Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Upadhya: Milosevic’s Defiance In Saddam’s Defense

Milosevic’s Defiance In Saddam’s Defense


By Sanjay Upadhya

It turns out that Slobodan Milosevic did much more than simply evade the clutches of justice. The former Yugoslav president set a precedent for peers facing charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Through a mixture of crude theatrics, legal hair-splitting and utter insolence, the worst offenders could expect to diminish the prosecution’s case. In Saddam Hussein’s defiance from the witness stand in Baghdad this week, Milosevic’s spirit was alive.

Whether the former Yugoslav president’s death was self-inflicted, a case of murder or a result of natural causes will perhaps never be answered to everyone’s satisfaction. It may even be immaterial. The “Butcher of Belgrade” is likely to live on through the stinging epithet rather than his epitaph.

The Balkan wars unleashed on Milosevic’s watch have left a murderous legacy. The Croatian war claimed some 20,000 lives, the Bosnian war 100,000 and the Kosovo conflict 10,000. Millions of lives continue to be convulsed in different ways. The 66 charges he was facing in The Hague spoke enough of his record in office. His death was a setback for the evolving international justice system when it was so close to achieving the first conviction of a former head of state.

There are elements of the Milosevic story that defy easy characterizations. In a BBC interview the other day, Lord Owen described Milosevic as someone who honored his pledge. A genocidal maniac might exhibit bright moments of lucidity. Earning the compliment – even if unintended -- of an international statesman would have required greater sanity.

Milosevic was sane enough to act as his own defense attorney at The Hague. A particularly coherent moment arrived in late 2003, when he cross-examined retired U.S. Gen. Wesley Clark. Referring to Clark’s first meeting with Radko Mladic, Milosevic asked the former NATO supreme commander to describe his relations with the Bosnian Serb general.

Clark described Mladic as angry and belligerent. Milosevic, however, recalled otherwise. He said both Clark and Mladic had described the meeting to him as very cordial. “Mladic praised you a great deal, that you had a lot of understanding, and then also you said to me all the best about Mladic. Isn't that right, General Clark?” Milosevic continued.

Clark said he did not remember making any complimentary remarks about Mladic, adding it was difficult to engage in a cordial conversation with him. Milosevic then pointed to front page photograph in the Belgrade weekly Nin in which Mladic and Clark were seen wearing each other’s caps.

Surely, Milosevic must have prepared similar questions for British Prime Minster Tony Blair and former U.S. president Bill Clinton, whom he wanted to question at the trial. Milosevic’s failing health intervened; the world was deprived of what would have been groundbreaking exchanges.

To be sure, Milosevic could not have unleashed such devastation without willing partners. Lesser known players have been convicted; Bosnian Serb leaders like Radovan Karadzic and Mladic still remain at large. Since he towered above them all, Milosevic bore most responsibility.

No doubt, supporters will continue to rue how a nationalist was brought down as part of a “conspiracy” against Yugoslavia – Milosevic’s principal defense. For most, Milosevic, like Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot before him, will stand convicted as charged in the public consciousness.

The architects of the international justice system must confront the lesson. As the wheels of the legal system inch forward, minutely and methodically adhering to its core principles, public memory will have been distracted. Future Milosevics will no doubt try to use each delay and distraction to plant enough skepticism to convey the impression of the triumph of victors’ justice.

Saddam Hussein may or may not have followed the twists and turns of Milosevic’s trial to emulate his defense. The former Iraqi strongman has clearly capitalized on his own people’s nostalgia for the safety, security and certainty of his regime. Amid daily losses of lives and limbs, as Milosevic might have ruminated, old mass graves lose their power to offend.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>

ALSO:

Buildup:

Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>

ALSO:

Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>

ALSO:


Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news