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<nettime> The European pariah (fwd)
Slobodan Markovic on Sun, 23 May 1999 18:56:19 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> The European pariah (fwd)



[originally by Dejan Sretenovic (dejansr {AT} yubc.net) to Syndicate --sloba]

=============== Original message text ================

The European pariah

Few days ago, we got forwarded on the list an article entitled
"Milosevic's Willing Executioners" from the The New Republic by Stacy
Sulliven. It discusses a popular issue these days - "a lack of guilt
within the Serbs".

Stacy Sulliven is, obviously, an experienced and well informed Balkan
correspondent and the most of her's observations (Srebrenica, civil
protests, sense of victimization) are indisputable. But sometimes, when
trying to explain reasons for Serbian indifference towards Serbs crimes
against humanity committed in Bosnia and Kosovo, she fells deeply into
anthropological simplifications with racist overtones. The title of the
article speaks for itself. She is quite aware of the fact that "the very
notion of collective guilt is uncomfortable" with the concept of the
international war crimes tribunal which is based on the assumption that
only individuals, not whole societies, are responsible for the crimes
against humanity. But, she simply couldn't resist to trace certain
correspondences between the conduct of ordinary Germans towards the Jews
and of ordinary Serbs towards Albanians. Collective guilt does not exist
as a notion in the international law and, as we have experienced from
the Hague tribunal's institution of legal actions against war criminals
in ex-Yugoslavia, individual involvement in each crime is traceable and
measurable. The same procedure has been applied to all those Serbs,
Croats and Muslims who ordered or executed massacres against civilians
or PoW. But, collective responsibility, whether described in terms of
indifference, silence or denial is a complex question to deal with.
German nation, which brought Hitler to power through elections, has not
been put on the trial for Nazi crimes, but Hitler's associates and
responsible military men couldn't escape from it. Even today, Germans
treat Nazi past with respectable self-consciousness thus making post war
generations fully informed on this dark period of German history. But,
the spectre of crimes against humanity is back on the stage again with
NATO aggression on Yugoslavia and Shroeder's administration shares
responsibility for it, together with political leaders from other NATO
countries. And no one is to blame ordinary German or American citizens
for being indifferent, silent or supportive in this situation. It is up
to each nation involved in this war to measure the responsibility of its
own decision makers and their "willing executioners". Besides, there's
Hague tribunal to conduct an investigation and bring to justice those
accused for war crimes. But, it is hard to believe that anyone from NATO
countries involved in the war will be brought for trial. Allied Forces
committed numerous crimes against Iraqi civilians under the mandate of
UN and yet no one is called responsible. Collateral damage is never
accounted for war crime. It seems that UN preceded NATO in adoption of
the old Macchiavelistic rule: the end justifies the means.

Even today sober and well informed people in the West are aware of the
fact that exodus of Albanians started with and not before the
aggression. I remember the press conference by Milan Milutinovic,
President of Serbia, given at the Yugoslav embassy in Paris, after the
failure of Paris peace talks. Asked by foreign journalist to comment on
the assumption that amassment of Serbian forces in Kosovo aims to launch
an attack on KLA, he confirmed, adding that previous agreements between
Yugoslavia and international institutions will cease to exist in case of
NATO attack "We have the right to defend our country by all possible
means", he said, "including the elimination of terrorists". The
humanitarian catastrophe was on the way and all those familiar with the
situation cannot claim they could not have foreseen it. Like, Gen.
Wesley Clark who openly expressed his "fear" that the attack on
Yugoslavia might provoke Serbian revenge over Albanians in Kosovo. It
looks like Milosevic acted as Clinton's "willing executioner". But, the
dock at Hague tribunal has been booked in advance exclusively for
Yugoslav president and his associates and not for NATO generals and
those KLA guerillas responsible for atrocities against Serbian civilians
(including ethnical cleansing of Serbs from the territories KLA used to
control). This policy of double war crimes standards has already
undermined the authority of the Hague tribunal in the eyes of small
countries with no influence on the international affairs.

After total failure of NATO propaganda aiming to raise revolt in Serbia
against Milosevic's policy of ethnical cleansing, the satanization of
the whole nation started to grow. First days of war, Robin Cook stated
that the opposition in Serbia does not exist at all since true opponents
of the regime have already fled the country and the rest of the
population obviously stick up to Milosevic. Many Serbian liberal
intellectuals and journalists protesting against the aggression
experienced accusations for "changing sides" and "supporting the
regime". Similar nonsense appeared in the press and Sulliven's article
is a good example. It was easy to persuade public opinion abroad in
collective guilt of the whole nation since Serbs have already gained the
reputation of bad guys in previous wars on the ex-Yugoslav soil.
Therefore, speculations about the scope of atrocities against Albanians
are in many cases argumented with the remembrance of the Serbian crimes
in Bosnian war. So called "peace concerts" in Belgrade and other cities
especially got on the nerves of those "amazed" with Serbian lack of
responsibility. Do they know that employees in the state companies were
forced to attend these concerts during working hours? Do they know that
musicians could not say "no" when invited to perform? Do they know that
the majority of the audience consisted of teenagers coming to relax and
listen to the music of their pop idols? Never mind, singing while the
bombs fall down and people are brutally expelled from their homes might
be immoral or perverse, but to express "regrets" for civilian casualties
is, of course, a matter of good manners. NATO's strategy of collective
punishment and scolding of disobedient Serbian nation certainly
corresponds to the ongoing media satanization.. But, we have to bear in
mind that this policy of collective punishment has been invented by UN
when introducing sanctions to Iraq and Yugoslavia. The impact of the
sanctions to the regimes of these countries was minor, but ordinary
people suffered instead.

US inducement of Kurds and Shia groups in Iraq to rebel against Saddam
Hussein immediately after the Gulf War was the perfect example of using
the interior conflicts in the service of US interests. When Saddam's
forces crushed the rebellion in blood, US accused Iraqi president for
the crime against humanity. Maybe NATO played the same card when
launching the propaganda war against Serbs, but, fortunately, there was
no response. The bombing of Radio Television of Serbia building in
downtown Belgrade, when innocent people (mostly technical crew) were
killed, reveals the weakness of NATO efforts to put under the control
the public opinion in Serbia. According to NATO representatives, RTS was
to blame for concealing the truth about the ethnical cleansing on Kosovo
and for spreading lies about NATO losses and other facts of war.
Therefore, RTS has been proclaimed a legitimate target. But NATO leaders
do not understand that Serbian homogeneous resistance to the aggression
has not been shaped by RTS propaganda, but by the real destructive
effects of war experienced by each individual and in each part of the
country. From the major Yugoslav exponent of media war, RTS turned into
a victim of real war. Overtaking of B92 seems like a civilized act of
shutting the mouth of dissonant voices in comparison to measures applied
by NATO. From the very outbreak of the war, NATO planes used to drop
from the air leaflets with propaganda messages together with bombs and
missiles, but instead of regaining Serbian consciousness (as they
expected) they produced only counter effects. These poorly designed
leaflets, printed in Cyrillic, with grammatical errors,  were openly
shown and mocked on RTS prime news. One does not have to be a specialist
for propaganda war to realize which truth prevails in such
circumstances. It is the truth of the real experience of air raids,
beyond nationalist concepts of victimization and corresponding media
constructs. There are other examples (Madeleine Albright addressing to
Serbs in Serbian, NATO radio and TV programs in Serbian broadcasted from
the air, etc.) showing that NATO underestimates the intelligence of the
whole nation.

Speaking in terms of media coverage, we could say that NATO has no moral
credibility to criticize RTS reports on war, since global media like CNN
or BBC turned overtly into NATO propaganda apparatuses. At least,
foreign audience can get an idea why RTS has been proclaimed a
legitimate target. Both Yugoslav and NATO media prefer emotions over
information and it is known fact that manipulation with emotions can
produce immediate and much stronger reactions from the audience than
manipulation with pure information. Once the images and stories of
Kosovar refugees inundated TV screens, there was no help for already
distorted image of Serbs abroad. The one who dominates war on the
battlefield, dominates media war too. Therefore, NATO managed to produce
desirable media effects and thus obtain wide public support for the
Operation Allied Force and its political and military goals. The
"humanitarian cause" is the best excuse for the war Clinton's
administration could offer to American public when American interests
were not directly endangered. Americans are pretty touchy when human
rights and humanitarian issues are on the agenda and those accused for
the violation of these sacred principles must be irreparable villains.
American media (especially broadcasted) as well as the audience have no
time nor concentration for nuances, inexplicable foreign affairs and
local conflicts rooted in the remote history unfamiliar to ordinary
American. While local affairs, like Lewinsky case, are usually discussed
day and night, foreign affairs need prompt and clear images and
information on the events. Simplifications are inevitable in such
mediascape and The White House stimulated the creation of black and
white image of the Kosovo conflict in order to justify its policy in the
most effective way.

It is clear that the main objective of NATO intervention has not been
the protection of Kosovar Albanians but the installation of NATO
domination world wide. On several occasions, President Clinton described
Kosovo as an example of policy in which America's values and interests
are intertwined. "If we can convince people to bridge these tensions,
we've served our interests as well as our values" said Clinton recently.
In other words, American interest is to spread American values all over
the world and all those who oppose will bear the suitable consequences.
As explained in an article published in Wall Street Journal three weeks
ago, Clinton's administration instructs "the Russians and the Japanese
on their economics, the Chinese on their politics, the Iraqis on their
military, the Serbs on their provinces, the Latin Americans on drugs and
the UN on reformat is a foreign policy of sermons and sanctimony
accompanied by the brandishing of Tomahawks". This policy resembles the
policy of imperialist powers in 19th and early 20th century
demonstrating that the means of humiliation of lesser nations have
changed but the very idea of moral superiority still serves as a cover
for the imposition of American interests all over the world. Boris Buden
has recently ("Saving private Havel") given us an example of servile and
over enthusiastic adoption of US democratic values through his analysis
of Vaclav Havel's presidential address given in Washington two years
ago. When saying that these values "should be adopted today by all
cultures, all nations, as a condition of their survival", Czech
president made the crucial point: adoption of the political model
imposed by super power gives guarantees for the survival and prosperity
of small nations. But Havel's pragmatism is not necessary a model of
political behaviour to be adopted by other leaders and nations.
Milosevic's policy represents the opposite model and therefore
Yugoslavia has been chosen by NATO leaders for the punitive expedition
aiming to carry out American political will and set an example for the
others. Located in Europe, in the unstable Balkans, with notorious
leader and bloody Kosovo conflict, Yugoslavia turned to be a perfect
proving ground for such demonstration of power. The new world order has
been made transparent in Gulf War, but this time NATO demonstrates power
for itself diminishing at the same time the role of UN as a control and
negotiating mechanism in the international conflicts. NATO is about to
reach the point of absolute control over international affairs, whether
through diplomacy, sanctions, military operations, economic dependency,
etc. Millennium bug is knocking on real doors too and the future
development of this global crisis will show us if there is a solution or
not.

"Lotta people won't get no justice tonight" sang The Clash long time
ago. Especially not the Serbs passing through the hardest moment in
national history since Kosovo Battle in 14th century. The circle of
history is fulfilled on the same spot where started. And who is to
blame? A difficult and complex question to give a simple and prompt
answer.Whatever the outcome and the consequences of this war, a day will
come when this nation will have to face its own convictions, decisions
and responsibility. It will be much more difficult to improve the image
of European pariah in the eyes of the world. Injustice done to Serbs
cannot be measured by the injustice done by Serbs. Each injustice should
be measured in its own terms.

Dejan Sretenovic


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