In March 1994 I was on a bus just a few miles from Srebrenica, scene of a long and brutal siege by Bosnian Serb forces. The bus passed through a narrow corridor, embattled as Bosnian Muslims trapped in the town fought to reach the larger island of Bosnian territory. We passed solemn and silent through bombed out villages like Novo Selo. A bus on that same road earlier had been ambushed. The passengers killed. A few months later I would befriend a French Doctor working in the so-called Srebrenica enclave. After the war in Sarajevo I spoke with a man who claimed to be a survivor of one of the mass executions that claimed more than 7000 victims, or almost 10% of the 105,000 people generally agreed to have died in 3.5 years of war, excluding between 15 and 30,000 people still listed as missing. Many thousands more never made either list. I’ve studied Balkan politics, culture, history and literature for more than 20 years, and I’ve seen the people there at their best and worst. Writing those words immediately recalls a mock execution I witnessed of a terrified young Bosnian Serb POW on a mountain above Sarajevo.
I have an informed perspective on the conflict. I also understand the continuum in history, a perspective modern media seems incapable of respecting. Their perspective on events are instead episodic; stand alone moments in time, in which the process of history and the interconnectedness of moments, events and happenstance feed the present and inform the past. We are fed the tribalistic one-dimensionality of good vs. evil, good guys and bad guys, my side vs. your side. The incident Saturday with Serbian Prime Minister Alexsandar Vucic, pronounced Vuchich, is a perfect illustration. It also illustrates the inhumanity of international relations and the arrogance and hubris of leaders and diplomats.
On Saturday, amid an emotional ceremony recalling the weeklong orgy of mass murder and violence as Serb forces led directly by general Ratko Mladic, former Serbian paramilitary and a cheerleader for the murder at Srebrenica chose to attend. Survivors, many still carrying wounds, some the only survivors of whole families who were bound and executed by the hundreds at a time, were understandable offended at the sight of a man who days after Srebrenica chided Bosnia’s Muslims before the Serbian National Assembly on 20 July 1995, “If you kill one Serb, we will kill 100 Muslims!” Angered by his appearance, as he laid a wreath at the memorial, Vucic was pelted with stones and insults and forced to flee, shielded by security guards.
It was ill conceived on the twentieth anniversary of the massacre, to say the least. That auspicious anniversary was preceded by a number of emotional stories in Bosnia from survivors, including the story of one man who having lost his wife and child in the massacre committed suicide prior to this weekend’s ceremony. Vucic, for his part remains unrepentant for his wartime rhetoric and actions as a paramilitary, connected to indicted war criminal Vojislav Seselj, commander of the notorious White Eagles. In recent years Vucic has postured at having a change of heart, though it is far likely he is courting Western and EU investment, and inclusion in the EU for a Serbia decimated economically and socially by inward looking nationalism. Diplomatically, had Serbian officials truly sought to offer an olive branch towards the long road to Balkan peace a wreath placed quietly and away from the memorial itself might have proved a softer less offensive gesture.
By coming to the ceremony Vucic assumed the role of the hitman coming to his victim’s funeral. That is not as hyperbolic a statement as it may appear. It was Vucic throughout the 1990s, with his boss and close friend Seselj who proliferated the fiction of “international conspiracy against Serbia,” undertaken they said by Germany, the Vatican, and the CIA. Vucic served as minister of information in Serbia from 1998 to 2000 through the Kosovo War with NATO.
Former President Bill Clinton, who also attended the ceremony, lauded Vucic’s bravery for attending the ceremony and called the violent reaction unfortunate. Good that Mr. Clinton can so easily forgive an adversary in a war, not to mention Bosnia, in which he did relatively little. Clinton’s laissez faire attitude towards Bosnia, for many observers gave tacit approval to the attack on Srebrenica. Even the deaths of thousands of civilians was not enough to compel a stalwart response. Not until September, following another horrible mortar attack market in central Sarajevo which killed 43 and wounded 75 before television cameras would NATO be compelled to act.
Perhaps Mr. Clinton forgot that Vucic sheltered and hid a Serbian intelligence official, Goran Radosavljević, believed responsible for the kidnapping and execution of three American citizens, the Bytyqi brothers, reportedly in Kosovo to help A Roma family escape. The bothers were picked up for violating a law regarding the movement and residence of foreigners. Despite repeated appeals by the US directly to Vucic, whose connections to war criminals, paramilitaries and organized crime are well documented, no one was held accountable for the murders of the brothers.
Was it regrettable that a few Bosnian mourners reacted as they did? What would the reaction have been to Hitler’s secretary, or former Nazi Party members taking a prominent role in a ceremony commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz?
Listen Saturday’s from 11am-1pm to WC Turck, Brian Murray and guests on Chicago’s real alternative media, AM1680, Q4 radio, streaming at www.que4.org.
WC Turck is an author, artist, playwright and talk radio host in Chicago. He has been called the most dangerous voice on the Left. His new book “A Tragic Fate: is an unflinching look at the events leading up to the shooting down of Malaysia Air Flight 17.” His first novel, “Broken” was recommended by NAMI for its treatment of PTSD. In 2006 he published “Everything for Love,” a memoir of his experiences during the siege of Sarajevo. He wrote and produced two critically acclaimed plays, “Occupy my Heart” and “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden.” He works with the homeless and foreclosure victims in Chicago. He partners in a weekly radio show dedicated to issues, society and politics with cohost, activist and artist Brian Murray For more information, past shows, videos and articles, visit www.revolutioandbeer.com
The Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) is a conservative think tank with offices in Chicago and Springfield, Illinois, and member of the State Policy Network. IPI is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as of 2011. IPI is also a member of ALEC’s Health and Human Services Task Force and Education Task Force. Senior Budget and Tax Policy Analyst, Amanda Griffin-Johnson, presented model legislation (the “State Employee Health Savings Account Act”) to the HHS task force at ALEC’s 2011 annual meeting. Collin Hitt, Director of Education Policy, is a private sector member of the Education Task Force representing IPI. He sponsored the “Local Government Transparency Act” at the ALEC 2011 States and Nation Policy Summit. In its 2006 annual report the Cato Institute states that it made a grant of $50,000 to the Illinois Policy Institute. The Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank founded by Charles G. Koch and funded by the Koch brothers.