Tuesday, February 12, the International Criminal Tribunal
for the former Yugoslavia (as the Hague Inquisition is officially
known) began hearing the case IT-02-54, charging Slobodan
Milosevic with 66 counts of most abhorrent crimes including
mass murder, crimes against humanity and genocide. Milosevic
stands accused of planning, organizing and conducting the
wars in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo over the past
ten years, as part of a "joint criminal enterprise" to create
something called "Greater Serbia," a nation supposedly made
up only of ethnic Serbs.
media have billed the process a milestone event in international
justice, a reckoning for all the victims of Yugoslav wars,
and the triumph of Western will to stop violence in the name
of human rights.
course, it is nothing of the sort.
it is about is rewriting history. As George Orwell pointed
out, "Who controls the past, controls the future: who
controls the present controls the past." (1984)
By trying, sentencing and imprisoning Milosevic, forces behind
the Hague Inquisition can effectively redefine what happened
over the past decade in the Balkans in a light most favorable
to their actions and involvement. Having already assumed the
roles of the Jury (as creators of the world's public opinion)
and the Executioner (as bombers and occupiers of lands anywhere
in the world), they now wish to be the Judge and complete
mainstream media do not even bother to hide their gloating.
Independent proclaims the trial could usher a "New
World Order." For Time,
it is all about shaping world opinion, which is punctuated
by claiming Milosevic is actually worse than Osama Bin Laden.
revels in the "faultless" proceedings by Carla Del
Ponte and considers the trial a veritable paragon of international
justice. The New York Times
is skeptical not of the trial and the ICTY, but of the current
regime's reluctance to commit to a permanent, world war crimes
court. CNN's Christiane Amanpour has the look of pure enjoyment
as she narrates the twisted "history"
of Milosevic's role in the past decade, most of which comes
from her own imagination.
with a deluge of wire and agency reports, all have two things
in common: they all assume
Milosevic's guilt, often by omitting "alleged" or
"claimed" before listing the prosecution's accusations;
and they all draw a parallel with
the Nuremberg trials of the chief Nazis after World War
Two, with the clear implication that Milosevic belongs in
the same category as Hitler's henchmen.
to that the official histories taught in NATO countries, the
Muslim-Croat part of Bosnia, Croatia, and the NATO-occupied,
Albanian-dominated Kosovo, blaming Milosevic exclusively for
all the ills in the breakup of Yugoslavia; add the countless
pictures of suffering refugees, burnt villages, exploding
bombs and dying children, all attributed to Milosevic; add
the desire of the people in Serbia to believe in Milosevic's
guilt as a way to account for their own suffering and avoid
collective guilt for crimes alleged so many times that people
simply assume they must be true. It goes to show that history
has already been rewritten de facto (in fact). Now
it has to be done de jure (by law), so it can become
official. After all, even Hitler and Stalin staged trials
for their victims, early on in their rule. It would not do
for the world's new masters to appear less, uh, proper than
the two towering dictators of the 20th century.
widespread assumption of guilt has largely neutralized the
greatest problem of the Hague Inquisition: it has no
basis for existence whatsoever. The UN charter does not
allow for its formation. It has as much legitimacy as a raging
lynch mob, no matter how well-funded, well-dressed and well-spoken
it seems. This is fact, real and indisputable, no less truthful
just because Milosevic has mentioned it in his own defense.
if the ICTY had legitimacy, it is by its nature unjust. An
ad hoc "tribunal," it was created to "bring to justice"
those responsible for crimes in the Balkans. So obviously,
there have to have been some serious crimes, and someone had
to be responsible for them. And the US officials that sponsored
the ICTY's creation were pretty unequivocal about who
they regarded as the sole culprit.
it is institutionally biased
against the defendants. They are not even called "defendants",
but "indictees" – a word any dictionary
will confirm does not exist! They are supposed to prove their
innocence without the benefit of a jury or access to the media,
facing a panel of judges whose very legitimacy depends on
finding them guilty, and who are paid from the same source
as the prosecutors. The spokespersons for the prosecution
and for the "tribunal" speak with the same voice so often,
they are indistinguishable.
just one infamous instance, during
the first trial before the Inquisition, it was revealed that
one of the prosecution's key witnesses was lying because he
had been tortured. The "Tribunal" then returned the witness
to his torturers, where he remains imprisoned even today.
The discovery had no impact on the trial. In fact, when the
defendant appealed the sentence, several new accusations were
added to his docket and his sentence was actually lengthened.
Franz Kafka could not have described it better.
IS, IS NOT; WHAT IS NOT, IS
a world that obviously makes no logical sense whatsoever,
what is one to make of the fact that in 1998, one of the top
US diplomats in the Balkans described the Albanian separatist
"army" (KLA/UCK) as "clearly a terrorist organization," especially
in the light of the current "War on Terror"? Essentially,
fighting US-backed terrorists is a war crime, but killing
thousands of civilians while fighting anti-US terrorists is
is one to make of Richard
Holbrooke's account of Milosevic's behavior at the Dayton
"negotiations" in 1995? Holbrooke does not hide his distaste
for the Serbs, and his self-serving memoir (To End A War)
is a remarkable study in Imperial arrogance, filled with descriptions
of Holbrooke's immoral, illegal and downright despicable actions,
from coordinating the ethnic cleansing of Serbs and orchestrating
a NATO military intervention, to actually trying to cheat
Milosevic at the negotiating table. Only three years later,
Holbrooke was the one to set Milosevic up for another bombing
over Kosovo. Yet for all that, his descriptions of Dayton
make Milosevic appear downright saintly in comparison to Holbrooke
himself, and other Balkans leaders.
read the part when Milosevic stepped in with a major concession
– at the expense of the people he was forced by Holbrooke
to represent (look that up, too) – to Muslim leader Izetbegovic's
last-minute demand designed to wreck the talks. This not only
saved the talks, but also saved Holbrooke and President Clinton
from a major embarrassment by Izetbegovic. Ironically, major
US media credited Izetbegovic
for the talks' success.
like these, however, don't get in the way of a good story,
such as one that has been spun by the Inquisition's prosecutors
for the past two days.
JUDGES AND THE JUDGED
no one who has been through the Wars of Yugoslav Succession
(1991-95) or the Kosovo war (1998-99) can deny that combatants
in those wars did some unspeakable things. Crimes did happen,
only to be hijacked by propaganda and psychological warfare,
whether by the Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian media, or the
infinitely more powerful and influential CNN and its cohorts
in the West.
there to be any peace in what was once Yugoslavia, those who
committed atrocities must be held responsible by both their
victims and the nations on whose behalf they fought. That
is not what is happening at The Hague right now. Instead,
that responsibility is being projected on Milosevic as the
individual, and the Serbian nation as the collective, scapegoat.
real issues behind the conflict between former "brothers"
in Yugoslavia will not be addressed, and will sink into the
dark reaches of collective memory to haunt the children and
grandchildren of today's temporarily placated generation.
Just as the crimes of World War Two in the Balkans were covered
up, twisted and manipulated, only to re-emerge in the 1990s
and manifest themselves again in their most brutal form.
a doubt, those who committed crimes must be punished. Yet
the Empire and its servants have no right to sit in judgment
of anyone in the Balkans, save by the very force of arms with
which they committed atrocities far greater than anything
Milosevic is accused of. How many Serbs live in Croatia today?
Kosovo? Muslim- and Croat-controlled parts of Bosnia? How
can the bombers of Belgrade judge the bombers of Sarajevo?
And that is just the Balkans; the rest of the planet offers
countless examples of Empire's spotless credentials to be
the world's voice of moral conscience.
ask Dresden, or Hiroshima.