Saturday, 25 November 2017

The Welshman who Stood in a Valley but Came Down a Hill

Scholars agree that St David was a genuine historical figure, whose ministries as Abbot and Bishop impacted not only Wales but also much of what is now south west England and Brittany on the continent, though the passage of time has made it difficult to bring the details of his life into sharp focus. Some sources for instance give the date of his death as 589 AD, but the only certainty on that account seems to be that he was alive for the best part of the 6th century. As regards his reputation for holiness; his 11th century biographer Rhygyfarch reported that, as if to intercept a dove which landed on his shoulder, the ground underneath his feet rose when he was delivering a sermon at the Synod of Brefi in ca. 560. So if one may draw inspiration from the title of a 1990s film about a village near Cardiff, St David was ‘The Welshman who Stood in a Valley but Came Down a Hill’. Incidentally, the target of his denunciations on that occasion was Pelagian heresy, still flourishing in Britain a century after St Germanus of Auxerre’s 5th century mission, and arguably resurgent in our own times. However the best known of his homilies was his last, in which he appealed to his compatriots:

“Lords, brothers and sisters, be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed, and do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about. And as for me, I will walk the path that our fathers have trod before us.”

This injunction to “do the little things in life” (“Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd”) has been a mainstay of Welsh Christianity ever since.

Friday, 21 April 2017

VI  Bosnia and Hercegovina: It’s a Long Way to Medjugorje

   On the morning of Friday 12th March, dedicated to Bl. Joseph Tshang-ta-Pong[1], the official on the Croatian side of the Bosnia-Hercegovina border took an evident dislike to the Russian visas in my passport, but let me through. It was the 10th anniversary of St John Paul the Great’s ‘Day of Pardon’, when on behalf of the whole Church throughout history he asked forgiveness for sins committed by his co-religionists against Jews, other non-Christians, indigenous peoples, other Christians, women and children, heretics and migrants. It happened also however that I was stepping outside the confines of Nato territory, exactly ten years after the publication of a Sunday Times article by Tom Walker and Aidan Laverty, ‘CIA aided Kosovo guerrilla army’, whose impact was deliberately and professionally blunted by a BBC documentary broadcast at 9pm on the same day, ‘Moral [sic] Combat: Nato at War’. From the latter:
Dugi Gorani, Kosovo Albanian Negotiator: “The more civilians were killed, the chances of international intervention became bigger, and the KLA[2] of course realised that. There was this foreign diplomat who once told me ‘Look unless you pass the quota of five thousand deaths you’ll never have anybody permanently present in Kosovo from the foreign diplomacy.’”
And the former:
   “Central Intelligence Agency officers were ceasefire monitors in Kosovo in 1998 and 1999, developing ties with the KLA and giving American military training manuals and field advice on fighting the Yugoslav army and Serbian police.
   “When the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which co-ordinated the monitoring, left Kosovo a week before airstrikes began, many of its satellite telephones and global positioning systems were secretly handed to the KLA, ensuring that guerrilla commanders could stay in touch with Nato and Washington. Several KLA leaders had the mobile phone number of General Wesley Clark, the Nato commander.”
   I was amused by Bosnian border guards who, after I told them I was walking to Jerusalem via Medjugorje, seemed to be asking “Where's your horse?” Later I learned that a Frenchwoman was riding her “magaretz” (donkey) along a similar route to mine, a few days ahead of me. People in that part of Bosnia, accustomed perhaps to Medjugorje pilgrims, were very friendly; one chap summoned me into his home for a tasty lunch, others offered food or insisted I needn’t pay for teas and coffees. I was also struck by the apparent prosperity of villages I passed through. That night I was to be found sleeping soundly among piles of sticks at the back of a shed that looked suitably unfrequented, then on the next afternoon, Saturday 13 March, I arrived in Medjugorje.
   The parish church in Medjugorje is dedicated to the Apostle St James the Great[3]. After paying a visit to Our Lord there I found the Mary's Meals café, where I was hoping to intercept a new pair of boots and my kilt among other things, but found it closed for the weekend. The prospect of a couple of days rest in Medjugorje became all the sweeter however, when I phoned a friend who knew the owners of a really lovely place to stay called “Pansion Kata”; I wasn't allowed to pay because my hosts were too kind. I unburdened my conscience in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, attended Mass in English and the ‘international’ Mass on Sunday evening, and it was not least wonderful simply to be able to ‘unwind’.
   After Mass on the Monday morning I came back to the Mary's Meals café, where a delightful Belgian lady handed me packages sent from home. These contained among other things the kilt, which I had in mind particularly to wear in the company of Serbs, and my folks had also put another pair of charity shop boots in.
   This contrasted with BBC reporter Allan Little however, who conspicuously failed to “put the boot in” when making and editing his craftily sterilised documentary, ‘Moral [sic] Combat: Nato at War’. Two replies he gave to correspondents in an online Question and Answer session three days after its transmission help to explain why this was the case.
Doug, USA: “I am struck by the refusal of the US-led international community to accept the Albanians as the aggressor in this war. Why have we (the US-led international community) sponsored the Albanian movement?”
Allan Little: “This is very complicated. I have argued for the last decade that the principal aggressor and root of instability in the Balkans has been Milosevic and the nature of the Milosevic regime. It would be hard for me to turn round now and say that's no longer the case. I don't think the Albanians are the aggressor, I don't think there's any real doubt about that.” (my emphasis)
   This may usefully be seen in conjunction with the reply he makes to Michael Ranson, UK:
“Is there ever a time when a BBC reporter should use his position to actively speak out against the British government?”
Allan Little: “No, I don't think that actively speaking out against the British government is necessary or appropriate. That said, it is equally unnecessary and inappropriate to speak out in favour of the British government. I don't think that either of those things is needed.”
The first point Little makes here lays bare his double standards. It is not “necessary or appropriate” to speak out against the British government – but apparently it’s OK to “argue for the last decade that the principal aggressor and root of instability in the Balkans has been Milosevic and the nature of the Milosevic regime”. Further clear evidence that he is in fact a reliable Downing Street (and therefore White House) stooge is provided by his allowing the programme to be called ‘Moral Combat: Nato at War’; echoing precisely the sort of sanctimonious drivel spouted by Tony Blair (a man now widely regarded as a war criminal) near the beginning of the programme:
“The moral purpose was very simple. A gross injustice had been done to people, right on the doorstep of the European Union, which we were in a position to prevent and reverse, and we had to do that…”
   A tiny bit sorry to have to leave Medjugorje, nonetheless I was resolved to put more “heart” into my onward Christian soldiering. After dark I reached the crest of a hill and saw numerous lights in a valley which I supposed must be Mostar; but the road continued to wind its way round the slopes until I was suddenly confronted with a dramatic view of the real Mostar – much bigger than I remembered it, as a day-tripper twelve years before. Finding a discreet place tucked against the wall of the cathedral to sleep, I was then glad to be up in time for 7am Mass.
   ‘Most’ is the word for ‘bridge’ in Slavic languages, but I passed up an opportunity to see Mostar’s eponymous crossing point, forgetting that when I visited in 1998 it was only a bomb-damaged ruin (courtesy incidentally of Croat ordnance). So without having seen perhaps the most famous landmark in the Balkans, I set straight off along the Neretva “kanjon”, reaching in the evening a place to sleep on a train station platform at Dreznica.
   On the feast of St. Patrick the weather was fine, the scenery beautiful and I enjoyed the best-tasting coffee of my life, because I’d had to walk for several hours before it was available. Reaching the outskirts of Konjic I slept well in a rather scruffy neglected chamber under a car park. There were more great vistas next day as I ascended into mountains again, and memorably lizards could be seen scampering about amid shrinking patches of snow. At the other end of a longish tunnel however I found myself back in the depths of winter; everything covered in thick white stuff and the sun no longer with its hat on. As darkness fell I reached a village largely if not entirely populated by Muslims, hearing their call to prayer for the first time on my walk. On the far edge, a local pillar of the community bustled me into his nice warm café and produced complimentary coffee, a big sandwich and a bar of chocolate before I was allowed to leave. It was around this time that I started making use of the indispensable phrase “In-sha-Allah” or “God willing” in Arabic; “Ierusalim, In-sha-Allah”. Sleep that night was a bit of a shambles because neighbourhood dogs were disturbed by my presence in the doorway of an empty-looking building; after an hour or two of their barking I conceded defeat and moved to a nearby station platform.
   On 19th March, St. Joseph’s Day, I made a bid for Sarajevo, but having got thoroughly lost in trying to avoid a dual carriageway I reached only the western fringe of this huge and elongated city. Early next morning the Sarajevo PD[4] found me sleeping in a narrow space between two high-rise buildings; moving on I attended Mass, before following the letter of their instructions by sitting down for a coffee in the beguiling old town. Sarajevo is a place where, over the centuries, different cultures and religions have been able to meet, mingle, engage, even serenade, but also, sadly, fight.[5]

[1] Chinese catechist, martyred in 1815.
[2] Kosovo Liberation Army
[3] Patron saint of pilgrims, whose symbol is a scallop shell as worn by pilgrims to Santiago (St James) de Compostella in Spain.
[4] Police Department
[5] The scant biographical details of St Vitus include information that he was born in Sicily and suffered martyrdom in the persecution of Diocletian, around 303AD. For Serb Orthodox Christians his feast, known as ‘Vidovdan’ and celebrated on 28th June (15th June Old Style), is associated with a number of key historical events, most important of which is the anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo. On Vidovdan in 1389, both the Ottoman Turkish and Serb armies are understood to have been all but annihilated on the Kosovo Polje (Field); though the Turks emerged strong enough to overrun the remaining Serb principalities in succeeding years.
   On Vidovdan, 28 June 1914, a Bosnian Serb student, Gavrilo Princip, was part of a five-man team of assassins sent by Serbian secret society the Black Hand to kill Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary. Having pledged their readiness to die for what became the Yugoslav cause, all were issued with cyanide pills to swallow in case of arrest. The pills had expired however, being potent enough only to sicken both Princip and another of the conspirators who was captured. So Princip survived, and being a few weeks short of his 20th birthday, he couldn’t be executed under Austro-Hungarian law. What is perhaps interesting however is that before dying from malnutrition and skeletal tuberculosis at the prison camp of Theresienstadt in modern-day Czech Republic, his right arm had wasted away and had to be amputated (indeed the operation is understood to have aggravated his condition and hastened his death). Assuming he was right-handed, few limbs in history can have committed a blacker crime, unleashing as it did horror on a never-before-seen scale. Therefore, although one can imagine that his death in captivity may well have been awful, perhaps Princip nonetheless had reason to be eternally grateful both that the cyanide pill had expired and that he had been too young to hang. In his 1999 book, East European Nationalism, Politics and Religion, Peter Sugar reports that before his death in 1990 (aged 93) the youngest and last surviving conspirator Vaso Čubrilović had disavowed the extreme nationalism of his youth and expressed regret over the assassination:

“We destroyed a beautiful world that was lost forever due to the war that followed.”

“If your right hand should be your downfall, cut it off and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of yourself than to have your whole body go to hell.” Mt5.30
    From the café I continued eastwards along Ferhadija[1] to the Baščaršija, the old bazaar and focal point for Islam in the city since the 15th century. I then spent the afternoon and early evening walking to Pale in the “Republika Srpska” (Serb) part of Bosnia, glimpsing mice, a pair of Dippers, and a deer at close quarters on the way. As was my wont, I had in mind to track down the church, but before finding it I decided that a bar called “Bolero” might be worth a visit. In Russian (mostly quite popular among Serbs) I tried to explain to the young lady serving drinks that her workplace took its name from the piece of music by Ravel which accompanied Jane Torville and Christopher Dean’s gold medal-garnering exploits at the 1984 (Sarajevo) Winter Olympics; one or two older guys seemed to have an idea of what I was talking about. She didn't let me pay for my tea and tipped me off about a great inexpensive hostel place, where I spent the night. For the Sunday service at church next morning I wore my kilt for the first time, with jacket and tie etc; though I subsequently learnt that such attire is not strictly appropriate in an Orthodox place of worship, so I had reason to be grateful that none of the handful of people who noticed me objected.
   Changing back into civvies, from Pale I made my way to a town called Podgrab, where I engaged in a pleasant conversation with some schoolchildren about our respective national patron saints, George and Sava, among other things. St. Sava was the first Serbian Bishop, and is revered in both Orthodox and Catholic Christianity. Taking advantage of dry weather I then walked on in the dark to Praca, in the predominantly Muslim division of Bosnia. However there were no hotels; but a benevolent Serb policajac took me to a house where I could stay inexpensively, belonging to a lady whose son played professional ice hockey in the United States. Plying me with nice food and drink, she and the policeman together insisted that the onward road to Ustipraca, which looked fine on my map, might be dangerous (‘Mujahadin’ was a word I clearly made out), so I agreed to be given a lift by one of his colleagues who was due to make the journey next day.
   Refreshed by a great sleep and breakfast, after keeping an 8am appointment at the police station this other copper drove me about 25km in an unmarked car along a rough, narrow and all but deserted track. Having done part of his police training in Moscow, in Russian he told me that the string of pitch black tunnels we went through had been built during Austro-Hungarian rule, a hundred years before. To the accompaniment of characteristically Turkish-sounding Serb music from the stereo, we also discussed the prospects of our respective countries in the forthcoming World Cup.
   Višegrad is best-known for its beautiful Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge, the subject of a fabulous Nobel Prize-winning historical novel by Ivo Andric. Crossing that “Bridge over the Drina” when I came to it, after being very kindly allowed to phone home from a café-bar I found a little unfrequented store room in which to sleep. At a different café next morning, when a lady learnt I was from Britain she went out to fetch a young acquaintance of hers, ‘Zvonko’, on a vac but studying in Sarajevo.[2] He spoke excellent English and we agreed on just about everything; the importance of Christian faith, Russia’s positive role in the world, and Kosovo. I left him with a school atlas I’d brought with me, dating from 2004, showing Kosovo as still part of Serbia, which of course it is.[3] On the way east from there I visited a beautiful monastery with a 14th century church at Dobrun, before coming to the border with Serbia proper.

[1] Now named after a famous 15th century mosque in the Bosnian city of Banja Luka, Ferhadija was previously called Vase Miskina Street. On 27 May 1992 it was the scene of a brutal explosion, ostensibly from a mortar shell of the type used by Sarajevo’s Bosnian Serb besiegers, which ripped through a line of people queuing for bread, killing 17 and wounding dozens more. As intended by the crime’s perpetrators, the international media seized on the atrocity as yet more evidence of Serb inhumanity, although even at the time a UN official was quoted: “We believe it was a command-detonated explosion, probably in a can. The impact which is there now is not necessarily similar or anywhere near as large as we came to expect with a mortar round landing on a paved surface.” The work of forces loyal to the fundamentalist Muslim regime of President Alija Izetbegovic (but tirelessly covered up by western governments and their media patsies, for whom evidence they were wrong is the very acme of inconvenience), it was carefully timed to coincide with a meeting of European ambassadors considering sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It stands as the supreme example of a deliberate massacre of civilians on one’s own side, for the purpose of poisoning western opinion against the enemies of fanatical Islam. Meeting with great ‘success’, this satanic practice was replicated with at least two further attacks on Sarajevo’s market in succeeding years, the second of which was used as justification for anti-Serb Nato airstrikes. These unspeakable crimes against humanity provided a template for KLA activities and have been emulated more recently by extremist anti-government terrorists in Syria.
[2] As did both Gavrilo Princip and Ivo Andric; friends, remarkably, who moved in the same circles in the years before 1914.
[3] Before dawn on 15 December 1998, an armed band of KLA personnel crossed into the troubled province from neighbouring Albania. Ambushed by Serbian security forces, the ensuing firefight left 31 terrorists dead. Later on the same day, masked men with machine guns opened fire at random into the ‘Panda’ student café in the nearby city of Pec, killing six young Serb civilians, including five teenagers aged 14-17, and wounding 15 others. Primary responsibility for investigating and documenting events like these fell to the Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM), established less than two months previously under the auspices of the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe). William G. Walker, the veteran US diplomat appointed by Madeleine Albright to lead the KVM, shared some reflections with Allan Little in ‘Moral Combat: Nato at War’, the euphemistically named BBC documentary:
Walker: “It really looked like this was a tit for tat again. KLA hearing about their people being killed up on the border had done this in Pec.”
Little: “There is a huge difference, isn't there, between people killed in a legitimate military exchange and a bunch of hooded unknowns walking into a bar and killing some teenagers..?”
Walker: “I think the point is, we really didn't know what had happened in Pec. Yes the government was saying it was KLA gangsters who had come in and sprayed this bar. When you don't know what has happened, it's a lot more difficult to sort of pronounce yourself.”
Walker’s “difficulty” here would appear to dovetail neatly with a comment he makes elsewhere in the same interview, when he is reminded of (NB not confronted with) the minutes of behind-closed-doors meetings of Nato’s North Atlantic Council, directly contradicting his public statements about where blame chiefly lay for ceasefire violations:
Little: “You told the North Atlantic Council that it was the KLA side who were largely responsible.”
Walker: “I would have to go back and re-read my notes. I don't remember. Most of the briefings I gave to the North Atlantic Council was that both sides were in non-compliance. Both sides were doing things that were wrong. Obviously it was easier to point at the government.” (my emphasis)
Quite how the former US ambassador to El Salvador is allowed to get away with saying this, when by Little’s account he is recorded in the minutes of the North Atlantic Council stating that “…the KLA… has launched what appears to be a deliberate campaign of provocation”, is not easy to vouchsafe. In any case however, we can see that in public, Walker found it was easier to lay the blame at the door of the Serb authorities; and, in his words, it was “difficult to sort of pronounce yourself” against the KLA terrorists – although that is exactly what he did, outside the media spotlight. And again, this seems to tally with useful snippets of contextual info such as that provided in the same documentary by Canadian Capt. Roland Keith, director of the Kosovo Polje field office of the same Kosovo Verification Mission:
   “Ambassador Walker was not just working for the OSCE. He was part of the American diplomatic policy that was occurring which had vilified Slobodan Milosevic, demonised the Serbian Administration and generally was providing diplomatic support to the KLA leadership.”
Without putting too fine a point on it, this knowledge only intensifies the foul stench of systematic, premeditated fraudulence hanging over that part of Allan Little’s commentary which follows immediately after we hear about Walker’s “difficulty in sort of pronouncing himself”:
   “One month later Walker was to break this rule to spectacular effect. He pronounced himself with absolute certainty about a massacre that occurred here, in the village of Račak. Even now, more than a year on, important questions about what happened here remain unanswered. This is the story of that massacre, of the political uses to which it was put, of how it galvanised the west to go to war, and of the pivotal role played by William Walker. There is nothing remarkable about Račak. Except that by January 1999, the KLA had moved in, most of the villagers had fled, and trenches had been dug on the edge of the village.”
More to follow.

VII  Serbia: Birder on the Orient Express

The border guards at the Serb frontier were the friendliest and most courteous I encountered anywhere, and I spent the night in a comfortable but affordable hotel in Mokra Gora.
   Wednesday 24th March 2010 was the eleventh anniversary of Primakov’s Loop.[1] I reached a tunnel with a clear “No pedestrians” sign, and so hitched a lift on a coach which set me down free of charge at a small town called Kremna. I then bumped into an English-speaking medic I’d actually met and exchanged a few words with near the monastery at Dobrun, the day before. Bringing me a tube of black ointment in case I needed it, for my feet, he explained that he’d been forced to leave Pristina, Kosovo, at the time of Nato’s bombing in 1999, but still had a close Muslim friend there. He also made reference to a fame Kremna had acquired as a result of its association with certain “prophesies”.[2] Stopping later to eat on a wall outside a business premises of some kind, I was spontaneously brought a super mug of coffee, then bread, water and different kinds of sandwich-filling by the employees.
   Užice[3] is quite a big city, nestling in a deep cavity created by mountains on all sides.  At around midnight I checked into the Hotel Zlatibor, a soaring concrete behemoth whose science fiction overtones make a stupendously bold statement about the merits of late70s/early80s communist architecture. In the morning I could not be restrained from drinking tea on board a real-life carriage of the Orient Express, with all its authentic upholstery and accoutrements, converted into a café restaurant.  Heading east I came to flatter country, and was persuaded to stay for a delicious bean soup at a petrol station where one of the attendants spoke good English. A friend of his who worked in local TV had recently interviewed the French lady with her donkey, so he got on the phone and it was arranged that I should have a similar meeting at the hotel in Požega that evening. However no one was there when I arrived; it’s possible that I may have been expected to make better time.
   Next day I donned the kilt again, and passed through the Ovčar-Kablar Gorge, known as the Serbian Mount Athos because of its numerous ancient monasteries. I visited the first of these, dedicated to the Transfiguration of Our Lord, where I was greeted by a monk who had studied in St Petersburg. He put me in the picture about the ineligibility of my kilt, but allowed me to glimpse inside the monastery chapel, with a glorious Iconostasis. However we also had a bit of discord on the question of Church unity, and the air was only cleared when I stated my opposition to Nato’s disgraceful actions in the Kosovo crisis eleven years earlier. Bloated with an arrogance venturing into the realm of farce, in part by the accession to Nato of former Warsaw Pact countries Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, in March 1999 western leaders flouted international law to carry out the bombing of a sovereign independent country, largely to divert media attention from a US President's private life.[4] Kosovo's status as part of Serbia is more or less analogous to that of Kent in England, especially since both are the ecclesiastical heartlands.

[1] On 24 March 1999, a senior Russian delegation led by Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov was in mid-flight over the Atlantic, heading for talks in Washington, D.C. When notified that Nato had begun its bombing of Yugoslavia, Primakov ordered the plane to turn around and return to Moscow. This is seen by many Russians as a key turning point, when the last vestige of uncritical post-Cold War goodwill towards the United States and western countries was finally exhausted.
The parallels between what historians refer to as Austria-Hungary’s ‘unacceptable ultimatum’ to Serbia of 1914, and the Rambouillet draft agreement presented by Nato to the FRY (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) 85 years later, are uncanny to the point of being surreal. On 7 July 1914, Austria-Hungary’s Council of Joint Ministers settled on the idea of making demands of Serbia which would be subtly but unmistakably impossible for a sovereign state to fulfil. The clause which met these criteria more than any other was the one compelling Belgrade to “agree to the cooperation in Serbia of the organs of the Imperial and Royal Government in the suppression of the subversive movement directed against the integrity of the Monarchy.” In the words of senior Viennese foreign ministry official Count Hoyos, this was “of such a nature that no nation that still possessed self-respect and dignity could possibly accept” it.
Austria-Hungary’s ultimatum was described at the time as “the most insolent document of its kind ever devised” by then First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill. ‘Appendix B’ of the Rambouillet draft agreement however, tacked on at the eleventh hour by the United States, actually contrived to be worse; a crass, not to say downright puerile mockery of all the diplomatic efforts which preceded it.
“Nato personnel shall enjoy, together with their vehicles, vessels, aircraft and equipment, free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the FRY including associated air space and territorial waters. This shall include but not be limited to, the right of bivouac, manoeuvre, billet and utilisation of any areas or facilities as required for support, training and operations.”
In an article for The Nation in May 1999 (i.e. while the bombardment was continuing) George Kenney, a former hand on the U.S State Department’s Yugoslavia desk, wrote the following;
“An unimpeachable press source who regularly travels with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told this reviewer that, swearing reporters to deep-background confidentiality at the Rambouillet talks, a senior State Department official had bragged that the United States “deliberately set the bar higher than the Serbs could accept.” The Serbs needed, according to the official, a little bombing to see reason. Many critics already assumed the United States was creating a pretext for bombing–it seemed abundantly evident from the sham Rambouillet plan, which in its military appendix B demanded what would have been an unconditional surrender of Yugoslavia–but it is still astonishing to find out that a senior official would crow about a premeditated US plan to justify attack.”(my emphasis) From ‘Rolling Thunder: the Rerun’ by George Kenney, The Nation, 27 May 1999.
“…certain people in NATO were spoiling for a fight at that time… terms put to Milosevic were absolutely intolerable: how could he possibly accept them? It was quite deliberate.” Lord Gilbert, Defence Minister.
“Rambouillet, which called on Serbia to admit NATO troops throughout Yugoslavia was a provocation, an excuse to start bombing.” Dr Henry Kissinger.
“The draft agreement offered [to Milosevic] at Rambouillet was packed with elements he could never have accepted.” BBC World Affairs correspondent John Simpson; A Mad World, My Masters.
There are few if any recorded instances of Churchill using profane language, but it surely is not outside the realm of possibility to imagine that he might have been pushed to do so by the terms of the Rambouillet draft agreement.
[2] Mitar Tarabich (1829–1899) was an illiterate local peasant and alleged recipient of a series of often minutely accurate prophetic visions which he is said to have dictated to a Serbian Orthodox priest, Zaharije Zaharich (1836–1918), who was also his godfather. The prophesies, which appear to have come to light in around 1980, mostly deal with political and cultural developments in Serbia and Yugoslavia but also concern the wider world. In light of what happened to Iraq from 2003 and Syria from 2011, the following is perhaps of at least passing interest: “There will be a few wars around the kingdom of Israel, but sooner or later peace will come even there. In these wars, brothers fight brothers; then they make peace and kiss each other, but their hatred remains... All these small wars are initiated by the great kingdoms because of their wickedness and malice.” (my emphasis)
[3] In late 1913, Užice’s listening post was the scene of one of history’s most baleful and strictly confidential fireside chats, when Bosnian Serb newspaper editor Danilo Ilić paid a clandestine visit to officer in charge and fellow Black Hander, Colonel C.A. Popović. Pressing for a more belligerent policy towards Bosnia’s Austro-Hungarian colonial masters, Ilić was forwarded to Belgrade for discussions with arch-conspirator Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijević, aka ‘Apis’, who combined his role as Chief of Serbian Military Intelligence with leadership of the Black Hand. While Apis was immensely powerful and well-connected however, most historians absolve the Serbian government itself, led by Prime Minister Nikola Pašić, of responsibility for Franz Ferdinand’s death. Having got wind of the plot by the end of May, on 18 June Pašić instructed his ambassador in Vienna to warn the Austro-Hungarian authorities that there was reason to believe the Archduke ran a grave risk by visiting Bosnia at that time – a warning which was indeed passed on, albeit described as “vague” by the Austrian side. Yet the security arrangements in Sarajevo on 28 June were so inadequate as to bolster suggestions that Austria-Hungary deliberately sought to create optimum conditions for an attempt on the lives of the heir-presumptive and his wife Sophie; a Czech countess openly disapproved of by the Viennese establishment. Having said that however, it is known that anti-Habsburg feeling was widespread in Serbia at the time, and Pašić’s failure to take effective action to round up the plotters may have been based at least partly on a calculation that it would have undermined his already tenuous political position.
[4] “I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I'm going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” President Bill Clinton at White House press conference, 26 January 1998.
Over the course of 1998, discernible increases in the loudness and intensity of US/Nato war drums regarding Kosovo actually corresponded dispiritingly closely with developments bearing on Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky. For instance on 9 June he declared the emerging Balkan crisis serious enough to warrant putting the US in a state of “national emergency”(!). This however surely had less to do with any “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States”, as advertised, than with the fact that a week before, Ms Lewinsky’s legal team had been strengthened by the arrival of two particularly eminent Washington criminal defence lawyers. On 21st September Clinton’s grand jury testimony of the previous month was broadcast publicly for the first time; three days later, Nato’s North Atlantic Council issued an “activation warning”, putting its warplanes on a high level of readiness to carry out airstrikes against Serb government targets. The US House of Representatives vote to begin impeachment proceedings on 8 October was followed less than a week later by the North Atlantic Council issuing “activation orders”, putting Nato on a fully-fledged war footing. Posing as it did an immediate threat of airstrikes (a crime in itself under the terms of the UN charter), this move forced Belgrade to sign a ceasefire two days later, whose terms included the establishment of the Kosovo VerifiCIAtion Mission. All through this time, Clinton avoided business-as-usual White House press conferences; i.e. those featuring only himself and journalists. When he finally called one on 19 March 1999, the first of its kind since April of the previous year, it was mostly taken up with his justification for impending Nato airstrikes, following the pre-determined failure of the Rambouillet talks.
“You do not have to be pro-Serbian… to realize that the Kosovo crisis was a set-up. Clinton, badly damaged by the Lewinsky affair, had decided with Madeleine Albright that there would only be one outcome to this particular Balkan crisis: Milosevic would have to back down, or be bombed into submission.” John Simpson, A Mad World, My Masters.
   Clever manipulation of the way news is presented and wily methods of orchestrating its release into the public domain are among techniques known as ‘spin’. Clearly, some kind of deal was struck between the makers of the documentary ‘Moral [sic] Combat: Nato at War’, and the authors of the Sunday Times article ‘CIA aided Kosovo guerrilla army’, appearing as they did on the same day, 12 March 2000; indeed confirmation comes from the following ‘plug’ for the TV programme in Tom Walker and Aidan Laverty’s article:
“Several Americans who were directly involved in CIA activities or close to them have spoken to the makers of a documentary to be broadcast on BBC2 tonight, and to The Sunday Times about their clandestine roles.”
   Eyebrows however should not be left unraised by this cartelisation of news reporting. It usually takes quite a long time to make a television documentary, and ‘Moral [sic] Combat’ was no exception:
“I was part of a BBC team that spent seven months trying to pin down what really took place at Račak.”[1] (my emphasis)
By contrast of course, a newspaper article can be produced in a matter of a few hours or even less. So one’s automatic assumption is that the article is intended to publicise the documentary and whet the appetite of prospective viewers. However, there is a discordance or rather disconnectedness between the two pieces of reportage, and a bit of analysis of the documentary transcript reveals what has happened. While the Sunday Times piece touts revelations of CIA complicity in the events leading up to Nato action as the essence, the headline-generating marrow of the story (hence “CIA aided Kosovo guerrilla army”), the hour-long BBC documentary is devoid of all reference to the CIA! The story’s raciest and most marketable element has apparently been surgically removed and off-loaded onto the Sunday Times. In this way, the article’s great scoop goes completely uncorroborated by the big-budget, access-all-areas TV production; a situation subliminally reinforced because every educated UK viewer knows that the Sunday Times falls somewhere short of the BBC’s reputation for objectivity and journalistic rigour. The following excerpts show again the types of thing found only in the Sunday Times coverage, having apparently as it were been ‘retrieved from the cutting room floor’ of the BBC: 
“European diplomats then working for the OSCE claim it was betrayed by an American policy that made airstrikes inevitable. Some have questioned the motives and loyalties of William Walker, the American OSCE head of mission.
“[…] Walker, who was nominated by Madeleine Albright, the American secretary of state, was intensely disliked by Belgrade. He had worked briefly for the United Nations in Croatia. Ten years earlier he was the American ambassador to El Salvador when Washington was helping the government there to suppress leftist rebels while supporting the contra guerrillas against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.
“Some European diplomats in Pristina, Kosovo's capital, concluded from Walker's background that he was inextricably linked with the CIA. The picture was muddied by the continued separation of American "diplomatic observers" from the mission. The CIA sources who have now broken their silence say the diplomatic observers were more closely connected to the agency.
“"It was a CIA front, gathering intelligence on the KLA's arms and leadership," said one.
“Another agent, who said he felt he had been “suckered in” by an organisation that has run amok in post-war Kosovo, said: “I'd tell them which hill to avoid, which wood to go behind, that sort of thing.””
   This latter agent’s admission that he felt “suckered” into helping the KLA probably explains why his testimony and others like it wasn’t simply suppressed altogether. Allan Little and co must have realised that had they done so, restive CIA staffers would only have found other ways to air their grievances, over which the BBC would have no control. One of the things to avoid if possible would be a need to acknowledge publicly that in spite of systematic vilification by the western mainstream media, what Serb government sources had been saying all along was essentially true:
“Yesterday it was the turn of Vojislav Seselj, a radical Serbian nationalist recently brought into the government as a deputy prime minister. All the "terrorists" in Kosovo, he said, were under the control of America, which armed, directed and financed the Kosovo Liberation Army, he said. Mr Seselj accused the guerrillas of "butchering dead people", leaving open the question of who had killed them.”[3]
   Seselj’s last point alludes to the carefully orchestrated “massacre” in the village of Račak, “discovered” by the Kosovo VerifiCIAtion Mission on 16 January 1999. Once validated by William Walker it was eagerly embraced by a gullible media and used to ensnare Serbia in the bestial trap laid by Nato at Rambouillet[4]. Allan Little’s description of Račak as having “galvanised the west to go to war” is echoed in his documentary by then US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright:
“It clearly was a galvanising event, and the President really felt that we could then move forward, make clear that the US was going to be a part of an implementing force.”
This is confirmed by Clinton himself at the White House press conference he gave on 19 March, when the Rambouillet talks had broken down and the Kosovo VerifiCIAtion Mission was being withdrawn:
"We should remember what happened in the village of Račak back in January -- innocent men, women, and children taken from their homes to a gully, forced to kneel in the dirt, sprayed with gunfire, not because of anything they had done, but because of who they were."
As if the point needed to be further underlined, the following quotes are from an address to Nato’s North Atlantic Council on 28 January by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan – the man entrusted above all others with responsibility for facilitating ‘jaw-jaw’ rather than ‘war-war’:
“We must build on the remarkable cooperation between the UN and SFOR in Bosnia to further refine the combination of force and diplomacy that is the key to peace in the Balkans…”
“The bloody wars of the last decade have left us with no illusions… about the need to use force, when all other means have failed. We may be reaching that limit, once again...
“[…] Alas, horror… is present, in the lives of hundreds of thousands of the people of Kosovo... And now, Račak has been added to the list of crimes against humanity committed in the former Yugoslavia.” (my emphasis)
   Hence Račak’s importance to events in 1999 equates roughly to Sarajevo’s in 1914. However, just as the CIA’s machinations were airbrushed from Allan Little’s documentary, so Račak is a ‘spin of omission’ from “CIA aided Kosovo’s guerrilla army”. This is all the more curious since Tom Walker reported from the scene in January 1999[5] – though to be fair to him, he did put the record at least fairly straight in an article he wrote for the Spectator in 2004:
“…after lots of ‘monitoring’ (insertion of spies/target identifiers) and a few dubious massacres and then a very dubious one (Račak) [my emphasis] we moved into peace conference mode. At Rambouillet the Serb delegation (minus Milosevic, who doesn’t travel well) was told that Nato must have access to all its territory, and not just Kosovo. Oddly, they didn’t sign up, and the Nato bombers warmed their engines.”
“[…] Any of this sound familiar? For Slobodan Milosevic, read Saddam Hussein. For mass graves, read WMDs. In this age of instant reckoning, of the television clip and the soundbite, war is cheaply sold in the right package.”[6]

[1] The Guardian, “Allan Little on The Fall of Milosevic”, Allan Little, 6 January 2003 
[3] Independent “Belgrade’s link to massacre”, Raymond Whitaker, 29 January 1999
[4] The talks were framed incidentally as the “International Conference for Peace in Kosovo”.
[5] The Times “Serbs take village massacre bodies”, Tom Walker, 19 January 1999
[6] The Spectator “Kosovo goes to hell”, Tom Walker, 3 April 2004. Tom Walker incidentally died from cancer at the relatively young age of 44 in 2007.
   Yet even here, the implications of a direct link between CIA involvement and Račak are somewhat underplayed. Western media coverage in the first three months of 1999 amounted to nothing less than a rolling barrage of slick, turbocharged anti-Serbian propaganda. How on earth could Serbia make its case, when for instance Kofi Annan’s next-to-kneejerk condemnation of Račak as a “crime against humanity” coincided with the publication of R. Jeffrey Smith’s Washington Post article, “Serbs Tried To Cover Up Massacre”?
   “The attack on this Kosovo village that led to the killing of 45 ethnic Albanian civilians 12 days ago came at the orders of senior officials of the Serb-led Belgrade government who then orchestrated a cover-up following an international outcry, according to telephone intercepts by Western governments.”
   “The bodies of 45 ethnic Albanian civilians were discovered on a hillside outside the village by residents and international [i.e., Kosovo VerifiCIAtion Mission] observers shortly after the government forces withdrew.
   “"We have to have a full, independent investigation of this to get to the bottom of it," a senior Clinton administration official told staff writer Dana Priest in Washington. "Those responsible have to be brought to justice."
   “In a series of telephone conversations, Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic and Serbian Interior Ministry Gen. Sreten Lukic, expressed concern about international reaction to the assault and discussed how to make the killings look as if they had resulted from a battle between government troops and members of the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army.
   “The objective was to challenge claims by survivors -- later supported by international monitors -- that the victims had been killed in an execution-style massacre and to defuse pressures for a NATO military response.”[1] (my emphasis)
On four separate occasions the article’s claims are backed up with references to “international inspectors”, “international monitors” and “diplomatic observers” – who we now know to have been US spies. As far as BBC coverage is concerned, most of its output from the time is unavailable, but it’s clear that by 2002 the “telephone intercept” was regarded as established fact:
“Mr Sainovic has been linked to the event which spurred the international community into action in Kosovo - the massacre of 45 Albanians in the village of Račak in January 1999. In a tapped telephone conversation Mr Sainovic told General Lukic to "go in heavy" in Račak, which was one of the places harbouring fighters from the Kosovo Liberation Army.”[2]
…and certainly the UK’s Independent was just one of many major international news organisations which ran with the story immediately after it had been broken by the Washington Post:
Belgrade has denounced the report as CIA propaganda, but the intercepts paint a detailed picture. Government forces were ordered to “go in heavy” at Račak after an ambush that killed three policemen a few days earlier. A deputy prime minister, Nikola Sainovic, the most senior government figure with responsibility for Kosovo, spoke to General Sreten Lukic of the Interior Ministry special forces during the assault and asked how many had been killed (22 at that moment, he was told); in ensuing days the two spoke several times about how to make the killings look as though they had happened in battle.”[3] (my emphasis)
   Importantly, the same warmongering claptrap was cited in a major report on Račak by Human Rights Watch, an NGO which wields huge influence on western public opinion (although it happens to be bankrolled by wealthy Saudi Arabians among others):
A report in the Washington Post yesterday provided excerpts from telephone conversations between Serbian Interior Ministry General Sreten Lukic and Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic, who clearly ordered government security forces to “go in heavy” in Račak. The two officials later discussed ways that the killings might be covered up to avoid international condemnation.” (my emphasis)
Thus HRW effectively arrogated to itself an entitlement to undermine the sovereign right of an internationally recognised government to administer its own affairs in the way it sees fit:
“Human Rights Watch called on the Yugoslav government to allow an unhindered investigation by international forensics experts and the war crimes tribunal to determine the precise nature of events. Government authorities, directly implicated in the crime, cannot be trusted to conduct an impartial investigation.[4] (my emphasis)
   Kofi Annan’s remarks to Nato’s North Atlantic Council on 28 January included the following:
“Let me conclude by congratulating you - a bit early - on the upcoming 50th anniversary of the alliance, and wish you all success in your deliberations on devising a new strategic concept for the next century.”
With hindsight, perhaps some kind of rebranding would have been appropriate. The North Atlantic Zone of Invulnerability, for instance, has a certain ring to it.
   At about 9 o’clock in the evening I was invited into a restaurant near Cačak to join the table of some very engaging, funny Serbs. In good English they joked about Užice being in a hole with no escape, about their admiration for Millwall FC, and suggested that twenty four hours was already too long to spend in Slovenia. When one of them noticed my kilt he asked “Where are your golf clubs?” They told me for the first time about a trumpet festival which draws musicians from all over the world to the nearby town of Guča. On the more serious subject of Nato however, one of the others pointed out that Serbia’s experience was potentially that of any small, weak country, bullied by the rich and powerful. He also explained how, when he visited western Europe as a Yugoslav citizen in the 80s he would always be treated as an equal; but since Yugoslavia’s disintegration, to admit to being Serb meant automatically to be regarded as inferior. I told them I respected two people in the world above all others: Pope Benedict XVI (they weren’t impressed but humoured me) and Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin – a markedly better received choice.”[5]
   Unable to find a motel they'd mentioned, towards midnight I settled for the derelict shell of a roadside café to sleep in. Setting off in my kilt again next day, some workmen called me over to share their lunch, I was given a free drink at a garden centre, and I was then spotted and invited to drink tea at the workplace of two of the same chaps I’d met on the previous evening. A colleague of theirs, about my age with great English, memorably referred to Russia as “a miracle”, and told me of his long-held wish to follow the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem.[6] An attendant produced a great big free sandwich at a petrol station further on, then I took refuge from heavy rain and changed out of my kilt in a café patronised by friendly students. That night I slept in an ideal little empty out-house, a few kilometres short of Kraljevo.  

[1] Washington Post “SERBS TRIED TO COVER UP MASSACRE”, R. Jeffrey Smith, 28 January 1999
[2] BBC “Milosevic allies still at large”, Paul Anderson, 11 February 2002
[3] Independent “Belgrade's link to massacre”, Raymond Whitaker, 29 January 1999
[4] Human Rights Watch Report: “Yugoslav Forces Guilty of War Crimes in Račak, Kosovo”, 29 January 1999
[5] The following extract from Allan Little’s online Kosovo Question and Answer session of 15 March 2000 merits inclusion because from 1997 to early 1999, Little was the BBC’s Moscow correspondent.
“S. Plimmer, U.K: Given all we have heard about Russian objections to much of Nato’s actions in Kosovo, what is their role?”
“…the Russian role… was absolutely vital to the ending of the war. I think by the end of April the Nato allies understood the importance of getting the Russians on board. They completely disregarded Russian objections at the UN Security Council, they disregarded Russian objections at Rambouillet, but by the end of April they realised that they couldn't do it really, without the Russians. They invited the Russians back in. The Russians opened up a new diplomatic channel and a secret back channel which we talked about in our programme.”
The relevant part of ‘Moral [sic] Combat: Nato at War’ highlights Moscow’s relationship with Berlin:
Prof Karl Kaiser, advisor to German Chancellor: “It was not easy for Germany. This country was particularly interested in getting the war ended. There was a possibility that the crisis could evolve in a way that could end up in a tragedy.”
Little: “Nato now turned to an old adversary for help. The Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin opened a new diplomatic channel with his US and European counterparts. He saw it as an admission of Nato’s growing desperation.
Viktor Chernomyrdin, Russian Peace Envoy: “They were looking for a way out. They realised that it would not be over in two or three months.”
Little: “But it wasn't Chernomyrdin that mattered to Belgrade. Milosevic believed he had potential allies in the powerful old security establishment: the military, the secret police, and the successor to the KGB.”
[This latter was the FSB, led since July of the previous year by Mr Putin, the hitherto inconspicuous Leningrad/St Petersburg-born former KGB Lieutenant-Colonel, who spent much of his soviet era career in Dresden, East Germany. He was married to Lyudmilla Aleksandrovna, born and raised in Kaliningrad, formerly the German city of Königsberg.]
Prof Kaiser: “Chernomyrdin represented, so to speak, the government, President Yeltsin. But to Milosevic, whose conception of power and whose relationship with the security services was of a very special nature, it was extremely important that the security part of the Russian power structure said the same, in fact said even more.
Little: “Russian security forces co-operated with Germany to open a secret back-channel to Milosevic himself. It relied on the connections of an inconspicuous Swedish financier called Peter Castenfelt. Peter Castenfelt went to Moscow to meet the security forces. What he was told there would be crucial in bringing the war to an end.”
Prof Karl Kaiser: “Peter Castenfelt, having given advice to the Russian government, including Yeltsin, had the full trust of the Russian leadership, and the intelligence and security site there. He waited for a signal, the signal came, the Russian secret service took him to the border and there the Yugoslavs were waiting and a car was there and avoiding the bombs took him to Belgrade where he then met Milosevic.”
Returning to Allan Little’s extempore reply to Mr Plimmer;
“What was most interesting to me was the nature of the deal that was done in Moscow between Yeltsin's people, the political leadership, and the military. I don't know the answer to that but there was clearly a deal at the end of May. Yeltsin in some way bought off the military. They were very unhappy with what was happening in Kosovo, public opinion was extremely unhappy, it’s clear that Yeltsin felt very threatened and challenged both by the rising tide of public anger and by the strength that this gave the military, and he did something to strike a deal with the Russian military. The price that the Russian military paid was to send the signal to Milosevic that they weren’t going to come to his aid. What the military got in exchange is not clear. There is all sorts of speculation in Moscow but it is only that as far as I know.”
There was also speculation in Berlin. One of the things said in Germany at that time was that:
Der ist ein spion in Königsberg.
[6] The idea of pilgrimage to Jerusalem has a particularly strong allure to Serbs, among whom observance of the Muslim custom of adding the prefix ‘Hadji’ (denoting someone who has completed the ‘Hadj’) to the surnames of those who have visited the Božji grob (i.e. God’s Tomb; the Holy Sepulchre), is not unknown.  
   On Palm Sunday morning in Kraljevo I was glad at least to visit an Orthodox Church. I then spent a fascinating hour or so in its National Museum, where a lady with excellent English showed me around. Besides expertly curated older artefacts of the type one might expect, there was considerable focus on the 20th century. One of the things I hadn’t realised was that when the wars of the former Yugoslavia broke out in the early 1990s, tens of thousands of Serb refugees were forced from their homes in western areas and massed in exactly the same places as they had during World War II; it was essentially a rerun of that dreadful conflict. Another section included reproductions of some of the exquisite frescoes lost when 155 of Kosovo’s churches and monasteries, many of them UNESCO World Heritage sites, were gutted or destroyed by Nato’s Albanian Muslim allies following the withdrawal of Serb forces in June 1999. Memorable too were remnants of a Nato shell which once contained depleted uranium, known to have carcinogenic and other horrifying long-term health implications for civilians, including foetal deformities. Had Allan Little visited Kraljevo’s National Museum and been shown around by this lady in early 2000, I’m sure he would have had second or even third thoughts about calling his documentary ‘Moral [sic] Combat: Nato at War’.[1]  
   At a café in Vrbo along the road from there two friendly 20-somethings paid for my herbal infusion (and joked about the tea which had magic properties when Asterix went to Britain), and I was given a delicious free pastry at a café in Novo Selo. After midnight and fairly exhausted I was generously welcomed by the Russophile manager of a very inexpensive hotel, occupying the top floors of a tower block in Trstenik. Next day I gratefully accepted a plateful of free French fries in a café restaurant at Stopanje on the way to Krucevac.  
   In Serbia, reckoning my money was potentially quite useful to the local populace, I generally stayed in hotels, which did not by and large put my finances under excessive strain. At the Hotel Rubin in Krucevac I was able to watch CNN in my room, featuring a typically shrill and half-baked report about a "crisis" in the Catholic Church (as diagnosed by trendy media types in the newsrooms of at least three western capitals). On the following day a Serbian gentleman in Gaglovo who invited me to sit down for a cup of coffee in his garden turned out to be more sceptical than I was about the unjust victimisation of his country. Later I visited a diminutive chapel dedicated to St. John the Baptist, praying for his help in order that I might observe the Easter Triduum in a worthy manner. That night I slept well in a disused public building on the way to Zitkovac, then on the next afternoon I was brought another very welcome coffee by a couple at Donyi Trnava. From there I made my way onto and along a busier road which leads to Niš, stopping for a comfortable night at the Hotel "Kosovka".
   On Maundy Thursday morning I arrived in the ancient city of Niš, birthplace in around 272AD of Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor.[2] I visited the city’s concentration camp, now a museum, where around 1000 victims of Hitler’s death cult perished. Upstairs it was bewildering to be presented with the inhumanity of barbed wire laid on the floor of solitary confinement cells, to prevent sleep. As an antidote to that experience, the beautifully painted interior of the Orthodox Cathedral testified to a vibrant, living Christian tradition. Then on the eastern outskirts of Niš I came to another sombre spectacle, called the Skull Tower. In the early 19th century the skulls of several hundred Serb soldiers, killed in battle, were turned into this disquieting monument by the Ottomans. It now serves as a reminder to Serbs…
“…of the value of [their] independence … showing them the true price their fathers had to pay for it.”[3]
   From there I made my way into more mountainous terrain again, spending the night under a bridge on the edge of a place called Ostrovica. Next morning I was very glad to be able to join a Good Friday service at the Monastery of Sveti Petka, where the singing was beautiful and the priest was actually tearful as he exhorted worshippers to observe the customary fast. My confession here is that I had started my fast at 6 o’clock on the previous evening, so later on, having been "abducted" by friendly and high-spirited young Serbs and taken by car a few miles off-route to a village called Ponor, I felt it would be rude not to join them for a few beers. The driver then very kindly put me up in his family home, so I was glad in the morning to be able to give his mother a small bag of chocolate Easter eggs which my mother had sent to Medjugorje with the kilt. As it was Holy Saturday[4] I decided to wear this again, though I got the impression my host, showing me his quintessentially Serbian World War II-era šajkača cap, took it for a skirt. Anxious therefore to spare me unnecessary embarrassment, he wanted to take me by car all the way to the Bulgarian border; but I persuaded him to let me out in Pirot, the next town – still a saving of eleven or twelve kilometres.  
   In the early evening I reached Dimitrovgrad, very near to the Bulgarian frontier. An Orthodox church I found was closed, but it seemed a nice gesture when, after explaining to a lady in the forecourt that I was a pilgrim and mentioning too that I was Catholic, she nonetheless spontaneously brought me a cup of water – please God, may she not lose her reward![5]  
   On Palm Sunday, on the road from Kraljevo, I found a Serbian flag, which I kept. I was left with the impression that, precisely because Serbs are the nicest people in the Balkans, they were the ones on whom it was easiest to pin the blame.

[1] “Nato has proved that more or less it can do what it wants, where it wants, indeed when it wants.” Sky News correspondent Tim Marshall reporting from Belgrade during Nato’s bombardment of Yugoslavia, April 1999
“At this time the media in the USA was applying pressure for military intervention in Kosovo. The USA evidently also wanted to establish a precedence for NATO’s military engagement outside of a UN mandate.” (my emphasis) Heinz Loquai, retired. Br.Gen. of German armed forces and assistant to the German representation to the OSCE in Vienna, in the "Blättern für deutsche und internationale Politik", September 1999.
The following is excerpted from a 23 May 1999 Chicago Tribune article by Walter J. Rockler, a Washington lawyer who was a prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial.
War Crimes Law Applies To U.s. Too
“We have engaged in a flagrant military aggression, ceaselessly attacking a small country primarily to demonstrate that we run the world. The rationale that we are simply enforcing international morality, even if it were true, would not excuse the military aggression and widespread killing that it entails. It also does not lessen the culpability of the authors of this aggression.
As a primary source of international law, the judgment of the Nuremberg Tribunal in the 1945-1946 case of the major Nazi war criminals is plain and clear. Our leaders often invoke and praise that judgment, but obviously have not read it. The International Court declared:
‘To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.’
At Nuremberg, the United States and Britain pressed the prosecution of Nazi leaders for planning and initiating aggressive war. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, the head of the American prosecution staff, asserted "that launching a war of aggression is a crime and that no political or economic situation can justify it." He also declared that "if certain acts in violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us."
The United Nations Charter views aggression similarly. Articles 2(4) and (7) prohibit interventions in the domestic jurisdiction of any country and threats of force or the use of force by one state against another. The General Assembly of the UN in Resolution 2131, "Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention," reinforced the view that a forceful military intervention in any country is aggression and a crime without justification.
Putting a "NATO" label on aggressive policy and conduct does not give that conduct any sanctity. This is simply a perversion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, formed as a defensive alliance under the UN Charter. The North Atlantic Treaty pledged its signatories to refrain from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations, and it explicitly recognized "the primary responsibility of the Security Council (of the United Nations) for the maintenance of international peace and security." Obviously, in bypassing UN approval for the current bombing, the U.S. and NATO have violated this basic obligation.” 
[2] On May 7th 1999, in one of the clearest specific instances of a war crime in Nato’s humanitarian murder spree, Niš Constantine the Great (civilian) Airport was the intended target of cluster bombs which were blown off-course and landed in residential areas. 16 ordinary citizens including an expectant mother with her unborn baby lost their lives and dozens more were wounded.
[3] French Romantic poet Alphonse de Lamartine, writing in the 1830s when Niš was still part of the Ottoman Empire.
[4] In “A Freedom Within: The Prison Notes of Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski”, the Primate of post-war Poland observed that on the first Holy Saturday, with Our Lord having descended to the dead and St Peter laid low by guilt and sorrow over his three-fold denial, Our Lady was de facto Head of the Church. The Polish nation in the person of Mieszko I is also traditionally believed to have been baptised on Holy Saturday, 14 April 966AD, and Cardinal Wyszynski’s episcopacy was largely defined by his heroic efforts to mobilise Polish Catholics to celebrate the Millennium of Polish Christianity in 1966.
[5] “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” (Mt 10:42)