cleansing" have already been invoked in a war of words even more vicious than that of weapons. Again, the conflicting collectives are being identified by the media charlatans in the personae of their leaders ("Sharon must…" or "Arafat has to…"). The running thread all along is emotion as a weapon of war, as a tool of swaying public opinion – Empire's public opinion. And it's working. Already some imperialist heavyweights are advocating intervention now, justifying it by "America's national interest." The interest in question? Global hegemony. Empire Rising In the aftermath of the Balkans campaign, and the successful crushing of all resistance to Imperial might, it is no wonder that the idea of Empire is gaining prominence in the American circles of power. Engineers of America's policy in the Balkans may have retired from the limelight, but they still power the ideological and intellectual engines of Imperial expansion. Madeleine Albright chairs the National Democratic Institute. Wesley Clark sits on the board of the ICG. Christiane Amanpour, who made "advocacy journalism" mainstream with her reports for CNN from Bosnia, is now that network's chief foreign correspondent. Then there are European fellow-travelers and vassals, rewarded for their obedience with plush jobs. Javier Solana, the Bomber of Belgrade, now shapes European Union's foreign policy. Former British Kosovo envoy Paddy Ashdown is soon to become the new viceroy of Bosnia. For some, playing around in the Balkans has been very profitable, indeed. Of course, the people down whose throats the Empire shoved its acts of benevolence – democracy, human rights, civil society, so-called market reforms and humanitarian bombing, for example – are still scavenging in the ruins of their former lives. But who can bother with such details? The Precedent Such a lack of rational thought, coupled with deliberate malice, produces such blatant idiocies as the argument that Imperial occupation of Kosovo brought peace and multiethnic harmony. If the victims of KLA terror under NATO's indifferent gaze do not merit mention, how can one possibly hide the entire Macedonian crisis? But logic hardly applies to Empire's enterprises any more, if it ever has. It doesn't matter, therefore, that imperial advocates have it all wrong. In the Balkans, the Empire got away with mass murder, and it will now try again. Ironically, their next victims are literally begging for such a turn of events. In an echo of the first imperial age, local leaders are anxious to enlist the might of the Empire in their wars. Like the tribes of old – like the leaders of former Yugoslav lands, who also solicited foreign intervention – they will find themselves in Empire's thrall when the shooting subsides. The war will be over, yes, but they will all have lost. Vindicated Over the past 18 months, Balkan Express has tried to analyze the consequences of Empire's meddling in the Balkans. It has also tried to repeal the popular fallacy that Imperial intervention brought peace and justice to the former Yugoslavia, and challenge the notion of Imperial intervention anywhere. At the core of this column has always been a conviction – based on experience and reasoning – that the Balkans conflicts of the 1990s were much more than a local affair, and that their consequences would have a bearing on the rest of the world. Recent admissions by Empire's own ideologues, as well as events unfolding in the Middle East right now, seem to have proven this conviction right. Forgive me if I don't celebrate.
A Russian fighter with call sign Rassvet (Sunrise) destroyed an Abrams tank in the area of Avdiivka, the 15th Separate Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade said