marks. “Milosevic” is a monstrosity created by the monoglotsrnat the New York Times). But, in a country where all the sidesrnhave enough guilt to go around, why is the Western press singlingrnout the Serbs for blame? “Ask my wife if she wants tornmove to Croatia, and she’ll tell you things to curl your hair. Atrnleast in Belgrade, there arc opposition parties and a free press.rnIn Croatia, there is neither. My brother lives in Zagreb, andrnI’ve been unable to speak with him for months. I am safe inrnBelgrade, but I’m worried about him.” He points to the frontrnof the bus, where a well-dressed but tragic-looking lady is sitting:rn”That is Neda Ukraden, the famous singer. She spent herrnlife in Croatia, and now they have expelled her, simply becausernshe is of a Serb background. That would not happen in Belgrade.”rnBelgradernSome cities show the scars of previous conflicts, but Belgradernseems like one great scar. In their sieges, assaults, and bombardments,rnTurks, Austrians, Germans, and Americans haverndone their best to obliterate all vestiges of the past. The bestrnbuildings date from the last century, and despite the dirt andrnneglect they convey some impression of how pleasant the Serbianrncapital must have been in the last days of the monarchy,rnbut everywhere throughout Old Belgrade run the ugly wealsrnand abscesses of socialist buildings that swelled up to replacernthe rubble of the Second Worid War.rnBelgrade docs not seem like a city on the brink of war. Despiternthe embargo, the shops are full, and the cafes and restaurantsrnare doing a good business. The onlv shortage is gas, butrnthere is a bright side to that, too. In the old days, the streetsrnwere congested with traffic and the air heavy with smog. Now,rnthe traffic is light and you can smell the spring flowers.rnThe most serious shortage is medicine. I speak to a teacherrnwhose husband is chief of pediatric surgery at a major hospital.rnI le has little to do these days, because without antibioticsrnand anesthetics he is afraid to operate. I hear the same storyrneverywhere, from doctors, from soldiers, from street vendors.rnWhy don’t they let us get medicine? By “thev,” they mean us,rnthe United States, NATO, the United Nations’ It is not as if thernSerbs are preventing medical aid from reaching their enemies.rnOn the contrary, throughout the war, much of the relief aid hasrnbeen routed through Serbia.rnBut none of this—the Croat refugees in Serbia, the medicalrnshortages, the political liberties in Belgrade—is being reported.rnIt is as if Yugoslavia did not exist until last year, so profoundrnis the ignorance of the Western press. A decade ago, Americanrnjournalists interested in the Balkans could have recited thernheroic saga of Serbian resistance to the Nazis and theirrnCroat/Muslim allies. Today, however, no one seems to rememberrnthe death camps in which hundreds of thousands ofrnSerbs and Jews were butchered like so much cattle. Perhaps thernfigures were inflated, the photographs doctored, the atrocityrnstories invented. Harder to explain away are the reports filedrnb}’ German and Italian officials, horrified by their allies’ savagery.rnThe Western press corps seems to know very littie of thisrnor, indeed, of any of the historical dimensions of the conflicts.rnI begin to understand why only when I attend a press conference.rnThe questions are bad enough—uninformed andrntrivial, but the answers given by the German U.N. general andrnthe British UNI ICR (United Nations High Commissioner forrnRefugees) are even less to the point. In some cases, the youngrntranslator is botching the questions and answers; more often,rnthe officials simply duck the questions. The German is particularlyrnamusing to the Serbs, as he repeatedly refers to thernthen president of Yugoslavia, Dobrica Chositch, as Mr.rnSausage. Since Chositch is among the best-known Yugoslavrnnovelists of our time, the general’s ignorance is not so muchrndroll as tragic.rnI notice that the average age of the reporters seems to be 25,rnand a worse set of foul balls, geeks, and nerds I have never seen.rnI ask a Serb journalist if it is the custom for the Western pressrnto send only its youngest and least-talented stringers to Belgrade.rnHe says no. There used to be a set of veterans, but oncernthe war started, they began to be replaced by the children I hadrnobserved. Like most Slavs, he senses a plot. “Why did they replacernGeneral McKenzie as soon as he began saying that allrnsides were equally guilty? And, just when he is beginning to getrnthe picture, General Morillon is being recalled.”rnTo begin to understand the Serbs, a journalist should leavernthe press center and walk down to Kalamegdan, the old citadelrnthat is now a park. Although most of what can be seen todayrnof the fortress is of Austro-Hungarian construction, you canrnfind buildings or at least fragments from every period: of communism,rnthe Serbian monarchies, the Turks. There is even arnRoman wall to commemorate Singidunum, the Romano-rnCeltic town that lies under the modern city. Lined up aroundrnthe inner walls are tanks and field pieces captured in the pastrnhundred years of war.rnInside Kalemegdan is a remarkable museum that brings tornlife the national history and the national myths of the Serbs.rnWalking past the exhibits, the visitor sees a militarv processionrnof warriors—Celts, Romans, Byzantines, Slavs, Turks, Hungarians,rnGermans, as well as every type of Serbian soldier—arntime-lapse photography of ethnic struggles blooming into warrnand carnage in every generation.rnFor each exhibit, it seems, there is a talc of reckless couragernand suicidal revenge: here is Milosh Obilitch, the Serb who assassinatedrnSultan Murad after (or during) the Battle of Kosovo;rnthere is the Serb commander who held out as long as herncould, until, finally letting the Turks into his fort, he fired thernpowder magazine, killing both armies. In revenge the Turksrnbuilt their famous wall of Serbian skulls.rnThe violence in the Serbs’ heroic tales is neither random norrnoffensive. The heroes are frontiersmen who tried to hold thernline against in’ading Islam. Even today, Serb poets sec theirrncountry as the last outpost of Christendom against the East.rnBlazho Pcrovitch’s poem “Serbijica Evropi na dushu” (“LittlernSerbia on the Conscience of Europe”) asks: “O clever young lady,rndo you know who was the first to defend Constantinoplernand Budapest and eternal Rome?”rnThe Serbian point of view has required a certain revisionismrnin the ease of their greatest hero, Marko Kraljevitch, who wasrnactually a Turkish vassal. Like most Serbs, Marko Kraljevitchrndid not enjoy the privilege of unequivocal loyalty, defending anrnindependent people. To an American, indeed to most Europeans,rnthese are only stories. But if even educated and conservativernAmericans can no longer remember, much less resent,rnPeari Harbor and the Alamo, the average Serb—blind as hernmay be to the realities of the modern world—has neverrnclimbed out of the swiding torrents of history to take a goodrnobjective look at himself.rnLeaving Kalemegdan, I walk down Ulica Kneza Mihajlarn(Prince Michael Street). Everywhere there are street vendorsrnAUGUST 1993/13rnrnrn