December 18, 2003

Mr. Clark Goes To The Hague
Show Trials and Politics
by Nebojsa Malic

After much fanfare, generated by the unprecedented censorship agreement between Washington and the Hague Inquisition, wannabe Emperor Wesley Clark appeared before the "court" early this week to testify against Slobodan Milosevic.

It is not yet known what Clark actually said, since Washington demanded – and the ICTY agreed – that the testimony would be censored, to "protect against inadvertent disclosure of sensitive US government information," according to a US embassy spokeswoman. It is similarly unknown whether official Washington does not trust Clark enough, or if this is merely another precedent to establish further Imperial control over its quasi-judicial tool.

Inquisitors were no doubt hoping Clark could somehow demonstrate that Milosevic knew about alleged atrocities in Kosovo and Bosnia. But even if the former general was able to cite a specific statement of Milosevic's indicating such a thing – which is highly unlikely, as no one else has so far – the fact remains that Clark commanded a military force that committed a clear-cut act of aggression against Milosevic's country. Therefore, he has every reason to lie – i.e. accuse Milosevic of war crimes – in order to justify his own illicit deeds.

Most incongruous, perhaps, is that Milosevic faces charges of "command responsibility," which the Inquisitors have consistently failed to prove, while Clark was clearly the commander of NATO forces that committed both crimes against peace and war crimes during their attack – yet Clark gets to testify for the prosecution, not face criminal charges himself. The Inquisition has already dismissed the very possibility.

Pettiness and Petulance

As the officially approved version of Clark's testimony ought to appear on Friday, there is no sense in speculating what he may or may not have said. Clark's own comments at the press conference on Tuesday suggest it was an ego trip of little relevance.

It is a fact of life at The Hague that while the accused are denied contact with the media, the accusers get all the press time in the world. Showing a propensity for grandstanding akin to a certain carrier landing, Clark addressed the press in front of the Tribunal's compound, using the occasion to solicit political points for his presidential campaign and bad-mouth Milosevic.

Speaking to the press, Clark described Milosevic as "argumentative and stubborn" (AP, AFP) and even "petulant" (AFP, BBC). He also implied Milosevic had foreknowledge of alleged atrocities, and expressed pleasure he could testify against "the man I believe was responsible for so much of the slaughter and victims in the Balkans."

Believe? So what!? Plenty of people believe one thing or another. Does Clark actually know anything – aside from his own role in Balkans bloodshed, that is? Probably not, but no one bothered to ask. Just as no one remarked that it was rather petty of Clark to disparage someone who is prevented from answering the insults.

Arguments from Authority

Most likely, Clark said nothing of actual value; his presence alone was the purpose, playing on the old-fashioned logical fallacy of appeal to authority: a number of important, influential, powerful and significant people testified against Milosevic, and they ought to be right because of who they are.

This is nonsense, of course, even if the Inquisition did not apply even this fallacy selectively, promoting as truthful only those who spoke in its favor. But that did not stop the AFP to elaborate precisely along those lines: Clark was just the latest in a series of prominent Milosevic detractors, including Croatian president Mesic, Slovenian president Kucan, former Yugoslav Prime Minister Markovic, and Milosevic's predecessor Lilic. Only, Lilic did not really speak against Milosevic, while the others have a vested interest in blaming the deposed Serbian leader for Yugoslavia's collapse in order to cover up their own roles in it. Much like Clark, really.

(In)coherent Wes

At first it appears odd that few reports cite Clark in complete sentences. The Guardian, perhaps inadvertently, reveals why. Here's what their reporter heard:

"For the people of the region it's a very important experience. It's the rule of law. It's closure with a man who caused the deaths, or is alleged to have caused the deaths, of hundreds of thousands throughout Europe."

Does this not sound like George W. Bush? Sentences make little sense ("It's the rule of law." What?) and lack spatial coherence ("throughout Europe," as if the wars had not been confined to a specific portion of the Balkans). All of a sudden, another reason for US government censorship comes to mind: is it someone's interest to prevent Wesley Clark from sounding like a complete idiot? If so, they aren't doing very well…

'Shadow Lawyers'

Another curiosity is the amount of effort invested in Clark's testimony, given its unlikelihood of producing any important evidence. It might be the prosecutors are getting desperate, having failed for two years now to produce any evidence to the existence of their "joint criminal enterprise," let alone any alleged role of Milosevic in it. Millions of dollars at their disposal, hundreds of clerks, investigators, troops and diplomats, intelligence officials and Imperial-sponsored NGOs have managed to produce nothing but repeated allegations, suborned perjury and blatantly forged history.

So the reason for their failure becomes a "team of shadow lawyers" in Serbia, helping Milosevic (AP), though such a "defense team" has ever been just a figment of Imperial imagination. Even if Milosevic has helpers in Serbia and elsewhere, their resources pale in comparison to those of the Inquisition.


What they lose in the courtroom, even a sham one they dominate, the Inquisitors make up in the court of public opinion. Reporters who cover the Tribunal shamelessly shill for the prosecution, and refers to defendants with derision at best. Not that they are ever called "defendants" – most of the time, they are "indictees" (an unrecognized neologism), or even "indicted war criminals" (presuming guilt).

Even the choice of "experts" and "observers" reveals the reporters' allegiance. Most of the time, such entities remain nameless, in an effort to imply a great number of people in agreement on the matter. In truth, they are only a handful of professional pimps for the Tribunal, such as Richard Dicker of Human Rights Watch, or Judith Armatta of the pompously named "Coalition for International Justice," two of the fiercest partisans of the ICTY and its prosecutors, even to the point of helping with "evidence."

Tribunal reporters routinely distort testimonies, trumpeting the most outrageous allegations without noting that they were subsequently dismissed in cross-examinations. No retractions are ever offered, of course. Fallacies have entirely replaced any semblance of clear judgment.

This situation is by no means limited to reporting from the Tribunal. Reports from Kosovo, Serbia and Bosnia are always garnished with obligatory comments from professional victims, paid pundits or "observers" such as the International Crisis Group, or the Humanitarian Law Center. That is, when their specific opinions are attributed, as opposed to being presented as the prevalent popular will.

What motivates these people? Some of them are certainly "activists," seeking to forward their own agendas or those of their superiors. Others might be driven by fear, mindful of the example of Chris Stephen, a dedicated pro-Tribunal reporter sacked after telling the truth just once. But whatever it is, their conduct is inexcusable.

Deja Saddam?

Finally, it is worth noting that Clark hinted the ICTY should be used as an example for putting Saddam Hussein on trial. He may be right; as kangaroo courts and show trials go, it truly has no equal.

Even so, Milosevic has embarrassed the Inquisition every step of the way for the past two years, and shows no signs of giving up. If Hussein is put on trial, even in a more obvious kangaroo court environment, and displays but a part of Milosevic's wit, the Empire can look forward to some serious embarrassment. Given all that, it really is a wonder Hussein was not "shot while attempting to escape."

– Nebojsa Malic

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Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo, and contributed to the Independent. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia and Serbian politics. His exclusive column for appears every Thursday.


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