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Lessons from Bosnia — Part 7
As I said in the first part, this is a big, huge, topic. I am wrecking my brain on how to keep it simple. I’ve decided to start with a number of my own experiences that show this topic, and then we’ll have to mention some very boring yet confusing details.
In October 1992 my mum, younger brother and I came to the UK. We came in a group of four mothers and 21 children. It was a bit of an ‘ad hock’ situation — some mothers didn’t make it out of Bosnia to Croatia in time, the flight was already scheduled, so it was we go now or we miss our chance. The decision had to be made there and then. I don’t think anyone regrets it, because we all stayed together in one house in Scotland until other mothers could join.
We were really well received. The house where we stayed was flooded with donations of food and clothing. We had more than we needed. In fact, I remember one night we organised a ‘worst dresser’ competition, which I won, by the way. However, when we started talking about Bosnia, that’s when things went weird. They asked us things like do we know what a fridge is, or a TV. It seemed like they thought we were some kind of ‘cave’ people. At this point, I want to make it 100% clear that I do not hold this against those kind people who helped us even though they thought we were very backward. In fact, I think that makes those people even nicer. I mean, they thought we were cave-people, yet they still donated really nice stuff, and took really good care of us. The fact that we were not cave people is something worth looking at. Why did they think this about us? I doubt they came to this conclusion all on their own.
In April 1993 we moved from Scotland to West Yorkshire where there was a much larger community of Bosnians. This was the first time I faced arguments about what was going on in Bosnia. Initially, the Bosnian center, where refugees first arrived, was a newish building, with large plain rooms on the ground floor acting like communal spaces, and bedrooms were upstairs. Another group of Bosnians arrived before the ones staying in this building were accommodated someplace more permanent, so another center was open, very close, but in an 18th-century house, with wooden beams, large windows, and the most beautiful staircase I had ever seen. Eventually, the first building was closed, so we all met at this second building. My family had our own place, but we came to this house every day. It was important for us to be part of the community.
If anyone wanted to know anything about Bosnia, they came there. We packed food convoys, organised protests and petitions, wrote letters, and held events, even with guests from Bosnia. And, we even had a little football team. In short, a lot was going on there. Every so often we had organised trips to London, always with the purpose of sharing our experiences from Bosnia. Once, I met a guy who listened to what I had to say, and then said, “Well, that’s your story. I’ve heard something very different.” Long story short, he heard from Serbs and Croats, his long-time friends how the war in Bosnia was really Muslims killing Muslims, that the number of Serbs and Croats (i.e. non-Muslims) killed is much greater than we were willing to admit, that the civil war is just about turning Bosnia, a European country, into an Islamic state. It was the first time I cried my eyes out because no matter what I said I saw with my own eyes, this guy refused to believe me. And, that was my first lesson in international relations.
I can’t say that everyone in the UK thought we were lying about our own experiences. Far from it. I’d like to mention Graham Bamford who burned himself alive on the 29th of April 1993 in London. His last words were:
“The British people must stop the war in Bosnia, using force if necessary. The British army must not only be a guardian of honour at mass funerals. Bosnian babies, children and women are patiently waiting for the politicians to do what they should do — provide military protection. They must not stand aside and observe.”
These words were not heard. The international community initially responded to the war in Bosnia by imposing an arms embargo. Since this is equivalent to saying that the people of Bosnia should not have the right to defend themselves, there should have been a question of accountability. If we can’t defend ourselves, who should?
The UN, the peacekeeping troops (by the way, even as a child this confused me — peacekeeping in a war zone? There was no peace for them to keep. We’ll talk more about this…) failed miserably. The best example is Srebrenica, but we could take examples from other parts of Bosnia.
In Srebrenica, even before the genocide in July 1995, UN troops failed to report the number of dead. Serbia could throw bombs at Srebrenica from its territory, which it did, and when a bomb fell into a school playground, the UN soldiers reported the number of dead less than the real number. But during the fall of Srebrenica, the way the UN handed over the victims to the perpetrators, and watched as Serbian forces killed, is probably the peak.
Then again, in Sarajevo, for years, the UN had its tanks in the city, they watched as people hid behind those tanks to escape snipers. Of course, many people were shot before they could run to stand behind a UN tank, and the UN watched all this. Apparently, this was the peak of their ‘peacekeeping’ in Sarajevo. They couldn’t even bring in enough tanks to create a little wall so that people (especially children, children were targeted) could walk behind that wall with at least a little safety. Clearly, they were unwilling to fire back at the killers — an issue that needs to be discussed. But they could have done more to give some safety to the people of Bosnia. After all, they wouldn’t let us defend ourselves. Surely they owed us a little more than they gave, considering how much they took.
And to make matters worse, when the Bosnian Army (by some miracle) was strong enough to liberate Bosnia, that’s when we had the Dayton Peace Agreement. So, our president at the time, Alija Izetbegovic, signed this agreement when he knew that his army was in a position to win. Why? Either he was a very stupid man and against Bosnia, or he was forced into it.
Considering that he refused a number of other peace agreements when Bosnia was in very uncertain waters, perhaps even drowning, it doesn’t seem like he was stupid or against Bosnia. That leaves us with only one choice… But, let’s just put a pin in that.
Dayton Peace Agreement is 100% international project. We, the citizens of Bosnia, have had NOTHING to do with it. I’ve already written about it, but it has to be mentioned here because the international community made themselves ‘guardians’ of Bosnia.
Before we get to OHR — Office of High Representative, I must mention PIC — Peace Implementation Council. God help me, but I have no idea what the heck this is; it seems to be making decisions about very important things in Bosnia.
I will copy-paste information about PIC from https://www.ohr.int/international-community-in-bih/peace-implementation-council/
“The Peace Implementation Council and its Steering Board
Following the successful negotiation of the Dayton Peace Agreement in November 1995, a Peace Implementation Conference was held in London on December 8–9, 1995, to mobilise international support for the Agreement. The meeting resulted in the establishment of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC).
The PIC comprises 55 countries and agencies that support the peace process in many different ways — by assisting financially, providing troops for EUFOR, or directly running operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina. There is also a fluctuating number of observers.
Since the London Conference, the PIC has come together at the ministerial level another five times to review progress and define the goals of peace implementation for the coming period: in June 1996 in Florence; in December 1996 for a second time in London; in December 1997 in Bonn; in December 1998 in Madrid, and in May 2000 in Brussels.
PIC Members and Participants: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, China (resigned in May 2000), Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (now the republics of Serbia and Montenegro), Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Morocco, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States of America; the High Representative, Brcko Arbitration Panel (dissolved in 1999 after the Final Award was issued), Council of Europe, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), European Commission, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), International Monetary Fund (IMF), North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), United Nations (UN), UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UN Transitional Administration of Eastern Slavonia (UNTAES; disbanded in January 1998) and the World Bank.
PIC Observers to date: Australia, Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina, European Investment Bank (EIB), Estonia, Holy See, Human Rights Ombudsperson in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), International Mediator for Bosnia and Herzegovina, International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Latvia, Lithuania, New Zealand, Liechtenstein, South Africa and the Special Co-ordinator of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe.
The London Peace Implementation Conference also established the Steering Board of the PIC to work under the chairmanship of the High Representative as the executive arm of the PIC.
The Steering Board
The London Peace Implementation Conference also established the Steering Board of the PIC to work under the chairmanship of the High Representative as the executive arm of the PIC.
The Steering Board members are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia*, United Kingdom, United States, the Presidency of the European Union, the European Commission, and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which is represented by Turkey.
The Steering Board provides the High Representative with political guidance. In Sarajevo, the High Representative chairs biweekly meetings of the Ambassadors to BiH of the Steering Board members. In addition, the Steering Board meets at the level of political directors twice a year.
* The Russian Federation, in an official letter addressed to the High Representative on 28 July 2021, announced that it would no longer participate in the meetings of the PIC Steering Board under the chairmanship of the High Representative. In another official letter sent to the OHR on 17 February 2022, the Russian Federation announced that it had suspended its participation in the financing of the OHR.”
I should note that Russia is not against Mr Schmidt because they support Bosnia. They are against Mr Schmidt because Mr Schmidt supports Croatia, and the war in Bosnia (as I mentioned earlier) I really a war between Serbia and Croatia. Some people are aware of this, some are not. So there is a bit of a chaos there too.
Now, if you understand what PIC is, what they do in real terms, how, who they answer to, where do they get their information, and so on, please let me know. Because I sure as hell have no frigging clue. To me, they seem like some distant bubble, who treats Bosnia like a hobby that pays well. To them, Bosnia is just some plot of land, who cares what’s going on, as long as there is no bloodshed. This means they are really easy to manipulate because all you have to do is threaten that if they make some decision, one group or another will start a war. Hence, they are constantly blackmailed.
We know that this PIC steering board selects the High Representative, but we do not know how? Their statement for the election of Christian Schmidt doesn’t say much at all: https://www.ohr.int/statement-by-the-peace-implementation-council-steering-board-concerning-the-appointment-of-christian-schmidt-as-the-next-high-representative/
Plus, this sentence is very odd: “The PIC SB expressed its appreciation to Ambassador Valentin Inzko for his longstanding extraordinary commitment and tremendous contribution to implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement and security and stability in BiH for the past 12 years.” Inzko has become a joke for just being very concerned. For 12 years, he was just concerned. He was like a peace-version of the UN forces in Sarajevo during the war, where they just watched innocent people being killed around their tanks.
However, Schmidt is far, far worse. We’re not even sure he knows that Bosnia is NOT Croatia. He represents Croatian interests in Bosnia. He has singlehandedly strengthened colonisation of Bosnia by Croatia, and the PIC apparently supports this. The man, Mr Schmidt, canceled our constitution for 24 hours so that he could make decisions. I.e. he knew they were against the constitution of Bosnia, but he had to make them. Why? Someone needs to explain how Bosnia has security and prosperity if Croatia dictates decisions that go even against our constitution.
Apparently, Germany suggested this man. We’d very much like to know who and why? We feel like he came here to start a war. As I said in my previous article, the only reason Schmidt failed to start a war is because Bosnians are inclined to peace.
We joke that Germany sent him here just to get rid of him. While I have nothing against using humour to deal with hard situations, this is not a laughing matter. High Representative is a very important position for the whole region, not just Bosnia. But primarily Bosnia. His job should be to protect the interests of Bosnia. Yes, there will be those who’ll be against such decisions. I’ve mentioned earlier that there are politicians in the Bosnian government who are openly against Bosnia (except when they take our money, then they have the ability to grab with hands and feet), and the OHR should know how to deal with those.
Christian Schmidt is the eighth High Representative (HR). Most people will remember Carl Bildt, the first HR, because he took away our flag, an international and historic symbol of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Apparently, someone said that it was a symbol of Islam in Bosnia. That is a lie. In fact, that symbol is older than Islam in Bosnia. Our flag was treated with utmost disrespect.
Most people will remember Paddy Ashdown and claim that he was the best HR. I met him on a number of occasions. Spoke to him and exchanged emails with him (may he rest in peace). He once said he wished he did more. He also said how he was once on tour in Bosnia, they were going through a village, and he was told that the village was Serbian and burned to the ground. He noticed that there was a mosque, which was demolished. He chose to believe what he saw not what they told him to believe.
Other HR are either not remembered, or negatively remembered. Inzko, the seventh HR, held that office the longest, for over 4000 days. Christian Schmidt has already been in the office longer than most HRs, so we’re hoping he’ll be leaving soon. However, we do need to pay attention to who will be chosen next and how. Clearly leaving it to the international community is not a good idea, even though it is just them honouring the agreement they made. As far as we’re concerned, Dayton was past its use-by date more than two decades ago.
I should also mention that there is US part in OHR called Principal Deputy High Representative (PDHR). There’s been eight of these as well, except these are all from the US, and I don’t think anyone in Bosnia knows about them. People know who the Ambassador of the US in Sarajevo is, but not this PDHR person.
The ambassador of the US in Bosnia is an article all on its own. He’s in the media in Bosnia a bit more than you’d expect, okay, a lot more. Which wouldn’t be a problem if he knew Bosnia. However, they (one ambassador after another) very often know one side of the story. Not that we haven’t tried to show the other side, but we come for meetings, publish articles, talk about it openly, yet they seem to get their info from people who work there, who are constantly there, and paid to give them info.
Needless to say, elections in the US are of great interest to the people of Bosnia. There are rumours that Bill Clinton won the elections, back in the day, because of the Dayton Peace Agreement. Oh my word! I’m sure most people in America have no idea, and they simply thought that ending the war was great. At the end of the day, how much can an average American know about Bosnia? Considering that I’ve had times when I’d tell people, in a crowded and loud club, that I am from Bosnia and they’d reply “Boston, oh how nice”, my guess is that they don’t know much at all. And I can’t really blame them. How much do we know about our own neighbourhoods, let alone our town/city, let alone still our country?
When Joseph Biden was elected, we had great hopes. This was his speech that Bosnians remember to this day:
We thought this meant that the US would be on the side of Bosnia. I should add that they did NOT disarm the Serbs. However, their support for what Mr Schmidt did was a huge shock. They would not have allowed that kind of behaviour from anyone, let alone a foreigner, in their country. So why did they support it in Bosnia? Was it a question of principle — we support OHR no matter what? Or is there some kind of secret objective that we in Bosnia do not know about?
In that speech, it becomes very clear that there are far too many people making decisions, and funny how wrong decisions were always made. I think one of the big issues was trusting liars. In fact, this might still be an issue. It seems modern diplomacy believes in blind and persistent trust. I have no idea why. Ordinary people lose trust in those who lie over and over again. Diplomacy seems to be about forgetting the lies, and just trusting your long-time friends. Which brings us to the point of friends.
Paddy Ashdown once said that there are no friends in politics, there are only allies. Ally implies ‘mutual benefit’, why else would one country become an ally of another? There’s a very thin line between friends and allies, and the main difference is that ‘mutual benefit’, which is a question of wisdom. But, let’s put a pin in that one as well since it is a huge topic.
I need to mention a change that is coming up, which has already sent negative vibes throughout Bosnia. EUFOR (mentioned earlier in the PIC part) is going to be led by Hungary. We know that Hungary does not like Bosnia. Sometimes they’re on the side of Croatia, sometimes on the side of Serbia, but for us in Bosnia that makes a minor difference. We also know what Hungary is doing in their own country. We don’t like that. So we’re now wondering how and why Hungary.
Apparently, everyone wants to keep peace in Bosnia, it’s time to ask how many want to keep Bosnia. You’d think that this is the same thing. After all, how can you keep peace in Bosnia, if you’re against Bosnia? Are there people who think that Bosnia will just disappear? Being against Bosnia is equal to wanting a war in Bosnia.
Remember how I said they asked us if we knew what a fridge is? Now we want to ask them if they know what a human is. Democracy? Justice? Honesty? Or have they fallen into the spiral of their own lies that they no longer know much about anything, but they are very good at pretending they know?
In Bosnia, we have a saying: Desna ruka ne zna sta lijeva radi = the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. That’s how we describe the international community. At the end of the day, they have failed miserably to turn Bosnia, a small country rich in resources, into a decent place to live. Yet they have ambitions for the world?
The average IQ of those in politics in Bosnia is at least 50 points lower than the average IQ of those who have left Bosnia. So it’s not just about natural resources, it’s human resources as well. Many have yet to figure out how the system has forced smart people to leave because not-so-smart people are the only ones who’ll get an opportunity in Bosnia. Or they have figured it out, but yet again, there’s a hush-hush objective.
We’re told about how much money is being sent to keep peace in Bosnia, we don’t know anything about this. Sending money is not always a good thing. In fact, sometimes, it can be bad. If you send money to bad people, you’re just empowering them to do bad things.
Another theory in Bosnia is that leaders from the international community are victims of ‘sihri’ — the Bosnian version of voodoo. Goes to show that people in Bosnia are desperate to make sense of this chaos.
It’s time for me to end this article, yet I have not even mentioned international humanitarian organisations. In fact, I have not mentioned international courts of law. Shoot, they are a really big deal. We’ll have to leave those for the talks. And, as much as I am trying to stay away from mentioning any names, one name must be mentioned: Carla Del Ponte. More coming up.
Lessons from Bosnia about the international community:
1. The world is a constant battle between good and evil. For us in Bosnia, the international community is where evil wins every time. I.e. there are good things, I might not be alive if it were not for the international community that accepted me, but evil wins.
2. The International Community is a chaos any corrupt politicians will welcome. Not that corruption can’t happen without the presence of multiple leaders who came from someplace, but it seems to be much easier when such individuals are present and have power. Might have something to do with accountability, but we’ll get to that in the next article.
3. The world is a big place. Our minds are too small to make sense of everything. On the international level, it is even more important to have a set of values and stick to them.
4. Good policies, respect, and honesty are worth more than money to ordinary people. Money from the international community hardly ever trickles down to the ordinary people.
5. Giving money to negative people is negative. I.e. money should not be used as an excuse, as a way to show that good things are being done.
6. Defining allies is vital if we want to play the ‘they are our ally’ game. Weakening a country and then insisting they can’t be an ally is just evil.
7. Ordinary people, especially in developed countries, need to be taught about the foreign policies of their country. It is hypocritical to claim there’s democracy if people have no idea what their leaders are doing in the rest of the world.
8. It’s much easier to ‘play’ dumb on the international level than on the local level. Using the lack of knowledge is sometimes real and sometimes just a lame excuse. When we talk about these, we’ll talk about Carla Del Ponte and her obsession with ‘everyone being equally to blame for the war’. That’s just stupid. There’s never been a fight let alone a war where everyone was equally to blame.
9. Discrimination and prejudice are much greater on the international level than on the local level.
10. Every country has its faults and virtues. Every country has prisons. This means that every country has murderers, thieves, and criminals of all sorts. When we judge a country we need to look at more than the worst of its population.
PS There is so much more to be said on this topic. I’m starting to think I should have done this in two parts: International Relations Part 1 and then Part 2. But, we will have a chance to talk more about this. And I’m sorry I went a little over the 4000-word limit that I set myself. I’ve cut it down as much as I possibly could.