Friday, July 10, 2015

Belgrade Bans Srebrenica Anniversary Gatherings

And so the ultranationalists have won this round:

Belgrade Bans Srebrenica Anniversary Gatherings

The "security concerns" rhetoric is so transparently disingenuous I am frankly surprised they bothered.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Nearing the 20th Anniversary of Srebrenica

I've been meaning to kick-start this blog for some time, and there's no better reason to resurrect it than to begin commemorating a horrific anniversary. This Saturday, July 11, will mark twenty years since the Srebrenica genocide.

20 Year Anniversary

Given the prevalence of armed conflicts involving "failed" states such as Syria and Iraq, or of fragile states with restive minorities being supported and manipulated by a larger neighbor, such as Ukraine, it is very clear that the Bosnian War was indeed both a warning of the challenges the post-Cold War era would bring as well as a test the international community in general and the West specifically. It seems increasingly clear that whatever lessons were learned were the wrong ones, and that the legacy of Bosnia for policy-makers has been distorted and misunderstood. Perhaps this stark reminder of the human cost of moral indifference and strategic fumbling will lead to some healthy re-evaluation of priorities and interpretive frameworks.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

"From Enemy Territory" by Mladen Vuksanovic [7]

So It Was Foreseeable: Afterword by Roman Arens and Christiane Schlotzer-Scotland

This brief afterword first establishes a fact which Bosnian revisionists have been trying to deny ever since the war first broke out--that the bloodshed in the Bosnian war was the product of deliberate planning. This diary is an eyewitness account of the early stages of the genocidal war which would engulf the country. Vuksanovic's diary stands as a witness to the ground-level implementation of a well-planned, if morally bankrupt, dismantling of a multinational society in the service of fascism.

"Power interests were the aim, ethnically grounded hysteria was the motor leading to this aim."

This basic point--that "ethnic hatred" was a tool of those who caused the war rather than the cause itself, is the central fact one must grasp in order to understand the war in Bosnia. And all the prevarication and dissembling in the world cannot match the clarity and directness of this document.

The afterword ends with a brief explanation of how the diary came to be translated (into German) and published--a chance encounter between Vuksanovic and a publisher named Nenad Popovic, who was also involved with the German organization Journalists help Journalists. Given how often Vuksanovic railed against his former colleagues in the field who turned to nationalistic propagandizing and lying, this connection is especially apt.

In the end, there isn't much else for me to say about this book. It is intensely moving and unforgettable. It deserves to be better known; a lonely and desperate witness to evil by a man who refused to surrender his moral sense to the tidal wave of madness and hate that destroyed the town he loved and the country it was in.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

"From Enemy Territory" by Mladen Vuksanovic [6]

16 May to 15 July 1992 [pp. 124-165]

Although Pale, as a town inhabited by people living in houses and walking on streets past shops and cafes, will continue to exist, the Pale that Vuksanovic knows, the once-tolerant place inhabited by Serbs and Muslims is dying right before his eyes. In the final pages of his diary, he records the final death throes of what used to be his home. 

Cease fire agreements and the takeover of the airport by the United Nations briefly give hope, but within a few days he writes 

"It's the easiest thing to recognize fools here--they're the ones who believe in the latest cease-fire agreement."

There is no longer any question about any future for Vuksanovic and his wife in Pale; the madness is spreading into every nook and cranny. More and more hungry Serbs from elsewhere in Bosnia show up to take possession of abandoned homes, and increasingly they are not waiting for these homes to be vacant. Nationalist former friends show up late at night bearing weapons and vague threats; they stay and drink the Vuksanovics' booze while railing against "jihadists", "ustashe", and disloyal Serbs--Serbs like Vuksanovic, who recognizes that his last name and his ethnicity won't protect him much longer.

A friend comes to stay in the house, hiding for days on end. Other Muslims come on the night before they are to leave. A Serb official and a Muslim collaborator come to the house to "assure" them that they could have slept in their own house that night, as it is known they are leaving the next day. The threat is implied.

It probably was not necessary--the last Muslims of Pale, except for one elderly woman and one other woman who is married to a Serb man. The rest sell what they cannot carry, and queue up for buses taking them away. More and more Serbs show up to take their homes; some of them move into Vuksanovic's mothers' home. The new owners take everything that the former occupants left which they do not want out in the yards and streets and burn it all. The air is choked with the fires.

Vuksanovic and his wife get passes to leave, and one for the friend staying with them as well. They get the good news that their son has also received his papers at the same time. In the meantime, a Serb refugee family from Zenica has shown up to take their house; Mladen and his wife show them around, explain how the heater works and which plants are planted in what part of the garden. The house his parents built and the garden his mother created are about to be turned over to strangers. A Serb family takes in the last two puppies. His home is now his past.

The final couple of entries summarize their successful trip out of Pale and out of Bosnia; first to Serbia and Belgrade where the friend they sheltered is reunited with his wife. Then on through Hungary, Slovenia, and finally Croatia. Istria, their final destination, is just ahead. And here the diary ends.

There is a short afterword which I will review next; I'll give my final thoughts on the book in that post as well.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

"From Enemy Territory" by Mladen Vuksanovic [5]

16 May to 15 July 1992 [pp. 85-124]

The final part of the diary covers his final two months in Pale, beginning with the return of his wife and daughter from Sarajevo (as noted before, the son stayed in the city while waiting for an opportunity to leave through the Jewish Community). His joy at being reunited is soon tempered by the growing despair and disgust by the continued slide of his community into total fascism.

On her first day back, his daughter tells him she would rather be back in Sarajevo. A visit with friends convinces her she will go crazy in Pale.

There is very little narrative here; just the slow, tedious tightening of the noose as the remaining Muslims of Pale lose their phones, their electricity, and their homes, until finally they are told that the Serb authorities can no longer "guarantee their safety." Vuksanovic allows Muslim friends to stay with him, particularly on the night after two Serb soldiers are killed and reprisal atrocities are widely expected.

More and more bearded chetniks in the streets. More and more hostile stares. Guns fired at Muslim homes at night. Soldiers show up to search his late mother's house without a warrant. Some old acquaintances turn out to have gone to the nationalist side. Being Serb will soon no longer be enough; one must be a "good" or "loyal" Serb to be truly safe.

The daughter leaves for Hungary, and as she leaves she begs her parents not to stay too much longer. The dog gives birth to three puppies; Mladen is delighted but wonders how to feed them.

One night their Muslim neighbor Mina, who deals with her fear by talking incessantly (Vuksanovic gets irritated with her then feels a little guilty for it) is staying with him and his wife; he notes that

"She talked non-stop all evening to dispel her fear, but fear is like water, it fills every crevice and finds new outlets."

Every page, every day brings yet another entry in this almost numbing catalog of a society being torn into a nihilistic wasteland; new indignities, new moral outrages, new betrayals--all shot through with a thickening atmosphere of fear and death. On the night of June 13 (page 124), he writes:

"I feel somehow that my life hasn't become just a past, that a future exists too.

These vampires [the Serb nationalists] have neither. That's why they destroy and kill. They won't for long. The penalty must be paid."


In the next post I'll summarize/review the final 40 pages of this section. After that, there is a short afterward.