20170104

SLOBODAN MILOSEVIC

In 1389, Prince Lazar died in the Battle of Marica. The Ottoman Empire eventually took control of most of the Balkan region including Macedonia and the province of Kosovo in southern Serbia, which was the home of the medieval Orthodox monasteries. It wasn't until World War I, in 1912, Kosovo became a province of Serbia again after Serbia, Montenegro, Greece and Bulgaria defeated the Ottoman Empire. 

Slobodan ("Slobo") Milosevic became leader of the Communist party branch in Serbia in December 1987. He joined the party in 1959. In 1989, Slobodan Milosevic was elected President of Serbia. As the Iron Curtain fell, the Communist party was renamed the Socialist party in 1990. At the time, Eastern Europe were embracing a new era of democracy and hope. 

Richard Holbrooke was said knew Slobodan Milosevic better than anyone outside Yugoslavia told the press, "Slobodan Milosevic makes such a stunning first impression it is easy to believe that he is not really as bad as he said to be. But he is someone who will take any advantage he can to get what he wants. And the thing he wants is power." When Slobodan Milosevic came to power, 9 in 10 of the 1.8 million people living in Kosovo were Albanians. 

Geoff Kitney in Berlin and Liane Martindale in Belgrade reported for 'Fairfax Media' in 1998, "Milosevic recognized he needed a new ideological vehicle to fuel his ambition for greater power. When Serb nationalists encouraged him to support … the rebuilding of the Serbian nation, Milosevic immediately became a passionate nationalist … promising Serbs the realization of their dream of the creation of Greater Serbia."

Vuk Draskovic explained to the press, "Kosovo is the root of our national history." Dejan Anastasijevic of 'Vreme' added, "Any Serbian leader who simply wrote off Kosovo would have a terrible political problem." During the NATO air strikes, one official declared, "If it is lost, we keep the right to reconquer it, even 100 years from now. If we give it away, it is lost forever." 

Warren Christopher was heard saying to a senior colleague about Slobodan Milosevic, "Had fate dealt him a different birthplace and education, Milosevic would have been a successful politician in a democratic system." To achieve his vision of Greater Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic declared a state of emergency in 1989 and stripped Kosovo of autonomy which was granted to the province under the 1974 Yugoslav constitution.

Slobodan Milosevic was said studied law at Belgrade University and before entering the Communist party hierarchy in the late 1970s, worked as a banker, including a posting in New York, where, as 'The Los Angeles Times' observed, he gained an impressive command of English. By 1992, 'Knight-Ridder Newspapers' reported, "The United States no longer sees the former Yugoslavia as an islolated pocket of instability on the world stage, but as one piece of a very volatile jigsaw puzzle with the potential to explode." Radovan Karadzic remarked, "A general melee would break out, and Third World War would begin."

After Slobodan Milosevic rose to power, he seized control of the state-owned media. As reported, "Like all authoritarian leaders, his reigns depends as much on controlling the information his citizens receive as it does on controlling the security apparatus. Milosevic has used the media as ruthlessly as he has used his security forces to promote Serb nationalism and himself as its only true defender." Slavko Curuvija told the 'New York Times', "Milosevic wants to destroy those who think with their own head and to introduce terror and dictatorship in Serbia."

One woman told the outside world in 1998, "Life here (in Belgrade) is terribly hard and getting worse. We can see no future and we have no hope because while Milosevic is there nothing will change. The brightest young people who we need for the future are leaving the country. All that the NATO threats have done is make him (Milosevic) even stronger because, even if people hate him, they hate the Americans more."

Chris Bennett of the International Crisis Center based in Sarajevo begged to differ, "I am convinced that Milosevic will fall from power and that will be in this (20th) century. He needs wars and conflicts to distract his people from the economic disaster he has imposed on them. When there is peace he will be exposed."

In his address to the nation in March 1999, then President Bill Clinton told the American people, "Tonight I want to speak with you about the tragedy in Kosovo and why it matters to America that we work with our allies to end it … Ending this tragedy is a moral imperative. It is also important to America’s national interests. Take a look at this map. Kosovo is a small place but it sits on a major fault line between Europe, Asia and the Middle East, at the meeting place of Islam and both the Western and Orthodox branches of Christianity.

"To the south are our allies, Greece and Turkey. To the north, our new democratic allies in Central Europe. And all around Kosovo there are other small countries that could be overthrown by a large new wave of refugees from Kosovo. All the ingredients for a major war are there. Ancient grievances, struggling democracies and, in the center of it all, a dictator in Serbia who has done nothing since the Cold War ended but start new wars (in Kosovo, Bosnia, Croatia and Slovenia) and pour gasoline on the flames of ethnic and religious division.

"Sarajevo, the capital of neighboring Bosnia, is where World War I began. World War II and the Holocaust engulfed this region … Today (in 1999), we and our 18 NATO allies agreed to do what we said we would do, what we must do to restore the peace … In short, if President Milosevic will not make peace, we will limit his ability to make war … If we've learned anything from the (20th) century drawing to a close, it is that if America is going to be prosperous and secure, we need a Europe that is prosperous, secure, undivided and free. We need a Europe that is coming together, not falling apart. A Europe that shares our values, and shares the burdens of leadership."

One Western diplomat made the observation, "He's always creating a bigger crisis to cover up a smaller crisis. That's how he thrives." Milica Milojevic, 30 in 1999, exclaimed, "I can't believe it, this is the 20th century in the middle of Europe, and this is war!" Before the start of the 78-day NATO campaign which Tony Blair pointed out was necessary to prevent "chaos for the entire region and for the rest of us in Europe", Belgraders reportedly "went on last-minute shopping sprees for flour, cooking oil, sugar and other staples and waited for hours in line at gasoline stations, while authorities banned the sale of diesel fuel so the army could use all supplies."

Writing for the 'Chicago Tribune' in 1999, Ray Moselye argued, "Wars never follow a textbook pattern, often produce endless examples of things going wrong and have a way of ending messily. The war in Yugoslavia has been no exception. War always involved costs." In June 2001, the Balkan nation came to a donors' meeting held in Brussels seeking $1.25 billion to finance the first year of a 4-year, $4 billion infrastructure reconstruction plan.

The 42 donor nations reportedly "ended Yugoslavia's years of isolation by rewarding Belgrade with $1.28 billion for its controversial decision to hand over Slobodan Milosevic to the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague, Netherlands to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity." Although a Yugoslav Federal Court had ruled that the extradition was unconstitutional, Zoran Djindjic told the B92 radio station at the time, "Any other solution except cooperation would lead the country to disaster." The Balkan nation came away with $30 million more than it had requested. As reported, the European Union offered $445 million, the World Bank $150 million, Germany $56 million, Japan $50 million and the United States pledged $181 million.

In October 2000, a mass rally was held in front of the Federal Parliament building with demonstrators also inside the offices of the Federal Electoral Commission claiming electoral fraud by Slobodan Milosevic. Vojoslav Kostunica appealed to Slobodan Milosevic to give up power peacefully. From 23-year-old Tanja Radovic to 31-year-old Dragana Kovac to Ilija Bobic, the general consensus was, "We had too much of him. It's enough. He should have spent more time with his family starting 10 years ago. My father used to say that the Communists would finish quickly. He was wrong, but it came true, finally."

It was noted Slobodan Milosevic was assigned a 10-by-20-foot cell with generous privileges including food to cook himself if he found the food offered not to his taste; a monthly $60 phone card and pocket money to spend in a shop there, as well as access to a library and internet and sports facilities including a running track and field that could be converted to a tennis court. However he would be allowed outside only from 8.30am to 8.30pm and could receive visitors from 9:00am to 4.45pm every day but Sunday.

Sociologist Laslo Sekelj described Slobodan Milosevic "a genius of destruction. Everything that he took in his hands he destroyed. He destroyed Yugoslavia. He destroyed the Communist party. He destroyed Serbia. And finally, he destroyed himself." Jasna Skrbovic who was 50 in 2001 told the press, "I don't know what can be done to recover. We made too many steps back while Milosevic was in power. We went back to the '50s and '60s in some respects. I feel like I lost 13 years of my life."

Srdja Trifkovic was the executive director of the Lord Byron Foundation for Balkan Studies which was based in London. In 1996, Srdja Trifkovic told the outside world via the 'Phoenix Gazette', "Belgrade of the 1970s was a paragon of joie de vivre and reckless consumerism. Even on the eve of Yugoslavia's violent disintegration, the city's cafes were brimming with life, its streets with color, its young with energy.

"Three years of sanctions and 8 years (to 1996) of Slobodan Milosevic have changed all that. The city now (in 1996) exudes that unmistakably East European mix of grayness and quiet desperation, spiritual depression and material misery. The airport building has seen better days. Fading posters still advertise products from former Yugoslavia's long-seceded republics. Unsmiling policemen, vulturous taxi drivers, poorly lighted streets – the clich├ęs from Graham Greene are all there. Crumbling facades of once-elegant buildings and Gypsy beggars, too. To a returning native the scene is painfully real, yet hard to digest.

"The key to understanding what went wrong with Serbia is in the fact that its power structure, its system of political command and control, has not changed since Marshal Tito's days. Serbia probably has the most tightly state-controlled economy in today's (1996) Europe, with minimal scope for individual initiative and no incentive for foreign investors. The bizarre story of today's (1996) Serbia contains a warning not only to its current ruler but also to his partners in the outside world. It is simple: A 'new Balkan order,' which openly seeks to satisfy the aspirations of virtually all ethnic groups in former Yugoslavia, except some 9 million Serbs, is a disastrous strategy for all concerned."  

Daniel Rubin of the 'Philadelphia Inquirer' noted in June 2001, "The date of Milosevic's departure already is heavy with meaning in Yugoslavia. On that date in 1914, Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary to death in Sarajevo, triggering World War I. More than 600 years ago (back in 1389) on June 28, Serbs suffered a noble defeat at the hands of the Turks on Kosovo's Field of Blackbirds, a battle that is the basis of their national myth. And on June 28 1989, Slobodan Milosevic launched his rise to power with a call to Serb nationalism, delivered before a million cheering Serbs on that same Field of Blackbirds."

Srdja Trifkovic reminded in the 1996 report, "Milosevic had never been the 'Serbian national leader' of a thousand Western editorials. He is a cynical apparatchik who cleverly exploited Serbian patriotic rhetoric to establish himself in power back in 1987, but who has never identified with the nationalist agenda. Only by kidnapping the mantle of nationalism could he secure a degree of legitimacy just as communism was collapsing all over Europe." 

In Skopje, Macedonia in 2000, Vojislav Kostunica told a one-day summit of Balkan leaders, "The Balkans needs peace and stability. Europe needs a peaceful and stable Balkans." He then spent 2½ hours talking to Richard Holbrooke who later told the press, "We look forward to the very near future day when Yugoslavia will join the community of nations as a free and democratic country, a full member of the United Nations and other international organizations."

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