Milica i Trsha on Tue, 20 Apr 1999 08:48:44 +0200

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Syndicate: FW: Saving private Havel

To: marek kohn <> 
Subject: Saving private Havel 
Date: Tue, 20 Apr 1999 08:44:35 +0200 

The official Bastard(ARKZIN)-statement on the war in Yugoslavia
by Boris Buden
editor in chief

Saving Private Havel

New graffiti is to be seen these days in bombed Belgrade. SLOBO KLINTONE
(Slobo, you Clinton!). This simple but poignant message reveals the
in which a genuinely democratic stance has fallen since the beginning of
the NATO military campaign against Yugoslavia. It illustrates not only
political deadlock of the democratic option: the intrinsic impossibility
a choice between the front-lines of two antagonistic sides; or an
dangerous folie a deux, which has developed its own dynamics of
without predictable consequences. The truly witty identification of the
leaders of the belligerent sides also indicated to what extent they are
related on a much deeper level.
In an open letter addressed to his friends in Yugoslavia two days after
first bombs fell, the Slovenian publicist Lev Kreft emphasised the
situation of Serbian democrats "wedged between Sloba and Bill," by the
he related his vision of Clinton walking the streets of Pristina and
to the Albanians: "As long as I am with you, no one should dare to beat
you." People acquainted with the recent history of the Kosovo crises are
familiar with Kreft's allusion. On April 24, 1987 in Kosovo Polje, a
Serbian dominated suburb of Pristina, Milosevic bellowed this phrase to
crowd of Serbs protesting against Albanian oppression. The police,
controlled by Albanian officials used night-sticks to break up the
but Milosevic, at that time the head of the Serbian Communist Party,
stepped out to protect them. This phrase "enthroned him as a tsar",
according to M. Solevic, one of the leaders of the Kosovo Serbs. Looking
back, this phrase changed the course of events that have culminated in
NATO attack on Yugoslavia. But how can we understand what really
During his famous speech in Kosovo Polje Milosevic called the Kosovo
"You should stay here. This is your land. These are your houses. Your
meadows and gardens. Your memories. You shouldn't abandon your land ...
He appealed neither to some kind of communist ideology nor to national
values, but rather invoked universal human rights. The famous switch
communism to nationalism did not occur directly. There was a
mediator". Milosevic offered to protect the rights of a minority
by a majority, and under the auspices of the given constitutional
of Albanian autonomy, the majority had the state on its side. For
the system was too narrow to cope with the problem, and therefore he
stepped outside of it. His solution was to be found "either through the
existing institutions or not. On the streets or inside, by populist or
elite methods." This was the start of Milosevic's so-called
"anti-bureaucratic revolution": encouraging the solution of a political
problem by ignoring the "bureaucratic obstacles" inherent in a given
institutional system.
The analogy between the way Milosevic and Clinton treat similar
problems is obvious. Was it not the humanitarian argument - instead of a
clear political objective - that has been used by NATO to justify its
military intervention in Yugoslavia? Have the interventionists not
the legal, institutional framework of the UN Security Council, the UN
Charter and consequently international law? Both Milosevic and Clinton
done the same: they identified some fundamental human right, hegemonized
it, bypassed an "obsolete" institutional framework and acted.
In this respect, one could say that Milosevic already has won the war.
lured NATO into playing his dirty game. The breakdown of former
showed us all how dangerous this kind of game can be.
It was Milosevic who started to ignore the Yugoslav institutions in
to undermine their authority, and ultimately to demolish them. What are
dangers of a world-wide "anti-bureaucratic revolution" today, set into
motion by NATO? This remains to be seen.

Forward into the better past

At this point we should perhaps recall the famous aphorism (attributed
Winston Churchill) about democracy: the worst of all possible systems,
there is no other which would be better. Certainly an attempt to act
politically or militarily to protect or promote human rights in a
country where they are being violated by the state itself could be
blocked in the Security Council, due to the "conflict of interests"
its members. In other words, there is always some kind of antagonism
cannot be completely resolved, and this makes the Security Council the
worse of all possible security councils. But do we have a better one?
NATO has treated UN institutions in the manner which Bolsheviks treated
democratic institution of parliament - as a bourgeois club where genuine
rights have no chance of being recognised and will be blocked by some
particular class interest. Therefore, the Bolsheviks eliminated the
parliament, and the consequences thereof are today usually summed up
the concept of totalitarianism. They did it in the name of some common
good, of course, in the same manner in which NATO is demolishing the
institutions of international law today. However, NATO is acting as much
the favour of the so-called common good as the Bolsheviks did, and it
represents an instance of universal human rights, just as the Serbian
Communist Party leader Milosevic did 12 years ago in Kosovo Polje.
This fact should be obvious to the world public. After all, how can one
claim to be a protector of minority rights after having provided
military and political support for severe oppression of some other
minority, like the Kurds? Even if the use of force has to be recognised
a justified means of achieving democratic goals, how can one bomb
without bombing Ankara? Why not bomb Moscow because of Chechnya, or
because of Tibet?
"Why can't we do to our Albanians, what Turks have done to their Kurds?"
may seem to be a peculiar justification, but as long as the opponent's
position is untouched by the universality of justice as well, there does
not appear to be an appropriate answer to this cynical question. There
always a particular political goal which should be considered beyond all
the humanitarian rhetoric.
What is then the political objective of the NATO intervention in
Yugoslavia? As far as we know, this ought to be a political autonomy for
the Albanians within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia: something they
already had under the Tito Constitution of 1974 and which was taken away
from them by Milosevic in 1989. NATO wants to give this institutional
framework back to them.
As a political project, this endeavour is a historical scandal: nineteen
the most advanced liberal-democratic states of the world bombing an
ex-communist one to reinstate a communist political status quo ante.
is bombing its political way into a better past. How can this desperate
political eclecticism be understood? Why has NATO turned communist or
"Yugo-nostalgic," now that it is really too late? The pre-1990 Yugoslav
Federation (which actually was a confederation) in which Serbs accounted
for no more the 37 % of the entire population was the only realistic
institutional and political framework for the political autonomy of
Under democratic conditions in that Yugoslavia, a politician such as
Milosevic never would have had a chance to win an election with a
nationalist program.

A dwarf, not a giant

This political nonsense of the NATO military engagement in Yugoslavia
reveals its very sense. Bombs are not falling to enforce some political
solution. They ARE this political solution. After only a week of bombing
president Clinton stated explicitly what the objective of this bombing
victory. Whatever this means politically.
There is no political strategy behind NATO. Its members have never made
choice between two contradictory principles: state sovereignty or
self-determination, both they have chosen to recognise and violate at
same time. NATO is without a global democratic solution for this
one that can claim universal validity, challenge the existing world
and insist upon its radical reform.
This circumstance explains best why NATO cites "humanitarian causes" as
motive for military intervention and not the Universal Declaration of
Rights? For the "humanitarian cause" is the highest possible level of
universalisation, that the USA and its NATO-allies can afford, not
merely a
rhetorical excuse for the promotion of some dirty power interests, as so
many leftists claim today. There is no so-called hidden agenda of the
military action in Yugoslavia: an alleged plan to control the Central
oil over Kosovo-crossroad or even to seize the gold which, as is
has recently been found there. The old-fashioned materialistic fantasy
about politics as a superstructure of some basic economic interests
help us to understand the true motive of the NATO intervention. Rather
suppresses its real political meaning in the same way as the
rhetoric does. For what is hidden behind the both is not an insatiable
imperialist giant, but a poor, frustrated and confused political dwarf.
Nothing expresses this fact better then the ever-larger waves of moral
scandalising over the tragical fate of the innocent victims of war and
genocide. The real scandal today, at the end of 20th century is not the
fact that people are being expelled from their homes, raped and killed
before the eyes of a helpless democratic audience, (in view of our own
historical experience made in this century, this is rather trivial) but
truth that this democratic audience and its political representatives
don't have any political answer to this challenge. The ideological
of the humanitarian approach is then to represent war as some kind of
natural catastrophe. It naturalises social and political phenomena and
in a
way that blocks any kind of rational political engagement. It leaves
two actors on the stage of history: an anonymous mass of innocent
and a couple of pathological monsters. To help the one, means to
exterminate the other. Concrete political antagonisms, the whole
battlefield of political concepts and their protagonists no longer
on the scene. This distorted picture of a particular historical
is completely at odds with reality, but of course not with needs of
who have produced it. As a genuine ideological fantasy it serves its
purpose even if it is extremely contrafactual. That what everybody could
perceive as a simple lie - "We bomb Milosevic. Not Serbian people"-
to be a very useful lie for both: for those who are bombed as well as
those who bomb. For it makes Serbian people retroactively innocent, i.e.
not responsible for all the atrocities either committed by war criminals
living undisturbed among them or induced by the politicians freely
by those same people. On the other hand, it buttresses the illusion that
people in a democratic system never make a false choice. And if they
one, it is always due to a "lack of objective information". If Serbs in
Belgrade would know what their soldiers and policemen are up to now in
Kosovo, i. e. brutal ethnic cleansing, they wouldn't allow this to
Unfortunately, the evil dictator has robbed them of free media, and has
thus turned them into innocent victims of manipulation. Of course, it is
the western democratic audience who gives much more credence to this
illusion then the Serbs themselves. It helps them to suppress perhaps
severest trauma of democracy - the fact that there is no hundred percent
reliable fuse which can completely protect democracy from its regression
into some kind of totalitarianism. In the whole ideological edifice
media" play only the role of the so-called subjective factor. If the
works is thanks to them. If it doesn't, there is its failure to be

Transparency of evil

Certainly Serbs in Belgrade know enough about ethnic cleansing of
in Kosovo, at least, no less then they knew about what happened to
or later in Sarajevo. In that sense they don't differ from Croats who
well-aware of the fact that 400 000 Serbs were forced to leave Croatia
the last ten years and of their 24 000 burned homes; who know by name
own war criminals with whom they live in peaceful coexistence without
thinking of prosecuting them. Croats - with some exceptions, albeit ones
without any real significance for the political situation - have never
asked their Serb compatriots to return back, nor, for all that matter,
would Serbs ask the expelled Albanians.
If there is some lesson to be learned from the Yugoslav disaster, then
is about the full transparency of evil. Nothing has happened in these to
date ten years of war what hadn't been "entirely predictable", and what
hadn't been even announced in advance. Why then such common outcry over
genocide in Kosovo now after the same practices have been closely
all over former Yugoslavia for almost a decade? Why hadn't there been an
outcry before the war ever has started, when today's President of
Tudjman published his book with the idea that a genocide could have
entirely positive consequences because it "leads to an ethnical
homogenisation of a given nation and therefore ... to more harmony ..."?
politician endorsing such idea was financially, politically and later
militarily backed by the countries now most engaged in the NATO war
campaign in Yugoslavia. Both Tudjman and Milosevic had outlined the
ethnic cleansing in Bosnia even before the war in Slovenia (1991) have
got underway, and this, too, is a well-known fact. Those who for
ask why it is that today's Pol Pot of the Balkans, Slobodan Milosevic,
still yesterday was accepted everywhere as a reliable negotiator, we
reply by asking a more cynical question: What is actually wrong with Pol
Pot since it was the United States which protested against the
military intervention in the Red Khmer's Kampuchea.

We'll bomb you into stone-innocence

"Only a stone is completely innocent," Hegel once wrote. If this makes
sense then in politics. Neither the Serbs in Belgrade are innocent, nor
the western democratic audience. The alleged innocence of both is only a
retroactive effect of a common depolitization taking place within a
humanitarian framework.
In any case, humanitarianism today is not only a new opium for people
makes them blind to the political meaning of historical events. Its
ideological use is of much greater importance. The best example of this
the attempt to find some juristically plausible justification for the
military intervention in Yugoslavia, which according to international
is illegal. Here the notion of "humanitarian intervention" is used to
that it is a matter of "custom and practice". To be sure, "customs and
practices" are never universal. They vary according to different
identities. "Serbian genocide of Albanians" is a crime against humanity
only because it doesn't fit European cultural standards - thus military
intervention is called for. By the same token, a "Turkish genocide of
Kurds" is a peculiar Turkish custom which depending on our interests we
either support or sadly regret.
Not only democracy and justice are particular customs, war is one as
Instead of understanding its political logic, the West has throughout
seen "people who have been fighting each other for centuries" in the
Balkans. War has been a part of their cultural identity and there was no
reason to intervene in it. One could recall the words of Marion Graefin
Doenhoff, who in September 1991 wrote on the front page of "Die Zeit":
would be crazy to intervene militarily in this Balkan chaos of one's own
free will. It would be pure madness. (...) But if they are determined to
vent to their Serbo-Croatian hatred, then one should leave them to it."
Far from being simply an excuse to further the cause of a military
intervention, humanitarianism even hinders it. That is why it always
that military interventions in former Yugoslavia come too late. They
late because they were following a humanitarian logic, instead of a
political one. Thus, they don't prevent humanitarian catastrophes. They
actually produce them by making humanitarian sense of their political
nonsense. Kosovo today is the best example of this.
Humanitarianism is the last one conceptual framework of the practical
universalism and in that sense, it is only a symptom of the politics
has renounced all its universal claims.
The western democratic world, now represented by NATO, is not capable of
coping with the deepest crises of the world political order. It lacks a
global vision within which it would be possible to shape the politics of
human rights in keeping with its projected universal validity. Thus the
bombs on Yugoslavia are merely an ersatz for this ideological and
failure. They are dropped not to save universal human rights but to
particular western customs, and what they damage most is the already
existing world order, granted rather imperfect one, - but the only one
have. It obviously has to be changed, if not revolutionised. However,
feeble political NATO-mind is least able to do this.

A collateral gain

If the face of the inevitable victory of democracy in the wake of
communism's fall was ever visible, then it was the face of Vaclav Havel.
Ten years ago, he stood for all of the universal values of democratic
civilisation from Magna Carta to Frank Zappa. At that time he opened up
perspective of a world-wide reinvention of democracy, extending much
further than the simple adaptation of the postcommunist countries to the
liberal capitalism of the West.
In his Presidential Address given two years ago in Washington under the
title "The Charms of Nato" Havel was enthusiastic about an America which
assumes its responsibility for the whole world. It should do it in the
which, as he said, "should embody those premises that have a chance of
saving our global civilisations ... values that should be adopted today
all cultures, all nations, as a condition of their survival." And he
welcomed of course the decision to include three Eastern European
in NATO.
These three countries, Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic finally became
members of the Western military alliance, shortly before the first bombs
fell on Belgrade. As a consequence, the greatest personification of
democracy in the recent history was also drafted.
Today when the bombs are falling on Belgrade the brave soldier Havel
obsequiously joins in. Do these bombs really represent what he expected
save our global civilisation"? Should they, as a an appropriate means of
solving our political problems, really "be adopted today by all
all nations, as a condition of their survival"? Can they really save the
hope for democracy, once personified by Vaclav Havel - the last vivid
symbol of a moral and political liaison between the western world and
universal idea of democracy?
It seems that democracy has again lost its face. This in itself is not
bad. Moreover, this could be the only "collateral gain" from the damage
done to democracy by the NATO military intervention in Yugoslavia.
"Slobo, you Clinton!", marks not only the radical impossibility of a
genuine democratic stance. Democracy's only chance lies in the fact that
has no more its fixed place within the existing political framework, nor
recognizable personification. Its meaning is freely floating again and
be caught only by our imagination. It is up to us to reinvent its futur
perspective. And make use of that freedom here and now.

boris buden
engerthstrasse 51/10/16
a-1200 wien
tel. (+43 1) 3336174

boris buden
republike austrije 17/1
hr-10000 zagreb
tel. (+385 1) 3777866
fax. (+385 1) 3777867

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