Arriving Late in Kosova: Reading the Alphabet of Violence

"There was a country where they were all thieves"
- Italo Calvino, Numbers in the Dark, "The Black Sheep"

When I am asked what I think of European civilization, I echo Gandhi and reply, "I think it would be a good idea," especially when Serbia sees itself as an eastern outpost defending Europe from the barbarians.

The terror inflicted upon ethnic Albanians in Kosova brings the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights into question in addition to emphasizing the distinction between the written and the spoken word. In between the written and the spoken word, the question of responsible action is to be answered.

As I watched media coverage of Kosova burning, I was brought back to the events of 1991. In the space of seven years the international community has not changed its rhetoric. Diplomatic language uses a tongue that is coated with "concern," "deep alarm" and other neutral liberal categories while ethnic cleansing takes place under the watchful and "deeply concerned" eyes of Europa.

Milosevic is dear to Europa. Milo=dear. He upholds what Europa believes in. Europa condemns terrorism. Milosevic proclaims, "we are destroying terrorist strongholds" in Kosova. The higher men in Europa blink and nod and say, "Milosevic is fighting terrorism. He is one of us."

Serbian media proclaim that Albanian "terrorists" have been "liquidated" while Serbian police officers have been "murdered." Liquidated is a euphemism. Liquid-dated. The "terrorists" have become liquid; have been washed away, gulped down. They have become dated; have become; have become forgotten; erased.

Date in order to remember. Freeze the frame in order to bring the picture into focus.

Friday, March 6, 1998. Serbian police attack Albanian villages in Prekaz, Laushe, Avarevo and Vojnik. During the day, the attacks are frontal. At night the villages undergo grenade attacks and the hunting eyes of night vision snipers.After burning down the village, Serbian soldiers embraced each other, sang a song and performed a circle dance. European culture. 1

We are witnessing another Srebrenica that the European Community and the UN have turned into Serbrenica. From Silver to Serb: a new category in Plato's Republic that records the history of the lie.

The European Union nods its head in full agreement, crying out in a united and unanimous voice, "What is the problem? E comes before R!" Alphabet of violence.

As of today, 100 dead, 200 wounded, 4500 refugees. Entire villages burned down. The European Union calls for reconciliation and negotiation. Live together, they say in the forests of Eden. Lazarus on the doorstep of Brussels.

Serbian paramilitary forces arrived in greater Serbian numbers still fresh from their adventures in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Justice blindfolded in the Hague. American dollars in front of its eyes.

Words from Geneva. High Commissioner for Refugees, Kris Janowski speaks, "The current situation in Kosovo reminds one of the Serbian scenario in Bosnia during 1992." 2

Janowski gives this advice: the events in Kosova could result in a new wave of refugees. The UNHCR wants the opposite since there are already 1.4 million refugees from the "former Yugoslavia" who have not yet returned to their homes. How do the Serbian forces read such statements? Naturally, in a greater Serbian way. Given the green light not to create refugees means, "kill them where they are."

Albanians in Pristina protesting in front of the American embassy. They light two candles. Candles as a sign of peace. America responds with very un-peaceful words, "the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia must be maintained." Territorial or Terror-torial? Voices of reason respond, "Yugoslavia is a name Serbia uses to keep Vojvodina, Kosova, Crna Gora and Sanzak under control."

Moscow reminds the West. The Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jevgenij Primakov speaks, "Moscow is against direct Western involvement in Yugoslavia in regards to the crisis in Kosovo. There must be no more sanctions against Yugoslavia." NATO shakes collectively. Impotent. Unable to enter.

The Kosova Liberation Army: UCK (Ushtria Clirmatre e Kosoves), defines itself as a legitimate formation set up to defend the existence of Kosova Albanians. The Serbian response: kill off entire Albanian families using the Kosova myth as justification.

Kosova Albanians have protested non-violently and demanded their long denied rights. Serbia has responded violently. Europa sees through a glass darkly. The old falsehoods are given falsified interpretations. Politics move back into the stone age. Frankenstein's European monster runs loose stepping over Kafka's cockroach. Step by step you hear the crunch. Who is the other? The past moves forward parting the present and sending it flying down over steep cliffs.

How useful is non-violence as a tool in gaining freedom against an enemy that desires your complete annihilation?. How long will one allow oneself to be clubbed over the head by police batons in the hope that permitting oneself to be clubbed will shame the enemy into benevolent coexistence?

The monstrosity of goodness rules, but what authorizes its authority? Simply stated, the pressure of the lie upon truthful evidence gives the monstrosity of goodness its power and authority. The empire of the lie murders the truth and then murders the victim a second time.

Monstrosity is born of injustice and transforms itself into demonstration. Its injustice is demonstrated on human bodies that are marked and striated. The political and diplomatic realm which should be a space for justice is inhabited by the monstrosity of goodness which is injustice. Here it exercises its authority, imposes authority upon others. In our case, it says, Kosova must stay within Serbia's Yugoslavia and America must become the world. The master's discourse rules. In between these two poles, Serbia's crimes are forgotten, purposively, for a reason. Listen to Jean Baudrillard, from his text, The Perfect Crime:

The real story is that the Serbs, as vehicles of ethnic cleansing, are at the forefront of the construction of Europe. For it is being constructed, the real Europe, the white Europe, a Europe whitewashed, integrated and purified, morally as much as economically or ethnically...This is the real Europe, taking shape in the shadow of the Parliaments, and its spearhead is Serbia. 3

Hence the criticisms of Kosovars for not reconciling themselves with their jailers and torturers and the non-criticism of Serbia for its continued terror in Kosova.

The choice may lie between Christianity and Nietzsche. Hit once, do you turn and offer your other cheek in order to shame your enemy or do you do as Zarathustra says and return a great injustice with five smaller injustices in order to establish justice? Kosova awaits an answer. We must not be late.

"In a time and in a country where everyone goes out of his way to announce or hand down judgements, Mr. Palomar has made the habit of biting his tongue three times before asserting anything."
- Italo Calvino, Mr. Palomar, "On biting the tongue"


1. Vecernji List, Saturday, March 7, 1998, pp.10-11.

2. Vecernji List, Saturday, March 7, 1998, p.11.

3. Jean Baudrillard, The Perfect Crime, (London: Verso, 1997), pp. 135, 136.

Marko Zlomislic is an assistant researcher at the Institute of Social Sciences "Ivo Pilar," in Zagreb, Croatia.