Credit Where Credit Is Due…

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."

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 1999
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