The age of reason
A war too far

By Julie Burchill
Saturday April 3, 1999
The Guardian

Well, hand me down that white feather, baby, and call me 'Conshie' - I've finally found a British military engagement I'm violently opposed to. When it came to the conflicts against Iraq (invading peaceful little Kuwait) or Argentina (invading peaceful little penguins), I practically had to be restrained from handing out white feathers to all apparently healthy men over 16 whom I saw walking down the street. This time, I feel like I'm behind enemy lines. Why? Well, I suppose I never dreamed I'd see my country going to war on the same side as the Luftwaffe. Simple, really.

What is wrong with Tony Blair? Is he in love with Bill Clinton? Is there literally no mess he would not willingly follow him into? I can't help but think that if Blair was sitting in the bath and Clinton asked him if he could just try this thing out - with this electric fire, dropping it into the bath and seeing, uh, what happened - Blair would beam and say, 'Be my guest!' If Clinton wanted to try out a nuclear bomb in Blair's back garden while Cherie and the kids were having a barbecue, Blair would say (adopting horrible 'Howdy, pardner!' American accent), 'Sure thing, Billy Bob! And after, if you need to cool down, get the little lady to give you a beaker of her special punch - it's wicked!'

It most certainly is. It gives me no pleasure to say this about anyone, least of all the leader of my country - which I love; and only slightly less than I used to, now that it's got French flu, German measles and Dutch Elm Disease - but if the US was fighting the Vietnam war now, and Clinton was President, and Blair still had this insane desire ceaselessly to step down in the dominance hierarchy (something to do with playing a girl in school plays), I can easily see him going on TV to explain why My Lai was necessary. Or, 'In order to save this village, it was necessary to destroy it' - I can imagine that one from Nato any minute now.

Yugoslavia; we're bombing Yugoslavia. Gorgeous, integrated, independent Yugoslavia, where the rich kids at school always used to go on holiday while the rest of us sizzled on the Costa del Sol. And which the West always congratulated on Standing Up To Stalin and staying out of the Warsaw Pact. It was a country that fought off the Nazis, held off the Soviets and bent the knee to no one: it was the Cuba of the Balkans - a holiday in the sun that didn't leave a bitter taste in the mouth because it was neither a puppet of the USA or the USSR.

Maybe that's what we can't stand; a country that shows us you can do it alone, without sucking off a superpower for survival. The Blair government has been horribly silent about Cuba, in this 40th anniversary of its revolution, living under siege from Uncle Sam, yet conquering both illiteracy and meningitis. The Cubans, and now the Serbs, make us realise what a pathetic suck-artist our potentially great country has become, so, naturally, we don't like it. It might give other countries ideas.

That US general, Wesley Clark, telling us on TV how America The Beautiful planned to 'devastate and degrade' Serbia - he had a lot of medals, didn't he? I wonder where he got them. Vietnam, perhaps? I wonder what he did to get them, and what permutation of women and children were involved. Come on, it wouldn't be the first time - it's practically the American Way, to avoid the able-bodied fighters and go straight for the crêche with the napalm. That's what sticks in the craw about America - it's got so much blood on its hands, it's a wonder it can still hold a gun steady.

What are the Serbs supposed to be doing to the Kosovars? Are they putting electrodes on their genitals? Dropping them out of helicopters? Torturing children in front of their parents? Like all those Latin American regimes, the US has been installing and maintaining since the Year Dot? Ah, but that was US's backyard; that was different.

They have a right to feel secure. Funny, isn't it, how the US gets to have a whole continent as its backyard, but Serbia's not even allowed to have a province as its?

I'm certainly not saying that Milosevic is Mr Wonderful - though the Nato attack has certainly made him a good deal more attractive to the proud Serb people, who will now see him as interchangeable with Serb pride itself - but there are a good many countries with unhappy minorities. When we were mistreating Catholics in Northern Ireland, would the Catholic Nato countries have had the right to bomb us? Somehow, I can't see us accepting that. We have two million Muslims in this country, and many of them, particularly during the Rushdie affair, consider that they've been so badly treated that they formed their own Muslim Parliament.

But we're not about to let them have Bradford. If every miserable minority is allowed to have its own country, we'd soon end up like the film Passport To Pimlico; a curious desire, when we in the UK are being told that we must give up our national identity and cleave to a federal Europe.

Who died and made the Germans king? That's what I want to know. Who decided that Croatia has more right to national sovereignty than Great Britain? As Tony Benn pointed out, Croatia never existed until the Germans invented it for their own ends during the second world war - and then, of course, they were the first to 'recognise' it when it wanted to break away from Yugoslavia. Of course they recognised it - they invented it! Croatia's not a country; it's a bloody division of the German armed forces - scratch a Croat, find a Kraut.

And because of Germany's stirring, every street in what was the peaceful, prosperous country of Yugoslavia is now designing its own flag. Great work, guys! Whatever is happening in Yugoslavia now, whoever is killing whom - the West did this. The glorious West, which has so little faith in its own lousy system that any little country that thrives under anything remotely like Communism has to be destroyed. To the West, anything was preferable to a socialism that worked - even Balkanisation and genocide. Well, they've got what they wanted.

Blair keeps telling us that it's legit, because it's just like the second world war. He's right. It is. Except this time, by reducing Serbia to rubble, side by side with our buddies, the Luftwaffe, we're the Fascists.

© Copyright Guardian Media Group plc. 1999