8 May 99

From a friend serving in the Balkans:

Well here I am in the town of ________, NE part of the Country. I am working in the local “Police Academy,” training service personnel.

Appalling lack of equipment and money. Each officer has only one uniform and two shirts. In the summer it is hot here, but they often have to wear a full uniform (with a heavy coat) anyway, because they can’t afford patches to put on their shirts. Belts and holsters are junk, and pistols are small caliber (.380 auto and 7.65), mostly frazzled and decomposed Tokarevs. They all carry their pistols with the hammer down on an empty chamber, because the guns a not drop safe, and because they don’t know any better. Finances are so dreadful they cannot even afford whistles for academy graduates.

The countryside is lush and green. This used to good hunting country, with ample populations of pheasant, deer, and boar. Now, landmines make it a little too sporting

Our movement severely restricted. Personal radios are on twenty-four hours a day, and bags are continually packed with food and necessities for at least four days, just in case we have to leave in a hurry.

There is no work or money for the locals. They are mostly destitute. Policemen get 140DM/month which is a pathetic pittance. In desperation, everyone grows vegetables in their yards. Most keep pigs and chickens. Electricity and water are undependable. The water is so polluted its unfit for most everything except washing equipment.

Inefficiency, corruption, and incompetence are rife. Even the few high-caliber people rendered impotent by the rest.

At great expense, the UN built a beautiful and badly-needed bridge over the local river. Three weeks later, NATO bombed it into dust. Also at great cost, the local railway station (scene of a massacre, just one of a countless litany) was rebuilt. Unfortunately, the tracks on either side have subsequently been reduced (by NATO Bombs) to twisted spaghetti. Your tax dollars at work!

Lesson: Be glad you live where you do.