Allied Farce:
A Wartime Diary

Past Diaries

by Justin Raimondo



A warm spring day in the Bay Area, and the sky so blue it hurts to look at it: a perfect day for a demonstration, and I am glad to get out of the house and away from my computer terminal. Having acquired the kind of sickly pallor one associates with heroin addicts and computer nerds, it is good to be out in the air and feel the sun on my face. The world, I note with a pleasant shock, is not a series of websites. I have been invited to speak at a rally at UC Berkeley, and all week I have looked forward to the event with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Excitement because I am aware for the first time that a significant number of Serbians are reading this column -- not just Serbians living in Yugoslavia, but Serbian-Americans who feel as isolated and alienated from our thoroughly CNN-ized media reality as I do. Trepidation because I know I am in for a run-in with the local leftists, who naturally dominate the Berkeley scene.


When I get the list of speakers, my suspicions are confirmed: I spot the name of Gloria La Riva, a leading light of the International Action Center, a far-left group whose modus operandi -- and unreasoning hostility to right-wing opponents of the war -- I described in an earlier diary entry. Of course, she has gotten the same list, and is at this moment fuming that those #$%$&*! Republicans have somehow infiltrated her antiwar movement. Of course, the Serbian students at UC Berkeley, in their innocence, are completely unaware of these factional rivalries; in their isolation and desperation to prove that they are not monsters, they have reached out to the right as well as the left -- an openness that can only infuriate the dour dogmatists of the IAC and the Bay Area Left in general. Driving up to Berkeley that morning, I know I am really going to enjoy this.


We were supposed to meet up with the organizers at a cafe on Bancroft, but I am half an hour late and so we proceed directly to Sproul Plaza: a concrete concourse filled with milling students, on their way to class or simply taking in the sun, stretched out on the lawn. There is at first little sign of a demonstration: only the rows of tables, each one manned by a few students, where the Balkanization of the Berkeley campus is on display: the Korean-American Students Union, the Queer Alliance, the Hispanic Forum, the Black Students Union, and the Armenian Student Association (sporting a huge poster of Hitler that is meant to represent the Turkish government, and the words "Armenian Holocaust" in large black type over an exhibit of photos and testimonials of Turkic savagery). I see only one political group tabling, the International Socialists Organization, American followers of the British Trotskyist Tony Cliff. But they, too, like everyone else, seem not to be paying much attention to passersby -- their ostensible audience -- but are intently talking to one another, oblivious to anyone who might be interested in their literature. It is an inauspicious sign. The names of the organizers on the email I received were overwhelmingly Slavic, and I wonder: will it be only Serbian-Americans who will turn out for this rally?


I spot Jelena on the other side of the plaza, and she spots me: although we have never met, there is a mutual recognition when our eyes meet. She is very young, and quite beautiful: tall, with long honey-colored hair and a wide sensual mouth. She smiles, we shake hands and exchange pleasantries. The others are beginning to arrive: Serbian students, most of them, the men very tall and broadshouldered, have clambered up the side of Sproul Hall and affixed a huge banner over the entrance: GIVE PEACE A CHANCE. A campus administrator is on the spot in moments, informing the flustered and indignant Jelena that the banner must come down. Jelena tries to reason with her, but it is futile: "regulations are regulations," says the woman, smiling wanly. I turn to her and say "Gee, isn't that what set off the Free Speech movement of the sixties?" She laughs appreciatively, but does not relent, and I am tempted to ask what if that banner said "Celebrate Black History Month", only barely managing to restrain myself. Later, there will be plenty of opportunity to vent my spleen at Berkeley's Birkenstock brigade. For now I smile pleasantly, and introduce myself to the other speakers, who are already beginning to arrive. I strike up a conversation with a Berkeley professor, who takes umbrage at the propagandistic tone of the media, and asks me what I'm going say in my speech: I tell him I'm going to be giving the conservative perspective on events in the Balkans, and he looks somewhat startled but amused, and we talk about the breadth and depth of right-wing opposition to this war. "I think the audience is going to be somewhat surprised by what you have to say," he said, apparently quite pleased at the prospect. "But they really need to be shaken up a bit," I say, "don't you think?"


My fear that this is going to be a gathering of mainly Serbian students turns out to be groundless. As the sound equipment is moved into place, a line of students holding signs and the giant banner that had to be taken down faces the plaza, in front of the microphone. It is lunch time and plenty of students are sitting on the lawns, but our audience is not entirely passive. A number of students are standing around watching, curious and now silent as Jelena introduces the first speaker. Desa Wakeman is a Serbian-American academic, a sprightly older woman with a distinguished air, who explains the history and meaning of the Serbian national mystique in a richly accented voice. She recites the long litany of martyrdoms, mass expulsions, and many tragedies that make the history of Serbia seem like a poem by Lord Byron. I can almost hear Ravel's "Pavanne for a Dead Princess." The audience is politely attentive, but a bit restive as the saga of Serbia continues. It is nearly ten minutes into her speech and she is only up to the Twelfth Century. Of course, this underscores the complexity and hidden dangers of U.S. intervention in the Balkans, albeit in a way Desa's audience will absorb only by implication. For if it takes this long to explain what is going on, what the facts are, and who did what to whom, then is this something the United States wants to get involved in? Look at all those furrowed young brows trying to make sense of the long record of recriminations and blood feuds, apocalyptic battles and glorious defeats that make up Balkan history. Will they want to die for Kosovo tomorrow, if they are called -- for a cause that seems murky, at best? Desa is making a good job of it, and the applause -- particularly loud from the Serbian students -- makes her smile.


Jelena and Jasmina Vujic make impassioned speeches that seem to focus on the unfairness of the news coverage: they are clearly hurt by having to watch the tragedy unfolding in their country through the prism of a warmongering media which has placed itself at the disposal of the NATO High Command. There is a plaintive undertone in Jasmina's voice, and it is heartbreaking to hear it; it reminds me of the character in horror writer Shirley Jackson's classic short story, "The Lottery," who loses the draw and pleads with her friends and neighbors before they stone her to death.


At the last moment, I ask Jelena to change my introduction: in addition to being editorial director of, I also want to be identified as representing the San Francisco chapter of the California Republican Assembly. Why not come out of the closet completely? My speech is a synopsis of yesterday's diary: the Left has been transformed into the War Party, and the antiwar movement of the new millennium is, in large part, a creature of the Right. I observe that, as the editor of, I am posting material from conservative commentators and not many from the Left because of the great dearth of the latter. I gleefully point out that the great majority of Republicans in the House and Senate voted against the bombing. There are a few catcalls at the edge of the crowd, but I plough right on through, my rather loud voice drowning them out with one rhetorical crescendo after another. I cannot resist pushing my political incorrectness to the limit -- and perhaps beyond -- by remarking that I fail to see how constructing a Muslim state in the heart of Christian Europe can possibly be in the national interest of the U.S. I conclude by making the case for a single-issue antiwar movement: the cause of the Serbian people is that important and urgent. I am really having a high old time of it, and the applause is much louder than the catcalls. What is really gratifying is the sincerity in the voice of a distinguished-looking old Serbian who clasped me by the shoulders when he shook my hand and told me he had never heard a better exposition of Serbian history. The Serbian students were equally appreciative, but not everyone was so pleased, as the next speaker made all too clear.


Jelena introduced Barbara Lubin as the representative of something called the Middle Eastern Children's Alliance: she turned out to be woman who looked to be somewhere in her mid-fifties, with a fiercely angular face and graying hair. Her tone was irritable, and she was obviously perturbed, like a vegetarian who has been invited to a steak barbecue. After repeating the improbable story that the United States is dumping radioactive bombs on the Serbian people, without offering any proof, and pointing out that killing is, after all, a bad thing -- what a trenchant analysis! What a revelation! What profundity! -- she turned to the real topic of her talk: me. "And as for the Republicans, and right-wingers like Pat Buchanan and the last speaker -- I am not aligned with them, and will never align with them," she ranted, condemning both me and most of the active opposition to this war to Coventry. We, she explained, are worse than the warmongers -- although, again, she did not bother to prove her thesis but merely stated it, as if it were a self-evident truth. That is how fossilized and impotent the American Left is today: their ideology has been reified into a religion, its doctrines are experienced as revelations and thus beyond reason or explanation.


I am sitting with the Serbians, and they clearly are not pleased with this turn of events; they are shocked, but are too polite and nervous to acknowledge it, and so they smile, while the older ones shake their heads. Don't worry, says one, we are with you. "I didn't realize there would be these tensions among the speakers," says Jelena, apologetically, and I rush to reassure her that I am not made of glass and not at all offended. Vigorous debate is the American Way. I don't want to embarrass Jelena and the others by walking over to that harpy and telling her what I think of her sour sectarianism, and I restrain myself, content in the knowledge that I can do it here and reach many Serbian students. And so, let's get to it: Ms. Lubin, you obviously do not really care about the fate of the Serbian people who are now under the bombs that your tax money is paying for. This is just another radical cause where you can push your tired leftist line, where you can peddle the same old by-now-seriously-damaged goods to an increasingly unappreciative crowd. If you had a moral bone in your body you would not direct your fire at opponents of this ugly and increasingly bloody war. Never have I witnessed a more sickening display of self-indulgent sectarianism and sheer rudeness. Your behavior was despicable and I challenge you to own up to it and publicly apologize to the organizers who worked so hard to put that demonstration together. They have everything to lose if the antiwar movement in this country is led by asinine ultra-leftists like yourself, and it is a pity they didn't realize that you would screw them over so royally. There -- now I feel much better. Moving right along . . .


The next speaker was Gloria La Riva, who is well-known in San Francisco leftist circles as a venerable fixture at demonstrations for every imaginable cause. She is there to talk about her recent trip to Belgrade, in the company of Ramsey Clark, the former Attorney General who has now become a radical gadfly. Clark keeps popping up in places like Iraq and Yugoslavia, berating his former colleagues in the ruling elite, often in the company of Gloria and her fellow Trotskyists. Gloria is a thin, intense woman who is no longer young. Her stringy black hair is tied back in a loose braid, like an Indian squaw, and she has a rather large mole with more than a few spikes of black hair sprouting luxuriously from the tip, like a forest crowning a mountaintop. In the moments before she is to take her place at the podium, she paces, drawing deeply on a cigarette stuck between her thin lips. Jelena introduces her as representing the International Action Center, and I think to myself: what an innocuous name for such an exotic group as the Workers World Party to hide behind. The content of her speech was a catalogue of horrors, all perpetrated deliberately by a malevolent ruling class of top-hatted capitalists, and of course the evil underlying this war is not hubris, or stupidity, or good intentions gone horribly wrong, but sheer blood lust on the part of the evil capitalists, whose only goal is to make money. There is a strange incongruity in the evil she describes and what supposedly motivates it: for if profit is all that motivates the War Party, then surely there are easier ways to pursue it than starting a war. The political risks, let alone the gravity of such an entrepreneurial scheme, would seem to outweigh whatever profits are to be made; and while the desire of the armaments industry to make a post-Cold War comeback is surely an important component of the War Party, this hardly explains the enthusiasm for this war on the Left. Why, even the Fourth International and the parties associated with it in every country but the U.S. have jumped on the anti-Serb bandwagon. Do they support this war for the "mega-profits" it will bring them? Is Vanessa Redgrave beating the war drums so that she can go on tour with the USO in Kosovo? But what made Gloria's speech so memorable was not its content but the voice in which it was delivered: a hi-pitch screech that grated on the inner ear and that just kept coming at you, without inflection or any real passion. It was a simulation of emotion, the words belted out like bullets from a machine-gun, and all strung together in phrases that were merely slogans. In hearing her speak, one got the definite impression that she thought in slogans, abbreviated staccato phrases that she spit at the audience like so much rhetorical phlegm. She ended her speech with a rather restrained "endorsement" of Ms. Lubin's vitriol -- a final slap in the face to the student organizers.


Now it was time for the march to take place: the idea was that, having convinced and fired up the student masses to take up the antiwar cause, the crowd of students who gathered to watch the proceedings would now take to the streets. About fifty demonstrators or so lined up, after some coaxing, and we took off down the street. It soon turned out, however, that we were headed in the wrong direction, and so we made a U-turn -- not too difficult, considering our small numbers -- and filed out into the streets. We marched around the block, to the studied disinterest of most pedestrians but to the enthusiastic cheers of a few. As we hit the halfway mark, two characters with skull-and-bones tattoos on their arms sneered loudly and declaimed that we were "a bunch of fucking communists"! To be red-baited and baited by the reds all in the space of an hour -- such are the perils of the new antiwar movement.


Afterward we all sit in a cafe, and the Serbians are charming. We talk about political philosophy, I explain libertarianism (or try to) to an earnest but somewhat vague young man. There is little talk of Ms. Lubin's faux pas, except expressions of surprise from Jelena. In talking to Desa I discover that she already knows of me through my articles in Chronicles magazine, the flagship organ of paleo-conservatism and staunch opponent of this war. She reads the magazine faithfully, and says she is honored to meet me. Of course, it is not surprising that a Serbian academic would know of Chronicles, which has taken up their cause in this country with such erudition and genuine understanding. "You know, what I love about the magazine is the beauty of the language," she says, and it is wonderful to find one of the magazine's few subscribers in this group, as if to confirm my right to be here. Ms. Lubin is nowhere in sight, but Gloria shows up and takes a seat. She doesn't look at me or talk to me. Perhaps it is just as well.


I bid adieu to Jelena and the others, ebullient in the afterglow of an event that didn't go at all badly. The turnout was not bad, considering that there are no admitted American casualties as yet, and the students seemed receptive if questioning. As I walk to the car, I cannot help thinking of what young Jelena and her friends are up against: a propaganda machine that is working day and night to twist and bend reality, and blot out (or bomb out) any alternative view of NATO's bloody "liberation" of Kosovo. Will it really take body bags coming back from the Balkans to convince Americans that this war is a disaster for America and the world? If and when that happens, it will be necessary for the antiwar movement to extend way beyond the small circles of Serbians and eccentric leftist sects that have been organizing demonstrations. Seen from this perspective, today's demonstration is an ominous portent: on a warm spring day in sunny California, I felt a chill of foreboding.

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (forthcoming from Prometheus Books).

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