Co-editors: Seán Mac Mathúna • John Heathcote
Consulting editor: Themistocles Hoetis
Field Correspondent: Allen Hougland

War in the Balkans
John Heathcote

April 1999

It is perhaps prescient that this page is launched even as the first waves of high-tech weapons cruise slowly towards their targets in the European homeland. It may be worth putting the forthcoming war in an historical context. If it is possible we may glean a little of the great game; the masterplan which is being effected behind the screens, the 3-d displays and the grainy shots of grey squares, black squares and white lines, bursting into silent dark pools of blood, flesh, membrane.

Beyond the reach of the satellites, the cameras and spy planes, cities burn and people are melting. Politicians dress up in the mantles of decency, humanity and show a determination in the arts of destruction which they never bring to bear when the poor are pleading for a break, or the tides of dispossessed struggle to our shores. More than this, they take what can be a noble sentiment, the historical memory of people for a place, a feeling of community, and twist it with a toxic weave. This does not just apply to the petty tyrants of the Balkans or the tribal conflicts in Africa or Ireland. None of these conflicts are born in isolation; they are the results of preference shown by Empire builders. These men of imperial pretension used to take their orders from the warriors; these days they are paid by the merchants. Global corporations determine the path of war, and are the only players who leave the table with a profit each and every time. It is only recently that the world was made aware of the reverse alchemy of human teeth being mined for the ruby streaked bullion that sits like a dead weight in the bank vaults of the West.

It is no coincidence that the two Great Wars this century have resulted in the fastest technological leaps in history. War also creates scarcity, which is good for the free market. It is rumoured that Thatcher remembered nostalgically the opportunities her father had for making a bit of extra money in his grocer's shop during the rationing of the 40's.

And for every shell that's fired over Baghdad or Belgrade, someone gets another few dollars on their investments. The laws of large scale production mean that the longer the conflict lasts, the cheaper it becomes to produce the weaponry. Not that price reduction will be passed on to the Government - by that we mean The People- who foot the bills for the politicians' glory.

In the particular case of Serbia, which is kicking off on all fronts even as I write, we seem to be faced with the usual clear moral choice. But here we must pause and remember all those other great moral choices forced in front of us over the last few years; and try and remember some of the ones that were hidden away, or never presented for debate. It is also worth taking a short walk down the winding paths in this walled garden known as Our History, before we commit ourselves to blindly follow our master's voices, wherever he shall go.

In retrospect the First World War could be seen as the most ruthless of population control and modernisation projects undertaken in history; as a squabble between cousins over whose gang would eat the largest slice of cake; or even as a commercial dispute which got a bit out of hand.

However, it is fair to say that people in Britain or Europe did not quite realise the true horror that had been prepared for them. In the era of relative peace before 1914, the imperial conflict had continued by proxy in the colonies and dominions of the exploitable third world. In that time, more murderously efficient methods of murder had been developed. Because they were primarily for the slaughter of people viewed as less than human, by virtue of their colour and culture, there was little moral debate concerning their use, or their increasingly indiscriminate nature.

Whereas in the Middle Ages, the invention of the crossbow was seen as an evil that even the Church tried to ban. The machine gun put the final lead plugs into the coffin of the Amerindian Tribes, as well as being employed to eradicate their staple food source, the buffalo, with hardly a whisper raised.

For the majority of populations in Europe and Britain, war still meant gallant hussars, sabre wielding cavalry, and shooting when you saw the whites of their eyes. It was only a few years previously that the British High Command was sending the thin red line into the dusty veldt with drums beating and pipes piping, against the Boers' ruthless guerrilla army of floating ghosts dressed in sandy shirts. The defeat was inevitable; but although the scarlet and braid had been replaced by 1914 with the less ostentatious battlefield green; the generals still seemed to have overlooked the efficiency of the machine gun against a long line of marching Tommies.

The industrial method of containment developed by the British to deal with this insurgent population not only left its cancer in the Dutch pilgrims, but was refined to high science by the Nazis in the concentration camps of Eastern Europe.

The British had already instituted an unofficial policy of racial separation in South Africa. It was enforced subtly but effectively by the introduction of a middle class, a buffer race of Asians for the beauracracy and merchants. The Boers, like the Jews who became Zionists and colonised Israel after the war, seemed to have internalised their own suffering so much in that time that they could not help but inflict the same on those that they sought to dispossess.

War begets War, and no-one gets wiser.

It is an apocryphal story - but probably true - that Britain's war debts with the U.S.A. date back to the Boer War. Britain had to call on all the resources of its Empire to try and prevent the possible loss of the world's richest territory in Imperial hands; and in some respects performed a dry run for the forthcoming conflict of the next decade.

Australian outback fighters were brought in to fight on a scorched earth policy in the vast hinterland, and some British soldiers at least would have become aware of the effects of the new weaponry on traditional fighting forces. There would have been enough European and American businessman willing to bet a few dollars each way for the chance of a share in the diamonds and gold. A few dollars, or a few boxes of steel and lead; and it was only a short step from financing the destruction, dispersal or dissipation of the native people to the demonisation and oppression of their own cousins.

We should not forget that the United States of America was a nation forged in war. Not the war against the British King, as Disney's popular history would have us believe; but this was a nation fired in the crucible of one of the most viscous civil wars ever fought. The war between the Federalists and Republicans was less about slavery than the wish to build an Empire on stolen land; with the sweat of people who had arrived to search for freedom, or were brought over in chains.

It was perhaps the first modern war, in which civilian populations were terrorised with the full spectrum of technological weaponry. Battles became frontlines of attrition which would not move until the ground was thick with the flesh of sacrifice.

The percentage of the population who died during this internecine slaughter no doubt had an affect on the American will to join the European apocalypse 25 years later. But the promise of reward in the ruins, the reconstruction, and control of the fate of what had been the world's powerhouse for two hundred years; as well as the rich pickings of Empire discarded by the now impoverished Europeans, meant that the weight of the WASP establishment slowly mobilised the American people into reluctant engagement. They entered the war in time to make the odds, already short, a certainty, and achieved the prize which they have not relaxed their grip on since.

The second WW seemed to be a result of people not quite believing how stupid they had been the first time round, so they did it again. One rare exception may have been the two or three towns in Northern England who failed to send any volunteers off to fight the Bosche second time around. A little research by the ever efficient Civil Service later discovered that this was due to the cynicism of the next generation to repeat the experience of twenty years before. The towns regiment had been annihilated in one day on the Western Front.

However, the Second War was inevitable after the first; it was spawned at Versailles, but had been conceived many years previously. Any historian studying the times just before the Great War would be aware of the great movements for social change sweeping Europe. Ever since the Enlightenment, man has been trying to throw off the shackles of ignorance, and regain control of his life from the medieval hierarchies. War has always been the greatest distraction from this progress; patriotic, imperial war.

The French Revolution was subjected to siege by the feudal powers of Europe; but was transmitted through the Napoleonic Code to people who saw the little Emperor less as a megalomaniac than a reforming republican.

The emergence of a Greater Germany under the Prussian princes was seen as preferable by the royal heads of Europe to the union of smaller democratic republics or city states; which would have been the wish of the German peoples in many of the Lander in the 1880's. It is worth noting the close ties between the German aristocracy who faced the end of privilege and the Hanoverian dynasty ruling Britain. The end result of this policy has been the imbalance of European politics ever since; with a potential empire at the heart of the continent.

The Second World War was not much different from the first in many respects. The same people who had sanctioned and financed the rise of tyrants, would be the same who made the profit at the end of the day. The complex connections between the Nazi regime and American industry - notably the Ford Corporation - as well as Banks and Corporations in all the Allied countries is an open secret nowadays. He who pays the piper calls the tune; and this piper was playing us through the gates of Twilight, and so many of us followed hypnotised by the dread full song.

A cynic could say that the 39-45 war was a continuation of the European project started in 1914; with slum clearance, enforced urbanisation and the final destruction of any romantic socialist dreams in the West as the primary goals

However, the people were fooled with a different carrot this time, although the stick was the same. It would have been difficult to persuade people a second time that the German people were inherently evil, and determined on the invasion of the villages of Merrie England with forced insemination of its fair maidens.

It was far easier to finance and support a psychopathic little politician; especially one who could mobilise all the bitter, demobilised, defeated soldiery of his homeland. Persuade them to fight the master's fight, try and regain a lost world of certainty rather than attempt to build a new fairer world on the ashes of the old; when the little self-respect they had, in the stripes on their uniform -which might as well have been on their back - might be of little worth.

So rather than allow the German people to redefine their own States, choose their own leaders - who might well turn out to be liberals, socialist, Jewish or worse - they were unwittingly steered into the arms of the little Corporal. He presented his future with a mixture of Medieval Messiahnism and ruthless modernism. The Party was financed by a weird conglomerate which drew on German business, American corporate interest and members of European aristocracy including members of the British Royal Family. The policies they pursued were the unspoken wishes of all good 'conservative' interests at the time.

Revisionists have claimed even quite recently that the Nazi party was socialist in principle, but they are at risk of mistaking the organisational structures for the party's principles and methods of control - which are the basic determinants of the true nature of political parties. Although the Nazi Party used the methods of mass mobilisation, and popular inspiration which had been initially developed by trade unions, and perfected on a pan - national scale in the Bolshevik Russia; the beneficiaries of Hitler's Germany were the old ruling class allied with new business money, and ultimately of course, the multi-national corporations and old banking firms of Europe and America. Within the Party debate and discussion were seen as dissent, and power resided only at the top; in an even more autocratic structure than feudalism. The people were made to feel powerful by negatively defining themselves against the outside, or the minority inside. Made to feel strong by victimising the weak, persecuting the different. This was the solution presented to the German people as an alternative to truly empowering themselves by casting off their old masters who had failed them so badly in 1918, and reconstructing a fairer world built on the egalitarian ideas of commune-istas such as Rosa Luxembourg.

Again, the trick was repeated of waiting for the odds to shorten and then weighing in to remove the choice cuts from the table. It was not as if the American people did not know the true nature of Hitler or the evils being perpetrated by his regime for a long time before 1939. Many Americans and Canadians came to Europe as private individuals to fight Fascism in Spain; and many others later joined up with the British forces when the country was isolated in opposition to Nazi Germany.

However, the real reasons that America was eventually pitched into the Second WW are more prosaic than the spirit of justice which inspired those young souls to volunteer to fight so far from their home for strangers. The economy needed more markets to expand; it was doing well, but the fear of the Depression was still in the peoples' minds. But those underlying fears of the Okies and the Dustbowl, airborne stockbrokers and the free market breaking ten thousand poor for every Great Gatsby. Political action was ruthlessly suppressed and the muscle of the Mobs was used to break the unions - and any organisation tainted with Socialism, such as the Wobblies.

The FBI was now up and running as a dog to stand between the mobs and their masters, the politicians and merchant princes of the new 'Free" world. Set up like an Inquisition, a state within a state by that notorious spy Hoover, the FBI would try and maintain a balance between the ruling elite and their dirty war underground footsoldiers - a balance which would go sadly askew in Dallas, 1963.

So America needed the chance to expand both Eastwards, where those crafty Japanese were already showing signs of European - type industrial imperialism; and consolidate its market within the European homeland. The only problem was that a peaceful and prosperous Europe will always be self sufficient in much of what America can offer, and will be a competitor in foreign markets. This is perhaps where the relevance of the previous history to what is currently being effected in Yugoslavia becomes apparent.

It is worth also recapping on a few recent events which have some bearing on the current situation.

The first is the launch of the Euro, potentially the biggest competitor for foreign investment with the Dollar - not while Europe is a war-zone though.

Secondly, the collapse of the Soviet Union.

What was an orderly progression to liberal socialist democracy under Gorbachev was undermined by the Western - financed, corrupt drunken populist Yeltsin, who either through greed or lack of sobriety managed to forget his position as keyholder of the Russian treasury, and allowed its hard earned wealth to be spirited abroad by gangsters and western corporate thieves.

Thirdly, the division of Europe by Nato; into those who are part of us and those that are not. The price for those that are members is the destruction of all their old but serviceable Soviet weaponry, with highly sophisticated and highly expensive Euro-American techno - weapons. They will be useless in any conflict where those countries might choose to fight against Nato forces. The expenditure demanded for entry and membership will entail vast slashing of the welfare budgets in countries only just emerging from the economic straights imposed by the Cold War.

Coincidentally, they will have small, efficient professional security forces who can impose the will of the IMF on their own recalcitrant populations, and if necessary call in the forces of NATO to stem any slide back towards socialism.

NATO no longer can have pretensions to being a defensive Union - that pretext disappeared with the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

It should have been replaced with the Western Defence Union, and eventually with a Pan- European Security Council, which could have included a reformed Russia, as well as all the other Eastern European Countries. Virtually all decisions could have been effectively been enforced through economic and cultural pressure. However, the one glaring omission in that sort of scenario would have been any need for American military involvement, investment or presence in the European mainland or the British Isles.

However, for the reasons outlined above, it is clear that the U.S.A. has no interest in leaving mainland Europe to develop its own culture and social structures. Britain holds a strategic position off the coast of the European continent, and it is therefore the lynch pin in any possible conflict on the mainland.

After the Second World War had ended, Britain's Government more or less handed over the control of our armed forces to the Pentagon. By linking us so closely with the American nuclear forces the British people lost any independence of action or policy from Washington. This may have been something to do with the fact that the British Gold reserves, shipped to America in 1939 for safe keeping, have remained in the Federal Reserve Bank ever since. Of course, they may have been left there as a guarantee of the British Government's good behaviour in the future.

Since the 17th century British 'diplomats' have furtively engaged in what they call the Great Game. This is the continuous policy of ensuring that no one nation in Europe controls the continent, and thus has a strategic stranglehold on Britain. Their alliance with the Americans was originally made to ensure equal weight on both sides. However, with the latest activity in Serbia, the relationship has become dangerous. The U.S.A. will pursue its own primary interest of remaining the world's dominant Empire and powerbroker, at whatever cost is entailed by its own client states.

By launching the front against Serbia, the Pentagon has opened a front on Russia's borders; which cannot fail to produce a continuous tension throughout the whole continent. Also, by encouraging the final dismemberment of Yugoslavia, they have removed the last of the big pan-tribal power blocks of Eastern Europe. It is obviously better for the so-called Free World to have to contend with the old familiar racial issues, rather than using the increased prosperity of 20th century Europe to develop a modern humanistic, egalitarian society.

American interests which are being promoted by the war can be summed up in two words; oil and drugs.

In a recent interview published on the Web with Noam Chomsky, there were references to the vast untapped oil supplies under the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus. Perhaps the only major economic power which would have stood in the way of a direct pipeline to the Adriatic would have been the Republic of Yugoslavia. With its own state oil company and refineries, it would have no doubt been able to demand a certain amount of benefit from the vast profits which would be generated by such business. Coincidentally of course, one of the most recent targets of the Nato bombing campaign has been the Yugoslav petrol production plant. No doubt once the war ends, they will be deluged with offers from the Texas Wasp oil mafia to replace all that they destroyed - at a price, of course, and a share of future profits.

Since the first Model - T rolled off that famous Nazi-financier's production line US foreign policy has focussed on one overiding objective; the continuation of an artificially low petrol price for the American consumer. The only President who dared suggest whilst in office that the price should be raised to reflect its increasing scarity in the rest of the world was Jimmy Carter, and looked what happened to him. Removed after one term in office by the so-called October Surprise, a conspiracy involving arms for Iranians, Contras American hostages and cocaine imported for the American ghettos. The central player in the secret dealings was a certain George Herbert Bush, Texan oilman, CIA agent and future Vice-President; puppet master for the frontman Reagan - the only man upstaged in a Hollywood film by a chimp.

The Iran-Iraq war was a perfect example of the nefarious politicking of the US secret government. Both sides pitched at each other by extremist and totalitarian governments which had been originally financed by the Americans. Saddam, who replaced the comparitively smalltime gangster Noriega as the West's (read America's) arch-demon with his expansion into Kuwait, was like old Pineapple-face himself, a recipient of great largesse from the Central Intelligence Agency since his early days. It was only when his policy of continual war as a way of supressing internal divisions began to threaten America's supply of oil that the greatest military force since 1945 was assembled to drive him back. Unlike Noriega, Saddam has not been led off in chains to an isolated cell; and ironically the same people who are only too quick to call for his capture and trial for crimes against humanity are amongst those who have so fervently calling for the compassionate release of that old butcher Pinochet. Presumably, if you kill and torture people because they disagree with you politically it is more acceptable than tribal or ethnic war.

This double-think seems to run like a rich vein through the thinking of politicians who the general public genuinely believed to have shown a touch of rationality. Whilst one Tony Blair does his best to convince the IRA that a few tons of high explosive isn't worth keeping for a rainy day; another Tony Blair is authorising the use of uranium-tipped weapons on targets in or near civilian centres. Whilst one European Government prattles on endlessly about caring for the enviroment, its armed forces are remotely destroying Yugoslav refineries and chemical plants, releasing toxins into the air, the water table and the River Danube, which flows through half of Southern Europe. They should remember that when the Americans offer to do a couple more runs, that the United States is a long way from the Adriatic; and no amount of high-finance reconstruction later on will compensate the parents of deformed children living in a carcogenic atmosphere.

A Labour government in Britain should only be too aware of the Americans greed for the black gold. Our own supply was virtually given to the big American corporations, instead of being extracted by a national oil company - as in Libya - and sold to benefit the people who live in these islands. Instead we had the government of Margaret Thatcher engineered into place at just the right time; and the little money accrued from the oil was used to finance the unemployment which broke the back of organised industrial labour in Britain.

Concerning the area of drugs, specifically heroin, one can notice from even a cursory glance at the history books (such as The Politics of Heroin by Alfred McCoy), certain common factors in US foreign policy over the last fifty years. The DEA and CIA work hand in hand, and where they go trouble follows. Both are primarily interested in the drugs trade for the money it generates, the vast possibilities of social control, and the amount of intelligence that can be accessed about the underworld, and alternative political and social cultures. From Vietnam in the 70's, Afghanistan in the 80's; and now with most of the heroin coming into Europe through Turkey and Albania to Italy across the Adriatic, its no wonder that the CIA is so keen to finance the KLA. A small force which originally comprised a few diehard followers of the Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha would be far more useful with a good "free market" attitude. And as always, honourable intentions are easily corrupted by glamour and gold, and one man's freedom fighters are always another's terrorists. Desperate peoples can more easily be persuaded by the illusion of imperial power and empty promises to engage in business which they would never do in more peaceful times. Just one thought here - which might be paranoia - but should be borne in mind by our European leaders. Drugs are the perfect free market commodity; they go where the money goes - they follow the gold. The richest country in the world is the USA. However, if a clear route from the opium fields to the European mainland opens up, the price to us lucky Europeans is relatively cheaper. Most will be consumed by the poor junkies of Glasgow or Rotterdam; and not only will very little be left for those poor Americans, but their 'soldiers' in the field will be earning a healthy little tax en route.

 Just to end this piece, I offer two quotes from a respected British newspaper, The Guardian, which were within the pages of the same issue (March 23rd.) published about a week after the bombing of Yugoslavia commenced.

The first quote was reported by Maggie O'Kane, their corespondent in Belgrade. A writer and artist is discussing how the opposition to Milosevic has continued over the past few years to try and bring a change to their Government. Two years ago demonstrators faced the riot police continually for 100 days, and gradually wore down his support and credibility. The man continues, referring to the F-117 (the 'radar- invisible' plane shot down by Yugoslav anti-aircraft batteries two days before). "Even if you had given us a third of the $43 million spent on that to help build our democracy movement things might have been different."

Some pages on we can find a report which will probably never make either the tabloids or popular T.V. news.

Under the headline

Ex-monitor says U.N tricked Saddam to prompt bombing

we can read a report concerning the former U.S.marine and weapons inspector Scott Ritter, who was employed as one of the original UNSCOM team performing the decommissioning inspections in Iraq after the Gulf War.

If we cast our minds back a little way, we remember that Saddam was the previous world demon, who had to be stopped in his tracks or face annihilation. After co-operating with the destruction of his nuclear weapons capabilities and toxic stores (biological, chemical weapons), he suddenly appeared to clamp down, refused any more inspections and the bombing began - or so the story appeared to go. NATO moved in to generously enforce the UN's mandate, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief that the world was again made safe for decent people (those who live the American way).

However, in a forthcoming book entitled Endgame, Ritter describes how the CIA infiltrated the inspections team, attatched their own equipment to the UN's monitoring devices and finally encouraged Richard Butler, the head of the mission, to push the Iraqi's past the point of being able to continue allowing the inspections. Although Ritter complained to the deputy head of the mission in 1997 his complaint was ignored. Although in 1998 the U.S told UNSCOM to tone down their inspections to avoid the risk of pushing them into conflict, by the end of last year it was obviously decided that the time was right to re-launch the war.

Referring to the event that precipitated the withdrawal of the inspectors and the start of the bombing, the paper reports Ritter as saying;

. . . the event was orchestrated to establish a pretext for military intervention and that Mr. Butler exceeded his mandate by penning a scathing indictment on Iraqi non - compliance rather than simply presenting the facts.

To conclude then, the duplicity of the U.S. and British governments regarding the continuing conflict in Iraq does not lend much credibility to the case for the war on Yugoslavia.

As it develops and we are all pulled along in its wake, we should pause to consider its historical context and the future objectives of those who are pulling us into this potential disaster. All of us whose governments are waging this war are doing so with the 'sanction of the people' ; we thus bear moral responsibility for every pound of high explosive dropped in our name.

It is also our money that is being thrown into the pockets of the arms dealers and weapons manufacturers; and they are hungry for gold in the way that a junkie needs his fix.

We're not saying 'Just Say No', but that its wise to look before you cross the road.


Since writing the above, the war effort has increased. Nato, has decided to celebrate its half century of protecting the liberty of the "Free World" and the rights of all to free speech by bombing the Yugoslav television centre. Wiping away large crocodile-style tears at the news that a few civilians who work there might have died, the Nato spokesman defended this noble act in defence of the Kosovar people by claiming that the station was producing a stream of "anti-Western propaganda".

If one had checked the website of the Yugoslav Ministry of Information last week, as we did (ironically, via a link on the CNN website), you would have found that the main news concerned the environmental catastrophe which is now being caused by the bombing. Leading with a vivid description of the destruction of the chemical complex at Pancevo, on the edge of Belgrade, the article tells of oil slicks twelve miles long, and tons of ethylene dichloride washing down the Danube, a river shared by six countries in Southern Europe.

The cloud of toxins released in these strikes unfortunately does not have the (alleged but grossly overstated) ability of the Nato missiles to recognise target areas, but will inevitably spread across the region, eventually falling to earth over Europe's lands and seas. The Yugoslav director at the plant claimed that fertiliser was produced on the site - as well as being reported as having denied any link to military-chemical production. "By taking away our fertiliser they stop us growing food, and then they try to poison us as well." I cannot imagine that either of the above mentioned airstrikes really impressed any Yugoslav citizens disillusioned with Milosevic that Nato has any better idea of humanitarian ethics.

Still, the demonisation of the Yugoslav leader continues, even as hundreds of civilians in East Timor are being tortured and killed by pro-Indonesian Government death squads. Even as the Palestinian offices in East Jerusalem(the International city, remember, that was the deal) are closed by Netanyahu's stormtroopers. Even as the Turkish Army, our great allies in Nato, keep driving ever harder in their attempts to eliminate the Kurds as a people, as happened to the Armenians seventy years ago. But somehow, none of these people have the same strategic interest to the Americans, and British Labour Ministers prattle on from the safety of Westminster and Islington about the need to be strong in the face of "the new Hitler." Meanwhile, in their own backyard, bitter white trash, twisted by living in this great society, with its ever widening gulf between rich and poor, are carrying out their own version of ethnic cleansing, albeit on a much more pathetic scale than in the Balkans. But the real solution for eliminating the curse of racial hatred costs money; a true equality of opportunity for all, a decent basic lifestyle not spent gripping onto survival by the fingertips. And the money that could have raised all of the people of Europe - and America - out of the ghettos of ignorance and poverty is at present being burnt up in the clouds of smoke drifting over Southern Europe. Burnt up, and mysteriously re-appearing stuffed in the pockets of arms manufacturers, and they are hungry for gold in the way that a junkie needs his fix.

The call to send ground troops into Kosovo echoes round the TV studios and halls of Westminster. Strategic calculations are obviously no longer concerned with the plight of the thousands of refugees, but are more to do with victory and the pride of Nato. However, a few salient points are being ignored by politicians and military planners who still believe that any European war will resemble the last one depicted in their textbooks. Theoretically, after a bombing campaign, the "allied" forces will draw the Serbians into a massive tank battle, on the Hungarian/Danube plain, as happened in the decisive battle of Kursk in the Second World War. However, post-Vietnam, conflicts have been marked by partisan resistance, which can only be suppressed by a vast number of troops and a policy of internment (as with Kosovo or Northern Ireland).

The possibility of the Russians being drawn into this conflict, in an inevitable alliance with the Yugoslav Republic has drawn frighteningly closer with the announcement of a sea-blockade by Nato. The Russian economy and state has been so degraded by the introduction of the so-called "free market" that the people, have nothing to lose except the rest of their dignity along with the security of their territory. They are more likely than ever before in the last 50 years to support a leadership that is prepared to stand up to the overmighty and casually dominant military force of Nato, who have appointed themselves the arbiters of international justice purely on their combined military might. Any escalation of the conflict could also divide Nato itself, and already murmurings of discontent with the progress of the war can be heard in previously staunch European Governments.

Meanwhile, Russia stands teetering on the brink of being drawn into the conflict, and our politicians strut and spout under their flags and video displays. We can only wonder whether it is a lack of historical imagination that makes them so blasé about the slide into apocalyptic war. Or maybe they don't care that the cycle of the twentieth century seems to be ending in the same tragic way it began.

But of course, we all think so much bigger now than we did then; and this time it will be the party to end all parties.

Everyone invited - no excuses allowed.