UNsafe Areas in Bosnia
The first few paragraphs of a 'taster' I did not in the end submit for publication.
It seemed to be very critical without being adequately constructive!
The British government is accused of arrogance and ignorance for its plans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landings [i.e. insensitivity to the wishes and feelings of the veterans concerned].
Quite simply, politicians of a later generation assumed they knew best and have failed to consult those who had survived and who now simply want to grieve the loss of so many of their comrades.
Fifty years later the British find themselves involved in another war [Bosnia] precipitated by fascism. In my view arrogance and ignorance of a different sort but among the same people is resulting in another tragedy.
The wars in the Balkans were not caused by the West. They were planned long ago by greedy and clever leaders who knew how to turn petty historical grievances into full-blooded nationalist fervour and religious bigotry, manipulating naive populations into ethnic hatred and blood-letting.
Where the West is at fault is that thugs and war criminals have been allowed to get away with it and have been accorded legitimacy by being greeted at talks in Geneva, London or Brussels with diplomatic smiles, sleek limousines and luxury accommodation. Meanwhile, rafts of bloated bureaucrats from the UN, NATO, WEU, CSCE, UNHCR and others are cow-towing to murderers by counting their shells, inspecting the corpses, politely acknowledging their illegal border posts and patrolling the stolen territories all lending credence to the new boundaries.
This map, produced by the British army and dated 28-09-1993, was one of a series of regularly updated 'sitreps' providing good and accurate information on the various conflict areas within south-west Bosnia. Its most useful function was to mark and name the main military routes throughout the sector. Since most of the main roads were closed because they ran through battlefields or lay beneath front-line batteries, the roads marked on these maps were often rural lanes or even mountain tracks.
From 1991-93 journalists had had to work out for themselves how to get from one place to another through the serpentine front-lines, avoiding destroyed roads, mine-fields, destroyed bridges, etc.
Whatever criticisms might have been made of British political policy in the Balkans, from 1993 most of us on the ground were very impressed by the efficiency of British military reconnaissance and map-making and later were still more impressed by the road-making and bridge-building work of the Royal Engineers. Maps such as these were also extremely hard to obtain unless one had good friends in the army!
In 1991, to those of us with our eyes and ears open, and our noses to the ground, there was never any doubt about the Greater Serbia Plan and its mirror image, the Greater Croatia Plan. We knew that most of the politicians, diplomats and military leaders were duplicitous and often liars. Our job was to sift out the truth. We published and broadcast our findings. On our travels we met British and other Western military observers and intelligence officers who pumped us for information. Often we were able to tell them what they wanted to know. We assumed our governments would be listening. We knew that Britain had access to knowledgeable experts at The Royal Institute for International Affairs and the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Yet, obsessed by the fall of the Iron Curtain and the Maastricht treaty, the British government showed little sign of understanding the enormity of the growing horror in the Balkans. But they must have known because we had reported it all.
This is another British 'sitrep' map, this time dated 11-05-1995. Its chief interest lies in the large number of new routes that had been established in and around the disputed territories of the Serb, Croat and Bosnian factions since 1993.
Largely re-established by the Royal Engineers to meet British tactical and logistics requirements, many of these routes were essential to the constant re-supply required by all UNPROFOR troops (e.g. BritBat, CanBat, SpanBat, etc), and later the French Foreign Legion troops under the command of Colonel Lecerf.
But these roads were also vital to UN patrols attempting to ensure or negotiate safe access by convoys carrying the vast tonnage of aid being delivered to central, eastern and northern Bosnia by UNHCR and numerous NGOs.
However, uppermost in military minds at the time were preparations in the event of full scale armoured offensives towards Sarajevo and/or how combined British and French forces would exit the theatre (accompanied by contingents from Canada, Spain and numerous other nations).
On 12 December 1991, four months after the invasion of Eastern Slavonia, Channel Four News bravely decided to screen my prediction that recognition of Bosnia-Hercegovina's independence would result in an appalling, bloody civil war. That first public prediction, followed by others from well-informed sources, went unheeded. Bosnia was recognised despite the fact that no-one had considered how, where or whether the West would be able to defend its status. Four months later Serbian tanks rolled in from the east, soon to be followed by Croatian forces from the west. The ethnic cleansing, atrocities, torture, slaughter, bombardment, rape, destruction and misery soon followed. Almost before the ink was dry on the document that established it, the world's newest state was dismembered before our eyes...
© (1994) Christopher Long. Copyright, Syndication & All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
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