Friday, December 24, 2010

"Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation" by Silber and Little [15]

Chapter 23: HMS Invincible Talks at Seas Summer 1993

This short chapter mostly concerns the ongoing talks which were held in 1993 in which the Western powers tried to push a peace plan onto the three parties they could all be coerced into signing. The theme that the international community implicitly accepted the ethnic carve-up of Bosnia continued, and the Bosnian government were increasingly being pushed harder to accept a peace plan which by this point left them with a fractured, land-locked statelet which was simply not viable as a functioning nation-state. As part of this pressure, the West had cultivated Bosniak politician/warlord Fikret Abdic as a potential rival to Izetbegovic, if only for leverage. At this point, Abdic--who had good relations with many of the nationalist Serbs in the areas around the so-called "Bihac pocket" which was his stronghold--declared his independence from the Bosnian state and established his own breakaway statelet within the borders of Bosnia.

While this was going on, the Croatian leadership was still maintaining diplomatic relations with their Serb counterparts. But while the continued possibility of a mutual Croat/Serb division of Bosnia at the expense of the Muslim plurality was ongoing, there was a contrary diplomatic track being pursued--the American pressure on the Croats to cooperate with the Bosnian government.

Chapter 24: A Question of Control The Market Square Bomb and the NATO Ultimatum February 1994

The mortar shell which killed sixty-nine people in Sarajevo on February 5, 1994 might have served as little more than a test case for how the differing parties in the war reacted. The Bosnian government was quick to express its outrage to any media outlet they could find. Radovan Karadzic was equally quick with his laughably inconsistent and illogical denials--the man had a real talent for changing his story as the facts eroded the ground under earlier disavowels of responsibility. And Canadian General Lewis MacKenzie was more than willing to lend his support for the whispering campaign among pro-Serb Westerners that Karadzic's claim that the bomb was actually planted by the Bosnian government was true. Of course, neither MacKenzie nor anyone else could come out and say such things--if they had done so, they might have been required to provide evidence. Evidence for a claim that the Bosnian government would have--indeed, could have--launched an inaccurate mortar shell into a crowded market square on a quiet day (mortars are not very accurate weapons--getting a direct hit on the first try is mostly a matter of dumb luck) in order to increase pressure on the Serbs. And for that matter, evidence that this scenario was more likely than the possibility that this mortar was simply one of the approximately 500,000 artillery projectiles the Bosnian Serb army had inflicted onto Sarajevo by that point. Such evidence was, not surprisingly, never forthcoming.

The attack pushed the international community to finally call for decisive action against the Serbs in the form of airstrikes. The Russians stepped in and pressured the West to work out a compromise. The Serb leadership, who realized that the presence of the Russians along with the UN willingness to serve as troops patroling--and therefore maintaining--the battle lines in Sarajevo--eagerly jumped on the opportunity to appear reasonable, and therefore agreed to a plan to place their heavy weapons under UN "control." Eventually, the Bosnian government--who smelled a rat--were pressured by the international community to accept this compromise.

The UN forces on the scene, led by General Michael Rose, were more concerned about avoiding air strikes than any larger strategic aims. It was typical of the mentality of the UNPROFOR leadership by this point in the war, Rose was primarily worried about the safety of the "peacekeeping" troops under his command and had little inclination to consider the larger issues of justice in the conflict. Therefore, as the Serbs continued to change the terms of the agreement and then drag their feet on complying even with that, Rose put his energies into finding ways to spin the reality in order to, in effect, "sell" the Serb actions in the best possible light. In the end, Karadzic and the Bosnian Serbs came out ahead--they still had actual control of their weapons, they still held the high ground around Sarajevo, UN troops now did some of the grunt work of manning the front lines for them, and the international community had been told that they had made concessions for peace. And certain elements within the UN were complicit in all this.

"Gaining Moral Ground" The Washington Agreement February 1994

While all that was happening, though, American diplomacy was pushing an agreement which would ultimately change the dynamic and the balance of power on the ground. This chapter summarizes the diplomatic and political actions which led to the formulation of the Croat-Muslim alliance, which was supported by the Croatian government out of necessity and moral pressure, and which was only possible with continued prodding and pressure from Washington. It was a marriage of convenience, not love, but it would work.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sarajevo’s “War Without End”

[The following is reprinted with permission from the Institute for War & Peace Reporting website. My thanks for continuing to give me the opportunity to share articles.]

Former BBC correspondent recounts life in city targeted by shelling and sniper fire.
By Rachel Irwin - International Justice - ICTY
TRI Issue 674, 17 Dec 10

A former BBC journalist told the trial of Radovan Karadzic this week that civilians in the besieged city of Sarajevo were deliberately targeted by snipers and subjected to “appalling” conditions.

“I would say that [civilians] were subjected to three and-a-half years of an appalling ordeal,” said prosecution witness Martin Bell, who covered the wars in Croatia and Bosnia from 1991 to 1995.

“It was not just a question of being caught in the crossfire, there was deliberate targeting also, on both sides of the lines.”

Karadzic was the president of Bosnia’s self-declared Republika Srpska, RS, from 1992 to 1996. He allegedly planned and oversaw the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that left nearly 12,000 people dead, and his army is accused of deliberately sniping and shelling the city’s civilian population in order to “spread terror” among them.

The indictment - which lists 11 counts in total - alleges that Karadzic was responsible for crimes of genocide, persecution, extermination, murder and forcible transfer which “contributed to achieving the objective of the permanent removal of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from Bosnian Serb-claimed territory”. In July 2008, he was arrested in Belgrade after 13 years on the run.

In one of Bell’s television reports screened during the hearing, Sarajevo civilians run past what are said to be Bosnian Serb sniper positions in order to reach the only available water supply, located in a nearby basement. One man who was making the journey is shot in the leg as he turns a corner. He collapses and appears to go into shock.

“He was shot for a bucket of water,” Bell narrates in the report.

“Was this a situation where someone was caught in the cross-fire?” prosecuting lawyer Carolyn Edgerton asked.

“No, the man who was wounded had clearly been targeted,” Bell answered. “…After all these years I still find the report difficult to watch… the images themselves called for international intervention.

“In terms of the situation for civilians in the city, do you find this report of yours to be an accurate depiction?” Edgerton asked.

“Yes, I am confident this is accurate and truthful,” Bell said. “You can see the woman wincing when she hears the sniper fire… I think this report conveys an accurate picture of suffering inflicted on innocent people.”

Edgerton then asked him to describe the “psychological effect” that the constant shelling and sniping had on civilians.

“This is anecdotal, but I have never seen such anxiety etched on everybody’s faces - they lost weight and some looked almost grey with fear,” Bell answered. “We [journalists] had it easy, we came in and out… [Civilians] were there all the time with no means to escape. They were trapped in a war without end.”

Bell also described his experiences reporting from other Bosnian cities and towns, including Zvornik, which borders neighbouring Serbia.

In one report from early April 1992, Bell says that “95 per cent” of Zvornik’s Serb population had already fled and that war was “unstoppable”. After the Serbs fled, he reported that the town was taken over by “Serbian irregulars” led by a man named Zeljko Raznatovic, otherwise known as Arkan, who is interviewed briefly in the report.

Arkan led a group known as Arkan’s Tigers, said to be one of the most notorious paramilitary groups during that time. He was assassinated in Belgrade in 2000 before he could be arrested and transferred to The Hague, but he is named in Karadzic’s indictment as one of the alleged members of a joint criminal enterprise that includes the accused and various other members of the Bosnian Serb and Serbian leadership.

On April 10, 1992, Bell filed a report where lifeless bodies are seen being dragged on the ground. He describes Arkan’s forces as “mopping up the last of Muslim resistance” and “making greater Serbia happen”.
The report also captures on film the flight of an estimated 20,000 Bosniak civilians from the area. One woman tells the camera, “We are unarmed and they are firing at us.” Another man begs the world to help them. Groups of women, children and babies huddle together, and many of them are crying. Bell narrates that “the ethnic map of Bosnia is being redrawn”.

“When you said that the ethnic map of Bosnia is being redrawn, what did you mean?” Edgerton asked.

“This was the first visual evidence of what came to be known as ethnic cleansing,” Bell answered. “This report did have considerable impact and actually, your honours, it still does.”

Bell said that earlier this year, he received a letter from a man, now living in Canada, who was one of the babies captured in the video footage that day.

“He was grateful for the existence of this report because it was the only evidence of what happened at this time,” Bell said.

After the events in Zvornik, Bell said he wanted “Dr Karadzic to know what was going on”.

“[The] fighting, as far as we know, was done by Arkan’s [paramilitaries], which was not under control of the accused,” Bell said.

“How do you know that?” Edgerton asked.

“I knew Arkan,” Bell responded. “Arkan took orders from nobody. He had a very tense relationship even with the [Yugoslav army]. Having said that, he couldn’t get across the border [from Serbia] without collusion somewhere… [but] I knew him really well, I knew his mind, Ms Edgerton.”

When it was Karadzic’s turn to cross-examine the witness, he asked if Bell agreed that until May 20, 1992, when the Yugoslav Army, JNA, pulled out of Bosnia, Karadzic had “no opportunities to gain insight or control on the developments on the ground” including the events in Zvornik.

“We were hardly able to find out what was going on, much less control it,” Karadzic contended.

“That was the very early days [of war],” Bell responded. “There was no Bosnian Serb army in existence at that time.”

He added that “anarchy” had reigned during “those early days”.

Karadzic also questioned Bell on his interpretation of the Zvornik takeover.

“You said the Serbs first fled Zvornik,” Karadzic said.
“First, the Serbs fled Zvornik across the river, and then I’m assuming that some of them returned, and then the fighting forces were commander Arkan’s,” Bell responded.

“Did you receive any information as to who Serbs were fleeing from?” Karadzic asked, adding that there were “numerous Muslim paramilitary formations” in the area.

“That’s your information, not mine,” Karadzic said. “Two or three days before the fighting in Zvornik, Serbs had fled and obviously they fled in fear.”

Karadzic contended that Bosniak civilians “didn’t even wait for Serbs to arrive, so they are refugees rather than displaced persons”.

“They either left before the Serbs came, or they left following instructions,” he continued. “In any case, they were not driven out, they were refugees.”
Bell responded that in his television report “you actually heard guns firing in background as [the Bosniak civilians] crouched there.

“I don’t doubt that some left before the Arkan attack, but others left because of it,” Bell said.

When Edgerton had the opportunity to ask some follow-up questions, she challenged Karadzic’s assertion that up until the JNA pullout on May 20, 1992 there was no “centralised control or command”.

She produced several transcripts from Bosnian Serb assembly sessions which suggested that Karadzic had organised crisis staffs, executive boards and reserve units in various municipalities by late March 1992.

Bell said that it would be “hard to overstate the degree of chaos and anarchy in early weeks of April 1992”.
“What I saw on the ground were bands of armed men on both sides, [and] very often they appeared to be undisciplined [and] improvised,” he said.

“But I will accept that by early May there was a degree of command and control in some areas,” Bell continued. “Armies are not formed and organised overnight, not even in times of war.”

Also testifying this week was Almir Begic, who said his father was killed in the first massacre at Sarajevo’s Markale market on February 5, 1994. His father wore a prosthetic leg, and Begic testified that it was the same prosthetic leg that appears in video footage of the massacre, already shown several times during the trial.

Karadzic contends that the massacre was staged by the Bosnian government and that the prosthetic leg was planted at the scene.

The trial is scheduled to resume the week of January 10, after the court’s winter recess.

Rachel Irwin is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

"Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation" by Silber and Little [14]

Chapter 21: Last-Chance Cafe The Rise and Fall of the Vance-Owen Plan January-May 1993

The Vance-Owen plan had many flaws, and I am not here to defend it. However, it did have two advantages which should be taken into consideration:

1) Cyrus Vance and Lord Owen seemed to recognize a harsh, infuriating, and disheartening reality--the West had no interest in a truly just or lasting solution for Bosnia. The nature of their plan may very well have been simply a concession to the political realities they were laboring under.

2) Unlike the Dayton agreement which would come a few years later, the Vance-Owen plan actually took the territorial integrity of Bosnia seriously. For all the faults of the central concept of partitioning Bosnia by ethnic cantons, the Vance-Owen plan at least scattered the Serb-assigned cantons so that they could not form a unified whole; unlike the de facto ethnic partition of the Dayton constitution, Vance-Owen undermined the geopolitical viability of Republika Srpska.

The plan famously divided Bosnia into 10 cantons--3 for the Bosniaks, three for the Serbs, two for the Croats, one for the Bosniaks and Croats to share, and Sarajevo as a "special status" canton. The Vance-Owen plan essentially signalled that while the West deplored the tactics of the Serb nationalists, the leaders of the "international community" accepted the premise that Bosnians would not be considered as individual citizens but as aggregate ethnic entities. The Vance-Owen plan itself would perish, but it defined how the West would deal with Bosnia from 1993 until the present day.

The chapter details the political "rise and fall" of the Plan, which was eventually rejected by the Bosnian Serb parliament* against the wishes of Milosevic--the break between him and the Bosnian Serb leadership was now open and would ultimately provide the diplomatic room for the West to apply some pressure between the government of Serbia and the Serb rebel government in Bosnia.

*My failure to capitalize "parliament" is deliberate; whenever possible, I seek to avoid giving the appearance of legitimacy to any of the institutions of the illegal Bosnian Serb Republic of 1992-1995.

Chapter 22: Beware Your Friend a Hundred-fold The Muslim-Croat Conflict 1992-1994

The Muslim-Croat War of 1993 (the dating here is an acknowledgement that the seeds of the conflict dated back to the beginning of the Bosnian war) is often treated as an unfortunate sideshow to the larger conflict. In some ways this is accurate--the group which had the most to gain were the nationalist Serbs, who were delighted to see their mutual foes turn on each other, simultaneously strengthening the hand of nationalist Croats who wished to see an ethnic partition of Bosnia between Croatia and Serbia while further isolating the Muslims even further. Those who criticize the Vance-Owen plan for its pessimistic vision need to remember that in the Spring of 1993, the Muslims of Bosnia very much looked to be on the verge of being wiped off the map.

They weren't, of course, but the price was steep; many Muslims would embrace a hardline, more explicitly Islamic approach as Muslims in general came to realize that they were truly on their own. Ultimately, too few Bosnian Croats were radicalized enough for the HVO to have its way, and of course Tudjman would soon realize he had more to lose by continuing to support radical nationalists while courting international favor. In the end, the conflict mostly served to hasten and intensify the ethnic division, radicalization, and mutual suspician that the Serb nationalist project had put into motion.

National Congress of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina Report on Holbrooke

National Congress of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina (NCR B&H)

ONLINE NEWSLETTER International, No. 704 December 17, 2010


1. Richard Holbrooke – Unlawful and Immoral Diplomacy

2. The Declaration of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina Posted by The Henry Jackson Society

3. Epitaph for Richard Holbrooke

4. Holbrooke's Obituary for the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina

5. Found on WikiLeaks: Dishonest Clinton era politics regarding Bosnia continues 6. Statement of the Bosnian Citizen Action regarding indictment for their protest against intended cosmetic changes of Dayton constitution

1. Richard Holbrooke – Unlawful and Immoral Diplomacy By Vahid Sendijarevic, Ph.D. National Congress of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“I never met anyone more tenaciously committed to delivering on results and negotiating and doing whatever had to be done to achieve positive outcomes. And sometimes, people get lost in the methods and means, and thinking that has to be very moral and right. And Richard didn't get lost there.” These are words of Mr. Steve Clemons about legacy of Mr. Holbrook spoken hours after his death. Mr. Steve Clemons, author of the political blog, “The Washington Note,” was introduced as a friend of Mr. Holbrook by Rachel Maddow in her show on MSNBC on December 13, 2010. What Mr. Clemons said in very polite manner is that Mr. Holbrook would use any mean necessary, regardless how immoral and unlawful, to achieve his diplomatic goals. Dayton Peace Accord brokered by Mr. Holbrook was sold to the public by President Clinton as one of the highest achievement of American diplomacy. However, in reality Mr. Holbrook’s diplomatic negotiations instigated the genocide in Bosnia which led to the Dayton Peace Accord imposed on Bosnian people. The Dayton Peace Accord represents a LEGAL AND POLITICAL PRECEDENT that constitution of sovereign nations can be changed by foreign aggression, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. The claim by President Clinton, Mr. Holbrook, and their protégés that Dayton Peace Accord brought peace to people of Bosnia is a plain lie used to cover up the immorality and unlawfulness of the negotiation process that led to Dayton Peace Accord. The objective of the 1992 aggression by Serbia against the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was creation of an ethnically pure “Greater Serbia”. This could be achieved by dismantling the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and by ethnic cleansing of non-Serbs from 50% of Bosnian territory to create “Republika Srpska” next to Serbia to be used as bases for creation of continuous “Greater Serbia.” With the genocide in Srebrenica in 1995, the continuous territory was established, and with US backed diplomatic efforts of Mr. Holbrook, Serbian objectives in Bosnia were solidified in the imposed Dayton Peace Agreement. According to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment for the Crime of Genocide and the UN Charter, the administration of President Clinton was obligated to protect the UN member state, the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, from aggression and genocide and not to reward the perpetrators of aggression and genocide with the territory of the victim state. President Clinton and Holbrook can not claim that they did not know what was going on in Bosnia from the day one of aggression in 1992. In legally binding Resolutions 752 and 757 from 1992, the UN Security Council adopted economic sanctions and political isolation to Serbia and Montenegro as punishment for their aggression against the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the provisional measures of the International Court of Justice on September 13, 1993, in the case of Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro, “the Court recorded that, since its Order [to Serbia and Montenegro] of April 8, 1993, and despite it and many resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, "great suffering and loss of life has been sustained by the population of Bosnia-Herzegovina in circumstances which shock the conscience of mankind and flagrantly conflict with moral law ...". The war crimes that shocked the conscience of mankind and flagrantly conflicted with moral law moved the American people to do good for people of Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The USA congress adapted two times a resolution to lift arms embargo on Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina so that Bosnians can defend themselves from those horrible crimes. President Clinton vetoed both resolutions. The second resolution was adapted by 2/3 majority in both The House of the Representatives and the Senate. At the hearing at the Senate after the second veto by President Clinton, Senator Joe Biden accused Administration of President Clinton and Warren Christopher, a Secretary of State, for actively participating in partition of the sovereign nation of Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and thus participating in war crimes against Bosnian people. After passionate exchange of arguments between Mr. Biden and Mr. Christopher, hearings were moved behind the closed doors far from the public eyes, and Mr. Biden changed his passion for justice and rule of law into new passion which can be described as by any mean necessaryto achieve diplomatic goals, regardless how immoral and unlawful those goals were. Off course, nobody gave any explanations what were the benefits to the American people of President Clinton and Ambassador Holbrook’s decision to go along with Milosevic’s genocidal project. We know well that America benefits when it stands for what is right. And, what was right in the case of Bosnia was to defend the letters of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment for the Crime of Genocide and not to go along with goals of Mr. Milosevic, indicted war criminal for war crimes in Croatia and genocide in Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Still there is time to correct the wrong done by President Clinton and his administration. The International Court of Justice ruled in the binding judgment in February 26, 2007 in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro that genocide was committed by the government and institutions of “Republika Srpska” and specifically the Army (VRS) and Police (MUP) of “Republika Srpska” and that Serbia had an obligation to prevent the genocide. Filing the law suit for genocide in 1993 preceded all subsequent constitutional and legal arrangements for Bosnia and Herzegovina. The final judgment of the International Court of Justice supersedes all constitutional arrangements that are offered today to the victims of aggression and genocide including Annex 4 to the Dayton Agreement (the Dayton Constitution). The U.S.A. should help Bosnian patriots to restore the constitution and institutions of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina as they were before the aggression and genocide by applying the legal right to RESTITUTIO IN INTEGRUM (restoration of the original condition) based on the peremptory norms of International law JUS COGENS, and to declare null and void the Dayton Constitution and institutions created under the Dayton Constitution. The constitution of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the only legally binding document on the basis of which the independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina has been recognized. This constitution ended communism and provided for free multiparty elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1990 and provided for free referendum of its independence in 1992. Under this constitution, Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina became a UN member nation. This constitution provides that each individual is sovereign on entire territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina irrelevant on ethnicity or religion. The lawfulness and justice in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina will be accomplished only after the goal of the aggression and genocide is denied to the perpetrators of the aggression and genocide. According to International law, and domestic laws, anything what was achieved unlawfully can not be recognized as lawful. Under the Dayton Agreement, the unlawful governing power over the victims of aggression and genocide in the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina was put into the hands of those who committed the genocide and those who were complicit in aggression and the genocide. The U.S. government should terminate its support to those in Bosnia who were complicit in the aggression and genocide.

2. The Declaration of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina Posted by The Henry Jackson Society:

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: 1. The International Court of Justice and International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia have ruled that the Bosnian Serb entity 'Republika Srpska' is guilty of genocide, and that Serbia is guilty of failure to prevent and punish genocide. 2. These rulings provide a legal basis for the abolition of the regime established by the 1995 Dayton settlement, which was illegitimately derived from this genocide. 3. To uphold the Dayton regime is to recognize the precedent, that a legitimate constitutional order may be overthrown by aggression and genocide. 4. The international community should work with the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina to restore the legitimate constitutional order of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

3. Epitaph for Richard Holbrooke

I am very sorry to learn that Richard Holbrooke has died . Because I fully intended to bring him to Justice and get him criminally indicted for the genocidal massacre at Srebrenica on behalf of my clients, the Mothers of Srebrenica and Podrinja. It was Holbrooke who deliberately sacrificed Zepa and Srebrenica in order to produce Dayton’s genocidal carve-up map. Holbrooke was the Father of the genocidal statelet known as Republika Sprska. Holbrooke was the Destroyer of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Holbrooke was an Accessory Before, During and After the Fact to the Extermination of 8000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica, which the International Court of Justice ruled was genocide in violation of the 1948 Genocide Convention. Holbrooke shall live in Infamy as a Genocidaire. In his classic work The Phaedo, Plato has his hero Socrates comment upon the transmigration/reincarnation of souls. With respect to Holbrooke, Socrates said as follows: “And those who have chosen the portion of injustice, and tyranny, and violence, will pass into wolves, or into hawks and kites;--whither else can we suppose them to go?” Let Socrates’ words of wisdom serve as Holbrooke’s Epitaph and Fate. Professor Francis A. BoyleGeneral Agent for the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina before the International Court of Justice; Attorney for the Mothers of Srebrenica and Podrinja Francis A. BoyleLaw Building504 E. Pennsylvania Ave.Champaign, IL 61820 USA217-333-7954 (Voice)217-244-1478 (Fax)(personal comments only)

4. In many occasions, Prof. Francis Boyle openly said to Richard Holbrooke the truth about Dayton accord. For example, the following essay was the first time published in 18 Human Rights Quarterly 515 (1996) 4. Holbrooke's Obituary for the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina By Francis A. BoyleProfessor of International Law Pursuant to the Dayton Accords, on 15 December 1995 the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was carved up in Paris by Richard Holbrooke, the United Nations, the European Union Member States, the United States, and the many other states in attendance, despite the United Nations Charter, the Nuremberg Principles, the Genocide Convention, the Four Geneva Conventions and their two Additional Protocols, the Racial Discrimination Convention, and the Apartheid Convention, inter alia, as well as two overwhelmingly favorable World Court Orders this author won for the Republic on 8 April 1993 and 13 September 1993. This second World Court Order expressly prohibited Holbrooke's partition of Bosnia by the vote of 13 to 2. Bosnia was sacrificed on the altar of Great Power politics to the Machiavellian god of expedience. In 1938 the Great Powers of Europe did the exact same thing to Czechoslovakia at Munich. The partition of that nation state did not bring peace to Europe then. Continued partition of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina will not bring peace to Europe now. This U.N.-sanctioned execution of a U.N. Member State violated every known principle of international law that had been formulated by the international community in the post-World War II era. This nihilistic carve-up of Bosnia indicates that the current regime of international law and organizations set up by the United States and Europe in direct reaction to the genocidal horrors of the Second World War is in the process of gradual but irretrievable disintegration. The unstopped genocide in Bosnia already served as the harbinger to the genocide in Rwanda. Bosnia will become the precedent for the perpetration of similar mass slaughters around the world in the future. Holbrooke's Dayton/Paris Accords shall always stand for the proposition that genocide pays. So much for the slogan: Never again! ______________________________

5. Found on WikiLeaks: Dishonest Clinton era politics regarding Bosnia continues

The following are several cables sent from American Embassy in Sarajevo, and published on WikiLeaks Summary ¶1. (S/NF) The emergence of a new Bosniak party, led by the powerful, reportedly corrupt, and sometimes vindictive media mogul Fahrudin Radoncic, is likely to create further rifts in the Bosniak political scene, particularly amid the campaign for the October 2010 general elections. Radoncic has the support of the leader of the Islamic community. Also, Radoncic's ownership and direct control of the most widely-read daily newspaper in Bosnia will ensure that his campaign message is well propagated. Radoncic's reputation for questionable business ventures with partners from across the political spectrum, combined with his likely desire for influence over the judiciary to escape prosecution for corruption, suggests that he will seek political alliances based on lucrative personal prospects, rather than ideology or even ethnic affiliation. Although it is too early to make concrete predictions, Radoncic's party is poised to capture votes primarily from Haris Silajdzic's Party for BiH (SBiH), as well as a wide swath of apathetic voters allured by his pledges to fix the economy. End summary. The Scandals ¶3. (S/NF) Radoncic is widely believed to be responsible for corrupt business practices, most notably his role in a scandal involving the Federation Development Bank (FDB) (ref A). Radoncic admitted to having hired Ramiz Dzaferovic -- SDA member, director of the FDB -- to conduct an audit of Avaz through Dzaferovic's personal audit company. At the same time, Dzaferovic through the FDB gave Radoncic a loan of KM 22.5 million -- which the FDB had allocated for agriculture -- for the construction of Radoncic's Avaz Tower in Sarajevo. Separately, local media recently reported alleged ties between Radoncic and international drug dealer Kelmendi, which led Radoncic to launch a full-scale attack in the pages of Avaz against the police officials working on that case. Also, staff of the Office of the High Representative (OHR) recently linked Radoncic to an international money laundering scheme. This allegation, which was leaked to the press, sparked a smear campaign in Avaz against the Principal Deputy High Representative, a State Department employee on detail to OHR, somewhat belying Radoncic's claims that one of his priorities will be to cooperate with the international community. The Entree into Politics ¶4. (C) In September 2009, Radoncic launched a new Bosniak political party, the Alliance for a Better Future of BiH (SBB-BiH) (ref B). Radoncic is almost certainly seeking political status in order to secure protection from the investigation of his illegal business deals by wielding government influence over the judiciary. Moreover, now may be a personally appealing time for Radoncic to enter politics, as media outlets besides Avaz indicate that Radoncic's business is struggling and that Avaz's chief rival daily newspaper, Oslobodjenje, is rapidly catching up to Avaz in its sales. This suggests that the pragmatic Radoncic is entering the political scene to seek lucrative deals wherever he can find them, rather than choosing partners based on ideology or even ethnic affiliation. This approach would make him an appealing ally for Republika Srpska (RS) Prime Minister Milorad Dodik, who also dabbles in business and is himself under investigation for corruption. Dodik therefore may see Radoncic as his ideal Bosniak interlocutor. Indeed, Radoncic told the DCM in January that he has met with Dodik, as well as Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ)-BiH President Dragan Covic -- who has been indicted for corruption and is forging a closer relationship with Dodik (septel) -- and has a good relationship with both men. Moreover, the fact that Avaz has kept mostly quiet on the very issue that it could use to galvanize the Bosniak populace ahead of the election -- rhetoric on a referendum in the RS -- has led to speculation that discussions on a partnership between Dodik and Radoncic may already be underway. The Weapons The SBiH Political Vacuum ¶7. (C) Radoncic's entree into the Bosniak political scene will most likely come at the expense of the deteriorating SBiH. SBiH garnered poor results in the 2008 municipal elections, and our SBiH contacts continue to tell us of the disgruntlement within the party with Silajdzic's poor leadership. Bakir Izetbegovic, who is a friend of Silajdzic, has suggested to us that Silajdzic may in fact be preparing to leave the political scene. Moreover, the Islamic community, which had previously endorsed Silajdzic, now supports Radoncic at the expense of SBiH. (...) Comment ¶11. (S/NF) (...) An alliance between Radoncic and Dodik, perceived as two of the country's more corrupt leaders, would send a very discouraging message to those in Bosnia and Herzegovina who are seeking the rule of law, especially the Bosniak intellectual elite. Comment Cont'd ¶12. (S/NF) At the same time -- however distasteful it may be to us or others -- if Radoncic and gains enough authority through the October 2010 elections to join a ruling coalition at the state or Federation level, his comparative lack of discord with RS leaders and pragmatic approach on issues ranging from economic development to constitutional reform and Euro-Atlantic integration could perhaps contribute to a more peaceful political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina over the near term. ENGLISH ---- COMMENT: In those cables from the American Embassy in Sarajevo we can see that Ambassador English knows that Radoncic, Dodik and Covic are the most corrupt politicians, criminals, and that they have secret meetings amongst themselves. It is not a surprise for Bosnians, because it is very well known that both Radoncic and Covic were secret agents of the Serbian dominated secret police of Yugoslavia and as such they are serving the Serbian aggression against Bosnia. Ambassador English also knows that: "An alliance between Radoncic and Dodik, perceived as two of the country's more corrupt leaders, would send a very discouraging message to those in Bosnia and Herzegovina who are seeking the rule of law, especially the Bosniak intellectual elite." What is surprising for Bosnians is that the possible taking of power by those politicians does not bother English. He sees Radoncic's "lack of discord with RS leaders" as a solution. Is this not a repeat of Holbrooke-Clinton politics in Bosnia a.k.a. "the ends justify the means"? Muhamed Borogovac, Ph.D., ASA, MAAANational Congress of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina In this links are more leaks form American Embassy in Bosnia ______________________________ 6. Statement of the Bosnian Citizen Action regarding indictment for their protest against intended cosmetic changes of Dayton constitution Citizen Action is one of many Bosnian grass-root organizations that fight for unfied Bosnia-Hezegovina, against Dayton constitution and its cozmetic changes. To all concerned people, We wish to inform you that the first hearing of the trial, which is being brought against the association "Citizen Action" for an unannounced gathering organized by our association during the first "Butmir" talks (Oct. 9, 2009), is scheduled for tomorrow Nov. 26 2010 at 10.00 pm in the Municipal Court Sokolac, East Sarajevo Division at Karadordeva Street, No. 5. Namely, during the talks of the representatives of the BiH (Bosnia and Herzegovina) political parties and the officials from the E.U. and the U.S., held at the military base in Butmir on Oct. 9, 2009, the representatives of the association planned a peaceful gathering in the base under the jurisdiction of the international forces. The previous day we had visited the military base and obtained verbal permission to hold our campaign. In the campaign titled "Big Shots Defending the Status Quo", the association did not invite the public to protest; it had the intention of sending a message to the participants of the meeting in Butmir that the citizens of BiH want a more functional and stable country. However, the MUP RS (Ministry of the Interior, i.e. police of the Republic of the Serbs) used its authority to deny the group access to the location of their presentation, and in full view of the media detained the activists and took them to the police station Kula for questioning and identification. Many organizations and individuals expressed their full support to the association, including Srdjan Dizdarevic, then president of the Helsinki Committee BiH, who offered to assist us in the further process. Although the nine activists of the association were not harmed at all during their stay in jail, we believe that their arrest was completely unwarranted because they did not in any way violate public order, nor was there any indication that the group would act in such a way. We invite you to follow this trial because it is not just a trial for our association. Instead it is a message to any formal or informal groups and individuals who may want to similarly express their political opinion in the future. Sincerely, Citizen Action ----- Let us recall that the Butmir negotiations brought a few meaningless and token "reforms". Their purpose was not to open discussion on the key changes that "Citizen Action" and other Bosnians are calling for.Their purpose was just the opposite: to affirm and cement the status quo in Parliament, and thus give a veneer of legality and legitimacy to an apartheid constitution that was created in time of war and signed by Serbian perpetrators of genocide and by their agent on the Bosnian side.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Excellent Study on the Context of the Srebrenica Genocide

It is my pleasure and honor to pass along this link to an important and necessary piece of scholarship by my comrade Daniel Toljaga, published by the Bosnia Institute:

Prelude to the Srebrenica Genocide

This was published on Nov. 18 after Daniel had put in a great deal of time researching, writing, editing, and soliciting input and advice from his wide circle of writers, scholars, activists, and other contacts. I apologize to Daniel for not having posted this immediately; if you haven't already read this piece, you need to do so immediately. And then bookmark this page so you have it handy as a reference whenever you are compelled to refute any of the ridiculous justifications for Serb nationalist actions at Srebrenica, the inaction of the international community at the time, or for attempts to derail the ongoing efforts to bring the responsible parties to justice. Daniel effectively demolishes the arguments which are used by revisionists to cloud the issue of responsibility and causation.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Latest News and Reporting from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting

Please take the time to read the following story, an in-depth piece of reportage and analysis by Rachel Irwin and Velma Saric:

Calls for War Memorials Divide Bosnia

Also, please see these other recent stories, also from IWPR:

Srebrenica Mass Graves Allegedly Interfered With

Clearly, Karadzic has developed neither a conscience nor a sense of shame since his arrest:

Karadzic Markale Staging Claims Challenged

And finally:

Sljivancanin Appeals Conviction Reversed

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation" by Silber and Little [13]

[Apologies for dragging this out so long. Graduate school is eating up much of my attention span, and I've been having computer problems on top of that. In the interests of keeping this moving, I'm probably going to stick to bare-bones summaries from now on.]

Chapter 19: "We Are the Winners" The London Conference May-December 1992

This short chapter recaps the events of the aforementioned conference, at which strong Western rhetoric aimed at rump Yugoslavia was (as Milosevic understood even prior to landing in London) not to be coupled with any meaningful, decisive action. As would be the pattern for the next two and a half years, the international community would issue threats which seemed substantive on paper, but were empty in practice.

This chapter also marks the end of the abbreviated political career of Milan Panic, the California resident who briefly returned to his homeland to serve a few months as Prime Minister in an ultimately doomed attempt to rescue Serbia from Milosevic's rule. And finally, Lord Carrington was replaced by Lord David Owen.

The most important and meaningful result of this otherwise rather useless conference was the the Bosnian Serb leadership began to emerge from under Milosevic's protective cover; and this worked quite well for Milosevic, who cleverly began distancing himself from his compatriots across the Drina.

Chapter 20: The Hottest Corner The Fall of Srebrenica and UN Safe Areas April 1993

This chapter details events which are well-known to anyone who hasn't swallowed the revisionist lie that the Srebrenica genocide of 1995 was actually a retaliation for unprovoked attacks on Serb villages which just happened to be near a large concentration of Muslims. This context for what happened at Srebrenica two years later is not essential to understand that what did happen was, in fact, genocide, but it does put that crime in context; furthermore, it explains how the bizarre Bosnian war phenomena of "safe areas" came to be.

Friday, November 12, 2010

New Article from the Institute for War & Peace Reporting

I am pleased to pass along this new article from The Institute for War & Peace Reporting. It is an interview with Merdijana Sadovic, IWPR's international justice/ICTY programme manager. In this interview Merdijana consider's Serbia's commitment to the Hague tribunal and its hopes for EU accession. It is a balanced and fair-minded examination of the relative willingness within the Serbian government to ultimately arrest Mladic and turn him over.

Is Serbia Serious About Arresting Mladic?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

"Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation" by Silber and Little [12]

Chapter 16: The Gates of Hell The Outbreak of War in Bosnia April 1-10, 1992

This chapter opens with a moving and illuminating episode from the opening days of the war, then backs up to recount the opening of full-scale warfare in and around Sarajevo. It is clear from the narrative that, up until this point, Izetbegovic had not fully grasped how much danger his country, and his fellow Muslims, were in. Balkan revisionists and apologists for the Serb nationalist project conveniently forget that this "Islamic fundamentalist" was completely unprepared for armed conflict of any kind.

Chapter 17: The President is Kidnapped May 2-3, 1992

This chapter recounts, in detail, the infamous incident where the JNA apprehended President Izetbegovic and his companions at the Sarajevo airport. This event was revisited inthe news in the past few months when Serbia tried, and failed, to have former member of the Bosnian Presidency extradicted for his role in this affair.

The details here are important, and the book makes a convincing case that the entire incident, which ended with an ambush by Bosnian militiamen and left several dead, was simply the tragic result of some incredibly poor decisions made in the middle of a confusing war. It is worth noting that the JNA forces in Sarajevo were under the command of an old-school general who was not on board with the Greater Serbia project--he would be relieved and replaced with Ratko Mladic--yet another detail which illustrates how confusing the situation on the ground was.

Also of interest to readers of this blog is how this incident, more than anything else, seems to have turned Canadian General Lewis MacKenzie into a de facto ally of the Bosnian Serb government. His initial anger and disgust with the Bosnian government forces was understandable, but his failure to put the incident into context, to recognize his own role in the tragedy, or to realize that trapped in Sarajevo as he was he was--much like the rest of the Western world--unable to see the greater horrors unfolding in the rest of Bosnia--are not.

Chapter 18: The Cleansing The Summer of 1992

While much of the Western world was unaware of what was going on in the rest of the republic, that would soon change. This chapter details both the "ethnic cleansing" of Bosnia as well as the stories of the different journalists who helped bring them to light; all this in the context of hundreds of thousands of refugees bringing incredible and grotesque horror stories which quite often were simply not believed. All this also in the context of an international reaction which chose to regard the war as a humanitarian, not a political crisis (an illusion the West would cling to far beyond the point at which this politically convenient fiction could stand up to the light of day); the authors point out that the creation of refugees was not a by-product of the war, it was the entire point.

The incidents in this chapter are infamous, and well-known to any reader of this blog. The discovery of death camps by Roy Gutman of Newsday, and then the reporting of ITV, should be news to nobody here. Still, the fact remains that there are revisionists who need to believe that these things simply didn't happen. It is crucial, then, to remember that reliable and sober reportage on these atrocities existed from the early days of the war, and that these accounts have stood the test of time and the rigor of analysis and second-guessing. Parenti, Johnstone, Chomsky and the rest don't want to know it. But we are not free to pick and choose which reality suits our ideological purposes.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Two New Articles from The Institute for War and Peace Reporting

I strongly encourage you to read the following two articles from the invaluable Institute for War & Peace Reporting. [These were passed along to me and, with permission, I am including the brief explanatory synopsis I received with each link.]

Court Hears of Mladic Rage at Bratunac by Velma Saric, which is a courtside report on a Dutch ex-UN official who spoke of Serb intimidation in meetings with peacekeepers on the outskirts of Srebrenica.

Revised Indictment in Haradinaj Case by Rachel Irwin discusses how the upcoming partial retrial of ex-Kosovo president Ramush Haradinaj will focus on alleged crimes at the Jablanica headquarters of the Kosovo Liberation Army.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Diana Johnstone Shows Her Cards

In the comments section of this post on this blog, an anonymous poster passed along the following link:

"Why the French Hate Chomsky" By DIANA JOHNSTONE"; he or she also suggested that "I think some of her criticism is driven by emotional issues." I rather glibly agreed with him/her, intending only to suggest that her "analysis" is neither honest nor serious.

Frequent reader Owen countered, quite rightly, that there is nothing "emotional" about this latest screed from the well-known genocide denier; her work on such issues is rather deliberate and self-aware. As I noted several times in my lengthy deconstruction of her truly awful work on the Bosnian War, Johnstone clearly knows enough about the facts and information which would obliterate her painstakingly crafted arguments to avoid them completely; nobody can negotiate the minefield of contrary information and eyewitness testimony as successfully as she does if they are actually unaware of those inconvenient complications. Johnstone knows what she is doing.

But what, exactly, is it that she is doing? This rambling, open letter-turned-editorial screed doesn't address Bosnia except in passing, but it does reveal some of the larger ideological agenda that Johnstone and other advocates of a Red-Brown/anti-liberal democracy coalition are crafting. I no longer believe that these people are unconsciously stumbling into the embrace of petty fascists such as Hamas and the Serbian Radical Party; Johnstone, Chomsky, and others have concluded that the far right are their best allies in a fight to undermine the liberal order. Johnstone set out merely to scold the French media and intelligensia for being insufficiently deferential to Chomsky, but the scope of this open letter soon widens greatly. In order to make her case that Chomsky was a "victim" of a concerted Western ideological campaign to discredit him, she chooses to elaborate what the ideological underpinings of this supposed campaign are.

First off, though, the obvious needs to be stated--Johnstone is a terrible writer. She veers between addressing Chomsky directly ("Dear Noam"; "to see you in person") to referring to him in third person ("deep geopolitical significance that Chomsky has") in the same paragraph! Of course, the reasons why Johnstone is such a poor writer are easy enough to ascertain--good writing is clear writing, and clear writing is a product of clear thinking, a reasonable mastery of the subject material, and most of all of intellectual honesty. Johnstone seeks not to illuminate but to obscure and obfusticate; she does so through tortured logic, selective use of decontextualized facts, and a disingenuous misrepresentation of opposing viewpoints and contrary information. If she were a more effective demagogue or a crudely emotional populist, she might be able to somewhat transcend the feeble foundations of her arguments, but Johnstone is a drearily pedestrian propagandist and therefore her rhetoric is thoroughly hampered by her decision to dissemble, deceive, and mislead. She cannot write clearly because her ideas would not withstand the scrutiny which direct presentation would subject them to.

But while Johnstone cannot bluntly state the collectivist/anti-liberal ideology she espouses without setting off alarm bells, it's all there in this letter. And not by accident--Johnstone has rather neatly laid out the underlying rationale for the far-Left embrace of, and advocacy for, genocide denial.

Her assertion that the "the animosity you have aroused in certain circles in France may have less to do with linguistics than with your role as the most prominent American critic of US foreign policy" might be attempt at humor, but is also a neat summation of how Johnstone, Chomsky, and their comrades deflect any and all criticism of their ridiculous claims and dissembling--by dismissing all specific criticism of specifics as merely general attacks on the general idea of a critique at all. Chomsky, in other words, is not attacked for supporting Hamas, or the Khmer Rouge, or for making any of his many inaccurate, misleading, and/or dishonest statements about American foreign policy and history--no, all attacks on him are clearly simply a reaction to his status as a critic of American foreign policy, period. Of course, Johnstone is a little too shrewd to actually say that; but this standard defense gets used with such regularity, there is little need to give her the benefit of the doubt.

The rest of the paragraph after the above quote is worth noting:

"My own opinion is that this role as virtual symbol of systematic moral criticism of American foreign policy is the fundamental cause of the campaign against you that began over thirty years ago. To my mind the uproar first over Cambodia and then over the defense of Professor Robert Faurisson’s right to express his views freely was essentially a means to the end of discrediting the leading American critic of United States imperialism."

And there we have it--there is a "campaign" against Noam Chomsky, and the issues at the core concern his statements on the genocide of the Khmer Rouge and the Holocaust denial of Robert Faurisson. Fine--at least she does not ignore the elephant in the middle of the room. So what to make of this?

First, though, Johnstone needs "to put this argument in context". No doubt. The context, then, is the Cold War--specifically, American hegemony over the West during that period. Johnstone is not entirely incorrect to describe Europe at this time as being split between "the two victorious nations" (United States and USSR), but her analysis seems to reduce the situation to nothing but a division of spoils, with nothing to choose between the two. Citizens who lived under the two different systems might beg to differ with that.

But that is another issue. What is of interest here is how Johnstone, as she so often does, dresses a simplistic dichotomy up in the guise of nuanced, sophisticated analysis. Not very well, but she tries--French intellectuals were split between the elite who were secretly anti-American and the more pubilc (and presumably less qualified) intellectuals who were either pro-American or, as she prefers, "anti-French."

That is really the crux of the matter--Johnstone is truly a statist and a collectivist, who can only conceive of people as being part of a group of some kind. What "French interests" are or might be is something she doesn't feel needs to be be addressed. What is important to her is that far too many of these French intellectuals don't feel that they need to be lectured to by Noam Chomsky; the reason for this, as it turns out, is that "Chomsky's criticism is laden with facts", a statement as bland as it is questionable. But she runs with this idea for a full paragraph; it is striking how self-evident she believes this to be. Chomsky deals in a large volume of facts and clear analysis--evidently this is not up for discussion. If you disagree with Noam Chomsky or object to his general critiques, then you are clearly uncomfortable with facts and clear thinking. End of discussion.

It is quite tiresome to follow her plodding thought process by which she repeats Chomsky's standard defense of his activity on behalf of the Khmer Rogue and Robert Faurisson's Holocaust denial--that his activities did not constitute support for either, but rather for the rather vague notion of "free speech." This allows her to avoid the necessity to clearly state what she or Chomsky actually think about either "issue"; the notion that there is any validity to the charges in question is simply irrelvent to her. Yet she goes on to speak of the Holocaust ("Shoah myth" as she soon comes to refer to it as) as "dogma."

Now, I have serious objections to laws which criminalize such garbage as genocide denial, and if that was truly all that Chomsky and Johnstone are concerned with, there would be no argument. But that has never been the case; neither one of them has ever had the moral honesty to discriminate between Faurisson's right to spread his dishonest filth versus the legitimacy of his claims, which are of course complete nonsense.

Johnstone moves right along to the larger claim that the "Shoah cult" has had a sinister effect:

"Initially, Nazi crimes were taught as contrary to humanity in general, but as identification of victims has been increasingly centered on Jews, the effect is to implicitly divide school children between potential victims, namely the Jews, and everyone else, whose innocence is less assured."

This is complete garbage; the Holocaust was an actual historic event which actually happened at a certain time and place, and was carried out by actual people against actual people; it was not an abstraction which imposes a template on all people at all places and times.

Johnstone, however, assures the reader that this very template is now applied to situations which, she states without explanation, do not qualify as "genocide" (where have seen from the review of "Fools' Crusade" that Johnstone is in no position to lecture anyone on the meaning of the term). And yes, one of those places was Bosnia, where the Muslims eagerly accepted the role of "Victim" in order to play the proper role in order to curry American favor. Srebrenica, it turns out, was nothing more than a shrewd act of foreign policy.

There is really nothing more to be said. The rest of the article treats Chomsky's visit as if it were an event of immense geopolitical significance; Johnstone seems genuinely mystified that the entire French media didn't simply turn over their cameras and microphones to the cranky America-hating linguist to let him lecture the entire nation. As for her argument tying the Cold War to her implication that "genocide" is little more than an ideological tool by the West to divide and conquer the rest of the world, all that remains to note is this--many have noted that Bosnian genocide denial is incredibly similar to Holocaust denial. Yet it is no coincidence that so many of the people involved in the the former have also dabbled in the latter. Bosnian genocide denial is not, as it turns out, like Holocaust denial--it is Holocaust denial. We can thank Diana Johnstone for spelling that out.

Update on the Angelina Jolie Film

Well, I feel like an ass for falling for what seems to have been a propaganda campaign to discredit a well-intentioned effort to bring international attention back to Bosnia and the aftereffects of the war. In short--the rumors were false; the movie is not about a Bosnian woman falling in love with her Serb rapist (and even if it were, it should not have been censored), and once again the cynacism of apologists for the Greater Serb nationalist project knows no bounds.

Rather than rehashing the story, I will simply redirect readers to this excellent analysis from the always-excellent "Greater Surbiton" blog.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation" by Silber and Little [11]


This section takes up the bulk of the remaining text; indeed, it makes up over a third of the book in total. By this point in the narrative, it is clear that the war which was brought to Bosnia was driven by forces outside the republic; by the time the fighting broke out, whatever chances there had been to avert it had long since been squandered by the republic's political leadership.

Chapter 15: Before the Deluge July 1990-March 1992

This chapter essentially catches the reader "up to speed" on events in Bosnia while first Slovenia and then Croatia were engulfed by radical nationalism, paramilitary intimidation, and finally full-fledged war.

Much of the chapter is taken up with the political developments in Bosnia after multiparty elections were held; as in the other republics, nationalist parties easily dominated the election returns--a situation only exacerbated by the republic's constitution, which dictated that representation was by nation, not individuals. The chapter also discusses Muslim intellectual, SDA leader, and eventual Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, who turned out to be a mostly ineffectual leader who did little more than provide ammunition for his nationalist opponents such as Radovan Karadzic. Izetbegovic was more "Islamic" than most of his people; this would create drawbacks for the Bosnian Muslims and precious few benefits.

It was obvious almost from the start that the Serb leadership in the SDS had no interest in a unified independent Bosnia; the Croat leadership in the HDZ made a tactical alliance with the Muslims but it was purely a temporary marriage of convenience; the Croats were in no position to take on either of the larger groups politically but at least the nationalist Croats of Herzegovina had a longer-term goal of union with Croatia proper. While the Serbs quietly armed and radicalized their civilian population, Izetbegovic stumbled closer and closer towards a war he made no significant preparations for. It is true that his hands were largely tied, and that his options were few and mostly dictated by others; but his failure to recognize what was coming and to make better preparations would soon cost his government, his about-to-be-independent state, and the Muslims of Bosnia dearly.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Angelina Jolie Film Project Meets Opposition in Bosnia

I hope to return to regular blogging in the next few days; in the meantime, here's an update on actress Angelina Jolie's controversial film:

Jolie: People should 'hold judgment' until they see Bosnian film

I don't know enough about the project to have an opinion yet.

Monday, September 27, 2010

"Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation" by Silber and Little [10]

Part Three: The Explosion of War

Part Three consists of three chapters which detail how the actual outbreak of hostilities in the former Yugoslavia, first in Slovenia and then in Croatia, and how the international community, most notably Europe, responded.

Chapter 12: "The Hour of Europe Has Dawned" Slovenia's Phony War, June-July 1991

Slovenia's 10 day long "war" of independence is now rightly regarded as a brilliantly-executed piece of political theater carried out by the Slovene and Serb leadership, with the JNA (and the people of Slovenia) largely in the dark as to the real game being played. Another party left out of the loop was the European Community, who sent a "troika" of leaders to Yugoslavia, where they managed to accomplish two things--"force" the Yugoslav leadership into concessions they already planned on making; and revealing just how naive European leaders were for the responsibilities of international diplomacy of this sort, and how fundamentally they misread the situation in the former Yugoslavia. The Europeans never seemed to grasp that the warring parties had clearly-defined goals and rational--if not moral--reasons for resorting to using armed force. The likelihood that European diplomacy was up the task was slim from the very beginning.

Chapter 13: "An Undeclared and Dirty War" The JNA in Croatia July-December 1991

While the war in Slovenia was a largely bogus and stage-managed affair with a pre-determined outcome, the war in Croatia was an all-too-real preview of the even greater horrors to follow in Bosnia. The use of heavy artillery against settled areas, followed by paramilitary forces; the cynical manipulation of the United Nations in order to consolidate gains; ethnic cleansing--it all happened in Croatia. Soon, it would all happen again, at greater extent and over a much longer period of time, in Bosnia.

Chapter 14: Yugoslavia A La Carte Lord Carrington's Plan September 1991-January 1992

This chapter details the failed efforts led by Lord Carrington to get what became known as the "Carrington Plan" agreed to by the various republic leaders, as well as other European diplomatic initiatives, most notably the Badinter Commission, which was driven by German diplomatic pressure on the rest of the EC and which ultimately made the Carrington Plan--which Milosevic at any rate was not going to accept--a moot point. In the meantime, Cyrus Vance was able to broker another deal, one which brought "peace" to Croatia in exchange for a de facto ethnic partition; i.e., the Serbs agreed to let the UN do the dirty work of policing the border between the Serb-controlled areas of Croatia and the rest of the republic.

By the end, the independence of Slovenia and Croatia had been recognized, that of Macedonia was held up by Greek protests (which still reverberate today), and Bosnia was faced with the choice of declaring an independence it was ill-equipped to defend, or remaining in a "Yugoslavia" which by this point was rather nakedly a "Greater Serbia." The Badinter Commission's findings were duly ignored by the EC in the interests of political expediency and deference to German insistence (the commission had rejected Croatia's application), and Lord Carrington's plan was forgotten.

What this chapter makes clear is that his plan was not nearly as ill-conceived, unrealistic, and morally vacuous as many of the famous Western-designed plans for Bosnia which were to come. Carrington understood that the republics--not ethnicity--needed to be considered the constituent units of Federal Yugoslavia. This is the main reason his plan was rejected by Milosevic. His plan also demonstrated how far the international community was willing to go to assuage Serb fears and concerns, contrary to later propaganda claims that the Serbs were being railroaded by an "anti-Serb" international community.


This concludes Part Three. Part Four: Bosnia, is next.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

"Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation" by Silber and Little [9]

Chapter 10: The Descent Into War Croatia and the Serbs February-June 1991

The situation in Croatia continued to deteriorate, as neither the SDS nor the HDZ were seriously interested in working out a peaceful compromise. The Tudjman government was playing a game of brinksmanship without being fully prepared, even as the Slovenians were much further along in their quiet preparations.

Tudjman and the HDZ took more and more provocative moves to challenge and threaten the breakaway Serb areas even as the SDS consolidated its hold over Serb majority areas through a combination of propaganda (which the HDZs extreme rhetoric helped legitimize) and strongarm tactics against moderates within the Serb community. In Slavonia, it took a sustained campaign of nationalist intimidation to force out the moderate leadership of the not-yet radicalized Serb natives.

In the meantime the JNA began to get dragged into the conflict, slowly morphing into a de facto "Greater Serbia" army in the process. The SDS began a clever strategy of taking provocative actions, egging the Croatian government into a response, which would then justify intervention by the JNA, which would move in to come between the two parties, thus demarcating more territory for separatist Serbs.

Chapter 11: Conversations of the Deaf The Last Chance Squandered May-June 1991

Last-ditch, half-hearted efforts at constitutional reform, and perfunctory and half-baked diplomatic signals from the United States gave only faint and illusory hope that war could be averted. Izetbegovic of Bosnia and Gligorov of Macedonia tried to convince the other republic leaders that it was not too late to avert war by reconfiguring Yugoslavia into what would be called an "asymmetrical federation", but the Croat and Serb leadership were not truly interested in the plan.

US Secretary of State James Baker and Ambassador Walter Zimmerman both gave the warring parties the same mixed messages, which ultimately added up to one clear message--the West was simply not paying that much attention.

Some of the concerned parties were sincerely interested in averting war, but they were not the parties in a position to do so. It was too late.


This is the end of Part Two; I apologize that this review has taken so long. The real reason isn't that I think the text is difficult to follow--anything but. I have been going chapter by chapter for the very simple reason that it has been years since I've read this book and I wanted to re-read it for the review. Which normally wouldn't be a problem, but with graduate school and other claims on my time it's been a slow process. I will try to pick up the pace and get this project moving a little quicker.

Monday, September 13, 2010

"Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation" by Silber and Little [8]

Chapter 9: "If we don't know how to work, at least we know how to fight"

Further subtitled "The Decisive Month", this chapter details political events in March of 1991. The opening two sentences summarize the import of these events:

"March was the decisive month. Milosevic set the country on the course to war."

That is really what this chapter is all about--the grubby details elaborating the process by which Milosevic took off the gloves, and, in certain select company, the mask of being bound by legality and of maintaining any pretense to Yugoslav unity. Faced with mass uprisings and the possibility of the people turning against him, the man who a few short years earlier had claimed the mantle of Serb nationalism by telling the Serbs of Kosova "nobody should dare to beat you" sent the riot police to beat the Serbs of Belgrade, even as his deputy Jovic was trying to strongarm the collective Presidency into authorizing the JNA to take military action against dissent. Reading this chapter alone makes one wonder how Balkan revisionists are able to maintain the fictions their delusional versions of Yugoslavias' demise require.

This chapter is crucial not only for the portrait of Milosevic nakedly throwing Yugoslavia under the bus and declaring himself committed to a de facto Greater Serbia; it also undermines the propoganda that he was merely following the dictates of public passion of the Serb people. It is worth noting that at the moment when Yugoslavia teetered towards war, the Serbs of Serbia stood against him and forced him to play authoritarian strongman.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

"Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation" by Silber and Little [7]

Chapter 8: "You've Chosen War"
The Arming of Slovenia and Croatia, April 1991-January 1991

This chapter details efforts by the newly elected governments of Slovenia and Croatia to arm themselves. The JNA--which now viewed TOs as a danger to national unity in republics with multiparty elections--had already disarmed the TO (Territorial Defense) forces in Croatia, and made moves to do the same in Slovenia; although largely successful, the Slovenes managed to halt this move before it was completely sucessful. Small-scale smuggling was organized to augment the remaining stash of mostly small arms.

In Croatia, where the TO had largely already been eliminated, smuggling was carried out on a much larger scale. The JNA, unwilling (under the wavering leadership of Kadijevic) to take decisive action without orders from the Federal Presidency, watched with growing alarm as domestic spying accumulated damning evidence of what Croatia was up to.

The collective Presidency would ultimately never give Kadijevic the go-ahead he desired for legal legitimacy. While Milosevic had four of eight votes, Macedonia stayed out and Bosnia stuck to its guns and refused to give the JNA the majority it needed.

In the meantime, Milosevic was moving towards embracing the idea that nations--but not republics--had the right to leave Yugoslavia. He still paid lip service to Yugoslav unity, but this was increasingly a tactical position, not an inflexible belief. He would begin to move away from a strategy of keeping Yugoslavia united and towards a plan to keep all ethnic Serbs--and the land they lived on--united in one state. And he would begin the process of turning the JNA away from its traditional mission of defending Yugoslavia towards becoming, in mission and makeup, an instrument for creating Greater Serbia.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

"Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation" by Silber and Little [6]


Chapter 7: "The Remnants of a Slaughtered People"

The Knin Rebellion, January-August 1990

The chapter opens with a sobering anecdote; Milan Babic, the future SDS heavyweight, recounts how he was taught as a child that the scar on the old tree outside their house had been cut by the local Ustasha member who had come to kill his father, who was then only 12 years old. His father was lucky to escape with his life, and the complicity of local ethnic Croats became part of Babic family lore from then on.

There are a few notable things about this story. First, it is by no means an anomaly--ethnic Serbs in the Knin area were frequently the victims of Ustashe atrocities. Secondly, the Babic family legend about the scar in the mulberry tree was also typical, in that it represented the sort of folk history about World War II which contradicted the official Titoist history, and which was passed along secretively within communities, families, and ethnic groups. Thirdly, the fact that Milan Babic was so personally affected by this story should not obscure the fact that he was born 15 years after the incident. There were certainly many stories which could have been passed on to him and other members of later generations, but the story of the murderous Croat neighbor was the one which he remembered most. This, too, was no anomaly in Tito’s Yugoslavia.

The rest of this chapter recounts the growth of the Serb Democratic Party in the Krajina, the former frontier region of Croatia where most of Croatia’s ethnic Serbs lived, and where memories of Ustashe terror had been both passed down and kept alive; fertile ground for nationalistic ideologues to recruit. Tudjman’s clumsy nationalistic sloganeering only fanned the flames. By the time Milosevic shrewdly and discretely moved in to put Belgrade’s support into the mix, the Krajina Serbs were already well on the way towards being radicalized, organized, and armed.

The first armed confrontations between the nascent regime in Zagreb and the fledgling statelet based around Knin (which would soon grow much larger) ended without bloodshed or even any shooting. But it was still an armed confrontation; Milosevic was one step closer to abandoned an effort to dominate Yugoslavia and beginning to carve out an exclusively Serb state from its corpse instead.

Monday, August 30, 2010

"Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation" by Silber and Little [5]

Chapter 6: "A Croatian Rifle on a Croatian Shoulder"

While Serbian nationalism had been unleashed and harnessed by Milosevic, in Croatia the two-decades long crackdown on expressions of Croatian nationalism still held sway; it took time for nationalist dissidents like Franjo Tudjman to test the waters and see how far they could push the envelope. The growth of the HDZ was greatly helped by Tudjman's relative freedom of movement--his Partisan past allowed him better treatment in prison after the crackdown, but also he was allowed a passport, which enabled to him to travel and network with the widely-dispersed Croatian emigre population, who would provide key support in the HDZs rise to power.

Tudjman was (unlike Milosevic) a genuine nationalist, and once he and the other members of the HDZ leadership found that they would be able to meet and campaign openly, he quickly became adept at using mass rallies and ostentatious displays of populist support. When the elections in Croatia were held, this support (combined with the British-style election rules) resulted in an electoral victory which gave the HDZ uncontested status as the ruling party (it's winning margin over the reformed Communists was not all that great, but the system was set up to reward the first-place party disproportionately).

This was all being watched by the Slovenes--who had a head start on multiparty elections and were working towards them carefully; ultimately, Kucan would win the Presidency and immediately quit his membership in the (renamed) former Communist Party--and the Serbs. In Serbia, the Milosevic regime played to very real fears among Croatias' Serbian minority that the Ustashe regime was being resurrected. Tudjman and his party did little to assuage such fears, and sometimes even exacerbated them.

The Army was also watching; the threats to take action to defend the integrity of Socialist Yugoslavia were repeated, and Kucan and Tudjman needed to consider how genuine the threat from General Kadijevic and others really were.


And so Part One, "Laying the Charge", comes to an end. One theme which has been contstant through all six chapters is this--the breakdown of Yugoslavia happened along genuine, pre-existing fault lines of nationalism, national grievances, economic disparities, social unrest, and political dysfunction. All of this is true. But Yugoslavia did not fall apart 'naturally' or without further stress; it was not preordained to break apart violently once the ghost of Tito's iron fist had finally faded away. It took deliberate actions by political and cultural elites to align Yugoslavia's weakened fissures against the hard edges of intolerance, fear, insecurity, and paranoia. These actions were taken by real individuals, and their actions and words have been recorded and witnessed. The tragedy which is about to follow was not organic, it was not the inevitable product of deep-seated, almost animalistic impulses. Rational, powerful, calculating people made deliberate choices to exploit Yugoslavia's weaknesses for short-term political gain.

In Part Two, we will see many of these same actors apply the violent pressure to Yugoslavia, so that the breakup they placed into motion did, finally, become inevitable.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

"Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation" by Silber and Little [4]

Chapter 5: Tsar Lazar's Choice

The new Yugoslave Prime Minister, Ante Markovic, believed that liberal economic reforms were the key to stabilizing, indeed saving, federal Yugoslavia. Unfortunately, by the time he took power, the Federal institutions were too weak to force the Republics into compliance, and the three most powerful republics--Serbia, Slovenia, and Croatia--were against him.

In the meantime, Milosevic fully embraced Serb nationalism as a political tool by leading and speaking at the huge commemoration of the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo Polje. The unprecedented public display of the bones of Prince Lazar, and the move to transport those bones to Serb Orthodox monasteries around Yugoslavia was a provocative move to symbolically lay claim to "Serb lands." Milosevic, as President of Serbia, was flexing his political muscle in full view of his rivals.

Slovenia saw the writing on the wall, and moved to take action to protect itself from the moves towards centralization under Serb domination. Proposed constitutional changes (some of which was premised on selectively chosen economic grievances) would have made Slovenia virtually a sovereign nation, although the Slovenes answered Serb complaints by pointing out that Serbia, too, had altered its Constitution without input from the other republics. The Slovenes understood that Milosevic had figured out how to use the structure of the Federal government against itself, and felt they had no choice in order to protect Slovenian interests.

The Slovenes were able to go ahead with their plans when the constitutional court argued that it could not rule on proposed changes; and then again when the JNA surprised everybody by refusing to take action against Slovenia, which disappointed Milosevic.

Serbia responded by attempting to stage a Serb rally in Ljubljana, and then by pushing for a Serb boycott of doing business with Slovenia. The break was nearly complete.

This all culminated in the Fourteenth (and final) Extraordinary Party Congress, during which every single amendment proposed by Slovenian delegates--no matter what the content--was voted down by solid majorities from Serbia and Montenegro. It became clear to the Slovenes that they were not only to be humiliated but completely emasculated; eventually, they chose to walk out of the Congress to the cheers of Serb and Montenegrin delegates. Milosevic's attempt to carry on without them was foiled, however, because the Croatian delegation also walked out, a contigency Milosevic had not counted on. Without a quorum, the Congress was suspended, never to be reassembled. Yugoslavia as a functioning state was nearly finished.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

"Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation" by Silber and Little [3]

Chapter 3: "No Way Back."

Subtitled "The Slovene Spring, 1988", this chapter begins with the sentence: "As Milosevic consolidated power, the authorities in Slovenia were relaxing their hold." This parallel development is crucial to understanding the dynamics of what happened next, but it is also important to look closely at the political dynamics in Slovenia in the final years of Yugoslavia in order to understand, as so many revisionists do not, how neither the Slovene leadership nor the Slovene nationalist opposition were not the drivers of the breakup of Yugoslavia. The liberalization of political and civil society in Slovenia did not necessarily lead inexorably towards the dissolution of Yugoslavia.

While the Slovenian leadership were dealing with the push towards democratization and economic liberalization, the one Federal institution with real power--the Army--took offense at some actions taken by the influential opposition magazine Mladina, including leaking of confidential documents as well as harsh criticism of the military leadership.

The resulting crackdown--which was clumsy and overbearing, and mostly revealed how out of touch the army leadership had become--united the Slovene opposition and rallied the normally conservative Slovene public behind them. It also put Kucan and the rest of the republics Party leadership under pressure to pick a side; ultimately, they would side with the public against the Army and the Federal institutions.

The situation was not yet critical and the damage was not yet irreparable; it would take the calculated and cynical manipulation of the situation by Milosevic to make sure that there was truly "No Way Back."

Chapter 4: Comrade Slobodan: Think Hard"

Slobodan Milosevic was a calculating petty tyrant who was capable of appearing to believe whatever ideology was convenient at the moment. He was also a master manipulator of the complex Federal and republican bureaucracies in the former Yugoslavia; and he was the first politician in that country to understand the power of populism as a force and of the mob as a political weapon.

This chapter details the systematic way Milosevic used these abilities to stymie attempts by the leadership of other republics and even the Federal government to halt his destructive path to gaining power over first Serbia, then Kosovo, then Vojvodina, and finally Montenegro. It lays bare how cyncially and proactively popular sentiment was finessed, channeled, and harnessed by Milosevic and his cronies in order to intimidate and defeat rivals within his growing sphere of political power; claims by revisionists and apologists that the wars in Yugoslavia were the regrettable but unavoidable consequence of the loosening of Federal authority are exposed as patronizing falsehoods.

One sentence in particular is worth quoting: "With this move, Milosevic made clear his strategy towards the Yugoslav federation: when it was opportune he invoked the supremacy of the federal institutions over the republics; but when it was in his interest, he claimed that Serbia would not obey the dictates of the federation." Two things are noteworthy about this statement. One; it is no exaggeration. Many times, Milosevic explicitly declares that the Serb people will not allow any Yugoslav institution stand in their way (such statements were often made in the context of carefully planned and stage-managed mass rallies, complete with the threat of violence), and at other times he is a stickler for the letter of the law; he was a master at using the complex rules of the Yugoslav constitution to his own benefit, even as he sought to destroy it. Two; this statement must be remembered whenever revisionists and apologists for the Greater Serbia project utilize arguments based on the technicalities of Yugoslav law. Milosevic only played by the rules of the system when it was in his tactical interest to do so, even though his larger strategic aim was to destroy the system. He openly flouted his contempt for the rule of law time and time again; something which his pathetic minions of admirers consistently fail to acknowledge.

Monday, August 16, 2010

"Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation" by Silber and Little [2]

Part One: Laying the Charge

The six chapters in Part One detail political events in Yugoslavia from the publication of the infamous Memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Art in 1986, to the eave of armed fighting in the Krajina region of Croatia in early 1990.

It is worth stressing again, that the book traces the political developments in the country; while the authors understand and explain that nationalist tensions and grievances were a real issue prior to the outbreak of hostilities, they categorically reject the possibility that the mere existance of such resentments and prejudices could explain the Yugoslav wars. The book makes it quite clear that the wars which destroyed Yugoslavia were the direct result of deliberate political decisions made by ambitious and shrewd political leaders.

Chapter 1: "This Is Our Land"

We begin with the publication of the Memorandum, which the authors put into context of the political situation in Yugoslavia after the death of Tito in 1980 and the Yugoslav constitution of 1974. We are also introduced to Dobrica Cosic, Ivan Stambolic, and Slobodan Milosevic, among others. Cosic's status as the godfather of modern Serbian nationalism is briefly sketched out, and while Stambolic takes the position of an orthodox Communist official who fears the latent power of nationalism and who wishes to keep the Titoist system working, we are shown Milosevic shrewdly keeping silent on the issue, although a party official in his position should very well have had an opinion. The calculating, ruthless nature of the man is already beginning to show.

At the end of the chapter, the Serbian government took Cosic and his co-conspirators under its wing; the Communists were coopting the nationalists for their own ends--a power play to replace the vacuum still left vacant by Tito's death.

Chapter 2: "No One Should Dare to Beat You."

This chapter is a detailed summary of Milosevic's infamous visit to Kosovo in 1987, the circumstances surrounding it as well as the context it occured in. While the basic outlines of the story are familiar to anyone who has studied the Balkan wars, what is striking about Silber and Little's account is how much of these events were thoroughly stage-managed and prepared. Milosevic, the nationalist Kosovo Serb leadership, and the Serbian media all cooperated to create a flashpoint moment which, more than any single event, sent everything which followed into motion.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

"Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation" by Silber and Little [1]

[I am now embarking on my promised ongoing/open-ended series of books reviews; I am undertaking this project with an eye towards developing an online annotated bibliography of books on the Bosnian war, the context it occurred in, and related issues. I am working these reviews out in process in public view in hopes of soliciting feedback, editorial suggestions, and knowledgeable feedback. Please feel free to weigh in on these reviews as I work them out in this public forum.]

"Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation" by Laura Silber and Alan Little

In 1995, BBC broadcast a six-part documentary entitled "Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation", which won wide praise for its in-depth reporting and extensive use of previously unseen archival footage.

Two of the journalists who were deeply involved in creating the series, Laura Silber and Alan Little, would subsequently go on to produce a book by the same title based on the body of documentation gathered for the production of the BBC series. This book would also garner much-deserved acclaim, and nearly fifteen years after its publication remains probably the best widely availabe single-volume English-language history of the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s.

As the Introduction makes clear, the authors intended this book to be a dispassionate, fact-based work of sober reportage; to quote:

"It is also important to state what this book is not. It is not a crie de coeur of the "Save Bosnia Now" type (though we both believe that Bosnia could, and should, have been saved). It is not a polemic against the failure of the West to protect the weak against the strong, or even to honor its own promises. And it is not a book about journalism or journalists; it is not a "we were there and it was horrible" account of life on the front line."

This disclaimer is accurate. The authors are willing to let the facts speak for themselves, and they do powerfully in this book. For someone who knows nothing of how the wars started or what happened once they did, this is the place to start. The authors do not dwell too deeply on history--the story begins with Milosevic's rise to power, after only the briefest of historical sketches in the Introduction to set the stage. There is no examination of cultural or social undercurrents to the violence. The authors are concerned with political decisions made by mostly unscrupulous leaders who were willing to utilize the latent power of nationalism to fill the political void left by Tito's death.

The Introduction is brief, and sets the stage for the story to come. There are multiple maps, a "Cast of Characters" giving names and a brief identifying entry for approximately 175 persons, a list of acronyms, and a sense that the reader is in the hands of two authors who are able to present sober, even-keeled analysis without jettisoning their respective moral compasses in a misguided quest to be "neutral" or "objective."

Friday, August 13, 2010

Journalist Peter Lippman Bosnia Journal #9

Bosnia journal #9
Herzegovina and wrap-up
August 12, 2010


For me, Bosnia-Herzegovina is a complicated place. When I went there after the war, people asked me why I was there. Most foreigners were going because it was a career move. I answered, “I want to understand.” Not necessarily understanding my response, people said, “Oh, you can’t understand this place, when we hardly understand it ourselves.” I resolved to keep trying.

I have realized that in any place and in any situation, it is good to ask the same question of several people in order to get different answers. There is always something that someone either does not know, does not understand, or simply does not want to tell you. In some places, I consider a specific person my “third answer,” the one I can present with odd information that he or she will help me sort out.

There is Nerin in Stolac. Huso in Mostar (unfortunately for me this year, he was out of town). Jadranka in Sarajevo is one of those as well, my “third answer.” I have written about the grassroots level of activism in Bosnia and my impression that it is in a slump. Some of the people who had previously been involved in edgy activism have moved into institutional work. Jadranka concurred. She told me that a certain prominent activist has been traveling from one Western European country to another, meeting with the Bosnian diaspora, and urging them to vote. Maybe that is important work, but it is hardly the front line.

Jadranka also criticized another grassroots group I have visited, that more recently has “come indoors.” They are conducting a charity project that, according to Jadranka, could be done by any NGO. There’s no risk in it.

I recounted to Jadranka a factoid I had heard: that Muhamed Ali Gashi was one of Alija Izetbegovic’s pallbearers at his funeral in 2003. Gashi is the Albanian mafioso I mentioned in my reports in 2008-2009, one of the few who has ever actually been sentenced for his crimes and is now doing time in jail (see Among other things, his group is suspected of having killed gang leader Ramiz Delalovic “Celo” in 2007. Jadranka said, “Of course Gashi was Alija’s pallbearer. They were all there, Celo too.”


Mostar is one of the most compelling places in all Bosnia, probably because of its astonishing beauty, but also because of its particularly tormented recent history. You go to the old section. You walk above the rushing Neretva. You take the same photos every time, and new ones.

There is the beauty, and there is the climate -- I felt like I was baking the whole time I was there in early July -- and the humor of local people.

Then, if you are not just a tourist, you walk over to Bulevar and Santiceva streets, which divide east and west -- it’s not the river that divides. You feel the completely different atmosphere of the two sides, one dominated by the Croat nationalist political infrastructure, the other by the Bosniaks. You see how the Bosniaks, with fewer weapons, got the worst of it -- even today you still see the rubble. You see how west Mostar looks and feels like a Zagreb suburb. And if you read a little or talk to local folks, you hear about how the division exists in the minds of the inhabitants and is cemented by cooperation between the two political machines. Here is Mostar, in the words of some people I talked with.

I have known Kreso Krtalic for quite some years, since the time of the campaign to rebuild Santiceva Ulica (Street). An architect, Kreso was instrumental in that struggle, together with Silva Memic. They succeeded in pressuring local authorities and the international community to fund the reconstruction of this street, the heart of modern Mostar. Kreso says, “We all fought to return to Santiceva. Ninety percent returned. We planted new linden trees there. No one sold their apartment because of nationalism; some sold because they needed the money. I would never leave here; I was born here.

“There are a couple of buildings on Santiceva that are not fixed. Many of the buildings are fixed on the outside, but not on the inside. They are supposed to be fixed, but the money is lacking. Meanwhile, they are building a sports hall and a new bridge.”

“Everyone needs a place to live, social coverage, and health care. But people are hungry and poor. And they vote unrealistically. The dissatisfied just think about ethnic problems… The political parties should make plans and programs, and they should be required to quit if they do not fulfill them within a year…The international community should have taken over and built factories. In a half year, people would be working, not hating. When we work, we don’t talk politics.”

Kreso advocates development and environmental protection. He says, “The economic crisis divides people; for example, if we could open 10,000 work places in Mostar, then the tension would disappear; there would be no problem. We all work together in building; we keep occupied together from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and we don’t think about politics.

“Mostar needs to protect the water and the environment. There are more plastic bags in the river than in the supermarkets. The government must comprehend that the environment is an urgent issue.”

Summing up his outlook on local development, Kreso said, “If qualified people were to lead Mostar, we would be the first in the Balkans in five or six years. Because we have the resources, the people, the culture, the environment. For example, we could export water. Money should be directed towards technical development, to reconstruction, not to the politicians and the economists.”

Looking back at the 1990s, Kreso said, “It was hard to come out of the war with a clean conscience…All of the politicians from 1990 should receive between five and fifty years in jail. They are all criminals. If they were against the war, they should have resigned. They all won, and there is no state.”


I talked with Marko Tomaš, who works with the youth group Abraševic Cultural and Artistic Society (“KUD Abraševic”). Abraševic works with media and produces concerts and other cultural events. It strives to create an atmosphere of normality, of young people collaborating regardless of ethnicity, in a city where Croats and Bosniaks are expected to conduct completely separate lives.

We talked about activism in the city. Marko said, “As for grassroots movements, unfortunately, there is very little that is sincere, that people can believe in. I am skeptical towards the movements. They tend to be a way of money laundering, self-promotion. They are not focused. They do not have a clear idea or plan. They are involved in raising a fuss without a goal. This describes ‘pokret Dosta.’ As for Nasa Stranka [the relatively new non-nationalist party], I have heard good things about them, but they are politically illiterate. I agree with their goals, but they lack a strategy. You can’t change things suddenly; you must go step by step.”

Q. Is there anything positive happening in Mostar?

Marko: “Very little. Most of the change is going to take place in the political realm. But the present situation will continue as it is until the political operators sell off the entire city. If the politicians were compelled to behave legally, they would not have room for the murky business. These corrupt operations have nothing to do with ‘national interest,’ but with financial interest. So there is a situation in which chaos is maintained. But the day will come when all this will become illegal.

“Change must take place in the political structure. In this situation, there can be no civil revolution, because of the manipulation. In the media, there are people who produce forgetfulness. In politics, people are voting from fear. There is a construction and commercial lobby that backs the politicians, who are stealing as long as there is something to steal. It is a ridiculous situation, but the reality is as clear as day.”


Finally, I talked with Predrag Zvijerac, a young journalist for the independent daily Dnevni List. Speaking of the divisions in Mostar, Predrag said, “Here in Mostar it is absolutely divided. The youth don’t meet each other. The older people only do if they work together. The water system is divided, the public maintenance companies as well, the fire company -- all the public companies. Private firms are segregated as well. If I as a Muslim work on the east side and my kids go to school there, then it is easier for me just to move there.

“Young people can meet in a kafana, or at the movie theater. But everyone has their favorite kafana, and they are divided by the geography. There are the two separate football clubs. There are fewer fights these days. [Sports events have often broken out into violence]. There are 1,500 police, and they are strict. But just the fact that there have to be that many police is bad.”

The situation of the (non-existent) movie theater illustrates the problem of Mostar: “The theaters are all closed except for the big Kazaliste, which opens occasionally,” says Predrag. “There is no movie theater. The local politicians are not interested in having one. They are all corrupt, and they can’t agree how to divide the money. Everyone has to pay for permits. A movie theater would be a place where young people could go to meet each other. The population of Mostar is 150,000. The city has no money for a movie theater. So the question is, who will build it? Here, you only get permits via political connections.

What happened was that one man who had the money to invest came to town, but he gave up in ten days. He saw that he had to bribe the mayor and both sides, too many people.”

On the subject of the upcoming national elections in October, Predrag said, “The youth are not interested in politics. In the elections, only about 40% of them will vote. More vote in the general elections than in the local ones, which is absurd, since local politics affect us much more. Youth are not interested because the candidates are either unknown, or they have something bad on their record. The parties like young and stupid candidates.

“The young people are only interested in politics if they are directly involved, for example if they work in the media, or they are in politics themselves. Or if they are seeking some benefit for themselves. For example here, the Elektroprivreda [regional electrical distribution company] only hires people who are members of the HDZ.

“Eight out of ten university students never vote, because they don’t like our politicians. Or, among the Croats, there is no alternative. The differences between our (Croat) politicians are not political, but about money. That is, they are just involved in a struggle for power. The young people can see this. There are 40% unemployed, and they see when they are looking for work that people connected with the parties decide who gets a job and who does not. So they don’t vote. And that leads to minority rule, because it’s a minority that votes. So the parties must change.

“Most of the people who do vote are from the village or they are the less educated people. They vote according to tradition. All they know is to circle one party.

“There is a real Catch 22 situation: We choose our government, and then a month later we are against them. Then in the next elections we choose the same people.”

Political power in the city and the region is maintained through ethnic division. Where there are Croat and Bosniak students in one school, they study under the apartheid system called “two schools under one roof.” Based on what Predrag says, it appears that ethnic mistrust is still strong: “There was a survey in west Herzegovina, in Posusje, Siroki Brijeg, Grude, Citluk, and Ljubuski, that is, mainly Croat places. The question was, ‘Have you ever been to Sarajevo, and would you go there?’ Ninety percent of the young people never went there, and are not interested in going. So it is easy to convince people that Sarajevo is Tehran, and that they beat up nuns there.

“If you order ‘kafa’ or ‘kava’ [the latter being the Croatian pronunciation of the word for coffee] in the wrong place, it’s not a problem. But people very rarely go to the other place anymore. Among Croats in Mostar there is the stereotype that ‘if you go to Sarajevo, you must order ‘kafa.’

“The politicians use this ignorance to push people into corrals on an ethnic basis. So my conclusion is that we will always have these nationalist parties, and they will always win. The only exception is places where there has been less conflict, such as in Tuzla.”


Stolac is an idyllic, pleasant town with a brook rustling through it, the Bregava. It is another one of those small towns of Bosnia, older than Sarajevo, with its own history and culture. In fact, Stolac is one of the oldest continually inhabited settlements in the Balkans.

The idyll was destroyed by the war when, in mid-1993, extreme nationalist Croat forces drove out all of the Bosniaks, who had been the majority in the town. Bosniaks started returning bravely towards the end of the decade, and Stolac is somewhat resettled now. In the core of the city the mosques and some of the old estates are rebuilt, although there are still ruins along the river and up into the hills. Apartheid is the order of the day in Stolac, with Croat nationalists controlling the politics and the economy. As in Mostar, what power the Bosniaks have is in the hands of the SDA, the nationalist Bosniak party, which cooperates with the Croat lords of separatism.

Activists struggle in different ways to assert Bosniak rights in Stolac. The reconstruction of the ancient mosques says, “We are still here.” I happened to be in the town for the “Days of Stolac Mosques,” when solemn ceremonies of prayer celebrated the reopening of one of the mosques. The prayer reverberated across the center of the old town. Catty-corner to the Czar’s Mosque sits a kafana that is popular among the Croats, who have erected a monument right on that main corner. That monument, topped by a Catholic cross, honors the Croats who died in the 1990s war. As the amplified call of the Imam filled the air, Stolac Croats drinking coffee across the street, whether they wished to or not, listened and looked at the green banner strung up in front of the mosque, announcing the event. Such is coexistence in apartheid Stolac.

I talked to Minva Hasic of the Stolac women’s organization “Orhideja” (Orchid). This organization helps disabled people, offers various social services for women, and conducts workshops on such topics as health issues and street violence. It also runs a mixed-ethnicity youth club. Minva says, “There is a larger rate of returned Bosniaks to Stolac than to all the rest of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Stubborn people have returned. Then, there are also Croats in the region who were forced to leave central Bosnia, and the local Croats do not support them. We [Bosniak] returnees and those displaced persons have the same problems.”

The high school in Stolac has long operated under the “two schools under one roof” system. On this situation, Minva said, “People are losing knowledge, and there is no development of the culture. There are two sports clubs for each sport…We conducted a survey of high school students’ plans for the future. The Bosniak director had it filled out and sent back to us. The Croat director returned it, saying he could not understand it because it was ‘not in Croatian.’ This just adds to the frustration and the heating up of nationalism.”

I visited with Nerin Dizdar, a prominent young leader of grassroots activism against apartheid around Stolac. His organization, the Youth Forum of Stolac, has been active in all kinds of projects over the past eight or ten years, including guerrilla actions like removing emblems of Croat dominance around the town. The Forum also holds an annual camp for young people from all over Bosnia and abroad. And the group tries to restore and protect architectural and cultural symbols of the old Stolac -- not only mosques, but the Serbian Orthodox cemetery as well, and the ancient pre-Ottoman tombs known as stecci (stecaks).

The municipal government of Stolac tries to obstruct the Forum’s multi-ethnic summer camp. When the Forum requests permission to use centrally-located property, the municipal council withholds electricity and permits. They tell the Forum, “Get permission from Jozo Peric to use that property.” But Jozo Peric, a pre-war gangster, is in hiding, wanted for war crimes, tax evasion, and other post-war crimes.

The Forum has gotten around the obstruction by getting funding from abroad and by holding its events on private property that supporters made accessible. Meanwhile, Nerin and his colleagues continue to fight against discrimination and nationalist domination. For example, last year some high school students took down symbols of Catholic ethnic dominance in the school, and the Forum supported this action. The struggle is ongoing in that school where, until last year, a former member of the Croat nationalist militia (HVO), accused of war crimes, was principal of the school. He was removed last year. There has been pressure from the Federal Parliament to end the segregation of the school, but it has not happened yet.

When I asked Nerin if he could still characterize the situation in Stolac as “apartheid,” he said, “Yes, this is apartheid. They put a cross up in a public space (near the entrance to town). This is a monument to the ‘Croat defenders.’ It was approved by the SDA [the dominant Bosniak nationalist party]. Cikotic [Bosniak Minister for Defense] was ok with this. Soldiers from the Bosnian army came when it was unveiled, carrying the banned Herceg-Bosna flag [of the wartime Croat parastate] and singing the Croatian anthem.

“When you ask about justice, you are called ‘radical.’ No one has said they are sorry [for the war crimes that the Croat nationalists committed against the Bosniaks of Stolac during the war]. In fact, people are still celebrating the crimes that happened. But if you suppress history, it comes back.

“I do not believe in collective guilt, but there is collective responsibility. I feel responsible for what the Muslims did in Grabovica [a war crime committed in a Croat village in central Bosnia, where Bosniak troops killed thirteen villagers]. We need to resolve that history. Now, war criminals are treated as national heroes. It is unacceptable to diminish the victimhood of anyone.”

Nerin spoke of the collaboration between the leading Bosniak and Croat nationalist parties, the SDA and HDZ, respectively. He noted that the old principal of the high school, Ivo Raguz, had been appointed after approval by the leaders of those two parties, Sulejman Tihic and Dragan Covic. “Tihic is close to Covic. There are too many old politicians in position…A stable state with transparency and rule of law would put an end to those politicians.

“There is a great project of corrupting the public; for example, there are a half million “defenders” [a number that has been inflated so that more people can take advantage of pension rights] of BiH, and another large number of war disabled. This is a way of buying people off. There are people who get donations, say, two tractors, so they can sell one of them. The parties make extra donations to corrupt NGOs, which are not required to give receipts for the donations.”

In the midst of all this corruption, the HDZ obstructs real economic reconstruction of the municipality, and the SDA goes along with this obstruction. Nerin gave me several examples of projects with promised donations from international sources, but roadblocks to the projects were thrown up by the local authorities.

“The Croats are not comfortable with what the HDZ is doing,” Nerin said. “They know that we are just asking for equal rights. But they are still disciplined voters for the HDZ. They never raise their voices against what is happening.”

In my last visit to Stolac, in 2008, I had met with Zvonko Peric, head of the youth section of one of the Croat nationalist parties, the HDZ-1990 (a splitoff from HDZ). I wrote about him in a journal after that visit -- see (there’s more there about Mostar and other stories about Stolac as well). Peric had discussed problems of post-war recovery with me, and he called for the establishment of a “third (Croat) entity.” Towards the end of our talk his discourse devolved into a repetition of various crude conspiracy theories.

Soon after I arrived in Bosnia in May this year, I heard on the news that Zvonko Peric had been arrested for drug trafficking. Together with seven other people, including a police inspector from nearby Capljina, Peric was arrested for possession of over 25 kilos of marijuana. A (Croat) Stolac high school professor was involved as well, as were a couple of Serbs from Banja Luka and Montenegro. In organized crime as at the heights of nationalist politics, multi-ethnic collaboration remains alive and well.
(See and

This all reminds me of one of my favorite comments from an old friend, that the postwar regime is a manifestation of the “revenge of the bad students.” I mentioned this phrase to Nerin, and he said, “Zvonko Peric is an example of the revenge of the bad students. It is their policy to choose such people.”

Looking for comment on the state of activism in Bosnia-Herzegovina, I also mentioned to Nerin what I had written about Pokret Dosta earlier in this series, that they are “apparently not in a dynamic phase.” Nerin replied, “They have never been in a dynamic phase. They have only organized protests that would have happened anyway. They print t-shirts.”


Trebinje is but an hour’s ride from Stolac, but I had not been there for thirteen years. A friend mentioned to me the names of a couple of people it would be interesting to talk with in Trebinje, so I decided to take a day trip to the southernmost town in the Serb-controlled part of Herzegovina. I got up early one day and took a ride with Stolac’s only taxi driver, a friendly man who doubles as the newspaper delivery link for Trebinje.

Herzegovina is like California -- only more Mediterranean in culture -- and you feel this especially in Trebinje, with its warm and sunny climate, its fig trees and kiwi and grape vines, and its broad main square lined with kafanas. On the morning I arrived there, a couple dozen local farmers, merchants, and craft workers had set up their tables and were selling fruit, vegetables, books, and dry goods on the square. Having a couple of extra hours, I walked over the hill above the Trebisnjica River and down to the old Arslanagic Bridge, built by the Ottomans.

The town, sitting under the Leotar mountain, felt peaceful and quiet. I walked among the stone buildings and into the walled Old Town, where I noticed that the old mosque had been rebuilt. It was a bit spooky, however, knowing that Trebinje had been “cleansed” of its Bosniak population early in the war.

It’s easier to be a tourist if you don’t know any history.

I met with Nikola Sekulovic, a local opposition politician who had been president of the municipal council for some years. He has distinguished himself by opposing the hegemony of Prime Minister Dodik’s party and the local mayor Dobrislav Cuk, one of Dodik’s men. An economist, Sekulovic is the leader of a bloc of swing voters called “Movement for Trebinje.” Not long after Dodik’s party [the SNSD] and Cuk replaced the old hardline SDS rule, Cuk began replicating the corrupt behavior of the earlier party, selling off concessions to his cronies for exploitation of local resources, and appointing his relatives to various government positions.

Sekulovic described the local situation for me: “There are deals being made, blackmailing, corruption, criminality. In 2009 there was a development strategy paper released that dated from 2008 to 2017, but there is still no development. The budget was 22 million KM in 2008, and now it is around 15 KM.

“We are borrowing from Austrian banks. There could be chaos; we will be paying for this for years. When the SNSD came to power, companies here started disappearing. They destroyed the lumber industry. They made deals for corrupt projects. There have been no capital projects except Intereks (the department store), if you can call that development.

“Former communists, from the fourth echelon of the politics of those days, are in the SNSD now. They don’t know how to create employment. There are two or three Bosniaks in the local government; they are for show, to satisfy the international community.

“Ordinary people are living worse than ever. Corruption and criminality have increased, as has nepotism. People have been threatened and followed. This is reminiscent of 1948, when there was the break with the Soviet Union and much repression.”

Echoing a theme from Nerin Dizdar and Marko Tomaš, Sekulovic said, “Dodik does not like smart people. He is only looking at where he can steal more.”

The regional bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Bishop Grigorije, excommunicated Nikola Sekulovic (See Grigorije presumably took this extreme move because of Sekulovic’s outspoken opposition to Dodik’s and Cuk’s corruption and regional hegemony. Since Grigorije is based in Trebinje and is a close collaborator with Dodik, Sekulovic’s criticisms affect him as well.

Of his problems with the church, Sekulovic said, “I am a religious person. I was baptized when I was little. The church played a very negative role in the war, and now, instead of uniting people, it has worked to create disunity.”

Q: Why were you excommunicated?

Sekulovic: “I asked uncomfortable questions: Why did you sell church land to [a local politician]?; Why don’t you pay the priests’ pensions? Grigorije also made corrupt deals with other local personalities. The Church buys companies here. Have you ever heard of such a thing?”

Q: I heard that Grigorije is leaving for Belgrade.
Sekulovic: “He already stole what he could here.”

I asked Sekulovic about refugee return to Trebinje: “It has been weak. Many Bosniaks went to Scandinavia. There were 5,500 Bosniaks here; now there are between 100 and 200.”

Assessing the overall situation, Sekulovic said, “We need a lot of time for things to change. In a way, the youth are worse than the older people, since they are infected with nationalism. We could need another twenty years, to forget the war.”

I did not have the impression that Sekulovic was concerned as much with the correction of historical injustices in Trebinje as he was with stopping local corruption and, probably, getting into a position of power. He reminded me of the phenomenon of a certain political type that appears periodically among the politicians of Bosnia: someone who rises up and calls for a stop to the corruption among his own ethnicity. Usually that person fails and disappears. Sometimes they succeed because people believe in them. Then, sometimes, they go on to become corrupt themselves. Such was Biljana Plavsic in 1997; she ended up in a Swedish prison (until recently), convicted of war crimes. Her protégé was Milorad Dodik.

One thing that reinforced my impression of Sekulovic was how he showed me a raft of photographs of himself with former US Ambassador Clifford Bond, and any number of prominent Bosnian Serb politicians.

As I left his office, I asked Sekulovic what happened with the excommunication, and he told me he had been pardoned. He was wearing a cross around his neck.


I had also been advised to meet Blazo Stevovic, a local Serb activist on a more grassroots level. Blazo had gained media notice over the past few years for calling attention to corruption and the war criminals residing in Trebinje. He has declared against “Greater Serbian hegemony,” campaigning to remember the Bosniak victims of the ethnic cleansing that took place in the eastern Herzegovina region early in the war. For his efforts he was, like Nikola Sekulovic, excommunicated from the Serbian Orthodox Church. Stevovic has also called for a public admission of genocide in the RS and an official apology to the victims. It is extremely rare to find a Serb in the RS who will behave like Stevovic, so I felt compelled to go meet him.
(For a couple of articles on Stevovic, see and

Stevovic greeted me with a smile and an expansive affect in the main square in Trebinje. As we sat at a kafana, he told me that he had been involved in Otpor [the youth organization that helped dump Milosevic] in Belgrade in 2000, and that he is now engaged in theater work in Trebinje.

Stevovic painted a picture of the situation in Trebinje: “There are big problems. Life is very hard. There are war criminals in power. No one has tried them. And there is no real opposition. There were twenty people [Bosniaks] killed here during the war, and 5,500 deported. There is no civil society. Those who attacked Dubrovnik from here [during the war between Serbia and Croatia in 1991] have also not been prosecuted.”

On corruption, Stevovic elaborated, “Many development and construction projects here have been contracted without tenders. Serbian Telekom bought the RS Telekom illegally. Then, there were chests of cash delivered to Radovan Karadzic in Serbia via Bijeljina [he names two operators who channeled the money to Karadzic] …In the last year and a half more than 100 city functionaries broke the law. These criminals have to be put in jail. This is a regional problem. There is much drug trafficking coming through Trebinje. But the police inspectors in charge of investigating trafficking collaborate with the drug dealers…We need to make some surgical cuts to establish rule of law here.

“There needs to be court processing of the criminals and the corrupt actors. I am in favor of creating a civic, unified Bosnia-Herzegovina without entities, cantons, or districts. One state with a strong central government and local self-government.”

I found Stevovic’s discourse to be roughly appropriate, politically, but a bit airy and conspiratorial, with statements like, “Goran Zubac is the chief of police here. I have evidence against him.”

Stevovic told me that his apartment was burglarized as retaliation for his activism, and that he knows who did the crime, and who ordered it: “There was a newspaper called Prst [finger], a tabloid. They attacked me, calling me a queer, and an agent. Cuk [mayor of Trebinje] ordered the burglary. Since that happened, I sleep during the day and stay awake at night.”

Stevovic works with an organization called “Trebinje Alternative Club.” He hopes to establish a free newspaper, a blog, and a Facebook page in four languages. He also talks of initiating a festival as a cultural collaboration with nearby Dubrovnik. “I see the development of tourism, a demilitarized region, and multi-ethnic society,” he told me, “We have a good strategic position here, because we are close to Dubrovnik, Nikšic, and other attractive and interesting locations. Tourism could be developed. But I talk to all the politicians, and they do not have vision about what should happen in one month, let alone five years from now.”

It takes time to assess the scene in any locale in Bosnia-Herzegovina. I have been going to most of the places I have reported on for over a decade, but I don’t have deep connections in Trebinje. I don’t have a “third answer” there yet. So it is still hard to get a perspective on what’s real and what’s hot air coming from Sekulovic and Stevovic -- but this is a start.

Stevovic’s talk about war crimes and apology was refreshing -- I had heard nothing of that from Sekulovic. But I don’t have a sense of how solidly Stevovic’s feet are on the ground, how much he has a local base. I asked him if he had local support, and he answered, “I have no support, but 80% of the people here agree with me. There is a network of corruption and criminality, and people are afraid to talk about who has robbed whom in this city.

“In 2004 I ran for office. I talked about the need for ‘de-Nazification.’ I was called a traitor, and I received 84 votes in the election. If I had been elected, things would be very different here today.”

On religion, Stevovic said, “I come from a religious family. There is no five-pointed star [symbol of socialism] in my village, only crosses. Grigorije excommunicated me because since 2003 I have been calling him a criminal. He helped bring the tycoons to power.” I asked him what the status of his excommunication was. He said, “The Church pardoned me, but I will accept that when Grigorije apologizes.” When I mentioned that I had heard that Grigorije was going to move to Belgrade, he repeated Sekulovic’s assessment: “He has to, he has stolen everything he can steal here.”


Before the war, all kinds of tacky things used to happen when you would take a bus ride in Yugoslavia, especially in the poorer, less-organized parts of the country. For example, I remember traveling the length of Serbia and the whole busload of passengers getting getting dumped in the middle of the night with no explanation other than that “nema guma,” there are no “wheels.”

After the war, in Bosnia, the Croat-owned or Croatian buses tended to be the nicest, some of them even with two stories, or air-conditioning. The Bosniak-owned lines were ok, average. The Serb-owned buses were old and run down. They were getting the least money.

Back in Srebrenica: After we were done with observances and visits, we rushed to the little bus station in Srebrenica to catch the 4:30 to Sarajevo. It was the only bus of the day.

However, when we got to the station, the bus that was to take us had run into the overhanging roof of the station. The driver had forgotten about the air-conditioning unit projecting up from the back of the bus. It was spewing water and hanging off the back. The back window was broken too.

Local police were making their investigation and announced that this bus wasn’t going anywhere. That seemed reasonable. So we waited an hour for another bus. After an hour, a wretched Zvornik (Serb-owned) bus with its dirty windows and smelly vinyl came to take us away.

We hung a left at Bratunac and headed towards Kravica when there was a loud “PSSHHH” and a flat tire. We stood by the side of the road. Sarah and I discovered a plum tree. After half an hour the original bus, with the broken back window and now no air-conditioning unit, came to get us.

I was wondering what the third problem was going to be, but there wasn’t really one. Except that it was stifling in the bus, and predictably, a woman behind us would not allow us to leave the skylight open -- she said the draft was “killing her.” Instead, we breathed fumes coming in through the back window.


I sat in a Croatian bus to Vukovar with tables like breakfast nooks. The bus had two stories, but I never went upstairs -- no driver up there. A middle-aged woman from Tuzla sat across from me and we became acquainted. She told me that she had seen a French documentary that proved that the whole moon landing was filmed in a studio in Hollywood or somewhere.

After a while she asked me, “Do you believe that the moon landing happened?” I said that I was inclined to believe it. She asked me, “Then why were all the people who filmed it in that studio killed later?”