June 15, 1999
JIM LEHRER: Take three on the war: It comes from a group of Serbian-Americans who live in Chicago. Elizabeth Brackett of WTTW talked with them shortly after the bombing began, and again last week, after it ended.
CORRESPONDENT: A figure far lower than the 5,000 deaths NATO estimates -
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: It was a relief for Serbian-American Anna Pavichevich to hear that the bombing had stopped. Pavichevich had spent much of the last several months watching the war or protesting against it.
DEMONSTRATOR: Down with NATO! Down with NATO!
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: She disagreed with U.S. and NATO policy, and she disagreed with the President's claim of victory.
ANNA PAVICHEVICH: If they want to say they won, that's fine. I think that the Serbian people have shown the world that they are capable of taking it and of withstanding a tremendous, tremendous amount of agony and pain and suffering and to be able to maintain that with dignity. I guess I'm going to say that I think everybody lost this war. The Kosovo Albanians lost this war, their homes have been destroyed. And the likelihood of them being able to return to any life similar to what they had before is, I'm sure, significantly changed. NATO hasn't won anything. I think they've shown themselves to be evil.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: Desko Nikitovic, a member of the opposition before he left Yugoslavia, didn't believe either President Clinton or Slobodan Milosevic's claim to victory.
DESKO NIKITOVIC, Serbian Unity Congress: Serbs lost, number one, because they've been greatly demonized like they've never been demonized in its history, throughout this war. Number two, Serbs risk now to lose their ancestral land, this is Kosovo. And basically 200,000 Serbs could be very soon refugees in Serbia, like we had 600,000 refugees from Croatia. Serbian infrastructure is almost leveled to rubble. So Serbia did lose a lot. Serbian people did lose a lot. There is no room for any celebration. This is not victory.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: President Clinton defined victory as the end of ethnic cleansing. But like most Serbian-Americans, Pavichevich never admitted that it was ethnic cleansing that forced the Kosovar Albanians out of Kosovo.
ANNA PAVICHEVICH: We have to understand that the Albanians did not leave primarily because the Serbian gun was pointed at them. They left because of the bombing.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr. Slobodan Vucicevic, was even angrier about President Clinton's claim that ethnic cleansing had been stopped.
DR. SLOBODAN VUCICEVIC: He is standing in front of the whole nation and world telling people what ethnic cleansing is all about. He doesn't know history, he doesn't know geography.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: It was the intensity of the bombing campaign that provoked much of the anger.
DR. SLOBODAN VUCICEVIC: We destroyed people's bridges. We destroyed people's houses. We killed so many Albanians. We killed so many Serbs. We had -- before the bombing, European commission had 2,000 observers on the ground. We should have put another 2,000, another 4,000 before we dropped the bomb.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: Despite the anger, none of the Chicago Serbs we spoke to wanted to see Milosevic remain in power.
ANNA PAVICHEVICH: I hope he's gone. I hope we never hear from him again. I have also said that I think that he's a lucky man to only be charged with war crimes. Originally I had visions of Ceasescu in my head as an ultimate result for this man and what I thought might end up happening to him.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: What do you see now as Milosevic's future?
DESKO NIKITOVIC: I believe that Milosevic doesn't have one. And I felt that he -- much earlier, he should be replaced, he should be removed from political scene. It was very clear long time ago that Milosevic is part of the problem, that he is not part of solution.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: But all felt that money for rebuilding Serbia should not be withheld if Milosevic remains.
ANNA PAVICHEVICH: If you are going to engage in the kind of bombing that you have, and if you're going to destroy a nation, if you're going to turn it into a ghetto, then it is incumbent upon you if you want to have any kind of moral stand left in the international community, at least in some way, to make amends to those people by providing them some kind of financial recompensation for the criminal acts that you engaged on them.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: So what stands out for you over the last 78 days of war?
DR. SLOBODAN VUCICEVIC: America doesn't realize what America has done. That is the saddest part of this chapter of American history. And somebody will sit down and write one day and will reflect and say, "Why did you do it?" And then fingers are going to be crossed and pointed, but it will be too late.
ANNA PAVICHEVICH: I don't trust my country anymore. I don't trust my country to do the right thing. And that although I love what America stands for, I don't love or trust my government.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: The President said formidable challenges on the road to peace lay ahead. On that, these Serbian Americans would agree.