Ratko Mladić “Found” And Captured

The arrest of war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladić comes at an extremely crucial moment for Serbia. At a time when Croatia is apparently on the verge of having been given a fixed date for EU entry, when Chief Prosecutor at the Hague Tribunal Serge Brammertz said that Serbia has not done nearly enough to catch the two main remaining war criminals (Mladić and Goran Hadžić), at the time when the EU is considering reintroducing visas for some Balkan countries including, apparently, Serbia, it would seem that Belgrade had no choice but to take the issue of general Ratko Mladić off the table.


Ratko Mladić and Radovan Karadžić. Both captured

Now, there’s always the possibility of pieces just falling into place. After all the United States found Osama Bin Laden after ten years not far (relatively speaking) from where he was in the first place. But this being Balkans and all, you’ll forgive me if I remain my cynical self.

Ratko Mladić was hiding under an alias Milorad Komadić in a village called Lazarevo. According to tweets by @Belgrade (editor of belgraded.com) Mladić was “found” in a village mostly inhabited by people from Mladić region of birth (a Serbian village South-East of Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina) and was brazen enough to use only a modification of his real name as an alias: Milorad Komadić. You either need balls of steel or (at the very least) tacit goverment support to do something like that.

You’ll remember that basically the same thing happened with Radovan Karadžić, who (using the assumed name of Dragan Dabić) lived in Belgrade practically under everyone’s noses. Point being that both Karadžić and Mladić were trump cards Serbian government used whenever it found itself cornered by the EU. While there’s still the capture of Goran Hadžić to attend to, the EU and (most likely) the United States will quite possibly grant certain concession to Serbia on a quid-pro-quo basis.

And this is basically it. What we saw today was – in my opinion – a closure of a deal where Serbian government bargained hard and most likely got what it wanted. EU foreign minister high representative for foreign affairs Catherine Ashton would not be in Belgrade today had there not been some sort of an agreement made. Although people tend to look down on her it is possible (and I’m only speculating here) that she had two envelopes with her: one if Serbia played ball, the other if it didn’t.

And just to put conspiracy theories to rest: The fact that European Parliament reporter for Serbia, Slovene MEP Jelko Kacin said only earlier today that Serbia will not be granted candidate status without Mladić arrest in all likelyhood is a coincidence 🙂

Anyways, Ratko Mladić is apparently on his way to The Hague where he will once again be united with Radovan Karadžić. The Duo Horribilis will stand trial for war crimes just in time for the ICTY to complete its charter. Hopefully, they will not follow their political mentor Slobodan Milošević and take their own lives, but will be tried and convicted for their crimes so that hundreds of thousands of people upon whom they brought untold horror and suffering may finally find some sort of inner peace.

May whatever god they might believe in have mercy on their souls. They will find little forgiveness on this Earth.

 

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A Good Day To Die (Is EU Following In Yugoslavia Footsteps?)

Comrade Tito died on this day in 1980. Thirty-one years later the death of Josip Broz Tito is little more than a moment in history. Yugoslavia is no more, wars between nations have largely been subdued if not permanently ended and save Slovenia, which has made good use of the “congestion of history” in the late 80s and early 90s, most of the ex-YU countries are at different stages of what is lovingly knows as “Euro-Atlantic Integration Process”. But just exactly where are they headed? Back to where they once already were?


Lep Dan Za Smrt (A Good Day To Die) by Dan D

The main difference between the EU and Yugoslavia can be described using Marxist terms: The neglected German philosopher postulated that every society first needs to establish an economic infrastructure upon which it builds the social superstructure. Yugoslavia under Tito and later went in the opposite direction. It first established the superstructure and then attempted (and failed spectacularly) to adapt the economic infrastructure accordingly. In this respect the EU is much more of a Marxist project than Yugoslavia ever was I know some of you are rolling under the table in a spasm, foaming at the mouth after reading this, but it’s true.

Today, the part of EU which has money is pumping shitload of cash and guarantees into the part of EU that has none. Some EU members are talking about scrubbing the Schengen treaty and reinstituting border checkpoints when they see fit (“special circumstances” cited by France and Italy being the broadest of excuses this side of Jupiter). And, lest we forget, places like Hungary and Finland are making people nervous by either passing constitution that would make 19h century blush or bringing anti-Europe fundamentalists within inches of actually running the country. Not to mention the fact that right-wing nationalists are flourishing all around Europe as well.

What was once Yugoslavia saw this film already: the developed republics (mostly Slovenia) were pumping money into the bottomless pit that was the rest of Yugoslavia without hope of ever seeing it again, borders were drawn, re-drawn and fought over, all the while most of the republics succumbed to the spell of nationalist movements and the charisma of its leaders, including (but not limited to) Slobodan Milošević and Franjo Tuđman.

Historically, every multi-national entity Slovenia (or any other ex-Yu republic) was ever a part of, disintegrated in blood-shed. And to continue with Marxist theme, history tends to repeat itself. First as a tragedy and then as a farce.

BTW: The music video above is by Slovene band Dan D and is using images of Tito’s funeral as a backdrop to what is possibly one of their best tunes, even though it is a cover as the song is originally by Niet.

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One More For The Road

Q: How much must a Slovene drink to score .25 on a breathalyzer test? A: Nothing for at least three days.


Ex-minister Gjerkeš during an interview for The Firm™ (source)

Minister for local self-government and regional policy Henrik Gjerkeš resigned yesterday after being taken into custody by the police for driving under the influence at 4 AM on Tuesday whilst returning home from ministry’s end-of-the-year party. Apparently he scored .63 on breathalyzer test, which is not at all surprising if one takes into account the fact that the party apparently started at 2 PM on Monday. While it is not known whether Gjerkeš was there for the entire fourteen hours, one can imagine that he did put some back into it. Especially given the fact that he was pulled over for driving on a motorway with a flat tyre. Oh, and he was driving a government Audi :mrgreen:

Obviously, Gjerkeš had no choice but to resign immediately, putting additional strain on an already embattled government of Borut Pahor. That quick resignation minimised the media and political fallout is a no-brainer, but it has started a chain of events which will further drain energy and resources of the government in general and the prime minister in particular.

Techincally, Gjerkeš was appointed by the parliament and it is the parliament who will a) have to note his resignation and b) appoint his successor. This will apparently be Duša Trobec Bučan who until now served as state secretary in Gjerkeš’s ministry and was his right-hand woman. The mechanics of the transfer are relatively straightforward, doubly so given the fact this is in fact a ministerial position without portfolio and that the Ministry for local self-government is in fact a government office, elevated to ministry status on a per-government basis.

However, the new would-be minister will first have to attend a parliamentary hearing in front of appropriate committees and then she and PM Pahor will have to go though a special session of the parliament where you can be sure no punches will be pulled. Doubly so because this ministry is in charge of acquiring EU cohesion funds and the sight of €€€ being pumped into his/her constituency makes many an MP go rabid. Doubly so if they also serve as mayors in their respective municipalities.

Gjerkeš’s resignation might seem normal and the only decent thing to do – and it is – but the sad truth is that it does set new standards in Slovenian politics, since there are well documented cases of MPs driving under the influence and even causing accidents and yet they not only got away with it, they even got re-elected. Pengovsky knows of one other case years when a minister caused a traffic accident (no one was hurt) and not only did he get away with it, he even managed to put a lid on it and the media didn’t report it. He later bragged about it to pengovsky during (the irony) one of many end-of-the-year receptions.

Bottom line: this was a totally stupid mistake to make on Gjerkeš’s part. Especially since he turned out to be quite capable, regardless of his virtual anonymity before becoming minister. As it is, he is now only a statistic – the sixth minister PM Pahor will have to replace, the second in this particular office.

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Inevitability of War

The shed in which pengovsky keeps axes to grind is getting a bit too small, so maybe it’s time for a bit of a clean up. We might as well start in the UK, the leading candidate country in UCPWLIIHEM (Union of Countries Pengovsky Would Live In If He Ever Moved). Not only is London one of my favourite cities (London? London. London? Yes, London!) but Her Majesty, recently of Facebook and Twitter fame also exerts sovereignty over Scotland and its whiskey distilleries. One in particular. Plus, they have Viz and the Magna Farta, the BBC, not to mention curry and Winston Churchill.


Hannan (left) and Van Rompuy (right)

However, just as Slovenia, the UK has its share of half-wits who have developed selective blindness to either historical or current facts and have – combined with their preconceptions – a fundamentally skewed perception and potentially dangerous view of the world around them. Case in point being Daniel Hannan MEP (Conservative) for South East England, a member of the eurosceptic European Conservatives and Reformists, who took issue with EU Big Boss Herman Van Rompuy, specifically his remarks on 9 November, during celebrations of German Schicksaltag.

The Beef

Van Rompuy (his ascendancy to the EU Top Spot was detailed by Dr. Arf) said among other things that “[W]e have to fight the dangers of a new euro-scepticism [which] is no longer the monopoly of a few countries. In every member state, there are people who believe their country can survive alone in the globalised world. It is more than an illusion: it is a lie.” He also added that “Fear leads to egoism, egoism leads to nationalism, and nationalism leads to war

Hannan (link thoughtfully provided by @AdriaanN) on the other hand sees this as a childish argument which he simplifies into euroscepticism = nationalism = war and counters by saying that “[C]onservatives everywhere, understand that patriotism is what makes people behave unselfishly. It’s the basis of our sense of obligation to those around us. A patriot doesn’t belittle other countries: he cheers their sense of national pride, and values their freedom.” and then adds that “[o]ur patriotism gave us a natural sympathy for those who had seen their homelands overrun. It was British – and Anglosphere – patriotism that defeated two attempts to unite Europe in tyranny, and restored democracy to its nations. Without it, the EU would not have been possible.”

Now, let’s take Hannan’s argument apart one step at the time. First of all euroscepticism is not limited to a conservative ideology any more. This is the core of Van Rompuy’s speech. He speaks of a new euroscepticism which is not exclusive to a specific political platform or a few member states but is taking hold in all member states, big and small, rich and poor, East and West, left and right. And secondly, this is not some sort of newly developed patriotism spreading all across the EU, but rather a resurgence of plain old nationalism which has raped this continent twice over, thirce if you look from the Balkans point of view.

Patriotism vs. Nationalism

At this point a slight digression is necessary. Mr. Hannan tends to equal nationalism and patriotism. In this he could not be more wrong and yet this misconception is central to his set of political beliefs. Namely, while patriotism is a state of mind, nationalism is an ideology. Patriotism (love for one’s country) is neither inherently political nor inherently ideological. It is just a set of beliefs centred around one’s attachment to his/her community. Nationalism on the other hand is both inherently political and ideological, because it is based on an idea that one nation is better than the other. We see this daily. From the good-natured jibes between the French and British, from the small satisfactions Slovenes and Croats get from each other’s failures to the mass graves of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica.

To put it in teenage terms, the likes of which Mr. Hannan apparently understands: Patriotism = We love us! Nationalism = We hate you! Also, pay special attention how easily Hannan switches from nationalism (paragraph 5) to patriotism (paragraph 6), as if he is talking of the same thing. And (worryingly enough) from his point of view, he is.

But to go on: Not only is Mr. Hannan wrong in his assessment of the situation as a whole, he (predictably) picks the wrong cases to prove his point. Dole queues in Switzerland may indeed be as frequent as food riots in Norway, but with Mr. Hannan being only a couple of years my senior and growing up in what were arguably the most abundant couple of decades in the history of the Western civilisation, pengovsky can say with some conviction that he doesn’t know jack shit about how a country can indeed fail (as Yugoslavia did) or how militant nationalism can with utmost ease become a predominant rhetoric in a society given certain preconditions, none of which were ever experienced either by Switzerland or by Norway.

A Wee History Lesson

Thirdly. Although British national character is replete with history (or so the stereotype goes) Mr. Hannan would do well to brush up on his history. It wasn’t just the British/Anglosphere patriotism which defeated two attempts to unite Europe under a tyranny (I’m assuming Hannan means victories in WWII as well as the Cold War.)

On account of the first: While Anglo/American contribution to the war effort is immeasurable, both in men and materiel as well as in political persuasion and just plain stubbornness, it must be said that Western powers liberated only part of Europe. The other part was liberated by the Soviet Union and until 1943 the Russkies were winning the war for everyone else as much as for themselves. This contributed to fact that during Tehran and Yalta conferences the UK and the US were unable to play the table against the Russians and – as a result – had to give up on the principle of “fighting for the cause of nations everywhere” in case of Poland (and in part Czechoslovakia) and recognise the ugly realities of geopolitics, abandoning these countries to Communist rule just as they had to abandon them to Nazi rule only years earlier (a fact which is today often raised especially by the Poles during crucial votes in the EU Council).

And while we’re at it, Mr. Hannan would do well to look up the entry “partisan guerilla in the Balkans” before he chalks up victory in WWII solely to Western powers. Had he done that beforehand he might have found that there were resistance movements all over Europe which have at one point or another been critical to the war effort and also that such a guerilla movement evolved into a regular army in what was later to become Socialist Yugoslavia. While obviously not a strategic player, the partisan army was important enough and strong enough to have won recognition both from London and Moscow and had engaged an entire Wermacht Army group which might have been deployed either in France after D Day or in Italy where Mr. Hannan’s father had served.

Also, there’s one area of Europe where neither the Brits nor the Russkies took any part in liberating it. Slovenia, where Slovene partisans liberated the country without any direct foreign involvement, thank you very much. With this in mind I’d be grateful if Mr. Hannan would refrain from general remarks on history, as they fly directly in the face of his other remark in the same text, where he boasts that a patriot like himself doesn’t belittle other countries. That may be, but by that measure Mr. Hannan is no patriot, but simply a nationalist, who tends to overrate the value and importance of his country and treat other nations condescendingly and patronisingly by ways of neglecting (belittling) actions and sacrifices of other nations, big and small. In the old days we had a word for that: Imperialism.

Oh, and as far as winning the Cold war is concerned, forget it. The West didn’t know the Berlin Wall was coming down until it felt bricks flying. The Wall fell because Socialism lost legitimacy, not because Capitalism was inherently better. There just wasn’t any real alternative. And yes, it did look better from the outside.

Inevitability of War

War, according to von Clausewitz, is only an continuation of a nation’s politics using other means. Wars, therefore, don’t just happen, but happen because they are vehicles of perpetuation of a certain ideology or even just plain leadership. Case in point again being the Balkans, where Slobodan Milošević didn’t so much believe in Serbian nationalism as much as he had fostered it and used it to ensure his political survival. But once his rule became dependant on perpetuation of armed conflict, it was only a question of time before he was stopped. In that time a lot of people died. This was only a couple of years before Mr. Hannan entered European Politics and yet he seems to be completely oblivious to the fact.

Nationalism (as opposed to patriotism) does lead to war. And euroscepticism of today is becoming ever more nationalistic. Daniel Hannan may not recognise this, but as the rhetoric of the extreme political right is a) being adopted by the extreme left and b) is becoming more and more mainstream, euroscepticism is becoming less and less a devil’s advocate vehicle but rather a Trojan Horse for people who will risk peace to further their political agenda. Such people and their agendas thrive in circumstances where social insecurity is great, economic stability is lacking and democratic political leadership is feeble. Which is how one might describe the general situation in the EU today. OK, so maybe not in Switzerland and Norway, but neither of those countries is a EU member. Both, however, enjoy many of the advantages of the common market and are hardly entities unto their own. Another fact which Mr. Hannan conveniently ignores.

Apparently 55% of Brits want to exit the EU. This of course does not mean that they want war (as the caption under the picture in the Daily Telegraph misleads). What it does mean, however, that once again, for the fourth time in a hundred-or-so years, we are faced with a fact that shit is brewing in the Continent and that the British will have nothing to do with it. To date, this has always lead to war. If we allow Mr. Hannan’s attitude to become the norm, it is bound to happen for the fourth time as well.

And in not so distant future, pengovsky fears.

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