Tuesday, December 07, 2004

What Tadic Really Said

Western media were quick to trumpet that during his state visit to Sarajevo, Serbian president Boris Tadic "apologized" to "Bosnians" for crimes Serbians committed during the 1992-95 war. Left unsaid - but assumed, as per years of propaganda - was that this "proved" Serbia's involvement in the war and the systematic nature of the alleged atrocities.

Here's the problem: Tadic actually said no such thing.

And here's another: even so, the assumption remained.

According to Beta, a Serbian news agency with Western funding (i.e. definitely mainstream), he apologized to all those "who were victims of crimes perpetrated by ethnic Serbs," but also said he expected apologies from all who perpetrated crimes against Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks [sic].

"The Serbian nation as a whole did not commit crimes. Individuals did. So it is impossible to accuse an entire nation. We all owe each other an apology," Tadic told the press. (Serbian original here)

According to Beta, he also said that there were atrocities on all sides in the region, and that he expected others to apologize for their crimes committed against Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks [sic], and that there should be no exceptions where crimes are concerned.

"The history of atrocities in this region is long. The International Court [sic] in The Hague isn't the only institution that has to foster reconciliation," said Tadic, and pointed out that politicians now have the responsibility to build a future in which the following generations would cooperate and foster peace and reconciliation.

While what Tadic says sounds entirely rational, politically it is the very definition of stupidity. First of all, he is not a head of state (yet), so he has no standing to visit Bosnia as one. Second, he has no standing to make an apology of any sort; he doesn't represent even the people of Serbia (unless one counts 27% of the entire electorate as unanimous endorsement), let alone the Serbs of Bosnia.

The Bosnian Muslims ("Bosniaks" mentioned above) blame Serbia for "aggression" against Bosnia; U.S. efforts to sideline the Bosnian Serb leadership and impose Serbian president Milosevic (yes, that Milosevic) as their chief negotiator at the Dayton talks were meant to provide substance for this claim. After all, if Milosevic had nothing to do with the Bosnian Serbs, as he claimed, how could he negotiate a peace deal on their behalf? The logic is obvious.

Now Tadic walks headlong into the same trap: by issuing an apology on behalf of all Serbs - i.e. both Bosnian Serbs and Serbia - he implicitly agrees Serbia was somehow complicit in the atrocities. Leaving aside the issue of whether this is actually true (I argue that it isn't, but that's another topic entirely), this is most definitely not how politics, or diplomacy, is done.

This man is either hopelessly naive, or really, really stupid. Or both.

1 comment:

Душан Вукотић said...

Nebojsa, as you well know, it doesn't matter what Mr. Tadić thought or even said in addition of his apology. He admitted and substantially supported the view that Serbian atrocities were the only one in a bloody civil war (1991-1995) on the territory of former SFRJ.

Tadić is neither naive nor so stupid to be unable to foreseen some squelching consequences of his flighty utterance. Simply, the man is doing the job he is obliged to do for those who have inaugurated him.