Bush’s Whips, McCain’s Scorpions

“He [John McCain] did everything that we
asked of him, including arming the KLA.”

—Albanian lobbyist Joe DioGuardi

When I hear the word Belgrade pronounced, I can almost smell the soft coal smoke tainting the chilly air of early spring.  Waking in the Palace Hotel on Toplicin Venac, the slightly sour smell has filled the room, which I have vainly tried to cool by opening a window, and mixed with the musty carpet and the broad palette of odors coming up from the coffee shop: tobacco smoke, barbecued and roasted meats, and coffee, which back then I did not dare call by its proper name, Turska kafa, but Srpska kafa and now, less patriotically, domaca kafa (domestic coffee).  Stepping out onto the street in the early 90’s, the first impression was of something missing—traffic.  Only the police and the mafia (sometimes a distinction without a difference) could find a supply of gas or afford the price, if they could.  I remember visiting Blazo Perovic’s office repeatedly in hopes of getting both a car and a driver to take me to Kosovo, but he would offer only one or the other, and I ended up taking the train.  What cars there were, as gas became more available, were the detritus of the communist world: Rumanian Ladas, East German Wartburgs, Czechoslovak...

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