Tuesday, March 03, 2009

"The Destruction of Yugoslavia" by Branka Magas--Part Five

Part Five: War (June-December 1991)

The nine articles collected in this final selection are impassioned pleas to a Europe that hadn't been paying attention and was callously drawing lazy conclusions about "ethnic wars," "ancient hatreds", and so on. Much of the material here is recycled, as Magas was trying desperately to reach anyone who would listen, and tell them what she had seen and learned in just over a decade of reporting and study. Reading this section now is painful, because as bad as things were at the end of 1991, the reader knows they were going to get worse, just as she predicts in one article after another. She knew that the war would spread to Bosnia, and she knew that the Greater Serb project was untenable.

Another tragedy in the making is that, in 1991, not only was it not too late for the international community to recognize the reality of the situation; there was still time to intervene in a way which might have aided the forces of democratization which were opposed to the Milosevic regime. The sad fact is that lazy, cynical generalizations about "ethnic hatreds" not only justified Western inaction, they demonized the very Serb citizens who were, by and large, either being dragged into a war they didn't want or at the very least blinded by nationalist propaganda and fear-mongering. At that point, it was not too late to reach out to ordinary Serbs, before years of war and isolation and finally the horrible prospect of facing the reality of what had been done in their name became too much to bear.

While the burden of suffering and the burden of guilt were distributed anything but equally throughout the former Yugoslavia, the tragedy of the death of Federal Yugoslavia was shared by all. The articles in this book are a valuable source of first-hand reporting on that agonizing, and thoroughly unnecessary, death. I highly recommend it.

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