Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Judge Lynn Adelman Doesn't Think Dealing With Genocide Is In His Job Description

The ever-vigilant Daniel at Srebrenica Genocide Blog has passed along a disturbing story about a US District Judge who evidently doesn't think that Federal law--at least not the Genocide Accountability Act--is something he should be bothering with.

In short--faced with Serb illegal immigrant Nedjo Ikonic, Judge Adelman seems to feel that he shouldn't allow the orderly deportation hearing to get cluttered up with too much nattering about human rights abuses, war crimes, and the largest single act of genocide in Europe since World War II. "I am not a war crimes tribunal" is his explanation of his position.

Ikonic is accused of taking a direct role in the Srebrenica massacre; it is troubling that the Judge seems to be looking for excuses to let him escape justice. He needs to reconsider his position; he also needs to be reminded that there is a federal law on the books regarding this situation.

Read the full story here, and then do as I did and send a short, respectful email to the judge gently reminding him that he is dealing with a suspect who is accused of something a little more serious than immigration fraud.

Here is the text of my email:


Your honor,

It is my understanding that in the deportation matter of Serb immigrant and accused war criminal Nedjo Ikonic, you have publicly stated that you are "not a war tribunal."

I trust that by now I am not the first person to bring to your attention the Genocide Accountability Act of 2007. Nor would I expect myself to be the first person to remind you that the atrocity at Srebrenica has been ruled as an act of genocide by the the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Court of Justice.

Given the severity of this issue, it is my deepest wish that you reconsider your position on this matter.

Thank you for your time.


Kirk Johnson
[contact information]

Thursday, January 15, 2009

BAACBH-Breaking News- EU passed resolution declaring July 11th Day of Commemoration‏



European Parliament resolution of 15 January 2009 on Srebrenica

The European Parliament,


– having regard to its resolution of 7 July 2005 on Srebrenica,
– having regard to the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European
Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and Bosnia and Herzegovina,
of the other part, signed in Luxembourg on 16 June 2008, and the prospect of EU
membership held out to all the countries of the western Balkans at the EU summit in
Thessaloniki in 2003,
– having regard to Rule 103(4) of its Rules of Procedure,
A. whereas in July 1995 the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, which was at that time an
isolated enclave proclaimed a Protected Zone by a United Nations Security Council
Resolution of 16 April 1993, fell into the hands of the Serbian militias led by General
Ratko Mladic and under the direction of the then President of the Republika Srpska,
Radovan Karadžic,
B. whereas, during several days of carnage after the fall of Srebrenica, more than 8 000
Muslim men and boys, who had sought safety in this area under the protection of the
United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR), were summarily executed by
Bosnian Serb forces commanded by General Mladic and by paramilitary units,
including Serbian irregular police units which had entered Bosnian territory from
Serbia; whereas nearly 25 000 women, children and elderly people were forcibly
deported, making this event the biggest war crime to take place in Europe since the
end of the Second World War,
C. whereas this tragedy, declared an act of genocide by the International Criminal
Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), took place in a UN-proclaimed safe
haven, and therefore stands as a symbol of the impotence of the international
community to intervene in the conflict and protect the civilian population,
D. whereas multiple violations of the Geneva Conventions were perpetrated by Bosnian
Serb troops against Srebrenica's civilian population, including deportations of
thousands of women, children and elderly people and the rape of a large number of
E. whereas, in spite of the enormous efforts made to date to discover and exhume mass
and individual graves and identify the bodies of the victims, the searches conducted
until now do not permit a complete reconstruction of the events in and around

F. whereas there cannot be real peace without justice and whereas full and unrestricted
cooperation with the ICTY remains a basic requirement for further continuation of the
process of integration into the EU for the countries of the western Balkans,
G. whereas General Radislav Krstic of the Bosnian Serb army is the first person found
guilty by the ICTY of aiding and abetting the Srebrenica genocide, but whereas the
most prominent indicted person, Ratko Mladic, is still at large almost fourteen years
after the tragic events, and whereas it is to be welcomed that Radovan Karadžic now
has been transferred to the ICTY,
H. whereas the institutionalisation of a day of remembrance is the best means of paying
tribute to the victims of the massacres and sending a clear message to future
1. Commemorates and honours all the victims of the atrocities during the wars in the
former Yugoslavia; expresses its condolences to and solidarity with the families of
the victims, many of whom are living without final confirmation of the fate of their
relatives; recognises that this continuing pain is aggravated by the failure to bring
those responsible for these acts to justice;
2. Calls on the Council and the Commission to commemorate appropriately the
anniversary of the Srebrenica-Potocari act of genocide by supporting Parliament's
recognition of 11 July as the day of commemoration of the Srebrenica genocide
all over the EU, and to call on all the countries of the western Balkans to do the
3. Calls for further efforts to bring the remaining fugitives to justice, expresses its full
support for the valuable and difficult work of the ICTY and stresses that bringing to
justice those responsible for the massacres in and around Srebrenica is an important
step towards peace and stability in the region; reiterates in that regard that increased
attention needs to be paid to war crimes trials at domestic level;
4. Stresses the importance of reconciliation as part of the European integration process;
emphasises the important role of religious communities, the media and the education
system in this process, so that civilians of all ethnicities may overcome the tensions of
the past and begin a peaceful and sincere coexistence in the interests of enduring
peace, stability and economic growth; urges all countries to make further efforts to
come to terms with a difficult and troubled past;
5. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the
governments of the Member States, the Government and Parliament of Bosnia and
Herzegovina and its entities, and the governments and parliaments of the countries of
the western Balkans.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Journalist Peter Lippman--Travel Journal to Bosnia-Herzegovina Part X

Bosnia-Herzegovina journal #10 -- Last journal!
Elections wrap up; more crime and scandals; politics.

This is a wrap-up of the reports on my September-October visit to Bosnia. Please take note that all of these reports are uploaded at this page, which is part of my helpful brother Roger's BalkanWitness Web site. On the website there are photos in each journal, some dozens altogether.

After I was in Stolac and Mostar, I returned to Sarajevo for a week before leaving the country. The elections had finished about ten days earlier and meanwhile, crimes and scandals continued to break into the news; high-placed officials continued their scams and manipulation; international officials backed them up; and young people and activists pondered how to make Bosnia-Herzegovina into a "normal" country.

Through these journals I have tried to present a coherent picture of the way Bosnia (mal)functions. I have probably not focused enough on the responsibility of the international community for the mess at hand. International officials hold plenty of responsibility. It's another long and complicated story.

I think that I have cast enough aspersions on RS Prime Minister Dodik, and a few other high officials of different ethnicities, to illustrate that most public officials are stealing the wealth created by Bosnians during the Tito era. Only these officials and the gangsters are getting rich. The exceptions to this statement -- honest people who are doing well -- can probably be counted on the fingers of one or two hands. I ruefully include among the thieves most Bosniak leaders and, for that matter, some religious leaders.

I have no doubt that the Bosniaks were the greatest victims during the war, and that they were the clear targets of a genocidal plan. That's a simple fact; reality gets messier when you acknowledge that an extreme nationalist movement also arose among the Bosniaks at the beginning of the 1990s; that that faction's leaders were intimate with gangsters and war profiteers; and that while protecting Sarajevo they plundered it and enriched themselves.

I mention these wartime events because they were the precursor -- on all three ethnic sides -- to the post-war plunder, division, and hypocrisy that continue to this day. Hypocrisy, because all the nationalist (and often fascist) parties bear the word "Democracy" in their names. Some religious leaders speak in the name of tolerance and reconciliation on one hand, and pal around with profiteers on the other. The true defenders of Bosnia are now digging for food in the dumpsters and the true heroes' memories have been erased, while party operatives stand on pedestals as the leaders of their people. You can throw your old copy of Orwell's Animal Farm away; a new, more accurate and detailed version has been written.

One reader of this journal will say I've been too hard on the Croats; another on the Serbs; and another on the Bosniaks. I hope that I've not been hard on any of them, but on their venal leaders -- and equally so.

Finally, here's one correction: Thanks to Andras Riedlmayer for pointing out to me a typo. The Croat-run concentration I called "Gabina" in journal #9 was actually Gabela.


In journal #2 I mentioned that a couple thousand mail-in voters were in danger of being deprived of the right to vote because their citizenship was in question. In the end, their ballots were accepted as provisional, subject to verification after the elections.

As it happened, the nationwide municipal elections did not bring big surprises; rather, they illustrated some broad trends. Republika Srpska (RS) Prime Minister Milorad Dodik's party (SNSD) won big in that entity, taking most mayoralties except for a handful. And those exceptional municipalities were won by equally or more nationalist Serb-controlled parties.

Meanwhile, a competitor to the Croat nationalist party lost big, and the HDZ re-emerged dominant. Perhaps the only result that qualified as a surprise was the widespread defeat of Haris Silajdzic's Party for Bosnia (SBiH). Silajdzic was elected Bosniak member of the three-part Presidency in 2006 by a wide margin. Apparently what my friend Marc had told me -- that people are sick of Silajdzic's manipulation and incitement -- applies to a majority of voters. Silajdzic's weakened position could have significant effects in the next couple of years, as constitutional reforms are hammered out and as the state-level elections slated for 2010 gear up.

Voting was stronger in towns and villages, where people tend to hold more closely to the ethnic-based parties, than it was in the cities. However, in the cities some interesting things happened. Nasa Stranka, a very new non-nationalist party, made a respectable showing. In Sarajevo this party won several seats in most municipalities of the city. Given this, a coalition of relatively progressive (non-nationalist) parties could be a strong power in Sarajevo. Nasa Stranka actually won the mayoralty in the town of Bosanski Petrovac, in the northwest. In Tuzla, as expected, the Social-Democratic Party won another landslide, and Nasa Stranka won no municipal council seats at all.

The overall impact of the elections was the reinforcement and consolidation of nationalist parties, with the SDA (Izetbegovic's Bosniak nationalist party), SNSD (Dodik's party), and HDZ (Croat nationalist party) coming out ahead. Overall, the SDP and other non-nationalist parties held their previous levels or made slight gains.

Once the elections ended, the leading politicians went back to focusing on constitutional reforms. The international community is putting pressure on Bosnian leaders to institute reforms as a condition for progress in accession to the EU. Entry to the EU is the only thing that all politicians, or all but the real wing-nuts, agree on. That is, they agree on it rhetorically, but the required reform does not necessarily serve their purposes. More about that below.


I mentioned the Gashi crime family in journal #6. (There, I spelled the name Gasi, the Bosnian spelling. However, since this is an Albanian surname, I have decided to spell it as it is spelled in Albanian.) Prominent members of this family were arrested earlier this year, and their trial has been going on for several months. It is worth examining the proceedings and looking into the history of this racketeering organization, since it is one of the predominant mafias in the Sarajevo area and beyond.

In the mafia wars in Sarajevo, the conflict has involved the Gashi family and the rival group centered around Ramiz Delalic Celo. Celo was assassinated in the summer of 2007, in what was clearly a move to destroy his organization and take full control of Sarajevo's mafia activities. Testimony in the current trial points to a Gashi relative brought up from Kosovo and promised 250,000 KM for Celo's murder.

The investigation of the Gashi family, led by the head of the department for organized crime in the Federation Ministry of the Interior, Edin Vranj, began after the assassination of Celo. The police conducted raids, arrests, and confiscation of weapons and stolen property late in 2007 and early 2008. Some suspects went into hiding but eight, including the brothers Muhamed Ali Gashi and Aziz Gashi, were arrested by last spring and have been held in custody ever since.

The Gashi group has been accused of extortion and usury, as well as involvement in the murder of Celo. They are also suspected of numerous other murders in Bosnia. Their most common practice has apparently been to pressure owners of small businesses and properties in very favorable parts of Sarajevo to sell those properties to the Gashis at low prices. Along with that, the Gashis lend money to businessmen in need; the pattern has been that those businessmen then become indebted to the Gashis to the point where, because of high interest rates, they owe more than they borrowed in the first place. At times this has resulted in the debtor handing over his or her property to the Gashis. And the Gashis have also muscled their way in on property that was not privately-owned, but belonged to the municipality or a government agency.

In this and other ways, the Gashis opened a string of shops around Sarajevo and became quite rich. They had begun their operations after the war and intensified them in the early 2000s when, momentarily, other crime bosses including Celo were for one reason or another out of circulation. The violent conflict between Celo and the Gashi family began in earnest in 2004, after the Gashis began trying to assassinate Celo.

During the current trial the Federation's financial police unit testified that they have evidence of Muhamed Ali Gashi's income amounting to around 200,000 KM between 2003 and 2007, and in that period he purchased thirteen properties for approximately a half million KM. In the same period Aziz Gashi had no declared income, but he purchased an apartment in Sarajevo for 100,000 KM.

The list of the Gashi group's extortions and other crimes is long, and over one hundred witnesses are set to testify at the trial. Many are people who had hoped to earn money by opening a small business, and they risked borrowing from the Gashis. They have testified of the threats they were subjected to when it later came time to pay exorbitant interest rates. Out of fear, not all of the victims were willing to testify, and some have recanted, but the trial goes on.

The operations of mafia groups that took shape during the war are an indication of the absence of law at one level of Bosnian society. The Bosniak- and Albanian-run mafias are only one example; such groups exist among the Bosnian Croats and Serbs as well. However, what makes this story more interesting than ordinary organized crime is the nexus between these very crude and violent bandits and those who wear suits and ties. An unexpected light was shone on the interaction between these two levels of criminality early in November, when it came to the attention of the Federation police that members and friends of the Gashi group, both in and out of jail, were attempting to influence witnesses.

The Federation police were eavesdropping on conversations conducted via cell-phone between jailed Gashi clan members and both friends and potential prosecution witnesses on the outside. In early November they arrested nine people for attempting to influence witnesses and for planning to attack the family of chief investigator Edin Vranj. Additional members of the Gashi group were arrested even though they were already in jail. Police staged a surprise raid on the jail cells of the Gashi brothers and two accomplices and confiscated cell phones from them. With these telephones the police found evidence, including text messages, of threats that were sent.

One of the people arrested for helping the Gashis from outside was Senad Sahinpasic "Saja." Saja is a well-known close friend of Bakir Izetbegovic, son of the deceased president of Bosnia Alija Izetbegovic. Saja is one of the richest Bosniaks in the country. He is also a close friend of Fahrudin Radoncic, the newspaper magnate and property developer whom I mentioned in earlier journals, and he has associated with Naser Oric and the recently-deceased gangster Ismet Bajramovic. Before the war Saja was owner of a produce store.

During the war, by all accounts, Saja enriched himself in cooperation with certain other prominent Bosniaks who trafficked in arms and international humanitarian donations. These donations were intended for the well-being of the Bosniaks and others who were trying to defend the unified state of Bosnia. However, a significant portion of the donations translated into wealth for Saja Sahinpasic, Bakir Izetbegovic, and others. Saja has been under investigation by European police agencies for various manifestations of corruption, and he was for a time blacklisted by the US State Department (thus prohibited from traveling to the US).

Saja is what is known in Bosnia as a "controversial businessman." This was his first arrest. Evidence against him included vulgar cell-phone conversations between him and Muhamed Ali Gashi that the police had recorded. In these conversations Saja made threatening statements against prosecutor Vranj. Decent people of Bosnia were shocked when some of these recordings were replayed on public television, including one where Saja said, "I'm going to send a Black man to rape his twelve-year-old daughter." Later, Saja asserted that he was "not serious."

Unlike the others who were arrested, Saja was released after two days. The prosecutor justified his release by saying that his offense, "planning a crime against the chief investigator," was not something that he was likely to be jailed for in any event.

Bakir Izetbegovic, one of the most powerful men in the leading Bosniak nationalist party, said of this incident, "Saja said things that shocked the women in my family." Then he went on television to talk about Saja's humanitarian actions during the war.

There are further connections between low and high crime. Someone in the police department tipped off Saja that he was going to be arrested, and the first person Saja called was Fahrudin Radoncic. Radoncic, the publisher of the right-wing Bosniak nationalist organ Dnevni Avaz, moves around town in a tinted-window SUV donated to him by Gashi clan member Naser Kelmendi.

One could make a three-dimensional model or monopoly game that would illustrate how the underworld is connected to the "controversial businessmen" who are connected to the prominent politicians of Bosnia-Herzegovina -- to all the politicians, in fact. And from there to the religious infrastructures. These dimensions of the regime of corruption are connected across ethnicities as well.


In the Bosnian language there is now an expression, "Dodikovanje," which means, more or less, "doing what Dodik does." One of the things Dodik does, as the most clever politician in Bosnia-Herzegovina, is to play the international community like a Stradivarius. Nor is he a slouch when it comes to manipulating opposition politicians and, for that matter, his followers.

Dodik is probably the most powerful and effective politician in Bosnia today. You have seen how he was able to dead-end the energetic Fadil Banjanovic in his little village of Kozluk (see journal #7: Kozluk and Bijeljina). He has arranged much higher-level tricks than that, including a more recent political deal that you'll read about below. One of the reasons Dodik is so effective is that there is less democracy in the Republika Srpska than in the Federation; because the RS is essentially a mono-ethnic entity, politics is more monolithic there. The Federation is shared not only by Croats and Bosniaks, but also by socialists, liberals, nationalists, anti-nationalists, each of whom has a separate party and contends in the political processes. Of course, the nationalists have the upper hand, but there again, they are not united in the way the Serb nationalists are. In the RS, Dodik's party competes with the SDS and other secondary Serb nationalist parties, but they all fall in line when it comes to supporting separatism and apartheid. Since 2006 Dodik has ridden the crest of popular support from his Serb constituency.

I have noticed that Dodik seems to oscillate between the role of boogeyman/reincarnation of Milosevic and that of the ultimate bearer of peace and reconciliation in the Western Balkans. His oscillations between separatist extremism on one hand, and compromise on the other, can be traced over time, and I will mention a couple of his relevant maneuvers. In playing the role of a one-man good cop-bad cop, Dodik throws people off balance with his threats, and then they are so relieved when he comes up with a relatively reasonable suggestion that they forget the recent past and applaud him.

When I say "Dodik throws people off balance," I am referring both to international officials -- especially High Representative Miroslav Lajcak -- and domestic politicians, more than average people. The ordinary people are so fed up with and cynical about politics that they hardly pay attention to what someone like Dodik says. Ordinary people become tired of the false euphoria of separatist hysteria when they see that none of the drama changes their lives for the better. They sense that they are being used.

Apropos of this, the UN Development Program's "Early Warning System" recently released the results of its latest quarterly political survey. Broadly, the results show that fewer people are voting or otherwise participating in politics in the Republika Srpska; that fewer people are supporting Dodik's party, and that those people are not gravitating towards another option. Thus, apathy is growing, and the optimistic prognosis would be that there could be an opening for a new alternative. Meanwhile, in the Federation the number of voters has risen slightly, unlike in the RS, and there has been a respectable rise in support for the non-nationalist Social-Democratic Party. These latter indications seem to support my feeling that political processes in the Federation, while not splendid, are more lively and participatory than in the RS.

In any case, the constant off-balance state of Bosnia's leaders helps Dodik stay in his position of power (in his "armchair," as Bosnian commentators like to say), and clearly this is his intention. Better to run a satrapy than to be hauled before a local court for stealing millions.

Some people might recall that a year ago commentators were saying that Bosnia was facing its "worst crisis since the war." Was that "pre-déjà vu?" They said the same thing again last month. It is a pattern; back then, towards the end of 2007, Dodik engineered a deep-freeze of government processes at the state level when he instigated a Serb boycott of Parliament, and the Serb prime minister of Bosnia, Dodik's man, resigned. Everything stopped; local politicians castigated Dodik, and international officials wrung their hands. Then everything started again, because Dodik climbed down from his rhetorical treehouse and allowed a compromise. The government was put back together, everyone sighed, and life went on -- until Dodik's next crisis. What was this all about? Essentially nothing. If you're reeeeallly curious, read my article from December of 2007:
When I look back at it myself, I can hardly figure out why all the huffing and puffing was worth those 3,000 words.

Now there has been another Dodik-crisis and Dodik-denouement. The elections campaign happened. Elections mean hot air; elections mean threats. Hot air levitates voters, and threats polarize them into constituencies. Silajdzic called for the abolition of the RS (knowing it's not going to happen). Dodik threatened to hold a referendum for secession. International officials muttered about removing "certain politicians" from office. Dodik threatened that if he were removed from office, he would annul Bosnia's laws pertaining to the RS and declare independence -- knowing that it's not going to happen. And this latest took place after the elections, the momentum of the pre-election hustle carrying past the goal post.

Paddy Ashdown (former High Rep) and Richard Holbrooke (latter-day Kissinger) wrote a worried open letter to the world, published in the Guardian, saying, "Hey people, Bosnia's falling apart, we'd better pay attention." Lajcak announced that Bosnia reminded him of other countries that were about to break up. And a reporter from the New York Times visited Bosnia for a while and, thinking he was seeing something big, new, and real, wrote of "fears of a new ethnic conflict in Bosnia."

It was big, but it was not real, and certainly not new. It was for show. Leaders of Bosnia's main political parties got the message, as did the internationals: "Dodik is a threat." They were off-balance, and it was time for Dodik to pull the next rabbit out of his hat: a compromise on constitutional reform, hammered out among the three leading nationalist politicians. Again, at least in the eyes of the international officials, Dodik was a prince.


In mid-November, Dragan Covic of the Croat nationalist HDZ, Suleiman Tihic of the Bosniak nationalist SDA, and Dodik met at a village called Prud in northern Bosnia. There, they agreed to go to their parties and to Parliament and promote compromise solutions on specific long-running neuralgic issues that the international community has been pressuring them to resolve. Resolution of these issues is necessary for advancement in the process of accession to the EU; they are among conditions that the international community set forth at the beginning of last year.

The Prud deal addressed several issues including a proposed census; the status of Brcko District; and the disposition of state-owned property. Probably the most controversial -- and most open to finagling -- is the latter issue: what to do with state-owned property, such as military real estate, that is no longer in use. Shall that and similar property go to the central Bosnian state, to the entities, or to the municipality? Here is where you can imagine a profiteer's steal-o-meter zipping into the red zone. "Ethnic privatization" -- plundering while standing behind an ethnic shield -- is an effective way for nationalist leaders to enrich themselves, and they have already helped themselves to much of Bosnia that was not nailed down. But the plunder party is not over. And collaboration among the elites of the three ethnicities is not new; it's just going into a new phase.

One commentator described the Prud trio, Covic, Dodik, and Tihic, as "two hardened crooks and a simpleton" -- this last referring to Tihic. I have mentioned a couple of Dodik's self-enrichment schemes. Covic is the subject of a long-term corruption trial that has undergone reversals and been shunted from one court to another but has not been completely abandoned. Tihic has not, as far as I know, been stained with the same accusation of corruption as the other two operators, but he is certainly interested in power. And with these three leading parties banding together, there may be a possibility of edging certain competitors off the stage.

Power calculations changed immediately with the Prud compromise, because it reinforced the defeat of Haris Silajdzic's party, as well as that of the rival Croat nationalist party, in the October elections. Silajdzic and others immediately denounced the Prud deal as undemocratic and as a sellout by Covic and Tihic, who were accused of caving in to pressure from Dodik. Meanwhile, the Prud trio and their respective parties promoted the compromise, and they were lauded by Lajcak and others of the international community.

If you were unconcerned about ongoing corruption, the Prud deal could indeed look like a solution to Bosnia's ongoing near-dissolution. After all, the three most powerful politicians had agreed on something. However, the compromise will probably not be pushed through. The three relevant political parties do not possess enough of a Parliamentary majority to put it over by themselves. Silajdzic's party is in coalition with the SDA, but it will not cooperate. For a while the promoters of the Prud deal were courting Zlatko Lagumdzija and his SDP. Lagumdzija played coy for a month or so. He could have joined the government, but instead, he announced that he was having nothing to do with the deal.

In his criticism of the Prud deal, Silajdzic said that the three initiating parties were trying to take complete control of Bosnia, and that Tihic was "betraying Bosniak national interests." Tihic responded that Silajdzic doesn't know "how to solve problems, but only how to make them.” This may be true. However, Silajdzic is not averse to backroom deals himself, and he certainly knows how to recognize when a corrupt deal is being set up.


Along the way, Dodik has racked up an interesting record of antics over the last half year or so. One of his campaigns has been to withdraw as many governmental competencies as possible from the central Bosnian government, throwing them back to the entities. Over the last few years, the Office of the High Representative has succeeded, mostly by decree, in strengthening the central government to some extent. This year Dodik launched an offensive to reverse this trend, for example focusing on the statewide electricity distribution network, which he wants to divide into two companies. Motivation: there's money to be made in controlling the distribution.

Another potential scandal arose, and quickly faded away, when it became apparent that the Republika Srpska police force was secretly arming itself through side-deals with Slovenia and other governments. Meanwhile, the RS was behaving as if it were a sovereign country, setting up direct diplomatic relations with as many governments as it could. And Dodik exercised exceptional extravagance and wastefulness in the construction of certain highways, as well as a palatial new government office building in the RS capital of Banja Luka. These actions led to an aborted investigation by the state secret police (SIPA), after which Dodik threatened to arrest the SIPA police. Eventually, he handed over the documents they had been looking for.

In response to all his apparent malversation and bullying, various leaders around the region have rhetorically struck back at Dodik. In October Croatian President Stjepan Mesic compared Dodik with Milosevic. Croat member of the Bosnian three-part Presidency Zeljko Komsic called Dodik a "dictator." And the Dutch Ambassador to Bosnia said that Dodik was "worse than Lukashenko" (the president of Belarus). In response, Dodik banned Ambassador Vosskuhler from the Republika Srpska. Later Vosskuhler apologized -- to Lukashenko.

Perhaps the height of this comedy was reached when Dodik filed charges against Deputy High Representative Raffi Gregorian for "engaging in a criminal conspiracy to stop a positive trend" in the Republika Srpska. Gregorian said that Dodik was losing touch with reality and should seek psychiatric treatment.

Over the past few months the international community has increased its attention on Bosnia and the region, and correspondingly heightened its criticism of Bosnia's leaders -- especially of Dodik and Silajdzic -- for their failure to break the logjam of constitutional reform. But notwithstanding new attention from the international community, its representatives have been content to accept excuses and half-measures from Bosnia's leading politicians. The Prud deal, which could help to split Bosnia's two entities further apart, is worse than a half-measure, but the international officials are supporting it eagerly.

One question that's floating around is why High Representative Lajcak is so easy on Bosnia's leaders and at times seems to strain to placate Dodik, the mini-strongman. Some commentators assert that it is because Lajcak lacks the strong support from the international community that earlier Hi-Reps had. Others say "no, Lajcak just doesn't care; he's only a careerist trying to get through a difficult assignment."

Apropos of the international community's behavior, I want to share something written in a semi-public letter by Kurt Bassuener, a Senior Associate of the Democratization Policy Council (see "...the EU seems trapped in its own enlargement/accession mentality, and assumes that that script will apply here [in Bosnia]. It isn't and it won't, but it remains to be seen whether they'll internalize that. As of now, the impression I get is that so long as the EU flag flies over the shiny new Commission building, and Bosnia isn't burning, it's a 'success.'"


With this section on Dodik and my critique of the international community's role in Bosnia, I am winding up my set of journals. I have not said everything, but I have written too much. I have not adequately discussed some of the most problematic figures in Bosnia: Haris Silajdzic; the Reis-ul-ulema Mustafa Ceric (spiritual leader of Bosniaks and major political player); the crooked Croat nationalist oligarchy, and others. And the ever-present Radoncic -- his corruption and meddling are bottomless.

There will be more scandals. And more swindles. But their stories will have to wait. It's time for me to let you move on to other things. But I hope that I have given you a rough idea of how things are working in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and a glimpse of the fact that there are young activists there who need to be supported. I love them as I love Bosnia and Herzegovina. They have a hard job, because the kleptocracy that now rules Bosnia (with the disregard, and sometimes assistance of the international community) is firmly entrenched.


I finish this series of journals with a few odd items:

--Cop returns lost money:
Why is this news? The October 8th edition of the Banja Luka daily Nezavisne Novine reported with fanfare that a policeman found a lost wallet containing several hundred KM, belonging to a pensioner. He returned it. Together with the money.

--Who has the most guns?
The September 30th, 2008 issue of Start magazine reported the results of the Small Arms Survey poll from 2007 that researched the number of guns per 100 population in different countries. The top three: The United States at 90 guns per hundred people; Yemen at 61; and Finland at 55. Serbia ranked sixth with 37.5 guns per 100 people. No other Balkan country -- nor any other East European country, and only one other Middle Eastern country (Iraq) -- were listed in the top ten.

--Three Algerians/Bosnians released from Guantanamo.
Soon after 9/11 six Algerians, most carrying Bosnian citizenship, were arrested in Bosnia on suspicion of plotting to blow up the US Embassy. They were held by the Bosnian government for a while and questioned, and then released for lack of evidence. But on their release, they were handed over to US authorities, who spirited them off to Guantanamo. Their handover to US authorities was one of the low points of the government headed for two years by Zlatko Lagumdzija and his SDP.

At Guantanamo they were tortured and abused for the next seven years. Finally, the US Supreme Court decided that there was no case against them and that they must be released. Interrogators had long since dropped the bomb-plot accusation. After the Supreme Court decision the US agreed to let all go except one, whom they accuse of "having planned to go to Afghanistan." Recently three of the prisoners were released and are living peacefully in Bosnia, reunited with their families. The stories they have to tell of how they were treated in Guantanamo are appalling.

--Santa Claus banned!
With the introduction of religious education in a government-run chain of 24 nursery schools in Sarajevo, Santa Claus has been banned. The director of this group of pre-schools said that Santa Claus "plays no part in Bosniak tradition." Sarajevo Serbs and Croats were said to be removing their children from these schools. But many Bosniaks were unhappy as well. Santa Claus, better known in the former Yugoslavia as "Grandfather Frost," has been a tradition for at least the last two generations and has brought joy to many children in Bosnia. In late December an ethnically-mixed group of several hundred parents held a public protest of the ban.

--Financial Crisis:
The great spreading Wall Street and mortgage crisis meltdown took place while I was in Bosnia. People there, including intelligent people, asked me if this wasn't something cooked up by the Republican Party. Their assumption was that then the Republicans would pull something out of their hat to fix it all before our elections: a fine October surprise. I had to disabuse my friends. Then people here in the US asked me how the crisis was being received in Bosnia. Slowly. When you're nearer the bottom, it takes longer to hit. Some Bosnians had congratulated themselves for being in less danger, since they had less to lose. But then there was a run on the banks. And foreign investment, such as it is, is slowing down. In the long run, it may not be as much as a disaster for Bosnia as some other venues, but it's not promising.

I stopped in Bucharest for a few days on my way home from Bosnia. What a contrast! First, a contrast between Romania now and the last time I had been there -- in 1981. Then, even tourists could hardly get food to eat. Now, Romania is a full-fledged member of the EU.

Second, a contrast between Romania and Bosnia. As I was heading to Romania I read something about it being very high on the corruption index, relative to the rest of Europe. That could be. But Romania's economy is growing, and its unemployment rate is hovering around four percent -- about a tenth of Bosnia's. Investment is taking place; a car company built a factory that employs 9,000 people. You don't hear about that kind of thing very much in Bosnia. And shiny buildings are going up all over the city. Alas, I didn't learn anything about life in the countryside.

I remembered my friend Marc's quip about corruption in Bosnia: "With the politicians, the problem is not that they steal, but that they steal everything" (see journal #1). Apparently, if they are stealing in Romania; nevertheless they are leaving something for ordinary people.

Graffiti on the streets in Bucharest: "In a normal country, people don't grope women on the streets" and "In a normal country, people take a shower every day." These were both done with stencils. Another: "Anti-NATO!"

I went into a restaurant and there were men wearing suits and ties, smoking cigars. In Bosnia those people would be members of the criminal element: either gangsters, politicians, or businessmen. Here, there's a chance that they are honest people.

One day I walked around my north-end neighborhood near Gara de Nord, and I looked around for a coffee shop. In Sarajevo you can't swing a raggedy jacket without hitting one. I couldn't find one easily here -- how unusual! I thought, "Hmmm, people are doing something productive here."


I started out this series of journals by revealing a few sordid details of Federation Prime Minister Nedzad Brankovic, who sold valuable parts of public utilities on the cheap, stonewalled important reforms and investment, and feathered his own nest. Just the other day a member of the "Society of Anonymous Writers" painted a graffiti message in Brankovic's neighborhood: "Thief, Give the Apartment Back!" Now Brankovic is complaining that some members of the independent press in the Federation (especially Dani and Slobodna Bosna) have been "creating an atmosphere of witch-hunt" against him and that he just might resign. The graffiti makes him "fear for his and his family's security."

I was on the phone with my friend Marc today, and Marc pointed out that it was interesting that Brankovic assumed that the graffiti message was addressed to him.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Mugabe Must Go--and We Must Take Him Out

By "we" I mean the international community. And by "take him out" I mean send in a multinational military force to either arrest or kill Mugabe (the choice, of course, will be his) and his collaborators.

Martin Fletcher has been there, and he had this to say in a recent issue of The Australian.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Journalist Peter Lippman--Travel Journal to Bosnia-Herzegovina Part IX

[Continuing to pass along journalist Peter Lippman's journal of his recent trip to Bosnia.]

Bosnia-Herzegovina journal #9: Stolac and Mostar

I took the bus from Prijedor through Banja Luka down to Mostar, passing through some of the most beautiful territory in central Bosnia: Jajce, the magnificent pass above Travnik, and the high road above Prozor/Rama. Stopping in Mostar overnight, I moved south to Stolac to visit friends and make new acquaintances in the ancient and lovely, but traumatized, place.

Like Mostar, at the beginning of the war Stolac was first attacked by Serb forces, but not taken over. A year later, when the conflict between the Bosniaks and nationalist Croats broke out, Croat forces quickly took over the town, driving out the Bosniaks by mid-1993. They placed many of the men in concentration camps throughout the region, including Dretelj, Gabina, and several around Mostar. Refugee return to Stolac began a couple of years after the war in the face of fierce obstruction, including much violence, by the new Croat authorities. The town of Stolac had been majority-Bosniak before the war. Many of Stolac's venerable Bosniak-owned homes were destroyed after the war to discourage return; rebuilt houses were routinely bombed, and returnees were attacked. Nevertheless, some thousands of Bosniaks returned to rebuild their community. Today they live under the political and economic domination of the Croats.

At the entrance to the town there is a faded proclamation on the side of a barn: "Welcome to Croatian Stolac."


It feels like water is flowing everywhere in Stolac. The lovely Bregava River runs brookishly through the center of town, crossed by a dozen-odd ancient stone bridges. Tributaries course down to the Bregava from all the surrounding hills. Every bridge and every confluence is a place for a pleasant restaurant or kafana, several of which served as meeting places for me and my acquaintances.

The person I most wanted to see was the remarkable Mehmet Dizdar, a retired high school literature professor who was a leader of his community during the war. He had spent time in more than one concentration camp, and upon his release he continued to lead his people until they were able to return home. I had spoken with him a couple of years ago and later read his two books: Sudjeni Stolac (Stolac the Condemned) and Stolac, Virtualni Zavicaj (Stolac, the Virtual Homeland). In these books Mehmed vividly told the story of his idyllic childhood in Stolac, memories of his famous uncle Mak Dizdar, who was one of Bosnia-Herzegovina's most revered poets, and the onset of the war. The books go on to tell of Mehmed's captivity during the war and the struggle to return home.

I sat at a restored kafana by the main mosque and talked with Mehmed. He was not very happy and didn't have much to say. He is retired. I told him that I had been quite moved by his two books about Stolac. When I first met him he had told me that he was not a writer. I disagreed with that.

Mehmed reiterated everything that he and his nephew Nerin Dizdar had told me last time I met them: that the SDA and the HDZ (ruling Bosniak and Croat nationalist parties) collaborate, that there is negative population growth, that the "city is failing," and that there are only cosmetic changes.

Mehmed told me that of 700 people employed in the Stolac municipality, only 60 are Bosniaks. There may be another 20 employed in private jobs. There are around 4,000 Bosniaks in the municipality, and around 7,000 Croats, though these are just informal estimates. There may be around 200 Serbs.

The elections had just passed. Mehmed said, "The HDZ won the elections, and they are collaborating with the SDA. For them (the SDA), everything is fine. It is mostly the villagers who are voting, not the city people. And those who are voting here are mostly voting for the opposition parties. The largest number of refugee returns are to the villages, because people can live from something there, the land, and cattle."

During the campaign period RS Prime Minister Dodik had revived his scenario for RS secession from Bosnia. Around this time Dodik announced that if rumors that the international community may remove him from office were to come true, he would annul all Bosnian laws in the RS and declare secession. Mehmed believes this is a serious plan: "Dodik will try to secede, because he's up to his ears in crime, and if he doesn't secede, he will be tried."

Discussing various corruption scandals, Mehmed said, "All the politicians are criminals -- maybe almost all of them. They are religious, but still they are thieves. This apparently is perceived among the voters as a positive thing, because the people know that they are criminals, and still they vote for them." Mehmed concluded that "this is a strange land, Alice (of Alice in Wonderland) should live here."


I met with Nerin Dizdar at the Behar restaurant, further down the Bregava. Nerin is a dynamic young man who leads the Stolac Youth Forum. The Forum is constantly engaged in struggles with the Croat authorities over the local version of apartheid. Among other points of contention, the authorities have mounted a series of crosses on the hills above the town, placing their clerical-nationalist message at various historical monuments that previously had nothing to do with Croat extremism. They have also persistently posted the flag of Herceg Bosna, the defunct and illegal wartime Croat secessionist para-state. The Forum has fought against these overt expressions ethnic domination, as well as against the widespread employment discrimination.

Nerin told me that not much has changed in Stolac. The Forum continues to focus on several projects, including protesting against the continued presence of noxious nationalist symbols. He said, "The Herceg-Bosna flag is to us as the swastika is to the Jews, because atrocities were committed under that flag." And on the Croat nationalist exploitation of symbols, he commented, "The symbols are emptied of their original meaning. They have been erected because the Muslims are there -- this actually happened in the year of our return, not before."

There is an ancient necropolis of stecaks (the characteristic medieval Bosnian-Herzegovinan gravestone monuments) by the main road, and it is completely overgrown and neglected. The Forum wants to see this site preserved.

Nerin's organization also protests against apartheid in the schools. The Stolac high school currently operates under the "two schools under one roof" system, where Croat and Bosniak pupils study in separate classes held in two separate shifts, and even enter the school building through two separate doors -- the Bosniaks use the back door. Recently an interim director of the high school refused to sign the Bosniak pupils' diplomas, because he did not approve of the fact that the Bosniaks were studying under the Federation curriculum. The Croat pupils are using the curriculum of neighboring Croatia.

Nerin said that the new director of the high school, Ivo Raguz, was a war criminal. Mehmed had told me that Raguz torched Serb houses during the war. The Cantonal director of the educational system has exerted pressure on Stolac to unite the school administrations. But Tihic and Covic (heads of the Bosniak and Croat nationalist parties) agreed on the appointment of Raguz, Nerin said. He added that nothing has been resolved regarding last year's high school diplomas, but that the students are allowed to go on to study in the universities, regardless.

The Youth Forum has secured donations from the Slovenian government for the school, and the school authorities accepted these donations only under pressure. The problem of resistance to unification does not only come from the Croat authorities. Nerin added, "We offered to organize a two-week trip to Slovenia, to Maribor, for high school students. The Bosniak part of the high school rejected this idea. They don't want Croats and Bosniaks to study together. Independently, we sent eleven elementary school children, from fourth to eighth grade, in 2007. They even got to meet the Prime Minister of Slovenia."

Discussing the unemployment problem, Nerin said, "Saying we need to fix the economy is backwards. The bad economy is the result, not the cause, of the problem. Here, there is poor investment, because it is not a stable environment. But the poverty suits the authorities, because only under the present conditions can they stay in power. They can pay someone 50 KM for a vote. They can extort support. People will do anything for some material security under these conditions."

I have heard people call Nerin an "extremist." I asked him why. He said, "If it's 'extremist' to demand that people address the crimes that happened in the war, then it's necessary to be extremist. I want to talk about the war. This is the only solution. I am doing what I must do, and this is considered provocative. There were 7,600 civilians killed [in the Stolac region], and the height of illusion is to try to hide the obvious. To be on good relations with everyone means to cover up the past."


Nerin set up an overnight stay for me with a returnee family: Senad, Alma, and their two sons. Like many Bosniaks, Senad and Alma are employed in Mostar. One son runs a DVD shop in Stolac. Senad told me that he had been a prisoner in Dretelj. Their house was devastated during the war. They came back to Stolac and rebuilt it in 2003.

We talked about the US elections; everyone wanted to know more about them, who was the best candidate, and who was going to win. Many Bosniaks wished that Hillary had won the nomination. Senad said that he thought that Clinton was the best president that the US ever had. He asked me whether 9/11 was a plot by the US government. I said I didn't believe that, but that they made the best use of it when the time came. Senad and his son asked me why the US was so inclined to make war, when war was such a useless and horrible thing. They were under the impression that Americans love war.

Senad told me that no one can get work in Stolac, that people have to work in Mostar, and that he works for 500 KM a month, which is very little. He added that people here are hard-working, and that if they could work, they could get rich and rebuild their town.


I met Fahro, who had been displaced to Sarajevo. He has rebuilt his house and comes to Stolac every weekend. Fahro picked me up at the bus stop and took me to his house. His back yard reaches down to the bank of the Bregava, and from there you can see the Inat Cuprija, one of Stolac's most lovely bridges.

We walked upriver to a kafana on the bank, passing a number of newly-repaired houses, and some that are still gutted. Fahro spoke of the problems for Bosniaks in Stolac and mentioned that there were a couple of factories that are running, but not at full steam. I asked him if Sarajevo didn't care about the outlying centers of Bosniak population. He said, "It's more complicated than that. Sarajevo had offered to help restore the orthopedic hospital that used to exist here, but the local government rejected this help, because they didn't want to have to employ local Bosniaks."


I called Miro Raguz, whose name I had gotten from a friend in Mostar. Miro, an artist, is building a house of timber and stone in a little village outside of Stolac. He works as the head of a publishing company. He also helped to found a local brass band for young people in Stolac.

Miro's house was not finished yet, but it was quite beautiful, all stone, tile, and natural wood. It has a brick fireplace, and a fire was burning in it. I asked Miro whether he was going to plaster over the bricks, and he said, "Never!" It was clear that he had very a strong aesthetic sense and that this building project was very much his personal expression.

We talked about design and taste. Miro was commenting on someone who came and tore down a beautiful old house nearby, to build a new one. He said, "We have a saying, 'There are two things you can't hide: money, and a cough.'" I commented that maybe there was a third thing that you couldn't hide: bad taste.

The surname Raguz is common among Bosnian Croats, and there are a number of prominent Croat politicians with that name. I asked Miro about the name. He said that it stems from someone who came from Dubrovnik, which used to be called "Ragusa." That ancestor was taken captive by a family from Naples but eventually escaped. This happened around 400 years ago. Miro listed off his ancestors in reverse order: "My father was named Pero, and his father was named Mate, and his father was named Pero...," going back seven or eight generations to the original Raguz who came to this area. He said, "We have much history; that is an enrichment, but also a burden."

Miro is a non-nationalist Croat, something rather unusual for this area. I asked him what he thought of Mehmed Dizdar's books. He told me that he had published them, and that in Herzegovina a Croat who collaborates with a Bosniak is a rare thing. Mehmed was Miro's high school professor.

Speaking about the general atmosphere in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Miro said, "If it were not for the international community, the nationalist oligarchy would make war again. They can manipulate the younger people. The younger people on each side don't know each other. BiH is a deeply divided society; it is sick. And Stolac is a sad place; it is like after a gold rush. There needs to be a catharsis here. People need to live in reality, not in a virtual space. The nationalist parties only spread fear.

"Here, there are separate communities that don't identify with Bosnia and Herzegovina. But it is a bigger problem that people go to work and they aren't paid. Nationalism is only important in relation to war. We are not in that context here anymore."

Miro spoke of the orchestra that he had helped found. Contrasting this activity with those of Nerin Dizdar, Miro said that the orchestra brings people together for a cultural activity, and doesn't force them to deal with political matters. He said, "We spend our own money on the band, like Santa Claus. That's how we struggle against nationalism. There are all ethnicities in the band; although we weren't particularly trying to make that happen, all came. They will be good citizens of Stolac. That is reconciliation."

I attended the orchestra's rehearsal. All of the clarinetists except Miro, and all of the flautists, were young women. All of the brass and drummers are men. It was a perfect small-town band. If someone were inspired to mount a humanitarian campaign to help this reconciliation project, the band could probably benefit from electronic tuners for each musician.


I had tried to meet with Zvonko Peric previously, and finally caught up with him on this visit. Nerin Dizdar had described him to me as an operator in the Croat nationalist infrastructure.

I nailed down a talk with Peric, and it was worthwhile in a strange way. The first part of what he told me was strikingly similar to what people on other sides of recent history have been saying: "Before the war, there were around 6,000 people who were employed. There were no unemployed people. Then after the war, most companies and factories were closed. There was privatization after the war, and it was a catastrophe, because people had no idea. The privatization was transparent, but the money behind it was not. People who didn't have money before the war got it by smuggling cigarettes, prostitution, etc."

Peric omitted important details about who has been responsible for the crooked privatization throughout the country: the nationalist elites who came to power in each area during the war. He continued, "Most of the people who came in to buy companies are not from Bosnia-Herzegovina, but from other countries, such as Slovenia. It has been a crisis; people are buying wrecked companies for little money, and then selling them off, or parts of them, for more.

"In this municipality, the mayor does not have the sense how to run an economy. He is centralizing everything, like in communism. People vote for the mayor because otherwise, they are afraid they'll lose their jobs. We are living in 1958, not 2008."

Speaking of Bosnia-wide politics, Peric told me that "The solution is to form a third entity. They separated Kosovo from Serbia, but they oppose a Croat entity. It is not normal."

When I asked him whether this would create a problem for the Croats in the interior, since there is a significant population of Bosnian Croats in central Bosnia and Posavina, he said, "The entity doesn't have to be connected." He continued, "Our problem is that the Croats don't have strong leaders. Those that we do have are more interested in their positions of power than in their people. We need a Moses, someone for our people that would be like Tudjman was for Croatia."

Towards the end of our talk Peric seemed to leave off with facts, and his discourse became dominated by a kind of retroactive logic. On the international community's behavior, he said, "There is interest in keeping things unstable here. The High Representative is paid 60,000 KM a month to be here, so he has an interest in prolonging the disorder. They have to keep making a crisis, so they can launder money."

Peric wound up our conversation with the following: "The more I read, the more I am convinced that there are several people who run the world. The Masons killed Aldo Moro. Kissinger was mixed up in that. And Milosevic financed his operations with drug sales, just like the Queen of England did."


The slow bus between Mostar and Stolac takes the high road through the Herzegovinan hills above Capljina and stops at little villages, mostly Croat-populated, like Domanevici. There, leftover campaign posters read, "Choose ours!" (meaning, "vote Croat").

Mostar looks more fixed up than I remember -- at first glance it seems to be between 80% and 90% repaired, with the notable exception of the big department store on the eastern (Bosniak) side, which continues to stand empty and gutted. There are more new shops.

I walked slowly down towards the Old Bridge. The anticipation builds. Rounding the corner and seeing the Bridge is always a thrill of amazement. This beauty is something that you can never get used to.

In the morning I went to the new museum of the Old Bridge. As the Bridge was being reconstructed between 1998 and 2004, builders excavated the underpinnings of the tower, named Tara, on the left bank of the river. In that tower they created a museum with historical exhibits of the town and the Old Bridge. There are five floors connected by steep stairways -- more like slanted ladders -- leading up to the top of the tower. From there you have an unusual view, looking directly down on the Bridge, and the rest of the city as well.

Underneath the tower there is a "labyrinth," where they discovered the traces of the two bridges that existed before the Old Bridge was built in the mid-16th century. One was a wooden bridge, and there had been a chain bridge as well. The museum guide told me that of the stones that had been part of the Old Bridge, around 10% have been reused.

One evening I had the unexpected honor of having dinner with Amir Pasic, a prominent local architect who was instrumental in the Bridge's reconstruction. I asked him if it was true what they say, about how the stones of the Old Bridge had been stuck together with eggs and horsehair. He told me, "I doubt that, but it makes a good story."

One night as I was working in an Internet club, there was an important soccer game taking place in Istanbul: Bosnia vs. Turkey. People all around the old part of town were outside at kafanas, watching the match on television. You didn't really have to watch the game, because you could always hear the cheers and noise whenever Bosnia scored, or lost a point, or even came close to scoring. As I went to bed, I concluded that Turkey had won the game, because I didn't hear any riotous cheering through the night. As it turned out, Turkey won, 2:1.

I sat with my friend Huso, a leader of the youth group Abrasevic, at the bus station before leaving for Sarajevo. Up-to-date on all the political and cultural currents in the world, Huso is the real revolutionary in this country.

Describing the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Huso said, "We are nearing the end of the post-war transition period. There are a few rich people, and many poor. And Mostar has transformed into a management enterprise. Everything can be bought and sold. All the public spaces are being sold and attached to one nationalist side or the other. So there is almost no citizen's space left.

"There are 350 employees in the city administration, but there only need to be 150. The rest are kept in place so that they will vote for their party. And all the telecom companies are run by the nationalist parties. They need to be privatized in a careful way, but the parties would lose the votes of their employees if that takes place, so they are dragging their feet."

I asked Huso if there was any activity with Nasa Stranka (see journal #1) in the Mostar area. He said that there was, but that he was unhappy with them because they expected automatic support but didn't present a clear program. He said, "I can support you as a friend or a neighbor, but not politically, just because you're my friend."

On cultural trends among the Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims), Huso said, "The Bosniaks have lost almost everything of cultural value that they have had. In the last two years there has been a rise in religious fundamentalism. A pernicious version Islam is creeping in. Bosniaks still have Sevdalinka [urban Ottoman folk songs], and some connection to Turkey. Islam provides the complete answer. Poor people are ready for this kind of solution. And there is a 'festivalization' of religion, such as Ramadan, turning the holy month into an exaggeration, a spectacle that's lacking in spiritual feeling."

The reference to Turkey recalls a recent comment by the spiritual leader of the Bosniaks, Reis Mustafa Ceric, that "Turkey is the Bosnian Muslims' mother." This statement is more clever than it sounds; it's bad history, but good political manipulation. Such statements reinforce the separation of ethnic identities in Bosnia at a time when continuation of this trend can only lead to disaster. The salvation of Bosnia will come, if ever, when Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks start thinking of themselves as Bosnians.

Of Ceric, Huso said, "He runs a schizophrenic kind of politics. He talks about European Islam, but there is no difference between European and Arabic Islam, because the Koran is always in Arabic." Ceric speaks to Europe about tolerance and multi-culturalism, but in his own country, he regularly makes pronouncements that reinforce division among the ethnicities. What's more, he exerts vast power in the behind-the-scenes process of deciding which Bosniaks will succeed in politics, and which will fail.

Huso was involved in the Queer Sarajevo Festival that was attacked by Muslim religious extremists in September (see journal #5). Speaking of the rhetorical attacks on the festival by the official Islamic community, Huso said, "The Reis and his ilk have dirty minds "pornografska svijest" -- a pornographic consciousness). They make a "microscopization of relationships, only focusing on sex, not on people."

I mentioned to Huso how Ceric, when he spoke in Seattle last year, said that Chicago, where he had studied, was "his kind of town." Huso said, "Yes, I'm not surprised, because Chicago is divided, the Blacks are in the south, and the Whites in the north, and there's no subway between them. And the university is a white-controlled enclave in the south." It turned out that Huso knew more about Chicago than I did.

Huso wound up his comments on Bosnia by saying, "This country is in high school. It needs to go to the university, and then become a citizen."


Next (and last!): Bosnia-Herzegovina journal #10 -- Elections wrap up; more crime and scandals; politics.