Behind the Headlines
by Justin Raimondo
Please don't any of you Americans out there complain about how "boring" your election is: imagine, just for a moment, that the US presidential contest was as exciting as Yugoslavia's. This kind of excitement you don't need. As every poll shows Kostunica ahead with the respected Strategic Marketing survey showing the opposition with 32.5% and Milosevic with 26.6% a top Yugoslav army commander is warning that the Yugoslav government may have already found a pretext to annul the results. According to a statement by Gen. Nebojsa Pavkovic, broadcast on Serbian state-run television Thursday, "special foreign troops" clad in Yugoslav uniforms are slated to "infiltrate" on the eve of the elections and lead the opposition in an armed uprising. On Wednesday, at a rally in Montenegro, Milosevic practically frothing at the mouth screeched to a bussed-in crowd that his opponents are "rabbits, rats and even hyenas who wish to transform this gigantic nation into a poodle at the whim of its foreign master." Wow! even hyenas? Gee, Slobo, why don't you say what you really mean?
Meanwhile, the vultures are circling: the Brits are beefing up their forces in Kosovo, an American warship is on its way to the Adriatic and the United States government has already announced that Milosevic will "win" by means of fraud: the AP story headline read "US Predicts Milosevic Win." How they know this, in advance, is hard to say: perhaps the CIA is employing its Psychic Division, otherwise known as the Jeanne Dixon Brigade.
In any case, the campaign ended officially today, with climactic speeches by the two principal contenders. The most puzzling feature of this election campaign has been the unwillingness of Milosevic and his Socialist-Left (SPS-JUL) coalition to really take on Kostunica: instead, they have chosen to campaign against NATO. Unfortunately for them, Madeleine Albright is not the opposition candidate although, listening to Milosevic's speeches, it seems that he believes her name will appear on the ballot. Kostunica is never mentioned by name. We hear references to "the opposition," "the traitors," the "hyenas" but never does the name Kostunica pass Slobo's lips. The delusional aspect of the SPS-JUL propaganda inundating the airwaves, and screaming in headlines splashed across the front pages of the official state-run press, was distilled in Milosevic's final Belgrade speech to about 15,000 peasants and party activists bussed in from rural areas. The feverish rhetoric sounded like the final screams of a drowning man, desperate to grasp at anything even a delusion as he stares in horror at the face of death. The program of the opposition, he declared, is to "spread terrorism and crime" and "to destroy families through religious sects, spy groups and drug lords." Where have we heard this kind of thing before? Slobo sounds like nothing so much as some American right-wing politician inveighing against Commie spy rings, moral subversion, and the evil Colombian drug lords, and all in the name of "family values." The Yugoslav strongman then went on to denounce the opposition for "abusing children and youth through sects and other intelligence organizations, terrorist groups and the narco-mafia." So that's what happened to Spiro Agnew he moved to Yugoslavia!
The contrast with the Kostunica campaign could not be starker. The candidate of the Democratic Opposition has always taken aim directly at Milosevic, as in this earlier [September 20, 2000] stump speech:
"We are given a great opportunity and a great chance to begin a different life in a different state after September 24. But first let's see what kind of state we live in today. Woe is the state and wretched the life we lead in it.
"Woe is the state whose freedom depends on one single man. Woe is the state whose welfare depends on one single man. Woe is the state whose defense depends on one single man. Woe is the state that is a hostage to one single man.
"And it must be terrifying, and burdensome, to be that man. I would certainly fall short of such an onerous task, I must confess. Such an enormous responsibility would no doubt scare me. I would have to step down.
"Slobodan Milosevic does not want to step down. He experiences himself as a King who is the Sun. The King who used to say: apres moi le deluge. And who nearly flooded the state."
In Belgrade over 100,000 gathered in a high pitch of excitement to hear their candidate give voice to the hope in every Serbian heart: that Serbia will some day be "a normal European democratic country," where "the government is not afraid of the people and the people are not afraid of their government." Serbia, he declared, is "being held hostage by one man" but he knows that this is neither the beginning nor the end of the country's troubles. In an earlier television appearance, and in his Belgrade speech, Kostunica denounced "NATO's criminal bombing of Yugoslavia," which practically detonated "the international legal order." As for the "war crimes" tribunal at The Hague, this, he declared, "is an American tribunal not a court, but a political instrument." The demand that a Serbia freed of Milosevic must hand him over puts the country in an impossible position and gives Slobo "no way out except to make the whole country his hostage."
Given this kind of independent stance, it is crystal-clear why Washington would not mind at all if Milosevic declared a victory on the first ballot and called the army out onto the streets. As Nebojsa Malic eloquently pointed out in yesterday's "spotlight" piece:
"When Vojislav Kostunica wins the September 24 elections, whether in the first or the second round, the United States will lose an enemy and gain precisely nothing: no surrender of Serbia, no secession of Montenegro, no NATO domination of the Balkans, no co-option of Yugoslavia in the "Stability Pact," no independence of Kosovo, no economic expansion into Serbiašs devastated economy (all those carefully aimed bombs for nothing!). No victory in the Balkans.
"That is why the US media keeps barking about Kostunicašs "nationalism" and other supposed inadequacies. And when they run out of accusations which happens soon, because of Kostunicašs nature they start spinning tales about how Milosevic will "surely" steal the elections, that with such certainty one would think those crystal balls may really be worth something. After all, how do they know this for sure? And they really sound like they do."
Perhaps they do know. In any case, such a prediction could easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy. From this vantage point it looks like the two sides are both getting ready to declare victory, with each side holding its own poll and tallying separate counts. If, however, the election goes to a second round that is, if Milosevic is willing to concede even that much or if Kostunica wins outright, you will hear the sound of the gnashing of teeth not only in Belgrade, but also in Washington, London, Paris, and Berlin. Serbia will be saved, once again, as if by divine intervention: rising from the ashes of defeat, as before, like the legendary phoenix. It is a hope, at any rate, a vision of a normal life: as Kostunica put it in his stump speech, "We need a kind of life in which excitements would be confined primarily to the personal plane let the public, political life be monotonous, even boring if you like." The Serbian people have had enough excitement for the past half century who can deny it? "I am absolutely sure that we have tired of all those stormy and tempestuous events. What we need is the New-Testament 'peace amongst ourselves.' We need calm."
Who can argue with that? All the ranting lecturers of the ultra-left you'll notice we've been giving them a forum, here on Antiwar.com declare that Kostunica is a fifth columnist, an agent of the NATO-crats, his pockets veritably bulging with bribes. Yet all he really wants is calm, and the right to a life but this is tantamount to treason, according to the American contingent of the Slobodan Milosevic Fan Club. In a long and largely incoherent statement signed by Jared Israel, Max Sinclair, Professor Peter Maher, Karen Talbot, Professor Michel Chossudovsky, and. Niko Varkevisser, posted here yesterday, the Slobodan Milosevic Fan Club is every bit as rabid as their hero. If Kostunica wins, they aver, the "traitors" will
"crush the people. KLA terrorists would infiltrate all over the country. NATO would try to disarm the people while fascists destroyed Serbian culture. People would be expelled with nowhere to go. Prices would shoot sky high. Industries would be seized. Secret lists of phony "war crimes" suspects would be used to arrest or shoot any leader who resisted. It would be open season on Serbs and other Yugoslav loyalists. Of course, the Yugoslavs would not take this like lambs. Such a government would be driven from power by the ordinary people."
How the KLA terrorists will get past the Yugoslavian Army is not clear. Nor is it clear, in this hallucinatory scenario, whether the authors are talking about the imposition of gun control under a Kostunica administration ("disarming the people") if so, I may have to reconsider my endorsement. Secret lists? Oh, you mean like the lists of "subversives" maintained by Milosevic's political police? Industries will indeed be seized away from Milosevic's family and cronies, who have monopolized and held the economy hostage as well as the nation's political institutions. Let the Serbian people work out the details of the privatization process, but as Diana Johnstone pointed out, the Serbian parliament will have to ratify all these changes, and that is not yet in the hands of the opposition; these elections are primarily for federal offices, including the presidency. There is, in any case, nothing secret about the lists of "war criminals" maintained by the NATO-crats, with Milosevic at the top: yet Kostunica has always denied the legitimacy of the War Crimes Tribunal, which he (and virtually all Serbs) consider a "political instrument." As for the election of Kostunica signaling "open season on Serbs" what universe are these people living in? Here we get into the realm of loony-tunes and I wonder why they left out the bit about the child-abusing religious sects and the drug lords.
One comic footnote to all this is that the New York Times [September 20, 2000] mistook the statement of the above-mentioned Slobodan Milosevic Fan Club (SFMC) for propaganda written by Milosevic's own scribblers. Steve Erlanger, in a page 3 piece in Wednesday's Times, wrote: "Just today, in the state-run newspaper Politika, a long article used public information from the United States including Congressional testimony and Web site material to show that the United States is financing the opposition." He then goes on to quote the above-cited letter by Slobo's American fans as if it were the government of Yugoslavia speaking:
"'Independent,' 'nongovernmental' and 'democratic' are the standard phrases the CIA uses to describe organizations established all over the world to destroy the governments and the societies that the US government wants to colonize and control."
No doubt the authors of this letter are proud to have been mistaken for propagandists in the pay of the Yugoslavian government Politika is the voice of Slobodan Milosevic but certainly their argument (and their appeal) is an exotic one. Now, let's see if I get this straight: unless a group claims to be authoritarian, totalitarian, or otherwise undemocratic, it is automatically suspect and without a doubt in the pay of the CIA. To be nongovernmental is, likewise, to tread very close to treason, in their eyes and so only government organizations have legitimacy. In this view, "independence" is impossible: it is either Milosevic or NATO. But is it? The people of Yugoslavia don't seem to think so, not from the polls and the huge crowds greeting Kostunica everywhere: in numbers and enthusiasm, they dwarfed the invitation-only rallies where Milosevic's partisans, bussed in for the occasion, seemed to merely go through the motions.
One curious aspect of the statement of these self-nominated "antiwar leaders" is that they seem to utilize the inverse strategy taken by Milosevic, who never mentions Kostunica: all they talk about is Kostunica, and they never once mention Slobodan Milosevic, except in extensive quotations. The alleged merits of his regime are never discussed, only implied. On the other hand, they are very specific about the opposition: because some elements of the 18-party coalition have received money and other aid from the West, this is the alleged "proof" that Kostunica is a pawn of the West. Aside from being the classic guilt-by-association technique, utilized by demagogues everywhere, this childishly naïve view of events also shows no understanding of history and especially not the history of Yugoslavia. . . .
For there would be no Yugoslavia if not for the vital British aid given to Tito in his war against the anti-Communist Chetniks. It was Churchill's decision to stop supporting Mikhailovich and the anti-Communist resistance, and throw British support to Tito's partisans, that made the Communist revolution in Yugoslavia possible. It is a naive view that the signers of this bombastic letter display because it is laughable to believe that US foreign aid ever leads to its intended result. Most of the time, it has consequences that are the exact opposite of what the policy makers envisioned. In his final speech of the campaign, Kostunica ended his speech with these words:
"This is the only state the Democratic Opposition of Serbia and I can offer to you. The country not to be bordered by bloody rivers, the one in which we would never be menials or servants to anyone, be they foreign or domestic conquerors."
In this case, if US foreign aid found its way into the coffers of the Serbian opposition, which then led to the triumph of Kostunica, then the US will soon come to regret it and I can't imagine putting US tax dollars to a better use. If, for once, US aid somehow fell into the right hands however inadvertently, and with consequences unforeseen then this is the exception that proves the rule. What is clear, in the otherwise murky scene of Serbian politics, is that Kostunica is absolutely incorruptible, a man committed to defending Yugoslav sovereignty as well as the institutions of liberal democracy. He is, in short, sure to chart an independent course and, as others have pointed out, incur the wrath of Washington. The election of Kostunica will not be the end of the Serbian people's troubles it will mean only that such an end is imaginable. They deserve at least that much: the elementary right to hope.
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