by Terence Sheridan
(PNS) BELGRADE --
as your own lawyer and you have a fool for a lawyer. So it's said. But not in the case of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, a lawyer by training but a bully by choice, a onetime brutal autocrat now on trial for war crimes before a United Nations tribunal in The Hague.
He has nothing to lose, so he showboats for the tribe, puts America on trial and hopes that history will be kind. And what has worked for Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade could work for Saddam Hussein, another dangerous egomaniac, in Baghdad.
When Wesley Clark, a Democratic candidate for president of the United States, testified last week that Milosevic had foreknowledge of the Serbian massacre of 7,000 Bosnian Muslims in 1995, UN prosecutors almost danced in the streets.
This was astounding information: According to Clark, Milosevic told Clark, then a three-star general, during a meeting in Belgrade, a month after the massacre, that he knew about the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II before it happened.
It went to the very heart of the 66-count indictment against Milosevic: individual and command responsibility for war crimes committed by subordinates in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo from 1991 to 1999, during the breakup of Yugoslavia.
In Belgrade, however, the capital of former Yugoslavia and now the capital of Serbia-Montenegro, Clark's appearance at the trial was viewed as a showdown between liars, and Clark told the biggest lie.
In a downtown restaurant, an anti-Milosevic lawyer, who is also vehemently against the current government and asked that his name not be used, held forth: "I'm supposed to believe that for eight years Clark, the general in command when NATO bombed Yugoslavia, had information on genocide and he didn't shout it until he's running for president?"
A waiter listening in asked: "Tell me, will there ever come a time when an American is put on trial for war crimes?"
This is just a small sample of negative reaction in Belgrade a day after the videotape of Clark's closed-session testimony was made public. Clark, the 281st prosecution witness in a trial that began in February 2002, nailed Milosevic on what happened after a Bosnian Serb general, Ratko Mladic, attacked Srebrenica, a hill town in eastern Bosnia, in July 1995.
Clark, speaking about Aug. 17, 1995: "'How could you have allowed General Mladic to kill all those people in Srebrenica?' and Milosevic replied, 'Well, General Clark, I warned Mladic not to do this, but he didn't listen to me.'"
Milosevic responded at the trial by calling Clark "a blatant liar." That resonated in a city bombed by a U.S.-led coalition -- where people were told, in effect, that the bombing was for their own good and that they should be grateful.
The English-speaking lawyer again, three sheets to the wind, but in fine form and talking to six people and a tape recorder: "Americans dealt with Milosevic when it suited them. Why didn't Clark run to The Hague court in August 1995 and tell them he had the goods on Milosevic? Instead, three months later, he was drinking with Milosevic in Dayton, Ohio. That's when Milosevic was being called a peacemaker, the man who helped end the Bosnian war."
Milosevic was, the lawyer continued, considered by the United States a "peacemaker" until 1999, when NATO bombed Yugoslavia. "Then he was a war criminal. He was indicted while he was being bombed, along with me and many others who were against the thug."
He went on: "It's like Iraq. You used Saddam when it suited you, assisted him in his war on Iran, your enemy at the time. But when he touched Kuwait and the oil, you came down on him like a pack of wolves.
"Now you have set up a council to rule Iraq, just like you set up a post-Milosevic government here, so-called 'democrats' who plundered and backstabbed and who are about to go under. And you wonder why people respond to Milosevic's rants. They aren't for Milosevic; they are against America -- a cynical and duplicitous America."
January 4, 2004 (http://www.albionmonitor.net) All Rights Reserved. Contact email@example.com for permission to use in any format.
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