Josselien Janssens on Mon, 12 Apr 1999 02:00:33 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Re: John Pilger on NATO bombings

Respectful critique of, and clarifying additions to, John Pilger's

I'm a real admirer of the man's work but he can do with some historical
and philosophical perspective in a few places. I sense some
post-colonial self-righteous anger clouding said perspective as well. 

(I also went to one of his book promotions in London in '94 or '95 and
he totally ignored me when I tried to ask him to sign my copy of one of
his books. He was deeply engrossed in talking to someone he quite
obviously knew and could have continued that conversation later with. So
there's a little good-spirited personal vindictiveness involved here too

See comments between the lines or skip, I went into long-message mode. 


> Weekly Mail and Guardian
> Johannesburg 25 March 1999

> @ Imperial godfather blasts Belgrade
> The bombing of Belgrade is yet another warning that the USwill stop at
> nothing to secure world domination, writes John Pilger

Imperial Godfather? They wish. Rater the Impotent Father of all Foreign
Policies. And then I am talking about all of the US Government,
including the chicks, not just poor Bhillary Clevinsky. Not so sure
whether securing world domination is the real topmost motive here.
Escaping the homefront is much more likely. 

Even without NATO bombing Belgrade, the Belgradians drink Coke and wear
501's whenever they can lay their hands on a pair. The entire planet
except for North Korea and those parts of Cuba where there are no
American hotels is the US of A, baby. This has been so since 1945, so
stop being dramatic about it. 

Before then the whole planet was briefly Nazi German, Italian and
Japanese, (thinking back to that period I'd so far ten times rather have
the Americans, to be honest, John, how about you?) before then the whole
planet was run by the UK and the Spanish with some help from the Dutch,
French and Germans, before the UK it was the Roman Catholic church and
the Hapsburgers, before them it was the Romans, Vikings and the Greeks,
and long looong before then it was probably the Egyptians or the
Phoenicians or something. 

And if the US hadn't, would the Australians perhaps have carried the
torch of, uuuh, gross Liberties with all human cost? We'll never know
because the US got there first, this round of imperializzum. Maybe Latin
America is next? Or Asia? 
> When the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima after Japan
> had all but surrendered, the front page of the London Daily Express said:
> "This is a warning to the world."
> When American missiles and bombs attacked a sovereign European state on
> Wednesday night, it was another clear warning to the world, with the
> message fundamentally unchanged.

Warning of what tho, one wonders? Hey YO We Have Bombs!! Well, we knew
THAT, boy-ziz. And so have a lot of other nations. It's very tiresome

Japan is still a pretty sovereign state. If you discount the Zaibatsu's,
i.e. inasmuch as one can be a sovereign nation under the dictatorship of
Global Trade. And Iraq still is as close as you get to being sovereign.
Poor, yes, messed up, yes, but more sovereign than the US Government.
And more sovereign than Yurp for that matter, except for "Le" Big Boom
Boom Dans "La" Big Pacifique De "La" Big France De "Le" Big "Le" Pen of
course, Sam 'Jules' Jackson. 

As we all know, the US is not a sovereign state, but a commercial PR
concept that uses the word Freedom a lot. This refers to the complete
freedom the US government and citizens leave corporations and each other
to mess everything up real big while feeling extremely important. The
US, whatever it is, is mainly governed by multinational corporations and
so called right wing Think Tanks. This is interesting when you realise
that tanks are hollow containers or things on caterpillar wheels and are
often filled with rather dangerous explosive and highly inflammable
stuff. And not often enough filled with water for those sandy dry places
that you find a lot of tanks in. 

Lots of these Think Tanks have originally English, Dutch, and German
names on their boards of directors.  
> The most powerful and rapacious imperial power in history will stop at
> nothing to secure its domination over human affairs.  This is a truth that
> we who have survived the most violent period of the American imperium
> ought to comprehend above all others, if we are to understand how our
> world is threatened, over and again.

The US can never 'secure' domination over human affairs, John. Whatever
the US may be, it doesn't even have domination over its own internal
affairs and if you can't control yourself, you can never truly rule
others. Much as I hate to disappoint the US, they've certainly not got
domination over MY affairs, nor over the affairs of a lot of people I

And they never will, either, not even if they lock me up in the deepest
dungeons of the rat-infested Pentagon. (They had a rat infestation in
the Pentagon in the early nineties which I read about in the Washington
Post as I was over there for work back then. Someone took me shopping in
Pentagon Mall that Saturday. It was a very educational experience, just
before Christmas, for an enviro-Greenie like me. They had something
called The Nature Conservancy Store and it sells cute little plastic
whales and dolphins that are made in China.)
> The basic details of the assault on Serbia illuminate this truth vividly.
> The bombing has nothing to do with a humanitarian concern for the
> suffering people of Kosovo.

Let me be the last one to defend NATO politics. But, come on, John! The
bombing has just as much to do with the humanitarian concerns for Kosovo
as the Allied fight in Europe in the 40's initially had to do with
aiming to end the Holocaust. I.e. not a lot, but still a little. 

I am sure that the people who eventually got freed out of the
concentration camps back then were very glad for that part of their
lives to be over, even if it was a little late in the day in terms of
preventing it. Which would of course have been far more preferable. Like
this current war and the Gulf War, Vietnam and any other war ever, the
Holocaust would of course have been as preventable as any evil in the
world. 'If Only' -oh famous last words- the people on the ground where
it started had not first for a very long time stuck their heads in the
sand hoping 'it' would go away all by itself. 

Earlier weak-hearted narrow-self-serving politics on the part of meddly
bystanders have always helped cause all the horrors we've ever known
about. As they may well have in the case of Kosovo, as you so eloquently
describe further on. I understand too little of the local dynamics in
the Balkan to be able to judge this. 

All that I know is that humans are not supposed to be nasty to each
other in any way, shape or form. If they are, this is a crime, whether
NATO and Tony Blair are there to enforce this argument or not (by being
equally but differently nasty). 

You may giggle, I really don't give a damn, it is still true. 

And don't get me wrong, I LOVE Tony Blair. I really do. Anyone who
remembers Mrs Thatcher can only LOVE Tony Blair. 

> On the contrary, "the West" (as the Anglo- American imperial forces are
> known) has consistently used humanitarian rhetoric to justify intervening
> in the Balkans, mostly on the side of regional power, often the Milosevic
> regime.

Gosh, really, John, forgive my sarcasm at your lecture-tone, I know
you're all the way from that other hemisphere, but golly, none of us
realised the Anglo-American Imperial Forces were known as "The West"! 

People in Joburg probably didn't either! :-) We, "The West", initially
CAUSED Joburg, remember? This here is a native Dutch person speaking.
Why do you think Nelson Mandela is such a hit whenever he visits Holland
on fundraising missions? Because he's got the Dutch firmly by the balls,
guilt-trip wise. But back to Kosovo.

> Last October, the US drafted an entirely pro- Serbian plan for the
> Kosovars, giving them a fake autonomy with far less freedom than they had
> under the old Yugoslav Constitution.
> Similarly, in the early 1990s, Anglo- American propaganda during Bosnia's
> life-and- death struggle masked Washington's true aims.  It was an
> American plan, devised by former US secretary of state Cyrus Vance in
> 1992, that handed the Milosevic regime and the fascist Bosnian Serbs the
> entire arsenal of former Yugoslavia. Thereafter, the people of Bosnia
> hardly stood a chance. At the same time, Nato navies in the Adriatic Sea
> and United Nations (mostly British) troops at Bosnian airports enforced an
> arms embargo against the Sarajevo government.

Ah - so it's not just the Evil Americans, who are nothing and nobody in
but historically a hotch-potch of everybody else. (Some of my very best
friends in the world are Americans and there's some very nice and wise
people amongst them.) There are some other "grown-up" or "consenting
adult nations" involved in this. 
> To the Americans, what mattered, above all, was that Serbia was not
> fragmented and did not slip beyond Western - that is American - control.
> The ensuing American-arranged "Dayton peace plan" legitimised the ethnic
> cleansing; the wishes of the people of Bosnia were ignored and American
> power was asserted.

"West" does not equal "America". The UK has always done a fair bit of
war mongering too, credit where credit is due. The rest of
Western-Europe at large just let the US barge in and do the dirty work
because they get so gung-ho and worked up about stuff that might be an
impediment to their trade balance. Rest o'Yurp then run after them
playing the game along in so far as it suits them and condemning it
where it doesn't (but not really trying to stop it because that would
involve too much complicated hassle) while the US take the
responsibility, as well as the blame and public hits. 
> Today Nato, which of course is Washington, is bombing Serbia because the
> Milosevic regime - like Saddam Hussein in 1990 - has become uppity. The
> man is not following orders. He is not subduing the Kosovars as the
> American plan dictated. He has become all too flagrant, allowing his
> troops to slaughter people and leave their bodies to be filmed by Western
> television. More seriously, he is challenging the "stability of the
> region";  the kind of false stability essential for an imperial power to
> go about its God-given tasks.

I'm sure God doesn't feature in the daily briefings at NATO HQ although
He's probably called upon as a token momento in order to deflect any
human responsibilies for what is going on. You know, before meals and
while raising the flag. 

Let the facts speak for themselves, John, as you do so well in most
places. They speak for themselves without your bent up righteous
indignation slipping in. What do you WANT the US to do? Cease to exist?
Knowingly let Milosevic go ahead with his slaughtering schemes while the
world watches? Why don't you elaborate on alternatives for a change
instead of growling pointlessly that NATO=Washington, which is something
we all know. 

Come on, all you white southern Commonwealth types just hate the
North-West because you're originally from here. And everybody else hates
us (=you) white North-Westerners because we're NOT originally from there
but just went ahead and planted ourselves everywhere with a lot of
brutal barbarian force in the name of some hollow God-concept which
makes whatever it is we do the right thing to do. And "civilisation".
Like a big European pestilent sore that burst open and spilt its
contents all over the globe for over half a millennium.  

With all my honest pride at the truly great and civilised things we've
done for humankind as well (any of which I'm sure I will remember one of
these days - could someone please help remind me - oh, yeah, wasn't
there something with basic human rights and freedom of expression? You
know, after we killed, ripped off and/or enslaved all the locals
everywhere we landed? While bashing each others Imperial heads in? In
the name of Christianity?) I cannot seem to find a more adequate analogy
for the European role in world politics of the last half millennium. 

Anyway, this power domineering (note: not balance) us current and former
Western-Europeans now have to maintain at all cost, otherwise everybody
else is going to get mad at us back. Stuck in a full hate circle, and a
very unpractical, unpleasant and cost-intensive one too, for all parties
concerned. And before us it was the Romans and the Egyptians and the
Phoenicians etc. etc. etc. Their empires all eventually went down the
respective drains. So I don't see why you're so UPSET, John. It's a
natural progression. After the USA/Europe it may be the Asians who are
going to be the global bastards. Or the Latin Americans or the Africans.
Who knows. 
> US special envoy to the Balkans Richard Holbrooke has admitted, in effect,
> that the real reason for the bombing is "the credibility of Nato" - in
> other words, the credibility of American power. Since the end of the Cold
> War, the US has sought new reasons for maintaining Nato, which ensures US
> control over European military forces and Nato's usefulness for imperial
> action outside Europe.
> Since 1990, Washington has pushed for Nato to be used "out of area" and to
> act without UN approval: in other words, to usurp the role of the UNas the
> world's "peacekeeper".
Well, and doesn't that make perfect sense? We all know, it has at least
been chewed on over and over and over on Nettime, that the US war heads
have to justify their existence, expenditure and the CO2 they emit
abroad while the home front is burning. 

Your woman Levinsky has just publicly had the world's most overrated
'love' affair in the history of humankind, which has cost the nation
billions of taxpayers' dollars. Have to disappoint the right-wing
love-haters in the "US Government", but he's not the first Prez to have
an affair and he won't be the last one too, I bet. 

And don't give me this line about the Prez lying to the nation. Every
single Senator in that whole process would have lied at exactly the same
moment given the same set of circumstances. Don't get me wrong, I'm not
in favour of extramarital affairs but this was nothing Hillary couldn't
have handled herself, Senate. None Of Your Biz. It is NOT rocket
science, you don't need entire hearings for it that hold up the far more
urgent biz of governing in such a way that the innocent are protected
and the country is served. 

It is only sex, which was probably -wild guess- invented by God Himself,
since 1) everything else is, if I have to believe the Pope, the Bible
and the Christian Coalition, 2) He is clearly no fool, and 3) "it" has
been around since the beginning of time. So therefore it is perfectly
normal, acceptable and understandable, Senate, NATO, that like everybody
else, That Woman, That Miss Levinsky, wants some at times. But not all
the time because too much of anything gets boring. As you have all
proved quite conclusively at the expense of the US taxpayer and the
entire R.O.W. who were not remotely interested in anything to do with
Bill Clinton's private life or your pathetic excuse for US domestic

I personally believe everyone should keep "it" as saucy as they want, in
mutual respect and tastefully out of sight of those like me who are not
interested in other people's sex lives please. When you're doing it
respectfully with a person you, you know, "love", I have found, Senate,
CIA & Co, that sex actually makes for perfectly healthy adult
relaxation. You should all try it some time. It feels good, keeps you
off the street and you don't need drugs or alcohol to enjoy it. Nor oil,
bombs or rockets... Tip: it even makes your brain or what passes for it
function better if you go about it the right way and don't overdo it,
mister Public Persecutor-Person. 

Remember Bill never even inhaled on that single one joint he smoked
either? I now finally believe him. No matter how many precious scarce
governing hours and tax dollars these American 'adult(ery) politicians'
spent on having described to them in tedious detail what Levinsky did
with Clinton: it counts for Exactly Nothing, niente, nada, zilch, zip,
in most circles of friends in most post-modern countries. Not even a
minor blip on the Romantic Richter Scale. Not impressive, rather
pathetic, hardly worth mentioning as an 'Also Ran' over a beer in the
pub before moving on to Soccer Scores or Shopping Matters. 

Hey whatshisnameagain, that public prosecutor: Ever heard of the
expression "Get A Life?" Thanks to your hard involved work using all
these tax dollars to prove Exactly Nothing in the hope that it would get
rid of this particular President, That Woman, That Miss Levinsky's face
is now printed on African buses. She is running around promoting her
book about Exactly Nothing as far away as Russia, for crying out loud. 

Has my blessing, too. She never actually wanted to go public with
Exactly Nothing. Hillary could have been spared this humiliating ordeal
and could have just dealt with this issue privately where it belongs.
Monica only told Exactly Nothing in confidence to one friend who then
proved she wasn't a friend after all. But someone who'se sordid salary
is paid with US taxpayers money in order to squeal about Exactly
Nothing. Then y'all forced Monica to go on camera with it and now she's
doing it for herself.  

The thing is, see, the US Government have a problem with all these
trigger-happy militia- and religious right freaks at Rush Limbaughs back
and call. Those are just jumping up and down with Buckets
O'Misinformation, wanting witch hunts on abortion medics and large scale
racist idiotry all over again at home. With the blessing of the gun
lobby and crack dealers. Which very serious domestic problems the US war
heads are very unkeen to even tackle in a remotely constructive way
before it gets out of hand like it did in Waco and Oklahoma City. 

Ask Ophrah, she IS trying to tackle some of these minor potential
domestic racist apocalypses preventatively, and is therefore in my
humble view the REAL President of the United States. (Ophrah, may I
polish your shoes?)

Anyway, in order to properly stick their heads in the sand and run away
from their, in my view very urgent, responsibilities at home, the US war
heads have GOT to get out and bomb the Balkan. 

The only place where God comes into it, John, is where NATOYS 'R US
thank God that there is something resembling a bad villain to go after
with the whole posse and the latest expensive gadgets from Smokesville. 


> After all, even the UN Security Council, which
> Washington dominates, requires resolutions before UNforces can take
> military action.

When drawing parallels with how the Gulf War started, the combination of
the words 'resolution' (if you recall the true meaning of the word) and
'UN' in one and the same sentence would be slightly laughable. If these
unconvincing unresolved un-resolutions indeed had not cost so many
childrens' lives.

> This has not proved an insurmountable problem in the past. The slaughter
> in the Gulf "war"  in 1991 was legitimised by the UN after then
> USsecretary of state James Baker travelled the world, offering the biggest
> bribes in history to potential military allies.

Who not stupid nor backward nor powerless, but are all fully consenting,
fully responsible grownups too, who knew precisely what they were
getting into. So they shouln't start whining about the consequences

> In Cairo, Baker bribed the Egyptians with $14-billion, which wiped out a
> third of the country's foreign debt. Turkey received $8- billion in
> military gifts and a low-cost International Monetary Fund loan of $1,5-
> billion. In return for China's support, the USarranged for China's return
> to diplomatic legitimacy following the massacre in Tiananmen Square.
> Within a week, $114-million of "freed-up" World Bank money was deposited
> in Beijing.

It is of course kinda hard to expect these nations to "Just Say No" to
the dollar heroin, John. (Insert call to write off developing world debt
as of 01-01-00) I assume you VISITED these places? I visited some of 'em
and they're POOR and as morally corrupted and wacked out of any kind of
natural power balance as the US (or the UK or my own post-colonial
country for that matter). Albeit perhaps that this corruption expresses
itself in different ways than it does in Western capitalist democracies. 

Hey and guess what. I ran into some extremely civilised, nice, honest,
friendly, tolerant, warm, charitable, peace-loving and hospitable
Muslims whom I am very proud and honored to have been the house guest

And really. How are you going to blame a totally morally corrupt nation
like the US for burning a candle for a totally but differently morally
corrupt nation like China? They're shit scared of China, John, therefore
they'll keep them pacifyin' dollars flow. Representatives from all
Western governments tuck away a few hollow words on human rights now and
then while they accompany groups of business representatives on
aquisition tours through China. It's Western Foreign Policy.
> However, these days, having attacked Iraq on and off for eight years, the
> UScan no longer rely on the open support of conservative Muslim states.
> The imperial godfather is impatient to complete its main project following
> the collapse of its former rival, the Soviet Union - to secure an oil
> "protectorate" all the way from the Gulf to the Caspian Sea, thus
> controlling most of the world's principal energy reserves. With this aim,
> the UShas imposed crushing economic sanctions on the uppity Saddam, a
> former American favourite, thus preventing him from selling Iraq's oil on
> the open market and further undermining the economies of the current US
> favourites in the region, notably Saudi Arabia.

Well, don't worry, oil's past history mate. El Nino and climate change
will take care of that one. Shell is already getting the (S)hell into

In the mean time, in Afghanistan, the Taliban-boys rabidly rage on in
their insane intifadah against the women whose very bodies they were
born from. Those women have no hope of any helpful NATOYS airstrikes,
because they're not close to Western Europe and don't register
positively on any Western economic scales. Tony Blair, where are you

They're old news too, by now - all the media are concentrated on Kosovo.
Afghan women with PHD's cannot show even their eyes for fear of violence
from any man who deems it appropriate to beat them, and are begging in
the streets of Kabul. They have to live with the knowledge that the
Taliban can continue with the silent consent of all Muslim states
everywhere. Those conservative Muslim states you mention are not known
to lift any fingers to guard basic human rights in their own Islamic
house but feel very morally superior over the evil corrupted West all
the same. 
> Nato is to be the policeman of the new American oil protectorate, and we
> can expect to see more Nato (mainly Anglo-American)  violence in support
> of the newly charted imperial hegemony. It is a bitter irony for the Serb
> regime that, while the US regards Slobodan Milosevic as useful and is
> opposed to an independent Kosovo, the attack on his country is too good an
> opportunity to pass up.
> It demonstrates to the world what Nato is really for, in the same way that
> the 1991 Gulf "war" was as much a demonstration of American power when US
> dominance appeared under serious challenge from both the Japanese and
> Europeans, as it was an act of punishment to one of the US's client
> tyrants for stepping across a line that the West had drawn in the sand of
> the region.
> The Nato attacks will kill civilian Serbs, who have nothing to do with
> Kosovo. They are "collateral damage" and "unfortunately expendable", as an
> American general once famously said in Vietnam.

Yes, John. Now this killing of the innocent bit, as you may have
noticed, is a famous general trait of every war that ever was so I find
it a bit surprising that it would surprise anyone. That particular
general is "unfortunately totally expendable" too when his time comes.
Like any other general or any Milosovic, or anybody else, to the God we
all keep dragging into it. Whenever we see a useful role for something
like a God-concept, in terms of taking the responsibility for all the
rubbish we're causing but don't quite want to deal with.
I'm not a religious freak, I just believe in the balanced destructive
and regenerative powers of Nature. And NATO, and Milosovic: those powers
are stronger than any low-level Uranium-enhanced bomzzz. Ever seen a
volcanic eruption? Ever felt an Earthquake? At the very least I assume
you've seen Pulp Fiction -ah luuuuv Sam Jackson- because that is how us
modern kids (lots of whom thankfully never had to listen to any
thunder-preachers) know about the old 'and I shall strike down upon thee
with great vengeance and furious anger' quote. Big fat Oscars to Sam for
the Jules character. 

And apparently, (I've not actually read the whole book in much detail
and I am someone who is interested in religions from all corners of the
world, not just Western ones) it says somewhere in the Bible "thou shalt
not kill". As I interpret it, this is some kind of natural law that goes
above and beyond all Western human laws (most of which say so too,
except in Texas). This goes for EVERYBODY, from whichever religious
faith, crack dealing street gang or military department. 

And John, not to worry about the domination-thing either: it apparently
also says somewhere in da Bible that at the point where man thinks he
has gained complete mastery over the earth, this thing called "Our
Judgement" will come down on it and "We cause it to become like a field
mown down as if there had been no yesterday." 

Pretty rigorous stuff. I honestly didn't make that up myself, I read it
on the cover of The Ecologist magazine issue of Sept/Oct 1998 about
genetic engineering and Monsanto. I wonder whether the royal "We" in
this bit actually stands for some kind of unity based on equality
between a Male God-force and a Female Goddess-force. You know,
yin/yang-balance-type thing. Totally free-style speculation of course.

So really, John, unlike you I am not too worried about the war and the
mess, I think it'll be cleared up completely at some point in the not to
distant future. Courtesy of immensely delicately balanced forces we have
seriously messed with for very long now but have no real control over as
humans. Unless we use the awesome power of love, compassion and

I know, can't help it, I am pretty much a total hippy. The passover from
99 to 00 will probably be as big a deal as the world's action towards
helping the women of Afghanistan. All this Biblical doomsday thinking is
probalbly just my own irrational apocalyptic millennium-feeling. 

I actually sure hope something will happen because if God does nothing
we're stuck with all THIS and have to clean it up ourselves... 

> The Americans are not guarded about their aims. Last year US Secretary of
> State Madeleine Albright was asked on TV: "We have heard half-a-million
> children have died [as a result of sanctions against Iraq]. That is more
> children than died at Hiroshima ... Is the price worth it?"
> Albright replied: "We think the price is worth it."

"Ooops, Sorry, We Made A Mistake, Please Let Us Help You Clean Up The
Mess We Made In Your Country And Forgive Us" is the kind proud and
respectable UN resolution headline quote you will probably never hear
from any official worldly politicians' mouth anywhere. If that was what
you were actually hoping for, John. 

I personally should think those are in order here to begin with. Not
only from Albright, but also from Saddam Hussein towards the Kurds and
the people of Kuwait and from Milosovic to all the peoples he's
initiated aggression to in the course of his carreer. And from all those
other aggressors everywhere. 

I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for them to come around, I am
going to put those boxes with clothes and bandages and stuff together
for the Kosovo people now. And try to do my little bit to counter racist
sentiments in my country which is getting more and more flooded with
refugees from a lot of places. 

Thanks John, for all your great and scrupulous reporting work putting
together the full picture of what is behind the more recent world wars. 

And all the rest of you: Peace NOW, Dammit! There is so much WORK to do! 

Until then, a hopeful prayer -in lieu of something more tangible within
my reach- for Kosovo and all children everywhere. And boxes. Love 'n
bandages indeed, American (wild guess) David in Japan.


"People that are really very Quayle can get into historic positions and
have a sensitive impact on tremendous weirdness."


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