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Protests in Serbia Archive
American media mum Belgrade students' visit to Washington

Date: Fri, 24 Jan 1997 11:58:06 -0800

Bob Djurdjevic
Phoenix, Arizona
e-mail: bobdj@djurdjevic.com

The "support" of the American government and the media for the pro-democracy Belgrade student-demonstrators is deafening - in its silence.

In another example of the Clinton administrations' tokenism, a group of Belgrade students was invited to attend the Clinton inauguration ceremonies in Washington on Jan. 20. They were also given an opportunity to meet with some U.S. legislators (Senator Alphonse D'Amato) and State Dept. Officials (John Kornblum).

Yet no major media (that we know of) carried the reports about these discussions. As a matter of fact, the NEW YORK TIMES, for example, usually a bellwether of the U.S. foreign policy, has not carried any stories at all about the Belgrade demonstrations for several days now. And only the Paris-based INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE carried on Jan. 21 a pro-Belgrade demonstrators OpEd piece by Morton Abramowitz, president of Carnegie Endowment ("Get Together to Help Democracy Win in Serbis") - but NOT the WASHINGTON POST or the NEW YORK TIMES - the 50/50 owners of the IHT.

At the Washington meetings, the students presented their demands for the support of the American government. They included a request that Slobodan Milosevic's and his cronies' foreign assets be frozen. A couple of Serb "Zajedno" representatives made the same appeal to Strobe Talbott, another senior State Dept. official, when they visited Washington in December. Talbott was reportedly non-committal (meaning he didn't want to aggravate or punish Milosevic).

Yet, this action - freezing of the "Milosevic mafia" assets - would have been the first MEANINGFUL sign of U.S. government's support for the pro-democracy demonstrators. Until now, their "support" has taken form in cheap rhetoric, and even then only reluctantly, when the public pressure of early news reports about the bravery and determination of Belgrade pro-democracy demonstrators forced them to make some vague supportive statements and empty threats against Milosevic.

A Clinton administration official told the IHT that, "Nobody's trying to push him (Milosevic) out, but people are beginning to think about the succession problem" (see IHT Jan. 22, 1997 issue).

Washington worrying about the Serb "succession problem?" Shouldn't the Serbian people be deciding that?

Evidently, democracy is Washington is skin deep, even if in Serbia it runs right down to the pro-democracy demonstrators' frozen feet.

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