General at his own wake

Photo: Predrag Trokicic

Photo: Predrag Trokicic

In late June, a military-police exercise, megalomaniacally named “Joint Strike” was conducted in Kraljevo. Two and a half thousand members of the army and police took part in the action. Its goal remained unknown to the rational mind, and it all resembled a need for our childish politicians to play their favorite game at our expense again – a demonstration of armed force. Excited by this game from his youth, Vucic was counting rifles, helmets, helicopters and military planes that were “armed to the teeth.” Members of the army and the police simulated responses in the event of a terrorist attack and a hostage situation.

Immersed in the audio-visual appearance of the rain-soaked president of Serbia, the play was disturbing. So much so that the public did not think to ask – what happened to the person called Ljubisa Dikovic, who is supposed to be the chief of the General staff of the Serbian armed forces? On Pescanik, Ljubodrag Stojadinovic noticed that the first general didn’t interfere with anything at this festival and behaved “like he was attending his own wake.”

The obvious disorientation of the so-called chief of the General staff may be explained by the fact that on May 22nd this year, his service in the Serbian armed forces was terminated with force of law. Namely, the law on defense1 clearly stipulates that the service of a General of the Serbian armed forces is terminated with force of law when he completes 40 years of service and 58 years of age. This means that fulfillment of these two conditions directly causes immediate termination of service, without the need to consider this issue further or to decide on it.

According to his biography on the official Army website, Dikovic was born on May 22nd, 1960 in (as he calls it, Titovo) Uzice, which means that he turned 58 this year. According to available information, he has also fulfilled the other condition – 45 years of service, instead of the necessary 40.

So, on his last birthday, Dikovic became one of us. His authority to lead the army is equivalent to the authority of any random citizen. It is therefore not surprising that Dikovic’s mood and involvement in the aforementioned military-police exercise can be compared with being present at his own wake. Legally, as a soldier and a general, Dikovic is buried by the law, while the government, headed by the president, is trying to dress him up and pretend that he is alive, healthy, and capable of serving. Dikovic, for his part, is doing his best to fulfill the expectations of this masquerade.

Additionally, we should mention that this scenario of unauthorized command and control of the Army was directed for Dikovic by Vucic himself – he had the possibility to extend Dikovic’s mandate for another two years. Logically, that had to be done before his mandate was terminated by the law. According to the available information, he did no such thing.

Instead, Vucic is enjoying yet another role he has taken over. He assesses security, combat readiness, announces military and police operations. Dikovic’s role as a still-active general clearly suits Vucic.

There is also some symbolism in this situation. For years, Dikovic was publicly protected by the representatives of the executive government, even from a possible investigation of his criminal responsibility for war crimes in Kosovo. He was a trusted supporter of the current ruling majority in their rise, but also in all the shady activities they conducted in the Army. Despite all this, the same thing that happens to everyone who places their trust in Vucic, Nikolic, and their ilk, happened to him – he was deprived of real power and dignity and turned into a public puppet of the president.

Perhaps Dikovic deserved to be used by the governing party in this manner. More important than this, however, is the question of whether the citizens of Serbia have the right to know who really runs the Serbian Army, and why the answer to this is so shamefully predictable.

Translated by Marijana Simic

Peščanik.net, 10.07.2018.

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  1. Article 110 of the law on defense.