Monday, February 18, 2008

Let's Just Go Back a Minute

Readers of the blog will know that one of my biggest gripes with NPR is its lobotomization of history. NPR tells history with a scalpel, generally excising history of the US government's less savory actions so as not to offend listeners of the United States of Amnesia. Sadly, one of the NPR reporters I generally like, Sylvia Poggioli, took her turn at the operating table regarding Kosovo. A friend of this blog dropped me an email about Poggioli's piece that aired on Sunday's ATC. He suggested that the history of Kosovo was anything but the square "US good, Serbians bad" narrative aired on NPR.

Andrea Seabrook, interviewing Poggioli says, "Let's just go back a minute and remind ourselves why we watch this situation in the Balkans so carefully. Nine years ago when NATO and the US went to war over tiny Kosovo, let's listen to this cut of President Clinton [sound bite of Clinton announcing bombing]. Sylvia, how did the US and NATO get there?"

Poggioli answers, "It's precisely here in Kosovo that the disintegration of Yugoslavia began. Twenty years ago, Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic consolidated his power by fueling Serbian nationalist sentiments here in Kosovo...after the wars in Croatia and Bosnia, Serb repression here worsened and triggered a guerrilla insurgency that in turn led to brutal mass expulsions of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians. That's when NATO intervened."

I'm not terribly knowledgeable about the Balkans, so I'd welcome any expert comments, but this narrative did sound a wee bit too convenient. Just a little poking around tells quite a different tale (one that fits quite squarely with Naomi Klein's thesis of the Shock Doctrine). Third World Traveler, as always, has a helpful short piece with a different narrative. An article in the Covert Action bulletin back in 1996 has this insightful little analysis of the bloody fragmentation of Yugoslavia:
"Lost in the barrage of images and self-serving analyses are the economic and social causes of the conflict. The deep- seated economic crisis which preceded the civil war is long forgotten. The strategic interests of Germany and the US in laying the groundwork for the disintegration of Yugoslavia go unmentioned, as does the role of external creditors and international financial institutions."
Yes, the World Bank has shock interests in Kosovo (which as Poggioli tells us on today's ME is "overpopulated and mired in poverty" and has "a jobless rate close to 70%"). On its web site the World Bank cites a "reconstruction" goal of
"Developing of an overall economic assessment (e.g., institutions and policies for fiscal management, monetary and banking arrangements, structural issues, in particular, those related to privatization and private sector development, and social protection/poverty-alleviation)" [emphasis added].
This warfare and economic ruin of the new Balkan states was no accident, but part of US policy toward the region, and its push from the US Congress has been cited as originating in the 1991 Foreign Operations Appropriations Law 101-513 (see also Albrecht and Bowman).

To lay blame on the US, some European states such as Germany, and "western" economic institutions in no way minimizes the criminal behavior of the Serb forces and leaders (and Croat forces and leaders). But for NPR to again offer this hacked-up history as anything but the pro-US propaganda that it is indicates what they think of their listeners.

Breathe deeply and count backwards from 10...9...8...

For those who want to do a little time travel, Z Magazine has a pretty good Kosovo archive, although some of the links are dead ends, due to age.

(Hat tip to Flavio.)


LJansen said...

Here's a 2002 article from the World Socialist Website that has a lot info on U.S. military and corporate interests in Kosovo.

One month later, President George W. Bush made his first trip abroad to see US troops at the camp. He traveled directly from the Rome G8 summit, where tensions with European governments had come to the fore. In a speech described as a “retrenching” of the US in Europe, he insisted that US troops were in Kosovo to stay, had gone in together and would “leave together”. In a break from normal procedure, in front of cheering troops, Bush signed into law a Congress-approved increase in military spending of $1.9 billion.

Since then Camp Bondsteel has continued to grow, as it spearheads the first phase in a realignment of US military bases in Europe and eastward. The Bondsteel template is now being applied in Afghanistan and the new bases in the former Soviet Republics.

According to leaked comments to the press, European politicians now believe that the US used the bombing of Yugoslavia specifically in order to establish Camp Bondsteel. Before the start of the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, the Washington Post insisted, “With the Middle-East increasingly fragile, we will need bases and fly over rights in the Balkans to protect Caspian Sea oil.”

The scale of US oil corporations investment in the exploitation of Caspian oil fields and the US government demand for the economy to be less dependent on imported oil, particularly from the Middle-East, demands a long term solution to the transportation of oil to European and US markets. The US Trade & Development Agency (TDA) has financed initial feasibility studies, with large grants, and more recently advanced technical studies for the New York based AMBO (Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria Oil) Trans-Balkan pipeline.

big!pink!fuzzy!bunny! said...

Great work on this thread to all involved! Very illuminating - I'll contribute to the Check before the former ANY DAY!

Porter Melmoth said...

Absolutely! This is what blogs like this are all about: to uncover the truth - relentlessly!

larry, dfh said...

The outbreak of violence in Yugoslavia started right after Helmut Kohl and then GHWB recognized a sovereign Croatia. The first ethnic cleansings were Croatians getting rid of Serbs in their new fatherland.