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June 17, 2000
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 443
The Way Things Stand

An Old Comfortable Shoe

by Stojan Cerovic

One year after the war and all are still claiming that they are satisfied, that they had won and that things are going well. In the West, at least official spokesmen and NATO representatives don't admit to any mistakes nor culpability although they aren't celebrating their victory either, unlike the Serbs. General Clark who had performed all that was demanded of him is off to an early retirement while our supreme commander is receiving congratulations and medals for courage manifested at the moment of capitulation and decisiveness at the moment of the pull out. Even though they don't actually say it, the West is mostly aware that they had more luck than brains in that war and maybe they'll learn something from that unlike the state of Serbia since it refuses to admit its defeat and since it already knows everything.

NATO has occupied Kosovo not having lost a single soldier while Serbia, the first state in history to surrender to enemy planes, knows that Kosovo wasn't the most important issue in that war. What is a lot more important is that Milosevic won't go before Clinton. That will show the people in that country who the real winner is. Serbia is already far ahead of the US in the sense that its president has lasted longer than any American president in history. Shortly, not a single war opponent will be left in Washington while all are still present in Belgrade. Even if someone is missing that's not on account of the American bombs but from a surplus of domestic amunition.

However, on the anniversary of the end of the war, the worst thing isn't that Milosevic is still enduring, nor that he is celebrating and receiving medals but rather that because of that the war actually still isn't finished. All are in accord in that sense, especially Milosevic and the Americans, Belgrade and Washington. If it is obvious to the Serbs that the war for Kosovo is over, the only important thing for their leader is that that war is still ongoing which is why he doesn't consider himself defeated. Serbia's defeat isn't his since he is waging another, much larger war. All the wars he had waged thus far, while claiming to be protecting Serbian national interests, were only battles in which those interests weren't really all that important for him. Everyone noticed his marked indifference towards national suffering, the lack of any, even symbolic expression of compassion or sign that he had noticed any negative consequence of his policies. That is because to him the only important thing was the war against the West and the US.

While Serbs believed that they were waging local wars against their next door neighbors, he thought globally, he needed the biggest enemies which could be found on this planet which is why Serbs kept losing their little wars, while he only lost individual battles. Which is why they are utterly defeated and he isn't but has rather, in a certain sense, constantly and slowly been moving forward. Namely, it wasn't in the least bit simple to move an after all European country to the far East, all the way next to North Korea. Milosevic managed to do exactly that owing to these national defeats and by skillfully avoiding and refusing any possible alliance with any western country.

What was needed was for the Serbs to become convinced that the West was the only culprit for all their misfortunes so that they would never again dream of following western trends such as routine changes of government.

This might not have been an altogether clear intention but more of a spontaneous movement of the leader who longs to make his people as similar to himself as possible, to model them completely upon his own image. Namely, in such a manner power becomes agreeable and the state comfortable like an old shoe.

The consequence of it all is that Serbia, after all the defeats on its outer parts, has hardened and cemented itself in its center, and since it is at war with none other than the US, those two things, that fortress and that type of war, mutually define and motivate each other. It seems to me that there isn't much sense in torturing oneself with the question of what initiated what and whether Milosevic needs the war with the US in order to wage war against his internal enemies or vice versa. It would be extremely beneficial for Serbia if it could at least precisely understand its own position, namely that it is simultaneously in collision with its own government and with the strongest power in the world.

I was personally convinced on a number of occasions in the US that the war is still ongoing on this side as well, not only against Milosevic but against the Serbs and Serbia as well. No one says that out loud, yet hardly anyone here has the will to draw some fine distinctions between the regime and the people. After all, that is apparent and clear when Washington refuses to give up on sanctions, by its relative indifference with regards to Albanian violence over the Serbs in Kosovo, but also in the fact that many here are upset because they can't think of any new punishments, making them resort to mentioning various other divisions, tougher sanctions and starvation of the citizens.

I found it difficult to believe that in such a great country hostility can be nurtured to such an extent towards something which must, from this perspective, seem negligible in every sense. I'll try to explain that some other time, and for now it is beneficial to be completely aware of its existence and duration, and since Milosevic is enduring as well, that combination could easily bring various new misfortunes and defeats to Serbia. Namely, from Washington it isn't apparent that there is anything especially worthy in Serbia which would be a shame if it were to disappear. I don't have the impression that anyone here would especially lament if a bunch of people were to kill each other there if that would bring about Milosevic's downfall.

That doesn't mean that the US is truly inciting a civil war in Serbia as the regime claims, yet it is also true that in Milosevic's war against his own people those people for now don't have an ally in the US. On top of all that, as though things weren't bad enough already, Milosevic is justifying his personal internal war mostly with American interference. Therefore, when the police starts beating up an unfortunate student as an American agent, the US isn't even aware of it and mostly isn't worried about it, since it is all occurring amongst the Serbs.

Which all means that those who are still concerned about Serbia would have to devote themselves to eliminating at least one of these two wars which are being waged against it. Since there is no hope that Milosevic and the US will ever reconcile, it is up to Serbia to choose one of those two. When things are thus presented, it seems to me as though it is less hopeless to gaze over the ocean than towards Dedinje. Even though Washington isn't at the very source of God's mercy; deadly packages were sent off from here to Serbia, accompanied by a note saying that one shouldn't take it personally while Dedinje, when it kills, has exactly you in mind, it likes to come up close and to work by hand.

Finally, apart from the fact that it isn't worthwhile, it's somehow stupid to be at war with the US, something I've personally become convinced of. When I came here a couple of months ago, following a lot of hesitation and postponements, I thought I would scream at the first American I met. However, that American turned out to be a certain pitiable taxi driver from Ethiopia who I simply couldn't connect with NATO bombs, and he didn't resemble Madam Albright even by the color of his skin...

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