Wednesday, April 02, 2008

liberalism in contradiction (1): Camp Bondsteel

Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo. Even the Serb nationalists who suspect it to be a facility for processing heroin concede it is productive

The success of neoliberalism is expressed in the contrived aura of rationality that surrounds these institutions. The development of Kosovo during the SFRY period is, not without good reasons, often considered to have been particularly inefficacious. For example, Misha Glenny writes of Priština:

"The Grand Hotel itself is an unmistakeable monument of late Titoism in Prishtina. It was constructed in the 1970s at a time when the federal government in Belgrade pumped endless funds into Kosovo in the hope of curbing unrest among poor Albanians in the region. These monies fell into the hands of the Kosovo League of Communists bureaucracy, largely Albanian, whose ideal of infrastructural renewal was to erect many grandiose buildings in the capital. Such white elephants, however, should have been built after investment in jobs and primary requirements, such as improved road and rail access to Kosovo. Of the many pompous buildings which litter this provincial backwater, the Grand Hotel takes pride of place as the most ridiculous of all."

Reliable official statistics concerning Kosovo are difficult to find. According to a "marxist resource" "unemployment grew from 18.6 to 27.5 percent in the ten years from 1971 to 1981". The rate among the majority Albanian population would have been considerably greater.

Nine Years after the Kosovo war unemployment in this country may exceed 50%. Some of these unemployed have "jobs" in an unofficial economy probably more than half the size of the official one.

Camp Bondsteel, whose efficacy is beyond challenge, cost an estimated $350 million dollars to build and around $50 million dollars to run per year. Kosovo's annual budget in recent years has been around $1 billion dollars.

(more about Camp Bondsteel here)


kenoma said...

I'll bet Bondsteel will indeed prove to be pretty damn efficient. In the right conditions, such as those offered by the base, heroin isn't too difficult to manufacture. Between the poppy farmer in Afghanistan and the wholesaler in Britain, there's a 7000% markup, though what happens between those two points is something Western governments and the World Bank have usually drawn a veil over. (It's not just Serb nationalists who claim that Bondsteel is a heroin factory, although of course that's not all it is. Personally, I would just assume this to be true until proven otherwise, but I am paranoid).

I get your point about the ideologeme that contrasts commie inefficiency with the sleek, well-oiled market machine that eliminates all waste in the pursuit of maximum returns. But it's not the whole story: when it suits, we're often sold the image of dunderheaded spendthrifts with a poor grasp of accounting (this is especially true with the defense industry obviously, but we're seeing it now in finance).

kenoma said...

Never forget, the ranking of global commodities goes as follows:

1. Oil
2. Arms
3. Drugs

So the economic importance of drugs shouldn't be confined to freakonomics. Heroin and coke are hugely important commodities, and they determine geopolitical strategy. But they also shape the very nature of politics, war and the spectacle. Just for starters, the whole entanglement of covert operations and spectacular effects that goes by the name of 'Al Qaeda' couldn't exist without the global narcotics trade. (The Balkans, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Florida: wherever Al-Qaeda have trained and/or operated, they've never been far from the main circuits of the heroin trade. Funny that.) Nor would the KLA exist, or, indeed, 'Kosova'. And, more obviously, Latin America and US politics would look very different without drugs.
I think it's time we started thinking about drugs properly, i.e. not just as a side-effect of geopolitics and economic globalization.

kenoma said...

Ooh, this is weird: I was about to correct myself and say that the Florida-CIA-Al Qaeda connection was related to coke, not heroin, (coz with the proximiy to South America, coke makes more sense) but Daniel Hopsicker says it's heroin alright:

For the past three years the MadCowMorningNews has been pointing out—to anyone who'll listen— that the owner of Huffman Aviation, Wally Hilliard, during the same month Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi arrived to attend his flight school, had his jet confiscated by DEA agents on a runway at the Orlando Executive Airport, where they found 43 pounds of heroin onboard.

catmint said...

another story involving an army base, here:

"...And then other sacks which did contain hexogene were discovered not far from Ryazan. There were a lot of them and there was just a hint of a connection with the GRU. In the military depot of the 137th Ryazan regiment of the VDV, located on the territory of a special base for training intelligence and sabotage units close to Ryazan hexogene was stored packed in 50-kilogram sugar sacks like those discovered on Novosyolov Street. In the fall of 1999 airborne assault forces private (military unit 59236) Alexei Pinyaev and his fellow soldiers from Moscow were assigned to this very regiment. While they were guarding “a storehouse with weapons and ammunition” Pinyaev and a friend went inside, most probably out of simple curiosity, and saw sacks with the word “Sugar” on them.

The two paratroopers cut a hole in one of the sacks with a bayonet and tipped some of the state’s sugar into a plastic bag. Unfortunately the tea made with the stolen sugar had a strange taste and wasn’t sweet at all. The frightened soldiers took their bag to their platoon commander. He suspected something wasn’t right, since everyone was talking about the story of the explosions, and he decided to have the “sugar” checked out by an explosives specialist. The substance proved to be hexogene. The officer reported to his superiors. Members of the FSB from Moscow and Tula (where an airborne assault division was stationed, just like in Ryazan) descended on the unit. The regimental special services were excluded from the investigation. The paratroopers who had discovered the hexogene were interrogated “for revealing a state secret.” “You guys can’t even imagine what serious business you’ve got tangled up in,” one officer told them. The press was informed that there was no soldier in the unit with the name of Pinyaev and that information about sacks containing hexogene being found in the military depot had simply been invented by Pavel Voloshin, a journalist from Novaya gazeta (New Newspaper). The matter of the explosive was successfully hushed up and Pinyaev’s commander and fellow soldiers were sent off to serve in Chechnya."

catmint said...

on a related theme, Litvinenko's former patron, Boris Berezovsky, is also in business with Neal Bush, brother of GWB

catmint said...

"when it suits, we're often sold the image of dunderheaded spendthrifts with a poor grasp of accounting"

true. I have a certain faith in the principles of chaos and inefficiency.

Qlipoth said...

"When it suits, we often sell the image of dunderheaded spendthrifts with a poor grasp of accounting."

In a just world, those fine words would replace "All The News That's Fit to Print" in a well-known prominent place.

catmint said...

cheers qlipoth, made me laugh

Anonymous said...

I don´t know if I remember my highschool Marxism well, but I believe Marx wrote early on that capitalism needs to have its buffer zones where it may discharge the pressure created by its internal discrepancies, and one such place has always been Kosovo. In Serbian traditional memory and language the people of Serbia see themselves as a ´´currency for audit´´ meaning to say the territory where the Axis powers traditionally settle their bills and or conflicting interests. I am sure Iraq can be construed as the same zone for the Middle East. This is why the issue isn´t merely economic (heroin trade) nor is it merely political (Serbian nationalism versus the islamic variety), it is rather both, because structurally speaking, Serbia is, has always been and always will be the place where the West goes to the toilet. Only when this structural problem is removed can we actually do something about it, and that won+t happen before the New Byzantium, I´m afraid.

catmint said...

"The energy sector development potential is based on Kosovo's enviable reserves of lignite, which are estimated at around 12 billion tonnes. The lignite reserves can be exploited in surface mines, thus providing a very cheap source of energy for thermo-electric power plants"

lignite is apparently worth $10 a tonne so this is $120 billion dollars worth