Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Which Side of the Bard's Wire Fence Are You On?

[Here's something from January 2004 which was not yet on this blog. 2005 seems quite the season for 60th anniversaries, and I was thinking: it's important to remember that the traditions being carried on by President Milosevic and General Ndindiliyimana, in their defense of their respective national histories, go back much further even than the heroic defense of Mother Russia and the Soviet Union by Stalin and the Red Army which we are currently celebrating (some of us are, anyway--sort of)--though the 26 million Slavic lives that were the sticker price for defeating Hitler and liberating the Eastern European death camps is pretty much unmatched anywhere in human history--and really rather dwarfs all other holocausts. That's why it's so queer to see some of the Leftest Leftists trying to explain away this monstrous mega-genocide as, in all actuality, the result not of the mother of all war crimes (according to Nuremberg), the unprovoked Nazi aggression of 1941's Operation Barbarosa, but of a crazed Communist dictator's misguided military maneuvers--as if Fascism could have been turned back, or Russian Industrialisation, Collectivization and Modernization achieved, as quickly but at a much lower cost had a saner hand (a more Internationalist or Collaborationist hand) been on the helm of the Red Army. And Shakespeare, too, was much concerned with the preservation of history, albeit a kind of historiography of feudalism, which, I suppose, is what makes him so popular and so 'really accessible' and lovey today. Yet even Wild Bill had his clear moments of modernity and real insight into the wasted soul of 21st Century Man(un)kind. --mc]

Which Side of the Bard’s Wire Fence Are You On?

Reading Marlise Simons’s latest ignorant and sycophantic apologetics for that chain of illegal ICe Houses, at The Hague (ICTY) for Yugoslavia and in Arusha (ICTR) for Rwanda, ('Hague judge shaped by barbarity and the Bard'), in the 3 January 2004 NY Times, raises a bunch of questions:

What’s the difference between a concentration camp and a prisoner of war camp? What’s the difference between ‘aggression’, ‘provocation’ and ‘national self-defense’ (against terrorism)? What’s the difference between Fascism and Communism--or anticommunism and antifascism? Is there a difference--or is it all just Authoritarianism? What’s the difference between feudalism and democracy? Is contemporary democracy just feudalism in Air Jordans? And what’s the difference between The Hague Tribunal and a judicial institution?

I guess it all depends on who’s doing the judging and what for.

For Marlise Simons in her article about Theodor Meron, the recently reelected president of the ICTY, the conflation and confusion of these concepts seems to be quite expedient. For her, Judge Meron can do no wrong--and like so many journalist who flack for the militarization of everyday life, she never met a Holocaust survivor she didn’t like--unless (s)he was a Slav. Meron’s office at The Hague Tribunal is not only adorned with books on Shakespeare and the medieval laws of war (actually, just the two books Meron himself wrote), but there’s also an ‘outsized set’ of photos of what is called in the first graph a ‘concentration camp’ (Manjaca) and then, and almost invisibly in the second graph, is only inferred to be a Serb prisoner of war camp in Bosnia.

I don’t want this to become another set of ‘enculer la mouche’--like the arguments I’ve had with a noted American Leftist over whether it is at all pertinent to the discussion of 9/11 that a missile--rather than an American Airliner--struck the Pentagon--but this seems to me, in the context of Simons’s piece, to be a very significant distinction: That Manjaca was a Serb prisoner of war camp in Western Bosnia primarily for Croatian (proud-to-be Ustashi) prisoners-for-exchange, and not an extermination and/or rape camp for poor Muslim women, children and old folks, like those horrors first described to a gaping and gullible Western public in the relayed hearsay of Roy Gutman in Newsday and that now-infamous prevaricator of war crimes stories, Ed Vuillamy, ancient producer of the Penny Marshall ITN news reel which purported to show a Bosno-Serb death camp, but was later debunked by a Thomas Deichmann reportage* and the British magazine ‘Living Marxism’. Yet Simons introduces the pictures displayed in the office of this Polish-Jewish survivor of the Nazi concentration camp at Czestochowa** as depicting ‘men trapped in a modern, wartime concentration camp.’

And this puttying over of historical distinctions works well to connect how Meron’s internment led him to the study of international law and the eventual presidency of this legally-baseless court. However, it is impossible to imagine that people like Simons and Meron who proudly possess and proclaim such false erudition could be so blissfully unaware of recent historical implications that absolutely impeach their mawkish designer-humanitarianism.

For example: can they not know that the Croats pictured in the ‘concentration camp photo’ in Meron’s office are in the historical lineage of the WWII Nazi-collaborating Croatian Ustashi who constructed and operated to such horrific effect the death camp at Jasenovac (where between 700,000 and a million Jews, Serbs, Gypsies, Goran, and especially Communist partisans were exterminated)?

Can the New York Times and the ICTY really be ignorant of the fact that their ‘friend’, the late Croatian-secessionist leader Dr Franjo Tudjman, (whose doctoral thesis concerned a minimization of the murderous effects of Croatian fascism during WWII, and is reported to have said that he was proud his wife was ‘neither a Jew nor a Serb!’), executed the largest ‘ethnic cleansing’ of the war against Yugoslavia when, with the help of legions of American and German advisers and suppliers (private, of course, like MPRI, so as to fly under the US and UN embargoes on military aid to Yugoslavia) when the Croatian Army’s Operation Storm swept more than 200,000 Yugoslavs (mostly, but not entirely, Serbs) from their ancestral homes in the Krajina, leaving tens of thousands dead--and adding tens of thousands more to the hundreds of thousands of refugees of all nationalities already harbored in Serbia? (It is said that during the Bosnia war [91-95] there were more Muslims living in Serbia than in Bosnia.)

How could this half-baked reporter and this over-done jurist be this ignorant of so many 20th Century alliances that embedded their masters (the Croats, Bosnian Muslim, Albanian nationalists, and NATO’s terrorist bombardiers [Newsweek magazine’s term]) among the forces of Fascism, and their victims, primarily the Serbs (Serbia lost 23% of its population in WWI and every family was touched by the Nazi genocide of WWII!) on the victorious anti-Imperialist and antifascist side?

Though of late the business of the NY Times seems to have been the ignoring of pertinent information in all areas; and the ICTY has turned away from even the most effete attempts at justice and reconciliation in the Balkans and focused all its dark energies and attentions on enforcing the Western financial, commercial and military occupation-unto-elimination of Yugoslavia (In another disgusting example of ‘linguistic determinism’ as a weapon of war: as early as 1993 The Times and the ICTY were talking about the ‘ex-’ or ‘former-’ Yugoslavia--today they call it ‘Serbia and Montenegro’.); let us assume, as we should, that Simons, Meron and The Times are not this ignorant, but that they know at least as much as we do about the history they are writing. After all, Simons presents Meron’s Bardophilia as symbolic of high (anglophone) culture. So anyone who has had enough surplus-time and energy (above that required of most of us to hack and hew a miserable and precarious existence out of this corporate coal mine of a world) to immerse himself in Shakespeare (esp Wild Bill’s concerns with the medieval laws of war), even to have written two books on Shakes the player, and especially with the anticommunist bona fides of a Holocaust survivor who immigrated to Israel and went on to teach international law at NYU and become a US citizen, should be trusted to hold highly considered moral and legal opinions.

Okay? Okay. But how is such learned influence turned away from the stewardship of human freedom, dignity and decency and toward the service of the most venal and craven of fortunate elites: the global crime cartel led by the US, Israel and their underlings? How did Shakespeare come to defend this tiny minority of soulless exploiters of the neoliberal free market against the vast majority that they victimize? Well, John Milton said it: “The matter of Virtue and Vice is the same.” And Arlo Guthrie might have been thinking about Shakespeare (or the Bible) when he sang, “You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant.” So when one can jump-cut back over 400 years of history--as Simons and Meron do--to find precedents for their anti-democratic policy longings in an epoch where naked feudal structures were even more internalized than they are today, is it easier on the conscience to serve the forces of ignorance and global destruction?

Meron won’t speak to Simons about the current business of The Tribunal--esp not about the case of Slobodan Milosevic! But that’s understandable in light of the recent capriciousness went down under his ‘command responsibility’: allowing ALL to the NATO witness, former blood-drunk commandante Wesley Clark (who, despite the great distance Meron tried to put between him and his fiery cross-examiner, could not keep from blowing himself up!), and further denying court time and visitation rights to the defendant for no other apparent reason than that Milosevic was standing for election in Serbia--and doing so--and winning a seat in Parliament!--in complete accordance with the laws of that country!

So one must assume that Simons and Meron--like so many others in the long, foul history of anti-Communist collaborators with Big Capital--are more concerned with standing with the strong (in other words, with those who pay them) than they are with any kind of truth that might set us all free, or justice that might bring an end to inhumanity with impunity.

So if Shakespeare is to guide them out of the dark forest of 21st Century feudalism, perhaps Simons and Meron should look to one of his more modern plays, Timon of Athens--which I sometimes like to read as ‘Slobo of Belgrade’.

After being removed from his home in Athens to the isolation of a deserted island off Salonika, Timon’s view of his fellow man changes. Once a generous patron of the humanities, he now has a darker perspective:

Timon: O blessed breeding sun, draw from the earth
Rotten humidity; below thy sister’s orb
Infect the air! Twinn’d brothers of one womb,
Whose procreation, residence, and birth,
Scarce is dividant, touch them with
several fortunes;
The greater scorns the lesser: not nature,
To whom all sores lay siege, can bear
great fortune,
But by contempt of nature.
Raise me this beggar, and deny ‘t that lord;
The senator shall bear contempt hereditary,
The beggar native honor.
It is the pasture lards the rother’s sides,
The want that makes him lean. Who dares,
who dares,
In purity of manhood stand upright,
And say ‘This man’s a flatterer? if one be,
So are they all; for every grise of fortune
Is smooth’d by that below: the learned pate
Ducks to the golden fool: all is oblique;
There’s nothing level in our cursed natures,
But direct villainy. Therefore, be abhorr’d
All feasts, societies, and throngs of men!
Destruction fang Mankind! . . .

Timon was a down cat. I don’t think Milosevic will succumb to such misanthropy, even though their situations are equally dire. Milosevic, too, has been banished from his family, his country and his people. But still he continues to deliver the lesson of that history he has lived--directly and ‘in one.’ Meron and Simons must continue on the soul-crushing mission of falsifying history, every day and in every way, in order not to find themselves afoul of that grand Authority that defines all citizens by their dependence on it.

Like all those guys on the other side--the good side--of Penny Marshall’s barbed wire fence, Milosevic is a free agent and his accusers are imprisoned and poisoned by their own bad faith.

Mick Collins
Cirque Minime/Paris
5 January 2004


* Made up of footage taken by a Serbian TV crew that shadowed the hyperthyroid Marshall while she interrogated a hyper-petuitary and tubercular bag of bones named Fikret Alic, while the ‘reporter’ was confined inside a couple strands of barbed wire that enclosed some farm equipment, and the ‘prisoner’ was free to roam this displaced persons center with his shirtless mates in the sweltering Summer heat; this grand experiment in matting and cropping which produced Ruder Finn’s single most provocative image of their campaign to depict the ‘Serbs as the new Nazis’ is contained in a video called ‘Judgment’, available through the International Action Center at their website, And if anyone’s still wondering why the ‘greatest war crimes trial since Nuremberg’ is almost completely blacked out in the West (and since the last elections, even in Serbia!), It’s because right after the opening statements in the Milosevic trial, ‘the accused’, as President M has come to be known, tried to cue up this ‘Judgment’ video and immediately threw the Tribunal’s electrical system into gridlock and EuroNews and CNN just packed it in. Christiane Amampour didn’t even have time to trowel on a second coat of make-up before the grip truck was back down the autobahn.

** A propos of Polish war crimes: Czestochowa was the site last year of my homeboy, and formerly LA’s preeminent playwright, John Steppling’s first Polish production of what I--and many others--consider one of his best plays, ‘Sea of Cortez(ki?)’. We’re still not sure how it went over in this hot bed Catholic reaction.


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