February 25, 2002
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In the spring of 1999, I knew very little about Yugoslavia, its history or
its peoples, even though I was in daily e-mail correspondence with a Serb
woman who had been born in the Yugoslav city of Novi Sad. The little I
did know was filtered though the heart and soul of Alma Hromic, my
correspondent, later to be my wife.
Although she had been separated from her homeland at the age of 10 when her family moved to Africa in connection with her father's work, Alma still spoke movingly of the villages, the fields, the rivers, and the bridges that were as much a part of her as the fingers of her hands. She sent me jpegs of the streets, the people and the buildings of Novi Sad, and forwarded poems filled with the wonder, the delight, the joy she felt for the place of her birth.
I knew nothing of Slobodan Milosevic, Yugoslav politics, or the role of the U.S. and NATO in the earlier post Cold War breakup of the various ethnic groups which comprised Yugoslavia.
That was to change dramatically when the U.S. and NATO began their ugly assault on what was left of Yugoslavia in what they and their supporters claimed was a humanitarian war to prevent genocide.
The 'evidence' for the claims of genocide was spurious while evidence to the contrary was easily available to any net savvy individual (although the Western media somehow missed it) and I watched in naïve disbelief when it was used as a pretext for another U.S. war, one of dozens in my lifetime.
I was concerned that the U.S. and NATO had no moral or legal leg to stand on when they began their assault. No NATO nation had been threatened or attacked by Yugoslavia, the assault broke a number of international treaties, and was in violation of the U.S. Constitution, which gives only Congress the right to declare war.
I posted a message to misc.writing, an Internet discussion group I frequented, urging all Americans and people from other NATO nations to send protests to their governments. I wasn't quite so credulous as to presume everyone in the group would agree with me, but I wasn't prepared for the shitstorm of opposition to my suggestion.
I thought that my opposition would come from conservatives, and that I would get a lot of support from liberals. But opposition came from people of all political persuasions, and liberals were among the most vehement.
In most cases it appeared that those expressing their support for the war bought the U.S./NATO claims of genocide and ethnic cleansing. Any evidence that I offered to the contrary was dismissed as coming from tainted sources, the only 'untainted' sources being NATO, the Pentagon and the White House, of course.
Those claims of genocide and ethnic cleansing were magic wands that made problems of treaties, constitutions and the principle of national sovereignty vanish.
Here is one illustrative exchange. The sentence after the '>' was written by my correspondent; my answer follows:
One liberal wrote:
> Our disagreement boils down to one basic point -- the issue of
> sovereignty vs. ethnic cleansing.
AND the illegality of the action, although you may be including that in the issue of sovereignty.
AND the fact that NATO has taken on for itself imperial powers, the new Holy Roman Empire, dangerously weakening the UN.
AND the fact that the NATO assault immediately and predictably hurt the very people who they were supposedly protecting.
AND the fact that NATO's assault has reopened the Cold War and thrown Russia and China into a closer relationship.
AND the fact that at least one NATO member is doing EXACTLY what we claim the Serbs are doing, raising a fundamental principle of fairness.
AND.... well I've mentioned these issues before. But they are never addressed. No one thinks that legality and fairness and effectiveness and humane treatment of the Serbs is worth any attention. Not as long as one can wallow in a false sense of righteousness and watch all the pretty pictures of bloodless explosions.
There is not one single issue, but many. And all of them demonstrate that NATO's attempt to bomb Yugoslavia back to the stone age is as ineffective as it is barbaric.
Meanwhile, Alma was forthrightly defending her birth nation and offering evidence that the claims of genocide and ethnic cleansing were false. For this she was viciously attacked, sometimes by people who had been friends. While she was perfectly capable of defending herself, I occasionally joined in, as below:
> When this crap is over, Alma, you'll have some 'splainin'
> to do, you know, when the inhuman swine you're defending
> are brought out of their holes into the light of day. And you
> can't pretend you didn't know what was going on. You've
> made the conscious choice to pretend it's all a big lie, which
> in my book makes you complicit. Thought of changing your
> name to Belgrade Rose, by the way?
And how are you going to explain your support of cluster bombs and cruise missiles directed at TV stations and civilian buses? You've made a conscious choice to pretend that the destruction of a country by a rogue band of nations acting without a shred of legal authority is all right, and that makes you complicit in mass murder in my book.
Or perhaps you are just as stupid as you are vicious.
In all this, my interest, my slant, was on the dangers and immorality of the U.S. and NATO acting as a rogue organization. I knew the claims of genocide and ethnic cleansing in Kosovo were nonsense, but I didn't know anything about the issues of Bosnia, for example, or exactly where Milosevic stood in any pantheon of evil. I left all that to Alma.
However, I already had my suspicions that Milosevic was being demonized, as can be seen in this exchange:
> And if it is a crime, it is hardly of the first magnitude,
> certainly of no magnitude equivalent to what Milosovic
> is doing to the Kosovars.
To the contrary, the U.S./NATO assault on Yugoslavia is a monstrous attack intended to bring a nation to its knees in abject subjugation by destroying its economy and mass slaughter of its troops and complete indifference to the death of civilians.
And that is different from Milosevic's reputed atrocities exactly how?
(In the long run, historians will disclose that most of the atrocity stories were wartime propaganda, just as they have been in every other war. Several of the NATO atrocity accusations have already proven to be pure bullshit.)
> Clinton has commited us to a forceful resolution of the Kosovo question.
> He needs to drop the LBJ-style strategy, get off his ass and finish it.
The LBJ strategy was all-out war with a half million troops, napalm, carpet bombing and the deaths of two million Vietnamese. And you want to top that how? With nuclear bombs?
This war is as stupid as it is illegal.
Unless, of course, the real purpose of the war is to ensure U.S. control of the world by turning NATO into an imperial force claiming the right to give any country in the world the same offer made to the Yugoslav Serbs -- total surrender or die.
Well, you get the picture. The unanimity in favor of the war against Yugoslavia that was evident in misc.writing was the norm, rather than an aberration, throughout the U.S. and much of the NATO world.
But one other exchange from the misc.writing debate is of interest. I was challenged thusly:
> You seem to have an idea that this war is about more than
> the professed goals. Yet you don't actually say what they are.
I will. Probably the major goal is changing NATO from a defensive force set up as a barrier to the Soviet Union into an imperial army claiming the right to intervene (read attack) any nation anywhere anytime.
Another goal is expanding the market for NATO weapons, most manufactured by U.S. corporations.
And yet another is to fragment what's left of Yugoslavia so that there is no counterweight at all to the market economy demanded by the West.
Protection of Kosovo Albanians is on the list for PR purposes.
The goals I outlined can never be admitted, however, and that's the reason Milosevic is on trial. His conviction of war crimes will be used as retroactive proof that the U.S./NATO assault was justified, whatever international treaties were trashed. It was all done for a higher cause.
Alma and I took time out from the online debate to tackle the questions of the war in another way. We wrote a novel about the war. The novel, Letters from the Fire, featured a Novi Sad woman and an American newsman exchanging e-mails about the war. Since Alma was then in New Zealand and I was in Florida, 8,000 miles away, we wrote the book in e-mail, a case of life imitating art.
The issues raised in the misc.writing debate and in our novel haven't gone away. They are, in fact, nearly identical to the issues raised by the U.S. attack on Afghanistan. As is the cheerleading by the Western media and the total indifference of the public.
The more things change.
Deck Deckert has spent nearly two decades as copy editor, wire editor and news editor at several metropolitan newspapers, including the Miami Herald and Miami News, before becoming a freelance writer. His articles and stories on everything from alligator farming to UFOs have appeared in numerous U.S. publications. He has written two young adult novels under a pen name, and co-authored a novel about the NATO war on Yugoslavia, Letters from the Fire, with Alma Hromic, who he met in an Internet discussion group. Deckert and Hromic subsequently married and are writing a book about their experience with Internet romance, Cyberdance.
Please, DO NOT steal, scavenge or repost this work without the expressed written authorization of Swans, which will seek permission from the author. This material is copyrighted, © Deck Deckert 2001. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Related Internal Links
The Other War Criminals - by Sanjay Basu (July 2001)
Genocide or Veracicide: Will NATO's Lying Ever Stop? - by Stephen Gowans (July 2001)
Beneath the Cloaking Device - by Michael Stowell (April 2001)
Justice - by Aleksandra Priestfield (April 2001)
The Ritual Murder of Milosevich - by Gilles d'Aymery (April 2001)
An Impartial Tribunal, Really? - by Christopher Black (November 1999)
All articles Published on Swans Regarding the War in Yugoslavia and its Aftermath
This Week's Internal Links
The Barbarians Stand Before the Gates of America - by Stevan Konstantinovic
Operation New Justice - by Aleksandra Priestfield
Munchausens At The Hague, Cowards At Woods Hole - by Stephen Gowans
I Am Tired - by Alma Hromic
Such A Perfect Little Lynching! - by Gilles d'Aymery
The First Stone - by Michael Stowell
History, Patterns, Differences. . . Not Again! - by Milo Clark
South of Jade - A Poem by Sandy Lulay
Kosovo Polje Speech on June 28, 1989 - by Slobodan Milosevich
Letters to the Editor (on the US Defense budget for FY2003)
Correspondence (on the IWCT)
Deck Deckert on Swans
Essays published in 2002 | 2001