With Milosevic gone, what shall the West do?

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 102 – October 23, 2000

Originally published here.

 

The Milosevic-West symbiosis

In handling the Balkan crisis the last ten years, the United States and European countries could have chosen a pro-active policy based on conflict analysis and a fair, principled implementation. They could have avoided today’s intellectual, political and moral cul-de-sac and avoided the bombing last year. They would not be de facto protectors of Bosnia and occupiers of Kosovo/a.

Most Western actors grossly underestimated the complexities of the Balkans, they were occupied with the end of the Cold War, they chose to perceive it all in simplified black-and-white terms. They never acted to only help the parties solve their problems, but were guided by their own more or less nationalist, competing interests in the Balkans. And then, above all, there was the “Milosevic factor.”

The West is cosmologically burdened with a tendency to write simplifying, fail-safe recipes for the solution of extremely complex economic, constitutional, historical and structural conflicts: one issue, two parties, decide who is good and who is bad, elevate yourself to judge and solve the conflict by punishing the culprit rather than attack the root cause of the problems that stands between the opponents and the structure around them that made them quarrel.

The name of the game was Milosevic. More than any other single factor the love/hate relationship between him and the West has determined the course of Western conflict-(mis)management this last decade. He was the bad guy par excellence; he was also a man who could – and did – deliver when he had put his signature on a deal; he was the actor who could be blamed for anything that went wrong whether in Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo or Serbia itself.

When the West recognized that it had lost a decade of perfectly possible violence-prevention in the case of Kosovo and the man also continued to stand up against pressure – and not, in that situation, without support from the citizens of Yugoslavia – it began calling him, for the first time, “cruel dictator.” [Read more…]

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Why Milosevic won’t get to the Hague

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 100 – October 11, 2000

Originally published here.

 

Western politicians insist that Slobodan Milosevic must be brought to the Hague Tribunal and stand trial as a war criminal. Media and commentators raise the issue time and again. But there are reasons to believe that this is make-believe.

The indictment of Milosevic leaves much to be explained – for instance, why he is indicted only for crimes committed in 1999 but not before – and certain Western countries would hardly want him to be on record in the Hague with a few things that he may know about them.

The West would, therefore, do wise to drop this issue now and let Yugoslavia deal with Milosevic.

It seems that few have bothered to read the text of the indictment of Milosevic and four other high-level government officials of Thursday May 27, 1999. Among other things it states:

“As pointed out by Justice Arbour in her application to Judge Hunt, “this indictment is the first in the history of this Tribunal to charge a Head of State during an on-going armed conflict with the commission of serious violations of international humanitarian law”.

The indictment alleges that, between 1 January and late May 1999, forces under the control of the five accused persecuted the Kosovo Albanian civilian population on political, racial or religious grounds. By the date of the indictment, approximately 740,000 Kosovo Albanians, about one-third of the entire Kosovo Albanian population, had been expelled from Kosovo. Thousands more are believed to be internally displaced. An unknown number of Kosovo Albanians have been killed in the operations by forces of the FRY and Serbia. Specifically, the five indictees are charged with the murder of over 340 persons identified by name in an annex to the indictment.

Each of the accused is charged with three counts of crimes against humanity and one count of violations of the laws or customs of war.”

 

Limited indictment and dubious facts

As will be seen, Milosevic is indicted for activities limited to the period January 1 and late May 1999, i.e. during the local war between Kosovo-Albanian forces (KLA/UCK) and various Serb/Yugoslav forces and for activities during NATO’s bombings which started on March 24 and went on for 78 days.

At the time the Tribunal could not know any precise facts or numbers. What we do know today from public, reliable sources is that a considerable part of the information about killings and ethnic cleansing was exaggerated or false.

At the time of the indictment, facts could not be verified by independent sources [Read more…]

The Yugoslav nonviolent revolution

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 99 – October 9, 2000

Originally published here.

 

Milosevic certainly did not even think the thought. The opposition had hoped for it but hardly foreseen it would happened just like that. Western leaders and commentators had predicted about everything else but this: that nonviolence by the many would sweep away the authoritarian power presided over and solidified by Slobodan Milosevic over 13 years.

It was a miracle unfolding, minute by minute, in front of our eyes. Unarmed citizens were stronger, finally, than Milosevic’ force.

They also achieved in about 24 hours what NATO violence could not achieve in 78 days. It’s yet another remarkable victory for non-violence. But do we see it like that?

 

  

The power of nonviolence

The Shah of Iran lost power mainly due to nonviolent struggle. The Marcos regime in the Philippines did too. Solidarnosc in Poland would not had won had it used violence. The Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia is yet another. The East-West bloc confrontation – the “hardest” conflict of modern times, imbued with nuclearism and militarism on both sides – dissolved, not in a nuclear war, as war statistics might have made us expect, but by the remarkable combination of nonviolent forces: the peace and women’s movements in the West and the dissident, human rights and church movements in the East and, of course, the towering figure of Michael Gorbachev who did what no other leader has dared, namely to work his way up to the top of a power system and then declare that it has to be thoroughly changed and that change has to begin here with ourselves, not with “the other.”

These fundamentally important events in contemporary history, like hundreds of smaller changes brought about by non-violence and civil disobedience around the world, have seldom been covered by the media or referred to in history books as victories of nonviolence the way military victories are seen as the result of violence. Nonviolent revolutions like that in Yugoslavia ought to be analyzed as a manifestation of alternative power, not just as a lucky chance.

On Sepember 25, 1999 I participated in the walking demonstrations against the government, arranged by the Alliance for Change in the streets of Belgrade. There were more than 10.000 people, one evening after the other. But it was not enough, it was not broad enough; at the time workers were not actively opposing the Milosevic regime. Opposition politicians were fighting each other while the people marched. But no one present could possibly miss the strength and the determination or the fearless, unrestrained hilarity. [Read more…]