Monday, June 6, 2011

BOSNA! A Interview with Jovan Divjak about this documentary and the Siege of Sarajevo!




His fights

1992-1995 : The Truth About Bosnia-Herzegovina, through the Written and Public Works of Bernard-Henri Lévy, French Philosopher and Writer (by General Jovan Divjak)

Bosnie IIA difficult task lies before me.  I am approaching it somewhat fearfully, with scruple and uncertainty.  I have been asked to write about the actions of a great friend of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bernard-Henri Lévy, during the four years of war that ravaged the country between 1992 and 1995, offering my own point of view.  It is a great honor for me, a simple citizen of a country in the Balkans, and one I willingly accept.  But I had barely begun to write my part of this history, my observations on the engagement of this man, when I realized how difficult it would be.  Who am I to write of a man who, though many consider him a controversial figure, enjoys great international renown, is a constant rebel, an individual who has fought for truth and justice all his life, and an enormous philanthropist?
Well, to hell with the constraints!   I shall write about BHL the friend, the man who, fifteen years after the war’s end, still calls me “mon Général”.  I shall describe him just as I have seen him, from that long ago November of 1993 when we first met until the last time we saw each other, at Sarajevo, in 2009.
This tragedy that I call « the aggression », due to the actions of Belgrade and Zagreb, this tragedy that had such terrible consequences (among the gravest, the 100,000 citizens assassinated and the 15,000 who disappeared in Bosnia-Herzegovina) occurred at the beginning of the 1990s, in the twentieth century, and today still, after fifteen difficult and troubled years for the citizens and the peoples of Bosnia-Herzegovina, life is a far from happy one for most of the inhabitants of the geographical latitude and longitude of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Europe and the United States were dealing with their own problems at the end of the twentieth century.  They were thinking about the demolition of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of communism in the Warsaw Pact countries and the USSR.  The Gulf War, the presidential elections in the United States were on their mind.  They abandoned control of the conflicts of the war in the western Balkans.  Far from the eyes of Paris, Bonn, London and Washington, a real war was raging, not a simulation on monitors.  First in Croatia.  Then in Bosnia-Herzegovina.  What did the bombing of Dubrovnik mean for Europe, and the destruction of Vukovar?  And the siege of Sarajevo, with so many thousands of civilians and children killed?  How to judge the way the international community acted in the face of all that—with nothing?  Bernard-Henri Lévy’s appearance in Yugoslavia was like a light at the end of the tunnel.
In those days, I knew nothing of him.  And yet today, after that day in October of 1993 when I met him at the main Headquarters of the OSBiH BOSNIE-11 septembre 1993[Bosnian armed forces] with Gilles Hertzog, as he embarked on the shooting of the film «Bosna», and after dozens of other encounters in Sarajevo and in Paris, after having read his book, Lilies and Ashes and several well-written articles in the magazine La Règle du Jeu and his weekly column in Le Point, I know a bit more about BHL the man and the manner in which he illustrates Russian writer Maxime Gorki’s beautiful maxim, “The word ‘man’ sounds proud indeed”.  This man to whom I attribute the fine description of «Bosnian-Herzegovinian”, this young man who, before he found himself engulfed in the turbulence of the wars in Croatia and in Bosnia-Herzegovina, had known the horrors of the war between Pakistan and India.  This man, I know him well now—and I am impressed by him.
In his book, Lilies and Ashes, A Writer’s Journal in the Times of the War in Bosnia, he wrote, «Did I even know, on June 18th, 1992, when I entered the besieged Bosnian capital for the first time, that I was at the place in the world where all the grand organs of Europe had, forever, blended their sounds?  Did I imagine for a solitary instant that this convulsion would plunge the continent into a disorder, and then a chaos, that had not been seen since the Second World War?”
BOSNIE-sarajevo juin 1992Entering the city on the 18th of June, 1992, in the first year of the aggression, BHL thus arrived in the middle of a war.  He was there at the heart of the combat, on the front lines of the battle for the truth about Sarajevo and Bosnia-Herzegovina.  And he pointed out, precisely, those responsible for the aggression—Belgrade and Zagreb.
Lévy described his relation to Sarajevo, his «unknown native land», beautifully.  “I kept going back to it, returning as though this unknown country was becoming the heart of my being, almost a second native land,” he wrote in Lilies and Ashes.
The years of the siege of Sarajevo were years of BHL’s merciless struggle with the French government, the Western bureaucracies, the academic community and the generals, the legislators in his country, public sources of information and the media, President Mitterrand, with all those who had turned their backs on the citizens of Bosnia, and on the Bosnians in particular.  They were all blind, deaf and dumb in the face of rape and ethnic purification, the concentration camps, the embargo of arms that could have been used to defend Bosnia-Herzegovina against an aggressor who possessed ten times its strength.  Confronted with that, the voice and the writings of the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, in contrast to many other «scholars» concerned with Bosnia ex cathedra, resounded until they reached those who were cutting to ribbons the fate of the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
More than once, I asked myself why a man who had a good life in France, with all one could desire in material terms, a free thinker, a European Alija Izetbogovic et BHL 09 01 1993 SIPA (bosnie)authority, should be concerned with Bosnia?  I wondered how he could so rapidly put together the bricks (of the ‘Lego’ of Bosnia) of the conflict of three dominant peoples and dozens of minorities.  And I also wondered, how could he take such risks?  Sometimes I resented the friend (and I think BHL would not hold it against me) for being, on occasion, more apt to see the Bosnian Muslim side and for not having perceived the characteristics of Bosnian nationalism in the ideas and behaviour of President Izetbegovic.  I was expecting more criticism of the faction of Bosnians who had militarily decided on a “little Bosnia”.  And then I realized, I understood, that BHL had known, perhaps better than I, the suffering and the horrors inflicted upon the Bosnians, the Muslim Bosnians, and he saw a similarity with those his own people, the Jewish people, had endured during the Second World War.  He had lived the tragedy of the Bosnians like that of the Jews.  In the face of that was the immense cynicism of Belgrade when, for example, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Drašković Vuk, dared to compare the suffering of the Serbs with those of the Jewish victims of German fascism, in a letter to his Israeli counterpart!
What does a «soldier» like Bernard represent for Bosnia-Herzegovina?  A man of immense energy, superior intelligence, an erudite, a cosmopolitan.  A man who devoted a tremendous effort and all his intellectual capability to keep Bosnia-Herzegovina at the foreground of European Community interests.  He was disappointed by Mitterrand, for whom Bosnia-Herzegovina was merely (pardon the metaphor) a note on his fife.  Let down by the European parliament.  Disappointed in public opinion in his country.  But he never gave up.  He never stopped calling, almost daily, for an end to the suffering of the innocent inhabitants of Bosnia-Herzegovina.  After several attempts to enlighten President Chirac as to this problem of the suffering of the Bosnians and the genocide at Srebrenica, he finally engaged Chirac’s interest and convinced him.  It is he who, with very few others, knew what arguments to employ to overcome his reticence and, through him, indirectly, that of the United States; we know that, in Bosnia.  During this entire process, BHL’s exceptional lucidity, his in-the-field knowledge, his tenacity, his courage, carried great weight.
With immense determination, the «soldier in the white shirt“, BHL, had the courage to spend the most difficult days of the war at Sarajevo and in Central Bosnia with us, among us.  He made two documentaries, Bosna!, which was presented at Cannes, and A Day in the Death of Sarajevo, which gave cinema and television audiences the world over an objective account of the combat between David and Goliath.
Bosnie VThe world learned of the suffering and the spirit of resistance of the Bosnians thanks to the wisdom of Monsieur BHL’s intellect.  He spent hours and hours with the soldiers on the front lines, in the trenches, under the cold rain and the hail of bullets.  He shared the life of the soldiers with the courage of a man who came from Paris, from another world, but who came to live our combat.  He shared the cold soup and the hard bread of the soldiers.  He followed them on exhausting marches.  He lived through the long wait for the attack from the adversaries’ trench.  And that simple presence among them, quite apart from the images he took from it, gave the young people between 18 and 20 extraordinary motivation, to see this intellectual who had come from France to share their lot and to support them.
At the time of the war, there were a few citizens from BHL’s country and others who came to Bosnia-Herzegovina–Francis Bueb, François Tanguy, Jane Birkin, Susan Sontag and others who, like him, were linked to Bosnia-Herzegovina.  They say in Sarajevo that he who drinks water near the Bey mosque remains attached to Sarajevo forever.
But Bernard-Henri Lévy was the first.  And the most constant.  From the very first moment, he took sides with the weak, the victim.  For that, for that courage, that panache and the help he brought us, I accept everything from BHL.  I can even tolerate his intimate connection with  Izetbegović.  The only thing I cannot accept is his comparison of him with De Gaulle!  It is like comparing the heavens and the earth.  (That needn’t remain in the text, if my friend does not approve!)
The book Lilies and Ashes can be used as a manual of history.  It tells seriously, objectively, and without any ulterior motives, of the war heBosnie IX witnessed.  And for that, it is a book that can serve the post-war generations and help them to understand the years of the 1992-1995 war in Sarajevo and in Bosnia-Herzegovina.  It is a first-hand account, lived on the inside, of what was our life, our struggle, and of the unscrupulous conduct of Europe and of the UN, neither of which deigned to protect their member (Bosnia-Herzegovina) from the aggression of two neighboring countries.  How shameful!  And to BHL, for all he has done and is still doing, hats off.
For I realize that I have almost forgotten to write of BHL the philanthropist.  Thanks to his humanity, one of the positive traits of his character, for a few years, between 1992 and 1995, he helped the children of victims of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina materially and morally. Founded in 1994, at a time when war raged, the association Education Builds Bosnia-Herzegovina took care of Bosnian orphans and was very proud to have been the object of the attention and interest of BHL.
As I come to the end of this text on BHL and Bosnia, it is very important to add that Bosnia-Herzegovina needs its great friend more than ever!  Bosnia-Herzegovina, an artificial creation, lies on a sickbed with an IV stuck in its arm.  A great number of specialists from all over the world have failed as yet to find an adequate therapy, and the number of people interested in the case of Bosnia is constantly shrinking.  Monsieur BHL, conscious of this, is still present in Bosnia.  He continues to speak and to write about Bosnia, faithful to his youth, and to his second native land.
Many thanks, Monsieur BHL, for all you have done, all you are doing, and all you will do still for a civil peace and for democracy in a secularized Bosnia-Herzegovina.  The words “thank you” are inadequate for all you deserve.  We, the Bosnians and Herzegovinians, see you as our dearest friend.  During the most difficult and sombre days of the peoples of Bosnia-Herzegovina, you were there, you were the loud-speaker for the truth and for those who hoped for a better future.
I salute you, Monsieur BHL.
Jovan Divjak
Commander in chief of the Bosnian Army and the region of Sarajevo from 1992 to 1995.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this. I have never seen 'Bosna', although I have always heard of it. Mr. Divjak rightly praises BHL for his work in Bosnia. {It's very un PC to adore BHL here in the US, as you surely know - the hoopla about Polanski and now DSK - it seems he is always defending rapists....} I agree, it is important to remember that he did in fact stand up to an ignorant and willingly blind world in the early 90's regarding Bosnia and he did everything to spread awareness about the Serb war of aggression on Bosnia, when few others did.