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October 3, 1994
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 158
Stojan Cerovic's Diary

Reconstruction And Guilt

Of course nobody knows what else could happen and how things will develop among the Southern Slavs, or for that matter among the Serbs, or within the Serbian-Montenegrin confederation. But many citizens of this state and international peace mediators have started investing great hopes in Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's peace rhetoric and real break with Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. The lifting of sanctions has started and it is to be expected that all sides will continue in this direction. This would mean that we could soon find ourselves in a situation when we will be able to take a sober look around, see who has remained, if there is a chance of pulling through, and what else should be done.

Let us then imagine the best possible circumstances and the best possible and realistic outcome of this self-questioning. Let us say that this bit of the former Yugoslavia has pulled out of the war successfully and that the world has accepted the fact. The Bosnian Serbs are lying low and have yielded, or they haven't, but the matter no longer concerns us since Milosevic has recognized Bosnia and Croatia. At the same time he has managed to cushion the resistance of local expansionists so that their glances across the Drina River have become a private amusement and not a serious public issue. Let us therefore say that ambitions of changing borders have been taken off of the agenda and that work is being done on repairing relations with all neighbors.

Since the assumption that Milosevic could be toppled by someone much better than him is just a beautiful daydream for the time being, we must be content with the fact that he has stabilized his position, and has started leaving his bunker, that he is opening up and cooperating with the opposition (which has also come to its senses), that he is encouraging an independent television and sees the value of tolerance. Or, and I admit that this sounds rather farfetched, let us say that he has really started implementing what he claims of late to want most: peace, security, prosperity. Finally, lets us allow for the possibility of some kind of an economic consolidation. Let us say that academician and Presidential economic advisor Kosta Mihailovic has been dismissed and that Milosevic has secretly dug up and studied former Socialist Yugoslavia Prime Minister Ante Markovic's and Geoffrey Sachs' program. The dinar is stable, the process of property transformation is proceeding smoothly and the International Monetary Fund is promising credit, although I must admit that all of this seems possible thanks only to my naivete and ignorance.

Let's assume that only the best moves are being made in politics and the economy. We will discover that we are lagging terribly behind countries and nations which have not been at war, including those we were used to looking down upon. It will become obvious that we live in material, moral, intellectual and cultural ruins. And all of this on the condition that we find the strength and will for a realistic self-analysis.

And worst of all, it will show that there is a hopeless lack of energy for reconstruction. Not just because so many competent and talented people have left forever, but more so because those who have remained and who are coming of age have feelings of guilt and frustration instead of enthusiasm and self-confidence. Japan, Germany and Italy as examples of a speedy recovery and progress don't hold much for us, among other things and above all because we haven't lost and aren't defeated. And that is the worst outcome, which brings into question naked survival and the preservation of some kind of a collective identity.

The world has allowed us to pull out, but it hasn't forgotten or forgiven us. We can hang onto the illusion that we are not broken and that we don't have to start from scratch. Naturally, the first task facing an intellectual elite would be to not accept excuses, to admit defeat, to question the causes, to tell the story of the last few years properly and not allow the version of an unjust world which finally admitted to its mistake to enter schoolbooks. And to do all of this without sinking into that well-known national masochism which turns serious analysis into tears. Perhaps it would still be possible to find some people here who would be prepared to finish the job. But, the story will most likely be told by those same academicians, writers and historians who enjoyed the clash with the whole world. This would mean that, even in the best scenario, we don't have much to hope for.

We can hide the truth about ourselves only from ourselves now. Sanctions and isolation were ideal for this, but when reopening and exchange with the world begin, we will realize that they know something else. All of those coming from here will feel the need for years to correct something and explain, even to those to whom it doesn't mean a thing and who just want to finish some business. We will have the impression, precisely because we managed to pull out somehow, that we are legally equal, but second-rate and suspect from the human point. It won't help us much if we get angry and recall that others were responsible for similar and even bigger disasters, and not so long ago either. As my friend and lawyer Srdja Popovic likes to say, the last are always remembered most, all the more so since this one happened when peace and order reigned all around.

Of course, all of this is the story of problems to be faced during normalization, something we are still far from. The greatest part of the opposition is still occupied with attempts at toppling Milosevic precisely on this peace curve, not noticing that they are thus rehabilitating his entire earlier war road. They are turning his defeats into success and vice versa. It was once possible to prove that an arsonist on the rampage held power here, but how does one do so now, when domestic democrats label his decision to stop a crime and treason.

As we know, others from the former Yugoslavia are not finding it easy to come to terms with earlier history and their role in it; this is some small comfort. I see that, in the latest issue of the Belgrade weekly ``Nedeljna Borba,'' journalist Jurij Gustincic, who is no fanatic, challenges our homegrown theory in which the war in Slovenia was an ``operatic episode.'' He says that the Slovenians who lost a few dozen of the sixty killed don't share this view. I accept this criticism as if it were directed at me. I don't know if the loss was too great a price to pay for Slovenia's independence, but I believe that it was for the men's families and friends.

I remember how Slovenian President Milan Kucan, before the war and after talks with Milosevic, said contentedly that his colleague was not opposed to Slovenia's independence and that he understood the Serbs' wish to live in one state. I think that the Slovenians have a monument to men who fell in this war for liberation and I think that the names of the sixty victims should be carved on it. Both Slovenians and non-Slovenians who fell for the same reasons and the same cause. And we all saw what followed. Kucan should know. But it seems that all official histories of the new states will have to tell lies about the former community.

If Serbian Radical Party (SRS) leader Vojislav Seselj had to fall for the salvation of parliamentarian democracy, then I don't see how Federal Assembly Speaker Radoman Bozovic can avoid making the same sacrifice. Each man alone was enough to dement, derange and break up any Assembly. Seselj because he wished to and because he has always looked forward to each of his arrests, and Bozovic because he equates the role of Speaker with that of the director of a corrections institution. They make an ideal pair. Fate brought them together and they complement each other nicely, so that it would be a pity to separate them.

Seselj has assessed that he has nothing much to hope for in a peace game, but I think that he is making a mistake if he is counting on a political trial. In order to gain something that way it has always been vital to look like an innocent victim, and not like someone who challenges and chooses this option. I don't know how Seselj will succeed in presenting himself as a martyr in the name of some forbidden truth and turn to his advantage the banal accusation that he spat at, and wished to beat up, the Speaker of the Chamber of Citizens. If Milosevic doesn't replace Bozovic soon, it will mean that he still thinks of Parliament as he has until now.

Had Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic really met with Russian President Boris Yeltsin in New York, it would have been very bad news for the UN Security Council, which had adopted a decision the day before to isolate the Pale (Bosnian Serb political center) statesmen. The news would have been bad news for the US Immigration authorities and especially for Slobodan Milosevic, who bet all of his money on the fact that Karadzic cannot get more than he (Milosevic) agreed to.

But Yeltsin mumbled the wrong words and it all turned into one of those mistakes which happen from to time in Russian history. Journalists, observers, analysts, experts, diplomats and auxiliary staff were thrown into a panic for a moment. In such situations, if one does not believe something, one must check it out for themself. For example, if someone were to send Yeltsin all of the telephone bills... But you have to be the head of such a big state to make such expensive slip-ups. And to not have to pay for them.

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