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March 2, 2001
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 480
State of Affairs

Clockwork Orange

by Stojan Cerovic

Slobodan Milosevic has reached the logical conclusion of his career and he must be perking up his ears, full of anxiety and in expectation of Fate knocking at his door, just like in the Fifth Symphony.  If he had been an admirer of Beethoven up to now, at this moment he must loath his music.  One version of his story was told in the film/book “Clockwork Orange.”

There is no one remaining who is ahead in line, given that the former Chief of State Security is well secured, and before him the former Chief of Radio Television Serbia, the ex-regime’s propaganda machine, has been placed imprison.  Everything is going smoothly.  Few people are interested in resisting and protesting.  Former officials are trying to weasel out their way and to prove that deep down in their hearts they are supporters of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia, while the new authorities do not appear in the least bit threatening.  There is none of that characteristic revolutionary fervor, which means that the old regime really spent itself totally and lived several years beyond its natural death.

Hence, probably comes that lack of energy, that lack of excitement even with those people whose skin is most on the line.  It is as is a membrane of ambivalence has been created which even the police cannot break through.  No one is getting scared, no one is getting angry, no one is celebrating, and no one is even sympathizing…  Milosevic somehow, suddenly became unneeded, maybe even by the courts, be it ours or the one in the Hague, even though I would tend to agree that there is an empty prison cell which is crying out for a resident with his profile.  Isn’t he himself ready to agree that he needs a rest?

What I want to say is that he deserves a sentence, but there is no court which is capable of justly pronouncing the length of that sentence.  Supposedly, in Belgrade he could answer for certain irregularities in the construction permit for his house, while in the Hague he could answer for war crimes.  However, he is far more, or far less guilty than any indictment – that is to say, his guilt is such that it is slightly on the other side of justice which is regulated by the courts.

It would be most correct to indict him “for having ruined everything,” which is precisely what is being said in Serbia.  But which legal system should we reference for a law which would read: “Whoever ruins everything, whether out of disregard or premeditation, shell be sentenced to a prison term of…”?

On the other hand, if he is really judged on petty fraud, the idea, I suppose, would be to deny him all dignity by treating his as a petty thief, while everyone would know that he, in fact, is being judged “for having ruined everything.”  That could easily turn into a legal farce.

He would also be judged in the Hague “for having ruined everything,” although the indictments concern more particular crimes, but there Milosevic would look more dignified, a little like a warmonger, and it is not out of the realm of possibility that a good defense would managed to turn that entire court case into a farce.  But of course, someone should sentence him somewhere for something, for there is no other way for him to calm down and find peace.

All I want to say is that all those who are after Milosevic are seriously misled, because he is no longer needed by anyone.

I also fail to understand many unquestionably good people in Serbia who believe that Milosevic is guilty, let us say, for the disappearance of Ivan Stambolic, but at the same time want to send him to the Hague where Milosevic would not be asked anything about Stambolic, so that this potential crime would remain unpunished.  There are many such examples of legal confusion in every possible arrangement of the Milosevic case.  But then, if his guilt were not so obvious, he would certainly not keep himself under house arrest for months now.

It seems to me that the people have spontaneously clued into a mechanism of self-defense and are beginning to claim that the entire issue no longer interests them, at least not as a political, legal and moral problem.  There are those who want to take Milosevic to court anywhere, if only for having spilled cooking oil, just in order to get rid of him once and for all.  Others see a business opportunity in this and assert that he should be delivered to the Hague in return for, let us say, financial credits.  There are event those it would be more proper to take him to court here and to empty his pockets on that occasion of all those billion he is believed to have stolen.  It appears that there are very few people who do not see this issue in financial terms, and even fewer people who remember having gone to their bed at night with Milosevic’s picture under their pillow.

The epitome of Milosevic’s needlessness lies precisely in this.  Namely, he can not even serve as a lesson to his people, as a case which should be studied carefully in order for the same mistake never to repeated again.  Serbs will never agree on exactly what was Milosevic’s greatest fault.  The only certain morale to drawn from this experience is that if ever again they are faced with someone resembling him – not to follow him.  And if we wanted something more precise, it would turn out that some accuse him of communism, others of nationalism, others for having been for Yugoslavia, and other, for having been against it, others yet criticize him for having waged war too much, or not enough, others yet for having been inflexible toward the West, others, for having been too flexible, etc.

Those more inclined toward the left will say that Milosevic is the byproduct of the right, and vice versa.  There will also hardly be agreement with regard to his arrogance and aggressiveness, for when these characteristics are directed toward the outside world, there are those who will view them as virtues.  Furthermore, there are arguments regarding when exactly Milosevic turned bad or evil, for very few people will say that he was always that way.  Of course, I’m not saying that because of the complexity of the entire issue, Milosevic should be buried and forgotten, but I simply don’t have high expectations with regard to establishing complete historical truth and achieving an insight which could purge all national mistakes.

I am not a staunch believer in mass purification, and even less in the theory of conclusiveness of history and that some lessons are drawn from it once and for all.  I fear that the phenomenon of Milosevic suggests some contradictory warnings and ambiguous lessons, which means that there is no permanent immunity to this virus.  This does not mean, however, that Serbia is likely any time soon to want to go to war against the whole of NATO.  Lessons are certainly drawn from some experiences.  This time, we even have a plan for solving one problem.  We are even demonstrating patience and restraint.  Theater, passion and excitement are no longer the order of the day.

All that remains for us is to change our repertoire from Beethoven to Mozart.

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