Milosevic’s Seizure Unveils Hidden Agendas
Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic arrived in a Belgrade
jail Sunday, accused by Serbian authorities of corruption,
embezzling state funds, and abuse of power. He surrendered
peacefully to the militia besieging his home for nearly two
days this past weekend, despite having reportedly threatened
to kill himself, and the presence of about twenty armed
supporters willing to defend him from government assault.
arrest was anything but ordinary. Friday afternoon, regular
police cleared away the demonstrators who had gathered at
the news that a convoy full of armed men had arrived at the
gate of the former president’s home. Indeed, several hundred
heavily armed, masked men in black or mismatched uniforms
did appear, many wearing balaclavas or pantyhose on their
heads as disguise. An agency
report revealed in passing that the force was commanded
by Mihajlo Ulemek "Legija," a former Special Forces
officer loyal since October 5, 2000 to Zoran
Djindjic. Back then, the Daily Telegraph spoke
of Ulemek’s alliance with Djindjic – not yet Prime Minister
– as a disturbing sign that Djindjic was creating a private
an unpleasant exchange between the militia and the Army unit
guarding the residence, the Army withdrew. An announcement
around 10 PM Friday that Milosevic had been arrested and taken
to the central prison in a convoy of cars distracted the populace.
With the Army and the demonstrators gone and most of Milosevic’s
security disbanded, Ulemek’s men were ready to make
their move. Shortly before three in the morning, they
the residence – and failed. Milosevic’s remaining guards
greeted them with bullets. A 24-hour-plus siege
followed, ending only when Milosevic decided to surrender
early Sunday morning, April 1.
arrest was hailed by the US,
and Yugoslavia s neighbors
and separatist groups as a vindication
of their policies and practices, while the ICTY immediately
demanded Milosevic s extradition and embarked on adding
new charges to his war crimes indictment. There was hardly
cause for such celebration; President Kostunica flat-out refused
extradition, and Milosevic is to be tried on charges that
have nothing to do with his alleged war crimes.
Nevertheless, the triumphant
escalation of Western rhetoric bore numerous indications that
the policy goals of the US and its satellites aimed far beyond
the fate of Milosevic as an individual.
news of arrest streamed in, some commentators suggested Milosevic
indeed commit suicide and save the Serbs from further
pressure. Others claimed he was never really contemplating
suicide, and that Milosevic’s death would
only serve US interests by removing a significant obstacle.
matter of Milosevic's guilt or innocence on charges in Yugoslavia
and the ICTY is less important at this moment than the fact
that he is being used as a weapon, both by the usual suspects
– the US and NATO – as well as a faction of the current government,
eager to increase its power and influence. Aside from showing
a readiness to bow
to US demands, Milosevic’s arrest strengthened the position
of Prime Minister Djindjic and his supporters at the expense
of President Kostunica.
THE PRIME MINISTER’S MEN
that Zoran Djindjic and his supporters in the government were
behind the arrest are legion. First, Djindjic had just returned
from a trip to the US, eager to make
a deal with the Bush administration not to block financial
aid to Yugoslavia after March 31. That was the deadline in
the appropriations law passed by Congressional hardliners
last fall, which mandated a cutoff of US aid and efforts to
block all other aid to Yugoslavia unless Milosevic was arrested
and extradited to the ICTY.
evening Ulemek’s masked men tried to enter Milosevic’s courtyard,
Djindjic claimed he knew nothing about any arrest, and that
he was at home, watching "Gladiator" with his son.
Yet just three days earlier, he told
Reuters that Milosevic’s arrest was only a matter of time,
after seven former government officials had been arrested
on corruption charges. President Kostunica, however, was
in the dark, as he was giving a speech in Geneva at the
time and had to rush home after receiving the news.
Korac, one of Djindjic’s most vocal allies in the government,
claimed he knew about the arrest beforehand. He also gave
to the press afterwards, describing the events inside
Milosevic’s home as if he witnessed them and calling the former
president suicidal. Cedomir Jovanovic, who was inside the
residence and managed
to persuade Milosevic to give up, confirmed at a press-conference
Tuesday that Milosevic contemplated suicide. While acknowledging
that Milosevic surrendered because he did not want bloodshed,
Jovanovic also criticized the Army (loyal to Kostunica) for
stopping Ulemek’s people from initially assaulting the house.
Incidentally, he is a high-ranking member of Djindjic’s Democratic
President Kostunica finally green-lighted
the arrest on Saturday, he reportedly made this decision only
after a long meeting with Djindjic and his associates. Friday
night’s botched assault and the ensuing firefight forced
his hand. After such an event, backing off would be a
major PR defeat for the government.
ability to sidestep Kostunica and extort his support is a
profoundly disturbing trend. If the Serbian Prime Minister
and his followers can effectively do whatever they want while
the Yugoslav President is confined to criticizing or supporting
their actions after
the fact, Kostunica is in real danger of becoming Gorbachev
to Djindjic’s Yeltsin.
Tuesday, Croatia’s government daily Vjesnik heralded
death, claiming that Djindjic is in tune with US policy
goals in the Balkans and willing
to submit to them completely, while Kostunica’s patriotism
is passé and has become a liability. According to Vjesnik,
Djindjic would prosper as long as he fulfills Western demands
– which, incidentally, include the further weakening and dismemberment
paid for Milosevic’s arrest with a relatively paltry
sum, the US is intent on assailing Serbia further. America’s
Balkans policy is about
much more than Milosevic. Over the past ten years, Western
politicians and media tended to pursue "Slobophobia"
– a notion that Milosevic was a single culprit, and the Serbian
people were merely deluded by his powers of manipulation.
But another idea has been present all along – Serbophobia
– the notion that the Serbs as
a whole were guilty of events in the Balkans over the
past decade, and that Milosevic merely personified the entire
nation. Serbophobia was used to complement Slobophobia when
the latter, alone, was not enough. But it was always used
sparingly in order to avoid the deserving accusations of racism.
Milosevic's arrest, that distinction disappeared. With him
in prison even only for corruption Imperial
propagandists began attacking the Serbs as a people. Demands
on the Yugoslav authorities are likely to continue
extradite Milosevic to The Hague, arrest and extradite
other indicted Serbs, and so on. When US Ambassador Montgomery
delivered the list of Washington's demands to Belgrade in
early March, it openly stated that Washington considered Djindjic's
government much more likely to comply with the ever-multiplying
conditions for aid and support.
has already announced it would be indicting Milosevic soon
for alleged crimes in Croatia
and Bosnia, eager to saddle Milosevic with the responsibility
for those wars as well. In line with that, agencies have already
excitedly that Milosevic admitted supporting the Bosnian
Serbs with money he was accused of embezzling, as if this
were a well-guarded secret.