Saturday, August 13, 2005

Killing Arkan: Chickens Come Home to Roost 2000

Killing Arkan: Chickens Come Home to Roost

By Michael Karadjis

January 2000

On January 15, ‘Arkan’, the alias of mass killer Zeljko Raznatovic, was gunned to death in down town Belgrade, yet another of the 500 or so unsolved murders of high ranking individuals which have taken place in Serbia over the last few years. This was followed within a couple of weeks by the similar killing of Pavle Bulatovic, Yugoslavia’s defence minister. As defence minister during last year’s Kosova genocide, he eagerly egged on the work of Serbian militias.

Whatever the aims of his assassins, the end of such butchers can also only be good news. Arkan was a big-time criminal who had worked for the Yugoslav Internal Ministry to murder opponents abroad. A ready convert to Serbian nationalism, he understood the new ideology would allow untold opportunities for slaughter and plunder, through which to amass capital and build a business empire through the right links with state and mafia.

In the wars in Bosnia and Kosova, criminals organised in his “Tiger” militia excelled in some of the most renowned slaughter of Moslems and Albanians. Through all this plunder, he became a large banker, an owner of a soccer club and nightclubs - and that was only the legal stuff.

The killing of such a well-connected and well-protected individual raises interesting questions. Did the regime which nurtured him for so many years decide to get rid of him, and if so, why?

One of the common theories is that he needed to be bumped off because he knew too much. Revealing its political nature, the War Crimes Tribunal had not indicted Arkan for his Bosnia crimes - he was far closer to Milosevic than was Bosnian Serb rightist Radovan Karadzic. However, as Milosevic himself fell out of favour with the west in late1998, the Tribunal discovered that Arkan was a criminal. With considerable business connections outside Serbia, he was liable to capture, in which case he would reveal the fact that Milosevic had been his boss all along.

Perhaps just as likely, the murders of both Arkan and Bulatovic may be linked to turf wars within the Serbian mafia. In the world of mafia-connected crony capitalism, allies may turn enemies overnight - only those right at the top are safe. The rest need to engage in murderous competition to keep their spots.

Indeed, this theory is related to the interesting link which both murders have to the issue of Montenegro. In the case of Bulatovic this is obvious - he was a leading member of Montenegro’s Socialist National Party, which is in opposition to the ruling Party of Democratic Socialists of .... Djukanovic. The fact that Milosevic had engineered the Montenegrin opposition into the Yugoslav federal government, rather than the Montenegrin ruling party as required by Yugoslavia’s constitution, is a major reason for the ongoing conflict between Serbia and Montenegro.

Djukanovic’s party was also long the very party of the Milosevic movement which overthrew Montenegro’s Communist government in 1989. However, in recent years, his regime has come to see the futility of a number of Belgrade’s actions, particularly the way it dealt with Kosova. It also believes that if the west needs symbolic handovers of war criminals, they should be handed over in the interests of doing business. Djukanovic reckons he’s less likely than Milosevic to get busted through some hireling pointing the finger.

As such, his regime represents the kind of “more pragmatic” nationalist who can see when times have changed, and is currently favoured by western powers as a leader around whom the fractured Serbian nationalist opposition should unite to get rid of Milosevic.

Hence, his regime is being dressed up as “moderate” by western leaders. However, the murder of Arkan has created some problems for this simplistic world view - despite being a hireling of Milosevic, and representing the ugliest face of Serbian chauvinism, Arkan had come out in favour of the “moderate” Djukanovic in the inter-Montenegro conflict.

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