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February 1, 2001
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 476
The State of Affairs

Debts and Guilt

by Stojan Cerovic

In his last pre-election speech, the former president threw some kind of curse on his country which shall, or so he threatened and predicted, collapse without him, its enemies will tear it to bits, domestic traitors will aid them in that attempt and finally the people shall succumb to slavery and poverty. He almost managed to bring it about himself, and since he left the country has set off on another path, but some things still remain which feed and comfort maliciousness. 

Serbia (Yugoslavia) has returned to the international institutions, although not completely. It has become a rightful member in all issues, although recommendations are made that it shouldn´t call upon any rights at the moment and should only fulfil its obligations. The Hague´s prosecutor visited Belgrade to inquire about the health of her possible clients and nicely explained that she is working for the best Serbian interest, since there shouldn´t be any collective guilt, which is why the well-known individuals should be handed over to her. Turns out that the new government, out of pure stupidity or amorousness towards its predecessors, is hesitating to accept this offer.  

On the other hand, Albanian extremists have stepped up shooting incidents in southern Serbia from weapons which NATO had so successfully deprived them of. They had to rebel since they can no longer endure Serbian oppression which doesn´t even recognize their basic human rights to kill a soldier who finds himself on target. KFOR, i.e. NATO, cannot thwart them, or doesn´t want to, or finds it too risky, or politically inconvenient, while Serbia is expected to be restrained and to respect some kind of agreement which seems to say that soldiers can peacefully continue to be killed on the territory of their own country.  

Those who are wanted by The Hague due to their individual guilt are no longer in power, while these new ones are recognized and commended. However, they still don´t have the right to protect their country from violence in the manner in which any other country would. Serbia is, therefore, still under a mortgage from Milosevic´s time, it is obliged to tolerate an Albanian separatist guerilla, to take more care about them than about the lives of its own soldiers, to show some kind of understanding for everyone except for itself and then what is it all other than proof that the world actually believes in collective guilt. 

That the court in The Hague is a huge purgatory of collective guilt is a fairy-tale.

The notion of that guilt has been established and will last a long time regardless of whether Milosevic will be extradited. To insist on that extradition actually presents additional punishment and humiliation of Serbia and the new government, which is once again proof of the belief in collective guilt. Which is why, or so it seems, it is more important to try him in The Hague than what the verdict would be and what he would be accused of.

If Serbia says that Milosevic is primarily guilty in front of his people, The Hague will say that it is less important in relation to what he is guilty of in front of others, including NATO. As Ms. Del Ponte says, Milosevic knew of and didn´t prevent the deaths in the television building, but doesn´t consider that NATO is to blame for choosing that target. In essence, by extraditing the indicted, Serbia should admit that NATO had acted justly, that it itself is to blame for having been bombed, which collides with all feelings of justice of its citizens and I believe that is the main reason why that issue is so unpleasant to this government.

The official representatives of this country can´t and shouldn´t articulate it in this manner, and it will also be easier for the citizens if they view this somewhat differently, let´s say pragmatically, from the viewpoint of future credits and investments. All that the government can do is to evade and postpone, but if no choice is left, it will have to swallow this humiliation. I don’t find it the least bit easy to recommend something like that, but what is even worse is that I´m not certain that Serbia is capable of enduring all those various forms of collective guilt intended for it. I don´t believe someone somewhere is carefully prescribing doses of it, nor does he care much whether this country might possibly explode or simply collapse.

DOS did attain a landslide victory and took over the government, but that occurred in some kind of muffled and somewhat hidden internal collapse of the main mechanisms of power, which means that everything here is still extremely fragile and wobbly. The country, half-starved, somehow managed to drag itself to October 5th, ousted the former regime and prepared itself to breathe a sign of relief hoping for some kind of assistance, which is where Montenegro´s secession awaited it, Albanian violence in Presevo and Bujanovac and on top of that, all those indictments from The Hague, meaning only debts and guilt.

Who can expect the army and police to remain together in proper discipline for a long time, when they are exposed to the attacks of fanatics who don´t find that Kosovo is enough, and who they can´t fight back? Who will then heed the call of the state to protect its territory in a reserved manner and to possibly be killed, taking care not to violate the agreement from Kumanovo? And on top of that not many from the command structure can be certain that his name can´t be found in a secret indictment and that he suddenly won´t be ambushed and dispatched to The Hague.

Who knows how many police-war-looting gangs still exist in Serbia, armed, organized, prepared for anything and loyal to no one?

Even those who should arrest them aren´t convinced of their guilt nor of The Hague´s indictment. If one were to immediately tackle this, things could easily turn into unforgettable fireworks here. The chain of police command could break, while parts of that service which already have one foot in the underworld, could become outlaws and could turn into a guerilla worse than the Albanian one, and let´s see who would implement transition and attract foreign investments here then.

Serbia is in a position of a bankrupt debtor whom international creditors don´t have much faith in, they think it´s still hiding something somewhere and are demanding that it immediately pay back all its debts, complete with interest, under threat of debtor´s slavery. Someone´s children who are being killed in southern Serbia fall among those debts, as well as The Hague´s indictees amongst whom one former and one current president, while presidents, whatever they are like, have never been extradited anywhere to anyone. If no one in the world is capable of understanding what chaos the paying up of all these debts could produce, Kostunica won´t be left with any other alternative than to suggest to Ms. Del Ponte to take him, with the promise that he will admit everything.

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