The Death of a Monster; Serbian Strongman Slobodan Milosevic, 1941-2006
Byline: Rod Nordland (With Zoran Cirjakovic in Belgrade)
When Slobodan Milosevic began his rise, Yugoslavia was the freest, most prosperous country in Eastern Europe. Before he was through, his homeland was a smoking ruin, sacrificed in the name of feeding his insatiable craving for power. As the Berlin wall came down, he morphed from a communist into a hard-line Serbian nationalist. In the next decade he launched four disastrous Balkan wars, killing 250,000 people, leaving 2.5 million homeless. He reduced his native republic, Serbia, to one of the poorest nations in Europe. Then he called elections and lost so badly that the new government soon sent him to The Hague, where he became the world's first head of state to stand trial for war crimes, on 66 counts including genocide and crimes against humanity.
Milosevic was a spoiler to the end, dying in custody last week at 64 with no formal verdict. He couldn't have scripted his exit better if he had killed himself, the way his own parents did when he was a child. Officials at The Hague say there are no suspicions of foul play in his death. The prisoner was known to be suffering from high blood pressure and heart trouble, and an autopsy was in progress late Saturday.
By the time he died, he had dragged out his trial for four years, with possibly another to go. He would surely have been convicted; there was little doubt of that anywhere outside Serbia, where his countrymen are continuing to deny his responsibility--and their own--for Europe's most vicious bloodbath since World War II. "He will be declared innocent [in Serbia] for the crimes that he had been accused of," says Belgrade human-rights activist Miljenko Dereta. …