The crisis in Kosovo continues to illuminate the glaring gap between the quality of reporting in America and in the rest of the world. In Western Europe, in particular, the tragedy in the Balkans has come to be seen as the defining moment of our civilization and of its chances for survival in the coming century.
John Laughland, writing in the Times of London (April 22), identified the fundamental issue at stake in Kosovo: the leftist internationalist conspiracy to destroy the nation-state, and thereby the very concept of nation:
Among the charred corpses and smoking ruins of Kosovo there lies an unreported casualty. It is not one of the hundreds of physical victims of Nato’s bombs but instead a metaphysical one. In 1999 as in 1389, the Blackbird Field has witnessed the defeat of that spiritual body of values which . . . used to be known as the West. . . . [T]he war is being fought to destroy the very principles which constitute the West, namely the rule of law. Unlike in 1389 however, the enemy is not the Sultan but rather the leaders of the Western nations themselves. . . . The bombing started because Milosevic refused to allow hostile foreign troops on to Yugoslav soil. Overturning this refusal remains Nato’s overriding purpose. Yet this demand is completely incompatible with the logic of a system of sovereign states, which for the past 350 years has formed the bas is of Western politics, liberalism and the rule of law.
Laughland admits that state sovereignty can be overridden in certain extreme cases. But he warns that the war is being fought in order to override it in all cases and to remove it completely as a relevant factor in the New World Order. If the war is post-national in its aims, Laughland continues, it is also post-national in its implementation. NATO is colluding with the Kosovo Liberation Army, “whose structures and goals owe very little to any political program of national liberation for Kosovo and instead a great deal to the needs of its mafia activities and extensive drug-running network.” The only nation involved is Serbia, whose wholesale destruction, if not the stated aim of the war, is certainly going to be its outcome:
This is why all the war’s main protagonists are old enemies of nationhood, NATO and the West. Bill Clinton, Mr. Blair, Joschka Fischer and Senor Solana form “the new generation of politicians who hail from the progressive side of politics” of which Mr. Blair boasts. Commentators have been wrong to chuckle at the apparent conversion of these onetime opponents of US power, for the truth is much worse. This war represents the most complete fulfillment of their deepest internationalist convictions. . . . Mr. Blair has even compared the four weeks of bomb attacks on Yugoslavia to the process by which “globalisation is opening up the world’s financial architecture for discussion, re-evaluation and improvement”. War, it seems, is now the continuation of economic integration by other means.
Writing also in the Times of London (April 28), Simon Jenkins provided a timely reminder that, prior to the beginning of the air campaign, American strategists had claimed that Belgrade might even welcome a few bombs, so that Slobodan Milosevic could justify a retreat from Kosovo to his countrymen. When that did not work, Clinton and Blair resorted to “morality.”
Jenkins pointed out that the killing of a score of technicians working for Belgrade television came after specific assurances from NATO spokesman Jamie Shea that the station was not a target. NATO’s post-bombing spin was that the technicians were “legitimate targets” since the station had refused NATO’s demand that it broadcast six hours of “Western programs” in place of its own propaganda. By no definition of war were these civilians classifiable as combatants. Yet they were treated by NATO’s targeters as the equivalent of spies, executed without trial.
More than 350 European writers, artists, and intellectuals—including Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Harold Pinter, Peter Handke, Mikis Theodorakis, Jean Raspail, and Jacques Laurent—signed a petition published in Germany, France, and other countries, and ignored by the American media:
for the first time since 1945 a European sovereign state is being bombed by a military alliance under American command, with total contempt for the rules of international law and in breach of the UN Charter. NATO’s aggression against Serbia is unacceptable and will only worsen the conflicts it is supposed to resolve. The victims of the bombing are the Serbian and Albanian people, whom NATO’s sorcerer’s apprentices are pretending to help.
Solzhenitsyn expanded on this theme in the Moscow Times, an English-language daily, on April 29. He compared the Atlantic alliance to Hitler, and denounced justifications for the air campaign as hypocritical. “It was such good luck—the Serbs are a defenseless target,” Solzhenitsyn told Russian television, calling the attack a self-serving show of strength. NATO “can show its beak and talons.” While some may dismiss the Russian Nobel Prize laureate as an inveterate Russian nationalist, a similar voice has arisen from one of NATO’s new members. George Konrad, Hungary’s preeminent writer, published an op-ed article on April 3 that reflected the feeling in Budapest:
We Hungarians entered NATO on March 12. Less than two weeks later, as NATO members, we provided free air lanes for military planes to Yugoslavia, and now we must identify ourselves with a war against a neighboring country. I was in favor of Hungary joining NATO, and I’m glad NATO will protect us against external enemies . . . Two years ago, hundreds of thousands demonstrated against Milosevic in Belgrade’s Republic Square, demanding lawful, pluralist democracy. I was invited to speak to the students and was surrounded by intelligent, enthusiastic faces and clever slogans on billboards. Today, in this same square, perhaps the same people are demonstrating against NATO aggression.
Konrad stated that the West’s actions in Yugoslavia reflect “not merely the arrogance of power but a fundamental misunderstanding of the Balkans”:
[T]he West was glad to see Yugoslavia cut into parts. It forgot that the collapse of a federal state with its restraining framework would make ethnicity the chief principle of orientation for individuals. On land where the population is mixed, however, the principle turns neighbors who have lived together in peace into enemies. As separatism was legitimized, recognized, even guaranteed by the international community, newly independent member republics began working with all their strength on the ethnic homogenization of their own national consciousness, forging it through blood relations and strengthening it with religion. . . . they began to feel that members of other ethnicities were foreign bodies in the new nation. “Ethnic cleansing” originated from this furor of self-homogenization.
Outside Europe—notably in the two most populous countries of the world, India and China—similar sentiments abound. The Times of India, the eminently secular voice of India’s political establishment, published a long editorial on April 29 that accurately reflected the alarm in Delhi:
As the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation enters the 51st year of its existence, the alliance is in danger of becoming the next century’s “sick man of Europe’, more a source of instability and conflict on the continent than a beacon of peace and tranquillity. So far has NATO drifted from its original stated aim of collective self-defence that the rest of the world has genuine reason to fear its future direction. The callousness displayed towards civilian lives in Yugoslavia, the Orwellian language used to justify this, and the deliberate bombing of Serbian TV stations in an attempt to censor the broadcast of scenes of destruction caused by ‘smart bombs’ also raise disturbing questions about the robustness of the organisation’s democratic credentials.
The view from Peking was summarized by Yang Dazhou, a senior fellow at the U.S. Institute, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. In an article in Asiaweek (April 30), he argued that “the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is waging wholly unjustified war against Yugoslavia”:
The pretext for NATO’s action was to “prevent a humanitarian disaster from occurring in Kosovo.” But before the bombings, there was no humanitarian disaster in terms of a refugee outflow. The disaster was caused by NATO. Its leaders mistakenly believe that modern weapons can solve everything. By now war fever has set in and nothing will stop the NATO machine. It will not allow a Serbian-Kosovar dialogue. (As for the suppression of the Kosovo Liberation Army, this is legitimate. Let me ask: What about Britain’s attacks against the Irish Republican Army?)
An English-language publication based in Moscow, the fortnightly Exile, published a long-overdue feature on the mysterious career of William Walker, the American diplomat whose actions have materially contributed to the war (“Meet Mister Massacre,” April 22):
[I]f William Walker is not a CIA agent, he’s done a very bad job of not looking like one. Judge for yourself; Walker spent most of his long career in the foreign service in Central and South America, including a highly controversial posting as Deputy Chief of Mission in Honduras in the early 1980s, exactly the time and place where the Contra rebel force was formed.
In 1985, Walker was promoted to the post of deputy assistant secretary of state for Central America. This promotion made him a special assistant to Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams, a figure whose name would soon be making its way into the headlines in connection with the Iran-Contra affair:
According to information contained in Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh’s lengthy indictment of Abrams and Oliver North, Walker was responsible for setting up a phony humanitarian operation at an airbase in Ilopango, El Salvador. This shell organization was used to funnel guns, ammunition and supplies to the Contra rebels . . . Despite having been named in Walsh’s indictment (although he was never charged himself) and outed in the international press as a gunrunner. Walker’s diplomatic career did not . . . take a turn for the worse. . . . [I]t kept on advancing. In 1988, he was named ambassador to El Salvador, a state which at the time was still in the grip of U.S.-sponsored state terror.
The authors contrast Walker’s current posture of moral disgust toward Serbian “ethnic cleansing” with “the almost comically callous indifference he consistently exhibited toward exactly the same kinds of hate crimes while serving in El Salvador”:
In late 1989, when Salvadoran soldiers executed six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her 15-year-old daughter, blowing their heads off with shotguns. Walker scarcely batted an eyelid. When asked at a press conference about evidence linking the killings to the Salvadoran High Command, he went out of his way to apologize for chief of staff Rene Emilio Ponce, dismissing the murders as a sort of forgivable corporate glitch, like running out of Xerox toner. “Management control problems can exist in these kinds of situations,” he said.
Discussing the wider problem of state violence and repression in El Salvador, Walker was remarkably circumspect. “I’m not condoning it, but in times like this of great emotion and great anger, things like this happen,” he said. In what may be the most amazing statement of all, given his current occupation, Walker questioned the ability of any person or organization to assign blame in such cases:
Shrugging off news of eyewitness reports that the Jesuit murders had been committed by men in Salvadoran army uniforms, Walker told Massachusetts congressman Joe Moakley that “anyone can get uniforms. The fact that they were dressed in military uniforms was not proof that they were military.” Later, Walker would recommend to Secretary of State James Baker that the United States “not jeopardize” its relationship with El Salvador by investigating “past deaths, however heinous.”
This, coming from a man who would later recommend that the United States go to war over “heinous deaths.” In 1996, Walker hosted a ceremony in Washington in honor of 5,000 American soldiers who fought secretly in El Salvador. While Walker was ambassador to El Salvador, the U.S. government’s official story was that there were only 50 military advisors in the country:
Given Walker’s background, he was chosen because of his proven willingness to say whatever his government wants him to say, and to keep quiet when he is told to keep quiet-about things like a gunrunning operation, or the presence of 4,950 undercover mercenaries (whose existence he regularly denied with a straight face) in the banana republic where you are Ambassador. . . . Walker’s role in Racak was to assist the KLA in fabricating a Serb massacre that could be used as an excuse for military action.
To make sense of the American ruling establishment’s unstated agenda in the war against Serbia, it is as yet too early to turn to the Weekly Standard or the New Republic, but an indicator of the shape of things to come was given in an article in the Korea Herald on May 1. The author, Jon Huer, was described as a professor of sociology and philosophy at the University of Maryland, Asian Division, and “the author of a dozen books on American society.” At the outset, Huer admitted that he was impressed by the thought of “how painfully different Americans and Serbs are from each other”:
The bombing by Americans and human-shielding by Serbs are a dramatic illustration of the epic contrast that the two peoples and their societies represent. On one side is the high technology of ultimate sophistication, so logical and so rational, with little human involvement. . . . On the other side is the total disregard of logic and rationality. The military equation in the confrontation, so clearly onesided, is cast aside by the compulsions of the heart, bitterly carved and forged by historical memories, both conscious and subconscious .
The Serbs know that they are no match for the American-led technological armada, Huer contends, and there is not even a token gesture that suggests a two-sided war. They are meeting the losses and bearing the pains of destruction: “their reasoning is completely dominated by their heart, so full of grief and bitterness.” Their “primeval messages from their past are so overwhelming” that reason or calculation would have little effect on the Serbian soul. This fact contrasts “two archetype societies, one future-oriented and the other past-oriented.” Americans behave in the power of technology “and all that it implies—reason, logic, practicality, solution-finding.” Serbs believe “in the powers of their destiny—absolute, unyielding, powerful, and so human”:
Americans are now entering a wholly different era of society and culture, one that the world has never seen before. . . . a “Post-Human Era” where all aspects of social life are streamlined and rationalized, and all shades of human relations and nuances simplified into manageable routines and procedures. . . . In this way, there is little energy or passion that is wasted in dealing with human relations in society, now mostly done as paperwork by paid specialists like lawyers and counselors and bureaucrats. It is no wonder that the Post-Human Americans can totally, utterly concentrate their energy and ingenuity in leading the world with their technological, cultural, economic, and military superiority. This Post-Human America is light years away from Serbia, which is still in the Dark Ages for all its thoughts and actions that bear no resemblance to modernity.
Who will prevail in the long run? Huer declares his preferences:
My historical hunch is that Americans are the future prototype humans, and Serbs an atavistic holdover from a bygone era. The Post-Human America will dominate the coming century, precisely for the reason that their energy and passion are wholly devoted to the singular task of expanding information technology, elaborating popular culture, dominating economics and finances, and continuing military hegemony the world over. . . . [I]n the long run, the world belongs to the kind that is committed to extending the technological frontiers and thinking with economic calculus, not ethnic nationalism or xenophobia. It would behoove the Serbs to recognize this inevitable development of history and join up with what will be, not what was or should be.
This gem of brutal honesty indicates that Kosovo truly is the defining moment of our civilization and the test of its chances for survival in the coming century. Between the “rational post-humans” epitomized by Clinton, Albright, Berger, Cohen, and Walker, and the atavistic, irrational, oh-so “human” Serbs, we can only hope that the latter prevail.