TUE, 07 NOV 2000 11:20:25 GMT
AIM Athens, November 7, 2000
I am among those who believe that no nation can truly advance and reconcile with other nations, not to mention with itself, if it does not acknowledge its past wrongdoing (when real grounds exist) and proceed with self-expiation.
Germany understood this in good time, thanks to Willy Brandt. Italy confronted its misdeeds in a different fashion, but immediately, before the war was even over - by hanging Mussolini by his heels. For many years now the (albeit belated) self-examination of the past has had a redemptive effect in the U.S. (African-Americans, Vietnam, American Indians) and in France (Vichy government, colonial wars). Australia, too, is finally confronting this issue.
Turkey, on the other hand, has stubbornly refused to criticize any of its history of genocide and slaughter. Moreover, its founders have undertaken to defend the Ottoman regime, which they themselves overthrew. This refusal comes at great cost: the internal cost, where its own democratization is concerned; and the international, despite the arguments offered by its strategic, political and economic importance. This, together with the problems of Cyprus and the Kurds, is a major obstacle to its plans to enter the European Union, as well as an obstacle to its relationship with Greece.
The latest developments in Serbia have made even more timely the issue of expiation of the past on an international level. As opposed to most of the other countries of the former socialist bloc, which went on to make a total break with their repressive totalitarian past, Milosevic's "democratized" Serbia was a continuation of its predecessor - and a bad one at that. The horrendous collective crimes committed by this regime from 1997 until recently are part and parcel of this "individuality". Russia is a different matter.
Will Milosevic and his accomplices be tried? And by whom? The international community's position of understanding and expectation appears politically correct with regard to the case they have made to the International Tribunal at The Hague. However, this position can set a negative precedent and permanently discredit that court and, subsequently, the very idea of international justice for war crimes. Naturally, the collective desire for justice could also be satisfied by an actual trial in a Serbian or Yugoslavian court, whose procedure would be ratified by The Hague. The utmost evil would be no trial whatsoever of the Milosevic regime, and no expiation of a ten-year tragedy with hundreds of thousands of dead, millions of refugees, and enormous material losses.
But here in Greece, we, too, must confront the issue of expiation. If it is true that, without expiation, no country can regain its way and its fundamental place in the international community, then this must also apply to us. For, if we accept the fact that the Milosevic regime is responsible for war crimes, then our country - through its obstinacy, fanaticism, volunteers, money and black-marketeering that violated the universal embargo and much more - has at least a moral share in a significant portion of this responsibility.
This had and is still having major repercussions on our internal development, since the systematic disinformation generated by this Serbophilia produced a tidal wave of anti-American and, in particular, anti-European sentiment. Many scorned our democracy as ersatz, believing in the idea that Greece would have been more honorable, happier, as well as more faithful to its "great traditions" if it had allied with Serbia, Belarus and Russia - since the West is so wretched.
In any democracy it is logical, legitimate and, indeed, necessary for there to be debates, discussions and opposing opinions. Here, however, there are those who spend all day parroting the "unique view". They read discussions and debates in foreign magazines without knowing the conditions abroad that provoke them or even their fundamental subject matter. Then, they impose, as the dominant and single acceptable doctrine befitting a Greek, an amalgam of nationalistic/religious fantasies, of often racist content, of an outmoded-to-dangerous nostalgia for the former socialist state, and of repressed ultra-right tendencies.
For us, here, what "trial," what "expiation" would detoxify us and then enable us as a people to reincorporate a fundamental mindset towards peace and democracy, and an essential European cooperation and respect for the human rights so many deride with the lame-to-abject argument of hypocrisy.
The policy of those who organized the ten-year rightist/leftist Serbophilia extended, with the sanction of the authorities, to the participation of Greek volunteers and mercenaries in the siege of Sarajevo and in the Srebrenica tragedy. This policy may have altered its aims since October 5th, but it hasn't altered its contents and "ideology." The question for these individuals is not how the Serbian people can once again find a democratic and peaceful path, but how to help those, who have lost a large chunk of the power, regain it. In the name of "anti-imperialism"!
Their anxiety concerning Milosevic is as indicative as their silence concerning the Serbian people and its desires. Their continuing efforts in the newspapers, magazines, television and radio to denigrate the Serbian citizens who want change and to present everything as a scheme by the leadership centers of the New Order is alarming. But when they say all this stuff - and a large portion of common opinion believes them - what future do they create for our own democracy?
I think we have to give that some thought.