ROLEX VS. TIMEX
anyone could have failed to see the contrast before. Two more
disparate men could not possibly be imagined. As
one wag put it, "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."
A HERO TO HIS
On the one
hand, we have President Kostunica, the principled professor
in rumpled suits who opposed both NATO and Slobo with equal
vigor. In his victory Kostunica became the very symbol of
what I call
"market nationalism," a hero to his people and
an inspiration to the small nations of the Balkans proof
that it was possible to defy the US, after all, and still
survive politically, and physically.
On the other
hand, we have Zoran Djindjic, whose
curriculum vitae reads like that of German Foreign Minister
or the "ex"-Trotskyist
Lionel Jospin: an ex-New Left Marxoid on
the fringes of the ultra-left Baader-Meinhoff "Red Army Faction,"
Djindjic studied philosophy in Germany, where he came under
the influence of his Frankfurt
School professors, notably Jurgen
Habermas. Djindjic's 1979 doctoral thesis, "Marx's Critical
Theory of Society and the Problem of Foundation," sought to
construct a philosophical foundation for Marx's theory that
a crisis must be generated before the capitalist order is
destroyed and socialism triumphs.
Djindjic has thrived on crisis. He took advantage of the crisis
of his own country the NATO attack to openly meet with
the enemy while skulking about in Montenegro. A skilled seeker
after the main chance, the Serbian Prime Minster, in the words
of one analyst, "realized that he couldn't win an election
himself, so he found another way through Kostunica, through
DOS to run the country." He is also the richest politician
in the country, according
to a very interesting article in the Chicago Tribune,
as well as arguably the most powerful in spite of his unpopularity
with voters and therein lies the root of the developing
revolution within the revolution....
CRIME AND GOVERNMENT
the victory of the DOS, and the expulsion of Milosevic from
the circle of power, Djindjic has worked hard to undermine
and ultimately sideline Kostunica by far the most popular
politician in the former Yugoslavia and now, finally,
has struck back. The first shot of the Yugoslav revolution's
second phase was fired when Kostunica's Democratic
Party of Serbia (DSS) withdrew from the government coalition,
known as DOS, a move that could mean new elections in Serbia
and is likely to mean a massive defeat for Djindjic.
is especially interesting is the DSS's stated reason for the
"Deeply convinced that organized crime and corruption
are the most dangerous enemies of democratic changes in our
country and the major obstacles to its full integration into
the world of well-organized and law-abiding states, the DSS
Presidency warns that not a single chain of organized crime
has been broken, nor have its leaders been punished, and that,
of a series of murders that have repeatedly shocked the public,
not a single one has been solved. Quite the contrary, crime
has assumed dramatic proportions, new killings and new abductions
have taken place. . . . Consequently, the right question is
if organized crime enjoys the protection and support of certain
segments of the authorities, or the Serbian government is
incapable of dealing with it."
an unmistakable reference to the
murder of Momir Gavrilovic, the former deputy chief of
the State Intelligence Service in Belgrade. Gavrilovic's violent
death was particularly untimely, having occurred right after
a meeting with Kostunica and his cabinet, where, according
to the respected daily newspaper Blic, he delivered
evidence of collusion between the Serbian mafia and the Serbian
whole story is typically Balkan in its murky darkness,
involving a mysterious "Surcin group" of gangsters who supposedly
control the smuggling trade, a series of murders, and Djindjic's
links to a fair number of mobsters, with whom he reportedly
enjoys a certain rapport.
THE 'NEW' SERBIA
This is not the first time Djindjic has been
implicated in his relations with criminal elements. The Chicago
Tribune piece little noticed, for some reason
revealed to American readers that the man who is supposed
to symbolize the "new Serbia," as opposed to the old nationalist
Serbia of Kostunica, once "bragged about how, in the days
leading up to Milosevic's ouster, three of Belgrade's most
prominent crime lords called him and pledged their neutrality
in the expected showdown between police and street protesters."
The Tribune cites Alexander Tijanic, a former advisor
to Djindjic, as saying: "He's admitting that gang members
can reach him on the phone every day. Does he owe them favors?
How can he fight corruption when he's openly admitting he's
friendly with mob guys?"
Kostunica has answered this question unequivocally by declaring
war on corruption and, by implication, on Djindjic. In
a blistering statement days after the Blic revelations,
Kostunica put the Serbian Prime Minister squarely in his sights:
is correct that the late Gavrilovic was in my cabinet on Friday
morning and that he spoke with my advisors. Momir Gavrilovic
came to my office, not for the first time, because was concerned
about the level of criminalization in society. He wished to
warn about the penetration of organized crime in economic
life, about the strength and vastness of the activities of
individual members of the group, and about that which he as
a police officer he believed to be the insufficient responsibility
and mistakes by the government and the appropriate organs.
He spoke of corruption. We cannot close our eyes to crime
nor can we attribute this to the legacy of the former government.
The number of unresolved murders and kidnappings has not decreased.
On the contrary, there are now more cases than ever. This
country has to stop that, if it wants to survive."
in the Croatian newspaper Nacional ended its account
of the Gavrilovic affair with this thought:
though it is believed that Kostunica is the real successor
of Slobodan Milosevic, first and foremost due to his pronounced
nationalism, today it is obvious the Djindjic, who appears
much more European, is certainly more inclined to Milosevic's
style of ruling, in uniting the Mafia with politics and erasing
the boundaries between those two worlds."
may seem baffling to those who equate the West with the rule
of law, when you think about it the Djindjic-mafioso connection
is entirely consistent with his links to another kind of Mafia
NATO and the US government. During the election campaign
that toppled Slobo, the US spoon-fed the Djindjic faction
of the Serbian opposition with millions of dollars. Naturally,
Kostunica's party wouldn't touch a dime of it but Djindjic
and his allies, who met openly with US officials while their
country was being bombed by the US, were not so fastidious.
Millions in US taxpayer dollars were given to Djindjic and
his shady friends to do pretty much as they pleased. Suitcases
of cash were passed around quite freely, just as in any money-laundering
scheme, to all sorts of dubious characters, all in the name
of spreading American-style "democracy" to the benighted Balkans.
Will there be a congressional investigation that poses the
question: where did all that money go? As the motto of my favorite newspaper
puts it: inquiring minds want to know.
SEND IN THE
in congress, who (in general) opposed the Kosovo war, had
better wake up, for here is a chance for them to make political
collusion, and Mafia-style
tackiness where have we seen all this before? Remember,
the Kosovo war was Clinton's war, and it was under
the Clintonian regime that the tragic course of American policy
in the Balkans was followed through to the bloody end. The
Arkansas Mafia was the sleaziest gang to take over Washington
since the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, so rife with
inside deals, payoffs, and influence-peddling scandals that
the Monica Lewinsky affair was only a thin glaze of bittersweet
icing on a cake filled with corruption. Slickness, arrogance,
brazen opportunism: these themes, which defined the Clinton
administration, pretty much nail down Djindjic and his gang.
"Uniting the Mafia with politics and erasing the boundaries
between two worlds" a clearer conception of the Clinton
years would be hard to find. So it is not so surprising that
the "pro-Western" elements in Serbia should turn out to be
a criminal gang: they are, after all, Clintonian clones.
IT'S BEEN FUN
I must admit
to a moment of extreme trepidation before deciding on the
subject of this column. I am, after all, soon to be traveling
to the former Yugoslavia, and weighing in on this sensitive
subject is hardly the way to ingratiate myself with the Serbian
authorities. As for writing about the Serbian Mafia, it is
not exactly a safe subject for a traveler to the region. This
is the first and only time I, as a writer, have ever
found any comfort in my own obscurity. Why would anyone bother
going after little old me? If, however, modesty blinds
me to my awful fate, then you may soon read about yet another
mysterious assassination in the streets of Belgrade (or perhaps
the mountains of Montenegro). Yet another execution carried
out right in broad daylight, just like the killing of Momir
Gavrivolic only, this time, the victim will be some formerly
obscure American journalist. In that case, let me leave my
readers with some last words, a kind of credo that sums up
my attitude toward mortality as well as this column and life
in general: it was fun while it lasted!
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