Sunday, March 10, 2002

The Hague trial of Milosevic is turning into a big problem for the NATO/'international community' that is behind it. The problem goes back to the first set of wars in Yugoslavia, involving Serbs, Croats, and Bosnian Muslims. These wars involved atrocities committed by everybody, but I think it is fair to say that the Bosnian Muslims were by far the greatest victims. There were clearly enough war crimes around to put all those responsible, including Milosevic, in jail for a long time (and we mustn't forget, as many apparently have, that the Croats committed atrocities, including murder and ethnic cleansing, against the Serbs). However, because Western countries didn't want to take any risks or spend any money to save the lives of Yugoslavians, all the atrocities were allowed to continue unabated. When everything ended in the Dayton Peace Accords, Milosevic was treated as one of the good guys, a guy you could do a deal with. Lying behind all this was the fact that the Yugoslavian wars were caused by a combination of: 1) destruction of the Yugoslavian economy by the usual methods of the IMF; and 2) meddling in the politics of Yugoslavia, particularly by Germany, who shamefully encouraged the breaking off of Slovenia, and then even more shamefully stirred up their old allies from Nazi times, the Croats, to pick a fight with the Serbs (not to mention, in these oil-war crazy days, that there are probably good U. S. geopolitical reasons for keeping the Balkans in a state of flux). As Milosevic got away with murder in Bosnia and Croatia, he seems to have gotten the idea that he could extend his political power by continuing to appeal to extreme Serbian nationalism, and decided to make an example of Kosovo. While it is impossible to defend his manipulation of Serbian politics for his own selfish political ends, it is also true that the Kosovar Albanians were planning to break away from Serbia, probably with the intention of forming a Greater Albania. It is also true that the Kosovar separatists were drug-dealers on a massive scale, and, as now appears important, associates of al-Qaeda. Finally, it is also true that under international law, Serbia had every right to suppress these terrorists who were attempting to cause the forced separation of a part of Serbia (and of which large portions contain a majority population of ethnic Serbs). NATO decided to attack Serbia at this point, not because of any atrocities that may have been committed by the Serbs (and it now appears that the extent of Serbian atrocities has been magnified by NATO propagandists), but because it was feared that Serbian mishandling of the Kosovo crisis, together with the appearance that Milosevic was going to go on to pick fights in other areas (Montenegro, Vojvodina), would eventually lead Greece (and possibly Hungary, Bulgaria, etc.) to become involved, and an effective World War III started in the Balkans. In effect, the NATO attack on Serbia was made necessary, looking backwards, by their not attacking Serbia to defend the Bosnian Muslims in the first Yugoslavian wars, and, looking forwards, to prevent what Milosevic might do if he saw more political success for himself stirring up more trouble in the future. Since the international community effectively excused the earlier atrocities through dealing with Milosevic in the Dayton Accords, they should be left with trying to prove he is a war criminal based solely on Serbian supression of Kosovar terrorists, but have had to add former atrocities because of a fear that atrocities related to Kosovo may be insufficient for a conviction. Since the Serbs are still able to intimidate many witnesses, and since most of what was done can be explained as acts of war against terrorism, there is going to be very little real evidence on which to convict Milosevic. Sadly, this trial is going to hurt the whole concept of international war crimes trials: either they find him guilty, in which case good arguments will be made that he has been 'railroaded', or they let him off (which is inconceivable), in which case the whole concept of such trials will be permanently damaged.