Hitchens Degraded

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.



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