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<nettime> Letter from Washington
cisler on Sat, 24 Apr 1999 18:37:09 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Letter from Washington


April 22

I arrived in Washington in advance of the troops. I came to read
some grant applications for community networking projects, give a
couple of talks, and attend a few meetings on networking, but my
plans changed because NATO is observing its 50th anniversary here
in the U.S. capital. Before the war began, they would have called
it a celebration. Now the public ceremonies have been cancelled
and a temporary restricted zone has been set up.  It includes the
White House, the Mall, and the Federal Triangle which includes the
new Reagan office building. Only NATO dignitaries and their
entourages may enter. In order to secure this NATO protectorate
over 90 thousand federal employees have been sent home, and many
businesses and non-profits have followed suit. Security personnel
will have magnetometers on street corners for pedestrians, and
motor traffic will have to take other routes. 

Security and police officials claim they are ready for any kind of
attack: firearms, chemicals, biological.  In the Reagan office
building they are rolling out a huge sky blue carpet and setting
up camera scaffolding for NATO TV which will run throughout the
weekend with no commentary by any talking heads.  On Tuesday,
April 19, the dining area for visitors--a "food court" with many
fast food stands--was emptied by a fire alarm. Clearly, repeated
phone calls could easily mess up the festivities. At what point
would the authorities say the calls were bogus and not worth
emptying the massive building?  But, as the bell rang, I left
along with all the others, and I passed by one stand that had a
large poster:

"Happy 50th Anniversary NATO!  Offering the world -a moment of
hope -a message of peace All American Donuts salutes you!"

Most of the dignitaries will be in limousine motorcades. There is
no chance they'd arrive in the Washington taxi fleet which is
manned by survivors of the Nigerial civil war, Pujabi farmers,
Eritrean graduate students, Salvadorian soldiers, Afghan
mujhaddin, and Haitian refugees. Survivors of far off wars and
conflicts would not be allowed to ferry dignitaries for this
event.

April 24

Washinton and Federal police gave permits for 3 public gatherings
on the edge of the restricted area: Albanians in Lafayette park,
Schiller Institute (Lyndon Larouche) gathering at the Air and
Space Museum, and a peace group opposed tothe bombing meeting near
the Washington monument. The Washington Post reported very small
groups attending the last one.

I chose to go to a free event sponsored by the U.S. Institute of
Peace <www.usip.org>  "Crisis or Stability in the Balkans" where
invited scholars and government leaders met to discuss the
spreading crisis, the future of Serbia, and "building the
foundation for stability."  It was supported partly by the
Bulgarian embassy, and President Petar Stoyanov of Bulgaria gave
the keynote. He clearly wants Bulgaria to join NATO, and for the
Balkans to be part of Europe. He stressed the economic effects of
the current war and how much each country near Serbia was
suffering.

Andrei Plesu, the Romanian foreign minister, said that his country
was losing 30 to 50 million dollars a week in lost trade (ships
stranded on the Danube, etc), and he as well as others commented
on how tough Milosovic has been and how the "rediscovery of the
orthodox brotherhood" has lent him the support of neighboring
populations, if not their governments. He also asked that a
generous post-war development plan be worked out, not just for
Kosovo, but for the whole region.  Pleisu commented, "When you
don't have anything else, when you are poor, you have national
identity, and it gets more emphasis." He added, that "Democracy
must be tempting" implying that in many cases it was not because
of the economic hardship that has followed.

Albanian President Hexhep Meidani, a former quantum physicist,
said his multi-ethnic country is threatened by Milosovic. He felt
that ethnicity as a basis for statehood was the most dangerous
idea in this whole mess. He said that the idea of a greater
Albania was just Serbian probaganda. We need "rapid economic
development to make these feelings go away." 

All of the speakers, including others from Bosnia, Croatia, and
Slovenia stressed the economic and political problems and did not
talk as much about the military action nor the brutal activities
of the Serbian forces and paramilitary groups that have resulted
in the massive exodus.

Representatives from Serbia and Macedonia were absent. There was,
however, an impassioned talk by Sonja Biserko, a Serb who is chair
of the Helsinki committe for Human Rights in Serbia. Other
speakers were from Montenegro,Croatia, the Jewish community of
Bosnia-Herzegovina, the U.S., Poland, and the U.K.

On a side table were handouts: speeches, position papers, and
country information from Romania and Croatia. Many of the USIP
papers are online. I picked up a few including the June 1998
special report, "Kosovo Dialogue: Too Little, Too Late" where an
expert panel looked at probable outcomes to the festering
problems. 

"Possible Outcome 1: 'Serbianization' This would entail the forced
removal of some or all of the Albanian populaton and its
replacement by the Serbs. <This> was considered the least likely
of the options discussed because of expected resistance by the KLA
and the international community..."

So nobody had a decent crystal ball, and few at this conference
were willing to make any bold predictions. Most were describing
the effects of Serbian policies and the NATO response. Andrezsj
Karkoszka, former Polish Deputy Minister of Defense talked about
the major problem caused by "criminals and failed states" (not
just Serbia).  He said that NATO must be thinking about a long
term entry plan, not an exit plan.

Morton Abramowitz, Council on Foreign Relations, summed up his
view of the presentations during the day: Little mention of the
refugee problem, no idea how to get rid of Milosovic,whether he
should be tried as a war criminal, or what to do with/about the
KLA. Long term, how will all these peoples live together after the
bombing stops. What will Peace be?

Afterword

One of the projects at USIP is to assemble an archive of all the
peace agreements from around the world. That would seem to be a
simple project and one that would be of great use to students,
soldiers, politicians, and historians.  However, it is proving to
be very difficult.  First, what constitutes a peace agreement? The
1996 accords in Guatemala: yes The agreement to end the
Peru-Ecuador border conflict: maybe The Rambouillet plan: who
knows?  The Sudan Peace agreement: No because it was just
progaganda by the Khartoum government.

So the first question is "what is peace" and what is the taxonomy
of the political documents that are the basis for it?

Secondly, the problem of getting authentic copies or electronic
originals has been very hard. Some organizations like the UN have
*copyrighted* some accords and want a yearly fee to post them
online. Others are just not obtainable.  Some have never been
translated.  Here's a challenge that relates to the current war in
Yugoslavia:  try to find a full copy of the Rambouillet proposal.
Very few people have it. Most diplomats are working from
*newspaper* accounts of the agreement (if they are looking at it at
all).   Information is definitely not free and it's not flowing as
it should in the time of war.  And it has nothing to do with
secrecy, but more with turf battles, ideas about ownership, and
obscurity.

Steve Cisler Washington, DC April 23, 1999

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