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A One-Act Play on the Balkan War By Tariq Ali, Howard Brenton & Andy de la Tour
A dining table. Ten places. DANIEL and LEONIE celebrating DANIEL’s 50th birthday with a few friends due in an hour. LEONIE is sorting out the place names. DANIEL is organising the wine. They are both members of the Labour Party or they could be French Greens, Italian PDS, German SPD, Spanish Socialists, etc.
DANIEL I thought ros? with the asparagus.
DANIEL Petit Chablis then.
LEONIE I’m putting Heidi next to Joyce.
DANIEL I thought it was boy/girl boy/girl?
LEONIE Yes but what about Tim and Peter? You’re so old fashioned.
DANIEL goes to put the chablis in the fridge. Phone rings. LEONIE answers it.
LEONIE Hello. Oh hi. Oh. Oh, dear. Oh well never mind. No of course not, you just get better. Lots of vitamin C. Daniel swears by ginseng. Yes, you take care now. Be in touch very soon. ‘Bye now. (HANGS UP) Marina and thing aren’t coming, they’ve obviously got somewhere more interesting go.
DANIEL Is it you or me thing hates?
LEONIE You marginally. Twelve was always a squeeze.
She takes away the surplus cutlery, etc.
LEONIE (looks at dish) The dishwasher’s rubbing off the pattern. We bought these in Provence.
DANIEL That market, d’ you remember?
LEONIE Lucy got lost. You started shouting at that postman.
DANIEL I thought he was a policeman.
LEONIE He didn’t understand English anyway.
DANIEL It says it won’t on the packet.
DANIEL Why don’t we try the non-biological tablets?
LEONIE They’d degrade the crockery too probably.
DANIEL I’ll put the potatoes in. Mashed with celeriac, yes?
LEONIE It’s your speciality.
DANIEL goes. Phone rings again. LEONIE answers it.
LEONIE Hello. No, no, eight-thirty will be fine. It’s asparagus. Then John Dory. No, that’s the fish, the recipe’s Daniel’s. Well, you know, why not? No, no, don’t bother, we’ve got wine a-plenty. See you later.
She hangs up. The sound of Channel 4 news jingle from the kitchen. LEONIE carries on with place names. After a few moments.
DANIEL (OFF) Oh God no.
LEONIE ignores him and carries on getting the table ready.
DANIEL (OFF) For heaven’s sake.
LEONIE sneaks a taste of a crudite in the dip.
DANIEL (OFF) Why? Why?
LEONIE licks the spoon and puts it back on the table. DANIEL appears in the doorway.
LEONIE What’s happened? Has the marinade gone off?
DANIEL They’re just standing there.
LEONIE Who’s standing there?
DANIEL Women, children, old men…thousands of them. Just standing there.
LEONIE Kosovo. Dreadful. We should have been prepared for the refugees. Tents, food, everything.
DANIEL If we’d prepared too much, it would only have encouraged the Serbs.
LEONIE Oh I don’t know.
DANIEL Well, we can’t leave them there. Everyone’s going to have to take some. Thousands. Germany, Norway, Spain.
LEONIE We could take six easily.
DANIEL Six thousand? More, more. I think we should take at least ten thousand.
LEONIE No I meant six. Here.
DANIEL Here? In the house?
LEONIE Why not?
DANIEL You mean, here in our house?
LEONIE Yes in the basement.
DANIEL But – but -
LEONIE Well the kids’ rooms are empty.
DANIEL Yeah but that’s the only way into the garden.
LEONIE We could have a tent in the garden. For another six or so. We could have twelve. They’re big families.
DANIEL But – but what about….
LEONIE About what?
DANIEL The language. And there’s no bathroom down there.
LEONIE There aren’t any bathrooms on the border.
DANIEL You know what I mean.
LEONIE Of course I do. But we could actually do something. We could take a couple of families, they’d be very comfortable down there.
DANIEL You’re quite right, Leonie. I was reacting selfishly. But you do realise they’ve got to go back home, they shouldn’t be taken too far from the region. You see, if they were all moved too far away, the ethnic cleansers would have won.
LEONIE I thought you wanted us to take at least ten thousand.
DANIEL Yes but not permanently. Not in people’s comfortable homes. They’ll be better off in closed down hospital wards or underused asylums. Where the council can look after them properly. After all, they’ll have to be sent back at some point.
LEONIE Refugees never go back.
He looks at her momentarily and then goes back to the news. Phone rings. LEONIE answers it.
LEONIE Hello. Oh Max, hi. Yeah. Yeah. Yes, Annabel is coming. Oh. Oh I see. Right. What if I put you at opposite ends of the table? But I thought Sheila knew. Oh she does know? What’s the problem then? (PAUSE) Annabel’s bringing her new friend, she’s hardly likely to mention it. (PAUSE) He’s lovely, he’s Colombian. Antonio. But I won’t put him next to Sheila, that’d be asking for trouble. He’s gorgeous. (PAUSE) Fish. See you at eight.
She hangs up and rearranges the place names.
(LOUD) Sheila does know about Annabel, you were right. I’ll have to put Max next to Tim and that leaves Joyce next to Antonio. He doesn’t speak a word of English but Joyce does speak Italian. They’ll muddle through.
DANIEL comes in, visibly shaken. LEONIE notices.
LEONIE What’s the matter?
DANIEL It’s on our doorstep. Madness. Malignancy.
LEONIE Who’d have thought it? In Europe. At the end of the century.
DANIEL And yet it seems so remote. A war you can turn on and off, like a TV show. I’m so scared we’re all just going to get bored with it.
LEONIE Yeah. Like the Iraq thing. Who knows what’s going on there?
DANIEL Exactly. Imagine if Serbia bombed the BBC, that would wake everybody up.
LEONIE I know. Some people don’t think it’s a real war.
DANIEL It’s a real war alright. How many thousands are buried in mass graves down there?
LEONIE How many more kids are going to die?
DANIEL Homes destroyed.
LEONIE Communities wrecked.
DANIEL Families broken.
LEONIE Environment poisoned.
DANIEL God, it’s good to talk.
LEONIE Not too serious for your birthday I hope.
DANIEL Fifty. Who’d have thought it?
LEONIE Happy birthday.
She kisses him. Passionately.
LEONIE I’ve got a little present for you later. When they’ve all gone.
DANIEL There isn’t time now, is there?
LEONIE (DISAPPOINTED) I’ve got to mouli the mayonnaise sauce.
DANIEL We’re doing alright now, aren’t we? You and me.
LEONIE It feels new again. Like twenty years ago. We can tell the others later, when we’re all pissed enough.
DANIEL First dinner party in four years, there’s a lot to celebrate. You know something, Leonie. My juices are really going. I feel revived. It’s a terrible thought but it’s almost like this awful war, it’s bringing us closer. All of us. You and me too.
LEONIE That’s what they say about the Blitz, isn’t it? Hey. D’ you reckon they’re having cups o’ tea, sing-songs and nookie in those Belgrade bomb shelters?
DANIEL Hardly. I’m going to open that now. White burgundy needs to breathe.
He goes to open the white wine.
LEONIE Is Heidi still drinking or not?
DANIEL No, not since she came out.
DANIEL pours two glasses.
DANIEL One before they come?
LEONIE Why not?
He pours two glasses and hands her one.
DANIEL Here’s to us.
LEONIE To us.
DANIEL Next stop Belgrade.
LEONIE looks at him. Somewhat shocked.
DANIEL Has to be.
LEONIE What do you mean?
DANIEL Well we’ve got to go all the way obviously.
LEONIE All the way where?
DANIEL To the end. You can’t leave the job half done.
LEONIE What job? What are you talking about?
DANIEL You’ve got to stand up to bullies. Dictators can’t win.
LEONIE Dan. Are you telling me you actually support the bombing?
DANIEL Of course. Don’t you?
LEONIE Of course I don’t. Whatever made you think that?
DANIEL I assumed it, naturally. Oh my God, does this mean you’re against it?
LEONIE Yes. I am. Against it. Vehemently.
DANIEL In heaven’s name, why? What about the poor Kosovans?
LEONIE But how does the bombing help the refugees? It’s made it ten times worse, everybody knows that.
DANIEL Yes but we have to face it. It’s got to get worse before it gets better. Wars are like that.
LEONIE My God, that’s easy for you to say. You’re not standing in a field.
DANIEL Of course I’m not standing in a field -
LEONIE No, you’re in a comfortable north London house with a large garden which you don’t want messed up by a load of non-English speaking Albanians.
DANIEL You’re just being emotional. It really doesn’t help. Understandable of course. But when you’re fighting fascism there’s bound to be initial losses.
LEONIE How does bombing Belgrade get the refugees back into their homes?
DANIEL The refugees want us to finish the job. Bomb the Serbs, that’s what they say!
LEONIE They’re bound to say that. They’re desperate. If someone’s burnt your home down, murdered your parents in the back yard, you’re going to want them punished, aren’t you? It’s natural. Doesn’t make it right.
DANIEL Of course it makes it right.
LEONIE But how does bombing civilians in Belgrade get the refugees back home to Kosovo?
DANIEL We’re not bombing civilians anyway, we’re degrading their military machine.
LEONIE Like the TV station, you mean?
DANIEL Propaganda’s part of their war game.
LEONIE Because they refused to show six hours of the BBC every day, we bomb the hell out of them, right?
DANIEL We’re dismantling the apparatus of his war effort.
LEONIE But the Danube’s been poisoned. Hospitals left without power. Homes without water.
DANIEL Do we really want to argue on my birthday?
LEONIE No. I’m surprised, that’s all. I know. We’ll ask Heidi, she’s an expert on everything.
DANIEL Do you want to wreck the evening?
LEONIE I was joking.
They seem to have finished the row. They get on with the dinner arrangements, glasses etc.
LEONIE (QUIETLY) How would you get to Belgrade anyway?
DANIEL I thought we weren’t talking about this.
LEONIE I only wondered.
DANIEL puts out some canapes.
LEONIE The roads in Albania are terrible. Jez and Lucy had to hire mules.
DANIEL Let’s leave the children out of it.
LEONIE I’d hate to see Corfu spoiled.
DANIEL Yeah but we may have to go through Greece. Disembark at Salonika. Move north up through Macedonia.
LEONIE But what will the Greeks say? There’ll probably be a civil war.
DANIEL Yes, you’re right, there is a problem. We could threaten them with the Turks. Give ‘em Cyprus. No, you’re right, the best option’s via Hungary. The terrain’s good. Endless plains. And before they know it, we’d have the Vojvodina.
DANIEL It’s where the ethnic Hungarians are in Serbia.
LEONIE I know that. But they’d all be killed or driven out. Like what’s happening in Kosovo.
DANIEL Belgrade’s only to agree to our terms and all this would stop. They’ve got the number.
LEONIE Our number? Milosevic’ll phone you personally to surrender, will he?
DANIEL He’s responsible for this war, you know?
LEONIE So for as long as he doesn’t surrender, there are no limits, right?
DANIEL He started the killing.
LEONIE But how many do we have to kill to stop him?
DANIEL Should the asparagus be steamed yet?
LEORORA Ten minutes. So how many ordinary Serbs we do have to kill?
DANIEL It’s his choice. All he’s got to do is -
LEONIE – surrender.
DANIEL Yes. He’s a Hitler. You can’t compromise with people like that.
LEONIE So it’s about getting rid of Milosevic. Not about helping the refugees. I knew it.
DANIEL I hate this horrible war too. Grant me that at least.
LEONIE Alright, granted. But where does that get us? Anyway I don’t think he is Hitler.
DANIEL What d’ you mean?
LEONIE Why do we always call them Hitler? When we go to war. Saddam, he was Hitler, wasn’t he? He still is as far as I know. That makes two of them.
DANIEL Don’t be facetious.
Pause. LEONIE goes about her business.
DANIEL Remember Srebenica.
LEONIE Leave it, Dan.
DANIEL Sarajevo. “Bomb them into madness”, that’s what they were doing.
DANIEL And there’s Rwanda of course, remember?
LEONIE Because we did nothing about Rwanda we’re bombing Serbia, is that what you’re saying?
DANIEL At last we’re doing something.
LEONIE Guilt. Milosovic is the bogeyman. Get rid of him and all our past sins are forgiven.
DANIEL Justice. That’s what this is about.
LEONIE What about justice for the Kurds? I see the Turkish Government’s taking twenty thousand refugees. Since they’ve cleansed out ten times that many Kurds they’ve obviously got the room.
DANIEL Two wrongs don’t make a right, Leonie.
LEONIE And East Timor? What about justice for them? It’s British weapons still killing them.
DANIEL Please. This mess is on our doorstep. We’re Europeans, it’s our responsibility.
LEONIE You feel guilty, that’s why you support the war. You’re a decent man, you’re upset by the TV pictures, you want to help, it’s only natural.
DANIEL It’s not about me. It’s about democracy. Human rights.
LEONIE We’re going to civilise the world again, are we? Like Africa a hundred years ago?
DANIEL This is a just war.
LEONIE A Nato crusade?
DANIEL Yes. To stop an evil. Like the Second World War.
LEONIE Oh we went to war to save the Jews, did we? Not very successful then.
DANIEL It would have been worse if we hadn’t.
LEONIE How exactly?
DANIEL You’d be talking German for a start.
LEONIE The Russians won the war. Everybody knows that.
DANIEL Beside the point. We went to war to fight fascism. And we won.
LEONIE This isn’t like the Second World War anyway. I think it’s more like Suez I think. They called Nasser a Hitler too. And all he’d done was nationalise the Suez canal. Calling people we don’t like ‘fascists’ doesn’t get us anywhere.
DANIEL If Milosovic isn’t a fascist, what on earth is he?
LEONIE He’s a brutal, power hungry nationalist politician and he was damn near overthrown by his own people a year ago. But Nato’s bombing might yet turn him into a Serbian hero. On top of that, half the leaders in the region who are supposed to be our side are not much better.
DANIEL OK he’s a fascist like lots of them.
LEONIE But calling him a ‘fascist’ gives you the moral right to do what the hell you like, whatever the cost. And if anyone questions you, you call them ‘appeasers’, it’s disgusting.
DANIEL But you are appeasers.
LEONIE But when the time comes to do a deal you’ll stop calling him Hitler. He’ll be the guy you can do business with. Just like he was before.
DANIEL We might have to take him out. Put someone in his place. Who we can do a deal with.
LEONIE Macho posturing. ‘Bravo Two Zero’.
DANIEL It’s not macho posturing. It’s a moral imperative.
LEONIE Nato’s holy war?
DANIEL Don’t be ridiculous.
LEONIE That’s what Nato was founded for, wasn’t it? Russians down, Germans out. You used to be against that once.
DANIEL Time’s all changed. This is a humane war. Being waged by humane politicians. It’s not about oil like in the Gulf, it’s not the Tories trying to win an election like the Falklands. We have no strategic interests in the Balkans. This time the West means what it says – a war for human rights.
LEONIE And if you’re against the war, you’re against human rights, is that it?
DANIEL Don’t twist my words.
LEONIE And the worse the war gets, the more civilians killed, the more I want it stopped so the more ‘inhumane’ I’ll become, right? You won’t foist your guilt on me. I know where I stand.
DANIEL You sit on your moral high horse. D’ you think you’re the only moderately intelligent person in this country equipped with a conscience?
LEONIE (PATRONISING) No.
DANIEL Don’t patronise me. Have you no feelings? Don’t you care?
LEONIE Care? Oh my god. It’s just Princess Diana all over again. If you couldn’t emote in an orgy of national grief you had a heart of stone.
DANIEL I couldn’t help it, I cried, okay?
LEONIE Cried? That was only the half of it. You dashed off down the Finchley Road, threw flowers all over the hearse as it went by, you were more bloody upset than when your own father died.
DANIEL (PAUSE) Is this argument about us? You’re taking it all very personally.
LEONIE Why do men always assume if we get angry it’s about them?
DANIEL The last time it was, wasn’t it?
LEONIE What?? Oh for God’s sake.
LEONIE I can’t believe you bring Jacques up in the middle of an argument about Kosovo.
DANIEL The personal is the political.
LEONIE When it suits.
DANIEL It still hurts.
LEONIE We fought. We talked. We therapied. We sorted it out. Leave it be.
DANIEL I’m just saying, it still hurts.
LEONIE Yes, you’re just saying.
DANIEL Hey, it’s my birthday.
LEONIE Fifty. Like Nato.
DANIEL: I’m sorry, I’m sorry.
LEONIE If Heidi starts spouting off you’re not going to bomb her, are you?
DANIEL She’s never shown much interest in my missile system.
They share a laugh.
LEONIE (SUDDENLY) Asparagus.
He hurries. She stops. She’s thinking. DANIEL comes back in.
DANIEL Too much coriander in the marinade.
LEONIE What I did for us.
DANIEL What you did for us?
LEONIE I gave up Jacques.
DANIEL I took you back.
LEONIE So why raise it now?
DANIEL I don’t know, it just came to me.
LEONIE D’ you still feel guilty about it? Making me finish it.
DANIEL If I remember rightly, the guilt was on your side, wasn’t it?
LEONIE No it wasn’t! I never felt guilty about him. I loved him. I gave him up for us. Was I wrong?
DANIEL No. But you were in the wrong.
LEONIE It’s always black and white to you isn’t it? But life isn’t like that, Dan.
DANIEL Sometimes it is. Sometimes it’s stark, right or wrong, make a choice.
LEONIE One or the other, is that all there is?
DANIEL In this case yes.
LEONIE Sorry, are we talking about us or the war?
DANIEL Either. Both. Yes. Alright. If you don’t bomb, how do you stop the ethnic cleansing?
LEONIE There’s no easy answer. But your side have made the mess a hundred times worse.
DANIEL Ah there, you see.
LEONIE Stop the bombing, that’s the first step.
DANIEL Giving in.
LEONIE (CARRYING ON) Get round the table. Bring the Russians in, they’re the only people the Serbs trust.
DANIEL There you go.
LEONIE (CARRYING ON) Put in UN troops maybe but not full of people who’ve been bombing them. Send in massive aid, develop the region. The war’s cost billions, that money should be spent rebuilding the place. In Serbia too, who’s going to pay to re-build the bridges?
DANIEL Not me. I’m not going to go and build bridges for that bastard.
LEONIE You don’t punish an entire people for what their government does. Like sanctions in Iraq – half a million children dead as a result. D’ you think Saddam feels the punishment? In his air-conditioned palace.
DANIEL But there’s genocide in Kosovo.
LEONIE It isn’t genocide!
DANIEL What? Of course it’s genocide and it has to be stopped.
LEONIE It’s horrible what’s going on. But call it what it is. ‘Ethnic cleansing’, it’s a crime against humanity. But genocide is the murder of an entire people.
DANIEL They’re dying in ditches and you’re playing semantics!
LEONIE It’s not semantic! You use genocide as a propaganda word. How can we be against the bombing if there’s genocide? The rhetoric’s disgusting.
DANIEL You know what’s wrong people like you. You still think you’re in CND. ‘We hate war’.
LEONIE I’m no pacifist, you know that. There was an invasion once to stop a genocide. A real one. And we supported it, both of us. But Nato sure as hell didn’t. In fact the Americans and the British were on the other side. Supporting Pol Pot as he murdered his own people. Taking his side against the Vietnamese who only invaded Cambodia to stop the slaughter.
DANIEL That’s a completely ridiculous analogy. The Cold War was at its height and it determined everything. It’s a new world now and the rules are different.
LEONIE Yes they are. Whatever the Americans say, goes.
DANIEL Grow up. I’m sick of this anti-Americanism for its own sake. Just because the Americans are involved you’re against it. A priori. Even if their intentions are questionable, they can still do good.
LEONIE By accident, you mean?
DANIEL Why not? Of course they act out of self-interest. Who doesn’t? But if they save lives, if they get the refugees back home, who the hell are you to say they shouldn’t? Who else is going to stop the killing? Oxfam? You’ve got to go in hard sometimes. Sort it out.
LEONIE What is this? Post-socialist third way machismo?
DANIEL Jesus. Why can’t we celebrate being on the winning side for once?
LEONIE The winning side?? Like your precious Gunners?
DANIEL Always back the losers, is that our duty? The miners, bloody Sandinistas, those wankers in their tree protests, Scampi, whatever his name was. I’m sick of it. Just for once can’t the good guys win?
LEONIE So tigers change their spots do they?
DANIEL Communism’s dead, we’ve got to get out of the cold war mindset. The Americans – yes even bad old American imperialism – they’re so powerful they can even afford to do good. As I said, there’s no oil in the Balkans.
LEONIE Good grief. So it was only the cold war that made the West aggressive, was it? What about before that? The British Empire – were we so powerful too we could afford to do good? By accident? Is that what we were up to in Africa and India? Us and the Belgians? Do you know how many ‘natives’ died when Belgium was ‘civilising’ the Congo? Eight million. Now that’s genocide.
DANIEL But Nato wasn’t around then.
LEONIE When did this love affair begin?
DANIEL What love affair?
LEONIE You and NATO.
DANIEL Actually, about the time you were screwing Jacques.
LEONIE So why didn’t you send NATO in to degrade him?
DANIEL Yeah why didn’t I? A few heat seeking missiles would have penetrated your fucking lovenest.
LEONIE But you were smarter then. You opted for negotiations.
DANIEL Negotiations? Therapy you mean. Did that help us? Twice a week with that fat Russian Jungian arsehole. Purgatory. Salved your conscience, that’s all. “My wife’s screwing a Frog and I’m pissed off, there must be something wrong with me”.
LEONIE At least you’re consistent! Talking’s a waste of time. Why didn’t you just pack your bags and go? The kids would have survived. I’d have survived too.
DANIEL Is that what you really wanted?
LEONIE doesn’t reply.
DANIEL Miss him, do you? Hot nights in Bordeaux.
LEONIE Yes if you must know. Occasionally.
DANIEL What are you saying?
LEONIE Yevgeny wasn’t such a prick actually. He helped me say good-bye to Jacques. Without denying what we’d had. I wouldn’t have to rewrite history to get through the rest of my life. So yes I do miss him occasionally but I don’t want to see him again. So there’s no need to feel threatened.
DANIEL An emotional fudge. That’s all we got out of it. We should have sorted it out there and then. Everything cleaned out.
LEONIE It’s the fudge, as you put it, helped us go on living.
DANIEL: Maybe just living isn’t good enough.
LEONIE So what do you want, Dan, revenge?
DANIEL I want the memory of that man expunged from my life. Out of my marriage. Out of my house. And out of your head.
LEONIE Total victory. Nothing less.
DANIEL A new beginning, Leonie. Isn’t that what tonight’s about? Our best friends around us.
LEONIE New beginning, new world order? You’re picking over scabs of the past. And how dare you tell me what I can and can’t have in my head. That’s fascism.
DANIEL Do you think about him when we have sex? When we have sex that is.
LEONIE Maybe I do.
DANIEL How you think that makes me feel?
LEONIE Oh go and shag some poor hapless waitress if you’re ego needs massaging.
DANIEL Well I just might.
LEONIE Do. But if you think of me while you’re doing it, don’t tell me.
DANIEL You know your problem Leonie? You’re too clever for your own good. I mean, like with this war. Where did you learn all that stuff?
LEONIE By keeping my eyes open. Reading between the cracks.
DANIEL No you’ve been studying it, haven’t you? To get at me.
LEONIE Oh please.
DANIEL I’ll give you study. You want to know about this war? This is how we do it.
He rushes at the table and begins to move crockery, wine bottles and cutlery around excitedly.
DANIEL A four-pronged invasion. A combined Nato force – led by the British. French and German in support – Italians if necessary. Send Apache ‘copters into Kosovo behind enemy lines, the US Hundred and Second Airborne – motto ‘Death from the sky.’ The French paras can go in with them. Behind them ground support via Albania. Blockade the Montenegran port of Bar – if the Montenegran government falls so be it. The main strike force goes straight into Serbia across the Hungarian border. On to Belgrade. Southern front prong down here. Nato troops disembark Salonika, march up through Macedonia into Kosovo to take Pristina. Here. Close on Belgrade from north and south, Milosevic has a choice. Surrender or be flattened. Easy.
DANIEL The world we live in.
LEONIE And what the hell do you and the rest of you liberal armchair generals think the Russians will be doing?
DANIEL Nothing. They’re broke. What can they do?
LEONIE Plenty. Arm the Serbs to the hilt. Break the blockade. Attack Nato bases in Italy maybe.
DANIEL They’d never dare.
LEONIE You don’t know that. The Russians see the world the other way round. The Serbs are their friends. They think Serbia’s being attacked to humiliate Russia. Do we expect them to stand by and watch the Americans take over the world?
DANIEL Yeah, so what? What can they do about it?
LEONIE They’ve got a sackful of nuclear weapons for a start. Enough to destroy the planet twice over.
DANIEL But the Russians need us. They need billions of dollars.
LEONIE Unless they see it as a holy war for them too. A pan-Slavic jihad against Nato Christian fundamentalists.
DANIEL But it is a crusade.
LEONIE You sound like the fucking Salvation Army.
DANIEL The world’s going to be a better place. Out of the ashes, a safer Europe, a more prosperous Balkans. Look at Germany after the war.
LEONIE The only way to save them is first to destroy them, is that it?
DANIEL They’re locked in the past down there. Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Kosovan Albanians, Macedonians, Muslims, God knows who else. Tribal hatreds, a permanent cycle of violence. We’ve got to break it. It’s down to us. The West. We can do it. We must do it. It’s our moral duty.
LEONIE I’ll blanche the broccoli. Put the table back.
She goes. DANIEL starts to rearrange the table but he’s still thinking about the war. Playing soldiers. Moving the ‘armies’ around. Making quiet explosion noises. Muttering to himself. LEONIE comes back on. She sees the mess on the table.
DANIEL It’s a terrible mess.
LEONIE Tidy it up, they’ll be here in ten minutes.
DANIEL Thousands would die. On both sides.
LEONIE Leave it. We’ve discussed it.
She tidies up the table.
DANIEL How many have been killed already? Hundreds. Can I stand it?
LEONIE I’ve put you at the top.
DANIEL I think I can. I feel strong.
LEONIE looks at him warily.
LEONIE Means you’ve got to talk to Tim, d’ you mind? Ready for an evening of antique wallpaper?
DANIEL Haven’t you noticed? Britain’s leading this war. It’s the first time in years I haven’t wanted to burn my Labour Party card.
LEONIE (QUIETLY) You’ll be let down. Then you’ll scream betrayal. And all that will have been betrayed is your illusions.
DANIEL We’ve spent a lifetime knocking our own values. Socialism’s dead, Leonie. The project failed. I’m glad. I feel so much better.
LEONIE Cleansed, you mean?
DANIEL Yes. We were always against things. Carping on the sidelines. Forever winging about how even our left-wing leaders weren’t left wing enough. Those days are over, thank God. There’s only one game in town and we’re part of it. Join me.
DANIEL Let’s go upstairs!
DANIEL Consummate the new order.
DANIEL Yes! Come over. You’ll feel so much better. All the old worries’ll disappear.
LEONIE A life without contradiction, eh, Dan?
DANIEL I feel so much better! Shitting out the last molecule of Marxism!
LEONIE No more games.
DANIEL But this isn’t a game, don’t you see? This is living. This is the first proper conversation we’ve had in a year! We’ve been going through the motions but now we can breathe!
DANIEL I’ve been scared of you.
DANIEL Scared you’d leave me.
DANIEL But I’m not scared anymore.
LEONIE Stop thinking like this.
DANIEL I feel brave. I’m no longer walking on eggshells.
She begins to collect the dinner things.
DANIEL What are you doing?
DANIEL Put those things back.
DANIEL I’m telling you. Put those things back.
LEONIE Dinner’s cancelled.
DANIEL It’s my fucking birthday.
LEONIE There’s nothing to celebrate.
DANIEL Oh but there is. There’s lots.
She carries on clearing the table. DANIEL grabs her arm. She wrenches free.
DANIEL Love me.
He grabs her again. A glass breaks. She throws a glass of wine over him. He slaps her. She pushes him away. He grabs her again. He tries to kiss her. She turns away. He pushes her up onto the table. He starts to tear at her dress. She resists, punching him.
DANIEL Love me, love me, love me.
LEONIE finally pushes him off her and he rolls onto the floor. He gets to his feet. He looks at her with real menace. She is visibly shocked. She picks up a knife. Silence. Stand-off. The doorbell goes. Suddenly there’s a chorus of Happy Birthday from the arriving guests off-stage. The action and the song freeze on “Happy Birthday dear —-“.