Towards A Croatian Entity In Bosnia And Herzegovina


A noteworthy development: “And given that BiH is on its knees, desperately avoiding its total break-up and disintegration, ethnic federalism makes most sense and promises a path to a happier and more productive life. Croats, with their own entity within BiH would gain the deserved sense of equality with the other two (Serbs and Bosniaks) and ethnically based recriminations, ethnic based competitions of all sorts that affect daily lives would be reduced under a model of equal federal representation in the decision making for BiH. Certainly, the international community, or the most influential members of its network who are to blame for the conflicts and problems that have evolved from the Dayton agreement model for BiH, have without explanations or reasons so far been against the creation of a third (Croat) entity. They have treated Croats in BiH as and unplanned child in a family that, for whatever sinister reasons, visualises itself without it. It is no wonder that BiH Croats want their own entity, and why shouldn’t they have it when in effect the other two ethnic groups have it. After all, after 19 years of failed Dayton recipe, this would provide a significant assurance that BiH would indeed exist as a “rich and diverse ethnic make-up” the UK foreign secretary and German foreign minister want because the “richness” here (and everywhere else in the world) is defined and underpinned by equality in the sense that matters to the people most.”
What will be the legacy of Dayton?

Originally posted on Croatia, the War, and the Future:

19 Anniversary of Srebrenica Genocide Photo: Reuters

19 Anniversary of Srebrenica Genocide
Photo: Reuters

When US diplomat Richard Holbrooke and former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt gathered Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks), Serbs and Croats together in 1995 at an American air force base near Dayton, Ohio, harassing them into a deal that would end years of terror, genocide and ethnic cleansing that became the modus operandi of what initially appeared to be Serbian resistance to a breakup of communist Yugoslavia but emerged as an utterly brutal attempt to widen borders of Greater Serbia on the territory of former Yugoslavia, the world breathed a sigh of relief. Dayton peace agreement for Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) was signed in November 1995. Consequently, Carl Bildt was installed as the first High Representative for BiH and remained in that role during the initial crucial 18 months of implementation of the Dayton agreement.

Holbrooke and Bildt essentially endorsed the partition of the country…

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On the Nineteenth Anniversary of Srebrenica


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Genocide denial has such a beguilingly pleasant façade.  It’s nothing like what I imagined as a child.  I grew up thinking that ‘deniers’ were skinheads or crackpots who collected Nazi paraphernalia. The reality is, of course, far more uncomfortable.

I have lost count of the number of people I have come across, some of them friends, who have offered a different interpretation of the conflict in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia, despite little or no knowledge of the subject. Some call it historical revisionism, but often it isn’t so much revision as doubt and denial. If I were ignorant of the subject, I might call it scepticism, but the most charitable description I can muster is prejudice. They create a narrative to fit their prejudices.

These doubters and deniers often come across as reasonable and well-informed. They say things like “I’m led to believe that the numbers may have been exaggerated” and “there is some doubt about whether the victims were civilians or soldiers” and “we have to be careful not to jump to conclusions”. It all sounds so reasonable… until you think about it, until you realise that Srebrenica is quite possibly the most well-documented war crime in the history of the world. The number of victims is fairly certain: 8,372. Almost seven thousand of those victims have had their remains positively identified using DNA.

On a personal level, however, the most astounding denials come from those who accept my testimony but point out that my experience of the war wasn’t representative of what really happened. They are, of course, quite correct. When I arrived, the UN Protected Area I worked in had already been ethnically cleansed to a large degree. I did not experience firsthand the grievous violations of international law and human decency that epitomised the siege of Vukovar. It is true that my work with Bosnian refugees was not in places like Omarska or Sarajevo. I was not among the brave Western reporters, such as Ed Vulliamy, Roy Gutman, and Penny Marshall, who went into the ‘lion’s den’ so that we might know the truth about the concentration camps of Bosnia. And is it true that, by the time I arrived in the burgeoning refugee camps across the border in Croatia, indefensible atrocities in places like Ahmići, Bijeljina, Foča, and Prijedor had already taken place.

So, I am forced to admit that my personal experience, as disturbing as it was, was not representative of what happened in the war. I was not raped, tortured, or killed. I was not incarcerated in a concentration camp. I wasn’t forced to walk across minefields and mountains into another country so as to escape such a fate.

However, my good fortune does not cast doubt on the horrific crimes experienced by those to whom I ministered. Quite the contrary! The whispered confidences of emaciated men who had spent months in concentration camps confirmed the pictures we saw in the newspapers. Children in my care took the crayons we gave them to draw scenes of tanks rolling into their towns, their homes burning, and soldiers shooting their fathers and raping their mothers and sisters. Old women held my hand and wouldn’t let go, crying and saying one word over and over again: hvala, thank-you. And fellow aid workers drank themselves into oblivion after each foray into Bosnia, ending up sobbing on the floor in the dead of night as they tried and failed to erase the memories.

To those who have said that my book represents “only one experience” and doesn’t reflect the “whole truth”, I say: Quite right, the war was far worse than anything I could write. If you want a firsthand account of a concentration camp, I recommend Rezak Hukanović’s The Tenth Circle of Hell. If you want the dead to speak to you, I suggest you peruse The Graves by Eric Stover and Gilles Peress. Or if you’re too lazy to read a book, you could simply take a look at Scott Anderson’s article in the New York Times Magazine. He has interviewed people with contrasting views, and the result is a poignant and nuanced exposition. (It also includes some excellent photography by Paolo Pellegrin.) He lets his readers draw their own conclusions, but genocide denial isn’t much of an option for the sane and rational among us.

So, next time someone says that all these anniversaries and commemorations are a “big fuss” or “making a mountain out of a molehill”, please tell them it’s something worth making a fuss about. Please tell them that every single one of those 8,372 lives mattered.

Lest we forget….


One Hundred Years Later


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One Hundred Years Later

This is a celebration of murder and bloodshed, not twenty years ago during ‘the war’, but yesterday in the heart of Europe.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s last words were reported to be an exhortation to his wife Sophie to stay alive – for their children.

For the sake of our children, we must speak out against such glorification and attempted justification of murder.

Lest we forget….

Worse then expected: Bosnia and Herzegovina will need international help for years to come.

Originally posted on BiHbloggen:

This article appeared in the Swedish daily GP (Göteborgs-Posten) 23 May 2014

He came to Sarajevo last weekend, that´s where the EU-team is working together with the national organization for security and disaster relief but also with the UN and The Red Cross.

“We´re sitting in a basement, our Bosnian colleagues have a very humble attitude but a lot of Bosnians are are completely exhausted. The kind of assistance that will be needed will change once the rescue efforts go into another phase” according to Jan Karlsson.

Jan Karlsson is on loan from the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) he was among other things in charge of part of the relief effort in Thailand after the 2004 tsunami. His team is working in one particulary hard hit part of Bosnia and Herzegovina: Posavina and the biggest town in the area; Orasje. Both the canton and the town are right next…

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Marko Attila Hoare in Dnevni Avaz: Parallels between Ukraine and Bosnia


Marko Attila Hoare raises the possibility of RS secession from BiH. A sobering thought….

Originally posted on Greater Surbiton:


This interview appeared in Bosnian translation in Dnevni Avaz on 2 April 2014

What parallels with Bosnia – if any – can you draw from the situation in Ukraine ?

Ukraine and Bosnia are both multinational states that until the early 1990s were members of larger multinational federations – the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia respectively. When these federations broke up, Serbia under Milosevic initially wholly rejected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the former Yugoslav republics as successor states, and waged a genocidal assault on Croatia and Bosnia in order to redraw the territorial borders in its favour. Whereas Russia under Yeltsin adopted an initially more moderate policy and largely accepted the sovereignty and borders of the former Soviet republics, though with some attempts to undermine them – above all in Georgia and Moldova. However, Putin’s policy is closer to Milosevic’s, insofar as he is openly tearing up the territorial…

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Dejan Jovic, David N. Gibbs and the Great Serbian narrative


“Jovic has the right, as a scholar, to express his views freely. But he is the Croatian president’s chief analyst and special coordinator. It is dangerous to both Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina for someone holding such views, and with such poor analytical judgement and grasp of reality, to occupy the position that he does.”

Originally posted on Greater Surbiton:

DejanJovic Gibbs1

On 21 January, the Croatian journalists’ website published an article about me written by Dejan Jovic, chief analyst and special coordinator at the office of the president of Croatia, Ivo Josipovic. The Croatian newspaper Vecernji list republished Jovic’s article, then published my reply on 30 January, which is reproduced here with Croatian-language passages translated into English. My reply was also published in BCS translation by


Dejan Jovic’s attack on me, published by on 21 January, contains numerous falsehoods. For example, he accuses me: ‘To justify the war in Iraq, they employed the metaphor of Hitler (for Saddam Hussein)’. Yet I have never used the Hitler metaphor to describe Saddam Hussein, and in June 2013 I described the Iraq war in the pages of the Guardian as a ‘misguided adventure’. He claims ‘people like Hoare advocate further interventions as the solution to new problems: in Syria, maybe afterwards…

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Rehabilitating The Scarred Image Of Croatia’s Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac: An Interview With Dr Esther Gitman By “The Catholic Weekly”

Originally posted on Croatia, the War, and the Future:

Catholic Weekly 16 March 2014_Page_1

Recovering history

Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac saved hundreds of Jews in war-torn Croatia but, amazingly, is still considered a war criminal by many. Sharyn McCowen talks to a Jewish academic who says the world has got it all wrong.

By Sharyn McCowen
14 March, 2014
A Jewish academic is working to clear the name of Blessed Aloysius Stepinac, a Croatian Catholic Church leader convicted of war crimes and collaboration with the enemy during World War II.

For 70 years, Cardinal Stepinac has often been portrayed as a Nazi collaborator who failed to protect Jewish families who sought his protection during the Holocaust.

But Dr Esther Gitman’s research, and subsequent book and documentary, paint a picture of a man who risked his life to protect Jews from certain death. That she is alive to do this work is thanks to the Croatians who helped her mother to flee Sarajevo for Israel. READ…

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Croatia: Ironically The Real Rescuer Of These Jews, Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac Still Awaits Recognition As Righteous – Dr Esther Gitman

Originally posted on Croatia, the War, and the Future:

Blessed Alojzije (Aloysius) Stepinac Oil painting Croatian Church Chicago

Blessed Alojzije (Aloysius) Stepinac
Oil painting Croatian Church Chicago

It has been over two years since the release of Dr Esther Gitman’s book “When Courage Prevailed: The Rescue and Survival of Jews in the Independent State of Croatia 1941-1945” (see links to the book in the left margin of this blog website Home page).

Her research findings have confirmed that Croatia’s WWII Archbishop Aloysius (Alojzije) Stepinac was in fact a prolific and an utterly dedicated saviour of Jews during WWII days of the Holocaust and not the “Nazi collaborator” that the Yugoslav communist regime convicted him of after the war, serving him with a trial at which he had no right to a defense. It is in the latter context that Archbishop Aloysius Stepinac had been presented via the communist propaganda as a “symbol” of the Holocaust that occurred in Croatia. Despite that, the Catholic Church had not stood idle…

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