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'Chossudovsky and Israel are Inaccurate and Misleading'

By Kjell Magnusson, Balkan expert, Uppsala University (posted 11-15-2000)

Under the headline "Lethal medicine" Aftonbladet's cultural page published an article on October 16 by Michel Chossudovsky and Jared Israel about the group of Yugoslav economists that goes by the name G17. (1) Supposedly, these economists are tools of US security policy and are about to sell out their country to the IMF and transnational capital. They will, among other things, slash state enterprises, dismantle the welfare system, and turn Yugoslavia into a protectorate.

Chossudovsky and Israel's article contains a number of inaccuracies (2) - e.g., that 600 000 Yugoslavs became unemployed between January 1989 and September 1990 - and gives a wholly misleading impression of the G17 program.

To understand the background of the article, one should know that Jared Israel is responsible for the web site Emperor's Clothes, which played an important role in criticizing NATO's war in 1999, but which has of late, unfortunately, lost touch with reality. It is one thing that the West waged an unrighteous war against Serbia or that the US has conducted an irresponsible Balkan policy in the last decade. This, however, does not imply that the Milosevic regime can be described as a defender of the interests of the Serbian people - in an uneven struggle against a political opposition financed by foreign intelligence agencies. (3) This has been a main theme on Jared Israel's web site.

One can, of course, criticize the IMF and, in particular, the ambition of the US to rule the world economy by political and military means. To describe the IMF as the primary threat against the welfare of the Yugoslav people, however, amounts to unparalleled cynicism. In order for Yugoslavia to survive as a society, large amounts of economic assistance and long-term credits are necessary. One prerequisite for this is the normalization of relations with international institutions.

Chossudovsky and Israel attempt, in different ways, to disavow "leading members" of G17. Those mentioned, however, do not, with one exception, form part of either the board or the council of G17. The foremost representatives of the organization are Miroljub Labus and Mladjan Dinkic, the latter incidentally being the initiator of G17. Dinkic established his reputation with the publication of the book "The economy of Destruction" (1997), in which Milosevic's plunder of the Serbs is outlined in detail. Last year, he published an analysis of the catastrophic consequences of NATO's bombing campaign, which provided uncomfortable reading for the outside world.

The group was formed by seventeen economists in January 1997, following the widespread popular protests in the fall of 1996. In an open letter to the citizens of Yugoslavia, G17 declared that economic reforms are not possible without sweeping political changes and the transformation of Yugoslavia into a state governed by law. This conviction has characterized the continuing work of the group, and the expanded "G17 Plus" also counts prominent sociologists, historians, and lawyers among its members, as well as writers and actors.

As a matter of fact, G17 has played a leading role in unifying the political opposition in Serbia. G17 is also the author of the opposition manifesto "Program for a Democratic Serbia" and the group did invaluable work during the election campaign.

The election program and the publications of G17 give a wholly different picture than the one Chossudovsky and Israel provide. A priority task is to prepare constitutional reforms which aim for decentralization and regionalization, including large-scale autonomy for Vojvodina and Kosovo.

There is also a will to achieve a normalization of relations with Montenegro. Furthermore, new legislation is announced concerning the economic system, the police and military, the judicial system, the media, local politics, the election system and the universities. For a Swedish reader, it is interesting to note that it is taken for granted that "the government representatives should not be present on any of the university boards."

On this basis, reforms are being enacted which will again give the citizens tolerable living conditions. In brief, it is a matter of an ambitious program which includes market economics and privatizations, but which also wants to reform the tax system and strengthen the role of the government.

Considerable support is promised to the weaker groups of society, refugees, people of old age, and the unemployed, which were left behind by the old regime. Special funds will guarantee the basic health care and social services, which have so far been lacking for the Yugoslavs. According to G17, social welfare is a prerequisite for economic reforms, since otherwise "the social and political pressure would soon prove impossible to contain, it would block the normal work of the government and lead to demands for a cessation of reforms."

In their critique of G17, Chossudovsky and Israel apply the same logic which used to characterize Milosevic's bizarre speeches to the nation, in which he warned about the consequences of a shift in power: malversation of public wealth, huge gaps between a wealthy elite and a majority of the population stuck beneath the poverty line, widespread criminality and generalized lawlessness. In every detail, this describes exactly what happened under Milosevic's rule, and the anger felt by the Serbs is hardly surprising. (5)

There are indeed reasons to feel worried about the intentions of the US and it is of the utmost importance that Europe, in particular countries like Sweden, assumes its responsibility. No one stands to gain however, from exchanging NATO's propaganda for another distortion of reality.

***

Footnotes and Further Reading

(1) The article to which Magnusson is replying, 'International Monetary Fund And The Yugoslav Elections', was published Oct. 16th in the Swedish newspaper 'Aftonbladet' under the title 'Lethal Medicine.' It can be read at http://emperors-clothes.com/analysis/1.htm

(2) Chossudovsky and Israel answered Magnusson's charge of false data in a letter published in 'Aftonbladet' on Oct. 30, 2000. That letter can be read at http://emperors-clothes.com/debates/data.htm

(3) Chossudovsky and Israel (and others) present evidence for their claim that the US has created a Fifth Column apparatus in Yugoslavia in "US Arrogance & Yugoslav Elections" which can be read at www.emperors-clothes.com/engl.htm and in 'Kostunica Says Some Backers 'Unconsciously work for American imperial goals' which can be read at is http://emperors-clothes.com/news/erlang.htm

(4) See 'The IMF & World Bank: Just Two of the Instruments for National Destruction', an Interview which Mr. Israel conducted with Prof. Chossudovsky. It can be read at http://emperors-clothes.com/articles/chuss/instru.htm .

(5) Mr. Magnusson provides no factual basis for his demonic characterization of Milosevich, to whom we are compared, the easier to dismiss us. He makes reference to "bizarre speeches". We sound like them; so he says. You might want to actually read one of those speeches. This would violate the current norms of scholarship. We have posted two on Emperor's Clothes; one is accompanied by discussion. That one is Milosevich's famous (though never read) speech at Kosovo Field in 1989 at http://emperors-clothes.com/articles/jared/milosaid.html . The comments accompanying this speech were written by Jared Israel in April, 1999. This was during the period when Prof. Magnusson says everything we wrote was correct. The other speech was delivered on Monday before the Oct. 5 coup. This is readable at http://emperors-clothes.com/news/milosevi.htm .

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