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June 27, 1998
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 351
The Sign of the Times

State of Spirit

by Dragoljub Zarkovic

The simplest things can be expressed simply--where Kosovo is concerned, Serbia is always right. There is no state on the world map that would permit what is now happening in Kosovo.

It is not an issue of losing our national cradle, our mythological and poetic inspiration, as hotheaded people are interpreting the situation to the detriment of Serbia, but what is really at issue is the danger of losing territory, national self-respect, and the reputation of a state which should be serving the interest of generations that will come after us...
At this moment any kind of NATO military offensive would be completely unjustified both formally and legally, or, to put it mildly, would be less justified than the attack by the Warsaw Pact Countries on Czechoslovakia in the summer of 1968.

Further expressions of simple truths must also include the following statement: the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) is a terrorist organization which enjoys public or silently consenting support from political parties in Kosovo.

Further enumeration requires that it be stated that it is impossible to accept the demand that Serbia reduce its military presence in Kosovo at a time when state sovereignty and people's lives and property are being jeopardized. In this way we arrive at specific absurdities. Firstly and insignificantly, I am sure that there are fiery opponents of this regime who will accuse me of becoming over-night just like “them”, or that I have become a Serbian nationalist. Secondly and very significantly, Serbs are finding themselves in a situation of defending at least two postulations in international relations at the end of this millennium: the integrity of state borders and the necessity for organized resistance against terrorism.  Looked at as a matter of principle, Milosevic's struggles ought to interest us as much as the olympic success of the Jamaican bob-sled team. We have come to this point because of him, and we do not know how to go on because of him. Something more significant is at issue here: the defense of even a semblance of the international order and the survival of Serbs as a political people.

For nine years Vreme has been witness to the character of a regime that has become an anachronistic dictatorship run by an unschooled aparatchik, a man without a vision or a clear political plan and insight into the means for realizing that plan.

The anecdote of my colleague Nenad Stefanovic is completely applicable in this situation: a certain boxer in the provincial Serbian town of Kursumlija was attempting to simultaneously pass elementary school exams for grades seven and eight, and his club manager arranged with the school committee that the athlete be allowed to pass geography if he is able to name all the continents. "Do you know at least this?" the promising boxer was asked by the Red Star club manager, and he began to enumerate: "Europe... America... aw, hell, I'll get them all by exam time!” Unfortuanately, the situation is no different with Serbian politics, regardless of how desperately sad it is that it is easiest to comment on it with anecdotes.

But if anything leaves a mark on Serbia in the ensuing days, it will be the search for an answer to the following question: is the extent of disagreement with the policies of Slobodan Milosevic becoming a hurdle in defending the interests of Serbia? Someone once exclaimed that they hate Hitler because he stands in the way of any defense of Germany.

O.K., neither is Milosevic a Hitler, nor are Serbs "those Germans of yesterday", but the absence of a global dramatics is not leaving Serbs free of responsibility for what they have done "locally", just as it does not free them of responsibility for being right and for defending their interests.

The hypothesis that this text could have been written without mention of the President of FRY proved untenable by the time my wordprocessor indicated “line 22”, because any serious analysis of this phenomenon shows that Milosevic's personality is central to the entire Serbian effort to defend Serbian rights in Kosovo, even though this same individual is also central to the absence of efforts to defend our interests.

State officials, state media, para-state ventriloquists, coalition partners, sycophants, and crooks indicate most clearly the manner in which Milosevic's regime and his way of governing are being defended...

Opposition media, opposition politicians, profoundly disgusted intellectuals, disillusioned poets, and crooks are above all organizing around an attack on Slobodan Milosevic's manner of governing, so that it turns out that the question of Kosovo, as the most significant state and national issue, is insufficiently provocative and important for the mentioned categories of people - excluding of course crooks on both sides - to overcome their understandable political differences.

The former group is trying to persuade us that we should die in the name of Milosevic's mistakes, while the latter group testifies to the fact that we should give up Kosovo in the name of the same mistakes.

If I had sheep, I would certainly not let Milosevic take care of them, just as no one the least bit intelligent wants to keep their money in a Yugoslav bank, so that I have complete understanding for Albanians who do not want to be in Serbia and with Serbia.

But Albanians and the international community should also know that Serbia is older than their discontent and that Milosevic is a passing phenomenon, not only as far as the length of mandate as well as life expectancy is concerned, but above all in terms of mentioned criteria: the integrity of state borders and the necessity for resistance against terrorism.

Here, a supreme absurdity could also occur, which would be worthy of the end of this century: because of the evil Milosevic, disgusted westerners bomb the confused Serbs, who are mindlessly giving up their lives in the defense of two significant principles upon on which a well organized world order and security will be based once total globalization occurs in some distant millennium.

Hence the threats of bombing and an absence of clear and explicit condemnation of terrorism can be understood at this moment as a means of pressuring Milosevic to formulate a policy and a state platform that could serve as a point of departure for exerting pressure on the Albanian side.

But we should not labor under the illusion that the escalation of the conflict and the use of disproportionate force will not result in threats to peace in the region, which we have already seen to some degree.

In such a scenario Albanians would end up being right, while we would be showered with bombs. It is mere illusion that Milosevic could submit his resignation, governed by national interests and maintaining intact the territorial integrity of this country, just as anyone who is normal would do upon considering their sins.

This would be desirable national policy--a change of tempo, as in a sport match. It would permit an offensive to be mounted. As it stands, we remain with our heads buried in sand. One group is hiding from Milosevic, while the other keep their heads buried in order not have to see him.

Or, as a friend of mine said during the second half of the football match with the Germans, "If the Kosovo Liberation Army was smart, , it would have reached Krusevac by now!" 

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