International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic (ICDSM)

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Part 1 - What Is My Offense?
Interview With Slobodan Milosevic

Interviewers, Jared Israel and Nico Varkevisser
(The authors are vice-chairmen of the ICDSM
Reprinted from www.pravda.ru
[Posted 15 August 2002]
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At 7:00 PM the phone rang. I was asleep in the hotel room, dreaming I was in Serbia.

"We're going to see Milosevic. Please hurry!"

I splashed water on my face, grabbed a mini tape recorder and a dilapidated writing tablet and hurried downstairs. In front of our very modest hotel I got in a car with Vladimir Krsljanin who's the Foreign Secretary of the SPS, Mr. Milosevic's party. We sped away through the streets of Belgrade, which is familiar but also so different from New York and Boston. For one thing, there are the bombed buildings, like movie sets. But real.

We arrived at the Milosevic family's temporary home. Their own house had been bombed by NATO so they were staying in a place built for former President Tito and now owned by the Yugoslav Army.

This was March 2001, almost six months after a Western-sponsored coup d'etat overthrew the elected Milosevic government. The house was guarded by the Army. The claims, spread by the coup authorities and the Western media, that Mr. Milosevic was guarded by drunken private guards, were simply lies. I saw several alert sentries in Yugoslav Army uniforms with automatic rifles. We were stopped three times as we drove up the long driveway, finally getting out in front of the house.

We were greeted there by Mr. Milosevic and several associates.

It was a stunning moment for me. My entire visit to Serbia, so far just one week, had been culture shock. Since October 1998 I had spent virtually all my time studying Yugoslavia, talking by phone to Yugoslavs inside and outside Serbia, and writing. And now to be in the place with these remarkable people who have so much - how can I explain it? - richness of culture. If all Americans spent a little time in Serbia, our government's policies would fall. Go there, see the place, but I warn you: if you are from the U.S., when you leave you will feel homesick for something you never knew you'd lost.

We were ushered into a fairly large, pleasant but simply furnished room. It was mainly empty except for white chairs and small, white, leather couches arranged in a rectangle. The room had been furnished to allow a dozen people to sit and talk, facing each other. In front of each couch was a small coffee table with refreshments, cups of espresso and the Turkish coffee everyone drinks in Serbia, sweet and dense as mud.

Two seats away from me to my right was Mr. Milosevic. To my left was Zjevadeen Jovanovic, former Foreign Minister of Yugoslavia.

I'm telling you this to help you picture the scene so I can relate some small details. As is often true, the details are revealing.

First, regarding Milosevic: he is impressive and entirely unlike the descriptions in the Western press. Intelligent, calm and dignified, a man who knows who he is and doesn't have to tell everyone. I found this to be generally true of the Serbian people, regardless of status; they have a certain confidence, dignity.

He was funny. It's hard to capture humor when you're writing from notes, and his humor was dry. He was gracious.

They all were. I used to smoke, but no more. But Milosevic offered me a cigarette and I took it without thinking. He leaned forward and lit it.

A few of Milosevic's associates were in the room. Several times he took out a cigarette but nobody would rush forward to light it. This was not the comic book egotist the media has described. There was no self-importance on his part, no fawning on theirs.

At the start, I reached into my jacket pocket and pulled out a small black object - my tape recorder. Imagine if I had done this in a meeting with a Western leader under siege. And since the coup d'etat Milosevic was definitely under siege. I probably would have been jumped by guards.

Zjevadeen Jovanovic patted my hand in a friendly way, smiled. "Please. The tape recorder will make him uncomfortable. Can you take notes?"

So I used the dilapidated writing pad which unfortunately fell apart later. When I got back to the US I thought I'd lost some of the pages. I just found them now, folded in a jacket pocket. Hence this interview, published a year and a half late.

The following is a compilation of Slobodan Milosevic's answers to questions, as recorded by me and also by Nico Varkevisser, from Holland. Milosevic's comments are mostly organized by categories, with only a few remarks by Nico or me.

-- Jared Israel

WHAT IS MY OFFENSE?
Interview with Slobodan Milosevic

ETHNIC GROUPS

The fact that different ethnic groups are in a country could be a wealth for that country. Yugoslavia was a modern federation with different cultures, heritages, living mainly in harmony. When the question of who is Macedonian, who is Croatian, etc., was imposed from the outside, like a torpedo, it produced problems. How could Croats have an interest in the dissolution of Yugoslavia when a part of the Croatian people was living in Bosnia and so on? Or Muslims? And what would become of us, divided into little states?

The existence of Yugoslavia was a solution to the Serbian people's national cohesion. Serbs were all together in the same Federation. It was not in the interest of any national group to destroy Yugoslavia.

In Europe there is no recognition of cultural and ethnic differences. Every country needs new formulas adapted to deal with cultural and ethnic differences in a respectful fashion. Yugoslavia had such a code. That is one of the reasons Yugoslavia was not recognized as a solution by certain international forces. They didn't want our kind of solution. They didn't want the example. They had another solution, which is at the core of their strategy for conquest, the solution of using ethnic differences to destabilize, divide et impera.

As for the charge of racism, which originates from the very forces which stir up race hate, let me ask them a question. Why is it that most Serbs have been purged from Croatia but not only have Croats stayed, unharmed, in Serbia, but tens of thousands of Croatian, Bosnian Muslim and Kosovo Albanian refugees have been welcomed here? Why is that the Roma, bellwether of racism in Europe, are so loyal to Yugoslavia and Serbia?

Today Serbia has a large non-Serbian population, the same as before the destruction of Yugoslavia. But Slovenia and Croatia are "pure".

US HEGEMONY

During the 1999 war I received different representatives from the Italian political scene, from both the left and the right. They said we are not functioning as an independent country. Nobody was asking them, "Are you ready to attack your neighboring country?"

NATO is supposedly an alliance. An alliance means equal states. But in fact, NATO was a war machine imposed by the US. Big Master didn't ask the Italians, "Do you think we should bomb that Serbian passenger train?"

It's understandable for the USA, as the most powerful nation, to aspire to a leading role. But precisely what role?

I told the Americans in 1998: "You could have been benevolent and everyone would have applauded. But instead you chose the path of Caesar, spreading blood and killing nations. So you missed the millennium, not just the century. It would be comic if it wasn't tragic."

I told the US Balkans envoy, Richard Holbrooke, "Don't tell me you're interested in Albanians. *I'm* interested in Albanians. You have entirely different goals."

And Holbrooke said, "We have to be international leaders."

And I said, "Why does that have to be at our expense?"

Now we are seeing the destabilization of the whole of Southeastern Europe including Greece. Macedonia is under terrorist attack. They will start destabilizing Bulgaria soon. They will of course create problems in Romania as well.

1997 MEETING OF SOUTHEAST EUROPEAN LEADERS

Everything has become transparent. Consider this very brief history. In October 1997, leaders of the Southeast European countries met. All of us. We established a very good understanding. I suggested, "Let's do something for ourselves. Let's abolish customs fees among ourselves." The meeting was very good. I had excellent person to person discussions with Fatos Nano, the Albanian Prime Minister. We discussed opening our borders and he said Kosovo is an internal problem of our country. The message of that meeting was that in Southeast Europe things are going to be solved by mutual consultation.

A month later I received a letter from German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkle and French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine stating that they were very concerned about Albanians. And then of course the BND [German intelligence] organized the so-called UCK [KLA] in 1998. They started to shoot, to kill postmen, foresters; they threw bombs in cafes, near green markets. We reacted as any state would react. By summer of 1998 they were gone. Destroyed.

At that point [U.S. Balkans Envoy] Richard Holbrooke came here to insist that his armed personal be allowed into Kosovo. As observors, he said

We talked. Our discussions were frustrating. We would solve a problem one day and Holbrooke would re-open it the next. I would say, "But we solved that problem yesterday!" And he would say, "Instructions."

He wanted to send in 20,000 armed so-called observers.

This was accompanied by the threat that NATO would bomb us. We tried to minimize the harm of this blackmail, to rouse world public opinion. At the same time we whittled down Holbrooke's demands from 20,000 to 2000. And from armed to unarmed so-called observors. So, something less than outright armed invasion. Though still an assault on our sovereignty.

They put a criminal, William Walker, in charge of their Observors. This is a man who worked with death squads in El Salvador. Supposedly a diplomat. His Observors were mostly intelligence operatives, behind the veneer of a private American company. [Milosevic is referring here to DynCorp - Ed.]

Walker created Racak, the phony massacre, based on his El Salvador expertise. Racak was then used by Madeleine Albright to justify their ultimatum to negotiate at Rambouillet. We were told: negotiate or be bombed. Of course, under international law, no treaty that results from threats is legally binding. But that wasn't their concern.

We decided to use these supposed negotiations to illustrate our stand. Our delegation was a composite of our national groups. It included ethnic Serbs, Albanians, Gorani [Slavic Muslims], Roma ["Gypsies"], Turks. The composition of Kosovo before the UCK [Kosovo Liberation Army] drove most of them out.

Meanwhile, the complete text of the Rambouillet "agreement" appeared in an Albanian publication three days before our delegation even arrived in France. Do you see? It was drawn up in advance.

So our delegates read the thing. One showed it to the Americans, saying, "Look, this is badly done. It's garbage." And one of the Americans said, "What are you talking about? It was prepared by James O'Brien! One of our best men! He drew up the complete documents for the autonomy of Tibet!"

That's what we had to deal with.

And Clinton? He actually said Serbs were responsible for W.W.I and W.W.II.

MEDIA LIES THAT KILL

An Israeli newspaper asked me if the anti-Serb media demonization was a form of genocide. After all, the demonization was used to justify the air war, which involved almost exclusively bombing of civilians, destroying normal life, the life of a people.

The Serbs are the only Europeans who have been bombed since World War II. 22,000 tons of bombs. Without the avalanche of media lies, ordinary Western citizens would never have allowed it. So the demonization was a crucial part of the war machine, limiting international protest. It was part of the genocide.

People in the NATO countries are not yet aware they were lied to. And they aren't aware how much harm this has done to their societies. Clinton's administration put lies into an ostensibly democratic institutional apparatus thus preventing any possibility of democracy. How can people make choices when they’re basing their thinking on lies?

NEW TYPE OF COLONIALISM

The destruction of Yugoslavia is material proof that the U.S. and other forces are engaged in a new colonialism. If their big words about world integration were true, they would have preserved Yugoslavia. It embodied precisely such integration. Nobody can be against integration if it is just, if people are treated equally. The new colonialism consists in making the small part richer, the big part poorer, and killing nations. If you lose your country, your independence and freedom, all other battles are lost. How can you organize a country for prosperity when you don't have a country?

If we understand that we're facing a new type of colonialism, one that attacks national sovereignty, we can pull all our forces together. The Left once grasped this idea, which is why Imperial forces penetrated the Left.

Now the Left is often worse than the Right. In Germany they removed Kohl and put in Schroeder, who will do anything for the Americans. Gorbachev was an American guy as well. He destroyed the Soviet Union for them.

For years the Russians have functioned as if under hypnosis. The Americans succeeded in hypnotizing them into believing their economy depends on the IMF and the World Bank. Hundreds of Billions have been taken out of Russia; the lives of ordinary people are destroyed; and they waste time negotiating IMF loans.

Consider the possibilities. The whole of Western Europe is relying on natural gas production. Why isn't Russia the big supplier? It could if the Russians had that in mind instead of playing this fool's game of relying on the IMF.

Look at the economic models the IMF enforces! Kenneth Galbraith, the American economist, said, "If the Americans deployed these economic models in America they'd be destroyed."

The question for Russians is: When will you realize the need and possibility to be your own masters? There is no way to play the Americans' game and win. The USA controls the entire international banking system.

MILOSEVIC'S GOLD

I have been attacked for everything. The U.S. envoy, Richard Holbrooke, once told me, the Swiss government is going to freeze your accounts. I said, "Why stop there? Here, wait a moment." I wrote a few words and gave him the paper. "Here. I've signed all my foreign bank account assets over to you. You may keep every penny."

He was taken aback. "I may?"

I said, "Yes! Unfortunately, there are no accounts."

Generally in banking you cannot have presidents of countries hiding vast amounts of money. It's simply nonsense. The goal of all the news reports about how they haven't yet found my money is to give people the false impression that there's something to look for.

THE MEDIA AND BLAMING THE VICTIM

The other night I was watching TVBK, a private Serbian TV station. Someone was criticizing the media, and right in the middle, the station cut the power. Just like that. The screen went black. It shows how worried this DOS regime [installed in a coup d'etat in October 2000] is when faced with the least critical thought.

They accuse me of having been a dictator. That's ridiculous. Before the DOS coup d'etat we had democracy. 95% of the media was privately owned and the opposition controlled most of it. In Kosovo the Albanians had more than 20 different media. In any neighborhood you could buy a newspaper attacking the government.

We didn't have one political prisoner. But this new regime has issued so-called 'amnesty' laws, freeing members of the KLA convicted for murdering children and the like. They call this 'the new political freedom.' I call it legalizing terror.

How did my supposed dictatorship manifest itself? Ibrahim Rugova, the Albanian secessionist leader, could have a press conference in Belgrade. He could walk around freely, have lunch, and criticize everything. And he did. Nobody bothered him.

They've accused me of being behind a rash of killings that occurred before the coup d'etat. The Defense Minister was killed. The Prime Minister of the province of Vojvodina was killed. The Secretary General of the Yugoslav Left. The Deputy Interior Minister of Serbia. The Managing Director of Yugoslav Airlines, a friend of mine since Gymnasium, he was killed. These were people I worked with, friends. No opposition leader was killed. So, I was killing my friends and sparing my enemies. A unique strategy.

When a crime occurs, shouldn't one ask: Qui bono? [Who gains?] Isn't it obvious that these killings were carried out to benefit our foreign opponents? That they were an attempt to intimidate men and women in our government? But the Western-controlled media says I was responsible.

The opposition media demonized our government and me and my family in every possible way. They accused my son of being a criminal.

The TV mixed these slanders with programs imported from America; flashy images, seductive especially to young people. They are doing this all over the world. It is a cultural attack.

Of course it had some effect. People in our country aren't used to advertising techniques based on the repetition of false images. The opposition learned these techniques from their US and other NATO handlers.

I've been using the term 'opposition', but in fact we had no opposition. We had a Fifth Column. It was paid huge sums by the people who bombed us. This was openly admitted.

And this Fifth Column, who now occupy government positions, has gone so far as to agree to cooperate with the Hague Tribunal, a false Tribunal created as another part of the genocide against the Serbs. Once in awhile they arrest an Islamic Fundamentalist or a Croatian fascist, to imply balance. But the goal is to destroy those who uphold Yugoslavia, who defend Serbia, to leave ordinary people vulnerable to attack and to make the world think resistance is impossible.

This past week the current authorities in Belgrade shipped their first victim to The Hague. He is a Serb from Bosnia, active in refugee work.

And we are seeing Hague-type justice in Belgrade as well. The present authorities have arrested Dragoljub Milanovic the director of RTS [the State TV station].

This is how it went. In January, Hague Prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, came to Belgrade. She accused me and Dragoljub Milanovic of murder. Why? Because on April 23, 1999 NATO bombed RTS, killing 16 people in one of their cruelest bombing raids. And, she said, NATO had made it clear they would bomb; so by her mad logic, we were responsible.

On April 8th French officials did threaten to bomb RTS. On the 9th we surrounded the TV station with a human shield, journalists, managers, officials, all together, arms linked. Serbian citizens were doing the same on bridges and in factories, everywhere. Then Wesley Clark seemed to withdraw the threat, but in any case what were we to do? Not go to work? Employees occupied our biggest auto plant and wrote a letter appealing to NATO not to bomb. NATO bombed anyway, killing and wounding scores of people. Were the victims guilty? Mr. Milanovic was working at RTS all month and could have been killed as well. Would that have made him responsible for 17 deaths, instead of 16?

Of course, Carla del Ponte works for NATO, for the bombers. And the new Belgrade authorities who have now actually arrested Dragoljub Milanovic on this crazy charge, these people work for NATO too.

WAR CRIMES - WHO IS GUILTY?

There were war crimes in Kosovo. But by whom? By the terrorists, who committed atrocities as a matter of course. By NATO which never hurt our military. They bombed our homes. They dropped cluster bombs on our green markets. Bombs encased in uranium.

These are war crimes. And they are guilty of the greatest crime of all: they launched an illegal, aggressive war.

All their actions now, everything they do, is intended to hide the criminal responsibility of Clinton, Albright, Blair, Schroeder, Solana, all the others. The worst war criminals.

But they accuse me. They say I ordered the slaughter of Albanians in Kosovo. And to prove it they sent forensic experts all over Kosovo, looking for atrocities. This was a propaganda effort, not a scientific investigation. It was theater - for the media. Every step these experts took was reported: they are looking for the bodies; they will soon unearth the bodies; they have found a shoe; and so on. With all that, people had to assume: there must be some serious crimes here.

The news that they were looking was big news but the news that they had found nothing - that was very small news. It is my opinion that many people in your countries still believe we committed genocide against Albanians in Kosovo.

THE JUNE 1999 PEACE ACCORDS

At the end of May 1999 the Russians proposed to us the so-called Yeltsin peace plan. It was good. Then it appears the Russians met with the Americans in Finland, and when the Russian envoy, Victor Chernomyrdin arrived in Belgrade the plan was entirely different. Kosovo was said to remain a part of Yugoslavia but the plan also called for full withdrawal of Yugoslav forces and for UN occupation. We said, how do we know this will not turn into NATO occupation and UCK [KLA] terror? Chernomyrdin swore to us that our Russian brothers would not permit this.

What were we to do? On the one hand, the Russian administration promised not to let NATO take over. On the other hand, there was a clear threat. NATO had begun carpet bombing of Kosovo. If we did not accept, the Russians made it clear they would withdraw their support and we would be condemned in the international media as warmongers who wouldn't even accept a peace plan from our Russian brothers. So we agreed to sign. Our government leadership discussed it, and then it was discussed in parliament, which voted to sign the agreement.

THE OCT. 5TH COUP IN BELGRADE

After the October 5th coup d'etat I resigned the presidency.
I didn't have to do that. We could have mounted a counter attack. But our government discussed the situation. It was our opinion that the foreign powers wanted to provoke a bloodbath. Their idea was, we would strongly resist; their Fifth Column would stage violent provocations; we would act to preserve order; and then their agents would stage murderous incidents for the camera, blaming us to create the impression of ruthless repression. Then under cover of defending themselves they could carry out a Chilean solution, supported by outside forces.

Also, many ordinary people were at that time deceived by the DOS media, by the demonization of our government and by many false promises, seemingly backed-up by images from Western TV, seductive images of wealth.

It was our opinion that NATO wanted to provoke civil war, have a blood bath and let the Serbs kill each other. Create a pretext for intervention.

We have direct experience with war. The losses cannot be replaced. So if possible, it is better to make a struggle in the political sphere.

So I resigned. This took the Americans by surprise. I am told that [US Secretary of State Madeleine] Albright called Steven Erlanger from the NY Times on the sixth of October, very upset. "Is it possible he resigned?" She couldn't believe it. It spoiled their plans.

ON THE ECONOMY

* NICO VARKEVISSER ASKED *


Do you think current economic problems stem from the incompetence of the new authorities, or have they been deliberately created?

* PRESIDENT MILOSEVIC ANSWERED *

Definitely deliberate. The economy has been ruined. Competent managers have been driven out using violence or threats. They've been replaced with people who are incompetent but do what the authorities tell them. And what do they tell them? To paralyze the economy, to bankrupt entire industries so they can be sold for peanuts to their patrons in the West. This isn't like old-fashioned colonialism. The foreigners put their proxies in power and simply strip the country, destroy local productive capacity and then dump their junk.

Here's an example: Before the coup d'etat we were producing 400,000 to 500,000 tons of fertilizer per year. We were exporting fertilizer. But I read in the newspaper that this year we already had to import 90,000 tons. And it is inferior quality.

In our Constitution [of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia] we put an article stating that all kinds of property would have equal protection. Our intention was to that privatization would be linked to the development of the economy, that it would be carried out insofar as it aided the economy. Our goal was optimal development of all forms of property. We were saying we would not ban any approach based on ideological disapproval of some form of property.

You must understand what we had before. Consider the question of land. In the past, under the old Yugoslavia, the Socialist Republic, more than 90% of the land was private. We never had cooperatives.

We had had a 10-hectare limit on the size of a farm. But new technologies meant that 10 hectares was too small. A single family, if properly organized, could handle much more land. A child might be able to operate irrigation technologies, where before they required immense labor. We're not talking about latifundia here - why limit property to 10 hectares and have farmers living in poverty? Our aim was not to get into total privatization, just to have optional structures.

Those tough sanctions that were imposed on us in 1993 completely blocked the economy. For several months we had 350 million percent inflation. We responded by developing a plan that cut inflation to zero in 1994. The main element was the decision to finance the budget with real wealth. Before that we always simply set a budget to finance education, health, state administrative functions and so on. Then we paid salaries this month by printing money, expecting that we'd bring in the money next month. When inflation started there was no way to cover costs based on income from taxes, so we took strong measures: the printing of money was cut. We said, you will get salaries as soon as the state gets money from taxes

But with all our problems, consider the difference between the neighboring countries and us. We had one million refugees, war, sanctions, a total blockade. Not only didn't Bulgaria and Rumania have sanctions and war, but they were associate members of the European union so they should have had some gains from that position. Yet there were thousands of Bulgarians and Romanians coming here, looking for work. Why? Because our neighbors were devastated by the policies enforced by their Western friends.

In the first winter after the NATO bombing [i.e., the winter of 1999-2000] we had no restrictions on heating. That was a fierce winter. The next winter was mild, but the new so-called Democrats [Mr. Milosevic is referring to the 'Democratic' Opposition of Serbia, which seized power in a coup d'etat Oct. 5, 2000] with all their promises that the West would do this and do that - what did they achieve? Constant electrical shortages. And remember, we heat mostly with electricity.

How can I help but be proud of what we achieved?

* JARED ISRAEL *

Speaking of that, I think you should be proud of your courage, staying in Yugoslavia after the coup d'etat last October, despite the threats against you.

* SLOBODAN MILOSEVIC *

Thank you. I imagine they hoped I would run away.

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FURTHER READING:
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Slobodan Milosevic's famous speech at Kosovo Field, 1989.
Official US government translation: http://www.icdsm.com/milosevic/kosovo.htm
BBC translation: http://emperors-clothes.com/milo/versions.htm

Prof. Francisco Gil-White's analysis of the avalanche of what can only be described as lies about the 1989 Milsoevic speech at Kosovo Field, "Media Misrepresentation of Milosevic's Words: A Review of the Evidence,"
at http://emperors-clothes.com/milo/gw.htm

Video, "Take Your Suitcases of Cash, Mr. Djindjic!" - Jared Israel
interviewed for Serbian TV http://emperors-clothes.com/articles/jared/tv.htm

Video of Serbian rally March 24, 2001 including speech by Mr. Israel
http://emperors-clothes.com/articles/jared/rally.htm

Article: "KLA Attacks Everyone; Media Attacks...Miloshevich?" by Jared Israel at http://emperors-clothes.com/articles/jared/expan.htm

***

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