Spot the difference between Yeltsin and Milosevic

'Where have all the liberal bombers gone? And where is the clamour for action?'

THE NEXT time Boris Yeltsin is asked why he's bombing Chechnya, he should answer: "I've no idea, but it's a bloody good way of confusing everyone who supported the bombing of Serbia."

For example, it's bamboozled the Clinton aide who was asked on Newsnight, why Yeltsin's atrocities were different to those of Milosevic. His answer was that the Russian government was "rational", whereas the Serbs' had been "irrational". So if you want to wipe out a region without incurring the wrath of Nato, divide the area you're attacking into a neat grid, and destroy one square at a time. And make sure your generals are rational. George Robertson might set them one of those tests, where you lay out 15 matchsticks, and it says "now remove three to leave four". If they can't do it in 10 minutes, they get a cruise missile on their television centre. The other difference, he went on to explain, was that the Russians were dealing with "terrorists". But every ruler who starts a war claims it's a response to terrorists. Even irrational rulers don't announce that they're invading somewhere because they've woken up in one of those foul moods and nothing's gone right all morning. By that system, the only wars you could condemn would be those started by huge, bald blokes with eye- patches, who lived underground and said "now, my poor fools, to drown America with my deadly custard so that I can take over the universe ha ha".

In seven weeks, the Russians have created 200,000 refugees and killed 4,000 civilians: as many as, if not more than, Milosevic. So where have all the liberal bombers gone? Where is the clamour for action and the catch-all catch-phrase, "well, you have to do something"?

Where are the endless accounts of atrocities? Where are the warmongering front pages of earlier this year, such as those by Jonathon Steele of The Guardian, who wrote that "Pristina is now deserted except for tough- looking Serbs"? Not just any Serbs, you understand, only tough-looking ones.

Maybe some are embarrassed that the something they begged for made things even worse.

Far from preventing "ethnic cleansing", Kosovo is now free of Serbs, who before the war numbered 45,000 and now 200. Romanies have been forced to flee, and a local interpreter told a journalist from the London Evening Standard: "we paid $20bn to save these people from racism. Now they are the most racist people I've ever met."

And, as Robert Fisk reported in this paper yesterday, the Americans are admitting that they have "lost count" of the amount of depleted uranium they've slung into the area, and don't know where it is. I can see how this happens with a tea-strainer, but not with depleted uranium. Are Nato generals so absent-minded that they stop beside a mountain, then frown to themselves, saying: "I'm sure I put it down here somewhere"? Perhaps the next stage will be George Robertson climbing into the cockpit of a plane, looking puzzled and saying "now, what did I come in here for?"

Those who fell for the charms of Jamie Shea must wonder why the West's attitude to a similar crisis in Chechnya is slightly less forthright. For example, at the OSCE summit, the declaration that Yeltsin ended up agreeing to begins: "We agree that a political solution is essential."

That's the sort of thing people say to avoid an argument. They might as well have announced a joint declaration from Clinton and Yeltsin that went: "Tut, oh dear, isn't it terrible? Well you know what I say; there's good and bad in every race."

The number Nato claimed had been killed is now accepted as an absurd exaggeration, as is the number of Serb tanks destroyed. But, at the time, most of the Western media gullibly lapped it up. In any case, given the West's record in the Balkans, it's easy for Yeltsin to brush off as hypocrisy the rebukes he receives from the West. Clinton may as well shout that the one thing that would make him impose sanctions on Russia, is if Yeltsin were caught in a back room of the Kremlin ruining some poor girl's evening- wear.

It may be old-fashioned, but it seems to me that the mass of Chechens, Russians, Serbs, Kosovars, English and Americans have far more in common with each other than with their own rulers. And those rulers have far more in common with each other than the majority of people they rule.

And in the meantime, the ideal replacement for Jamie Shea is the available Jeffrey Archer. On day one of the next war he could stand up at a press conference, say, "They were planning to blow up the whole galaxy, but instead we've given all the civilians a Barratt home. Here, I'm the world 10-pin bowling champion. And my brother's the King of Greenland, straight up." And half of the British press would shake their heads and mutter, "The whole galaxy? We have to do something."

Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick