There has been much hand-wringing over the widespread looting in Iraq following the Anglo-American invasion. Evidence that the looting was permitted, and perhaps even encouraged, by coalition troops has not quelled the party line that this is a transitional stage and that reconstruction is proceeding apace. But could the creation of chaos be a deliberate and even lasting policy? Recent events in Serbia, the last country to have democracy imposed on it by force, indicate that the lawlessness and anarchy that now terrorize the civilian population of Iraq are not a regrettable transitory stage in the onward march towards the New World Order. They are instead the very essence of that order.
It was Pierre Vergniaud, a Girondin, who correctly predicted that the French Revolution, like Saturn, would devour its own children. That certainly happened on the morning of March 12, 2003 in Belgrade, when an assassin’s bullet dispatched the Serbian prime minister in a few swift seconds.
Few men incarnated the revolutionary force of the New World Order better than Zoran Djindjic—Marxist philosopher, bootlegger, and spook. Djindjic left Yugoslavia in the early 1970s to study at the feet of Jürgen Habermas, the extreme left-wing ideologue who, like his pupil, was later to become a prophet of globalism and the end of the nation-state. In 1984, Djindjic wrote that he had gone to study in Germany because Yugoslav Marxism had been fatally weakened by Marshall Tito’s policy of openness to the West. But his esoteric academic activities—which were in any case abandoned in the 1990s when he became an extreme Serb nationalist and, later, an extreme supporter of Euro-Atlantic integration and world-wide free trade—were in part a front for his business activities. He started off with a covert export-import business, involving the sale of textiles produced in his numerous sweatshops, and went on to become a major cigarette smuggler during the 1990s, something finally revealed by sections of the Serbian press, now closed down, in 2001. If the various and contradictory ideologies Djindjic adopted all had one thing in common—the destruction of the existing order in the name of total revolution—it was his status as a capo dei capi, one of the richest men in a region thick with wealthy and ruthless criminals, which made him attractive to the West. Here was a man who cared only for his own personal gain and not for his country. Moreover, his comings and goings between Germany and Yugoslavia had enabled him to work, it is said, for both the German and Yugoslav intelligence services. So in October 2000, Djindjic helped the Americans to organize the coup d’état that overthrew Slobodan Milosevic. According to two of his fans who wrote a history of that day, Oct. 5, 2000, Djindjic had carefully studied both Trotsky and Curzio Malaparte’s Techniques of a Coup d’état—based on Mussolini’s March on Rome—in preparation for his own march on Belgrade. He trousered some $100 million of U.S. taxpayers’ money for the purpose and did not hesitate to employ in this task other members of the criminal gangs of which he was a product.
These gangsters who helped him, as he was later to brag, included one Milorad Lukovic, alias Legija, the man who was accused of killing him in March. Legija had commanded a murderous paramilitary unit in Bosnia, which was later integrated into the Yugoslav police under the terms of the Dayton Accords in 1995. It was Legija’s agreement to support Djindjic that enabled the Oct. 5 coup to be successful. In April 2001, Legija’s men stormed Slobodan Milosevic’s residence and carted him off to the central prison in Belgrade, whence he was arrested and taken to The Hague. Throughout 2001 and 2002, moreover, Legija’s unit, according to the admission of the Serbian deputy prime minister, assisted the regular Yugoslav police in their anti-terrorist operations against Albanian insurgents in southern Serbia. Most Serbs, therefore, regarded it as a sick joke when Western governments claimed that Djindjic had been assassinated by Legija’s men because he was fighting organized crime. Although spivvery had certainly existed under Milosevic, an inevitable consequence of sanctions and war, it had only really let rip under Djindjic.
Serbian society is now so totally criminalized, indeed, that Serbs naturally assume that the West itself was somehow implicated in Djindjic’s murder. They speculate that Djindjic may have been finally getting too big for his boots; that he was starting to get awkward over the West’s failure to pay promised aid; and that several big contracts were about to go to German interests rather than American ones. They also point out that Djindjic was one of the few Eastern European leaders who refused to sign a letter of support for the Anglo-American position on Iraq in March. If such conspiracy theories seem outlandish, it should be remembered that the West had already brought Mafia regimes to power in neighboring Albania, Kosovo, and Montenegro, while it has also strenuously and successfully supported the integration into the Macedonian government of Albanian terrorists, drug-runners, and people-traffickers.
It was therefore natural that Djindjic and his American minders should have jointly conceived a plan to impose social chaos in Yugoslavia before and after the overthrow of Milosevic. In order to promote genuine revolution, or what Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute extols as “creative destruction,” the rebels did everything to prevent the Yugoslav presidential elections in 2000 from going to a necessary second round. They thus ensured that there would be a period of total social collapse, just as there had been in Kosovo when the Serbs were forced to withdraw in June 1999, just as there was to be this year in Iraq. This created fertile ground for grabbing the key points of political control of the state, as well as for stealing its riches. The seizure of factories and enterprises all over Yugoslavia by men with guns in the aftermath of the Oct. 5 coup was merely repeated when mass looting spread across Iraq in April.
Subsequent events in Serbia have only underlined this alliance between Western-sponsored New-World-Order governments and organized crime. Following the assassination of Djindjic, the Serbian government promptly declared a state of emergency, something that did not happen after the assassinations of Jack Kennedy, Olaf Palme, or Rajiv Gandhi. Using powers the West had attacked as dictatorial when Milosevic made provision for them in 1992, but that he never used, some 8,000 people were taken in for questioning, 2,000 of whom were detained by police with no access to lawyers, no access to their familes, and without even being charged. In Belgrade, I interviewed two opposition politicians who had been detained for 30 days on the basis that their liberty “could pose a threat to the security of other citizens, and to the Republic.” This is little but George W. Bush’s policy of pre-emptive war applied to domestic policing.
As former President Vojislav Kostunica also put it to me when I met him in Belgrade, the government clearly treated Djindjic’s assassination as Stalin had treated the murder of Serge Kirov on Dec. 1, 1934—as a pretext for eliminating its political opponents. After declaring that the so-called “patriotic forces” had conspired to kill Djindjic, the Serbian Interior Minister proudly told a congress of European Youth leaders on April 18, “The imposition of the state of emergency gave the Serbian government the opportunity to rid itself of all remnants of the Milosevic regime.” Even though the Socialist Party of Serbia has never been declared illegal, this use of state organs to suppress political opposition was enthusiastically welcomed by Western governments. Colin Powell made a special trip to Belgrade last month to say how much the U.S. supported the mass arrests, and Serbia-Montenegro (as Yugoslavia is now officially known) was admitted to the Council of Europe, the human rights body, even as thousands were being detained.
Politicians from Milosevic’s Socialists and Vojislav Kostunica’s Democratic Party of Serbia figured prominently among the arrestees, as did any journalists who “incited the prime minister’s assassination” by criticizing him before it happened. Television stations, newspapers, and magazines were closed down, and the remaining media were obliged to publish only official government press statements. Their flowery language about the “heroic” efforts of the police prompted those Serbs old enough to remember Tito to joke that the state journalists from that period must have been brought out of retirement to write them.
As in the War on Terror, the principal culprits originally fingered for the crime have got away. Legija remains at large—like Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein—and although many of his Zemun gang have indeed been caught, the head of the rival Surcin gang was taken in for questioning and then politely released without charge. Given that the background of the present prime minister of Serbia is in running gambling joints in the southern Serbian town of Nis and that many believe one of the deputy prime ministers is a heroin addict, the suspicion of most Serbs is that the post-Djindjic government is using the instruments of the state to suppress one gang for the benefit of another. With foreign investment and foreign aid drying up, there is simply less money around for such crooks to steal: the battles between them are therefore becoming all the more bitter. Amidst all this chaos, the only thing that continued unperturbed was the privatization process, a euphemism for the sale of national assets to foreigners. At the height of the purges, U.S. Steel bought a gigantic factory in Serbia, with 10,000 employees, for the paltry sum of $23 million, a deal made all the sweeter because the factory’s $1.7 billion debt is being assumed by the Serbian taxpayers.
Much has been made in the last decade of the sudden conversion of so-called communists to the virtues of capitalism. But the equal and opposite trend has gone largely unnoticed—the adoption by Western policy-makers of the key tenets of the discredited Communist creed. Foremost among these is the myth of revolution. From Bucharest via Belgrade to Baghdad, highly organized or totally artificial events are presented as the spontaneous actions of “the people,” like the silly charade organized outside the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad last month. In keeping with its new revolutionary ideology, the West encourages chaos and criminality, in order to tear down the old order and in order to keep the population too preoccupied with daily cares to organize any effective political resistance. Social chaos forces the population of an occupied country, like Iraq, to make a Hobbesian pact with its invaders and to look to the coalition soldiers for protection, thus lending them an apparent legitimacy they would otherwise lack.Both Iraq and Serbia were subject, for a decade, to a stringent regime of sanctions. This gave rise, in both cases, to the same dramatic increase in criminality and to the same sense that the whole country is up for sale. Now, the U.S. State Department is backing Ahmad Chalabi in Iraq, a man sentenced to 20 years in prison for bank fraud in Jordan, while our allies in Iraqi Kurdistan are essentially gangs of people-smugglers. If the electricity in Kosovo has not been repaired after four years of occupation, there is little prospect of the lights soon coming back on in Baghdad; and with the West continuing strenuously to support criminal regimes across the Balkans, a peninsula it also occupies militarily, the message for the Iraqis is clear.
John Laughland is a London-based writer and lecturer and a trustee of the British Helsinki Human Rights Group.