I was standing with my wife and children near the Picasso statue. The priest was singing the prayer in Church Slavonic. There was a microphone, but it sounded as though he didn't need it.
Since it was Good Friday, we didn't get the usual sullen sidelong looks (Why aren't those kids in school?). There were not many more than a thousand people in the square. For nearly all of them, it wasn't Good Friday, because this year the Orthodox Easter (Pascha) falls a week later than the Western. Chicago, by the way, has the largest concentration of Serbs outside Yugoslavia. We might be bombed.
You don't think the Clinton regime would bomb an American city? I wouldn't count on it. They incinerated the residents of Mount Carmel, just for having slightly weird religious views and being prepared to defend themselves against armed assault. No one even thought of impeaching our lovable rogue merely for this mass murder of American citizens. He bombed a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan, announced he would very soon release the proof that this factory had some kind of connection with terrorism, and never did. The regime wasn't even mildly embarrassed by that.
The priest stopped singing in Church Slavonic and began singing the translation, into Serbian. Only a few years ago we called that language Serbo-Croatian. In Church Slavonic, or even in Serbian, the singing was piercingly beautiful. But for most people there, it was something routinely familiar. They had heard it on many a Sunday.
How did we come to be in this unlikely company? We had switched on our TV, and seen our tax dollars at work, raining down death and destruction on the Yugoslavs. We heard the talking heads saying: Why this namby-pamby approach? We have to exterminate the Serbs to get results. Let's do it! (My translation from Beltway Wonkspeak into English.)
We called both Libertarian Party numbers (Chicago and Illinois). Nothing doing. I sent an email to Senator Peter Fitzgerald, thanking him for voting against the bombing. I couldn't send him a second one, because then I would be revealed as a crank, and the minuscule value of my first email would be wiped out.
Whom do you call when you're beginning to suspect that World War III has begun, and our side are the Nazis? The Left? The Right? There was no visible sign of any anti-war activity from either quarter. The Serbian Orthodox Church, said my wife, Lisa, and called them. A demonstration? Well, a prayer vigil. Daley Plaza. Friday, 1:00 p.m.
So there we were. The younger of our children clapped when everyone else clapped, even when the speech was in Serbian. There weren't many in the throng who weren't Orthodox. About half of them carried icons and at least three quarters crossed themselves in the Orthodox fashion at appropriate moments.
Serbian flags. Greek flags. Only one or two Russian flags. A message was read from Yugoslav Jewish leaders denouncing the NATO bombing, then another from the Crown Prince of Yugoslavia, denouncing the bombing at greater length. Both messages were cheered.
Many in the crowd were carrying enormous pictures of a deep red flower, somewhat between a rose and a poppy. Others had a picture of concentric circles on their backs, a target, with the legend "I am proud to be Serbian. Kill me." A very few had more secular slogans: "Mr. Clinton! The Serbs Will Not Go Down On Their Knees Like Monica Did." Yes, we're still at the early stage where we call this specimen "Mr."
After the Serbian version, the English translation was sung. The priest was asking that all the Christians killed in the recent bombing be forgiven all their sins, "both voluntary and involuntary." So someone's looking after that side of things.
My thoughts scanned the heavens for help from a different quarter, possibly no more reliable. Will Russia do something? The Russians could start bombing KLA positions in Kosovo and Albania, for example. (This would be worth it, I think, just to hear Clinton's argument that there was something wrong with it.) They could announce publicly that any land invasion of Yugoslavia would result in a state of war between Russia and the U.S. They could put a token tripwire force of Russian troops into Kosovo and, while they're at it, into Montenegro, before the U.S. succeeds in annexing Montenegro as they have already annexed Bosnia and Macedonia.
I am very much afraid that none of this will materialize. The Clinton administration's statements seem to indicate that they are very sure of Russia. This would signify that the Russians have promised that they will do nothing to resist. The U.S. can invade Yugoslavia, and Russia will roll over for the sake of an IMF loan.
Ethnic Cleansing and "Ethnic Cleansing"The American public has been given one fundamental reason for the bombing: to stop ethnic cleansing. Ethnic cleansing is an interesting concept. Although the term was reputedly first used by Russians to describe relations between Armenians and Azerbaijanis, in English it instantly became, by definition, a crime only Serbs can commit.
When Gerry Adams's boys shot the occasional Protestant in places like South Fermanagh, to underscore their point that these areas ought to be homogeneously Catholic, no one called it ethnic cleansing. When the Quebec provincial government makes life irksome for Anglophones, and a few enthusiastic Francophones help out with the occasional slashed tires, no one calls it ethnic cleansing. When the American West was taken from the Indians, no one called it ethnic cleansing. When Israel encouraged the indigenous population to move out, handing over their property to newcomers from Eastern Europe and North Africa, no one called it ethnic cleansing. When France moved former Algerian colons into Corsica as a prophylactic against Corsican separatism, no one called it ethnic cleansing. When Turks massacred Armenians and Kurds, no one called it ethnic cleansing. When millions of Germans were dragged out of their dwellings at the end of World War II, and forced to move hundreds of miles away, no one called it eth nic cleansing. When Turkey invaded Cyprus, shipping over thousands of new Turkish settlers to seize the lands of the evicted Greeks, no one called it ethnic cleansing.
And naturally, when the victims are Serbs, no one calls it ethnic cleansing. The sad fact is that what is called ethnic cleansing (when Serbs do it) is a very common, almost a universal feature of the modern world. And the Serbs have been somewhat more "ethnically cleansed" than ethnically cleansing. (I use quotation marks to conform with the current semantic convention that only Serbs can, by definition, commit ethnic cleansing.)
If you doubt this, look at the score: the Serbs were the largest group in Communist Yugoslavia. The Communists instituted a federal system with considerable local autonomy. There was never any attempt to Serbianize the non-Serbs in the way that the Russians Russianized the non-Russians in the Soviet Union. With the breakup of Communist Yugoslavia, Slovenia, Croatia, and Macedonia seceded.
In 1995, thousands of Serbs in Krajina, Croatia, where they had lived for centuries, were killed by Croatians advised by Americans. As part of this hygienic operation, planes under U.S. direction bombed the U.N. "safe area" of Krajina. The entire surviving population of 250,000 Serbs, were forced to leave with what they could carry, and trek hundreds of miles. No one called it ethnic cleansing.
NATO's Ethnic CleansingBefore World War II, Serbs were over 70 percent of the population of Kosovo. Now they are less than 20 percent. How did this occur? Because of "ethnic cleansing" (not, of course, ethnic cleansing) by Albanians. This was promoted by Mussolini's plan for a "Greater Albania," the mantle of which has now fallen on the shoulders of the Arkansas rapist. In between, especially from the 1970s into the 1990s, the Albanian population of Kosovo grew rapidly, both absolutely and relatively, while hundreds of thousands of Serbs, encouraged by Albanian unfriendliness, left Kosovo. With them went many of the non-Albanian, non-Serbian groups in Kosovo. The province has 26 nationalities, all with centuries-old roots there. Virtually all of the non-Albanians, including the Turks, are pro-Serb and anti-Albanian. They know at first hand who has been initiating the "ethnic cleansing."
Clinton's bombing of Kosovo's Serbs, then, is the continuation of a long-term "ethnic cleansing" of Serbs. When the NATO powers began their bombing, a flood of refugees left Kosovo. In an amazing piece of theater worthy of Dr. Goebbels, the Clinton regime announced that the refugees were not leaving because of the bombing and its consequences, but because, coincidentally, the Serbs had started a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Albanians. We were asked to believe that, abruptly, under NATO bombardment, the Serbs were doing something they had not done in decades of firm control of Kosovo.
Once the bombs were falling, the Yugoslavs sensibly moved against the KLA positions. No doubt there were some gratuitous atrocities, by local Serbs enraged by the NATO bombing, and no doubt clearing out the KLA fighters often involved displacing their families. It may be years before we can achieve a detailed objective picture, stripping away the propaganda of both sides. Let's recall that recently many thousands of Albanian refugees flooded out of Albania. Remember the overladen boats and the hastily constructed camps in Italy? No one was ethnically cleansing them or even "ethnically cleansing" them; there was civil strife and social breakdown in Albania, that was all.
One piece of corroboration for the commonsense view (if you bomb hundreds of civilian targets in a country where there is already a secessionist war, you create refugees) is that Albanians fled Kosovo in all directions. Belgrade has a permanent Albanian population of 100,000. With the bombing, independent observers testify that new Albanians started arriving in Belgrade by the tens of thousands. It seems unlikely that they would do this if they believed the Yugoslav state was what they were fleeing from.
In recent years, Serbian moves against Albanians in Kosovo appear to have been either strictly concerned with defending the non-Albanian population against the KLA, or occasional isolated acts of brutality, comparable to the killing of unarmed blacks in New York City by white police -- deplorable but sadly not unusual the world over, and hardly sufficient justification for bombing. Until quite recently the U.S. government officially categorized the KLA as dangerous terrorists with whom NATO could never deal. The U.S. bombed Khartoum because of some highly obscure and indirect connection with Bin Laden, but now works completely hand-in glove with the KLA, whose associations with Bin Laden are not denied.
The Yugoslavs claim the KLA was instigated and inserted into Kosovo by NATO, who trained the most bigoted Albanian youth they could find in camps in Germany, then brought them back to Kosovo with NATO-supplied guns and money. Prior to the rise of the KLA within the last year, the pre-eminent figure among the Kosovo Albanians was Ibrahim Rugova, hailed in the West as "the Gandhi of the Balkans." The Kosovo Albanians boycotted Yugoslavian elections and held their own. In these elections, Rugova was returned unopposed. When NATO started bombing Kosovo, Rugova went to Belgrade, met with Milosevic and denounced the bombing.
The NATO side immediately claimed that videos of Rugova with Milosevic were faked. But it came out that Rugova had had discussions with the Russian ambassador. By the time the story appeared in The New York Times, Rugova was referred to merely as an "Albanian pacifist," the Times not choosing to remind its readers that Rugova was, a few years back, the leading figurehead of the Kosovo Albanians. The Times also insinuated without evidence that Rugova might have been held under duress. (I can't prove that this is not so, though my guess would be that Rugova went to Belgrade to avoid being assassinated by the KLA.)
The Acropolis in Rubble?Now the U.S. has a new rationale for its presence in the Balkans and its coming invasion of Yugoslavia -- to do something about the appalling "humanitarian tragedy" its own bombing has created. Some European observers, such as Vaclav Klaus, speaker of the lower house of the Czech parliament, stated that it was clear that the humanitarian tragedy was a direct result of NATO bombing, but these statements were, to say the least, under-reported in the U.S. (And what does Klaus think he's playing at? Does he want cruise missiles on Prague?)
The rationale for bombing Yugoslavia is so threadbare, so ludicrous, so absurd, that it carries a simple message: anyone, anywhere in the world may be bombed. The only precondition I can see is that it's necessary to prepare American opinion first, but this is a simple matter, given the "oral-anal contact," to borrow a phrase from the Starr Report, between the genuflecting American press corps and the U.S. ruling class.
Milosevic has been compared with Hitler, the symbolic message being that a "dictator" must be stopped before he tries to take over the world. Aside from the fact that Germany was the world's second industrial power, whereas Yugoslavia is one of the poorest countries in Europe. Germany in the 1930s kept on adding territory, whereas Yugoslavia has been losing it. In the 1930s nervous people wondered, where will Germany strike next? Today, nervous people ask, whom will NATO bomb next? There has been talk of some NATO members leaving the alliance. But they must hesistate to do this, for surely any country that leaves NATO might very well be bombed.
This is how it would work. Greece leaves NATO. Immediately, or after a brief delay to cement the American decimation of the Serb population and occupation of Yugoslavia, there is a flurry of well-funded seminars about Greek treatment of ethnic minorities. With NATO funding, Turkish and Albanian troublemakers do everything they can to engineer incidents that will exacerbate relations. The thrilling intellectual exercise for the seminars is this: can Greek behavior be termed "ethnic cleansing," a term until now reserved only for Serb atrocities?
After six months of this, that question is quietly dropped, and references to Greek ethnic cleansing become regular and unchallenged. Now the question is: what shall NATO do about Greek ethnic cleansing? Shall we stand idly by while this mayhem goes on, or shall we act decisively? Every urban legend about the Greeks distributed by the Turkish or Albanian equivalents of the Roswell nuts is taken for gospel by the American media. On the serious TV talk shows, in the pages of The New York Times and other ruling-class house journals, all the blinkered apologists for mass murder, one robotic Kondracke or Barnes or Fund or Ingraham after another, raise this vital question which we neglect at our peril. On the many Beltway wonk circuits, plans are eagerly discussed for the bombing of Greece, incorporating all the practical lessons gained from the bombing of Serbia.
Then, one day, perhaps when the president is, quite by coincidence, facing a sex or an espionage scandal, we turn on our TV sets to see the Acropolis in rubble. (We never claimed these weapons had pinpoint accuracy. And, it so happens, we have just received a disturbing report that the Greeks were about to use the Acropolis for the mass killing of 50,000 Albanians.) It comes out that the French had raised an objection to the bombing of Athens, but were whipped into line with a raised eyebrow. (Do you want to see the Louvre in flames?)
The model for this operation, and for today's Yugoslav war? Germany's annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938.
What Is NATO's Objective?When it became clear that NATO would not achieve Greater Albania within a week, we began to hear about the removal of Milosevic as a new objective. This is a particularly ignorant and idiotic rationalization for the war. Milosevic's election as President of Yugoslavia was quite narrow (53 percent of the vote). If most Albanian Yugoslavs had voted in Yugoslav elections, instead of boycotting them, Milosevic would never have stood a chance of election. (Imagine Israeli politics if virtually all Arab Israelis refused to vote.) Milosevic responded to the narrowness of his victory by inviting all the opposition parties to join his government, which most of them did.
Milosevic was twice elected as President of Serbia, then once as President of Yugoslavia. The respective constitutions require that the limit for President of Serbia is two terms, for President of Yugoslavia, one term. Therefore, at some time in the next couple of years (Yugoslavia has a movable-term democratic system, like the British) he would not have been able to run for the Presidency. Milosevic was therefore already riding out his last year or two in the Yugoslav leadership.
Many Serbs are opposed to Milosevic on many issues, but virtually none favors having Kosovo occupied by NATO, with the KLA given a free hand to escalate its ethnic cleansing or rather "ethnic cleansing" of Serbs, which is essentially what Rambouillet calls for. Rambouillet was a facetious document. It must always have been intended as something that Yugoslavia could never sign, a flimsy pretext for ethnically cleansing the Serbs and establishing Greater Albania Now.
So why is NATO doing it? If we extrapolate from the predictable results of their actions, NATO's chiefs must want the entire Balkan peninsula to be under U.S. occupation for the next hundred years, hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops permanently garrisoned there. (Budget surplus? That's one problem you can now forget.) These are not the garrisoned troops of the old movies, sitting around in the local taverns and flirting with almond-eyed, bare-shouldered Mediterranean maidens in flouncey folk-embroidered skirts. The troops would be constantly killed in reprisals if they mingled with the locals. These brave soldiers will be maintained in self-contained biospheres, like giant lizards from another star, which given the moral status of their behavior, they might as well be. Their function will be to "keep the peace," to terrorize the population into passivity by the threat of death raining down from the sky. And, I'm just wondering, are similar garrisoned colonies to be installed in several places on each conti nent?
Maybe I'm naively missing something, but I can't actually credit that this is what the policymakers intend, however much their behavior points to it. My hypothesis, perhaps simple-minded, is that these people actually believe what they say about the Serbs. Just as there are rumor panics and outbreaks of mass hysteria among the uneducated population, connected with UFOs or Satanic ritual killing of babies, and just as there are domestic policy crusades of demented fanaticism, like the War on Drugs, with its preposterous lies about the pharmacological properties of various chemicals and its ferocious demonization of drug consumers and drug providers -- so we have the international counterpart of these irrational movements of unruly religious fervor, leading to coercive conspiracies against millions of innocent people.
I don't conclude, however, that all that's necessary is to debunk these crazy systems of belief, though that has to be done. The fact that an international terror machine like NATO can fall into the hands of unreasoning fanatics whose dotty ideas make them desperately brutal, is merely one more reason why no such institution of mass destruction should ever exist.
Even if all the tales of atrocities laid at the door of Milosevic and the Serbs (tales disseminated more hysterically with every NATO setback) were true just grant that premise is it really so self-evident that the right thing to do is the terror bombing of eight million civilians, the vast majority of whom (even ex hypothesi) had no responsibility for these atrocities and (in fact) don't believe they occurred? Is it really the best we can do, to cripple the industrial infrastructure of a country, destroy religious shrines and ancient works of art, slaughter innocent people of many ethnicities, pulverizing even farms and livestock in the countryside? How do millions of people respond when you do all that to them? In the words of The Mikado, they usually object.
What Is Humanity's Objective?Our first objective must be the dismantling of NATO. NATO, or something like it, was (in my judgment, but let's not fall out over this now) necessary to deter and contain the Soviet bloc. NATO was formed as a defensive alliance against the Soviet Union's expansion. When the Evil Empire fell, why wasn't NATO dissolved?
When NATO went recruiting new member-states from the former Soviet satrapies, it told the Russians they had nothing to worry about, since NATO was purely defensive. NATO's own charter states that it will act only defensively. But now NATO has commenced the devastation of a small country, which has been losing territory, and which has not been threatening any other country, let alone attacking any NATO member.
NATO is largely an instrument of the U.S. Since Europe is much bigger, in both population and output, than the U.S., it might be embarrassing to explain to U.S. taxpayers why the U.S. should alone shoulder the costly burden of terrorizing and massacring people on every continent. But essentially, what NATO does is always the U.S.'s doing. The second immediate goal, therefore, is to scale back and reshape U.S. military spending so that it is adequate for just one role: the defense of the United States itself against military attack, thus incidentally yielding a substantial decrease in taxation and increase in living standards.
Though it may seem tactless to point it out while NATO is slaughtering the innocents, this hi-tech bombardment is not only mass murder and vandalism, it comes at the expense of American well-being. In Illinois we have recently had another fatal accident at the intersection of a road and a rail crossing. There are hundreds of these accidents every year in the U.S. Every rail-road intersection could be replaced with a bridge or underpass, completely eliminating any such accidents thereafter, for the price of a few cruise missiles, a tiny fraction of the cost of Clinton's war on Yugoslavia.
Ideally, we should also make sure that Clinton, Albright, Blair, and the rest of the contemptible terror gang are shipped off to Belgrade to be put on public trial as war criminals. Or, to be scrupulously fair, to some neutral country like Libya or Iraq.
Of the very few people by the Picasso statue who were not Orthodox Christians, one was a lone woman with her own banner. She made a loud remark about how "stupid" it was to conduct so much of the proceedings in Serbian. No, it's not stupid, just early. When a priest got up to ask everyone to keep watching for news of future events, he didn't bother to give a phone number. He must have assumed everyone would hear through their churches. The struggle against the NATO murder machine is no doubt in its infancy. The priest had no thought of an anti-war coalition with non-Orthodox.
At the end of the vigil, the priest asked everyone to hold up "your icons and your flags." The red flowers were Kosovo Peonies, a flower that, they say, grows only in Kosovo, and blooms abundantly on the battlefield, site of the proudest day in Serbian history. It was 28th June, 1389, the Battle of Kosovo. The Serbs were defeated, their entire aristocracy was slaughtered, and they were consigned to 500 years of subjection under the Ottoman empire. Now they are absolutely willing to face being butchered by the American empire, and knuckle down to another 500 years of, probably more oppressive, subjection. But they'd prefer to avoid it, and I'd also prefer that they avoid it.
"Come back, and bring your good Serbian Orthodox Christian hearts," said the priest. Yes, and just a very few good Anglo-Saxon atheist hearts, too.
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