In history's vast and dark gallery of murderous heads of state,
Slobodan Milosevic is the first to be brought before an international
court for an actual reckoning with the law. "It says an enormous
amount about the system that we are establishing under the United
Nations for international justice that Slobodan Milosevic should
be on his way to The Hague," Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's U.N.
ambassador, exclaimed to the New York Times. No argument
there: It does say "a lot."
Milosevic's change of address, however welcome, was hardly a neutral
transfer occurring in a pure and apolitical vacuum. Timed on the
eve of an international aid conference in Belgium, where $1.3 billion
in desperately needed assistance was at stake, Serbian Prime Minister
Zoran Djindjic had no choice but to order the extradition, on which
much of the aid was conditioned. In so doing, he ignored the Milosevic-appointed
Constitutional Court, which had suspended a decree by President
Vojislav Kostunica authorizing the transfer. He then acted behind
the back of Kostunica, who felt that the dubious court should at
least be respected while an appeal was made. The resulting furor
shook the fragile democracy, and the tussle between Djindjic and
Kostunica--between the republic and federal levels of government--is
straining the already awkward relationship with Montenegro, Serbia's
last partner in the Yugoslav federation.
That the extradition happened to take place on June 28, the 612th
anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo--and the 12th anniversary of
Milosevic's now infamous career-making speech--didn't help matters.
To the vocal minority of Serbs who still defend him, the uncanny
timing only served to feed the myth of Milosevic as national martyr.
But as poorly timed as it was, Milosevic's date with the tribunal
should have come much earlier. That it finally came to this--basically
a monetary transaction, foreign aid in exchange for Milosevic--says
more about the intransigence of the local elite than it does about
the West's handling of that elite. He was never going to go graciously;
Djindjic did the right thing by declaring, in effect, enough is
Still, the West's preening hypocrisy in all this business remains
odious, not least because of continuing U.S. efforts in opposition
to the International Criminal Court, an institution that would make
this sort of justice a palpable threat to despots and war criminals
everywhere, not just those who are defeated in battle.
This double standard was glaringly demonstrated a month earlier
in Paris, where a certain visiting éminence grise
was served a summons to appear at the Palace of Justice to answer
questions concerning the disappearance of five French citizens in
Chile during the Pinochet dictatorship. The wanted guest in this
other, less celebrated quest for justice was, of course, Henry Kissinger,
who watched over and generously assisted Operation Condor, the seven-nation
intelligence operation that maintained a campaign of terror against
dissidents in Latin America. With the full support of the U.S. Embassy,
the retired diplomat and pricey consultant testily disregarded the
subpoena and left the country.
Meanwhile, Chilean Judge Juan Guzman, whose attempt to bring Pinochet
to trial is slowly suffocating under the weight of his own country's
elite intransigence, has asked the United States to depose Kissinger
for relevant testimony. An Argentine judge likewise seeks Kissinger's
intimate knowledge of that country's erstwhile bloody regime during
the Condor years. Good luck.
It is worth remembering that Kissinger always took a more accommodating
tone than the rest of the foreign policy establishment whenever
Milosevic's name came up. Perhaps this is because the services of
his firm, Kissinger Associates, were once retained by Yugo--remember
those little cars from the '80s? They were produced by the same
state-run military-industrial conglomerate that Milosevic took over
and eventually used against his neighbors. Now Kissinger's kindred
spirit faces trial, largely because the United States willed it
so, and Serbia is obliged to confront the horrors of its past up
close. But who will in turn oblige us to examine our own stained