FROM AMERICA & EUROPE WITH LOVE

The peace talks, prompted partly by the Račak massacre and attempting to get Serb and Albanian delegations to sign up to an agreement giving Kosovo substantial self-government, were held at the ancient Chateau of Rambouillet near Paris in Feb 1999. The Rambouillet agreement of the NATO powers looked like a game show with no multiple-choice questions, only one contestant and limited time to answer them. Furthermore, there were no ‘Ask the Audience’ or ‘Phone a Friend’ options, and the idea of the autonomy for Serbia’s southern province of Kosovo, along with an international military presence not only in Kosovo but also in other parts of Serbia, did not really sound appealing to the Serbian negotiators. Interestingly, additional demands were introduced in the final moments of the peace talks after Serbia had already agreed to the main proposals, which practically guaranteed the negative outcome. Now the other side wanted ‘free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the FRY (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) including associated airspace and territorial waters, without limits or obligations or concern for the laws of the country or the jurisdiction of its authorities, who are, however, required to follow NATO orders on a priority basis and with all appropriate means’ (source: Kosovo Peace Accord, Noam Chomsky). The idea of ‘complete military occupation and political control of Kosovo by NATO, and effective NATO military occupation of the rest of Yugoslavia at NATO’s will’ that the Rambouillet Agreement called for was unacceptable for the Serbian officials. We can’t really blame them, can we?

President Milošević reluctantly went back to school. With his digressive questions, he was clearly trying the professors’ patience, who (kindly) asked that all questions be asked at end of the lecture. Moreover, the U.S. and NATO were offended and humiliated in front of the whole class by his contemptuous refusal to play by the book. However, they didn’t wallow in their distress long, and decided to plan for the future. If they walked away after having their mind set on making use of those bombs…eh…bringing us democracy, it would be embarrassing, right? Of course, Kosovo cannot be viewed separately from the Yugoslav wars. The behavior of the Serbian state in Croatia and Bosnia, when the JNA (Yugoslav People’s Army) under the control of the authorities in Belgrade had the upper hand, resulted in crimes against humanity and destruction of cities. It was obviously payback time. Be that as it may, violence is Washington’s strong card, and guaranteeing the credibility of NATO a must, especially at the time of celebrating the golden wedding anniversary. What better way to do so than making others scared of ‘the Global Minotaur?’ Very scared. To avoid their credibility becoming incredible, the Bogeymen in charge said loud and clear there was NO alternative to bombing, closing the chapter and inventing the new rules. Being the usual suspect is no fun though, hands down, we were nothing but collateral damage. We came in handy, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was nothing personal. It was all about a fit at the given moment, which we didn’t. If it hadn’t been us, it would have been someone else. Anyhow, we were persuaded it was all for our own good, the ‘intervention/operation’ being lovingly called ‘humanitarian’ or, to be more precise, ‘Noble Anvil.’

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Every anniversary is a milestone. Long-time couples often find great romance in seeking the most memorable ways of reaffirming their love for each other. Our couple, Washington and Brussels, first went on a picnic, popping open a bottle of champagne, and viewing the incredible sunrise hand in hand, which seemed more like a sunset to us. Then, they brought back the memories when they were young and used to spend a lot of time making out. Later that day, they lit some candles, gave each other a sensual massage, and spiced things up by trying new sexual positions. The evening culminated in renewing their wedding vows, promising love till the end of times (or at least the world) and exchanging gifts. Wedding anniversary presents are often themed to the year. Sexy lingerie, chocolate, flowers and jewelry are so out. This is when they thought of us (oh my God, we are golden!), and went shooting to blow off some steam. Charming, isn’t it? Happy Anniversary! We wish you many happy returns, your love getting stronger and stronger with time by making others weaker and weaker.

After 11 hours in the torture chamber, the peace talks failed, as Milošević refused to sign the generous proposal of the States and NATO. Clinton administration thought ‘NATO should be able to act independently of the United Nations.’ According to Chomsky, the bombing of the FRY, made of Serbia and Montenegro, in March ‘99, ‘threatened to undermine a growing democratic movement in Serbia, jeopardizing the lives of 10 million people,’ but, who was thinking about democracy when there were lives to save. There would undoubtedly be many fatalities along the way, not to mention a huge refugee flow that would follow the bombing, but that’s the price of peace, n’est-ce pas?

I was an English Language and Literature student, and had been living in the city of Niš in the south of Serbia for a few years. I recall mom’s trembling voice crackling over the receiver sometime in March. Something has gone horribly wrong. There will be bombing. Take the first train home right away. Mom, what happened? You’re overreacting. Calm down. Right away, I said! For a few seconds, I was deprived of physical sensation and responsiveness. I was frozen to the point that I didn’t know what to tell my sister. We laughed when I finally did, concluding mom was blowing it out of proportions, as ever. She had been watching too many whodunits again. The thing is, she had a bad feeling, apart from listening to the news 24/7 and thought we’d be safer in a smaller town. Besides, she wanted us to be together. Eventually, we joined our parents because we knew they’d be worried sick if we hadn’t, hoping to shortly pick our lives up right where we’d left off.

The decision to bomb Serbia and Montenegro was ultimately made without Security Council authorization. U.S.-led NATO forces launched cruise missiles at targets in Yugoslavia, ‘plunging America into a military conflict that President Clinton said was necessary to stop ethnic cleansing (in Kosovo) and bring stability to Eastern Europe’ (source: Crisis in the Balkans, Chomsky). In a televised address, he explained that by bombing Yugoslavia, ‘we are upholding our values, protecting our interests, and advancing the cause of peace.’ Values, interests and peace. Wow, right?

“As President Bill Clinton and his coterie of ‘experts’ and media cheerleaders rejoiced in the first US ‘humanitarian’ bombs on Yugoslavia, Rep. Ron Paul was singing a different tune. ‘This cannot be a proud moment for America. Serbia has not invaded another country, but is involved in a nasty civil war with both sides contributing to the violence…Meddling in the internal affairs of a nation involved in a civil war is illegal and dangerous,’ he said on the US House Floor on March 24” (source: Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity). But, the missiles kept falling like rain. Needless to say, there’s more to this. The responsibility of the West at the time when the conflicts could have and should been prevented by supporting peace instead of military initiatives is indisputable. Let’s not forget that Milošević was once seen as ‘a factor of peace and stability in the Balkans.’

Once the party began, people started regularly sharing their most terrifying and funniest experiences under the bombs. The world went on spinning without us. I was 22, single and hopeless about life. Every evening when I’d turn in, I’d put on the headphones to muffle the sound of the planes. I made up my mind from the get-go that Bowie was ideal to die to.


 

* Originally published at Morality Park

A POEM A DAY

We are still celebrating National Poetry Month in the States, and, as I promised my dear friend and an exceptional poet Susan, I’m taking a break from all my writing and current preoccupations in April so as to share some wonderfully provocative verses with you.

Of course, the intention behind action is what matters, and mine/ours is to inspire more people to read poetry more often, if not all the time. The more the better, that is if you want to look after your well-being. You see, I believe that poetry is among the healthiest foods for our heart and brain that can improve blood flow to both if consumed on a regular basis. Believe it or not, reading poems may help lower your blood pressure, keep your blood sugar levels steady and your skin glowing. Hm? Yes, yes, and so much more. It enhances your memory loss and focus, and boosts your immune system. Altogether, poetry is that magic pill which keeps the mind in tip-top shape, nourishes the soul and enables us to attain inner peace. Remember, a poem a day keeps the doctor away.

I would like to contribute to Poetry Month by drawing further attention to some bloggers I love who are equally good at poetry and prose: captivating Lou Rasmus and his Oranges and Metaphors and talented Michael P. Powers at Sketches from Berlin and his poem A Dryness Hollering Out for Death, as well as perceptive Paul at Visions of Paul with his Shame.

Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like us to go on reading Adrian Mitchell (1932 – 2008), who was first and foremost a ‘responsible poet,’ concerned with social and political issues of the day, which set him apart from his more tight-lipped contemporaries. Today, I give you two challenging poems of his which altered the conscience of English poetry:

 

SONG ABOUT MARY

Mary sat on a long brown bench
Reading Woman’s Own and She.
Then a slimy-haired nit with stripes on his collar
Said:“What’s the baby’s name to be?”

She looked across to Marks and Spencers
Through the dirty window pane,
“I think I’ll call him Jesus Christ,
It’s time he came again.”

The clerk he banged his ledger
And he called the Cruelty Man
Saying:“This bird thinks she’s the mother of Christ,
Do what you bleeding well can.”

They took Mary down to the country
And fed her on country air,
And they put the baby in a Christian home
And he’s much happier there.

For if Jesus came to Britain
He would turn its dizzy head.
They’d nail him up on a telegraph pole
Or he’d raise the poor from the dead.

So if you have a little baby
Make sure it’s a legitimate child,
Bind down his limbs with insurance and a mortgage
And he’ll grow up meek and mild.
Meek and mild.., meek and mild.., meek and mild.


 

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN

I was run over by the truth one day.
Ever since the accident I’ve walked this way
So stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

Heard the alarm clock screaming with pain,
Couldn’t find myself so I went back to sleep again
So fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

Every time I shut my eyes all I see is flames.
Made a marble phone book and I carved out all the names
So coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

I smell something burning, hope it’s just my brains.
They’re only dropping peppermints and daisy-chains
So stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

Where were you at the time of the crime?
Down by the Cenotaph drinking slime
So chain my tongue with whiskey
Stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

You put your bombers in, you put your conscience out,
You take the human being and you twist it all about
So scrub my skin with women
Chain my tongue with whiskey
Stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

POETRY MATTERS

Our lovely Susan recently reminded us that April is National Poetry Month in the States, inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. This month, I’m joining this unique celebration of poetry in hopes of inspiring more people to read and celebrate it throughout the year.

BTW, Susan’s outstanding poem Letches was shortlisted for IS&T Pick of the Month, so I’ll kindly ask you to read it and show how wonderfully supportive of one another we are by voting here until April 15.

Now, I would like to contribute to Poetry Month by drawing attention to some bloggers/poets I love besides Susan herself and magnificent Wulf she mentioned who are a must for serious poetry fans. If you love poetry or don’t but are open to new experiences, please check out these guys: Wilde Taylor at thereckoning and her poem Marrow, Silent Hour by Basilike Pappa, How Demons Get their Wings, highwaybloggery by David Redpath, The Happiness Report, A.G. Diedericks and his poem An Existential Exposé and Moonlit Pieces by Eli Kyoko and her Panic. Make sure you check out Morality Park too where you can find all five, and so much more.

I generally love poets who make me think and tackle controversial topics and social injustices, also using humor as a powerful weapon against oppressive forces. Ted Hughes described one of my favorite poets Adrian Mitchell (1932 – 2008) as “a voice as welcome as Lear’s fool… Humor that can stick deep and stay funny.” Today, I give you a statesman of literary protest and his thought-provoking:

 

A TOURIST GUIDE TO ENGLAND

Welcome to England!
England is a happy country.

Here is a happy English businessman.
Hating is money, he spends it all
On bibles for Cambodia
And charity to preserve
The Indian Cobra from extinction.

I’m sorry you can’t see our happy coal-miners.
Listen hard and you can hear them
Singing Welsh hymns far underground.
Oh. The singing seems to have stopped.

No, that is not Saint Francis of Assisi.
That is a happy English policeman.
Here is a happy black man.
No, it is not illegal to be black. Not yet.

Here are the slums.
They are preserved as a tourist attraction.
Here is a happy slum-dweller.
Hello, slum-dweller!
No, his answer is impossible to translate.

Here are some happy English schoolchildren.
See John. See Susan. See Mike.
They are studying for their examinations.
Study, children, study!
John will get his O-Levels
And a O-Level job and an O-Level house and a O-Level wife.

Susan will get her A-Levels
And a A-Level job and a A-Level house and a A-Level husband.

Mike will fail.

Here are some happy English soldiers.
They are going to make the Irish happy.
No, please understand.
We understand the Irish
Because we’ve been sending soldiers to Ireland
For hundreds and hundreds of years.

First we tried to educate them
With religion, famine and swords.
But the Irish were slow to learn.
Then we tried to educate them
With reason, poverty and unemployment.

They became silent, sullen, violent.
So now we are trying to educate them
With truncheons, gas, ribber bullets,
Steel bullets, internment and torture.

We are trying to teach the Irish
To be as happy as us.
So please understand us
And if your country
Should be forced to educate
Another country in the same way,
Or your own citizens in the same way –
We will try to understand you.