Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Some Call It Peace

I remember it vividly, as if was just yesterday. It was a Tuesday, November 21. Just a day prior, we got word that the talks had collapsed - yet again - and that the war would go on. And then it was over.

It didn't seem over at the time. By the time I left Bosnia, two months later, the armies were still in position, the roads were still passable only to NATO peacekeepers, conscription was still in effect, and utilities were not yet restored. But the longer the ceasefire held, the less likely it seemed the shooting would restart. By the time the treaty was officially signed, in mid-December, it dawned upon us that it was peace at last.

Thus ended the Bosnian War.

There is still some contention as to when precisely it began. For me, it was April 5, 1992, when roadblocks appeared in Sarajevo. From that Sunday morning, until that Tuesday when the word came from Ohio, I had counted 1,376 days. Not the longest war in history, or the bloodiest, or the cruelest - but when it happens to you, that's hardly a consolation.

The day after the peace treaty was announced, my first ever article in English appeared, published by The Independent. The way I wrote it, it was a schmaltzy celebration of peace. The way it was headlined, it sounded like a one-cheer of a disappointed war victim. Unlike some folk, who were perhaps hoping for a "final victory" and a Bosnia remade according to their fantasies, I was not the least bit disappointed by the Dayton peace treaty. I didn't feel much like a victim, either. I just hoped it would last.

I was entirely too young to realize that the war would merely move back to the realm of politics. So, the headline - "At least there will be no more killing" - proved strangely prophetic.

Earlier this year, while visiting Bosnia, I wrote:

"In Bosnia, ethnic warfare was the direct result of the complete destruction of trust between the communities as the regime of Alija Izetbegovic pushed for independence at the expense of everything and everyone else. The Dayton settlement did not restore that trust, but offered a framework in which it could be re-forged if Bosnia’s peoples so chose. When the U.S. and the EU made Bosnia into a de facto protectorate shortly after the war, and began to impose their often conflicting but always confused visions of what Bosnia should be, they created a powerful disincentive for internal dialogue.

When Bosnian Serb PM Milorad Dodik said recently that it might be time to talk about a consensual separation, president Silajdzic angrily replied that this was impossible. "Those who dislike this country are free to leave, but they can’t take an inch of the land with them," Silajdzic said.

This very argument, that Bosnia belonged "100 percent" to Silajdzic and the Muslims, while everyone else is welcome to get out, is precisely what ignited the 1992-95 war and claimed 100,000 lives. After fifteen years of peace and "nation-building," Bosnia seems to be back at square one. And this is what the State Department describes as a great "success."

One shudders to think what failure would look like."

Whatever the Empire - or the Serb, Croat and Muslim leaders who signed it - intended to accomplish with the Dayton agreement, it did silence the guns. And it still offers hope, however fleeting, that the people who live in Bosnia may eventually sit down and figure out how to live together - or part ways - peacefully.

As for me, I will always remember that moment of unadulterated joy I felt when I heard the news that the war was over, when I realized that my family and I had made it through alive.

So many people take life for granted. I'm not one of them. And now you know why.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Revolutionary Acts

It is said that the 1991 "Desert Storm" was the first war waged live on cable TV. Eight years later, NATO attacked Serbia (Operation "Allied Force") and the attendant media adhered to the same matrix of behavior. Only this time, there was the internet. However clunky and amateurish citizen-reporting was back then, in its infancy, it nonetheless provided an alternative to the relentless propaganda churned out by compliant reporters regurgitating Alliance spokesman Jamie Shea's infamous briefings. Bit by bit, the truth of NATO's atrocities came out, while the rumors of Serbian atrocities were shown to be greatly exaggerated.

Many of the news sites and proto-blogs that helped expose the truth about NATO's "humanitarian war" are no longer around. One, however, has persevered - and continued the struggle for truth ever since, through the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And as George Orwell so aptly put, "speaking the truth in times of universal deceit is a revolutionary act."

All too many people in the United States today still see things through the darkened lens of partisan politics. Democrats this, Republicans that, liberals this, conservatives that. Yet what Antiwar.com has demonstrated over and over is that both parties march in lockstep when it comes to waging wars, empowering the state and repressing the citizenry. It doesn't matter whether the Emperor is Slick Willie, Bush the Lesser, or Saint Barack of Hopechange: the policy of killing people and breaking things always remains the same.

I've had a small part in this endeavor since October 19, 2000, when Antiwar.com published my first column. "Balkan Express" ran weekly for many years, eventually becoming the biweekly "Moments of Transition." I would like to think that I've helped prove the point about the Empire in my coverage of the troubles in the Balkans and Europe in general. Both the fan mail and hate mail accumulated over the years suggest that I have, as do some figures of speech - "Empire" itself being a case in point - that have since made their way into foreign policy discourse in the Balkans itself.

The Imperial government has created this fantasy world in which it can move nations around the Grand Chessboard by sheer strength of willpower - and a few smart bombs here and there. It need not concern itself with the "reality-based community," or such mundane things as money and facts. If needed, facts are invented, and money is simply printed (oh, is it ever!). But the rest of us, we live in the real world, and deal with real facts. And when bills come in, we need to pay them with real money.

Now, you'll notice this blog doesn't have a donation box or anything like that. I work for a living, and what I do here and at Antiwar.com is something I can afford to do on my own time. But I am well aware that running a major news website, collating news, editing and posting articles - all that costs money. Thanks to the government and the likes of the giant vampire squid, none of us have much. But what we have ought to be put to good use.

So, if you want to hear what the mainstream media refuse to tell you - for example, understand why the TSA gets to grope you, or what is really happening in the Balkans (and why that is relevant) - consider making a donation to keep Antiwar.com going. Unlike with the Empire and its attendant media, you actually have a choice in the matter.