Slobodan Milosevic’s third appearance before the Hague Inquisition (ICTY), this past Monday, provided a much-needed distraction from the blundering war against the inhabitants of Afghan wastelands. What better way of re-forging one’s resolve to obliterate Afghanistan in the name of retribution, than to remember the triumphant air war against Serbia not so long ago – that embodiment of Empire’s boldly asserted power to attack anyone, anywhere, with impunity?
To be sure, the conquest of the Balkans is not quite over yet; some in Macedonia still refuse to unconditionally dismember the country. Judging by recent reports, their chances of success are slim. But the capstone of a decade of intervention, occupation and destruction in the Balkan Peninsula surely must be the "trial" of a man designated to take the blame for it all. Once that is done – i.e. once Milosevic is convicted of genocide, aggression and expulsions in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo – the One Official Truth about the past decade of warfare in what used to be Yugoslavia will be complete, and anyone daring to question it can be dismissed as a lunatic, dangerous heretic, or both.
FOLLOWING THE SCRIPT For almost two hours, Milosevic listened to a litany of accusations, monotonously recited by a clerk. Then, as he angrily dismissed them as rants of a "retarded seven-year old," the presiding "judge" disconnected his microphone yet again and entered a plea on Milosevic’s behalf. Then the ball was in the press court, as reporters painted a sinister picture of the unrepentant "Butcher of the Balkans," scowling as he "exuded defiance and contempt." Just so no one missed it, the London Times even pointed out that Milosevic was the "world’s most-hated figure" before Osama Bin Laden came along.
Both Milosevic’s continued defiance and his rejection of the new charges, pertaining to the 1991 war in Croatia, were expected. No doubt, a similar scene will play itself out once the Head Inquisitor, Carla Del Ponte, submits the third amended indictment, this time accusing Milosevic of genocide in the 1992-95 Bosnian War. One would not go too far out on a limb to guess that a few days before that hearing, the Human Rights Watch will again publish a report asserting that it has "clear evidence" (namely, its own assertion) that Milosevic was absolutely guilty of everything in the indictment, and then some.
ASSERTIONS OF GUILT Not only does Human Rights Watch resurrect the debunked canard about 10,000 murdered Albanians, its report makes the brazen assertion that the crimes in Kosovo "fit into the Belgrade government’s strategic aims." That, along with statements of interviewed victims/witnesses and "photographs of alleged perpetrators" (!) constitutes "clear evidence" of systematic, "carefully planned and implemented operations." In other words, it is supposed to be the truth because it fits HRW’s theory.
Certainly, one should be glad that an organization such as HRW has such competent, committed, independent researchers, and is not in thrall to any government or alliance, so it can safely throw thousands of years of jurisprudence out the window, save American taxpayers millions of dollars in court expenses (someone has to pay for Del Ponte’s three-ring circus), and convict Milosevic on the power of assertions alone. And of course, the timing of their report was purely a coincidence.
TRUE COLORS Yugoslavia’s top general, who fought against NATO and the KLA in Kosovo, dismissed the HRW allegations as "idiotic ranting," "unfounded gossip and calculations" of people "who suffer from an inferiority complex." That may be so, but HRW needs to be given some credit. They understand what many in present (and former) Yugoslavia do not: the true purpose of the Hague Inquisition.
They know that giving Milosevic a pretense of fair trial (with the inevitable conviction) would both justify the ICTY’s existence as a "UN court, established in 1993 to bring to justice those responsible for atrocities in the Balkans," and assert its credibility. Once they are considered meritorious to adjudge responsibility (i.e. guilt), the ICTY can "cover a much broader scope of the violent breakup of Yugoslavia," asserting (and thus proving) the existence of a "Serb campaign to route [sic] out other ethnic groups and create a ‘greater’ Serbian state."
This canard about "greater Serbia" is, in turn, the ultimate justification of American, European, and even Islamic involvement in the 1991-2001 Wars of Yugoslav Succession. Never mind that the US paper of record, the New York Times, featured a front-page story about ethnic tensions in Yugoslavia 14 years ago on this very day, pointing out as a culprit the violent Albanian separatists in Kosovo and western Macedonia.
THE OSAMA CONNECTION There is bitter irony in Milosevic’s claim that these Albanians were aided by no other than Osama Bin Laden, America’s current number-one enemy. Though at first it may sound like an opportunistic, cynical attempt at manipulating American anger over Black Tuesday, facts indicate otherwise. Milosevic has alleged Bin Laden’s involvement in the Balkans for years, and numerous reports have backed him up.
SQUARING THE CIRCLE Many horrible things have happened in the course of the Yugoslav Succession Wars, as former neighbors fought over land and power in a vacuum created by the collapse of their common house of cards. Those who bloodied their hands in the process certainly need to answer for their actions. After all, is not war itself a crime against humanity? But the millions of victims in former and current Yugoslavia do not want justice. They want vengeance, a sentiment familiar to Americans as they look upon the smoking ruins of the World Trade Center, or the blackened gash in the Pentagon.
BOMBS AND CIRCUSES Just as Americans blame Bin Laden for their dead, Croats, Muslims and Albanians fervently believe Milosevic was behind their tragedies. Serbs, on the other hand, blame Croat, Muslim, Albanian and American leaders.
The so-called "International Criminal Tribunal" was established to manipulate this desire for vengeance and create the illusion of justice, all the while serving the purpose of its sponsors and founders. Its illegitimate genesis, its practices, the timing of its indictments, and even the general purpose – to pin blame on one people, one idea and one man, as mentioned above – all point to a cruel irony: that the inventors of modern total war have asserted themselves as judge, jury and executioner of the peoples whose misfortunes they have exploited, while remaining immune from prosecution themselves.
In such a world, it is not irrational that Yugoslavia, once a founder of the United Nations, becomes its youngest member (a year ago today); that Osama Bin Laden is declared evil incarnate when he is accused of killing Americans, but is ignored when he helps kill Serbs, Croats or Macedonians; that the United States can bomb a country half the world away, while forcing the Macedonian police to risk death in its own country; and where justice and power both come from the barrel of a gun – or in this case, the missile rack.