This is a rather unfortunate time for me to write an article. The reason is simple – just look at the date.
While I’m usually allowed to – and more often than not do – write whatever sounds interesting or which I can make fun of (who said Slobodan Milosevic?), I’m now expected to say something important about that little 78-day incident we had exactly a year ago. But if there is a single most unsuitable person for that job in whole of Serbia, it’s me.
An exaggeration? Probably. But on a 1-10 scale of unsuitableness, I’m pretty close to being a nine. The reason for that is simple: the experience of war I had was one per cent of perspiration (watching up at the sky for those tomahawks all night can be exhausting, not to mention how much cold sweat one can break while bombs are falling less than three miles away), and 99 per cent of watching TV.
The few weeks without electricity don’t really fit into the ‘war’ category. God knows we had a lot worse power cuts before as well as after, as he very well knows the reason for those power cuts are more of an economical than a technical problem (money from those few million kilowatts sold to your neighbors can go a very long way).
And that 99 per cent of TV war didn’t look much like a war anyway. You had Jamie Shea with his little pearls of wisdom: “NATO makes the same precautions of not hurting civilians during the day as it does during the night.” – a day after more than 20 people had been killed in two separate daytime strikes on a town bridge.
And the never-before-seen-on-national-television spin doctoring of Ken Bacon: “The day before that passenger train was hit we had reports of Yugoslav fight jets taking off in that part of Serbia.”
Reporter: “So that means the Yugoslavs attacked their own train?”
Ken: “We simply don’t know that yet.” (15 minutes before admitting on that very same conference that a NATO jet was the culprit, making the campaign look more like another well known scandal of the year before that than a serious humanitarian action).
And while I’m at it I should add ‘humanitarian my ass!’ Eight months after it all ended I guess even Ray Charles can see why. Three days into the campaign a Sky News reporter said that just a trickle of refugees is coming trough at that time, but that more is expected later that week. If the great Albanian exodus was the reason for the bombing, then why is it only four days after the bombing began that it actually started? You could say that the cleansing would begin anyway, NATO or no NATO, but can you deny that the campaign was a very big, if not the biggest factor in when the cleansing would start?
I’m using the word ‘cleaning’ because that’s what it was. Milosevic wanted to get rid of the Albanians while there were no international verifiers in Kosovo. But whose fault was it that those verifiers left the are under the pretence of safety precautions? Could it possibly be… NATO? If little Timmy (i.e. Sloba, not Serbia) has an affinity for performing vivisection on his pets you don’t fire the nanny for fear of Timmy vivisecting her – she’s the only barrier between him and Fido. And why do you then agonize over the pet’s fait when you’re almost as responsible as Timmy is for it getting killed. Of course the little brat should be institutionalized, but why whip him for 78 consecutive days while keeping him locked up in a dark moldy basement when the only thing that’s going to do is deepen his psychosis?
I hope you don’t misunderstand that last paragraph. I don’t think Albanians are dogs, far from it. At least they’re smarter than the Serbs and the west. Heck, they were the only ones who actually gained something from the war with almost no material losses, so if they were the dogs, it would make us, you and me both, well, the intellectual, dogie poo… Not that some of us aren’t.
At least that’s what my brain felt like through most of the war days. Wake up at 11am, translate the Brits’ press conference to the family, log on to yahoo chat and spread a few patriotic words to the ignorant people of Bahrain (I’m not joking). Then translate Shea’s great words to his admirers (again, I’m not joking, he had a fan club of sorts here), reply to some email messages, watch a few TV reports on the bombsite-of-the-day, spread some more patriotism to the third world nations, repeat until 4am with some interruptions from those noisy F-15s and tomahawks and their even noisier cargo, then go to bed. 78 days of terror? It was more like 78 days of bullshit to me.
But I shouldn’t really complain. The Internet was free, and so was almost everything else, phone, gas, electricity – everything. Not that there was much of either after NATO started hitting the power plants anyway. It was all reading after that, from back issues of National Geographic to the good old domestic literature. By the time I read every book in my library, and it’s by no means a small library, Sloba decided he had enough. And even though the Yugoslav officials held everyone under suspense until the very last moments under that tent in Macedonia, everybody here knew we had lost well before it was officially announced. A Montenegrin newspaper summed it up the best with it’s gigantic front page headline following the talks between Sloba and Viktor Chernomyrdin – ‘Capitulation’. Strong words? Perhaps, but we all got used to them in the past ten years – it wasn’t the first and very passing day it seems more likely that it won’t be our last.
Finally, I’d like to dedicate this particular article to all the people who made this gruesome ordeal be a much more pleasant experience. They are, in the order in which they pop into my mind and with a lot of spelling errors: John Simpson of the BBC and Tim Marshall from Sky, Francis Tusa, Paul Beaver and Duncan Boullivant – Sky’s commentators, Nick Gowing – one of the few BBC anchors with a personality, Simon McCoy, Key Burleigh, Jeremy Thompson, Viviane Creeger, Bob Friend, Anna Botting, Frank Partridge, Sheila Jansen, and many others from Sky, Mark Laity – the king of bias, Keith Graves – a close second at first, becoming very objective all of a sudden, Jaime Shea, George Robertson, Claire Short, Kenneth Bacon and all the others who had their five minutes of squirming in front of the cameras trying to explain one cock up after another…
I hope the only time they mention Serbia again will be in announcing a certain politician’s untimely, but nevertheless totally deserved, death. At least I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
Bye, and have a great weekend,