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May 15, 1999
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 10-Special
Milosevic and Jackson

Symbolic offering of 'three infantrymen'

Last weekend, Slobodan Milosevic and Jessie Jackson negotiated a very good business in Belgrade. Jackson obtained three most wanted American soldiers, whereas Milosevic gained sympathy of 18 religious leaders, including one Congressman. With the symbolic 'offering' of three infantrymen, the great gamester won the immense tactful advantage, and enabled Jackson to return to Washington crowned with glory. The New York Times commented that with a following words: "Once more Slobodan Milosevic brought NATO, and especially Washington and London, to a defensive position, by forcing the Alliance to face their own real warlike options. One of them is to stop the air strikes and take a risk in sending ground troops this Summer in attempt to overthrow Milosevic, while the other is to immediately initiate serious negotiations in order to stop the first NATO war in Europe, even with the consequence of leaving Milosevic at his position."

No matter how precautious Jessie Jackson was, and no matter how much he tried to conceal any doubt of having been 'used' in Belgrade for the sake of propaganda, when he returned to the United States he acted exactly in a way Milosevic wanted him to, i.e. he said exactly that what the White House feared he would say. He demanded from the American government to announce a pause in bombing, and to commence a new urgent series of peace negotiations. What is more important, with the authority of clergyman and the consistent peace fighter, he warned his government and his countrymen of risking to transform the air campaign into a "moral defensive." Here, in Belgrade that has no passageway, but in Washington, it is surprising how people still believe that bombing of the Serbs have some moral prestige.

It is not exclusive that last Thursday evening, 18 leaders of American religious fraternities (representatives of the Russian and Serbian Orthodox Churches in the USA, Roman Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Jews and president of the American Muslim Council) arrived in Belgrade with the same conviction, together with Rod Blagojevic, the only American Congressman of Serbian origin. The most distinguished member of the delegation, when religious organisations are concerned, was Joan Brown Campbell, general secretary of the American National Council of Churches, organisation which draws together 47 million Christian believers in America. All members of the delegation were outstandingly influential, employed and articulated leaders of their religious groups. If we are to believe VREME sources, all members of the delegation left Belgrade after two days with the conclusion that the air campaign is inappropriate, immoral and counterproductive, both from the viewpoint of American national interests, and from the perspective of piety.

Perhaps the 'baptism of fire' on the first night of they sojourn in Belgrade had something to do with it. NATO bombed Belgrade that night with the bloodthirsty violence, and at dawn an earthquake from the Serbian side joined bombs too. The morning after, their facial expressions demonstrated that they obviously did not enjoy their first night in the 'Hyatt'. During the afternoon they had a quarrel about who should go to visit the soldiers, Chris Stone, Andrew Ramires and Steven Gonzales. The Yugoslav government allowed in advance two members of the delegation to visit the soldiers on the first day of their stay in Belgrade, and later, on Jackson's initiative, also authorised the entrance of two journalists into the building of the Military Court in Belgrade (where the encounter took place). (Among the present in the delegation there were eight American journalists, cameramen and reporters, including CNN, The New York Times, while the star among the journalists was Andrea Mitchell from NBC television) Then it appeared that Congressman Rod Blagojevic wanted to see the soldiers together with Jessie Jackson, although he caused rage among the delegation in Washington owing to his comparison of Slobodan Milosevic with the Nazi, which the religious leaders found inappropriate during the peace mission. Blagojevic was not a gentleman to renounce his place to Joan Campbell, the most important member of the delegation when the religious group is in question, which added to the existing dissatisfaction among the clergymen who even thought of leaving Belgrade before the end of their mission, as a sign of protest. The Ecumenical harmony found itself before a serious test. However, patience was crowned with triumph. On Friday evening, there followed another challenge: the Belgrade host took them by the end of the day to visit the BK television, where they were warmly received by the minister in the Serbian government, Bogoljub Karic. Shortly afterwards, the air raid sirens sounded the alarm, and among the delegation members a rumour spread swiftly that the building which they occupied at that moment is one of the marked NATO targets. They nervously demanded to return to the 'Hyatt' as soon as possible. Karic joined them there later: his hospitality went to the extent that he assured the delegation that they 'moved' him so much and convinced him that those soldiers should return home.

On the same evening, Jessie Jackson majestically demonstrated his peaceable abilities and reconciled the members of the delegation. For someone who is remarkably experienced in the media, he did not prove to be a devoted spectator of CNN, since he did not recognise Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan who cordially shook his hand in the 'Hyatt' lobby on his arrival in Belgrade. Jackson returned a greeting, but only after some time he discovered Arkan's identity. American journalists censured that detail.
The next day, on Saturday, Jessie Jackson had another chance to show how it goes in Washington. Since the accent was consistently put on the fact that the visit to Belgrade was on a religious, and not on political basis, Jackson constrained all his conversationalists to pray together with him, or at least to endeavor to do so. Zivorad Jovanovic had that honour twice - first, during the delegation's visit to the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and second, at the White Court, when Jackson took his and Slobodan Milosevic's hands and bowed his head for prayer.

Both sides had profit out of it. From the other side of the Atlantic, in the next few days Belgrade enjoyed a peace offensive, while NATO struggled to wash their blood away from the civilian victims on the bus in Luzane.

Lj. Smajlovic

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