One could say the Jan. 6 incident at the U.S. Capitol and resulting impeachment and acquittal of Donald Trump were the culmination of the tumultuous year that was 2020 — chaotic by definition as a Year of the Rat.
In the previous rat year of 2008, something similar happened in a country that was the proving ground for much of what’s been happening here, not incidentally because of our meddling in its affairs. The country was Serbia, the capital Belgrade, and the building breached — the U.S. embassy. Torched, to be exact.
About 150,000 Serbs protested peacefully, but “Masked attackers broke into the U.S. compound and tried to throw furniture from an office,” The Associated Press reported. “A blaze broke out inside one of the offices and parts of the facade also caught fire.” One person died. A rioter.
Fast forward a 12-year lunar calendar cycle to Ashli Babbitt and three other Capitol protesters making up four of the five dead, and see the same befuddlement by Democratic lawmakers, media, intel, voters and governors — all feigning innocence and outrage at the incursion, after pulling a fast one with an unheard-of universal mail-in election that would make it impossible to ever know who really won in 2020.
The fix was in for “the proper outcome,” as a much-talked-about Time article this month put it, admitting to a powerful cross-industry “shadow effort” to “protect” the election by getting states to “change voting system laws”; “training” secretaries of state on which machine vendors to use; organizing “information” campaigns about election results; threatening election officials to certify the vote; pressuring social media platforms for “more rigorous rules and enforcement”; and calling any challenge to the count in places like Detroit “racist.”
The fix was in as well for the 2008 capitulation which outraged Serbs didn’t know how to fight other than to protest and get out of hand. That one featured a Washington-staged “negotiations” waltz between Kosovo and Serbia throughout 2007, the result predetermined to arrive at the proper outcome of independence. “The Western powers had told the Albanians in Kosovo in advance that their independence would be recognized when they proclaimed it,” British author John Laughland wrote at the time.
“It was because the Albanians knew this that they had no interest in negotiating with Belgrade.” (Indeed, a constitution for this land that was to stay under Serbian sovereignty, as per U.N. Council Resolution 1244, was already being written in 2005.)
The stage managers were furious over what happened to their fortress in Belgrade, Balkans observer Nebojsa Malic blogged in February 2008, even though they had just “committed what’s effectively an act of war, by recognizing the declaration of independence by a terrorist gang occupying the host country’s province illegally.” An indignant Zalmay Khalilzad, then our U.N. ambassador, said “I’m going to go into the Security Council and ask for a unanimous statement to be issued expressing the council’s outrage, condemning the attack and also reminding the Serb government of its responsibility to protect diplomatic facilities.”
Then-Sen. Hillary Clinton chimed in from the presidential campaign trail, “I would be moving very aggressively to hold the Serbian government responsible with their security forces to protect our embassy. Under international law they should be doing that,” said the woman who phoned her husband from Africa in 1999 to commence a bombing campaign that would breach the Helsinki Final Act, the U.N. Charter, NATO’s own treaty and the U.S. Constitution requiring congressional approval.
One man did lead an effort to get that approval, however. We have coronated as president the senator who in 1999 “was the primary sponsor of the Kosovo war authorization for military action against Serbia and Montenegro,” as Jim Jatras wrote last October for the Strategic Culture Foundation. The prophetically numbered S. Con. Res. 21 could “be seen as the last nail in the coffin of Congress’s constitutional war power: While [it] passed the Senate, it failed in the House” — but President Bill Clinton went to war anyway. “In May 1999, at the height of the NATO air assault, [now-President Biden] called for the introduction of U.S. ground troops (‘we should announce there’s going to be American casualties’),” because 78 days of bombing civilian infrastructure (plus civilians and journalists) “wasn’t punishment enough for people [Mr. Biden] collectively demonized as ‘illiterate degenerates, baby killers, butchers, and rapists.’” Is it any surprise that in Joe Biden’s American conservatives are now “White supremacists,” “domestic terrorists” — and “the QAnon party,” as per House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Still unable to get over that peasants had stormed the castle last month, Mrs. Pelosi is insistent upon forming a “1/6 Commission” to get to the bottom of how such a thing could happen. Never mind that almost 250 people have been charged, with the list of suspects growing daily — in contrast to the minuscule numbers prosecuted among her side’s much more numerous goons throughout all of 2020. (Just like 150 people were swiftly arrested and 80 charged by Serbia after the embassy fire — in contrast to the four years it took to lightly charge just 400 people out of the 51,000 who rampaged across Kosovo in 2004’s anti-Serb pogroms.) No, Mrs. Pelosi isn’t deterred after yet another Trump impeachment backfire, key to which was the defense demonstrating how then-President Trump’s speech was abridged, decontextualized and twisted by media and politicians to show “incitement” to riot.
Backtrack to 1987 Kosovo, to which the then chairman of the League of Communists, Slobodan Milosevic, had traveled to hear citizens’ grievances about violence and refusal of services (including medical) by the dominant ethnic Albanian population there, which was causing non-Albanians (and non-nationalist Albanians) to flee the province, as The New York Times documented throughout the 1980s.
“Unrest had broken out because the turnout for the meeting was much larger than anticipated,” Andy Wilcoxson writes in his forthcoming book, “Joint Criminal Enterprise: Why Everything You Were Told about Slobodan Milosevic and the Serbs was Wrong.” “The police tried to clear the crowd away from the meeting hall by beating them with truncheons, and the crowd responded to the abuse by throwing stones … In order to bring the situation under control Azem Vllasi, the ethnic Albanian President of the Kosovo League of Communists, asked Milosevic to go outside to see if he could calm the crowd down.”
According to witness testimony at The Hague in 2005, before Mr. Milosevic was able to organize a loudspeaker to address the crowd and ask them to go home, a small group of people came up to him and said they were being beaten. He replied to them, “They must not. They must not beat you.”
“NOBODY SHOULD DARE TO BEAT YOU” boomed The New York Times report, adding, “[T]he words had a ring to them and set a bloody tide in motion.” Enter The Washington Post: “One phrase, delivered in 1987 … set [Milosevic’s] career on a path of destruction. ‘No one will ever beat you again,’ he told a throng of Serbs.” The U.K.’s The Sun followed suit, writing the quote as “Nobody shall dare to beat you. We shall win.” In 2006, The Irish Times added a balcony: “Milosevic rose to power on the back of a single, extraordinary event … [S]tanding on the balcony of a meeting house, he told the Serbs: ‘Nobody should dare beat you.’” And the AP: “In a fiery speech, he told the Serbs, ‘No one should dare to beat you;’” Agence France Presse’s account was that “As riot police beat back the throng, Milosevic [said,] ‘No one has the right to beat you. No one will ever beat you again,’ he raged from a platform. The Serb battle cry was born and ethnic hatreds that had been welling up since Tito’s death in 1980 were unleashed.”
The victims are the perpetrators. Sound familiar? Worse, they are “nationalists,” as is the label now bestowed upon Americans willing to fight for their rights, starting with a fair election.
As with the original videos played at Donald Trump’s impeachment trial last week, the 1987 video still exists and was shown by the Milosevic defense, albeit courtesy of a BBC documentary whose subtitles also mistranslated the quote. And as with House managers entering into evidence falsely presented tweets, manipulated footage and selectively edited words by the accused, “time-shifting clips [that] made it appear the President’s words were playing to the crowd,” outlined defense attorney David Schoen, the Milosevic indictment at The Hague — a court bought and paid for by the same establishment now staging show trials here — was based on false information and read, “In meetings with local Serb leaders and in a speech before a crowd of Serbs, Slobodan Milosevic endorsed a Serbian nationalist agenda” — something even prosecutor Geoffrey Nice admitted Milosevic never did.
The tribunal quietly exonerated Milosevic — twice — a decade after the trial killed him. Anyone paying attention in 2002-06 to the much ballyhooed and then promptly ignored “Nuremberg II” knew it was only a matter of time before that chicken came home to roost, and we would all be Serbs, our chosen leaders targeted like theirs. Witness the NPR interview this month with Robert Grenier, former CIA Counterterrorism Center director, who suggested using counterinsurgency tactics for “domestic extremists” as we did in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Likening Trump supporters to Taliban and referring to the (twice acquitted) President Trump as “an insurgent leadership,” Mr. Grenier said, “I think it’s a national security imperative…. He is their charismatic leader … I saw in the Middle East that the air went out of violent demonstrations when Saddam Hussein was defeated … I think the same situation applies here … his potency as a symbol for the most violent among us [must be] addressed.”
The only thing Mr. Grenier illuminates is that he’s grown soft and should retire; after all, wouldn’t we all rather fight Trump supporters than ISIS?
The Balkan dynamic holds true again: the “terrorist” label was assigned — and stuck — to the Serbian side even as our internationals there did the KLA’s bidding so as to stay employed, and alive. Kosovo’s Western-backed Unilateral Declaration of Independence on Feb. 17, 2008 was the culmination of a war that was the culmination of indulging maximal demands of one side while disenfranchising the other. “Anything short of unequivocal endorsement of the KLA [was] taken for radical dissent,” Mr. Malic wrote in 2009. And on these shores, today anything short of endorsing BLM is radical dissent, not to mention racism. The Albanians’ unqualified victory over the Serbs didn’t diminish the former’s hatred for them. Similarly, the Republican loss hasn’t softened Democratic hostility — just the opposite; the soft pogrom against conservatives has only intensified since the sham election.
Amid the sea of American and Albanian flags being waved in Kosovo in 2008 was a sign that read — just above “Serbia, Burn in Hell Forever,” “USA, Kick Some Putin Ass.” Six months later, Vladimir Putin found himself responding to an incursion into South Ossetia by the U.S. client state of Georgia. Fast forward: No sooner did our Democratic infrastructure get rid of Mr. Trump than the headlines became “The Problem is Putin.”
President Biden embodies an ominous continuum from our Balkans handiwork — on two fronts. Domestically, his administration is overseeing conservatives being turned into imposters in their own country, soon to be worth about as much as a Serb in his Kosovan heartland. Right-wing views are now dismissed as “misinformation/disinformation” the way the Serbian side was dismissed as “Serbian propaganda.” Internationally, President Biden bears responsibility for the Kosovo chapter that irreparably poisoned relations between America and Russia. As vice president in 2016, he found himself in a sort of apology for the war he agitated for, becoming the first high-ranking U.S. official to offer condolences for the lives we took. In a speech in Belgrade he said, “I’d’ like to add my condolences to the families of those whose lives were lost during the wars of the ‘90s, including as a result of the NATO air campaign, in terms of responsibility.”
Yet today NATO sits poised to attack Russia from its own borders, and we have put the same man in position to repeat the crime to more devastating effect, taking those poisoned relations to their logical conclusion. Mr. Biden felt we had something to apologize to Serbia for. If he goes after Russia, he may not get that chance.
Julia Gorin was a Soviet refusenik who came to the U.S. in 1976. She is the editor of “Hillarisms: The Unmaking of the First Female President.”
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