RN: more on “balancing the rant”


Jan Slakov

Dear RN list,    April 9

I think Lynette Dumble's message (below) sumes up the feelings of many
people on this list. And it also provides subscription information for a
list that I have no hesitation in recommending to you, the Global Sisterhood
Network (GSN). 

The GSN is a low traffic list which provides essential information for
people wanting to be informed of and active on issues of social justice
throughout the world, especially when these issues involve and affect women
(but not exclusively so).

Date: Tue, 06 Apr 1999 12:58:07 +1000
From: Lynette Dumble <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: RN: "Balance the rant" re: Yugoslavia

All I can say Jan, is keep up the rant!
Given the media space accorded Washington and its European puppets, lists like
RN, cyberjournal, GSN and so on, are a breath of fresh air, one that restores
faith that political imagination remains alive in some minds, albeit globally
dead in the minds of the politically-elected.
With best regards, Lynette.

Dr. Lynette J. Dumble, 
Co-ordinator, Global Sisterhood Network  
History and Philosophy of Science, 
University of Melbourne, Parkville, Vic., 3052, AUSTRALIA. 
email: •••@••.••• 

email: •••@••.••• 

Join the Global Sisterhood Network in political action to get the sanctions
against Iraq lifted.  More than 1 million Iraqis have died as a result of
US-led actions, with 5,000 Iraqi infants continuing to die each month because
of US-orchestrated sanctions. Give Washington a dose of its own medicine.
buy goods manufactured by US-owned companies.

*****     More Information    *****
This has a list of firms to boycott, and suggestions of what US residents can
do to help.

Jan: While I do not want to overwhelm you with vies that our mainstream
media is saturated with, I think it is still worth trying to keep some
dialogue between divergent views going on this list.

For instance, I was quite surprised to see that Canada's NDP (New Democratic
Party), which has opposed the bombing of Iraq all along, has decided to
support the bombing against Serbia. The NDP press release shows that this
decision was not arrived at easily and that the NDP is still very critical
of overall NATO orientation.

And I would like to share with you excerpts from a message from a long-time
peace activist whose work to create an alternative to armed defence has
impressed me for over a decade. Here is rich material for reflection.

all the best, Jan
Date: Wed, 07 Apr 1999 14:39:59 -0400
To: •••@••.•••
From: Hans Sinn <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Milosevic, the Kosovo Albanians and NATO

Thursday March 31.99.

Dear Jan,

It is good to hear from you. Thanks for the WRI statement. I have been
thinking for the past few days about the WRI and similar statements by the
peace movement.

It makes much sense for women to get together internationally in view of
what is transpiring in Kosovo. For what is happening to the hapless
civilians in Kosovo today, is happening to too many unarmed civilians
throughout world - and has happened to them for thousands of years
throughout human history.

In regard to the Kosovo situation. If you bear with me, I shall use my
reply to your letter as an excuse to turn into more or less coherent
sentences some of the ideas which have been percolating in my head for a
few days. The ideas are still too rudimentary, potentially off base and too
heretical for discussion among a larger peace and justice audience.
In the meantime, does the following make sense to you?

[Note: Hans says it is ok to share this posting but obviously, these ideas
are more material for reflection than a statement of principle.]

Clearly, in Kosovo the opportunity has been missed to resolve matters
without resort to armed force. This is typical for the many other
opportunities which have presented themselves but have been missed or
overlooked in similar situations the world over. There was an article in
yesterday's "Ottawa Citizen" about the sorry story of Rwanda. All of this
as proof that expert knowledge, the warnings and recommendations of people
like Jan Oberg (Transnational Foundation, Sweden) who over the years have
become intimately acquainted with a situation, in this case Kosovo, are not
sufficient to arrest a potentially catastrophic development. We are still
lacking the legal and organizational means to translate Jan Oberg's kind of
expert knowledge and recommendations into action.

To act upon Jan Oberg's proposals would have required something like a
Civilian Peace Service (which the new German government is finally trying
to get off the ground). Another precondition for averting the present
Kosovo situation would have been a reform of the United Nations.(Lloyd
Axworthy [Canadian foreign minister] is starting to talk about UN reform
based on his frustrating experience with the old Security Council.) Enabling
the UN to execute its mandate would require, among others, to give the UN
its own tax base, so the world organization does not have to come begging to
governments. (Our parliament's decision on March 23. 99. to promote,
internationally, something like the "Tobin Tax" seems to be a step in the
right direction).

But these reforms, new policies and institutions are as yet mere shadows on
the political horizon. They are of no help to the Kosovo people today.
These initiatives come much too late to arrest the Kosovo Albanian/Serb
conflict which, after years of gestation, has assumed the familiar dynamics
of armed confrontation and will follow the inherent logic of armed warfare,
irrespective of our protestations.

Still, the logic of the proceedings in and around Kosovo obey, even at this
late, in some measure, the desires and wishes of the people who helped
bring the conflagration about. I may have mentioned to you that I have
immersed myself for the past few years in primarily  Jewish Holocaust
studies. I am convinced that unless we understand what caused the Holocaust
we know very little about our present situation. My latest reading has been
a  review by Richard Bernstein of Hannah Arendt's concept of "the banality
of evil", her ideas about totalitarianism, concentration camps and the fate
of people who are a perceived to be a hindrance or superfluous to the needs
of a given "sovereign" nation.( Richard J. Bernstein, Hannah Arendt and the
Jewish Question, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1996)

It is against these superb, meticulously researched and extremely well
documented Jewish studies of the Holocaust and the fate of the Jewish
people, that I am looking at what is happening to the Kosovo Albanians
today. Consequently, before I would join the WRI and the rest of the peace
movement in the protest against NATO's bombing of the Serb military
machine, I would want to have a much better understanding of Milosevic's
state of mind and his long term intentions in regard to Kosovo and the
Kosovo Albanians.

The NATO leaders insist that Milosevic started to drive Kosovo Albanians
out of Kosovo before the NATO bombing began. Based on my readings I have
some sympathy for that position. Looking at the population policies of
other totalitarian leaders and similar regimes, I find it quite conceivable
that Milosevic determined some time ago to solve what he believed his
Kosovo Albanian Problem - one way or another.

As it is by now well known, Milosevic's campaign against the Kosovo
Albanians began nine years ago. From ca. 1990 onward Milosevic and his Serb
following started to deprive the Kosovo Albanian majority step by step of
their civil rights, closing their schools, suppressing their language,
removing and replacing their civil servants. The Kosovo Albanian resisted
for quite a few years non-violently and eventually violently. But Kosovo
Albanian resistance merely increased Milosevic repression and accelerated
his pursuit of his ultimate objective.

The same seems to hold true for today's bombing by NATO. The bombing
although it is meant to uphold the human rights of the Kosovo Albanians, is
merely leading to a faster destruction or removal of the Kosovo Albanians.
Thus the process which began in the minds of Milosevic and his followers is
now bearing visible and dramatic fruit: a mass exodus of the Kosovo
Albanians and the destruction of many of those detained behind.
If Milosevic and his fellow believers have indeed determined to solve the
Kosovo Albanian Problem one way or another, then it is not a foregone
conclusion that today's mass exodus is the worst possible scenario for the
Kosovo Albanians. The people who manage and are encouraged to flee Kosovo
might, in spite of their great misery, be still better off than if they had
stayed behind and NATO had never intervened. 

In some respects the present dynamics between NATO and the Milosevic regime
appear to be similar to those between the Allied Forces and the Hitler
regime in WW II, when it was clear that the Germans were losing the war.

" By the spring  and summer of 1944, it was quite clear that the Nazis were
losing the war. Not only were they losing the war but they desperately
needed every resource available to defend themselves on two fronts. Yet no
effort was spared to transport Hungarian Jews to extermination camps. By
the fall of 1944, 400,000 (Hungarian) Jews had been sent to their death."
(Bernstein p.92) 

Which is not to say that the Serbs are exterminating the Kosovo Albanians
by the hundreds of thousands as did the Germans the Jews. But it is to say
that the Serb priority seems to be(and has always been) to solve their
"Kosovo Albanian Problem", not to win any war against another nation or
group of nations. Dealing with the Kosovo Albanian Problem is, as the
Serb's keep stressing "an internal problem" which they as a "sovereign
nation" should be at liberty to deal with as they see fit, without outside

But the outside world, NATO, is interfering and, on the face of it, seems
to be making matters worse. Any comparison of the Kosovo Albanians' dilemma
with that of the Jews' in the grip of Hitler Germany limps in a number of
respects. It seems that NATO's main objective is to protect the Kosovo
Albanians, not allow Milosevic to get away with his policies and to prevent
similar massacres in future. This although NATO pursues this objective too
late, too clumsy, too bloody and too costly apart from having all kinds of
less laudable sub scenarios and interests.* The WW II Allies and later (The
Nation United in the war against Hitler Germany) did not have the same
clarity of objective in regard to the Hitler's war  against the Jews.
Saving the Jews was not on the Allied agenda and if so it was merely a
minor sub plot.

Still, assuming that saving the Jews had been the Allied WW II objective[, 
w]ould we (the peace movement) have demanded that the Allies stop the war
against Hitler Germany because the Germans, as they were looking defeat in
the face, put all their effort into exterminating the Jews, instead of
giving up on their project to solve their [so-called "Jewish Problem"]
before the outside could interfere? 

A good deal of Milosevic's leverage vis a vis the outside world is similar
to the emotional power which Hitler exercised when he began after 1933 to
move against the 500,000 German Jew's - first. Hitler held the German Jews
hostage and as he went about their destruction told those in the outside
world who objected: "You move against me politically and economically and I
will make (initially) the (German) Jews suffer".  Hitler, on his way to
solve the German Jewish Problem manipulated with great skill and insight
the emotions of the outside world. He proceeded to do the same the Jews,
who came into his grip and who could not and did not want to believe, what
was in store for them.

Hitler believed that his deceptions mind games with the outside world and
the Jews on their way to their destruction, was justified and even
necessary, because in his demented mind, the powerless German Jews, were
instrumental in moving the outside world against the German people.( I am
sure, that today's unreconstructed German anti-Semites still believe that
the Jews were responsible for Germany's defeat and dismemberment). I would
therefore not be supervised if in Milosevic's the Serb's mind the Kosovo
Albanians are starting to play a similar role as the Jews did in Hitler's.
See "Warrant for Genocide - The Myth of the Jewish World Conspiracy" by
Norman Cohn. As an old time Communist Milosevic will be inclined to see the
world in terms of some sort of conspiracy, in which the Kosovars and NATO
play a central role.     

There are a number of flaws in the analogy between the Serb's attempt to
solve their Kosovo Albanian Problem and the German attempt to solve the
Jewish Problem. In the German case there was nothing the Jews could do but
die to satisfy the Germans. The Jews were seen as a deadly disease which
had to be eliminated, at any price. Less clear is what the Kosovo Albanians
could have done to satisfy Milosevic and his followers, short of
disappearing from the face of the earth. When Milosevic started to revoke
the kind of independence which Tito had ceded to them he probably did not
plan to kill or expel the Kosovo Albanians. He was prepared to let them
live - albeit under his conditions and on his terms. The Kosovars  could
have accepted these conditions and lived under reduced circumstances.

In retrospect, it would seem reasonable if the Kosovo Albanians had
accepted the reduction of their independence. In the human struggle for
survival the preservation of human dignity and human rights appears to be a
luxury, which we can ill afford. We should and can live without, or a
little less, dignity and less of our human rights. But there is also a
strong argument against backing off when someone starts to encroach upon
that which makes us human. Concludes Primo Levi from his experiences in

"We have learnt that our personality is fragile, that it is much more in
danger than our life; and the old and the wise ones, instead of warning us
'remember you must die', would have done much  better to remind us of this
great danger that threatens us. If from inside the Lager, a message could
have seeped out to free men, it would have been this: take care not to
suffer in your own homes what is inflicted on us here." (Primo Levi,
Survival in Auschwitz - the Nazi Assault on Humanity, Touchstone Book, 1996
page 55)

This all may seem rather extreme to Canadian ears and offend the Canadian
sense of compromise, of give and take, of live and let live. So I don't
know what the Kosovo Albanians should have done and if whatever was
demanded of them by Milosevic and his fellow believers at the onset, would
have satisfied them. Or if the initial demands were merely a prelude to
something more - as in the case of Hitler and the Jews.

I have read and heard a number of people who believe that Milosevic and the
growing number of his Serbian following, are into an all or nothing
end-game - and are proud of it. Thus, much like Hitler's movement the
Serbian cause might be taking on (or bringing to the surface) religious or
semi-religious overtones and undertones - all of which are basically
suicidal. Notions of national survival are fatefully mixed with notions of
individual salvation. The whole enterprise is turning into something like a
holy war, in an attempt to disguise what in fact is a mindless massacre. 

As you know only too well, it is not all that rare that that which began as
a screwy idea of one man or small group, will catch on, attracted a mass
following and end in total disaster. Allied surveys after WW II showed,
that only between two or three percent of the Germans were fanatical
anti-Semites. These relatively few carried the rest along, because the
majority found Hitler serving their own immediate purposes or because they
lacked a mind of their own.  

Richard Bernstein sums up his review of Hannah Arendt's train of thought
"For the unprecedented phenomena of the twentieth century which compels us
to speak of radical evil are not mass destruction, murder, and torture on a
scale never before experienced, but the delusion of omnipotence whereby an
attempt was made to transform and debase the world as created. The horror
we face when we confront the banality of evil is how this monstrous
debasement can result from sheer thoughtlessness." 

Tuesday April 6. 99.

After a four day interval and after downloading the accumulated e-mail,
including Noam Chomsky's fitting observations, I am continuing my letter.

... I came across "Admitting the Holocaust" a book by Lawrence L. Langer.
Lawrence's work has since directed my reading of the accounts of Holocaust
scholars and survivors. 

Langer contends that the Jewish community and most Jewish commentators have
yet not dared to admit the Holocaust for the unmitigated disaster which it
was because "Half a century old, the Holocaust still mocks the idea of
civilization and threatens our sense of ourselves a spiritual creatures."  

While in Keeseville I read an article from the London Times "Holocaust
memories haunting Europeans". According to The Times public opinion in
Britain, France, Germany  is "swinging more firmly behind NATO" at a time
when NATO leadership seems to be somewhat unsure of its bombing strategy.
"The key factor that has hardened support is the brutal expulsion of the
Kosovo Albanians. TV pictures of columns of women and children being
marched to the border have inevitably awoken Europe's memory of the

No doubt Noam Chomsky is correct in citing the many atrocities which are
taking place throughout the world and the relative larger number of
casualties involved. Noam may also be correct in that many of these
disasters can be laid at the door steps of the US and other NATO countries.
However, my guess is, that Milosevic and his followers have unwittingly
picked the wrong time and place for trying to solve their Kosovo Problem.
They may have crossed a border and awakened in the Holocaust a "dangerous
memory" which in turn is triggering other similar memories which "stands
outside chronological time", so Lawrence Langer, and therefore will not go

Thus the reaction of the people behind NATO to what Milosevic and the Serbs
are doing to the Kosovars may indeed be disproportionate to this particular
offence maybe eventually fifty thousand dead and a million or more made
homeless. These numbers pale in comparison to other mass exterminations of
recent memory, such a the Gulags. But if Milosevic and the Serbs have
indeed triggered these memories then the people who are opposing him via
NATO may also be slipping into a kind of "end game" with semi-religious or
religious connotations.  

I appreciate the references to international law which NATO is supposed to
be breaking. Unfortunately we neither have the law nor the institution
which, in its present form, could enforce such law, such as the UN. The
veto power of the "big five' sees to it, that the UN remains impotent.
Therefore we have now NATO which is trying to play world policeman. This
may suite many western military and politicians fine. 

In this context. Also, in Keeseville I saw Jamie Shae, NATO spokesman, on
TV for the first time. Seeing and hearing Jamie Shae reminded me of an
article which Shae wrote around 1986/7 for "NATO Watch", a quarterly
journal published by the Mennonite representatives in Brussels. In the
article "Why NATO is Necessary" Jamie Shae lauded both NATO and Warsaw Pact
as instruments of peace. Shae said that because of NATO and Warsaw Pact
many of the European nations who have for hundreds of years been at war
with each other are now at peace. Especially the Russians have managed, by
virtue of the Warsaw Pact, to keep the nations of Eastern Europe at peace
who without the Pact would still be at each other's throats. Shae correctly
predicted that if the Warsaw Pact should ever fall apart, for any reason,
then the nations which were united under its umbrella would be back at
killing each other. 

My response to Shae's article was, yes this is undoubtedly true. But since
neither NATO nor Warsaw Pact will or should last for ever, let us
strengthen the United Nations so it can live up to its original
peacekeeping and peacemaking mandate. But instead the UN has been kept
weak. Only in the aftermath of the UN (US) action against Iraq was there
some movement toward UN reform. A recent, significant step forward was the
establishment of the International Criminal Court, for which Hannah Arendt,
among others, called 45 years ago in " Eichmann in Jerusalem". The ICC will
have a bearing on international law and its enforcement. So far 122 nations
have voted for the ICC, seven nations are against it: Iran, Iraq, China,
Lybia, Algeria, Sudan and the USA. The US dreads the idea that any of its
politicians or soldiers might have to appear before an International
Criminal Court. Americans believe that their own system of justice will be
able to deal with all problems.

I am not quite sure where this leaves us (the peace movement) other to join
in caring for the victims of our folly as we try to improve our
understanding of what is happening.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his "Letters
and Papers from Prison" anticipated Hannah Arendt in her description of
Adolf Eichmann. Eichmann, Hannah Arendt believed, was not a monster but a
clown or fool, whose sheer thoughtlessness produced such terrifying
results. "The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like
him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were
and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal."

Observed Dietrich Bonhoeffer before Hannah Arendt and before his countrymen
killed him in April of 1945 "Folly is a more dangerous enemy of good than
evil. One can protest against evil; it can be unmasked and, if need be,
prevented by force. Evil always carries the seeds of its own destructrion,
as it makes people at least uncomfortable. Against folly we have no
defence. Neither protest nor force can touch it... The fool, as distinct
from the scroundel is completely self-satisfied; in fact he can easily
become more dangerous... If we look more closely, we see that any violent
display of power, whether political or religious, produces an outburst of
folly in a large part of mankind; indeed, this seems actually to be a
psychological and sociological law: the power of some needs the folly of

Thus when there is nothing to be done, the least we can do, is not to get
caught up in the prevailing social phantasies and help fuel them, as they
descend as nightmares on others. 

Well, I better stop here and go for my lunch duty to Brooke Valley School.

Take care,


* for instance "the German public and press are delighted by the role of
their Luftwaffe" in the attack of Serb military targets. After 50 years in
the dog house the Germans can resume their military career on an equal
footing with their former enemies (The Ottawa Citizen, March 27. page 9.)
this public German attitude alone is enough to make me throw up.

Brooke Valley Road 687
Perth, Ontario
Tel: 613 264 8833
Fax: 613 264 8605
Civilian Peace Service <http://www.superaje.com/~marsin/cps.htm>