New Knick: Darko Milicic and Serbians Played On, Even as the Bombs Fell

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New Knick: Darko Milicic and Serbians Played On, Even as the Bombs Fell

I have long believed something about international sports. 

 

International sports are the only thing for foreign athletes to truly channel how they think and feel about the United States, and thus international sports serve as a "barometer" for what the world thinks about America.

 

When the United States goes deep in the World Cup for instance, they still want to win but they don't resent us as much, hence the United States outcome in the 2002 World Cup after the events of September 11, 2001.

My dad and I used to joke that the world would be better off if all the world leaders were forced to decide the conflicts between them in contests of soccer (futbol).

Right now, I would love to give a Red Card to Kim Jong Ill and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The "quality" of international sports though is irrelevant to me.  I will always appreciate athletes who play and play to win, no matter what the odds, and regardless of the so-called "quality." 

Winning is not luck.  It is a reflection of the soul.  Even Babe Ruth needed Lou Gehrig.

 

The Question That Has Plagued Me

I have long taken an interest in the Balkans.  In fact, my desire to blog is rooted in the opposition I took to the bombings of Serbia by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), back in 1999 when I was still only 16.

I will reveal more on why but only further along.

The question that has plagued me is this: What is the difference between bastardizing Christianity to justify a war to spread the imperial economy, and bastardizing democracy to justify a war to spread the global economy?

 

Serbians Played On Even in the Face of Death

In Serbia back in 1999, the odds were the face of death.  Yet, the Serbs continued to play basketball even as the air raids blared, and even a simple commute could result in a tragic end.

After all, NATO had been responsible for the deaths of many innocent civilians, including farmers on tractors, which were mistaken as military convoys by planes several miles high.

The alliance says that this has been the cleanest war ever fought with the minimum number of innocent civilians killed - though no figures are provided.

State-run media in Serbia, though have reported the civilian death toll as high as 2,000.

Excerpted and paraphrased from Kosovo: the Conflict by the Numbers, published by the BBC, 06/11/1999 

Civilian casualties in Yugoslavia are bad news for NATO and are inevitably seized upon by the government in Belgrade, which is well aware of the unease in several NATO countries about the way the air campaign is going.

Excerpted and paraphrased from Why 'precision bombing' goes off Course, published by the BBC, 06/01/1999

The TV then recalled the killing of "tens of innocent civilians" in other NATO attacks, adding that "people are only numbers, just mere ordinary statistics to these criminals, who kill by pressing a button on a computer and film their crimes with cameras."

NATO's acknowledgment that one of its planes had mistakenly bombed a Kosovo Albanian refugee convoy on Wednesday continued to dominate Serbian media reports on Friday.

 

Excerpted and paraphrased from Clinton and Blair 'guilty of genocide,' published by the BBC, 04/16/1999

 

There are fundamental issues at stake with regard to the selection of legitimate targets in a situation such as this.

 

The case is being taken to the European Court of Human Rights by relatives of people who died in the attack on the main Serbian television station in Belgrade in April 1999.

 

The families could be awarded damages if the European court finds the governments had acted illegally and violated human rights.

The attack on the TV station, which killed 16 civilians, was one of the most controversial of the NATO campaign.  Amnesty International later described it as a war crime.

Excerpted and paraphrased from Serb Families to Sue NATO Allies, published by the BBC, 07/17/2000

 

Top military officers and Pentagon officials, who in interviews with NEWSWEEK over the last three weeks were still glossing over or denying its significance, have buried the damage report.

 

Why the evasions and dissembling, with the disturbing echoes of the inflated "body counts" of the Vietnam War?  All during the Balkan war, Gen. Wesley Clark, the top NATO commander, was under pressure from Washington to produce positive bombing results from politicians who were desperate not to commit ground troops to combat.

 

The Air Force protested that tanks are hard to hit from 15,000 feet, but Clark insisted.  Now that the war is long over, neither the generals nor their civilian masters are eager to delve into what really happened.  Asked how many Serb tanks and other vehicles were destroyed in Kosovo, General Clark will only answer, "Enough."

 

Excerpted and paraphrased from The Kosovo Coverup, written by John Barry and Evan Thomas for Newsweek, 05/15/2000

 

 

When Humanitarianism Becomes War Propaganda

The NATO bombings began in March of a year that, for many, marked the dawn of a new era as we headed into the new millennium.  It was also less than a year after the US accused al-Qaeda of the August attacks of 1998 on US embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya.

The NATO campaign against Serbia aimed to pressure then Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic to capitulate, because NATO had accused Milosevic of ethnically cleansing the breakaway region of Kosovo of Kosovar-Albanians.

The Serbians maintained and asserted that they were fighting a terrorist organization, the Kosovo Liberation Army, which has had ties to al-Qaeda, just as al-Qaeda has had strong ties with other various groups and organizations in the Balkans.

The US State Department in fact had listed the KLA as a terrorist organization until February 1998.  Yet, then Secretary of State Madeline Albright would even go so far as to as to shake hands with a KLA leader, Hashim Thaci, whom was called a "freedom fighter."  I have heard the same thing in reference to al-Qaeda.

Excerpted and paraphrased from Al-Qaeda's Balkan Links, written by Marcia Christoff Kurop for the Wall Street Journal, 11/01/2001.

The ties between al-Qaeda and the United States were also the topic of the film Fahrenheit 9/11

If you ask me, NATO supported al-Qaeda and the KLA against the Serbs, as the United States did for the Mujahideen (future Taliban) against the Soviets in Afghanistan back in the 1980s.

Moreover, I do believe that the intent of NATO’s support of the al-Qaeda backed KLA was to contain the mad dogs that they had unleashed in the 1980s against the Soviets. 

To also appease al-Qaeda after their attacks on US embassies less than a year earlier, just as Neville Chamberlain had attempted to appease Adolf Hitler before the NAZI’s invaded Poland.

The Serbs were just a convenient pawn needed to settle a score, and that attempt ultimately failed.  The Serbs resisted instead by playing games of will for scores. 

The Serbs have long been targets of attempts of forcible conversion (ex, the Ottoman's forcible submission to Islam).  Yet, the Serbs have resisted by acting as if, nothing was different.

Everything was the same as it was the day before.  On one hand, that's incredibly noble.  On the other, it should haunt you as to theme that underlines the deeply-rooted problems of the Balkans.

 

2003 NBA Draft and Inat

The debate has raged.  In the first three picks of the NBA Draft in 2003, Cleveland selected LeBron James, while Denver selected Carmelo Anthony.  Detroit of course passed on Anthony and selected Darko Milicic.

James and Anthony have been bona-fide superstars in the NBA.  There is however, one thing (and that is not the ring that Milicic won with Detroit in 2004 as a backup) that James and Anthony can never take from the one they call a bust, “Inat.”

Inat which is pronounced "eenat" has no true English translation, and has been generalized to mean, "Malice, spite, or grudge."

Even that is a limited, restricted interpretation, says Dragan Milovic, of London's Institute of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies.

It is, he says, more of an attitude of proud defiance, stubbornness, and self-preservation - sometimes to the detriment of everyone else or even oneself.

Excerpted and paraphrased from Inat: Serbia's Secret Weapon published by the BBC, 04/23/1999

The pride of Yugoslavian basketball in Serbia is great.  I also suggest that if you speak to a Serbian that you defer from saying, "Serbian basketball."  For them, "Serbia" is only a technicality. 

Since 1950, Serbia & Montenegro and the former Yugoslavia have won a combined 10 medals in the FIBA World Championship of Basketball, which is more than the United States at eight, and tied with the cumulative medals of Russia and the Soviet Union.

Most recently, Serbia & Montenegro won the FIBA World Championship in 2002.

Darko Milicic began playing professional basketball in Serbia in 1999 at the age of 14. Even though a sport cannot defend your life, it can defend your pride.  It can defend your sense of what is right.

 

“What More, in the Name of Love?”

On April 4, 1999 NATO forces refused to halt the bombing campaign in recognition of Orthodox Easter in Serbia, as US backed forces had done in December of 1998 in order to recognize Ramadan after then President Bill Clinton ordered the bombing of targets in Iraq that were suspected as sites of WMD’s.  (Air raids on Iraq would continue throughout most of 1999.)

That though, was the beginning of when I began to distrust the “mass media.”  Though I do not claim to be an inherently better journalist, I do believe that I can say things different from what they say, because forces that can and have hindered the “mass media” do not affect me, such as office politics, paychecks, and fans that dictate what they want to hear and see.

Honestly, I do not blame the journalists per se; I blame those who do not want to hear the truth, because the media only sells what the viewers and readers want to hear and read.

I would like to believe that even non-Christians would be greatly and deeply offended by the bombing of innocent civilians on one of the holiest days for Christians.  Especially when the same accommodation had been made for Ramadan less than six months earlier.  The killing of civilians–many of whom opposed Slobodan Milosevic—whose only “crime” was to be under the thumb of an incompetent dictator, was clearly a war crime.

For those of you who do not know, April 4 is also the day that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968, and is a day that Bono referenced in the U2 song, Pride (In the Name of Love) but has also reminded me of, Sunday, Bloody, Sunday.

 

Other Songs

It does then seem sadistically ironic that the United States would mark such a tragic day with such a horrendous act.  I know I will not be popular for saying this, but I immediately thought of April 4, 1999 when I heard Rev. Jeremiah Wright proclaim, “God damn, America!”

The atrocities by NATO against the Serbs however, especially on April 4, was truly just Serbia's September 11, but two-years before. 

 

Do you know the way to Constantinople?

I do not want America to fail.  I want those who order and defend the murder of innocent civilians to fail, especially when they call it a, "clean war."

I am left to wonder if historians and world leaders will one-day demand that the United States and NATO should apologize for the atrocities committed against the Serbs, just as Turkey has long been implored to apologize for the atrocities committed by the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) against the Serbs and Armenians around the end of the First World War.

If you ask me, the Ottoman Empire collapsed from karmic retribution (well, I could do a dissertation on why, but this is not the venue for it) from being unwilling to accept what they had done, after standing as an empire for over six hundred years.

Finally...

People will and may argue that Milicic was “lucky” to win a ring as a backup in 2004 with the Detroit Pistons, because his playing time was insignificant.  After what Milicic and other Serbs have had to endure not only to live, but also to fight back by playing the sport they love—there is no way you can tell me that Milicic did not earn what he has accomplished.

Food for Thought, Pilot TV Show Predicts September 11 on March 04, 2001:

 

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