Argument of Force
Under Martial Law
weeks ago, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic was shot
and killed by a sniper bullet. His successors immediately
declared a "state of emergency" – in effect, martial
law – of undetermined duration, and launched a massive police
operation to crack down on alleged crime syndicates suspected
of Djindjic's murder. Djindjic was given a full
state funeral and numerous eulogies in the Western press,
before news of His Most Democratic Majesty's invasion of Iraq
pushed Serbia out of the limelight.
forces, confident after terror-bombing Serbia into submission
in 1999, fought against unexpectedly stiff Iraqi resistance,
Djindjic's successors reaffirmed Serbia's vassal status by
Iraqi diplomats. Meanwhile, at home, they reveled in power
over their citizens even the Emperor would envy.
the leadership of Djindjic's party comrade Zoran Zivkovic,
who was appointed
Prime Minister on March 17, the new government launched
a "war on organized crime."
uncanny speed, they blamed Djindjic's death on the "Zemun
clan," allegedly a crime syndicate based near Belgrade.
Suddenly, the police that could not solve any capital murder
cases in the past two years knew everything, and everyone
responsible. On March 18, the government said it had arrested
750 people. Two days later, the number rose to over 1000,
and by the 23rd, stood at 2700!
By March 17, Belgrade prisons were full, and the arrested
had to be sent elsewhere.
is certainly ridden with organized crime, as are all post-Communist
countries, there are valid concerns that the government crackdown
is not really aimed at destroying the mafia altogether. For
example, though the little-known 'Zemun clan' is a target,
the much better-known 'Surcin clan,' whose boss let Djindjic
travel in his private jets, has not been mentioned at all.
One of the
alleged 'Zemun clan' kingpins, known as "Legija,"
used to command a Special Operations Unit of the Interior
Ministry. Djindjic enlisted Legija's help in 2000 to seize
power, and in 2001 to seize Milosevic. There are indications
he was about
to deliver Legija's head to the Hague Inquisition, just
before he was killed.
facts need mention as well. Zivkovic was minister of police
in the Yugoslav government until it was dissolved last month.
Djindjic was killed on his watch – yet he got promoted! Dusan
Mihajlovic, Serbia's minister of police (and thus even more
responsible than Zivkovic) remained in his post. Legija's
former unit, the "Red Berets," has been directly
subordinated to Mihajlovic since early 2002. (It was disbanded
two days ago, just as some pro-Imperial elements advised.)
There are numerous
indications that the state of emergency and the 'war on crime'
are actually aimed at the government's political opponents
and dissenters in general. "War is the health of the
Bourne famously said. State-launched 'wars' on social
problems serve that purpose just as well.
The Purges Begin
to the emergency, the police do not need search or arrest
warrants, but simply to barge into houses and offices of suspects.
Property of the suspects can be confiscated or destroyed,
as was the case with an office
building owned by the alleged leader of the "Zemun
clan." Under emergency powers, suspects can be held for
30 days without charges. And since Serbia kept the Communist
system of criminal justice, all suspects are pretty much presumed
guilty until proven innocent.
murder has been blamed on "remnants
of the Milosevic regime", both by the Serbian government
and the Imperial press. It is hard to say exactly who claimed
it first, though the accusations seemed to appear in American
papers sooner than in official Serbian statements. It wouldn't
be the first time that Serbia takes its cue from the Empire.
As early as March 16, a friend of Djindjic's wrote a commentary
for the Washington Post, openly blaming Slobodan Milosevic
for the hit.
Zivkovic also blamed "politically affiliate groups,"
and pledged he would "clean Serbia with an iron
broom." A prominent member of the Djindjic regime
opined that the PM's tragic death could be used as an "inspiration"
to make Serbia into a democracy.
so, Serbia's leaders have a mighty odd definition of "democracy."
Does it mean censorship? Yes. Emergency powers provided for
a full media
crackdown, limiting the news to official statements only.
This supposedly extends only to the causes of the emergency,
but since the government interprets what does and what does
not apply, in practice this means censorship of everything.
Several publications and TV stations have already been banned.
A Serbian government consultant, posing as an independent
journalist, tried to excuse
the censorship by claiming that 'those targeted are mainly
low-quality tabloids, notorious for their unverified reports,
invasions of privacy and reliance on rumour and even lies.'
But that describes most of the media in the Balkans! Besides,
any persecution first targets the unpopular, so by the time
it gets around to others, they have no way to resist.
week, the government purged
the judiciary, creating the opportunity to 'pack' the
courts with its supporters. Nenad Canak, a lunatic fringe
politician who figures prominently in the DOS coalition, advocated
a ban on certain political parties. There was even a hint
of 'culture wars' as the authorities arrested
Ceca Raznatovic, neo-folk singer and widow of militia leader
Arkan. Allegedly connected to the 'Zemun clan,' Raznatovic
and her music are considered a "vulgar celebration of
Serbia's criminal class," as Time magazine famously
put it last
summer. Also, head of the military counter-intelligence
was recently sacked by the pro-Djindjic government of the
Serbia-Montenegro union, suggesting that a purge
in the military is going on as well.
alleged hitman himself was arrested
on Monday, but the police haven't said how they "know"
he was the shooter. In today's Serbia, their word cannot be
the people in Serbia in general have been conditioned to,
if not trust, then at least obey the government unconditionally,
many see the state of emergency for what it is: a naked power
grab, using Djindjic's body as the proverbial 'bloody shirt'.
Empire is certainly treating Djindjic like "a martyr
to the cause of a liberal, democratic Serbia" (Tod Lindberg,
The Washington Times). In the weeks following his
demise, The Toronto Star called him 'a
true patriot,' London's noxious IWPR lamented
Serbia's interrupted road to "full Euro-Atlantic integration,"
and the New York Times editorialized
that though the Empire was absolutely right in all its demands,
and Djindjic did right by obeying them, he should have received
more support to deal with the opposition.
A rare voice
of dissent came from Neil
Clark in the London Guardian, who called Djindjic
"The quisling of Belgrade." Said Clark, "When
a man has sold his country's assets, its ex-president and
his main political rivals, what else is there to sell? Only
the country itself."
Erlanger of the New York Times noted, in a March
16 piece, that Djindjic had links with the criminal syndicates
that supposedly killed him, even as he again claimed Djindjic
was hated for obeying the fully justified Western demands.
a loathsome purveyor of transnational statism, deemed the
martial law as an "opportunity"
to rid Serbia of organized crime, with a perfunctory caution
that it could lead to a dictatorship. The government crackdown
was also supported unequivocally by the enthusiastically Imperial
ICG. The Christian Science Monitor quoted
ICG's Belgrade bureau chief, James Lyon, as saying, "If
they can keep this up for another two weeks, I am optimistic
that Djindjic's death will be seen as the spark that gave
Serbia a democratic future."
over the possibility that the future Serbia won't be as obedient
and pliant as Djindjic made it, and demanded of the Empire
not to relax any of its pressure on Belgrade. The people of
Serbia, of course, knew nothing of it. Under the emergency
powers, mention of this report would result in a ban.
brutal murder created two opportunities. The one the government
seized was to use it as an excuse for repression and purges,
trying to both increase its already near-absolute authority
and effect a sort of 'cultural revolution,' that would remake
the Serbian people by force. Listening to the fiery braying
of organizations on Empire's payroll who would love nothing
more than to "de-Nazify" a society that has sacrificed
millions to fight Nazism, one is reminded of Bertold Brecht's
famous quip that the government ought to "elect a new
People," since the current people have proven a disappointment.
This new Serbia
is a 'democracy' as much as the current Imperial invasion
aims to 'liberate' Iraq. Last week on Antiwar.com, M. N. Tankosich
described it as a "police state." And the habitually
Trifkovic of Chronicles opined that, "Djindjic's
successors are using the state of emergency as a blunt but
effective tool of crushing dissent in the media and silencing
all forms of political opposition to their own, increasingly
other opportunity was for the beleaguered Serbians to realize
the folly of autocratic government, abandon the cult of personality
and reject the quasi-scientific political forms imposed on
them by the Empire and their own pliant intellectual class.
Instead, they could have created a responsible Republic, or
even a restored constitutional monarchy, in a Hoppean
To quote Mr.
one of Serbia's unfortunately rare libertarians, "Serbia
was more… prosperous and free 100 years ago under Peter I
(her first constitutional monarch) than she is now."
And the post-Djindjic Serbia, "will have to learn to
live without authoritarian PMs and Presidents, and today she
has the chance to move forward."
This is the
chance the government and the Empire are doing everything
in their power to destroy. They must not be allowed to succeed.
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