Slobodan Milosevic is Dead
By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

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The views presented in this article represent only the personal opinions and judgements of the author

February 13, 2001


In the 12 hours since I published the article below, I was charged by my readers of almost every transgression - from condoning (nigh encouraging) the murder of Milosevic to rampant anti-Serbism. The usual threats were appended.

I am no anti-Serb. I lived in Serbia for years and came to admire its people. I do not write exclusively about Serbia. I am also not anti-Albanian or anti-Croat or anti-Macedonian or anti-Bulgarian or anti-Russian, as I have been accused. I write about the peoples of these lands but my quarrel is with their elites - political, intellectual and economic. I do think, however, that the peoples of Eastern Europe and, to a lesser degree, Central Europe, have been pathologized by centuries of oppression. I do not regard this pathology as transient or short term or limited. I do not think it confined to only one nation or group of people. And, of course, it has nothing whatsoever to do with lineage and heredity - so, I am not a racist.

I do not condone, nor do I encourage the murder of Milosevic. I am appalled by the very possibility. This article was meant as a warning and an alarm. Too much blood has been shed. Milosevic should be tried and, if found guilty, punished severely. Assassination - whatever its motivation - is vile and abhorrent. And, yet, alas, it is a distinct possibility. All men of conscience must oppose it openly.

Assassination is as vile and abhorrent as denial. The Serbs committed war crimes on a massive scale, as did the Croats and, to a lesser extent, the Bosnian Moslems. The tendency to protect one's home-bred monsters is not a Serb phenomenon. Witness the demonstrations in Zagreb against the extradition of their lot of mass murderers.

In this lies the absolution of this wretched region: in renouncing the horrid past and in adopting a reformed future. Neither can be effected without facing the truth. The truth about who the people of the Balkan are and what they did to each other and what they go on doing to each other. I try to hold my mirror to their faces. It is a thankless task, sometimes with dire results, but it is my contribution to what, I hope, will be a better Balkan.

"Bela Lugosi is Dead"
(Peter Mrphy, "Bauhaus" in "Bela Lugosi is Dead")

"How art thou sunk in darkness down, Son of the morning, from the skies!"

Wouldn't everyone be better off if Slobodan Milosevic were to die? Mysteriously, of course, in a serendipitous car accident, as is the habit in these parts. Or, mercifully and less obtrusively, in a sudden onslaught of lethal pneumonia, in line with his advanced age. Imagine the sighs of palpable relief in his own camp, to which he has become a political albatross and a nagging embarrassment. Never before could so many quandaries be resolved through an orchestrated stroke of luck. It is quite a temptation and, in Eastern Europe, it is irresistible.

His retinue reduced by law to one ageing personal secretary and one, potentially traitorous, bodyguard, Milosevic effetely wanders the very land he once reified. A sickly and sickening apparition, a reminder of an age best forgotten, the repressed guilt of millions, he also constitutes a threat to the high and mighty. He knows too much about too many. He is whiningly weak and paranoidally pensive and mawkishly lachrymose. This is the stuff of turncoats and informers. His continued life is a luxury few can afford even in Serbia's "new" political elite.

Yugoslavia's political scene is best understood in terms of primitive crime gangs fighting it out, Chicago-style, for control of the territory and its attendant smuggling rackets. The Milosevic family has lost to the rival gangs. The winners will now be at each other's jugular for turf and pelf. But they are all related by blood - familial and spilled. The only things separating his ragged men from their share of the spoils is ancient Milosevic. They cannot extradite him to the Hague not due to a misguided sense of nationalistic pride but because omerta and vendetta - the twin deterrents of snitching - are powerless there. Free to talk, he might and if he does, there is no counting how many heads will roll - "reformist" and "democratic" and "law abiding" as well as "genocidal" and "criminal".

The distinctions that the West draws between the orthobiotic current lot and their fungible predecessors are mere delusions. In the desert that is the Balkan, the mimetic fata morganas of democracy and structural reform are useful implements. They serve to tranquillize those pugnacious Serbs who authentically strive to modernity and meritocracy. And they are great at securing a larger share of the dwindling generosity of the West. Milosevic threatens all this.

In a land of overpowering fatalism - bred by centuries of maleficent oppression, refractory mismanagement and romanticized recklessness - untimely death is perceived as both inevitable and a legitimate tool of policy (as is backstabbing). Political assassinations serve to resolve long standing conflicts, to remove the obstinately undesirable, to rectify perceived injustice, to further a political goal, to redistribute rights and wealth and to turn a new, blood-stained page. Politicians, businessmen, journalists and vociferous intellectuals assume this risk as a matter of course.

Milosevic knows all this. What is he doing to protect himself?

It would be wrong to write him off. He still maintains an iron grip (though weakening by the day) on the shredded Socialist Party of Serbia and, though uxorious, on his wife's political organization, as well. His philistine confidants and collaborators have metastasized and penetrated every social cell, political and economic. The police, the secret service and, to a lesser extent, the army, are flooded with his loyalists and cronies - as are recently privatized state firms. After a spastic bout of revanchism in which some Milosevic-era managers were removed from their lucrative posts and the boards of some media outlets replaced, the "new" politicians succumbed willingly and assimilated the old, infected structures and position-holders. The New Serbia is very old and disturbingly familiar. Milosevic - through extortion or promotion - can still make trouble.

The more the reason for his opponents to get rid of him. Don't be surprised to open your morning paper and read about his irreversible misfortune. Serbs are infamous for reckless driving. There is an epidemic of the flu in Belgrade. Demented gunmen roam the land. Perhaps a vengeful and avenging Kosovar or Bosnian Moslem can be persuaded to effect this parricide. Or, there might be another conveniently successful suicide. Alas, the day may well be near.