Slobodan Milosevic Is the Scapegoat in a Show Trial


The Balkans is a strange place: Nothing is what it seems to be.

In June 2001, after nearly a decade of bloodshed and related media frenzy, Slobodan Milosevic was arrested and transferred to The Hague for trial. Thus ended the public relations phase of the hunt, giving way to indictments for war crimes in Kosovo, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Milosevic, as a scapegoat in a show trial with a predestined outcome, would be a perfect medium to exorcise the guilt of those who are trying to obliterate their complicity in provoking and expanding the Balkan wars.

It will be voodoo justice: a desperate and dishonest attempt to close the 1990s chapter of the Balkan history. Milosevic is gone from the Balkan stage, but his departure gives additional credence to some inconvenient facts.


The careful reading of the last 10 years suggests that the trial will be Milosevic’s final act, designed, timed and scripted by higher powers to neatly wrap up the cautionary tale of the “butcher of the Balkans.” Former Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck wrote in a 2001 article in the Boston Globe that, if the 1995 Dayton agreement “prolonged Milosevic’s rule ... it also sealed his fate.” In it, Milosevic agreed to the tribunal that is now putting him on trial. When he was arrested in 2001, “the trap that had been set in 1995 at last slammed shut,” wrote Shattuck. This confirmed a long-held suspicion that the U.S. manipulated Milosevic and world opinion.

Were allegations of Milosevic’s “war crimes” in Bosnia and Croatia true, he would have been indicted in 1995, instead of rubbing elbows with U.S. politicos at the Dayton peace talks. Were Washington serious about toppling him, it could have done so in 1996 by supporting the Serb opposition movement, Zajedno. Yet the U.S. seems to have been more interested in keeping Milosevic in power until the last part of the Pax Americana scenario in the Balkans played out with the NATO occupation of Kosovo.

As the Balkans boogeyman on whom anything could be blamed, Milosevic was an invaluable public relations asset to NATO politicians who have been conveniently advancing their own geopolitical agenda in the region in tandem with Albanian secessionists.

The individual charges against Milosevic are a double-edged sword: Every one of them could be applied to the wartime deeds of Croats and Bosnian Muslims, with regard to the Serbs and each other in a string of nasty three-way armed conflicts. From the overblown issues of “rape camps” to “concentration camps” to the true culprits in market bombings to provocations and setups in Srebrenica to Racak, the long list of myths conflicting with facts may prove to be embarrassing.

The current war on terrorism brought to the limelight the ties between the Bosnian war effort and Osama bin Laden’s network. The issue of simultaneous support from the CIA and Al Qaeda for the Kosovo Liberation Army in the 1990s will gain attention as well.

As someone who has nothing to lose, Milosevic may well take the stand and turn the tables on his accusers. It may be only a matter of time before someone cries out that the emperor is naked.


Marko Lopusina and Andre Huzsvai are the writer and English editor, respectively, of “Spies, Lies, and Videotapes. The CIA Against Yugoslavia, 1947-2000” and “Balkan Death: The Albanian Narco-Mafia,” both from Eurasia Communications, 2001.