Thursday, December 31, 2009

"In Harm's Way" by Martin Bell [22]


This brief conclusion to the book finds Bell realizing that he needs to leave Bosnia--not only is the war over, but he finds himself feeling genuine anger at the needless waste of it all. Needless, because the Western world could have and should have intervened much earlier to save thousands of lives and the chance for multiethnic Bosnia to survive. Bell believed that the international community bore some responsibility for the massive war crimes in Bosnia--unlike many observers, he never forgot that Srebrenica was a UN "safe area" nor does shy away from confronting the sad reality that in the end the Dutch UN contingent was concerned with nothing more than its own survival.

And so he left, and the book ends rather abruptly--but then again, even the second edition was published in 1995, while the peace was still new and untested. This is in many ways a raw book, informed by immediate reactions and fresh, direct impressions. Some of Bell's judgments could be fairly questioned, but it is crucial to note that he gets the big questions right. Precisely because this is not an impassioned work of partisan advocacy, "In Harm's Way" is ultimately a quite effective argument in favor of humanitarian intervention by the international community. It is also a thoughtful meditation on the role of the media in wartime and on the function of the mass media in the post-Cold War world. And it is many other things as well.

I highly recommend this book; it won't tell the average reader of this blog much about Bosnia that he or she doesn't already know, but Bell's point of view is worth knowing.


It is fitting to finish this book review just a few hours before I finish the first decade of the 21st Century. I would reflect at more length on the decade and on where Bosnia and the cause of humanitarian intervention and internationalism--but my wife informs me that it is time to get ready for our New Year's Eve outing! So I wish all my readers a happy 2010, and I look forward to continuing our ongoing dialogue in the new year. Best wishes to all.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

"In Harm's Way" by Martin Bell [21]

Chapter 23: Fainthearts Confounded

The final chapter of the book finds Bell observing and commenting on the endgame of the Bosnian war. Bell was called away from the field to provide his expertise in studio back home in Britain, where he confronted the difficulties of trying to distill the war and its denouement in short soundbites for a public which was suddenly paying attention again.

As for the war--Bell recognized the key to why the war came to a sudden end; as he reiterates over and over in this book, force works. A muscular use of force by NATO forced the Serbs to the negotiating table, and a determined show of arms by IFOR immediately following the Dayton treaty ensured that both sides kept the peace and respected the peacekeepers. There would be no more ceasefire violations, no more terrorist kidnappings of hapless UN personnel to act as human shields.

Even though it was disturbingly clear that all Dayton had accomplished was essentially to force the Bosnian Serbs to accept their own plan for de facto ethnic partition (albeit with far less territory than they would have liked), the main lesson Bell learned was this--it could have been done sooner, meaning that more lives could have been saved, less injustice would have been enshrined at Dayton, and something of the old multiethnic Bosnia might have been saved.

A lot of trouble, death, and destruction could have been avoided, and our Western values much less betrayed, had the world known in advance what Bell saw in hindsight.

Friday, December 25, 2009

"In Harm's Way " by Martin Bell [20]

Chapter 22: Darkest Before Dawn

Bell continues his account of the final months of the war, here recounting the despair he was falling into in the summer of 1995, as Srebrenican and Zepa both fell to well-organized militias of genocidal mass murderers with the United Nations watching on and the Western world still did nothing. Bell found it hard to even get airtime for his reports, even as he knew that the war was entering a new phase of violence and ferocity. And then there was another marketplace massacre in Sarajevo, and he found himself wondering what the UN would do, even though by now he had learned that the answer would be--once again--nothing.

But this time he was wrong.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"In Harm's Way" by Martin Bell [19]

Chapter 21: Showdown

This chapter is a brisk and exasperated account of events in Bosnia from late May up until around the fall of Srebrenica as witnessed by Bell and other members of the media, who were unable to witness much of what was happening first hand.

Mostly, this is account of the final, craven capitualation of the United Nations to the Bosnian Serb forces and of the continued increase in the volume and ferocity of the armed combat between those forces and the Bosnian government. It was clear to Bell at the time, as it is to all reasonable students of the war in hindsight, that the UN was a spent force at best by this point. Bell correctly notes that its mission had become an absurd anomoly, a protection force which seemed only interested in protecting itself. The UN was by now occupied with little other than negotiating for its own hostages and urging NATO to leave so that the Serbs would no longer threaten them. The fall of Srebrenica was the final, humiliating proof that it was well past time for the United Nations to leave.

Monday, December 21, 2009

"In Harm's Way" by Martin Bell [18]

Chapter 20: A Day in the Life

Literally an account of one day of war reporting; notable in that the day in question was May 24, 1995, and the war was ramping up in intensity and ferocity. It seems that this was the day Bell either say or actually reported the use of phosphorus weapons by the Bosnian Serbs.

The endgame was near.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"In Harm's Way" by Martin Bell [17]

Chapter 19: Days of Foreboding

An interesting and entertaining account of the first half of th final year of the war, beginning with Jimmy Carter's bogus cease-fire in the winter of 1994, and ending in spring, just as Operation Flash went into effect and helped unleash the chain of events which led, ultimately, both to Srebrenica and finally Dayton. Bell ruminates on how little the war registered in the West by that point, since there was now little access for television reporting (the Bosnian Army was not interested in advertising its new strength and capabilities, and the Bosnian Serbs were simply done with talking to the rest of the world, period) and also because Europe was, seemingly, bored with it.

The chapter ends with Bell recounting his pride at a piece he finished after three weeks work piecing together what information he could get and whatever images he could acquire, a piece he was proud of and felt passionate about, and which he felt conveyed some sense of the terror enfolding mostly offscreen. The piece was butchered, and only a few brief clips were played with in-studio voiceovers. Nobody was listening.

[Note: I have corrected this post, in which I originally referred to "Operation Storm" which would not actually occur until a few months later.]

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"In Harm's Way" by Martin Bell [16]

Chapter 18: Arm Your Children

I had a difficult time figuring out how to summarize and review this chapter because at first I could not quite grasp what it is about. And then I realized--it is a brief summary of the post-Cold War world and what the Bosnian conflict signaled about its challenges, communicated through a brief synopsis of Bell's career from 1989 through the mid-1990s.

Bell, who had been assigned to BBC's North American beat for over a decade, was in 1989 reassigned to Berlin to cover the fall of Communism. He got to see a lot, but he also experienced the pressures of political correctness when he was discouraged from filming examples of nascent neo-Nazi groups in the former East Germany as Romanian Gypsies and other outsiders began pouring across the newly opened borders.

In Bosnia, he again faced the PC pressures to avoid words and images which might offend when he referred to mental patients trapped in the no-man's land between Muslims and Croats during the 1993 civil war by using the word "madhouse." One would think this was quite fitting--the patients were left to their own devices because they had been abandoned by the staff. But "madhouse" might offend, and we can't have that.

Bell also recounts how the longer he reported on Bosnia, the harder it became for him to to adjust during his periodic returns home, an experience shared by many. One person whom he sympathizes with in this regard is General Lewis MacKenzie, who adjusted (in his opinion) by throwing himself into civilian work after finding post-Bosnia military duties unfulfilling. This book was published in 1995, so we will forgive Bell for not being aware that MacKenzie would use his new position as a front for covert Serb nationalist proselytizing.

And so the chapter moves--quietly, patiently, and finally unexpectedly--into a rumination on the responsibilities of the international community--and the journalist--in the face of genocide. Bell is quietly convincing here, since he has taken pains not to be a crusading journalist or to engage in polemics, but he believes that journalists have an ethical and moral obligation as well as a professional one. Genocide has consequences. Lessons will be learned. It is the responsibility of the international community to take actions to ensure that those lessons are the right ones.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"In Harm's Way" by Martin Bell [15]

Chapter 16: Shading the Truth
Chapter 17: War Is a Bad Taste Business

These two chapters are both concerned with war reporting, the physical, ethical and moral risks involved in that endeavor, and with the dangers of self-censorship as well. Both chapters are well-written, deeply felt, astutely observed, and grapple with complex and difficult moral questions. They are not, however, directly concerned with the subject of this blog, so in the interests of keeping this review moving on I will only mention that my admiration for this book grows as I work through it, and leave it at that.

It's not that Bosnia does not figure in these chapters--while Chapter 16 largely goes back in time, to Bell's days reporting in Northern Ireland, Chapter 17 is entirely concerned with events in Bosnia. Rather, the main issue is not the war itself but rather the reporting of it, and some of the factors which affected that reporting. Specifically, how one central fact of war reporting--that it is dangerous and can get you killed--imposed a "bias" of sorts on the reports coming out of Bosnia. Chapter 17 concludes with this sobering statement:

"On the issue of our coverage of the Bosnian war the true charge against us is not that we misrepresented it by seeking out the horrors and ignoring the context; or that we somehow short-changed our public by telling them less than we knew. It is that for reasons of prudence we didn't know, and therefore didn't tell, the half of it."

Only six chapters and a short epilogue to go. There is already a candidate for my next review waiting.

Monday, December 14, 2009

CNAB Letter to the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

The Congress of North American Bosniaks has published an open letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The message--that America has a vested interest in seeing Bosnia survive as a unified, democratic, secular, and multicultural state--will not be an unfamiliar one to readers of this blog:


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
US Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Honorable Secretary Clinton,

On behalf of the Congress of North American Bosniaks, I am writing to express our gravest concern regarding the political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the resurgence of the ultra-nationalist rhetoric that led to the violent breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. The appeasement of Slobodan Milosevic and other Serb nationalists during that time period created an environment that was based on ethnic and religious hatred and led to the worst civilian atrocities Europe has seen since World War II.

Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence within its historical borders and was recognized by the United States, the United Nations, and the larger international community as a multi-ethnic, democratic state that could have served as a model for peaceful coexistence and tolerance as they have done for many years in its history. But evil forces of Slobodan Milosevic, Radovan Karadzic, and other Serb leaders at the time used nationalist rhetoric that was rooted in deep hatred towards non-Serbs, especially the Bosniak Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina. We all know how the story unfolded, and that it was thanks to the Clinton administration, the United States government, and NATO that the war ended with the Dayton agreement.

Unfortunately, a sequel seems to be in the making, as the same ultra-nationalist rhetoric is once again being propagated by a new generation of Milosevic’s pupils, including Milorad Dodik, the current premier of Republika Srpska, Nikola Spiric, the prime minister of BiH and Nebojsa Radmanovic, the current member of the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Over the last few years, they have been testing the will of the United States and the European Union and purposely crippling any hopes for reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina, by trying to create an environment where they can illegally proclaim a referendum for independence of Republika Srpska, thereby attaining Karadzic’s wartime goals.

Looking back on the Dayton agreement, the wartime representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina only agreed to the Dayton agreement after a full guarantee by the United States that its sovereignty will be preserved. It was clear that the intentions were to end the war, guarantee Bosnian sovereignty, and hope for a better future for Bosnia. Instead, these Serb nationalists choose to misinterpret the agreement and use it as a tool for their agenda to accomplish “in peace” what Milosevic and Karadzic could not in war, a greater Serbia. This is, sadly, being almost completely ignored by the United States and the EU, who have sent a message that the people of Bosnia must resolve their own differences and come to an agreement on how to structure the country. While this sounds like an ideal solution, it is clear that the Serb representatives do not want to accept any solution, except that which preserves a homogeneous Serb state. This is now also fueling fires with some Croat representatives who think they should have the same. On the other hand, there is clear lack of leadership by the Bosniak representatives in dealing with these issues. Thus, the ascertainment that the destiny of Bosnian framework is up to the local politicians is only partially acceptable because the international community, with the Dayton agreement, provided them with tools which they now misappropriate for nationalist gain, by spreading propaganda of fear and hatred in order to promote a secessionist agenda.

Therefore, we ask, again, for the help of the United States in this dire time of need. Although, thankfully, there is no armed conflict at this time, it is imperative to implement sound foreign policy to prevent the injustice that Bosnia has suffered and the tragedy that has happened to its centuries’ old tradition of tolerance, diversity, and coexistence. This time, we ask not only as the former refugees from Bosnia, but also as American citizens to save Bosnia from the dark clouds that have once again begun to gather on the horizon. There is absolutely no rhyme or reason why Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot exist as a multi-ethnic, democratic, and prosperous nation that is fully integrated in Europe and a future member of NATO. One of the main obstacles to Bosnian democracy is the so called ethnic voting, which severely undermines the ability of Bosnia to function as a state.

The only question that remains is the following: is the United States still committed to fulfilling its obligation as the broker of the Dayton agreement to preserve peace, democracy, and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina, or will it stand by and allow these ultra-nationalist elements to disintegrate any resemblance of a functioning state and be rewarded for committing genocide? As it currently stands, Russia now has a far more involved role in Bosnia than before and threatens to undermine the U.S. efforts by promoting Serbian nationalism. We urge you to consider the gravity of the situation and realize that it is not only the moral duty of the U.S. to stop such activity, but that it is of vital national interest to the U.S. to prevent further instability in the region. Also, consider the message that inaction would send to the Muslim world, that the Bosniak people, even with all their European and secular values, have been betrayed by those who claim to promote democracy and freedom in the world.

We believe that an urgent entry of Bosnia and Herzegovina into NATO would quell the manipulation of some of its citizens and provide a strong message to all in the region that Bosnian sovereignty will never come into question. We also recommend urgent constitutional reforms that guarantee equal rights for all of its citizens, but also eliminate the undemocratic process of ethnic voting that holds the central government hostage from implementing any reforms that would lead towards euro-Atlantic integration. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Mr. Haris Alibašić, MPA
President of the CNAB Board of Directors

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Americans Turning Isolationist

One of the premises of this blog is that the Bosnian war was about more than a brutal conflict in southeast Europe; it was a trial run of what the world might look like in the post-Cold War era, and a test of how the democratic world would meet (or fail to meet) these new challenges.

One of the lessons I believe we should take from the Bosnian experience is that the world needs to become more, not less, cosmopolitan and internationalist in orientation. From the dangers of global warming and Islamic fundamentalist terror, to the challenges raised by widespread immigration and an increasingly global economy, we need the regard ourselves more and more as global citizens, and to regard all our fellow humans as our brothers and sisters. In Bosnia, we were told that "they" were none of our business, and in Kosova we were told that Serbia's national sovereignty somehow trumped our obligation to the Kosovar Albanians. Fortunately, in both cases we (belatedly and not always forcefully enough, it is true) did not listen.

But unfortunately, lessons learned can easily be forgotten:

Pew Poll Showing Americans Retreating Inward

It will be a very interesting test of the Obama Presidency to see how he deals with a public which wants nothing to do with the world beyond our borders.

Friday, December 11, 2009

"In Harm's Way" by Martin Bell [14]

Chapter 15: Of Men and Mandates

While the previous chapter raised a few troubling doubts about Bell's overall interpretation of the Bosnia crisis and the people involved in it, this chapter refutes those doubts in spades. You might disagree with some of Bell's individual judgments, but there can be little doubt that he grasped the big picture.

This chapter is largely Bell's recounting of the haphazard manner in which the United Nations stumbled into the unworkable "peacekeeping" mandate it found itself in; furthermore, he outlines the real-world implications of this confused mandate. The UN was keeping people from starving to death so that they could be murdered--Bell saw this clearly.

What he also saw was that many UN personnel were very conflicted about this, and more than a few were outraged. Some quite admirably did all they could to stretch their interpretation of the mandate as far as they could in order to save lives whenever possible. Bell's description of the UN in Bosnia as essentially a Red Cross with guns (which they were only allowed to use in self-defense) is a good one.

He also saw clearly that even as the quality and the moral courage of individual UN commanders made a difference within even a misguided mandate, so did the quality and professionalism of the soldiers. The Ukrainian contingent do not come out looking well in his account.

We also see General Michael Rose again, and the portrait this time is far less flattering than in the previous chapter; Bell tellingly refers to Rose's "supporters" in this chapter, and in context it is clear he is not one of them. Nor is he the man's enemy, but it is clear that he found Rose to be, the end of his first year in Bosnia, a deeply shaken man presiding over a failure of leadership and resolve, a far cry from the confident, decisive, can-do leader in the previous chapter. Rose has lost the plot, and failed to see the Bosnian Serb leadership for the murderous, bullying, untrustworthy thugs they were.

The chapter ends with a consideration of some lessons from the Bosnian experience of peacekeeping. Each of them is elaborated in more or less detail than I will quote here, but these few sentences will hopefully do his excellent arguments justice:

"First, a merely victim-based strategy doesn't work, and probably prolongs the war...

Second, humanitarianism conflicts with peacekeeping, and still more with peace-enforcement. The threat of force, if it is to be effective, will sooner or later involve the use of force...

Third, the credible use of force can yield results...This was the lesson of Bosnia, that force prevails...

Fourth, all threats will be tested; and if they are bluff they will be seen to be bluff...If you declare a safe area you have to make it safe...

Fifth, peacekeeping is a soldier-intensive business in which the quality of the troops matters as much as they quantity...

Finally, peacekeeping is not just soldiering under a different-coloured helmet."

Which concludes this chapter.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Amnesty International Response to My Letter Protesting Chomsky Lecture

I received what turns out to be a form letter from Amnesty International UK in response to my complaint about Chomsky's guest lecture recently. Here is the full text:


Dear Mr Johnson,

Thank you for your correspondence regarding the delivery of this year’s Amnesty International Annual Lecture in Belfast by Professor Noam Chomsky.
Please accept our apologies for the delay in responding.

I understand that the issue with which you are concerned is a very serious one. However, Professor Chomsky was an external guest speaker at the event and his views are not necessarily representative of those of Amnesty International. The lecture has been given by numerous people over the years – journalists, former Guantánamo detainees and serving national presidents. The opinions they put forward are not Amnesty policy, nor does their giving the lecture imply complete agreement between Amnesty and the individual on every topic.

The decision to invite Professor Chomsky to deliver the Belfast lecture was made by Amnesty International UK. We felt that he was a speaker of international repute with views on international affairs that would be of interest to the event’s audience.

Whilst Amnesty International UK continues to believe that its decision was legitimate, we recognize that it is contentious. We do not believe that the invitation implied endorsement of his views on the Balkans conflicts or any other subject. We acknowledge that it has caused offence to some, and this is of particular concern where the complainants are survivors or witnesses to the human rights abuses in the Balkans. This was not our intent, and we apologise for any offence we have caused to you through the lecture or collateral publicity. We should note that we have made Professor Chomsky aware of some of the criticism and he believes that it is based on misrepresentation of his views and comments.

Amnesty’s view on the conflict and the abuses that took place is very clear, however. We are committed to pursuing justice for the victims of the Srebrenica massacre and other human rights abuses, and for their families. In fact we released a new report as recently as September, looking at the failure to provide justice for thousands of women who were raped during the conflict in Bosnia.

Best wishes,
Gordon Bennett

Supporter Care Team
Amnesty International UK
Tel: 020 7033 1777

Amnesty International UK
The Human Rights Action Centre
17-25 New Inn Yard

Saturday, December 05, 2009

"Americans for Bosnia" Celebrates Post #500 with an All-Star Extravaganza

Well, no, not really. I considered writing a "looking back" post to remark on how things have changed in Bosnia in the over 3 and a half years I've been writing this blog; after all, back in the spring of 2006, Radovan Karadzic was still a free man!

But, there's too much going on in and related to Bosnia as it is, and I've been so lax about keeping this blog up that it seems a waste of what little time I've been able to dedicate to keeping up to the good fight on a retrospective of what I've done, or on recap of recent events which most every reader is already aware of anyway.

I will take a few minutes to reflect, however. One thing I am happy about with this blog is that it has developed something of an identity; for better or worse, "Americans for Bosnia" is first and foremost a blog of book reviews. I do, of course, sometimes link to articles or weigh in on current events, but there are many, many blogs and websites out there who do the same thing, do it better, and much more reliably. Had I tried to compete with them, this blog would have ended up as little more than yet another well-intentioned, earnest failure. As it is, I like to think that I have been able to make some modest contribution to the Bosnian cause.

I also must confess that while not everyone enjoys my lengthy review of revisionist works such as "Fools' Crusade", those projects are among my favorites. I really enjoy the work of confronting such disingenuous works on their own terms, and systematically refuting both the specific charges in those books as well as the underlying premises they are founded on. Sorry to say, but you can expect a few morer such projects in the future. Unfortunately, Balkan revisionists have found a willing market for their poison, and the more places unwitting potential readers can stumble across contentious "corrections", the better.

That said, I also have some regrets. One is that I have not yet followed through on my promise to create an annotated bibliography of works about Bosnia, the war, and related topics. This would be a worthy project, and I have nobody but myself to blame for not having made any meaningful progress on it to date.

A smaller regret--and perhaps a concession to my own ego--I wish that my "review of one section of Jimmy Carter's Beyond the White House: Waging Peace, Fighting Disease, Building Hope had either received a bit more attention, or triggered a bit more scrutiny, or at least been part of a larger reexamination of Carter's misguided views on the crisis he intervened in without bothering to understand. It was noted by many at the time that his negotiating was a disgrace, but I still feel that too few people took note that over a decade later, Carter still didn't get it.

Another shortcoming of my work so far is less a regret than an impatience--I have felt for some time that I have been fitfully crawling towards a larger, and more all-encompassing, purpose in this blog. Some sense that the lessons of Bosnia apply in a larger sense to the post-Cold War world; but also that the arguments over intervention and Bakan revisionism concern larger issues about national sovereignty, human rights, global citizenship, international interventions, and so forth.

That said, I have enjoyed working on this blog for many reasons, but the main one has been the new contacts I have made, the discovery of like-minded people who are passionate and informed, and generous with their time and their comments. It has been a joy and a privilage to get to know some of you through our correspondence.

That said, I'll be back to regular blogging shortly, and I look forward to the next 500 posts!

Friday, December 04, 2009

"In Harm's Way" by Martin Bell [13]

Chapter 14: Court Martial by Blue-Eyed Stare

Here we meet General Michael Rose, the British UN Commander in Bosnia of less-than-stellar reputation among certain circles (ahem). Bell holds Rose in much higher regard than I do, and to be honest he makes a case that I may need to revise my opinion. Bell was the reporter who passed along Rose's "intemperate" (to be very generous) comment that the Bosnian government army had deliberately collapsed its' defenses at Goradze in order to draw the UN and NATO into the war on their side.

Bell's version of events suggests that while Rose certainly meant what he said, he possibly did not mean to imply a larger shifting of blame for the war. Bell strongly implies that Rose knew that the Bosnian Serb leadership and the Belgrade regime were the primary movers of the conflict, and in this chapter at least there is no suggestion that Rose adopted a wider blame-the-victim interpretation of events based on his belief that the Bosnian government exaggerated the situation in Goradze in order to sway Western opinion. Nor does Bell apologize for the possible role the media might have played in such a scenario, although he certainly is aware of the theoretical dynamic which would have been in play.

There are also hints at the personal dynamics driving the lack of cooperation between the UN and NATO. Given that the UN ultimately failed to stop aggression in Bosnia, and that NATO airstrikes helped bring the war to an end, Rose's trademark brusqueness and intemperance seem much less charming than earlier in the chapter.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

"In Harm's Way" by Martin Bell [12]

Apologies for dragging this out so long. I will resume regular blogging shortly; in the meantime, take my word for it that the next two chapters:

Chapter12: Colonel Bob


Chapter 13: Soldiervision

while interesting, entertaining, and certainly relevant to the subject of war reporting (and to a lesser degree to the public perception of the Bosnian war in the UK), are only of tangential relation to the main purpose of this blog.

There are only 10 chapter and a Conclusion to go; I promise to wrap this up sooner rather than later. I am as eager to move on to another project as my readers most likely are for me to finish with this book already!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Swiss Ban on Minarets

Swiss Vote to Ban New Minarets

This story is largely just another illustration of the ways in which unease about the growth of Islam within Europe is affecting the political debate over there, and the degree to which far-right parties might be able to harness such unease for electoral gain.

It's worth noting, however, that the vast majority of Swiss Muslims are Europeans--Bosniaks, Albanians, and Turks. And many of them fled to Switzerland from the former Yugoslavia during the war, as refugees. How bitterly ironic that they fled from tormentors who were determined to rid that part of Europe of its Islamic past and culture, and who destroyed hundreds of mosques and minarets as part of that campaign of cultural annihilation. And now, these European Muslims are being implicitly told yet again that they are not truly part of Europe.

It is disturbing that the largely secular and non-militant Muslim minority in what has always been known as a religiously tolerant democracy could be the target of such discriminatory actions.

Perhaps Karadzic, Plavsic, Cosic, and the others were right--maybe there is no room in Europe for Muslims. Even those Muslims who have been European all along.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bosnia Vs. Portugal, Leg 2

A spot in the World Cup is on the line as Portugal brings it's 1-0 first-leg lead to Zenica for the final game of the home-and-home aggregate tie:

Bosnia-Herzegovina v Portugal

Sorry I did not post the results of the first leg; I was out of town Saturday (at a soccer tournament, appropriately enough) without internet access.

Portugal will be without Cristiano Ronaldo, and possibly without Deco and Bruno Alves; Bosnia without Emir Spahic, Elver Rahimic and Samir Muratovic. This could be a test of which team has more quality on the bench. Or it could be a test of how well Portugal deals with what is by all accounts a sub-standard pitch.

This is a tough match for me, as my son adores Portugal and would scoff at me for cheering against them; that said--best of luck to Bosnia. No country could use an appearance at the World Cup more.

Friday, November 13, 2009

"In Harm's Way" by Martin Bell [11]

Chapter 11: Something Must Be Done

An interesting meditation on the influence TV coverage has on government policy; too much, according to Bell, and he believes that governments should control policy in serious issues like war. "But, in Bosnia, they left it to us."

Bell witnessed firsthand how the Bosnian government, the Bosnian Serb republic, and the Croatian forces all tried to use the media to their advantage; he notes how often Radovan Karadzic responded to what he perceived as unfair coverage. All sides in the conflict understood that in the modern age, the satellite dish was a weapon.


I apologize for letting this review drag on so long. I will pick up the pace after this weekend.

Monday, November 09, 2009

"Dangerous Games" by Margaret MacMillan

Author and historian Margaret MacMillan's latest book, Dangerous Games: The Uses and Abuses of History is a short and readable polemic arguing that History--used properly and fairly--has an important role to play in society and culture. MacMillan assumes very little here--she is willing to back the debate up to fundamental questions along the lines of "What is History for?" and "Is the study of History worth the effort?"

I don't agree with all of her opinions--I supported the Iraq invasion, for example--but there is much here to agree with and take heart from. More to the point for this blog, MacMillan may not have actively supported military intervention in Bosnia, but she certainly sees the rationale. The former Yugoslavia comes up with some frequency throughout the book, and it's quite obvious that MacMillan's understanding of the situation was grounded in reality.

Which would be of only marginal interest except for the primary reason she was able to understand the root causes of the war and to identify the correct perpetrators of the ethnic violence unleashed against the people of Yugoslavia. Chapter Five (the chapters are more like related essays, making selective reading no obstacle to fully appreciating each separate piece), entitled "History and Nationalism", should be required reading for anyone who wishes to discuss the "ancient tribal hatreds" of the Balkans, or indeed anyone who wishes to pontificate on historic claims to land in the region, or to the centrality of Kosovo to "Serbdom," and so forth.

MacMillan understands--as far too few observers and pundits and self-appointed experts--that national identities are artificial constructs, and that generally they are a product of the modern age. The connections between modern national identities and earlier tribal, ethnic, religious, or linguistic identities are, of course, not created from whole cloth; those connections exist, but they are only the foundation of a deliberately created national identity, which always relies on a grand narrative which is part history and part nation-building mythology.

There is nothing wrong with this, of course, as long as we do not allow the claims of less self-aware nationalists to replace sober history with a wholesale acceptance of national mythologies, especially when one nation's myths come at the expense of their neighbors own right to self-determination.

Comparing MacMillans sensible, even-handed, and (to repeat myself) sober illustration of the nation-building function of national mythologies to the tendency of Balkan revisionists and apologists for Serb nationalism to accept such myths as that of the Battle of Kosovo Polje at face value is almost unfair, as if one were comparing an essay on Western Christmas traditions to a child's letter to Santa Claus.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Society for Threatened Peoples International Open Letter to Noam Chomsky and Amnesty International

To Noam Chomsky and Amnesty International (AI)
On the occasion of the Annual Amnesty International Lecture being given today,
Friday, in Belfast

Göttingen/Belfast, 30 October 2009

You are a genocide denier, Professor Chomsky!

Dear Professor Chomsky,
Dear Friends of Amnesty International,

Once again you find yourself invited to appear in a public forum, this time in Belfast. In the past, Belfast was a city with a long-standing reputation for discrimination against the Catholic population, but today those of us who are familiar with the city’s past history of conflict, crime and disorder are pleased and relieved that the Protestants and Catholics of Northern Ireland have finally emerged from a long dark tunnel.

The focus of our human rights organisation’s work is the support that we give to minority groups who have been the victims of genocide and dispossession. The two guiding principles inspiring us are that firstly we work with the people "Von denen keiner spricht" - the people no-one talks about, and secondly we are "Auf keinem Auge blind" - never turning a blind eye. We believe that "persecution, extermination and expulsion, the establishment of concentration camps and rape camps are always and everywhere crimes, now just as they were in the past. Irrespective of which government is responsible and on which continent and in which country those crimes are being perpetrated. The legacy bequeathed to us by all the victims of yesterday is an obligation to come to the assistance of the victims of today".

You, Professor Chomsky, choose to ignore those precepts. You call genocide genocide when it suits your ideological purposes. Who could condone the murkier aspects of American foreign policy or fail to condemn the way that policy has supported and encouraged crimes against humanity? But you express your criticism of the crimes of the recent past in a perverse way, that makes genocide the almost exclusive prerogative of organisations with close links to the US. It is only then that you consider it to be genocide. And it is only your political/ideological friends who are apparently incapable of committing genocide.

That was the situation in Cambodia. While the international press was reporting how the genocide of the Khmer Rouge had eliminated one in every three or four of
that country‘s inhabitants, you were laying the blame for those crimes at the door of
the US. That was shameful and in any reasonable person stirred memories of
Holocaust denial elsewhere in the world.
In the same way you have denied the genocide perpetrated in Bosnia-Herzegovina by Serb forces who killed not only Bosnian Muslims but along with them Bosnian Serbs and Croats as well who had chosen to remain alongside them, in the besieged city of Sarajevo for example.

To deny the fact of genocide in Bosnia is absurd, particularly when both the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague and the International Court of Justice, also in The Hague, have had no hesitation in confirming that that genocide was perpetrated in Bosnia, above all at Srebrenica.

For the benefit of the apparently unpolitical and ideologically uncommitted Friends of Amnesty International we are prepared once again to provide a summary of the facts of genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina. And we should like to remind you of them, too, Professor Chomsky, in your denial of genocide:

1. 200,000 civilians interned in over one hundred concentration, detention and rape camps.
2. Many thousands of internees murdered in concentration camps including Omarska, Manjača, Keraterm, Trnopolje, Luka Brčko, Sušica and Foča.
3. Members of the non-Serb political and intellectual elites systematically arrested and eliminated.
4. Approximately 2.2 million Bosnians displaced, exiled and scattered to the four corners of the globe.
5. Many thousands of unrecorded deaths still missing from the official statistics, including children, the elderly and sick and wounded refugees.
6. 500,000 Bosnians in five UN so-called “safe areas” (Tuzla, Goražde, Srebrenica, Žepa, and Bihać) and other, fallen, enclaves such as Cerska besieged, starved, sniped at, shelled and many of them killed over a period of as long as four years in some cases.
7. A four year-long artillery bombardment of the sixth UN safe area, the city of Sarajevo, killing approximately 11,000, including 1500 children.
8. Massacres and mass executions in many towns and municipalities in northern, western and eastern Bosnia (the Posavina, the Prijedor area and the Podrinje).
9. Hundreds of villages and urban areas systematically destroyed.
10. The entire heritage of Islamic religious and cultural monuments, including 1189 mosques and madrassas, destroyed, and extensive destruction of Catholic religious monuments including as many as 500 churches and religious houses.
11. Remains of approximately 15,000 missing victims still to be found, exhumed and identified.
12. 284 UN soldiers taken hostage and used as human shields.
13. Over 20 thousand Bosnian Muslim women raped, in rape camps and elsewhere.
14. 8376 men and boys from the town of Srebrenica murdered and their bodies concealed in mass graves.

The history of Kosovo is familiar to people who know Southeastern Europe: After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Kosovo was annexed to the Serb-dominated Kingdom of Serbs, Croatians and Slovenes (1918). Following the original occupation and then again in the 1920s, 1930s and 1950s Yugoslavian and Serbian governments expelled the Albanians to Turkey where well over one million people of Albanian origin live today. After the gradual dismantling of Kosovo's autonomy, proclaimed too late by Tito, Slobodan Milosevic's army and militia killed some 10,000 Albanians and forced half the population – roughly one million people - to flee. The NATO military intervention, some specific aspects of which must certainly be condemned, halted the killing and expulsions.
Someone like yourself, Professor Chomsky, who on various occasions has shown himself unwilling to acknowledge genocide and goes so far as to deny it forfeits all credibility. That is why we question your moral integrity and call on you to stand up before the public in Belfast and apologise for those hurtful comments of yours concerning the Cambodian, Bosnian and Kosovar victims of genocide.

Yours sincerely,

Tilman Zülch
President of the Society for Threatened Peoples International (STPI)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

"In Harm's Way" by Martin Bell [10]

Chapter 9: Panorama-The Destination of Choice

Another highly enjoyable chapter about broadcasting; in this case, about Bell's stint with "Panorama", a "news-magazine" type show. More specifically, this chapter describes how Bell--a long-time newsman from the other side of the fence--came to be assigned to a piece on Bosnia for Panorama, as well as the context behind that move.

Good reading, but again only of relevance to this blog to the extent that it gets us to:

Chapter 10: Forcing the Peace

A synopsis of the content of that Panorama piece, along with the story of "the making of." I have not seen the piece itself yet, but apparently it was very influential and watched back in Britain, and it seems that Bell used the piece to call for some sort of action by the international community.

The chapter ends with Bell expounding on the notion that journalists have the obligation to do more than simply engage in "hand-wringing" over man-made tragedies such as Bosnia. Once again, Bell's fundamental decency and humanity comes through in this chapter.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Open Letter from Ed Vulliamy to Amnesty International

[I am passing this open letter along. Please feel free to copy the entire text and post it in any forum you wish.]

Open Letter from Ed Vulliamy to Amnesty International

Noam Chomsky has been invited to give the annual Amnesty International Lecture in Belfast. This is second time in four years that Chomsky has been invited to give an Amnesty International Lecture (following Dublin in 2006). To celebrate Chomsky’s forthcoming Lecture appearance Amnesty gives him a respectful and uncritical platform for his views over three pages of the latest Amnesty (UK) Magazine.

Amnesty appears oblivious to the controversies that surround some of Chomsky’s views on human rights, and in particular the support that he has offered and continues to offer to polemicists who deny the substance, scope and authorship of the worst atrocities perpetrated during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war.

In recent years Chomsky has caused particular controversy through his support for the author Diana Johnstone, known for her “revisionist” views on Bosnia concerning the Prijedor concentration camps, the Srebrenica genocide and the existence of the Bosnian rape camps. Chomsky salutes her “outstanding” scholarship and defends her “serious, honest work”.

He represents his support for Johnstone as a defence of her right to freedom of speech while at the same time he denigrates the eyewitness testimony of The Guardian's reporter Ed Vulliamy whose account of the reality of the Omarska and Trnopolje camps forced the horror of what was happening in Bosnia onto the attention of the rest of the world and in so doing saved the lives of many of the prisoners detained in them.

Without explanation Chomsky characterises Ed Vulliamy’s description of Omarska and Trnopolje as “probably” wrong while at the same time he endorses the claim by Thomas Deichmann and LM magazine that Vulliamy, Penny Marshall and Ian Williams gave a false account of the situation in the Prijedor camps as “probably” correct. Chomsky disregards the finding of a High Court libel action which - following the evidence of a doctor detained in one of the camps - confirmed that Vulliamy and his colleagues had told the truth.

When asked why Amnesty offers a platform to a man who challenges the reporting of human rights abuses that Amnesty itself substantiated and champions the seriousness and honesty of individuals who try to deny those abuses, Amnesty’s response was to observe that invitees are not representatives of Amnesty International nor expected to deliver an Amnesty International policy position within their lecture, but rather they have been invited as having something interesting and thought-provoking to say about human rights in the world today and Amnesty International does not necessarily endorse all their opinions.

When Ed Vulliamy was asked to comment on Amnesty’s invitation to Chomsky he wrote the open letter below. The language expresses his depth of feeling, not only on his own behalf but also on behalf of the friends forced to suffer “the ghastly, searing, devastating impact” of Chomsky’s denial of their experience.

Anyone who shares these concerns can express their views for the attention of Irene Khan, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, at
or Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK (AIUK), at

Open Letter to Amnesty International

To whom it may concern:

I have been contacted by a number of people regarding Amnesty International’s invitation to Professor Noam Chomsky to lecture in Northern Ireland.

The communications I have received regard Prof. Chomsky’s role in revisionism in the story of the concentration camps in northwestern Bosnia in 1992, which it was my accursed honour to discover.
As everyone interested knows, a campaign was mounted to try and de-bunk the story of these murderous camps as a fake - ergo, to deny and/or justify them - the dichotomy between these position still puzzles me.

The horror of what happened at Omarska and Trnopolje has been borne out by painful history, innumerable trials at the Hague, and - most importantly by far - searing testimony from the survivors and the bereaved. These were places of extermination, torture, killing, rape and, literally “concentration” prior to enforced deportation, of people purely on grounds of ethnicity.

Prof. Chomsky was not among those (“Novo” of Germany and “Living Marxism” in the UK) who first proposed the idea that these camps were a fake. He was not among those who tried unsuccessfully (they were beaten back in the High Court in London, by a libel case taken by ITN) to put up grotesque arguments about fences around the camps, which were rather like Fred Leuchter’s questioning whether the thermal capacity of bricks was enough to contain the heat needed to gas Jews at Auschwitz. But Professor Chomsky said many things, from his ivory tower at MIT, to spur them on and give them the credibility and energy they required to spread their poisonous perversion and denials of these sufferings. Chomsky comes with academic pretensions, doing it all from a distance, and giving the revisionists his blessing. And the revisionists have revelled in his endorsement.

In an interview with the Guardian, Professor Chomsky paid me the kind compliment of calling me a good journalist, but added that on this occasion (the camps) I had “got it wrong”. Got what wrong?!?! Got wrong what we saw that day, August 5th 1992 (I didn’t see him there)? Got wrong the hundreds of thousands of families left bereaved, deported and scattered asunder? Got wrong the hundreds of testimonies I have gathered on murderous brutality? Got wrong the thousands whom I meet when I return to the commemorations? If I am making all this up, what are all the human remains found in mass graves around the camps and so painstakingly re-assembled by the International Commission for Missing Persons?

These people pretend neutrality over Bosnia, but are actually apologists for the Milosevic/Karadzic/Mladic plan, only too pathetic to admit it. And the one thing they never consider from their armchairs is the ghastly, searing, devastating impact of their game on the survivors and the bereaved. The pain they cause is immeasurable. This, along with the historical record, is my main concern. It is one thing to survive the camps, to lose one’s family and friends - quite another to be told by a bunch of academics with a didactic agenda in support of the pogrom that those camps never existed. The LM/Novo/Chomsky argument that the story of the camps was somehow fake has been used in countless (unsuccessful) attempts to defend mass murderers in The Hague.

For decades I have lived under the impression that Amnesty International was opposed to everything these people stand for, and existed to defend exactly the kind of people who lost their lives, family and friends in the camps and at Srebrenica three years later, a massacre on which Chomsky has also cast doubt. I have clearly been deluded about Amnesty. For Amnesty International, of all people, to honour this man is to tear up whatever credibility they have estimably and admirably won over the decades, and to reduce all they say hitherto to didactic nonsense.

Why Amnesty wants to identify with and endorse this revisionist obscenity, I do not know. It is baffling and grotesque. By inviting Chomsky to give this lecture, Amnesty condemns itself to ridicule at best, hurtful malice at worst - Amnesty joins the revisionists in spitting on the graves of the
dead. Which was not what the organisation was, as I understand, set up for. I have received a letter from an Amnesty official in Northern Ireland which reads rather like a letter from Tony Blair’s office after it has been caught out cosying up to British Aerospace or lying over the war in Iraq -
it is a piece of corporate gobbledygook, distancing Amnesty from Chomsky’s views on Bosnia, or mealy-mouthedly conceding that they are disagreed with.

There is no concern at all with the victims, which is, I suppose, what one would expect from a bureaucrat. In any event, the letter goes nowhere towards addressing the revisionism, dispelling what will no doubt be a fawning, self-satisfied introduction in Belfast and rapturous applause for
the man who gives such comfort to Messrs Karadzic and Mladic, and their death squads. How far would Amnesty go in inviting and honouring speakers whose views it does not necessarily share, in the miserable logic of this AI official in Belfast? A lecture by David Irving on Joseph Goebbels?
Alistair Campbell on how Saddam really did have those WMD? The Chilean Secret Police or Colonel Oliver North on the communist threat in Latin America during the 70s and 80s? What about Karadzic himself on the “Jihadi” threat in Bosnia, and the succulence of 14-year-old girls kept in rape camps?

I think I am still a member of AI - if so, I resign. If not, thank God for that. And to think: I recently came close to taking a full time job as media director for AI. That was a close shave - what would I be writing now, in the press release: “Come and hear the great Professor Chomsky inform you all that the stories about the camps in Bosnia were a lie - that I was hallucinating that day, that the skeletons of the dead so meticulously re-assembled by the International Commission for Missing Persons are all plastic? That the dear friends I have in Bosnia, the USA, the UK and elsewhere who struggle to put back together lives that were broken by Omarska and Trnopolje are making it all up?

Some press release that would have been. Along with the owner of the site of the Omarska camp, the mighty Mittal Steel Corporation, Amnesty International would have crushed it pretty quick. How fitting that Chomsky and Mittal Steel find common cause. Yet how logical, and to me, obvious. After all, during the Bosnian war, it was the British Foreign Office, the CIA, the UN and great powers who, like the revisionists Chomsky champions, most eagerly opposed any attempt to stop the genocide that lasted, as it was encouraged by them and their allies in high politics to last, for three bloody years from 1992 until the Srebrenica massacre of 1995.

Yours, in disgust and despair,

Ed Vulliamy,
The Observer.


On the heels of its announcement of the Chomsky lecture Amnesty published a report on the ongoing search for justice by the victims of rape in Bosnia.

Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty International's Europe Programme Director, acknowledges that "During the war, thousands of women and girls were raped, often with extreme brutality. Many were held in prison camps, hotels and private houses where they were sexually exploited. Many women and girls were killed. To this day, survivors of these crimes have been denied access to justice. Those responsible for their suffering - members of military forces, the police or paramilitary groups - walk free. Some remain in positions of power or live in the same community as their victims."

Alisa Muratcaus of the Association of Concentration Camp Torture Survivors, Canton Sarajevo, insists that people who deny that the mass rape of Bosnian women was a strategic element of the war are talking “nonsense”. Her Association, composed of Muslim, Croat, Serb, and Romani members, many of them victims in camps and prisons throughout Bosnia of atrocities including rape and other forms of sexual torture, works closely with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague which has established beyond doubt that rape was used in Bosnia as a weapon of war.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Trial of Radovan Karadzic Starts Without Him

I'm sure all readers of this blog already know that Radovan Karadzic chose to boycott the first day of his own trial for crimes against humanity and genocide.

I was originally outraged he was allowed to do this. I now hope that this might actually be a good development. According to some published reports including the above-linked story, Karadzic is assembling a large legal team and intends to base his defense on Serb nationalist grounds--that ethnic Serbs had a right to create Greater Serbia, and that they were fighting to protect the rest of Europe from the creation of an Islamist state in its own borders.

If that is indeed his strategy, we should welcome it. Let him make his case. Let the world hear, without filters and without apologies, the rationale for the genocide at Srebrenica. Let the Balkan revisionists and the apologists for the Serbian nationalist project try to spin that. Let the glib "anti-imperialists" explain why Western democracies have no moral or legal right to interfere in the implementation of an avowedly fascist enterprise by a regional bully.

Bring it on, Mr. Karadzic. You want history to judge you? Make your case. Too many people have forgot what the Bosnian war was about, if they ever understood in the first place. If you want to remind us, you'll be doing everybody a big favor. Everybody but yourself.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

New Op-Ed from Bob Dole in Wall Street Journal

Former Senator and Republican candidate Bob Dole weighed in on the current constitutional crisis in Bosnia in yesterday's Wall Street Journal:

Bosnia and American Exceptionalism

This is a very serious, sober, and incisive analysis. I commend Dole for taking this unambiguous stand, and I hope policymakers in Washington are listening to him.

Monday, October 19, 2009

"In Harm's Way" by Martin Bell [9]

Chapter 8: Of Serbs and Satellites

Earlier, Bell mentioned that his view towards the Serbs was more ambiguous than some of his more impassioned colleagues. In this chapter, he goes to some length to explain why.

I was dreading this chapter; I was afraid that Bell would end up confronting the same strawmen that Balkan revisionists so often drag out in an effort to bog down the debate over Bosnia in false equivalences, forcing their opponents to back down from "anti-Serb" positions they largely never held in the first place.

I am not "anti-Serb"; I am, however, anti-fascist, anti-racist, and anti-collectivist. As I noted frequently in my review of Diana Johnstone's "Fools' Crusade", one of the most frustrating aspects of dealing with Balkan revisionists and Serb-nationalist apologists is that they have boxed themselves in with their own collectivism; because their worldview is collectivist, they can only conceive of war guilt in collective terms. Any crimes committed by a nation's political elite or by forces operating in the nation's name must be shared by the entire nation, or not at all. Any criticism of the actions of some Serbs becomes an attack on all Serbs. The guilt becomes too much to bear, and is easily refuted.

Fortunately, this is not what Bell is up to. He never forgot which forces started the war, which side committed the lion's share of atrocities, which political elite sought to divide the country up into ethnically cleansed cantons. What he does do is to note that because most Western reporters were largely trapped in Sarajevo, they naturally came to identify with the victims of the Serb nationalist assault on the city, and to regard "the Serbs" as the 'bad guys' and the Muslims as the 'good guys.'

It needs to be said--this was a gross oversimplification of the situation in Bosnia, and regrettably the Western media did often distill the conflict down to this--that word again--collectivist stereotype. Which, of course, gives ammunition to the Diana Johnstones and Michael Parentis of the world.

But Martin Bell isn't one of them. His one fault in this chapter was that he might have failed to realize that the Serbs he spoke to were operating in an extreme situation, and a very ideologically charged one. The stereotype of people in the Balkans is that they are people who live in the past, drenched in a deeply-felt sense of history. The Serbs Bell met lived up to this image almost too well, and it's a shame that such an experienced journalist accepted the glib generalizations about Balkan history which were used to explain (if not justify) so much extreme behavior and statements.

Aside from that, this is actually a very balanced and fair account, in which he mulls over the built-in bias that reporting from the point of view of the primary victims instilled. Acknowledging that this bias was justified by events (which the revisionists, of course, wish to deny) does not negate the point. It does, however, lessen the urgency of the question, as Bell seems to acknowledge at the end.

Bell also recognized something which Western policy makers--particularly those who wished to keep the international community as disengaged as possible--routinely lied about; the tenuous situation the Bosnian Serb military was in. Bell identified the enormity of the Serb advantage in armor, heavy artillery, transportation and supply logistics (although he stressed it less than I would have liked), but he also realized how thinly-spread they were in infantry. Since he also realized that the government side had an enormous advantage in sheer man-power, he should have recognized that population alone could not account for that--many male Serbs of fighting age wanted now part of the Greater Serbia project.

But while Bell sometimes lacked the basic raw data which might have helped him to interpret the situation, he was very attuned to what he saw. He saw through the crude bragging and bullying from the Bosnian Serb leadership, and as noted he never forgot the political and military origins of the war. But he remained humane and curious about the fate of the individual human beings who were, increasing, removed from view on the other side of the lines.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Milorad Trbic Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison for Srebrenica Genocide

Great news; the wheels of international justice haven't completely stopped moving. Milorad Trbic has been sentenced to 30 years for his rule in the Srebrenica Genocide. See this post from Srebrenica Genocide Blog for more details and links. This is real victory, even though of course the sentence will always pale in comparison to the scale of the crime in a genocide trial. But what is important is the 'guilty' verdict itself. An international body has spoken for all of us, and condemned evil in our name.


There are people who argue that we in the international community need to "move on", either to heal or to let the past stay past, and so on. It helps to be reminded (painful as it may be) that the war over the meaning of the Balkan wars (and the larger issues involved) is hardly over. Oliver Kamm shines a bright light on one of the many dingy little corners of Srebrenica denial/Balkan revisionism in this article. Regular readers of this blog--especially those of you who stuck with my through the epic "Fools' Crusade" blow-by-blow review--will have little difficulty guessing whether or not I side with Kamm on the "ignore their poisonous nonsense, or call them out on their distortion of the historical record" debate.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

"In Harm's Way" by Martin Bell [8]

Moving right along, the next two chapters are interesting reading but not particularly related to the focus of this blog.

Chapter 6: One Day in August

A very colorful and drolly-told tale of when Bell took some shrapnel while in Bosnia. He was properly ashamed at the level of care he received versus the plight of Bosnian civilians trapped in Sarajevo. He also includes the story of Mark Cook, a member of the British military who led the effort to rebuild an orphanage completely destroyed by the war in Croatia; his connection with Bell (he was a witness to the shrapnel incident) gave him the opportunity to publicize the need for funds needed to completely rebuild the orphanage.

Chapter 7: Tuna

A tale of war reporting, the particular challenges and satisfactions it provides for its practitioners as well as the high price some pay. In this case, the highest price was paid by Tihomir Tunukovic or "Tuna", a young Croatian cameraman who provided invaluable service to Bell and his BBC crew throughout the war in Croatia. Later, Tuna would venture to Bosnia where his luck ran out. Bell was one of the speakers at Tuna's funeral, which was attended by 2000 or more mourners.

Both of these chapters are touching, humane, and well-written. I don't mean to give them short shrift, but I'm eager to move on to chapters more directly related to the subject matter of the blog.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

World Cup Qualifying Update and a Couple of Recommendations

A bit of a grab bag today. I was out of town at a youth soccer tournament (our son's team made the final only to lose 2-0; a good result for a new team still trying to gel as a unit) and yesterday I was simply too tired to jump back into the groove. I plan to resume the book review this week.

Anyway, speaking of soccer, the Bosnian national team clinched a spot in UEFA second-round qualifying with a 2-0 win over Estonia in Tallinn. This is a great achievement for this team, and we should soon know who their competition will be in that final round. A World Cup appearance could be a real boost to a shared sense of Bosnian identity.

As long-time readers of this blog know, I have a bad habit of periodically realizing that I've been visiting another Bosnia-related blog for months or even years without ever remembering to add it to my Blogroll. So today, allow me to partially atone for yet another oversight by giving a big tip of the hat to Tuzla Daily Photo, a fantastic photoblog which has been documenting daily life in Tuzla for over three years now. Word is that at least one of the two authors is getting discouraged with low traffic and is considering throwing in the towel; this blog is a fantastic resource documenting the day-to-day realities of life away from the headlines in post-war Bosnia, and it would be a shame if it were to go into disuse. Please give them some more traffic (and then continue to do so) so we don't lose yet another wonderful blog.

Finally--and I hate to end on a somewhat pessimistic note--anyone with an interest in Bosnia and its continued viability needs to read Marko Attila Hoare's sobering piece Bosnia: Weighing the Options. It's grim reading, but given that he may very well be correct that time is running out, this may be the bracing splash of cold water some policy makers need to hear.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

"In Harm's Way" by Martin Bell [7]

Chapter 5: Staying Alive

Another chapter full of interesting and colorful anecdotes regarding the art of craft of war reporting, specifically from Bosnia. Of interest to anyone who actually reads this very well-written book, but not so much in terms of this blog.

At the risk of seeming petty, allow me to share one observation: Bell's friend "Lew" MacKenzie comes up once; Bell and his crew were invited along with the General to witness his meeting with the Serb forces. This was a good scoop for Bell, and the only price was framed thusly:

"The quid pro quo for this was that I would not show him having lunch with them--a sensitive issue in starving Sarajevo."

It is perhaps unfair and snide of me to point that out; I must admit that if the UN official in question were someone other than Lewis MacKenzie I might very well have let that observation alone. But there it is.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Mazowiecki Reports

I had noticed not too long ago that my link to the Mazowiecki Reports no longer worked--the documents had been taken down at the university hosting them.

When Daniel at "Srebrenica Genocide Blog" asked me about them, I realized I needed to actually do something about it--I am happy to report that I've corrected the problem by linking to the UN itself, where hopefully the documents will remain available online for some time.

Thank you Daniel, for motivating me! I hadn't checked that link for some time, so I have no idea how long it was faulty.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

"In Harm's Way" by Martin Bell [6]

Chapter 4: Homes from Home

This chapter--while somewhat longer than many, and not without interest, is of little direct relevance to this blog. This is essentially a slice of life for war reporters; a collection of colorful anecdotes about how Bell and his colleagues moved around looking for suitable places to set up base and from which to do their reporting. A comment about American reporter Kurt Schork, whom Bell clearly admired, is worthy of some notice:

"For Kurt the Bosnian war was and still is an epic struggle between good and evil. I meet more Serbs and see more shades of grey in it than he does, but I have never wavered in my admiration for him."

It should be noted that this comes after Bell has related the story of the first time he met Schork--at a press conference with Ratko Mladic, who physically assaulted Schork for having the temerity to ask him a direct question. Bell seems not to have considered that rather than coloring Schork's view towards "the Serbs", it may have educated him on the character of the specific leaders who were waging war against the Bosnian state. But Bell's admiration for the man seems genuine; rather than suspecting him of an implicit criticism, it is probably better to take him at his word and see why he think "knowing more Serbs" should have led him to doubt a "good versus evil" interpretation of the war he witnessed.

Otherwise, this is an enjoyable chapter, but we need to move on.

Friday, October 02, 2009

"In Harm's Way" by Martin Bell [5]

Chapter 3: The Road to War

Two points in this short chapter (after opening with his first entry into Bosnia, shortly after listening to a Serb officer brag about the 2 million shells his forces had used to reduce Vukovar to rubble).

First, Bell is convinced that the German-led recognition of Slovenia and Croatia was the primary trigger responsible for unleashing the Bosnian war. This point gets kicked around revisionist circles quite a bit, so it's tempting to dismiss it out of hand. But Bell is clearly no revisionist; his concern seems genuine and based not on any paranoid conspiracy theories about the "rise of Germany" but on a realistic and sympathetic--if rather myopic--reading of the situation.

For Bell was right to note that many observers at the time realized that recognition of Slovenia and Croatia was likely to 'encourage' Bosnia to declare independence itself, and that such a declaration would be violently opposed by the radicalized Serb minority and its nationalist leadership. However, Bell commits the error of beginning the story of the war in Bosnia when he arrived; the context of Yugoslavia's demise does not figure into his equation. While he is willing to consider the reaction of Bosnia's Serbs (that is to say, their political and military leadership and a radicalized minority within the Serb population) to independence, he does not stop to consider what the alternative was. Namely, for two minority ethnic groups to remain as cowed prisoners within Milosevic's Greater Serbia. Bosnians chose independence not because they were eager to break Yugoslavia up; they sought it because staying was not a reasonable option.

But they didn't have the guns or heavy artillery or the military infrastructure to inflict pain and death on their neighbors, so evidently an injustice against them might have been more palatable. This is unfair to Bell, who clearly had no love for Serb nationalist war aims, or for the Milosevic regime. But putting the blame of Germany for "encouraging" Slovene, Croat, and Bosnian Croat/Bosniak secession ignores the crucial issue of why they wanted to leave in the first place. Given the reaction of Serb forces after independence was declared, was it really fair to blame these people for not wanting to leave under Belgrade's boot?

The second issue he brings up is in regards to the lack of a British diplomatic presence in Sarajevo; an important issue for a BBC reporter and British citizen, but what is interest here is the anecdote he shares about Douglas Hurd's visit to Sarajevo. Bell quite clearly conveys dismay at Hurd's lack of interest in the plight of Sarajevo's citizens and in his seeming unwillingness to go out of his way to talk to the people, to listen to them, to find out what they are thinking and to understand what they were going through.

There are certain passages in this book which revisionists like Diana Johnstone could cherry-pick for their own purposes, but Bell quite certainly does not share their mission.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

"In Harm's Way" by Martin Bell [4]

Chapter 2: Peacekeepers Accomplices

Bell was obviously quite impressed by his two new peacekeeper friends and allies, particularly General MacKenzie ("Lew"), whom Bell describes as a man of action ill-suited for the sort of desk work he was originally assigned to when sent to Bosnia on a UN peacekeeping mission just prior to the outbreak of war. The time for diplomacy having passed, MacKenzie was out in the field directing the work of humanitarian relief the best he could; the reader can guess that his subsequent experience negotiating with militias at roadblocks on behalf of beleaguered supply convoys might well have colored his experience in Bosnia.

Bell describes the war at this point as "unstoppable," a point I might wish to debate, then moves on to an anecdote which made quite an impression on him and I think it is safe to assume on his buddy "Lew." Namely, the violence surrounding the evacuation of the Serb forces under General Kukanjac from the barracks in Sarajevo as part of a deal to win the release of President Izetbegovic, who had been kidnapped at the airport by Serb forces.

It's a well-known story to anyone who followed the war; as is known, Bosnian Government forces carried out an ambush on the fleeing Serb soldiers in violation of the deal the UN (under MacKenzie) had brokered. Bell goes on to list the lessons about war reporting he gained from this experience.

Lesson number one--"stay with it." Bell missed the worst of the the ambush because he was away filing a story for a deadline. Enough said, for our purposes.

Lesson number two--"the department of preconceived notions was alive and well and living in distant newsrooms." In short, because up until now the news from Bosnia had been stories of Serbs slaughtering Muslims, Bell found himself in some difficulty explaining that this extremely bloody incident was an example of a large number of Serbs being killed by (mostly) Muslims. Bell felt this issue put the previously unambiguous conflict in a new light, since "Serbs can be victims too" as he told his superiors back in Britain. Yet the equivalence between what he saw in the Drina valley--unarmed civilians being driving by violence and terror from their homes--and this unfortunate incident--the ambush of soldiers who had been surrounded and trapped within government territory until the kidnapping of their President won the release of those enemy troops, cannot be taken too far. I don't wish to dismiss the lives of those Serb soldiers who were ambushed and killed; but the situation was rather unique and not at all a parallel to the systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing Bell had been witness to. While I admire his genuine feeling for the victims of war, his analysis here is superficial.

Lesson three--in peacekeeping, the press had a different relation with the military than in standard war reporting. Bell identified with the UN. "We wished it to succeed." The normal relationship between the press and the military--somewhat suspicious and cagey on both sides, as the military wished to keep its cards close to its vest while the press sought to pry out information from sources it assumed were not being fully forthcoming with them--didn't exist in Bosnia. The UN was transparent and generally knew less about the situation on the ground than the press did, especially because of the constant rotation of officers.

So a relationship evolved, one involving the flow of information between the press and the UN (later the IFOR). Bell is upfront about this--while some might have felt this was unethical or unprofessional, he wanted to serve the cause of peace. And, he states, "to help the UN was to serve the cause of peace."

And so it ends, with Bell fantasizing about someday telling his grandchildren--who, hearing that journalists often used their profession as a cover for espionage, ask him if he was ever a spy--that "actually I was. Just once, I spied for peace."

Bell's motives seem decent. Yet there are unspoken assumptions at the heart of this chapter which he does not address. The press wanted the UN to "succeed"; but at what? And, Bell assures us that "to help the UN was to serve the cause of peace." That sounds noble and high-minded. But in Bosnia, was this true?

Monday, September 28, 2009

"In Harm's Way" by Martin Bell [3]

Chapter 2: Peacekeeper's Accomplices

And then we're in Bosnia...

The chapter starts early in the war, as Bell and his colleagues witness the human cost of the early days of ethnic cleansing in the Drina valley. Bell is painfully aware that the presence of Western journalists like him gives people false hope--he knows far better than they that he can do nothing. He makes this tragically accurate observation:

"We were the first indication they had received that the world beyond their valleys either knew of their plight or cared. What they did not know--and neither at the time did we, though we were both to find out later--was that there would be a world of difference between knowing and caring, and indeed between caring and acting."

Whatever else Bell did in Bosnia or says in this book, he deserves credit for that bald statement.

We have already established that Bell is a likable character, and the first few pages of this chapter demonstrate that he knew what was going on in numerous small towns and villages and the countryside outside of Sarajevo. So Bell has a reservoir of good will, one which he begins to test when one encounters this passage:

"Both sides were set on a collision course at a terrible cost to their people, and the war had already taken on such a momentum that the most gifted of mediators would have been powerless to prevent it. But that did not mean that they should stop trying, or that we as journalists stood neutrally between those who wished to intensify the conflict and those who wished to end it. There were two chief peacemakers in the field and both became friends and allies. One was Colm Doyle for the European Community, the other was Lew MacKenzie for the United Nations."

There is a world of potential trouble in that paragraph. To begin; this statement reveals that Bell had already internalized the idea that this was a war between people and "their" leaders from the outset. The fact that one of those leaders was actually the elected President of the entire country, versus strongmen and warlords in service to an illegal breakaway entity, does not figure in this statement, even though Bell has just demonstrated that he was aware of ethnic cleansing and furthermore was aware of who was behind it.

Secondly, I do not believe that it is noble or honorable for mediators and peacekeepers to keep trying to make an impossible peace. If traditional mediation cannot work, then the international community needs to try something else.

Thirdly, it seems that Bell draws a rather hasty conclusion, proposing a dichotomy by which one either wanted to stop the conflict cold, or intensify it. This simplistic view only makes sense if one ignores the very different war aims of the different actors. The unspoken implication--and perhaps Bell did not intend it--is that ethnic cleansing and widespread civilian suffering were the only possible results of any military success by either side. This was in April of 1992, it should be noted, long before the war and the neglect of the West pushed the government forces to a more nationalist and overtly Muslim-survival strategy.

The above were all, to varying degrees, common misconceptions and often unexamined and unconscious biases of Western observers and participants throughout the war; what is more exceptional is his frank statement that he became friends and allies with both Doyle and future Srebrenica-denier/Serb nationalist paid spokesperson MacKenzie.

This dynamic is what is most of interest here. I will continue with the second half of this chapter in the next post.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

"In Harm's Way" by Martin Bell [2]

Chapter 1: Marching as to War

This is a short post; sorry, but it's "pre-Bosnia" so hopefully that's OK.

This chapter describes Bell's experiences with the military; first, his National Service with the Sussex Regiment as a young man; and then as a war reporter, specifically focusing on his stint as a BBC reporter with British troops in the first Persian Gulf War. This chapter is amusing and entertaining, and Bell comes off as charmingly self-effacing and possessed of that dry, understated wit we Yanks assume is indoctrinated into our British cousins from birth. This chapter not only introduces the reader to Bell as a person, but also provides some context to how he approaches the job of war reporter and how he acquired the skills and knowledge necessary to survive and prosper at the craft.

So far, so good...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"In Harm's Way" by Martin Bell [1]

So, on to another book review. This one, subtitled "Reflections of a War-Zone Thug", is an account of BBC reporter Martin Bell's experiences covering the Bosnian war; as such, it is not a strict history of the war, nor is it an impassioned work of advocacy such as David Rieff's Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West. This is an account of war reporting as much as it is an account of an actual, specific war. Still, Bell was one of the more visible and respected broadcast journalists covering Bosnia, so his interpretation of events will be of some interest to anyone wishing to understand how the Western media filtered events for consumption back home.

It should be noted that Bell, whatever else I will say about him, was obviously moved and deeply affected by what he saw in Bosnia. The Prologue explains that this is "my first and probably my only book." He needed to write about his experiences in Bosnia, a need he had never felt or at least never pursued before. He freely admits that this book may be difficult to catalog, noting with amusement that booksellers "didn't know whether to classify In Harm's Way as Biography, Politics, Military, or Journalism. One of them even tried Travel."

We will see if his views on Bosnia are easier to categorize.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

George Will Draws the Wrong Lessons from Bosnia

It's a little hard to pin down exactly what George Will is trying to say in Bosnia's Lesson, his syndicated column today. Will--who has recently called for a US withdrawal from Afghanistan--suggests that the deteriorating situation in Bosnia today has lessons which can be applied to nation-building in Afghanistan. And, as far as that goes, he is most likely correct. But what are those lessons, exactly? Will does not say--although he quotes the late Samuel Huntington (whose famous work "Clash of Civilizations" completely misread the situation in Bosnia) approvingly: "It is human to hate." Well, yes. It is also human to love, to fear, to worry, to hope...and so on.

Will does encourage the reader to read The Death of Dayton, and this suggestion is by far the most useful and productive passage in his column--oddly enough, it seems he did not take his own advice.

While Will seems to be arguing for the pointlessness of trying to use "force" to create a nation in a place torn by hatred, the authors of the Foreign Affairs piece he alludes to do not at engage in broad generalizations about how humans have an innate need to hate, or that--as Will cryptically states--"Communities, like individuals, crave clear identities, which sometimes are built on foundations of shared dislikes." Rather, the article--which really is worth your time (and unfortunately is not available in full through the link in the article)--addresses the specifics of the Bosnian situation, and the mistakes made by the international community. The primary mistake, of course, was the faulty Dayton constitution imposed on the country, which strengthens nationalist extremists, discourages political moderation and compromise, and fosters endemic corruption.

It is also worth noting that one repeating theme throughout this article is the damage that decentralization has done to postwar reconstruction in Bosnia. The authors do not pretend that ethnic tensions do not exist in Bosnia, but they recognize that some political systems can harness, contain, or even diminish ethnic tensions, while other systems can inflame nationalist passions and deepen ethnic divides. Will seems to agree with Huntington that the human "need" to hate is the primary fact of geopolitics. The very article he selectively quotes--without acknowledging that the authors are calling for a renewed Western commitment to Bosnia rather than a pullout such as he called for in Afghanistan--refutes that contention.

It is not clear whether or not Will even recognizes the disconnect. Like so many pundits on the subject of Bosnia, he alters the facts to fit his beliefs rather than the other way around.

Monday, September 14, 2009

"Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict" by Greenhaven Press [9]

Chapter 5: How Can Ethnic Conflict Be Prevented?

This final chapter is only related to Bosnia and the Balkans in the most general of ways, as all five essays are concerned with trying to find a general framework for dealing with all ethnic conflicts. Madeleine Albright weighs in with "Collective Security Can Prevent Ethnic Conflict", which if nothing else is a refreshing whiff of internationalism after the putrid stench of Rothbard's reductivist tribalism.

Her suggestion is probably the best of the bunch, but in the interests of wrapping this review up (and, frankly, I'm a little reluctant to give this volume any more time and attention after being forced to spend time with Murray Rothbard), I will leave it at that and move on to the next project.

If nothing else, this book is a sad reminder of how skewed and misinformed the debate over Bosnia and the fall of Yugoslavia was.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

"Nationalism and Ethnic Violence" by Greenhaven Press [8]

Chapter 4: Should Nations Intervene in Ethnic Conflicts? [continued]

Nations Should Not Intervene in the Balkans

There are only three essays in this section. The second is actually the transcript of Senator John McCain being interviewed by reporter Major Garrett. The general tone of McCain's argument--and his superficial knowledge of the situation--can be garnered from his answer to the very first question:

"Garrett: You oppose limited U.S. military involvement in the Balkan civil war. Tell us what you hope will be the result of following the policy you support. What do you hope U.S. action or inaction will have accomplished?

McCain: I hope the result would be the civil conflict in what was Yugoslavia that has been going on for at least 700 years will be at a very low point, that the boundaries will have been stabilized, and that sanctions, embargoes and other measures will bring about a dramatic reduction in the slaughter. That's what I hope would happen. I am by no means convinced that that would be the case."

Well, what is there to say? "700 years" Senator McCain? Really? That's your "analysis" of the situation.

But in fairness to McCain, we all know that this line of "ancient hatreds" was the excuse of first resort for so many Western policy makers during the Balkan wars. It was just sad that so many in the media swallowed this line without complaint. 700 years, of course, is the maximum time one could say that Islam has been in the Balkans, so one wonders if the implication is that the Bosniaks brought their troubles onto themselves by becoming the 'other'. Were Croats and Serbs getting along famously before then? And who were the Bosniaks prior to conversion anyway, Senator McCain?

These are rhetorical questions of course, because I presume all regular readers of this blog not only have answers, they also have some understanding of how problematic the premise is--who were "those people" seven centuries ago? These are lazy assumptions, easily dismantled, and it's depressing that for the most part, the media allowed politicians and military "experts" to use such facile reasoning as an excuse to duck our moral and international legal obligations.

The third essay is by Misha Glenny, and is entitled "Foreign Military Intervention Would Fail." While his tone is fairly reasonable through most of the essay, and he approach to the issue is to consider the political and military realities as they existed in May of 1993 (I can't blame him for not being able to see ahead in time to the forced Croat-Bosnian Government alliance, so his claims that the logistics of actually arming the Muslims cannot be dismissed as a cop out), it is hard to shake the nagging sensation that he is simply playing Whack-a-Mole with any possible scenario. He never once suggests a possible remedy for any of the complications he has cobbled together. Nor does he suggest any alternate to military intervention; his only "solution" is to write in favor of the UN "safe areas" which he freely acknowledges is hardly a noble or just solution. But, he seems to say, absolutely nothing can be done; Clinton does not have a coherent policy for intervention, so why try and formulate one? It's hopeless! The neighboring countries are worried about wider instability? It's hopeless! And my favorite--the Serbs are not cowards just because they've been waging war against unarmed civilians with heavy artillery. No, no--they're extremely tough and fearless killing machines; you don't want to mess with those guys!

Which leads up back the first essay, a truly loathsome work of paleoconservative libertarianism from Murray N. Rothbard, in a piece ("Don Non Intervene Against the Serbs") that is not nearly as clever or insightful--or anywhere near as amusing--as the self-regarding author seems to think it is. It is, however, a dandy example of how inadequate Libertarianism is as a guide to foreign policy, and a helpful reminder that paleoconservatism is, at heart, anti-democratic and racist. To the core.

Rothbard is not subtle; he begins his critique of intervention by claiming that modest steps--such as bombing--won't work, so therefore it will only be a matter of time before Clinton nukes Belgrade. If case you're wondering how somebody this dense gets published, I should point out that Mr. Rothbard writes for the Rothbard-Rockwell Report. Why the editors chose to include this piece of drivel is beyond me.

Why will any Western military intervention fail? Because:

"...the Serbs are a magnificently gutsy people, a "primitive" folk who don't give a tinker's dam for "world opinion," the "respect of the international community," and all the rest of the pretentious can that so impresses readers of the New York Times."

With friends like these, the ten million-plus individual human beings in this world who happen to be Serb don't need enemies.

At any rate, one of the things Rothbard admires so much about these mythical primitives he fantasizes about is their disdain for "world opinion." Which is another way of saying they are the farthest thing from being a cosmopolitan people. Which, in Rothbard's dingy little world is a great compliment.

His rant about the situation in Bosnia--and the actions of the "pro-war Left" (the fact that humanitarian liberalism was liberal makes it a de facto evil in the paleoconservative world)--is little more than incoherent rambling laced with a healthy degree of ignorance. I won't insult the readers intelligence by dealing with the specifics, but suffice it to say that the old "Bosnia is an artificial country/Bosniaks are not a real nationality" is front and center.

But Rothbard at least has integrity--he explicitly states that the Greater Serbia project is "perfectly reasonable." And he assures the reader that "ethnic cleansing" just sounds bad in translation--after all, the Serbs don't want to kill the Muslims and other non-Serbs on the land they're taking, they just insist that they leave and never come back--what could be more "perfectly reasonable" than that.

Rothbard also dismisses the atrocities of mass rape by noting that "..I don't want to disillusion any tender souls, but almost all victorious troops through history commit systemic rapin' and lootin' of the vanquished." Yes, the apostrophes are in the original. I guess that's his way of making a "tough point." The systemic nature of the rape camps in Bosnia means nothing to him.

Also, forget trying to understand this situation, fellow Americans:

"American meddling is made even more futile by the fact that it is impossible for Americans to understand, not only those fierce rivalries, but the tremendous sense of history they all possess. How can Americans, who have no historical memory whatever and scarcely remember when Ronald Reagan was president, possibly understand these peoples of the Balkans, to whom the great 15th century battle against the invading Turks is as real, nay more real, than yesterday's dinner?"

One feels dirty just reading this anti-humanist sludge. I feel civilization shaking under my feet when I read such collectivist, tribalist, racist nonsense. And it gets even worse--Rothbard not only repeats the discredited belief that the Bosniaks are descended from the Bogomils, he even claims that the Bogomils were truly evil heretics and--and we're getting into "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" territory here:

"...there is much evidence that the Muslims still practice their Bogomil rites in secret, engraving its symbols on their tombstones."

What, no blood of Christian babies in their cevapcici?

Throw in the usual canards about the Serbs failing to be good Nazis, unlike the Croats and the Bosniaks in World War II, and that about wraps up this despicable piece of proto-fascism. Rothbard concludes by gloating, with bloodthirsty relish:

"Frankly, in any kind of fair fight, my nickel is on the Serbs. Every time. And, by the way, if you were caught in an ambush, wouldn't you love to have a few Serbs on your side?"

Serbs--the Rottweilers of the human race, brought to you by Murray Rothbard.

Shame of the editors of this volume for bringing this piece of filth to a wider audience. Shame on Greenhaven for lending legitimacy to such an obviously hate-filled windup. This was not an essay, it was a provocation, and a poorly written and woefully uninformed one at that.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

"Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict" from Greenhaven Press [7]

Chapter 4: Should Nations Intervene in Ethnic Conflicts? [continued]

There are four essays in the 'pro' section ("Nations Should Intervene in the Balkans"). The first essay, "NATO Should Intervene in the Balkans", by Paul C. Warnke, gets it right; NATO has the ability to intervene and should do so, by taking firm military measures to force the aggressors to stop. The third essay, "The United States and NATO Should Intervene in Kosovo" by Bujar Bukoshi, also hits the mark, and I give the editors some credit for including this essay in 1994, a half decade before the Kosovo War when most casual Western observers didn't understand the connection. Had the author's words been heeded, the KLA might never have come into being and Kosova might not be saddled with the baggage that organization brought with it. The fourth essay, "Limited Military Intervention in Bosnia May Be Necessary" by John Roach might seem timid and halfhearted, but it is worth noting that the author was the archbishop of Minneapolis and was speaking in agreement with the official Vatican line. His argument is that intervention in Bosnia would have met the "just war" criteria the Church believes in, and that is actually a very strong argument in favor of intervention.

However, the second essay is problematic. Entitled "Use Military Force to Partition Bosnia", the authors John J. Mearsheimer and Robert A. Pape take an approach that was depressingly familiar at the time--they accept the logic of Serb nationalism while deploring its tactics. Their sympathies are with the Muslim plurality, but their solution is simply to dismember Bosnia as the Serb nationalists wanted to, only on different terms. Their plan would have "awarded" the Muslims 35% of Bosnia, and the Serbs 45%. This, the reader is assured, is perfectly reasonable.

In a short section entitled "Interest in Partition", the authors actually admit that this option is exactly what the Serb nationalists want, only with territorial concessions, while opining that "a multiethnic Bosnia must now have little appeal" for Muslims, after admitting that they have steadfastly argued in favor of a multiethnic state.

What is more remarkable is that while their plan would have restored easten Bosnia to Muslim control--an area which was mostly Muslim-majority prior to ethnic cleansing--it would give the Bihac region--another area of overwhelmingly Muslim majority--to the Serbs, and force the Muslims there to move to the Muslim ministate in the east. With friends like these, the Muslims of Bosnia did not need enemies.

The rest of this essay is concerned with the military and logistical details of this plan. To be fair to the authors, they do acknowledge the moral shortcomings of this plan. They also acknowledge that the rump Bosnian Muslim state would be much weaker than its neighbors, particularly Serbia, and they argue that in order for this plan to be viable NATO must take this vulnerable state under its wings. They also do not engage in false equivalencies, and it is clear that their sympathies are with the Muslims and that their plan is guided by political realities (i.e, what Western countries are willing to actually do). I don't want to smear them unfairly.

Perhaps this article, then, can best serve as an example of how the inaction of the West had made such a morally reprehensible policy proposal--using Western force to complete the work of third-rate Balkan fascists--into a reasonably argued least-worst scenario.