Amidst the barrage of mostly US and British-based accusations regarding alleged – although nowhere yet proven – Russian meddling in all sorts of elections the world over, and the radical measures being proposed to allegedly stop it, some might be prompted to infer that these “model democracies” would never stoop to such reprehensible behavior themselves, as something obviously deeply repugnant to their delicate democratic sensibilities. And, of course, they would be wrong.
In its newest report to the UN Secretary-General, of May 3rd 2018, the Government of Republika Srpska, one of the two entities that make up Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosna i Hercegovina, or BiH), has presented evidence pointing to serious, US-led meddling, not just in the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for October of this year, but in the form of systematic interference, by way of media financing, in the political life of this newfangled country since its formation by way of the Dayton Peace Agreement that ended its three-and-a-half year civil war in November/December 1995.
The title of Section III of the Report is both a plea and a warning: “BiH’s elections must be conducted free from foreign interference.” And leading the way of this foreign interference is the US, which, the Report reveals, has provided “over $100,000,000 in media funding to BiH since the end of the war, possibly the largest per capita US expenditure in media assistance,” most of it having been “channeled through the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the US Department of State (DoS) through the US embassy in Sarajevo.”
Just to compare orders of magnitude, according to a 2017 Reuters report citing Facebook Inc., “an operation likely based (my italics) in Russia spent $100,000 on thousands of US ads promoting divisive social and political messages in a two-year-period through May.” In other words, the entire Western media complex is in a tizzy over $100,000 spent during the multi-billion dollar US elections, and they are not even sure these are tied to official Russia – but three additional zeroes spent on media interference in another country’s political life by a clearly identified source are simply not a topic of interest… But, back to the revealing Report the UN Secretary-General.
The Report quotes at length from various USAID reports, which, to their credit, are quite forthcoming in revealing not just the extent but the aims of its investment in influencing Bosnia-Herzegovina’s political life. Thus, according to USAID’s assessment of media support in BiH between 1996 and 2002, “Bosnia was the first country in which USAID and other bilateral and multilateral agencies and organizations made a large investment ($80–100 million) to build and strengthen independent media in the aftermath of civil war.”
However, as USAID itself admits, this investment has been far from neutral: “Donor governments and the high representative often viewed media initiatives as a potential tool to quickly reshape the troubled political climate. As a result, the OHR’s (Office of the High Representative – institution established by the Dayton Peace Agreement in 1995, which still oversees political life in BiH with colonial viceroy-like powers – author’s note) strategy in media assistance—as in other policy areas—was often influenced by successive election cycles.”
And: “Although not always stated officially, USAID expected that, with other development efforts, assisting alternative media would help transform the political landscape and break the dominance of nationalist parties and attitudes… Although the purpose of US media assistance varied and was not always coherently defined, there were clearly expectations that media assistance could help transform Bosnia’s political climate and enable the election of more civic-minded, moderate political parties.”
Finally, in light of Facebook’s charges regarding alleged Russian “ads promoting divisive social and political messages,” let’s take a peek at a 2006 USAID assessment of media in BiH, as quoted by the Report: “Without being asked, four key informants said explicitly that the US is seen at times as politically selective in its approach to BiH media, supporting the anti-nationalist political agenda, but also favoring opposition-oriented media rather than non-partisan media organizations.”
Case closed regarding the extent and aims of US meddling in Bosnian elections and political life in general over the past 20+ years.
But worry not, for, as the Report charges, they have no intention of stopping. On the contrary: “Between 2010 and 2017, no new major BiH media-specific funding program appears to have been initiated by the US In 2017-2018 however, at least three major funding programs largely benefitting BiH media were initiated by USAID and DoS, totaling more than $12 million. In the US Department of State Congressional Budget Justification for fiscal year 2018 (including USAID), Congress allocated $18 million for the Economic Support and Development Fund to BiH. In particular, the 2018 allocation is meant to ‘reduce vulnerabilities to Russian pressure, particularly in the energy and media sectors,’ as well as ‘support independent media, elections, and democratic political processes.’”
In other words, more US-funded election meddling – in the broadest of daylights – is in the cards in Bosnia and Herzegovina this fall, and that’s perfectly fine as far as the “democracy promoters” in Washington and London – and, for that matter, Brussels, Berlin and Paris – are concerned (it’s only the Russian meddling that’s “malign,” you see). Powerless to stop it as it doesn’t control BiH’s central institutions or the work of foreign embassies, the Republika Srpska Government is using its Report to the UN to at least appeal for transparency in US state-sponsored media meddling, calling on the US to “fully disclose the allocation and use of its funds and discontinue usage to influence elections” in BiH.
The President of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, has gone a bit further, announcing that he would “demand inspections” in order to determine where and to whom the American money is going, and accusing the US of “undermining and directly interfering in the electoral process, while America, headed by its ambassador, continues to meddle in our internal affairs.” He also pointedly reminded of Donald Trump’s pre-election promises that the US would no longer interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, concluding that, “as we can now see, that hasn’t come to pass.”
Finally, it should be added that even this well-documented and openly announced American meddling in BiH elections is only the most obvious demonstration of the fact that, 23 years after having brokered a peace deal (to end a war which they mostly instigated by encouraging BiH’s Muslim leadership to turn down peace initiatives that could have averted the war and unilaterally recognizing BiH’s independence from the former Yugoslavia in April of 1992), the US-led “international community” still runs Bosnia and Herzegovina like a post-modern colony, as witnessed by the continued existence of the above-mentioned Office of the High Representative, which, as the Report remarks in a later section, “claims authority to decree laws, constitutional amendments, and punishments completely outside the Dayton constitutional system,” as well as a Constitutional Court with three foreign judges.
In short, the US is about to (once again) meddle in the elections inside a colony of its own making. But, somehow, it is Russia that winds up being labeled as the number one “threat to democracy.” Indeed, War is Peace, terrorists in Syria (and elsewhere) are “freedom fighters,” and some animals are more equal than others. And if Walt Kelly’s Pogo were to utter his immortal phrase today – “We have met the enemy and he is us” – he’d probably be charged with “collusion with Russia.”