[Marxism] Scapegoat, R.I.P. (Former Canadian ambassador on Milosevic)

michael a. lebowitz mlebowit at sfu.ca
Thu Mar 16 00:38:03 MST 2006


>http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/issuesideas/story.html?id=a629cdda-e
>b4b-44a6-a2bc-0002b0ec2f0e
>National Post     Wednesday, March 15, 2006
>
>Scapegoat, R.I.P.
>
>By James Bissett
>
>Slobodan Milosevic's obituaries are damning. In death, as in the last years
>of his life, the former Serbian president is being blamed for all of the
>death and destruction that accompanied the breakup of the Yugoslav
>Federation in the early 1990s. He has been described as the "Butcher of the
>Balkans." He is accused of masterminding four wars, of committing genocide
>and ethnic cleansing. These charges have been repeated so many times that
>they have become part of received wisdom. Yet the facts tell a different
>story.
>
>Two weeks ago I travelled to The Hague to appear as a witness in defence of
>Milosevic at his war-crimes trial. We met in his cell for two days, going
>over my testimony.
>
>On the first day, he seemed relaxed and in good health. On the second day,
>following several hours of discussions, he suddenly became flushed and
>appeared to be ill. I asked if he was alright, and he said he was OK, but
>then explained that he suffered from a terrible ringing in his ears. The
>prison doctors had told him it was "psychological," but finally agreed to a
>MRI, which revealed that an abnormal artery was affecting his hearing. He
>told me he did not believe he was getting adequate medical attention in the
>prison, and wanted to get specialist treatment in Moscow, but tribunal
>officials had refused.
>
>He regarded the presiding body -- the UN's International Criminal Tribunal
>for the Former Yugoslavia -- as a political court set up to make him the
>scapegoat for everything that had gone wrong in Yugoslavia. He was aware
>that there was, in effect, a Western news blackout of anything revealed
>during the trial that was favourable to his case. And he was also resigned
>to the reality that he would be found guilty.
>
>I have been asked often why I was willing to appear as a witness for a man
>branded by the media as another Hitler. The answer is simple. His
>prosecution was the most important war-crimes trial since the Nuremberg
>Trials of leading Nazis following the Second World War. It was important
>that the presumption of innocence be maintained, and it was equally
>important that those with relevant information appear at the court so that
>their evidence could be heard. I was in Belgrade as Canada's ambassador
>during the critical early stages of the Yugoslav breakup drama, and I was
>not prepared to remain silent about what I observed.
>
>Even in the early days, it was apparent that most of the media reporting
>about the cause and course of the Yugoslav fighting was biased. In effect,
>the Serbs had been branded as the bad guys, and any news developments were
>interpreted on that basis.
>
>But it was not the Serbians and "Slobo" who started the wars in Yugoslavia.
>The fighting started because Slovenia, then a Yugoslav republic, declared
>unilateral independence and used force to seize customs posts along the
>Austrian border.
>
>The federal prime minister of Yugoslavia, Ante Markovic, who happened to be
>a Croatian, ordered the army into Slovenia to restore order. The army was
>met by armed resistance and retired to barracks in Croatia to avoid further
>bloodshed. The Croatian security and paramilitary forces then surrounded the
>federal barracks and fighting broke out in Croatia. At this time, Milosevic,
>as president of Serbia, had no control over the federal army. (Incidentally,
>the federal minister of defence at the time was also a Croatian, as was the
>foreign minister.)
>
>Later, when the army lost all of its non-Serbian soldiers, it did become a
>Serb-dominated force. But when the federal government collapsed, it was none
>other than Milosevic who ordered all Serbian soldiers out of Bosnia. (At the
>time I was asked to call upon him to congratulate him for this decision.)
> >From the outset of the violence sweeping across Yugoslavia, Milosevic was a
>key player in all of the peace plans that were proposed. Had it not been for
>him, the 1995 Dayton peace agreement could not have taken place. He was
>heralded then by U.S. secretary of state Madeline Albright as a man of
>peace.
>
>Although the war crimes Tribunal was set up in 1993, it was not until the
>bombing of Kosovo five years later that a hurried indictment was issued
>against Milosevic on charges of genocide. Yet the forensic teams that
>searched for evidence of this genocide in Kosovo have so far discovered
>fewer than 3,000 bodies -- bad enough, but not genocide.
>
>Milosevic was a communist party boss. He was an apparatchik and an
>opportunist interested in holding on to his power, prestige and privileges.
>He was not an ardent Serbian nationalist and I believe had little interest
>in a "greater Serbia." As the president of Serbia, he was forced to display
>sympathy to his fellow Serbians in Bosnia and Croatia, but he did not have
>authority over them. He was prepared to help them battle brutally for land
>and power, but he was also prepared to sell them out if it was to his own
>advantage.
>
>There are many Serbians who despise him for that. It is unfortunate that he
>died before being given the chance to set down his side of the story. Now we
>only have his opponent's version of events.

Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6

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