The Rape of Bosnia

Systematic Rape in Bosnia

One of the problems about allegations of systematic rape in Bosnia is why? None of the explanations quite add up. Ethnic cleansing doesn't need rape - a gun and threats suffice. Muslim sources describe it as a kind of genocide - the Serbs want to breed more Serbs. But given that there is no genetic difference between Bosnian Muslims and Serbs a child brought up as a Muslim will be a Muslim whoever the father was.

Of course rape happens in all wars. I read in the Guardian an article in which it was forcibly argued that if you give a man a gun and remove the social constraints he will rape. But men who choose their victims exclusively from the enemy social group are not free of social constraint . And what of men who were forced to rape. Muslim fathers forced to rape their daughters and Serbs forced to rape by their comrades.

Two thousand years ago Mithradates, King of Pontus, having driven the Romans from Asia Minor, organised the Greek city states of the coast to massacre all the Italian merchants they could find. This was to ensure that when the Greeks discovered that Mithradates was as bad a tyrant as the Romans the Greeks would continue to fight for Mithradates from fear of Roman revenge. I have no doubt that Mithradates was not the inventor of this political tactic but 2,000 years will suffice. Getting people to fight from fear and guilt is a very old tactic.

Ethnic cleansing has a crude logic. Systematic rape seems at first to be a pointless outrage. Unless outrage is the point. If you are a Serb who has stood by while fellow Serbs have raped your neighbours daughter you do not expect him to return and shake your hand when it is all over. No you expect him to return with a gun and you had better have a gun too or flee Bosnia altogether.

Now after suffering these atrocities, Muslim fighters ( and I do mean Muslim not Bosnian) are playing their role in this script. While it would be difficult for the Muslims to compete with the Serbs not all atrocities are Serbian propaganda.

In May 92 Mensur Carmo, a Sarjevo journalist, wrote "Already there have been some reports of Serb fighters laying down their arms." Now it sounds terribly naive yet I don't think it was wishful thinking. It was precisely because the Bosnian Serbs could not be relied on to fight that the Serb warlords had to make Serbian rule so brutal. Unless a war of the vendetta could be created there might well have been no war at all.

Balkan peaceniks overwhelmingly support intervention. They are only too well aware that while the war may have been caused by politicians, not ordinary folk, there is little prospect of ordinary folk being able or even having the will to stop the war. In short the case for intervention is that it needs outsiders to provide the breathing space because without that peace making is a futile gesture.

How Europe Raped Bosnia

There is a story that refuses to break. It is the story of diplomatic blundering of the most awesome proportions - the diplomatic equivalent of Dien Bien Phu. It is the story of European Union and UN "peacemaking".

I hesitate to enlarge. Surely everyone knows, so why labour the point. But it does need restating.

The Bosnian war was a direct result of the Vance accord in Croatia. The war in Krajina had settled down into a stalemate at the time while in Bosnia an uneasy peace held. Then the Vance accord demilitarised the Krajina and the soldiers - Serb, Croat and JNA were at a lose end - they were soon to find a new field of war in Bosnia. It was folly to try and solve the Croatian conflict in isolation from Bosnia. A glance at the map would have made it obvious that the Serbs would want northern Bosnia to provide a link with their conquests in Croatian Krajina.

Then there was the EC cantonisation plan. This now seems so clearly a blue print for ethnic cleansing that it is a puzzle that Alia Izetbegovic signed it. Perhaps he thought that if things went wrong as a result of following a European policy then Europe would help clear up the resulting mess. Pigs might fly.

And then Vance Owen plan. It was so obviously unworkable that it would be easy to dismiss it as relevant. But not so. The first effect of the plan was to encourage Boban's Croat forces to attack those areas given to them by Vance Owen but still held by Bosnian forces. Then it was the turn of the Serbs. They were being allowed to retain those areas effectively ethnically cleansed but a large tract of Eastern Bosnia that contained Muslim enclaves was put down as a Muslim region. Leaving these enclaves was clearly a diplomatic blunder that the Serbs sought to rectify. Hence the assault on Kxxx, Cerska and then Srebenica.

And then there is the Sarajevo cease-fire negotiated by General Rose. It brought peace to Sarajevo? So why did the people of Sarajevo feel so betrayed when it was imposed. Lets remind ourselves of the chain of events. First the Serbs committed one of their spectacular atrocities. Under pressure from the mass media it looked like action would be taken. The Serbs are told they must withdraw their heavy weapons and this, given that the Serbs needed the heavy guns to counter the Bosnia superiority in infantry, would have ended the siege.

But at the last minute Russia, the Hellenic Republic and the UK stitched together a deal. The Bosnians had to hand over their small number of heavy weapons in Sarajevo to the UN Ukrainian contingent ( who are pro Serb), whilr the Serbs could either pull their guns out of the Sarajevo region altogether or place then in loosely policed compounds where the Serbs could grab them back any time they wished. And to prevent the Bosnians breaking the siege Russian UN troops were deployed along the front lines round Sarajevo. In effect the UN was maintaining the siege of Sarajevo on the Serb's behalf. And where did the Serb guns go? To Gorazde where after sustained shelling the Bosnian defences collapsed some months latter.

So why are there not calls for the resignation of every European and UN officials or politicians associated with the Balkan debacle.

The first reason is that peacemakers have it easy. Once there is a war those involved soon get labelled as killers in the grip of "historic hatreds". That is why many people in the west will give to charities helping child victims of the Bosnian war but not for adults. All adults are seen as having brought their problems upon themselves.

Hence people didn't expect much from Lord Owen. Owen could produce an unworkable plan because when it collapsed in the face of Balkan reality public opinion blamed the "warring factions" not the plan itself. Owen can play "voice of sanity" who did his best in the face of impossible odds. Blessed are the peacemakers, your blunders will make great PR.

But there is a deeper reason. The very people who miht be expected to express outrage at the EC's blunders, the people who care about what is happening in the Balkans have a very good reason to keep quiet. If outside intervention is needed then it must come from the EC and the UN. But if these people have made such a mess of things so far, is it not likely that a military intervention organised by them will be equally disastrous?

It is human to err. But the blunders of the EC are rooted in the institution itself. The most chilling comment on the Balkan crisis was made early on by an EC official on BBC Radio 4's Analysis program. In light of the bitter fighting, he was asked, has not the EC policy on the Balkans been a total failure. No, he replied, for Europe is still united. There you have it. Europe's policy on the Balkans appears so out of touch with Balkan reality because what happens in the Balkans is irrelevant. For the EC the only reality is the realty of Brussels.

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