The Reality Check is in the Mail
Thomas Fleming
Editor, Chronicles Magazine


What in the world has got into George Szamuely? In writing about the forthcoming Yugoslav elections, his brilliant cynicism appears to have deserted him, and in supporting Milosevic he has fallen into the trap that has been so carefully prepared by leftists who are pining for the good old days when good guys like Stalin and Tito were running their respective shows. Maybe he has been reading too much Jared Israel.

Of course the American empire is trying to control events in the Balkans, and it may even be true that the US State Department and its satellite agencies have finally given up on the New Hitler they have kept in power so long as the man we love to hate. Milosevic has served US purposes all too well, in brokering the Dayton Accords, in provoking the conflict over Kosovo, in justifying the brutal sanctions whose principal effect is to keep Milosevic and his stooges in power and luxury. Perhaps the Albrights and Gelbards have decided to bid a reluctant farewell to their best friend Slobo, but that does not mean they are embracing his opponent Vojslav Kostunica.

In fact, the State Department hates Kostunica. You can tell this both from a long series of official statements about his "extreme nationalism" and from the negative opinions expressed by the constellation of Washington think tanks that follow the State Department line. When I discussed Kostunica with several Balkans experts from the department, they were openly contemptuous: He was too anti-American, too nationalistic, and – above all – too honest. They did not think he would take their money, even if funneled through the usual sources – or would he? I had to tell them the bad news that he would not.

Yes, Zoran Djingic among others has been on the take from the Americans, and yes, in the desperate circumstances in which his country finds itself, Dr. Kostunica has welcomed Djingicís political support. Either in the Balkans or in the enlightened neighborhoods of Manhattan where George devotes himself to reading good books, this is not called treason, it is called politics.

When the usual assorted leftists and crazies attack Kostunica, they can give only minimal aid to Milosevic and his charming wife. Unfortunately, George Szamuely is perhaps the first credible American commentator to have given his support to the corrupt and repressive Milosevic regime. I donít know how often he has been to Yugoslavia in recent years, but I can tell him that what the Serbs are going through is no joke, and in making a last ditch effort to save the last Communist dictator in Europe, Mr. Milosevicís American supporters are playing the same role that the Clinton administration performed in the Winter of 96-97, when they told the hundreds of thousands of protesting Serbs that it was not time to change the regime in Yugoslavia. Come back to reality, George. Your friends need you.

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