Rants and Raves

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Welcome to the Balkans

I urge all of you interested in foreign affairs, and those of you who share a horrified fascination with the Clintons' mismanagement of them, to check out Marvin Olasky's column "Leaping Before We Looked: The Clinton Administration's Bosnian Failure" in Human Events. http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=22912

On the strength of Mr. Olasky's recommendation I am going to check out former National Security Agency analyst John Schindler's book "Unholy Terror: Bosnia, al-Qa'ida, and the Rise of Global Jihad" which he reviews therein. http://www.amazon.com/Unholy-Terror-Bosnia-Al-Qaida-Global/dp/0760330034/ref=sr_1_1/103-7617911-9456643?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1192723876&sr=8-1

I lived in the Balkans during the years 1996-97, specifically in Sofia, Bulgaria and Belgrade, Yugoslavia. I returned to Belgrade several times over the next few years. The first time right after the NATO bombing, on another occasion to cover the election that brought down Milosevic. Schlinder has it exactly right - the situation was wa-a-a-ay more complicated than the western media had it.

The media tended to portray events as a conflict between three ethnic groups: Serbs, Croats and Bosnian Muslims. Might we mention that outside Belgrade is a Hungarian village? A little further on is a Slovakian town. Anybody ever heard of the Tsintsars at all? Did the media ever mention that the Jewish community of former Yugoslavia was pretty solidly pro-Serb?

Understand, I am not claiming to be an expert on the Balkans. Not even the people who live there are experts on the Balkans.

Once when I was giving a talk at the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade, I responded to one hostile questioner that I had been living in Eastern Europe for some time with limited access to western media and that I had come to the country quite prepared to make up my own mind about the events in Yugoslavia.

My host then said with a look of incredible sadness, "When you figure it out, will you please let us know?"

When trying to explain the general craziness of the place, my friends used to shrug and say, "Welcome to the Balkans."

I've written about my experiences in Belgrade from the viewpoint of - perhaps "honest confusion" is the best term. For this I was called pro-Serb by some, anti-Serb by some, and accused of spreading "NATO lies" by others - none of whom had ever been there.

For the record, if I read Olasky right about Schlindler's findings, I agree with his conclusion that there were no uniquely guilty - or innocent parties in that fratricidal conflict. Everybody was doing it to everybody. Serbs, being the larger and best-organized faction, were just better at it.

Nota Bene: When I was in Saudi Arabia, I heard on several occasions from other foreign teachers, of Saudis and Palestinians trained and funded to travel through Bosnia and Kosovo for the purpose of radicalizing the local Muslims, who had fallen into Western ways.

(For example, a Polish friend's mother is a Bosnian Muslim. She has served me vodka and pork kielbasa with her own hands. Likewise, when I told a Bosnian poetess, Fatima Gorenchevska, that my Saudi students had told me that I absolutely must not meet with a Muslim woman, even a white-haired grandmother, she dismissed them as "stupid.")

Olasky quotes Schindler, "Radical Islam has a stronger hold there than ever before, and it remains a mystery to me why Western governments continue to not give this problem, in the heart of Europe, the attention it deserves."


Cross posted at The Right Angle http://www.humanevents.com/rightangle/


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