It would be hard to imagine better evidence of the sorry state of supposedly left opinion in this country than Christopher Hitchens' "Belgrade Degraded" in the May 17 issue of The Nation. Hitchens never comes to any firm conclusion on what ought to be done, but he clearly regrets that the full-scale invasion option "might not now receive (as it once might have done) popular support from Serbian civilians." The notion that it ever would have received such support is ludicrous, and Hitchens offers no evidence for this claim.
With great pomposity he tells his readers that a principled peace movement "should at least attempt to contact the few genuine Serbian internationalists, ask them what they think and inquire how they can be helped." (Always beware of words like "internationalists." Those recognized as in this category by the western establishment have commonly been members of denationalized elites who have swallowed western attitudes and ideologies, have lost sight of national ideals and interests, and are proud of their links to the morally superior West. They are often pleased to display their "internationalism" to the western media, and they are regularly spokespersons for the "reforms" of Russia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America.) Hitchens enlightens us with the opinions of two "internationalists"--one, Srdja Popovic, favors a NATO invasion from Hungary to remove Milosovic as "a precondition for a settlement." The other, Dusan Mkavejev, who used to support NATO bombing of Serb positions in Bosnia, is entirely against the current bombing. It never occurs to Hitchens, who opens his article with a critique of NATO bombing policy and objectives, that a man who would urge a NATO invasion of his own country and a NATO-organized restructuring of Yugoslav politics is a fanatic and nut. And the nut and his other Serb "internationalist" contradict one another.
Hitchens also tells us that Serbs who are "the serious opposition...understand that the main enemy is at home." But my informants who have recently visited Belgrade tell me that Hitchens' friends and "serious opposition" are unrepresentative of the intellectuals there, who oppose Milosevic, consider him a political trickster and terrible strategist, but do not feel that even his worst actions justify a death penalty for an entire nation. Many informed Serbs also believe that the earlier NATO policies seriously biased against Serb interests, and the failure to pursue an equitable negotiated settlement, all helped consolidate Milosevic's power. And the bombing, which has had a generally acknowledged unifying effect on the Serbs, has made it clear to them that the main enemy is abroad.
Hitchens says that one segment of the peace movement here "speaks smugly about how all this bombing has upset the Serbian democrats." Why this is "smug" except as a petty smear tactic is unclear--Serb democrats almost uniformly condemn the bombing for its internal effects on Yugoslavian politics, as well as for other reasons. In his article Hitchens shows not the slightest awareness that the NATO powers have been carrying out policies hostile to Yugoslavia and the Serbs for years, and well before ethnic cleansing took hold.
Although Hitchens says that serious Serbs recognize that "the enemy is at home," he does not say that serious U.S. citizens should recognize that their [emphasis on their] enemy is "at home." Like so many other supposed leftists Hitchens has swallowed the imperial perspective that finds the demons--"another Hitler"--somewhere else, and exactly where Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright find it. While Hitchens makes no critical remarks about the branch of the left that favors bombing, he sneers further at the bad branch--the one that smugly says bombing has hurt Serbian democrats--saying that "Such people also describe the bombing as an 'aggression' and cleverly ask why we don't bomb to save Kurds or the Timorese."
Hitchens once again denigrates by the use of rhetorical ploys-- quote marks around aggression and the word "clever" for the Kurd- Timorese comparisons--which he substitutes for dealing with substance. NATO is violating the UN Charter and a very good case can be made that it is committing both aggression and serious war crimes. (The head of the Serbs in Croatian Krajina was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague because his forces lobbed some shells into Zagreb. Among its other anti-civilian bombing operations NATO is now destroying electric power stations, which has closed out running water in Belgrade and Novi Sad, which are pumped by electricity, and is interfering with hospital operations, including the maintenance of life support systems.)
It is also awkward for Hitchens that we don't bomb for Kurds or Timorese, as it points up the unlikelihood that NATO is bombing for humanitarian reasons and the probability of a hidden agenda that he chooses not to address. But he is captured by the demonization of Milosevic and clearly accepts the western establishment's elevation of the removal of the demon to top priority, although he finds it painful that the instrument of removal of this beast must be his old enemy Bill Clinton. So in the end Hitchens gnashes his teeth, because Clinton and his gang will probably engage in "a sordid carve-up brokered with Russia," and the Serbian people might no longer support a full-scale invasion. The Serbs obviously need more "internationalists" to straighten themselves out.