Milosevic’s motiveless malignancy By: Srđa Popović

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This essay was first published in the book “War and Change in the Balkans” (Cambridge University Press, 2006.) It was later re-published by Serbian portal Peščanik.net in 2009. This is the english version. You can find the serbian version here.

By: Srđa Popović Peščanik.net 2009

Throughout the eight years of conflict in the former Yugoslavia, Western, and particularly American policy in the region has been characterized by confusion, wishful thinking, procrastination, evasions and a lack of focus and determination.

The most likely reason for such behavior on the part of the United States may simply have been that, in 1991, Yugoslavia was very low on the State Department’s list of priorities.[1] This was a time of great turmoil in the world. The end of the Cold War, the fall of communism, and the unification of Germany were certainly all events of epochal and global significance that by far outweighed the petty ethnic bickering of Yugoslav leaders. Especially since, at this time, Yugoslavia was considered the most promising candidate, among former communist states, for a smooth transition into both the parliamentary system and an open market economy, as well as integration into European economic and political institutions. Focused on larger global events and confident in Yugoslavia’s capacity for a smooth transition, Western diplomats underestimated the potential of these petty tensions to escalate into violence.

At the time, optimism was rampant; the United States swore by ‘multilateralism’ hoping to engage Russia in the Security Council and work out global problems by consensus. Little was understood, at the time, about the terrible consequences now encountered by people who had spent half a century or more under the rock of communist rule; little understood about the humiliation of the Soviet Union, yesterday’s mighty empire, now pushed into bankruptcy and political disarray. And most tragically of all, the celebratory mood of the West prevented them from recognizing that, despite the fact that the threat of the Soviet Union had disappeared, the United States could not simply disengage from Europe, just as NATO, far from being an obsolete organization, still had a significant role to play. The dangers created by the dissolution of the bipolar world, by a disintegration of the entire balanced field of political forces, were completely ignored. The West also failed to recognize that with the disappearance of the old world order once imposed upon the world by two hegemonies from above, the possibility was created for the emergence of a new ‘order’. This was created from below by small players, newly released from the rigid old structure and now free to settle their accounts with their neighbours.

For the West, and the United States especially, the fall of communism was a positive development – a victory. And so they failed to recognize that from an internal perspective the situation was fraught with instability and hidden dangers. It was for these reasons that the conflict in the former Yugoslavia found the United States, whose first reflex was to leave the problem to the Europeans, unprepared; after all, Yugoslavia was ‘Europe’s backyard’. The United States was busy cutting down on military spending, getting out of the recession, celebrating the end of the Cold War and going through presidential elections.

When Europeans, left without American leadership, turned out to be unable to formulate a common foreign policy towards Yugoslavia, the United States decided to dump the problem on the United Nations – to act only ‘multilaterally’.[2] It seems that, by this time, it was already clear to American policymakers that the United Nations might not be up to the task, and that this move was meant merely to sweep the problem under the UN carpet.[3]

The UN quickly assumed a ‘neutral’ and ‘evenhanded’ position and the whole process came to a dead end while the US pretended not to notice. The US was satisfied with the situation, in which the ‘neutral’ UN peacekeepers acted as self-appointed hostages and prevented any military action. Yet such action was the only thing that could have stopped the blood bath organised by Milošević, first in Croatia and then in Bosnia.

Needless to say, ‘multilateralism’ did not work, as Russia was happy to reinstate itself as a global player and a factor in the international arena. The ‘evenhanded’ stance taken by the UN could not have been effective, as the whole Yugoslav drama was a one-man show run by Milošević. Both the UN and the United States grossly misjudged this man around whom the vortex of violence turned, and this was perhaps the biggest mistake made by the United States, the UN, and the entire international community from the beginning of the Yugoslav conflict. This misjudgment, along with the failure to understand what the nature of the conflict was in the first place, later caused a string of wrong decisions to be made.

The nature of the conflict was perceived from the very beginning, especially in the United States, in ideological terms: Milošević was ‘a Communist’, and Tudjman and Izetbegović were ‘democrats’.

However, at that point in time, what was playing out in Yugoslavia was not about ideology; it was a simple power struggle.

After the death of Tito, who ruled as an absolute dictator, an enormous power vacuum was felt throughout the country. The Presidency which replaced him, and which was supposed to reach its conclusions by consensus, was practically paralyzed. The whole political system had been adapted to revolve around a single figure and a single will. Tito’s authority was not rooted in his institutional post as the president, but in his role as the head of the Communist Party and, even more importantly, in his role as the commander in chief. It had been made obvious during the party purges, especially in the early seventies, that Tito’s main strength had come from the Yugoslav Army.[4] No single member of the Presidency, or, for that matter, all of them put together, could have fulfilled such a role.

The first result of this power struggle was the splintering of the Communist Party into six disparate parties. Since Tito no longer delegated the power from the top, party leaders sought support from below, by casting themselves as representatives of the interests of their respective republics.

Faced with the fall of communism, these six parties started to form alliances mainly along the lines of reformers and hard-line conservatives. Milošević, threatened by aggressive and militant anti-communists and royalists in Serbia, opted for the hard-line conservative option; he soon found himself politically defeated and isolated.

It is important to understand that he did not choose this position as a result of deeply ingrained political belief. Rather, he chose it because he alone realized that this was the best way to secure the real power, which did not belong to the Communist Party but to the highly indoctrinated Yugoslav army.[5]

Thus, although apparently defeated and isolated within Yugoslavia, Milošević still held the trump card: the army. Nobody in Yugoslavia at tile time realised that this power struggle would be resolved by force, except Milošević. He recognised that the political battle was lost, and he was well positioned and prepared for the military battles in which he would be overwhelmingly superior. He made this clear during his famous Gazimestan speech when he masked his pursuit of power with such nationalist rhetoric as ‘us against them’, promising to ‘defend Serbian interests’ and, if necessary, to do so ‘with military means’.

The main effect of the speech was that it generated a great deal of fear, not only among non-Serbs in Yugoslavia, but also among Serbs who suddenly ‘realised’ the ‘gravity’ of the situation and the stakes involved.

Although at this point Milošević had the support of the army, a simple putsch was too risky to undertake as it might have provoked foreign intervention. Milošević lacked two things in order to effectively use the military force at his disposal: institutional control over the army and casus belli (a viable ‘provocation’).

According to the constitution, the commander in chief was the Presidency and, within the Presidency, Milošević controlled only four votes: those of the representatives of Serbia and its puppets, Montenegro, Kosovo and Vojvodina. In order to obtain even these votes, Milošević had to deprive Kosovo and Vojvodina of autonomy, and stage a putsch in Montenegro. But after all this, he still lacked one vote that would enable him to control the army.

Milošević then made a clever and bold move: he pushed Slovenia out of Yugoslavia (true to his double-talk, he accused them of separatism). This move solved both of his problems; without Slovenia he controlled the majority in the Presidency, but even more significantly, he created the casus belli. He knew that Croatia would run for the door the moment Slovenia left Yugoslavia, i.e., the moment Milošević got hold of the army. At this moment, Milošević knew he would be given an opportunity to use the army in order to prevent Croatia from taking the Serbian minority out of Yugoslavia.

Slovenia readily agreed to leave. Milošević’s threats and aggressive rhetoric were already spreading fear throughout the country. The Slovenians were perfectly aware that by jumping out of the boat they would overturn it, but the stakes were too high, and they opted for independence.

Milošević met with Slovenian President Kučan in May 1991. After their meeting they issued a joint statement in which Milošević agreed for Slovenia to leave the Federation and in which Kučan expressed his ‘understanding for the wish of all Serbians to live in a single state’.

The ‘war’ with Slovenia, which lasted ten days and had just a few casualties, was a show; Milošević never intended to hold them back. In a sense, it was just an overture playing the main theme, a foreshadowing of what would ensue if and when Croatia decided to follow the Slovenes. Croatia did follow and Milošević used the army ‘to protect the Serbs’ in Croatia. With the army in play, the potential power he had held in his hands hence became tragically real.

The popular perception in the West that the consequent armed conflict amounted to Milošević’s ‘fight against separatists’ was also false. Borisav Jović, then president of the Presidency and Milošević’s right-hand man testifies in his book Poslednji Dani SFRJ (Last Days of SFRY), about a conversation he had with Milošević in June of 1990: ‘He agrees with the plan to force Slovenia … out of Yugoslavia’.[6]

Milošević and Jović knew that once the Slovenes left, a threatened Croatia would try to follow. Jović also states in his book that Veljko Kadijević, the chief of staff, had the following plan for Slovenia: to ‘respond forcefully … then withdraw … This will boost the Army morale, scare Croatia, and appease the Serbian people.’ [7]

But pushing Slovenia out was not enough. Milošević and his apparatchiks had to be certain that Croatia would follow their script. On 26January 1991, Jović writes in his dairy: ‘The war should be started by Croatia.’ [8] To this end, they devised a plan whereby Croatia would be forced to act, and apparently without provocation from Belgrade. On 25 February 1991 Jović reported on an idea from the chief of staff, Veljko Kadijević: ‘Serbs in Krajina should be encouraged, not publicly but secretly, to secede from Croatia.’ [9] In his own book, Kadijević also boasts of how the JNA ‘fulfilled its tasks of preparing both politically and militarily the Serbs in Croatia’ for war.[10] Quite contrary to perceptions at the time, Milošević did not go to war in order to prevent Croatian secession and the dissolution of Yugoslavia. According to Jović, on 21 January 1991 during a telephone conversation concerning the ongoing crisis, the Croatian representative in the Presidency, Stipe Mesić, informed Jović that Croatia might choose to leave Yugoslavia in response to the threats coming from Belgrade. Jović warns Mesić that he is ‘choosing war’, and promptly informs Milošević of the conversation. Jović describes Milošević’s reaction in the following words: ‘He was exuberant: excellent’.[11]

The West’s tendency to blindly accept Milošević’s claim that he was ‘protecting Yugoslavia from separatists’ is even more difficult to understand in view of the fact that Serbia designed the first separatist constitution as early as 28 September 1990. This was more than a year before 8 October 1991, when Croatia and Slovenia declared independence.

In article 72, Serbia is declared a ‘sovereign and independent’ country, with its own Army, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Bank etc. In article 135, Serbia declared that it was no longer bound by the laws of SFRY. In the spring of 1991, the Serbian parliament enacted a series of its own laws on monetary and fiscal policy, international relations, and customs (all previously regulated by the federal parliament). When reproached by Jović for the separatist content of the Croatian constitution during the 125th session of the Presidency, the Croatian representative Mesić justly replies: ‘We have done exactly the same as Serbia, we just copied your constitution and we knew we would be attacked for doing so’. It is hard to understand how the Western powers, including the United States, could have been confused and blinded for so long by Milošević’s absurd claims that he was just ‘protecting the unity and territorial integrity of Yugoslavia’, when there was so much evidence to the contrary.

Hundreds of books have been written by diplomats, journalists and self-proclaimed experts who have tried to explain all the intricacies, twists and turns, plots and subplots of the Yugoslav war,[12] but the basic script was rather straightforward and simple. The whole prolonged affair boils down to a simple, single event: the moment Milošević secured control of the army. From this moment on, all the republics (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo and, even today, Montenegro and Vojvodina) just wanted to escape Milošević’s jurisdiction and establish a firm international border between themselves and his aggressive, dangerous and unpredictable regime.[13] Even the Serbs from Serbia fled his jurisdiction in hundreds of thousands by emigrating, especially the young and better educated segments of the population. All the events that followed were just a complication of this basic plot — a bunch of sideshows and distractions.

The United States failed to take a clear position from the start. During Secretary of State Baker’s visit to Yugoslavia a few months before the war erupted, the United States took the position that they were in favour of preserving the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia in accordance with the principle of stable borders as expressed in the Helsinki Accords.[14]But, as the United States favoured the reunification of Germany, they were compelled to shift their position to the principle of self-determination.[15] The United States sent mixed signals: they allowed Milošević to hide behind his ‘preserving the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia’, but then encouraged Croatia’s secession as an act of self-determination of the Croatian people.

The misinformed perception that the conflicts were motivated by ideological differences (communist versus democrats), and their ambivalent position in relation to the two different and contradicting principles described above (territorial integrityversus self-determination), made US policy in Yugoslavia both confused and confusing. The United States failed to recognise the simple picture of one man who had gained control of the army by unconstitutional means (the annexation of Kosovo and the putsch in Montenegro) in the power struggle that had erupted after Tito’s death, and who was now determined to use it to defeat his political opponents. Milošević’s control of the army and his readiness to use it set the stage for his one-man show.

Milošević not only wanted the war, but also needed it in order to be able to dictate the agenda. Once he threatened to use force, all of the other participants, including the international community and the United States, merely reacted to his moves. His discouraging success was the result of the obvious fact that the United States had no intention of intervening militarily, and that the Yugoslav Army had overwhelming superiority over the other players within Yugoslavia.

As Milošević was running the whole show, it would have made all the difference had he been properly understood from the very beginning. But, from the very beginning, Milošević’s motives were misinterpreted. The attempts to appease him, to somehow engage him, to apply too much carrot and no stick, to negotiate with him, to ‘help him save face’, and to see the non-existent ‘other side’ of the issues were all steps in the wrong direction.

Not only did these steps do nothing to stop his aggression, but they also actually encouraged it. To be fair, Milošević’s character and personality are both very unusual. In his case, analogies, the favourite tool of diplomats, did not work. This was so because men of Milošević’s personality and character rarely rise to positions of power, except in extraordinary and highly turbulent, revolutionary circumstances.[16] His ‘motiveless malignancy’, to borrow Coleridge’s words, is a rare trait among politicians in normal times, even within the Communist Party through which he rose to power.

It is a pity how rarely diplomats seem to read poets. This type of personality has been described in literature with great clarity and deep understanding:

“The villain, on the other hand, is shown from the beginning as being a malcontent, a person with a general grudge against life and society. In most cases this is comprehensible because the villain has, in fact, been wronged by Nature or Society. [Both of Milošević’s parents committed suicide].

[His] primary satisfaction is the infliction of suffering on others, or the exercise of power over others against their will. [He has] the pleasure of making a timid conventional man become aggressive and criminal … [he] will not let him alone until he consents to murder.

[His actions are] a demonstration … that man does not always require serious motive for deceiving another. [He is] a practical joker … and all practical jokes are anti-social acts. The satisfaction of the practical joker is the look of astonishment on the faces of others when they learn that all the time they were convinced that they were thinking and acting on their own initiative, they were actually the puppets of another’s will.

The success of a practical joker depends upon his accurate estimate of the weakness of others, their ignorance, their social reflexes, their unquestioned presuppositions, their obsessive desires, and even the most harmless practical joke is an expression of the joker’s contempt for those he deceives.

The practical joker despises his victims, but at the same time he envies them because their desires, however childish and mistaken, are real to them, whereas he has no desire which he can call his own.

Yet the professional practical joker is certainly driven like a gambler, to his activity, but the drive is negative, a fear of lacking a concrete self, of being nobody.

[Since his] ultimate goal is nothingness, he must not only destroy others, but himself as well.”

The ‘villain’ described is Iago and the quotations are taken from W. H. Auden’s essay, ‘The Joker in the Pack’.[17] This analysis of a fictional character, written fifty years ago in a literary essay on a Shakespeare tragedy, defines Milošević’s actions, his personality and his motives more accurately than the hundreds of pages that have been written on him by journalists, diplomats and political analysts.

Milošević had recognised the weakness of the Serbian population that was created by the vacuum of national identity they found themselves in after the death of Tito, and he played a morbid practical joke on them. Imposing the kind of strong leadership they had grown used to, he led them to the worst kind of criminal and aggressive behaviour imaginable: genocide. The nationalist card was simply the easiest means to this end.

If we accept Auden’s characterisation of Milošević, we can easily understand that Milošević was neither a communist nor a Serbian nationalist, and that it was impossible to appease him, to deal with him, to bribe him or to shame him. He was able to stay always a step ahead in this political game ruled by interests (including a personal self-interest) and trade-offs, since he had no such interests and no real stake because he was playing with counterfeit money.

Even the more recent conventional wisdom that he was ‘only interested in preserving power’ seems wrong; for Milošević, power was just a tool that enabled him to play his practical jokes. It was evident that he shunned the usual opportunities to enjoy power, such as interviews, public appearances, rallies and ovations, and his supporters, such as his wife, who spoke of him as a ‘very modest man’ and, tellingly, ‘extraterrestrial’ according to Mihalj Kertes, former minister of the interior.[18]His political statements were usually made by others, by the puppets whose movements he controlled like a ventriloquist behind the scenes: his wife, the Academy of Sciences, Šešelj and members of the ‘government’ (the composition of which was shuffled and reshuffled constantly).

Had Milošević been understood earlier, the number of his victims could have been reduced considerably, and less time would have been lost in futile attempts to ‘deal’ with him. The passivity of the US administration was compounded when, as a result of extensive coverage of the Yugoslav war, public criticism of US policy and demands for military action started to mount. Still unwilling to get militarily involved due to the high political cost of such action, the US administration developed an extensive public campaign to fend off critics, which resulted in an elaborate misrepresentation of the Yugoslav conflict.

The administration tried to persuade the American public mat however terrible were the pictures that they watched every evening on CNN, there was ‘nothing that could be done’ because the conflict was a result of ‘centuries of hatred’, that it was driven by ‘blind forces of history’, that it was a ‘problem from hell’, that ‘there are no good guys in that conflict’ and that the only viable strategy was that which is used for forest fires – ‘let it burn itself out’.

Such misguided persuasion was probably a bigger mistake than the one that it was supposed to cover up. Passivity was bad enough, but the explanations given for such passivity, for example, ‘what can you do against the blind forces of history’, were much worse since they played straight into the hands of Milošević, whose propaganda kept repeating the same mantra: the conflict had erupted spontaneously, he had nothing to do with it, Serbia is not at war.

Of course, there was nothing spontaneous about the conflict. Most of the victims were produced by the professionals of the Yugoslav Army, by the Serbian police and by paramilitary groups whom the Serbian police organised, armed and shipped to the frontlines.

It was only in its later stages that the conflict also assumed some traits of a civil war, because it was impossible for civilians to remain neutral. It was at this later stage, roughly after 1992, that members of various ethnic groups flocked together and armed themselves as an act of self-preservation. It was also at this stage that non-Serbs started to retaliate against their Serbian neighbours for the atrocities committed by Milošević’s professionals. Milošević must have been delighted to learn that, according to the State Department, ‘There were no good guys in the conflict’. Being the main culprit, instigator and executioner, he readily agreed on many occasions that ‘all sides are committing atrocities’, thus equating the victims with the aggressors, and appearing to hold an ‘objective’ position at the same time.

Milošević was well aware that the hatred between Serbs on one hand, and the Croats and Bosnians on the other, was not the cause of the conflict, but the result of the brutal and unprovoked crimes perpetrated against the others (especially in Bosnia) by the Serbian side (his Army and his police). He also knew that these crimes were so terrible that they would create enough hatred for the war to be able to perpetuate itself.

Of course he was happy to hear that this hatred was ‘centuries old’. Both the American and Serbian media repeated these mantras from day to day in enormous circulation. Milošević understood this weakness of the American position, and he exploited it to the best of his ability. A great deal of denial still present among Serbs today was caused by the fact that American foreign policy and media emphatically reinforced Milošević’s own propaganda. At the time, this created among the Serbian population a feeling of omnipotence and triumph, for either the Americans were fooled by Milošević, or else the Western powers were, through their inactivity, actually allowing Milošević to get rid of the Muslims, an opinion frequently entertained in Serbia during the war. The State Department’s attempts to justify US passivity by claiming that the conflict was a spontaneous eruption of centuries old hatred had a devastating effect on the course of the war. From an objective point of view, passivity turned into complicity.

This allowed Milošević to retain the initiative right to the end. As Auden wrote of the tragedy of Othello: ‘I cannot think of any other play in which only one character performs personal action – all the deeds are Iago’s – and all the others without exception only exhibit behaviour’.[19]All the deeds were Milošević’s; everybody else just exhibited ‘behaviour’, including the United States.

Even the grand finale, when the United States led the coalition finally into military intervention to stop the genocide in Kosovo, cannot truly be considered anything else than Milošević’s ‘deed’. Richard Holbrooke testifies that during their last encounter, he asked Milošević: ‘Do you realize fully what will come next?’ to which Milošević calmly responded, ‘Yes, you will bomb us.’[20]

The State Department’s ‘behaviour’ can hardly be viewed as taking action in Kosovo; rather, the State Department painted itself into a corner by harsh rhetoric at Rambouillet by threats it hoped would never have to be carried through.[21] Milošević’s resilience when faced with bombing, and his stubbornness during the bombing, again came as a complete surprise to the State Department.

Even at the end of the game, the State Department did not understand that Milošević cared nothing for the suffering inflicted on ‘his own people’ or the destruction of ‘his own country’ and the isolation of Yugoslavia, and that he welcomed this new opportunity for ‘making the timid and conventional man aggressive and criminal’. In one of Milošević’s courts in Valjevo, President Clinton was ‘indicted [in absentia] for war crimes’. However farfetched it may seem, the use of a court to promote Milošević’s political ends fits perfectly with his stubborn character.

Milošević initially profited from the anti-Western sentiment aroused by the bombing of Serbia, as well as from the desperation of his own population plunged .into poverty by the bombing. As for the subsequent isolation, even though it was short lived, it allowed him to settle his accounts with the pro-Western ‘fifth column’ and the ‘traitors’ of the opposition without having to worry about the niceties of human rights and democratic standards. Milošević never cared about losing Kosovo.

So, what could have been done differently? First, the late Yugoslav prime minister, Ante Marković, should have been helped by every possible means to preserve the formal unity of Yugoslavia; even if that meant injecting some of the billions of dollars later spent on interventions, peacekeeping, reconstruction and conferences. Even the offer of blue helmets in the face of the Milošević/Yugoslav Army conspiracy – if it led only to the subsequent dissolution of Yugoslavia – would have prevented the carnage that ensued.

Second, once Croatia and Bosnia carved out their own independent states, and these states were then internationally recognized, they should have been defended by the international community as members of the United Nations exposed to foreign aggressions. Most certainly, it was the duty of all members of the United Nations (including the United States), under the Convention on the Prevention of Genocide, to intervene in Bosnia. The State Department took pains to avoid even whispering the word ‘genocide’ and instead used Milošević’s carefully and cynically calibrated expression ‘ethnic cleansing’ in its place.

A man of Milošević’s profile with a lethal weapon in his hand could have been and should have been stopped as early as possible. This could only be accomplished by superior force. The United States initially declined to act as a world policeman and then chose to do so at an inappropriate moment, which was at a great cost and done hesitantly and messily. It attacked a sovereign state and interfered with its internal affairs. Of course, it had to be done, but it was done much too late, improperly, and even then half-heartedly, on Milošević’s own terms.

In the end, it required considerable international pressure, and a public divide between the late Prime Minister Zoran Djindjić and President Koštunica to force Milošević out of Serbia to the Hague where he died, while on trial accused of crimes against humanity in Kosovo, Bosnia and Croatia. Indignant, until the end, he prepared his own defence and challenged the legitimacy of the Tribunal. Although he died before justice could be served, the ‘malcontent’ did finally reach the dock.

“War and Change in the Balkans”, Brad K.Blitz, Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Peščanik.net, 11.03.2009.

——————————————————————————–

[1] See Warren Zimmermann, Origins of a Catastrophe, New York: New York Times Books, 1996. This book is especially valuable given his longstanding relationship with Milošević.

[2] See Mark Thompson, Paper House: The Ending of Yugoslavia, New York: Pantheon Books, 1994.

[3] For a scathing attack on the European Community’s actions and the effects of the US handover to the United Nations, see also Mark Almond,Europe’s Backyard War: The War in the Balkans, London: Heinemann, 1994.

[4] See James Gow, Legitimacy and the Military: The Yugoslav Crisis, London: Pinter; New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992.

[5] For an excellent analysis of the decay of the Titoist political system in the 1980s, focusing on the increasing concentration of legitimacy at the republican level, and on the counter-productive attempts of the Yugoslav Army to restore the legitimacy of the federal regime, see Gow, Legitimacy and the Military.

[6] Borisav Jović, Poslednji dani SFRJ, Belgrade: Politika, 1995, p. 161.

[7] Ibid., p. 349.

[8] Ibid., p. 263.

[9] Ibid., p. 277.

[10] Veljko Kadijević, Moje vidjenje raspada, Belgrade: Politika, 1993, p.128.

[11] Jović,Poslednji,pp. 256-7.

[12] See, for example, Robert Thomas, Serbiaunder Milošević: Politics in the 1990s -How Milošević Won and Exercised Power, London: Hurst & Company, 1999.

[13] See Branka Magas and Ivo Zanić (eds.), The War in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina 1991-1995, London: The Bosnian Institute/Frank Cass, 2001.

[14] Baker, 1995.

[15] For an account of the end of the Cold War from the perspective of the then secretary of state, see James Addison Baker and Thomas M. DeFrank,The Politics of Diplomacy: Revolution, War, and Peace, 1989-1992, New York: Putnam, 1995.

[16] Adam LeBor’s Milošević: A Biography contains several interviews with the Milošević family and inner circle. It presents an image of cold, calculated determination on the part of both Milošević and his wife, Mirjana Marković, who was herself arrested in 2001 and charged with abuse of office before a Serbian court in 2003.

[17] W. H. Auden, The Dyer’s Hand, Random House: New York, 1967.

[18] Mihalj Kertes, a former interior minister and head of the Yugoslav customs, was central to the logistics of the Serb wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. He helped funnel the arms, equipment and money to the Serb militias and paramilitaries in Croatia and Bosnia in the run-up to the 1991-95 wars.

[19] Auden,Dyer’s Hand.

[20] See Richard Holbrooke, To End a War, New York: Random House 1998.

[21] Peter J. Boyer, ‘General Clark’s battles’, The New Yorker, 17 November 2003. This article documents the Clinton administration’s reluctance to intervene until it was absolutely unavoidable, as well as their mistaken view of Milošević.

2 thoughts on “Milosevic’s motiveless malignancy By: Srđa Popović

  1. Reblogga detta på Eyes of the Mind and commented:
    ‘Of course, there was nothing spontaneous about the conflict. Most of the victims were produced by the professionals of the Yugoslav Army, by the Serbian police and by paramilitary groups whom the Serbian police organised, armed and shipped to the frontlines.

    It was only in its later stages that the conflict also assumed some traits of a civil war, because it was impossible for civilians to remain neutral. It was at this later stage, roughly after 1992, that members of various ethnic groups flocked together and armed themselves as an act of self-preservation. It was also at this stage that non-Serbs started to retaliate against their Serbian neighbours for the atrocities committed by Milošević’s professionals. Milošević must have been delighted to learn that, according to the State Department, ‘There were no good guys in the conflict’. Being the main culprit, instigator and executioner, he readily agreed on many occasions that ‘all sides are committing atrocities’, thus equating the victims with the aggressors, and appearing to hold an ‘objective’ position at the same time.

    Milošević was well aware that the hatred between Serbs on one hand, and the Croats and Bosnians on the other, was not the cause of the conflict, but the result of the brutal and unprovoked crimes perpetrated against the others (especially in Bosnia) by the Serbian side (his Army and his police). He also knew that these crimes were so terrible that they would create enough hatred for the war to be able to perpetuate itself.’

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