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Mediterranean Quarterly 13.4 (2002) 116-122
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Louis Sell: Slobodan Milosevic and the Destruction of Yugoslavia. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2002. 412 pages. ISBN 0-8223-2855-0. $34.95. .
U.S. leaders profess a dedication to democracy. Yet over the past five decades, democratically elected governments—guilty of introducing redistributive economic programs or otherwise pursuing independent courses that do not properly fit into the U.S.-sponsored global free market system—have found themselves targeted by the U.S. national security state. Democratic governments in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Cyprus, the Dominican Republic, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Syria, Uruguay, and numerous other nations were overthrown by their respective military forces, funded and advised by the United States. The newly installed military rulers then rolled back the egalitarian reforms and opened their countries all the wider to foreign corporate investors.
The U.S. national security state also has participated in destabilizing covert actions, proxy mercenary wars, or direct military attacks against revolutionary or nationalist governments in Afghanistan (in the 1980s), Angola, Cambodia, Cuba, East Timor, Egypt, Ethiopia, the Fiji Islands, Grenada, Haiti, Indonesia (under Sukarno), Iran, Jamaica, Lebanon, Libya, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Portugal, South Yemen, Syria, Venezuela (under Hugo Chavez), Western Sahara, and Iraq (under the Central Intelligence Agency-sponsored autocrat Saddam Hussein, after he emerged as an economic nationalist and tried to cut a better deal on oil prices).
The propaganda method used to discredit many of these governments is not particularly original; indeed, by now it is quite transparently predictable. Their leaders are denounced as bombastic, hostile, and psychologically flawed. They are labeled power-hungry demagogues and mercurial strongmen, with the worst sort of dictators likened to [End Page 116] Hitler himself. The countries in question are designated as "terrorist" or "rogue" states, guilty of being "anti-American" and "anti-West." Some choice few are even condemned as members of an "axis of evil." When targeting a country and demonizing its leadership, U.S. leaders are assisted by ideologically attuned publicists, pundits, academics, and former government officials. Together they create a climate of opinion that enables Washington to do whatever is necessary to inflict serious damage on the designated nation's infrastructure and population, all in the name of human rights, antiterrorism, and national security.
There is no better example of this than the tireless demonization of democratically elected President Slobodan Milosevic and the U.S.-supported wars against Yugoslavia. Louis Sell, a former U.S. Foreign Service officer, has written a book that is a hit piece on Milosevic, loaded with all the usual prefabricated images and policy presumptions of the U.S. national security state. Sell's Milosevic is a caricature, a cunning power seeker and maddened fool who turns on trusted comrades and plays on divisions within the party.
This Milosevic is both an "orthodox socialist" and an "opportunistic Serbian nationalist," a demagogic power-hungry "second Tito" who simultaneously wants dictatorial power over all of Yugoslavia while eagerly pursuing polices that "destroy the state that Tito created." The author does not demonstrate by reference to specific policies and programs that Milosevic is responsible for the dismemberment of Yugoslavia, he just tells us so again and again. One would think that the Slovenian, Croatian, Bosnian Muslim, Macedonian, and Kosovo Albanian secessionists and U.S./North Atlantic Treaty Organization interventionists might have had something to do with it.
In my opinion, Milosevic's real sin was that he resisted the dismemberment of Yugoslavia and opposed a U.S.-imposed hegemony. He also attempted to spare Yugoslavia the worst of the merciless privatizations and rollbacks that have afflicted other formerly communist countries. Yugoslavia was the only nation in Europe that did not apply for entry into the European Union, NATO, or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
For some leftist intellectuals, the former Yugoslavia did not qualify as a socialist state because it had allowed too much penetration by private corporations and the International Monetary Fund. But U.S. policy makers are notorious for not seeing the world the way purist left-wing...