The Tragedy and Fallacy of NATO’s Balkan Experiment: 20 Years On

Photograph Source Darko Dozet – CC BY-SA 3.0

March 24, 1999 was an ordinary school day in Belgrademid-week (Wednesday). Suddenly, half of my high-school class quietly left for home early, citing relatives calling in from overseas saying that the NATO bombing campaign has started in the South, including an authorisation to hit Belgrade. My friends and I (for whom the satellite TV was an unimaginable luxury!) reluctantly left our interrupted class, each one of us buried deeply in our thoughts as to what the conflict might actually mean. We remembered well the convoys of refugees pouring across Serbia’s western border during the Croatian and Bosnian wars, with many refugee children attending our school too and eventually blending in with the locals. The state broadcaster RTS television was playing its usual program, heavily controlled by Milosevic’s cronies, with no sign of impaling events. Around 8.12pm, which was the time for widely popular Latin telenovelas, there was a loud bang in the neighbourhood and all of our apartment block’s windows shook. Is it firecrackers? A little while afterwards the air raid sirens began; the now famous commentator from the independent Studio B television channel Avram Izrael was about to start with his daily commentary about air raids. This was the first bomb that was dropped on Belgrade, a European capital during an offensive military operation, hitting very close to home. In our proximity there were several military facilities…

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