by Justin Raimondo
KILLING ME SOFTLY WITH HIS SONG
The day after NATO blasted away more than 100 Kosovar civilians in the village of Korisa, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea showed not one iota of remorse. His sidekick, Luftwaffe Major-General Walter Jertz, declared of that day's air attacks: "They went very well. It was another very effective day of operations." If our goal is killing the people we are supposed to be saving, then, yes indeed, it was a very good day.
At that day's NATO briefing, as the NATO projectionist tested the slide, the slide projector showed the words to a song by Sonny and Cher: "They say we're young and we don't know won't find out until we grow." Even more grotesque: as Jertz went through his paean to the effectiveness of NATO's "precision bombing," the slide projector went into action again: A GOOD DAY, said the words projected onto the screen. Which raises the important question: are these people insane, or just plain stupid? I don't want to know the answer.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE LUFTWAFFE?
NATO etiquette requires that one never refer to the "Luftwaffe": the preferred phrase is "German Air Force."
TELL US ANOTHER ONE, JAMIE
Asked to comment on the KLA's appointment of Agim Ceku who masterminded the ethnic cleansing of over 300,000 Serbians from Krajina in Bosnia as the KLA commander-in-chief, the lying cockney uttered a whopper: "NATO has no direct contact with the KLA," he averred. Yet it has been widely reported that KLA units inside Kosovo are in radio contact with NATO forces, who use them as spotters in staking out targets. Madeleine Albright and her familiar, State Department spokesman James Rubin, are constantly touting these terrorists as "freedom fighters. Shea routinely lauds their alleged victories. Ceku's brutality in the service of his Croatian masters was legendary, earning him the nickname "Ceku the Barbarian." Are we really supposed to believe that NATO does not endorse his ascension to the KLA's top military post?
A SILVER LINING
The upside to NATO's merciless bombardment of Kosovo is that some of the bombs are hitting the KLA. The London Telegraph [May 16, 1999] reports that the KLA is taking very heavy casualties "and the suspicion is growing among the commanders that NATO warplanes are as responsible for [KLA] casualties as those inflicted by the Serbs." The KLA is now complaining bitterly: "It is impossible to tell who is killing usthe Serbs or NATO." This has thrown the KLA into confusion, and demoralization: as the Telegraph puts it: "the possibility of being bombed by NATO provokes a mood of deep despondency among the Kosovo Liberation Army." Awww. Well, isn't that just tough. They wanted the NATO bombing campaign, and now they have it. A more deserving recipient of U.S. bombs has never yet existed.
EARTH CALLING CONGRESS
Let's see if I have this straight: although the Republicans who control the House of Representatives oppose the war, they want to double the amount of money Bill Clinton is asking to finance it: And yet another conundrum is the odd fact that they were able to find billions more for "defense," but not one cent for just compensation to the Italian families of the victims in the ski gondola accident in which cavorting NATO pilots crashed into a ski lift. The Senate had set aside $40 million for this purpose, but it was killed in the House-Senate conference. The pilots got off scot-free, in spite of the fact that one of them admitted to destroying key evidence; add to this refusal to compensate the families, the Italians' general disaffection with NATO's war on Serbia, and we can soon chalk up Italy as the fourth member of the Russo-Chinese-Indian alliance against U.S. hegemony.
A NET FULL OF BOMBS
Italian fishermen are complaining that they cast their nets for fish and come up with bombs. Hundreds of cluster bombs, jettisoned by NATO warplanes, have turned up off a coastal area near Venice. Three fishermen who hauled their explosive catch in their nets were injured, one seriously. NATO said it had launched an investigation and "did not exclude" the possibility that the cluster bombs were NATO's gift to the Italian tourist industry.
A MONDAY SURPRISE?
Rumor has it that the two Serb soldiers held as POWs in Germany will be released, perhaps Monday. A few weeks ago, Secretary of Defense William Cohen strongly suggested that they might be let go, but we have heard nothing since, nor has the world gotten even so much as a glimpse of them. Perhaps now their wounds, received at the hands of the KLA who captured them and turned over their prisoners to the Americans are sufficiently healed to finally show their faces in public.
ON THE HOME FRONT
Sitting out the war in front of a computer screen is not my idea of activism, no matter how grueling, time-consuming, or necessary it may be. I have been longing to get involved in the antiwar movement here in San Francisco which would not seem to be all that hard. Yet it is or was. As I have written previously, antiwar protests here have been dominated by the International Action Center, in reality a front for the Workers World Party, an eccentric grouplet of Stalionphiles whose leaders once made a trip to North Korea to pay homage to the late dictator Kim Il Sung. Virulently sectarian, as well as ideologically wacko, the WWPers have deliberately and cynically narrowed the focus of the antiwar movement at a crucial time. However, the tide seems to be turning, in the Bay Area at any rate: it was with great relief and, yes, joy that I saw a poster for a rally sponsored by the "Ad Hoc Coalition to Stop the US/NATO War in the Balkans." It was hard to tell from the posters just who or what was behind this new coalition, but I figured anything is better than the Workers World Party, and so there I was, standing in the Civic Center, a half hour early, looking for some sign of the rally. I was not long in waiting. The first arrivals were the tablers: the various organizations that were participating in the rally were setting up literature tables amid the bum-infested benches of United Nations Plaza: the Peace and Freedom Party, the International Socialists, Workers World, Solidarity, and Socialist Action. As the marchers arrived behind a big homemade banner "Stop the Bombing U.S./NATO Out of the Balkans!" the character of the crowd was confirmed. As opposed to the IAC actions, which were filled with Serbian flags and shouts of "Kosovo is Serbia," this rally had all the feel and look of a left-wing community picnic, a mini-convention of people who all knew each other and shared a common cultural-ideological identity. There seemed to be a whole contingent of young somewhat anorexic-looking women with blue-green hair and nose-rings; these were nicely complemented by a contingent of rather effete-looking young men: lots of sandals, lots of beads, and a very studied nonchalance that was at once an attitude and a fashion statement. Here the culture of the San Francisco left was very much on display, a phenomenon that is at once tiresome and charming.
REFORGE THE FOURTH INTERNATIONAL?
I ran into a Serbian friend from the Berkeley demonstration, and we stood a chatted awhile; she had just talked to her family back in Serbia, and I could see the anguish in her eyes, it was a palpable presence that seemed to hang over her, a veil that nonetheless revealed much. The ground war, we agreed, would soon begin: Serbia, she assured me, would fight to the last man. The demonstrators are still coming into the plaza, their signs elaborately and even lovingly done, literate slogans neatly drawn, with graphics and splashes of color. Some of the slogans are passionate: "NATO = North Atlantic Terrorist Organization"; others are oddly irrelevant: "Free Mumia Abu Jamal!" And a few are completely incomprehensible: "Reforge the Fourth International!" proclaim the placards of the Spartacist League. "For Trotskyist Parties in the Former Yugoslavia!"
GOING FOR THE GOLD
Norman Solomon got the rally off to a rousing start with a speech that condemned the blatant immorality of the raids, quoted Martin Luther King to no great effect, and reached a climax with a ringing call to "take down the gold" from the newly-gilded dome of City Hall and (somehow) distribute it to the people.
OFF THE BAND
The next speaker was identified as a "Latino labor leader," who spent most of his time talking about the issue that he really cared about Puerto Rican independence and Hispanic nationalism and if he said anything about the Balkans, it must have been brief and in passing. This was followed by rather halfhearted chants "Hey Hey, Ho Ho" and, worst of all, a band called "Off the Pig,": which preceded the music if you want to call it that with a stern little lecture about the evils of "consumerism" and like, you know, how there are all these really big multinational corporations, and, like, you know, they get inside your mind with all this evil advertising, and suddenly you just have to have all this stuff that you don't really want not really and don't need. And, like, you know, the whole thing delivered in this whiny slacker tone of voice, as annoying as chalk screeching across a blackboard. With their tie-dyed dreadlocks and sarcastic references to uptight Marxist-Leninists, they managed to attract their share of attention, but frankly I was much more impressed with the next speaker, a young Serbian woman whose speech was the highlight of the rally. Structured as entries in what she called the "New World Order Dictionary" she defined "collateral damage" as "dropping thousands of cluster bombs that blow up into metal fragments that embed themselves in the flesh of children" she looked and sounded desperate, afraid, angry, and defiant all at once; in short, she was heroic, a short girl, but her stance was upright, her head thrown back, her voice shaky at first but increasing steady and even calm, detached, as if she can see what is coming and her eyes are haunted with it, heavy and black with the premonition of death. But this tragic sensibility is leavened with a sense of hardness, a determination to fight no matter what the odds, a matter-of-factness that is charming: "Don't bomb what you can't spell," she advises us. The crowd cheers.
MOVED TO CHEER
The band is back, but actually they don't sound half-bad, pretty good actually when they shut up and play, that is. They are followed by a union rep from Local 2, a very articulate and passionate Latina, In spite of the leftist rhetoric, it is clear from her speech that she is personally touched by the suffering of the Serbian people, and there is an urgency in her voice that communicates itself to the crowd. Listening to her, it is clear why we need to quickly build a movement to stop this war. When she said "it really hurts me" to hear about the many civilian casualties in this war, I believed her: this was perfect speech for a rally of this type, and listening to this La Pasionaria exhort the crowd to take action against the war, every day, and make opposition to it a part of our lives, it struck me in a very personal way. For what have I been doing, every day, since the war began but making it the center of my existence, in a kind of unholy marriage with the Pentagon and Slobodan Milosevic. Make opposition to this war a part of my life? Honey, that is my life, I thought, but it was nice to hear someone else say it; I who had stood silently, up until this point am moved to join the crowd in cheering her on.
Ralph Schoenman, the leader of an obscure Marxist grouplet known as "The Organizer," is tall and so thin that he looks as if he might snap in the brisk breeze sweeping though the plaza. His face is so emaciated that it looks like a death-mask, a face reflecting in every respect the mummified ideology and catchphrases that embellish his peroration. He reads a long, tedious tract, filled with phrases like "the workers council were the proletarian power in embryo, but these were smashed by the Stalinist reaction." When he speaks, rays of wrinkles spread over the leathery skin of his face in waves.
JUST YOUR AVERAGE, ALL-AMERICAN TROTSKYITE TEENAGER
There is a speaker from KPFA Radio, who somehow relates the war to the obscure internecine fights between the KPFA Board of Directors and the staff, and is a bit of a screamer; his speech is one long petulant whine. The next speaker, however, is a show-stopper: this is the teenage member of the Socialist Action youth group. Unlike practically everybody else at the demonstration, here is someone who looks like a normal American; not a nose-ring in sight, and no tie-dyed dreadlocks, but an average American teenager in blue jeans and a cowlick who talks about his school textbook: in this tome, which he holds aloft, the purpose of American foreign policy is defined as "spreading democracy" and "keeping the peace" two goals noticeably lacking in our present policy of war which strengthens Milosevic's dictatorship. This textbook is a fraud, government propaganda in "educational" guise; as he speaks, he gains confidence and soon he is waving his arms about, his voice rising. In the end, of course, it is all the fault of the "world capitalist system", but before he degenerates into rhetoric his analysis is trenchant and convincing. He is obviously well-read and knowledgeable, and an asset to any political movement he decides to attach himself to
A CULTURAL "MOMENT"
It is the cultural "moments" that grate on the nerves, but fortunately they were so extreme and obvious that they provided a kind of comic relief. My favorite was the performance artist/poet, whose name I did not quite catch; a boyish-looking Latina with caramel-colored skin and jet-black hair, cut short: she did not recite her poetry, but insisted on screaming it out at the audience, which was suitably awed into silence by her authenticity. "The halls," she screeched, "are covered with blood!!!" This was followed by several choruses of "You're fucked up, America YOU"RE REALLY FUCKED UP!!!" This epic concludes with melodramatic finality: "And I'll write it in the blood of your children!" No sooner had we recovered our hearing and our equilibrium than the audience or what was left of it was subjected to yet another poetic assault, this time from the toothless old hippie from "Food, Not Bombs": more endless minutes of gibberish laced with obscenities.
One of the most pointed speeches was made by Richard Becker, of the International Action Center, who pointed out that no sovereign nation would or could have signed the Rambouillet "peace" agreement which provided for the virtual military occupation of all of Yugoslavia by NATO troops. He also pointed out that calls for independence or "self-determination" for Kosovo play right into the hands of NATO and its KLA allies. By building up and promoting a movement pushing for an independent Kosovo, the American antiwar movement is putting its nose in where it doesn't belong, engaging in a kind of moral and political imperialism of which NATO is the military expression. While there is some tension palpable in Becker's speech between the Ad Hoc Committee and the WWP/IAC "Emergency Committee to Stop the War in the Balkans," the Ad Hoccers clearly invited Becker in the spirit of ecumenism. Becker repaid them with an attempt to split their ranks: for this issue of whether the antiwar movement should call for a Kosovar Republic, aside from the sectarianism of WWP, is one of the formal issues that appear to divide the two coalitions. As much as I hate to admit it, I am with Becker on this one: it is not for the American government to decide the Kosovar national question. The antiwar movement is not a sovereign nation, with a foreign policy of its own: its demands are seen as demands on our own government to carry out this or that policy. Displayed prominently at the front of the rally near the stage was a giant banner call for "self-determination" and "independence" for the Kosovars. If the antiwar movement is now demanding that the U.S. government secure for the Kosovars their right of national self-determination, then what it is asking for is a continuation and escalation of the war.
A NEW CHAPTER
It was, all in all, a very interesting demonstration: some 1,200 people (at most), who made up in enthusiasm and spirit what they lacked in numbers. At the end of the rally and at the beginning they announced that they are having an organizing meeting on Monday and that all and there was an emphasis on the all are welcome. I spoke to a couple of the organizers, and they seemed friendly enough even to a self-admitted right-wing Republican, though they did blanche visibly when I ticked off the names of prominent rightists who oppose the war, such as Pat Buchanan. But they kept smiling, and encouraged me to attend the meeting. Here is not only an outlet for my activism real activism in the material world as opposed to the somewhat disembodied cyberworld but a virtually endless source of material for this column. Tune in tomorrow night for the second installment in this ongoing serial, "Life in the New Antiwar Movement, or: The Old Right Meets the Old Left: A Geriatric Alliance."
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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. 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 is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and 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).