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[RRE]news from Belgrade

----- Forwarded message from Robert Hettinga <rah@shipwright.com> -----
--- begin forwarded text

Date: Thu, 25 Mar 1999 17:41:19 -0800 (PST)
From: Phil Agre <pagre@alpha.oac.ucla.edu>
To: "Red Rock Eater News Service" <rre@lists.gseis.ucla.edu>
Subject: [RRE]news from Belgrade
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[The following is a letter from Belgrade by a friend of a friend
who is there conducting research for his doctoral dissertation in
history at Stanford.  It is forwarded with permission.  If anyone
has other reports from the region, please do send them along.
For more reports see <http://www.eGroups.com/list/kosovo-reports/>,
<http://www.salonmagazine.com/news/1999/03/25newsc.html>, and

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Date: Thu, 25 Mar 1999 23:35:47 +0100
From: Dusan Djordjevich <dusandj@EUnet.yu>
Subject: Re: from enemy territory


Thursday, March 25, 1999, 7:30pm (local time)

Air-raid sirens have just sounded in Belgrade, marking the second
night of NATO's bombing campaign in Yugoslavia.  There were two waves
earlier today of 2-3 hours each, the last one ending with an all-clear
signal around 4:30pm.  (One quickly learned to distinguish the two
signals with the help of civil defense bulletins on TV and brochures
stuffed this morning into mailboxes.)  The normally bustling center
of the city was extremely quiet today, in terms of both pedestrians
and cars, despite the beautiful spring weather.  Half or more of
the stores seemed to be closed, and the large "Zeleni Venac" outdoor
market near my apartment was nearly deserted.  As part of the state
of war that has been declared, gasoline will not be sold for private
use.  Spring break has started early: schools and universities have
suspended instruction until at least April 2.

Most who live and work in Belgrade's central districts don't fear
direct air strikes.  In the outskirts and across the Sava River in
the highrises of the post-WWII settlement "New Belgrade," people feel
less secure, as many could hear explosions last night during strikes
against such targets as a factory in the suburb Pancevo and the
military airbase some 20 km NW of here.

People here have lived with the threat of air strikes since October,
but no one was sure what to expect and there was a good deal of
skepticism that such a serious bombardment would take place.  Most
now are calm but very worried and upset.  Constant calls to friends
and relatives (phone lines are working for the most part).  For the
moment, at least, there is little appetite for the black humor with
which Serbs typically greet difficult times.  I wanted to escape for a
couple of hours on Tuesday and watch "Twins" with Arnold Schwarzenegger
and Danny DeVito on TV -- but they'd replaced it with the historical
drama, "The Battle of Kosovo."  Other shows are being pre-empted by
old Partisan vs. German WWII movies.  Classical music and Mexican soap
operas are apparently still acceptable.

For those who have them, satellite dishes and short-wave radios
provide news from west European stations to complement the local
reporting.  (There's also the Internet, of course, but very few
people have access to it.)  It's frustrating, though, since from what
I've seen -- mostly on BBC World and Sky News, occasionally CNN when
it comes in well -- there's a fair amount of Gulf War-type parroting
of official pronouncements, and superficial coverage and analysis.
In  Serbia, Radio B-92, the main electronic source of independent news,
was kicked off its frequency.  For the moment, Pancevo's independent
station is carrying the B-92 news programs, so they can still be heard
in Belgrade.  I see in the message you sent that the RedRockEater
list carried the report that B-92's editor-in-chief Veran Matic was
detained by police Wednesday morning. Fortunately he was released
after several hours, but the regime will certainly continue to quiet
independent and critical voices.

It should be said, however, that criticism of the regime in any case
is likely to be very muted.  Some "experts" on BBC, CNN, NPR have
been saying that they expect mounting criticism of Milosevic, even
some kind of popular and/or elite revolt against him, as the damage
inflicted by NATO mounts.  This is a misreading of the mood here,
to put it mildly.  (It also reveals ignorance of the usual effect
of air strikes.)  Even the most vehement opponents of Milosevic and
his policy in Kosovo see this primarily as an unwarranted and unwise
attack on their country, and their anger and disappointment with
NATO and above all the U.S. is only likely to grow.  Milosevic could
have signed the Rambouillet document and allowed foreign troops into
Kosovo without serious domestic dissent in the short term, but in time
such a move may well have cut into his already dwindling popularity.
As it is -- in the general view here and surely in Milosevic's
own calculations -- the bombardment is almost certain to renew and
consolidate support for the government and hurt if not cripple the
prospects of democratic opposition forces.

For myself and many people with whom I've spoken, one of the most
worrisome aspects is how unpredictable the course of events seems at
the moment.  It's not just our own ignorance, but the fact that no
one in Brussels or Washington seems to have a good answer to the "What
next?" questions, and it is not yet clear under what circumstances
either side might back off its stated resolve.

As I write this, I've just heard that all NATO-country journalists
are being expelled from the country, which will of course make it
even more difficult to get an accurate picture of the situation.  As
it is, no one seems sure exactly what is happening on the ground in
Kosovo, where some predict a stepped-up offensive by Yugoslav forces
and significantly more suffering for the people of the province --
the very people whose welfare is ostensibly NATO's primary concern.

     Dusan Djordjevich
     PhD Candidate
     Department of History
     Stanford University

--- end forwarded text

Robert A. Hettinga <mailto: rah@philodox.com>
Philodox Financial Technology Evangelism <http://www.philodox.com/>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

----- End forwarded message -----