Fidel tells Spanish imperialist magistrate to shove it

jenyan1 jenyan1 at
Tue May 1 21:02:45 MDT 2001

On Tue, 1 May 2001, Martin Zehr wrote:
> The major problem with the premise here is that it projects an analysis
> of Colonized vs. the colonisers and from there proscribes the
> appropriate remedy for all. It puts Noriega in the same camp as Che.
> I do accept that I could be totally missing the dynamics of the struggle in
> the southern hemisphere and I am more than willing to listen to someone who
> could fill me in.
> Ultimately, I am confused and perplexed by what appears to be an ulta-Left
> position that attacks all in the colonizer nation, unites with the military
> of the colonized, and provides little room for short term remedies. It seems
> to me that the goal is not revolution but equality and social justice. It is
> in that context that we probably hold the greatest differences.

Mad dog

Book Reviews by Richard Gott  6th March 2000

Milosevic: portrait of a tyrant Dusko Doder and Louise
Branson The Free Press, 304pp, 17.99

Whenever I read denunciations of Slobodan Milosevic, I
am forcibly reminded of the story of Sheikh Haji
Mohamed bin Abdullah Hassan, known in British
imperial history as "the mad mullah of Somaliland".
First raising the standard of revolt in 1899, at a time
when the British were using the machine-gun to
slaughter untold numbers of Africans in different parts
of the continent, the mullah embarked on an Islamic
crusade that kept the British at bay for more than two
decades. He was finally defeated in 1920 by the new
imperial weapon of the 20th century: bombing from the
air. But there was nothing "mad" about Sheikh Haji
Mohamed. He was simply an anti-imperial warrior - one
among many - who was so demonised by the British
that it became easy to justify the severe punishment
he eventually received.

In January 1920, while the mullah stood in the
courtyard of his house in the Somali town of Medishe,
the British pilot of a lone de Havilland two-seater
bomber broke through the clouds and dropped eight
20-pound bombs. The pilot then photographed and
machine-gunned the target he had been given: the
mullah's courtyard. Out of a small group standing
beside the Somali leader - his sister, his uncle and ten
riflemen - only the mullah himself survived the attack,
with his white jubbah and green turban much singed;
20 other people were killed in the bombing of the town,
and 20 were wounded.

The mullah took refuge in a bomb-proof cave 15 miles
out of town, where he later died. Sir Geoffrey Archer,
the governor of Somaliland, recalled in later life that,
while "surprise attacks without warning" might seem
bloodthirsty, "it must be remembered that the mullah
himself was an inhuman creature, a mad dog, to be
exterminated by any means possible".

Those were more colourful times. Today, when
journalists and politicians seek to demonise the
leaders of faraway countries, they soon run out of
suitable nouns and adjectives. General Pinochet is
usually referred to as "a dictator", while in a new
biography of Milosevic, written by two journalists, the
leader is described as "a tyrant". Dictator is a
Latin word whose accepted definition is rather mild,
with hardly a hint of opprobrium; it simply means "an
absolute ruler", someone who might so act "in
seasons of emergency". Tyrant, on the other hand, a
word of Greek origin, makes the absolute ruler sound
additionally grim: a tyrant seizes power "without legal
right" and exercises it "in an oppressive, unjust or cruel
manner". In the demonising stakes, Milosevic comes
off worse than Pinochet.

No one describes Milosevic as a "mad dog", though
some get quite close. Warren Zimmerman, the former
US ambassador in Belgrade, calls him "one of the
world's archcriminals", while the veteran US journalist
Georgie Anne Geyer perceives him as an "evil
croupier" playing games. Others have referred to him
as "the butcher of the Balkans" or "Europe's new
Hitler". The writer of the blurb for the new Milosevic
biography moves into fresh territory by demonising the
country as well as its leader.

Dusko Doder and Louise Branson, two old Balkan
hands, make little effort to dig beneath the familiar
cliches. They perceive Milosevic as "a hated dictator",
"the Saddam Hussein of Europe", and his wife, Mira,
appears in her usual supporting role as "Lady
Macbeth". Chapter headings have such titillating titles
as "Faustian bargain" and "The end of the caravan of
dreams", and the writing is never less than breathless.
In short, this is a book that does not go beyond the
headlines of a tabloid newspaper or the tittle-tattle of
the diplomatic circuit, so no reasonably assiduous
newspaper-reader will gain much from reading it.

Maybe a biography of Milosevic is not what we need.
His life story as told here is singularly banal, and the
gossipy details are largely irrelevant to an
understanding of what has been going on. Publishers
clearly believe that readers cannot take stronger
medicine; yet, as we skim the latest reports, it
becomes clear that the biographical approach
contributes little to our understanding of the continuing
Balkan tragedy. What becomes obvious from the
portraits of other Serbian politicians that crowd these
pages is that Milosevic's personal contribution to the
development of the history of his country has probably
been quite small. If ever someone personified the
collective view of the Serbian political elite, sustained
in their actions by the great mass of the people,
Milosevic is that man, and it is this that provides the
source of his power.

What the west needs to understand, and should have
learnt from imperial history long ago, is that other
societies and cultures have different interests and
priorities, which they are sometimes prepared to
defend to the death. We may not like their culture, and
we may choose to demonise Milosevic, like Sheikh
Haji Mohamed, as a mad dog, in an attempt to justify
the criminal bombing of Serbia, but he is one among
many in that particular kennel - dogs we still seem to
be intent on exterminating "by any means possible".

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