A STEP OUT OF EUROPE: KETMANS
OF THE NEW ERA
By Bojan Al Pinto Brkic
As has become our custom we celebrated the May Day - eleventh since
Ratko Mladic had been indicted for the most horrible of war crimes - completely relaxed.
The only difference from the previous years was the outlandish Europe's belief that it
will see Mladic in the Scheveningen detention unit. EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn
claims he had Prime Minister Kostunica's personal assurances that Mladic would be
arrested and extradited without delay by the end of April. The PM did not confirm making
this promise, but even if he had actually said something of the sort, we do know he did
not mean it.
Firstly, the second half of April is marked by holidays - Easter and
Statehood Day. Perhaps the PM did not have a church calendar at hand when he made that
promise - he, too is only human and can err. And a man preoccupied with running a state
can easily forget the exact date of the Willow Day, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good
Friday, Easter, Easter Monday, Easter Tuesday and other red-inked dates. Presumably, we
won't undertake something of importance on the Lord's Day of rest? Or, on the Holy day of
April 27, the one we celebrate to irritate the Montenegrins? A thing of that kind was done
only by the government of the deceased PM.
Secondly, our customs require that, comes spring, we go for lamb, not
war criminals. The PM, being an orthodox Christian, seriously approaches the ritual
sacrifice. The trappings are prepared for days ahead, not to mention the spit... Dry twigs
are placed on top to build the fire... and when they burn down.... and the flames are low,
you place the lamb above it... and turn it, slowly... until a golden crust is formed...
Thirdly, the PM is a nationalist of a democratic provenance, which means
that he can accept that crimes were committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but not that the
Serbs are to blame, which is why obligations such as locating, arresting and extraditing
Ratko Mladic lose their moral charge and turn into a kind of a thing one could generally
put off until tomorrow.
Contrary to what the international officials may think, not every day is
a good day to extradite Mladic. A Serbian hero cannot be extradited on a church or state
holiday (in order of importance), or for that matter any other day associative of
idleness. And definitely not at Lent. The right day to extradite Mladic would be the one
when all Serbs are very busy and many important things are happening, arresting their
attention. Those are, naturally, the general conditions.
But, there are also specific conditions: By that particular day the
government must complete all its unfinished work and wake up without a single idea about
what to do, even in the sphere of forestry and water management. And, since the government
takes all its duties seriously, the cabinet has established a working group to conceive of
the date to extradite Mladic. Its members interpreted calendars, confronted daring ideas
and came to the conclusion that a day of that kind was likely to happen by the end of
April 2036. Learning of the findings the PM thought, excellent, I can now take a serious
step and, armed with the support of the state apparatus and all structures in my cabinet,
impress Olli Rehn with a promise that Mladic would be arrested by the end of April 2036,
and extradited to the Hague tribunal without undue delay. Stabilization and association
negotiations will be continued, Labus will no longer lecture me about Europeanism and
everybody will se that I am in fact a democrat. But, I'd better cheek this out one last
time: "Mihajlov, can I be certain that you have taken into account all the days I intend
to spend in Belanovica?" "Naturally, Mr. Prime Minister," says a voice at the end of
the table. But, they still seem somewhat unconvincing: "What about the obligations to
see our businessmen whose dubious investments will conquer Slovenia?" "That too, Mr.
PM, and along with it the possibility that Slovenia will disappear from the map of the
world in the third decade of the 21st century," the voice is now quite confident. It's
time I acted like a statesman. "Please get me commissioner Rehn," I say quietly.
And while the connection was established, peace and quiet prevailed in
the office - where have those who doubted Jocic's appointment for the police minister
gone now - the paper was not on the table, and the PM was alone with his thoughts: What
a great team I have, keeping the socialists on a short lead, all subjected to measures,
Dacic is followed even in his dreams... Small wonder will' get another ten seats and I can
confidently promise Rehn that Mladic will be in the Hague Tribunal by April 2036. Hold
on... Rehn will not be the commissioner in 30 years, and in all truth he does look
somewhat peaky since he has started dealing with us... Anyway, the Americans made him a
firm promise that there will be no Hague Tribunal after 2010. But now, I have Brussels on
the line. All right, I will not take this against Mihajlov, he genuinely wanted to help.
I'll try to improvise, but leave the impression of a statesmanship: "Hallo, commissioner
Rehn? I would like to promise you personally that Mladic will be arrested and extradited
without delay by the end of April .. mmm... Serbia is aware how important this thing is
for its European future."
It 50 years, when the government archives are open to the public, we may
perhaps find traces suggesting that a working group actually discussed the best day for
the extradition of Mladic. Or perhaps not. Whatever the case, the above mentioned PM's
thoughts and dialogues have been made up and have nothing to do with what actually became
of the gargarizing efforts of our government to fulfill its international obligations.
Still, it may be possible that our government approaches the tasks of greatest importance
with a dosage of insincerity, which is best reflected in the absence of results.
Asked whether the information that Bogoljub Karic is hiding in the
territory of Montenegro, Montenegrin PM Milo Djukanovic came up with a very interesting
answer. "He is so well known person that it is entirely improbable for me not to learn
about his being in Montenegro through one of my channels." Let's say that the territory
of Montenegro is seven times smaller than that of Serbia and has 12 times less population
than Serbia, and note the fact that for 18 years already Djukanovic has, in one way or
another, held the most important offices, which made his extremely powerful. But, Vojislav
Kostunica, too, has been in power since October 2000 (with only a small break), the army
has looked to him as a supreme commander throughout this period, and the money Serbian
taxpayers set aside for the security services are a hundred times that of Montenegrins.
Thus, we have a number of possibilities: a) the government does not know how to spend the
money collected in taxes, b) it is incapable and the security services govern it more than
vice versa, or c) the government hides and/or approves the hiding of Ratko Mladic.
Whatever the truth, it is fairly disastrous for the citizens of Serbia who elected that
government and have been paying it for two years already.
We also note that PM Kostunica in this same period developed the ability
to say the things the international officials wish to hear. Does Kostunica, who in 1996,
after Srebrenica and all the horrors of war, came close to destroying his own party by
going against the DSS' presidency vote (6:5) with his decision to visit Radovan Karadzic
and Ratko Mladic in Pale, now thinks that these people belong in the ICTY dock? It is
possible - one could call it political maturing. But it is just as possible that the PM,
under different circumstances, has revived a phenomenon described by Czeslaw Milosz.
People who are concerned for their survival and well-being in a particular system
(communist, i.e. one dominated by the Soviet Union) and speak one thing and think another,
are called ketmans in Milosz's "Captive Mind". Try to carefully listen to what
Kostunica says and how he says it. The system is called globalization and the great power
concerned is a different one. But the survival and well-being equally depend on the
captivation of the mind, verbal obeyance and promises we are less than eager to fulfill.
But, what can we do, low efficiency is the natural characteristic of large systems.
In order not to suggest that the phenomenon is characteristic of
nationalists in Serbia alone, try looking at a broad picture. How many governments and
influential groups throughout the world promise to observe international law while
actually doing their best to abuse it?