Last Saturday's electoral farce in occupied Kosovo turned up entirely predictable results. Albanian separatists got their victory, though no single faction triumphed outright. The UN and NATO got exactly what they wanted: an official acceptance of their occupation by both the Kosovo Serbs and official Belgrade. Even the Serb politicians had the chance to present this as a great victory for their policy of groveling appeasement. The post-election euphoria was rife with careless statements, many of which offered insight into the real purposes behind the fiction of "meaningful self-government" that Kosovo's occupying authorities have tried to establish. UNITY OF PURPOSE Immediately after his party won the plurality of votes on Saturday, Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova demanded immediate recognition of Kosovo's independence. A veteran politician, Rugova was well aware that his demand, and not his largely symbolic electoral triumph, would make the headlines. He even resurrected the fabled scarf he had worn around his neck as a symbol of Kosovo Albanians' "bondage" under "Serb rule." This desire for independence is not new. Albanians have claimed Kosovo as their own ever since 1878, and used every opportunity – and all means – to strengthen that claim. If there is one issue on which all Kosovo Albanians agree right now, that is the desire for an independent, Albanian Kosovo – or Kosova, as they call it. What makes a difference now is that Rugova's demand is lent credibility by the virtue of his election. While the EU dismisses Rugova's demands, it is only "for the time being." THE POWER OF PR This is not the only evidence that Rugova knows the power of words. He recently penned a commentary for the Daily Telegraph, fully endorsing the Empire's Afghan War. While mostly parroting the official line of the Bush Administration, Rugova does so as someone whom the US and NATO "saved" from the Serbs, whom he conveniently portrays as the moral equivalent of Al-Qaeda. In a bizarre convergence of circular logic, this lends credibility to both Rugova and the US, the Kosovo War and the Afghan war. Rugova's rising influence is also in part due to the fact that the powerful Western media machine routinely refers to him as a "moderate," "pacifist," and even "Gandhi of the Balkans." These words carry powerful images and associations, but in and of themselves are meaningless or misleading. Anywhere in the Balkans, "moderate" is routinely used to describe whoever complies unconditionally with the Empire's diktat. For example, Oliver Ivanovic of Kosovska Mitrovica, formerly routinely derided as a "hard-liner" and even "thug" by the US and NATO, became a "moderate" the moment he accepted the occupation and took part in the elections. As for his relative merit over the KLA, it is worth noting that it was Rugova's parallel government that made the KLA possible, his propaganda that made it popular, and his pacifist posturing that lent them credibility. Rugova and the KLA have used different means, but their goal has been the same. Comparing him to Gandhi would imply that Gandhi worked hand-in-hand with an army of drug-dealing terrorist thugs. All in all, Rugova's eventual triumph in securing independence is by no means a foregone conclusion, but his newly elevated stature makes such a scenario all the more likely. So does another important effect of Saturday's vote. MANIPULATING DESPAIR Even before the election, Kosovo's UN satrap stressed the importance of Serbs voting. The "important issue was Serb participation, rather than the number of voters," he told Reuters, adding that "sufficiently big numbers of Kosovo Serbs will participate." By voting, Serbs would bestow legitimacy on both the occupying authorities and the Albanian-dominated "provisional government." Just in case of a substantial boycott, though, the satrap reserves the right to declare any number of Serbs who voted "sufficiently big" for the purpose of that legitimacy. Cementing that conclusion were pronouncements made after the election: "[T]he lack of Serb deputies in the new parliament would undermine the legitimacy of the new institutions in the eyes of the international community." (The Observer) "International officials made much of the fact that Kosovo Serbs took part." (Reuters) "Serbs' participation in the elections …lends greater credibility to the entire democratic process." (BBC) "[T]he 46 percent Serbian turnout on Saturday… was a real shift, and one that in many ways validated the election process." (The New York Times) As one report noted, with shocking honesty, "by participating," some Serbs "believe they are more or less endorsing the ethnic Albanians' dearest wish to have some form of self-rule or independence in Kosovo." It also says that Belgrade urged the Serbs to vote only "under extreme pressure from the West." Reuters, on the other hand, claims that Belgrade and the West told the despondent Kosovo Serbs that, "they can only improve their lives by helping to shape the future of the province." Expelled at gunpoint, torched out of their homes, terrorized into ghettos, stoned and bombed out of even visiting their charred ruins, the Serbs of Kosovo have had their despair cynically manipulated: both by the Imperial occupiers, to manufacture consent for their occupation of Kosovo (chiefly responsible for the Serbs' misery), and by Belgrade, to score cheap points in the battle for political power inside what remains of Serbia. BETRAYED BY BELGRADE In all honesty, being betrayed by the people whose aggression and occupation are chiefly responsible for one's wretchedness is not that devastating. Given these people's previous track record, such a thing should even be expected. But to be manipulated and betrayed by their own community leaders, as well as the supposedly "democratic" government in Belgrade, now that ought to hurt. One of the favorite chants by the angry youths at the forefront of Serbia's "democratic revolution" in 2000 cursed Slobodan Milosevic in rather explicit terms for "selling out Kosovo." Such chants are heard no longer, even though the current regime shows much more eagerness in betraying or otherwise selling out the Serbs of Kosovo, the province itself, and – why mince words – what remains of Serbia as well. Editorials of the main Belgrade newspapers read as if they were written by the National Endowment for Democracy, extolling the virtues of wise politicians who somehow accomplished greatness by doing exactly as they are told by the US, UN and NATO. Apparently, it has been readily forgotten that the US and NATO savagely bombed Serbia in 1999, then occupied a portion of its territory with UN blessing. It has also been forgotten that Slobodan Milosevic's policy over the past decade has consisted entirely out of appeasing every demand of the Empire (with the exception of the outrageous ultimatum in Rambouillet), differing from the current regime's basic policy only in the sense that Milosevic had the temerity to hold the Empire to its word, or even (gasp!) demand something in return for his obedience. THE PRICE OF SUBMISSION Everyone knows that bribes have a way of getting bigger because the bribed party becomes more powerful each time, and can thus demand more. Same goes with obeying orders. If nations in the Balkans are really as rife with corruption as the Empire alleges, how come none of its leaders – or its people – seem to have realized this self-evident truth? Six years ago, the United States forced Croatia's President Tudjman, Serbian President Milosevic and the self-proclaimed Bosnian President Izetbegovic to sign the Dayton Peace Agreement at a US Air Force base in Ohio. At the time, they agreed to accept an international "high representative" with loosely defined powers to enforce the agreement. Today, the High Representative is the viceroy of Bosnia in all but name, the country's Constitution is routinely abused in the name of bigger government, businesses are routinely destroyed under the pretext of "funding nationalism," and "democracy" has come to mean arbitrary rule by brute force, with extreme consequences for political incorrectness. It is perfectly normal for the current viceroy, Wolgang Petritsch, to demand the passage of certain legislation giving more power to the unconstitutional central government, "or else." Even more evident is the example of Macedonia, which was forced to amend its Constitution and bestow special privileges on its Albanian population, literally at gunpoint and under immense pressure from the Empire. In order to pay for the "reforms" thus imposed, Macedonia will have to beg money from the West, dragging itself even deeper into servitude. As early as nine months ago, when its government was on the brink of declaring war on Albanian bandits, the EU, NATO and the US all verbally supported Macedonia's cause. A few months and many seemingly innocuous concessions later, the Empire had Skopje over a barrel, forcing it to sign its freedom away in Ohrid. Macedonian officials are now routinely blasted in the media as "hard-liners" and "nationalists," while Albanian violence is excused, justified or simply dismissed out of hand. DIRE CONSEQUENCES What started as a few awkward clashes over Slovenian border posts in 1991 has by now evolved into full-fledged colonial occupation of the entire peninsula, through gradual escalation of both warfare and diplomacy. Two sides of the same coin, as Clausewitz noted, they have created a plethora of precedents that would have been shockingly unacceptable a decade ago. No one could have guessed that by 2001 Yugoslavia would be gone, replaced by a pack of nonviable nonentities; that two of those nonentities would be satrapies of the Empire, and others its sworn vassals; that most people would actually live much worse than in the worst days of Communism; or that the peoples who once offered determined resistance to an overpowering foreign occupier would now consent to grant legitimacy to foreign occupiers by taking part in a staged election. The worst part is not that the Empire came into its own by manipulating conflicts in the Balkans, nor that the local warlords had very little idea of what forces they have unleashed; it is the sinking feeling that the people of the Balkans have accepted this abysmal reality, imposed on them by force, as The Way Things Are – or even worse, The Way Things Ought To Be. It is against this death of hope, dreams and ideas, this reign of chaos, despair and tyranny, that the next Balkan War will be fought. It is hard to tell exactly how, where, by whom, or even when. But it is only a matter of time.
More than 3,500 people were detained during unprecedented mass protests that swept across all of Russia in support of Alexey Navalny on January 23