Trump: A War Criminal in the Making
When I was young, on the eve of Yugoslavia’s demise, I worked as a journalist for a Bosnian magazine frequently covering those distinguished individuals whose politics were indistinguishable from plain lunacy. Among them was Vojislav Šešelj, a former dissident turned leader of the Serbian Radical Party, staunchly commited to making Serbia great again, and railing about injustices inflicted upon his people by a world of enemies. Once we published a long interview with him under the headline Planet Serbia.
In 1991, Šešelj was one of the guests on a popular Serbian TV talk show. Fighting had started in Croatia, and a volunteer unit of Šešelj’s followers was already in action there. Before a live studio audience, he joked about his men’s devotion to slitting throats, saying, “We have new and improved methods: now we slit throats with the shoe spoon [that is, the shoe horn], and rusty too, so an autopsy can never establish what killed the victim, the slit throat or tetanus.” A little later, Šešelj pulled out his gun to show it off. The audience was greatly entertained.
I recalled Šešelj after hearing Trump’s instructive fairytale about General Pershing dipping bullets in pig’s blood to shoot (extrajudicially) “terrorists”— the Filipinos resisting U.S. occupation — thus fixing “the problem.” The well-instructed Charleston audience cheered in approval of being tough and vigilant, “or we’re not gonna have a country, folks.”
Trump didn’t show off his gun in South Carolina when exhibiting his enthusiasm for creatively eliminating enemies. But his intellectual kinship with a fascist like Šešelj (underscored yesterday when he retweeted a quote from Mussolini) was evident. Just as both say whatever comes to their minds, they will do whatever it takes to restore their nation’s greatness. Their discourse is charged by a craving for incoherent, yet symbolic, violence. Their violent incoherence is the message, not the noise.
Šešelj was not kidding in 1991: after the war, in 2003, he was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague for his crimes against humanity. But that has not much diminished his sinister ideological appeal in the Balkans. On the contrary, he is still an occasional celebrity guest on Serbian TV, while the current Serbian President and Prime Minister have both started their careers in his party and are cut, if more elegantly, from the same far-right cloth. Which is why Šešelj’s public support for Trump is not mere Rodmanesque tomfoolery. “I’m convinced that the Serbs living in America will vote for [Trump],” Šešelj has said, “as will those Americans who appreciate my political views and share my ideology.”