The Kosovo precedent


Saturday’s New York Times quoted an unnamed ‘senior administration official’ as saying that ‘the Kosovo precedent was one of many subjects discussed in continuing White House meetings on the crisis in Syria’:

“It’s a step too far to say we’re drawing up legal justifications for an action, given that the president hasn’t made a decision,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the deliberations. “But Kosovo, of course, is a precedent of something that is perhaps similar.”

The White House’s invocation of NATO’s illegal 1999 attack as some kind of model for Syria is instructive.

Washington’s serial wars, whether by proxy or direct intervention, now allow successful plot-lines to be repeated and familiar personages to reappear. The latter, sensing their moment, mount the stage again, script in hand, having donned their old costumes — still well-fitting after all these years — and begin to recite old lines.

Back in 1999, Australian writer Michael Karadjis took to the pages of the Democratic Socialist Party’s Green Left Weekly to dismiss claims, emanating from ‘some on the left’, that the Kosovo Liberation Army was ‘a creation of the CIA and organised crime syndicates in the region.’

Sure, Karadjis conceded, the KLA had engaged in some drug trafficking and other unpleasant activities. But the Yugoslav emergency allowed no time for decorum and rectitude: ‘The KLA can’t raise funds by writing a funding submission!’

The KLA, he insisted, was ‘a genuine liberation movement representing the aspirations of the oppressed Albanian majority.’

That was why ‘Western media and virtually all Western leaders have remained essentially hostile to the KLA.’ Washington had ‘sought to undermine the KLA.’ ‘Western “aid” to the KLA’ had been negligible.

NATO’s bombing campaign had, in fact, delegated to Milošević the covert aim of destroying the KLA-led ‘liberation movement.’ Washington, said Karadjis, was ‘implacably opposed’ to Kosovar separatism.

Karadjis book

Having been unpardonably wrong on every point, Karadjis was never compelled to acknowledge the consequence of his mistakes, let alone surrender a single one of  his illusions. Nor was he forced to relinquish his pretensions as an intellectual authority and drawer of conclusions for ‘the left’.

Such a record does not invite disgrace nor vitiate one’s standing within today’s left. It is not evidence of incompetence, but simply part of the job.

For, just as the late 1990s saw Green Left Weekly serve as a cheerleader for ‘self-determination’ in Yugoslavia and East Timor, today the loftiest of ‘humanitarian’ reasons elevate the support of would-be socialist groups for Washington-led regime change in Syria and Libya.

Having staged a sham-ridden ‘socialist’ argument that recruited left-wing support for NATO war aims in Yugoslavia, a connoisseur of cant like Karadjis is today marked out for success, and condemned to sore typing fingers.

Australia’s Socialist Alternative recently invited another profound appraisal from this dazzling thinker.

Karadjis purported to apprise his readers of certain facts:

The argument that the US “must” be behind the anti-Assad rebellion because some of its Arab allies are behind parts of it, is even more strange given the key US ally in the region, Israel, remains steadfastly opposed to the Saudi-led project…

Recent Israeli airstrikes in Syria, he explained, had merely ‘been to prevent the delivery of arms (apparently long-range missiles) to Hezbollah in Lebanon.’ Tel Aviv simply ‘wants to weaken the Assad regime in order to disrupt the passage of arms between Iran and Hezbollah via Syria.’

Otherwise, he insisted dementedly, ‘Israel, the key imperialist asset in the region, very clearly sees the Syrian rebellion as a far worse alternative to the Assad regime.’

In the blink of an historical eye, most of the nominally socialist organizations and avowedly Marxist intellectuals in the advanced capitalist countries have emerged as handy servants for rampant imperialism. Those who abstained from Bill Clinton’s military benefaction along Russia’s western flanks have now been won over by Obama’s strategic thrusts in Libya and Syria.

While mass constituencies for wars in the Balkans, West Asia and North Africa are recruited via the media slogans of humanitarian intervention and the ‘responsibility to protect’, more specialized messages, deliberately tailored to target certain weak-points (nationalism, feminism, etc.), are directed at niche audiences among ‘radical’ activists.

The latter are then mobilized for regime change, proxy war or ‘troops in’ campaigns by figures like Karadjis,  Gilbert AchcarAlex Callinicos and Richard Seymour.

Their undoubted capacity for stupidity does not explain this recent passage of the International Socialist tendency and its various national affiliates and sympathizers into the role of NATO cheerleaders.

In tracing this route, they have only followed, at one decade’s remove, the former parties of the United Secretariat (smoothing, no doubt, the recent fusion talks between Australia’s Socialist Alternative and Karadjis’s Socialist Alliance).

This tarnishing and debasement of Marxist language, emblems and theoretical tokens, through their use for the purpose of organizing NATO’s military campaigns, is a grim development for anyone interested in the fate of Marxism and revolutionary socialism.

The latter will, of course, survive so long as human societies with surplus products and class divisions exist. But the goodwill account must record the impairment caused by so-called Marxists like Karadjis and Achcar, just as it did following usurpation by Stalinists and social democrats, the dalliance of academic Western Marxists with Stalinism, and the bêtises and incoherence of ‘post-Marxism’.

Twenty years since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the turn of the US governing elite to unchecked militarism, the unprecedented bleakness of our ideological surroundings has scarcely been taken in.


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2 Responses to “The Kosovo precedent”

  1. Credit where it’s due | Churls Gone Wild Says:

    […] recognize the bashful philosophers and coy Just War theorists at this, their hour of professional triumph. Pay no heed to their mortified glares and expressions of […]

  2. The headaches and misery of the day | Churls Gone Wild Says:

    […] Thus the ‘engaged’ activists of today’s radical protest politics, heedless of principle and refusing to abstain, participate in every trifling and dangerous ‘movement’ that arises: taking up positions in a meaningless Kulturkampf, venturing opinions on this or that media inanity, preferring one monstrous ‘lesser evil’ or another, lending support to one wing of the propertied elite over today’s provisional enemy, greeting wars of aggression as salutary ‘revolutions’. […]

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