I am trying to keep political posts to a minimum, but this has affected me, my family and my country.
Today (March. 24th) marks the 17th anniversary of America’s (and NATO’s) illegal bombing of Serbia in 1999. 3000 innocent people killed, our territory stolen and the country has been in ruin eversince. My family, friends and relatives have all been affected by this. It is the reason that I am now living in Canada. You can ignore this post. But it’d mean the world if you could show some respect to the tragedy that still lingers today.
NATO member countries began the air strikes on Serbia on 24 March 1999 at 19.45. The bombing destroyed and damaged about 25,000 houses, it damaged 470 kilometers of roads and 595 kilometers of railways, 14 airports, 19 hospitals, 20 health centers, 18 kindergartens, 69 schools, 176 cultural monuments and 44 bridges, while 38 were destroyed. NATO launched 1,300 cruise missiles, threw over 37,000 “cluster bombs” which killed around 200 people and injured hundreds, and used a prohibited ammunition with depleted uranium. About 1,008 members of the army and police were killed or disappeared, of which 659 members of the military and 349 police officers. About 6,000 civilians were seriously or lightly injured, including 2,700 children. Total damage is estimated at tens of billions of dollars. No one was held responsible for these crimes until the present day.
It’s so frustrating to see people claim Age of Ultron is an accurate adaptation of Wanda and Pietro’s origin story because
1) their origin is about racism, not Imperialism, and taking away the racism is whitewashing the narrative. They could have still lost their parents in a NATO bombing, but erasing their Romani heritage when their new backstory is a fictionalized version of the Yugoslav Wars means ignoring the particular hell that the Romani went through in those conflicts. Like, seriously, you ignore their ethnicity but give them an origin centered around an ethnic conflict? How tone deaf can you be?
And 2) the ultimate lesson of their comics origin is that racism destroys, it is evil. The racists who attacked their parents in the comics don’t show up later to be humanized. But, in Age of Ultron, the takeaway is that Imperialism isn’t so bad because ~it helps the same people it hurts.~ “Sure, we made this one robot who tried to destroy the world, but we also made this OTHER robot who is totally cool. All good, right?”
“Good evening, I’m Eric Alost. NATO forces bomb Serbia and Kosovo. An unidentified man is being held for questioning by the FBI for suspected links to last month’s biological virus deaths. In local news, a dog named Hero takes the grand prize at the annual- I wish I could tell you more pertinent news, but we’re in a rating system here, and the key factor is ‘sensationalism’. They’ve got you running in circles, 9 to 5, and 5 to 9… you’re mine! I tell you what they want you to know, and you consider it the truth. Nobody is opening their eyes! Our global economy is depleting the world of our lives and natural resources! AND ARE YOU HAPPY?! COME ON! I WORK FOR THE SYSTEM!”
March 24, 1999: NATO’s 78-day terror-bombing campaign against Yugoslavia begins, destroying the last workers’ state in Europe and setting the stage for today’s war in Ukraine.
The bombing killed between 2,000 and 4,000 civilians, destroyed many bridges, industrial plants, many civilian buildings, public buildings and businesses, barracks and military installations. It should be particularly noted the destruction of two oil refineries, demolition Avala Tower, the Radio-Television Serbia, the Pancevo petrochemical, shooting bridge building, car factory Zastava from Kragujevac, in the buildings of downtown Belgrade, Embassy of the Republic of China and many other civilian targets.
Alternate History scenario: NATO ends up somewhat siding with Serbian forces and brokers an odd peace deal that sees Bosnia being reannaexed by Yugoslavia under the conditions that A) Bosnia remains otherwise territorially intact and B) All ethnic cleansing victims are allowed to return to their homes. NATO considers this the most practical solution to the war and squeezes the hands of all parties to agree. Milosevic purges the Republika Srpska leadership under the guise of persecuting war criminals and consolidates his rule on Bosnia until the Kosovo War in 1999, the NATO bombings and his inevitable overthrow in 2000. Bosnians fearful of another war don’t try to push for renewed independence or carving up Bosnia, leading to them extremely reluctantly accepting status quo when a new union is rolled out in the early 2000s. A Yugoslav rump state exists in Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro under the leadership of Aleksandr Vučić in 2017.
Serbians who act like they were the victims during the NATO bombing must fail to forget that their ELECTED GOVERNMENT was forcibly expelling albanians from their homes, RAPING WOMEN, and KILLING THEM. ARE YOU SERIOUS?????
I was extremely curious to visit Serbia because unfortunately, my only experiences with the culture prior to my visit had been negative. All I knew about Serbia was that I spent a week traveling with a Serbian guy who ended up robbing everyone we were with and that the Bosnian Genocide in the 90s was committed by the Bosnian Serbs in what was former Yugoslavia.
I had heard ahead of time that Serbian people were not fans of America or Americans because of the NATO bombings in 1999. Apparently The United States led “Operation Nobel Anvil” without authorization from the United Nations and bombed Belgrade.
War is messy and complicated. Traveling to recently war torn regions is difficult. Not difficult because of danger per se, but because it is hard to know what is appropriate to say and do. It is a very delicate subject. People have fresh wounds physically and emotionally. They have suffered from loss I could never imagine.
I wanted to see things from the other side. I wanted to understand the Serbian point of view.
Belgrade is scattered with buildings that were destroyed during the bombings. Many of them have not been rebuilt to this day.
I was unable to learn too much. I found that most people I met did not want to talk about it. I think some people were torn between being ashamed of their government’s decisions and upset that their homes and families were destroyed as well. Most people said it was a political thing.
I went on a tour of Belgrade and the guide spent most of the time focusing on older history, like the Ottoman Empire which fell in the early 20th century. Of course the history involving the Ottoman Empire is also a violent one, but it is much less sensitive to talk about because - I guess with the passing of generations, wounds have healed and the people who were directly involved are no longer living for natural reasons. So people can talk about it more easily.
I purchased a book called “The Serbian Mentality” by Momo Kapor. I was hoping it would explain some of the politics and history but it was mostly just a very poetically written love letter to the Serbian culture and the city of Belgrade. I enjoyed reading it, but it did not exactly give me the answers I was looking for.
The author spent a lot of time comparing Belgrade to cities like Rome and Paris. He compared east and west. Belgrade is a very interesting city because it is right on the cusp of what used to be the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire.
Two large rivers, the Danube and the Sava, meet in Belgrade. The eastern winds collide with the west and the sky is often painted with many personalities. I was lucky enough to see a few incredible views from the Belgrade Fortress which overlooks the confluence of the two rivers.
What I found interesting about Belgrade is that in Serbia they use the cyrillic alphabet (see the subheading of this post at the top) and the latin alphabet. And there does not seem to be a consistent rule on when they use which one.
Despite my intentions to learn cyrillic, I hadn’t taken the time to understand it before I arrived in Serbia. The only real issue I had was when I was first searching for my hostel from the tram. My map was written only with latin letters, but all of the street signs were written with only cyrillic in the neighborhood I was in. Although, I was able to count streets and stops and it actually did not take me too long to find where I was heading. This made me feel like a pretty seasoned traveler. Woo hoo. Yay me.
All of the people I met in Serbia were very hospitable and constantly offering me (very zealously) their national drink Rakija. It is a fruit brandy typically made from plums or grapes. It seems to be a large source of national pride. To me it was just very strong hard liquor that made me feel fuzzy in my throat and head ..which I did not exactly enjoy. It was very high proof and strong.
I had to get pretty creative with my excuses to avoid drinking rakija. I think my rejection of the drink was offensive to some… but it was painful for me. I tried. Sorry.
While I was in Serbia, I reconnected with my American friend I had traveled with in Slovakia. I realized I just was not interested in traveling alone anymore and I got pretty lucky that his plans had changed and we were on the same path again.
We went out in the “bohemian district” called Skadarlija. Momo Kapor compares it to Montmartre of Paris. It is a quaint neighborhood with an artsy feel. It is nice.
My favorite fun fact about Belgrade is that there is a restaurant called “?”. The name changed many times with new ownership, they just kind of gave up in the end and settled with ?
I guess I am going to have to describe my time in Belgrade with a “?” as well because despite all that I learned, I still have so many questions.
The BMP-2 crew of the Northern Alliance resting on the armor of his car, while NATO aircraft bombed the militants from the Taliban nearby. The photo was taken near the mountains of Tora Bora, December 13, 2001.
Oh, no need to thank me for sending Russian troops and planes to help you out in Syria, Bashar. I would never turn down an opportunity to bomb Islamic terrorists while punching America directly in the dick at the exact same time.