The Man Who Destroyed Yugoslavia

Slobodan Milošević

Slobodan Milošević

He was the 3rd President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1997-2000), 1st President of Serbia (1991-1997), and the 14th President of the Presidency of the Socialist Republic of Serbia (1989-1991). I am referring to Slobodan Milošević, the leader who took his country down a rat hole, was responsible for thousands of deaths by genocide (which he called “ethnic cleansing”), and died while awaiting trial at the International Criminal Tribunal at the Hague.

Although he initially ruled a nation of Serbs, Croatians, Slovenians, Albanians, Macedonians, Muslim Bosnians, and Hungarians, in the end he was only interested in changing diverse Yugoslavia into a Greater Serbia. Most of his crimes involved his preferential treatment of his fellow Serbs, mostly in the Yugoslavian Republics of Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo, where forces under him or allied to him committed devastating massacres of men, women, and children, including large scale rape and torture.

I am currently reading Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation by Laura Silber and Allan Little (New York: Penguin, 1997). Although twenty years have passed since the first edition came out in 1996, the book still reads like today’s headlines.

It shows what can happen when the elected leader of a democracy decides to take sides on behalf of a particular population and, at the same time, act prejudicially against others. (That’s one of the reasons I am so against a political party being responsive only to, say, angry white males.)

The United States is a diverse country very like the old Yugoslavia. It wouldn’t take much effort to break the country into warring fragments. That’s what happened in Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot decided to persecute or kill city dwellers. Also Hitler’s Germany with its antisemitism and the Ayatollah Khomeini’s persecution of Christians and Baha’i. And, needless to say, ISIS/ISIL/Daesh’s attacks on Christians, Yezidis, and non-Sunni Muslims of the approved flavor.