Yugoslavia: background considerations. Last Part (The Coalition)

Lorenzo Penya Laurentius at pinar1.csic.es
Wed Oct 11 17:32:44 MDT 1995

Yugoslavia: Background considerations (part 4 [last]: the Anti-Serbian

No one can know for sure what other people's motivations are. Probably a
person's own deep reasons are often half-hidden to them. However in many
cases we can put forward reasonable guesses, based on the context of people's
behaviour, on what gives a minimum of coherence and sense to their actions.

      The powers united in the anti-Serbian coalition allege that their only
motivation in taking sides in the conflict are humanitarian reasons. Is there
any evidence for or against such a claim? If there is positive evidence, does
it contribute to showing that the anti-Serbian coalition is right? If the
evidence is negative, does it undermine the anti-Serbian coalition's cause?

      This posting argues that it is unbelievable that the anti-Serbian
coalition acts out of humanitarian reasons, and that accordingly sinister
motivations can legitimately and reasonably be conjectured. Therefore, the
coalition's formation can be plausibly attributed to malignant, sordid ends.
Thus, whether or not the Serbs are partly or totally justified in their
struggle against the Catholico-Mohammedan secession, what is certain is that
NATO is entirely unjustified in its intervention, particularly in the aerial

      My argument in support of my thesis is quite simple: if the powers were
motivated by humanitarian concerns, they would be similarly worried in other
cases, and so would likewise intervene there in order -- as they claim -- to
protect the weaker side; or at least they would do so when the stronger and
more merciless side in a conflict (which purportedly would be that of the
Serbs in the current Yugoslav civil war) were not militantly anti-Western, or
anti-capitalist. Now, no such concern appears to exist at all. Hence, the
anti-Serbian coalition's motivations are not humanitarian. They must arise,
in the main, from imperialistic goals. The only alternative explanation of
the difference in conduct would be sheer racism.

      Suppose the anti-Serbian coalition acts out of humanitarian concern.
What then, in accordance with the assumption, prompts its members to
intervene in Yugoslavia against the Serbs is the fact that the Serbs have
massacred many innocent unarmed people (supposedly -- as the Allies know
through some sort of inspiration or intuition -- to a higher extent than
their enemies have done). It is the loss of human life, the shedding of human
blood, the sufferings and misery resulting from the conflict, which have
motivated the Allies to send troops to Yugoslavia and to militarily back the
Croato-Bosnian federation formed under US auspices.

      That story is what the Western media convey day after day. (How many
million hours have been devoted by Western Radio and TV to the Yugoslav
conflict in order obsessively to convince us that their side is right, that
the Serbs are monsters, while all Croato-Bosnians are angels or saints, poor,
harmless, almost unarmed innocent civilians, the victims of the Serbian

      I have assumed it true. Hence, those Western supporters of the anti-
Serbian forces act out of humanitarian concern. Since humanitarian concern is
the same as regards human suffering regardless of the causes, the same
readiness would be displayed by those powers in order to help other victims
of mass-killing elsewhere, as well as people who suffer from lack of power-
or water-supply, like those of Sarajevo, whatever the cause of such a lack.

      Now, hundreds of millions in the planet suffer to some extent or other
from such a lack. Perhaps even thousands of millions, I'm not sure. Not total
lack of water (life would then become impossible, and people would simply
die), but lack of water-supply in any usual sense; and of course lack of
power supply, too. (Figures in Guatemala, for instance, make me shudder.) Is
the West pouring billions of dollars in order to relieve such sufferings? No,
it isn't. Just think of the meagre 0.7 % which has been asked for and which
stingily they refuse to grant.

      Well, perhaps my objection is wrong, because in such cases the
suffering is caused by backwardness, economic failure or mismanagement, lack
of entrepreneurial capacities of initiatives, or the like. Whereas in a war
such as Yugoslavia's the cause of the suffering is armed actions by human

      The answer seems to me wrong. For, if the motivation is the desire to
alleviate human suffering, about the same amount of money and resources would
be spent in order to assist the victims of backwardness, earth-quakes,
geographical or climatic difficulties, etc, as is spent to [purportedly] help
victims from war. Human suffering is the same.

      However, let us grant -- for the sake of the argument -- that the cases
are different, and that, rightly or wrongly, the West thinks that victims of
war are to be helped to a much higher extent than victims of natural
catastrophes or of economic failures or of backwardness, be it because in
such other cases suffering is not man-made or because, on the contrary, up to
a point the victims are also to blame, whereas victims of wars are entirely

      Even if such a peculiar line of thought were followed by the Western
powers' establishment, there would be no shortage of opportunities for them
to relieve millions upon millions of victims.

      I am not going to speak about civil and other wars in which the West is
obviously interested in the victory of one of the contenders, the one that
follows the WB/IMF line, or supports US and other Westers presence, or is
closely linked with Western investors. What is more, I am going to refrain
from mentioning wars of the past, those which took place at a time when the
West may be claimed to have been obfuscated by the Soviet `threat', real or
imaginary. Thus, I am not going to adduce cases such as those of Indonesia,
Mobutu's mass killings (with US, French and to a lesser extent Belgian
support) in the several civil wars which have plagued the Congo (`Zaire'), or
mass terrorism inflicted on the populations of Angola and Mozambique by bands
armed either by the US or by the former pro-Western South African regime, or
the mass killings in East Pakistan which led to the Bangladeshian secession,
or the slaughters in Guatemala, or the thousands of deaths caused by the
Islamist uprising against the former, purportedly pro-Soviet, regime in
Afghanistan. Even if we leave such cases aside, there are others.

-- Liberia. The civil war begins in 1990. Less than 3 million inhabitants. As
a consequence of the war, about 750,000 refugees (according to the CIA world
report). Apparently hundreds of thousands of human deaths. No side in the
conflict is openly anti-capitalist or even anti-imperialist. Foreign
intervention has consisted mainly in an expeditionary army sent by the
Nigerian harsh military dictatorship in support of remnants of the Doe regime
(with the ancillary presence of troops from other West-African countries).
Despite the fact that the US is the founder of the Republic of Liberia and
that for decades real power was to a large extent in the hands of American
representatives, who followed orders from Washington, the US have refused to
help the Liberian population in this conflict. Living conditions in Monrovia
have been worse than those in Sarajevo.

-- Rwanda: 8.5 million inhabitants. The civil war began around 1989-90. It
was ethnically based. Already an ethnic cleansing had been committed against
the tutsi minority by the hutu one-party regime. On april 1994, after the
President's death in an air crash (whether as a result of a sabotage or not),
the regime perpetrated a genocide. Some (probably unreliable) sources put the
number of deaths at more than a million. Anyway what is true is that the aim
was extermination of the tutsi minority (less than 10% of the population even
before the massacres), which used to dominate the country until the
independence from Belgium in July 1962. What is less commonly known is that
the regime tried also to exterminate the (Pygmoid) Twas, people who have
dominated nobody and could not pose any threat whatsoever either for the
government or for anybody else. The Twas constituted 1 % of the population.
The West media have chosen to remain silent about their fate. The only non-
African intervention in the Rwandan conflict was France's in support of
[remnants of] the genocidal regime. However if there is a place in the world
where a foreign intervention would be justified, that place is Rwanda (and
Burundi), since there ethnic hatred reaches such a pitch that, regardless of
who prevails in civil war or in political struggle, mass-killings may be
renewed at any moment. (And, since Western colonialism has been involved
there and even has reportedly encouraged ethnic strife [divide and conquer],
the West cannot decently shirk its responsibility.)

-- Burundi. A situation which in some respects is similar to Rwanda's
(although there are also lots of relevant differences). An ethnic catastrophe
may be unleashed at any moment, even one which would be much bigger than
Rwandas's. After murdering President Nadadaye in a bloody coup d'Etat, the
tutsi-dominated army in fact controls the government once again, under a mask
of hutu-preeminence and constitutional order. The oppressed hutu labourers
may, fearing for their lives, rise against the power system which would cause
a new tragedy (not the first one since independence, unfortunately; there
have already been many bloody clashes and ethnic massacres leaving tens of
thousands of human deaths).

-- Ceylan. 17 million inhabitants. The civil war began in 1984. Several
hundreds of thousands of refugees. Possibly tens of thousands of human
deaths. The Tamil separatists allege that the Tamil people -- who speak a
south-Indian tongue unrelated to the official language, Sinhalese -- are
oppressed within the Republic of Sri-Lanka. The current government is bent on
a policy of concessions and conciliation, but hitherto it has failed to
secure the Tigers's cooperation or even a durable cease-fire. The Tamil
separatists have attacked members of the Muslim community -- no one calls
them a `nation' there --, even though many of those Muslims are also ethnic
Tamils (the main religion among Tamils being hinduism, whereas most Sinhalese
are Buddhists -- but there are also Christian Sinhalese, who reportedly
support the quasi-official status of the Buddhist religion, as a constituent
of Sri-Lankan identity). We thus encounter a mixture of -- partly
overlapping, partly clashing -- ethnic, cultural and religious denominations;
a situation far more complex than Yugoslavia's (in Yugoslavia all linguistic
communities except Albanians speak languages of the same famuily; even
Albanian shares the common Indo-European origin with Slavonic).

-- Sudan. 30 million inhabitants. The southern population has been for
centuries (or even thousands of years) victimized and even enslaved by the
Northern rulers. (There is no ethnic or cultural or linguistic similarity of
any kind between North and South, except the bond of belonging to the human
family plus that of inhabiting a territory artificially demarcated by
colonialism). As a result of the imposition of Islamic Law, a guerrilla
warfare has been raging in the South for many years (it used to be supported
by the former Marxist government in Ethiopia, headed by Menghistu Heile
Mariam). For the years 1983-88 the number of civilian casualties is evaluated
at 259,000. However, the most bloody stages of the war have taken place after

      Since the West has remained indifferent towards those conflicts (which
have at most received a fraction of 1/100000 or so of the radio and TV time
devoted to the Yugoslav civil war), the hypothesis of humanitarian concern in
incompatible with the available evidence. The West cannot be moved by
humanitarian concern.

      Perhaps it is moved by concern over white people's suffering only.
Liberians, Rwandans, Burundians etc are black. Sinhalese and Tamils are,
well, non-white (supposedly Europeans are `white'). Although admittedly there
is a powerful racist trend in the attitudes of our establishment, I do not
think it is as powerful as that. Race cleavage alone would explain less of an
active interest in the sufferings of blacks, but hardly no interest at all. I
confess, though, that this argument is weak. I am entirely convinced that in
fact racial difference alone cannot furnish the whole explanation of so very
different attitudes, but for the time being I can back my claim with no
clinching argument.

      Is there any alternative explanation?

1) France was at first reluctant to embrace the secessionist cause. After all
united Yugoslavia had been to a large extent a product of French diplomacy
(and  even in a few cases military intervention) at the end of WWI. In the
early ninety's German open interest in putting the recently seceded lands
under her influence may have been disliked in Paris. However several reasons
did in the event lead to a change of attitude. (1) Ever since the beginning
of the 16th century -- with only a few exceptions -- France has kept a
constant alliance with Turkey. (2) France strongly depends on German support
for rescuing the Franc exchange rate and for the pursuance of its military
presence overseas, out of any proportion with its economic might.

2) The UK. Also a traditional ally of Turkey since the 17th century. The UK
was never as enthusiastic as France was about the formation of united
Yugoslavia at the end of WWI. One of the main lines of foreign policy in
London now is promoting the expansion of the European Union (and of NATO,
too) towards the East, thus isolating Russia. (Queen Victoria's testament
pinpointed Russia as England's enemy.) Although nowadays there is no longer
any Indian Raj or any British Empire worth defending, some lingering
obsession about Russia is clearly present in the mind of the British
establishment. Moreover, Russia's return to communism or the rise of anti-
Western nationalism or neo-collectivism is a serious matter for concern. Most
of all, though, the incorporation of as much as possible of Eastern Europe to
the EU is looked upon as a means of counterbalancing German ascendancy.
Yugoslavia is deemed a bad guy (all peoples belonging to the Christian-
orthodox tradition are regarded with deep suspicion in the West, although
Greece exceptionally was admitted to the Western club when she was a soldier
aligned against communism).[1] Thus, the secessionists in Slovenia, Croatia,
Macedonia and Bosnia are to be encouraged and supported.

3) The Vatican is mainly concerned with the defeat of the schismatic
Byzantines and has launched a crusade against the Orthodox Church even in
Russia, ruining the prospects of understanding and reconciliation.
Strengthening an independent Croatia is part and parcel of that policy. And
to do so by defending a Muslim government is a clever ploy, since the
Catholic Church has often been accused of contempt towards all other

4) The US. Besides a general need for constant military presence and action
in order to keep its overwhelming superiority over all the other countries in
the world taken together, as well as a need to justify huge military
expenditures which are beneficial for the dominant industrial lobby,[2] the
US concurs in the general line of looking upon the Eastern Orthodox
Christians as `they' and regarding Catholico-Croats as `us'; the Mohammedans
enter the scene as subsidiary allies of the latter (no other power having
exerted so strong a pressure as the US has in order to bring about the
Croato-Islamic federation). Perhaps also the Croatian lobby has to be
mentioned. But perhaps the strongest reason is concern for Turkish interests:
Turkey has remained the most vital instrument for American supremacy in the
Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, as well as previously against the
Soviet Union and perhaps in the future against a new nationalistic or neo-
collectivistic Russia.

5) Italy. A very minor role. Perhaps nostalgia for the times of yore. Anyway
post-bellum Italy has been very docile to the US and the other allies.

6) Spain. Any Spanish government, of whatever party, will always try to show
that no other country in the world in more dependable or staunch in its
commitment to whatever policy the Western coalition may have chosen. An
obsessive fear of being left outside the club has gripped the mind of the
Spanish establishment.[3] Moreover, the Spanish establishment is of course
the same as the one which ruled over Spain for 40 years through the tyrant
Francisco Franco, the Spanish poglavnik (caudillo), an old-time ally of
Hitler, Mussolini, Ante Pavelic, Pius XII, Horthy, Petain, Tiso, Antonescu,

7) Turkey. She tries to regain a foothold in a region which was officially
under Turkish sovereignty until the early 20th century. With the help of an
independent muslim-dominated Bosnia and a friendly Albania[5], Turkey can
exert an increased pressure over Greece and thus advance her own designs
(keeping Northern Cyprus under her control; securing what she claims in the
Aegean see off the Greek islands; and thus pursue without disturbances her
military campaign against the Kurd irredentists).

8) The Islamic Conference Organization has become one of the (under-cover)
main supporters of the Sarajevo regime and war-effort. From Malaysia,
Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, etc, a stream of weapons and money has
flowed into the areas controlled by the Islamo-Bosnian secessionists. The
reactionary islamic rulers thus try to outmanoeuvre their own die-hard
islamists by showing themselves as committed defenders of the faith against
the infidels. Occasionally they blame the West for not doing enough against
the Serbs (perhaps obliterating Belgrade would satisfy their demands).


[1] Was the 1917 revolution a haphazard event? Or is collectivism deeply
rooted in the Christian-Orthodox thought the traditional Russian mind has
been steeped in? There is a strong pre-Marxist communist or collectivist
tradition in Russian thought, which was combatted by Lyenyin in the early
stages of his ideological and political career, but which arguably was
assimilated and blended into later revolutionary bolshevism.

[2] I personally think, though, that capitalism could perfectly survive
without such dangerous militarism. As to the extent of the military action
the interests of the industrial-military lobby are likely to kindle, I
imagine a full-scale bombardment along the lines of the Gulf war -- not only
against the Serb-controled areas in Bosnia, but also against Serbia proper --
remains a possibility, if Western intervention and military escalation is
allowed to continue. Public opinion can prevent such a deplorable

[3] Thus a Spaniard, one Mendiluce, appears as Europe's anti-Serbian
campaigner number 1.

[4] After 1945, Franco bacame an instrument of the US.

[5] Those who have favoured the Bosnian and Croatian secession have played
with fire. Since all Bosnians, Croats and Serbs speak the same language,
while they inhabit contiguous territories, they all constitute a single
nation. The only relevant difference is cultural -- the sundry religious
traditions they belong to. But in Albania a similar religious pattern exists.
In fact until the cultural Albanian renaissance in the late 19th century,
muslims there used to be called `Turks' and Orthodox-Chritians `Greek'. A
bloody splintering of Albania is not a far-fetched nightmare, but,
unfortunately, has become, as a result of the breaking-up of Yugoslavia, a
real, concrete possibility.


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