Official history has the Bosnian War breaking out on April 5, 1992. There is some room to argue that a more appropriate date would be March 1, or March 26, or March 28. Certainly, the barricades I remember hearing about on April 5 didn't seem any different from the ones a month prior. Following the declaration of independence on March 1, there had been barricades, then a mass protest, followed by the panicked politicians negotiating, the barricades being dismantled, and the war averted - or so we thought.
We were wrong.
What began that day would end 1,326 days and some 100,000 deaths later. Nothing quite prepares you for a war on your very doorstep. Experiences from WW2 were useless - or worse, could get one killed. This was a different war. And even learning all the tricks didn't guarantee survival. Whatever Imperial propaganda may say, warfare is neither neat nor surgical.
No historical event is truly inevitable - just more or less likely to happen. At any time in March, or even through most of April, the Bosnian War could have been prevented, or stopped before it really started. Some people were pushed into it. Others did the pushing. In any case, it quickly spiraled out of control, morphing from a very local dispute about land and power into some sort of global crusade (or rather, jihad). Neither the ideologues of Empire, nor the jihadist firebrands, nor the media cared much about the actual Bosnian War; they all built up a Bosnia myth and used it for their own purposes.
Today, on the 20th anniversary of the war (which basically coincided with Europe's recognition of Bosnia's dubious declaration of independence - a fact that doesn't get mentioned much), media all over the world have Bosnia on their tongues - but it's the mythical Bosnia, the narrative collection of cliches and tropes and lies that can be used to justify nation-building, humanitarian bombing, invasions, occupations, terrorism, whatever. Open any newspaper today, and I guarantee you there will be an op-ed comparing Syria to Bosnia, with a message that the "international community" needs to "act now" and kill people in the name of saving them.
Rubbish, yes. But that sort of rubbish is aimed at the average reader, who hasn't exactly spent the past 15 years tracking reports about Bosnia (and other shards of what was once Yugoslavia), and cannot know that all the tropes being trotted out - mass rapes, death camps, genocide, vast conspiracy to commit ethnic cleansing, 300,000 dead civilians - have been conclusively debunked with cold, hard facts. But the Empire doesn't care about facts, only about the
usefulness of the myth. There are countries to bomb, regimes to change,
demonized subhumans to kill.
Meanwhile, in Bosnia itself, while some people are trying to mind their own business, work for a living and raise their children right, an entire media/government apparatus has a vested interest in keeping things firmly stuck in 1992. As long as the war continues, mentally if not actually, they have power and the privilege that comes with it. So they keep their own people trapped in a cruel spasm of hatred, fear and suffering - feeding on it, thriving while everything around them rots away.
From half the world away, and when I drop in to visit, I can see clearly what they are doing. But the people there, driven mad by fear and hatred, can't - even as the pain of it is quite literally killing them. It took me close to a decade to claw my own way out of this "hurt locker". There are millions still inside.
Contrary to protestations by well-funded Imperial stooges, "coming to terms" with the past and "moving on" doesn't mean embracing a convenient set of lies about it. Rather, it is about dealing with the world that is, and working towards a world that should be. Every survivor left a piece of their soul in that war. The longer they stay in that mental prison of eternal 1992, the greater the odds they will lose themselves in it entirely.
Then, as now, they have a choice: embrace the myth and continue to self-destruct, or come to terms with reality and give themselves a chance to live, make peace, and heal. But it is something they have to do on their own. No one can do it for them - especially not the Empire, or "well-wishers" the world over, all of whom have a vested interest in their continued misery.