PBS documentary (Otpor) - fact or fiction?

On our PBS last night, there was a program about Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic and Otpor, which is the “non-violent” action group that worked so hard a few years back to elect a new leader. The documentary was narrated by Martin Sheen, whom I admire and tend to agree with, in regards to most things political.
I wanted more info, so I did a search today. The official Otpor site
won’t load in English for me. But I did find a few other sites, including this one - http://emperors-clothes.com/articles/jared/otpor.htm

So now I am very confused. I don’t claim to know more about world politics than the average American (which is damn scary, when you think about it), and I tend to believe that our government can be a bit too intrusive when it comes to “helping other people”.

I’m just looking for other Dopers’ opinions on this subject. Check out the anti-Otpor (or should I say anti-CIA?) site. Is this just the work of some disenchanted individual???

Thanks - beckwall, the skeptic


Well, if you want my opinion, the article is very well “spun,” and probably written by someone who supports Milosovic.

Regarding, for example, the accusation that Otpor has been “trained” by the CIA: of course it has. Otpor received most of its funding from the US, if I recall correctly. The US provided it books on non-violent protest, organizational tactics, and so forth. I believe, on the other hand, that the entire operation cost something along the lines of 50,000 US: it went to pay for some books, a small operations center, and a few computers. So what? Without some sort of financial backing, under Milosovic, Otpor would never have been able to operate in the first place.

Your articles state, somewhat misleadingly, that Otpor was “trained by the CIA to provoke and destabilize Yugoslavia.” Not so. There was widespread discontent with Milosovic to start with, and Otpor merely tapped into it, and expressed it. Resistance to Milo wasn’t just the result of war-crime accusations, although that might have been part of the story; does the author simply prefer to forget that it was the fact that Milo lost an election, and refused to relinquish control of the government, that served to catalyze the massive, country-wide protests which led to his downfall?

NATO may very well have committed war-crimes as well, like the author suggests; but you would have to work very hard to convince me that only NATO committed such crimes, and that Milosovic is completely guiltless. I think its there, in this passage, that the author shows his true stripes:

Anyone else notice a slight bias, there?

The author tries to extract Otpor’s ideological stance from their webpage, but Otpor was/is primarily a student protest movement, dedicated to removing Milosovic; to my knowledge, they had no other agenda. It may very well be predominantly pro-West and pro-capitalist in orientation; many who have lived in the east during the Cold War are allergic to socialism these days, with good reason.

The accusation that Otpor is “openly controlled by and dependent upon NATO,” is, in my opinion, hogwash. Jesus, Milosovic tried to arrest student members of Otpor as spies. These were the sorts of actions that gave Otpor some of its most shining moments! A few cell phone calls, and suddenly fifty people are protesting in front of the police station. When the accused is released, they stand him up on a soap box: there he is, a pimple-faced, 17-year-old computer nerd. These are the people Milo sees as a threat? Brilliant street theater, and inspiring proof that, sometimes at least, oppression can be fought with humor, wit, and a sharp pen. They helped oust a ruthless dictator by simply pointing out how inhuman and absurd he was. (As you can tell, I’m something of an Otpor fan.)

Regarding US involvement: sure, the US supplied Otpor, along with a number of other opposition groups, with money and “training,” in the form of books, mostly. I saw an interview with the operative responsible for maintaining contact with Otpor. Something of a square spook, he didn’t really understand what they were doing, but he understood that it was working. US support for Otpor is one of those very, very rare examples of a US foreign policy that, just by chance, happens to coincide with the needs and wishes of the local population. If the CIA had more programs like these, I might even feel a bit proud to be American (possibly for the first time in my life). The CIA was actually doing something cool, that helped others abroad, and to my knowledge that don’t happen very often.

I wonder if the documentary you saw played the Otpor commercial in which a woman used “Otpor” detergent to wash the “Milosovic” stain out of her husband’s shirt. It was classic, I tell you.

Yea, Otpor!

There, that’s my opinion.

Mr. Svinlesha, thanks for responding. Yes, the PBS show did use the commercial with the woman washing the “stain” out of her husband’s shirt.

I am not naive about the USA’s involvement in other countries, but I had a seriously hard time swallowing the $100 million estimate. I appreciate your input, and I am wondering if you are living in eastern Europe???


I don’t know about the 100 million estimate either, but as far as I know only a very small fraction of that money – like I wrote, somewhere between 50 and 100 thousand clams – went to Otpor.

I live in Sweden. We have majestic moose here, and a wonderful telephone system, ja, ja.

But you have to be careful about those moose-bites, you know. They can be very painful.


Oops, sorry.

I meant beckwall.

We here in California are living with a huge budget deficit. Do you think maybe the CIA/government can float us a few hundred million? Only if we get rid of our governor, who is widely disliked by the all-powerful ones. Who knows, maybe there is a California “Otpor” in the works as we speak???

“I’m feeling a bit peckish for some cheesey commestibles” - one last Monty Python bit before I get banished from GD for inappropriate silliness.