Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Just another murder of a 16 year old in Kosovo

/ quagmires / old / kosovo
Impressively under-reported, another murder of a member of the endangered Serbian minority in Kosovo was reported this past Staurday. This is still a war zone and it feels like nobody has realized the colossal "failure" that the 1999 atrocity was...

Note two related stories:

- Canadian diplomat claims NATO war crimes:

Canada participated in a series of NATO-sanctioned war crimes against Yugoslavia, charges a former Canadian ambassador to the Balkan country.

To this day, Canada has failed to admit the pretences behind the bombing campaign that led to the NATO occupation of Kosovo had no substance, James Bissett said Tuesday in an interview before making a speech at the University of Alberta.

- Putin: Those Who Destroyed Serbian Infrastructure Should Rebuild It:

[Putin] says he supports Serbian efforts to bring peace to Kosovo, and expressed Russia's readiness to increase its involvement in helping to find a settlement.

1 comment:

talos said...

old comments

aegean disclosure:

I'm still ambivalent about the bombing (the alternative?), but what was most damning was the complete abscence of what is usually referred to as "a plan".

2004-06-09 21:12

Noam Chomsky pretty much says what I'd say on this, better and more succinctly.
As you well know, when superpowers take sides among competing nationalisms in the Balkans, this has little to do with either nationality's interests - and might lead to a swift reversal of roles for victims/aggressors. In Serbia's case, it also lead to a pre-industrial age and the replacement of Milosevic's mafia, with the much more presentable, western-inspired and equally crooked Djindjic mafia.
I think this was pretty much the plan…

Anyway: Delighted to hear from you here neighbour!

2004-06-10 00:11
aegean disclosure:

Interesting, although there has been a reversal of fortunes and a few revenge attacks, the Kurds in Iraq, for example, have not retaliated significantly against the Sunnis while the Americans are still in the area, despite having their politicians consistently murdered—though the jury is still out on how it is going to pan out in the end.

2004-06-10 11:01

Ah! I should have known that the link wouldn't display:
This is the Chomsky article I was referring to: http://www.common…

As for the Kurds in Iraq, there is a difference between Barzani f.e. who is more like Rugova, and the KLA. The Kurds have a political strategy.
I am very afraid however that the Kurds will be screwed royally in the end, (although it is my hope that a distinct improvement in the Kurds' lives (autonomy) might be one of the few good things that will come out of this war).
Anywa,y I don't think there was animosity between Kurds and Sunni Arabs as such, since a lot of Iraqi Sunnis ended up dead or otherwise "disappeared" under Saddam too…

2004-06-10 11:36
aegean disclosure:

Yes, they do look like their being corned in some ways. In something completely unrelated (or not): after beating the issue to death evidence substantially new has finally surfaced in the torture cases:

The disclosure that the Justice Department advised the White House in 2002 that the torture of al Qaeda terrorist suspects might be legally defensible has focused new attention on the role President Bush played in setting the rules for interrogations in the war on terrorism.

An Aug. 1, 2002, memo from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, addressed to Gonzales, said that torturing suspected al Qaeda members abroad "may be justified" and that international laws against torture "may be unconstitutional if applied to interrogation" conducted against suspected terrorists.

In the view expressed by the Justice Department memo, which differs from the view of the Army, physical torture "must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death." For a cruel or inhuman psychological technique to rise to the level of mental torture, the Justice Department argued, the psychological harm must last "months or even years."

ohh-kay. http://www.washin…

2004-06-10 11:49
Doug Muir:

James Bissett has been beating this drum — Serbia good, the West bad, the Kosovo intervention wicked — for years now. He was Canada's ambassador back in the early '90s, and Slobo seems to haveworked some serious mojo on him, because he's never really recovered. He's retired now, and running around making speeches to Serb diaspora groups in places like Alberta.

There's nothing new here, and nobody — except for Serb nationalists and wossname, the guy who's inherited balkanalysis — takes him seriously.

I love B92 — I used to party with those guys in Belgrade — but be aware of where they're coming from. Basically they toss these stories in occasionally to blunt the (frequent) attacks of their nationalist critics.

I imagine they had fun with this one. "Oh, Ivan, the University of Alberta! I love it!" "Just run it, Igor, just run it straight. It's balanced reporting for this week, okay?" "Okay, but… can I add a line about how Bissett used to meet regularly with Milosevic? Come on, please?"

As for Putin: there's an old Serb saying that translates something like this: Any Serb who trusts a German is a [obscenity deleted] dog. But any Serb who trusts a Russian is a stupid [obscenity deleted] dog. If you're familiar with Serbian history, you can see their point.

Doug M.

2004-06-19 23:26

Interesting points. Though a possible interpretation of Bisset's opinions could be that he has a better understanding than most of the western diplomats that failed Yugoslavia and its peoples as a whole miserably during the past 15 (and more) years.

Let me make my point clearer: it is more like Serbia "bad", the West "bad", the Kosovo "intervention" criminal… I can't imagine how people who would rightly consider if proposed, say, the idea of bombing of Tel-Aviv to support the Palestinians, idiotic and criminal, could fall for this imperial show of strength. A display of power, it should be said, which had the (forseeable) outcome of empowering one set of murderous nationalists (and assorted mafias) over the previously dominant group of murderous nationalists, thus helping perpetrate the most thorough and succesful ethnic cleansing campaign in the Balkans… Meanwhile Milosevic was removed from power by an alliance of rival or turncoat mafiosi (which went on to settle their differences in blood) while Montenegro is ruled by the foremost cigarette smuggling clan of the Adriatic - to western applause since its "friendly crooks" that are in power now.
As for Putin: he seems to be at the same time the most ruthless and the most clever world leader at the moment. No argument about Russia's role in the history of Serbia, it is interesting to see how Russia plans to involve itself in Kosovo…

Ah… long rant. I get always fired up by Kosovo-related discussions. NATO's intervention was the most obscene combination of the criminal and the stupid I have witnessed in my lifetime (I was living in the US at the time)- until Iraq that is: and Kosovo was the necessary prelude of illegitimate violence without which Iraq would be unimaginable…

2004-06-20 00:15
Doug Muir:

I can't imagine how people who would rightly consider if proposed, say, the idea of bombing of Tel-Aviv to support the Palestinians, idiotic and criminal, could fall for this imperial show of strength.

Israel is strong enough that nobody cares to try this; the only power with the slightest hope of carrying it off, isn't interested.

Similarly, nobody's talking about bombing Moscow to save the Chechens… where conservative estimates have 20,000 civilians dead so far and another 200,000 displaced, numbers that are going nowhere but up.

What's your proposed alternative? Absent the bombing, Milosevic would still be in power — I say that with regret, but a high degree of certainty, having lived in Serbia.

In the best case scenario, you'd have a constant steady trickle of casualties in Kosovo, a few dozen dead every month, a Serb policeman dead here, a bunch of young Albanian men disappeared over there.

Worst case… crap, I don't know what the worst case would be. A couple more Srebrenicas, but that would just be the start. Refugee floods into Albania and Macedonia, just like in 1999, except that they'd be staying for years. God knows what those two countries would look like by now, but it wouldn't be pretty.

the most thorough and succesful ethnic cleansing campaign in the Balkans…

Not to quibble, but the number of Serbs displaced in Kosovo was tiny compared to the number of Serbs, Bosniaks and Croats displaced in the breakup of FYU 1991-6. True, some of them have gone back; but most have not.

Frex, Nearly a quarter of a million Serbs are gone from Kraljina and Slavonia, pft. The fact that 60,000 or so have trickled back doesn't vitiate the overall success of Operation Storm. Meanwhile, over a hundred thousand Croats disappeared from Vojvodina and Banat in northern Serbia (and from Belgrade, which had half a dozen Catholic churches in 1990 and has one small one today). Virtually none of them have come back.

Total Serb displacement in Kosovo seems to have been around 100,000. As usual, the numbers are disputed, but it's not possible for it to be much higher — there simply weren't that many Serbs in Kosovo to begin with. And a lot of them still are in Kosovo; they're just north of the river. Which is bad enough, sure.

[turncoat mafiosi]

Djindjic, for all his flaws, was an immense improvement over Milosevic. And the mafiosi are gradually killing each other off.

You know, if Milosevic were still in power, Legija Ulemak — the drug-dealing mass murderer who's been mumbling his way through a rambling, self-obsessed monologue in a Belgrade courtroom recently, alternately pathetic and horrific — would still be head of Serbia's Red Berets, the "special police unit" with authority over all other police and military. The freezer trucks full of Albanians would still be at the bottom of the Danube (well, likely most of them still are, but at least three have been retrieved). And Serbia would basically be a bigger and more depressing Bosnia.

If you can show me a plausible and clearly superior policy alternative, I'll be interested to hear it. But the emphasis here is on "plausible".

[Montenegrin cigarette smugglers]

This was true before the Kosovo operation. Montenegro, like Albania, regressed back towards its historical default state pretty quickly after 1990. The grownups haven't been in charge there for a while. But that's got very little to do with Kosovo.

it is interesting to see how Russia plans to involve itself in Kosovo…

It doesn't. Not in the slightest.

Kosovo has exactly two uses for Putin: (1) as a drum to beat when he wants to rally nationalist support, because Russians are still capable of getting quite sentimental about dear little Serbia; and (2) as a stick with which to beat the West, when that seems appropriate.

Russia has no strategic interests in the interior of the Balkans any more. Yeltsin wasn't quite smart enough to realize that; Putin seems to be.

Doug M.

2004-06-20 20:31

1. If it was possible to bomb Israel, Russia, China, Turkey, destroying their infrastructure, and thus "support" the Palestinians, Chechens, Tibetans, Kurds, would that be acceptable - morally I mean? Would that be effective? Would it solve the problem or morph it into a different (quite possibly larger) problem?
2. Absent the bombing it is possible (though how probable is a rather metaphysical question) that Milosevic would still be in power… So? You are obviously aware that the Radical party is about to win the elections in Serbia, and there is nothing like a Seselj fascist to make one appreciate how moderate the "Socialists" were by comparison… Even if they don't win now the future seems theirs, especially since we all know what the Democratic party's "necessary structural adjustments" mean for countries like Serbia. I also remind you that Tudjman's party fell from power in Croatia without the need to bomb anyone. It is hardly implausible to suggest that Milosevic would have met a similar fate sooner or later.
Anyway if it's Milosevic without the humanitarian, economic and environmental catastrophe that was inflicted on the country vs. the current mob of western gauleiters and Radical Party fascists with the catastrophe, the choice I'd simplemindedly make is the former…
3. Your worst case scenario seems exaggerated at best. Unlike Bosnia, no Serb in his right mind believed (or indeed wished) that Kosovo could remain under its 1999 status for long (though I acknowledge the existence of a large group of Serbs not at all in their right minds). The return to an autonomous Kosvo was in the cards. Indeed after the Rambouillet failure the Serbian parliament voted to restore autonomy to the region. Most Serbs I talked to at the time (and that included a few nationalists) were conceding that there is nothing in Kosovo for Serbia apart from monuments and a national minority, that Serbs were historically intimidated into leaving, but by doing so they voted with their feet. Serbia would, sooner or later, cut a deal with Rugova - and not the organized-crime-related KLA.
Milosevic was an opportunist not a Nationalist (see the references to Markovic's and Owen's testimonies in the Hague trial on the side bar). Unlike, say, Seselj, he knew that there was no way he would be allowed to inflict a refugee problem on neighbouring countries, especially since one of the countries that could have been potentially affected, would be Greece - a country he had deep and dark ties to (especially the Mitsotakis government). There was no way he would have attempted this. It just wouldn't make sense.
4. You are right about the "thorough" and "succesful" cleansing, in a sense… Mind you I didn't use "largest". As you noted, the other cleansing operations are in the process of (some degree of) restitution. I don't think that there will be more than a handful of Serbs (or Gypsies for that matter) in Kosovo in 10 years time. I hope I'm proven wrong.
5. Mafiosi: Legija- and correct me if I'm wrong- was apparently instrumental in the overthrow of Milosevic. This was the sort of people that the "democratic opposition" flirted in order to overthrow Milosevic. I really fail to see the qualitative difference between one set of Mafia overlords over the other. None of them are conducive to democracy - speaking of which, this will all be moot should Nikolic be elected next week. Kostunica could have been some sort of solution were he slightly more intelligent.
Thus: no alternatives other than chaos without the bombardment vs. chaos after the bombardment. I think that destroying a country's infrastructure is not a great way to advance the ideals of democracy.
I'm curious: do you know many Serbs that are saying "whew, thank goodness NATO bombed us, otherwise who knows where we'd be now?", because I don't - cynical indifference I see, but certainly not approval.

As for Russia - you are probably right.

2004-06-21 02:49
Doug Muir:

Well, we disagree on several points.

1) A very broad question, and I'm suspicious of discussions that try to completely separate the moral from the real-world practical and possible. Perhaps for another thread.

2) a) It's not possible: it's pretty much certain (that Milosevic would still be in power). Again, I speak as someone who lived for years in Serbia. I can go into more detail if you like.

b) The Radicals are not going to win the Presidency. (Would you like to make another bet on it? I'm confident enough to put money down.) Boguljub Karic's announcement of support for Tadic is IMO the final nail in Nikolic's coffin. Furthermore, while the Radicals are going to be an element of the Serbian political scene for a long time to come, they're not going to form a government any time soon.

c) Tudjman's party fell from power because Tudjman died of cancer. And — rather like Tito — he'd made sure that there was no heir apparent to be a potential rival within his party. This was fine while he was alive but resulted in the party disintegrating as soon as he was gone. Had he lived, he and HDZ would have comfortably won re-election.

d) I'm sorry, but I can't agree. Another four years of Milosevic would have ruined Serbia. Ruined it worse than anything NATO did.

As it was, he managed to gut the country's industrial base, ruin its banking system, completely corrupt its media, grotesquely degrade its civil life, and poison politics for a generation to come. If he'd stayed in power… well, I already gave you the Kosovo scenario. The rest of the country? Continuing sanctions, more economic isolation. Probably another bout of hyperinflation; there'd been one apiece in each of the previous Milosevic terms. Zoran Djindjic would be alive; he'd be running a bank in Hamburg, maybe teaching a course or two at the local economics faculty on the side. Vuk Draskovic, OTOH, would be dead, and so would various troublesome members of the media. Legija would either still be running Serbia's state security apparatus, or he'd have gotten on Slobo's bad side, in which case he'd be Arkan-style eliminated in a hail of bullets and replaced with someone exactly like him. Seselj might have suffered some sort of accident too; as the ghost of Ivan Stambolic could tell you, Slobo didn't like rivals any more than Tito or Tudjman. Serbia would be an impoverished international pariah and a gangster state, more like someplace in the Caucasus or Central Asia than anything in Europe.

The post-Milosevic governments — flawed and fumbling — are such a huge improvement over Slobo that suggesting otherwise is… well, you said it yourself. Simpleminded.

Except for a few structures that the Serbian government is leaving wrecked for its own purposes — and the lost lives, of course — most of the damage from the NATO bombing has been repaired by now. The damage that Milosevic did, though less obvious, is going to take many more years to undo.

3) I have to wonder what Serbs you were talking to. In 1999, Kosovo had been under direct rule from Belgrade for 10 years… and this wasn't about to change. Serb rule in the province wasn't loosening; it was tightening. More troops, more police, more money. Slobo'd had seven years, 1989-1996, to negotiate with Rugova and the nonviolent opposition. He didn't. As late as the summer of 1998, there was still a chance to reach out to non-KLA Albanian leaders. It never happened.

As for the offer of autonomy — you want to go back and take a look at what was actually being offered. Autonomy in name only, with the details quite carefully left undefined. Most assuredly not a return to the pre-1989 status quo, which Milosevic had founded his career on attacking and destroying.

The Serbs, fed a steady diet of Albanian atrocities from the early 1980s onward, were morally, absolutely certain that giving local self-government to Kosovo would mean all-out attack on Serbs by Albanians. (This proved to be a tragically self-fulfilling prophecy, of course). This meant that no Serbian government could give autonomy to Kosovo. Further, it's worth noting that the "state of emergency" in Kosovo suited Milosevic very well, at least up until the bombs started falling; among other things, it justified a variety of legal restrictions on the opposition.

Agreed, that Milosevic was an opportunist. But what's this about inflicting a refugee problem on Greece? Greece shares no border with Kosovo. Slobo would have been delighted to destabilize Macedonia and Albania, and maybe Montenegro as well. But not too many Kosovar Albanians were going to hike 200+ km over the mountains to Greece (and not many would have been welcome if they had).

4) The cleansing of Croats from Belgrade and northern Serbia is not in the process of restitution. And in several parts of BiH, the number of returneess is so small — less than 10% — that you really have to say the cleansing was a success there too. (Non-Croats from western Herzegovina, frex.)

That said, we should note and celebrate those places where return is happening and cleansing has been undone. Topic for another post, perhaps. And I don't mean to minimize what happened to the Serbs in Kosovo.

But keep in mind that nearly two million former Yugoslavs suffered a sudden and involuntary change of address between 1991 and 1996; and a clear majority of them have never gone home.

5) There was simply no way to get rid of MIlosevic peacefully without cutting a deal with Legija. If Kostunica and Djindjic hadn't bribed Legija over to their side, the Red Berets would have cheerfully gunned down the crowds in Parliament Park. (Actually they would more likely have started by arresting some opposition leaders, amidst well-orchestrated accusations of treason and corruption. But people wouldn't tolerate that any more, so the shooting would almost certainly follow thereafter.) The Red Berets were Slobo's Praetorian Guard, hand picked from the killing fields of Bosnia. I do think Milosevic would have fallen anyhow, once the election results were allowed to slip out… but a lot of people would have died first.

Looking back with the cold eye of history, one has to wonder whether that might not have been better for Serbia. If the Red Berets had fought, they would have lost — the Army wasn't going to back them, the police hated them, and they just weren't numerous enough to keep the whole country down. I could see a secnario where a lot of people died, but afterwards there was a real lustration — all the RBs killed, locked up or banished, the Zemun Gang hunted down (as they were in the weeks after the Djindjic killing), the gangster infiltration into Serbia's power structure broken for good. The police and the judiciary then purged, a new government taking over with no deals and no baggage. Might have been better… if you weren't one of the ones (a few dozen? a few hundred?) gunned down by Legija's killers.

Other hand, I could also easily imagine a bloodbath where Kostunica and Djindjic end up dead or discredited, and the Army steps in to take over and "restore order". So maybe not.

Anyhow, point is — at the time, then and there, they made what seemed like the best decision. It turned out to be a curse, and Djindjic would eventually die for it, but they chose a flawed but peaceful transfer of power over the bloodbath. If you had been there, would you have chosen differently?

And: once D & K were in power — and before their stupid feud drove them completely apart from each other — they took care to ease Legija and his buddies out of positions of real power. They couldn't arrest him — that was part of the deal — but they could at least take him away from running the State's security apparatus, and move the Red Berets out to a base outside of town where they had nothing to do but sit around and sulk. So, yeah, I do see a moral difference there.

As to your last question — there are a few. (Serbs who'll privately admit that the NATO bombing may have led to some good eventually). Obviously they're not too public about it. But if you get some Serbs alone or in small groups, you'd be surprised. (Of course, you can be surprised in more than one direction; there are also still a lot of Serbs who believe that Clinton ordered the bombing because he was getting payoffs from Albanian heroin smugglers.)

I may be coming across as more certain about the NATO intervention than I actually am. I have some deeply conflicted views on it. But to say it was a stupid, evil exercise of imperialist force… I can't agree with that. (For starters, I have trouble seeing an anticolonial conflict as "imperialist".) It was a lot more complicated than that to begin with, and both evil and good have flowed from it since.

Doug M.

2004-06-22 10:42

1. Yet the question remains pertinent to the issue, because there is a general principle involved, so let me repeat it : If one could (magically) achieve independence for Turkish Kurdistan by bombing Turkey to a pre-industrial stage, at the expense of a few thousand inoccents dying as "collateral damage" would you personally support the bombing? Would it be acceptable? Would it solve the Kurdish problem or would it make the perpetuation of this problem even more likely?
2. Let me point out that the question of toppling Milosevic was never part of the official reason for bombing Serbia. The attack on Yugoslavia happened supposedly to "prevent genocide and ethnic cleansing". So this defense is certainly after the fact. At the time one had no idea how the war would influence the popularity/electability of Milosevic. In fact, one could reasonably expect that he would come out of the war stronger rather than weaker. During the war, being surrounded by Serbs (students, in the states, hardly representative, OK) not one of whom wished Milosevic anything other than a painful death, I realised that whether they admitted it or not, they were rallying in defense of Serbian policies in Kosovo. One could argue that the reason the opposition "won" in 2000 is the fact that the west was promising a way out of the destruction of the past decade.

Given the above I only ask how you can be so certain that Milosevic would still be in power were it not for Kosovo.
Just a reminder that the Balkans would have been spared a good part of 8 years of strife were Panic elected in 1992 . And he would have been elected had the Albanians of Kosovo had just frigging voted against him. Milosevic was always within sight of losing power if the Albanians of Kosovo ever voted. They didn't. Ever. It doesn't seem to me that any Serbian government would have had a much easier time dealing with Kosovo.

2b. The radicals now seem poised to lose, as, besides the Karic brothers (a shining example of by-the-rules enterpreneurship and political steadfastness BTW) Kostunica has grudgingly backed Tadic as well. As the pollsters say the result will depend on turnout ( http://www.b92.ne… ), so the only bet I'll be making is that if less than two million show up to vote the radicals will win, otherwise Nikolic wins. Yet you know better than I do, how worrying it is for the country to have the bloody (literally) Radicals as the main opposition party, with a good prospect of them winning power should the economy further deteriorate (and it will - unless someone coughs up the aid that was promised to Serbia on condition that the "forces of democracy" were elected). That's not a healthy democracy.

2d. "Another four years of Milosevic would have ruined Serbia": Ruined? The combination of sanctions, the NATO bombing, and the "rebuilding" of the country that never materialized, has led S&M into being the second poorest European country (the last is Bosnia… http://www.nation…). That's a bit poorer than the Honduras and Vietnam. What's more ruined than this? Serbia is a pariah in the literal sense of the word.

One needs go no further than Kosovo to find the European version of the gangster state (complete with corrupt peacekeepers). Serbia is already close (the prime minister was assassinated in a gang-related incident - and no I don't buy the "he was really trying to weaken the mob" argument… He was trying to weaken a particular mob, maybe…)
As for the "what-if" scenario: any alternate universe where both Legija and Seselj exist no longer, is a better universe than this one, regardless of the method used. If indeed the old bastard is behind Arkan's untimely death, than surely this counts as a major contribution to humanity… About Stambolic: That's why he should have been tried in Serbia, where there is plenty of evidence to convict him… You are following, I assume, the Hague debacle. Would you be surprised if based on the evidence offered he is acquited?

3. I was talking to Serbs ranging from benighted monarchist to activist anarchist. They all were saying that Kosovo is too expensive to keep. Especially with a small scale civil war on. This included people (Kostunica supporters BTW), who gave the three finger salute and had Chetnic hymns on their voice-mail… Kosovo is a financial black hole (as the current provisional administration is realizing). The idea was to cut the losses, keep the major parts and guarantee the safety of Serbs not in the Serbian part. Milosevic was reluctant to negotiate - or partition Kosovo by force (though this might have been in the works)… Alexa Djilas has written something about this last year http://www.inthen…), and by the way he was certainly one of the anti-Milosevic non-nationalst intellectuals that were against the bombings.
The problem is that the Albanian side wanted nothing less than full independence. That's why it never participated in Yugoslav elections. That's why in the 80s there truly were incidents of Albanians scaring away Serbs from Kosovo.

The offer that was proposed by the Serbian side was certainly no return to pre-1989 autonomy, but it was a starting point that if worked on, would have prevented a. the mass murders, b. the bombings c. the current cleansing. Again it was rejected because the Albanian side at that point had nothing to gain by accepting it. Albanian nationalism triumphed through NATO, and Kosovo now is one of the most ethnically pure areas in Europe, when, I remind you, the whole mess supposedly was to "sustain a multi-ethnic Kosovo".
You know that bad things did indeed happen to Serbs in Kosovo in the 80s. It's not just Serbian propaganda. There are NYT and CSM stories from back then lamenting the persecution of Serbs in Kosovo. Hardly a self fullfilling prophecy I'd say, rather a confirmation of darkest fears?
About the plans to cleanse Kosovo. There is no way that someone can cleanse 85% of the population of a province… almost 2 million people? Where would they go. Do you expect that neighbouring countries would be able to hold them? Do you think that a refugee flux of that scale could be manged? That it would stop at borders? That it wouldn't destabilize the whole region? Milosevic was enough of a survivor to know what's feasible and what's not. Cleansing of particular areas in Kosovo he could do. The whole province? No way.
4. I shouldn't have made the statement. You're right. There are other places where refugees have not returned and have little prospect of returning. I stand corrected.
5. There were other ways to get rid of Milosevic (relatively) peacefully, most of which involved the army. My problem with your explanation is that really, I don't see how one would believe that Djindjic really was not connected with the various mobs before the year 2000.
6. Again most Serbs (AFAIK), even quite anti-nationalist and anti-Milosevic Serbs, are still furious at the bombings. I trust their assessment.

Finally: what conflict was anti-colonial? Kosovo? Only in the sense that those annoying Slavs came here in the 6th century and took over pure Illyrian lands.

And don't forget: Kosovo led to Iraq, as far as UN authorization of anything is concerned.

I'll expound on this later…more coherently too, as it's late already and I'm no longer fluent in any language!

2004-06-23 01:48
Doug Muir:

1) Nope, I'm not biting. Maybe on another thread — this one is long enough already.

2) Toppling Milosevic was always part of the plan. In the immediate aftermath of the Kosovo bombing, the disappointment was palpable — there'd been an expectation (in retrospect pretty naive) that the bad man would go away now.

No, of course it wasn't part of the publicly expressed, formal strategic goal. Influencing world oil markets isn't part of the official motivation for invading Iraq. Was it on the planners' minds? Betcha.

Also, in looking at the consequences of the operation, I'm not restricting myself to what they intended — good or bad. What directly flowed from it goes onto the balance sheet, whether it was originally intended or not. Did the Greek junta intend a Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974? No, but the invasion immediately and predictably flowed from their actions, so they get part of the blame for it. Did the Turkish leadership intend to collapse the junta and restore democracy to Greece? Certainly not, but it was a real and positive side effect. (Completely unrelated, but I've sometimes wondered: absent the invasion, how long do you think the Ioannides regime would have lasted? On one hand, the junta was visibly in trouble by 1973, with economic problems, international pressure, and clear crumbling of its support in the armed forces. On the other hand, it had very effectively met the challenge of the student uprisings of that autumn. If Ioannides hadn't foolishly tried to roll double or nothing on Cyprus, how long might the junta have staggered on IYO?)

The reasons the opposition won in 2000 were (1) Milosevic had lost a major war — major for Serbia — and lost Kosovo too. And after the shouting was over, people realized that; (2) the opposition united, unexpectedly, for the first time ever; (3) as you say, people hoped that voting against Slobo would lead to the end of Serbia's pariah status and economic misery, and help get it on track to being "a normal country"; and (4) Slobo was, again unexpectedly, asleep at the wheel — unusually overconfident, so that he failed to rig the election properly.

Actually, #4 should probably be #1, because Slobo's anomalously sloppy performance was probably the single biggest factor in that election. This touches on one reason I think Slobo would still be around. After the war, and without even trying hard, he still got nearly 40% of the vote. If he'd been determined to steal the election, he could have and would have. He seems to have thought that the presence of Vuk Draskovic on the ballot meant that the opposition would be divided as usual — not realizing that people were sick of throwing wasted votes at Vuk. (But then, Slobo always had a funny tendency to overestimate Draskovic. Possibly because the Vuk-inspired riots of March 1991 were the only serious threat Milosevic ever faced from inside Serbia, and one of the very few times that anyone ever saw Slobo sweat? Whatever the reason, Milosevic and his cronies tended to over-focus on Draskovic. They tried to have him killed at least twice, which in retrospect was sort of dumb; they'd have been better off killing Kostunica, and he'd have been a much softer target too.)

Milosevic and his machine had unlimited money to spend. They outspent DOS by nearly 10 to 1, and that was without really trying; they could have tripled that figure easily. (After all, they were printing the money.) In about half the counties of rural Serbia, the SPS controlled local councils, so they had access to the ballot boxes. They controlled the judiciary and the election judges — recall that the election judges ruled in Slobo's favor, claiming that no, Kostunica really hadn't won in the first round. And they controlled almost all of the mass media, so they had the ability to tell the story in whatever way they thought best. Had Slobo not been asleep at the wheel, he could have crushed Kostunica.

Note that the DOS folks were entirely aware of this. That's why they were so desperate to prevent a second round runoff. If there had been another election, a straight Slobo-Kostunica fight, Slobo would have won. When you have all the money, all the judges, most of the media, and your guys are counting more than a third of the votes, it's not that hard.

It's still not completely clear why he sleepwalked through the first round, but some reasons are known. One was the Draskovic thing. Another was the departure of the Radicals out of his government in the wake of the withdrawal from Kosovo. The Milosevic-Seselj relationship was complex and by no means entirely amicable, but it's clear that Seselj helped keep Slobo grounded in reality — he was at once Milosevic's rival, his ally, and his finger on the pulse of Serbia.

A third reason is Milosevic's physical withdrawal. During the bombing, he literally disappeared into a bunker; and to some extent, he never entirely came out of it. Slobo could be pleasant and charming when he had to, but he wasn't an instinctive "people person"; at heart he was something of a loner, with few close human relationships (other than with his unspeakable wife). So he seems to have found life in the bunker rather congenial. After the bombing, he made far fewer appearances in public — which is saying something, because he hadn't made many in the first place — and had a lot less actual real-world, face to face contact with anyone outside his inner circle. This seems to have played a rather large part in his miscalculating the election.

Panic: I agree. Boycotting the elections was a really dumb move by the Albanians. Stupid and short-sighted. I don't know if Panic would have been able to make that much of a difference, but it couldn't have hurt. He's a bit of a freak, but his heart was in the right place.

Other-other hands, I note that this sort of stupid stubbornness was hardly unique to the Albanians. Serbs boycotted elections in Bosnia; Croats boycotted them in the post-Dayton Croat-Muslim "entity". Even today Serbs keep walking out of the Kosovo parliamentary body (the walls are painted with scenes from Albanian history, and that's offensive) — I don't think they've actually participated in a single substantive vote yet.

Healthy democracy: it's the healthiest democracy Serbia has seen since 1941. You keep pointing out the flaws and problems; of course there are flaws and problems. But these are hardly unique to Serbia. Nobody bombed Romania, but the Radical-like creepy nationalist Partidul Romania Mare is the largest opposition party. Even in rich and democratic France, Le Pen consistently gets over 15% of the national vote. So I'm not too inclined to wet my pants over the Radicals. Given time, they will either grow more moderate (as the Romanian PRM is trying to, and as the Croatian HDZ successfully did) or they'll shrink down towards a medium-term base of 20%-25%.

It's far from perfect, but it's just a lot better than it would be if Slobo were still around.

Ruined: the CIA World Factbook is pretty notoriously sloppy. (Hmm, no table for "most WMDs".) In the specific case of Serbia, it looks like they're still including Kosovo — which pulls Serbia's numbers down (as it always has) quite a bit.

I've been to Serbia, Bosnia/Herz, and Moldova, and Serbia is the richest of the three. By quite a bit. You can see it simply by driving around the countryside — the roads, the houses, how people dress. Talk to people and it becomes even more obvious.

Serbia is also richer than Montenegro. Despite the bombing — which, you'll recall, left Montenegro strictly alone — there's still an ongoing internal brain drain, a steady trickle of economic migrants moving from Crnagora to the bright lights of Nis and Belgrade. As any Serb will tell you, the damn Montenegrins are everywhere, and they haven't stopped coming. The bombing notwithstanding, Serbia is still a lot better off than Montenegro or the Republika Srpska — and if you look at how people are voting with their feet, that pretty much jumps out at you. (It's one reason so few refugees have gone back. Belgrade and Novi Sad are full of Bosnian Serbs from /both/ entities.)

Kosovo is a mess, yes. Europe's Congo.

I have a job. More in a day or two if time allows.

Doug M.

2004-06-23 09:13

I'll stop for the time being as well.
Just a clarification re: Cyprus and the Junta: It is considered likely that Ioannides thought he had a deal with the US (and through the US with Turkey) that involved a partition of the island and a negotiated population exchange. This deal fell through because he failed to assassinate Makarios. We don't know since Ioannides has never said anything and the relevant government files are classified practically for ever…
As for the junta's longevity: it is now relatively certain that there were powerful elements in the army that were considering a return to political rule even before the Cyprus tragedy. The student uprising was crushed - but at the expense of Papadopoulos who was booted out by a second coup in 1973. Ioannidis was a rather unpleasant man with not too many friends even in the military. He ruined the conomy and weakened the army. He wouldn't have lasted for more than a year - especially since another "hot autumn" of student and labour protests was coming and the population was in utter sympathy with the students' movement.
Oh and a minor point (I'll return to the Kosovo issue in another post): The Radicals' Croatian counterparts are the HSP not the HDZ.
I'll return on the issue soon. Thanks for a very interesting discussion…

2004-06-23 11:27
Doug Muir:

One last point.

what conflict was anti-colonial? Kosovo? Only in the sense that those annoying Slavs came here in the 6th century and took over pure Illyrian lands.

If you're going back that far, then I'm sure you also support the Jewish claim to the Holy land…

More seriously: Kosovo was a colonial conflict because it involved a minority group ruling over a much larger majority group. And the majority had no desire to be so ruled.

Serbs have been a minority in Kosovo since at least the 17th century. (If you bring up the medieval Serbian kingdom, I shall become quite vexed. So kindly don't.) When Serbia took over the province in 1913, Albanians outnumbered Serbs by roughly two to one. Despite clumsy attempts to encourage Serbian colonization of the province during the 1920s and 1930s, this proportion changed very little until the 1960s.

After that, it began to change rather quickly. Serbs hit the demographic transition, and started having fewer children. Albanians would eventually hit this transition too, but later and more slowly. So, Albanian birthrates have stayed well above Serbian for almost half a century now (although both birthrates have fallen quite a bit). Meanwhile, Yugoslav Kosovo became a net exporter of population, with a very marked differential in emigration: although Albanians were the majority, Serb emigrants outnumbered Albanian emigrants by four or five to one.

The general emigration was common in rural areas all over the Balkans (and Kosovo is a very rural area). The racial differentiation reflects the fact that it was much easier for a Kosovar Serb to move to Nis or Belgrade. A Serb from Prishtina could settle right in; an Albanian, well, it would be quite a bit harder. (There were never a lot of Albanians in Belgrade even before the breakup — plenty of Croats, Hungarians, and Bosnian Muslims, but not too many Albanians.)

Note that Serbia-outside-Kosovo always had an average per capita income more than double that of Kosovo. And Kosovo always had the highest unemployment rates in Yugoslavia, by far. So the economic motives for emigration were all in place.

Many Serbs insist that they were really persecuted out of Kosovo. The evidence for this is a lot less strong than they seem to think. I can go into this in more detail if you like (though it may be a few days before I can get back to this) but here's one data point: a study done by the Serbian Statistical Bureau in 1990 showed that while Kosovo's crime rates were the highest in Yugoslavia, the per-capita rate of violent crimes actually dropped sharply when the criminal and the victim were of different ethnic groups. IOW, a Kosovar Serb was in more danger of being assaulted, raped or murdered by another Serb than by an Albanian (and Albanians were in more danger from each other than from Serbs). Also, that when the crime rate was adjusted for correlation with (1) poverty and (2) unemployment, it was actually the /lowest/ in Yugoslavia; at equivalent income levels, Kosovars were less criminal than other Yugoslavs. Arguably the last gasp of old-style Marxist economic determinism…

Anyhow: even if perceived Albanian persecution of Serbs played a role, it wasn't the biggest role. Albanians could have treated Serbs with tender love, and Serbs would still have left. If you don't believe that, then take a look at Bosnia. Serbs, Muslims and Croats had roughly equivalent birthrates there — actually, the Croats were the highest, followed by the Serbs, with the Muslims last. Yet the demographic change went in exactly the opposite direction: the Croat share of the population went down sharply in the '70s and '80s, the Serb share went down more slowly, and the Muslim share grew.

Why? Because Croats had a strong economic incentive to emigrate to nearby, wealthy Croatia. And Serbs could go to nearby Serbia, which was less wealthy but still much better off than Bosnia. But Muslims, as a group, had nowhere to go — so they didn't. (Well, actually some of them did — there are ex-Muslims all over Serbia and Croatia. But they emigrated at much lower rates than the other two groups.)

Similarly, in Romania, there were large regions of Transylvania that grew more Hungarian in the 1970s and 1980s. Not because of differential birthrates — both groups went through the demographic transition at the same time. It was purely because of differential internal migration. Romania was urbanizing, but Ceausescu didn't want the "alien" Hungarians infecting his glorious new socialist cities. He hated them, and wanted them to live in poverty and squalor in the countryside. Ceausescu's Bucharest, in particular, went to considerable lengths to keep the Hungarians out; he didn't want them in the capital that he was rebuilding as a home for the New Romanian Socialist Man. Even today, Hungarians are less than 2% of Bucharest's population (as opposed to 8% or 9% of the country as a whole).

Then, after 1989, the situation reversed itself: the formerly tight Romanian-Hungarian border came open, and Hungarians started moving to (nearby, relatively wealthy) Hungary in a hurry. Result: some of the same regions that had been "Magyarizing" for the past two or three decades suddenly started to "Romanianize". It's not unusual to hear of communes that were 2-1 Hungarian in 1990 and are 2-1, 3-1 or 4-1 Romanian today.

I won't even mention the Romanian Germans, except to note that they went from about 160,000 to about 10,000 in less than a decade, and that the impulse for this was entirely economic. Unlike Hungarians, they got along OK with their Romanian neighbors, and the post-Ceausescu governments actively wanted the Germans to stay.

In Kosovo this process was a lot slower, but still: by 1990 Albanians outnumbered Serbs by 7 or 8 to one.

So, yeah: colonial. I can go into some of the specific details of Serb rule in Kosovo 1989-99 if you like. Short version: it was about halfway between pre-ceasefire Northern Ireland and pre-Mandela South Africa. In the administrative details, it looked a lot like French Algeria in the 1950s, except that the French allowed some Europeanized Algerians (les evolues, "the evolved ones") to participate in administration, while the Serbs, under Milosevic, kept the Albanians pretty strictly out.

Final point: when I say it was "colonial", that by itself is not necessarily bad. Sometimes being a colony can be a good thing. Many of the world's remaining colonies, from the British Virgin Islands to Greenland to Guam, are voluntary. In the case of Kosovo, I think it was /also/ bad. But whether it was bad or not, it was unquestionably colonial.

Doug M.

2004-06-25 12:06

Doug, you're bringing up more issues at a faster rate than I can possibly even begin to discuss. The general questions you raised in your previous post I'll discuss in an upcoming post about Kosovo (when I find some time!)
Some quick notes:
- about the use of "colonial"… This isn't colonialism, it's typical Balkan minority/majority ugliness. The Balkans were never meant to host pure nation-states. Two things need to be mentioned: a) that the relative percentages of Serbs and Albanians shifted in the 19th and 20th century according to demographic factors but also political displacements, with the latest sudden Serb dip being a result of Italian and German occupation during WWII. Before the 19th century the vast majority of people inhabiting these lands described themselves according to religious dogma and not "national affiliation" which meant nothing in rural Kosovo at the time.
2. The Albanian Kosovars had the power to vote and would certainly be able to participate in local government had they wished to. It was the Albanian leadership's policy to not participate in any elections or government positions, because their goal was seccesion and not democratization - they could have struck a deal anytime, had they decided to support the "democratic" opposition (and I use the quotes advisedly). In a way Serbian nationalists and Albanian nationalists had a common interest in perpetuating the Serbian domination of Kosovo. Thus the situation was very unlike South Africa or even N.Ireland.
- As for the intimidation during the 80s… Check out this NYT story from 1987: http://www.sarant… and another from 1982; http://www.sarant…

Having said all that, there's no argument about minorities and their migration patterns… but a minor quibble about the crime statistics (did they compare a rural province with urbanized areas? That would be apples and oranges… I'd love to see the statistics though)…

More later

2004-06-26 01:20

Oh and about "Serbs have been a minority in Kosovo since at least the 17th century" AND "When Serbia took over the province in 1913, Albanians outnumbered Serbs by roughly two to one."
Not according to the wikipedia, though it doesn't mention its sources: http://en.wikiped…
and http://en.wikiped…

Not that it has a direct bearing on the current situation…

2004-06-26 02:27
Doug Muir:

1) Tadic over Nikolic, by about a quarter of a million votes — 54% to 46%, more or less. Uncomfortably close, but that should be the last national vote for a while unless somebody does something stupid. (Always a possibility, of course.)

2) Er, you did see the "neutrality of this article is disputed" tags on both those Wikipedia articles? That's Wiki-ese for "looks like bullshit to us, but we'll leave it here until something better is posted".

FWIW, the postwar Yugoslav censuses read as follows :

Year . . Albanians . . Serbs*

1948 . . .

68.5 . . .

1953 . . . 64.9 . . . 23.5
1961 . . . 67.2 . . . 23.6
1971 . . .

73.7 . . .

1981 . . .

77.4 . . .


*Add another 2 or 3 percent to the Serb numbers if you include Montenegrins.

The Albanians boycotted the '91 census, and there hasn't been one since.

It's become a stock figure of Serb nationalism that "100,000" Serbs were driven out of Kosovo during WWII. These are the same people who claim that "700,000" Serbs were killed at Jasenovac, so I'm inclined to take those claims with a pretty hefty grain of salt. They're not supported by contemporary accounts, that's for sure. Kosovo was pretty quiet during the war compared to much of the rest of Yugoslavia — it was Switzerland compared to Bosnia — so it's a bit hard to believe that roughly one-sixth of the province's population got cleansed without anybody noticing at the time.

Further, even if you take the 1948 numbers and add another 100,000 Serbs, the Albanians are still well ahead — in '48 there were 498,000 Albanians and 172,000 Serbs. Add 100,000 Serbs to that and… the Albanians are still ahead by nearly 2 to 1. Serb nationalists respond that the province was inundated by "tens of thousands" of Albanians who swarmed over the border during the war and immediate postwar years, but at this point credulity snaps and comes crashing to the ground — you'd have to move 100,000 Serbs out and more than 200,000 Albanians in to make this work. That's nearly half the population of the province. Again, you'd think someone would have noticed.

As to the prewar: The 1921 census for Royalist Yugoslavia lists 439,000 people in all of Serbia as having Albanian for their mother tongue. (The official position was that those people weren't Albanians — Royalist Serbia wasn't sure if they were Serbs who'd become confused, or gypsies, or what, but it wasn't acknowledging the existence of an "Albanian" ethnic group. Hence the "mother tongue" metric.) In 1931 this figure was had risen to 505,000 for the whole country. In today's Kosovo, those numbers translate to about 280,000 to 332,000, or 64% and 59% respectively.

The 1921 figure is, you'll notice, pretty consistent with the 1948, 1953, and 1961 numbers. The downward hiccup in 1931 is a consequence of the settlement program (you may recall I mentioned it in an earlier post — it moved thousands of Serbs from other parts of Yugoslavia into Kosovo) plus a half-hearted program of encouraging Albanians to emigrate to Ataturk's Turkey. (Which some thousands of them did.)

Go back before 1921 and the figures get very weird very fast. To give just one example, you have the 1913 Serbian census finding no Albanians in Pec, although a 1916 Bulgarian survey would find more than 16,000 of them. Albanians claim that Serbs cleansed "over 100,000" Albanians in 1912-1914 and 1918-21; Serbs in turn claim that "tens of thousands" of Serbs were chased out during the Austrian and Bulgarian occupations of 1915-18. The most plausible interpretation of the conflicting claims seems to be that there was either little net change or a modest drop in the Albanian population between the Serb takeover in 1912 and the final stabilization of the Yugoslav-Albanian border and (relative) pacification of postwar Kosovo in 1921. That's consistent with the experience of Albanians and other non-Christian populations in the other regions taken over by Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece in the Balkan Wars, and there doesn't seem to be any compelling reason to think that Kosovo was different.

Phew. I really will try to stop now. At least for the moment.

Doug M.

2004-06-28 10:31
Doug Muir:

Whoops, here's that table again with (I hope) proper formatting.

Year . . Albanians . . Serbs*

1948 . . . 68.5 . . . 23.6
1953 . . . 64.9 . . . 23.5
1961 . . . 67.2 . . . 23.6
1971 . . . 73.7 . . . 18.4
1981 . . . 77.4 . . . 13.2

Oh, and when I say "the experience of Albanians and other non-Christian populations in the other regions taken over by Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece in the Balkan Wars", obviously I mean before the Asia Minor catastrophe and the subsequent population exchange.

Doug M.

2004-06-28 13:09

Doug, this excercise in historical demography is rather moot since we are pretty much in agreement (I think) that regardless of historical claims the current demographic balance is given, unalterable and pretty one-sided.
Still I'll point out that the claim of Serbs being a minority in Kosovo since the 17th century is not only contestible but before 1800 impossible to verify! Not least because in the 17th century I'd wager that few peasants would find the ethnological distinctions meaningful, let all decisive of anything. Linguistic groups existed. Klans existed. Religious affiliation was the dividing line. But national categories at the time (in the context of nation-states) were at best restricted to westernized intelligencias and at worst non-existent among the population of the middle Balkans.
Yet after 1800 and until 1912, the situation is murky at best, I don't know of anyone claiming that Serbs were a clear minority in the mid-19th century, though not being an expert I might be missing a lot (being immersed in a local historiography that was very friendly to an obercount of christians vs. moslems, doesn't help either, I know). During WWII, exactly because all hell was breaking loose everywhere else, the displacement of a mere 40-70.000 Serbs from Kosovo would indeed go unremarked! Similarly for an influx of about 70.000 Albanians at the same time. That Albanian populations sided with the Axis occupation forces and were used by them in the area is, I think, indisputable. Two sources: from the rather partisan, in other matters, Cato Institute ( http://www.libert… ) and from a German university ( http://www.uni-we… ). These were the best I could find from not-obviously-biased sources on the internet. Still it doesn't matter. No one is disputing the facts on the ground today.

I'm rather amazed that you can't see how threatening it is for a (more or less) fascist party to gain 45% of the vote, with a majority of voters not giving enough of a damn to show up and vote for whoever it is that's opposing them, a clear indication of the how little the "westernizers" are trusted… The only good that might come out of this is that now the Serbs might be spared further "Russian-style" reforms that would probably lead to the permanent pauperization of a majority of them.

More soon…

2004-06-28 16:36
Doug Muir:

? What makes you think I don't see it as threatening? I said it was "uncomfortably close".

But I suspect — I'm not sure enough to bet, but I suspect — that the Radicals are at or near their high water mark. I have some reasons beyond wishful thinking for believing this. Much depends on how politically clever Kostunica and his allies are.

Of course "westernizers" aren't trusted. Nobody is trusted. Right now Serbs feel that their leaders have pretty much all failed or betrayed them. It's not surprising that voter turnout is low; what's surprising is that society keeps going, and in relative peace and good order.

"Russian-style reforms": be careful of the straw man. Eastern Europe presents a number of models of development, from good through bad to horrible. Would you object to "Slovenian-style reforms"? What about "Estonian-style reforms"? Those are two very different models, but both have produced pretty good outcomes.

Doug M.

2004-06-29 10:50

Re: "Russian style reforms"; the close ties between government, mobs and economic activity suggest that, perhaps, Russia, or at best Bulgaria, is a more likely "model" for Serbia's near future than Slovenia.
I really, really hope I'm wrong.

Re: the radicals: let's see, I fear worse, but I'm generally a pesimist. Again I hope you're right.

2004-06-29 11:27
Doug Muir:

Actually, I think Bulgaria is probably a pretty plausible model. That's not entirely a bad thing; Bulgaria is less than 5 years away from EU membership. 2007 if everything goes well, 2008 if there are some problems. 2010 at the very latest, barring a catastrophe.

Not to say that Bulgaria is a /great/ model. But it's both better and IMO more plausible than Russia.

Note that some of the things that happened under Yeltsin — most notably, bogus "privatizations" that were really the cheap cheap transfer of state assets to cronies of the regime — already happened in Serbia. But under Milosevic, not Djindjic.

Slobo started privatizing in 1991. Under both his governments, most state ministers were also big business people, owning private companies or 'managing' state companies or both. And they made liberal use of their positions to snap up state- and socially-owned firms.

By the mid-1990s, Slobo's worthless son Marko owned the duty free shops at Serbia's borders and airports. His Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic had acqiared a fortune in excess of $50 million. His former vice-premier Slobodan Radulovic had purchased a retail chain, and was accused by workers of ripping off $372 million from it. And Zoran Todorovic, former leader of the "Yugoslav Left" party set up by Milosevic's unspeakably awful wife, directed state petrol firms while building the giant privately owned T&M Trade company, becoming one of the richest men in Serbia. (Todorovic got a little bit too big, though, and forogt to kiss the hand; he was assassinated in October 1997.)

Arkan, though he never became a major player in privatization, was allowed to buy several state-owned petrol stations and the largest flour mill in Belgrade. He left his grieving widow a fortune estimated at $40 million. Not bad for a former bank robber. Some of that came from looting in Bosnia, some from drug dealing and gangster activities, but at least several million was from privatizations.

Then of course there's the privatization of Serbia Telekom, which went in 1997 to the foreign investors who paid the most bribes. The Djindjic government spent three years unsuccessfully wrestling with that one, and now Kostunica has inherited the mess. Estimated loss to the Serbian state: $1.2 billion. Estimated gain to Slobo and his cronies: $80 million directly into their pockets.

And then there's Vladimir Bokan, who was Arkan's second in command for a while in Bosnia. At 28 years old, Bokan was given the private monopoly license by Milosevic to import cigarettes. He then bought out the state-owned "Stampa" company which owned over 700 kiosks in Belgrade and Novi Sad, a chain of clothing stores, a real estate company, a shipyard in Novi Sad, a sizable share in a chemicals and fertiliser factory and in the Bor mine, all the while running Panama and Cyprus registered shipping companies. Oh, and he was Slobo's main bagman for putting the personal fortunes of Milosevic family members and cronies into Cyprus, while buying oil and industrial parts (in defiance of the UN embargoes) in Greece. He was assassinated in Cyprus in 2000.

BTW, Greek companies — Telecom, Mytilinaos, the National Bank, Kokkalis, Delta, Viochalko and others — played a significant role in a lot of this. (As you said, dark ties to the Mitsotakis administration.) Mytilinaos, for instance, bought a $500 million dollar concession in the Trepca lead and zinc mines in Kosovo in 1997. (That's the same mine from which Slobo fired 13,000 Albanian workers in the early 1990s.) It never seemed to get a lot of play in the Greek media, but AFAIK Mytilinaos still owns that concession. No offense, but I remember being amused by this when I saw left-wing Greek writers attacking the Kosovo intervention as "capitalist imperialism".

Now, there's no denying that a lot of the cronies are still around. Karic is the most obvious example. He used to live next door to Slobo, was the Milosevic family's private banker, and was also the publisher of Mira Markovic's horrible essay collections and unspeakable autobiography. He made his fortune in exactly this manner — insider privatization, Russian-style. And now he owns a TV station and two banks and several thousand billboards, and he wants to be Serbia's Berlusconi.

But my point is, most of the bad Russian-type stuff already happened. It happened in the 1990s, under Milosevic.

Does this give you some idea of why I hate the son of a bitch so much? And why I think his continued government would have been more destructive than the NATO bombing? He was turning Serbia, a reasonably decent civilized country where pretty much everyone had access to basic human needs and a majority of people had something like a middle class lifestyle, into Zimbabwe. And the damage that he did won't be undone for many, many years to come — the Arkans and Bokans may be dead, but clever scum like Karic have made themselves pretty much untouchable; Djindjic, Kostunica and their successors will have no choice but to deal with them.

So it's a bit unfair to suggest that Kostunica will bring on "Russian style reforms" that will impoverish Serbia. Already happened; been there, done that.

Anyway. If we continue this discussion, it might be good to start a new thread from a new post…

Doug M.

2004-06-30 11:11