Alternative Insight

The Politics of Dismemberment

From Perseus slaying the Medusa to the most obscene terrorists who decapitate their prisoners, dismemberment has been a macabre mechanism to display evidence that the enemy has been defeated and made totally impotent. Dismemberment has psychological implications, representing castration and loss of manhood. After a leader's dismemberment, the adversary is left confused, rudderless and psychologically destroyed.

Dismemberment is also a political tactic that can involve more than individuals. Preferably spoken of as "partition" or "territorial and demographic adjustment," it can be used against an entire nation; just slice corpus from corpus, separate populations, separate lands, or build walls of separation. Made to seem as a means to diminish internecine conflict and provide a welcomed communal division, the breakup of nations has been a skillful strategy to diminish the powers of those who contest greater powers. Recent history demonstrates the use and effectiveness of the politics of dismemberment. It also shows that western nations, who eagerly promote the partition of other nations, don't promote partition of their allies.

Although the two earliest post-world War II partitions were not entirely due to manipulations by a consortium of nations, later divisions were more consistent with attempts to diminish adversary power. Just look at the record.

Significant Territorial and Demographic Rearrangements


The precursor to other post World War II re-structuring of nations, and predictor to the sorrows and problems resulting from separations, occurred on August, 14,1947. The severing of newly established India into a Hindu plus others state and a Moslem only Pakistan state satisfied Great Britain's Lord Mountbatten's plan and the ambitions of Muslim politicians. It didn't receive approval from India's public or from the millions of refugees, who were displaced, murdered, pillaged, violated and reduced to impoverishment.

The words of an officer in charge of refugee rehabilitation in Punjab:

We in India were only vaguely familiar with the word 'refugee' and used to wonder why people should be compelled to leave homes. Even our refugees expressed surprise at the strange phenomenon of exchange of population and were heard saying we used to hear about the change of rulers but for the first time the ruled are also changing places.

Due to a never ending conflict between India and Pakistan, the wisdom of India's division is still being debated The western nations, except for Great Britain, played a peripheral role in the partition process. Nevertheless, the reduction of India's size, population and potential received favorable approval from the western world.

United Nations (UN) Resolution 181 partitioned the British Mandate into Israel and Palestine. Sympathy with wartime atrocities against the Jewish people enabled a narrow acceptance of the resolution. Auxiliary support came from the politics of the time. The Soviet Union perceived the formation of Israel as the creation of a future ally; another representative of the socialist world. The U.S.sensed it could not permit the nation with which it was fighting a Cold war to preempt allegiance with a vocal community in its midst. Partition served a reverse purpose. It wasn't implemented to reduce any nation's capability - the nation did not exist - it was introduced to give potency to a people who had suffered a severe shock leading to a sense of impotence.

The feelings of impotence quickly disappeared after establishment of the state of Israel, Post 1967 Arab/Israeli war, the western world was only too eager to permit the new potent to establish a western presence in the Middle East that could serve its interests in the Cold War. The UN partition plan reversed from partition of a land into two nations to the joining of the lands into one expanding nation - Israel. In the new land the citizens are not the indigenous peoples, but strangers from other lands. Partition has severed the Palestinians from their historic lands and has a trajectory that will completely destroy their identity. This well calculated event could not have happened, and still be happening, without tacit acceptance by the western world.

Physical and psychological violence have been combined to render the Palestinian people impotent. Punishing military raids on Palestinian areas, targeted assassinations, imprisonment of a great portion of the breadwinners, breaking of bones, especially during the first Intifada, roadblocks, destruction of infrastructure, and checkpoint humiliations are some of the instruments used to create fear and disorganization in the Palestinian community. These operations also inflict intense psychological problems on generations who have suffered constant apprehension and lack of consistent paternal support. Adding to the mix is a separation wall that emphasizes the social and psychological mechanisms of destruction.

Made to appear as a security barrier, the wall is actually a means to push the Palestinians into a horrifying existence. On one side of the wall are the Israelis who are the potent. They reside on the beneficial side of the wall; the side that has land between the barrier and the fresh Mediterranean Sea. On the other side are the Palestinians, who cannot control their fate and live constricted between barriers and an occupying Israeli army in the Jordan valley. Generations of Palestinians have been nurtured on feelings of impotence. They have no outlets but anger, frustration and despair, situations which leads many of them to violence.

The Korean peoples did not solicit the imposed division of their nation. Korea contained no ethnic, religious or social conflict that demanded redress. The partition resulted from the political directives of the two Cold War combatants; the United States feared a united Korea could align itself with the Communist bloc and the Soviet Union feared a united Korea could align itself with U.S. interests .

The geographic location of Korea, between Communist Soviet Union and Communist China, made it more likely that a united Korea would enter the Soviet orbit. The U.S. fought to make sure that the Soviet alliances would not increase in strength and that the U.S. would retain a strategic foothold on the Asian continent, even at the expense of South Korea, many of whose civilians were killed in the resulting conflict. Since North Korea's military strength always exceeded South Korea's armed power, the U.S. continued to actively participate in the struggle. In the early 90's, South Korea's economic advances, China's departure from rigid ideology, and the breakup of the Soviet Union diminished North Korea's capability and changed the balance of power to favor South Korea. Despite the U.S. no longer having a strategic interest in maintaining a divided Korea, U.S. administrations have not promoted a united Korea. One possible explanation for this policy is that the U.S. fears a united Korea will be an economic powerhouse that will ally with China and threaten the economic stability of the United States.

Soviet Union
Although characterized as a Soviet Empire, the geography of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), with some slight modifications, was similar to that of the Tsarist Russian Empire. Actually the USSR, by recognizing Finland and Poland as nations, encompassed less territory than under the Tsars. The dissolution of the Soviet Union essentially established new nations from previous Soviet Republics and dissolved the Russian empire that had been provinces of the Tsars.

Western nations supported Boris Yeltsin, who, after obtaining the presidency, promptly arranged, together with Ukrainian and Byelorussian leaders, to separate the Ukraine and Byelorussia from the Soviet Union. Other Republics seceded, and the Soviet Union became Russia, a confederation of states of severely reduced size and potential.

What part did the western nations play in the dissolution of the Soviet Union?
It is doubtful that Mikhail Gorbachev, if he had retained power, would have dissolved the Soviet Union. Did the western nations support Boris Yeltsin because he was willing to permit major republics of the Soviet Union to secede? Was Boris Yeltsin willing to permit major republics of the Soviet Union to secede in order to gain support from western nations? Regardless of the answers to these questions, to western power delight, the breakup of the Soviet Union greatly reduced the Russia's power and unofficially terminated the Cold War.

Yugoslavia Federation (FRY)
Already confused by the demise of its leader, Marshall Tito, and observing its principal ally at the time, the Soviet Union, weakened by partition, the FRY struggled to remain a confederation of republics. Perceived as a "nation-state whose identity conceptually and structurally transcended the various nations that it comprised," ethnic rumblings in each of Yugoslavia's republics contested the institutions that maintained Yugoslavia. The nationalist movements only needed western urgings and western support for initiating efforts for secessions from the FRY.

The break-up of Yugoslavia started harmlessly. On September 8, 1991, following a referendum, the Republic of Macedonia declared Independence. Serbia's unilateral military actions in Kosovo prompted Slovenia to secede, and the first conflict erupted; Belgrade used Yugoslavian troops in a short battle to try to prevent Slovenia's secession. The small republic prevailed, and on October 8, 1991 Slovenia became an independent nation.

Each subsequent movement for separation from the Yugoslavian Federation induced an escalated conflict. Western governments participation in the conflicts and their partiality for the separatist movements increased in intensity with each bid for independence. Western government role in advancing the dismemberment of the Yugoslavian Federation started with Croatia.

Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevich accepted the June 25, 1991 Croatian bid for independence with one condition; Serbs in the Krajina area of Croatia would be allowed independence from Croatia. Croatian President Franjo Tudjman's refusal of the condition led to Serbian attacks in August 1991. The battles revealed a surprise; the Croatian militias were well armed and well trained. Serbia could not suppress the rebellion. Washington based International Strategic Studies Association (ISSA) in a Strategic Policy Report,
Illegal German Weapons to Croatia and Bosnia Fuel the Balkan Conflict, December 1992, Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy, revealed the reason for Croat militia strength; it was due to interference from Germany:

War in the former Yugoslav republics is being fueled by a massive and complex pattern of weapons shipments to Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, funded and organized by Germany. Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy has uncovered a widespread pattern of arms shipments which have been allowed to cross into Croatia and Bosnia with the tacit approval (and sometimes, apparently, direct support) of the governments of Germany and Austria, and possibly other states. As well, Germany has pointedly ignored the movement of German nationals into Croatia and Bosnia to fight against the Serbian residents of those two former Yugoslav states. All of the activity is in direct violation of German and Austrian law as well as being in violation of international embargoes against the supply of weapons to the conflict zone.

At the same time, United States backing and training of Croatian military by a private U.S. contractor (MPRI) enabled President Tudjman's forces to rapidly succeed in forcing 200,000 Croatian Serbs to leave the Krajina section of Croatia and 50,000 to quit Eastern Slavonia.

Germany was the first nation to recognize Croatia and Slovenia as independent countries. Other European Community (EC) nations followed Germany's declaration and granted recognitions on January 15, 1992. Germany's rapid recognitions and the EC fast follow-up have been cited as indications of a western conspiracy to encourage the break-up of the FRY. Although this conspiracy has not been proven, and has strong counter-arguments, the impulsive recognitions showed Germany's contempt for the sovereign government of the Yugoslavia Federation and its willingness to propel the disintegration of the FRY. The EC recognitions of Croatia and Slovenia separatism spurred the Muslims in Bosnia (Bosniaks) to demand a referendum for determining Bosnian desire for self-determination

On March 3, 1992, the Bosnian population voted its approval to form an independent state. The referendum contained a wrinkle that questioned its legality. Bosnian Serbs, who constituted 49% of Bosnia, had boycotted the plebiscite. The Serbs were willing (at a later stage in the conflict) to recognize a Muslim/Croat entity if a new Serbian populated nation was also recognized.

Hostilities commenced on April 6, 1992, the day that Muslims and Croats declared Bosnia to be an independent state. Germany immediately recognized what could still be considered a rebel Bosnian government and declared its approval for what could still be considered as illegal defiance of the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia. The United States, and later the EC, also recognized the new state of Bosnia. The recognitions left no space for mediation of the conflict or reconciliation of the contestants. The western powers' obvious partiality in the contest provoked "ethnic cleansing" and violence in Bosnia. Western favor for the dismemberment of Yugoslavia is highlighted by other happenings.

Although sworn enemies of Radical Muslim groups that engage in combat and violence, the western powers permitted weapons and Mujahadein fighters to flow from Arab nations to Muslim insurgents in Bosnia. Funds and fighters arrived mostly from Saudi Arabia and with Saudi approval. Many of the foreign soldiers had been trained in Bin Laden camps. Three of them have been identified as having roles in the 9/11 attack.

In an interview with US journalist Jim Leherer, Richard Holbroke, former US peace envoy to Bosnia, said:

There were over 1,000 people in the country who belonged to what we then called Mujahideen freedom fighters. We now know that that was al-Qaida. I'd never heard the word before, but we knew who they were. And if you look at the 9/11 hijackers, several of those hijackers were trained or fought in Bosnia. We cleaned them out, and they had to move much further east into Afghanistan. So if it hadn't been for Dayton, we would have been fighting the terrorists deep in the ravines and caves of Central Bosnia in the heart of Europe.

From : Inhumanitarian Intervention, Edward S. Herman

Amusingly, under his (Holbroke) watch and with Clinton administration connivance, thousands of Mujahideen were brought into Bosnia to help their fellow Muslims, and Al Qaeda came in as well, using Bosnia as a training ground—2 of the 19 September 11, 2001 bombers, as well as the “mastermind” of the attack, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, all “fought” in Bosnia. Osama bin Laden visited Izetbegovic in Sarajevo and had “service” offices in both Zagreb and Sarajevo—awkward points that are carefully suppressed by the mainstream media and Holbroke’s Carr, HRW, and other allies and admirers.

NATO, which had been constructed as a defensive force against possible Soviet attacks on Western Europe, became an offensive force for attacks on a Russian ally. On August 30, 1995 NATO warplanes began a bombing campaign in Sarajevo and other areas to force the withdrawal of Serbian forces from Bosnia. In September U.S. warships launched 13 cruise missiles against Bosnian Serb positions.

The Serbs could not contain NATO's attack, They certainly had no means to retaliate against NATO forces. On November 1995, the contesting leaders grudgingly arrived in Dayton, Ohio, where the U.S. negotiatiated the final terms of the legal separation of Bosnia-Herzegovina from the Yugoslavia Federation. The terms, which were not favored by the Bosnian Muslims, included the establishment of two autonomous republics, a Bosnian-Croat federation and Sprska, a Serbian republic. Note: Serb President Slobodan Milosevich made the key compromises that allowed acceptance of the document, and the final arrangement was similar to what the Serbs had proposed at the start of the conflict.

NATO's new role in determining the world order moved to increased combat, Its intervention in the Kosovo crisis completed the disintegration of the Yugoslavia Federation.

The European Community together with the United States presented Serbia with the Rambouillet accords as a solution to the Kosovo crisis. As Milosevich agreed with accords, the ante was raised until the Serbian president could no longer agree; the violation of Serbian sovereignty, which was the stationing of NATO troops in Kosovo, was more than any president of any nation could accept.

NATO's bombing campaign began on March 24. The horrific bombing campaign in which much of Serbia's infrastructure was destroyed and between 1500 and 5000 Serbian civilians were killed, ended on June 10, 1999. NATO also bombed targets in Kosovo, which at times, killed civilians. The NATO bombings in Kosovo and the threat posed by the war played a crucial role in creating the refugee situation. Undoubtedly the Serbs took advantage of the mayhem to expel Albanians, but that only occurred after hostilities started.

With Serbia already suffering from an economic lapse in 1992, the economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. and the European Community brought Serbia close to economic collapse. The punishment visited upon the Serb people by sanctions coupled with NATO bombings were not made apparent in the western press, and could only be realized by a visit to Serbia after the war. Unemployment was high; persons traveled about to look for work; professionals were without jobs; displaced persons from Bosnia and Kosovo struggled to find new lives; many remained shell shocked by what had happened, unable to understand why it happened. The Belgrade population did not feel they had done anything wrong to warrant the bombings that killed, wrecked and destroyed. The physical damage to Serbia was enormous. The psychological damage to its people has been overlooked; it was also enormous.

Although Serbian President Milosevich finally agreed to allow UN to temporarily maintain forces and administer Kosovo, the territorial integrity of Serbia, which included Kosovo, was assumed to be guaranteed. On June 5, 2006, Montenegro voted to declare its independence. Kosovo's secession has also been determined..

United Nations envoy, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, said that no more negotiations are to be held between Kosovo and Serbia on the future status of Kosovo. In 2007, he issued a proposal that recommends supervised independence for Kosovo. Russia has blocked the adoption of the framework of Martti Ahtisaari's proposal.

The dismemberment of The Yugoslavian Federation is complete.

U.S. spokespersons claim that prevention of "ethnic cleansing" and legitimate support for ethnic aspirations of self-determination were the principal reasons for direct interference in the Balkan wars. These noble reasons are inconsistent with U.S. policy in other regions of the world. The U.S. has tacitly supported Israel's subjugation of Palestinian national aspirations. In Kashmir, which is almost entirely Moslem and desires to separate from Hindu India, the United States has not supported the Kashmiri national aspirations. Add the Tibetans, Tamils, Kurds and tens of other suppressed ethnic aspirations and the U.S. reasons for interventions are hollow.

So, why did the United States and other western nations provide momentum to the Yugoslavia implosion? What did they achieve? They gained significant benefits:

  • A united Yugoslavia had potential of being a major nation which could behave independently from the western community. A divided Yugoslavia is malleable and powerless.
  • A strategic Russian ally in Eastern Europe became impotent. This ally could have provided Russian naval vessels entrance to the Adriatic..
  • The U.S. could show the Moslem nations that it treated all nationalities equally and fairly.
  • NATO had an opportunity to test new weapons and logistics.
  • The U.S. demonstrated to the world that it had become the only superpower and alliance with the U.S. was beneficial.
  • The last vestige of socialism in Europe was crushed.

The aerial war against Serbia demonstrated that no matter where one is in the world, in an open desert or hiding in the jungles of Borneo, contest the new world order and a guided missile can land in your lap. That is what happened to Saddam Hussein.

Iraq is the best example of the politics of dismemberment.

Saddam Hussein's despotism, tyranny, freakish control and horrific actions might have enriched him and his family, but personal benefit was only incidental to the principal reason for his crass authoritarianism - to hold together an Iraqi nation of Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, Turkmen and other ethnic groups. Any political novice knew that displacement of Saddam Hussein meant the disintegration of the Iraqi nation. Efforts are being made to prevent the obvious, but they seem to be in vain. The Kurds already have their own "quasi" state and the Basra Shiites have their oil wells and administration. The rest of Iraq is engaged in ethnic wars that seem indeterminable.

Partitioning Iraq into three regions - Shi'a, Sunni and Kurdish - has gained momentum from the continuous violence and garnered support from politicians and academics. The U.S. government must have known partition would happen and thus encouraged it to happen - and for an obvious reason - Iraq had the potential to be a powerful nation and the focus of Arab nationalism. To satisfy U.S., Israeli and Saudi Arabian interests Saddam Hussein had to be discarded and Iraq had to be destroyed.

Dismemberment is a feature the strong use against the weak. They don't recommend it for themselves.

Spain has problems with Basque and Catalan territories. No western nation has proposed partition.
France has grumbles from the Bretons. No western nation has proposed partition.
Belgium has a major dispute between Walloons and Flemish. No western nation has proposed partition.
Canada has a major dispute between French and English speaking provinces. No western nation has proposed partition.
Great Britain has a growing friction between Scotland and England. No western nation has proposed partition.
Italy has had trouble for decades with its German speaking Tyrol region. No western nation has proposed partition.

The Politics of Dismemberment

The United States is the best example of a multi-ethnic nation that survives and benefits by unification. Brazil, India, China, Russia, Canada and a host of other nations have subdued ethnic rivalries for economic advantages. Ethnic rivalries are usually promoted by self-serving politicians and can often be controlled until they dissipate. Separation does not mean better or the end of rivalry. India, Palestine and Korea, to name a few have not seen the end of rivalry. Ukraine, Byelorussia, Georgia and other former Soviet republics are not economically better off with separation. It remains to be clarified if Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro or Kosovo will be better off from separation.

For powerful nations the urge to lop off is an inviting attraction - making others less makes them more.

january, 2008