by Eric Margolis
The days of Serb strongman Slobodan Milosevic, who began the Third Balkan War and fathered ethnic cleansing, may be numbered.
Vast protests against the Milosevic dictatorship continue to grow in Belgrade, while his former foreign allies - the US, Britain and Greece - are distancing themselves. The regime's bulwark, Serbia's Army and secret police, have reportedly split on continued support of Milosevic. He could end up a second Ceausescu.
Milosevic's eventual fall would be a boon for long- suffering Serbs, and the entire Balkans. A Serb protestor's placard, with pictures of Milosevic, Saddam, and Castro - entitled `Three of a Kind' - captured the moment nicely.
While it's always tempting to personify a region's complex problems in one diabolic figure, being rid of Milosevic won't end a primary cause of enormous suffering and death in the Balkans this century: the Serb nazi movement.
Wartime Nazi movements in Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary and Romania have been amply studied. Serbia's home-grown brand of WWII nazism has not been - for three reasons. First, it hid under the mantle of slav nationalism. Because Serb nazis were anti-German, they were exempt from censure. Second, Serbia was a close, useful ally of Britain, France and Russia. Third, Serb nazism has always been amorphous, concealed in the shadows, and linguistically unintelligible to outsiders.
Serb slav nazism began around 1900 and flourished in the 1920's after the creation of unstable, multi-ethnic Yugoslavia. Numerous influential Serb writers and academics, notably Vaso Cubrilovic and Radivoje Pesic, proclaimed Serbs racial supermen, and Serbia the true cradle of western civilization. .
Serb nazis urged ethnic cleansing of all `racially inferior' Hungarians, Croats, Jews, Albanians, Catholics and Muslims from a purified Greater Serbia, stretching from Italy to the Aegean. Some elements of the Serb Orthodox Church eagerly cooperated - and still do - with these ideas.
Mother Theresa, an Albanian from southern Yugoslavia, ended up in Calcutta because her family was driven from its home by Serb nazis in the 192O's during a campaign of ethnic cleansing. Back then, as now, Serb nazis warned of the fertility of non-Serb women, and called for the mass expulsion, extermination or sterilization of `racial inferiors.'
The Serb slavo-nazi, Cubrilovic, wrote, `If Germany could deport tens of thousands of Jews, the expulsion of a few hundreds of thousands of Albanians would not lead to a world war.' Interestingly, his remark mirrors Hitler's observation that since the world ignored the genocide of Armenians during World War I, it would react similarly to his planned extermination of Jews.
Milosevic rekindled Serb nazism after Tito had suppressed it for two decades. Serb paramilitary gangsters, like Arkan and Seselj, who spearheaded ethnic cleansing and mass murder, are direct descendants of Hitler's brownshirt thugs. The Serb army - shades of the SS- was ordered to ethnically cleanse Bosnia of `Muslim filth' on a `sacred historic mission for the Motherland.'
Serb nazis now denounce Milosevic for failing to accomplish this goal. A significant part of the opposition is made up of nazis, or rightwing extremists. Unless ripped out by the roots, nazism may continue its grip on Serbia.
Nazism and fascism were thoroughly excised from Germany, Italy and Japan. It's time to do the same in Serbia to the last nest of nazis in Europe. Hopefully, democratic Serbs - -Serbia's forgotten majority - will accomplish this long-overdue task. They will need a great deal of active support from Europe -particularly when Britain and Greece finally halt their shameful support of Serb extremists.
Canada's demands this week that capture and prosecution of Bosnian Serb war criminals be vigorously pursued - by force, if necessary - are overdue and welcome. Canada is right to show zero tolerance to nazis like Karadzic and Mladic. You don't fight nazism by trying 85 year-old men, You do it by arresting and prosecuting today's reincarnated nazis in the Balkans.
[Eric Margolis is a syndicated foreign affairs columnist and broadcaster based in Toronto, Canada.]