Strange liberators indeed: Imperialism and rogue states you want to hate
By Macdonald Stainsby
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Nov 15, 2006, 00:27

Strange Liberators: Militarism, Mayhem, and the Pursuit of Profit
By Gregory Elich

Llumina Press (May 1, 2006)

In the era of �humanitarian imperialism� the discourse of the ruling class has unfortunately had a �trickle down� effect on far too many of those who ought to know better. Rather than moralizing about the form painted onto a people by the imperialist media looking to subjugate small nations, Gregory Elich does a deeply researched and personally encountered accounting of imperialism�s misdeeds in the places where the saturation of vile propaganda has been the most thorough.

In seven chapters on Yugoslavia, four on north Korea and four more on Zimbabwe, Elich, regardless of his own affiliations or allegiances, has provided us all with �the other side� of the story in these beleaguered nations, only two of which still exist.

Despite the drumbeat of propaganda against all of these republics, Elich reminds us that each of these states emerged not from the womb of nations, but revolutionary struggles against some of the most anti-human forces of the 20th Century. In north Korea, the Japanese and then the American forces had attempted to maintain all of Korea as a colony, burning the northern half of the nation in a manner that made even the Vietnamese struggle seem almost a walk in the park, with every north of 38 town being obliterated as policy, leaving mere dust and mud for the Korean Workers Party to try and rebuild.

Reminding us of that backdrop, the �dispute� that was begun during the Clinton era is followed through with the holes -- and there are literally dozens covered by Elich -- filled in to give a more complete story. Despite the general backdrop of the mainstream media -- that the North Koreans have violated their 1994 �deal� with the United States (The Agreed Framework) -- Elich demonstrates the actual list of events: The signing of the Jimmy Carter brokered AF saw every single one of the terms of US obligation violated from the start save for one -- the delivery of heavy fuel oil. Others ignored included opening up or removing any barriers to trade and investment on the part of the US, a promise from the US that nuclear weapons would not get used against the Democratic People�s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and assistance in the construction of a light water reactor to help the DPRK overcome their reliance on the outside world for energy. To quote Elich directly, �By the time the US halted deliveries of heavy fuel oil, thereby abandoning the only provision it had not yet violated, North Korea was still honoring the agreement in full.�

Elich�s book is very well timed, as it is placed to show the �threat� of a nuclear attack is very real -- but against the already suffering North Korea, while the US blockade continues to starve the people.

In Yugoslavia, the resistance in WWII established the Socialist Republic that emerged from the ashes of the Nazi-supported and inspired Croatian Ustashe. By the time that the USSR was overthrown, the anti-Soviet Yugoslavia had out lived its usefulness to imperialism. Through many deliberate provocations, multi-ethnic Yugoslavia was to be reduced to fratricidal mono-ethnic states incapable of charting independent courses from Europe or the US. Elich shows the propaganda techniques used, the victims of NATO bombings and the �other side� of the stories involved in the Yugoslav vs. Yugoslav conflicts.

When you are trying to sell the destruction of a multi-ethnic state to a population in North America, you will need a simple script of good guys vs. bad guys. The worst offenders become �freedom fighters�; those who oppose imperialism become �Stalinists� or �nationalists.� Irony or deliberate Orwellian spin that the Croatian Democratic Union -- the political movement that openly embraced the insignia, songs and in many cases, practices of a genocidal fascist movement -- is one that found �freedom and democracy�? Is it accidental that the Kosovar movement of Albanian settlers (under the rubric of the KLA/UCK) who have expelled nearly every Jew, Gorani, Hungarian, Croat, Bosnian, Serb and even �suspect� Albanian gets to be a force for good, whereas the rump Yugoslav Republic led by elected socialists and with 24 multi-ethnic communities gets demonized as racist and fascist? Strange Liberators indeed.

Elich traveled across Serbia after NATO bombs had fallen across the territory, gathering so much in terms of direct contact as to truly humanize the enemy in chapters 9-14. However, the two chapters that are perhaps the greatest in contribution are the last two of his Yugoslav sojourn. �Secret War� details the covert operation to achieve what had failed otherwise: the overthrow of the only remaining government in Europe to lead an overwhelmingly public sector economy.

Also fascinating (in the manner of a car crash) is chapter 15: �Prison Camp Lora and the Trial of the Lora 8.� It details not only the horror of existence for the prisoners held there, but the horror of duplicity in Croatia�s �legal� system (�trials� were carried out in the �free� Croatia) and the silence of acceptance from European and North American news sources while mass murderers were exonerated. Many writers, from introduction writer Michael Parenti to former Canadian military head Lewis Mackenzie, have been invaluable in telling us that Serbians were not all to blame for the division of Yugoslavia, and that they (as a nation and government) had been systematically smeared. The other �other� side of the machination of the destruction of Yugoslavia is in showing who the �democrats� truly were, and how they treated their opponents. Explaining matters such as �Operation Storm� -- the single largest act of ethnic cleansing (of Serbs by Croats) in any of the wars in Yugoslavia -- is one thing. Elich gets into the details of the Lora camp, and helps us see who has done the most for the revival of fascism in Europe, with Ustashe-era practices at this concentration and death camp, followed by the fake �trials� of the perpetrators.

And in Zimbabwe, where Apartheid flourished in Cecil Rhodes prior namesake, a revolution took place in a country where one percent (the white population) owned over 70 percent of the land. That revolution initially refused to carry out the returning of farmlands to indigenous Zimbabweans. Trying to avoid the pariah state perhaps, Zimbabwe didn�t renounce the plan to leave whites in control of virtually the entire economy and Mugabe was hailed as a model leader for Africa.

While still treated as a �democracy,� Zimbabwe allowed the IMF to implement a program called the Economic Structural Adjustment Program, or ESAP. For approximately a decade, Zimbabwe struggled to simultaneously please investors and feed the population of an agricultural third world economy. That ultimately proved impossible (as it always does) with the IMF cutting further funding in 1995, due to a lack of budget cutting and government employee sacking.

According to Elich, in September 2001, the IMF declared that �Zimbabwe [was] ineligible to use the general resources of the IMF, and removed Zimbabwe from the list of countries eligible to borrow resources under the Poverty and Growth Facility,� for refusing to go through yet further austerity programs -- one supported by the �human rights� opposition Movement for a Democratic Change (MDC). With the ESAP program becoming more unsustainable, in October of 2001, Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF announced �ESAP is no more.� By December later that year, the United States passed the �Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act.�

Zimbabwe decided it had enough of Western lectures about this or that facet of their economy, when starvation seemed to be the only �solution� that was acceptable to the West. A land reform program was taken up, and Western howling about Mugabe and ZANU-PF began. Much has been made about the inflation and the chaos that have accompanied the redistribution of land; Elich makes a case for environmental exacerbation of the situation (climate change leading to massive drought) and also argues that no land reform program this thorough has ever seen productivity not take a temporary hit.

Elich does not reduce his contribution to the anti-imperialist struggle to simply putting plusses where the imperialists place a minus; This book tackles some of the basic propaganda terminology of the �War on Terror,� including a fascinating (and heartbreaking) chapter detailing the archaeological plunder of Iraq�s antiquities. A mock quiz on the construction of human rights from an imperial perspective is included, as is a much needed chapter on the ultimate threat to humanity -- unchecked climate change.

If there are major weaknesses in this book, it is questions unasked: What should we make of Robert Mugabe�s outrageous homophobic rants in international meetings over the last few years? How does peak oil play into the threat of climate change and the lack of initiative to tackle it? These are but two, but any book -- even one this complete -- is going to be unable to answer many questions. The Achilles Heel of this production is the lack of answers to the questions that progressives may ask.

If the reader comes to this timely book believing much of the stories about Western good intentions or �rogue state� nefariousness, it will be a bitter pill to swallow as these chapters are each backed up with a tremendous wealth of citations from reputable news outlets, including primarily �statements against interest.� Yet even if the reader is one who already is critical or suspicious of imperialism, the wealth of new information will open eyes yet further -- and even challenge many perceptions already held. Simply put, this is a book not to be missed, and to be lent to all who will read it.

Macdonald Stainsby is a freelance writer and social justice activist living Canada. He can be reached at

Copyright © 1998-2007 Online Journal
Email Online Journal Editor