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Biljana Plavsic: geneticist in the service of a great crime

by Slobodan Inic

When, at the very outset of the country's democratization, Biljana Plavsic opted to join the Serb Democratic Party (SDS) - 'our national party', 'my party', 'the party I've been waiting for' - this Iron Lady or Serb Empress (as she has affectionately been dubbed by local Serbs craving blood, war and conflict) did not give the impression of being a monster in female form or a Mengele, as Mirjana Markovic, another similar holder of the doctoral title, was later to call her.

Life under slavery

In most of her public appearances, Plavsic makes great play with her anti- communist past. In the days of Tito and Branko Mikulic [Bosnian communist leader], not only was she apparently not a communist, she was on the contrary even a rabid anti-communist: 'I had nothing in common with that regime...' (On, Belgrade, 12 November 1996). If that is the case, it can only have been later on. Because many facts from the professional career of this well-worn lady speak otherwise.

For, if is true that communism's 'worst sin' was that 'you had to think just the same as everybody else', then how come that so renowned an anti-communist could be dean of the Faculty of Natural Science and Mathematics in Sarajevo, and a member of the B-H Academy of Arts and Sciences to boot? How could the regime have failed to apply to the future Serb Empress the criterion of what used to be known as 'moral and political suitability'? And how could an anti-communist such as Biljana Plavsic claims to have been have agreed to accept such high positions in a regime with which she 'had nothing in common'?

If, moreover - as she told Borba (Belgrade) on 27 July 1993 - the Serb people had been subjected to fifty years of 'slavery' under the communists, how come that in these conditions of slavery Biljana Plavsic herself made an enviable professional career? Was such a thing allowed to the Serb slaves? And were 'patriots', of the kind Biljana claims always to have been, really willing to pursue their own careers in a situation where their own people was 'enslaved'?

Proud to be called 'Madam Thatcher' by journalists and other media people - 'I have to be an iron lady', she told Nedjeljni Telegraf (Belgrade) on 16 November 1996 - she has even explained how she came to be given this nickname. Apparently, while studying at the University of Zagreb (just the place for our Serb patriot!), she was put through 'a very useful training, which I then enforced myself when I became a professor' (Monitor, Podgorica, 2 August 1996).

This useful experience, however, in no way inhibited her from making the following pronouncement: 'I'm not saying that we no longer wish to live with Croats, but rather that we shall not allow them to live with us.' How fortunate that this 'brilliant' Serb idea did not occur to the Croats first! For then she would never have gone to Zagreb to study, never have been put through the training that served her so well, never have acquired the nickname 'Madam Thatcher'.

Arkan - dream hero

A woman, but what a warlike one! 'I don't have much faith in political negotiations. One good battle would settle this war', she told Telegraf (Belgrade) on 15 July 1994. Hence her statement that she 'exchanges kisses only with heroes'. Her conception of heroism is personified by Zeljko Raznjatovic-Arkan, the perpetrator of horrific ethnic cleansing in B-H. 'When I saw what he'd done in Bijeljina, I at once imagined all his actions being like that. I said: here we have a Serb hero. He's a real Serb, that's the kind of men we need.' (On, Belgrade, 12 November 1996) What is particularly tragi-comic is how the Serb Empress saw her dream hero: 'Arkan is wonderful... he impressed me as a humane person forced by necessity to take up arms.' (Bosnian Serb News Agency, 1992)

Plavsic's monstrous celebration of Arkan as the symbol of Serbdom and heroism can be understood only in the context of her own authentic conception of ethnic cleansing: Arkan is not simply the Serb Empress's favourite hero, he is the loyal and systematic executor of her 'imperial' design. This is the reason for her great affection for him, which has lasted to the present day. 'I would prefer completely to cleanse eastern Bosnia of Muslims. When I say cleanse, I don't want anyone to take me literally and think I mean ethnic cleansing. But they've attached this label "ethnic cleansing" to a perfectly natural phenomenon and characterized it as some kind of war crime. (Svet, Novi Sad, 6 September 1993).

Ethnic cleansing as a natural phenomenon

What the difference is, in this concrete case, between the cleansing of Muslims from eastern Bosnia and ethnic cleansing, is something that only Biljana Plavsic's monstrous mind can discern. 'It's not the nape but the neck', as the saying goes. And that is just what the whole thing is about: how to cut your own neighbour's throat. But what surpasses all criminal bounds is the notion that this is 'a perfectly natural phenomenon'! Worse still, this means there is no awareness that ethnic cleansing is a crime at all, for how can a 'natural phenomenon' be a war crime?

Although it was her conception of the biological supremacy of the Serb race and nation which led Biljana Plavsic to encourage ethnic cleansing and on that basis commit mass crimes in B-H, it is equally significant to indicate the national and political model that inspired her in this respect. From the very beginning of the war Plavsic was already invoking Dragoljub-Draza Mihailovic, leader during World War II of the Serb(ian) nationalists better known as Chetniks and a proven collaborator of the German occupiers. 'He fought for the unification of all Serbs within a single Serb state, the borders of which were to run from Djevdjelija [on the Macedonian- Greek border] to Karlobag [two thirds of the way up the Croatian coast]... Uncle Draza intended to cleanse the future united Serb lands of all enemies of Serbdom and Orthodoxy, as well as of anti-national elements.' (Srbija, 3 September 1992)

The Muslims are genetically deformed

The 'natural phenomenon' of ethnic cleansing, which Biljana Plavsic has so openly and unhesitatingly advocated throughout the war and to this day, is rooted in her conception of the Muslims as a 'genetically deformed' element. 'That's true [i.e. that the Bosnian Muslims were originally Serbs]. But it was genetically deformed material that embraced Islam. And now, of course, with each successive generation this gene simply becomes concentrated. It gets worse and worse, it simply expresses itself and dictates their style of thinking and behaving, which is rooted in their genes...' (Svet, Novi Sad, 6 September 1993). This supposedly respected biologist, with her enviable reputation as a university professor and expert, has been tireless in propagating these 'scientific discoveries' of hers. As a concrete example of her thesis about Muslims being 'genetically deformed material', she has used Ejup Ganic: 'I have never met a more deformed person than him in political circles, which abound with such deformed people.' (On, Belgrade, 12 November 1996).

This has led, she has further 'explained', to a degeneration of the Serb people, as a consequence of the 'mixing of blood': 'We are disturbed by the fact that the number of marriages between Serbs and Muslims has increased... because mixed marriages lead to an exchange of genes between ethnic groups, and thus to a degeneration of Serb nationhood.' (Oslobodjenje, Sarajevo, May 1994).

Plavsic sees, as the highest expression of this degeneration of Serbs, the process of their 'de-Serbianization'. 'The Serbs have become so de-Serbianized over these past fifty years, they have insisted so much and in such an ugly way that they are not Serbs, they have blasphemed so much and denigrated the Church and clergy so much... the Serbs have defiled themselves terribly' (Republika, no. 78, Belgrade, 16- 31 October 1993). However, when such 'pedigree' Serb types as Biljana Plavsic, Radovan Karadzic, Momcilo Krajisnik and Nikola Koljevic came to power, the Serbs regenerated overnight and became nationally conscious. Plavsic once again has a 'scientific' explanation: 'Perhaps a genetic factor was involved here - a secret of the blood, as our people would have it' (Ognjista, Pale, June 1993)! Such incredible stupidities are really beneath discussion.

The strong have the right to suppress the weak: this is Biljana Plavsic's main watchword. It is so to speak in the nature of the human species. We should never forget that she is a biologist by profession, whence derives by analogy her sketchy socio-biological conception of man and society. This will be expressed with particular clarity when the matter of dividing territory comes up. 'I do not wish them [the Muslims] anything good! But for my own peace of mind I have to give them something, a place where they can organize their own lives, so that they are not constantly bothering me. This is how I understand that 30 per cent' (Svet, Novi Sad, 6 September 1993).

Her cynical racism in regard to territory reached its highest expression during the discussions about implementing the Dayton Accords, when the Serbs were obliged to give back more than twenty per cent of the country's territory to the Muslims and Croats and it was stated that all refugees had the right of return. The issue was then the amount of residential land. Claiming that Republika Srpska [RS] had got only 22 per cent of the residential land, Plavsic insisted that 'only if there is any residential land left over may Muslims come and settle'.

Let half the Serbs perish!

Not only do other nations have to be destroyed, but Serbs too have to be sacrificed for the good of the cause. The method is an experimental one, just like in biological research: sever that nerve in a frog and let's see whether it will be able to react. There is no reason why Serbs should not be treated in the same way.

'Sooner or later they'll drop those bombs on us. But they've no idea how resistant the Serb nation has become to threats. The Serbs no longer react at all, and if you ask them about bombs they just say: "Oh, well, they might as well drop them and be done with it!" A threat that's delivered in gradually increased doses over a long period of time finally ceases to have any effect. They don't know the mentality of the Serb people, it's a total mystery to them. The Serb people isn't scared!' (NIN, Belgrade, 6 May 1994).

The principle is the same as with frogs. And the explanatory language is almost literally that of the laboratory: acquired resistance, reaction and non-reaction, gradually increased doses, effect or no effect. This is neither accidental nor incidental. This female leader of the Serb people once said, at the time of the Vance-Owen Plan: 'there are twelve million of us, and even if six million perish the other six million will live decently.' Later she tried to explain this away by saying that Milosevic had misquoted her (NIN, Belgrade, 6 May 1994). She claimed she had only repeated to him what a wounded soldier had told her! It is not known what reply she gave to the wounded soldier, but if Milosevic said one good thing during the war it was that she belonged in an institution.

The minimum is the lot

Her conception of peace as imposed by the international community is as warlike as her conception of war. Indeed, it could easily lead to a new war. 'For some time now we've been trying to find a way of establishing peace... but not peace at any price. Not a peace that involves giving up territory, not a peace that tramples on the dignity of the Serb people, that's out of the question'(NIN, 6 May 1994). This is in line with Plavsic's view that 'what has been taken cannot be surrendered in negotiations' (NTV, Studio B, 8 January 1994). According to this view, the territorial minimum is actually the maximum! 'The minimum is all the territories now under the Serb soldier's guard... so there's no question of haggling about percentages' (Politika, Belgrade, 25 April 1993).

Given that the haggling over how much territory RS should have after Dayton ended up with its current 49 per cent, and given also that the Serb entity has remained within the borders of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Biljana Plavsic - despite her insistence that there would be no haggling about percentages - subsequently fell beneath the spell of the percentage game. But now it had to do not with territory, but with sovereignty: '...RS will have more than 80 per cent sovereignty in the most important spheres of life' (Nasa Borba, Belgrade, 14 August 1996).

The Russians sold out the Serbs for five dollars

Neither has the role of the international community escaped the authoritative comments of 'Goddess Biljana' - the name written up on numerous cafes and military vehicles in RS, something that she is proud of and even brags about (Zena, Belgrade, 16-31 October 1993). She was not just disappointed that the Russians and French, 'traditional allies of the Serbs', would not go to war for them but instead were concerned only with their own interests; in the Russian case, she could not resist abusing them: 'Russian policy today can be explained only by the money the Russians recently got from the West. If you work out how much they got, it amounts to five dollars in every Russian pocket. To stain the honour of the greatest Slav state and nation for five dollars a head is quite dreadful' (NIN, Belgrade, 6 May 1994). The idea that the Russians' honour would have shone bright if only they had taken Biljana Plavsic's side and supported her fascistic views represents a real oddity, unsupported by anything in the history of relations between the Russian and Serb peoples. If Pasic were to rise from the grave, he would tear his beard out in dismay.

As for the Americans, she wished them another Vietnam. Her malicious hope that a dozen US soldiers might lose their lives in B-H and so affect Clinton's own future and the outcome of the US elections (NIN, Belgrade, 6 May 1994) shows not just a deep misunderstanding of US policy towards Bosnia, but also a provocativeness that merely confirms the lethal arrogance of the stance of this mistress of Serb lives, who claims the right to sacrifice the people for the sake of its 'dignity'.

The Serbs of Serbia are weaklings

With respect to relations between the Serb diaspora in B-H and the Serb(ian) motherland, what should give Serbs on our side of the Drina particular cause for concern is Plavsic's constant pseudo-scientific insistence on the political, indeed racial, superiority of the Bosnian Serbs not just over Muslims, but also over the Serbs of Serbia. 'The Serbs of Bosnia, especially those living in frontier regions, have developed and refined a special ability to sense danger to the nation and to evolve mechanisms for self-protection. In my family it was always said that the Serbs of Bosnia were much better than the Serbs of Serbia... As a biologist I know that the best ability to adapt and survive is possessed by those species which live next to others that are a threat to them... Hence, the separation of Serbs from other nations is both a natural and a necessary phenomenon' (Borba, Belgrade, 28 July 1993).

Biljana Plavsic is unaware, of course, of the contradiction contained in this statement. If it were true for one moment that the Bosnian Serbs had become superior to the Serbs of Serbia thanks to their life in border areas and the powers of adaptation and survival they had acquired through living alongside 'other species', then it is quite unclear why she should urge these naturally superior Bosnian Serbs to separate from other peoples in a 'natural' and 'necessary' manner. And it is especially unclear why they should join the 'inferior' Serbs of Serbia, when this would only mean their becoming 'bad' Serbs themselves one day.

This article is translated from Helsinska povelja [Helsinki Charter], Belgrade, November 1996. Slobodan Inic teaches sociology at the University of Belgrade.