Books on Bosnia & Herzegovina
Update No: 132 - (01/06/08)
A hapless land
Tolystoy opened Anna Karenina by saying: "Happy families resemble each
other; unhappy ones are unhappy each in their own way." The same may
perhaps be true of nations.
There can be no unhappier nation in Europe than Bosnia, unsure, indeed, whether
it is a nation at all. It had a vile war in 1992-95 that killed 240,000 people,
maiming an untold number, while more than a million became refugees, without
homes - and that in a country of only four million. The suffering was
unimaginable for those living in the secure West.
That is doubtless why so little was done about it. The Europeans turned a blind
eye for years to the Bosnian morass. It was perhaps post-war Europe’s darkest
hour with their politicians seeking to avoid at any price – a price paid in
Bosnian blood – grasping the nettle of a concerted slapping down of Milosevic,
seeking to turn Yugoslavia into Serboslavia, and confronting the Serbian war
machine he employed for that purpose.
One political figure, by then retired, who did understand the tragedy was
Margaret Thatcher, primed up to the facts by the Yugoslav wife of one of her
former aides, Charles Powell. As she said to one of her former ministers,
Douglas Hurd, then UK Foreign Secretary: "Douglas, you make Halifax (the
deputy of Chamberlain at Munich in 1938) look like a warmonger."
In the end, despairing at European pusillanimity, the Clinton Administration in
the US decisively intervened. A prime mover and shaker here was Richard
Holbrooke, Assistant Secretary of State, married to a Hungarian. He knew the
inclinations of Milosevic, Karadzik and the other Serb instigators of the war,
as Hungarians do in their bones. It can help to have a Balkan (or almost Balkan)
bride at times.
Holbrooke brokered the Dayton Peace agreement in 1995, an achievement for which
he deserved the Nobel Prize for Peace, which he did not get. He also deserved to
be made US Secretary of State on Clinton's re-election in 1996, but of course
did not get the job for a very simple reason – being much brighter he would
have swiftly eclipsed his boss.
Experts find mass grave in Bosnia
In a recurring reminder of this grim history, officials once again say they have
found a mass grave in Bosnia. The latest to turn up apparently contains 42
bodies of what may be the earliest victims of the Bosnian war - Muslim Bosnians
killed during the April 1992 Serb attack on the town of Zvornik on Bosnia's
border with Serbia.
Forensic experts turned up the first remains at the edge of a lake near Zvornik
and are now trying to dry the area out, said team leader Murat Hurtic.
Some 30,000 people went missing in Bosnia during the 1992-95 war and over the
years experts have been finding their bodies in mass graves throughout the
country. Once a body is exhumed, it goes through an identification process that
includes DNA analysis before it is released to the family.
So far about 17,000 bodies have been found.
The EU opens up at last
To look on a brighter side of things, The Europeans are belatedly trying to make
amends. The EU is to sign a pre-membership agreement with Bosnia on June 16.
The Bosnian Serbs and thus the nation, have finally accepted police reforms
urged on them by Brussels as a precondition for entry. They also seem to be in a
mood to accept virtually any requirement laid down by the EU. They reckon that
their fractured country, if it is to acquire substance as a nation, needs to be
continued for a while under Western tutelage. The various International
Representatives at the helm in Sarajevo have proved a distinct success, holding
the balance between its often only too corrupt and sectarian politicians.
Transparency International in its latest monitoring of corruption around the
world among 192 countries, puts Bosnia in the bottom half of the league, at well
over a hundred. But that is hardly a surprise. The Balkans extending through
Bulgaria and Romania (see current reports), include by far the most corrupt of
the European nations.