Bolsheviks in Belgrade

Empire’s cheerleaders gleefully reported last week that the Bosnian Serb Republic has been eviscerated by the Imperial Viceroy, a move aimed at "bringing the disobedient entity to heel." In yet another move towards the misguided centralization of Bosnia, the Republic lost control of its military and intelligence services, as punishment for allegedly repairing Iraqi aircraft engines and "spying" on its NATO occupiers. Bosnian viceroys have "interpreted" the Dayton peace agreement rather loosely in the past, but Paddy Ashdown’s actions flat-out violate the agreement he has a duty to uphold.

It says volumes about the current state of the Balkans, then, when Ashdown’s outrageous abuses go virtually unnoticed next to the ongoing purges in Serbia.

Democratic Terror

By last Friday, over 7000 people had been detained for questioning, with some 2000-plus remaining imprisoned. Even though Dusan Spasojevic, the mob boss allegedly behind the Djindjic assassination, was killed by the police, and the man accused of actually shooting the Prime Minister "confessed" to the deed, and the government announced that the actual killing was "solved," the purges continue.

Only the naïve could believe that the government’s goal was simply to catch and punish the Prime Minister’s killers. Their true aim was to sweep Serbia with an "iron broom," and remove all the troublesome elements – in the best tradition of totalitarian police states. The purge even has a name, Operation Saber (Sr. sablja), aimed to threaten, not reassure.

And what a purge it is: judges, military and police officials, lawyers, even some politicians, all have been targeted in the past three weeks, and the hunt is about to get even bigger. Of course, the government claims it is only going after "criminals." But their definition of "criminal" is whoever they arrest!

Allegations of criminal conduct by certain individuals may not be too hard to substantiate. Some of those arrested have a reputation for belonging to organized crime, and no doubt much of that reputation is well-deserved. And it is a fact that Serbia is plagued by violent criminals as much as the rest of the Balkans, perhaps even more because of the decade-long blockade and war devastation. Unable to strike at their Imperial tormentors, and mistakenly believing the government is there to protect them, the people of Serbia have embraced the purges as a way to vent their impotent rage.

That their elementary rights of life, liberty and property are in danger is on no one’s mind. That the government didn’t have such sweeping powers in the worst days of Milosevic’s "dictatorship" is hotly rejected, but true. This is "democracy," after all. If one is to believe the government and the media – who are even more "embedded" than American reporters in Iraq – there is universal support for the government’s actions. But that argument is meaningless. The majority can be, and often is, wrong.

Despite the support and even cheering from the Empire, the mass detentions and complete isolation of suspects has even the stalwart imperialist Human Rights Watch crying foul, indicating that Washington would really prefer if Belgrade was just a bit more discreet about this.

The Belgrade Jacobins have other plans.

‘A Vast Conspiracy’

Already on April 2, the German-owned daily "Blic" published an official communiqué of the Serbian police accusing the opposition parties of complicity with the assassination. As the accusation did not get enough attention, it was repeated this Tuesday.

"Serbian Government Discovers Clan Plot to Overthrow Authorities," screamed the headline in Glas Javnosti. According to the government, the Djindjic assassination was a coup attempt by the allies of Slobodan Milosevic, enemies of the Hague Inquisition, anti-democratic forces, nationalists, and "political parties dissatisfied with the division of power and the influence of DOS" [the ruling coalition]. In other words, it was a massive conspiracy that not only killed the Prime Minister, but threatened the entire State!

Heaven forbid anyone suggests that Djindjic was killed because of his mafia connections. The government says this was a lie the conspirators intended to peddle, so as to justify their takeover of power. So, was the New York TimesSteven Erlanger one of the conspirators, then?

Even Dragoljub Milanovic, former manager of the state television convicted of failing to anticipate NATO’s bombing (in a travesty of justice, as the actual culprit was out of reach) was linked to the conspiracy.

The entire thing reads so much like a plot of a cheap spy novel, Tom Clancy should be worried.

Self-Serving Fabrications

If the government’s Official Truth sounds like something written up to secure popular support, that’s probably because it is.  There is definitely a hint of Bolshevik bluster in the government’s conspiracy theory. One can almost hear expressions such as "counter-revolution," "enemies of the People" and "threats to Democracy." Plus, it is written in the style of socialist propaganda still rooted in Serbian officialdom.

As a theory, it makes little or no sense. Milosevic’s supporters are few, scattered, bitterly divided by factional struggle and largely lacking of any serious political program or philosophy (much like the government itself). How could they have possibly hoped to seize power? With what? Milosevic abandoned his position of strength when he ceded power to Kostunica in October 2000. Why would he try to reclaim it by force, two years later, from an Inquisition jail cell – a position of weakness if ever there was one?

Then, the people allegedly in charge of executing the "conspiracy" were the same people who helped Djindjic seize power in October 2000 and arrest Milosevic in April 2001.  There’s plenty of circumstantial evidence linking Djindjic and his henchmen with underworld figures. It is far more likely that Djindjic had a falling-out with his mobster pals, who then had him whacked. That the government specifically insists that this is a lie the conspirators would tell indicates it hits too close for their comfort.

Actually, there are plenty of allegations in the government’s story that sound just like what the government itself is doing right now: chaos, state of emergency, heavily armed police on the streets, repression… By accusing its enemies, it avoids accusations itself.

Clearly, the "great Slobist conspiracy" is a deliberate attempt at misdirection, a self-serving fabrication on par with the Inquisition’s indictment of Milosevic.

Just as the indictment seeks to blame Milosevic for everything that happened in the western Balkans in the 1990s, thus absolving the Empire and the Designated Victims of any and all responsibility, "Operation Saber" seeks to blame Milosevic for everything that has gone wrong with Serbia since DOS took over, thus absolving the DOS of any responsibility. Besides, isn’t it odd that opponents of the Hague Inquisition were specifically fingered as conspirators? Or that the government immediately pledged to change extradition laws and arrest more "indictees" on behalf of the Inquisition?

Purging Kostunica?

Another self-serving aspect of the conspiracy theory is that, by accusing anyone even slightly opposed to the government of being part of the conspiracy, the government creates a pretext for purging them and establishing unchallenged rule. Why else would they try to implicate Vojislav Kostunica, of all people?

Yes, this quiet professor who believed in limited government so much that he stood by while Djindjic ran roughshod over every law in Serbia, is really a cunning Enemy of the People, says the government. His advisors allegedly met with the suspected assassins a day or so before Djindjic was killed.

Fact is, Kostunica’s DSS is the only party that demonstrates any kind of honesty. They do have an appalling lack of political skills and anything resembling a coherent program, and they are centrists in a situation that tolerates only extreme positions, but they are also the only clear alternative to the ramshackle DOS coalition. Most parties in the current government are no more than vessels for their leaders’ political ambitions. Even Djindjic did not dare call an election, knowing his popularity ran in single digits. His flunkies would be even worse off. Kostunica’s DSS is a real threat, much more than the hyped-up "remnants of the Milosevic regime," and for that it has to be eliminated.

One Land, One People, One (Dead) Leader

But the very last straw is the recently approved draft law allowing the confiscation of property associated with organized crime. Can there be any clearer proof of government greed?

It’s a scapegoating process, pure and simple. And the people approve because they are conditioned to obey, because after all the suffering they’ve been through, they crave a resolution the purges promise to bring and need a black-and-white reality they could trust. Humiliated, violated, robbed, befuddled and brainwashed, the Serbs have been maneuvered into demanding tyranny, and DOS is more than happy to oblige. The only thing lacking is the Fuehrer figure. Then again, the "martyred" Djindjic is better suited for that role than anyone alive. Being dead, he is immune to criticism.

The globalist intellectuals are beaming. They challenge insignificant details of government actions – to create an illusion of credibility and independence – but applaud its essence. Turns out, their incessant calls for "de-Nazification" were Orwellian in nature, calling in fact for its exact opposite.

The Choice

A month ago, Djindjic’s tragic and regrettable death presented Serbia with a fateful choice: reject a totalitarian legacy of the XX century and move away from a repressive, managerial State as a model for its future – or reject liberty and wallow in the muck of collectivist single-mindedness, lapsing back into the comfortable noose of tyrannical statism.

Driven mad by the wars, sanctions, poverty and cognitive dissonance of propaganda, the people have most definitely chosen the latter. To be honest, most were never aware they were making a choice at all, and the government did everything to ensure its favored outcome. But the choice was made, and now there will be consequences, in the form of all the evils that tyranny and statism usually produce.

There will be more poverty, more violence, more madness, more propaganda, more theft, more lies, more decay and more death. They will be spun, justified, blamed on others, denied or ignored, but they will be real nonetheless. And they will persist, until the people realize the reality of their choice, and the need to change their minds. But once they do, there will be Hell to pay.

Author: Nebojsa Malic

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. 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 debuted in November 2000.