Comment: The virus that has invaded the Left

Writers on the war
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NO ONE detests aerial bombardments more than I do, even those who, as Nato's high command insists, cause the minimum "collateral damage" (loss of civilian lives). [As a child, the author experienced Franco's 1938 bombardment of Barcelona, an attack in which his mother was killed.]

However, amid the confused babble of voices and the flood of images produced by the Kosovo tragedy, we risk confusing effects with causes, seeing the human problem of the refugees as distinct from an "ethnic cleansing" planned since the 1919 Versailles Treaty created the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.

Since 1992, it has been apparent to anyone familiar with the Serbian ultra-nationalist ideology embraced by Milosevic that the Kosovo ethnocide was inevitable. I remember the shock I felt at the start of the outrageous pan-Serbian propaganda campaign, an intensive programme of the current power game in the remains of the Yugoslav Federation. The words of Milosevic, still a Communist, could have been those of any bishop or Falangist caudillo during Franco's "Crusade of Salvation".

Franco's rhetoric, his aggressive and ignorant appeal to a mythology supported by all the symbols of Hispanic National Catholicism - the destruction of Holy Roman Spain, resurrection of the fatherland by the efforts of a handful of heroes - had their exact Serbian equivalent.

Milosevic's words evoked in me bitter memories. If, three years later, I went to share with the Bosnians the horrors of their blockade, I did so motivated and compelled by something deeply intimate.

Milosevic's irrational and delirious discourse, full of hatred and scorn for the Bosnian Muslim and the Kosovar Albanian, did not differ greatly from the anti-Semitic diatribes of the Nazis and supporters of Le Pen against immigrants.

It is, therefore, difficult to understand those who cry out against Nato barbarity; their pacifist appeals are a facade that puts villains and victims, attackers and attacked, in the same bag.

Do these philistine virtuosos really believe that the flight of hundreds of thousands of Kosovars is caused by their fear of bombardments? Are they still unaware that this was carefully planned by ultra-nationalist Serbs years before the entirely predictable conflict broke out? What kind of virus has invaded the political reason of those floundering on the left, marching with dove-like innocence or loathsome hypocrisy to chants of "peace, peace"? Don't they realise that this peace, and that demanded by Milosevic, is that of the graveyard?

Sometimes writers remote from politics are more concerned with describing and diagnosing evils than with eliminating them. Manuel Puig, for example, whose literary perception of the horrors of the Argentine military dictatorship is worth a hundred speeches and sociopolitical analyses. The same may be said for Luis Borges's surprisingly relevant observations. Borges seems to describe Milosevic in these days of horror and indignation over events in Kosovo (Nato bombardments included).

"I would hazard a conjecture," he wrote on 23 August 1944, "that Hitler blindly collaborated with those inevitable armies that annihilated him, as the metal vultures and the dragon mysteriously collaborated with Hercules."

I don't know whether the pathological megalomania of Hitler and Milosevic are comparable; perhaps the latter doesn't want to conclude his "labours" with a grandiose suicide to the accompaniment of the music of Wagner, and will more likely end his career before the International Court at The Hague, alongside his Bosnian Serb accomplices and Croat mass-murderers. However, their propaganda machines and their methods of eliminating ethnic undesirables are similar.

Certainly Hitler's industrial slaughterhouse was vastly more efficient than the Serbian army and police. But in both cases the peoples who succumb to the grandiloquence of a barbarous discourse, glorifying their own and destroying the other, can escape from the abyss only after the disappearance of the chief who put them there. Blind love of the fatherland - that synthesis of an abstract homeland and a determined blood group - often leads to absurdities such as that of the song "I killed her because she was mine".

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