- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 3, 2001

In a cheap strategy reminiscent of the Nuremberg trials, former Serb strongman Slobodan Milosevic has vowed to implicate the United States and Britain in his war crimes during the breakup of Yugoslavia. Like the Nazi leaders who were prosecuted after World War II for atrocities committed against the Jews, Mr. Milosevic will attempt to exonerate himself by morally equivocating as he explains his actions. Similar to earlier war criminals who have tried to defend the indefensible, Mr. Milosevic's ploy will not succeed.

As the former dictator appears today before The Hague tribunal for the first time, he will argue that "NATO is the real criminal," according to a statement released yesterday. He will implicate Western diplomats for negotiating peace treaties with the strongman, peace treaties that the lawyers will argue gave Mr. Milosevic a "green light" to use force.

While the leaders of Western nations can be accused of errors in judgment in their dealings with Mr. Milosevic, they are far from "criminals." To negotiate with a dictator, even with the knowledge that he is morally reprehensible, is an inevitable task of diplomacy. For example, Western nations forged an alliance with Joseph Stalin in order to defeat the Nazis during the Second World War. Such policies, which make accommodations with dictators, cannot be held responsible for the actions of war criminals.

Western nations did indeed give tacit approval to the use of force during the breakup of Yugoslavia, but this was part of an attempt to keep the federation intact and to prevent an escalation of violence. The West cannot be blamed for Mr. Milosevic's brutal policy of ethnic cleansing that included mass killings as well as the rape and torture of innocent civilians.

The dictator's strategy will backfire, for the trial will show the very opposite of Mr. Milosevic's contentions: Western diplomats worked frantically to bring an end to the war crimes. Like Lady Macbeth, Mr. Milosevic is trying to scrub his hands to clean them a little bit. But the more he rubs, the deeper the imprint of blood-guilt will penetrate his flesh.

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