he had the whole world listening, and instead of denying
the accusations – that Serbia, in defending itself, was
engaged in a policy of "genocide" and "ethnic cleansing"
– he quibbled over a purely formalistic matter: whether
or not the Tribunal has "legal" standing. Apparently he
didn't realize that the judges were elected by
the General Assembly, as they have been since the Tribunal's
inception in 1993. Not that this legitimizes the Tribunal
– except, of course, in Slobo's eyes. For what organization
with the audacity to claim suzerainty over the entire
earth could possibly be anything other than a fraud?
whether he wished to have the lengthy indictment read
aloud, Milosevic brought down the house by quipping: "That's
your problem." But the question of how to answer
the indictment will be his problem as soon as the
trial gets rolling, and one that will not be solved by
dramatic gestures. Under the Tribunal's rules, the failure
to enter a plea amounts, in effect, to a plea of innocence:
from a public relations point of view, however, this aloof
disdain cannot be maintained without making Milosevic
(and, by extension, all Serbians) look guilty as
hell. For if he is innocent – if Serbians did not commit
the kinds of horrendous war crimes that required a "humanitarian"
military intervention – then why doesn't he defend himself?
Why does he fail even to deny it? Is this kind of pride
a mask for guilt? These are questions that any ordinary
person will ask: Milosevic's self-dramatizing performance
didn't give them any answers.
FLY IN AMBER
Ramsey Clark would have been better than appearing up
there with no one at his side, enclosed in a bullet-proof
glass cube like a fly in amber, physically as well as
politically isolated. But the tone-deaf Milosevic, perhaps
a bit unhinged if not quite mad by this time, seems oblivious
to the judgment of world opinion, and largely indifferent
to his own fate. The tragedy is that he is not just failing
to defend himself, but the entire Serbian nation; for
in spite of what chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte may
say, clearly it is Serbia and not just Milosevic that
is on trial here.
LEGAL NOR CONSTITUTIONAL'
President Vojislav Kostunica denounced the action of Serbian
authorities in handing Milosevic over as"neither legal
nor constitutional," and described it as "seriously jeopardizing
the constitutional order of our country." He was furious
that the rule of law had been undermined, perhaps fatally,
legal state which was the policy not only of the Democratic
Party of Serbia but of the whole of DOS, cannot be built
on injustice. Now the most undemocratic elements of Milosevic's
own policy, which was really pestilential for the state
and the people, have been used here: lawlessness and careless,
humiliating steps which have not even been asked for directly
by anybody from the international community. Cooperation
with The Hague, which was of course necessary, has come
down to the mere extradition of the accused without any
protection for the citizens and, in the end, without any
protection for the interests of the state itself. Even
basic procedures were not respected, as though somebody
here, rather than somebody abroad, was in a hurry to meet,
as soon as possible, an obligation undertaken who knows
when and who knows to whom."
"somebody" in a hurry is the hugely unpopular Zoran Djindjic,
Serbian Prime Minister and a slick operator who has been
by the Chicago Tribune as little short of a
gangster. It isn't just that "he likes to run around Belgrade
gangster-style – in a convoy of black, bulletproof Range
Rovers with a passel of bodyguards," although it doesn't
help that "often it is hard to distinguish the young-looking
Djindjic from the bodyguards" because "they all wear the
same sharp Armani suits over black T-shirts." Djindjic
not only looks the part, he acts it as well. His ties
to organized crime networks that virtually took over Yugoslavia
under Milosevic are the subject of much speculation, and,
far from denying it, he seems to revel in the role. In
an interview with an Austrian newspaper, Djindjic boasted
that, as the battle to overthrow Milosevic reached its
crescendo, three of Belgrade's biggest gangsters called
him and pledged to stay neutral when the showdown came.
PATRIOT AND THE HOOD
a while it looked as if he was willing to coexist with
Kostunica, content to let the stern constitutionalist
and legal scholar play father to the nation, just as long
as he, Djindjic, got to play the role of the Godfather.
But the two men are opposites in every respect, personally
as well as ideologically. Djindjic once told a friend
that his aim in life was to amass as much money as possible
in order to "do interesting things," and certainly he
is succeeding: Djindjic is not only one of the richest
politicians in the country, but his latest project is
all-too-"interesting" – the complete destruction of the
Yugoslav federation. On the other hand, Kostunica is an
austere academic: one Belgrade wag noted that "Kostunica
drives a beat-up Yugo, he has three ties and two suits,
a $50 watch and a 13-cent pen. Djindjic's pen is worth
more than Kostunica's car." Djindjic is a ruthless opportunist,
the antipode of the consistently principled Kostunica,
whose conscientious loyalty to the [classical] liberal
ideal has provoked the (professed) admiration of the US
government, even as US officials work day and night to
undermine his leadership.
THEORY OF CRISIS
entering the realm of politics, Djindjic was involved
with another sort of gangsterism: he was a Marxist ideologue,
a devotee of the Frankfurt School of Theodore Adorno,
and left Yugoslavia to study under Jurgen Habermas in
Germany. There he hung out on the fringes of the Baader-Meinhoff
gang and boogied with the Red Army Fraction. Perhaps he
ran into Joschka Fischer, that street-fighting Red who
later rose to become Germany's Foreign Minister. Djindjic's
1979 doctoral thesis, "Marx's Critical Theory of Society
and the Problem of Foundation," posits an epistemological
basis for Marx's theory that a crisis must be generated
before the capitalist order is destroyed and socialism
emerges triumphant. This theory of "crisis" was applied
perfectly, and with great effect, in the Milosevic affair:
with one blow, the ruthless Djindjic split the ex-opposition
(DOS) and drove the Montenegrins out of the government
coalition, threatening the nation itself with a split.
That this maneuver might also abolish Kostunica's office,
the Yugoslav presidency, is hardly a coincidence.
Djindjic is allowed to join with his fellow ex-New Leftist
ministers of the EU, and surrender Serbia's sovereignty
to the United Socialist States of Europe, he must perform
certain services, first and foremost disposing of Kostunica
and expunging all the varieties of dreaded nationalism
from Serbian soil, especially the liberal market-oriented
nationalism of Vojislav Kostunica. One way to do that
is to revive the old Commie-oriented nationalism by making
Milosevic into a rather unlikely "hero": don't think they
don't know that by persecuting poor old Slobo they valorize
him in the eyes of his people. But if Milosevic is a hero,
then what is Kostunica, the man who overthrew him?
way to get Kostunica out of the way is to drag him down
to Djindjic's level. A crude attempt at his has been made
by the forces surrounding Djindjic, who have released
an alleged "transcript" of a phone conversation between
the Yugoslav President and the Serbian Prime Minister.
It is a strange "transcript" that consists of only a few
lines of what certainly seems like a much longer conversation,
but then there is no need to be too delicate about these
things. A crude fabrication will do, in a pinch. Leaked
to a Belgrade newspaper, "and confirmed by sources close
to the Prime Minister's office," UPI
solemnly informs us, the transcript reads in its entirety
"What shall I say to [US ambassador] Montgomery?"
Kostunica remains silent...
"Very well then, in this case I will resign, and you rule
"Come on, don't rush, we need no quarrels."
"All right, but what shall I say? Yes or no?"
(after a pause): "Yes."
you convinced yet?
interesting is that Madeleine Albright, when asked on
the PBS News Hour if she thought Kostunica knew
about the extradition before it happened, smiled knowingly
and indicated that she did indeed: naturally the architects
of America's Balkan policy are eager to implicate Kostunica
in the crimes of their yes-men. No less eager than some
of Kostunica's other critics, such as our very own columnist
Malic, who writes that if Kostunica did not know then
he "should have known. Even if he did not, he should have
acted afterwards. Instead, he stood by and washed his
hands like Pontius Pilate." I am sure this concordance
of opinion between Albright and Malic is only temporary,
but it is telling nonetheless. It would naturally make
no sense to inform the object of a political conspiracy
that he is about to be knifed – did Brutus confide in
Caesar? – yet clearly Malic thinks this is not only possible
but likely. However, this business about Pontius Pilate
is really too much. Does Malic really mean to imply that
Slobodan Milosevic is the modern-day Serbian equivalent
of Jesus Christ? All I can say to that is: Jesus H. Christ!
WAR IN SERBIA?
thinks that Kostunica should have "acted afterwards" –
but "acted" how? Should he have started a civil
war by having Djindjic arrested? Perhaps the suggestion
here is that Kostunica should have called out the Yugoslav
Army against the Serbian police under Djindjic's command.
But with a nation exhausted by war and bled dry by official
corruption, this is hardly an auspicious time to initiate
an internal bloodletting. Besides, who knows but that
this would have led to NATO intervention – in the name
of preserving peace, of course, just like in neighboring
Macedonia. Obviously, Kostunica had no foreknowledge of
Slobo's kidnapping, and just as obviously could do nothing
to prevent it.
anyone is Christ-like in his suffering and his devotion
to his country, then surely it is Kostunica. It is the
President of Yugoslavia who is fighting against all odds
to preserve the territorial integrity and spiritual dignity
of his beleaguered country, in the face of opposition
from Washington as well as from the followers of that
buffoon in The Hague. He towers so high above the pygmies
that seek to overthrow him that they can only do so by
reducing him to their level: that's what this effort to
link him to the illegal extradition is all about. Talk
about blaming the victim!
it won't work. The Zoran Djindjics and Slobodan Milosevics
of this world are a dime a dozen: one falls, and another
will rise to take his place. But a man like Kostunica
– almost majestic in his selfless devotion to the nation
and its welfare – is a statesman on another level entirely,
and the Serbian people know it. That is why they elected
him, and why they will continue to support him: On the
other hand, Djindjic, for all his slickness, is riding
for a fall – and the sooner the better.