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Interview with Krsljanin: ‘Serbia is an occupied country’

Published Oct 17, 2010 10:26 PM

On Oct. 5, 2000, a coup engineered by U.S. imperialist agencies and supported by Western European imperialist governments overthrew the Socialist Party government in Yugoslavia led by Slobodan Milosevic. At the time — only 16 months after a vicious 79-day U.S.-led NATO air war against the people of Yugoslavia — there was much confusion even among progressive and anti-war forces in the imperialist countries due to the overwhelming anti-Milosevic propaganda in the corporate media. The following interview by Cathrin Schütz with former Milosevic aide Vladimir Krsljanin throws light on those events and the developments in Serbia in the last 10 years.

Ten years ago, on Oct. 5, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was overthrown. What is hidden behind this “democratic revolution for freedom” celebrated by the Western media and politicians?

For 10 years Serbia had successfully resisted the war against Yugoslavia, which began in the early 1990s. After NATO’s war of aggression against our country ended in 1999 without a clear victory, London and Washington carried out a vast special operation to overthrow Milosevic; it was the mother of all subsequent “color revolutions.”

Through a presidential decree, Bill Clinton gave the CIA carte blanche to carry out a coup in Yugoslavia. Enormous sums were invested in political parties, NGOs [non-governmental organizations] and media. The fragmented opposition [to Milosevic and the Socialist Party of Serbia] was unified under foreign guidance. A coalition of 18 parties under the umbrella called the “Democratic opposition,” or DOS, formed with one goal: overthrow Milosevic.

William Montgomery, the person later named as U.S. ambassador to Belgrade, set up a specially equipped office in Budapest [in neighboring Hungary]. Opposition activists attended courses that were run by CIA agents. The so-called student group known as “Otpor” (Resistance) used the slogan “Gotov je” (He is finished) to conduct the election — this was all a project of Western intelligence agencies.

How did the overthrow take place?

In the Yugoslav presidential election on Sept. 24 the incumbent Milosevic obtained 15 percent fewer votes than Western-backed candidate Vojislav Kostunica. However, since neither of these two leading candidates won an absolute majority, it should have come to a run-off ballot. The DOS parties claimed that Milosevic had falsified the elections and Kostunica was victorious in the first round of voting. Otpor led violent street protests.

DOS wanted to prevent the runoff, although they would have won for sure. Milosevic refused to accept a resignation without a second round of voting.

At the height of the dispute, the Supreme Court issued a strange decision: Because of rumors of irregularities in the first ballot, all votes from the southern Serbian province of Kosovo were simply canceled. Of course, the vote in those districts would have to be repeated.

With Kosovo’s votes cancelled, Kostunica’s vote share increased to more than 50 percent. Milosevic acknowledged the decision and on Oct. 5 congratulated Kostunica’s victory. This step, which had barely been reported, was buried in what was a media-constructed “popular uprising.” As Otpor set the Parliament on fire, the Kostunica forces immediately and completely seized the government apparatus. With this coup they avoided a controlled handover of power.

It was thus not simply an electoral victory for the opposition?

The years-long image of Milosevic as a “dictator” in the Western media would have appeared absurd if he were simply removed by a Democratic vote. The West didn’t want to risk this loss of credibility. Mainly though, the “revolution” needed to be carried out violently to shorten the time until the new regime could allow far-reaching Western interventions in the state and economy, thus making the transformation irreversible.

After Oct. 5, government offices and businesses were occupied by so-called crisis units, and those previously in charge were dismissed. After a few months 40,000 officials had been illegally removed from office. Today’s economy minister, Mladjan Dinkic, began his illustrious career by using machine guns to take over the National Bank.

Dinkic’s party, G17 Plus, was originally set up as an NGO by the West. Despite its marginal election results, for the last 10 years it has controlled public finances under successive governments. Dinkic’s first act as a national bank director was to dissolve the four largest Serbian banks at the behest of the International Monetary Fund — with the result that the Serbian banking system is now in foreign hands, and every year 6 billion euros flow out of the country. I remember Milosevic’s words before the election: “They are not targeting Serbia to grab Milosevic, but Milosevic to grab Serbia.”

But beyond the Western propaganda, there was in reality a great discontent among the population [in 2000]. ... Under the guidance of and in close collaboration with their foreign sponsors, the opposition understood how to blame on Milosevic the suffering caused by Western sanctions and NATO’s war and how to make big promises should they win the elections.

The bombs had destroyed the economy and infrastructure, which aggravated the social discontent. When the government used up the remaining government funds for repairing the main road and rail links, the voters felt even more pain and were susceptible to opposition propaganda that claimed voting out Milosevic would stop the foreign pressure and increase the standard of living. It is in this sense that one should understand White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer’s comments that the war was part of the “regime change” strategy of NATO and the United States, because it weakened Milosevic and led to his fall.

Why did the leading Western countries carry out such an aggressive intervention policy in Yugoslavia and Serbia?

Since the early 1990s there have been not many different wars in Yugoslavia — in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo — it was all one war: that of the West against Yugoslavia. In this statement I fully agree with Milosevic. Former U.S. President George Bush Sr., while speaking during the celebration of German reunification, discussed the elimination of the consequences of the Versailles Treaty in Europe. A key point regarding Versailles at the beginning of the 20th century was to weaken Germany in favor of the Eastern European countries, which Germany had considered as satellites within the “Central Europe” doctrine.

Thus, those in Versailles for the first time recognized Yugoslavia as a state. Until Yugoslavia’s breakup, Catholic and Muslim groups in Yugoslavia were used by Western powers to counteract Russian influence, which was based on historical closeness with Serbs. In the 1990s, however, a resurgent Germany’s role was to serve as a NATO member to weaken Russia and Eastern Europe, which was to be transformed into a “Euro-Atlantic region” — but of course only as a colony. In line with the long-cherished desire of the British, Serbia especially should be weakened as a potential ally of Russia.

With Milosevic it could never happen. Kosovo is now home to Camp Bondsteel, the largest U.S. military base in Europe, in the area of the proposed major oil and gas pipelines from the Caspian Sea.

Did Milosevic’s fall pay off for Serbia’s population?

Immediately after Oct. 5, 2000, the Milosevic-SPS dominated Serbian Parliament was rendered powerless through the formation of a transitional government. Early parliamentary elections were held. DOS won a two-thirds majority and named Zoran Djindjic, the number one favorite of the West, as prime minister, the most powerful office of Yugoslav politics. Thus, the coup was completed.

Serbia is now an occupied country. Foreign “advisers” are sitting in government, army, police and secret service. The economy is flattened; the banking system in foreign hands. Privatization and sale of large companies bring poverty and hunger to Serbia. The army consists of only four brigades; the media have been silenced, the politicians corrupted. Montenegro has separated and Kosovo has declared its independence.

And while before Oct. 5, 2000, the Belgrade District Court tried in absentia and convicted the NATO leaders of war crimes, sentencing them to 20 years in prison, the sentence was repealed shortly after the coup. The head of the government TV station was found responsible for the death of his staff — those who died from NATO bombs. Afterwards Milosevic and several high-ranking state officials and generals were delivered to the NATO Inquisition in The Hague, in violation of the Constitution.

Thus nothing has improved. On the contrary, our remote-controlled president and the choir of the bought politicians and “experts” talk about great victories on the road to joining the European Union. But it seems obvious that this way is not the right way.

Published Oct. 6 in the German daily newspaper Junge Welt. Translated by Workers World managing editor John Catalinotto.