As a Serb from Belgrade who, like many of my compatriots, suffered heavily from the tyranny of Milosevic’s criminal regime, I find Nebojsa Malic’s comments on this site deeply insulting and outrageously misleading. For example, the way Malic regularly describes the events on Oct. 5, 2000, and the democratic changes that followed can only be regarded as malicious.
I have no idea of where Malic was while the people of Serbia were desperately trying to put an end to the authoritarian self-rule that cost thousands of lives and led to economic and social destruction of Serbia, Bosnia, and Croatia, since 1991. I do know, however, that together with every single one of my friends and relatives, I was a part of that “mob” that clashed with Milosevic’s police for the sake of democracy on Oct. 5, as well as on a number of other occasions earlier. The burning of the Parliament and the central TV station, the public institutions that became the symbols of the regime’s propaganda and breaking of law, were sad events, but these buildings were also the only victims of the justified popular rage. Had not the police used them to shoot at the “mob,” they would have stayed intact. I would also like to point out that not a single member of Milosevic’s regime and their families was either injured or killed by the demonstrators.
I understand the need for open debate on the issues of American hegemony and diplomatic arrogance, misuse of military power, and abuse of human rights. I fully support the critics of the hypocrisy and false justifications of imperialistic interests, like in the case of Iraq. However, lauding Milosevic will not help. He definitely was not the only factor of the Yugoslav crisis and war, but was among those most responsible. The U.S. wronged the Serbs by treating them unequally to Croats, Bosnian Muslims, and Albanians, whose crimes were often downplayed. But presenting Milosevic as a victim is too much. One can only be sorry that Milosevic died before he was sentenced for his crimes, in the Hague or in Belgrade.
Nebojsa Malic replies:
Mr. Vasic, of course, has the right to disagree with my observation, but at least he should get it straight first. I never called Milosevic a victim. Milosevic never considered himself a victim. Even the Serbian people, accused often maliciously of nurturing a “victim complex,” don’t actually put their suffering at the hands of Croats, Muslims, Albanians, NATO, or the UN blockade as the center-point of their political thought. The only people in Serbia who practice modern victim politics (“I suffered, therefore I’m entitled to X”) are those who invoke Milosevic as their tormentor and ignore everyone else. A sure sign of victim politics in action is calling a position one disagrees with “offensive.”
Back in 2000, I cheered the October Revolution and that is something I now profoundly regret. If Mr. Vasic takes a long, hard look at what the the past five years of “democracy” have done to his country and his people, he ought to regret it as well.
Great summary of Milosovic’s political career. There is one point that was not sufficiently emphasized. Namely the most rabid nationalists advocating the dissolution of Yugoslavia were the expatriate Croatians living in Canada and the U.S. It should be emphasized that the big immigration of Croatians into the U.S. were the Nazi collaborators after W.W.II fleeing what would have been harsh justice. The West hailed them for their strong anti-communism. So during the period of the Cold War, these former fascists became Croatian nationalists. These people played a very active role in the demonization of Serbia and the breakup of Yugoslavia in two very important ways.
First, they became quite wealthy (certainly compared to those Croats who remained behind), and they supported the most virulently nationalistic candidates in provincial elections prior to the breakup. Thus the neo-fascist Tudjman and his cronies won.
Second, in the U.S. they lobbied the U.S. government to support their effort. Thus began the campaign in the U.S. to demonize the Serbs. There was no comparable effort by the Serbians. The anti-Milosovic and anti-Serb propaganda began in PR firms with expatriate Croat funding. In the world of the American mass media, there was silence on behalf of the Serbians. They didn’t have a chance, and it was only a matter of time before the unanswered charges would eventually inflame public opinion to the point where the warmongers would get their way.
Vindicating Milosevic: at what cost?
I’d be curious to know how many in Denmark, or all of Europe for that matter (including the Balkans even) have made the long trip to Moscow for superior medical care? Logic argues that Milosevic’s life ended exactly how he planned it would, and not due to the ineptitude of Dutch doctors.
I can understand the inherent and irreconcilable hypocrisy within the ICTY, and the irresponsible propaganda regarding the Balkans in the ’90s, which persists even today. But can you really regard such as adequate grounds to redeem Milosevic as some sort of freedom fighter, nobly striving to let the world know “the truth”? I’d expect better from you.
Apparently, your hatred of empire trumps even the most rudimentary recognition of reality that there are indeed victims of Milosevic; among them, tragically, are the Serbs themselves. The perpetuation of such “vindication myths” only serves to perpetuate Milosevic’s brutal legacy of lies and hypocrisy.
Nebojsa Malic replies:
Far be it from me to “vindicate” any head of an omnipotent government; as an anarcho-libertarian, that’s hardly compatible with my political philosophy. I do, however, maintain that Milosevic was wrongfully accused before a quasi-institution whose very existence is a crime against law international, national, and natural alike.
I never called Milosevic a “freedom fighter.” You did. I said he defied the Empire bravely. He did. I said he defended not only himself, but Serbia and its people, from charges of genocide, aggression, and racist fanaticism. He didn’t have to but he did. And as a result, he died a free man.
There are many in the Balkans and in the world whose hearts are so filled with hatred of this man, whether for good reason or because they’ve been repeatedly told that was the right and proper state of mind, that they spit venom at anyone who dares suggest Slobodan Milosevic was not the devil incarnate. I hope God heals their hearts, for I cannot; hatred is an awful thing to nurture. I do not believe he was the devil, nor that the Serbs are demons. Milosevic was a flawed human being, who made many mistakes and being as he held power, some of those mistakes caused death and suffering. But blaming all the ills of the 1990s on him is pure scapegoating, which prevents people who do so from examining their own actions and perpetuates the legacy of self-righteous victimhood that will inevitably fuel new conflict.
The last scenario is the one I would count on. Bush needs his opinion polls to skyrocket. If there was an attack that killed hundreds of people or, God forbid, thousands, the public would freak: total paranoia. Bush needs a good old-fashioned false flag operation, one he could say he, with the help of his great Homeland Security boys, stopped in the nick of time. The sheeple who are already scared to death and ready to run for cover under their beds with the powder milk and tuna will believe Bush and company have saved them from a fate worse than death. Their opinion will change overnight. Months later comes more trumped-up fear, bird flu, quarantine, and marshal law. They will be under the thumb of a dictatorship that’s convinced them it has only their welfare in mind, and what’s worse they will love the blanket of false protection they find themselves under. If Bush succeeds with this brainwashing, we are totally screwed.
Paul Craig Roberts replies:
The vast majority of the readers from whom I hear who read my columns posted on numerous Web sites have the firm opinion that President Bush knew that the reasons he gave for attacking Iraq were false. They believe that Bush had an agenda, which he hid behind false accusations against Iraq. They believe that he is now doing the same thing with regard to Iran.
Among this large group of disbelievers, there is a sharp difference of opinion. Some believe the government’s explanation of the 9/11 attacks and others do not.
Those who accept the government’s explanation believe that Bush has neglected the al-Qaeda perpetrators in order to pursue other agendas. Those who do not accept the government’s explanation of 9/11 believe either that the U.S. government had various degrees of knowledge about the impending attacks but decided to let the attacks proceed in order to gain the “new Pearl Harbor” that the administration’s neoconservative policymakers desired in order to implement their Middle East agenda, or that the administration itself or some rogue “black ops” group is responsible for the attack.
I agree with skeptics that there are many errors and omissions in the 9/11 Committee Report. Whether these errors and omissions reflect incompetence or a cover-up, I do not know.
I support open and honest debate. I am suspicious when I am expected to accept revealed truth from the government without debate. I believe readers, such as Kathy Fisher, deserve the opportunity to convince the rest of us and to be convinced by others of a different explanation. The problem with not debating is that if the worst suspicions are true but stifled, the deceit can be repeated.
Since the days of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Americans have been programmed to trust the government and the police and to look to government for protection. They are an easy target for government to deceive. Americans seem to believe that truth and justice prevail with no effort or participation on their part.
With persistent allegations that Israeli operatives closely shadowed the 9/11 terrorists for months prior to the fateful day, and reports from Fox and Antiwar.com of the gang of Israelis agents who positioned themselves with a “grandstand” view of the Twin Towers just prior to the crashes and who celebrated wildly as they fell, I have long had a nagging suspicion that “deep cover” Israeli and perhaps U.S. operatives had a hand in 9/11. At a minimum, they knew what was coming and did nothing. At the most arcane and extreme, double-agents helped plan the whole thing and bin Laden was a useful stooge.
What were the short-term consequences? Israel now had the commitment of the world’s only military superpower to wage war on its enemies. The U.S. had its pretext to plant its colossus feet firmly in oil-rich Middle East soil. I do not read a lot of novels of international intrigue, so my suspicions are not fueled by junk fiction. I do, however, read a fair amount of history enough to realize that the truly naive are those who reject the notion of conspiracies hatched by “our guys.” The 20th century alone is riddled with conspiracies the maneuvers by supposedly neutral, peace-loving U.S. administrations to involve us in both world wars, Johnson’s Tonkin Gulf, Reagan’s double-dealing with the Iranians, Bush I’s awareness of Saddam’s intentions toward Kuwait and looking the other way, Clinton’s lies about Serbia to justify bombing, and on and on.
With knowledge of this sorry record, who could be blamed for believing that so-called democratic Western governments are fully capable of sacrificing a comparative “handful” of their own citizens in order to realize vastly larger strategic aims? These world actors know that they have the perfect cover the complete inability of the willfully ignorant citizenry to imagine that their governments could commit such crimes.
Paul Craig Roberts replies:
Brian Schuck makes a very solid point. Governments get away with crimes because the people believe the government. I still remember how shocked I was as a young man doing Russian studies to read historians’ reports that the czarist secret police would set off bombs in order to have an excuse to arrest people.
A “mistake”? Tell that to Halliburton and KBR. They have made billions on this “mistake”! How can this be considered a mistake when all of the pre-attack intelligence ran counter to what the government was saying? This attack on Iraq was no more a “mistake” than a child making a “mistake” putting his hand in the cookie jar.
All wars generate vast profits for the war-related industries and “justify” war powers for war leaders. It was no “mistake” for Bush to allow the invasion of Iraq, but a clearly defined strategy to destroy a nation and steal its wealth. Anyone who still calls the attack a mistake is only covering up a deeper responsibility and guilt the Bush administration knew full well what it was doing when it attacked Iraq, and it surely wasn’t to help the Iraqi people!
Paul Craig Roberts replies:
I disagree that the Bush regime ever knows what it is doing. The hubris and delusion are extreme. Bush did not know what he was doing when he attacked Iraq. He has been defeated by the resistance. Even cheerleader William F. Buckley, Jr., has admitted the U.S. defeat.
Either you don’t go to church or rarely talk with Christians about their beliefs. The article borders on ridiculous. Try engaging a Christian in what he or she believes. You will never hear such talk as “I want millions of unbelievers to die,” except from some possible loons. If such loons have Bush’s ear, well, you have done nothing to demonstrate this, except for some really suspect references.
There are some Christians who do look forward to Christ’s second coming, but not because of the death and destruction that is supposed to follow. They expect the coming to be the beginning of a new era, one without sin and the effects it has on this world. Nobody wants others to die and suffer. If that is their stupidity, well so be it.
Jon Utley replies:
Thank you for your comments on article. Backtalk published quite a few others after the article first came out and several readers raised a point that you do. I think it comes from a fast read and not looking at the links and backup information I provide. I also go to great lengths to explain that this is not all Christians or all fundamentalists. Gary North, one of the last links, is a very profound Christian, and he was the one who first blew the whistle on some of the extremists. It was from his article that I first learned about their beliefs. Admittedly, also, like most Americans, war is something one experiences in their living rooms watching TV, and fantasies of the end of the world are expressed in warm, communal churches on Sunday mornings. The article refers to some 20 million, still a small percentage of total American Christians. So what was Tom DeLay’s motive or Sen. Inhofe’s? They are real believers in these issues, and their motives in trying to undermine peace in the Middle East are very sincere. I’m sorry for your comments, but if you have time, please look at other readers’ comments in Backtalk.
Jeremy Scahill’s independence is such a rare find in this age of corporate media. Although I commend many of my fellow Leftists for exposing on a fairly regular basis the war crimes committed by the Bush administration, I am glad that there are still reporters honest enough, like Jeremy Scahill, to expose the war crimes of Bush’s Democratic predecessor as well.
I attended the 2nd session of the Bush War Crimes Tribunal at Columbia University, and one of the most stirring speeches was delivered by Jeremy Scahill, who bravely proclaimed that he was skeptical about speaking at a commission that deliberately chose to narrow its focus on the war crimes committed only by the Bush administration. On the topic of attacking journalists in war zones, he noted, “the Clinton administration began the practice, but the Bush administration perfected it.”
It’s high time that liberals, progressives, and other Leftists heed the wake up call that our salvation is not going to be found in some Democratic Party which is really the lesser of two evils. We need to stop glossing over the war crimes and other horrors that administrations which were supposedly “on our side” have committed. Only then will we cease to be not only hypocrites, but also be able to speak out with clarity against the war crimes of the Bush administration and those most likely to come from successive administrations.
This article is instructive, and as Serbians bury Milosevic this weekend, I hope that this information reaches as wide an audience as possible. It would be a shame to all the thousands lost if the truth of these horrors, which our government visited upon a sovereign nation, is to die with Milosevic.
First, Mr. Reese, I want to thank you for this and other articles I’ve read over the past few years; they’ve been enlightening to me, and to others I’ve forwarded them to.
I am an Eastern Orthodox Christian, and, given that background, something jumped out at me in this most recent column. You pose the question, “When is a nation justified in making the decision to kill other people and destroy their property?” Yet the bulk of the article suggests that this question isn’t properly phrased. May I suggest as an alternative, “When is it necessary for a nation to make the decision to kill other people and destroy their property?”
Our national heritage, based on Western Christian ideals, would indeed suggest that the “just war” is the positive norm. But this concept is somewhat unique to that heritage. In the Eastern Christian branch, there is no “just war.” No “good war.” There is only “necessary war.” Fr. Stanley Harakas has an excellent article about this: “No Just War in the Fathers.” He concludes:
“The East did not seek to answer questions concerning the correct conditions for entering war and the correct conduct of war on the basis of the possibility of a ‘just war,’ precisely because it did not hold to such a view. Its view of war, unlike that of the West, was that it is a necessary evil. The peace ideal continued to remain normative, and no theoretical efforts were made to make conduct of war into a positive norm. In short, no case can be made for the existence of an Orthodox just-war theory.”
Our government has argued that Iraq, Kosovo, and so many other wars in the past 100 years are “just.” While we’d disagree, it’s nonetheless an argument that can be given. On the other hand, it’s impossible to argue that these wars are truly necessary. As happens so often, we can argue about the answer to a wrong question, rather than ask the right question in the first place. This question is so deeply rooted in our society, we don’t even realize that it’s put us into a box that we’d be better off “thinking outside of.”
Justin rightly indicts the Democrats of the humanitarian intervention tendency for their hypocrisy in the matter of Slobodan Milosevic. The tendency was not, however, universal among left-wingers or Democrats. I stand as proof of that. I began supporting Antiwar.com with dollars, daily attention, and repetition at the time of the NATO intervention. I believe that Justin cuts the Republicans of the Clinton era too much slack in describing them as bitter opponents of the war on Serbia. Opponents they were, but Republicans have embraced war or have been repelled by it according to the politics of the war-maker. In the case of Serbia, it was Clinton. In the case of Iraq, it was Bush. Switch the names of the presidents and the adherents of the two parties would instantly change their opinions of the war being fought.
In a report today (3/18) on ABC News online summing up the dearth of insurgents turned up by the American/Iraqi “big push” around Samarra this week, this chilling little tidbit emerged:
“A spokesman for the US military, Lieutenant Colonel Craig Collier, says it has been difficult to differentiate between insurgents and the local community: ‘Often we’re given tips by our local Iraqis who point out that some of their neighbours or some of the people who just moved into the area are bad guys and we go detain them.'”
Or maybe, in fingering the “bad guys,” the helpful Iraqis are settling old scores, clearing up access to coveted homesteads or goatherds, or just making trouble. Since knowledge of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo leaves little doubt as to just how dire are the consequences of being branded an American enemy combatant, we would hope the evidence against these unfortunates is a bit more substantial than Col. Collier indicates.
~ Curt Morgan