Important Note: This article was incorrectly indexed under an old database system and indicated that the author was Jim Lobe. It has been corrected here. Our apologies.
On March 11, the former Serbian leader and president
of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic, died in his prison cell at The Hague, where
he had been on trial for four years and one month for war crimes and genocide.
The Serbian Socialist Party leader Zoran Andjelkovic responded to the news of
Milosevic's death with the following statement:
"Slobodan Milosevic, the president of the Socialist Party of Serbia
and a former president of Serbia and Yugoslavia, was murdered today at the Tribunal
in Hague. The decision of the Tribunal to disallow Milosevic's medical treatment
at the Bakunin Institute in Moscow represents a prescribed death sentence against
Milosevic. Truth and justice were on his side and this is why they have used
a strategy of gradual killing of Slobodan Milosevic. The responsibility for
his death is clearly with the Hague Tribunal."
A partisan accusation or the truth? Milosevic was known to be seriously ill.
The Russian government promised to return Milosevic to the Tribunal after treatment.
The Tribunal refused. It is easy to conclude that the case against Milosevic
had collapsed and that an embarrassed U.S. government, NATO authorities, and
Hague Tribunal decided to let him die in his cell rather than admit that his
guilt could not be proven even after a trial lasting four years and one month.
Milosevic was caught up in the post-Soviet era breakup of Yugoslavia. Nationalist
forces broke up the Yugoslav federation. During 1991-92, Croatia, Slovenia,
Macedonia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina seceded from Yugoslavia. Large Serbian minorities
in Croatia and in Bosnia objected and claimed the identical right of self-determination
to remain in the federation as Croats and Muslims claimed to leave it. Croatian
and Bosnian Serbs organized and a war against secession began.
Milosevic could hardly remain a Serbian leader and not support the Serbs. Abraham
Lincoln was canonized for invading the South to prevent its secession, but Milosevic
was damned for trying to protect Yugoslavia's territorial integrity. In the
end, Milosevic accepted secession. In 1995, Milosevic negotiated the Dayton
Agreement, which ended the war in Bosnia. According to Wikipedia,
"Milosevic was credited in the West with being one of the pillars of Balkan
In 1998, Milosevic was confronted with a more severe problem. Armed actions
by the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army, listed as a terrorist organization
by the U.S. Department of State, in the ancient Serbian province of Kosovo broke
out into warfare. Milosevic was now trying to hold on to a province not of Yugoslavia
but of Serbia itself, a province that had been colonized by ethnic Albanians.
The Serbian population in Kosovo was outnumbered nine to one and suffered greatly
at the hands of the KLA.
Milosevic, already damaged by the wars of secession that destroyed Yugoslavia,
lost the media campaign waged by public relations firms hired by contending
factions that spun the news that Americans received. Milosevic was demonized,
and the Clinton administration had Serbia bombed by NATO forces for 78 days
in the spring of 1999. Many Serbian civilians were killed by the air strikes,
which hit passenger trains and destroyed the Chinese embassy. In effect, the
U.S. interfered in Serbian affairs in behalf of the secession, with the result
that Kosovo has been essentially ethnically cleansed of Serbs. Kosovo is apparently
still considered to be a part of Serbia, but it is administered by the United
Nations. Somehow, this has been presented as a great moral victory for humanity.
If the massive propaganda campaign against Milosevic had many facts behind
it, he long ago would have been convicted at The Hague. What was the episode
In my opinion, it was to establish the precedent, later to be employed in the
Middle East, that the U.S. government could demonize a head of state geographically
distant from any legitimate "sphere of influence" and use military
force to remove him. This is precisely the fate of Saddam Hussein, and the Bush
regime still hopes to repeat the strategy in Iran and Syria.
The unanswered question is, why does the "international community"
go along with it? The numerous civilians killed by U.S. interventions are just
as dead as the ones killed by heads of state attempting to hold on to their
countries. Why are the latter deaths war crimes but not the former?
As a presidential candidate, George W. Bush criticized President Clinton's
intervention in Serbia and disavowed the international policeman role for the
U.S. But as soon as Bush got in office, he plotted to invade Iraq. Why?
Americans should be very concerned that Bush still has not come clean about
why he invaded Iraq. Americans should be disturbed that despite the disastrous
results in Iraq, Bush still intends "regime change" in Iran and Syria.