The morning of March 11, 2006, Slobodan Milošević, former president of Serbia and Yugoslavia, was found dead
in his cell at the Scheveningen detention facility near The Hague. It was the second death in Scheveningen in a week; on March 5, Milan Babić, once a leader of the Serbs in what is today Croatia, had allegedly committed suicide while waiting to testify in another trial. Babić had plea-bargained with the ICTY, the Hague Inquisition, and received a sentence of “only” 13 years.
|Slobodan Milošević (1941-2006)|
In the West, Milošević was blamed for everything that had happened in the Balkans over the prior 15 years; not only has it been politically correct to hate him, but dangerous for one’s political credentials not
to. News of his death prompted an outpouring of vitriol in the mainstream media, a race to see who could malign the man more. In producing this stream of abuse, they were guided by the assumption that all the charges against Milošević had been proven, if not in the court of law, then in the “court of public opinion” – in which they, of course, had been the judge, jury, and executioner.
One representative example is this editorial
from the Washington Post
“Ethnic and sectarian rivalry was real in a cobbled-together state, but few people expected, much less wanted, a civil war. Mr. Milosevic, a Communist Party apparatchik in Serbia, deliberately and methodically nursed this latent tension from a flicker to a conflagration and used it to consolidate a criminal regime in Belgrade. He bombarded Serbs with lies and hateful demagoguery about their supposed victimization at the hands of Croats, Bosnian Muslims, and Kosovo Albanians, and he convinced them that the only solution was a Greater Serbia created through war and ethnic cleansing. …
“More than is generally recognized, at least in his own country, he was personally responsible for the most destructive conflict, and most terrible atrocities, recorded in Europe since World War II. There were other protagonists and other criminals, some of them Croatian, Bosnian, and Albanian. But without Mr. Milosevic the Yugoslav wars wouldn’t have happened.”
Just about everything here is wrong. Worse yet, it accuses Milošević of things his enemies were doing. For one thing, he never called for war. His 1989 speech
in Kosovo, often said to be a call for conflict, actually called for coexistence
. That is why it is never actually quoted, only paraphrased, and wrongly.
By describing the very real atrocities
of Croats, Muslims, and Albanians allied with Hitler as the fruit of Milošević's malicious imagination, the Post
simply engaged in Holocaust denial. The claim that Milošević desired and pursued a “Greater Serbia” was likewise pure propaganda. As for his “personal responsibility”… well, the Hague Inquisition had spent years trying to prove it, with thousands of investigators, paid experts, and Imperial troops at its call, and managed to produce… nothing.
The House of Cards
Milošević rose to power in the late 1980s against the crumbling backdrop of the post-Tito Yugoslavia. The original Yugoslav kingdom, established in 1918, was destroyed by a 1941 Nazi invasion
. Parts of it were annexed by Axis powers, a territory designated “Serbia” was occupied by the Germans, while an “Independent State of Croatia” run by a fascist Ustasha regime encompassed present-day Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. While the Serb-led royalist resistance (Chetniks) fought the Axis occupation, the Communist resistance (Partisans) saw the war as an opportunity for revolution. Having secured Allied support, the Communist leader Tito took over the country in 1945, banned the monarchy, and re-forged Yugoslavia as a Communist federation.
Tito's velvet dictatorship provided a high standard of living through foreign debt, and his diplomacy balanced Yugoslavia between the Soviet bloc and the West. Instead of promoting a Yugoslav identity, however, Tito exploited ethnic rivalries to secure his power. Expressions of ethnic identity were allowed only if they served the Party agenda. The horrific atrocities of WW2 were selectively suppressed or trumped up, in an effort to establish moral equivalence
between all non-Communist factions, to the point of equating the Serb royalists with the murderous Ustasha.
In 1974, the ailing Tito signed off on a new Constitution transferring more power to the republics and making Yugoslavia a de facto
confederacy. So great was his personal power, though, that after his death in 1980, the Party was unable to choose a successor. For the next decade, Yugoslavia would be ruled by committee - and it showed. Decades of mismanagement, debt, and corruption came to a head in the 1980s, with all Yugoslavs becoming increasingly frustrated. Serbia in particular suffered from a peculiar arrangement under which its two provinces, Vojvodina and Kosovo - the only such entities in Yugoslavia - had veto power over Serbian laws. Adding to the troubles was an Albanian rebellion in Kosovo, which began in 1981, and by 1987 required the deployment of federal riot police.
His given name, Slobodan, means “a free man”. His surname, Milošević, is
derived from an ancestor named Miloš, most likely after the
knight who killed the Turkish sultan Murat at the 1389 Battle of Kosovo,
forever remembered in song. Yet for most of his life Milošević had been an ordinary apparatchik, a banker who spent time in the United States and dutifully followed Serbia's Communist leader Ivan Stambolić. Then, in 1987, Stambolić sent him to Kosovo, to calm down the agitated Serbs protesting Albanian repression. When the overwhelmingly Albanian police started clubbing the Serbs gathered to air their grievances, Milošević bellowed, “No one is allowed to beat you!”
Disgusted by the cowardice and ineptitude of the Serbian Communist leadership, Milošević went back to Belgrade and began cleaning house. By the end of 1987, most of the old guard had been purged, including his former patron Stambolić. The following year, Milošević launched a program of reforms, purging the provincial leaderships as well and amending Serbia's constitution to bring it in line with other Yugoslav republics. He became a hero to millions of Serbs, repressed for decades through politics of guilt.
Milošević's reforms alarmed the leadership of other republics, which benefited from Yugoslavia's schizophrenic setup. It was the purged Communists, however, who led the attacks on him. To them, he was a dangerous heretic for daring to challenge Tito's dogma of “Serbian bourgeois nationalism” as the greatest threat to Yugoslavia. Reinventing themselves as democrats, they began demonizing Milošević as someone who “abolished autonomy” of the provinces, and even accused him of harboring a desire for “Greater Serbia”- an Austro-Hungarian canard conjured prior to 1914 to justify Vienna's planned war of conquest. This invective fell on receptive ears in the rest of Yugoslavia, as the collapse of the Soviet Union and the reunification of Germany created a historical opportunity to revise the outcome
Official History paints the dismemberment of Yugoslavia as a response of Slovenians, Croats, “Bosnians ”(Muslims), Albanians and Macedonians to Milošević's “nationalism.” To believe this, however, one would have to deny actual history
- from Communism, via both world wars, all the way back to the Ottoman conquest.
There is no question some Yugoslav republics profited much more
than others from Tito's arrangement. Though the leader of Slovenia, for example, was a Communist official, he had no trouble reinventing himself as a democrat and denouncing “Serbian Communist oppression”, once he received German and Austrian support. Franjo Tuđman, elected president of Croatia in 1990, harbored sympathies for the Ustasha and engaged in open Holocaust denial. Alija Izetbegović, an unrepentant political Islamist
who emerged as the leader of Muslims in Bosnia, had been jailed in the 1980s for a manifesto written in 1971 that called for “Islamic revolution” throughout the world. Albanians have claimed Kosovo and other lands since 1878, and sought their union with Albania proper ever since its founding in 1912. They allied with Germany and Austria for that purpose in WW1, and again in WW2.
To secure independence, the separatists all claimed to be victims of “aggression” by the Federal Army and/or Serbia. Slovenia had pioneered that approach in June 1991, when the Yugoslav Army sent lightly armed recruits to secure
border crossings. When Tuđman'a government tried to assert control over Serb-inhabited territories,
their residents rebelled, calling on the Yugoslav Army to protect the
country's constitutional order. Tuđman's militia, armed from Germany,
responded by attacking Army garrisons while claiming “aggression from
April 1992, when Izetbegović's government declared independence and
Bosnia slid into full-scale civil war, the claim of “Serbian aggression”
was used once again, to the point of outright falsifying
the history of WW2 and the Holocaust. But the greatest absurdity was
NATO's claim, in March 1999, that Milošević was the “aggressor” in
Kosovo, when NATO itself had launched a textbook case
of aggression against Serbia.
Yet Milošević never disputed the right
of Croats, Slovenes, Bosnian Muslims or Macedonians to leave Yugoslavia; he supported the right of two million Serbs living in Croatia and Bosnia (the “Transdrina Serbs”, for lack of a better term) to stay
. Milošević was the driving force behind the creation of the
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in
April 1992, a union of Serbia and Montenegro that implicitly recognized the secession of all other
republics. The EU used the Soviet precedent to argue that Yugoslavia had
ceased to exist; but while Yeltsin's Russia was recognized as the legal
heir of the USSR, the FR Yugoslavia was denied that right.
Milošević wanted to negotiate Yugoslavia's future, and even invited the European Community to mediate - to the Serbs' detriment, as it turned out
. Tuđman (“There would not have been a war had Croatia not wanted it.” ) and Izetbegović (“For a sovereign Bosnia, I would sacrifice peace.”) chose otherwise.
It wasn't Milošević who “started four wars”, but his enemies, backed by the West.
Throughout the 1991-95 conflict, the West acted as if Milošević were the true power behind the Transdrina Serbs. From April 1992 to 1996, Serbia was under a crippling UN blockade, imposed as punishment for the massacre of a breadline in Sarajevo, blamed on the Bosnian Serbs. Milošević got no credit from the West when he set up a blockade on the Drina in 1994, after the Bosnian Serb leadership refused an unfavorable peace; nor for standing by while U.S.-backed Croatian forces ethnically cleansed
hundreds of thousands of Serbs from zones officially under UN protection.
At that point, however, he must have realized that the policy of protecting Serbia by not becoming officially involved in Bosnia and Croatia not only hadn't worked, but came close to jeopardizing the very survival of the Transdrina Serbs. For four years they had kept the numerically superior Muslim and Croat forces at bay, but now NATO had stepped in
with a bombing campaign (“Operation Deliberate Force”) backing the combined Croat-Muslim offensive.
Washington also had the (U.S.-sponsored) ICTY accuse the Bosnian Serb leaders of war crimes, deliberately making it so Milošević was the only politician who could go to the Dayton peace conference and represent Serb interests. Those who hatched this plan later probably wished they hadn't.
Dayton was not a typical peace conference, but rather one where the U.S. “mediators” represented Croat and Muslim interests - often getting frustrated by Muslim and Croat delegations, in fact - in talks with Milošević. In his memoirs, U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke proudly described
how he tried to cheat Milošević in Dayton, and only regretted getting caught. Yet Milošević managed to secure a good deal for at least some Transdrina Serbs, which endures to this day in spite of efforts by the U.S. and the Bosnian Muslims to dismantle the Dayton order. Holbrooke himself credited Milošević with saving the talks, after Izetbegović almost wrecked them. Milošević's claim to the mantle of “Balkans peacemaker” may sound pretentious, but it was actually earned.
Three years later, however, it was the very same Holbrooke spearheading Washington’s effort to force Milošević into a war over Kosovo, where the terrorist “Kosovo Liberation Army” was fighting for secession with Washington’s support.
Betrayed and Demonized
Holbrooke later claimed Milošević had broken every deal he’d signed. That is a lie. It was Holbrooke’s employer who has done so, from Dayton to Kumanovo
. Washington was responsible for the 1999 Rambouillet “agreement” – a travesty of diplomacy not seen since the 1914 Austro-Hungarian ultimatum
to Belgrade. The Empire accused Milošević of starting the 1999 war over Kosovo by “negotiating in bad faith,” but it is hard to imagine diplomacy in worse faith than the “peace effort” in Rambouillet, the frame job in Račak, and the subsequent naked aggression disguised as “humanitarian intervention.”
In May 1999, Milošević was charged with war crimes by the ICTY, a move that “coincided” with the crisis of morale in NATO headquarters, as Serbia refused to surrender and images of NATO’s civilian victims became increasingly available to the Western public. NATO's media cheerleaders used the indictment to further demonize Milošević, routinely comparing him to Hitler and the Serbs in general to Nazis. He had become the Emmanuel Goldstein of the new world order, bellyfelt
Fall and Rise
Though NATO later claimed it that Milošević had capitulated in June 1999, this was not the case
. Where Rambouillet would have allowed a purely NATO occupation of Kosovo and guaranteed separation within three years - not to mention the Annex B, giving NATO free reign in Serbia itself - the armistice signed at Kumanovo put NATO on a UN leash, kept it out of the rest of Serbia, and retained sovereignty over Kosovo on paper. Though NATO violated it almost right away, the very fact that there was
an armistice after 78 days, instead of a surrender after a week as envisioned in Washington, was a victory. Moreover, damage to the Yugoslav military from the bombing was minimal.
Having failed to oust Milošević by force, the Empire changed tactics. Washington bought the government of Montenegro, and set it on course for separation. In Serbia, the NED cobbled together, trained and funded a coalition of opposition parties. Milošević tried to warn
the public about what was coming, but his warning fell on deaf ears. The propaganda had taken its toll. On October 5, 2000, the mob organized by the “Democratic Opposition of Serbia” sacked the federal
parliament, stormed the state TV and claimed election fraud. Ballots
documenting the alleged DOS victory conveniently perished in the fires
set by protesters. This would later become a pattern
for “color revolutions” elsewhere.
Unwilling to plunge the country into civil war, Milošević stepped down as president of Yugoslavia. The DOS soon established a new government, under the leadership of Zoran Đinđić. In April 2001, Đinđić had Milošević arrested; in June, he broke half a dozen Serbian and Yugoslav laws and handed Milošević over to the ICTY.
At The Hague, however, there was no trace of the once-accommodating, compromising Milošević. That man had probably perished in 1999, with the first NATO bombs. Instead, the inquisitors faced a proud and defiant
man, who threw the accusations back into their faces and insisted not only on his innocence, but on the illegitimacy of the ICTY and the culpability of NATO and Washington for the bloodshed in Yugoslavia. The prosecutors took over two years to present their “kitchen sink” indictment, charging him for war crimes in Croatia and Kosovo and genocide (!) in Bosnia. Milošević systematically demolished their witnesses in cross-examinations and successfully challenged their “evidence,” despite the hostility of the judges, who would often cut him off. In September 2004, Milošević began his defense, after defeating the efforts of the “tribunal” to impose counsel on him without consent.
But the trial had taken a toll on his health, and he would complain of high blood pressure, headaches, and heart problems. Prosecutors and the media derisively claimed he was “faking it.” In February 2006, the “Tribunal” refused his request for medical treatment at a Russian hospital, despite Moscow’s guarantees that he would return. Three days after he wrote to the Russian government, claiming he was being poisoned, Milošević was found dead in his cell.
A Free Man
Although the Western media had already declared him Hitler Reborn, Slobodan Milošević was never convicted of any crime, in any court, even the kangaroo “tribunal” in The Hague. His show trial was officially adjourned on Mach 14, 2006, without reaching a verdict.
At the time of his death, Milošević was a prisoner. Unlike the quisling regime installed in his country, however, he refused to accept his captivity and fought against it any way he could. Rather than save his body by denouncing the country and people that turned on him, he saved his soul by defending them. Whatever one may think of the way he lived or governed, in his final four years he stood alone against the Empire, embodied in the Inquisition: an overwhelming force seeking to dominate all of humanity, willing and able to twist history, facts, and logic into a sinister fiction
. Milošević did not have to resist it; he chose
to. For years, the greatest coercive force in the world tried to break him, and failed.
He died true to his name.