www.nettime.org
Nettime mailing list archives

<nettime> The Greater United States by IVO SKORIC
Indira Kajosevic on Tue, 11 May 1999 21:00:22 +0200 (CEST)


[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> The Greater United States by IVO SKORIC


The Greater United States

We are entering 21st century as the Greater United States of America 
where the adjectives "civilised" and "democatic" are more or less used 
to describe the societies most closely resembling the American society: 
and with the exception of China, underdeveloped countries in Africa and 
Far East, rich Arab sheikdoms and a few other places (like Vatican) the 
world is not only looking up to America, but it is looking more and more 
LIKE America - for better or worse. At this moment I am in Germany, 
out in the countryside: teenagers on skateboards and rollerblades in 
baggy clothes with baseball hats pass by me. Germany looks like a 
cleaned up and more solid America. The cars are newer, the roads are 
faster, the buildings are build from real bricks and concrete, the lawns 
are mowed and everything is so unbearably neat, yet I don't feel as if 
left New England at all. The politicians on TV debating the Kosovo 
Crisis readily admit German dependency on the U.S. There is nearly no 
second thoughts that it shouldn't be like that.

Province of Germania

Germany is like a perfect American state. With all the upsides and no 
downsides. Which means the population on average is or at least looks 
wealthier than the original U.S. population. They are rich. So there is 
no reason to dispute the American model - it worked well for them, in 
fact - it worked better for them than for Americans. The war against 
Yugoslavia is a minor nuissance. Yes, it is the first time German army 
is involved abroad. But it gives Germans a sense of pride, particularly 
because the involvement was originally presented as a humanitarian one. 
Germans love to be seen as the do-gooders of the world - even more so 
than the Americans. Perhaps, this goes with a certain past sense of 
guilt. The problem is that the NATO action in Yugoslavia long ago 
exhausted its humanitarian grounds and became a self-fulfilling goal, a 
grinding media spectacle that everybody seems to be eager to end but no 
one seems to have the will to stop shooting first.

Corresponding to the similarities between the two societies, Germans are 
divided along the same lines as Americans on the Kosovo Crisis: 
conservative right ridiculizes the war and the left coalition government 
that seems so awkwardly suited to participate in it, Die Gruenen, which 
in the U.S. would be the best described as the left liberals, oppose the 
war more and more by the day - since the Chinese embassy bombing, the 
entire parlamentary faction opposes NATO, which threatens the survival 
of the SPD-Gruenen coalition government. PSD, the former East German 
communists, that won the same ammount of votes like Die Gruenen but did 
not enter the government coalition, oppose NATO action from the 
beginning. Moreover the polls show that Germans inhabiting the region 
formerly known as East Germany oppose the bombing with a sharp 
difference in percentage (around 30) from their peers who had the 
privilege to live in Amerocracy for a tad longer. In other words the war 
that was supposed to unite the western governments threatens now not 
only to divide them but also to destroy some of them. Jossca Fischer, 
German foreign minister, member of Die Gruenen is tortured between his 
Party and his Government. His recent comparison between Kosovo refugees 
fate and the fate of the victims of Auschwitz is in the direct 
opposition to his earlier saying that Auschwitz could not be compared to 
anything. His boss, Chancellor Shroeder, while publicly still expressing 
full support for NATO action, works now full time on diplomatic peace 
solution, that seems the only way to preserve his government and his 
country: in the past few days he met with Kosovo provisional president 
Ibrahim Rugova, Russian Kosovo negotiator Viktor Chernomyrdin and today 
he packed for China.

Province of Serbia

When you look at the pictures from demonstrations in Belgrade you will 
realize that you see yet another U.S. province. Kosovo refugees and 
their Serb tormentors wear Bulls T-shirts and Nike sneakers. The 
Belgrade youth add to that a more urbane touch of a baseball cap and 
baggy pants. Belgrade could be in Germany, or for that matter in the 
U.S. Yet it is a residence of evil fascist government, as Berlin once 
was. So, what do we do? Are the U.S. and allies prepared to level 
Serbia's cities like they once leveled German cities (Nuerenberg for 
example had just 10% habitable housing in 1945.) or like Serbs leveled 
cities in Croatia and Bosnia (Vukovar fared worse than Nuerenberg 50 
years later)? Can countries, that rely on image of civilized and 
democratic, involve themselves in something so decidedly barbaric? NATO 
spokesman Shea already, in his shabby explanations of NATO failures, 
reminds me of general Mladic and his reasoning: he couldn't get that 
smirk of his face during his talk on how NATO threw Serbia into darkness 
with graphite bombs. But what about hospitals without electricity? Was 
not that one of the principal objections to the Serb siege of Sarajevo? 
Can we behave like Serbs, yet pretend we are something better?

Serb Television did its job of filming the massacre caused by cluster 
bombs in Nis as good as CNN did their job of filming the massacre in the 
Sarajevo Market. Of course, the TV may show things more dramatic - and 
both the CNN and RTS tend to do that, but as the fact, that Serbs lobed 
a grenade in the busy Sarajevo marketplace, stays, so the fact that NATO 
used cluster bombs stay - and cluster bombs are banned, because their 
prime use is destruction of life. The Serbs were reprimanded for using 
cluster bombs in Croatia many times by the international community. Now 
the same international community is using the bombs against the Serbs. A 
poetic justice? But this is not Hollywood .

Maybe this is a case of another mistake - like the support personnel 
loaded wrong bombs to the plane. There were many mistakes so far, and 
there were more of them as the campaign progressed of saturation - 
NATO exhausted primary target list and media exhausted the public 
interest to the point where death of civilians leaves many dangerously 
emotionally uninvolved: missiles hit residential quarters in Aleksinac 
and Surdulica, bombs hit passenger trains and buses, large cities were 
left without power and water.... all in the name of saving Kosovo 
Albanians, who are now evacuated from subhumane living conditions in 
camps in Macedonia to Great Britain and USA (precisely what was 
initially hoped to be avoided). The NATO reaction is a "form apology" 
- we regret the tragedy, we deplore the loss of life, etc. - the 
same that international community used for years to excuse themselves 
from action against the Serbs atrocities against Bosnia, they use now to 
excuse themselves from their own atrocities against Serbia.

The other thing we hear from NATO and US officials more and more (and it 
is in a stark opposition to the "form apology") is a desperate: "we have 
to win this war" (Kissinger joined the chorus just recently, too) - 
but there is no answers on "why?", and more importantly, on "how?" they 
intend to accomplish that victory with a stand that no ground troops can 
be used.

Coast to Coast: the philosophy of collateral damage

As the war goes on, there is more collateral damage showing up, and 
there is more public willingness to accept it without an outrage: the 
U.S. police philosophy that in queasy situations it is OK to use 
overwhelming firepower first and then ask questions became widely 
accepted code of conduct of international community vs. Serbia.

In New York city a black unarmed immigrant was shot 19 times by white 
policemen ASSUMING that he was armed and shooting at them. In Los 
Angeles an unconscious black woman with a pistol on her lap was shot 12 
times by white policemen ASSUMING that she was getting up and shooting 
at them. Those two cases show several characteristics of American 
society:

    1.. blacks are still considered as a danger per se, particularly 
suspicious and scary individuals
    2.. the U.S. police is very light on trigger when persons described 
under a) are in question
    3.. there is this fascination with the overwhelming firepower to the 
point of overkill (19 times...)
    4.. there is politically correct regret for the loss of innocent 
lives, but there is no real reprimand of the police practices since 
those victims are considered a "collateral damage" of the otherwise 
stellar police work in two largest American cities.
On the international level, all non-westerners are considered dangerous, 
suspicious, untrustworthy and scary. It is not difficult to kill them 
preventively since they are perceived danger. And the destruction has to 
be done with an ammount of firepower worthy of the superpower. The loss 
of life would be formally apologized for, but it would not stop the 
determination, since it would be registered as an acceptable "collateral 
damage." This thinking is exactly what - correctly - scared India, 
Russia and China. The punishment that Serbia receives now, can sometimes 
in the future be appropriated to somebody else who angered the big 
brother.

Actually, the loss of Chinese life ALREADY is accepted as the 
"collateral damage" by the "international community" (which always means 
the rich western states under the umbrella of the U.S.). Not one but 
four cruise missiles hit the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade by mistake. The 
missiles were intended for the Hotel Jugoslavija, which is Arkan's 
Tigers stronghold. However, the hotel is more than 500 meters away from 
the Embassy and there is no buildings around the Embassy. In other words 
it is very hard to believe that four cruise missiles at the same time 
veered of course way above specifications and all in the same direction. 
This sounds like a man who killed himself by falling on the knife four 
times. So, NATO came up with the explanation that it was an intelligence 
mixup: somebody gave them wrong coordinates. That's sweet. In other 
words the accuracy of NATO campaign depends on local spies who radio in 
the gps coordinates of the targets!? That seems to be a recipe for 
global disaster. Arkan, of course, showed up on TV, healthy, in good 
shape and well dressed (perhaps after his people tortured the CIA codes 
out of the poor spy), extremely amused by Americans hitting the Chinese 
embassy.

On loosing the face

Since this war failed in its primary objective of preventing the 
humanitarian dissaster, it became mostly about saving the face. The most 
powerful bloc of nations ever existing on our planet - NATO - cannot 
afford to be taken for fools by some sarcastic rogue boogeyman from the 
Balkans. To stop the bombing with Kosovo ethnically cleansed of 
Albanians and Milosevic still in power in Yugoslavia, would be 
understood as a certain NATO's defeat, and with loosing this war, NATO 
would loose the face, and nobody would ever take it seriously any more. 
This philosophy drives the NATO airplanes in their mission of 
destruction night after night after night. South Africa's Mandela 
offered asylum to Milosevic: that would spare Serbia further disaster, 
while saving NATO's face. But this does not take Milosevic's 
character into account: he is stubborn, recalcitrant and belligerent. He 
will drive Serbia into complete destruction, but he will not let NATO 
reveal in victory. The interesting "Jeopardy" question is: when will 
NATO start loosing face in the process of not winning the war while 
beating a European country to a pulp? It is like a superior boxer who 
beats his opponent but somehow can't knock him down. Around the tenth 
round the public starts to sympathize with the looser, and when the 
judge declare victory by the points, public boos the winner.

Ivo Skoric

Am Wirtskreuz 8

D-94534 Haselbach

Ivo {AT} reporters.net

http://balkansnet.org

---
#  distributed via nettime-l : no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a closed moderated mailinglist for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo {AT} desk.nl and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  URL: http://www.desk.nl/~nettime/  contact: nettime-owner {AT} desk.nl