The World Today for January 11, 2022


The Long Goodbye


Fikret Alic appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1992 during the Bosnian War. Emaciated, he was standing behind the barbed wire of the Trnopolje camp run by Bosnian Serbs. The treatment he suffered recalled the worst of the Holocaust, when Nazis massacred millions of European Jews and others.

Today, Alic and others are suing Serbia’s television regulator for failing to take action against a talk show host who denied that he was held captive in the camp. They want to take a stand against misinformation and historical revisionism that would whitewash Serbian atrocities during the war, El Pais reported.

The court case is a sign of how interpretations of the past are once again threatening to tear the Western Balkans asunder.

Bosnian Serbs celebrated an outlawed holiday on Jan. 9, the 30th anniversary of when their former leaders declared a new state in 1992 and kicked off the war, for example. The festivities included a military parade and a nationalist song in Banja Luka, their provincial capital, as if they weren’t part of a confederation, the Associated Press wrote.

The US recently slapped sanctions on Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, who serves as one of Bosnia’s three presidents, for his attempts to dismantle the Dayton Peace Accords that brought an end to the fighting in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995 following the breakup of Yugoslavia.

As Reuters explained, Dodik is seeking to pull the autonomous Serbian Republic out of the country’s institutions and devolve more power to local governments. At the same time, ethnic Croats in the country have threatened to boycott elections that they say will result in their underrepresentation in the central government.

“Some Bosnians, and many outside observers, have wondered aloud whether 2022 could even see a descent into armed conflict,” wrote Radio Free Liberty.

But Dodik’s bluster might be designed to conceal his administration’s corruption, noted the New York Times. When Bosnian regulators discovered that oxygen designated for Covid-19 patients was for industrial uses rather than for humans, for example, Dodik vowed to create a Bosnian Serb medical agency that wouldn’t make the same mistake. Then further investigations revealed that one of Dodik’s political allies arranged the bad oxygen shipment.

American diplomats are trying hard to “walk Bosnia back from the cliff” to avoid another bloody conflict, the Guardian reported. Around 100,000 people died in the Bosnian war. Bosnian Serb forces conducted ethnic cleansing of towns, laid siege to the capital of Sarajevo for four years and massacred more than 7,000 Bosnians in the so-called Srebrenica massacre.

But Indiana University Law Professor Timothy William Waters wondered if keeping Bosnia whole was the right goal. Writing in the Conversation, he wondered if managing a peaceful breakup might be the best path forward. Split into three sections – Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs – nobody is really in control and everyone has complaints.

Breaking up is hard to do, but that doesn’t mean it should never be done.

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