nettime's_roving_reporter on Thu, 15 Apr 1999 20:34:02 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> (fwd) Europe's intellectuals in disarray over Kosovo

Europe's intellectuals in disarray over Kosovo

PARIS, April 15 (AFP) - The NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia
has set European intellectuals and politicians off against each other,
cutting across traditional lines of right and left, as no other
conflict has before.

In both Britain and France, the traditionally antiwar left is divided
while the right is muted in its support of NATO, if not outrightly

The situation has created some strikingly unusual bedfellows with, for
example, French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen lined up alongside
Socialist Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement and the communists
in opposition, British left-wing actress Vanessa Redgrave linking arms
with former Tory premier John Major in favour.

In Germany, intellectuals have evoked the Nazi past and the Reich's
wartime involvement in the Balkans to urge caution, stressing the
complexity of the issues involved, though most figures on the
centre-left have expressed support for western engagement in Kosovo.

A common thread among left-wing opponents of the NATO airstrikes has
been anti-Americanism. Thus, playwright Harold Pinter wrote to the
Guardian newspaper to describe the allied action as "misjudged,
miscalculated, disastrous", its humanitarian justification "clearly a
very bad joke". The operation resulted, he said, from a US policy best
expressed as: "Kiss my arse or I'll kick your head in."

His view is shared by the writer, publisher and former 1960's activist
Tariq Ali but opposed by Ali's erstwhile left-wing ally, Labour MP Ken
Livingstone. Left-wing campaigner Paul Foot diverges radically from
his father, former Labour leader Michael Foot who favours the NATO
raids, and finds himself allied with Alan Clark, the former
Thatcherite minister who sees no British interests involved in the

Veteran feminist Germaine Greer considers the NATO raids "unbelievably
stupid" and a "godsend" to the Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic,
siding in effect with right-wing historian Norman Stone who compares
the situation in Kosovo with Northern Ireland.

German writers traditionally critical of US military operations have
been guardedly in favour. Guenter Grass regretted only that the NATO
involvement had come so late, while Hans Magnus Enzensberger argued
for arming Albanian guerrillas inside Kosovo rather than sending in
western ground forces. Christa Wolf deplored the bombing but admitted
she could see little alternative.

The most heated debate has been in France, where angry words have been
exchanged in the press by philosophical stalwarts Regis Debray
(against the raids) and Alain Finkelkraut (in favour), or within the
family between journalist Olivier Todd (pro-war) and his son the
writer Emmanuel (contra).

Debray, formerly known as a follower of Ernesto "Che" Guevara", was
denounced in the daily Le Monde as a prime exponent of knee-jerk
anti-Americanism, notably for his description of the treatment of the
North American Indians as "ethnic cleansing".

Former 1968 firebrand Daniel Cohn-Bendit, now Green party leader, is
in tune with the Gaullist party chairman Philippe Seguin in backing
NATO action, while the distinguished human rights activist Pierre
Vidal-Naquet finds himself involuntarily allied with the French
Communist Party and the National Front.

But the most bizarre case, virtually unique in Europe, has been that
of Peter Handke, the Austrian writer who since the eruption of the
Yugoslav wars in 1991 has adopted an outright pro-Serb stance, at one
point comparing the Serbs to the Jews in World War II.

Handke, whose mother is Slovenian, travelled to Belgrade to express
his solidarity for the Serb people and "sniff the air" during the
bombardments. He renounced the prestigious Buechner prize that he won
in 1973 and said he was leaving the Catholic Church because of what he
saw as its refusal to denounce the NATO intervention.

Credited with at least spicing up the debate, Handke is regarded by
his fellow German-speaking writers with some perplexity, if not
mocking indulgence. He was rewarded by Belgrade earlier this month
with a Serbian "kinghthood". 

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