Who Wrecked the Balkans, Holbrooke or Milosevic?

Published on Global Research.ca, by Diana Johnstone, December 21, 2010.

… This was rank ingratitude, considering that Holbrooke owed his greatest career success – the 1995 Dayton Accords that ended the civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina – almost entirely to Milosevic. This was made quite clear in his memoir To End a War (Random House, 1998).

But Holbrooke’s greatest skill, made possible by media complicity, was to dress up reality in a costume favorable to himself.

The Dayton Peace Accords were presented as a heroic victory for peace extracted by the brilliant Holbrooke from a reluctant Milosevic, who had to be “bombed to the negotiating table” by the United States. In reality, the U.S. government was fully aware that Milosevic was eager for peace in Bosnia to free Serbia from crippling economic sanctions. It was the Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic who wanted to keep the war going, with U.S. military help. 

In reality, the U.S. bombed the Serbs in order to get Izetbegovic to the negotiating table. And the agreement reached in the autumn of 1995 was not very different from the agreement reached in March 1992 by the three ethnic groups under European Community auspices, which could have prevented the entire civil war, if it had not been sabotaged by Izetbegovic, who withdrew his agreement with the encouragement of the then U.S. ambassador Warren Zimmermann. In short, far from being the great peacemaker in the Balkans, the United States first encouraged the Muslim side to fight for its goal of a centralized Bosnia, and then sponsored a weakened federated Bosnia – after nearly four years of bloodshed which left the populations bereft and embittered … //

… Who was the monster? Nobody, including at the Hague tribunal where he died for lack of medical treatment, has ever actually proved that Milosevic was responsible for the tragic deaths in the wars of Yugoslav disintegration. But Holbrooke was never put on trial for all the deaths in Vietnam, East Timor, Afghanistan, Iraq and, yes, former Yugoslavia, which resulted at least in part from the U.S. policies he carried out.

From his self-proclaimed moral heights, Holbrooke judged the Serbian leader as an opportunist without political convictions, neither communist nor nationalist, but simply “an opportunist who sought power and wealth for himself.”

In reality, there has never been any proof that Milosevic sought or obtained wealth for himself, whereas Holbrooke was, among many other things, a vice chairman of Credit Suisse First Boston, managing director of Lehman Brothers, vice chairman of the private equity firm Perseus LLC, and a member of the board of directors of AIG, the American International Group, at a time when, according to Wikipedia, “the firm engaged in wildly speculative credit default insurance schemes that may cost the taxpayer hundreds of billions to prevent AIG from bringing down the entire financial system.”

Milosevic was on trial for years without ever being to present his defense before he died under troubling circumstances. Holbrooke found that outcome perfectly satisfying: “I knew as soon as he reached The Hague that he’d never see daylight again and I think that justice was served in a weird way because he died in his cell, and that was the right thing to do.”

There are many other instances of lies and deceptions in Holbrooke’s manipulation of Balkan woes, as well as his totally cynical exploitation of the tragedies of Vietnam, East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan. But still, his importance should not be overstated. Moral monsters do not always make a great impact on history, when they are merely the vain instruments of a bureaucratic military machine running amok. (full text).

(Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions. She can be reached by e-mail).

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