Summer of Discontent

Nebojsa Malic is traveling and we have had trouble receiving his column via cyberspace. We hope to have his next column soon.

William Shakespeare’s Richard III opens with the memorable lines of earl Gloucester (later the eponymous king), “Now is the winter of our discontent/Made glorious summer by this sun of York;/ And all the clouds that lowered upon our house/In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.”

But in the Balkans, there is no “sun of York,” only the winters and summers of rising discontent with the untenable situation created as much by the Empire as by the local warlords. Macedonians have already demonstrated their displeasure with the proposed “decentralization” of their country. In Bosnia, Serbs and Muslims argue over names and symbols. In Serbia, angry workers and miners block roads and demand welfare, not knowing they would be the ones to pay for it. Kosovo Serbs are reluctant to vote for the occupation government, even though some Belgrade officials tell them otherwise. Meanwhile, Croatia prepares to observe the anniversary of the mass exodus of Serbs in 1995. And the shadow of the Hague Inquisition still looms over the region.

Names and Places

The Dayton Peace Agreement of November 1995 may have ended the war in Bosnia, but it certainly did not prevent its continuation by political means. The past nine years have seen repeated efforts of the Bosnian Muslims, as well as the international viceroys, to centralize the country – as well as Bosnian Serb and Croat attempts to resist them, with varying success.

Now the battle has moved to the courts, as the Muslims sued to have the “offensive” names of towns changed. Names such as Serb Sarajevo, Serb Brod or Serb Gorazde, or anything with the ethnic adjective “Serb,” were recently ruled illegal. In response, Serbs changed the names only slightly: Sarajevo of the Serb Republic, Gorazde of the Serb Republic, etc. Since the ultimate goal of the lawsuit was to abolish the name of the Serb Republic (RS) itself, Muslim politicians are feeling plenty frustrated. According to local media, some Serb leaders are planning a countersuit, disputing the legality of the names “Bosniak” (claimed by Muslims) and “Bosnian language” as discriminatory and misleading. They are also seeking the removal of ethnic Muslim RS officials who refuse to honor the RS flag.

Note that these suits and countersuits don’t have any effect but to reduce the freedom of all people living in Bosnia, as Serbs and Muslims – with Croats expected to join in eventually – engage in legislating each other’s lives, driven by pettiness and spite. There is no way these people can live in a common state without harboring at least an elementary respect for one another. That respect is utterly lacking, and hatred reigns instead. How that can make for a peaceful Bosnia, let alone prosperous, is anybody’s guess.

Withholding Consent

After participating in two different elections for the quisling government in Kosovo, the occupied province’s Serbs may finally come to their senses and boycott the upcoming parliamentary vote. The top Serb cleric in Kosovo, Bishop Artemije, said Monday that taking part in the elections would be a disaster. However, another official argued for participation, asking for a clear signal from Belgrade. The Bishop has lived in Kosovo throughout the turmoil of the past six years, and has often risked life and limb to try and further the cause of peace; his initial cooperation with NATO occupiers has turned into bitterness at their utter disregard of justice and unwillingness to confront Albanian terrorists. It has long been obvious that voting for the provisional government only gives legitimacy to the occupation. Now the Bishop has come out and said it openly.

Meanwhile, no clarity is forthcoming from Belgrade. If the Kostunica-Tadic regime takes a stand at all, it would probably be in favor of the elections, as a way of appeasing the Empire. They have already signaled their readiness to accept the 1999 NATO aggression as legitimate, by hinting at dropping Serbia-Montenegro’s lawsuit against the Alliance.

The situation in Kosovo is even more intractable than in Bosnia. Albanians won’t accept anything but independence, and Serbs know that such an outcome would guarantee their disappearance, which is already underway. Empire’s experiment in “exporting democracy” has clearly failed, though that may not be so clear to deluded media types.

Thus an UPI editor recently ventured an analysis of Kosovo, which noted that Albanians are ready to start a war if their demands are not met: “If they refuse to grant us independence, then war will break out again,” he quoted Albanian journalist Fatos Bytyci. But he also wrote that “Kosovo was part of Tito’s communist Yugoslavia, where ethnic Albanians had little if any say in the running of the province,” which is as close to an absolute lie as anything gets.

Such utter lack of understanding, combined with the ongoing occupation, suggests that another pogrom such as the one in March is almost inevitable. This time at least, the Serbs will know what to expect from Kosovo’s supposed “protectors”: nothing.

Days of Gratitude

In August 1995, the US-trained Croatian army launched a lightning offensive against the Serb-inhabited regions that refused to recognize Zagreb’s authority since 1991. Within days, the Serb Republic of Krajina was destroyed, its inhabitants forced into exile or killed. Caravans of tractors and trailers streamed towards Bosnia and Serbia. The largest UN “protected area,” the one for which the UN mission was initially deployed in the Balkans, was attacked without provocation, and the UN did not lift a finger. It was the largest single exodus in the Yugoslav wars up to that point, yet the US refused to acknowledge it as “ethnic cleansing.” Presumably, that applied only to situations when the displaced were not Serbs.

In the years following “Operation Storm,” few Serbs returned to their burned-out or expropriated homes. Many who decided to risk returning to a country that hated them encountered deterrents ranging from red tape to war crimes charges.

The day Croatian forces seized the Serb capital of Knin was designated by the late president Tudjman as the “Day of Homeland Gratitude.” This is the same Tudjman who once told his supporters he was grateful to God his wife was neither Serb nor Jewish.

News from The Hague

The Inquisition has been laying its cards on the table in the past few weeks. First the Prosecution admitted it had agents and spies on the ground, tracking suspects. This sort of endeavor is of dubious legality, but that hasn’t stopped the Inquisition before.

Surprisingly, though, the Tribunal freed three men over the past week. Former Serbian security officials Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic were provisionally released last Wednesday. They remain indicted for war crimes, and are supposed to go on trial, but the Inquisition trusts them to return voluntarily. Such an act has prompted speculation that Serbia has shown readiness to fully submit to ICTY’s demands. Serbian politicians continue to intimidate their public with statements about possible international sanctions if the “international community” is not appeased, even though pro-Empire sources such as IWPR concede that “There are no signs that the international community is using the threat of economic sanctions in the event on Serbian non-compliance.”

Meanwhile, the ICTY appeals chamber acquitted Bosnian Croat General Tihomir Blaskic of most charges, setting him free after over eight years in captivity. He was originally sentenced to 45 years for supposed command responsibility for atrocities committed by Croat forces in central Bosnia. The ruling angered Bosnian Muslims, as well as the Inquisition’s supporters, who fear this might jeopardize other cases based on “command responsibility.” Croatians, on the other hand, welcomed Blaskic as a hero.

Finally, the long-expected beginning of Slobodan Milosevic’s defense case is still delayed, as the ICTY deliberates whether to impose a lawyer on the accused Serbian president, or – highly unlikely – abort the trial. Some other notions in play are changing the rules and separating the indictments, something Carla Del Ponte is loath to do, as the joint indictment fits perfectly into her vision of a “joint criminal enterprise to create Greater Serbia.” In a motion submitted last Wednesday, Prosecution claimed that “Milosevic has tried to ‘hijack’ his war crimes trial by turning it into a political forum rather than focusing on legal points.” Given the ICTY’s dubious legitimacy and an extremely cavalier relationship with the law, one might ask why Milosevic should care about the law, especially when it’s being twisted to railroad him. That he managed to “hijack” a show trial, prepared by a team of well-paid lawyers armed with thousands of pages of “evidence” that proves precisely nothing, is a rather embarrassing admission by the Inquisitors, and perhaps not quite what they had in mind. But it’s out there now, nonetheless.

The summer of discontent continues.

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.