I wanted to run some excerpts from the best pieces on Richard Assholbrooke’s death.

First, Diana Johnstone: “Holbrooke or Milosevic: Who is the Greater Murderer?

It is usually considered good form to avoid sharp criticism of someone who has just died. But Richard Holbrooke himself set a striking example of the breach of such etiquette. On learning of the death in prison of Slobodan Milosevic, Holbrooke did not hesitate to describe him as a “monster” comparable to Hitler and Stalin.

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…The real purpose of all this, as Holbrooke made quite clear in To End a War, was to demonstrate that Europeans could not manage their own vital affairs and that the United States remained the “indispensable nation”. His book also made it clear that the Muslim leaders were irritatingly reluctant to end war short of total victory, and that only the readiness of Milosevic to make concessions saved the Dayton talks from failure — allowing Holbrooke to be proclaimed a hero.

Milosevic had hoped that his concessions would lead to peace and reconciliation with the United States. As it happened, his only reward for handing Holbrooke the victory of his career was to have his country bombed by NATO in 1999 in order to wrest from Serbia the province of Kosovo and prepare Milosevic’s own fall from office.

Holbrooke and Milosevic were born in the same year, 1941. When Milosevic died in 2006, Holbrooke gave a long statement to the BBC without a single syllable of human kindness. “This man wrecked the Balkans,” said Holbrooke.
“He was a war criminal who caused four wars, over 300,000 deaths, 2.5 million homeless. Sometimes monsters make the biggest impacts on history - Hitler and Stalin - and such is the case with this gentleman.”

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.”

Here I have to comment on Holbrooke’s private industry dealings. No one in the mainstream ever brings up that the man had gone through an ethics probe as an investment banker, except in this Nov. 2005 AFP article about him which reads like a biographical endorsement for a position as secretary of state should a Democrat win the 2008 presidential election. What’s left of the Republican in me couldn’t help but notice the difference in journalists’ tones when writing about a Democrat who is in both business and government, and when writing about a Republican, in which case a suspicious eye is perpetually cast on the person’s private sector entanglements. Cheney, Perle and anyone in the Bush administration who was involved in the private sector was blasted for conflict of interest, but note the way Holbrooke’s business dealings were written about glowingly…until, er, the last few sentences:

“Richard Holbrooke, the ‘Kissinger of the Balkans’”

Richard Holbrooke…remains a man of influence in Washington whose name is often bandied about for top jobs.

Dubbed the “Kissinger of the Balkans”, Holbrooke, 64, is the embodiment of muscular diplomacy and his crowning achievement was brokering the Bosnia peace deal….

His no-holds-barred negotiating, which insiders said reflected an abrasive nature honed by years of experience at the poker table, saw him shuttling back and forth between rival capitals in the former Yugoslavia, alternately browbeating and cajoling….

In parallel Holbrooke has conducted a distinguished career in the private sector.

During the 1980s Holbrooke earned more than one million dollars a year at the Lehman Brothers brokerage house and served at Credit Suisse First Boston as vice chairman of the US unit, even as he continued to serve as consultant to the White House and the State Department, returning on various occasions after leaving diplomacy to aid in talks in Bosnia.

His links with the Swiss bank were the source of difficulties in Congress where the Senate first blocked his appointment in 1999 as ambassador to the UN over alleged misuse of influence.

The nomination was stalled for more than a year as Holbrooke faced a federal ethics probe.[…]

Did anyone even notice that out of his whole Kosovo deal this shady character ended up advising the Kosovo Albanians for a quarter-million dollars a year:

When the “international community” has voiced any consternation at Albanian savagery, it has been at the inconvenience it causes to American policy designs for the region. Holbrooke, returning to Kosovo in 2005 as a $250,000 paid advisor of the Kosovo Albanian regime, suggested that it would be easier to get independence “if [they’d] stop killing Serbs.”

Next we have Nebojsa Malic:

[Holbrooke] admitted in his own memoirs that he tried to swindle the president of Serbia during the Bosnia peace talks; and who took up investment banking when on sabbaticals from diplomacy (Credit Suisse, Lehman Brothers). Ironically, it was the latter that got him in the only spot of trouble in his career, when he had to settle charges of ethical violations before becoming Empire’s ambassador to the UN.

Yes, he ended the Bosnian War - on America’s terms, and only after Washington sabotaged every attempt to end it any other way. He then spent years on trying to undermine and destroy the very treaty he helped broker.

He bought the KLA three months to prepare for the coming NATO attack and set up the Racak “massacre,” a pretext for it.

[H]e would pontificate once a month from the pages of the Washington Post, a newspaper that’s never seen a Russian or a Serb it did not love to hate - unless the said Russian or Serb did Empire’s bidding without a second thought; then he merely could not be trusted.

Holbrooke was not squeamish at all. If it took the establishment of a fundamentalist Islamic regime, a Nazi revival and the expulsion of half a million people to re-establish American hegemony in Europe and in the Balkans, so be it. Arrogance of power, or power of arrogance? He lived long enough to see that hegemony begin to crumble, though.

As someone who helped bring the American Empire into being, Richard Charles Albert Holbrooke was a perfect embodiment of the vices it extolled as virtues. Ultimately, his brand of bullying “diplomacy” did America and Americans no favors… It absolutely debased the country that claimed to stand for values and principles, then went around the world violating them. Holbrooke either never realized this, or refused to let it stop him.

It makes sense, of course, that Holbrooke wrote for a paper that never saw “a Russian or a Serb it did not love to hate,” given that Holbrooke felt the same way, as he expressed with regard to the 2008 protests over Kosovo’s unilateral secession:

The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Richard [Holbrooke], has said Russia was one of the forces behind the violent clashes in Belgrade.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said [Holbrooke’s] statement blamed the wrong country and that the countries which had pushed for Kosovo’s independence hadn’t foreseen its consequences.

For his part, Russia’s ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin called the accusation “an attempt to make Russia responsible for the spontaneous rallies of the Serbian people”.

At the same time, the U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack has said there’s no indication Russia had been behind the violence.

In case he didn’t make his point strongly enough:

Holbrooke: U.S. policy toward Serbia won’t change (March 25, 2008)

BELGRADE — Richard Holbrook says regardless of who becomes the next U.S. president, policies towards Serbia won’t change.

“Kosovo is lost for good, and Serbia can now lose Europe for good as well,” Holbrook said.

Asked whether partition of Kosovo would be a good solution, the former envoy said that the “Ibar is the most explosive point in Europe” and that America expected problems in north Kosovo “especially after we realized that Russia would not lead a moderate policy regarding Kosovo.”

Ha ha ha ha ha! That is to say, realized that Russia would not be adopting our absolutist, coercive, radical policy regarding Kosovo. Or, as Russia’s UN ambassador summed it up in a remark to his Western counterparts in December 2006: “You may be willing to give in to Albanian blackmail, but we are not.”

Also relevant here is this snippet from a July 1998 PBS interview by Jim Lehrer:

JIM LEHRER: And they want an independent Kosovo ruled by Albanians, right?

RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Yes. And more. I met with several Albanian leaders in Kosovo who said their goal is an independent Kosovo, their goal is to recreate the Greater Albania that existed briefly during the 30’s and 40’s, which includes Albania, Kosovo, and part of Macedonia. That, I can tell you, Jim, would unravel Southeastern Europe and dramatically increase the chances of a general war. And that’s why the situation is both not the same as Bosnia and why it’s so dangerous.

…the violent solution which is being advocated by the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army, which is really not an army but a lot of different groups that are gradually forming an infrastructure of resistance, this approach is highly dangerous to stability in the region.

That was Richard Holbrooke speaking against Kosovo independence, admitting that it was part of a larger plan — which was destabilizing to the Balkans. But within months, all Albanian demands suddenly became “stabilizing” to the region.

Such that this was Holbrooke’s take in November 2005 (and of course well before): Independence only way forward for Kosovo: Holbrooke (AFP): “I cannot see any final status for Kosovo other than independence.”

And in 2006, by Jeta Xharra (Balkan Insight, 10 Nov 06):

As time runs out for the Vienna talks on Kosovo…America’s former Balkan negotiator says independence, now or next year, is inevitable.

“In the long run Kosovo will be an independent country,” he said, speaking in his Manhattan office… If [Serbs] deny reality and try to hold onto Kosovo, they…won’t be able to retain Kosovo but will also lose the chance to join Europe.”

Unlike the European Union, whose report this week on the Balkans has praised Serbia’s new constitution, Holbrooke dismisses the document - restating Serbia’s claim to Kosovo - as “a real step in the wrong direction…I think the international community will declare Kosovo is becoming independent country and then Serbia will have no choice.” […]

Let’s check in on the reporter of the above item, to see how she’s doing in this promised and bullied-for land. Oh look, isn’t Jeta Xharra the chick whose life is being threatened this year with Prime Minister Thaci’s stranglehold on Kosovo media? The threats are coming in from the public, media, government lackeys, and they’re calling her a “spy for Belgrade” — because she was investigating corruption as well as the very KLA crimes that have come to light this week as Holbrooke’s legacy.

What an “independent” Kosovo! Jeta can thank Dick Assholbrooke.

In a May 2007 article, Balkans observer Stella Jatras noted the difference in the way Holbrooke — whom she reprimanded for being a U.S. diplomat “[railing] against an entire race of people during war” — talked about the Serbs and the Vietcong:

“The Vietcong were dedicated ideologues, committed to a long-term struggle. These guys [the Serbs] aren’t ideologues; they’re just murderous assholes.” [These comments were] made to Ted Koppel during an interview and published in The New Yorker, November 6, 1995…

Holbrooke praises the communist Vietcong, who killed over 58,000 of our young troops and denigrates the brave Serbian people who fought, suffered and sacrificed as our allies during two world wars.

… In Richard Holbrooke, we have an American “diplomat ” who was supposed to be impartial while negotiating a peace treaty in Bosnia. Instead, we were given a treaty by Richard Holbrooke which enabled Bosnia to become al-Qaeda’s corridor into Europe.

“Richard Holbrooke…told a forum marking the 10th anniversary of the Dayton accords in November 2005,” [Kenneth Timmerman wrote in May 2007,] “that among his ‘mistakes’ were the words, ‘Republik Srpska’ and called for the Serbian entity to be dissolved into Muslim Bosnia,” as though 500 years of Islamic oppression were not enough.

To a tee, then, Holbrooke’s position on Bosnia was — as with Kosovo — a direct graft of the maximalist demands of the Muslim side.

So please note for the future: It’s not really bad to speak ill of the dead, because we don’t really die. Whoever came up with that saying simply knew that the dead can hear us. Now’s the time to tell Assholbrooke what you really think of him. It’s the first time he might finally listen.