Trump cards – Macedonian and US style

Trump cards – Macedonian and US style

Biljana Vankovska

“It happened that a fire broke out backstage in a theater. The clown came out to inform the public. They thought it was a jest and applauded. He repeated his warning. They shouted even louder. So I think the world will come to an end amid the general applause from all the wits who believe that it is a joke.”

Søren Kierkegaard’s quote is the first thought that comes to mind while thinking of the developments on the global scene and simultaneously trying to figure out the place where the Macedonian part of the puzzle fits the best. Or maybe this thought is more appropriate to describe the current dilemma the majority is facing: “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”

Let’s start with the alleged fascist attempt of coup d’état and/or terrorist attack on the Capitol Hill (I almost wrote Capital Hill), with its clowns and the audience. Any analysis of this dramatic event calls for caution: in politics, nothing is as it looks on the surface!

At first sight, it looked as if Donald Trump used his last ‘trump card’, inciting insurrection of his followers (i.e. the mob) to prevent the peaceful transfer of power. There is a chorus of people crying that this was a shocking attack on the ”temple of democracy,” domestic terrorism, and sedition. Among the huge number of comments, а witty one caught my eye: “That was the worst fucking coup attempt I’ve ever seen (and I’m Turkish, I should know). Not even night time, you didn’t commandeer CNN and far too few moustaches. Terrible work.”

We in Macedonia were not surprised by the act. Instead, we had a déjà vu feeling. “Our” infamous 27 April (2017) had repetition in early January 2021 in the Empire’s capital, and the scenario looked as if it had the same signature on it. We even know how it would end and what would be the long-term consequences. Of course, the Minister of Defence, Ms Sekerinska does not agree (in 2017 she was an MP at the constituent session of the Macedonian parliament). She thinks that this is a completely opposite case but also she is sure that democracy always wins – despite the opposite in the reality.

Probably, for most of the Western (and generally, foreign) readers who are not familiar with Balkan affairs, 27th April means nothing. Or some may have feeble memories of a drama in a typical dirty Balkan pub, which was handled through the generous assistance of the US administration, and finally resulted in a victory of democracy.

The Macedonian Capitol Hill story…

Due to the limited space, I can’t tell all the details of this case’s background, but let me sum it up to a few key lines:

First, there was an imported ‘coloured revolution’ that was supposed to topple the ‘fascist dictator’ Nikola Gruevski and his regime (the opposition gave him a nick-name Nikolae); the Capitol Hill and the White House were enthralled, although there were no sandwiches and hot tea for the protesters (anyway, it took place during warm spring and summer months in Southern Europe’s periphery). But the money flow was significant.
Yet, the dictator did not lose the elections despite all efforts of the progressives. He was a real nuisance to everyone: the citizens had their own grievances with his rule, but the so-called international community was even more annoyed by the stubborn prime minister who had been winning all the elections in the last ten years. With his persistent clinging to the patriotic and nationalistic positions, he was thwarting the ‘resolution’ of the so-called name issue with Greece (which was precluding Macedonia’s entry to NATO).

And that was not his only sin – he was also trying to develop economic ties with Russia and China. It did not matter that the entire EU was doing the same, including Germany. It was unacceptable behavior for a Balkan leader of a poor and small country.

After the elections of December 2016, Gruevski left short of a majority to form a government, and his Albanian coalition partners were instructed by the US authorities in the country not to further the political cooperation. The bloc of Albanian parties took full advantage of the stalemate so they indeed switched side but also came out with new political blackmail – a long list of ethnic demands drafted in Tirana, under the auspices of the Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.

Gruevski’s followers and many other citizens were frustrated: they believed that their political option won on a fair election (even OSCE agreed) and that the new bi-ethnic coalition between the Albanian winning party (DUI led by the former UCK (or KLA – Kosovo Liberation Army) commander Ali Ahmeti and the leader of the opposition and of the Colourful Revolution (social democrat Zoran Zaev) would lead to betrayal and selling out of the Macedonian national interests.

Mass peaceful protests had been going on for 73 days, while the government was still being negotiated and the constitutive session of the new parliament was ongoing. To make a long story short, on 27 April the leaders of the new coalition made of DUI and the former opposition got blessings from the Fortress (Kale, i.e. the hill where the US embassy is located) to proceed as soon as possible at all costs, i.e. even at the expense of rule of law.

As Macedonia is (or is supposed to be) a parliamentary democracy, the crucial day witnessed the election of the speaker of the Parliament (not a certification of the votes in the Congress). Before the act, one MP sang the Albanian anthem from the parliamentary platform, which only amplified the tensions among the protesters on the streets.

DUI’s Talat Dzaferi (former UCK commander) was ‘elected’ speaker of the Parliament in a legally dubious way, with de facto no majority votes, the session was filmed on mobile phones, and there are no official notes of that election procedure as of today – nobody cares and the Constitutional court still does not dare use its prerogatives. The international community greeted the act. Simultaneously, while the storming of the parliament happened, an MP from Gruevski’s VMRO-DPMNE – who was caught on camera. The policemen did not really try to stop the crowd. A group of a few hundred people entered that ”temple of democracy” with no plan or idea what to do next.

In the main hall, there was a victorious atmosphere, the Macedonian anthem was sung by a famous opera singer and a well-known actor, surrounded by the mass. Actually, just like in the events of 6 January 2021 in D.C. there was a significant number of people that did not enter the building but were closely following the event, which was broadcast on national TV.

The event is now known as Bloody Thursday because a small group of violent people (probably provocateurs) targeted the MPs from the new ruling coalition in the press room (while they were announcing their victory, and the election of the speaker). Zaev’s forehead was bleeding as he was hit by a camera holder, while Zijadin Sela (a leader of a smaller Albanian party) was beaten almost to death.

A few days ago the world could see the photo of police with guns drawn watching as protesters try to break into the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol; in the Macedonian case, it was the private bodyguard of Zaev who drew a gun to protect his client against unarmed protesters. Happily, the event had no casualties as was the case in Washington.

What followed is a history with heavy and visible consequences both for the country’s democracy and national interests.

The protesters were charged for terrorism and heavily punished, Gruevski (who was out of the country on 27 April) was indicted with other criminal charges – but later on, he was literally allowed to leave the country secretly (no serious investigation took place and no responsibility was determined for anyone on power). He eventually found refuge and got political asylum in Hungary.

One of the indicted people ran away to Sweden where the court eventually refused to extradite him on the ground that he would be severely punished in a mockery political trial if returned to Macedonia.

Nevertheless, the political scene and the overall atmosphere changed: VMRO-DPMNE was demonized and de facto silenced. The membership was effectively disciplined and remained ‘constructive’ during the operation of name change in what is known as a Prespa process.

Zoran Zaev became an untouchable (and irresponsible) martyr and hero of democracy, and later on, even nominated for Nobel peace prize for signing the deal for the name change together with the Greek PM Alexis Tsipras.

The geopolitical goal was achieved: Macedonia became the 30th NATO member state under the name of North Macedonia, and the pro-Western government of Zaev is still under the blessings of Kale as an obedient pawn.

The Washington Capitol Hill that followed

The events of the far bloodier Wednesday in Washington D.C. seem to be over: democracy prevailed, they say. The scenes of the surreal vaudeville with half-idiots with coloured faces and horns created a perception that not only Trump is an incapable moron and unscrupulous narcissist but all his supporters resemble that tragicomic presentation.

Serious liberal analysts argue that finally, the ultra-right and primitive forces that support Tramp are de-masked and publicly shamed.
Following Kierkegaard’s thought about being fooled, one should ask a simple question: Cui bono? Could it be really an attempted coup d’état? Is Trump indeed such an incapable moron to believe that conquering the building of Capitol Hill is the locus of power? He should know better.

Some American analysts recall some other similar events of storming government buildings that were called “direct democracy”, such as the 2011 Wisconsin protests.

For the American and Western liberals there was nothing wrong when ‘people’s power’ was demonstrated in the Serbian parliament in 2001 when Milosevic was supposed to be toppled, or in Ukraine, or in Hong Kong and Taiwan or elsewhere in Latin America (where the original 9/11 originates with Allende’s elimination).

The “Capitol” of Belgrade, Serbia

The investigative journalist Allan Nairn put it correctly: “Americans are now getting a mild taste of their own medicine of disrupting democracy elsewhere.” In the interview with “Democracy Now” he concluded that Trump, in a sense, is bringing that foreign policy home.

The most frequently mentioned word that grasped the essence of how other nations have seen the events is karma – from China, via Macedonia, over to Bolivia. There was a feeling of satisfaction that the Americans can finally see how it looks and feels to betray democratic principles and rule of law, even when the unpopular guys win the elections.

Of course, karma is not the appropriate word, as this is not the end of the story but rather the beginning of the end (of the Empire in free fall).

The current victorious atmosphere both among the Democrats and the Republican corners may be false or even pyrrhic. It goes along the line of thinking that Trump himself is the reason for everything that goes wrong in the country. It is an often repeated refrain that now he has been silenced (and his followers frightened) things will become much better.

Ever since 2016, Trump was God-given to unveil the truth of how the US democracy functions; now he is kind of exposing the American system for what it is even more bluntly.

The official narrative of his rule will focus on his final days as a sort of catharsis and a Manichean battle in which Good defeated Evil. More material for another Hollywood blockbuster but sadly Biden does not bring any promise of improvement of American democracy. Bernie is a past and there is hardly any new personalities on the horizon.

Just like the 9/11 after-effects, nothing good will follow from this episode. The security will once again prevail over liberty, only now the terrorists are at home. Biden has already announced a new law against domestic terrorism. The witch hunt has already started, and trump-mined people will have to make up their minds: are they going to shut up or re-organize?

Sadly, the events of the “Bloody Wednesday” occupied the full attention of the media and the global public. The real worrisome news is once again overshadowed and pushed out to the margins. Capitol Hill has never been the real news: It is more of a façade, Potemkin’s village that covers the corporate power that is not accountable to anyone.

It is far from a real Temple of Democracy; a Temple of the Golden Calf would fit better.

All this happened while the world (with few exceptions) shrugged off the alarming news from the London court. Apparently, Assange is not going to be extradited to the USA but he is silenced once for all, kept in solitary confinement at the Belmarsh prison. The court’s verdict came on the eve of Orthodox Christmas but to many of us (believers or atheists, as myself), it felt like Good Friday. While we were all watching the caricatured faces in Capitol Hill, the real martyr was forgotten or symbolically exchanged for a Barabbas.

The blocking of Donald Trump’s Twitter and Facebook accounts is ironically the other side of the same coin of silencing and censorship of unpopular political speech. Up to now, Assange and Snowden alike have been prevented from exposing the facts and truth of powers that be and their war crimes and corruption. Recently, during the US electoral campaign, Glenn Greenwald was also censored because he tackled the issue of Biden’s corruptive affairs. Trump’s speeches were not broadcasted at all. In the meantime, we lost people like the great Robert Fisk.

What is important here is the fact that private technology masters take it upon them to keep the people “safe” as if they were pathetic and coddled serfs. They are protected from free intellectuals and elected officials’ thoughts and talks. But these are private mega-corporations, and they can decide whatever they like: they are not obliged to provide space for free speech.

But the key problem here is that the State itself has been privatized long ago, and it serves the oligarchs, not the public good.

The real coup is unfolding before our eyes. It takes the form of a concentration of news, communication and social media channels in the hands of the powerful elites.

After all, even here in Macedonia, we have been exposed to such training and oversight by various ‘fact-checkers’ (which are arrogant enough to name themselves ‘truth-checkers’) and thought police that detects and condemns alleged hate speech whenever a critical voice points the finger at the government’s more or less criminal affairs.

We should all watch again that excellent movie “Good Night And Good Luck” because soon there may emerge a real version of Less Good Luck and much more of Goodbye! Symbolically speaking, the decision in the Assange case conveys a message to everyone – and especially to journalists and intellectuals – that any dissent and courage to speak up against the powers that be shall be considered a mental illness that implies a professional suicide attempt.

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The author Biljana Vankovska
TFF Associate

Political scientist, full professor and Head of MA Program in Peace and Development at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Skopje. Served as a guest research fellow at Copenhagen Peace Research Institute (COPRI) and worked as Senior fellow at Geneva-based Centre for Democratic Control of the Armed Forces (DCAF). She has been active in the NGO sector for many years and currently serves as Public advocator for the Initiative for RECOM (Regional Commission for Fact Finding on War Crimes in ex-Yugoslavia). Prof. Vankovska is a regular guest in the Macedonian and Balkan media, columnist for a Macedonian daily and for the Serbian portal Peščanik.

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