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Friday, February 22, 2008

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Man, that second paragraph could use some more sentences.

My guess is that they hate the US for the late nineties, but much more lately for "supporting" (verbally) the secession. After all, they weren't storming the embassy two weeks ago. On average, I don't imagine they've memorized the UN resolutions on the matter; they've certainly got no reason to be keen on internationalism.

Independence movements are pretty much the only remotely good thing ever associated with nationalism. I wouldn't mind seeing some more secessions, but maybe that's the "tear it all down" non-reformist thing speaking.

What do you think of the secession itself (not in relation to the US), John? How about the Basque cause? Catalonia? The Kurds? Others?

I wrote it that way deliberately, to contrast it with Kepley's one-liner. And as for knowing about the UN resolutions (and much of the rest of what I mentioned as well, I don't doubt), I saw a news clip just yesterday in which a Belgrade citizen was citing resolution 1244. Just because we don't know about these things here doesn't mean they don't know about them there.

(When I traveled to Yugoslavia in 1999 just at the end of the bombing, I was surprised at how well-informed people there were...and by contrast, they had a hard time understanding how misinformed most Americans were. "How can they believe what they hear in the media?", they'd ask me, and I'd just answer sheepishly that when you hear the same falsehoods and half-truths over and over from every news source, it's very difficult to see past that manufactured reality, or even to know that there's anything beyond it to see.)

The US didn't just verbally support the secession; it shepherded it through from beginning to end, as a final stage in the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. And my feelings about Kosovo's secession will always be colored by that (for better or worse). I'd say it was inevitable, in part because of the efforts of Albanian nationalists to purge the territory of non-Albanians, but it's been ferociously manipulated by the US and other powers. My point isn't really about the secession one way or the other, it's about that manipulation, and how destructive and unnecessary it's been.

I don't have a single opinion about secession movements generally. I'd agree with you that secession is good from a hazy "tear it all down" standpoint, but there are always complex issues underneath that muddy the waters.

John you said: "My point isn't really about the secession one way or the other, it's about that manipulation, and how destructive and unnecessary it's been."

The constant reiteration of "spreading democracy" that I have been hearing for the last couple of years sounds very much like a capitalistic/corporatist advertising campaign designed more to indoctrinate than inform or even fool. I am reminded of that old 70's ad for monarch margarine and the "I cant believe its not butter!" adverts. Nobody was fooled into believing that an actual crown would appear or that the tub of artificially flavored oleo tasted anything like butter but I think they managed to sell tonnes of the stuff.
"I cant believe its not democracy!" "They love to hate us for our freedoms!" "Yes you can!" "Free and fair elections!"
crude slogans containing both hope and fear, used in an attempt to indoctrinate confuse and subdue a global mass of Consumers. Yes it is manipulative and destructive. And necessary, absolutely imperative, from the standpoint of the multi-national corporations, that these messages are broadcast at every available opportunity. There are profits to be made.

re frances' point about reiteration: earlier today i read this article from the excellent karen kwiatkowski, a right libertarian but under the present circumstances i'll forgive her that: http://www.lewrockwell.com/kwiatkowski/kwiatkowski200.html

an excerpt:
"What kind of foreign policy is this, and what has caused it? Well, let’s review these five preconditions as if we were conducting a searching and fearless moral inventory.

Sin number 1. We suffer an overabundance of state propaganda that takes the form of outright lies, oft repeated. I’d like to quote Aldous Huxley, from his Propaganda in a Democratic Society:

'In their propaganda today's dictators rely for the most part on repetition, suppression and rationalization – the repetition of catchwords which they wish to be accepted as true, the suppression of facts which they wish to be ignored, the arousal and rationalization of passions which may be used in the interests of the Party or the State.'

One need only to remember George W. Bush’s famous line, in Rochester, New York on May 24, 2005, and I quote: "See in my line of work, you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda." "

Do you have any other feelings about the secession?

I knew I was missing something. Thanks.

I like the notion that there's a place somewhere where people can just cite these things off the top of their heads.

Like so many people, at the time of the bombings I was uninterested in politics. I saw things on the news and thought, "Oh, how horrible! I wonder why they are so mean to the Kosovars. I hope the heroic U.S. sorts it all out!"

Somehow seeing "As long as we live, Kosovo is Serbia" chills me though... exactly as the people reporting these quotes intend them to.

petey: Funny you should mention Huxley...he was quoted repeatedly in this article on Kosovo's secession by Diana Johnstone.

StO: Shortly before the bombing of Yugoslavia I would have looked at things the same way you say you did, and but for too much time on my hands and unexpected encounters with various ranting leftists that's how it would have stayed. As it was, I spent far too much time absorbing as much information as I could about what was happening then in Kosovo—reading Rambouillet, the Yugoslav counter-proposal, various UN resolutions, OSCE and UNHCR reports, the NATO charter, etc, etc. I may write about that period some day, because it was the time when my entire outlook changed.

It's difficult to tell you how I feel about the secession without relaying much more background than I reasonably can in a comment. But in a way it's like when Iraq war supporters turn to us at this point, after the disaster that's been created there, and ask: what would you do now? On Kosovo it really is too late. I just feel resigned, watching an ending that was already written when the US chose to start a war rather than pursuing the very real options for peace that existed at the time—thus empowering Albanian nationalists whose goal has long been to wrest control of Kosovo and merge it into a Greater Albania. To me this isn't a victory over nationalism, it's a victory of nationalism, and it hands more power to wonderful people like this and this (and reminds me once again that much bigger criminals are getting off scot free). I can't see much there to be happy about.

You call that media bias? I can top that one:

This morning on NPR there was a report, "Mukasey Meets the Press in Baghdad" in which reporter Ari Shapiro cites a "confusing" question asked by an Iraqi reporter about the inability of Iraqis to prosecute American soldiers who commit criminal acts. Shapiro mocks the questioner, acts as if he has no idea what the question is about, and then quotes Attorney General Michael Mukasey and U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker, who also claimed to be confused by the question.

Yet even in the few seconds of the question Mr. Shapiro played on his report, the intent of the question was clear: the reporter was asking about the fact that American soldiers and contractors are, in fact, immune from prosecution by Iraqi courts. Of course, this immunity is an even greater cause for outrage among Iraqis now, after Blackwater mercenaries killed seventeen unarmed people in Baghdad's Nissour Square and escaped prosecution.

If Attorney General Mukasey and ambassador Crocker are even minimally aware of the attitudes and opinions of Iraqis, they would understand very clearly what the questioner was asking. Isn't it possible that they did understand the question, but chose to feign confusion, to avoid addressing an obvious sore point in US-Iraqi relations?

Of course, this possibility never occurs to Mr. Shapiro, who also seems to be blissfully unaware of the Nissour Square massacre and the outrage many Iraqis feel at seeing the Nissour Square killers go free. Instead, he adopts a patronizing tone, explaining that Iraqi reporters have little experience with a free press, and so aren't as skilled at asking questions as American reporters.

To sum up: American mercenaries kill seventeen innocent Iraqis and get off without prosecution, and when an Iraqi reporter has the temerity to ask a visiting American official about this, NPR's Ari Shapiro steps in to turn the question into an occasion for mirth at the Iraqis' expense.

There's no shortage of irony here, of course, since we are in Baghdad in the first place precisely because American reporters are incapable of asking the proper questions of those in power. but the usual blogger's irony seems inadequate to this situation. Instead, all I can feel is very un-ironic outrage.

SteveB: I found the problem: This morning on NPR...

Frances: The rhetoric does seem to have reached a fevered and desperately insistent pitch, though it's not unique in content. I've written more about democracy and "free and fair" elections here.

(Hmm. Margarine...spreading democracy....)

Because I just can't leave this story alone, I went and checked what was happening in US-Iraqi relations at the time of Mukasey and Crocker's press conference, and found an article in an obscure publication called the New York Times, from two weeks before that says the US and Iraqi governments are negotiating the terms of a long-term "status of forces" agreement, and the key sticking point is the demand by the US that contractors like the Blackwater killers be immune from prosecution by Iraq courts - a condition that not even our obedient servant Maliki can agree to. Seems like the US ambassador and the Attorney General might be playing some role in these talks, huh?

So an Iraqi reporter asks a question about "the inability of Iraqi courts to prosecute American soldiers" and asks Mukasey if his visit has anything to do with that, and both Mukasey and Crocker claim to have no idea what he's talking about. Seem fishy to you? Well then, you obviously don't work for NPR.

Added irony: Mukasey billed his visit as a "rule of law mission" and while his own government was fighting to hold their own hired killers above the rule of law, he said, "My assessment is that the Iraqis are firmly committed to the notion of the rule of law as distinct from the rule of might."

Think there's a story in that? Well then, you obviously don't work for NPR.

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