Steven Carlson on Sun, 11 Apr 1999 08:47:04 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Re: The War and its consequences


I haven't always agreed with your reports, but I've found you one of the
most reasoned voices on nettime, and I particularly agree with your
assessment of how events will develop from now. It's clearly a lose/lose
situation. We all lose, and it's only a question of degree.

Last night, my girlfriend and I went to visit another couple. It was a
strange, tense evening because - like it or not - the war is subtley
changing our relations with one another. I need to provide you with a bit
of context by adding that I'm from California and my girlfriend Slavica is
from Novi Sad, as are our two friends Vladi and Vesna. We all live in
Budapest, and we've been friends for several years.

Slavica has been cooped up in her flat for the past two weeks watching CNN
with her sister and cousin, both of whom live in Novi Sad, but have decided
to sit out the conflict here in Budapest. Every day, more and more people
are arriving from Yugoslavia with the same idea, and while Slavica likes to
tease the two girls by calling them refugees, we really don't know when -
or if - the girls will return. The tension was getting on our nerves and so
I suggested to Slavica that we get out of the house.

Like everyone else, Vladi and Vesna have been watching the war on TV and
when we all sat down to visit there was really only one topic of
conversation.  Vesna, who is originally from Bosnia, confessed to me she is
afraid she is losing her identity. 'I'm ashamed to call myself a Serb or
Yugoslav anymore. It's like being a Libyan or an Iraqi. We used to be proud
to be Yugoslavs, but nobody remembers that anymore. You don't know what
it's like losing your identity.'

Vladi and Vesna wanted to know my opinion. The problem is all sides are to
blame for creating this mess, and there are no heroes. NATO could not have
chosen a better way to strengthen Milosevic, and yet now that the war has
started they have to finish it. And if you ask me what is worse - NATO's
bombing, or the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo - then I have to side with NATO.
The Serbs aren't helping themselves one bit by parading around with targets
and raising their fists at rock concerts, while their soldiers burn
villages in Kosovo. But try telling this to your friends as they watch
their hometown burning on CNN.

And yet, they understand this. The other night, we saw burning on TV the
petroleum refinery where Slavica's father works. Or used to work. And yet
Slavica still thinks the Serbs need to suffer a defeat in order to get over
their national martyr complex.

But the situation is too complicated for black and white value judgements,
which makes it all the more frustrating. Vladi and Vesna are horrified at
the refugee crisis. And yet we know the Kosovar Albanians have also played
their part in escalating the hatred. At one point in the evening Vesna
invited me to grind the beans for coffee with a lovely hand-operated
grinder. When I commented that such grinders are usually manufactured in
Albania, Vesna angrily pointed out the stamp on the bottom of the machine
identifying it as Serbian.

You commented:

  > I didn't see much of what are we going to actually do  with the Balkans
  > besides just bombing the shit out of Serbia, so far.  There is some
  > serious political and economic effort needed to rebuild  that entire
  > region (Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Vojvodina,  Macedonia),
  > which was bankcrupt even before the wars of Yugoslav  succession
  > started, and now is beyond hope. Who is prepared to fork  billions of
  > dollars into the region?

Imagine in the early 90s that some politican had stood up and said we
should spend $10 billion in an effort to overcome ancient racial hatreds in
Yugoslavia, build lasting political institutions, and modernize the
economy. Is that any more ridiculous that what we're doing now?

You made a particularly good point here, Ivo:

  > It is really strange that NATO in all its sorties left Milosevic  with
  > perhaps the most powerful weapon still undamaged: Television.

  > The  power of electronic media is vastly underestimated. I believe that
  > Nazis would never loose the WW II, had Goebels have the television  at
  > his disposal.

The root of the Yugoslav crisis is the so-called media war of the early
90s, when politicians in Belgrade and Zagreb began eliminating independent
media and stirring up old racial hatreds. I can't help but wonder what
would have happened had the so-called 'international community' intervened
at that early stage to offer alternative sources of information. Milosevic
has such a stranglehold on information that most Serbs really don't know
the full extent of what their army is doing in Kosovo.

We have smart bombs, but we still don't have smart politicians or, for that
matter, smart voters.

I'm tired of all this, and I just wish it would end.

Steven Carlson                 A conclusion is simply the place
iSYS Hungary Kft              where you got tired of thinking

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