Tuesday, October 16, 2007

On Fidel's advice to MIlosevic to "resist": Resistance, yes, but how?

Fidel asked the Serbian ambassador in Washington, in response to NATO’s aggression against Serbia in March 1999, to pass this message onto Milosevic:

"Even though I have no personal relationship with him, I have meditated extensively on the problems of today's world. I think that I have a sense of history, a concept of tactics and strategy in the struggle of a small country against a great superpower and I feel a deep hatred towards injustice, and so I take it upon myself to transmit to him an idea in just three words:

"Resist, resist, resist.”

(Reflections by the Commander in Chief, October 1, 2007

It is good to know that Fidel had “no personal relationship” with Milosevic, but in any case the advice to resist imperialist aggression is made due to his hatred of imperialist aggression against anyone.

Well and good; the problem being, how exactly does one “resist” in these circumstances? When an imperialist army invades and occupies your country, like the US in Iraq today, or the Nazis in Yugoslavia in WWII, then resistance means fighting against the invader and occupier, as the Iraqis are today, and the Yugoslav peoples (Serbs, Croats, Muslims, Albanians etc) did in WWII.

However, when someone is not invading, but firing cruise missiles at you from Italian bases, or bombing from 15,000 feet, how do you resist? For one, I suppose you try to knock some planes out of the sky, but most small countries are unlikely to have the necessary equipment to do that successfully.

Therefore, apart from “standing firm” and doing nothing, the only real resistance can be a political resistance, involving attempting to mobilise world opinion, and the peoples of the region, against the aggressor.

Fidel suggested this might happen of its own accord, claiming "Unless the terribly brutal and unjustifiable attacks in the very heart of Europe cease, world reaction will be even greater and swifter than that triggered by the war in Vietnam.”

Of course, this prediction could hardly have been more wrong. Not remotely like Vietnam, and not remotely like the enormous anti-war movement that erupted a few years later in relation to Iraq. In most countries, just the odd few thousand, or few hundred, demonstrators. And in the Balkan region itself, virtually not a single demonstration anywhere, except Greece for very specific reasons, in defence of a neighbour being bombed. Why was this?

We can look at Cuba’s resistance in the face of 50 yeas of embargo and various other attempts to undermine and overthrow the Cuban revolution by the US. Now Cuba is also not under occupation, so cannot carry out armed resistance. But it does everything it can to win over the world’s people to at least a position of neutrality, if not full admiration and support for Cuba, with its political, social, educational and health initiatives around the world.

By sending doctors to Haiti for example, Cuba wins the hearts and minds of Haitian people. If instead, Cuba had decided to make a claim to Haiti, send the army there to throw the Haitian population into the sea, then not only would it not win people’s support, but on the contrary, imperialism would finish it off the next day.

Serbia had been fighting a counterinsurgency war against the Albanian majority in Kosova for over a year before NATO’s attack; the Albanians were reasserting their decades-long claim for independence, especially since Milosevic had abolished even the autonomy that they never accepted as enough. This is what Fidel calls Serbia’s “internal problems”, and even if we can disagree that the issue was “internal”, rather than a case of foreign occupation, we can agree with this designation in as much as it means it should be none of the business of imperialism.

However, “internal” or otherwise, the onset of NATO’s attack directly led to Milosevic and his fascist deputy, Vojislav Seselj of the pro-Le Pen Radical Party, using the cover of NATO bombs to carry out Seselj’s long term, openly declared plan: to empty Kosova of its Albanian population. Within a couple of weeks of the bombing starting, the Serbian army and paramilitaries had driven over 800,000 people – half the entire Albanian population of Kosova – out of the country. Chomsky, in his ‘New Military Humanism’, makes a very valid comparison of the size of this ethnic cleansing with that of the Nakba, Israel’s original cleansing of the Palestinians in 1948. Chomsky does this to make a very valid statement about imperialist hypocrisy; but not being an apologist, he makes no attempt to belittle the suffering of either group, nor the culpability of those carrying it out.

The complete isolation of Serbia in the region, even when under brutal attack by the Empire, exactly corresponds to the complete isolation of Israel within the Middle east from 1948 onwards. Of course the difference is the position of US imperialism, though of course British imperialism in 1948 is a different thing, as it lined up with the Arab states that attempted to salvage some of Palestine; and even the role of US imperialism in 1999 was not any long-term view, on the contrary, Milosevic had been coddled through the period of his worst crimes earlier in Bosnia, but that is all another issue.

The issue is rather, carrying out this kind of attack on another people when you yourself are under attack is unlikely to be an effective method of “resistance”, certainly not of any political resistance, least of all the kind that could galvanise a mass anti-war movement in the west to your defence – let alone being morally indefensible in itself.

Likewise, the gigantic, festering refugee camps full of hundreds of thousands of dispossessed Albanians in Macedonia and Albania looked cannily like the Palestinian camps in Lebanon, which is what they would have become if they hadn’t been able to go home. We didn’t want NATO to help them go home with more bombs on Serbian civilians – those bombs had sparked the cleansing in the firs place – but with their right to fight for themselves. But for NATO anyway, as an organisation posing as a Europe-wide “security” umbrella, there was no way it was going to let a Palestinian problem occur in Europe. In the Middle east, sure – especially as imperialism gets the benefit of having Israel there as a surrogate in the oil region; but imperialism, unfortunately for Milosevic, did not want or need an Israel in the Balkans, let alone a massive refugee problem within its own, oh s civilized, borders.

Nevertheless, the parallel with Israel was never lost on Israel itself, which always maintained its own policy in support of Serbian nationalism, whatever the twists and turns of its imperialist master, being an important weapons supplier to Serbia throughout. Israel’s attitude is well described in this series of excellent essays by Igor Primoratz, 'Israel and the war in the Balkans' at http://www.hr/darko/etf/isr1.html .

Thus it was no surprise when Ariel Sharon reacted quite out of line from the master when the US led NATO's attack on Serbia. Sharon of course came from a very different standpoint from Fidel; while Fidel stresses fighting imperialism, and avoids any specific support or mention of Milosevic's policy in Kosova or elsewhere, Sharon comes in and makes an uncharacteristic criticism of an imperialist attack precisely out of solidarity with Serbian nationalism. Sharon declared:

"Israel should not legitimise Nato’s aggression, led by the United States … Israel could be the next victim of the sort of action now going on in Kosovo … Imagine what would happen if one fine day the Arabs declared autonomy for the Galilee and links with the Palestinian Authority," Yediot Aharonot, Tel Aviv, 2 April.

Sharon went on, in a meeting with Jewish leaders in the US, to claim the Kosovo Liberation Army "had obtained significant aid from terrorist organizations backed by Iran, including the mujahadeen fighters in Afghanistan, Hizbullah and Osama Bin Laden" and said an independent Kosovo would enable Islamic terrorism to spread throughout Europe.

Just as he responded to Fidel, Milosevic also responded to Sharon. In the Israeli paper "Ha' aretz" of 23 March 2001, there was a long interview to Milosevic who said "we have always had a positive attitude in the comparisons of the requirement of the Israeli people of living in peace and free being. But I must admit that, ill-fatedly, our good will has not been reciprocated from Israel in the difficult moments for the Serbian people, when this last one was exposed to every type of pressure - from those media and economic, to the army. In truth, the one who raised his own voice against Albanian separatismo, Sharon, has been an example." While hurrying to cite Sharon's example, he does not spend even a word for the Palestinian. In a comment, that accompanied the interview, Adar Primor wrote that "Milosevic has positive memories of Ariel Sharon," who "openly had dissociated the military campaign of the NATO. Sharon had put in guard from the creation of a ' Great Albania' that would have diffused the terror Muslim in all Europe, adding that Israel did not have to give legittimità to a intervenzionista military involvement of NATO ".

Being Sharon one of the last people in the world to be opposed to a war for reasons of moral or political convictions, his message was clear: an independent Kosovo would have constituted a precedent for independent Palestine and the Albanians, like the Palestinians, are only "terrorist" Muslims, http://www.ecn.org/reds/etnica/palestina/palestina0205sharon..html

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