Ivo Skoric on Sat, 21 Aug 1999 03:39:40 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> News from post-Yugoslav societies and abroad

All the Serbia’s Capos
As dozens of thousands of young and educated already left Serbia and 
as the unemployment approaches 50%, Serbs are lowering their 
expectations of the prospective emigration places from the U.S. or 
Canada to Panama and Honduras, and even Milosevic’s son Marko 
reportedly made good on the South African suggestion to the first 
Serbian family to seek asylum there: he made SA his second home.

Milosevic reshuffled the cabinet again. Making it more nationalistic and 
less acceptable to Montenegro. Including more Seselj people and more 
JUL people. Still an undisputed Don, Milosevic created a lot of enemies 
in his wake. Some he got a contract on and they got killed. Some he 
calmed down with enough money and privileges in their retirement. Still, 
a lot of them started their own political parties opposing him and 
demanding him to step down. Actually, by now almost all of them, except 
for those whom he got killed, stood up against him. Mostly, they want to 
gain forgiveness from the outside world for their past full of disgusting 
things they did for Slobo - not unlike a Mafia capo who seeks the 
witness protection from the U.S. Court in exchange for the small talk on 
Don’s whereabouts. So far, in my imperfect memory, only Jovica Stanisic 
seems to be excepted from this rule. The former secret police chief is still 
keeping very low profile. Not so the former army chief Momcilo Perisic. 
The ebullient Montenegrin general, wanted in Croatia to serve 20 years 
for war crimes he committed as the Yugoslav Army commander in Zadar, 
is now heading yet another party demanding Milosevic’s ouster.

Following the ancient Balkanic rule of “too many chiefs and not enough 
Indians,” Perisic did not join another turncoat general’s political initiative 
(Vuk Obradovic), or for that matter any other political party, but rather 
formed a party of his own, that now has about 50 active members. The 
incredible fragmentation of Serbian opposition, as well as their 
compromised past in his service,  makes Milosevic’s rule easy. Perisic, 
perhaps, think that he can pull it on his own, because of his strategic 
connections with Montenegrin government and because of his 
partnership with a politician from Milosevic’s innermost circle - Zoran 
Lilic, who was sacked by Milosevic in the recent purge and joined 
Perisic’s party. Lilic was a trusted Milosevic’s ally (whose job Slobo 
inherited) that established good relations with China and Lybia while the 
rest of the world ostracized Serbia. Montenegro continues to follow 
Slovenian and Croatian path calling for referendum in case Serbia refuses 
to amend the rules of union. Montenegrins call for greater fiscal 
responsibility (or they’ll print their own money), more control over their 
youth in the armed forces (Montenegrins serving in Montenegro) and 
more say in foreign policy (sharing control of the border crossings and 
customs) -  practically the same that was requested by Croatia and 
Slovenia in 1990.

Although I am quite skeptical that any of the opposition leaders may 
harm Milosevic, the sheer number of enemies he created around himself 
may eventually be able to bring him down. Of course, we can play with 
other scenarios as well. Since, Perisic is a war criminal, tried and indicted 
in absentia in Croatia, Milosevic may as well decide to arrest him and 
extradite him to Croatia. He would prove Serbia’s/Yugoslavia’s 
willingness to cooperate in the international effort to bring war criminals 
to justice, and he would get rid of one of his political enemies - one that 
can sway considerable portions of armed forces against him, 
nonetheless. Djukanovic, at that moment, may ask Croatia not to 
imprison Perisic, on the grounds of his importance to bring Milosevic 
down. International community would publicly demand that Perisic goes 
to jail, while diplomats would quietly ask Tudjman to release him to 
Montenegro in order to lead the fight against Milosevic. Perisic’s 
smartest choice at that time would be to offer his knowledge of 
Milosevic’s regime to the Hague tribunal in exchange for a new identity. 
Then he would die mysteriously in Croatian prison, making an ass of 
Croatian government, but saving Milosevic, and perhaps Tudjman as 
well, from utter embarrassment.

In any way, this short amusing musing makes me think that the best way 
to deal with the war crimes issue in the post-Yugoslav world is to apply 
the ways FBI used to deal with the organized crime in the U.S.

Meanwhile, drugs came to Serbia’s schools. Unlike in New York, in 
Belgrade ten years ago presence of drug dealers in the high schools were 
not considered normal or habitual. Now it is. Actually, one captured 
dealer was a son of the local police chief.

All the colors of Benetton and the case of Sandzak

For years Muslims and Serbs of Sandzak co-existed in a lucrative 
business arrangement. Muslims lead prosperous clothing industry and 
Sandzak region was the region of Serbia with the highest amount of 
collected taxes, while Serbs kept them safe from the international law, by 
the virtue of ignoring that law altogether. Muslims of Sandzak became 
rich by making Levi’s, Bugle Boy, Versace and other “big name” clothes 
and shoes without the license from the “big name” company. There 
essentially was no difference between the Bugle Boy jeans “Made in 
Sandzak” and the Bugle Boy jeans “Made in China” or Indonesia or 
wherever the Bugle Boy usually manufactures its stuff, except for the 
price. Made in Sandzak Bugle Boy jeans retailed at a substantially 
cheaper price, while the workers, who actually sewed them together, were 
paid substantially more than the sweatshop laborers in the Third World, 
that Bugle Boy and other Western clothiers employ. This was possible 
by cutting off the Bugle Boy lawyers, corporate officers, stock holders, 
paper pushers, and others who essentially skim most of the profits from 
“original” Bugle Boy jeans while doing substantially nothing to 
manufacture them.

With no particular military justification NATO, however, bombed 
Sandzak heavily sending most of the Muslims in permanent exile. This 
invisible ethnic cleansing (since Muslims from Sandzak are afraid to go 
back now to see their Serbian neighbors whose relatives dies from 
NATO bombs and they also can’t go to Kosovo, since they are not 
Albanian and since they actually raised money for Yugoslav Army 
during the Kosovo war) added 50,000 people to the total toll of displaced 
persons from the wars in the Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo, which is well 
over 2 millions. All bridges connecting Sandzak with the rest of Serbia 
were destroyed by NATO bombs, cutting off the usual distribution route 
for Sandzak clothing manufacturers: fake Levi’s made in Sandzak would 
be passed on through Serbia and Montenegro to mostly Albanian 
distribution chains from Kosovo, who would then retail those products 
in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Albania, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, 
Turkey, Italy and the West. Although the business is slowly reviving, 
most of the factories are either damaged or empty, with workers 
unemployed and dependent on the soup kitchens living in cities choked 
in garbage (due to the fuel shortages, refuse collection is highly 

Obviously, the West is not going to help the pirate clothing industry. 
But people in South-Eastern Europe would be a much harder sell, than 
Indonesians or Sri Lankans or Mexicans, to work for a multinational 
clothing corporation for miserable pay and then to have to buy that 
clothes overpriced in some air-conditioned neon-lit retail chain store like 
WalMart (http://balkansnet.org/jumpin.html#communism). They are more 
likely to continue to spite the West. What the West’s reaction would be? 
More bombing?

Who exactly rules in Kosovo?

Kosovo is ruled by the Serbian law on the books, enforced trough the 
military folks from six countries, under the supervision of the tiny flock of 
UN bureaucrats, that had to lease substantial part of their authority on 
the local level to the self-appointed Albanian leaders from the KLA, an 
organization generally despised amongst them for its tongue-in-cheek 
but still very Serb-like bend on ethnic cleansing: now how can anybody 
ever expect that this explosive concoction may produce any good?

Albanians returning to their homes sometimes find out not Serbs but 
another Albanian family moved in their home before them.

Serbs are continuing to leave the province, and only old women are left 
behind. They are often harassed and even killed by Albanian bandits.

In the absence of any working indigenous industry, the Kosovo 
economy is revolving around the presence of international organizations: 
service industry - lodging, restaurants, brothels, perhaps.

The fight for multi-ethnic Kosovo is lost before it begun. But Yugoslav 
dinar is still the valid currency, much preferred to the even more 
worthless Albanian lek.

The “internationals” demand that Albanian radio and TV in Kosovo not 
only balance their news reporting so that it looks objective to the 
Western eye, but also to have 80% of the music they play - 

KFOR raided KLA headquarters, seized a lot of weapons and briefly held 
KLA military commander Agim Ceku.

This all suggests a pattern not of liberation but of imposing of a new 
colonial master in the region (NATO) to replace the old one (Serbia). It 
also suggests that genuine democratic liberation forces are lacking.		

Marshall Plan for the Balkans?
Remember when the NATO countries following the air campaign 
promised to help regional countries offset their economic losses incurred 
by the bombing? Well, guess what: The study by Romanian Foreign 
Ministry considers it unlikely that Romania will receive any 
compensation for economic losses it incurred by observing the 
embargo on Yugoslavia, despite international promises. Instead, it 
proposes support for Romanian companies bidding for contracts for 
reconstruction projects in the former Yugoslavia. The European 
Union seems to be more concerned about the Western Balkans - 
leaving countries like Romania and Bulgaria behind. Yet, even the 
countries that have trade agreements with EU from the region 
export to the EU just 1% of total EU imports. Romanian people 
generally opposed NATO bombing Serbia, but their government 
went along allowing NATO aircraft fly through Romanian airspace. 
Is this the best the rich can do for the poor of this world? Destroy 
their meager possessions by their mighty weapons and then let 
them struggle to keep each other afloat? This is as immoral as a 
terrorist attack in some large wester population center would be.

Russia and China Watch:

And that is exactly the point of the Chinese colonels Qiao Liang and 
Wang Xiangsui who argue that conventionally weaker countries would 
be at disadvantage following the rules of engagement set forth by their 
conventionally stronger adversaries. Taught by the experience of 1996 
when the Chinese show of force that followed Taiwan’s moves toward 
international recognition was met by the two U.S. aircraft carriers, China 
is purchasing 30 Russian Sunburn missiles (supersonic anti-ship 
missiles). Colonel Wang is also repeating what Mao said to Japanese: 
“You fight your war and I’ll fight mine.”

Generally, while the NATO air campaign humiliated Russia politically, it 
did good for its economy. Russia is perhaps the only non-NATO 
country able to manufacture weapons and weapon systems at the level 
of the weapons and weapon systems employed by NATO. Chinese 
purchase of Russian anti-ship missiles that U.S. military analysts 
consider as a real treat to their aircraft carriers, testifies to that. Recent air 
show in Russia showed Su-37 and other aircraft that while not 
comparable to B2 or F117, are at the level of other NATO aircraft or 
better. Meaning that all those countries scared from NATO imposing its 
rules on them will now turn to Russia for new weapons. Russian air-force 
generals openly admitted that they can’t buy new aircraft for themselves, 
so those planes were developed, built and shown for sole purpose of 
selling them to other countries and making money for the cash strapped 
Russian economy.

The Pentagon is not all too unhappy with that development. Congress 
just ditched the F22. If Russians comes up with a stealth fighter (now 
that they can study stealth technology from the F117 shot down over 
Serbia), Pentagon would have a good reason to ask that F22 be made and 
that perhaps new and more advanced (and expensive) aircraft be studied 
and developed, making Lockheed, Northrop and Boeing very happy. 
They never wanted the cold war to end, anyway.

There is of course a need for a war where to test the new weapons. And 
Chechen rebels just seem to oblige on that one, rising insurgency in 
Dagestan, a Russian republic east of Chechenya, with oil rich Caspian 
Sea coast and the only big Russian port on Caspian Sea. Dagestan is 
obviously strategically more important than Chechenya. The government 
of Dagestan pledges allegiance to Russia, but its Muslim populace, that 
was conquered by Russians late in last century, might over time see their 
future prosperity better served by independent state. I am dying to see 
how will Russians handle that, and how will NATO react to how 
Russians handle that...

Truth Commission for Bosnia?

The Hague Tribunal hates the idea - what are they going to do if war 
criminals just come forward and confess to their crimes in exchange for 
amnesty? They have no reasons to fear, however, since the idea is 
unworkable. In South Africa a democratic government was established 
by wide participation of citizens in the first open elections. That 
government had firm administrative control of the entire country and all 
its operating systems. Victims were satisfied with their overall victory 
and therefore inclined to offer amnesty to their victimizers. Victimizers 
were confident in the surviving state of law that the new government will 
honor their pledge, so they came forward. The situation is nearly 
completely different in Bosnia. Bosnia still functions as a NATO run 
protectorate consisting of three feuding statelets whose governments 
are the expression of the apartheid mindset of their citizens. Those 
governments are poorly trained in statehood and law, and their rule 
depends on the existence of their ethnic kin victims in their societies and 
other ethnic kin victimizers in other societies of Bosnia-Hercegovina. 
They exploit ethnic group victimization as the principle source of their 
power. Therefore, they have no interest in reconciliation, since it 
threatens their power most directly. Obviously, the Truth Commission 
would be a farce if organized in such environment.

Croatia - Yugoslavia: 0:0

The soccer game between Croatia and Yugoslavia in Belgrade produced 
no surprises. There were no Croatian fans, so the usual display of fans 
fighting and torching each other “battle” flags, that old Yugoslavia was 
rich with, was now absent. Result was 0:0 so not to offend anybody. 
Milosevic reserved 20,000 of 50,000 seats in the stadium through his 
connections in the Serbian oil industry (which covered the price), in 
order to bring enough public that would not scream “Slobo has to go!” 
The rest of them, of course, sang songs against Milosevic, and 
everybody screamed ethnic slurs at Croatian players (“go home 
ustashe!”). Eleven players from Croatia were under heavy police 
protection, from the beginning to the end of their stay in Serbia. Both 
sides played well, yet uneventful.

Then, in the second part, suddenly there was a black-out. Testimony to 
the shaky Serbia’s power grid, damaged by NATO, the giant stadium 
reflectors died in the middle of the game with no juice coming, and the 
darkness set in the place quickly. 50,000 emotionally charged people in 
the total darkness were then treated with teargas, in anticipation that the 
game would have to be stopped and the stadium emptied. But then, 
luckily, the power came back. 

Military Games

Meanwhile, Military Games ended in Croatia. Second ever, Military 
Games are a sort of Olympic Games for soldiers around the world. So, 
sportsmen from various armies may compete against each other, 
although today’s warfare does not really depend on their ability to kill 
each other as much as on their countries industry ability to supply 
enough ammo to them. It is quite puzzling what exactly is the purpose of 
those Games and why Croatia lobbied so forcefully to be the host. 
Zagreb was already a host of University Games in 1987 (another 
offspring of Olympics - for college students), yet never contested to host 
the real Olympic Games. The media coverage of Military Games was 
sporadic (as it was with University Games, too) and it is not quite clear 
what will be the benefits for Croatia from hosting them, if any. Local 
peace activists staged Peace Games in protest. That gives me the idea - 
why don’t we have Peace Games for real? Now, if militaries may have 
their games, why would peace activists be worse? I guess we can skip 
shooting in the Peace Games and replace it with let’s say X-treme 

In my neighborhood

Last Sunday around 5:30 PM right in front of my building, the police shot 
Angel Torres, a 50 years old Puerto Rican guy, fatally wounding him in 
the leg. He bled to death at the corner before EMS managed to arrive. It 
is not clear to me if he just got shot in the femoral artery in a case of bad 
luck, or did the police used hollow point bullets (now approved for use 
by the New York Police Department, despite being banned in war). NYPD 
scarcely commented the incident that occurred in the low income 
neighborhood known to be bad. Here, like in Rwanda, such things are 
expected to happen.

An undercover policemen approached Torres in order to buy drugs from 
him (or to sell drugs to him, that’s not clear either). Not knowing that the 
guy was a policeman, Torres responded by pulling his 15 centimeters 
long machete (a rather longish knife, but the NYPD loves to call it a 
machete - it sounds more serious, I guess) and chasing the officer with it. 
The undercover cop did not want to blew his cover, so he ran. The other 
police saw the incident and shot. Torres dropped the “machete” and ran 
in the opposite direction. To their credit, police shot him in the legs, 
since he was unarmed. Still, he died. We don’t know whether he actually 
had drugs on him or whether he (at his age) was a drug user at all.

When I came home around 8 PM, the police sealed off Lexington Avenue 
between the 110th and 108th streets. Puddles of blood were lingering in 
front of the entrance doors to my building. Detectives were prowling the 
building asking everybody what did they hear or see. Since they 
obviously knew both who was shot and who did the shooting, I guess 
the reason for their polite information gathering might have been to find 
and address eventual potentially damaging details.

In all fairness, Torres might have been a drug dealer, or a self-victimizing 
drug abuser or a simple innocent Spanish-speaking bystander who just 
responded harshly to the harassment of an unknown English-speaking 
individual in the streets. The NYPD is running an undercover operation 
on the corner of 110th and Lexington trying to weed out heroin sellers. 
The neighborhood is unfriendly to the police, because this would not be 
the first time that the cops shot first and then asked later 
(http://balkansnet.org/ivo3.html#colon). In the little cardboard shrine 
that people built for Torres on the corner of 110th and Lexington, there are 
always candles lit and some flowers, and messages of support to Torres, 
the man who dared to stand up to what Puerto Ricans see as the 
oppression of WASP-y America over their ways of life. True, you can be 
a well dressed white gun seller and stand on the corner of 57th and Park 
Avenue and an undercover cop will absolutely never approach you 
without a very, very well proved case.

I would just like that Americans who read this, pressure their law 
enforcement personnel to obey the same rules of engagement that they 
insist on the Balkan rulers to adopt.

Ivo Skoric

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