The Common Good
July-August 1999

Credit Where Credit Is Due…

by Ed Spivey Jr. | July-August 1999

Congratulations to Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic for winning the United
Nations’ prestigious First War Criminal Still In Office award.

Congratulations to Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic for winning the United Nations’ prestigious First War Criminal Still In Office award. This award acknowledges Milosevic’s many contributions to his country and, more broadly, to the eastern part of Europe that has benefited from his courageous belief that peace is way overrated.

The coveted prize is being held for him at the Hague where, according to U.N. officials, he can pick it up at anytime. The award includes no cash prize, but does come with attractive ceremonial bracelets connected by matching silver chain. (Fashion tip: best worn with both hands behind the back.)

This is Milosevic’s second international recognition in as many months. At a recent unpublicized dinner in the Hague, he also received special exemption from this year’s Nelson Mandela Humanitarian Award.

Better luck next time.

Like Milosevic, dozens of other 20th century political leaders have been similarly acknowledged for their selfless determination to see who could get rid of ethnic minorities the fastest. The city of Nuremberg, for example, was host to a number of ceremonies honoring men who had Milosevic’s genius for making widows. But at the time of their recognition they had already left office and moved on to the next stage of their lives, such as making prison wall calendars or, in some cases, decomposing in a bunker.

In contrast, Milosevic still has much more to offer the world in his current role as elected leader of the former Yugoslavia (also, formerly with electricity, formerly with water) and he is looking forward to guiding his former country into another century. The fact that it is the 19th century is not the point here.

Taking a cue from American President Bill Clinton, who promised to "build a bridge to the 21st century," Milosevic recently unveiled his own bold vision for Serbia by pledging simply to "rebuild a bridge. Maybe two."

Surprisingly, not everyone has been enthusiastic about Milosevic’s new-found recognition. Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein said, through an interpreter, "WAIT! I promise I’ll do better than the last interpreter! The one you just shot!" But then he said, "Hey, who’s the demon, here?! I deserve the award more than that Serbian guy, Milosewhosich! What do I have to do to get a little attention! Oh, and I almost forgot: ‘Hey American jets!...Nya nya nya nya nya!’"

Long-time Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz reiterated this position by vehemently denying that he looks exactly like Larry Tate, Darrin’s boss on TV’s Bewitched! Only shorter.

Actually, we don’t hear much these days from Iraq’s foreign minister. One hopes that he is still in Saddam’s favor, otherwise he would be unable to do his two favorite things: 1) go to New York City and denounce the United States in front of the U.N. General Assembly, and 2) eat out a lot while he’s there.

Aziz: I must go to New York to denounce those American dogs again, my Most Supreme Owner of Only One Outfit.

Saddam: But you went last week.

Aziz: Yes. But I’ve got coupons for Red Lobster.

Admittedly, Saddam and Milosevic have many things in common, and we’re not just talking about the sacrifices they make for their people from inside reinforced underground shelters. For example, they both share similar taste in ornate furniture. Every time you see them shaking hands with a mediator from Russia (and shortly before the mediator asks for gas money to get back home) you see the same couch in the background. I notice it because we had that couch in my house when I was a kid. It was French Provincial and we weren’t allowed to sit on it, except when the Russian mediator came over after church. My mom finally got rid of it several years ago and then, bingo, it shows up in Baghdad. And then a couple years later in Belgrade. It’s showing up in more bad places than Dennis Rodman. (I wonder if our old remote control is still under the cushions.)

But back to this war criminal issue (you thought I’d forgotten). NATO officials have not been happy with Milosevic’s new status since it makes it more difficult to negotiate with him. NATO claims to have been making progress using the traditional mediating methods of bombing apartments and hospitals. But Milosevic has been unimpressed by this spirit of "give and take" and has decided to wait for his own tough negotiator to speak on his behalf: winter.

NATO representative Jamie Shea, the gifted spokesman who reportedly is fluent in four languages, admitted that the coming cold months will have a negative effect on Alliance war strategies. Unfortunately, no one understood him since he speaks all four languages in a thick English accent. Attempting to give Shea an easy-to-answer question, one friendly journalist asked him, "And where’s that bloomin’ plain?" To which a clearly relieved Shea replied, in almost perfect diction, "IN SPINE! IN SPINE!"

But seriously, now that there is an international arrest warrant out on the Serbian leader, the world waits for his imminent arrest, which should be soon, right? I mean, how hard is it to find somebody who looks exactly like Bob’s Big Boy, but with a bigger head? In fact, I think I saw him yesterday at the all-you-can-eat breakfast bar. He was having seconds of everything and asking for a doggy bag to take some home. Now that’s wrong.

ED SPIVEY JR. is art director of Sojourners.

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