Monday, January 16, 2012

(16) Bosnia twenty years later a member of UNPROFOR tells their story

(UNPROFOR in Bosnia)

I debated if I should go ahead and publish this story because the one part that bothered me, that has always bothered me, is the equating of equal guilt on all sides. I decided I would go ahead and publish it for two reasons. Number one reason is it is still a compelling story to tell and a part of the history of Bosnia. Number two is a lot of UNPROFOR and humanitarian workers have suffered PTSD from their experiences in the Balkans and forever will be tied to what happened there in the 1990's. They didn't suffer at all like the people of Bosnia, but trauma is relative when you are the one experiencing it.
Between the Hague tribunal and a very in depth three volume book the CIA put together called Balkan Battlegrounds it has been clearly established that all sides were not equally guilty. The CIA, in the most in depth look at what happened in Bosnia blamed the Serbs for 90% Croats 7% and Bosnians at 3%. The Bosnian government was the only one not to have a publicly stated policy of "separation" or ethnic cleansing and it was never an official goal at any point during the war. Did Serbs and Croats flee? Yes of course and many times it was unbearable strain but it was so for anyone in Bosnian Government territory during the war.
The second lesser known fact is that UNPROFOR often preferred to deal with the Serbs for many self serving reasons. Number one was because the Serbian army was inherited from the JNA and had the full array of officer corps from the beginning as well as communication and logistics. To most UNPROFOR soldiers the Serbian VRS had what is known as "military bearings" meaning professionalism and clear chain of command. This often made communication easier for the UNPROFOR soldiers than that of ARBiH who were fighting for survival. Also the Serbian side would often invite the UNPROFOR soldiers to dinner and drinks and tell them how they wished they weren't there, they were not needed and wish they could go home (exactly what most UNPROFOR soldiers wanted for themselves). In stark contrast to the Bosnian government who's publicly stated goal was to draw in the international community and get them directly involved (as well as they should have, much earlier on humanitarian grounds alone).
The point made about how if the Serbs allowed freedom of movement in Sarajevo and then the Bosnian government would attack them, shutting it down may be true. You have to understand that the Serbs would do this to show how humane they were and use it is as propaganda. While at the same time they were over running and mass murdering in others parts of BiH. Like when they were forced to pull their heavy weapons father away from Sarajevo, many just ended up in other towns away from the cameras. Often Sarajevo was the only story covered in Bosnia by the international press so it was important for the Bosnians to keep up this pressure to do something. The Serbs knew that if they made a small gesture in Sarajevo they were free to do what they wanted elsewhere.
I do know some members of UNPROFOR, IFOR and SFOR that fell in love with BiH and it's people and have returned many times and for who BiH is now a part of their lives. Regardless here is the story...

1)Were did you first hear of Bosnia and and Sarajevo
I have visited Sarajevo several times on vacations under Tito rule, so i have a very good insight in Yugoslavia. I knew of the different parts ( Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia etc) before the war

2) Do you remember where were you when the war broke out?
I was on my way to morning briefing in our hq, when we heard about Radovan Karadžić speech in the Parliament, and that the Serbs had left the Parliament. I was not in doubt that it would start a war. So i wasn't surprised that the fighting started in march

3) What made you go to Bosnia during the war?
To help other people an a little bit of adventure

4) The most memorable event of the war for you was?
When the first refugees from Srebrenica arrived at Tuzla Airbase. It was only women and children. They slept the first night in old concrete aircraft shelters. We provided food, blankets and light. The next day we stated to build a refugee camp. On day 3 some men began to arrive through the front line at Kalesija. They walked three, four days through Serb held

5) What made you hopeless during the war?
That when the Serb complied to a ceasefire and to open the convoy routes, the Bosnians didn't, and shut Sarajevo down and started attacks on Serb positions. Or when the Bosnian government shut down a private water plant in Sarajevo, because the water wasn't clean enough. Before that the people of Sarajevo got the water directly from the river

6) What gave you hope during the war?
The Bosnian people. Not their politicians

7) Did you lose anyone close to you during the war?
No. Lost a couple of guys i knew be face and name

8) Were you wounded during the war? Where were you wounded?

9) Your biggest loss during the war was?

10) What was the hardest part about the war?
That the Bosnian government did absolutely nothing to help their people.

11) Did you leave the country during the war?
Yes. On leave. 14 days

12) 20 years later, what do you think of what happened?
I am absolutely horrified of what had happened. And i think that the news didn't report about the war the right way. In my eyes The Bosnians and Croat is as much to blame as the Serbs. And the European countries didn't do a thing about it. Its is funny that once when i was in Ljubljana on my way back there were about 30 lorry's in German camouflage. HVO had hk33 and German uniforms. The Serbs had suddenly Russian uniforms and modern rifles and BIH were openly supplied by US. We could stand at the tarmac at Tuzla Airbase and see planes land in the area. Who controlled AWACS. The USA

13) Are things better or worse than what you expected 20 years later?
About the same. The situation is at a stalemate

14) Do you think war will return to BiH?
No. Or i hope not.

15) What do you think the future of BiH will be?
I don't know. None of the three parties is prepared to follow the Dayton accord. The Serbs wont give up anything neither would the two other parties.

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