Bruce Sterling on Wed, 7 Apr 1999 18:22:11 -0700 (PDT)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Syndicate: Open Letter to Slobodan Markovi

Open Letter to Slobodan Markovic

*Dear Slobodan:

*On 7 April, 01999, you quoted my earlier remarks in my "Open Letter to

>For heaven's sake, do not walk out on the surviving bridges of Novi Sad.
>I don't care how pretty the bridges are, how much they mean to you
>sentimentally and culturally, or how long they have been there. You are
>not going to have any bridges. Also, no trains, no fuel, no running
>water, no electricity, and probably, sooner or later, no food. Unless
>NATO decides to drop some food on you.

*And then you commented:

    To rejoice on someone's ill-fate is equally savage as every massacre
    on Kosovo and any NATO air-raid. Pray to God not to ever experience
    a missile attack on you own city!

*I believe you misunderstand my intention here.  I was not "rejoicing" in
this grim situation.  I was trying to describe the military situation
factually.  Is there anything in that assessment of mine that you can
*disagree* with?  It's cruel and savage truth, but it's the truth, isn't it?

*I'm not simply pulling these frightening assertions out of my hat, in order
to cause you emotional pain.  I am a journalist, and  I have interviewed
members of the American military (see my article in WIRED magazine issue #1,
"War is Virtual Hell").  American military leaders believe they can disarm
and cripple nations like yours with modern strategic bombing.  They can
target and  destroy anti-aircraft, aircraft, traffic systems, communications
systems, electricity, telephones, radar, fuel depots.  And, yes, cigarette
factories and pretty bridges.  And more.   They may be misled by their own
theories, but they do have the military power to carry out a lot of this
destruction.  They are doing it now.  They are perfectly capable of bombing
you for weeks on end.  They could do it for months.  Possibly years.

*NATO is now engaged in a grand military experiment to see what happens to a
living European nation as its infrastructure is methodically blown to
pieces.   They have satellites watching you, and manned and unmanned
surveillance vehicles, and thousands of trained intelligence analysts who
interpret this satellite data.   As you rebuild things, they can tear them
apart again.  Arming yourself with foreign weapons against the NATO planes
will not help much, either.    They don't enjoy killing civilians, but they
*do* enjoy destroying Russia's pitifully outdated, 20th-century weapons

*What does this mean realistically?  It probably means that Serbians, though
victors on the ground, will be living in a wrecked, pre-industrial country,
taking ferries, in the dark.   And yes, you probably will run out of food.
And yes, NATO will probably feed you by dropping charity packages from the
air.  Feeding people you are bombing has never been done in European warfare
before.  It is certainly nothing that Serbia would have done in the local
Wars of the Yugoslav Secession.   But this is 1999, and it is a very novel
military situation.  

*You are trying to fight a 20th century lebensraum war against 21st century
powers.  NATO is a rattletrap alliance.  It does not have the grim
1940s-style resolve that a Balkan state has.  But NATO leaders have a lot to
lose from political failure, and a great deal of money.   Worst of all, NATO
can blow you up.   The best you can do in military response is dispossess
your neighbors, dance in the streets, and write sarcastic propaganda.
Speaking realistically, how long can this go on?

*Please don't avoid reality by accusing me of being a savage.   I respect
your distress, and it is certainly a grim, horrific situation that I would
never like to share.   I know that our situations differ.   You are the one
bearing the consequence, not me.  The savage truth I speak of may make you
angry, but if you ignore the truth, it will likely get you killed.  Whereas
if I ignore the truth, I will merely be living in the serene, untroubled
indifference of most other Americans.   

*It is probably only a matter of time until small nations can acquire cruise
missiles and the means to deliver and target them.  Then, perhaps, my city
of Austin will be in grave danger.  But that is the future.   At the moment,
 your military is like a man with a pistol, surrounded by nineteen men with

*I think, and I must repeat to you, that  the likeliest outcome here is that
the man with the pistol will kill the people he can reach.  There may be a
Serbian military adventure into a neighboring country -- but those
neighbors, whomever they may be, will have the world's best Air Force.   As
the frustration builds,  there will be an outburst of genocidal rage within
Serbia.  In other words, a Serbian Great Terror, a domestic purge.   It will
probably be on a scale much larger than the  various gruesome eruptions we
have seen in your region in the past 12 years.   The Albanians are mostly
gone now.  Hungarians remain, but then you are left only with "dissidents"
and "traitors,"  i.e.,  Serbians at large.  The "human shields."  The
martyrs.  The Serbian Cambodia.  Do you think this prediction is unlikely?
Tell me why.

>Stop making melodramatic gestures that are obvious rehearsals of
>martyrdom and your own death.

    When these careless words come from Bruce Sterling himself, it's
    even more sad... :-(

*It's not particularly sad if I say something careless.  But I am not
careless in this warning to you.  I will repeat it and amplify it.   The
"rehearsal of martyrdom" is something I know well, because I live 90 miles
away from the armed compound of the Branch Davidian religious cult.  You
should have seen those zealots singing and dancing as the American tanks
surrounded them.  As their isolation intensified, they grew ever more
righteous, unified and exultant.  They never betrayed or defied their crazed
leader.   It was the cult's apotheosis.  And then, at last, the
all-devouring flames broke out.  

*Today, many paranoid cranks believe that these delusionary wretches were
heroic, holy fighters, martyrs against the New World Order.  But the Branch
Davidians themselves are mostly dead.  Men, women, and children.

*I don't tell you  all this because I expect to change your convictions.
Nor do I want to merely scare you, gloat at your misfortunes, or hurt your
feelings.  Having read the work of people on the ground in Serbia, like
yourself (and the now-sadly-silent Insomnia),  I feel obliged to do this
from a sense of moral duty.  

*I know that a great people are heroic under duress.  I respect this.  Even
we distant Texans have a military tradition we cherish, that we call "the
Alamo."  Basically, the Alamo was an incident in a  local war of lebensraum,
an ethnic conflict.  When the national government invaded Texas to restore
colonial order,  the breakaway Anglo ethnics all fled toward the border in
an almighty panic.   Does this sound at all familiar?   You may possibly
have heard about this famous Texan battle, "the Alamo."  Everyone on our
side died. 

*Martyrdom is glorious, it is the only great accomplishment that requires no
talent.  But in the War of 1836, we Texans had time, the numbers, and the
guns, on our side.   You don't.


Bruce Sterling (

------Syndicate mailinglist--------------------
mail archive:
to unsubscribe send a message to <>
with the message in the body: unsubscribe your@email.adress