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Jeff the Baptist, vol. 1, #9

Leaving the Old Formulas Behind

The Washington spin machine is in full gear these days. We must bomb Serbia we are told. It is the only way to prevent a human rights disaster we are told. This is interesting. Preventing a human rights disaster? I'm having a hard time telling who is more cynical about this business, Milosevic with his empty rhetoric about searching for peace or Clinton with his "moral imperative + national interest (i.e. int’l trade $$) = airstrikes" formula.

A moral imperative to prevent a human rights disaster? I believe that, but does our administration? Leaving aside my anger about the administration's moral posturing over Kosovo when we turned a blind eye to the bloodbath that engulfed Rwanda (is it really trade dollars leading us to the Balkans or is it that the population there is predominantly White while the Rwandan is Black?), how does bombing the Serbians back into the Stone Age constitute a moral imperative? What does that gain us? More importantly, what does that gain the people we are supposedly helping?

If we bomb Serbia long enough and hard enough, Washington tells us, Milosevic will stop murdering and persecuting the Kosovar Albanians. We will take away Milosevic's military might, the theory goes. In all the tragic episodes of genocide that have erupted in the course of human history, since when did people need technology to kill each other?

Moreover, as terrible as the situation is now for refugees from this conflict, how is our bombing making it any better for them? How is it good when humanitarian organizations have to pull their staff from the area because of NATO's airstrikes? Isn't this a little like destroying the village to save it? I thought we learned that lesson thirty years ago.

Then, too, if the current effect our airstrikes is having isn't bad enough, what about lasting effects? When all this is over, and we set about the business of heaping laurels on our brave explosive technicians, what will we leave behind us? That region has been rife with ethnic hatred and divisions for centuries. When we are safely back on our side of the water, congratulating ourselves on a job well done, who is going to be made to pay for all this destruction? On whom is the Serbian father going to wreak vengeance for the loss of his children to NATO airstrikes? From whom will the Serbian brother viciously exact suffering in payment for the loss of his parents to NATO bombardments?

My question is this: are we making it better for the Kosovar Albanians, or are we making it worse? I think worse, much worse.

President Clinton, your empty formula does not work. At a time when you are being asked to demonstrate truly inspired leadership, to take us beyond the common sense that generates genocides like this one, you are displaying leadership at its weakest. By yet again laying your offering on the altar of violence, you take us even further from peace. We should stop the bombing now. We never should have started it. Stop bombing and start apologizing for making such a stupid mistake.

I dream of the day when we no longer need weapons to solve our problems, but it goes without saying that it won't be here tomorrow. If we cannot disarm (or believe we cannot), then at least we can take the stand that force is not the answer by *not resorting to it ourselves.*

I'm not asking for lines and lines of sacrificial lambs, marching hand in hand into the face of Milosevic's guns, I'm asking for a cry taken up by the world, repeated tirelessly again and again until it is finally heard, that turning to the sword is not the answer. I'm asking for the faith of the early Church writer of I John who wrote of the Divine seed within each created daughter and son (3:9). I'm asking for the trust that because I have that seed within me, so does my enemy. I'm asking for the faith that, because of that Divine seed within us all, I can reason with my enemy. I'm asking for a response from our leaders that reflects that faith.

I’m asking our leaders to start that cry for peace. To start it and keep it going until the loftiest mountains and the farthest plains echo the refrain. No matter the language, no matter the culture, no matter the politics, the cry must be heard and repeated for others to hear. It’s not a fantasy. It’s simply a reality that we have yet to realize.

One direction in which we may fix our eyes for hope, is the international reaction to the airstrikes. It is there, I think, that we may find the presence of God, weeping at what we have wrought with our freedom. The World Council of Churches, among others, has stepped into the fray calling for a moratorium on NATO's military actions and asking that the UN encourage a return to the negotiating table (

Then, too, the plethora of organizations reaching out to the Kosovar refugees is a blessing. However, they need help. The Human Rights Watch has put together a letter to the Secretary of State asking that steps be taken by the international community to "ensure that Kosovo's refugees receive adequate protection and assistance". The steps outlined are quite thorough. You can get to the letter using this link: It's all set up. Just print it out, sign it, and mail it. (It can also be sent via email to Even if you disagree with me about the bombing, please take a minute and send this letter. It can only help the refugees.

While you're at it, drop a line to the secretary asking her to stop the airstrikes. Someday we must cease our worship at the altar of violence. The situation in Kosovo is about as difficult to understand as any. Why not start here?


- Jeff the Baptist


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