Comment: The silence of the intellectuals

Writers on the war; Albanian writer and member of the International Parliament of Writers
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I AM not a Serbian footballer; unfortunately I am a writer, a human rights activist and - worst of all - Albanian by nationality. I hope those last two evils do not sound incompatible, at least not sufficiently to keep me quiet when intellectuals in Spain remain silent about things they should have spoken about long ago. Their silence compels me to make these reflections on events in the Balkan peninsula and their echo in the Iberian peninsula.

According to a definition by Pier Paolo Pasolini, it falls to the intellectuals - those with the mental and moral valour - to say what is really going on. In Spanish society, this mission has been fulfilled by progressive intellectuals "from the left", supposedly the bearers of humanistic and cultural values appreciated in the Mediterranean region, the cradle of classic civilisation and the European Renaissance.

However, by their silence about what is happening at the other end of mare nostrum, they become themselves an invisible subject, present only because of their duty to speak out. In these circumstances, I call them the "Floundering Left". They can't see the opposite shore.

Why is the Floundering Left so silent? Or rather, why are they stammering now, after having kept quiet for more than a year of massacres which, on the other side of the Mediterranean, now include even children? It seems that the Floundering Left is silent because it is disconcerted, or splutters in some newspaper column, interview or discussion group something confused about Milosevic, mixed with something against Nato, adding still more confusion, and then, the next day, gasps with renewed surprise at the images of Kosovar refugees.

The moralising gibberish against Nato and for unconditional peace increases the confusion for several reasons. First, it forgets that the war began more than a year ago, albeit at "low intensity". Secondly, those who accuse Nato of bombarding Yugoslavia forget that it is the Yugoslav army that is turning its guns upon civilian targets, burning cities and levelling villages in Kosovo. Part of Yugoslavia. Isn't it? Or are we dealing with an internal matter? Like the Gulag, about which a superstitious silence similarly reigned (and where the author of these lines passed eight years of his youth).

Even more surprising is the sight of progressive intellectuals who consider the UN to be a more faithful representative of civil societies than Western parliaments.

The litanies in favour of a peaceful solution, mingled with laments for the Kosovars, invoke an insoluble enigma. How to convince the satrap of Belgrade to stop "ethnic cleansing"? With pretty words? By messages sent into the ether by aid agencies?

Those heart-rending messages only make him laugh and convert their senders into court jesters.

I have no illusions about the two-faced morality of Nato, which lifts not a finger for the rights of the Kurds, savagely violated by a Nato member. But I find utterly incomprehensible the argument that Nato, with its air attacks, contributes to Milosevic's genocide in Kosovo. Or, rather, that Nato is egging Milosevic on.

This suggests that Milosevic has no decision-making power and the Serbian police/ delinquent terrorist apparatus does not comprise people, but acts automatically, almost innocently. By means of this logical loop, the perpetrator of the crime is hidden or, more precisely, exculpated.

"Ethnic cleansing" and genocide began a year ago, they intensified during peace talks, and are now occurring at an incredible rate; what in Bosnia took three years has taken two or three weeks. Of course, if Western powers had given Milosevic more time, he would have calmly continued at the previous pace. He would have carried out the task in the time available. It's a question of time, then. And Nato's ineffectiveness. Or the indecisiveness of Western countries.

The Kosovars have ceased to be subjects, because we see them only as objects of humanitarian aid and not as persons - subjects with fundamental and inalienable human rights. But we, the Floundering Left, see no more than what the media offer us. We are deaf mutes, floundering, drowning in the symbolism of values in which, none the less, we continue to believe.

The International Parliament of Writers, created by a global network of authors in 1994, has no set stand on the Kosovar war. At the request of its members, however, it is producing a series of articles to give voice to their responses