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Article on Serbia

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  • Nicholas Richard
    The quisling of Belgrade The murdered Serbian prime minister was a reviled western stooge whose economic reforms brought misery Neil Clark Friday March 14,
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 15, 2003
      The quisling of Belgrade

      The murdered Serbian prime minister was a reviled western stooge whose
      economic reforms brought misery

      Neil Clark
      Friday March 14, 2003
      The Guardian

      Tributes to Zoran Djindjic, the assassinated prime minister of Serbia,
      have been pouring in. President Bush led the way, praising his "strong
      leadership", while the Canadian government's spokesman extolled
      a "heralder of democracy" and Tony Blair spoke of the energy Djindjic
      had devoted to "reforming Serbia".
      In western newspaper obituaries Djindjic has been almost universally
      acclaimed as an ex-student agititator who bravely led a popular
      uprising against a tyrannical dictator and endeavoured to steer his
      country into a new democratic era.

      But beyond the CNN version of world history, the career of Zoran
      Djindjic looks rather different. Those who rail against the doctrine of
      regime change should remember that Iraq is far from being the first
      country where the US and other western governments have tried to
      engineer the removal of a government that did not suit their strategic
      interests. Three years ago it was the turn of Slobodan Milosevic's

      In his recent biography of Milosevic, Adam LeBor reveals how the US
      poured $70m into the coffers of the Serb opposition in its efforts to
      oust the Yugoslav leader in 2000. On the orders of Secretary of State
      Madeleine Albright, a covert US Office of Yugoslav Affairs was set up
      to help organise the uprising that would sweep the autocratic Milosevic
      from power.

      At the same time, there is evidence that underworld groups, controlled
      by Zoran Djindjic and linked to US intelligence, carried out a series
      of assassinations of key supporters of the Milosevic regime, including
      Defence Minister Pavle Bulatovic and Zika Petrovic, head of Yugoslav

      With Slobo and his socialist party finally toppled, the US got
      the "reforming" government in Belgrade it desired. The new President
      Vojislav Kostunica received the bouquets, but it was the State
      Department's man, Zoran Djindjic, who held the levers of power - and he
      certainly did not let his Washington sponsors down.

      The first priority was to embark on a programme of "economic reform" -
      new-world-order-speak for the selling of state assets at knockdown
      prices to western multinationals. Over 700,000 Yugoslav enterprises
      remained in social ownership and most were still controlled by
      management committees, with only 5% of capital privately owned.
      Companies could only be sold if 60% of the shares were allocated to

      Djindjic moved swiftly to change the law and the great sell-off could
      now begin. After two years in which thousands of socially owned
      enterprises have been sold (many to companies from countries which took
      part in the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia), last month's World Bank report
      was lavish in its praise of the Djindjic government and its "engagement
      of international banks in the privatisation process".

      But it wasn't just state assets that Djindjic was under orders to sell.
      Milosevic had to go too, for a promised $100m, even if it effectively
      meant kidnapping him in contravention of Yugoslav law, and sending him
      by RAF jet to a US-financed show trial at the Hague. When a man has
      sold his country's assets, its ex-president and his main political
      rivals, what else is there to sell? Only the country itself. And in
      January this year Djindjic did just that. Despite the opposition of
      most of its citizens, the "heralder of democracy" followed the
      requirements of the "international community" and after 74 years the
      name of Yugoslavia disappeared off the political map. The strategic
      goal of its replacement with a series of weak and divided protectorates
      had finally been achieved.

      Sometimes, though, even the best executed plans go awry. Despite the
      western eulogies, Djindjic will be mourned by few in Serbia. For the
      great majority of Serbs, he will be remembered as a quisling who
      enriched himself by selling his country to those who had waged war
      against it so mercilessly only a few years earlier. Djindjic's much
      lauded reforms have led to soaring utility prices, unemployment has
      risen sharply to over 30%, real wages have fallen by up to 20% and over
      two-thirds of Serbs now live below the poverty line.

      It is still unclear who fired the shots that killed Zoran Djindjic. The
      likelihood is that it was an underworld operation, his links to
      organised crime finally catching up with him. But, harsh though it
      sounds, there are many in Serbia who would willingly have pulled the
      trigger. On a recent visit to Belgrade, I was struck not only by the
      level of economic hardship, but by the hatred almost everyone I met
      felt towards their prime minister, whose poll ratings had fallen below

      The lesson from Serbia for today's serial regime changers is a simple
      one. You can try to subjugate a people by sanctions, subversion and
      bombs. You can, if you wish, overthrow governments you dislike and seek
      to impose your will by installing a Hamid Karzai, General Tommy Franks
      or a Zoran Djindjic to act as imperial consul. But do not imagine that
      you can then force a humiliated people to pay homage to them.

      #65399; Neil Clark is writing a book about the recent history of Yugoslavia


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