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<nettime> The War for the Television by IVO SKORIC
Indira Kajosevic on Fri, 28 May 1999 19:15:55 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> The War for the Television by IVO SKORIC

The War for the Television

The British-American war against Serbia (it is NATO against Yugoslavia = on
paper, but it is actually Brits and Yankees who wage the war against Serb
nationalist = government) can and, perhaps, shall be viewed as hopefully the
last in the string of wars of = Yugoslav succession. Former Yugoslavia was
cursed by the constitutional = frame for ethnic pluralism in the region with no
tradition of political = pluralism. Political squabbles between post-Tito
leaders were therefore = explained as ethnic tensions. With tacit approval of
the international = community the political leader of the largest ethnic group
in former = Yugoslavia begun in late eighties his crusade to subjugate the
entire = country to his rule. From then on, a decade and four wars, hundred =
thousand body bags and two million homeless later, he lost both = Yugoslavia
and the foreign respect.

Yugoslav Army generals should not be surprised by the NATO campaign = tactics.
They used it as aggressors in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and = Kosovo
themselves: destroy the bridges, roads and airports; cut the = communications;
burn the fuel depots, cut the electricity and water = supply; and most
importantly capture the TV transmitters. The only = difference is that now they
are the defenders and the weaker party, = helpless against the far superior
enemy - in the same way the citizens = of Sarajevo were helpless against them.
Also, fortunately, NATO is more = P.R. conscious than Yugoslav Army, so macabre
sights of disemboweled = populace are happening only as a mistake, not as a
matter of tactical = design.

NATO is doing what Yugoslavs (Slovenians, Bosnians, Croats, Albanians, =
Macedonians, Montenegrins, Hungarians and Serbs) should have done long ago by =
themselves: gang up on Milosevic and his police, army and propaganda = machine.
Unfortunately they could not reach the level of unity necessary = to take on
Milosevic - largely due to their misguided reliance more on = the
"international community" than on each other. There, of course, are = downsides
of having NATO do the job. NATO intervention weakens the = entire region in
several ways. The huge amounts of ordnance being = delivered across Adriatic
and neighboring countries destroys any = prospects for tourism this summer in
the region (and Croatia was hoping = that this would be the year of return of
the tourist industry). The = countries that were accepted into NATO barely a
few weeks before the = strikes, are worried that they were being used (Hungary
and Czech = Republic). In the countries that were not accepted, yet their =
governments actively aspire to it, there is a growing opposition against = NATO
and the U.S. (Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria). Macedonia and Albania = (the last
on the list of possible inclusion into NATO) now, due to their prominent =
involvement in the NATO war against Yugoslavia, demand NATO protection
afterwards. European = allies are tired. Russia and China are recalcitrant.
Though, China is = now busy updating its nuclear weapons with the U.S.
technology, that = they suddenly discovered after a decade since acquiring it.
Of course, = the U.S. and U.K. can finish this war on their own, but the U.S. =
Congress lacks the zeal and commitment to either give a go-ahead or to = cancel
the operation. Destroyed bridges over Danube cut traffic and = trade on which
economies of Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and = Bulgaria depended.=20

The we-are-killing-no-civilians tactics proved to be a cynical P.R. plot = with
growing number of accidents, mishaps, wrong maps, guidance errors. = Taking out
the Serb power supply, first temporarily with graphite bombs, and now
permanently with regular = ordnance, made people question the Madeleine
Albright pledge that this = "is not a war against Serbian people." Stacy
Sullivan, journalist who = spent a few years reporting from Sarajevo (which may
help explain her = apparent lack of sympathy for the Serbs), went further
paraphrasing = Goldhagen's "Hitler's Willing Executioners" in her article for
the New = Republic recently -  "Milosevic's Willing Executioners" -arguing that
= Serbs did not do their best in opposing Milosevic's chauvinist, =
expansionist, war-mongering position. Power supply is the typical = dual-use
target. However, it is of arguable importance for military, = since the
military usually has back-up generators. Military will be more = hurt therefore
with destruction of the fuel production. Power supply = cut-off will on he
other hand hurt civilians more with the crime rate = rise in the cities
(general consequence of a black-out), with factories = and offices closed, with
hospitals having to rely only on the back-up = supplies, etc. Also, with no
electricity, NATO propaganda will not be = able to reach Serbs, too.

Allegedly, Croatia (which along Yugoslavia, Byelorussia and =
Bosnia-Hercegovina is the only other European country non-member of the
Partnership For Peace) sold = some power to Serbia, but cut it off on American
demand. Then the story = about NATO placing missiles around Dubrovnik appeared
as a leak in = Italian newspapers. NATO denied the story meekly. Croatia, which
just a = few years ago was in the war with Serbia, and which would then welcome
= NATO bombing Serbian targets, is now behaving curiously reconciliatory = with
its former tormentor: for years nudged by the "international = community"
(which always means the dozen of filthy rich western states = that aspire to
control the world), Croatia established the diplomatic = relations with
Yugoslavia (this was one of the conditions for Croatia's = acceptance to the
Council of Europe) and now still has the Yugoslav = Embassy in the bucolic
upscalish Zagreb neighborhood - while most of the = "international community"
members expelled Yugoslav diplomats out.

Croatia and Slovenia now look like relatively successful projects. = Croatians
do not need visas for most of the Europe, and Slovenes do not = need visa even
for the U.S. Capitals, Zagreb and Ljubljana respectively, = look "European",
although a little bohemian. The West is present on = every corner with
boutiques, banks, restaurants, variety stores - retail = and service industry,
and it is also present in graffiti on my former = high school walls and it is
also increasingly present with the number of = homeless sleepers in Zagreb
night buses. I felt like being on a New York = subway. Although here (in NY)
nobody comes to the car shouting: "Wake up = soldiers!" (two teens pulled that
prank on the bus in Zagreb that I took = around 3 am). The truth behind the
facade is however quite different = between Slovenia and Croatia. While
Slovenia built the economy in which = many former members of alternative found
place and some of them even = became relatively rich, the Croatian economy is
still in ruins and the = structures that brought up the possibility of the
democratic change are = largely marginalized.  A country cannot survive on
retail, service and = foreign franchise. Most of the industry is unproductive
and large = factories are being shut down by the government and industries sold
to = HDZ supportive profiteers in the Reaganomics leverage buyout pyramid
schemes mostly outlawed in the States by now. That = created dozen tycoons:
unbelievably rich who effectively own or produce nothing. The main = problem of
Croatia shifted from press freedoms (although there are over = 60 journalists
in court on ridiculous charges of causing emotional pain = to a public figure
by telling the truth - by that account Clinton would = have to sue close to a
million people for Monica scandal), ethnic = tolerance (there are less Serbs
around, so the imperative to get rid of = them weakened) and human rights - to
economic crime: from $8B in foreign = loans, $5B apparently vanished to the
private foreign accounts. The only = healthy part of Croatian economy,
according to one well informed source, = is the strip of small privately owned
factories between Zagreb and = Samobor, not enough to float the entire country,

Zagreb looks definitely decadent. Everything seems to be there. Yet it = seems
to have come out of nowhere. And the place is inhabited by cynics. = My
generation, who grew up in the wake of the Yugoslavia's demise, = disillusioned
by communism and not yet exposed to nationalism, with no = developed set of
values, a generation of my younger half brother, who = grew up exposed to the
war propaganda, with equally ridiculous values, = based upon Nazi ideology,
which, fortunately, are largely not practiced, = and the current late
teenagers, who feel betrayed by the new Croatia on = most every promise (jobs,
housing, Europe, etc.), finding their niche in = a post-modernist way: they can
be big on church, or they can big on = Hillfiger clothes, or they can be big on
techno music. Anything goes and = it is not inherently bad, so it would be
interesting to watch the = developments - particularly how will Croatia provide
jobs to its = culturally diverse population. Tudjman obviously hoped that
revival of = tourism this year will help. That's why Croatia is not so
enthusiastic = about the prolonged NATO war against Yugoslavia.

There are two things to worry about in the war against Yugoslavia. = First, the
Yugoslav Army did not, does not, and has obviously no = intentions (or maybe
even means, given the destruction of fuel depots) = to leave Kosovo - despite
whatever NATO does to them. Now, why am I not = surprised? On one hand there is
the persistent Milosevic's propaganda = explaining that Kosovo is the cradle of
Serbian civilization. This has = historical backing - to the extent that Serbs
formed their state in the = middle of Illyrian (Albanian) territory profiting
from the confusion = that followed the fall of Roman Empire and the division of
Christianity. = To insist that all Albanians should now leave Kosovo would
amount to = French insisting that all Celtic descendants should leave France.
There = are incidences of successful ethnic cleansing campaigns in the past.
For = example, American native populations were cleansed from their ancestral =
lands and pushed into reservations in barren wastelands of the U.S., to = make
space for the civilization, democracy and western values that the = U.S. is now
preaching to the world's lesser denizens. The fact is that = most of young
Americans today feel ashamed and embarrassed by the 19th = century Indian wars
and the Black slavery issues.  In a sense they see "saving" Albanians from the
Serbs as a sort of = ex-culpation for their own past criminal behavior. The
problem is that = Kosovo Albanians are not at all saved. Quite to the contrary
- Serbs = successfully cleansed Kosovo and created a refugees problem which was
  = hoped to be avoided by the NATO action. Milosevic completed the job =
suggested to the Stojadinovic government in 1937 by a Serb high-school =
teacher Vaso Cubrilovic, who in his memo, among other things, wrote the =
following: "The fundamental mistake of the authorities in charge at that = time
is that, forgetting where they were, the wanted to solve all the = major ethnic
problems of the troubled and bleeding Balkans by Western = methods. Turkey
brought to the Balkans the customs of the Sheriat, = according to which victory
in war and the occupation of a country = confers the right to the lives and
property of the subject = inhabitants...  ...While all the Balkan states, since
1912, have solved or are on the = way to solving the problems of national
minorities through MASS = REMOVALS, we have stuck to slow and sluggish methods
of gradual = colonization... ...In the 20th century, only that country which is
= inhabited by its own people can be sur of its security... ...The only = way
and the only means to cope with them [Albanians] is the brute force = of an
organized state... ...There remains one more means, which Serbia = employed
with great PRACTICAL EFFECT after 1878, that is, by secretly = burning
downAlbanian villages and city quarters."

On the other hand there is the traditional Balkan recalcitrance = reinforced
with the late Yugoslavia's doctrine of "no surrender." Serbs in Kosovo will not
leave = in the face of superior enemy the same way how Croats did not leave
Vukovar without a fight and = how Bosnians did notleave Srebrenica without a
fight. The massacres we = witnessed in Croatia and Bosnia resulted fromthe
determination of both = sides not to give up, and the side with more ammo won
the bloody = victory. In the case of NATO vs. Serbia, NATO is the side with
more = ammo. There is only the question does NATO have such a determination =
which would allow massacring Serbs in order to achieve the victory - = because
Serbs are not going to give up without a fight. Theoretically, = by air-war
NATO may deplete Serbian defenses to the point that NATO = sponsored and
Croatian commanded KLA may take over with negligible both = Albanian and Serb
casualty rate, but not many NATO allies are ready to = take the risk of testing
that theory.

Second worry is the state to which Yugoslavia is brought by the NATO = bombing.
A well-off Belgrade friend of my father recently asked him about possibilities
to = seek refuge in Croatia: his wife couldn't by milk that morning, despite =
a several hours long wait. Recently Europe was hit by severe = thunderstorms.
Croatia's plains in Slavonia were hit by fist sized gale = that destroyed many
homes. The same gale and lightning created a = widespread paranoia in bombed
Serbia that NATO is testing some new = weaponry. While not achieving its
primary objective of making Kosovo = safe for Albanians, NATO made Yugoslavia
unlivable for anybody. With = infrastructure in ruins (power plants, bridges,
factories, ...) Serbia = is facing starvation and disease and with coming
winter a humanitarian = disaster, with no fuel, running water and electricity.
There is no doubt = in the "international community" that a large scale help
will be needed = for Yugoslavia to survive the coming winter. There are already
plans = dubbed "Marshall Plans" to help rebuild the area. But those plans have
= to wait for bombing to stop and for some sort of an agreement to be =
reached.  NATO does not want to give up the Rambouillet conditions for peace: =
Yugoslav Army out of Kosovo, Albanian refugees back to Kosovo with NATO lead
force to protect = them. Milosevic has no intention to accept them. So, the
bombing goes = on, leaving less and less time to rebuild before the winter. In
order = for Serbs not to be able to do any rebuilding on their own, NATO now =
concentrates on destruction of their re-construction ability, namely the =
Yugoslav Army Engineering Corps in Sabac that was hit a few days ago. =
Obviously it will be easy to blame Milosevic, but can the "international =
community" justify bringing millions on the verge of survival and then = blame
their leader for inviting the trouble?

NATO is after Milosevic, ok. They are destroying his homes, shelters, =
bunkers, villas, dachas, offices and command posts. They brought him to the
court both in the = U.S. and in Europe. The ICTY, after years of
procrastination, = expeditiously indicted Milosevic for war crimes on May 26
and signed the = arrest warrant. Concurrently, two Albanian residents of the
U.S. sued = him privately in the U.S. court for hurting their families. It is =
possible for an alien to sue another alien in the U.S. under the two = hundred
years old anti-piracy law which basically threats the world = surrounding the
U.S. as "the high seas." Given that ICTY indicted war = criminals still walk
freely around Bosnia, those harassing legal = procedures will have no effect on
Milosevic unless somebody has the resolve to enforce them.=20

The best option would be if Serbs would get rid of Milosevic regime =
themselves and establish some sort of pro-western government. The likelihood of
that to happen in = the midst of NATO air campaign however is very slim. The
weakening of = Milosevic's forces encouraged the opposition to stage more bold
= protests: KLA is retaking certain areas in Kosovo, Milo Djukanovic's = police
force in Montenegro is in a virtual stand-off with Yugoslav Army = (not that
different from the police-army stand-offs previously observed = in Slovenia,
Croatia and Bosnia) and opposition mayors in Serbia proper = stage
demonstrations against Milosevic in the cities they control. They = are all,
nevertheless, equally anxious about NATO as they are about = Milosevic. NATO
ruthlessly attack dual use targets, targets in = Montenegrin territory
(recently NATO destroyed an early warning radar = there - curiously that
target, important for air defense system, was = left in peace for more than 50
days, though) and even the KLA = strongholds, thinking they are still held by
the enemy (YA). This is = typical for the U.S. overwhelming use of force (in
Iraq more American = soldiers were killed by friendly fire then by the enemy),
and it is = decisively unhelpful for Milosevic's removal.

In the same way the destruction of power plants is hampering the newest =
effort in NATO propaganda effort: NATO systematically targets Serbian
Television = buildings and transmitter leaving Milosevic without his principal
tool of communicating his = poisonous nationalism to hi subjects. Also, with
the nearly complete = destruction of Yugoslav air defense grid, NATO airplanes
may now fly over Yugoslav air-space undisturbed (as long as = they are on the
altitude high enough to avoid shoulder launched missiles = and artillery).
Hence, the U.S. flies a big fat unarmed Hercules plane = over Serbia
broadcasting NATO TV on Channel 21 every evening, which now = reaches more
Serbian homes than Milosevic controlled Serbian TV. This = again reminds of
previous wars of Yugoslav succession, in which TV = transmitters in Croatia and
Bosnia were prime targets. Yugoslav Army was = charged with taking over the
transmitters so that Milosevic's "truth" = about the war might be spread
further than Tudjman's or Izetbgovic's.  = This war is about the concept of
co-existence in the 21st century: the = "all Serbs in one state" view of that
concept, which is a defining = moment of Milosevic's policy, was promoted
relentlessly on the Serb TV. = The wars in Bosnia and Croatia were in part
waged over the truthfulness = of that concept and since in today's world the
truth belongs to the = person in the control of the largest distributor of
information, which = is decisively network TV, the battles were fought for TV
transmitters. = Now, NATO nearly destroyed Serbian ability to broadcast, while
imposing = its own broadcast on Serbs from the air. This would be a complete =
technical K.O. if the program broadcasted would be satisfactory. Instead = of
subcontracting it to private providers who would hire a contemporary = media
specialist from alternative media outlets in Serbia, the U.S. = relied on the
similar structure and rigidity that prevails in the Voice = Of America, in the
NATO TV effort. A New York Times journalist gathered = several people in
Belgrade watching the NATO TV an observed their = comments. Obviously, they
were biased public, but their criticism was = more about the method and form of
the program than about the content. They expected the content to = be
disagreeable, since it comes from the enemy. They were surprised with = the
dullness of the program which reminded them of Milosevic's = controlled TV
Serbia. They expected more vigor and graphics in = reporting, which is common
in the U.S. commercial television. On the = other hand, the NYT chosen sample
is not representative for Serbia in = general: those were Belgrade students,
well educated, well traveled, = spoiled by MTV and in general given to the same
cynical demeanor like = their peers in Croatia, U.K. or the U.S. However, they
also noticed the = lack of Serbian folk music in the broadcasting, which may be
the major = drawback for Serb viewership out of Belgrade.

This war may end either with NATO victory, which, however, would require = NATO
ground troops commitment at some point. It also may end with Milosevic's =
surrender, since his decisions tend to be unpredictable. It may end up = with
KLA gaining enough advantage over YA in Kosovo due to NATO air = strikes to be
able to take Kosovo over. Independent Kosovo, adjacent to = weak Albania, will
then live as a NATO protectorate, like Bosnia. Or = NATO may stop bombing
before achieving victory over Serbia, if Serbia = gives up Kosovo. Serbia in
any case may end up getting rid of Milosevic = and establishing a pro-Western
government and receiving help to rebuild = the country, or it may end up with
Milosevic in power, isolated from the = rest of the world, dependent on the
basic life support from Russia and = China. This outcomes are not disputable.
It is however not clear how = long more it would take to achieve any of them,
and how many death and = destruction do we all have to witness in order to see
the mother of all = wars for Yugoslav succession finally over.

Bearing in mind that all five gave similar speeches, who said this =
(verbatim): "We will not vanish without a fight!"?
A) Winston Churchill
B) Adolf Hitler
C) Slobodan Milosevic
D) The U.S. President in The Independence Day movie
E) Alija Izetbegovic


Ivo Skoric
ivo {AT} reporters.net

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