An End to Surrender

On Tuesday, the government in Serbia announced the arrest of Goran Hadzic, the last name on the Hague Inquisition’s wanted list. Reactions to the arrest echoed those following the capture of Gen. Ratko Mladic in June — officials of the EU and the Empire expressed pleasure, but also told Serbia that even this won’t be enough to get into their good graces.

While this was yet another opportunity for the mainstream media to hammer home the message that the Serbs were the principal villains of the 1990s Wars of Yugoslav Succession, it hardly measured up to the outpouring of Serbophobia following the Mladic arrest seven weeks ago. Perhaps it was a tall order to whip up another frenzy so soon, or perhaps it was due to the fact that Hadzic is a rather nondescript figure, whose importance for the Inquisition is largely symbolic.

Completing the Set

Hadzic was charged in 2004, as part of the ICTY strategy to accuse the entire Serb political, military and police leadership in the former Yugoslavia of a grand conspiracy to create "Greater Serbia". By its authors’ own admission, the doctrine of "joint criminal enterprise" was developed specifically for the purpose of prosecuting Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic.

Where does Hadzic fit into the picture? Allegedly a Milosevic man, he became president of the Krajina Serb Republic — established in 1991 as a response to Croatia’s secession from Yugoslavia — in early 1992, after its first leader, Milan Babic, opposed the Vance Plan (PDF) and sought union with Serbia instead.

Yes, you’ve read it correctly: Hadzic is accused of being part of a conspiracy to create a "Greater Serbia" because he replaced a leader who actually wanted Krajina to join Serbia, a proposal Milosevic rejected.

Then again, the ICTY isn’t known for paying attention to such pesky things as facts. The historical narrative it seeks to impose demands that all Serb leaders must have been a part of the conspiracy. So they charged Hadzic in order to complete the set, nothing more.

Trained Seals

Another function of the Hadzic indictment was that it gave Brussels and Washington leverage over Belgrade. For years, "lack of cooperation" with the ICTY was used to justify economic and political sanctions against Serbia, even after the 2000 coup that brought a pro-Imperial coalition to power. After the sanctions were lifted, the "Hague fugitives" became a way for Brussels to justify rejecting Serbia from attempts to join the EU, and demand ever more concessions from Belgrade. 

For years, Brussels has presented hoops for Serbia (and other Balkans aspirants) to jump through. Like a trained seal, the regime of president Boris Tadic has dutifully done so. Yet instead of a fish treat, it would always be "rewarded" with yet another hoop. All Belgrade ever got from the EU was the visa-free travel arrangement — and that has been endangered by a flood of asylum-seekers from Kosovo, not at all squeamish to use their Serbian passports even as they support that occupied province’s claim to independence. The Stabilization and Association Agreement, signed in May 2008 as a cheap electoral trick, was immediately suspended and has remained cryogenic ever since.

Regardless of what else it did to please Brussels and Washington — from confessing to an alleged genocide to forcing a Pride Parade on the capital — Serbia was told its "lack of cooperation" with the Inquisition was the principal obstacle on its EU path. Now that the Tadic regime has arrested and extradited everyone on the Inquisition’s little list, Brussels has simply come up with new demands.

Out of Promises

While common sense would suggest that constantly abusing someone will eventually backfire, neither Brussels nor Washington actually have any incentive to start treating Serbia differently. After all, every single demand of theirs has been met. Tadic’s government has gone beyond sycophancy, and into outright masochism: not only does he do everything they ask, he does it with a song in his heart. More importantly, the Empire has ensured that no political option in Serbia could threaten its dominance. A coalition engineered three years ago between Tadic’s Democrats and the Socialists (once led by Milosevic) broke the opposition led by former PM Vojislav Kostunica, while the defection of Tomislav Nikolic left the once-strong Radical Party a largely empty shell. Nikolic’s new party, the Progressives, claim to oppose Tadic — but their opposition amounts to promised they would serve Washington and Brussels even better!

President of Serbia since the summer of 2004, Tadic was re-elected in January 2008 by promising "both Kosovo and the EU". He has since surrendered Kosovo, failed to deliver the EU, and in general broke every single campaign promise he made. He cannot even bludgeon the country with claims that arresting and extraditing ICTY suspects is an "international obligation" — one satirical paper, Serbia’s answer to The Onion, has already quipped that the government just ran out of its primary export.

Yet the Empire doesn’t seem the least bit worried about the possibility that its favorite puppet might lose power come next year’s election. Why?

Illusion of Control

Part of the answer might be that Imperial officials have mistaken the map for the territory. Tadic’s regime controls all the classical levers of power. They control all three branches of government, including a "reformed" judiciary. The military is commanded by generals loyal to the regime, and the defense minister is a deputy chairman of Tadic’s party. Ivica Dacic, head of the Socialists and Tadic’s partner in the coalition, controls the police — who have repeatedly demonstrated their loyalty by breaking up anti-government protests. TV and print media are also taking orders from the government, as the entire advertising market is owned by two agencies headed by Tadic’s people. When that form of indirect control fails, there is always censorship.

Tadic’s regime has created a virtual reality, in which economic destruction is development, theft is stewardship, humiliation is a source of pride and treason is the highest form of patriotism. It is unclear whether the observers in Brussels and Washington have accepted this virtual reality as factual — though they routinely do so with their own fictions – but even if they have not, they still see Tadic firmly in control of the state. What murmurs of discontent from the people manage to reach their ears are easily dismissed, as there doesn’t seem to be anything the Serbs can do to oppose the government.

End of the Line

Even as it seeks to weaponize democracy and social media around the world, the Empire seems oblivious to the growing undercurrent of popular resentment in Serbia that is finding an outlet online. Tadic’s people are well aware of it, however, and have already cracked down on those who would mock them on Twitter. At the time of Mladic’s arrest, several alternate portals were shut down for days due to cyber attacks. Try as they might, though, they can only shut down some people, some of the time.

Though Tadic’s mainstream media barely say a word about the economic crisis in the U.S. and EU, few in Serbia still believe in the promises of utopia that EU and NATO memberships would bring — even if they were immediately forthcoming, which they are not.

Meanwhile, a new political party has appeared on the scene. "Dveri" advocate family values, patriotism and a thorough reform of the system they argue is rotten to the core. They are against the EU, against NATO membership, and against the Empire. They get no coverage in the mainstream press. Pollsters claim they have single-digit support. Existing political parties blast them for "inexperience" and "amateurism" — which, considering the abysmal record of experienced professionals, is advertising no money can buy.

Tadic has long since run out of promises to break. His efforts to reinvent the Serbian people in his image have failed. Now he’s run out of heads to deliver as well. He has absolutely nothing good to show for seven years in power. He can’t even hope for a lifeline from the Empire — between his masochistic embrace of their abuse and the illusion of control, persuading them he needs one is highly unlikely.

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.