by Stephen Karganovic

He who was formerly on a throne is now naked on a dunghill and covered with sores.

(Great Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete, Fifth Thursday, Song 4, verse 14)

This ringing epitaph from the classical call to repentance by the great Byzantine Church father should send a fitting message to all tyrants, petty and large, in the Balkans or wherever they might abide, especially during this Paschal season of prayerful reflection and self-examination. Serbia’s brazen rulers, who only last weekend gaily and frivolously celebrated what they thought was a resounding electoral victory, this weekend stand beleaguered by their resentful subjects and (if they are at all smart) they should be increasingly suspicious of the intrigues of those they thought would back them unconditionally, in return for the unconditional subservience shown to them.

On April 2 the presidential election in Serbia seemed successfully wrapped up (from the putative winner’s point of view, anyway) but the very next day a tidal wave of protest demonstrations was unleashed in the capital of Belgrade and two major provincial centers, Novi Sad and Niš. Instead of quickly fizzling out – which has thus far been the norm for such events in politically comatose Serbia – in the succeeding days the protests grew and spread to other cities and towns throughout the country, twenty at last count. The “mass movement” (for want of a better expression) is ostensibly conceived and led by “students”. The official social media account would have it that the students are dissatisfied not only with the result of the elections (the current premier claims that he was elected President of Serbia with 55% of the votes, leaving a bevy of opponents from the splintered opposition trailing far behind) but also in equal measure with the electoral process and the conduct of the campaign, not to mention the proverbial “system,” with its countless defects.

That is all well and good, because most of the criticisms heard in the streets of Belgrade and other Serbian cities, however general or down-to-earth they may sound, are actually quite cogent and well taken. That, after all, is the way to go if you are aiming at broad popular support. But true as that might be, it does not answer any of the natural and politically interesting questions that arise about the origin and purpose, not to mention the curious timing, of these mysteriously spontaneous public manifestations.

As for the catalogue of grievances, most reasonable people would sign off on it cheerfully. Essentially, the civic-minded students are upset because the electoral campaign was conducted in an atmosphere of inequality of resources (meaning that the incumbent was helping himself to far more advantages of office than is the custom even in the Balkans, and all that grossly at the expense of his helpless and outgunned opponents); they note that the state media overwhelmingly favored the ruling coalition’s “winning” candidate, and therefore demand that the managers of the complicit public outfits be summarily fired for malfeasance; they are demanding also the dismissal of the chairlady of the National Assembly, for agreeing to shut down her august body for the duration of the electoral campaign. It is suspected by the worldly-wise youth that the sinister reason behind the parliament’s muzzling was to prevent the handful of opposition deputies from publically expressing critical views that would diverge from peons of praise heaped upon the government candidate, that normally suffuse the coverage of the official media, thus sparing the electorate unnecessary confusion.

One of the students’ practical objections that makes particular sense concerns the electoral rolls, whose immediate purging is now categorically demanded. Indeed, Serbia’s voting lists – even by Mexican standards – present an awkward spectacle. In 2017, with a population of about seven million, there are claimed to be 6.724.172 voters.[1] So according to these official figures, Serbia’s democracy has truly gone berserk, with practically only infants and children under the age of four or five deprived of the right to vote. But it gets even funnier because according to 2004 official figures there were supposedly 6.532.263 registered voters.[2] That would mean that in a country with an annual net population loss of 30.000 to 40.000, because mortality by that much exceeds live births, in 13 years the number of eligible voters has actually increased by a healthy 250.000. The presumably phantom votes are bound to come in handy to whoever happens to be counting them and (in Stalin’s immortal phrase) most likely determines the outcome of Serbia’s elections.

The alert students have spotted this mathematical anomaly and they are quite rightly demanding its immediate rectification before anything resembling a proper election is ever allowed in Serbia to take place again. Moreover, because of what they believe to be padded electoral rolls, the impetuous youth are also demanding not just greater circumspection in future elections, but the outright annulment of the one that was just held, on April 2. One may reliably assume that this is the one demand that the winning candidate is least likely to regard sympathetically.

Needless to say, to this repertoire of specific revendications the protesters have also appended most of the routine complaints against corruption, dictatorship, unemployment, even hunger, and all the rest of it that we have heard and seen many times before.

It is still far too early to assess this sudden and unexpected outburst of spontaneous post-electoral dissatisfaction in a Serbia that had been contentedly hibernating until literally the Election Day, barely a week ago. For what mysterious reason did this impressive list of irregularities and wrongs remain largely unnoticed as late as Saturday April 1, as well as on the day of the actual voting on Sunday April 2, only to become a matter of widespread concern and catalyst for mass action – on Monday, April 3?

What are we to make of these surprising developments in the (until recently) exemplarily docile Serbia?

The only firm conclusion that at this stage may be drawn about this situation is that – it simply does not add up.

  1. Experience with the applied techniques of Color Revolutions over the years and the ready availability of Gene Sharp’s manuals should immediately alert us to the fact that when we see nice people marching and demanding reasonable things they might indeed be (1) good citizens fighting for social betterment, or, (2) just as likely not. We should therefore look at the broad context and examine critically the possible meta-agenda, consistency of their conduct with other, less benign explanations, and various links and outside sources of support. Cui bono? is always a good question to ask and open-minded skepticism is a wise initial attitude to take.
  2. Some characteristics of the Serbian demonstrations are disconcerting even at first glance. They were supposedly galvanized by a lightning social media campaign within a day of the unsatisfactory election results being announced. That, however, is impossible because the logistical preparations for such a huge affair must have taken weeks of patient preparation. The same social media also keep hammering on the point that the demonstrations have no organizers. That strains credulity given that tens of thousands of people came out onto the streets, equipped with banners and slogans, whistles and drums, assembling at the same points and marching along the same routes. Such a large number of disparate individuals could hardly have all made identical choices, each on his own and purely by chance. So it is reasonable to ask, who comprises the hidden directorate of the current demonstrations and why have they chosen, for the moment, to remain discretely in the background?
  3. Talking about the banners and slogans, without bothering to translate them here, it suffices to say that they are catchy and clever. If that is not a dead giveaway that the technology of Colored Revolution is being applied, it certainly is highly suggestive. As for the whistles and drums, in what shop in Belgrade were they bought and how did it occur independently to hundreds and even thousands of people to purchase them the day after the election, when – to their horror – they learned who was proclaimed the winner?
  4. The demonstrators (or the hidden organizers) are obviously keen to broaden their base of support and to attract all and sundry patriotic elements to join them, just as they were in the year 2000 when, using rhetoric that gave no hint of the real motives or ultimate objectives, Milošević was in the process of being removed. Throughout the week the protesters played the Serbian patriotic song “March on the Drina,” calculated to win over and regale a patriotic audience whose support at this stage is of critical importance. It was a brilliant move, reminiscent of “Otpor’s” cunning ploy in 2000, when it displayed the misleading slogan “Because I love Serbia” as it was plotting Serbia’s demise into neo-colonial servitude.
  5. The popular adage, If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck – it probably is a duck, remains an unsurpassed analytical tool. Not for very refined and abundantly data supported analyses to be sure, but in a pinch it always does the job.
  6. It is, of course, within the realm of possibility that patriotic Serbian students, with no subterranean ties, during the weeks preceding the balloting were studiously reading Gene Sharp’s manuals, while everyone else was distracted by the electoral fanfare, that they cleverly reverse engineered Sharp’s subversive precepts in order to work for results diametrically opposite to the designs of the Soros Fund, NED, and sundry Western intelligence agencies, and that “on the day after” they were therefore ready to spring into action to save their country. It is theoretically possible, but how likely is it?
  7. Not to be overlooked, for whatever significance it may have, Belgrade happens to be the home base for Sharp’s notorious Color Revolution outfit “Otpor,” since renamed “Canvas.” “Canvas” is fully operational, has a large number of experienced specialists, and one of its recent operations was the Ukrainian coup three years ago, where its operatives played a major role. Interestingly, anecdotal evidence has emerged that the old “Otpor” network hands, with experience in the year 2000 upheavals, throughout Serbia are being discretely re-assembled. They have been invited to re-activate themselves and lend their services to what may ultimately turn out to be the replay of “Otpor’s” signature 2000 coup against Slobodan Milošević, and all very conveniently on home turf again.
  8. And, talking about “Otpor,” or its current incarnation “Canvas,” note should be taken of the regime’s inept and foolish initial response to the street challenge, recalling Milošević’s confused meanderings as his downfall was being plotted under his very nose in the year 2000. The current regime chose to do exactly nothing to counter the street challenge during the first four days of growing unrest, in the critical period as it was gathering momentum, hoping that the storm would simply go away, while issuing a ridiculous statement that it actually welcomes the demonstrations as an expression of democracy. That was apparently a pathetic provincial attempt to win brownie points with the imperial overseers who actually care not a whit about democracy, or its expressions. Later in the week, the ostrich having realized that the storm was not abating, the regime hit upon the equally foolish idea of engaging some fringe hard-core Marxist Communist agitators to try to take over the protests and drive the protesters and their supporters away (or at least drive a wedge between various protesting groups) simply by dint of the inherent unpopularity of everything that they stand for. Time will tell how successful this desperate stratagem will prove to be, but the initial prognosis is not good.
  9. Which brings us to the next logical question: if the hypothesis that a Color Revolution is underway in Serbia is correct, what could the obedient regime possibly have done to deserve being so targeted? The evolving situation must be followed closely, with a multitude of factors and contextual elements being taken into account, before a reliable answer to that question could be ventured. But perhaps this is the wrong question to begin with. Imperial satraps have been dethroned and cast naked upon the dunghill numerous times before for no discernible specific faults that they may have committed. That risk is inherent in their employment contract. A satrap’s time might be up, even though he committed no obvious mistakes and was generally doing everything “right,” simply to refresh the façade of the regime in order to thus prolong the life and usefulness of the subservient local neo-colonial system. Another “no-fault” reason that comes to mind may be the satrap’s excessive assertiveness and suspected designs to set up even a modest independent power base of his own, thus reducing ever so slightly his absolute and helpless dependence on the metropolis and its local pro-consuls. Another possibility, in Serbia’s specific case, is that there is some “unfinished business” for the regime to complete that the hesitant satraps delayed and kept on the back burner. Final, overt recognition of Kosovo and acceleration of NATO accession in anticipation of the planned war against Russia here come to mind. The purpose of the “spontaneous” pressure from the streets (albeit organized under completely unrelated pretexts) may be just to send a message of vulnerability to the regime, at this stage. If it gets the message, the unrest may be turned off just as “spontaneously” as it was tuned on. That by no means implies, of course, that slavish compliance now will forestall a repetition of the current Color Revolution exercise later. Being unceremoniously dumped onto the dunghill, at some convenient time in the future, is always a looming prospect for those who are foolish enough to dance with the Devil.
  10. Which brings us to the visit to Belgrade-under-siege, on Monday, April 10, of Senator John McCain, a notorious person whose presence spells trouble wherever he appears. Beleaguered regimes that have received him are known to have had a very high mortality rate. McCain is not just an unhinged individual (that is the least of it) but, more importantly, he represents very shadowy elements lurking behind formal government institutions, of which he is technically a part in the capacity of Senate Armed Forces Committee chairman. It was long suspected, and incontrovertible and until recently suppressed evidence has emerged, that after being shot down and captured as a naval pilot during the Vietnam War, McCain collaborated with the North Vietnamese communist authorities and betrayed his country and captured comrades. For that, he should have been charged with treason upon his release and return. Instead, the deeply compromised McCain was offered a deal by the Deep State: a political career with attendant benefits in return for collaboration with it. Ever since, he has been actively conspicuous in every Deep State intelligence operation, the Ukraine and Syria being just the most recent examples. What was McCain doing in Belgrade barely a week after those who dispatched him started the street upheavals? His presence does not portend the peaceful resolution of any conflict, but its exacerbation. McCain is the personification of Marshall McLuhan’s famous adage: The medium is the message. What threatening messages, including possibly reminders of some “unfinished business” items, did McCain pass on to Serbia’s moronic and increasingly desperate leadership? Why were they so foolish as to even receive him? Was it to get their marching orders? Time will tell. One thing is for certain. By committing to carry out instructions received through McCain they only will have done further irreparable damage to their country in return for a brief postponement of their own demise. Once they “finish the business” they will become totally useless, and moreover will turn into a political liability for the imperial masters. At that point, their fate will be sealed and the dunghill, with everything that implies, will be their guaranteed final destination.

In conclusion, the Serbian people are trapped in a vise. Hoodwinked by the intelligence operation which in the year 2000 installed a series of foreign agents to administer their country, after a coup executed under false pretenses but in which they were foolishly complicit, the Serbian people have given up their freedom and sovereignty. They are spectators of their own history and at most now are from time to time permitted to be externally manipulated stage extras as their history, written by others, unfolds. Their room for maneuver is extremely limited, the information they are allowed to have is strictly filtered and controlled, in what passes for elections the only “choice” allowed them is among corrupt and blackmailed imperial hacks. Their goose – or to return to the metaphor earlier applied to their most recent dubious advocates and saviors, their “duck” – seems to be cooked.

If our dark forebodings about the character of the current protests are correct, Serbian patriots have little to look forward to. When, to use Lenin’s pungent phrase, power is lying in the streets, it will be seized not by those who are noble, good, and patriotic, but by those who are organized and trained to do it.

At the moment in Serbia there is no organized political force capable of seizing government authority on behalf of and for the benefit of the Serbian people and in defense of their state’s sovereignty, even should such an opportunity miraculously present itself.

There are compelling geopolitical reasons to keep an eye on the current developments in Serbia and on the conduct of empire’s entrenched henchmen there and the machinations of its foot soldiers in the streets. It is a dialectic strictly confined to the interplay of forces completely foreign to the marginalized Serbian nation. By no means should decent people be taking sides at this point or entertaining the illusion that they could influence or affect these proceedings to any significant degree. The old, unreconstructed cynic Henry Kissinger probably put it best in a comment he made in another context: It is a shame that both sides cannot lose.

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