Serb COG member reports from Belgrade in interview with The Journal
By Bill Stough
The Journal asked Sasha Veljic, a Serbian member of the Church of God, an International Community, living in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, about what it's like to reside in a country at war with much of Western Europe and the United States. (NATO launched air strikes beginning March 24.)
Mr. Veljic decries the bombing, saying it will not help the situation in Yugoslavia and Kosovo, that it will lead only to death, destruction and Yugoslavians hating America "forever."
Mr. Veljic's reserves his worst criticism for U.S. President Bill Clinton and for the nation of Germany. Mr. Clinton is no better than Yugoslav president Slobadan Milosevic, he says, and Germany is showing its true "fascist" colors.
He says the history of the Balkans and particularly Yugoslavia and Kosovo is so complicated few Westerners could even begin to understand it. He says Americans should remember that Serbians were their trusted allies in World War II.
He requested that The Journal publish his essay "Five Minutes of Truth" (which is included in this issue as part of his E-mail diary, printed beginning on page 1.)
Mr. Veljic replied March 29 by E-mail to Mr. Stough's questions. The questions are in bold type before Mr. Veljic's replies:
President Bill Clinton is presenting a simple situation to the public: Slobodan Milosevic is an evil dictator practicing Hitlerlike actions against a righteous Albanian people in Kosovo and must be stopped. What are your comments? What is your opinion of Mr. Milosevic? Did he have broad support in Yugoslavia before the bombing?
Bombing can never solve anything because it is inevitably siding with only one side. Children in shelters in fear of bombing will only cause more distress and trouble. Even if something will be achieved, a whole nation will hate forever the U.S.A.! Is that a solution to anything?
The problem of Kosovo is not of yesterday, be assured. For decades Albanians have been here and enjoyed all rights that they could have (if they wanted to use them). But there was always that clandestine activity to separate Kosovo and merge it with Albania.
Nobody was there to protect Serbs and others from the bullying Albanians in all those years, and, now that things have escalated, NATO aircraft are coming to bomb Serbian targets.
This is not like Bosnia. Kosovo is a much different story. I am not going to defend Serbs, but the complexity of relations in the Balkans is much deeper than what most Westerners could ever perceive. I could write pages and pages on the matter and I still don't know if you would be able to get it. One has to be born in the area to fully understand its long history, and that goes way back beyond even the century when America was discovered.
Slobodan Milosevic had a strong grip on the police and even the army, so there was no way to get rid of him. Is there a way to get rid of a U.S. president who openly lied to the entire American nation (with his hand on the Bible), who holds sway over Congress, who violated even the U.S. Constitution, which explicitly says Congress has jurisdiction to make a decision to go to war? He bypassed even Congress.
He may point a finger at Milosevic, but what about him? Is he any better than Milosevic? Certainly not.
As far as righteous Albanian people: Is it righteous not to be loyal to the country where you were born? Is it righteous to work with all your might to separate a part of the land from that same country? Is it righteous to smuggle drugs and fund the arming of ethic Albanians? Is it righteousness to train them in neighboring Albania under NATO auspices and then send them to Kosovo?
If all this is righteousness, then let Mexicans in the United States merge with Mexico, and let Texas secede and become an independent nation! Do you remember what happened to Texas rebels? What about Albanian rebels?
Is Mr. Milosevic more firmly in control than ever? Could a genuine democracy ever take hold in Yugoslavia with or without Slobodan Milosevic?
There will never be a democracy in this land. All political parties don't really care about democracy, only their own interests. Even if anyone gets rid of Milosevic, who will be there to appoint? Honestly, almost none seems to be better than he; they are even worse.
I don't see any prospects for democracy over here. Freedom to say what you want, perhaps yes, but real democracy? No, not really. I don't think that any East European country will ever have democracy. Slavic people tend to elect one person and follow him blindly or with much trust. Well, Americans seem to have the same inclination.
A former U.S. national-security adviser said today on American television that all the democratic nations (NATO) are lined up on one side, and a de-facto dictatorship is on the other. He said he thinks that, if NATO doesn't "win," the future of Europe is bleak. What do you think about that?
The future of Europe is bleak anyway, with the U.S. or without its involvement. The fact that the right wing and neo-Nazis are stronger and stronger in almost all West European countries--which are, supposedly, democratic--shows me that there is not much future in Europe. What Americans don't see is that this new Franco-German coalition has only one aim, one single goal: to expel U.S. influence from Europe.
How do you explain that a nation that occupied this area twice in this century--Germany--is attacking it with bombs? Of course, they hide behind the big-brother United States, but the ones that will have more benefits of breaking up the rest of Yugoslavia will not be the United States, but Germany. Gullible Americans don't see that. I don't know if Clinton is as gullible.
Do the people of Yugoslavia hate all Americans because of what Clinton has done?
Unfortunately, they do. What is even more saddening is that this nation was an ally to the United States in World War II and rescued about 700 U.S. pilots in that war. People traditionally looked up to the United States as a kind of role model. Thousands of our immigrants went to America.
And, now, my heart trembled today as I passed by the demolished ground floor of the American center in the main pedestrian street in Belgrade. This country will never again love the U.S.A. People have long-lasting memories of their sufferings here. They live with their past, not with the past behind them. If there will be more devastation, you can expect such a hatred that I cannot present it to you. I am sad to say all this, but you want the truth, don't you?
What is life like for you now? Is it true that only strictly military targets are being hit, or is there collateral damage as well? Is it safe for people to go to work? How are people surviving or making a living? Are you in danger? How do you hope to deal with your situation? Are there other Church of God members there? How are they doing?
The cruise missiles may want to hit military targets, but they also hit civilian targets, whether that is on purpose or not. But let us be cruelly realistic: Germany or the United States will always need a new market, so they may want to destroy this economy to control and dominate it in the future.
That is nothing new under the heavens. "Money drills where the drill cannot" is the old Serbian saying. People still go to work.
As for me, I have got a little more savings, and then who knows? I have already given instructions to my friends as to how they can help in case of humanitarian disaster, which is looming on the horizon, as well as if contacts are severed or disrupted.
If a shell hits a power station close to my home, I don't know who would survive.
We have another church member close to the military airport at Batajnica. He is well and alive so far. We wish all this to stop before it gets worse.
I request that The Journal publish my letter "Five Minutes of Truth," in which I explain why the current U.S. secretary of state hates this nation so much [see "Five Minutes of Truth" after the March 25 date in Mr. Veljic's diary beginning on page 1].
I feel it is important that members of the Body of Christ be aware of those facts.
They may not help anyone, but they will help the truth come to light.
I feel deep sorrow for all civilian victims on Serbian and Albanian sides, as well as for the fact that cultural institutions in Belgrade, such as the French cultural center, British consul, Germany cultural center and American center, have been demolished.
Write Mr. Veljic at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God