March 20, 2003

Alley of the Damned
Bosnia, Tortured by Irrational Ideas

"Bosnia is a country of hatred and fear." - Ivo Andric, 1920

It will soon be eleven years since Bosnia was recognized as an independent state, yet it has never functioned a single day as such. Most of its Croats have long since taken Croatian citizenship, and feel comfortable only in the sliver of land where they form a majority. Its Serbs have never truly accepted it as their country, and agreed to its existence only because the 1995 Dayton peace agreement offered them little choice and a territorial autonomy. Only the Muslims, who have even taken the moniker of 'Bosniaks' (and are commonly called 'Bosnians', to perpetuate the confusion), persist in the illusion of statehood and independence, though it is as far from reality today as it was in 1992.

Bosnia is occupied by a small NATO force and governed by an Imperial viceroy currently a washed-out British politician with powers the ancient absolute monarchs would envy. Throughout Bosnia, statism reins supreme; there are no safeguards of liberty or property rights, political correctness runs rampant, and individuals are seen as servants of the government, not the other way around. Oh, the rhetoric is all of 'human rights' and 'justice,' but there isn't a trace of either in most of what transpires there daily.

"Bosnia challenges any definition of 'nation'," wrote a Canadian reporter in a recent story on his hometown's peacekeeper regiment. The Canadians' commanding officer summed it up as, "a nearly dysfunctional government of three ethnic groups in two entities comprising one country."

This is a refreshing bit of honesty amidst a severely twisted picture of Bosnian reality promoted both by the local leaders and the omnipresent Imperial interests. In case of the latter, their manipulations go far beyond Bosnia's petty disputes, all the way to the current effort to justify the unjustifiable in Iraq.

Pandering by Proxy

In November 2001, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen proposed to the Bush regime to appease Muslims worldwide irritated by the "war on terrorism" by going after Serb leaders accused of genocide against the Bosnian Muslims. Someone must have taken his advice, because efforts to "bag" the military and political leaders of Bosnian Serbs always spike during a major crisis in US-Islamic relations (such as, for example, His Most Democratic Majesty's determination to invade Iraq simply because he wants to). These efforts are usually an exercise in brute force, intended not so much to seize the alleged war criminals as to intimidate the local population and more importantly their political leaders into submission.

Osama bin Serb?

Three weeks ago, the Viceroy and NATO's stormtroopers have launched another manhunt for the former Serb Republic president Radovan Karadzic. This time, they went after his alleged "financial and support network," by seizing the property of two prominent Serbs and threatening others. NATO troops also raided municipal offices in Pale, the Parliament in Banja Luka, and even the Army command, carrying away boxes of documents.

All this talk of 'networks' and 'supporters' most likely deliberately invoked the images of Al-Qaeda and the still un-captured Bearded One, just as Cohen had suggested 18 months ago. Language also reveals the ham-fisted and bullying approach of Bosnia's occupiers to the entire operation. Namely, the two Serbs singled out for 'special treatment' are "linked to" or "alleged associates" of Karadzic, who "allegedly led a network" which was "widely regarded" to support him financially. All this passive-voice and guilt-by-assumption/association indicate that neither NATO nor Viceroy Ashdown actually have any proof better than local rumors that either man is actually connected with Karadzic.

This kind of intimidation tactics are in line with what former commander of NATO forces in Bosnia, Gen. Sylvester, promised last year. Karadzic himself protested it as extortion, in an open letter to his supporters in Serbia. Though his protests may well have been selfishly motivated, that does not make his point any less true: The New World Order really does not care about the means used to achieve its supposedly noble ends. Truth is, the means are the ends. It defies all reason to claim one is for law, human and property rights in Bosnia, then proceed to violate all of them in the name of "bagging" people accused of war crimes.

Confusion in Court

Around the same time as the Karadzic hunt, Bosnia's Human Rights Chamber ruled that the Bosnian Serb government had to pay nearly $2 million in damages over the "Srebrenica massacre," and conduct "a full, meaningful, thorough and detailed investigation" into what happened.

The investigation the court demanded is desperately needed, both to establish the truth of events and to stop the use of Srebrenica as a political 'bloody shirt'. However, as with all judicial efforts at social engineering, this one creates as many problems as it intends to solve. For instance, the damages are not to be paid to the actual families of the missing, but to the Potocari Memorial Foundation, a political tool of the Muslim nationalist SDA party. The Foundation's goal is not to establish the truth, promote healing or even obtain justice, but to erect a monument to the SDA's twisted version of history.

Another problem is the investigation. When the Serb Republic government published the first volume of its official report last year, it was condemned by both Muslims, Imperial envoys and western NGOs, because it challenged their enshrined preconceptions. Several Muslim plaintiffs have already said they "doubted the Serb authorities would ever provide them with the truth." One is tempted to wonder if the result of the mandatory investigation will be ruled acceptable only if it is tailored to fit the official line. After all, everyone knows what happened in Srebrenica or acts as if they do, anyway. Why ask a question to which one already assumes the answer? It's a strange way to champion the truth, indeed.

'Tolerance' Exposed

The uncomfortable truth is, NATO and the Empire really couldn't care less about war crimes. If they did, they wouldn't commit them so easily. As with everything else in Bosnia, the issue of Karadzic and General Mladic is not about truth and justice, but about politics and power.

Consider General Mehmed Alagic, seized in 2001 by the Hague Inquisition on charges of war crimes. At the time, the 'Tribunal' was fending off accusations of anti-Serb bias. The allegations soon subsided, and Alagic and his fellows were quickly provisionally released.

Alagic was a Corps commander during the war, first in central, then in southwestern Bosnia. His first command, the Third Corps, included many mujahideen. His last, the Seventh Corps, took part in the mass ethnic cleansing of Serbs from western Bosnia in the fall of 1995. In a command structure that could only be described as feudal, Alagic answered directly to Alija Izetbegovic. Before he could have mentioned any of this at his 'trial,' the 58-year-old Alagic died on March 8, supposedly of a heart attack.

There has to be a certain irony in the fact that the Empire likens Karadzic and Mladic to Osama bin Laden, while the Bearded One's fellow ideologue reaps the benefits. For Izetbegovic is an avowed Islamic fundamentalist, a militant totalitarian who not only never renounced his 1971 "Islamic Manifesto," but reaffirmed it in 1990 and thereafter. This is the same man who lied effortlessly to Western observers that his goal was a multi-ethnic, tolerant Bosnia, while simultaneously recruiting mujahideen and purging the Bosnian Army (and society) of non-Muslims. The extent to which his abuse of coexistence and 'citizen society' poisoned inter-ethnic relations in Bosnia is inestimable. Yet his lies are still regarded as obvious truth, and the Empire has never charged him with any crime. He was investigated in the fall of 2001, but those efforts were apparently dropped after 9-11.

Heart of Darkness

Because Empire's perceptions in Bosnia have been at odds with reality, the Dayton peace agreement provided for a schizoid construction that both insisted the Serbs were evil and protected their rights, and favored the Muslim "moderates" while condemning their militant fundamentalism. As a consequence of this paradoxical approach, Bosnia ended up torn between four competing visions. Izetbegovic wanted a Muslim-dominated Islamic state, where others would be second-rate minorities. Karadzic wanted a separate Serb republic and 'population exchanges' with the remaining Muslim and Croat lands. The late Croatian president Franjo Tudjman desired Bosnia wholly or partially annexed to Croatia, sans the Serbs and with Muslims if need be. And the Empire decided that Bosnia was to be made into a nation of "Bosnians," who would subscribe to politically correct values of liberal democracy, crony capitalism, 'human rights' and (of course) absolute obedience to the Emperor.

Neither of these visions makes for a decent future, and all four together are a recipe for disaster, as the state of affairs in Bosnia today amply demonstrates. As one of the Canadian peacekeepers mentioned earlier said, it is a country with a "culture of victimhood and dependency." Corruption, murder, theft, extortion, lies, hatred these are the demons that rule Bosnia today, not 'war criminals' or some phantom 'lack of democracy.' Compared to it, the bleak prison yard of Ivo Andric's "Alley of the Damned" seems downright cheerful.

Hatred and Healing

Andric both loved and hated Bosnia, a conflict that drove him to write beautiful, tortured prose for which he won a Nobel Prize. His Travnik Chronicle (also known as Bosnian Chronicle), The Bridge on the Drina and other novels are worth more than all the drivel written by quasi-'experts' over the past decade. Most of them deal with Bosnia's Ottoman past, when it was known as the 'dark vilayyet (province)'. Perhaps that is why the Muslim authorities find him absolutely politically incorrect, and their court intellectuals have even accused him of 'genocide'.

In a 1920 letter to a friend, Andric wrote that Bosnia was a land where goodness of the heart and nobility of character were suffused with fear and hatred. He concluded the letter with this description:

"Whoever lies awake at night in Sarajevo hears the voices of the Sarajevo night. The clock on the Catholic cathedral strikes the hour with weighty confidence: 2am. More than a minute passes (to be exact, seventy-five seconds I counted) and only then with a rather weaker, but piercing sound does the Orthodox church announce the hour, and chime its own 2 am. A moment after it the tower clock on the Bey's mosque strikes the hour in a hoarse, faraway voice, and that strikes 11, the ghostly Turkish hour, by the strange calculation of distant and alien parts of the world. The Jews have no clock to sound their hour, so God alone knows what time it is for them by the Sephardic reckoning or the Ashkenazi. Thus at night, while everyone is sleeping, division keeps vigil in the counting of the late, small hours, and separates these sleeping people who, awake, rejoice and mourn, feast and fast by four different and antagonistic calendars, and send all their prayers and wishes to one heaven in four different ecclesiastical languages. And this difference, sometimes visible and open, sometimes invisible and hidden, is always similar to hatred, and often completely identical with it."

This hatred, this great darkness in the hearts of Bosnian peoples, it cannot be defeated by force, or by lies. Only the truth holds any hope of redemption. There may be places and people even truth can't redeem any more, however horrifying the thought. But if it works for Bosnia, it may yet work anywhere.

– Nebojsa Malic

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Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo, and contributed to the Independent. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia and Serbian politics. His exclusive column for Antiwar.com appears every Thursday.

 

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