August 29, 1994 Vreme News Digest Agency No 153
The Technology Of A Showdown
by Milan Milosevic, Filip Svarm and VREME documentary center
Many political observers are in a dilemma if Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic has really clashed seriously with Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, and at what point Milosevic passed the point of no return in their relationship.
An insight into the technology of Milosevic's way of dealing with his enemies shows that in the seven years during which he has been in power, he has eliminated scores of opponents in a similar way: with a coordinated demonization in the media, mass lynch, stripping the victim of power before dismissal, destruction of an institution in order to eliminate the opponent, police abuse and sabre rattling.
There were some exceptions to the rule. He sometimes toned down some of the actions, but he never abandoned them, as his naive opponents were prone to believe. Most of those who were marked off, never made a political comeback. All conflicts, except for two ongoing ones against Serbian Radical Party (SRS) leader Vojislav Seselj and Radovan Karadzic (and to some extent against Serb Krajina leader Milan Babic) led to an increased risk, and escalation of clashes and the destruction of state and social institutions. The clash with Karadzic and Seselj has lasted much longer than clashes with earlier powerwielders, perhaps because they are the ones who are supposed to bring about the pacification of the political arena, something that is not at all unusual in Milosevic's approach to matters.
The 8th Session of the League of Communists of Serbia (1987)
Three months before the start of the showdown, the socalled political body was disturbed with information that there was ``a rift in the leadership,'' which Milosevic's opponents tried to hush up. Milosevic set up control over the party apparatus through the middle level nomenclature and socalled party working groups, to which he posted his closest collaborators, in order that he might carry out purges more easily. He won over the then Party leadership. In preparing the public, Milosevic used the Belgrade daily ``Politika,'' the daily ``Ekspres Politika,'' Serb organizations from Kosovo, telegrams of support to the leadership, a host of anonymous Ph.D holders, members of the Veterans Association and paramilitary political organizations like the Association of Reserve Officers. Libelous writing of the period is characterized by the insulting and discrediting of opponents.
Before the start of the showdown, Milosevic won over General Nikola Ljubicic and through other symbolic gestures made it clear that the army was on his side. The atmosphere before the showdown was warmed up by exploiting a mass murder committed by an ethnic Albanian soldier in the Paracin JNA garrison. Police dossiers were used as a means of intimidation at closed meetings and in public. None of the losers ever returned to the political scene again.
The Yoghurt Revolution
The defeated current in the Serbian leadership tried to keep the smoldering clash with the socalled autonomy seekers in Vojvodina under control. Using limited political pressure, they tried to extort an agreement on the constitutional reconstitution of the then Federal Republic of Serbia and a partial limiting of the broad autonomy enjoyed by the Province, primarily in the area of defence and the secret police.
Nine months after the 8th session, Milosevic organized the socalled ``antibureaucratic revolution'' against the autonomists in Vojvodina. It was initiated by Serbs from Kosovo. Rallies were held in all the cities, in firms, not just in Vojvodina, but throughout Serbia. The ruling set called for the introduction of a state of emergency, in order to defend Vojvodina's autonomy. The demand was turned down by the federal leadership and the top army brass. The final act took place in autumn 1988, after three months of laying the groundwork. It brought together a large number of people in Novi Sad, and the then authorities resigned in the building of the Provincial Administration. The building was besieged and plastered with yoghurt, hence the name of the whole affair. The autonomists have remained politically isolated to this very day.
The experience with ``rallies of truth'' and their total media coverage, was also applied in Montenegro, in a twoact piece. The first took place in autumn 1988 while the Montenegrin leadership had the situation under some sort of control. The Party apparatus at the time was on the defensive, and defended itself by claiming that it, like Milosevic, was ``protecting Kosovo.'' The first wave of demonstrations ended with the introduction of a state of emergency and the police intervened against demonstrators in Zuta Greda. The state of emergency soon petered out under propaganda from Belgrade, criticism by Montenegrin officials living in Belgrade and criticism in party organizations throughout Montenegro over the use of force.
The second wave started with demonstrations by workers in the firm ``Radoje Dakic'' and students at Titograd (later Podgorica) University. The second wave was more efficient. When a top official said that the members of the old set had to go, they listened in confusion. None of them later played an important political role.
``No one is allowed to beat you!''
Ethnic Albanian demonstrations which started in March 1981 and lasted into the late nineties, saw the socalled ``differentiation'' in Kosovo, and were aimed at separating ethnic Albanian party cadres with separatist ambitions from those who were of a Yugoslav orientation. In May 1987 Milosevic said: ``No one is allowed to beat you!'' and stood at the head of the radical current in Serbian politics which aimed at dismantling any (institutional and personal) beginnings of statehood in Kosovo based on the 1974 Constitution. Hundreds of rallies, thousands of party meetings and hundreds of thousands of workers' meetings were organized with this end in mind. It was during these happenings that nationalist rhetorics replaced Socialist rhetorics. After the fall of the ``negotiating'' set represented by Ivan Stambolic (the ousted Serbian Communist Party leader), which relied on seeking allies among ethnic Albanian politicians, Milosevic established a nationally pure state apparatus. The ethnic Albanian part of the then Kosovo leadership which was proYugoslav agreed that the old Party guard headed by Fadil Hoxha be written off. However, they responded to Milosevic's populism by organizing mass support among the ethnic Albanian population. On the same day that Milosevic organized the millionstrong rally of support to his policy at Usce (Belgrade park), ethnic Albanians staged mass demonstrations in Pristina and Titova Mitrovica, in defence of Kosovo Communist officials Azem Vllasi and Kaqusha Jashari. A series of rallies took place that autumn and the following winter and spring. The police and army were engaged in putting them down. A new wave of demonstrations erupted in late February 1989. The ethnic Albanian miners in Trepca went down the shafts and refused to come up for 183 hours. There was a general strike in Kosovo and demonstrations lasted for hours. Milosevic promised publicly, in front of the Federal Assembly that Vllasi would be arrested. (The crowd roared: ``Arrest Vllasi!.'' Milosevic started a dialogue with the crowd and said: ``I can't hear you!,'' and then promised that Vllasi would be arrested. Vllasi spent a year in jail and was released after a marathon trial. In summer 1990, the Serbian Assembly dissolved the Kosovo Assembly and annulled its independence. After that neither Vllasi, nor any of the Kosovo politicians active at the time, ever played a significant role again.
Ljubljana-Belgrade break up
Resistance to Milosevic's populism grew in Zagreb and Ljubljana, along with a growing sense of unease and national emotions. In October 1988, Janez Stanovnik, the Slovenian President at the time, said that he had told Milosevic not to ``cross the line.'' In February 1989 SerbianSlovenian tensions culminated at one of the ``millionstrong'' rallies organized in Belgrade in answer to a meeting in Cankarjev's center, where Slovenia's cultural and political elite gathered and expressed their support for the ethnic Albanians' demands. When Milosevic directly mentioned the possibility of war at the rally marking 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo, which was held at Gazimestan plateau, on June 28, 1989, Yugoslav Presidency President Janez Drnovsek was present.
That autumn the Brotherhood and Unity train made its last trip on the SloveniaSerbia line. Just before this there was an attempt at organizing a ``rally of truth'' (as the rallies in support of Milosevic were called) in Ljubljana. The Slovenian authorities banned the rally (the Belgrade media mentioned for the first time that Slovenian policemen had ``automatic weapons of foreign make''), after which Serbia introduced an economic blockade against Slovenia. This was followed by a verbal war in the disintegrating federal and party structures in Yugoslavia at the time, and relations soured. Something reminiscent of a ``dying spring'' took place in winter 1991, when Slovenian League of Communists leader Milan Kucan smiled happily after meeting with Milosevic and exchanging expressions of understanding for the Serbian and the Slovenian causes. Milosevic applied the formula: ``If you can't beat them, then get rid of them.'' The war with Slovenia stopped in June 1991. For months Milosevic gave propaganda support to the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) in its political war with the Slovenian leadership, but in the end he didn't support some military circles who wished to carry out a coup d'etat in order to protect the customs facilities in Slovenia. The SerbianSlovenian clash is the first time that a Yugoslav set of politicians survived a clash with Milosevic (in fact, the majority of the participants are still politically active). The parting however, resulted in the demise of a state which had been worked on for nearly 200 years.
A letter to Babic
Former Yugoslav President Dobrica Cosic boasted that he was the man in Belgrade who helped organize the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) in Bosnia and Croatia. Some statements by the late SDS leader Jovan Raskovic bear this out. What role did Milosevic play?
It is not entirely impossible that Milosevic was quite happy with Babic's taking over of the SDS from Raskovic. It seems that policeman Milan Martic played a crucial role in starting the ``log revolution'' and in the establishing of Krajina. From the first day he was in contact with the then federal Interior Minister Petar Gracanin and subsequently with many important people in the Serbian Ministry of the Interior in charge of actions in Krajina, and was generally a reliable executor, in cooperation with the JNA of what was called the ``militarypolitical lobby.'' In short, Martic had (and still has) and armed police force which he created himself, and which is always ready to carry out Milosevic's wishes in Krajina.
In spring 1991, when a state of war had practically been declared, Milosevic called on Babic in the Assembly: ``Last night, sometime after midnight, Milan Babic said that they had started an uprising, and that they didn't know how long they could hold out because of constant provocations...'' Two years later, in January 1992, Milosevic criticized Babic in an open letter for ``giving himself the right to make decisions whose consequences, unfortunately, would be paid for by the entire Serbian nation in blood.'' He said that the ``great aid'' which Serbia had given, ``could not be repaid with blows in the back and the undermining of the peace plan.'' Milosevic passed judgement: ``The citizens of Krajina must know that you have lost all our trust.'' After this, Milosevic dismantled local leaderships in Krajina with Martic's help (new privileges were offered, but it was also promised that the existing ones would be lost if they remained pigheaded). Babic lost all support and fell.
For a time being, Krajina's first President passed into anonymity, but he managed to stage a comeback with style, by cleverly exploiting scandals and criminal affairs in clashes between local factions, but without being publicly involved. Speculations that ``Milosevic had sold out on Krajina'' worked in his favor. Babic enjoyed the support of the greater part of the Serbian opposition, which he had demonized while he was on good terms with Milosevic. Thanks to last autumn's (1993) dirty presidential campaign in Krajina (based on threats that the people of Krajina would be left without aid if Babic became President) Milosevic managed to turn Babic's campaign advantage into Milan Martic's victory. Milosevic turned a blind eye when Babic was offered a ministerial post in Borislav Mikelic's government, which shows that no authority can be constituted without him. Babic is the first man to have survived a clash in territory under Milosevic's control.
Prime Minister Ante Markovic
Milosevic couldn't stand Socialist Yugoslavia's Prime Minister Ante Markovic because he suspected that Markovic's economic reform would result in rebellions by the workers which would force him out of powerbecause he had opposed the privatization of the economy. Not being able to swallow Markovic's popularity in the West, Milosevic flirted with Russian conservatives and Yugoslav generals of the day. He sabotaged Markovic's programwith an incursion into the country's payments system in autumn 1990, by encouraging farmer protests in spite of the large sums earmarked for agriculture at the time, and by infiltrating his otherwise feeble administration, which he systematically stripped of all power. Markovic resigned in autumn 1991 because he didn't want to sign the war budget, and with his departure, the last federal institution of the former federal state ceased to function. The nonstop campaign against Markovic's government systematically destroyed all remainders of national tolerance.
Milosevic personally invited Milan Panic to take over the post of Federal Prime Minister in spring 1992, when he was having difficulties on the domestic scene due to growing demands by the opposition for his resignation. The clash started after Panic's demands that Milosevic resign (voiced in London), and his statement that it would become obvious who was the President and who the Governor in Yugoslavia. Milosevic reacted furiously when Panic dismissed Mihalj Kertes, SPS official involved in arming Serbs outside Serbia. The clash ended in autumn 1992 in a dirty campaign. Milosevic's propaganda attacked Panic as being Washington's agent. Milosevic persuaded several of the ministers to leave Panic's government. Of all of Milosevic's opponents, Panic suffered an honorable defeat and managed to win one million votes in a campaign which lasted 15 days. With Panic's defeat all the hopes held by the socalled Serbian democratic opposition, were lost. Panic practically withdrew from politics. The post of Federal PM is now held by Radoje Kontic who takes no interest in his job.
Dobrica CosicThe Father of the Nation
Former Yugoslav President Dobrica Cosic did not put up much of a fight against Milosevic. Cosic now boasts that he organized the movement of the Kosovo Serbs which brought Milosevic to power. With his feeble and halfhearted support, and his vacillating between friendship and rivalry, Cosic practically thwarted Milosevic's opponents. Milosevic gave Serbian Radical Party (SRS) leader Vojislav Seselj the pleasure of getting rid of the ``father of the nation,'' practically proclaiming him a traitor. Several months before this Milosevic humiliated Cosic publicly when he allowed the Serbian police to occupy the Federal Interior Ministry building, after which Cosic grumbled that the Constitution should not be violated like that.
The team of generals who helped Milosevic rise to power and in the ensuing crisis came to look on him as their Supreme Commander, didn't put up any resistance. The demoting which followed, took place in two phases. During 1992, after the withdrawal of the JNA from Croatia generals with political influence left over from the Socialist Yugoslavia headed by generals Veljko Kadijevic and Blagoje Adzic were dismissed ignominiously. All in all, there were over seventy of them. All kinds of reasons were used (wrong ethnic background, loyalty to socialism and the Socialist Federal Yugoslavia, incompetency, doubts as to the reasons for the war after withdrawal) to make them resign and go into retirement. The really stubborn ones were set up with trials for treason; the ``Opera'' affair, and the cases of generals Trifunovic and Vasiljevic, etc. This helped compromise the JNA even further while an alibi was created for the disastrous course of the war. In the second phase the ``nationally aware generals'' who had cooperated generously in denouncing their ``proYugoslav colleagues'' were dismissed. Seselj's Radicals employed a skillfully handled campaign (scandals, corruption, crime) against General Zivota Panic and degraded the army to such an extent that Milosevic, during his longprepared showdown with the Radicals, had no problem in ``demoting'' all those whom he didn't consider absolutely loyal, men like generals Domazetovic, Boskovic and Stevanovic who had been Seselj's great allies.
It is claimed that after this the army was no threat to Milosevic.
Milosevic had his longest and most brutal clash with Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) leader Vuk Draskovic, the most influential opposition leader. While other opponents succumbed in a psychological fascination akin to that a frog faces when confronted by a snake (the frog remains immobile until the snake swallows it), Draskovic held the initiative against Milosevic longest. He demanded a change of regime (``Red bandits!''), he tried to bring the King back into the country, he criticized Milosevic's war policy, condemned the destruction of Vukovar, the shelling of Dubrovnik and the destruction and siege of Sarajevo, and organized scores of largescale demonstrations. Milosevic used the police against Draskovic several times. The police dispersed the demonstrators brutally; Milosevic sent tanks against them (March 9, 1991 and June 1993). He had Draskovic arrested twice (March 1991, and June 1993), he allowed brutal police torture against Draskovic, but had to yield under pressure from the international community. In trying to leave the war behind him he has shortened the gap between himself and Draskovic and with a characteristic tardiness has accepted part of Draskovic's rhetoric (the a posteriori condemnation of crimes, the shelling of Sarajevo and Dubrovnik), he has encouraged rifts in the SPO, even though this party is allowing Milosevic some respite because they want the war to end and because they don't have the strength for new, unsuccessful charges.
Without a doubt, Milosevic has kept a wary eye and made sure that anything to do with the Radical Party in Serbia was kept under control, in order to prevent a historical memory of Pasic's Radicals from bringing about a compact opposition movement. The first Radical parties which were founded, were uncritically supportive of Milosevic. In summer 1991, Milosevic helped Seselj become a deputy in the Serbian Assembly, and a year later, at the federal elections which were boycotted by the opposition, he helped strengthen the SRS to the measure in which it had been allotted a special role in the war which is still going on. Seselj and the SRS were of great use in deflecting the opposition's ire from Milosevic. But, the clash with Seselj which started last summer is still going strong.
The start of the clash coincided with Milosevic's acceptance of the VanceOwen plan. A dirty propaganda campaign is being conducted against the Radicals with more or less ardor, but Milosevic is not using all the tricks he could. Seselj tried to remain on his feet by kicking up a fuss against Milosevic, accusing him and his associates of crime and transferring the clash to Milosevic's wife, which could enliven the showdown with personal motives. This is nothing new as far as Milosevic is concerned and will certainly help speed things up. In the first political showdowns in 1987 Milosevic's wife was involved in some of the clashes (in the controversy over Marxism in schools). Some second rate court cases have been brought against Seselj, while the foreign media leaked last week that the Socialists were preparing to arrest Seselj along with another prominent champion of the war policyZeljko Raznatovic Arkan. The SocialistRadical clash has rarely departed from the rules of fairplay in spite of all the noise being kicked up.
The method which has never backfired in seven years is now being applied against Radovan Karadzic, Milosevic's erstwhile mainstay in Bosnia and ace in the sleeve in SerbSerbian political clashes (``A million Serbs will cross the Drina River and chase away the traitors''). For about a month the conflict has been an open one, even though subdued clashes between Pale and Belgrade have been going on for at least a year. For the time being it doesn't look as if Milosevic can do much against Karadzic in the field, in Bosnia, since he didn't take advantage of the chance offered by the military rebellion against war profiteers, dubbed ``September 1993.'' The rebellion however, is an indication of the segments on which Milosevic will rely in Karadzic's statethe poor and others who are stretched out along the 1,700 kilometerslong border and whose lives contrast greatly with the Mercedes automobiles and helicopters of the leadership in Pale. The only thing that functions to some extent in the Bosnian Serb Republic is the army, whose commanders, compared to the politicians, do not give optimistic statements on how they can wage war against the whole world without Yugoslavia's help, for as long as necessary. This is why General Mladic's silence since the appearance of the maps put forward by the Contact Group for Bosnia, is important.
Milosevic, however, has not disclosed if he has infiltrated Karadzic's power structure with people loyal to him. Karadzic claims that this is not the case. The campaign against Karadzic contains the most serious verbal accusations used so far, including those of war profiteering, the printing of dud money and war crimes. Karadzic believes, like Seselj, that the joint activities undertaken so far protect him. He is repeating the game played by Milosevic's opponents at the beginning of the filmhe is standing on his dignity and drawing his followers into a deadly poker game with human lives.