Slobodan Milosevic’s Inquisitors

13 Feb

The Inquisitor’s Prerogative

by Deliriumliberty

Scratch a little at the orthodox version of the 1990’s Balkan wars, and a multifaceted propaganda structure emerges.  At the apex is a morality play in the shape of a trial, puffed up with posturing and presumption of guilt.  The Milosevic trial bears more than a little similarity to a witch trial: lacking damning pins and dolls but nonetheless solved by the death of the accused.

A great deal could be said about the relationship between propaganda and witch trials.  The theme, for example, was touched on by Dostoyevsky in The Brothers Karamazov. The brother Ivan sketches out the plot of a possible poem to his brother Alyosha.  In the account, Christ visits the earth only to be imprisoned by the Cardinal Grand Inquisitor.  The Grand Inquisitor visits Christ in his cell and delivers an address which makes a mockery of freedom for man.  Men, says the Cardinal, are oppressed by freedom.  The “incomplete, empirical creatures, created in jest” are only too happy to be led by a select group of “clever people” and only too relieved to be deluded and enslaved.

In the twentieth century, the Inquisitor’s Prerogative was articulated by such as Edward Bernays, who participated in Woodrow Wilson’s Office of Public Information. Bernays updated the term “propaganda” to the more palatable “Public Relations”.  Like his Uncle Freud, Bernays feared the “irrational” urges of the commoners.  He explained in his tracts that PR could be used to dull the impulses of the mob, transforming people into “happiness machines” and “consumers”.  The tractable masses could then be counted upon, even in the glut of post-war mass production, to keep the economic tide lifting the boats of industry.  Each listless, deluded “happiness machine” would go from one consumer fashion to the next, buying, buying, buying.

Underpinning the Inquisitor’s Prerogative is a belief that the target population is already inferior and thus deserves to be deluded.  In the face of such presumption, a question deserves to be raised; just how is it that the Inquisitor enjoys his superior role?  His office is the office of public torture, and it is torture itself that gives him the opportunity to tower over his victims. Propaganda is also his office.  As forms of abuse directed at a dehumanized mass, the two go hand in hand.  The ritualistic value of both torture and propaganda is that they produce a victim class, and through the power of comparison, a superior class.

Throughout NATO’s domination of Balkan events, the devices of extraordinary persuasion were utilized to appropriate a meaningful segment of a populace as an intellectual impediment against dissent.  In the conventional portrayal in particular of Milosevic and the Milosevic trial, the controlling, distorting spirit of Edward Bernays can be seen at work, assembling information for an assault of the privileged against the underprivileged.

Milosevic

It is instructive to search Milosevic’s interviews and speeches for anything that supports the common accusations against him—that he dreamed of a greater Serbia and that he was a racist, or that he incited others to practice brutality and ethnic intolerance.

It was widely reported that in 1989 in Kosovo field, Slobodan Milosevic’s rhetoric incited ethnic hatred in a crowd of thousands.  But the actual speech (used as evidence at his trial) doesn’t call for ethnic intolerance:

“Serbia has never had only Serbs living in it. Today, more than in the past, members of other peoples and nationalities also live in it. This is not a disadvantage for Serbia. I am truly convinced that it is its advantage . . ..  Citizens of different nationalities, religions, and races have been living together more and more frequently and more and more successfully.”

Reasonable, humanitarian sentiment is actually the rule in Milosevic’s language.  Picking apart his phrases to find evidence of latent violence is on a par with searching Jesse Jackson’s speeches for incendiary, Black Nationalism.  Without the knowledge that one is examining the expressions of a war criminal, one would be tempted to find the speaker a decent individual, dignified and even-handed.  In Paris, he praises the city and empathizes with the people who dislike him, entrusting the image of the Serbs and himself to the rectifying faculty of posterity.  He speaks out again and again against violence.  Were he aiming at ethnic separatism, he ought to have referred to some sort of separatist agenda.  Quite the contrary, Milosevic advocates justice and inclusion over force and interests.  On May 28, 1992, he said on Radio Television Serbia:

“If only force and interests, but not justice and truth, prevail on the political scene then a serious question arises as to what this new world order that has been discussed so much will be like. Is this the order in which some countries or some nations are supposed to be servants and others masters, or is this the order that is supposed to represent a new way of democratization and integration on a global scale?”

Those who have Milosevic “dreaming” of a “Greater Serbia” would need to have been privy to his thoughts, because he denounces the idea.  Again on RTS, on October 9, 1992, he said,

“The official policy pursued by Serbia has never had this idea of Greater Serbia and, as is known, we have stressed this publicly on several occasions and in the most official way possible. I know that the memory of political events tends to be short, particularly in times of crisis, but it must not be so short as to ignore the fact that it was official Serbian politicians who insisted very categorically that this approach never existed, either as a concept or as a policy we advocated. “

As for ethnic cleansing, Milosevic stated, “(O)nly insane people can believe that . . . ethnic cleansing could be something good. This is a crime that cannot be accepted or justified . . ..”

Although it is conceivable that a politician would operate by means of hints and innuendos, to apply the idea to Milosevic’s speech is to have him speaking entirely in code.  Accepting that, one no longer needs to worry about content at all, but simply to assume opposite meanings for everything said.

Some impossible limbs have been climbed out upon in attempts to pluck something damning from Milosevic’s mouth.  For instance, it has been alleged that Milosevic exacerbated tensions by referring to the Jansenovic concentration camp of WWII.  Jansenovic is hardly a footnote in history, having been responsible for the deaths of nearly a million people, and so it is natural that Milosevic would refer to it.  Should we bar Richard Perle from speaking of Auschwitz or Ward Churchill from reminding us of the Trail of Tears?

Significant events and obvious villains have been pushed to the side by the conspiracy theory of Milosevic-directed ethnic cleansing.  Widespread violence against Serbs in Bosnia and Kosovo went virtually unreported.  NATO’s 78-day bombing was background noise or even “humane”, though it destroyed perhaps 200 schools and 13 major hospitals, leveled ancient monasteries and cultural sites, poisoned rivers, shredded downtown areas in Pristina and Belgrad, indiscriminately killed and maimed hundreds of civilians, and caused damage estimated at more than 100 billion US dollars.

The precise extent to which NATO was driven by humanitarian motivations is evidenced by the depleted uranium strewn about the country to inflict cancer and birth defects on coming generations.  One particularly brutal aspect of the bombing was NATO’s use of cluster bombs, which are not useful against military targets because, As C. Goodrich wrote in Yugoslavia, Mon amour,

“These are anti-personnel weapons . . ..  (E)ach canister explodes, sending shrapnel in all directions. They are utterly useless against anything much more solid than a cardboard box, but they chop and shred flesh quite effectively . . ..  The little canisters are usually painted a bright yellow or orange, and they have a failure rate between 5% and 8%, which means at least one out of twenty fail to go off in the air. So they lie on the ground, ready to explode at some random interval . . ..  The pretty little things, looking like toys, are all over Kosovo.”

All the bluster concerning Milosevic’s nationalistic aims took the spotlight off the KLA, who Robert Gelbard, America’s special envoy to Bosnia, has described as terrorists.  Hague’s Europol has investigated the KLA for drug running and ties with organized crime.  The KLA’s connections with fundamentalist, militant Muslim groups cannot be disputed.

In addition, the Bosnian Muslim leader Izetbegovic (in his youth a member of the Young Muslims, a group which recruited for the Waffen SS) was left for the PR firm Ruder and Finn to package as a moderate, secular, grandfatherly type.  His political tract, Islamic Declarations includes such tolerant, secular statements as,  “For all Muslims there is but one solution: to continue to fight, to strengthen and broaden (sic) it, from day to day, from year to year, no matter the victims, no matter the time.”

Croatian president Franjo Tudjman, never a household name, was largely responsible for the first, terrible blow of the Balkan wars, Operation Storm.  With US support, Operation Storm displaced thousands of Krajina Serbs and killed hundreds.  Tudjman told his generals on July 31, 1995 to “inflict such a blow on the Serbs that they should virtually disappear.”   The sophistry that is needed to paint Milosevic as a racial separatist would not be required in the case of Tudjman, whose prejudices are spelled out in his Wastelands of Historical Truth.  Once past the tautological droning, it’s helpful to be a truly determined apologist to contest that it’s a book of Holocaust denial; not only does he minimize WWII atrocities against both Jews and Serbs, he rationalizes violence.  “Genocidal violence is a natural phenomenon,” he croons.  “(It is) in keeping with the human-social and mythological-divine nature. It is not only allowed, but even recommended.”

The Trial

The idea behind a legitimate trial is to uncover the truth about some proposed criminal action.  Conversely, behind an inquisition lies the intent to target, to demonize, and to destroy.  To the Inquisitor, guilt is something that can be created through the process of accusation.  The questioning process is rhetorical or a form of abuse.  A broader goal is to preserve a myth of righteousness on the part of the interrogator, as when the “wicked heretics” are abused by forces of the Cardinal Grand Inquisitor.  Each unjust interrogation serves as a justification for a broader wrong, but each deepens the injustice and intensifies the need for further justifications.

The first point that must be made about The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia is that it was not established lawfully.  Since the idea lacked support and was not about to get past the UN General Assembly, the UN Security Council stepped in.  According to an article by Kosta Cavoksi,

“A legal basis was “found” in a very loose interpretation of a clause in Chapter VII of the UN Charter whereby the Security Council can take measures to maintain or restore international peace and security following the requisite establishment of the existence of a threat to the peace, breach of the peace or acts of aggression. In other words, the term “tribunal”, as the requisite institution, is taken to be a “measure”. . ..  Thus “measures” became synonymous with “tribunal”.

The Tribunal was given authority by the Security Council (which hadn’t the authority to give the authority) to establish its own rules of evidence and procedure.  The Tribunal went on to make the prosecutor an organ of the court and otherwise to “enrich” existing criminal procedure.  Throughout its tenure the Tribunal made amendments and re-amended them, building and expanding its foundation in order to accommodate its own behaviors.

A second point is that any neutrality possessed by the ICTY would rest upon its independence from NATO, the belligerent.  NATO spokesman Jamie Shea, at a May 1999 press conference (the day after NATO conducted 539 sorties) suggesting that it is NATO who decides who gets indicted.  He also hinted that the Tribunal’s funding establishes an expectation that the Tribunal will be sensitive to NATO’s needs.

“I believe that when Justice Arbour starts her investigation, she will because we will allow her to. It’s not Milosevic that has allowed Justice Arbour her visa to go to Kosovo to carry out her investigations. If her court, as we want, is to be allowed access, it will be because of NATO . . ..  NATO are the people who have been detaining indicted war criminals for the Tribunal in Bosnia. We have done it, 14 arrests so far by SFOR, and we will continue to do it. NATO countries are those that have provided the finance to set up the Tribunal, we are amongst the majority financiers . . .. We and the Tribunal are all one on this . . ..”

At the time, NATO was bombing on the pretext that some genocidal war crimes were underway.  The Tribunal—by its very existence as an organ for trying those involved in said genocidal war crimes—legitimized the NATO bombing and NATO itself.  Milosevic’s guilt therefore had real value to the Tribunal.  Were he found not guilty, the pretext for the existence of the Tribunal would have disintegrated and NATO itself would have been implicated.  In addition, NATO’s allies and associates would have been implicated along with Madeleine Albright and Bill Clinton.

The trial of Slobodan Milosevic, a made-for-television event featuring the solemn self-justifying image of judgment, soon descended into grim comedy.  Witnesses kept straggling in and out of a Pieter Bruegel painting of fools to be picked apart by a lone Slobodan Milosevic.  There were police inspectors armed with rumors and third-hand hearsay who didn’t need no stinking depositions, officials who couldn’t remember the location of rooms where they had important meetings or those who forgot the hair color of their superiors or who admitted to being offered immunity in trade for testimony.  Every so often, from this unholy parade of liars and bought witnesses, Milosevic would pry out some truly shocking admission.

For example, a star witness for the prosecution, Radomir Markovic, Head of Secret Security and Vice Secretary of the Interior, admitted that he had been threatened with extended imprisonment if he did not testify against Milosevic.  Markovic had spent seven months in prison and had signed statements that Milosevic had ordered him to destroy evidence.  Under cross-examination, he began to recant one detail after another from his written statement.  He finally came to admit that he had been offered a bribe of a new identity and a new homeland for himself and his family.  In the end, he came to agree that all of his previous written statement had been a “montage” of fabrications created for him.

Milosevic: Did you ever get any kind of report, or have you ever heard of an order, to expel Albanians from Kosovo?”

Markovic: No, I never heard of such an order. Nobody ever ordered for Albanians from Kosovo to be expelled.”

Milosevic: “Did you receive any information about any plan, suggestion or de facto influence that Albanians were to be expelled?”

Markovic: “No, I never heard of such a suggestion to expel Albanians from Kosovo.”

Milosevic: “At the meetings you attended, is it true that completely the opposite is said, namely that we always insisted that civilians be protected, and that they not be hurt in the process of anti-terrorist operations?”

Markovic: “Certainly. The task was not only to protect Serbs but also Albanian civilians.”

After his testimony, Markovic returned to prison and was subsequently handed a forty-year prison sentence.

In the end, all the hearsay, the lies, the high-handed bullying of judges amounts to sound and fury signifying nothing.  295 witnesses, 5,000 exhibits, and 466 four-hour hearing days produced a wondrous broad sweep of nonsense, like a vast complex of temples that tries to prove the existence of Baal. Referring to his entire case, Milosevic describing it aptly enough as standing “on glass legs and . . . taken from the dregs of the media war.”

In the course of a not-so-watchful suicide watch, Milosevic was found dead of a heart attack.  Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte speculated afterwards that he had committed suicide, smuggling in medication and poison.  Perhaps this was a devious plan to blacken his captors, the sort that deranged criminals who deserve no more than a good riddance on their tombstones are wont to cook up.


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