Jasmina Tesanovic: Where Are Your Americans Now?

An essay by Jasmina Tesanovic. Photos by Women in Black, Serbia (click image to enlarge).


Today , in the special court for war crimes in
Belgrade, eight
paramilitary police were indicted for torturing,
killing, looting and
dispersing the Albanian civil population in March
1999, when the NATO
bombings against Yugoslavia under Milosevic started.

This specific trial is concerned with 48 members of an
unlucky family
named Berisha, who were executed in a couple of hours
in a village
called Dry River. The dead included women, children,
the elderly:
from yet unborn babies to a 100-year-old grandmother.
The Dry River
is bloody and full of tears.

The eight out of ten indicted (two others died in the
meantime) are
sitting in the courtroom in front of us. They look so
normal and common that, compared to them, their
lawyers seem like
freaks. They are men, along with one young curly
haired blonde with
gypsy skirt like mine.

This morning I thought twice when I dressed in order
to be admitted
in the courtroom. My clothes are simply not proper
for this country
and its dark history; the best I could find was a
black T shirt
with the English word REVOLUTION written on it in big
letters of hot

[Continue reading this essay after the jump: 2500 words.]

One of the lawyers looks like Albert Einstein, and the
other like
Seselj, the ugly indicted war mongrel currently in
prison in Hague.
The chief defense lawyer, who presided as Milosevic' s
judge against
many imprisoned Albanians, looks like a priest and
acts like a God.
This lawyer tries to impeach the judge, and to throw
Natasa Kandic,
the representative of the victims, out of the court.
This tactic is
deliberate legal obstruction, so we wait the whole
morning for the
three judges presiding to make their way
through the legal jungle.

While we wait in the smoking room, two waitresses
comment on some
other terrible massacre, which they know about because
the bodies
were transported in a refrigerator truck and buried
in the
outskirts of Belgrade. They are appalled but they have
to whisper.

My gay icon Milos, who recently dared to publicly
to Albanians for the loss of unborn Albanian children,
befriended a young Albanian law student, gosh how cute
is… But my girlfriends are clustering around an
incredibly handsome tall Albanian whose four
sisters and mother were executed. He looks like a
movie actor
and smiles constantly. I am afraid of him, he is too
handsome and
kind and he is in Belgrade. In his place I would be a
beast by now.

I feel painfully guilty and I know life goes on, but
he said: we used
to be a merry family dancing and playing
music, now we
are telling our children the stories of the past.

Here in Serbia we are still obstructing the justice
and telling lies
to our children about our history.

In the court hall we are socializing like a cocktail
party. I notice
a modishly-dressed woman: she nods at me seriously.
Lord, I
recognize that woman from the park where I spent years
with my small daughter. She used to be a judge. Her
husband used to be the main legislator for Milosevic'
criminal state. Now she is here in the court playing a
hostess to the criminals and their lawyers.

I remember how her daughter, the age of mine, came to
in fancy clothes, driven by a chauffeur, while other
children were fainting with hunger. I remember how the
teacher asked her kindly to stop that practice because
child was so hated by other children. I remember how I
felt sorry for that child, whom I saw as an innocent
burdened by her parents' immorality. Now I wonder,
why is this woman
still haunting Serbian courts? Is that democracy, is
reconciliation of truth and justice?

The first indicted is pleading NOT GUILTY,
saying he expected to get a promotion to a general but
instead he got arrested 11 months ago. He already won
many medals and his family had given blood for the
state in World War Two, says he.
So he tells us his version of history: Albanians were
Serbs, and NATO in the name of all the world was
also against the Serbs. So he was fighting the whole

In the indictment, one of the soldiers is quoted as
saying, while
executing the Albanians, "AND WHERE ARE YOUR AMERICANS

They're in Iraq, right now, but they did try to defend
the Albanians
during those years of Clinton. The Americans certainly

protect all of them, and only now, years later, are
the massacred
people of Kosovo getting their own state as a
recompense. It's a
traumatic loss for nationalist Serbia.

The indicted says proudly: Everything is public now,
as it was then.
We fought a clean and just war and we never touched a
civilian. Our
orders were: better to die than hurt ordinary people.

How on earth can the man say such things after the
graves were excavated? Just as I wonder: how can the
American Congress vote for legalizing torture and
placing American soldiers above all civil laws? They
are simply
legalizing a future host of tortures and crimes to be
done against
Americans and Americans people.

The failed general is proudly describing the fashion
details of his
paramilitary cop uniform, his bullet proof pocket-wise
vest, his
fancy cap, chemo change… He says: I want to tell
you who I really

We are bored to death besides disgusted by his
extremely plain small
talk. Are these the guys still running my country and
ruining my
life? He speaks like Milosevic and is proud of his
dead leader and
his phantom state.
The phenomenon of Milosevic clones all over Serbia
beats the
Napoleon mania. The other cops in the courtroom, who
are guarding
the eight indicted have sour smiles on their faces
listening to
this ramble.

Our almost-general proudly claims how his
state-organized troops
in the early nineties were also in charge of
repressing civilian
demonstrations in Belgrade.

At the time we protesters did know that the cops
beating us were
from south, Serbian refugees from Kosovo, paid very
well and
dressed to kill.

They are all younger than me, yet they look twice
Crime is not good for your looks in a uniform.

The handsome Albanian guy says to me: if
somebody saves Serbia,
it will be these women who are judges.

Yes, almost all the women in these political trials
seem young and
rather good looking. Where do they all come from, I
ask myself?
They are trying to prove that it was state-organized
war crime, and that the rot is still there because
has never managed a clear cut with the criminal past.
I hoped
these other women knew what they are doing, because I
was about to faint.

So I left the court and went out for a beer.

October 3 2006

When it comes to his pride, and the duties which
brought him
handcuffs instead of a general's rank, the first
indicted colonel
in this Dry River trial never speaks of "Serbia."
Instead, he speaks
of Yugoslavia.

Slobodan Milosevic, his leader, started the troubles
in Kosovo,
declaring in a rally, "Nobody will beat Serbs here."
Yugoslavia lost all the wars at that same
battlefield, and was reduced to nothing but a name.

As the eight indicted enter the courtroom again,
we sit again next to the victims' family. One of the
killers smiles
and nods his head at a member of the family.

I am amazed, asking all around me: did he do that on
purpose, did he do it spontaneously? Why? The man who
nodded back, whose forty-eight family members were
killed by that guy, says: We were neighbors. We knew
each other for years.

For all those years they lived next to each other,
sometimes even
living together, and then Milosevic, by coining one
slogan, makes
one man kill the whole family of his neighbor. Am I
missing something?

The first indicted is finishing his interrogation
today: he repeats strongly and solemnly:
he heard from satellite TV and Boris Yeltsin that
NATO bandits were bombing Serbian Kosovo.

That's what he knows about the war:
he never saw any Albanian refugees, or the long
floods of people between borders, terrorized by the
Serbian police, whom he himself commanded.

He never uttered that order, the death sentence, for
which he is
indicted here in this court: burn, loot, kick them and
kill them… What are you waiting for , for me to do
He steps down from the bench with a big sigh, louder
than his speech in his own defense.

He never mentioned the name of Milosevic,
not even once.

His lawyers are cat-fighting the general prosecutor:
the temperature is rising and the trial is becoming a
political battleground, where the wounds and passions
personal and dangerous. Like these hot days in Serbia,
whose parliament wants to pass a new constitution for
and "Others Living in Serbia," including Kosovo.

The second indicted was the local police commander.
He is directly accused of having given the orders for
executing the above mentioned sentence.

His first words: I believe in this court and its
justice, which will not be political. I expect a fast
and clear verdict of my innocence. Everything I did in
those days was
written as a record, as a diary.

As I listen, it strikes me that in those days I was
also writing my
"Diary of a Political Idiot," which started when the
first Kosovo
riots began. He and I wrote parallel diaries.

He claims he knew nothing of the massacre that
happened in his village, next to the police station of
in his charge. He claims he knew the ex-mayor of the
city and other
members of his family.
He says the killing was done by some madman, now dead,
that he
didn't meddle and that everything is written in his
diary, which he neatly handed to his superiors when it
all over.

My "Diary" was published in many languages, yet his
diary is still a
top secret in this country where General Mladic is
still in hiding,
maybe in my own street. The chief of the local police
admits that
he collected the bodies and buried them — properly,
due honors. He admits that his work may have been
neglectful, since he never asked how many bodies were
buried in mass graves, but he denies that he ever
committed a crime.

The family member sitting next to me is now sighing

October 4, 2006

I always like when people in this court utter some
sentence that
gives me the title of my text. It breaks the tedium
sitting in that stuffy courtroom listening to details
of horrid crimes, enduring the disgusting audacity
of the blatant lies of the indicted, which ridicule
presence in this world and their own, this world where
people kill
for fun and never regret it.

These Serbian policemen from kosovo would do it all
with even more vigor, even when not ordered to do it.
only regret is not having done more and better. That
their regime lost the war. They had to flee
instead of killing all the Albanians. As 10 percent
the Kosovo population, they had to leave their
property to the 90
percent majority. They were Orthodox and
Serbs, the superior race in their holy land, living in
paranoid agression for centuries on end.

The third indicted ex policeman today said this:
"He was a NOTHING. Just like a woman."

He referred to his college policeman, a young "kind
and tender guy" ( his words) who is the protected
witness of this trial, who gave them in, who could not
live on with the crime on his conscience.

In the corridor, I heard a lawyer saying to his wife,
while patting her on the shoulders: Step by step,
we will destroy the witnesses' credibility. She
protected: I wonder if she, as a woman, realized she

Other relatives from the audience cannot restrain
their hatred when Natasa Kandic, that heroine of our
times, interrogates the witness and makes him stammer
look stupid. Natasa simply asks him common sense
questions. She is not even a lawyer, but a human
rights activist.

These guys don't need the law to get indicted. They
and their
relatives look poor and ignorant. They've been
reduced to miserable,
criminal refugees by a criminal regime which waged
its war
against the entire world. And yet, they would do it
again, especially today, since they now have nothing
lose and nowhere to go. The whole world should shiver
at them, and
be afraid of them.

The father of a murdered girl is here: silent, proud,
white haired
gentleman in a dark suit. I marvel at his patience and
behavior. The indicted salutes him — again, as a
provocation .

The arrogance of the blatant falsehoods is killing us
all in the
courtroom: well prepared, well organized lies endorsed
by a
loud set of lawyers.

The guy today claims he was not there, knew nothing,
saw nothing… so WHAT ABOUT THE BODIES in the small
village where he lived and worked as a deputy
chief of police? A house full of people was burned
in front of him.

He didn't notice that, he claims, talking of the
many details
of his busy day, the food he ate, some petty thoughts
he had.
All that in the first days of the heavy bombings of
Kosovo, when we
all remember very little but the panic in each
other's eyes?

He starts his speech by declaring: as a parent, I
swear on
the life of my children that I had nothing to do with
the crime.

After that, I am tempted all the time to believe him,
until I realize he is talking for hours about the
day, citing wrong, hours skipping in a few seconds
over the
time of the massacre, as if it never occurred.

His trauma on that dire day was that his commander
shouted at
him. The same commander who, only two days ago,
in this court that he was not there at all.

Because the commander also saw nothing and did nothing
during the
massacre that never happened.

When Natasa reminds us of the bodies patiently
to Serbia, one of the judges loses his patience
as well, saying: I just can't understand how dare you
testify like this! The presiding judge replies: it
still a legal defense.

The special troops were never used in Kosovo,
claims the Number four indicted, except to secure the
concert of a minor turbofolk star in Kosovo. And that
singing star
was a little nothing of a woman — she was not even
Ceca, the consort
of Arkan, warlord of Tigers and eminence of Scorpions.

– – – – –

Jasmina Tesanovic is an author, filmmaker, and wandering thinker who shares her thoughts with BoingBoing from time to time. Email: politicalidiot at yahoo dot com. Her blog is here.

Previous essays by Jasmina Tesanovic on BoingBoing:

Anna Politkovskaya Silenced

Slaughter in the Monastery

Mermaid's Trail

A Burial in Srebenica
Report from a concert by a Serbian war criminal
To Hague, to Hague

Preachers and Fascists, Out of My Panties

Floods and Bombs

Scorpions Trial, April 13
The Muslim Women 
– Belgrade: New Normality
Serbia: An Underworld Journey
Scorpions Trial, Day Three: March 15, 2006
Scorpions Trial, Day Two: March 14, 2006
Scorpions Trial, Day One: March 13, 2006
The Long Goodbye
Milosevic Arrives in Belgrade
Slobodan Milosevic Died
Milosevic Funeral