July 23, 2001
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"Not only are we demons but we are imbeciles," said a Serbian acquaintance to me in a recent phone conversation. He was referring to the story of the infamous refrigerated truck that showed up in last May and June after the arrest of Slobodan Milosevich in April 2001, and the discovery of a mass grave earlier this month in Petrovo Selo, about 120 miles East of Belgrade - just after (certainly a mere coincidence again!) the abduction and shipment of the same Milosevich to The Hague on June 28, 2001. In that grave were the bodies of three Americans of Kosovo-Albanian origin, the Bytyqi brothers, who were found blindfolded, their hands tied with wire, and with official papers that provided their identity.
What do you mean, I asked?
Well, he said, there is this ominous plan by the "Butcher of Belgrade" that has just surfaced; you know the Asanacija plan, according to which Milosevich would have ordered to move all the dead bodies away from Kosovo so that they would not be found. You know, all the 100,000 people that we have been accused of killing in Kosovo, right? Remember, he continued, not only are we rapists, murderers and cannibals, but we also are Machiavellians, and I should add we are stupid Machiavellians!
Why do you say this, I asked again, as the pitch of his voice was already an octave higher?
Please, gimme a break, he answered. We hide the bodies of these "freedom martyrs" in a mass grave with their identity papers on them... Wow, what a great way to destroy evidence, isn't it? I mean, please! Look, we dispose of 50 bodies -- a count that has grown to over 80 bodies in a matter of days and of course always the bodies of women and children, old people, dismembered bodies -- again, we are cannibals, how many women and children have we killed and eaten, I wonder -- in a refrigerated truck dumped in the [river] Danube. It makes so little sense whatsoever that it is ridiculous. I could laugh at it all were it not for all the vox populi that keep repeating in unison that the moon is made of cheese...
You mean, I suggested, that they are trying to pull the wool over our eyes, that we all have a replica of the Brooklyn Bridge in our bedrooms?
Yeah, whatever, he said. When they [NATO] started to illegally bomb us and destroy our country over two years ago, they came up with Operation Horseshoe and the Racak massacre, do you recall?
Yes, I certainly do, I said. And they have turned out to be hoaxes...
Hoaxes, yes and you've seen the results, the tens of billions of dollars in destruction, the schools, hospitals, bridges, refineries and all the mayhem... Now they're going to hang Milosevich in this Kangaroo court - it's like reading Kafka's The Trial and watching it all in slow motion. They haven't ruined us enough. They want to shatter our psyche...
I thought you were not a Milosevich fan, like so many among the Serbian diaspora that are quite religious and often pretty conservative, I interrupted.
Oh, stop it, he said. This has little or nothing to do with Milosevich -- by the way, I don't know whether you've seen the video of his arraignment but he certainly demonstrated more poise and dignity than the judge who kept shutting off the mike so that Milosevich could not express his contempt for that modern Star Chamber or that prosecutor [Carla Del Ponte] with her wooden face reminiscent of the Inquisition.
Yes, I saw it, I said, and I think that they might end up direly regretting having managed his abduction with Djindjic. It may well come back and bite them hard...
Oh, don't get me started on Djindjic and Kostunica...
Okay, okay, I said, let's leave politics aside but tell me: how do you know that the refrigerated truck is yet another fabrication? Everybody tells me that we are in denial, that we cannot accept the facts, that it is the truth, etc.. So, how do you answer them, I asked?
Why answer them? We've been answering for an entire decade, we've been shouting in pure disbelief answers to all the accusations, all the demonization, all the falsifications, and to what avail? Every time we ended up in a worse position with calls for the de-nazification of our culture; we've watched history being rewritten, old allies and friends becoming our executioners...
Yes, yes, I know, I interrupted again, but please tell me how you know that the refrigerated truck was a put-up job?
Come on, you know it also, he answered. Look, it's not that we have clean hands, that we haven't committed any crime. You know this for goodness sake. Do you remember the interview Milosevich gave to UPI in 1999? He did not deny that bad things had happened and that Serbian paramilitaries had been tried and sentenced to jail... Do you recall?
Yes, I said, it was the interview with Bruno De Borchgrave of UPI, on April 30, 1999.* But still, I insisted, what do you know about...
Okay, let me tell you...
The phone suddenly became silent for a few seconds that appeared like a long while.
Yes, I prodded him.
I don't really know, he finally said, adding, but neither do they - or maybe they actually do... What I know is what you always recommend; that is, to use common sense. So listen, I found a report on the Web. I read that some Serbian guy, a professional diver from Kladovo (the town nearby) who had been dispatched to the scene, said that the truck looked new, that it was a Mercedes refrigerated truck. On the sides was an inscription in Albanian saying the vehicle was the property of a meat processing and transport firm from Pec (in Kosovo) and the firm's phone number was 029/22-997. He added that a rather large stone was lying on the gas pedal, indicating that someone had deliberately put it there and let the truck lunge into the water... That's what the guy said in the report.
So, I wondered?
Well, it makes no sense, no sense at all, he continued. Look, first, do you have any idea of the price of such a truck? New, it must run in excess of $30,000. Now you tell me: Serbia was in the midst of the NATO onslaught, under international sanctions for almost a decade, struggling to make ends meet and we would have wasted such an expensive piece of equipment? Not only would we have wasted it but, second, we would have wasted it for 50, or 80 or whatever number of bodies? Pardon me if it looks morbid, but how many refrigerated trucks would we have needed to steal from Kosovo in order to dump the thousands, tens of thousands of people - you know, all the women, children and elderly we are accused of having butchered? How many? At 50 a pop, the entire Balkans would not have enough refrigerated trucks to fulfill the bloody mission, for goodness sake! Now, thirdly, what's going on here? In the same Web report another guy, a captain, is quoted saying he knows the Danube and its strength. "In the gorges," he says, "it can pull anything down to the bottom. But not a refrigerated truck. They are hermetically sealed and there is so much air in them that whoever wanted to sink this one in the Danube and cover up the traces did a very unprofessional job. Had the truck been open, it would have gone straight down to the bottom." So, here are people who are executing the Machiavellian policy of making corpses disappear and what do they do, they use an expensive truck that is hermetically sealed and cannot sink... Please! Finally, why in the world would they put a stone on the gas pedal in the middle of the night to dump the truck? Were they afraid of being caught? By whom? Just doesn't make much sense, does it? As I told you, not only are we demons but we are imbeciles, really! We leave identity papers on dead bodies, we use a hermetically sealed truck to dispose of other bodies in a river, we burn the bodies (remember the Trepca shafts?), we eat them, what else can we do? And what shall I tell my children?
Tell me, I asked, what is this report you are quoting? Where is it on the Web? Where does it come from? Who wrote it?
Gosh, I can give you or e-mail you the URL but I have no idea. As much as I could tell it was on one of those human righters, wolves in sheep's clothing listservs that have mushroomed over the years. It was unsigned. But it was there for sure.
But why didn't you dig a little to find out where it came from? It looks so much more precise than what has been reported in the main media...
Well, it depressed me alright and I was pretty disgusted by it. And then you guys are better than all of us demonized imbeciles at unearthing the mud that has been thrown at us so relentlessly for so long.
Okay, please give me the URL of this report and I'll do some investigation.
Here it is, he said. I hope you come up with something. Thanks.
I will. Do not worry, I certainly will.
...And I did...
* Excerpt of the April 30, 1999 UPI interview:
Borchgrave: You are denying that your armed forces drove people out of their homes and torched entire villages?
Milosevic: We are not angels. Nor are we the devils you have made us out to be. Our regular forces are highly disciplined. The paramilitary irregular forces are a different story. Bad things happened, as they did with both sides during the Vietnam war, or any war for that matter. We have arrested those irregular self-appointed leaders. Some have already been tried and sentenced to 20 years in prison. We reinforced our forces after Rambouillet for a major offensive against KLA terrorists, not to ethnically cleanse Kosovo as was done with the expulsion of 500,000 Serbs from Croatia, which was ignored by the world media. (back)
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