Once again the Balkans are in flames. Once again the Serbs are occupied by bloody pursuits. From Podujevo in the north to the suburbs of Pristina, the capital, Kosovo is ablaze as Serbian forces, joined by thugs and irregulars, pursue a policy of genocide against ethnic Albanians. Killings, lootings and raping on a mass scale are occurring right under Western noses. The West, however, has pretended to look the other way as Serb forces carry out their butchery.
Bosnia looks like a picnic in comparison, said one Western diplomat. The apathy and indifference exhibited by the so-called guardians of world democracy and of human rights is shameful.
No one so far has had the guts to stand up to Milosovic and tell him that enough is enough. In fact what is most upsetting is that Western leaders are all behaving like Neville Chamberlain, the man whose policy of appeasement toward Nazi Germany emboldened Hitler and led to World War II.
The Security Council itself is divided. Despite a watered down Franco-British resolution demanding that Milosovic halt his bloody offensive against Albanians, Serbian military commanders continue the bombing and murdering of innocent civilians. The Russians who have always sided with the Serbs oppose military action. Britain which has played a dubious role at best in the Bosnian conflict is alarmed but not enough so to act. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has condemned the Serbian moves and described them as "plain cold-blooded murder". But he may well have been whistling in the wind.
The United Nations too is dithering. The Secretary General can only issue statements condemning the slaughter of civilians. The world does not want to hear Kofi Annan express "shock and indignation." On the contrary, it wants him to act. The question of course: What can he do? The United Nations, it seems, is as impotent as ever.
The NATO alliance is also making noises but all its weapons seem to be in storage.
And while these discussions are going on in faraway capitals behind closed doors in comfortable rooms, hundreds of people are being ruthlessly murdered. Babies are being impaled on bayonets; women are being raped and mutilated. Over 300,000 people have fled their homes and many more will die as winter arrives with its chilling cold. Yet, strangely enough, the very countries so quick to condemn and express outrage at "terrorist" bombings do virtually nothing when terror on a mass scale takes place under their noses. It seems their appetite for revenge and punishment forces them to act only when the perpetrators of terror are from ideologies different from their own.
Thus "state-sponsored terror" and systematic genocide by the Serbs are conveniently overlooked. Cruise missiles can perhaps only be launched at those who profess a different religion or belong to another culture. It is easy to bomb suspected pharmaceutical plants but very difficult to hit at huge concentrations of butchers and murderers who make Attilla the Hun seem like an innocent baby.
The United States which now claims to be the only super-power is too embroiled in its own domestic issues to do anything. While the majority of those in the Senate support action in Kosovo, their concerns are the domestic turmoil and confusion caused by Clinton's behavior.
It is not simply ironic that this threat to peace and stability, this violent subjugation of a people should be happening at exactly the moment that the United States - and especially the people who govern it - are talking of, and focusing on, nothing save the sexual misadventures and follies of Bill Clinton. It is also dangerous. Bill Clinton's appetites and the public scrutiny of them have thrown American foreign policy into complete disarray. In fact, inattention and indifference to a myriad of international problems has effectively transformed America into an isolationist state.
Thanks to Monica Lewinsky, American attention has veered away from the world beyond its borders. And meanwhile, bloody history repeats itself in the Balkans.