bosnia report
New Series No. 2 January - February 1998
 
Carl Bildt and the Hot Pilaff
by Interview with Stefan Dedijer

The former Swedish prime minister and subsequently international High Representative in Bosnia, Carl Bildt, has just published a book The Aim is Peace dealing with his mission in Bosnia. You say you have read every word of it, so what is your opinion?

The Swedish and international media have paid considerable attention to Carl Bildt's book and his experience in Bosnia. Bildt's own party has given the book maximum publicity, and Sid Svenska, for example, writes that Bildt's experience in Bosnia will be used by the party to regain power in Sweden. It is for this reason, in particular, that I want to stress that Bildt's experience in Bosnia has been damaging not only for the peoples and states of former Yugoslavia, but also for Sweden and the Swedes and for European and world politics. Three days after he assumed his duties in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1995, Carl Bildt told the world that he was open to all information and ideas regarding the best solution for Bosnia and the former Yugoslavia; he even suggested communicating with him by way of the Internet. However, just one day later he already KNEW what was happening in Bosnia, so was able to inform the world that what we were dealing with was a 'civil war'. According to Carl Bildt it was not a matter of aggression by Milosevic, Karadzic, Krajisnik, Mladic and all the others who were involved in the attempt to destroy Bosnia, but a civil war. Bildt was simply repeating what British premier John Major, British ministers Douglas Hurd and Malcolm Rifkind, British officers like General Rose and other British representatives had been saying from the start. I heard Major telling this to the Swedish television viewers in 1991, during his visit to Sweden and then prime minister Carl Bildt. I wrote at the time to Dagens Nyheter insisting that Milosevic was planning to attack all the other peoples in former Yugoslavia and that he should be stopped. Carl Bildt nowhere mentions in his book the Yugoslavia of 1918-41 and the fact that this first Yugoslavia was under occupation by the Serbian monarchy. Already in June 1928, when the brothers Radic as representatives of the Croat people were assassinated in the Yugoslav Assembly, my mother Milica who was born in Gradacac in Bosnia told us: 'Children, this is the end of Yugoslavia. Alexander has murdered the Croats' representatives.' A deputy in that same assembly was Ante Pavelic, who witnessed the crime and who then turned to Italy and Germany in search of support for his Ustasha movement. We all know about the Ustasha crimes and I do not wish in any way to minimize the crimes and genocide committed by the Ustashe, but the assassination of the brothers Radic organized by King Alexander had a direct bearing upon the emergence of a person like Pavelic. There is not a word of this in Carl Bildt's book.

My father was a supporter of Greater Serbia and even drew thÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÔ e very first map of it, which he published in a booklet about Dalmatia in 1915. On that map Greater Serbia was larger than Yugoslavia. I told him: 'Father, the idea of Greater Serbia is the graveyard of the Serb people.' Already in 1911 the secret Serbian organization The Black Hand, which in 1914 was to organize the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian Crown Prince Ferdinand, stated in its constitution that Greater Serbia should include all South Slav lands. This is the idea which Milosevic adopted as his political plan. In 1980, in his ssnovel The Sinner, Dobrica Âosic wrote that all Serbs should live in the same state; he was echoing Adolf Hitler, who likewise insisted that all Germans should live in the same state. Later on he echoed Mussolini with his pronouncement that the Serbs always lose in peace what they have gained in war. Carl Bildt's mission in Bosnia did not have the task of halting the aggression and establishing peace, which was in the interest of all the peoples of former Yugoslavia, but simply that of pursuing the interests of the European great powers. Hence, the appeasement of Milosevic and the promise that, although he would not get Greater Serbia properly speaking, he would still get a larger one. The price of this attempted enlargement we know full well, and the Serb people will remember it for a long time to come. Milovan Djilas wrote to me before his death: 'The Serb people will be paying the price for what Milosevic has done for the next hundred years.'

Milosevic's Greater Serbia story has not ended, though. It seems right now that he has returned to his point of departure: Kosovo. How do you see the situation in Kosovo today?

In 1913 Dimitrije Tucovic expressed horror in his book [Srbija i Arbanija] at the way the Serbian army had treated the Albanian population in Kosovo and on their way through Albania in 1912. The troops did what they did under the spell of the myth of Kosovo as a Serb place of martyrdom and holy place, and invoking the authority of Njegos's Mountain Wreath. Some sixty years later Milosevic announced his Greater Serbia programme in that same Kosovo, under the Serbian flag and with the slogan: 'All Serbs in the Same State'. After all that he has done in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia, Milosevic has now fallen back on Kosovo with his police and their truncheons. The problem is that over 90% of the Kosovo population is Albanian, so that Kosovo is Albanian. This is the basis on which Serbian policy should be built: how a democracy should be built in Serbia and in Kosovo, in which national and religious identity should not play the kind of role which it is now being given in Serbia. The Serbian Orthodox patriarch Paul has condemned the brutality of Milosevic's police against demonstrators in Pristina and that is good; but the problem is that his church has supported the Greater Serbia project throughout. The Serbian Orthodox Church should condemn the Kosovo myth, recognize the Macedonian Orthodox Church and advocate religious tolerance as the Pope does in the Vatican. We Bosnians know the folk saying: 'Do what the priests and hodzas say, but don't do what they do.'

Seselj is the man who won most votes in the 'invalid' elections in Serbia. Does this mean that Serbia now belongs to Seselj, or does Seselj belong to Milosevic?

I have already said that the Serbs will not recover for the next hundred years from what Milosevic has done. Their standard of living today is that of Ethiopia, while in Tito's day it was on a par with that of Greece. You have seen how the choice in Serbia today has been reduced to one between Milosevic, Seselj and Draskovic. Milosevic is a fascist and I have tried to warn the international public of this. I wrote to the US president: 'He is a fascist, and if you do not stop him we shall in the next decade have dozens of Milosevic's all round the world acting to destabilize it.' The extent of Seselj's power is what Milosevic has given him. When Milosevic decides that iÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÔ t is better for Seselj to go to The Hague than for himself to lose power, then Seselj will be sent to The Hague. Draskovic is a fool who has been riding on the back of the idea of Greater Serbia, the memory of Draza Mihajlovic and so on.

I have been with my wife and sons to Foca and Visegrad in eastern Bosnia. These were beautiful small towns in which the Muslim population was in a majority. My brother Vladimir Dedijer and Milovan Djilas both told me what they saw in Foca in 1942: dead bodies of innocent men, women and children floating in the river Drina; frozen pools of blood on the bridge at Visegrad, etc. That is what Draza Mihajlovic's hordes did then. Today there are again no Muslims in these towns, only this time they were killed and expelled by Slobodan Milosevic, Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic and the rest of them. Serbia simply has no future unless it has a reckoning with itself. Unless it rids itself of the Kosovo myth, the myth of a Greater Serbia, and politicians like Milosevic, Seselj and Draskovic.

The Dayton Accords have opened a new page in Bosnian history: it does not look like a state, but it is not dead either. How do you see Bosnia today and in the future?

Bosnia must be one, as it was during Tito's time. With democratically regulated national and religious rights. To recognize Milosevic, Karadzic, Mladic and who knows whom else as negotiating partners was a fatal political move. Once you sit with them at the negotiating table, all you get are arguments based on how much territory everyone holds. This is what indeed happened: Milosevic, i.e. Karadzic and Mladic, got 49% of Bosnian territory. As for Croatia and its attitude to Bosnia, one must bear several things in mind. The first is that Milosevic launched an aggression against Croatia, and that thanks to Croatia's resistance Tudjman was able to realize an age-old dream of independence. Pavelic did not do that, because he was a mere quisling brought to power by German and Italian tanks. But after every dream there is an awakening. An independent Croatia is not sufficient to itself, it must build a democratic future. Tudjman will not be around for long, and although he exploits the glory of a dream fulfilled, he is not Croatia or the country would disappear along with him. As for the Bosnian Croats, they should become less aggressive and accept Bosnia as their homeland.

Is there any New Year's message you would like to send to the Bosnians in Bosnia and those scattered all over the world today?

I believe in Bosnia, but the Bosnians must rely on themselves and build their own, not foreign, lands. The Bosnians are basically good people, though often naive and easily led. I sometimes recall a story about Nasrudin Hodza, which goes as follows. When asked by a grandee to help him calm the populace, which was in a state of high excitement at some meeting, he shouted from within the crowd: 'They're giving away hot pilaff on the other side of the town.' When the mass started to break up and run in that direction, he said to himself: 'Maybe they really are giving away hot pilaff' and started to run himself. After all they have gone through þ and I have in mind here all the nationalities and religions of Bosnia þ they should learn the lesson. Rather than running after the hot pilaff being distributed by those who are pushing them towards a distant past, all the various Majors and Bildts and their like, they should run after themselves and their Bosnia.

Stefan Dedijer, now in his eighties, is the younger brother of the late Vladimir Dedijer, biographer of Tito and close friend of Milovan Djilas. After many years living and teaching in Sweden, he now spends much of his time in Dubrovnik. He has been an outspoken opponent of Milosevic's regime and policies from the outset. The present interview was conducted in Sweden on 3 January 1998 by Sevko Kadric.

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