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Letter from a Former Enemy: You Were Right

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Letter from a Former Enemy: You Were Right Empty Letter from a Former Enemy: You Were Right

Post  AuLoNa Tue May 19, 2009 9:16 pm

For all the years that I defended the Serbian nation, I never understood why their former neighbors and countrymen would choose warfare and bloodshed to secede from them. Until I lived in Serbia; now I do.

By Russell Gordon

Living in Serbia often reminds me of when I was a recent arrival in Mexico City some years ago. I had moved to Mexico for a four year stint as a journalist, and later, served as an intelligence and strategic policy analyst.
Each day that I would peruse the local press, I was aghast at the prevalence of corruption, ineptitude, incompetence, and smugness – qualities that were so commonplace as to at times be paraded as sources of national pride. And as time went on, and I acquired deeper personal experience, I saw that these reports only hinted at what lie beneath. Regrettably, the same has come true of my almost three years living in Serbia.

In 2006 I was an intelligence and strategic policy analyst in Kosovo, writing under the pen-name V. Groginsky. Among my activities, I was involved in acquiring the database of the KPC (formerly UCK) and bringing it to Serbia. At that time I believed that the Serbs were exclusive victims of international policy bias in the region, and that their claims were the most valid among the conflicting parties in the Balkans. Never having lived in the Balkans, I was under the impression that recent events in the Balkans were not of their own making, but were forced upon them.

For all the years that I defended the Serbian nation, I never understood why their former neighbors and countrymen would choose warfare and bloodshed to secede from them. Until I lived in Serbia; now I do.

While my efforts to analyze the facts on the ground, and “follow them wherever
they may lead”, were well-intentioned, I failed to see these events within the greater context – to see them within the larger picture. While refuting false media accusations and policy biases are of themselves noble pursuits, the fact is that I neglected one essential point: it is simply impossible for a non-Serb to have justice, equality or normal socio-economic relations within the Serbian nation.

What constitutes a legitimate and legal secession of territory I will leave for the legal experts and jurists to opine on. Certainly there are states which have not recognized Kosovo’s independence due to their own ongoing separatist insurrections, careful to not embolden or encourage their own local adversaries that warfare plus persistence equals legitimacy and recognition.

But if Kosovo is not due rightful independence, what is due in lieu? A return to Serbia’s control? A dismantlement of the functioning Albanian-majority state that was first created as parallel institutions in response to institutionalized discrimination and inequality? If so, does that mean that 90-plus percent of the populace should simply bow their heads, humbly take off their national identity to hang in the closet of lost hopes, and become unequal Serbian citizens again?

A case might be made in Serbia’s favor if the Serbian system and society was more functional than the Albanian-majority one. But Serbia’s klepto-bureaucracy is so blatant that one security consultant stated that “Serbian politicians are “only [busy occupied] fighting over money and power.” One American diplomat was more succinct when asked if Belgrade’s streets were safe, she quipped that most crime in Serbia “is committed by politicians...”

The essential conflict is cultural at heart. Former US President George Bush was accurate in describing the Albanian people as hard-working. And work they have to build a functioning state
from the ruins of war. One regional observer waxed eloquent about the Serbs, describing their characteristic indifference to professional pursuits as “leisure-oriented.” Beneath the issue of ethnicity, territory, religion, and competing economic interests lies the fact that there are those who want to build a state, and those who behind nationalistic rhetoric couldn’t have cared less for its administration and management, then or now.

The people of Kosovo – like Croatia, Bosnia and Slovenia – fought and won their independence from a nation -- a people – with whom it was simply impossible to have justice or equality from. To further delay recognition of that hard-won independence is to maintain the lie that life under Serbian rule would be better, legitimate, or just. This is simply not the case.

More than 50 nations now recognize Kosovo’s independence, a de-facto reality given regardless of the international diplomatic arena’s whims. The Republic of Kosovo has serious problems, but those inadequacies and idiosyncrasies are little different from those of other nations in the region, and indeed most world powers have their human rights problems and organized criminal elements as well.

Kosovo’s leaders are all too aware that despite back-room assurances from some among the Belgrade leadership that their Serbian counterparts’ international and public protestations are merely for domestic consumption, and that they de-facto accept the new State, that the Belgrade regime is duplicitous at best. The current leadership in power in Belgrade is even more corrupt and cynical than the former ruling socialists, and would spare no effort to destabilize Kosovo and life for Albanians and others there if they found it in their economic or political interests. Plus ca change, plus ce la meme chose: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I would like to wish you and all the people of Kosovo the best of luck with your new lives in a new country, and I hope that you can build a State and society truly based on democracy, human rights and the rule of Law. I can assure you that after 15 years of involvement with the Serbian nation, and almost 3 years of living here in Serbia, they certainly have not.


The author is a journalist and photographer, based in Serbia. He is also a former intelligence and strategic policy analyst with The International Strategic Studies Association’s publication Defense & Foreign Affairs’ Strategic Policy, for whom he was formerly Mexico and Kosovo Bureau Chief, respectively.

The views presented in this article are personal and do not represent the editorial stance of The Kosovo Times.
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