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Otpor is an American Tragedy
by Jared Israel

[Emperor's Clothes]

Emperor's Clothes just posted Blagovesta Doncheva's tranlsation of an article from the 'Monitor' newspaper in Sofia, Bulgaria. The article charges that the Yugoslav 'opposition' group, Otpor, is being trained by the CIA station in Sofia. Below are my own comments about Otpor. Please allow me to make two things clear:

First, I think Yugoslavia, like every country, needs a viable opposition. If only one view is heard, or even if only one view is credible, decay sets in. Second, I do not think Americans should meddle in Yugoslavia's internal affairs. I do not think Americans should meddle in the internal affairs of any other country. Period.

But the US is already meddling; that presents a problem. The meddling must be addressed by US citizens even though it involves a sort of interference in Yugoslavia's internal affairs.

The US has poured vast sums into destabilizing Yugoslavia. No one knows exactly how much; surely it is over $100,000,000. (1) The intent is to corrupt. How can this help but distort the Yugoslav political process, especially since draconian sanctions, imposed on Serbia by the US, have greatly multiplied the value of US dollars. Absent this bribe money and an honest opposition could develop. There could be real debate. The Yugoslavs would gain. But in the presence of vast sums, dangled to lure people, especially young people, to treason, how can there be productive political struggle? This is a crime, no less than NATO's 78 day bombing campaign.

Otpor: The Message isn't Hidden Anymore

According to the Bulgarian newspaper, 'Monitor', the Yugoslav group, Otpor, is being trained by the CIA to provoke and destabilize Yugoslavia.

What exactly is this Otpor? What are its beliefs? Does it have a program?

Otpor lists some demands on its website: "Free University; Free elections; Free media." These demands suggest Otpor opposes the Yugoslav status quo. But what does Otpor stand for?

Clicking on "Who we are" doesn't help. Other than attacking Slobodan Milosevich, the closest Otpor gets to a position statement is a discussion of its cartoon-like symbol:

"The symbol of the student RESISTANCE is the clenched fist.. The fist itself is conceived as the symbol of individual initiative, that the time and energy of every single person should be invested to bring about change. This symbol of personal courage was born with the first public manifestation of RESISTANCE, a leaflet called "Bite the System". (our emphasis)

Where's the beef?

Aside from a vaguely free market-ish reference to "every single person" being "invested to bring about change" - what's the program?

The stenciled image of a clenched fist was first produced during the Harvard Strike of 1969. I was a student activist at Harvard. The fist was drawn by kids at the Graduate School of Design. It appeared on posters with a very clear list of demands: Strike to get the Reserve Officer Training Corps off campus; Strike to stop the expansion of the Harvard Medical School into working class neighborhoods. (Harvard was evicting people from their homes.) And so on. You could agree or disagree, but there was no ambiguity.

Does Otpor merely posture, imitating symbols of student protests past? Or is there a hidden message?

Sometimes you can find the message hidden in the details. Otpor's outlook emerges clearly when it describes its actions. The title of one of their web pages is: "Hey, Chief, when are you going to Hague?"

'The Hague' refers to the War Crimes Tribunal for Yugoslavia. The 'Chief', of course, is Milosevich.

Here's the text:

"On August 8th, 1999 OTPOR! activists in Nis held a birthday 'celebration' for president Slobodan Milosevic. The protesters (over 2000 citizens of Nis) had a chance to write down their birthday wishes on a big birthday-card located next to the main stage. One of the OTPOR! Activists received presents on behalf of president Milosevic. The presents included a one way ticket to Hague, prisoner cover-all's, books written by Mira Markovic (his wife), handcuffs, and a big red-star shaped cake. The cake was later given away to the protestors."

Ahh, now we're getting somewhere.

The indictment of Slobodan Milosevic by the ICTY (War Crimes Tribunal) is based on claims that Yugoslav forces under his command committed war crimes in Kosovo. This of course is the heart of NATO's justification for the 78 bombing campaign against Yugoslavia. We have argued that these accusations are lies.

Our arguments are not based on air. We have studied the record and concluded that it was NATO, not Yugoslavia which committed war crimes in Kosovo. Not Yugoslavia and NATO (as some people say) but NATO alone.

We have asked some of those who support NATO's charges to justify their accusations. Give us some hard evidence. We await a meaningful response. We grow older. We wait.

The ICTY's purpose in indicting Mr. Milosevich (and slandering the Yugoslav Army) is to blame the victim and thereby blunt opposition to NATO. If someone can prove we're wrong, we'll drop the issue. We defend truth, not war criminals.

It is impossible (or at least grotesquely unprincipled) to support the indictment of Milosevich unless one also supports the justification for that indictment, NATO's claim that Serbian forces deliberately murdered civilians in the village of Racak and elsewhere.

Indeed, the indictment was brought in order to provide the Western mass media with talking points to justify the attack on Yugoslavia.

Given Otpor's support for the War Crimes Tribunal, which is truly hated in Yugoslavia for its Star Chamber methods, (2) it's clearly anti-Serb purpose and its open control by and dependence on NATO (3), how much support could Otpor have in Yugoslavia?

I would suggest Otpor has precious little support inside Yugoslavia, but it is viewed with misty eyes by some people in the Serbian Diaspora, who are torn between opposition to NATO and to Milosevich, and also by certain non-Serbs, such as the editors of Z magazine, who profess opposition to NATO policy while arguing that Yugoslavia is guilty of war crimes.

Otpor appeals to these rather different groups precisely because it combines symbols of rebellion with vagueness of demands and ambiguity about who is guilty in Yugoslavia - the West and its proxy forces or "the Milosevich regime".

By the way, why is the Yugoslav government more of a 'regime' than any other government? Yugoslav political life certainly allows a greater divergence of opinion than, for example, the US where neither of the two main candidates for President seems to be aware that the US bombed a sovereign country for 78 days, or that the US is sponsoring the slaughter of civilians in Colombia. How many major newspapers in the US have allowed the opposition to the war against Yugoslavia to publish? The percentage of Yugoslavs who voted for the different parties in Yugoslavia's governing coalition is probably as high as or higher than the percentage of US voters who vote for anyone in US presidential elections. But nobody talks about 'the Clinton regime' do they?

Getting back to Otpor, what kind of people would help the bombers of their country divert blame to their country's leaders and people? Because clearly, if Milosevich is a new Hitler, as Mr. Clinton wants us to believe, then wouldn't that make the Serbs the new Nazis? What is the word for someone who betrays his own people while they are under attack?

Perhaps the fact that the CIA is apparently training Otpor in Sofia will clarify things for people who are fooled by Otpor's image. Hopefully they will realize that Otpor's purpose is to take provocative actions in concert with US covert agents inside and outside Yugoslavia, especially around the upcoming elections, to give the false impression that the Yugoslav government is a "dictatorial regime" deserving punishment. We must put the blame for provocations where it belongs: on the US government and its proxy forces, such as Otpor.

Many people in the US and other countries now say they want to build an antiwar movement which opposes Western intervention on a "humanitarian basis" in other people's affairs.

Excellent. But an anti-interventionist movement earns that name by action. The US government is now using forces in Yugoslavia which the Western media has mislabeled 'democratic' to launch provocations in order to justify further US intervention. Everything that has gone on in Kosovo and Montenegro, and recent developments in the Yugoslav 'opposition' ( including the apparent training sessions in Sofia for Otpor) confirm this. To be anti-intervention it is not enough for a movement to oppose open attacks on target countries such as the 78 day bombing campaign unleashed last year on Yugoslavia. It is necessary to expose the lies and provocations used by Imperial elements in the Western elite, working through their proxies, to create a political base of support for intervention. People who say they are against intervention but support the lies that serve as the justification for intervention are in fact providing a critical support for the interventionists - for they aid it in isolating the intended victims of attack even as if they say "This attack is the wrong method for solving this problem."

The CIA is illegally meddling in Yugoslavia's internal affairs. The misguided young people in Otpor are apparently being used as a foil.

Let's expose this trick.

- Jared Israel, 9-10-00

Further reading:

(1) On July 29, 1999 the US Senate held hearings on how to most effectively use the Serbian 'opposition' to effect US plans in Yugoslavia. Go to http://emperors-clothes.com/analysis/hearin.htm

(2) 'Back to the dark ages?' at http://emperors-clothes.com/articles/jared/bac.htm

(3) An Impartial Tribunal? Really? at http://emperors-clothes.com/analysis/Impartial.htm

(4) Otpor's website is www.otpor.com

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