Behind the Headlines
by Justin Raimondo

October 2, 2000


In spite of the grimness of the joke, I had to laugh when I got the press release from the "election observers" invited by the Yugoslav government to give the good government seal of approval to Slobodan Milosevic's recent exercise in ballot box stuffing. While parliamentarians and others from the West were largely excluded, a coalition of Communist and other leftist parties and "independents" from Argentina, Armenia, Belgium, Bolivia, Canada, Chad, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, El Salvador, Germany, India, Ireland, Jordan, Kenya, Laos, Moldavia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Palestine, Portugal, and Slovenia eagerly accepted the invitation to take a holiday in Belgrade, all expenses paid. The regime put them up at Belgrade's Inter-continental Hotel, where they emitted a veritable electronic storm of emails, all comparing the Yugoslav elections favorably with the Western variety. One of the invitees was Marjaleena Repo, a Canadian "social justice activist," whose rationalization of the biggest vote-stealing stunt since Eisenhower robbed Taft of the GOP presidential nomination in 1956 gives us an insight into the authoritarian mind. Never mind shaving a full ten points off the voter turnout, and who cares about all those Albanian Kosovars who mysteriously cast votes for their hero, Slobo, what about all those election posters Marjaleena saw in the streets of Belgrade?

"One of us (Marjaleena Repo) has paid particular attention to election posters as she has been involved in the long-standing and not-yet-finished fight for the right to poster in Canada – and she can report that posters are everywhere in the street scene, accompanied by graffiti and the defacing of each others posters even-steven fashion, it seems. She has seen posterers at work in downtown Belgrade with posters urging women to vote, while postering on top of other election messages! She had a chance to discuss this contradiction with five English-speaking Yugoslavian youth with their buckets and sponges. Unlike in Canadian cities, the posters appear not to be scraped down by city workers but live to suffer the indignities from competeing political parties. In addition, there are huge billboards advertising the three major presidential candidates all around the cityscape. All in all, the appearance of democracy in action."


Appearances mean a lot to these people, since their grip on reality is tenuous, at best. With government propaganda blaring over the state-owned media 24 hours a day, and the whole electoral process rigged against the Opposition, what alternative was there but postering? Duh-uh! In her missive, Marjaleena complains that she can't deface private property with her imprecations against the capitalist system, but seems to spy a "contradiction" in a group of young people impolitely postering over other posters. Although she doesn't say it, you can bet that those five English-speaking Yugoslavian youth she met up with in the streets of Belgrade were Oppositionists, plastering Kostunica's visage over that of jowly old Slobo. Poor Marjaleena was shocked – shocked! How dare they diss the Great Leader! Ah, but never mind: this was truly a heartwarming scene indicative of "democracy in action." In Marjaleena's book, China, too, has some pretty cool "elections" – why, to listen to her, they're just as "democratic" as Yugoslavia's, if not more so. And what, I ask you, could possibly beat that . . . ?


I love getting stuff like this because it seems so . . . eccentric. I mean, what could possibly motivate someone living in the West to write of "China's so-called human rights violations"? What could give Ms. Repo the unself-conscious gall to stand there and lecture the young rebels of Yugoslavia about their "contradictions" as they cover up the hated visage of their country's Richard Nixon? She's lucky she got out of there in one piece. But just how eccentric are the Marjaleena Repos of this world? I really began to wonder when I read further in her missive that " the so far single American observer is an active senior participant in the Gore presidential campaign." Say what? I wrote Marjaleena, and asked her what's up. Here is her answer:

"He was a Greek-American by the name of George Spirou, and damn if I know where he is from. I understand that he has been a politician himself. He spoke to me very highly about the policies of the Democratic Party – with the the exception of its foreign policy vis a vis the Balkans in general andYugoslavia in particular. He rolled his eyes when I asked him if he has had or will have any influence on changing this policy..."


Verrrrrrrrry interesting, and, yes, Marjaleena has his first name wrong, but she's right about one thing: Spirou has been a been a politician himself. As a past chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, widely given credit for knocking Bill Bradley for a loop in his state's pivotal primary, Spirou is a top Democratic party consultant and has played a key role in the Gore campaign. Benjamin Works, of the Strategic Issues Research Institute, who correctly identifies him as Chris Spirou, is of the opinion that "Mr. Spirou is the only American Democrat known to be friendly to the Belgrade government, though that is not a crime, as yet." Well, uh, no, it's not a crime in the legal sense, but playing along with Milosevic's game of electoral sleight-of-hand sure doesn't earn you a badge of honor, either, now does it? One expected to see the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) of Nepal show up to one of these propaganda extravaganzas – but the Democratic Party of New Hampshire?


As a political consultant, Spirou's talents have been utilized not only by the Gore campaign, but also by the Socialist Party of Greece, whose 1993 candidate, Andreas Papandreou, faced the incumbent conservative Premier Constantine Mitsotakis. In this overseas battle of the American political consultants, Spirou found himself up against Paul Begala, James Carville, and Mary Matalin, who had hired themselves out to Mitsoakis, But quantity is not quality in the world of political consulting, and Spirou carried the day, moving on to effectively destroy the Bradley campaign in New Hampshire. Spirou gets around: he was a participant in the Dayton talks as a Bosnian representative, along with another US citizen, Muhammed Sacirbey, who, with the blessing of the State Department, also served as foreign minister of Bosnia. Spirou's role at Dayton was a curious one. According to an item in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, he served as "the only non-Serb member of the 10-person Serbian delegation," and boasted to journalists that he had "worked closely" with Milosevic. "Our joint commitment is to bring peace to the Balkans." Another item in the New York Times [18 November 1995] describes Spirou as "a man who introduces himself as a 'close friend' of President Slobodan Milosevic." Sounds like Spirou and Slobo are best buddies. . . .


I wonder what kind of a tete-a-tete, if any, the two of them had in Belgrade. Did they reminisce about the good old days, did Spirou console his old friend over his loss in the first round – or perhaps offer his services as a consultant for round two? It doesn't look like Slobo is going to need much help, with the Opposition – egged on by Albright, Clinton, and Blair – stupidly boycotting the second round. But you never know – and a job's a job. Hey, this is a guy who, at the height of the impeachment proceedings against Clinton, declared that Democrats "owed it to Clinton to signal their support to the nation." Why couldn't this work for Slobo? That a major apologist for Bill Clinton could wind up performing the same service for his "close friend" Slobodan Milosevic is not all that surprising. What is surprising is that the GOP hit squad seems to be out of commission. A major Gore operative exposed as a shill for Milosevic's Soviet-style "election" – how could they have missed this one?


Okay, now let's have some fun: It is just possible that Spirou's role as a co-observer alongside Marjaleena Repo and the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) of Nepal was a back-channel mission. Was Spirou an emissary sent to make a deal with the stubborn dictator? We can only speculate, but perhaps Spirou was the bearer of a personal message from the President, opportunist to opportunist, so to speak – a Russian dacha and safety for his nutty wife and widely-hated children in return for a quick exit. Or perhaps Spirou offered another sort of deal altogether: one that would not only keep him in Serbia, but perhaps even in office – even if it isn't in the largely ceremonial office of President.


One possible scenario that I have not seen mentioned anywhere is that Milosevic could concede Kostunica's victory without really losing power. The parliamentary elections, thanks to the abstention by the majority of the Montenegrins, gave a working majority to the Socialist-Left coalition. The key factor here is the Montenegrin chapter of Milosevic's Socialist Party (SNP), which is now distancing itself from Slobo in the wake of his looming defeat. If they don't break to the Opposition, then Slobo can run for Prime Minister, a much more powerful position: or he can wait, and run for President of Serbia, a post he has held before. In any case, with Kostunica determined not to hand him over to the Hague "Tribunal," Slobo is safe as long the US doesn't invade – an unlikely event in the case of a Kostunica presidency, at least in the immediate future.


This solution would satisfy practically everyone. Slobo would be happy, since this scenario would enable him to rise like the phoenix from the ashes of defeat. It would also serve the purposes of the NATO-crats, since they could take credit for Kostunica's victory and still have Milosevic as a target (and a prize) in a highly personalized conflict. The crisis, far from abating, would only increase, as would the prospect of civil war – the tripwire for US/NATO intervention.


But, again, this is just speculation. What is certain is that, even as I write, Russian envoys are meeting with Milosevic to arrange some kind of immunity and refuge. But the role of the US – what is it? With Russia and the US increasingly at loggerheads in the Balkans, you can bet they aren't reading from the same script. Now that Vladimir Putin has tilted decisively in the direction of Kostunica, what counter-measures are the Americans taking? Maybe someone should ask Chris Spirou. . .

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