Wednesday, March 29, 2006

It appears that Del Ponte had little luck in Belgrade:

BBC Story "Serbia urges patience over Mladic"

I have a slight issue with this paragraph from the story:

[from story]
Mr Mladic has been on the run for a decade since he was charged with genocide and other crimes against humanity, mainly in connection with the siege of Sarajevo in the early 1990s and the Srebrenica massacre of 1995 in which nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed by Serb forces.
[end quote]

Considering that Mladic lived openly in Serbia until 2002, it's hard to call that a decade of living 'on the run.' He does truly seem to be living like a genuine fugitive now, which is an improvement. At least we can hope the man lives in constant fear of discovery; that would be a small victory for justice.

I don't doubt that the government in Serbia is stuck between a rock and a hard place--between the ultra-nationalists and Milosevic loyalists, I'm sure the Kostunica government has very little wiggle room domestically. Well, tough shit--Zoran Djindjic paid a much higher price for showing some integrity. Kostunica has tried to have it both ways for too long; now that the path he chose to negotiate between placating the West while refusing to own up to the recent past has turned out to be a dead end, he has no one to blame but himself. It has been clear for some time that merely removing Milosevic while judiciously avoiding an accounting for Serbian responsibilty for the bloody dismemberment of Yugoslavia was weak medicine for the festering disease of ultra-nationalism, self-pity, and nation-wide delusion that currently permeate Serbian society.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Two articles in the post today--the one below, and this piece on the film Grbavica:

Washington Post Article on "Grbavica"

I won't editorialize too much. I haven't seen the film yet, I will keep an eye out for it. That the movie is being shown in Belgrade is encouraging. That the actress herself is a Serb willing to speak out and call for openness and honesty is even more so. We can hope that this will pry Serb society a bit more open. One hopes that scenes of angry mobs denouncing a woman for portraying a rape victim will lead to more than a few reflective pauses.
Well, it appears that Serbia's government has decided to confess to the obvious--officials in the Serbian military have been actively protecting Ratko Mladic for years.

Washington Post Story "Serbs Admit That Officials Aided War Crimes Fugitive"

It is notable that Stankovic, the Serbian Defense Minister, has only been on the job for a couple of months--it would seem that he is an honest man trying to do the right thing. It cannot be a coincidence that rapid progress has been made after he took over the job.

It also needs to be said that there are probably many other people of integrity in the Serbian government today. Many of the institutions in Serbia--the military, in this case--have deeply embedded cultures which are not easy for outsiders to penatrate; even when those 'outsiders' are Serbian government officials. While there is no doubt that the Kostunica government has not been as transparent and cooperative as one would hope, we cannot dismiss the current difficulties in apprehending Mladic out of hand. We should remember that 'the state' is not necessarily a self-contained, monolithic entity. It is probably that some of the difficulty the Serbian government is having is genuine and not facetious.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Because there's no point in reinventing the wheel--and because I cannot hope to improve on the excellent work already done here--I am not going to elaborate much on these links. I will only say that my contempt for Srebrenica revisionists and other fascist appeasers knows no bounds.

Balkan Witness has put together this handy one-stop list of Left-wing Serb nationalist apologists:

I highly recommend the essay "The Left Revisionists" by Marko Attila Hoard.

I would also recommend this link:

Both Herman and Johnstone make for some nauseating reading. But it is necessary to read them if one wants to appreciate just how far some on the far left are willing to go in this pathetic enterprise. They twist logic, morality, the facts, and common sense in order to hold on to the twisted notion that there is something noble and anti-imperialist in denying the obvious--that a corrupt regime wedded the military and economic resources of a one-party state to the ideology of ultra-nationalism--informed by a warped and dishonest reading of history--in order to secure land and power for itself. These people cannot see the forest for the trees--indeed, they sneer in contempt at those of us who have been duped into believing in forests at all.

Friday, March 17, 2006

A big shout-out to the best pundit in print today: Christopher Hitchens, as usual, gets it right:

Hitchens on Slobo's Loathsome Legacy

I really can't top this, so I'll just ask you to read his latest Slate article. If I can make another recommendation, balkan ghost has some excellent thoughts on (which I feature as a permenant link to the right). I cannot hope to add to their eloquence, so I won't even try. Please enjoy both links.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A friend forwarde this story to me:

Newsday article on war crimes suspects living in the United States

I really have nothing to add. Just another reminder that while a decade has passed, the Bosnian war is still very much a concern in the present. There is much unfinished business. The final chapter has not been written.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Well, I have watched the video again:

Over-the-top 'expose' on Mujahideen in Bosnia

Some of the images in this report are genuinely disturbing. The sight of the captured Serb soldier being taunted, hit repeatedly, and then led to his death is deeply disturbing. One wants to reach through the screen and appeal to the Bosnian Muslim soldiers, to beg them to ignore the bearded mujahideen and his craven 'advice.' While there is no gore in this piece (apparantly some of the footage Sky News acquired is quite graphic), it is not easy viewing.

However, this reporter is not interested in fleshing out the broader, human tragedy of the Yugoslav wars; nor is he interested in illustrating one of the many of the ambiguities of that conflict. Rather, he deliberately juxtaposes jarring images before putting them in context, and implies worst-case scenarios before acknowledging that they have not come to pass. Most damning, however, is his decision to validate nationalist Serb propagdanda. Fifteen years after the war to dismember the multi-cultural state of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the name of ethno-religious purity, the ridiculous ultra-nationalist Serb claims that they were fighting to defend Europe from Islamic terrorism have finally found a willing mouthpiece in the West.

Yes, most outrageous about this report is at the end--after filming scenes of hostile villagers in Zenica and bearded Muslims outside a Saudi-funded mosque in Sarajevo, the reporter finally sits down with someone and lets him talk at length--that person is a Bosnian Serb policeman. And this gentleman is allowed to spout off at some length about his concerns that Islamic fundamentalism is taking root in Bosnia--the same disingenuous claims that Serb ultra-nationalists used to justify their war aims a decade and a half ago.

A responsible reporter might have noted this. A responsible reporter might have also pounced on this gem--the Bosnian Serb policeman actually blames the situation on the lack of a unified police force! The sheer nerve and hypocrisy of this statement goes completely unchallenged by our intreped reporter, who surely can't be completely unaware of the terms of the Dayton Agreement, or of the existance of 'Republika Srpska,' so he can't be completely oblivious to the main reason that Bosnia lacks a unified police structure, can he?

Or is he so eager to shock his viewers with the spectre of Islamic fundamentalism taking root in the heart of Europe that he is willing to set aside any inconvenient or contrary facts? I fear so.

This is a hack job of the worst kind--not only does the reporter strenuously avoid placing the story in any context, he (knowingly, I believe) is clouding the true historic record and perhaps inflaming recent sectarian grievances with a completely disproportional sense of alarm. By validating the tired, racist propaganda of Serb ultra-nationalists even while allowing bald-faced hypocrisy to stand unchallened, he is clouding the truth rather than illuminating it.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The ongoing campaign to rewrite the history of the Bosnian War at the expense of both the Muslim population and the truth continues, with the bizarre anti-Bosnian alliance of far-right nationalists, anti-Muslim bigots, and far-left anti-Western/US/NATO gettting an assist from Sky News. This lovely piece of 'reporting' deserves to be thoroughly examined:

Over-the-top 'expose' on Mujahideen in Bosnia

It's an eight-minute clip using old footage from the 1990's, brief footage of downtown Sarajevo, and little if any sense of recent history or balance. The gist of it is this--during the war, foreign mujahideen come to Bosnia to fight on the (mostly-Muslim) government side. Most of these volunteers were there to fight jihad, not to lend aid to a secular, democratic government. They brought foreign ideas (such as Wahabbi Islam from Saudi Arabia), and many of them used the instability of the region (as well as the chaos attending wartime) to change their names and identities. Although most left after the war, some of them stayed behind. Furthermore, there are signs of some Islamist influence in Bosnia now, including the occassional bearded gentleman and veiled lady in downtown Sarajevo. Also, the locals in the Zenica area were hostile to the reporter when he came by to ask questions. And now there is little accounting for what happened to the former mujahideen who were in the area.

OK, then. The reasonably-informed reader might wonder why this is 'news' ten-plus years after the fact. When you quickly learn that video of these mujihadeen has been recently found, you have your explanation--modern broadcast journalism is driven by what footage is available versus what stories need to be told, after all.

So, fine. Sky News has acquired some dated--but never-before-seen!--footage of a not-unknown aspect of the war in Bosnia. While the Sky report plays this footage up as a shocking expose of something you 'aren't supposed to know,' the information is old news. It has been documented before. It is true that this aspect of the Bosnian war wasn't dwelled on in the media at the time, and no doubt the Clinton Adminstration was anything but eager to advertise the fact.

Those who would discredit the cause of solidarity with the wartime government of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its people have had a field day with the 'hidden' news about mujahideen 'armies' in Bosnia--using this (admittedly under-reported) facet of the conflict to insinuate any number of sinister realities: the rise of militant Islam in Bosnia; US complicity in the rise of Al Qaeda; a vast plot somehow connected to the September 11, 2001 attacks. The possibilities are endless, if one is disingenuous and committed to distorting honest discourse.

It is one thing for assiduously cynical purveyors of shadowy conspiracies to exploit the general publics lack of detailed information--drawing non-existent connections between decontextualized facts, in order to infer sinister conclusions. That is what people of that sort do; as tiresome as it may be, it is sadly true that "The Protocals of the Elders of Zion" still needs refuting.

It is quite another matter, however, when an ostensibly objective journalist for a major broadcast news outlet chooses to present such a contentious point of view. If a responsible journalist is presented with decade-old footage from a still-infamous war, he or she should honor the responsibility to put these images in context. These are inflammatory images, which could easily reopen wounds which are not yet fully healed and threaten the fragile and piecemeal rebuilding of severed connections.

A responsible journalist would have tread with care, with wisdom and moderation, and at the very least with a balanced and informed judgement. This 'reporter' chose a different path.

I haven't watched this piece in a few days. Because I am at work, I cannot watch the piece with sound at the moment. I will review it tonight or tomorrow, and return with a more detailed analysis shortly.
Slobodan Milosevic is dead. Apparantly of natural causes. It's hard to feel much of anything, isn't it?The man spent the last couple years of his life in prison, it's true, but it was--compared to most prisons around the world--a pretty cushy existence.

Now he's died before his trial was ever complete. His 'legacy' is somewhat less assured now--there is no chance that his tombstone will read "Convicted War Criminal." I fear it will be just a little bit harder to achieve real justice in the former Yugoslavia. It will also be a little bit easier for hardline nationalists in Serbia to continue dodging responsibility for the actions of the Milosevic regime. This isn't just bad news for non-Serbs in the areas ravaged by the wars of the 1990's. This is bad news for Serbia, as well. The full and honest accounting of the past that Serbian society needs will be a little easier to put off now that there is no threat that Milosevic will be held fully accountable for his actions.

So when I hear that Milosevic is dead, I mourn--but not for the man. Not for the bullying, braying sociopath who led his own country to ruin and decimated both Croatia and Bosnia in the process--I have no tears and no sympathy for such a man.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Welcome to 'Americans For Bosnia'

I will freely admit that the name might come across as more than a little pretentious. There is no group or organization called "Americans for Bosnia"; or, if there is, I and this blog are in no way affiliated with it. Not only is there no organization behind this name, there is no unorganized group, either. It's just me, an American citizen who has never set foot anywhere in the former Yugoslavia.

My reasons for picking the name (other than, I admit, some wishful thinking that I might be able to attract like-minded Americans to a cause that is still important a decade-plus after the war ended) are a little vague even to myself. Hopefully, as I continue working on this blog, I will begin to articulate and clarify exactly why I believe Bosnia's war was America's as well.

Bosnia was a battleground between civic nationalism, embodied (however imperfectly) by the Muslim-led government in Sarajevo, and ethnic nationalism, embodied by the illegal Bosnian Serb rebel government in Pale. It was a battle between individual rights, and collective identity (and the idea of collective guilt). The war in Bosnia was a challenge to the secular West and its values. At the time, we failed that test. We refused to accept the challenge, to acknoweledge that the cause of Bosnia was our own. Most Americans watched scenes of unarmed civilians in Sarajevo under seige--human beings being used for target practice by a pitiful excuse of an army fed on mythic dreams of quasi-religious glory and misunderstood, imperfect history--and wondered what it would be like to be in their shoes. It was a tragedy, and an outrage, that the connection between their plight and our own values was not fully understood.