Slobodan Milosevic - Bad Rap?

Slobodan Milosevic has had a bad few years. Transformed into one of the World’s Worst Bogeymen, he lost the war, lost his job, got tossed in jail, and has now been turned over to “justice” at the hands of his enemies. Question is this - does his public image represent an unbiased look at his actual actions, or is it possible that he is a victim of circumstances and bad press?

One factor that must be kept in mind is that it is very difficult to judge people involved in vastly different circumstances by standards that you base on your own. It is for this reason that I am generally uncomfortable with the whole notion of international law - they were imposed by Westerners (I think), whose societies differ in important ways from other parts of the world.

In the specific instance discussed here, I think it is very difficult to apply the same standards to a people engaged in a bitter struggle against a terrorist, separatist group, struggling to break your country apart, as you would apply in a circumstance in which your country is relatively safe and secure and facing only marginal threats. Furthermore, the Westerners who appear to be promulgating the standards for international law, have, despite their greater security, not necessarily adhered to these very same standards themselves - even when facing situations that were far less dangerous than was faced by Yugoslavia. They just tend to face them less often. We tend to try to be understanding with our Kerrys who commit atrocities - we consider the circumstances they were in and the dangers that they faced etc. but are far less forgiving when it comes to others.

It is very possible that I am simply misinformed in this, as I did not really pay much attention to the situation until the prospect of American military intervention became imminent. But from what I’ve seen since then, I don’t see any conclusive reason to believe that SM is really the bad guy he is being made out to be.

It appears to me that the bombing of Yugoslavia was done more out of sheer arrogance than any other reason. There was a complicated struggle consisting of governments and thugs on both sides of the issue. The US & NATO dictated terms to SM and threatened to bomb him if he didn’t listen. It was expected that he would cave, and when he didn’t, the bombing had to begin.

Once the bombing began, it became increasingly targeted at the civilian population. The ostensible purpose was to undermine the military purposes to which these civilian entities were being put or might be put. But it reality, the purpose was to punish the Serbs for their support for SM, or as one of the British Dudes (I think it was Cook) said, that the Serbs be shown the consequences of their support for SM. Of course, any attacks on any civilians could be justified by these means. In this they were successful. At the end of the war it became evident that the Yugo military had not been severely impacted by the bombing. But the country was in shambles and the people were fed up with SM for allowing it to happen. Keeping up the same pressure got things to the present situation.

One thing that was striking during the bombing campaign was the fact that Serb “propaganda” was invariably more accurate than NATO’s line, which had to be constantly modified to allow for the fact that yes they did kill all those refugees etc.

After the war, SM gets arrested, ostensibly for corruption and crimes against the Serbian people. After a few months, this charge fizzles because (According to a NYT article that I read last week), evidence for these charges failed to materialize. IOW, in contrast to the usual order, in which you find evidence and then arrest, here the arrest comes first and evidence later. The real truth is, of course, that the arrest was nothing more than an attempt to appease the war’s victor’s.

So now for the Hague trial. Articles are already starting to be written about how it may be difficult to find evidence directly linking SM to any of the atrocities committed. This was alleged (in a NYT article I read) to be due to the “cowardice” of Milosevic, who avoided putting his name on orders of this sort. But in truth, it may be that there never was an organized campaign of the sort that Milosevic is alleged to have engaged in. It may be that such atrocities as occurred are of the type that happen in bitter struggles of this sort. (NATO bombing propaganda estimates of the number of Kosovo victims were revised sharply downwards after the war ended). It is now being suggested that in order to convict SM it will not be necessary to link him to the actual atrocities - it will be enough to show that forces who committed them were under his ultimate command and that he could have prevented them. Under this standard, many fine US presidents could have been convicted of war crimes for crimes committed by forces under their ultimate command in Korea, Vietnam and probably everyplace else that the US has fought (possibly including Yugoslavia).

Despite all this, I don’t think SM has a fair shot at prevailing in his trial. The entire purpose of the tribunal that he now faces is to convict people like himself, and they will likely not blow their big shot. (Beyond this, the judges are likely members of countries that he went to war with - correct me if I am wrong in this).

I may be wrong in much of this. But this is how things seem to me.


I was and still am against America’s intervention against other world leaders. Having said that I think Milosevic is a special case along the lines of Saddam Hussein and Pol Pot–those willing to kill their own citizens to serve whatever purpose they have.

From the articles I’ve read, the mass graves that were reported during the Kosovo situation were in fact real and were an open secret during Milosevic’s administration. He is indeed the monster we know him to be. The Yugoslav citizens were also fed up with his ways because it brought shame to the country. However, the citizens could do very little to control their leader until after the Kosovo incident which was a sign to the people that they had at least some support if they took action into their own hands. Remember George Bush helped bring the same attitude to the Iraqis about Hussein but when they revolted they were crushed.

So, it seems, the Kosovo incident was a catalyst to get the Yugos to take action themselves. They are the ones who ousted him (democratically and through angry mobs), they are the ones who arrested him, and they are the ones who sent him to the Hague.

Hmm, guess that’s why they’re going to have a trial, eh? So they can present evidence and that sort of thing?

I guess it’s refreshing to see somebody jump to conclusions of innocence rather than guilt. But come on, Izzy, did you really expect them to make most of their evidence public before Milosevic was actually in custody at the Hague? Somehow, I doubt the prosecutors were pushing so hard to get their hands on Slobo if they thought the evidence was sketchy and inconclusive.


But that’s exactly what we do in the United States all the time. Let’s just pretend that I get called in for jury duty. The case involves a black inner city individual who has been charged with 1st degree murder in relation to a drug deal.

I’m a white suburbianite individual who does not live in the inner city, has no experience dealing drugs, and does not have the same life experiences that a black person might. Yet if I’m on that jury it would be my job to judge whether or not that person is guilty.


I’m not to uncomfortable with certain things. If you attempt genocide and you are captured I see nothing wrong with putting the person on trial. It seemed to have worked well at the end of WWII.


If you did mass graves, execute helpless people, and then try to cover it up I am not interested in our cultural differences.


Isolated instances are far different then the deliberate murder of thousands of people.


Yes, Slobadan does make bad rap. I wouldn’t recommend any of his stuff except his first album. After that he sold out and made bad, fake rap.


Your second sentence does not follow from your first. The presence of mass graves does not imply a war crime - many wars feature casualties and mass graves. The war crimes issue concerns whether there was deliberate killing of non-combatants, and whether Milosevic authorized these killings. This is proving to be harder to establish. So far, he has been indicted for several hundred killings, in one or two massacres.

I don’t think so. By every account I’ve read, the citizens were fed up with Milosevic because he caused the country to be sanctioned and bombed into oblivion by NATO forces.

minty green

I’m unsure of what you mean by this. But I noted earlier that it is unlikely that Milosevic will get a fair (i.e. impartial) trial from this court. If you were engaged in a war against another country and ultimately captured by enemy forces, I’m not sure you would appreciate being put on trial by your captors, even with your attorney and evidence presented and that sort of thing. I agree that in some cases it is necessary. But if we are quibbling about the guilt or innocence of an accused it does not add much to point out that those that killed thousands of his people and destroyed his country based on his “guilt” consider him guilty.

Having said that, I agree that if it were to be shown that Slobodan Milosevic was in reality kept prisoner in his basement for his entire 13 year reign, while his captors in Slobodan masks ordered all the atrocities, he will indeed beat the rap. But innocence of that type will not be shown. If it merely emerges, as I am suggesting, that his conduct - while ruthless - was not out of the norm for countries engaged in the type of desperate and deadly struggle in which he was engaged, I don’t think he has much chance. But I do think a guilty verdict in such a case has no legitimacy.

I did not suggest that there was a lack of evidence based on the fact that IzzyR does not know any. I was basing it on the fact that it is being reported in the press from sources in the prosecutor’s office. They are hoping to get some evidence from documents from the Yugoslav gov’t (this was also a condition of the foreign aid). Also, they are hoping to arrest some more “war criminals” and persuade them to implicate SM. On top of all this, they intend to rest their case to some degree on the fact that SM was indirectly responsible and could have done something about it - a standard that would implicate many western leaders and presidents as well, as I mentioned.

They are pushing to get their hands on Slobo because they are a tool of the NATO countries who want them to do this. At one point there was some investigation (under pressure from some countires or groups - I forgot which) of NATO war crimes, e.g. targeting of civilians and use of cluster bombs. The US warned of severe consequences if this investigation was not dropped, and it went nowhere.


I don’t think I am in disagreement with any of the points that you make in your post. Except that I don’t think the facts are necessarily as you suggest.

Anyway, here’s some links (from the NYT):

News Analysis:
Milosevic Trial Is Test on Many Levels

Beyond Milosevic,
Long-Range Justice Raises Fears of Eroding Sovereignty

Case Against
Milosevic Is Not Simple to Prove


Yeah, but he certainly had that tough gangsta image.

Happened to hear a talk radio program tonight where the host launched into paranoid theories that this was the beginning of the end of The American Republic. His argument basically boiled down to: If you can nail SM for what happened in Yugoslavia, you can then go after the leader of any country you happen to disagree with. The next step is to turn control of that country over to the UN and we all know where that leads.

As much as I hate to admit it, the guy did have a point, though I’m not so paranoid as to concede that UN troops will be marching on Washington DC anytime soon. It does set a dangerous precident. After all, many people have compared the Israeli treatment of the Palastinians to that of SM’s treatment of the various ethnic minorities persecuted under his regime. What’s to stop the UN from putting the various Israeli heads of state on trial? Or one of our leaders?

Still, you gotta ask yourself: What do you do with a guy like SM? Okay, maybe he didn’t order the mass-killings, but somebody did. Why didn’t he stop it? If he couldn’t, why didn’t he ask for help from the UN or another country to put an end to it?

I know that claims have been made for the legitimate existance of the mass graves, but I just can’t buy it. Sure, civilians get killed in every war, but there’s been photos of internment camps in Yugoslavia that rival some of the Nazi concentration camps. How do you explain those?

Even if SM didn’t order the mass-killings of the non-Serbs, and he was powerless to stop it, he deserves to be punished because he didn’t ask for help from other countries. Is this the right way to do it? I dunno. Is it hypocritical for us to go after him and let folks like the Taliban and others have free reign to kill, imprison, torture, and commit other otrocities while we do nothing? Yeah, it is. But at the same time, we can’t police every country in the world and impose our mode of thinking upon them.

All I can say is this, his speeches prior to the break up of Yugoslavia are well documented and were reported widely.He threatened that he would make a war if any state attemted to break way from the Yugoslav federation.

His speeches racist and they were incitements, he was trying to ensure that the rotating presidency did not allow a Croatian in as Franjo Tudzman, the then Croatian leader, had stated previously that as prsident he would dissolve the Yugoslav federation.
He justified the war in Bosnia and the support of the Krajina Serbs by saying that ethnic Serbs were being mistreated, in this he was helped by Croatia saying that it would prevent ethnic Serbs from holding office but other than that his stories were lies calculated to raise sympathy in Serbia itself to justify the war.

Slovenia did not wait for any of the rhetoric to take effect and immediately armed itself and made ready, the result was that they managed to break away with a minimum of violence.

In Kosovo itself ethnic Albanians were forbidden to hold any sort of government office, all the way down to teachers, doctors and police, they were forbidden from many professions besides these this had been a Serbian policy for at least ten years. Milosovic stated that Serbia would never leave Kosovo and that he would ‘solve the majorities problem’.

His comments, recorded and broadcast to the world, bear a chilling resemblance to other dictators in the recent European past.

There are not too may good guys in power positions in Yugoslavia, the four wars fought were bloody affairs and the hatreds between the various groups go back generations, especially when one thinks of how the Ustashe - the Croatian WWII allies of Hitler behaved.

I think it’s worth bearing in mind that what is unfolding at The Hague is something quite new.

The idea – to state the blindingly obvious – is to bring accountability into a scenario where immunity has long been the standard (excluding Nuremberg). Again, obviously, ‘we’ can only do that because there are now few places for deposed leaders to hide around the world and because ‘we’ have the leverage to press for extradition (would Serbia have handed SM over had $Billions of aid been at stake ? In my view, no)

In addition, this also (inevitably) means there is not yet a body of legal precedents with which to work – it’s breaking new ground both in principle and in practice (for example: If and when convictions accrue, I believe only seven nations have agreed to offer sites on their territories to accommodate the prisoners - quite whether they all do in practice remains to be seen). It’s all a learning curve but based on the sound legal and moral principles of the New World Order which is fine, or is it ?

The problems for me are two fold:

For justice to be done - and to be seen to be done – it has to be applied even-handedly. Applying the morality of the new world order piecemeal is no more acceptable than it is in any individual society and to not so do, fundamentally undermines the authority of that Court. Will it be applied even-handedly ? Who knows – the international community has gone to great lengths to bag SM. Had they chosen not too push so hard, he would still be free. Justice, it seems, will only be dispenses if the will to apprehend criminals is also applied equally. That leaves too much scope for ‘interpretation’ and political spinning. Thus, the Courts moral authority will always be in the hands of those who manipulate who will appear before it.
Secondly, I worry a little about the morality of this Court. Are we simply imposing white, western, Capitalist, middle-class, Christian morality on all the world because – like the Crusaders – ‘we’ believe we are right ? – This is dangerous territory in many ways, but let me extrapolate:

My Grandfather had a horrid time in the Far East during WW2 and no one believes that what the Japanese did was morally acceptable – except the Japanese. To them, at that time – for some, even now – the way Japanese soldiers treated prisoners was, and remains, acceptable in their own cultural terms. I don’t agree with their morality – in many ways, it disgusts me - but is it for me to judge them based on my superior western, white, middle-class, Capitalist, Christian principles ? (Before people get too excited, it’s worth remembering that, at the moment, SM does not face charges of Genocide. I think we can all agree that that is a crime against humanity no matter what your cultural background). However, one could also imagine many shades of Islam falling into a similar, ‘different morality’ category.

So I remain a little concerned that some trials at The Hague (not SM, BTW) will be played out against an ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ soundtrack.

As for SM, the great irony of this, for me, is that he – in all the arrogance of Dictatorship – signed Serbia up to the Treaty giving the War Crimes Tribunal authority at the Dayton Peace Accord. So, by his own hand, he gave The Hague the legitimate power to try him. How do ya feel about that now, Slobo ?


Not so paranoid - the US government shares this concern, and has made clear that they will not accept war crime trials for American actions - these honors are reserved for others.

The UN is the institution that he went to war to avoid. I don’t know if a nation must turn over sovereignty to the UN or face war crime trials. The point, again, is that you cannot arbitrarily declare things to be war crimes because you dislike them. The idea of war crimes is that these things are widely accepted to be beyond the bounds of acceptable behaviour. I don’t know if these standards have been met.

In general, your post seems to pre-suppose that there was an organized campaign to kill non-Serbs in Kosovo. If this turns out to be the case, SM is guilty - there’s little doubt that he was in control at the time. The question is whether this was indeed the case. If the killings were a few random acts that happened sporadically, there may have been little he could have done about it. As noted earlier, such actions are common in all wars, including American ones.

I am extremely skeptical if there was anything in Yugoslavia that remotely resembled Nazi concentration camps. Certainly there’s been no mention of these made in the recent coverage of the war crimes issues. If you turn out to be right about this, I’m with you.


OK, please distinguish with regards to this issue between Slobodan Milosevic and that other well known war criminal, Abraham Lincoln.

SM’s actions, speeches and motivations must be looked at in the context of a centuries old struggle between Serbs, Albanians and others for control of the area. To look at his actions in isolation from those of other parties in the conflict is misleading. The only reason he has been cast as the bad guy in this conflict would appear to me to be nothing more than the fact that he, being in control at the time, refused to bow to NATO-dictated terms which demanded that he relinquish some degree of sovereignty over his country. (You don’t see many leaders agreeing with this sort of thing.)


Is this true? Could you link up to this. (I’m not aware that the WCT exists as a result of any agreement). In any event, the agreements that SM signed were coerced by threats (ultimately fulfilled) of sanctions and bombing. This is a common tactic of bullies everywhere.

FWIW, some more links:

From the AP:

The Case Against Slobodan Milosevic

Regarding NATO war crimes, a formal complaint with full details.

And regarding Press coverage, from FAIR How U.S. Media Supported War Crimes in Yugoslavia. See also


Just like Nuremberg, where I feel some of the defendants were monsters, and others were just military guys on the losing side, notice that losers never have War Crimes triels trying the winning army.

Nonetheless, Slobodan is a bastard who used ethnic hatred to further his politcal career. But when you look at his won-loss record, maybe he should be found guily of being a buffroon. His attempts to re-create a Greater Serbia have left his country an economic backwater.

Izzy, SM wouldn’t have had to appeal to the UN for help. He could have called any number of countries and asked for assitance. Or he could have claimed that they were doing all they could to stamp out such things (whether or not he’d actually made the attempt is another matter entirely, we tend to be kinder to people who at least claim to be doing the right thing).

IIRC, the internment camps ran by the Serbs made the cover of Newsweek back in the early 90s. From what I remember of the article, the camps didn’t have the ovens or gas chambers of the Nazi camps, but from the photos it was quite obvious that starvation was as prevalent there as it was in the Nazi camps.

And we do need to bear in mind that all of our news is “pre-filtered” for us. SM is this year’s bad guy. I haven’t heard anything about Russian forces in Chechnya recently, but that doesn’t mean nothing’s going on there. What about Somalia? Haven’t heard anything from there in years. Do I think that they’ve managed to sort themselves out and are now living in a peaceful country? Not on your life.

Actually, no. Under international law, a head of state or other person with command authority is guilty of crimes against humanity if they were aware of genocide, etc., being committed by subordinates and took no action (successful or not) to stop it.

A few points:

  1. The standards of war crimes and crimes against humanity are not a mere outgrowth of Western moralism. The Nuremberg Trials featured heavy involvement by jurists, prosecutors, etc., from the Soviet Union, which I would argue had a different POV on morality than the West. Further, the Hague Court and International Convention on Human Rights were creations of the U.N. General Assembly, which I think no one could argue is dominated by the West. The only extension of war crimes doctrine by the Hague Court has been the recognition of organized mass rape as a war crime.

  2. Regarding impartiality - the Hague Court has convicted Croats and Bosnian Muslisms of war crimes, even though they were on the West’s “side” in the Balkan wars. Yes, more Serbs have been convicted, but I would suggest that that flows at least partially from the proportionately more heinous conduct of the Serbs during the wars.

  3. Regarding mass graves - It has been well-established, both by the U.N. and by the new Serbian government, that the large majority of those interred in these graves were non-combatants and further, that they were not “collateral damage” - it’s kinda hard to accidently shoot someone between the eyes at close range, etc. Furthermore, when the Hague Court gets to Bosnia, you’ll hear more about the absolute horrors of Scerbinicia (not even pretending that that is spelled correctly), where Serb forces attacked a “safe haven” created by the U.N. specifically to protect non-combatant Bosnian Muslims and Croats, and, after chasing off the U.N. troops there, slaughtered the male population.

  4. Regarding cultural differences of morality - show me a moral code that promotes “ethnic cleansing” and genocide, and I’ll show you a moral code not worth respecting. Screw respecting cultural differences - to avoid Godwin’s Law, I’ll go with the example of the Khmer Rouge. They thought they were doing “right” in Cambodia.

  5. Finally, regarding Yugoslavia’s recent history - Slobo was not reacting to events; he was instigating them. Starting with the Field of Birds speech in 1989, he was the one promoting Serbian superiority and the goal of an ethnically pure Greater Serbia. He started the wars in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo, and was well on his way to starting a war in Montenegro.
    Concerning Kosovo in particular, Slobo was not responding to a terrorist group. He decided, from '89 on, to systematically deprive the Kosovar Albanians of their civil rights - barring them from schools, government jobs, etc., etc., even though they made up 90% of the population. Citizens of the United States once responded with violence when they were being oppressed.



I don’t think what you are saying is true. Actually, the two indicted leaders of the Bosnian Serbs both signed orders that all troops refrain from any crimes etc. These are being treated as meaningless CYA. No doubt SM will make the same claims. Let’s see how far it gets him.

Here’s a question for you. After the bombing campaign ended, scores of Serb civilians were killed and tens of thousands driven from their homes by the KLA, in areas that were under the control of the NATO forces. Do you think the NATO leaders under whose watch this took place should be indicted for war crimes? This would seem to follow from the standards you are promulgating here.

again, I don’t believe this. But if it is true, you have a case.

This is my point exactly, and I’m unsure why you are making it. The news is pre-filtered for us in a manner so as to suggest that SM is some uniquely evil bad guy. The reality may be quite different.


Points 1. and 4. seem to be addressing a point made by London_Calling so I leave them to him.

Maybe, maybe not. I wouldn’t be too confident. In any event, there is no comparison between SM who spurred a massive bombing campaign which must be justified, and other conflicts in which the NATO involvement was not as great.

Nonetheless, I do wish to correct a mis-statement that I made earlier, in supposing that all the judges were from NATO countries. The chief judge is British, but the other two are from Third World countries.

What is possible is to fail to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants. This is particularly common when fighting with guerilla movements. (Also, could you provide the source for your statement? I’ve not seen it)

This seems strange. Slobo was not responding to events, he was creating them. But the Kosovars were only responding to Slobo. Why is this? I guess if you insist on starting to look at the exact moment that Serbs gained the ascendancy then this might make sense. (You could do this in any fight.) But there is no logical reason to do this.


Your response to my point #2 (impartiality). Fair enough - the West has a greater interest in being justified here, and certainly the West in amazingly inconsistent in when they decide to intervene (compare Yugoslavia with Cambodia and Rwanda, etc.). But I submit that the West’s dismal failure to intervene in other atrocities does not make its intervention in one suspect.
A further point - there is another war crimes tribunal going on now, concerning Rwanda. I think one would be hard-pressed to call that one an imposition of Western morality or victor’s justice - the West (to its shame) didn’t get involved in Rwanda, and the victors in Rwanda are just as often irritated with that court as thankful, because the Rwanda Court insists on strong proof and proper procedure. BTW, the chief prosecutor of the Rwanda Court is also chief prosecutor of the Hague Court.

Your response to my point #3 (mass graves) - I’ll track some cites down for you after lunch, but it shouldn’t be too hard - Serbian atrocities have been well-documented and publicized for the past 7-odd years.

Your response to my point #5 - Yugoslavia, from its origin in 1919, has been a clusterf**k of a nation. It was a union of four South Slav peoples (Slovenes, Croats, Serbs, and Macedonians [Bulgarians]), with large populations of Hungarians and Albanians tossed in to make things interesting. (Nit-pick - the Bosnian Muslims aren’t truly an ethnicity - they are largely Serbians and Croats whose ancestors converted under Ottoman rule). It never should have been created, but it happened because of Wilson’s principle of self-determination, combined with the WWI victors’ superior “well, they’re all South Slavs, they’re all the same.” An additional factor was that Serbia, while it didn’t do so well, was on the side of the West in WWI, and a Serb-dominated and larger Yugoslavia was their reward.

Leading up to WWII, the nation operated pretty badly. Resentment of Serb dominance, religious differences (the primary one being Roman Catholic v. Orthodox, not Christian-Muslim), and the differing economic conditions in areas (the former Austrian-held areas were much more advanced), created a very splintered and factional country. During WWII, a fascist Croat puppet state was created by the Nazis, which much willing support, that was pure evil in its treatment of Serbs.

Things changed after WWII with the rise of Tito. Say what you want about the man, he imposed ethnic peace. He pulled back on Serb dominance, and created the beginnings of a Yugoslav identity, based on a (partial) myth of combined resistance to Naziism and, later, to Russia.

Tito’s death roughly coincided with the end of the East Bloc, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time for Yugoslavia. With the ending of Communism, Milosevic smoothly switched gears from communism to nationalism to fuel his rise to power (observers are in agreement that Milosevic didn’t believe strongly in Serb nationalism, but saw it as a useful tool). He began to re-assert Serb dominance of Yugoslavia, placing greater and greater restrictions on the authority and self-government of the other ethnic groups.
As a result, practically everybody seceded. Slovenia and Croatia left first, and Milosevic attacked, not so much to preserve the unity of Yugoslavia, but to carve out territories that were either Serb majority or had strategic value. And, of course, in the places Milosevic conquered, the Serbs kicked out the other ethnic groups. Bosnia, due to it’s interethnic character, held back from secession for quite a while, but eventually Milosevic’s policies became too much, and it also withdrew from Yugoslavia.
Kosovar was an unusual case. It is the mythic home of the Yugoslav people, but the population has long been overwhelmingly Albanian. Under Tito, it was an autonomous province of Serbia. Milosevic revoked its autonomy, removed Albanians from the police force, government, and policy-making positions, and closed down Albanian-language schools and institutions. Albanians were also cut out of many areas of economic and professional activity.
The Kosovar Albanians at first tried peaceful resistance. They organized an underground election to establish a democratic opposition to Milosevic’s oppression, as well an an underground university to keep Albanian-language culture and education alive. Milosevic responded with police violence.
As a result, the KLA started. It became very clear that Milosevic intended to deal with Kosovo as he had dealt with the rest of Yugoslavia - with war and ethnic cleansing. In a (failed) attempt to prevent the same cycle from happening again, NATO started its bombing campaign.

So yeah, Milosevic started it. He took Serbian nationalism to the logical extreme in a multi-ethnic nation - he oppressed the minority ethnic groups, and when the other ethnicities tried to walk away, he violently attacked, employing from day one tactics that are war crimes (mass killings of non-combatants of other ethnic groups, mass rape, concentration camps, ethnic cleansing, etc.)
Even worse, he destroyed a society that under Tito had managed to achieve at least a modicum of ethnic peace.


Why do you believe the first, but not the second?
As for your first point, you are incorrect. The Serbs began to flee before the NATO troops got there. There was a significant delay (largely due to NATO’s refusal to prepare for a ground war), before NATO troops got into Kosovo in force. Almost all of the Serbs had fled before NATO had any real control on the ground.

As for your second point, refusing to believe that the Serb concentration camps were absolute hell holes, with random killings, starvation, and systematic rape is dangerously close to conspiracy theory. Have you read the New York Times, Time, Newsweek, the Economist, etc., etc., in the past seven years? Do you believe the photos were faked? Do you believe that the testimony of the refugees has all been lies? Do you believe that the Western media has been conspiring with NATO to provide false information to the Western public - even before NATO countries got involved? I mean, c’mon. What do you need, a level of evidence beyond “overwhelming”?


The reason it seems to me that SM is being prosecuted over events in Kosovo is that it is easuier to prove.

The racism that denied the Albanian Kosovans their rights certainly created an atmosphere of persecution that enabled further atrcities to be visited upon them by the Kosovan Serbs.

That racism was not accidental it was a sustained government policy which was led by SM and his speech about Kosovo fields made it clear what the logical result of that policy was going to be.

Boy, this thread is starting to remind me of Michael Shermer & Alex Grobman’s Denying History. Keep up the good work, Sua.

My wonderful SO worked for the Commission of Experts appointed by the UN to do factfinding to determine whether enough evidence existed to establish a tribunal to try those accused of committing war crimes. These reports can be found at Also, the summary report is at These reports indicated that the crimes they described were systematic in nature, and involved at the very least a policy of looking the other way, which is in fact war crime. The reports on the seige of Prijedor and the battle and seige of Sarajevo are particularly telling.

Regarding SM’s “guilt” or liability–he helped create the situation. He saw the power vacuum left by Tito after Tito’s death, and to gain political power, he used nationalism to garner support (hmmmm remind you of anyone?). We in the US heard a lot about ancient ethnic hatreds fueling this conflict. However, talking to the people in Yugoslavia, it was interesting that the people who were focused on these historical slights were those who were adults during WWII and their grandchildren. The people born between WWII and Gen-X (for easy reference) were not particularly into the ethnic thing. This is primarily due to SM and his policies.
Slobodan had been fomenting ethnic hatred for years before hostilities erupted. He knew that Serbia “proper” lacked resources–it’s essentially farmland. Slovenia and Croatia had the most developed resources, while Bosnia-Hercegovina had the most natural resources. B-H also had a Muslim merchant-class. SM wanted what they had. He didn’t want to lose the territory, but wanted to lose the populations. He helped Radovan Karadzic rise to power as the President of the Republic of Srpska–the B-H’s “Serbian” name. Karadzic was bad news. SM (although maybe it was Karadzic) and some of his top advisors were psychologists. They theorized publicly on ways to induce terror in particular populations. One of the alleged reasons sexual violence was used (and the way in which it was used) was based on the theory that it would destroy the Muslim population because the women would be rejected based on the Muslim culture and any children they bore would be rejected.
There were patterns in everything. For example, in Prijedor, Serbia proper owned the media. In 1991, the media began reporting how the Muslims in the area were plotting to attack their Serb neighbors. There were reports of black market body-parts rings and of conspiracies to commit genocide on the Serbs. That worked otherwise normal people into a frenzy. Meanwhile, the government got into the action. Muslims were fired, removed from government, and isolated.
There and other places, Serbian thugs were released from jail and allowed to roam the countryside. “Paramilitary organizations” were created–some very loose and some organized. Arkan and Seselj were two notorious leaders. Young soldiers were fed booze, drugs, and pornography. They were encouraged to loot, rape, and pillage in areas where the regular “military” was not yet active. Then the army would move in. The Muslims (and often Croats) would be rounded up, men divided from women, and the people would be sent to camps. The conditions were deplorable there. At the camps, public torture was common. Additionally, the troops would go through them at night, grab women, and take them away, presumably to be raped. Some were returned, indeed raped, and some disappeared. Internees, sometimes family members, were forced at gunpoint to abuse each other. There were a few camps just for women to be raped and impregnated. Those women were released when they were in the third trimester. There were camps that were like “brothels.” Where young women were kept as sexual slaves.
THIS IS NOT THE “USUAL” KIND OF RAPE AS A BYPRODUCT OF WAR. Although, particularly, if it is, the leaders should be held accountable.
The Serbs also did a lot of other kinds of things, like use civilians as human shields, bomb the Sarajevo hospital during visiting hours, and other nasty things, that made it difficult physically for other parties to comply with the rules of war.
Based on all of these patterns (including many I haven’t included in this diatribe), the UN concluded that if SM didn’t order it, he encouraged it by not holding anyone accountable. The evidence used to compile the UN report was decent, much was unbiased. Sources were taken into account in evaluation.
The ICTFY (Tribunal, which actually is also the Rwanda Tribunal) is not a victor’s court, nor is it the imposition of “Western values” on other countries. Most of what comprises the law of war are treaties that many countries, eastern and southern, as well, have signed–they’ve agreed to be bound by the terms. Other law is made by convention–practices over time. These include conventions worldwide, and are not necessarily Western. If anyone has any concerns about that, perhaps they should read the very old book, “The Art of War” by Chinese author Sun Tzu.
There are many other authorities more versant on the subject. One of the most well-known is M. Cherif Bassiouni, an Egyptian-born law professor, and former Chairman of the Commission of Experts. Anyone curious to know more, can contact my SO, Marcia McCormick, primary legal analyst of the report on Rape and Sexual Assault, at There are many more sources of information out there. You can make credibility assessments based on who is responsible for the info.
God I love my wife, she’s ten times smarter than I am.

Izzy - Time is pressing, let me know if this is sufficient:

A starting point…

Annex 6: Human Rights

  • The agreement guarantees internationally recognized human
    rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons within Bosnia
    and Herzegovina;
  • A Commission on Human Rights, composed of a human rights ombudsman
    and a human rights chamber (court), is established;

Leads into…

In anticipation that I am being addressed:

I don’t believe Nuremberg can in any genuine way be cited as relevant in establishing some kind of historical precedent for the WCT. Nuremberg was not an International Court but rather an ad hoc construct of the four (leading) victorious powers whose jurists exclusively formed the presiding panel. In addition, one might argue the Soviet Union had it’s own agenda at Nuremberg given its 25 – 30 million dead. ‘Justice’ was not necessarily at the forefront of Stalin’s thoughts – a man not (in other circumstances) unfamiliar with the concept of rigged or show trials.

Can you offer me an example of the UN becoming embroiled in international affairs (war, peace keeping, etc.) when protecting the interests of the West was not the prime motivation ?

Lets put away the highly charged emotional rhetoric. We are not, repeat not, talking about genocide at The Hague – that charge has not been brought, yet. As regards “ethnic cleansing”: I agree it’s a chilling phrase with potentially horrifying consequences but, are you arguing that it is, per se, a ‘crime against humanity’ (assuming we mean the same thing by the phrase i.e. moving civilians against their will to other locations) ?

Genocide, as I said in my original post, is, IMHO, an entirely different moral issue and one in which an international consensus; moral, legal, religious, any which way, is far more attainable.

The famous shot of the wafer thin ‘prisoner’ behind barbed wire (overtones or Nazi concentration camps), has I believe, been debunked The photographer was a freelancer who took the shot from inside the camp and of, allegedly, a guard of the camp. No cite but the freelancer made a lot of money from that shot and one is entitled to question his motives.

Just an example but, IMHO, it serves to put us all on notice of individual and corporate motivations behind media imagery. If you’re going to quote this passage please do so in the full, non-emotional, context. Cheers.
Finally, Sua, let me pose a theoretical question:

(For example) Afghanistan and Pakistan go to war. There is much civilian suffering and a case emerges for charges to be brought under the terms of the WCT. Would you feel entirely comfortable with the legitimacy of the Tribunal (as presently constituted) adjudging criminal responsibility as between those two Islamic nations (because I’m not sure I would) ?
I, thus far, feel unmoved in my views that the moral legitimacy of the WCT is too heavily dependent on the determination (or otherwise) of the ‘authorities’ in bringing potential criminals to the Court – cherry picking the accused on the basis of a western political agenda undermines the entire concept.

I also remain uncomfortable – I put it no higher than that – at the prospect of an ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ moral crusade dominating international morality (through the noble offices of the WCT) in a world where more people follow Islam than the Bible.

And just to return to the OP:

I don’t believe that is the case, Izzy. The background to involvement in Kosova for both the US and UK (and I think other Euro countries) was Bosnia. To my mind, the sense of helplessness felt by both Blair and Clinton at that time, the potential political and economic instability to central Europe and the politically unacceptable refugee problems are what generated the response from NATO.