|Geert Lovink on Tue, 30 Mar 1999 17:37:40 +0200 (CEST)|
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|Syndicate: IWPR'S BALKAN CRISIS REPORT, NO. 12|
From: "Tony Borden" <firstname.lastname@example.org> WELCOME TO IWPR'S BALKAN CRISIS REPORT, NO. 12, 30 MARCH 1999 THE KNOCK ON THE DOOR. Albanians may watch proudly as NATO bombs destroy military buildings. But at night, our correspondent listens fearfully for a knock on the door. ROUND ONE: MILOSEVIC. Belgrade is winning the war, and NATO faces a hard choice: deploy ground troops or return to the negotiating table to face an even stronger Milosevic. Dejan Anastasijevic reports from Belgrade. ***************************************************** IWPR's network of leading correspondents in the region provide inside analysis of the events and issues driving crises in the Balkans. The reports are available on the Web in English, Serbian and Albanian; English-language reports are also available via e-mail. For syndication information, contact Anthony Borden <email@example.com>. The project is supported by the European Commission and Press Now. *** VISIT IWPR ON-LINE: www.iwpr.net *** To subscribe to this service, send an e-mail to <firstname.lastname@example.org>; in the body of the email write the message <subscribe balkan-reports>. To unsubscribe, write <unsubscribe balkan-reports>, Alternatively, contact Duncan Furey directly for subscription assistance at <email@example.com>. For further details on this project and other information services and media programmes, visit IWPR's Website: <www.iwpr.net>. Editor: Anthony Borden. News and Internet Editor: Rohan Jayasekera. Assistant Editing: Alan Davis. Translation by Denisa Kostovic and Alban Mitrushi. "Balkan Crisis Report" is produced under IWPR's Balkan Crisis Information Project. The project seeks to contribute to regional and international understanding of the regional crisis and prospects for resolution. The Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR) is a London-based independent non-profit organisation supporting regional media and democratic change. Lancaster House, 33 Islington High Street, London N1 9LH, United Kingdom Tel: (44 171) 713 7130; Fax: (44 171) 713 7140 E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org; Web: www.iwpr.net The opinions expressed in "Balkan Crisis Report" are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the publication or of IWPR. Copyright (C) 1999 The Institute for War & Peace Reporting <www.iwpr.net>. ************************************************* THE KNOCK ON THE DOOR Albanians may watched proudly as NATO bombs destroy military buildings. But at night, they listen fearfully for a knock on the door. By an IWPR correspondent in Pristina * The NATO jets flew very low over the city Sunday night. Each one was met with anti-aircraft fire from the ground, shooting into the sky. Outside on the street, I could hear shouting and cursing directed at Albanians, NATO, America, Britain, Clinton, Blair, Muslims, Turks--anyone who doesn't speak Serbian. Around 10 PM,. I heard someone wearing heavy boots run up the stairs of the building where I was staying. (I haven't slept at home for a week.) Then I heard a hard knock on a neighbour's door. "That's it," I thought, "they've arrived." I'm amazed at how calm you become when danger is close. I used to be terrified whenever I saw a policeman or anyone carrying a gun. But last night it was completely different. I was cool. I waited and thought, "The worst thing they can do is kill me, so nothing can surprise me." I made my decision: "I won't try to hide my identity or my native tongue." Albanian of course. Then I head footsteps again but this time they were running downstairs. No one knocked on my door. But I had to know what was going on, so I peeked outside my door. I saw a man I had spoken to before. I'd met him on the street a week ago and we exchanged a few works about, what else, the political situation. We spoke in Serbian. He seemed very open-minded, very "normal." After we talked, I thought to myself, "You can't condemn a whole nation just because of the government's policies. There are decent people among them." Or at least that's what I thought last week. When I saw him again Sunday night, he was wearing a strange uniform--neither police nor military--and carrying weapons as he headed down the stairs. The knock I'd heard was that of his friend, also wearing a uniform and armed, coming to pick him up. Off they went, no doubt to try to kill "at least" one Albanian or to burn down someone's home. And I will have to find a new place to sleep at night. I wouldn't want to run in him again. Until few days ago, I felt very sorry for Albanians living in the villages and all they were going through. Not anymore. Now, I'm fighting for my own survival. I'm try to stay alive and act as normal as possible, but it's difficult. In the morning, I ran back to my own home to check on my family. Out of breath, I nearly collapsed when I arrived. Since the phones are out, there's no other way I can check on my parents when I spend a night away from home. Every time I kiss my mother and father goodbye. I have this terrible feeling that I may never see them again. Sunday, I walked pass my favourite cafe--the place where my friends and I used to meet everyday. For years, we gathered here to meet and chat. We were so close that if you missed an afternoon, everyone noticed, and wondered where you'd gone. Now it's all destroyed. Even the chairs are gone. It doesn't look like my cafe at all. Inside five policemen were getting drunk on whisky in the middle of the mess they'd probably made. It may seem ridiculous to be thinking about this cafe now, but not to me. It represents too many memories, too many friends. God knows when we will all be together again. How many of my friends are missing? There is no way to find out. Telephones in Albanian houses are cut off, and the whole town is divided by police and armed civilians. No one can communicate, no one can move. For now, I can only remember my friends' names. I try to remember their faces but cannot. The only faces I remember are the frightening ones I see on the streets. We wanted these NATO attacks so badly. We protested for them last year. I never dreamt that the sound of the incoming jets could horrify me so much. But it's not the air strikes that scare me. What I fear is their consequences on the ground and that there will be more killings. I felt happy last night for the first time as I watched the Ministry of Interior building in the centre of town be completely destroyed. I proudly stood at the window, watching. There are only ashes now where before the huge armoured police vehicles would begin their daily tours. At least something of "theirs" has been destroyed and people can finally see it. The big mushroom of flames that lit the night looked so beautiful. When we saw that huge, ugly building burning, we didn't care so much about the consequences of the attacks. At last, something good was coming from this tragedy, that shows no sign of ending So what if the windows in the nearby apartments were blown out by the blast? We just hope that the attacks continue and that NATO planes fly even lower tonight. How quickly day goes now! My friends used to call me "Nighthawk" because I adored the night and I adored waiting for the dawn. Night was my time. Now I hate it. When darkness comes, I will have to leave my home again and find someplace to hide. I will take my blanket, stay awake the whole night and hope not to hear a knock on the door. I'll listen to the roar of the jets, the anti-aircraft guns, the machine guns, and the shouting. Every shot sounds to me as if it's coming from the direction of my home. It fills me with a killing fear. The electricity goes off at about 6 PM. It's not a good idea to light a candle--that just shows that someone is inside. So everyone stays in the dark, waiting. * The name of this journalist is withheld to protect him against reprisals. ROUND ONE: MILOSEVIC The regime is having a very successful war, and in a few days, NATO will face a hard choice: deploy ground troops with considerable risk of casualties, or return to the negotiating table to face a even stronger Milosevic. By Dejan Anastasijevic in Belgrade NATO may have predicted that the immediate consequence of its bombing campaign against Serbia would be a rapid deterioration of the situation on the ground in Kosovo, and this has occurred. But Western officials have been surprised by their inability to reduce Slobodan Milosevic's capacity to destabilise the region, and in particular to compel him to accept a peace accord and NATO peacekeepers. After six days of continuing missile attacks and air strikes, it seems that the Yugoslav military and police are in surprisingly good shape. NATO has hit most of its designated targets: eight military airports and dozens of radar sites, barracks, storage and other facilities have been blown up or badly damaged. But the military and police communications, command chains, and human resources have remained untouched. The same goes for most of the surface-to-air missiles and flak system, which the Yugoslav Army cleverly refrained from engaging during the raids, thus making them invisible to NATO electronic detectors. NATO now says that it is bringing in tactical fighters and targeting artillery and tanks in southern Serbia and Kosovo. But for the moment, bad weather is still forcing the allies to keep flying well above 10,000 feet, too high to aim at moving targets. The ground offensive by Serbian troops in Kosovo can thus continue for several more days at least, whatever NATO's efforts. In fact, Milosevic's forces have already achieved most of their goals: with frightening speed they crushed the resistance of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in the northern part of Kosovo, sending a wave of refugees south. They have secured 10-kilometre-wide buffer zones along the borders with Albania, Macedonia, and Montenegro--blocking possible entry paths for KLA reinforcements and supplies, and presenting an obstacle to an eventual attempt by NATO to force its way in. It remains unclear how NATO intends to cope with this situation: basic military theory says it is impossible to force an army to retreat by air attacks alone, regardless of the number of bombs and missiles used. This means that intensifying the bombing campaign south of the 44th parallel, which NATO announced on Monday, is unlikely to yield any fruit. It also means that NATO will have to reconsider its strategy, and more importantly, its policy. The problem is that correcting a mistake also means acknowledging that a mistake was made--a risk few policy makers are ready to take. On the home front, Milosevic has gained tremendous support, even among his most ardent critics. After the first air raid alert was sounded, most Serbs immediately adopted the slogan "my country, right or wrong." All of their frustrations about life in Yugoslavia were transferred towards the West. On Sunday, March 28, tens of thousands of young Belgraders assembled at the central square to attend a rock concert organised in defiance of the raids. For a moment, it looked as if Belgrade slipped back in time--the bands, as well as the faces in the crowd, were much the same as two years ago. Then, they were calling for the resignation of Slobodan Milosevic; this time, the target of their dissent was NATO and the Western leaders who ordered the strikes. Couple all this with the successful downing of an American F-117 west of Belgrade, which also boosted moral, and the conclusion is that Milosevic is better off than he ever was--and getting more so with each day of the campaign. NATO will continue to bomb for a few more days. But then it will face a hard choice: deploy ground troops with considerable risk of casualties, or return to the negotiating table to face an even stronger Milosevic. Dejan Anastasijevic is a journalist with Vreme magazine in Belgrade.