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October 2, 2000

How We Help Slobo

Bill Clinton, Vladimir Putin and Slobodan Milosovic are in a plane on their way to the Hague. Over Bavaria the plane runs out of fuel, and they find to their horror that their is only one parachute.

"Why don't we vote for this?" says the ever-democratic Milosovic.

So they cast their ballots and Milosovic wins. He puts on the parachute and jumps out to safety.

"What I don't get" Putin says to Clinton "is how he got 2000 votes"

(Not my joke - but one heard on a news programme on BBC Radio 4)

ON A WIN AND A PRAYER

So the ballots were fixed Ė and the opposition won. The looking glass world of Balkan politics never ceases to amaze. The announcement that the main candidate of the Serbian opposition won (on the "official" count of the election commission) 48% of the vote is obviously a fudge. If Slobodan Milosovic fixed it so blatantly that he claimed victory then large parts of the country would be in open revolt and the loyalty of a substantial part of the army would be in doubt. Conceding that he lost would not be playing to Milosivicís character. The characteristics of a man who has got his back away from the wall more times than Robin Cook had his mouth to the pill bottle thinks that he may be able to pull off a last escape. And with the help of our leaders, especially the British leaders, he just might.

COCKY ROBIN

Of course our own hard drinkiní, pill poppiní, power nappiní foreign secretary, Robin Cook, could step in as Milosovicís campaign manager. He seems to be snatching Sloboís victory from the terrible jaws of defeat. At a speech to the temple to vacuity, the Labour Party Conference he was in full throttle, warning that Milosovic had to go. Now imagine that you are a Serb listening to reports of that speech (and believe me speeches like this are being reported on Serbian media). "Oh Robadan Cookvic, heís a good guy, he bombed the hospital and roads and his sanctions put me out of a job, Iíll vote the way he tells me to. After all foreigners in their air conditioned limos know what we Serbs have gone through, we have to listen to them." Itís not going to happen like this, is it? And are even Robin Cook and the Blair government this monumentally stupid to think this? Have they paid no attention to the election, where Milosovic has campaigned against NATO rather than on his record? I canít believe that our Foreign Office is so blind that they can not see that this would confirm Milosovicís rhetoric. So why was the Foreign Secretary not warned, or was he warned and thought that he'd help his fellow Socialist by being remarkably "on-message"?

MAKING IT PERSONAL

One of the shallowest dimensions of the present internationalist mindset is the way in which they demonise their opponents. Now I know that we live in a mass democracy and a short attention span media, but when your enemies are portrayed as a cross between Adolph Hitler and a cartoon baddy, what happens when the bad guy goes? An embarrassed shuffling of feet and clearing of throats. When Joerg Haider, whoís Austrian and has a name that sounds like Hitler, threw out the Social Democratís corrupt rule he was derided as a fascist. So he quietly retired to Carinthia, where he was governor, and left his party firmly in government. So the European Union roared and roared andÖ did nothing. There was no one to rail against; it was all rather embarrassing. They were faced with a country with a government of two centre right parties, neither of which had were anything but democratic. Now what happens when NATO finds another person in the Serbian presidency, will the Serbs be as easy to beat up?

HITTING THE POST

So what are the opposition in Serbia playing at? Theyíre about to win an election unless it is blatantly stolen, so blatantly that a rising would be almost inevitable. So why are they trying to shortcut this process? The rebellion should come after the election is stolen as (1) you will be seen as being in the right and (2) they may in a fit of carelessness let you win which means less people get killed that way. By refusing to go in a run off you are at the least throwing away a chance to throw out a tyrant, at the worst setting the scene for a fratricidal civil war and foreign invasion. What is two weeks when you have been living under various forms of tyranny since 1941? Hopefully the opposition will play the game, even if it is by crooked rules. Only threaten to take the ball off the pitch when the result is fixed Ė the overweight lady hasnít launched into her aria yet.

THEIR MASTERíS VOICE

Obviously over here I have been getting most of my non-internet news of the Serbian crisis from the state owned British Broadcasting Service. This means that certain facts have been deliciously mis-packaged. Letís take the reporting that the opposition won an outright majority. Now before I get incredulous e-mails, let me say that I do think that they did. However, the BBC, and most of the media will not report the fact that both polls, the government and the unofficial poll, are highly partisan. Yes thatís right the poll count cited as authoritative is based on reports from opposition activists, compiled in Hungary and paid for by the Americans. Now this doesnít make it wrong, but it doesn't make it disinterested. The fact that most voters are adult enough to work out that the state election commissionís poll is more suspect than even an American funded poll is overlooked, just donít even mention that the other side is biased. I don't think that the poll's wrong (at least the idea that more than 50% voted for Kostunica) - itís just that even where the facts are on their side the state owned Western media has to exaggerate Ė or skip research.

DON'T PLAY INTO THEIR HANDS

The attempt to bring down Milosovic with civil disobedience is an inordinately risky procedure. It is also puzzling. To fight the second round is not to say that the first count was legitimate, it can be done while saying that the first round was rigged. In fact, to call the other side ballot stuffers is usually an effective electoral ploy. Going on the streets has consistently failed to get rid of Milosovic. Moreover, even if it did get rid of him, who would take over? In a vote, it would be obvious; it would be the other man on the ballot, Kostunica. In a coup (no matter how strong the popular support), it would be those with the guns and troops in strategic places. The West's encouragement of the boycott is probably not down to a desire to keep in Milosovic, but it may be down to a desire to rid themselves of Kostunica. If nothing else then an election win for Kostunica, no matter how heavily funded by the West, would Serbia a democratic credibility that would not be shared by the KLA, the Bosnian government or even Montenegro's current crop of gangsters. Despite reporting in the media, it is still not certain that Kostunica will let Slobo win the second ballot by default. So, if any of his supporters are reading this, please tell him to stay the course, and win on the second ballot.

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Emmanuel Goldstein is the pseudonym of a political drifter on the fringes of English classical liberal and Euro-sceptic activity. He is a former member of the Labour Party, who knows Blair and some of his closest buddies better than they realise, yet. He has a challenging job in the real world, working for a profit-making private company and not sponging off the taxpayer in politics, journalism or the civil service. "Airstrip One," appears Mondays at Antiwar.com.

HOW WOULD I VOTE?

One of my worst kept policies is not to comment on the purely internal matters of countries other than the UK, and not to comment on their elections. And I will keep trying, but for those who don't go on antiwar.com (and you don't know what your missing) there is a bit of a scrap at the moment. One side, let's call it Jared and George's gang, are saying that Milosovic deserved to win, largely because he stood up to the evil West and elements of the opposition took the American shilling. The other side, Justin and Tom's gang, say that Slobo is so bad he must go. I must say that I am with Justin and Tom on this. Although I disagree with Thomas Fleming on the idea that Slobo is purely an American plant and with Justin Raimondo in his wish to censor the Milosovic fan club; they are right on their central point, Milosovic is awful. It is not my business to tell the Serbs how to vote, but if I were a Serb then I would have voted against Milosovic, whenever the opportunity presented itself. If my natural cowardice were overcome, then I would have demonstrated against him as well. To say that Milosovic should win the election is disturbing. It was not just the sanctions that made Serbia the poorest country in Europe, it was Milosovic's corrupt and cack handed economic regime. The assassinations, the failed military adventures, the betrayal of the Serbs in Krajina, Kosovo and Herzegovina, and who can forget the ballot rigging - they all make him an unworthy champion for our cause. Our enemy's enemy is not always our friend. To say that the Serbs should regress further in the dark ages so I can declaim my country's foreign policy from the comfort of an English sitting room is not a price I want others to pay. It is immoral to wish misery on another people to make a rhetorical point. That is why I want Kostunica to win, and to win without the help of the West or a coup of the street.

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