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November 20, 1995
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 216
Stojan Cerovic's Diary

Dayton versus The Hague

Don't blame yourselves. There are reasons why you are confused and why you fail to understand whether somebody had mixed something up or whether everything had been cunningly planned and efficiently carried out. All of us believed that they would first try for war crimes, after which the guilty would serve their sentences, but in The Hague not in Dayton. But, since we have not personally been touched nor damaged, we don't have to complain about this flow and development of events. Only the Croats would have the right to complain about unequal treatment, since Tudjman was allowed to occasionally visit them.

If this isn't true, then it could be that the negotiations are lasting for such a long time because the hosts believe that the problem lies in territories and constitutional principles for Bosnia, while the guests, above all else, hope that the principle be adopted by which Dayton and The Hague will mutually exclude each other. That would mean that everyone who found himself in Dayton would acquire immunity towards The Hague. Namely, the negotiators definitely believe that the Americans would be obliged to warn them if in anything they are to sign there was a trace of something which, one day, could be used against them. The prosecutor from The Hague, Richard Goldstone, had reasons to insist on guarantees that there wouldn't be any bargaining or trading regarding war criminals. He got those guarantees, but I believe that it is also expected of him to be a bit practical and to, for now, refrain from mentioning both Milosevic and Tudjman. Which means that the indictments have already reached the highest level, at least as far as the Serbian and Croatian sides are concerned. Goldstone has asked for the most outstanding military and political officials of the Republic of Serbia and Herzeg-Bosnia.

It is obvious that The Hague Tribunal and negotiations in Dayton are somehow connected. Goldstone and Holbrooke can help each other, but, theoretically, their interests could find themselves in conflicting positions. Then we would have, on one hand, justice and moral principles, and on the other the international order, peace imperative and demands of the American election campaign. Justice and moral would somewhat step back in view of higher interests, which wouldn't be the first time in history.

Goldstone, therefore, cannot accuse anyone who is participating in the negotiations, until the agreement is signed and implemented. Besides that, he shall, most probably, have somewhat milder criterions towards the Moslem-Bosnian side. Their victims are the most numerous; their cause is considered to be more just and their war self-defensive. Although that does not necessarily have to have any connection to the number of committed crimes; although all differences in Bosnia are already quite relative, it is realistic to expect that Goldstone shall summon a lot less Moslems.

Naturally, it is completely illogical to insist on some sort of parity. If in The Hague the largest number of charges are brought against Serbian criminals, should the Serbs feel damaged or privileged? Should the Serbs, or Croats and Moslems complain about this? Those Serbian patriots who are already protesting are only confessing that their patriotism is of a criminal nature. But, the process in The Hague shall last for some time and will not even commence in the real sense until the negotiations are concluded. And even that shall have to happen one day. The moment is approaching when we can check all that we had predicted concerning the fact that Milosevic cannot survive the peace. It seems that the situation is evolving in such a way that he shall return from Dayton politically defeated, and personally almost completely rehabilitated in the eyes of the world. This paradoxical status has its logic, and is not without major precedents. Only remember that the Americans knew how to strike a deal and release from prison Lucky Lucianno, who in return enabled a peaceful and safe passage of their landing troops across Sicily.

Moreover, to make sure that Milosevic's signature from Dayton really counts; to make sure that, on his return, he will not be subjected to pressures and made to give up or relinquish power to someone unknowledgeable, who doesn't know how the Serbian side really stands, the Americans shall have to see him off with all honors and continue to extend him every support in any way. He who is, as a communist and as a nationalist, consistent in refusing anything Western, could now become America's major client. That seems like his only way out, and he will know how to find it, since he always only kept one at a time.

It turns out, by all respects, that Serbia shall get a new leader who is, unlike the old one, quite to the liking of both America and the World, which means that he will have problems in making the Serbs like him. He shall also have problems with those who cannot abide the old and with those who will not accept his new image. And in a certain way, it will be even worse if it turns out that Milosevic shall not have any greater problems with either the former or the latter ones.

After Dayton, the balance of Milosevic's policies shall finally and unconditionally be clear. Unlike many previous signatures, this one shall truly be valid and shall trigger consequences. It won't bring any larger misfortune upon the Serbs than the one that had already befallen them, but it shall mean an acknowledgment that all the suffering had been in vain as well as incorrigible defeat. In this moment, there is no nation in Europe which in its entirety seems so lost, backward, infamous and devoid of all perspective. In that respect, Serbia cannot stand up to comparisons with Bulgaria, Macedonia or even with Montenegro. There has not been a place where national interests were so talked about and nowhere has any kind of common interest been so unscrupulously trampled upon and abandoned.

From that standpoint, the signature in Dayton would have to lead Milosevic straight to abdication. Instead of that, he is certain that a great future awaits him and is preparing to take the country out of poverty and isolation. We could say that, if the World doesn't have anything against it, neither do we. But, if there are no forces here, will or wisdom to find, in a civilized way, a decent replacement for Milosevic, then no one will ever have the right to accuse the World for backing him.

As far as power goes, Milosevic is obviously not threatened by those who do not challenge his current endeavors to stop the war, yet regard him personally as morally unacceptable. There are only a few people left for whom anything is morally unacceptable. Such reasoning has become an inaccessible luxury, and besides that, the opposition has failed to come up with an acceptable choice.

All that had been so important during the last eight years has lost all significance now. All that had made hundreds of thousands of people gather, that had made them sing songs and carry the leaders pictures; all that had made them frantic, that had made them kill and be killed. There are no more cradles and hearths. What made all of them agree without a single articulated word has evaporated, so that now even old friends don't know what they could talk about. Those that are paid to lie do it halfheartedly and devoid of their previous exaltation, because they know that the ones listening don't care either way.

There are very few people left who would be for or against anything and as far as that goes, Milosevic could sign whatever he likes in Dayton. The only ones who are still seriously worried about anything are the potential candidates for The Hague Tribunal. They don't know whether they'll be extradited and are surely glad to see Tudjman defending his criminals. All of a sudden they felt something similar to a class solidarity. I wouldn't be surprised if they intimately feel that they are closer to the honest Croatian criminals than to the Serbs who would send them off to The Hague.

Which is how we see that even crime can transcendent ethnic barriers. They could even think of forming a nationally mixed syndicate in order to enable their harmonious battle against extradition. Yet, what would they achieve even if they managed to save themselves from extradition? They would never again be able to cross the border, and even The Hague is a foreign country.

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