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War and Peace in Kosovo

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We now turn to the Socialist Scholars Conference, a historic annual event which this weekend was held in New York, and to a panel discussing war and peace in Kosovo.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to move on now to some different points of view of the bombing of Yugoslavia. Later that night and through the weekend, this past weekend, the 1999 Socialist Scholars Conference took place at the Borough of Manhattan Community College in New York. The Socialist Scholars Conference is an annual tradition, a project of the City University of New York chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. The man who chaired the event is Bogdan Denitch. We’ve had him on our airwaves before. He is a Serb professor from the group Transitions to Democracy, and he is actually for the bringing in of ground troops to deal with the Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic. After him, we’ll hear from Ian Williams, who writes for The Nation magazine at the United Nations. The emcee of this forum was Branka Sesto from the United Nations Human Rights Office. We begin with Bogdan Denitch, who is responding to a German member of parliament who was speaking out against the bombing and against NATO’s action. This is Bogdan Denitch.

BOGDAN DENITCH: We denounced the ethnic cleansing of Croatia. My organization has fought it day and night. Branka Sesto, who sits there now, activist, fight it in Croatia and fought it in Serbia. We do not need lessons on fighting ethnic cleansings. For 10 long years, that is what my organization and I have been doing. We’ve been denouncing the U.S. indifference on that, and we’ve been denouncing the interests of the left in New York, including your party, on that. I did not see them running demonstrations against the crimes in Kosovo by the Serbs, the crimes against the Serbs in Croatia —

WINFRIED WOLF: That’s wrong. That’s wrong, mister.


WINFRIED WOLF: That’s wrong, comrade.

BOGDAN DENITCH: I did not — I did not inter—

WINFRIED WOLF: That’s wrong. It’s slander. It’s slander. It’s wrong.

BOGDAN DENITCH: I did not — I did not see in the media mass demonstrations —

WINFRIED WOLF: That’s bourgeois media!

BOGDAN DENITCH: — like the demonstrations against the bombing, directed against the Tudjman and the Milosevic regime when they engaged in their massive ethnic cleansing. Nor did I see mass demonstrations to raise money to help those Democrats who are now imperiled. I have spent time raising that goddamn money, and a number of other people that I know of. But most of the people who are now weeping tears for the Democrats in Belgrade didn’t do didley to do that. So I don’t want to hear any more of that stuff. They didn’t put their bodies on the line. They didn’t put their money on the line. And they didn’t put any pressure. Now, about ground troops —

WINFRIED WOLF: What do you know — what do you know about PDS, please? What do you know?


WINFRIED WOLF: That’s wrong. I’m sorry. It’s wrong.

BRANKA SESTO: That is a crime.

BOGDAN DENITCH: Don’t take — don’t take that of my time, Branka, please.

WINFRIED WOLF: I can’t answer that. [inaudible]

BRANKA SESTO: No, sorry. Wolf and Bogdan, you can debate that afterwards as long as you like.


BRANKA SESTO: Now, Bogdan, continue.

BOGDAN DENITCH: I was asked a couple of questions, most of them — I don’t want to go into legalities and so on. I, of course, like [inaudible], would prefer to see an international force, reflecting the world’s population, capable of intervening in these brush wars, capable of intervening against the Pol Pots, against the Turkish government and many other things. And incidentally, we have called for denunciation of what is happening — what was happening against the Kurds and what’s happening to the Palestinians. Anybody who denies that simply does not know what the Socialist Scholars Conference and the DSA were like. We denounced the bombing of Iraq. We were against the intervention in the Gulf. Many of you were present. It happened to be one of the rare resolutions — because we don’t adopt resolutions — adopted, at my urging, at the Socialist Scholars Conference.

I am for sending in ground troops for a very simple reason. It is the only way I know of to protect the civilian population. It is the only way to assure that autonomy of Kosovo will be protected, because there’s not an agreement which Milosevic has not broken. If he signs an agreement, we have no way of preventing him from violating, the way he has violated endless agreements, like tyrants usually do. The reason that an unarmed observer should not be in Kosovo is because they’re merely hostages. They were threatened by armed Serb police and not permitted to carry out their jobs. The reason the ground troops would not be as great a problem as people think is that the argument against intervening against Yugoslavia was the heroic tradition of guerrilla warfare against the Germans. The guerrilla in Kosovo would not be Serb. The guerrilla in Kosovo would be anti-Serb. The guerrilla in Kosovo would be Albanian. And I’m against going on to Belgrade. I’m for establishing a safety zone in Kosovo. I don’t think that the Serbs have sovereignty over it and have a right to have sovereignty over it. I think the people living there have it, and I want them to be able to vote after a cooling-off period. And I want an international force precisely to prevent the massacre of the Serb minority in there. I’m, after all, a Serb. I do have some affection for my people, but not for the regime.

This regime is the worst calamity that could possibly have happened to the Serb people. This regime has done more harm to the Serb people than all of its enemies put together. It has emptied out the Serb population from Croatia by egging them into a war they were bound to lose. It has halved the Serb population in Bosnia.

BRANKA SESTO: OK. Bogdan, this is —

BOGDAN DENITCH: It has devastated the economy of Serbia. I think that —

BRANKA SESTO: This has been said for —

BOGDAN DENITCH: — toppling Milosevic is a major task for the Democrats. And Milosevic and Tudjman will have to go, if there’s to be a peace in the area.

BRANKA SESTO: Thank you. Ian, I suggest that you go now. And then I will maybe — no, Ian should speak now, and I will donate my time. And I will just say one last sentence afterwards, because if we have to finish at 10 to 3, there won’t be time. OK.

AMY GOODMAN: That was professor Bogdan Denitch. This is Ian Williams of The Nation magazine.

IAN WILLIAMS: Sure. I’m very touched by the concern for bourgeois legalisms in the revolutionary masses here. Let me produce one: Pinochet. What rights did the imperialist British have to get a sovereign senator from another country for crimes committed against the nationals of another country against a third one? What type of bourgeois globalism is this, comrades? And I’ll tell you: It’s bloody good! That’s what it is. I was very proud that is a Labour government in Britain that said, yes, the bastard could be extradited. I was very, very proud.

And now I’m being told that we can’t go and get somebody who is committing murders now and do anything about him, because, oh, there’s national sovereignty. Oh no, there’s this law that hasn’t been obeyed. You’ve got to push this button before you do it. So, it’s all right, I presume, from our comrades on the left who opposed what happened in Chile, that we arrest somebody for crimes committed 20 years ago.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: That’s legal!

IAN WILLIAMS: But we can’t do anything now — the bourgeois legality coming out.

When I wander past and see someone being beaten up, I don’t go and ask them what the reason was — I stop it. I intervene personally. In fact, if you want some bourgeois legality, in common law, there’s a crime called misprision of felony, and it involves walking past a crime and doing nothing about it. And that’s what most of the West and most of the world has been doing for the last 10 years. And I agree with you — Rwanda, Kurdistan — there’s lots of places. And I’ve written about those, as well. This sudden access of virtue, when — I mean, if I saw a murder happening, would you say, “Oh, that was nothing. You should have seen the Yorkshire Ripper”? What did you do about the Yorkshire Ripper then? I did nothing about the Yorkshire Ripper. But let me tell you, if I had found him, I would have done. And if I could have done, I would have done.

This excuse for inaction that comes out, this sort of parallelism, totally spurious parallelism — people here have spoken about Turkey and Kurdistan. People here have spoken about Cambodia. People here have shouted about Rwanda. I watched Madeleine Albright stop a U.N. peacekeeping operation going into Rwanda because she had to go to the Senate and ask for $36 million otherwise. And then I watched the spineless cretin in the White House shell out a billion and a half for relief to pick up the bodies afterwards.

You have no need to convince me about the morality. I come from Britain. I’d be speaking German now if it wasn’t for the imperialist Roosevelt intervening in 1941. Do you think that he came because my father’s house was bombed? No. Do you think he came because Britain was suffering and the torpedoes were knocking the forward ships? No. They came because American interests were at stake. Stalin, nice old Uncle Joe, until Germany attacked him, this was a socially imperialist war, and, with language very reminiscent of some people here, he was denouncing the imperialist British Navy for starving Germans by blockading Nazi Germany. Do you hear some echoes here tonight?

We’re talking about real people dying. We’re not talking about abstract constructs here. We’re talking about democratic socialists, who, all of us, have qualms about this and are arguing the points one by one and trying to work it out, and those who have come with a prefixed line that somehow Milosevic is the last surviving socialist in the world. He is not a socialist. Serbia is not a socialist country. It is a vicious, racist dictator — I don’t — in fact, Milosevic is so cynical, he’s not even a nationalist. He’s used nationalism. Tudjman, now, he’s a nationalist. Next best war criminal on hunger, I’ll give you that.


IAN WILLIAMS: But that doesn’t justify what Milosevic is doing —

BRANKA SESTO: Here, will stop you, because I am going to speak about Tudjman and Milosevic.


BRANKA SESTO: Thank you.

IAN WILLIAMS: For Tudjman, I defer to our comrade here.

AMY GOODMAN: That was The Nation’s Ian Williams. Now to Branka Sesto of the United Nations Human Rights Office.

BRANKA SESTO: OK. But before I say my last few words about Tudjman and Milosevic, I would like to mention another, a very popular — I think one of Bogdan’s most popular politicians of that region, and that is former Kingdom of Yugoslavia’s prime minister, Mr. Pasic. He had some kind of a debate, and then he agreed with the first speaker. And then another speaker spoke, and he says, “I agree with you.” And then the third speaker said something else, and he said, “Yes, I agree with you.” And then somebody said, like, “Well, Mr. Prime Minister, how come you are agreeing with everybody, and they’ve been speaking opposite things?” And he says, “Well, young man, I agree with you, too.” So, that’s from Mr. Pasic. And I would also like to say that I agree with you all, absolutely, almost. Maybe one or one-and-a-half statements I’ve heard would be something that I wouldn’t agree with. But I certainly do not agree with somebody who says that Milosevic is a socialist. Please, do not offend any decent socialist in the world and in Serbia.

You know, Tudjman, who doesn’t pretend to be a socialist — I mean, he is an anti-socialist — he actually wants capitalism, and he wants to bring back some kind of a nobility and royalty to Croatia. I think he sees himself as a king. And then he wants his first kins and his children and grandsons to quickly absorb a lot of might. His grandson has a bank already. His daughter and sons have a wealth incredible, and so on and so on. But so does Milosevic’s daughter and son. And all the kids of these bastards have all this wealth, which reminds me — resembles to what somebody said today in — no, yesterday. Danielle said that one bourgeois liberal money player wins more in one day than a worker in 150,000 years.

AMY GOODMAN: Branka Sesto of the United Nations Human Rights Office, wrapping up the discussion on war and peace in Kosovo, with Ian Williams of The Nation magazine and Bogdan Denitch, a Serb professor at the university, City University of New York, with the group Transitions to Democracy. You are listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! When we come back, we go from the war abroad to the war at home, a speech at the Socialist Scholars Conference by Michael Eric Dyson. Please stay with us.

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