Culture and Life
by Rob Gowland
For how long has former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic been in prison, despite not having been convicted of any crime? Answer: Since June 28, 2001. On November 8, hundreds of people, who had come from all over Europe and North America, demonstrated outside Scheveningen Prison in The Hague. They were protesting the continued incarceration and persecution of Milosevic. One of their banners encapsulated the issues: "Free Milosevic, jail Bush". It was during the Presidency of Bush's father that the US had seriously set about the task of dismembering Yugoslavia. The country was still a major player in the non-aligned movement (encouraging countries to reject military ties to the US), it straddled a potential oil pipeline route to Europe from the Caucases, and it would make an excellent base from which to threaten Russia if that country refused to accept Third World status. The US used two principal allies in dismembering Yugoslavia: German capitalists and Islamic fundamentalists. German imperialism had never given up the idea of a "greater Germany" (just because Hitler had failed to pull it off did not make the idea invalid). Germany intrigued to sever the former Nazi puppet state of Croatia from Yugoslavia. Not surprisingly, Germany was the first state to recognise Croatia after the neo-Nazi Tudjman lead it to bloody independence with German funds and German-supplied US weapons — and began ethnically cleansing the country of its Serbian minority. Meanwhile the US was using its Islamic connections (including "freedom fighters" from Afghanistan) to foment civil war in and ultimately detach Bosnia. Slobodan Milosevic, as leader of the Socialist Party of Serbia and later as President of what was left of Yugoslavia, worked tirelessly to keep war away from the remaining republics of Yugoslavia. But he refused to bow down to the US and Germany (and later Britain). As readers of The Guardian will know, this led eventually to NATO's Air War on Yugoslavia and the occupation of Kosovo. Islamic fundamentalism and the Albanian Mafia were allies of the US in the war to (defacto) detach Kosovo from Serbia (in order to establish the largest US base outside the US itself). It was during the breaking up of Yugoslavia and especially the war over Kosovo that the techniques of disinformation and demonisation were perfected. The same techniques that have been used since then against governments from Venezuela to Haiti, Zimbabwe to Iraq, indeed against any government that refuses to be ordered around by Washington. As the democratically elected President of a defiant Yugoslavia, Milosevic was a rallying point for those governments that wanted to pursue an independent line in the face of increasingly heavy US pressure. But, in the eyes of Washington, as George W Bush put it "those who are not with us are against us". Milosevic was kidnapped from Belgrade and brought before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. This is a "court" established exclusively and solely to try war crimes and crimes against humanity in the former Yugoslavia. Although there are innumerable examples of war crimes by NATO troops against Yugoslav civilians, and by both Tudjman's fascists and assorted fundamentalist fanatics, the "court" has concentrated almost exclusively on Serbian military and civilian leaders. Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, an outspoken opponent these days of US war plans, says the tribunal is itself illegal and that the UN had no right to set it up. (That it did so under Anglo/US arm twisting goes without saying.) Milosevic, with little in the way of resources, has defended himself with such vigour and skill that at one stage it looked like a rout reminiscent of the Nazis' failed trial against Dimitrov over the Reichstag fire. But the imperialists are not to be cheated of their prey. While Milosevic is denied proper medical care (his blood pressure is now reported to be dangerously high), the prosecution is attempting to wheel in some hopefully big guns. In a piece of damning irony, one of the real war criminals from NATO's war on Yugoslavia is going to appear as a witness against Milosevic. That is Retired US General Wesley Clark, who, as NATO commander, planned and led NATO's illegal war on Yugoslavia. Clark told reporters the US Government had authorised his participation (I'll bet it has), and that lawyers from the State Department and the Pentagon would accompany him. Clark was responsible for NATO's deliberate targeting and bombing of civilians and civilian infrastructure (a war crime, remember). His bombing campaign was responsible for the deaths of upwards of 4000 Yugoslav civilians and the wounding and maiming of thousands more. I visited Belgrade shortly after the bombing. I saw hospitals and other non-military buildings that had been carefully picked out for precision assault by missiles and bombs, in order to create maximum terror among the civilian population. If the Hague Tribunal were about justice, Clark would be in the dock, not Milosevic. Instead, Clark is campaigning for the US Democratic presidential nomination — as an anti-war candidate! Clark's anti-war posture appears to be not that he's against war as such, but simply that he's against the mess that Bush is making of the war in Iraq. Meanwhile, Milosevic, a true anti-war campaigner, has languished in prison for two and a half years, being punished for defying the superpower of capital.