Geert Lovink on Tue, 30 Mar 1999 17:59:20 +0100

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From: "Tony Borden" <>


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.


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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

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


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

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

Dejan Anastasijevic is a journalist with Vreme magazine in Belgrade.