Should Slobodan Milosevic be alone in the dock?

Winne tes it .

Do only the losers get accused of war crimes? Words: David Robertson

11 event unique in history is taking place in the Hague: a world leader

has been put on trial and forced to defend his actions. If found guilty

of crimes against humanity. the former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic faces the remainder of his life in prison. It seems to me. however. that the very idea of a war crimes trial is flawed: the term is vague and those accused of being war criminals are invariably on the losing side. It may even be that these trials are a tool of the victors to claim the moral high ground while destroying what is left of the defeated enemy.

What constitutes a war crime'.’ The Americans would insist it was an action that goes beyond the normal limits of warfare and add something about the killing of innocents. But in that case. why aren't the men who dropped the bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. killing over a million. war criminals'.’ Is it because the Japanese were not considered innocent. because they lost'.’

In May 2()()(). The New Yorker magazine carried a report by Seymour M. llersh. describing the massacre of a live-mile column of routing Iraqi soldiers and civilians by the 24th Division under the command of General McCaffrey. The general himself described the scene as ‘one of the most astounding scenes of destruction l have ever participated in‘. l‘ollowing an anonymous letter to the Pentagon. accusing I\«lc(‘affrey‘s unit of the slaughter. the article collected damning eyewitness accounts from members of the 24th Division. including the accusation that the prisoners were executed.

Yet ( ieneral McCalli‘ey is not in the dock. As a retired general comments in the piece. ‘they’d

Are these trials a tool of the

just won a war and didn‘t want to shit in their vi to

mess kit‘. incredible as it may seem. McCaffrey _

was promoted: he became (‘linton‘s drug tsar. Clalm How answerable are our leaders'.’ George moral

Bush Snr was heavily implicated in the Iran 9

(‘ontra affair during the Oliver North trial. yet I

never faced charges of allowing heroin to be

accepted in exchange for arms by government agencies. Henry Kissinger. according to a recent book by Christopher Hitchens. ought to be on trial for war crimes. too.

I am not so naive as to want to defend Milosevic. But I would say ‘crimes against humanity" take place in every war. by every army. The death of anyone over someone else's ideology is an indignity. Before we string tip one man in our self—righteous indignation. we should take a look at our own history. leaders and society. Let us put all of those over whom even the slightest doubt exists in the dock to defend themselves before a truly impartial jury.

Milosevic. a practised trial lawyer. is defending himself. His opening statement was forcefully cut short. I thought that by putting him on trial we were defending democracy. the freedom to say whatever you wish. Why. then. are we silencing him? Is it because he's saying things that we don’t want to hear?

Disagree? react@|

The Front

1 David Holmes and Andrew Weatherall

Clubs Wildstyle funk from Holmes and head-hurting techno from Weatherall as Radio Babylon shakes up Easter Sunday. See feature, page 10. E90, Edinburgh.

2 24 Hour Party People Film Michael Winterbottom’s movie tracks the ups and downs of Factory and the Hacienda with lots of famous people playing lots of other famous people. See feature, review and offer, pages 16, 24 and 39. General release.

3 Art in the Home

Art Site-specific works created for and housed in residences across the capital. Artists from Scotland, Europe and Japan are involved. Various venues, Edinburgh.

4 Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

Music The bastard offspring of Elvis Presley. James Brown and Howlin’ Wolf, lil’ Jon unleashes his trio of voodoo rock’n’roll mongrels to head spinning effect. See preview and competition, page 44. QMU, Glasgow.

5 Science Festival

City Life The Leaning Tower of Pisa, dinosaurs, snowflakes, near death experiences and cancer are among the subjects at this year’s sci-fest. See preview and offer, page 99 and 101. Various venues, Edinburgh.

6 Suspect Culture

Theatre Lament is the latest work from Scotland’s premier theatre group in a show that tackles loss. See feature, page 14. Tron, Glasgow; Traverse, Edinburgh.

7 Scottish Ballet

Dance A new take on Sir Fred Ashton’s classical work The Two Pigeons, set in 19th century Paris and concerning a young couple exploring the nature of love. See preview, page 58. Theatre Royal, Glasgow; Festival Theatre, Edinburgh.

8 Beckett On Film

TV Atom Egoyan, Jeremy Irons and John Hurt are among the talents involved in this new batch of Sam’s shorts. Revel in the lush confusion. See review, page 111. Channel 4.

9 System of a Down

Music More paranoid than Fox Mulder and more intense than an evening with Tom Paulin; a more enjoyable rock experience you are unlikely to find all year. See preview, page 45. Barrow/and, Glasgow.

1 0 Halo

Games A stunning game for the Xbox, Halo with great action, storytelling and music as a lone warrior pits wits against an evil alien force. See review, page 109 Microsoft.

28 lvlaru‘. 1 Apr 2.’(7()2 THE LIST 9