Dead on December 13 at age 69 after two aorta tear surgeries failed to save him, Western media headlines hailed the man London Guardian writers, Ed Pilkington and Adam Gabbat, called a “giant of US foreign policy,” saying his loss leaves “a substantial hole to fill.”
On December 13, New York Times writer, Robert McFadden, headlined, “Strong American Voice in Diplomacy and Crisis,” saying:
Mr. Holbrooke was hospitalized on (December 10) after becoming ill. (After two major surgeries, he) remained in very critical condition until his death…. A brilliant, sometimes abrasive infighter, he used a formidable arsenal of facts, bluffs, whispers, implied threats and, when necessary, pyrotechnic fits of anger to press his positions.
For good reason, he was nicknamed “The Bulldozer”.
Former CIA officer, turned activist and political critic, Ray McGovern, called him a favorite Democrat party “go-to diplomat for particularly messy conflicts,” like the 1990s Balkans wars and current Afghanistan/Pakistan (Af-Pak) ones “where a strong moral compass was viewed as something of a disqualifier.” (He) was counted on to bulldoze through and over any ethical qualms to achieve what Washington wanted.” He obliged.
Obama called him “a true giant of American foreign policy,” pursuing a belligerent imperial agenda he didn’t mention. Nor did major media reports, presenting their customary sanitized versions of current issues, history, and notable public figures like Holbrooke, misportrayed as heros.
His diplomatic career spanned nearly five decades, first in Vietnam as an Agency for International Development (USAID) representative, then a staff assistant to ambassadors Maxwell Taylor and Henry Cabot Lodge. Re-assigned to the White House, he served Lyndon Johnson in the same capacity. In the late 1960s, he wrote one volume of the Pentagon Papers, and served as special assistant to Under Secretaries of State Nicholas Katzenbach and Elliot Richardson. He also was a member of the US Delegation to the Vietnam Paris Peace Talks.
In the 1970s, he was a fellow at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School, a Peace Corp Director in Morocco, managing editor of Foreign Policy magazine, and National Security Affairs coordinator for the Carter/Mondale presidential campaign.
He then became Carter’s Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and held other various public and private positions, including as managing director for Lehman Brothers.
Under Clinton, he was Ambassador to Germany, UN Ambassador, Assistant Secretary of State for Europe, and chief architect of the 1995 Dayton Accords, ending the early 1990s Balkan wars. More on them below. He then served as Clinton’s Special Envoy to Bosnia, Kosovo, and Cyprus. Most recently, he was Obama’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. More on that as well.
The Holbrooke Legacy Media Reports Won’t Explain
Hailed as the architect of the 1995 Dayton Accords, ending the early 1990s Balkan wars, major media reports didn’t explain how it artificially split the former Yugoslav republic in two, establishing the Federation of Bosnia/Herzegovina (the Muslim/Croat alliance) and the Serb Republic of Bosnia/Herzegovina (Republika Srpska).
Also left out was the West’s economic and social assault on Yugoslavia under Slobodan Milosevic. It precipitated civil war, serving as an imperial scheme to divide, conquer, occupy and control. As a result, millions of people remain impoverished. Bosnia is a Western, largely US colony, under NATO military occupation. Its 1999 war of aggression followed. More on it below.
Diana Johnstone wrote the definitive account of the Balkan wars. Her book, Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions, is essential reading to understand its causes and long-lasting effects. For the West, it was about deterring Milosevic’s “Greater Serbia” quest, a gross mischaracterization of truth about a war Western powers wanted and initiated, notably Washington and Germany. They encouraged cessation, provoking conflict, then taking credit for ending it. In 1995, Holbrooke served as point man for round one, followed by his role again leading up to NATO’s 1999 war of aggression, concluding its unfinished business.
Milosevic, an opportunistic politician, in fact, wanted Yugoslavia’s disintegration prevented. When it happened, he wanted minority Serbs protected, allowed either to stay in Yugoslavia or get autonomy in the newly created rump states. Besides occupation and colonization, Johnstone believes Washington’s aims included:
— preventing a European-backed settlement;
— “assert(ing) its dominance over European allies in the arbitration of European conflicts;” Holbrooke admitted it in his memoirs and played a key role;
— expanding NATO through a new “out of area” humanitarian mission, aka US dominated colonization and military occupation; and,
— “gain(ing) influence in the Muslim world by championing the Bosnian Muslims.”
She also called “government by international bureaucracy (a) new trend in the New World Order.” Since Holbrooke’s negotiated Dayton Accords:
“Bosnia-Herzegovina has been ruled by a similar combination: a complicated set of local authorities under the strict supervision of a ‘High Representative’ (a contemporary Proconsul or Viceroy) who can, and does, annul laws adopted by the local democratic institutions or dismiss democratically chosen officials” — not in tow with America’s imperial aims.
In other words, it’s a dictatorship portrayed as democracy, the kind Washington disdains and won’t tolerate abroad or at home, never in one of its colonies.
In his role as Dayton Accords architect, Holbrooke, in fact, helped establish colonial rule and end Yugoslavia’s market socialism experiment, imposing Western-style “free market” harshness, the same type IMF measures spreading mass impoverishment in Europe and America. At the time, Newsweek called the agreement “less (for) peace….than a declaration of surrender,” giving America and NATO full colonial control. Yet Holbrooke was hailed as a peace architect – ending Yugoslav sovereignty at the point of a gun.
Holbrooke’s Role in NATO’s 1999 Serbia/Kosovo Aggression
In October 1998, a NATO air verification mission was agreed to for Kosovo. In November, Holbrooke brokered a framework for a political settlement with Milosevic. A second Verification Mission was then established to assure compliance with UN Security Council Resolutions 1160 and 1199.
As Special Envoy, Holbrooke worked closely with Christopher Hill, chief negotiator of the Rambouillet Agreement, the proximate cause of the 1999 war. In January that year, senior officials of the six “Contact Group” countries (America, Russia, Britain, France, Germany and Italy) held a London peace conference, threatening war unless Yugoslavia complied with stipulated terms. They were coming, the kind no legitimate leader could accept.
In February, Milosevic got them: the Rambouillet Accord. It was an ultimatum he couldn’t accept, a take-it-or-leave-it demand to surrender Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) sovereignty to a NATO occupation force with unimpeded access to its land, airspace and territorial waters, as well as any area or facility therein. Moreover, it required the FRY to let NATO freely operate outside federal law.
It was an offer designed for rejection, giving a US-led NATO force cause to attack. It followed from March 24-June 10, 1999, pounding the FRY mercilessly. Around 600 aircraft flew about 3,000 sorties, dropping thousands of tons of ordnance as well as hundreds of ground-launched cruise missiles. Up to then, its ferocity was unprecedented.
Nearly everything was struck, causing massive destruction and disruption, including known or suspected military sites and targets; power plants; factories; transportation; telecommunications facilities; vital infrastructure, including roads, bridges and rail lines; fuel depots; schools; a TV station; the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade; hospitals; government offices; churches; historic landmarks; and more in cities and villages throughout the country.
It was a lawless war of aggression portrayed as a humanitarian mission. Holbrooke was instrumental in launching it. It inflicted an estimated $100 billion in damage. A humanitarian disaster resulted. Environmental contamination was extensive. Large numbers were killed, injured or displaced. Two million people lost their livelihoods, many their homes and communities, and for most their futures under continuing military occupation.
Opening an avenue to Eurasia, a permanent US military presence was established, serving America’s broader imperial agenda. Iraq and Afghanistan followed, again bogusly waged on humanitarian grounds.
Holbrooke helped further Washington’s imperial agenda, from Vietnam to the Balkans to Afghanistan and Pakistan, his role as Special Representative from January 26, 2009 until his death.
Publicly his comments were upbeat. Privately, he was frustrated by a corrupt, inept Karzai regime, many US officials, and a conflict no combination of strategy and resources can turn around and win. Before receiving sedation for surgery, family members reportedly said his last words to his surgeon were, “You’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan.” Perhaps it was his only sensible opinion throughout nearly five decades of public service. Too bad, no one’s listening.