Bosnia R.I.P

By Glenny, Misha | The Nation, July 12, 1993 | Go to article overview

Bosnia R.I.P


Glenny, Misha, The Nation


The coffin lid is closing on Europe's youngest state, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Serbs and Croats, such bitter enemies, have been reconciled for the moment by their mutual loathing of their apostate brethren, the Slav Muslims. Together they stand over the body and intone the last rites.

The grisly ritual is being accompanied by more slaughter and the comprehensive destruction of much of the republic's social and economic infrastructure. The Serbs continue to squeeze the Muslims around Gorazde, Srebrenica and Zepa. The Muslims have not finished "cleansing" Croats from the Travnik region. Around Fojnic in south central Bosnia, Serbs and Croats are cooperating militarily quite openly against the Muslims. The Croats are still systematically disfranchising the Muslims of Mostar.

"It has become like the Thirty Years' War," explains Alija Hodzic, a Muslim sociologist from Stolac in Herzegovina. "You never know who's going to be your enemy and who your ally come sunrise." When the fighting around Gornji Vakuf exploded in mid-April, Croat and Muslim artillery units engaged in a fierce battle just to the north of the town under the watchful eye of a Serb unit fifteen kilometers away. At one point, the Muslims stopped firing. The Serb commander radioed his Muslim counterpart and asked why. "We've run out of ammunition!" screamed the Muslim commander. "Give me the Croat coordinates!" came the reply. Over the next four hours, the Serbs obliterated the Croat positions. The following morning at reveille, the Muslim commander ran up the Yugoslav flag to thank the Serbs.

It was the declaration of the Joint Action Program in Washington on May 23 declaring "safe havens" that provoked the descent into total war. By consigning the Vance-Owen Peace Plan to history's rubbish bin, it left the international community, as that nebulous blob is known, without a coherent policy toward Bosnia. As a result the Serbs were free to consolidate their territorial gains. The Croats got the message that the carve-up could begin. For this, the Clinton Administration, with its obsessive determination to destroy the peace plan, must bear primary responsibility.

Without the irritating interference of international mediators, the Serbs and Croats can largely dictate Bosnia's future shape. The Muslims will receive some 30 percent of the territory--two enclaves, one in central Bosnia, one in the far northwest, which are not contiguous and at the moment have no guaranteed access to ports. Economically, they are a waste.

Having allowed the Serbs and Croats to do this, these same members of the international community have renewed their calls to lift the arms embargo on the Bosnian government.

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