We're all citizens of Nato's republic
By Jeremy Hardy
Saturday April 3, 1999
Those who are not confident in their views often resort to abuse - the bastards. This may seem like homespun psychology, but it appears to be very much the case with the pro-war lobby. Anyone who is not convinced that bombs are the best way to defeat Milosevic is met with a tirade of juvenile insults along the lines of, 'What's the matter, fancy him, do you?' Then, of course, Hitler is mentioned, in order to suggest that anyone asking exactly what are the aims of this war, is a closet Nazi.
I shall not return the bile. I do not question the integrity of those on the left who support the bombing. I do not need to question the integrity of the cabinet because they are demonstrably free of it. But I should like the war's left-wing supporters to stop sneering at the rest of us and listen. I do not think that they are bad, shallow or stupid; I just wonder why they are so vindictive about those of us who strongly believe that Nato is making things worse.
One might understand why the families of those mired and shelled in the futile horror of the Somme resented conscientious objectors. But for most of the British today, war is a computer game. Unless and until ground troops are used, that will remain the case in the Balkans. Even in the Gulf, scarcely enough young working-class men returned in body bags even to remind a spectating public that the thing was really happening. Ground troops in Serbia and Kosovo would probably incur far more casualties, and I doubt whether the Government will risk it. Instead, Britain will be engaged in the kind of war that we could fight indefinitely, funds permitting.
We won't even reap the refugee whirlwind. Funny how the British press suddenly loves Albanian refugees. The trouble is that all the words like 'tide' and 'overwhelming' were exhausted describing the tiny number who have come here in the past 18 months. There is nothing left but 'weary procession' to denote the hundreds of thousands who are leaving Kosovo now. And it is unlikely that many of them will be able to make their way to Britain. Nato has made sure of that. Unless, our Government launches a programme to bring huge numbers of them here, one might suspect that driving them into neighbouring countries was part of the plan.
I have not seen a substantive counter-argument to the view that the war is destroying local opposition to Milosevic. It might be true that the cause of Kosovan independence is not widely popular among Serbs, but there has been persistent opposition to Milosevic's terror. That opposition has now been silenced. Perhaps this confirms a suspicion in the minds of Nato's supporters that Serbs are just bad people. There is a widespread view that the terrible misery which ruthless leaders have orchestrated in the past decade springs from the Serb character. Rather than considering Alex Salmond's description of 'top-down nationalism', some on the centre-left have wandered towards the conclusion that the Serbs are just racists, that it's in their blood.
Admittedly, the supporters of Serbian nationalism say the same about the Croats. It must be tempting to point out that the Ustashe, Hitler's Croatian allies, were as brutal to Serbs as they were to Jews. But the post-war period was remarkable for its ethnic harmony, especially given what had just happened. It's not enough to say that Tito kept a lid on things; people gravitated towards each other as we naturally do. I am not of the view that we are genetically primed to be intolerant, although I'm sure someone can show me a breed of toad that puts toads with different surnames into concentration camps.
Neither do I support the view of right-wing appeasers that Balkan genocide is centuries-old simmering stuff and none of our business. The war's supporters are right to say that we all live in the same world. Indeed, some have pointed out that British socialists volunteered to fight Franco. But so far, no one I know has volunteered to fight Milosevic. Fair enough, the armed forces are public employees like the bin men, but the thing looks a tad less heroic in that context. It is also worth mentioning that the Government's new anti-terrorism legislation is aimed at suppressing people here who agitate against foreign regimes. Under it, those recruiting for the International Brigades would have been liable to arrest.
I think we have to look at who is fighting this war and why. We could just say that, if Milosevic loses, it'll all have been worthwhile, but, as Mark Steel argued this week, to support this war is to encourage Whitehall and Washington to fashion the world to their liking. Internationalism is one thing, a world subservient to the Pentagon is another. Ken Livingstone has earned praise for articulating the pro-war case. 'My socialism and driving moral force are not defined by lines on a map,' he said. Strange then, that he voted for the new Asylum Bill.
But perhaps all of this would be dwarfed by events if Nato's war were to bring about peace and justice in the Balkans. Not very likely, though, is it?
Saturday, September 06, 2008
From The Annals