JULIA GORIN: THE TRUTH ABOUT RICHARD HOLBROOKE AND HIS DREADFUL LEGACY IN THE BALKANS****
It has been a full year since the earth was relieved of the weight of one Richard Holbrooke on December 13, 2010. I wanted to mark the one-year anniversary of his death since it is still many years before the world will recover from his life. While I feel I’ve already written apt eulogies, some things came up afterwards, most notably a painful-to-read piece of praise in Jerusalem Post at the time by Israeli former UN ambassador Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Gold may be “one of the good ones,” as my philo-Semitic Italian friend puts it, but he is woefully wrong about what sort of man Holbrooke was.
For those who can stomach it, Gold’s Dec. 17, 2010 rhapsody about Holbrooke was titled “If Holbrooke had been given the Israel-Palestinian file” – A former UN ambassador praises the accomplished US diplomat who died this week, and wonders what he might have achieved in this region.
Probably something is amiss when an Israeli ambassador praises a man who was also being praised by the anti-Israel Christiane Amanpour ( “Why I Mourn,” Dec. 20, 2010). And notice that this Iranian-British woman, married to yet another confused Jew, was a key instrument in getting the West to help spread Jihad in Europe, even reporting from a Christian Serb cemetery as if from a Muslim one, the dead there attributed to “Serb” brutality.
What is there to say to an Israeli diplomat, when the unfair treatment of Israel that he bemoans is the very same treatment Holbrooke gave Serbia? If one still naively wonders how Holbrooke might have handled Israel, one need just look at how he handled Serbia. After all, Serbia is the Israel of the Balkans, surrounded by bellicose Muslims and getting all the pressure from the West as the latter tries to win Islamic favor with Israeli/Serbian blood. Holbrooke would have treated the Israelis the way he treated the Serbs, the only question being whether, in a deal he was brokering, Jews would have been as expendable as Serbs. But he didn’t get the Israel file, and so it wasn’t Jewish corpses he built his legacy on, but Christian ones.
And yet, that itself gives us a gaping glimpse into just how good Holbrooke was for Israel. For Serbs are the canary’s canary, and as little as Jews can afford to be ignorant about the Jewish plight, they can ill afford to be ignorant about the Serb one. Indeed, why look at the parallel of Israel and Serbia when Holbrooke proved himself poisonous to Jews and the free world — directly — via what he supported in regions throughout the world? Let’s start by looking at what he did for Israel…in the Balkans.
How Holbrooke Invited Iran Into Europe (John Rosenthal, Apr. 17, 2009)
…Today, Holbrooke and the Obama administration are eager to obtain Iran’s help for “reconstruction” and “development” efforts in Afghanistan. Back then , however, the objective was not reconstruction, but rather arms smuggling – and in brazen violation of a UN arms embargo no less. With the “green light” of the Clinton administration, an estimated fourteen thousand tons of Iranian weaponry were shipped via Croatia to the Bosnian Muslim government of President Alija Izetbegovic. The figure comes from Navy War College Professor John R. Schindler’s 2007 book Unholy Terror: Bosnia, Al-Qa’ida and the Rise of Global Jihad. [See also: Iran Gave Croatia Millions for Help to Bosnia and “When Tehran established relations with Zagreb…Iran announced Croatia was their entry into Central Europe.”]
…“Izetbegovic’s inner circle made few efforts to seriously hide its pro-Tehran views,” Schindler writes (p. 141), …and SDA leaders [Izetbegovic’s Party of Democratic Action] made public pronouncements about the glories of the Islamic Republic. One of the most notorious incidents came in early June 1993 when SDA representatives gathered at the Zagreb mosque, which was closely linked to Izetbegovic, for a fête to honor the Ayatollah Khomeini. The mosque was adorned with numerous posters of the late Iranian leader…Salim Sabic, SDA vice president and Izetbegovic’s personal representative at the event, stated, “Bosnian Muslims are the best example of the imam’s prophetic words, that if they are not united, Muslims worldwide will be suffering under American and Zionist regimes.”
In his pompous and self-aggrandizing account of the Bosnia conflict To End a War, Holbrooke attempts to deflect criticism of the Clinton administration’s approval of the illegal Iranian arms shipments by pointing out that the shipments had already begun in 1992, when George H.W. Bush was still in office. This is true as far as it goes. But Schindler notes that the Bush I administration had in fact given a “red light” to Zagreb, in order to try to prevent Tehran from gaining influence in the region (p. 181). Moreover, despite generous kickbacks and a “transit tax” that permitted them to retain a significant chunk of the weaponry, the Croats would soon themselves cool on the arrangement. It was not only the Bosnian Serbs, after all, that were at war with the Bosnian government forces of Izetbegovic: the Bosnian Croats were too.
A cessation of the Croat-Muslim hostilities was thus a precondition for getting the Iranian arms flowing again. On 18 March 1994, representatives of the Bosnian Croats and the Izetbegovic government signed the so-called Washington Agreement bringing the Croat-Muslim war to an end. The agreement is commonly regarded as a masterstroke of the Clinton administration (although Germany in fact had much to do with its coming into being). Just one month later – “before the ink on the Washington Agreement was dry,” as Schindler puts it (p. 181) – the Clinton administration would give its “green light” to Croatia to permit the Iranian arms shipments to resume.
…[The arms shipments] were, in effect, the outcome of a policy that [Holbrooke] had himself recommended to key Clinton advisors already in early January 1993 – before Clinton had even been sworn in! In To End a War, Holbrooke proudly cites a 13 January 1993 memorandum on Bosnia that he sent to incoming National Security Advisor Anthony Lake and incoming Secretary of State Warren Christopher. Displaying a kind of breezy contempt for international law, the memorandum is a masterpiece of equivocation. On the one hand, Holbrooke recommends that the Clinton administration “use” the Bosnia crisis “as an opportunity to strengthen the U.N. system” (p. 51). On the other hand, his chief practical recommendation is precisely to “allow covert arms supplies to the Bosnian Muslims”: a policy that he gingerly allows “does… carry the serious drawback of showing the United States evading a Security Council resolution” (p. 52).
Oddly enough, Holbrooke suggests that the policy of “allowing” covert arms shipments would somehow diminish the Bosnian government’s reliance upon support from Muslim nations. There is in fact evidence that other countries also made covert arms shipments to the Bosnian government. Schindler points, in particular, to German shipments disguised as humanitarian assistance (p. 178). There were also “black flights” directly into Bosnia, the origins of which remain unclarified. But the principal known partner of the Clinton administration’s efforts to get arms to the Bosnian government in defiance of the UN was none other than Iran.
As is generally acknowledged today by security experts, but little discussed in the major media, Iranian and Saudi support for the Bosnian cause would turn Bosnia into a European beachhead of international Jihadism. Thousands of foreign mujahedeen flocked to Bosnia to join the Bosnian “jihad.” Many of the latter would obtain Bosnian passports and remain in the country after the war. Several of the foreign veterans of the Bosnia War would be directly connected to the 9/11 attacks: including hijackers Khalid al-Mihdar and Nawaf al-Hazmi and the reputed “mastermind” of the attacks, Khaled Sheikh Mohammed. In addition to his “work” on the 9/11 plot, Mohammed has also admitted to personally decapitating the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan in 2002. [Note: While Mohammed did boast this feat, it was ultimately determined that he had masterminded the Pearl kidnapping but not been the executioner.]
…It can well be doubted, however, whether America can afford another success in Afghanistan and Pakistan like the “success” once obtained by Richard Holbrooke in Bosnia.
In 2002, and again in 2008, Holbrooke famously said that if not for his Dayton Accords, the Sept. 11 attacks would have been planned from Bosnia instead of Afghanistan. As we now know, Bosnia already had plenty to do with 9/11, Dayton’s architects themselves having proliferated al Qaeda through Europe.
Sept. 10, 2002:
Cumberland, Md.: [Were] you aware of the KLA and Bosnian Muslims’ ties to Osama bin Laden at the time you were negotiating with them?
Richard C. Holbrooke: Yes…
Even college students have been waking up to the unpleasant facts of the Balkan wars which the grown-ups have carefully avoided telling them, and to the fact that Holbrooke’s Balkans machinations represented America’s turn toward the dark side. One student, whom I’ve quoted before, is Natalie Koshkina, then at American University:
Holbrooke, perhaps more than anyone, was responsible for destabilizing the Balkans and contributing to the demonization of Serbia. He forced the Dayton Accords on the warring parties….sure, that ended the civil war for the time being, but the Dayton Accords also created the artificial state of Bosnia, whose Muslim and Croat populations continued to energetically engage in ethnic cleansing against Serbs…Symbolically, Holbrooke delivered the ultimatum to then-Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic before the NATO bombing campaign in 1999 – an unnecessary bombing campaign [the] sole aim of which was to break Serbia. And all along, Holbrooke was a vocal advocate for an independent Kosovo, which is one of the most destabilizing factors of the Balkan region. If Milosevic was the “Butcher of the Balkans,” then Holbrooke was the “Balkan Bully,” a moniker he lived up to a lot more than Milosevic did his.
Not that Holbrooke’s jihad-spreading contributions are limited to the Balkans. Like most every other personality that tends toward meddling in foreign affairs, Holbrooke in every case listed below helped Muslims against non-Muslims. What makes Gold think that Holbrooke-Israel would have been any different? Just look at what he indirectly did for Israel in the examples below:
Clinton administration’s terrorist friends in Southeast Asia still wreaking havoc in our name (Seth Mandel, Nov. 27, 2010)
In the run-up to the election of the U.N. secretary-general in 2007, a group of high-level former Clinton administration officials conspired to attempt to replace the frontrunner and well-respected South Korean Ban Ki-moon with the trustee of a Saudi-funded Wahhabist Muslim organization linked to al-Qaeda.
That man was Anwar Ibrahim of Malaysia, the current opposition leader. We’ve written about his anti-Semitism, support for terrorism, and ties to the Muslim Brotherhood here before, and recent news reports out of Malaysia suggest Al Gore, Madeleine Albright, Richard Holbrooke, and others have created a monster from which democracy in an important corner of Southeast Asia is now reeling.
The story begins with Anwar’s falling out with his party leadership in the late 1990s, when he served as deputy prime minister in Malaysia’s government. Anwar carefully cultivated ties with the U.S. State Department and other officials looking for a token moderate Muslim they could champion. In that vein, he co-chaired the Pacific Dialogue with Clinton’s defense secretary, William Cohen, a partnership aimed at making Anwar the face of U.S.-Asia/Pacific cooperation.
Al Gore took a shine to Anwar as well, and…Albright joined the fray, as did Holbrooke, and the gaggle of Clinton officials tried to undermine the Bush administration’s chosen candidate for U.N. secretary-general and install Anwar.
Supporting Anwar is problematic because of his obnoxious anti-Semitism. But attempting to put him in charge of the U.N. would have put the world body in the hands of a man spreading Wahhabism on the payroll of the Saudi royal family.
Anwar became, well before his relationship with American officials took off, a trustee of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), one of two organizations the Saudis established in the 1960s to spread Wahhabism…WAMY has also been caught funneling money to al-Qaeda and Hamas. All this was known before the Clinton gang attempted to install Anwar at the U.N.
His supporters in the West amount to the classic “useful idiots,” and whatever their reason for supporting Anwar, installing an Islamist Saudi agent in Malaysia cannot be good for that country’s democratic aspirations, nor for our security. […]
Dore Gold’s epitaph closed with the nauseous line: “[Holbrooke] represented the highest qualities of American idealism.”
That’s not a very nice thing to say about America. Unless one is talking about today’s so-called America, and at the time of Holbrooke’s all too timely demise, author Srdja Trifkovic picked up on that far more apt confluence between man and country — in a way that Gold didn’t mean:
Richard Holbrooke: An American Diplomat (Dec. 15, 2010)
An hour before Holbrooke’s death last Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a group of diplomats gathered at the State Department for a Christmas party that he was “practically synonymous with American foreign policy.” She is right: Holbrooke’s career embodies some of the least attractive traits of American diplomacy.
As assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs under Jimmy Carter, Holbrooke was instrumental in securing continued U.S. support for Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor. In 1997 he authorized arms deliveries to Indonesia in violation of the supposed U.S. arms embargo against Suharto’s regime. It was during this period the suppression of the Christian Timorese by the Muslim Indonesians reached genocidal levels, killing 200,000 people or about a third of the island’s population. Holbrooke’s 1997 response to a reporter’s question about the tragedy to which he had directly contributed was illustrative of his character and style: “I want to stress I am not remotely interested in getting involved in an argument over the actual number of people killed. People were killed and that always is a tragedy but what is at issue is the actual situation in Timor today… [As for the numbers of victims] … we are never going to know anyway.”
True to form, Holbrooke lied to Congress in 1979 that the famine in East Timor – caused by the Indonesian army’s scorched-earth campaign – was a belated consequence of Portuguese colonial misrule. Over two decades later, in a lavish tribute to the diplomatic skill of his friend Paul Wolfowitz – who was the US ambassador to Indonesia at that time – Holbrooke boasted how “Paul and I have been in frequent touch to make sure that we keep East Timor out of the  presidential campaign, where it would do no good to American or Indonesian interests.”
Far from “bringing peace to Bosnia” at Dayton in 1995, Holbrooke presided over the imposition of a package broadly similar to the 1992 Lisbon Plan brokered by the European Union – the deal which could have avoided the war altogether but which was deliberately torpedoed from Washington…but the meaning of Dayton was evident from Holbrooke’s boast, a year later, “We are re-engaged in the world, and Bosnia was the test.”
As special representative to Cyprus in 1997, Holbrooke irritated the Europeans by his strident advocacy of Turkey’s membership in the European Union. His bias in favor of Muslim Turks against Christian Greeks in the divided island reflected a consistent bipartisan trend in U.S. foreign policy making. Holbrooke was not the creator of that trend, but he was its enthusiastic supporter – from Indonesia to Bosnia, from Cyprus to Kosovo.
In 1998 Holbrooke was back in the Balkans, preparing the ground for Clinton’s Kosovo war against Serbia. On June 24 of that year he met with the KLA commander Gani Shehu in the village of Junik, near the Yugoslav-Albanian border, dutifully taking his shoes off like a good dhimmi. He promised American support for the the KLA campaign of violence against the Serbs. Earlier that year Clinton’s Balkans envoy Robert Gelbard correctly characterized the KLA as a terrorist organization, but Holbrooke’s visit signified a change of policy and directly led to Racak, Rambouillet, NATO bombing, and Kosovo’s transformation into the Jihadist mafia state that it is today.
When the official ambassador of another country arrives here, ignores state officials, but holds a meeting with the Albanian terrorists, then it’s quite clear they are getting support. — Gen. Nebojsa Pavkovic, Commander, Yugoslav Army in Kosovo
The most eloquent epitaphs are crafted while the person is still alive. Borrowing a page out of Richard Holbrooke’s diplomatic manual, Vice President Joe Biden called him “the most egotistical bastard I’ve ever met.” Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide, until last March the top UN official in Afghanistan, said five weeks ago of Holbrooke’s Afghan performance, “This is not the Balkans, where you can bully people into accepting a solution.” Eide added that the U.S. Special Envoy did not fully grasp “the complexity of the Afghan political scene.”
Holbrooke’s grasp of the complexities was illustrated by his calling the Serbs “murderous assholes” and by referring to Radovan Karadzic as the Osama Bin Laden of Europe. He was “synonymous with American foreign policy,” indeed: he was a coarse, arrogant bully who understood diplomacy as the art of imposing one’s will at the point of a gun. Richard Charles Albert Holbrooke was a bad man advocating and implementing bad policies.
The theme of the Americanness of Holbrooke’s diplomacy was originally raised in 2008, by Canadian journalist John Bosnitch, in an online posting:
Dick Holbrooke represents the very worst of American bullying. His brazen support for the KLA terrorists, disregard for international law, pathetic self-aggrandizement, and eternal pursuit of personal financial gain are all well known in Washington. Neither is logic his forte — I remember his stumbling inability to respond at a press conference in the Holiday Inn in Sarajevo when I asked him how the United States was able to affix its seal as a witness to the Dayton Accords when it did not even recognize the existence of one of the contracting parties (The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia).
However, there is much good to be found by the Serbs in this man’s very useful flaws. Just as his Dayton Accords served to finally legitimize Serb interests by giving formal legal status to the Republika Srpska, Holbrooke’s bluster looks likely to help us once again…
Specifically, by overplaying his cards and demanding that Serbia’s subservient U.S.-backed President Tadic do the impossible by recognizing Kosovo, Holbrooke might just deliver yet another dream of all patriotic Serbs who are fighting foreign colonization — Holbrooke might himself block his own collaborators in Belgrade from joining the EU for long enough that the Serbian people will be able to remove them from power and assert Serbian independence once and for all.
So by all means keep it up, Dick! If you succeed in blocking the EU from taking over Serbia by insisting on Kosovo recognition, your name will stand with that of Ratko Mladic as one of the two people who by one method or another saved Serbia’s independence from EU takeover against all odds…
In hindsight, of course, that was all too hopeful; one underestimated just how many times and to what degree a nation could commit suicide, so that it might finally just be allowed into the club.
What Bosnitch was responding to was the following demand by Holbrooke, in which he also demonstrated his cookie-cutter Washington Russia-baiting-while-dancing-with-terrorists:
“Condition Serbia with Kosovo recognition” (Sept. 8, 2008)
Former U.S. Balkan envoy Richard Holbrooke today called on Montenegro and Macedonia to recognize Kosovo.
At the same time, he said that the European Union must not accept Serbia’s membership as long as Belgrade has “pretensions on Kosovo and considers it her territory”.
“If Serbia is admitted to the EU, this mast take place if there is full agreement for Belgrade to recognize Kosovo as an independent state,” Holbrooke told reporters today.
“The EU would make a serious mistake if it accepts Serbia while she has pretensions on Kosovo as a part of her territory. That would be very dangerous,” he said after a meeting with Hashim Thaci.
Holbrooke also praised Kosovo’s handling of the challenge to be recognized by other countries, “bearing in mind the global campaign against its independence, led by Russia”.
He rejected any similarities between Kosovo and South Ossetia and Abkhazia. […]
As we speak, from the look of news on Kosovo — Serbia’s recognition of which is now the next new condition for Serbia’s EU candidacy — Holbrooke is still guiding policy there. (Though really, our political elites are interchangeable enough without benefit of that.)
“A lot of us have been hoping, now that Richard Holbrooke is dead, and hopefully in Hell, and so many of his manipulations and outright lies have been exposed, that things would start to turn around…” — senior analyst at Hicks & Associates business lobbyists, who previously worked with senior Bush officials
A Foreign Policy magazine article earlier this year, titled “Thug Life,” described the character of American behavior in Kosovo thus:
Kosovo’s thugocrats owe their rise and continued impunity to the toleration or outright support of the international community — particularly the United States…In 2004, every American staffer at the U.S. Embassy was invited to attend Haradinaj’s wedding — and, despite his links to organized crime and impending indictment on war crimes, they went. Most recently, the night after the raid on Limaj’s home and offices, U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo Christopher Dell was seen laughing and chatting with the minister at a well-attended party in Pristina.
It is difficult to see how democracy or respect [for] the rule of law could develop and flourish amid such overt displays of American support for a corrupt and criminal leadership…This backing for Kosovo government officials has undercut efforts to pursue indictments for war crimes and investigate high-level corruption. The war crimes taking place throughout the 1998-1999 conflict and in the immediate aftermath have never been fully investigated — in fact, in some cases they have been covered up.
It is extraordinarily callous of Dore Gold to eulogize a man who embodied this very criminal Western behavior. For good measure, Gold grafted Holbrooke’s standard Serb-blaming: “[Holbrooke] believed that the war that broke out in Bosnia was not the result of ‘ancient hatreds’ between the peoples of the Balkans, but rather resulted from a deliberate policy of incitement by the Serbs, on Belgrade television.” And Gold believed Holbrooke.
More appropriate than Gold’s Holbrooke epitaph was Alexander Cockburn’s for Creators Syndicate:
Richard Holbrooke died at age 69 on Dec. 13, thus spared the annoyance of seeing one of his best-known political creations accused of supervising the killing of captives in order to slice out their organs for transplant purposes and financial gain.
In the wake of Holbrooke’s sudden death, his memory was swiftly burnished with testimonials to his masterly diplomacy as the creator of a new Balkans freed from the Serbian yoke, and as Kosovo’s midwife. It was Holbrooke who stood shoulder to shoulder with Albanian secessionists in the summer of 1998 and prompted NATO’s bombing of Serbia until these applications of high explosives to civilian targets caused Milosevic to order the withdrawal of security forces from Kosovo.
The “freedom fighters” of the Kosovo Liberation Army — Albanian gangsters, most notably Hashim Thaci, hand-picked by Holbrooke and Madeleine Albright (her closest aide, James Rubin [Amanpour’s Jewish wife], acted as talent scout) at the Rambouillet talks — took over. Since unilaterally declaring independence in February 2008, the failed statelet run by heroin traffickers and white slavers, host to the vast U.S. Camp Bondsteel…. […]
In response to KLA terrorist and Kosovo “prime minister” Thaci’s telegram to Obama upon Holbrooke’s death — which called Holbrooke “a friend…a voice that protected the interest of the Republic of Kosovo” — Balkans analyst Nebojsa Malic commented, “He certainly was. To aptly use a mafia term, he was the chief scene ‘cleaner’.”
It even has been plausibly suggested that at an elite dinner in Washington hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations’ David Phillips, with their mutual KLA friend Thaci as guest of honor, Holbrooke and the other guests had a hand in planning the well orchestrated deadly Kosovo riots of March 2004.
Less sensationally, but just as dishonestly, as late as 2008 — upon the capture of Radovan Karadzic — Holbrooke was still publicly citing the obsolete, exaggerated propaganda figure of “300,000″ Bosnia war dead, instead of the updated ‘100,000′ released nearly four years earlier by Sarajevo’s Investigation and Documentation Center and widely reported. (For the benefit, of course, of putting the “300,000″ at the feet of Karadzic — whose name Holbrooke could barely pronounce as he spat it out. All the while denying to interviewers the long-known deal he offered Karadzic of immunity from the Hague tribunal.) But then, Holbrooke’s credentials as a liar par excellence have been long documented:
Rambouillet Revisited: How Holbrooke Lied His Way Into a War (Sam Husseini, Dec. 9, 2008)
…The Rambouillet text called for a de facto occupation of Yugoslavia. On major U.S. media, after the bombing of Yugoslavia began, Holbrooke claimed that what was called for in the Rambouillet text, despite Serbian protests, “isn’t an occupation”.
Several weeks later, when confronted by a journalist familiar with the Rambouillet text, Holbrooke claimed: “I never said that”.
This was a lie, it was also a tacit admission that the Rambouillet text did call for an occupation (why else would Holbrooke deny saying it when he had?) So the U.S. demanded that Yugoslavia submit to occupation or be bombed – and Holbrooke lied about this crucial fact when questioned about the cause of the war.
On April 6, 1999, about two weeks after the bombing began, Holbrooke appeared on the Charlie Rose show and was asked about what started the war…
[13:00] “The [Yugoslavian government] decision was to trigger the bombing of their own country instead of accepting this very reasonable political offer.” …
[14:00] Asked how to explain the actions of the Serbs, Holbrooke claims the Serbs said: “The choice you’ve given us is to have our sacred soil violated by an invading force. I said this isn’t an invasion, it isn’t an occupation, it’s an international peacekeeping force that will save the Serb minority in Kosovo…”
On April 23, 1999, journalist Jeremy Scahill of Democracy Now questioned Richard Holbrooke as he was leaving the Overseas Press Club’s 60th anniversary dinner:
Holbrooke: “One question.”
Jeremy Scahill: “You’ve said, since you gave the ultimatum to President Milosevic, that the Rambouillet accords do not call for the occupation of Yugoslavia. In -”
Holbrooke: “I never said that. That’s the end of that. You got the wrong person and the wrong quote. That’s your question.”
If Holbrooke had been given the Israel-Palestinian file, Gold would have found out very quickly who and what Holbrooke really was. Not dignified, not idealistic, just ambitious and egomaniacal — to the point that even ambitious egomaniacs such as Madeleine Albright and Joe Biden found “the conceited bastard” insufferable, his main occupation keeping a tally of what he could take credit for in any given situation.
After all, where does Gold think the joke about the most dangerous place in the Balkans being between Holbrooke and a TV camera came from? And surely Gold has heard about the famous 1997 Sarajevo cable to Foggy Bottom — upon Holbrooke and Ambassador Robert Gelbard deplaning in Bosnia — that “the egos have landed.”
Gold’s Holbrooke epitaph was accompanied by this photo attempting to capture Holbrooke with a quietly dignified visage:
But the man precisely lacked quiet, grace and dignity, so even the attempt at the contemplative, sideways-angle, departed-statesman-type image doesn’t work.
Arrogantly strutting around the opulent OSCE restaurant, on an upper floor of its Pristina headquarters, Richard Holbrooke cut an imposing figure…In front of the five heads of UNMIK he bellowed: “Forget multi-ethnic Kosovo. Forget Resolution 1244. We only signed that to get rid of the Serbs.”
It was a warm August 1999, and the official representatives of the “international community” remained coolly silent. Only one official, Dennis MacNamara, head of UNHCR spoke up, questioning why the UN took on the mission if the expulsion of the Serbs was a foregone conclusion. Holbrooke brushed off his inquiry; the other “dignitaries” remained quiet.
To read his masturbatory book To End a War — so titled despite our having ensured the war in the first place — is to be told what to think by the author even as he describes scenes that directly contradict his editorializing.
Perhaps the eulogy that was inadvertently most telling about Holbrooke’s frilly, unserious, and self orientation came from NY Times reporter David Rohde, titled “How the American foreign-policy legend helped save my life — twice“:
…Hours after an Afghan colleague and I escaped from Taliban captivity last year, an American diplomat told me that Richard Holbrooke was demanding to speak with me. I expected him to be fuming, because it was the second time my being captured had exacerbated the already complex challenges he faced. For the previous 14 years, the boisterous and at times overbearing legend of American diplomacy had been ribbing me for complicating the Dayton peace talks to end the war in Bosnia. I was a hostage then too…
Back in 1995, Holbrooke browbeat President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia into releasing me after Serbian forces arrested me at a mass grave I discovered near the town of Srebrenica, site of the massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims. My editors and family later regaled me with stories of how Holbrooke and his wife, the journalist Kati Marton, rattled Serbian officials during the peace talks. In one meeting, Holbrooke picked up the Bosnian Serb vice president’s wool plaid fedora and intimidated him. “Maybe I can hold your hat hostage,” Holbrooke said. He told Milosevic that the peace talks would be halted until my release. Days later, I was freed.
I promised Holbrooke and my family that it wouldn’t happen again. A Taliban commander proved me wrong in November 2008, when he abducted two Afghan colleagues and me, ferried us to the tribal areas of Pakistan and held us captive. Though I didn’t know it, Holbrooke tirelessly tried to help me this time as well. In meetings with senior officials in Islamabad, he made my case a top priority.
Handed the cellphone, I braced myself for an earful. I said: “I apologize.” His response surprised me. “God,” Holbrooke declared, his voice booming with genuine warmth and affection. “It is so good to hear your voice.” …Instead of chastising me, he tried to use my time with the Taliban as a means to better understand them. “Who are they? Why are they fighting? What do they want?” Holbrooke asked, rapid-fire. […]
Never mind that it’s 2008 and this genius is still asking why the Taliban fights and what it wants. The point is that the reporter is surprised to have been prioritized — twice — by such an “important” man as Holbrooke. Rohde underestimates the importance of a NY Times reporter to a bureaucrat. In addition to The Times and Holbrooke being a mutual admiration society, Holbrooke wasn’t exactly a disinterested party in securing Rohde’s release: a friendly reporter with whom Holbrooke had an established, valued relationship.
In fact, it appears the men had originally bonded over their common Serb-hatred, the relationship cemented when Rohde happened upon the mound of disturbed dirt with a single bone sticking out of it, which Madeleine Albright would announce she had satellite photos of, thereby proving it human and therefore a mass grave. (Little surprise that such therefores and therebys added up to the photos being declared “classified” for 50 years.)
Of course Holbrooke loved Rohde. With his little hike, Rohde did the State Department the favor of backing up its “genocide” concoction. (Which the ICTY’s own extensive database of deficient evidence debunks, but the tribunal correctly counts on people to notice only its judgments and not its evidence, or lack of it.) Rohde did himself a favor as well: that mound of dirt — which he would fling at the Serbs — was his stepping stone from Christian Science Monitor to The New York Times.
As the late British author Nora Beloff (Tito’s Flawed Legacy; Yugoslavia: An Avoidable War) wrote in an Oct. 27th, 1995 letter to Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie, Jr.:
…You have published endless unsupported allegations about the atrocities in Srebrenica. A well authenticated report of who were the real victims comes from a forensic doctor, Zoran Stankovic, a Yugoslav who has just visited London and who was in Srebrenica on 7th, 8th and 9th October 1995…
You will remember that the US authorities published the picture of a site in Srebrenica which looked as if the earth had been dug up and then claimed that it was the site of a mass grave of recently slaughtered Muslims…From its natural contours Dr. Stankovic was able to locate the site of the US photograph. It was in the village of Kasaba. The terrain had indeed been dug up. In 1991, when there had been plans to extend an existing factory. Those plans never materialized and, as this was 4 years ago, grass had grown again over the disturbed earth. A French TV team photographed the area, confirming that it could not have been a recently dug grave. The farmers in the region breed sheep and when a bone was found to be sticking out of the ground, officials said it might be of human or animal origin. The sight of a real bone was sufficient to send a correspondent of the Christian Science Monitor [David Rohde] into hysterics over alleged Serb atrocities.
If The Washington Post wants to get the basic facts, why not get your correspondent to meet and cross-question Dr. Stankovic? I had first heard of him after I had warned Judge Goldstone, Chief Prosecutor, that he might find his war crimes tribunal turned into a kangaroo court designed only to vilify the Serbs. Goldstone met Dr. Stankovic when the judge visited Belgrade but, though he heard all the details of the Stankovic dossiers, he took nothing in and continued, as before, to build up prosecution cases only against the Serbs. […]
How appropriate that Richard Charles Albert Holbrooke was born the very month of the biggest, bloodiest Serb-purge in history — April 1941 — when the Ustashas took over Croatia/Bosnia and the countryside ran with Orthodox blood. Indeed, Holbrooke was completing the last two weeks of his gestation just as Hitler was bombing Yugoslavia into submission starting April 6th — the same date that Holbrooke would explain on Charlie Rose why he repeated that history.
And now Dore Gold can deal with the consequences of Holbrooke’s Balkans as the UN considers the Palestinians’ following the Kosovo precedent.
“It is not generally known that Holbrooke was Jewish,” Gold closed. And that is to our eternal shame, Mr. Gold.
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