Dear RN list, Paul Swann sent us a very long and very informative posting on how what has been happening in Yugoslavia fits in with the corporate globalization agenda. I think it is escellent but it is too long to post in its entirety. So, as before, those who would like the entire document can request it. For now, here are excerpts. all the best, Jan ******************************************************************* Date: Tue, 6 Apr 1999 10:13:54 +0000 To: •••@••.••• From: Paul Swann <•••@••.•••> Subject: Seeing Yugoslavia through a dark glass [1/2] SEEING YUGOSLAVIA THROUGH A DARK GLASS: Politics, Media and the Ideology of Globalization by Diana Johnstone Diana Johnstone was the European editor of In These Times from 1979 to 1990, and press officer of the Green group in the European Parliament from 1990 to 1996. She is the author of The Politics of Euromissiles: Europe in America's World (London/New York, Versa Schucken, 1984) and is currently working on a book on the former Yugoslavia. This article is an expended version of a talk given on May 25, 1998, at an international conference on media held in Athens, Greece. Years of experience in and out of both mainstream and alternative media have made me aware of the power of the dominant ideology to impose certain interpretations on international news. During the cold War, most world news for American consumption had to be framed as part of the Soviet-U.S. contest. Since then, a new ideological bias frames the news. The way the violent fragmentation of Yugoslavia has been reported is the most stunning example. I must admit that it took me some time to figure this out, even though I had a long-standing interest in and some knowledge of Yugoslavia. I spent time there as a student in 1953, living in a Belgrade dormitory and learning the language. In 1984., in a piece for "In These Times", I warned that extreme decentralization, conflicting economic interests between the richer and poorer regions, austerity policies imposed by the IMF, and the decline of universal ideals were threatening Yugoslavia with "re-Balkanization" in the wake of Tito's death and desanctification. "Local ethnic interests are reasserting themselves". I wrote, "The danger is that these rival local interests may become involved in the rivalries of outside powers. This is how the Balkans in the past were a powder keg of world war." Writing this took no special clairvoyance. The danger of Yugoslavia's disintegration was quite obvious to all serious observers well before Slobodan Milosevic arrived on the scene. As the country was torn apart in the early nineties, I was unable to keep up with all that was happening. In those years, my job as press officer for the Greens in the European Parliament left me no time to investigate the situation myself. Aware that there were serious flaws in the way media and politicians were reacting. I wrote an article warning against combatting "nationalism" by taking sides for one nationalism against another, and against judging a complex situation by analogy with totally different times and places. "Every nationalism stimulates others". I noted, "Historical analogies should be drawn with caution and never allowed to obscure the facts." However, there was no stopping the tendency to judge the Balkans, about which most people knew virtually nothing, by analogy with Hitler Germany, about which people at least imagined they knew a lot, and which enabled analysis to be rapidly abandoned in favour of moral certitude and righteous indignation. However, it was only later, when I was able to devote considerable time to my own research, that I realized the extent of the deception-which is in large part self-deception. I mention a11 this to stress that I understand the immense difficulty of gaining a clear view of the complex situation in the Balkans. The history of the region and the interplay of internal political conflicts and external influences would be hard to grasp even without propaganda distortions. Nobody can be blamed for being confused. Moreover, by now, many people have invested so much emotion in a one-sided view of the situation that they are scarcely able to consider alternative interpretations. It is not necessarily because particular journalists or media are "alternative' that they are free from the dominant interpretation and the dominant world view. In fact, in the case of the Yugoslav tragedy, the irony is that "alternative" or "left' activists and writers have - frequently taken the lead in likening the Serbs, the people who most wanted to continue to live in multicultural Yugoslavia, to Nazi racists, and in calling for military intervention on behalf of ethnically defined secessionist movements - all supposedly in the name of "multi-cultural Bosnia", a country which, unlike Yugoslavia, would have to be built from scratch by outsiders. The Serbs and Yugoslavia Like other Christian peoples in the Ottoman Empire, the Serbs were heavily taxed and denied ownership of property of political power reserved for Muslims. In the early years of the nineteenth century, Serb farmers led a revolt that spread to Greece. The century-long struggle put an end to the Ottoman Empire. <snip> Probably because they had been deprived of full citizens rights under the Ottoman Turks, and because their own society of farmers and traders was relatively egalitarian, Serb political leaders throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were extremely receptive to the progressive ideals of the French Revolution. While all the other liberated Balkan nations imported German princelings as their new kings, the Serbs promoted their own pig farmers into a dynasty, one of whose members translated John Stuart Mill's "On Liberty' into Serbian during his student days. Nowhere in the Balkans did Western progressive ideas exercise such attraction as in Serbia, no doubt due to the historic circumstances of the country's emergence from four hundred years of subjugation. <snip> In 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Empire seized the pretext of the assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand to declare war and crush Serbia once and for all. When Austria-Hungary lost the world war it had thus initiated, leaders in Slovenia and Croatia chose to unite with Serbia in a single kingdom. This decision enabled both Slovenia and Croatia to go from the losing to the winning side in World War 1, thereby avoiding war reparations and enlarging their territory, notably on the Adriatic coast, and the expense of Italy. The joint Kingdom was renamed "Jugoslavia" in 1929. The conflicts between Croats and Serbs that plagued what is called "the first Yugoslavia" were described by Rebecca West in her celebrated book, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, first published in 1941. In April 1941, Serb patriots in Belgrade led a revolt against an accord reached between the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and Nazi Germany. This led to Nazi bombing of Belgrade, a German invasion, creation of an independent fascist state of Croatia (including Bosnia Herzegovina), and attachment of much of the Serbian province of Kosovo to Albania, then a puppet of Mussolini's Italy. The Croatian Ustashe undertook a policy of genocide against Serbs, Jews, and Gypsies within the territory of their "Greater Croatia", while the Germans raised 55 divisions among the Muslims of Bosnia and Albania. <snip> After World War 11, the new Communist Yugoslavia tried to build "brotherhood and unity" on the myth that all the peoples had contributed equally to liberation from fascism. Mihailovic [leader of the royalist Serbian resistance (the first guerrilla resistance to Nazi occupation in Europe)]was executed, and school children in post-war Yugoslavia learned more about the "fascist" nature of his Serbian nationalist Chetniks than they did about Albanian and Bosnian Muslims who had volunteered for the 55, or even about the killing of Serbs in the Jasenovac death camp run by Ustashe in Western Bosnia. After the 1948 break with Moscow, the Yugoslav communist leadership emphasized its difference from the Soviet bloc by adopting a policy of "self-management', supposed to lead by fairly rapid stages to the "withering away of the State'. "Tito repeatedly revised the Constitution to strengthen local authorities, while retaining final decision-making power for himself. When he died in 1980, he thus left behind a hopelessly complicated system that could not work without his arbitration". Serbia in particular was unable to enact vitally necessary reforms because its territory had been divided up, with two "autonomous provinces," Vojvodina and Kosovo, able to veto measures taken by Serbia, while Serbia could not intervene in their affairs. In the 1980's, the rise in interest rates and unfavourable world trade conditions dramatically increased the foreign debt Yugoslavia (like many "third world" countries) had been encouraged to run up thanks to its standing in the West as a socialist country not belonging to the Soviet bloc. The IMF arrived with its familiar austerity measures, which could only be taken by a central government. The leaders of the richer republics -Slovenia and Croatia - did not want to pay for the poorer ones. Moreover, in all former socialist countries, the big political question is privatization of State and Social property, and local communist leaders in Slovenia and Croatia could expect to get a greater share for themselves within the context of division of Yugoslavia into separate little states. <snip> Sure of the active sympathy of Germany, Austria, and the Vatican, leaders in Slovenia and Croatia, prepared the fait accompli#2 of unilateral, unnegotiated secession, proclaimed in 1991. Such secession was illegal, under Yugoslav and international law, and was certain to precipitate civil war. The key role of German (and Vatican) support was to provide rapid international recognition of the new independent republics, in order to transform Yugoslavia into an "aggressor on its own territory". Political Motives The political motives that launched the antiSerb propaganda campaign are obvious enough. Claiming that it was impossible to stay in Yugoslavia because the Serbs were so oppressive was the pretext for the nationalist leaders in Slovenia and Croatia to set up their own little statelets which, thanks to early and strong German support, could "jump the queue" and get into the richmen's European club ahead of the rest of Yugoslavia. The terrible paradox is that very many people, in the sincere desire to oppose racism and aggression, have in fact contributed to demonizing an entire people, the Serbs, thereby legitimizing both ethnic separatism and the new role of NATO as occupying power in the Balkans on behalf of a theoretical "international community". <snip> The current campaign to demonize the Serbs began in July 1991 with a virulent barrage of articles in the German media, led by the influential conservative newspaper, the "Frankfurter Allgerneine Zeitung" (FAZ). In almost daily columns, FAZ editor Johann Georg Reismuller justified the freshly, and illegally, declared "independence" of Slovenia and Croatia by describing "Yugo-Serbs" as essentially Oriental "militarist Bolsheviks" who have "no place in the European Community". Nineteen months after German reunification, and for the first time since Hitler's defeat in 1945, German media resounded with condemnation of an entire ethnic group reminiscent of the pre-war propaganda against the Jews". <snip> Media Momentum <snip> The Yugoslav story was complicated; anti-Serb stories had the advantage of being simple and available, and they provided an easy-to-use moral compass by designating the bad guys. <snip> Down with the State This ideology is the expression in moralistic terms of the dominant project for reshaping the world since the United States emerged as sole superpower after the defeat of communism and collapse of the Soviet Union. United States foreign policy for over a century has been dictated by a single overriding concern: to open world markets to American capital and American enterprise. Today this project is triumphant as "economic globalization". Throughout the world, government policies are judged, approved or condemned decisively not by their populations but by "the markets" meaning the financial markets. Foreign investors, not domestic voters, decide policy. The International Monetary Fund and other such agencies are there to help governments adjust their policies and their societies to market imperatives. The shift of decision-making power away from elected governments, which is an essential aspect of this particular "economic globalization", is being accompanied by an ideological assault on the nation state as a political community exercising sovereignty over a defined territory. For all its shortcomings, the nation-state is still the political level most apt to protect citizens' welfare and the environment from the destructive expansion of global markets. Dismissing the nation-state as an anachronism, or condemning it as a mere expression of "nationalist' exclusivism, overlooks and undermines its long-standing legitimacy as the focal point of democratic development, in which citizens can organize to define and defend their interests. The irony is that many well-intentioned idealists are unwittingly helping to advance this project by eagerly promoting its moralistic cover a theoretical global democracy that should replace attempts to strengthen democracy at the supposedly obsolete nation-state level. Within the United States, the link between antination-state ideology and economic globalization is blurred by the double standard of U.S. leaders who do not hesitate to invoke the supremacy of U.S. "national interest' over the very international institutions they promote in order to advance economic globalization. This makes it seem that such international institutions are a serious obstacle to U.S. global power rather than its expression. However, the United States has the overall military and political power to design and control key international institutions (e.g., the IMF, the World Trade Organization, and the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia), as well as to undermine those it dislikes (UNESCO when it was attempting to promote liberation of media from essentially American control) or to flout international law with impunity (notably in its Central American "backyard"). Given the present relationship of forces, weakening less powerful nation-states cannot strengthen international democracy, but simply tighten the grip of transnational capital and the criminal networks that flourish in an environment of lawless acquisition. There is no real contradiction between asserting the primacy of U.S. interests and blasting the nation-state barriers that might allow some organized defense of the interests of other peoples. But impressed by the apparent contradiction, some American liberals are comforted in their belief that nationalism is the number one enemy of mankind, whereas anything that goes against it is progressive. <snip> The New World Order In fact, the break-up of Yugoslavia has served to discredit and further weaken the United Nations, while providing a new role for an expending NATO. Rather than strengthening international order, it has helped shift the balance of power within the international order toward the dominant nation - states, the United States and Germany. If somebody had announced in 1989 that, well, the Berlin Wall has come down, now Germany can unite and send military forces back into Yugoslavia - and what is more in order to enforce a partition of the country along similar lines to those it imposed when it occupied the country in 1941 - well, quite a number of people might have raised objections. However, that is what has happened, and many of the very people might who have been expected to object most strongly to what amounts to the most significant act of historical revisionism since World War 11 have provided the ideological cover and excuse. Perhaps dazed by the end of the Cold War, much of what remains of the left in the early nineties abandoned its critical scrutiny of the geostrategic Realpolitik underlying great power policies in general and U.S. policy in particular and seemed to believe that the world henceforth was determined by purely moral considerations. This has much to do with the privatization of "the left" in the past twenty years or so. The United States has led the way in this trend. Mass movements aimed at overall political action have declined, while single-issue movements have managed to continue. The single-issue movements in turn engender nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) which, because of the requirements of fund-raising, need to adapt their causes to the mood of the times, in other words, to the dominant ideology to the media. Massive fund-raising is easiest for victims, using appeals to sentiment rather than to reason. Greenpeace has found that it can raise money more easily for baby seals than for combatting the development of nuclear weapons. This fact of life steers NGO activity in certain directions, away from political analysis toward sentiment. On another level, the NGOs offer idealistic internationalists a rare opportunity to intervene all around the world in matters of human rights and human welfare. And herein lies a new danger. Just as the "civilizing mission" of bringing Christianity to the heathen provided a justifying pretext for imperialist conquest of Asia and Africa in the past, today the protection of "human rights" may be the cloak for a new type of imperialist military intervention worldwide. Certainly, human rights are an essential concern of the left. Moreover, many individuals committed to worthy causes have turned to NGOs as the only available alternative to the decline of mass movements - a decline over which they have no control. Even a small NGO addressing a problem is no doubt better than nothing at all. The point is that great vigilance is needed, in this as in all other endeavours, to avoid letting good intentions be manipulated to serve quite contrary purposes. In a world now dedicated to brutal economic rivalry, where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, human rights abuses can only increase. From this vast array of mans inhumanity to man, Western media and governments are unquestionably more concerned about human rights abuses that obstruct the penetration of transnational capitalism, to which they are organically, linked, than about, say, the rights of Russian miners who have not been paid for a year. Media and government selectivity not only encourages humanitarian NGOS to follow their lead in focusing on certain countries and certain types of abuses, the caseby-case approach also distracts from active criticism of global economic structures that favour the basic human rights abuse of a world split between staggering wealth and dire poverty. Cuba is not the only country whose "human rights" may be the object of extraordinary concern by governments trying to replace local rulers with more compliant defenders of tran$national interests. Such a motivation can by no means be ruled out in the case of the campaign against Serbia. In such situations, humanitarian NGOs risk being cast in the role of the missionaries of the past - sincere, devoted people who need to be "protected", this time by NATO military forces. The Somali expedition provided a rough rehearsal (truly scandalous if examined closely) for this scenario. On a much larger scale, first Bosnia, then Kosovo, provide a vast experimental terrain for cooperation between NGOs and NATO. There is urgent need to take care to preserve genuine and legitimate efforts on behalf of human rights from manipulation in the service of other political ends. This is indeed a delicate challenge. NGOs and NATO, hand In hand In former Yugoslavia, and especially in BosniaHerzegovina, Western NGOs have found a justifying role for themselves alongside NATO. They gain funding and prestige from the situation. Local employees of Western NGOs gain political and financial advantages over other local people, and "democracy" is not the peoples choice but whatever meets with approval of outside donors. This breeds arrogance. among the outside benefactors, and cynicism among local people, who have the choice between opposing the outsiders or seeking to manipulate them. It is an unhealthy situation, and some of the most self-critical are aware of the dangers. Perhaps the most effectively arrogant NGO in regard to former Yugoslavia is the Vienna office of Human Rights Watch/Helsinki. On September 18, 1997, that organization issued a long statement announcing in advance that the Serbian elections to be held three days later 'Will be neither free nor fair." This astonishing intervention was followed by a long list of measures that Serbia and Yugoslavia must carry- out or else", and that the international community must take to discipline Serbia and Yugoslavia. These demands indicated an extremely broad interpretation of obligatory standards of "human rights" as applied to Serbia, although not, obviously, to everybody else, since they included new media laws drafted "in full consultation with the independent media in Yugoslavia" as well as permission meanwhile to all "unlicensed but currently operating radio and television stations to broadcast without interference"8. Human Rights Watch/Helsinki concluded by calling on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to "deny Yugoslavia readmission to the OSCE until there are concrete improvements in the country's human rights record, including respect for freedom of the press, independence of the judiciary, and minority rights, as well as cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia". As for the demand to "respect freedom of the press," one may wonder what measures would satisfy HRW, in light of the fact that press freedom already exists in Serbia to an extent well beyond that in many other countries not being served with such an ultimatum. There exist in Serbia quite a range of media devoted to attacking the government, not only in SerboCroatian, but also in Albanian. As of one 1998, there were 2,319 print publications and 101 radio and television stations in Yugoslavia, over twice the number that existed in 1992. Belgrade alone has 14 daily newspapers. The state-supported national dailies have a joint circulation of 180,000 compared to around 350,000 for seven leading opposition dailies". Moreover, the judiciary in Serbia is certainly no less independent than in Croatia or Muslim Bosnia, and most certainly much more so. As for "minority rights," it would be hard to find a country anywhere in the world where they are better protected in both theory and practice than in Yugoslavia9. For those who remember history the Human Rights Watch/Helsinki ultimatum instantly brings to mind the ultimatum issued by Vienna to Belgrade after the Sarajevo assassination in 1914 as a pretext for the Austrian invasion which touched off World War 1. The Serbian government gave in to all but one of the Habsburg demands, but was invaded anyway. The hostility of this new Vienna power, the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, toward Serbia, is evident in all its statements, and in those of its executive director Aaron Rhodes. In a March 18, 1998, column for the International Herald Tribune, he wrote that Albanians in Kosovo "have lived for years under conditions similar to those suffered by Jews in Nazi-controlled parts of Europe just before World War II. They have been ghettoized. They are not free but politically disenfranchised and deprived of basic civil liberties". The comparison could hardly be more incendiary, but the specific facts to back it up are absent. They are necessarily absent, since the accusation is totally false. Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo have never been "politically disenfranchised", and even Western diplomats have at times urged them to use their right to vote in order to deprive Milosevic of his electoral majority. But nationalist leaders have called for a boycott of Serbian elections since 1981 - well before Milosevic came on the scene -and ethnic Albanians who dare take part in legal political life are subject to intimidation and even murder by nationalist Albanian gunmenio. <snip> Human Rights Watch, in contrast, by uncritically endorsing the most extreme anti-Serb reports and ignoring Serbian sources, helps confirm ethnic Albanians in their worst fantasies, while encouraging them to demand international intervention on their behalf rather than seek compromise and reconciliation with their Serbian neighbours. HRW therefore contributes, deliberately or inadvertently, to a deepening cycle of violence that eventually may justify, or require, outside intervention. This is an approach which like its partner, economic globalization, breaks down the defenses and authority of weaker States. It does not help to enforce democratic institutions at the national level. The only democracy it reorganizes is that of the "international community", which is summoned to act according to the recommendations of Human Rights Watch. This "international community", the IC, is in reality no democracy. Its decisions are formally taken at NATO meetings. The IC is not even a "community"; the initials could more accurately stand for "imperialist condominium", a joint exercise of domination by the former imperialist powers, torn apart and weakened by two World Wars, now brought together under U.S. domination with NATO as their military arm. Certainly there are frictions between the members of this condominium, but so long as their rivalries can be played out within the IC, the price will be paid by smaller and weaker countries. Media attention to conflicts in Yugoslavia is sporadic, dictated by Great Power interests, lobbies, and the institutional ambitions of "non-governmental organizations" - often linked to powerful governments whose competition with each other for financial support provides motivation for exaggerating the abuses they specialize in denouncing. Yugoslavia, a country once known for its independent approach to socialism and international relations, economically and politically by far the most liberal country in Eastern Central Europe, has already been torn apart by Western support to secessionist movements: What is left is being further reduced to an ungovernable chaos by a continuation of the same process. The emerging result is not a charming bouquet of independent little ethnic democracies, but rather a new type of joint colonial rule by the IC enforced by NATO. ("CovertAction Quarterly', Wachington D.C., Fall 1998.) ___________________________ <snip of most notes> 5 The role of the Washington public relations firm, Ruder Finn, is by now well-known, but seems to have raised few doubts as to the accuracy of the anti-Serb propaganda it successfully diffused. 6 No one denies that many rapes occurred during the civil war in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, or that rape is a serious violation of human rights. So is war, for that matter. From the start, however, inquiry into rape in BosniaHerzegovina focused exclusively on accusations that Serbs were raping Muslim women as part of a deliberate strategy. The most inflated figures, freely extricated by multiplying the number of known cases by large factors, were readily accepted by the media and international organizations. No interest was shown in detailed and documented reports of rapes of Serbian women by Muslims or Croats. The late Nora Beloff, former chief political correspondent of the "London Observer", described her own search in verification of the rape charges in a letter to"The Daily Telegraph" (January 19, 1993). The British Foreign Office conceded that the rape figures being handled about were really uncorroborated and referred her to the Danish government, then chairing the European Union. Copenhagen agreed that the reports were unsubstantiated, but kept repeating them. Both said that the EU has taken up the "rape atrocity" issue at Its December 1992 Edinburgh Summit exclusively on the basis of a German initiative. In turn, Fran Wild, in charge of the Bosnian Desk in the German Foreign Ministry, told Ms. Beloff that the material on Serb rapes came partly from the Izetbegovic government and partly from the Catholic charity Caritas in Croatia. No effort had been made to seek corroboration from more impartial sources. <snip> 9 Serbia is constitutionally defined as the nation of all its citizens, and not "of the Serbs" (in contrast to constitutional provisions of Croatia and Macedonia, for instance). In addition, the 1992 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) as well as the Serbian Constitution guarantee extensive rights to national minorities, notably the right to education in their own mother tongue, the right to information media in their own language, and the right to use their own language in proceedings before a tribunal of other authority. These rights are not merely formal, but are effectively respected as is shown by, for instance, the satisfaction of the 400,000-strong Hungarian minority and the large number of newspapers published by national minorities in Albanian, Hungarian and other languages. Romani (Gypsies) are by all accounts better treated in Yugoslavia than elsewhere in the Balkans. Serbia has a large Muslim population of varied nationalities, including refugees from Bosnia and a native Serb population of converts to Islam in Southeastern Kosovo, known as Goranci, whose religious rights are fully respected, and who have no desire to leave Serbia. <snip> 11 In March 1990, during a regular official vaccination program, rumours were spread that Serb health workers had poisoned over 7,000 Albanian children by injecting them with nerve gas. There was never any proof of this, as no child was ever shown to suffer from anything more serious than mass hysteria. This was the signal for a boycott of the Serbian public health system. Ethnic Albanian doctors and other health workers left the official institutions to set up a parallel system, so vastly inferior that preventable childhood diseases reached epidemic proportions. In September 1996, WHO and UNICEF undertook to assist the main Kosovar parallel health system, named "Mother Theresa" after the world's most famous ethnic Albanian, a native of Macedonia, in vaccinating 300,000 children against polio. The worldwide publicity campaign around this large-scale immunization program failed to point out that the same service has long been available to those children from the official health service of Serbia, systematically boycotted by Albanian parents. Currently, the parallel Kosovar system employs 239 general practitioners and 140 specialists, compared to around 2,000 physicians employed by the Serbian public health system there. Serbs point out that many ethnic Albanians are sensible enough to turn to the government health system when they are seriously ill. According to official figures, 64% of the official Serb system health workers and 80% of the patients in Kosovo are ethnic Albanians. It is characteristic of the current age of privatization that the "international community' is ready to ignore a functional government service and even contribute to a politically inspired effort to bypass and ultimately destroy it. But then, Kosovo Albanian separatists aware of the taste of the times, like to speak of Kosovo itself as a "nongovernmental organization". These facts are contained in the "Kosovo Spring" report of the International Crisis Group.