Monday, January 24, 2011

New Article from Institute for War & Peace Reporting

It is again my privilege to reprint this article with the kind permission of the Instiute for War & Peace Reporting. Many thanks for permission to reproduce it and pass it on:

Bosnian Serb Command Structure "Crystal Clear"
Witness tells Karadzic trial that action could not be taken in Sarajevo without high command authorisation.

By Rachel Irwin - International Justice - ICTY
TRI Issue 676, 21 Jan 11
A former member of the United Nations peacekeeping operation in Sarajevo told the Hague tribunal trial of Radovan Karadzic this week that the Bosnian Serb army could not initiate attacks on the city without first receiving orders from the army’s top commander.

“The … command in Sarajevo could not take [its own] initiative,” said anonymous witness KDZ450, who testified in French with digital image distortion.

“It was General [Ratko] Mladic who was telling them, act on Sarajevo in order to exert pressure on the Muslims so they would stop their actions in the rest of Bosnia-Hercegovina,” the witness continued. “For me it was crystal clear.”

Mladic, who remains wanted by the tribunal, was commander of the Bosnian Serb army and subordinate to Karadzic, who from 1992 to 1996 was president of the self declared Bosnian Serb entity, Republika Sprska, RS.

Karadzic – who represents himself - stands accused of planning and overseeing the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that left nearly 12,000 people dead. 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”. He was arrested in Belgrade in July 2008 after 13 years on the run.

During the cross-examination, Karadzic asked the witness to elaborate on his previous statements regarding the “initiative” of the Bosnian Serb army.

“The [Sarajevo Romanija] corps could only take the initiative to return fire,” the witness reiterated. “When they had to launch an action… on Sarajevo and when there was a link with an operation outside Sarajevo, [the corps commander] was receiving orders from the higher command, from Mladic.”

After posing some questions in private session, Karadzic asked if the witness agreed that the “civilian head of state and the civilian commander of the army does not deal with operative and tactical issues, only strategic issues?”

“I do not understand the difference you are making between operational and tactical,” the witness replied.

Karadzic also asked the witness to identify a “single case” where the Bosnian Serb side “started action” in Sarajevo.

The witness pointed to a shelling incident that killed eight people on February 4, 1994, in a residential area of Dobrinja.

“The shell fell and it was clearly identified as coming from the Serb sector and it led to the casualties of civilians - adults and children,” the witness said. “As far as I know, Dobrinja [was] not a military target and [this] only led to civilian deaths.”

The witness mentioned another shelling incident in the area of Alipasino Polje on January 22, 1994, in which six children were killed.

“Those examples show that actions were taken, and were … targeting the population and coming from the Bosnian Serbs,” the witness said.

Karadzic then contended that the origin of the shell was never established in the Alipasino Polje incident.

“For technical reasons it wasn’t possible to ascertain where the shell was coming from, but there were suspicions,” the witness said.

“But we informed you that we didn’t open fire, and we still claim that all major incidents involving civilian casualties originated from those who wanted to involve NATO as a warring party on their side,” Karadzic replied.

He also contended that “as many as 5,000 troops” from the Bosnian government army were deployed in Dobrinja at the time of the February 4 shelling.

“Did you know that?” Karadzic asked.

“The confines of Dobrinja were indeed on the confrontation line, but shells arrived in a residential area and only caused civilian casualties,” the witness responded. “This is what I noticed, and I could tell without a doubt that those shells were coming from an area controlled by Bosnian Serbs.”

“Who established that?” Karadzic asked.

“An investigation carried out by UNPROFOR [UN Protection Force] services,” the witness said.

Karadzic countered that he had “managed to prove” that there was a mistake in this report through the testimony of a prior witness.

He was interrupted by Judge Howard Morrison, who told the accused that it was “not appropriate to put a witness’s testimony to another witness and claim it has been proved.

“It’s not accurate, and certainly not appropriate,” the judge said.

Karadzic later asked if the witness had “proof” that Bosnian Serb forces targeted civilians.

“Do you know there were up to 70,000 Serbs living in the Muslim part of Sarajevo?” he asked.

“I was not aware of exact figures, but I was aware of the fact that Serbs were living in the Bosnian Muslim-controlled part of city,” the witness said.

“Is there a difference between Serbs and Muslims when you see them walking in the street?” Karadzic asked.

“It is difficult to tell them apart and you are quite right to underscore this,” the witness answered.

“If Serbs are the type of criminals who wouldn’t spare civilians, how [did they do this] considering that one third of the population was Serbs? Is any proof that [Bosnian Serbs] deliberately targeted civilians?” Karadzic asked.

“I have proof that civilians were targeted and fire was coming from a sector controlled by Serbs,” the witness answered. “That’s what I can ascertain here.”

The witness acknowledged that it was often difficult to establish the origin of fire, but they “tried to do it every time” and also sent protests to the side they believed to be responsible.

At the end of the cross examination, prosecuting lawyer Carolyn Edgerton asked some follow-up questions.

“Did the protests [regarding shelling incidents apply] equally to both sides or more frequently to one of warring factions?” she asked.

“We sent more protests to Bosnian Serbs than we did to Bosnian Muslims,” the witness said.

“Did this signify anything in terms of the establishment of the origin of fire?” Edgerton asked.

“This demonstrates that we established that the origin of fire came more often from Serbian sector than it did from the Muslim sector,” the witness said.

The trial continues next week.

Rachel Irwin is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.

Friday, January 21, 2011

David Gibbs--Another Balkan Revisionist

Any readers of Greater Surbiton or Daniel Toljaga's excellent blog is already aware of the minor storm that was kicked up when Gibbs--who proved himself to be as thin-skinned in debate as he is confused or (more likely) dishonest about American intervention in Yugoslavia--took offense at Marko Attila Hoare's review of his perfectly awful book First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia.

Gibbs' response to Hoare wastes no time in indulging in self-pitying hyperbole--the title "The Second Coming of Joe McCarthy" is evidently intended with irony or self-depreciating humor. Gibbs, seemingly, actually believes that he is a persecuted victim simply by virtue of having his horrid little book subjected to a negative review in a blog.

Gibbs' petulant tantrum speaks for itself--he lashes out without dealing in any meaningful way with the substance of Hoare's criticisms, while throwing out unsubstantiated innuendo about "ethnic partisanship" and other slights against his motives. Meanwhile, he actually makes the claim that while Hoare is fluent in Serbo-Croat and he is not, he is actually more qualified to write about the conflict because he is fluent in German! As if being able to read primary sources regarding German diplomacy is more important than Serbo-Croat documents from the region in question; it is astounding that the man was able to write that and not then realize how stupid it makes him sound. But again, I refer you to the hysterically pathetic title of his response. David Gibbs seems to lack both self-awareness and shame.

Those shortcomings come into play in the comments section below, particularly after Marko showed up to defend himself against the ridiculous charges. Gibbs--with an assist from his fanboy Louis Proyect, a hideous defender of the genocide in Bosnia who at one point seriously attacks the Modernity Blog by mocking its low readership (sounding very much like a preteen girl mocking the less popular crowd)--keeps throwing things at Hoare in an increasingly desperate attempt to hope something sticks, or at least distracts the less discerning participants in the argument from the substance of Hoare's arguments and the thinness of his own. At one point, he even throws in a veiled attack on Marko's parents--a loathsome and gutless tactic. Gibbs and Proyect reveal themselves as cowardly, passive-aggressive bullies who turn nasty and vindictive when exposed.

The weakness of Gibbs' book has been ably detailed by others, so for the time being I won't waste any more pixels dragging my poor readers through yet another piece of disengenuous dreck. However, the important thing to know about this book--and the reason that it potentially could be slightly more damaging to the historical record than Johnstone or Parenti's assaults on the truth is because Gibbs has learned a painful lesson that many of his fellow revisionists have yet to fully digest--the facts are in, and their cherished myths have wilted and died in the harsh light of reality. It is no longer possible to pretend that Srebrenica didn't happen or the Racak massacre was faked or the Bosnian Serb Army committed widespread crimes against humanity. That ship has sailed.

Instead, Gibbs hangs his hat on the equally-debunked (but less publicly so) myth that it was Western intervention, not domestic politics, economic insecurity, and constitutional instability, which destroyed Yugoslavia. In order to make this argument, he constructs a strawman caricature of humanitarian interventionism in the first chapter. In this chapter, he reveals the intellectual shallowness and crudeness of his method; despite the superficial improvement over Johnstone and Parenti, Gibbs ultimately makes an argument which requires the reader to accept a simplistic view of the Western/American handling of the Yugoslav wars. He claims a level of deliberate planning and centralized coordination that simply isn't there.

One example will hopefully suffice--while repeatedly dismissing the notion that Western powers were reacting to intense media coverage rather than quietly guiding events from behind the scenes, he often quotes media sources such as the New Republic by way of demonstrating what "the interventionists" believe. In other words--the media are part of the whole conspiracy when it suits his rhetorical purposes, and they are not when they aren't.

And that, really, just about sums it up--facts count when they fit his argument, they don't count when they don't. Context, intellectual honesty, using source material in a manner consistent with the argument and thesis of the source--such traits are absent here. Gibbs seems more reasonable than the rest, but ultimately underneath his sober facade is the same tune being played in a slightly different key.

Monday, January 17, 2011

New Article from Institute for War & Peace Reporting

It is again my privilege to reprint this article with the kind permission of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting:

Siege Was “Noose” Around Sarajevans
BBC man recounts hardships and risks faced by residents during the 44-month campaign against their city.

By Velma Šarić - International Justice - ICTY
TRI Issue 675, 14 Jan 11
British journalist Jeremy Bowen told the Hague tribunal trial of Radovan Karadzic this week that he believed the siege of Sarajevo was used as a weapon of war by the Bosnian Serbs.

“It was simply a noose around the neck of the ordinary people in the city which could be tightened and loosened as necessary,” he said.

Karadzic, the first president of Republika Srpska, RS, and supreme commander of its armed forces, has been charged with 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including orchestrating the 44-month campaign of sniping and shelling of the city of Sarajevo, whose aim was to “terrorise the civilian population”, and which resulted in nearly 12,000 civilian deaths.

The indictment alleges that Karadzic was responsible for crimes of 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”.

After years as a fugitive, Karadzic was arrested in Belgrade on July 21, 2008 and his trial started in October 2009.

Prosecution witness Bowen, now the BBC’s Middle East editor, reported from various parts of Bosnia and Hercegovina, including Sarajevo, Gorazde and Srebrenica, between 1992 and 1995. He told the court that when he first came to the Bosnian capital in July 1992, he saw that life was desperate.

“People would stand in line for water and food despite all the fear and dangers,” he said. “They had to avoid snipers, living in horrid conditions, without access to communications, it was a time before internet and mobile phones, and they were simply cut off.”

The witness stated that the population’s fear and anxiety continued to deteriorate. “In 1995, briefly before the end of the war, the conditions in which people were living in were worse, and despite all the humanitarian aid, the desperation was enormous,” he continued.

“Sniper fire had become a part of the citizens’ lives. People had to run, I had to run as well, although as journalist I was privileged to wear bulletproof clothing, or to have money. However, we had to realise how it was to be found in a situation in which you could simply be shot.”

Bowen said that he had personally seen “bodies of the dead and of sniper victims”, explaining that foreign cameramen used to film crossroads, or rather film citizens running across crossroads hoping not to be shot by snipers. Recalling one sniper incident he witnessed during lunchtime at the Sarajevo Holiday Inn hotel, he said that he saw a man shot in the leg while running across the parking lot.

“I saw bullets falling around him, he fell to the ground, I ran out with a colleague and a vehicle, and we wanted to save him, but by the time we got there he was gone; only a stain of blood had remained on the asphalt,” Bowen said.

The witness emphasised that Sarajevo’s residents were never able to feel safe, recounting how the pavements throughout the city were dotted with weapon marks and craters, and one could never know where the next mortar would hit.

“I used to report about the bombing of Sarajevo, every morning we had have a meeting at the UN headquarters and every morning would begin with the shelling and the number of mortars which fell during yesterday, and the numbers were often four-figure. You could never know that shelling would happen because it could happen anywhere and anytime,” the witness continued.

“During shelling, it was dangerous to be outdoors, but if you wanted to report on it you could just stand in front of Kosevo hospital to see wounded people being brought in some 20 or 30 minutes after the shelling.”

Prosecutor Carolyn Edgerton showed a BBC report by the witness, without stating its date in the courtroom. In the film, Bowen reported on an incident in which at least five family members and close friends of a certain Zijad Kujundjic had been killed. The account was included onto the prosecution’s evidence record.

“This news report demonstrated that the shelling was going on everywhere and at all times,” Bowen said, “while you moved through Sarajevo, you were vulnerable.” The prosecution also showed another BBC story on how a two-year-old girl, Vedrana Glavas, had been killed, alongside a boy named Roki Sulejmanovic who was several months younger.

They died on August 1, 1992, when a bus full of children from the Ljubica Ivezic orphanage was fired upon. This BBC report was also included onto the record.

The witness said that he and colleagues from Reuters tried to attend the funeral of the girl, alongside her mother and grandmother. However, by the time the family members and the journalists arrived at the cemetery, the funeral had already been carried out because the cemetery had been targeted by sniper and artillery fire.

A boy from the orphanage, who had come with his friends to bring some flowers to the funeral, had been wounded during the funeral. The grandmother of the girl had also been wounded. Describing that day, Bowen said, “I have extremely rich experience covering conflict and I have seen some really bad things, but I get furious even today when I think of this very, very cruel day.” “Even during a funeral you were still exposed to artillery fire,” he continued, adding that the cemetery was targeted very often.

In his film at the time, he reported that gunfire from Serb positions. “The Serbs said that it was a set-up and that the Bosnian authorities had been setting up incidents of shelling and sniper fire knowing that foreign cameras would be there, and that they would film those things, but I can’t believe it,” Bowen told the tribunal.

“The city was a permanent target and was being shot even while the cameras were off, so I cannot believe that any of it had been staged for us. “I stand by my statements, 100 per cent, because I believe them to be based on solid facts.”

The trial continues next week.

Velma Saric is an IWPR-trained journalist in Sarajevo.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

"Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation" by Silber and Little [19]

Chapter 30: Conclusion

Because this book was published in 1996, this final chapter is obviously somewhat dated, but unfortunately not nearly enough--the pessimistic tone of this closing chapter remains largely justified. War did not return to Bosnia or Croatia, and both Milosevic and Tudjman have done the world the favor of dying, but on the other hand this book was written before the Kosova war so the author's concerns about possible future conflict was not unmerited, even if the worst-case scenarios or renewed conflict in Bosnia and a possible wider Balkan war was mercifully avoided.

The Dayton agreement achieved peace by institutionalizing ethnic separation, and the biggest winners were Tudjman and Milosevic, even if both Croatia and the rump Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro were still maintaining the fiction of Federal Yugoslavia) were suffering the effects of economic hardship and autocratic rule.

And so this excellent book--probably the best one book to read on the Yugoslav wars (except Kosova, obviously)--comes to a close. The authors make no projections for the future, nor do they suggest a road map. They are too aware of how flawed and compromised Bosnia's chances were, and how limited the international community was to anything other than a simplistic "stability" which could keep the region out of the news.

If you haven't read this book, it is an essential account of the war. If you are looking for suggestions on where Bosnia and its allies need to go from here, you will need to look otherwise--but the next time you are arguing with someone who has been fooled into thinking that the "standard narrative" of the Bosnian war is an emotionally-charged and ideologically-slanted justification for Western intervention, you can rest assured that they have never read this sober, methodical account.

Friday, January 14, 2011

"Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation" by Silber and Little [18]

Chapter 29: Pax Americana

This penultimate chapter detals the negotiations which led to the peace treaty that ended the wars both in Bosnia and between Croatia and Serbia, and established the Dayton Agreement which divided Bosnia into the Republika Srpska and the Bosnian-Croat Federation. Milosevic embraced his new-found role as a respectable "peacemaker" even as he continued to show contempt for his kin in Bosnia and Croatia whom he had once presumed to speak for.

The negotiations were tangled and contentious, and ably summarized in this chapter. The end result was the Dayton agreement, and hastily called elections, in which the three nationalist parties dominated and the ethnic cleansing of the country, to which the United States and the Western powers were now a party to, became further institutionalized. The leadership of the three nationalities were still determined to look for an advantage at the expense of the other two, and although the war was over it was a peace that was accomplished at the expense of mulit-ethnic Bosnia.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Article from IWPR: "Bosnia War Compensation Dispute"

This latest article, which covers the issue of how Bosnian Serbs say claims being made by hundreds of Sarajevo residents are politically motivated, is being reprinted here courtesy of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting. Many thanks for permission to reproduce it and pass it on:


Bosnia War Compensation Dispute:
Bosnian Serbs say claims being made by hundreds of Sarajevo residents are politically motivated.

Bosnian Serb leaders have described demands for hundreds of war reparation payments from Sarajevans as an “organised political act” against Republika Srpska, RS.

The RS authorities said last month that they received some 1,400 compensation requests from the Union of Civil Victims of War from the Sarajevo canton - amounting to around 470 million euro - for the suffering endured by residents of the capital during the 1992-95 siege.

The legal basis for the reparation claims stems from the Hague tribunal’s judgement in the case against the former commander of the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps of the RS Army, VRS, General Stanislav Galic.

In 2006, Galic was sentenced on appeal to life in prison for crimes committed against civilians in the besieged city. Nearly 12,000 Sarajevans were killed and many more wounded by Serb forces during the 44-month sniping and shelling campaign.

The RS government has until January 13 to respond to each of the 1,400 claims, or else it will be assumed that it does not oppose them. The municipal court in Sarajevo could then issue a ruling ordering RS to pay the requested amount to the victims.

RS politicians have responded angrily to the legal action.

Bosnian Serb president, Milorad Dodik, told the local media, “Lawsuits are usually filed by individuals, and here we suddenly have 1,400 people filing their cases simultaneously, which is a proof that this is an organised political act and an attack against RS.”

The RS legal representative Slobodan Radulj told journalists, “This has nothing to do with law and is aimed at weakening the RS economy.” He said the authorities were using “all available resources” to process the reparation demands by the deadline, but questioned their legal validity, claiming they were incomplete and lacked the necessary evidence.

The Union of Civilian Victims of War has dismissed RS politicians’ claims that the compensation claims are politically motivated.

“The judiciary has to provide satisfaction for victims, and we are victims in all this. We have no one’s support, but justice is on our side and that’s what’s important to us,” said the union’s president, Senida Karovic.

The union’s secretary, Muzafer Teskeredzic, believes reparation demands were being unnecessarily politicised, adding that “the only reason why the plaintiffs have initiated proceedings was because they were wounded in the war or because their immediate family members were killed”.

Newly-elected RS prime minister, Aleksandar Dzombic, said it’s unrealistic for the victims to expect to be paid in cash and that any compensation would come in the form of RS bonds.

“The legal framework for paying the compensation for the civilian victims of war is clear – we can give out bonds for the period of 14 years, with a certain grace period,” he said.

However, Teskeredzic said this was not an option, claiming that international law stipulates that the kind of damages the Sarajevo residents are seeking cannot be paid in bonds.

“It has to be paid out in cash. We are talking about compensation for lost limbs, for murdered family members. Bonds will not be accepted,” he said.

Teskerdzic added that the union would take its case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, if necessary, and is preparing further compensations claims.

“This is not the final number. We are being contacted on a daily basis by union members who have acquired their status in accordance with the law. This means that only those who have a proof that they were wounded or lost a family member during the siege can demand reparation through our union,” Teskeredzic explained.

At the beginning of this month, Radulj, the RS legal representative, told the local media that his office had received an undisclosed number of reparation claims from residents of Tuzla, a town in Bosnia’s Federation, who demand compensation for the suffering inflicted on them during a VRS attack on Tuzla in 1995.

The legal basis for these lawsuits is the judgement of the Bosnian state court in the case against the former VRS general Novak Djukic. In September last year, Djukic was sentenced on appeal to 25 years in prison for ordering the shelling of Tuzla on May 25, 1995, which resulted in 71 deaths and injuries to 150.

Radulj said his office would demand that these actions be dismissed, because RS cannot be held responsible for an act of an individual.

While RS is struggling with a great number of reparation demands, Bosnian Serb war victims have yet to issue similar claims against the Federation.

According to the president of the Union of Associations of Civilian Victims of War in RS, Dusan Babic, there were about 3,700 civilian victims of the 1992-95 war in the Bosnian Serb entity, but he is not aware of any lawsuits filed against the Federation.

One of the problems is that there’s no law regulating the issue of reparations in Bosnia.

In June last year, the Bosnian ministry for human rights and refugees prepared a draft law on victims of torture and civilian victims of war, but it has yet to be passed.

Assistant Minister for Human Rights and Refugees Saliha Djuderija said there are still many issues that the two entities cannot agree about, “such as who should be paying reparations and who should protect rights of the victims - state or the entities”.

According to Djurderija, no real progress is expected for at least another year. In November last year, the United Nations Committee Against Torture urged Bosnia to pass the draft law on war victims.

According to Lejla Mamut Abaspahic, Human rights coordinator for the NGO Track Impunity Always, current state legislation on reparations for war victims is unsatisfactory because they have to prove that they are unable to work and have no other source of income in order to exercise their right to compensation.

“This is contrary to international standards, because a victim of war has to be compensated, regardless of whether they are employed or not, rich or poor,” she said.

Maja Bjelajac is an IWPR reporter in Banja Luka.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

"Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation" by Silber and Little [17]

Chapter 28: "Let Us Be Pragmatic" Cleaning up the Maps July-August 1995

In order for the United States and its allies to achieve the peace deal they wanted and which they believed their clients could live with, the map of Bosnia needed to be "cleaned up" quite a bit. The three eastern enclaves of Srebrenica, Zepa, and Gorazde were an obstacle to this end, as was the fact that the Bosnian Serb regime still controlled much of Bosnia, and their allies in the Croatian Krajina still controlled a third of Croatia. Event during the summer of 1995 would change all that in grim fashion.

While this chapter is quite lengthy, I will not give a detailed synopsis of it because frankly if you don't know the essential outlines of what happened at Srebrenica in July of 1995, you most likely either aren't reading this blog or you have no interest in truly understanding what my mission in maintaining it is. As you might guess from the title of this chapter, the authors focus mainly on the sobering reality that the fall of Srebrenica and Zepa, if not exactly "planned" by the Bosnian government and the United States, were certainly events which proved beneficial to larger strategic goals.

The authors also understand that Washington and the international community were equally cynical in their dealings with Tudjman when Croatian forces unleashed "Operation Storm" which was clearly a creature of NATO planning and covert (and theoretically illegal) arms acquisition. The collapse of the Krajina Serbs statelet was sudden and total, as it had become little more than a corrupt paramilitary state led by craven bullies (Martic and Babic) who also turned out to be cowards who fled immediately, having done nothing of substance to prepare for the return of war. They left their people at the mercy of a well-armed and vengeful Croatian war machine, who helpfully publicized escape routes for terrified Serbs, although all too often they found that those routes, while open, weren't safe. They were exposed to abuse and attack from Croatian forces and civilians alike; and those who stayed behind--mostly those too elderly to flee--death and torture was their fate. Although the number of atrocities and deaths pales next to the numbers inflicted by the Serb nationalists, they were still part of a systematic plan which resulted in the largest single mass expulsion of people of the entire war. Within a few days, centuires of continuous Serb society in the Krajina had been completely eliminated.

Milosevic was silent through all that, even as he had pretended to be completely uninvolved in the Srebrenica operation (this book was written before later revelations of the involvement by the "Scorpions" and other Serb units had come to light). The protector of all Serbs, who had done so much to stir up and encourage the Serbs of Croatia and Bosnia to take up arms, was now throwing them all aside.

The Croats were able to get away with this because they were obligated by their American sponsors to cooperate with the Bosnian government to take the war to the Serbs. They did so, and the Bosnian Army Fifth Corps took advantage of the altered balance of power to launch a successful attack out of the Bihac pocket. The collapse of the Bosnian Serb frontlines was about to happen.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

"Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation" by Silber and Little [16]

Chapter 26: To the Mogadishu Line The Battle for Gorazde April 1994

Of the three government-controlled Muslim enclaves remaining in eastern Bosnia, Gorazde was the most formidable and the most obstructive from the Bosnian Serb perspective. Given the obstacle that Gorazde presented to the completion of a contiguous Serb Republic in Bosnia, reports that the Bosnian Serbs were launching a serious offensive operation should have been taken seriously. However, the initial reports were dismissed by UNPROFOR commander General Michael Rose.
The reasons for his refusal to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation eventually would become clear to UN personnel on the scene in Gorazde, who became increasingly frustrated as their reports were not only ignored by Rose, but he continued to misrepresent them to the international media while hiding what he knew. In a word—Rose did not want NATO to repeat the air strikes which had been launched against the Serb forces around Sarajevo. He had become more concerned about maintaining neutrality and protecting his mission than anything else.
Pressure to do something finally mounted however; but Rose kept the airstrikes at such a limited and restrained level that they had no effect. It was hard to avoid at least suspecting that he had deliberately undermined the effectiveness of this strategy in order to devalue the use of air strikes in the future.
At the point the Russians became increasingly involved; at the same time, the calls for air strikes had not gone away simply because Mladic almost seemed to relish mocking the international community, this time by taking UN personnel hostage like the terrorist he was while launching extensive artillery attacks on the government-held stronghold of Tuzla. All the while, the death toll in Gorazde continued to rise.
Eventually, UN envoy was to wrest “concessions” from Karadzic, who was eager to give the international community the illusion of progress and who may have suspected that the rift between his government and the Milosevic regime was coming. These concessions were sufficient to halt the air strikes, although naturally the Serbs did not comply with them. In the end, Mladic was able to get pretty much what he wanted—it was not clear that he intended to completely take Gorazde, only to “neutralize” and contain it—and Karadzic had managed to deepen the rift between the NATO allies. The cost was high, though—the Bosnian Serbs had also managed to alienate their Russian allies and their patrons in Belgrade. The consequences of this new development would soon appear.

Chapter 27: “A Dagger in the Back” The Serbian Split June-August 1994

Karadzic and the Bosnian Serbs didn’t know it, but they had tried Milosevic’s patience as far as he felt he could afford, given the continuing damage economic sanctions and international pressure were inflicting in rump Yugoslavia. When the Western Powers represented by the “Contact Group” presented the parties (the Bosnian Serbs and the Croat-Muslim Federation) with yet another peace plan (one which gave the Serbs just under half the country but which expected them to give up secure control of the northern corridor) with their peace plan, the Bosnian government accepted it reluctantly, knowing that it wasn’t just but conceding that they knew the Bosnian Serbs would reject it. And, despite pressure from Milosevic (mostly through Yugoslavian President Zoran Lilic), they did exactly that.
Milosevic was furious, and this time the embargo he imposed on his ethnic allies was genuine, if not total (he didn’t want them to collapse militarily, he merely wanted to punish Karadzic and the other leaders who had defied him). Serbs in Serbia were mystified that the war for Serbian unity could be tossed aside so quickly, while those in Bosnia were stunned that they were being condemned for fighting the unwavering war of ethnic cleansing that Milosevic had done so much to bring about.