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?