August 19, 2008
The South Ossetia/Kosovo parallel
The more accurate parallel for what is happening in South Ossetia is not Iraq but Kosovo.
But mention of Kosovo is largely absent from the current discussions because the parallel between what happened there and what is happening in South Ossetia undercuts the basis for the west's anger at Russia. So Kosovo must be made to disappear. As Aldous Huxley said, "Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth. By simply not mentioning certain subjects... totalitarian propagandists have influenced opinion much more effectively than they could have by the most eloquent denunciations." Justin Raimondo, in an essay that traces the origins and resurgence of Russophobia says that "Official censorship simply isn't necessary in the West, because everyone knows what to say – and, more importantly, what not to say.
John Pilger looks back at the propaganda that was used to justify the military action against Serbia by NATO forces.
Yugoslavia was a uniquely independent and multi-ethnic, if imperfect, federation that stood as a political and economic bridge in the Cold War. This was not acceptable to the expanding European Community, especially newly united Germany, which had begun a drive east to dominate its "natural market" in the Yugoslav provinces of Croatia and Slovenia. By the time the Europeans met at Maastricht in 1991, a secret deal had been struck; Germany recognized Croatia, and Yugoslavia was doomed. In Washington, the U.S. ensured that the struggling Yugoslav economy was denied World Bank loans and the defunct NATO was reinvented as an enforcer. At a 1999 Kosovo "peace" conference in France, the Serbs were told to accept occupation by NATO forces and a market economy, or be bombed into submission. It was the perfect precursor to the bloodbaths in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The warmongers in the Clinton administration (many of whom are now resurfacing in the Obama campaign and Democratic leadership and trying to pretend they are antiwar) were the ones who, along with NATO and the European Union, destroyed Yugoslavia with a merciless bombing campaign that killed and displaced thousands of people and led to the carving out of Kosovo as a separate state.
George Friedman, the head of Stratfor, a private intelligence company, explains on NPR why Russia's use of force to separate South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia can be justified by them using the same arguments used by NATO to separate the province of Kosovo from Serbia, which was trumpeted by then President Clinton and the western media as the moral thing to do.
In February 2008 George Szamuely described in detail the way that Kosovo was carved out as a separate state, and said that Russia had warned where this was leading.
Unlike 2003, however, the Russians this time have a card up their sleeves. If Kosovo is to be permitted to secede, the Russians have argued, then why not other nationalities or ethnic groups living as minorities within someone else's state? As examples, President Vladimir Putin pointed to South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Transnistria. But he could have mentioned innumerable others: the Hungarians in Slovakia and Rumania, the Basques and Catalans in Spain, Corsicans in France, the Flemish in Belgium, Russians in Estonia and Latvia, the Turkish Cypriots.
. . .
The West's entire approach to Kosovo has been marked by sordid dishonesty and bad faith, supporting national self-determination and the right to secession in one place and territorial integrity in another, cheering on ethnic cleansing by one ethnic group and demanding war crimes trials for another, trumpeting the virtues of majority rule when it's convenient to do so and threatening to impose sanctions and penalties on majorities when that's convenient.
Paul Craig Roberts argues that the warmongers in the US are urging that the US make a strong response to Russia's actions (i.e., use force) although it is obvious to the rest of the world that the US simply no longer has the military, diplomatic, economic, or moral power to do any such thing. All it can do is bluster.
(As a digression, I came across the truly excellent news website Antiwar.com, an indispensable source for world news and analysis, during the campaign for the NATO war against Serbia. I was disgusted with the cheerleading for that war and tried to find more balanced news sources and came across the site which was started in 1995 to oppose that Clinton war. Since then, Antiwar.com has been consistently trying to expose the propaganda of both Democratic and Republican warmongers. The people behind the site can briefly be described as principled libertarian-paleoconservatives and they are refreshingly open to a spectrum of views across the ideological spectrum. The site is currently holding a fundraiser. Please donate something if you can.)
POST SCRIPT: Escape clauses
It is left to the comedy shows to highlight the verbal contortions currently on display in the US response to the conflict in South Ossetia as a result of trying to find an argument that condemns the Russian action while not automatically condemning similar US actions.
The Daily Show has a clip of US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad trying to dance the dance. He says that "The days of overthrowing leaders by military means in Europe, those days are gone."
So that's why the invasion of Iraq by the US is good and the invasion of Georgia by Russia is bad. It depends on where it happens.
But then what about Kosovo? That was in Europe. But since that was in the 1990s, a formula has been found: What is wrong is invading other countries in Europe in the 21st century. Yes, that it.
But John McCain, gung-ho supporter of the Iraq invasion, tends to get confused and forgot to add the vital in Europe clause, saying stupidly that "In the 21st century nations don't invade other nations."
The fact that Bush, Rice, McCain, and the neoconservative and other warmongers are not ridiculed for these obviously contradictory and self-serving justifications is a telling indication of the subservience of the mainstream media to the government line.