A response to Gordana Kneževic
by Neven Andelic
Problems of fact and interpretation surrounding the 1991-95 war in Croatia and Bosnia - its character; its causes remote and proximate, external and internal; its protagonists - remain of crucial contemporary relevance. Readers of Bosnia Report will thus, we feel sure, find interesting both the seminal contribution by Srđa Popović on the first page above and the debate over the following pages, sparked off by Gordana Knežević’s article in our last issue.
A response to Gordana Kneževic
Gordana Knežević's review of my book Bosnia-Herzegovina: The end of a Legacy has little to do with that book. Her piece features mostly her own guesswork on what I may or may not think about issues and periods of history that are not at all featured in the book. While in other circumstances I may be flattered to see my yet unexpressed views analysed by a celebrated Bosnian Serb journalist, here I find the whole proposition unacceptable and unfair to the reader.
She alleged my description of the war in Bosnia as a ‘civil’. I have never ever said it was a civil war. I am offering her all the royalties from my book if she could quote me saying so. Half of her article is about the war while my book ends a year prior to it. It describes the period of the end of communism and the rise of nationalism. The intention is to help people understand local politics and society prior to the war. It might have been pointless to discuss this strange approach to a review had she not misinformed the readership about both my book and historical facts.
Contrary to Knežević’s review, one cannot find an argument in my book that it was a totalitarian former regime that caused the war. Knežević invented to have found an argument that SDS was the least to blame while I said: ‘The Serbs were first to homogenize as a group with clear political aims...’ Knežević argues against the fact that SDS was the last nationalist party to be formed. One cannot change history. Stalin tried. Her ‘knowledge’ that SDA and HDZ did not have military wings is dangerous for her reputation as both parties publicly celebrate anniversaries of their military organizing prior to the war. Since Knežević insists on discussing the war, she should know better. JNA did not withdraw in spring 1991 from Slovenia and Croatia and put in position around Sarajevo, as she claims, because it had yet to fight two wars in these countries. There is a strong case to argue there was an aggression from two countries, Serbia and Croatia, against Bosnia-Herzegovina but Knežević claims only one – Serbia. Does she mean the war between the Bosnian Army and the HVO and the Croatian army was a civil war?
Knežević is inaccurate when describing events and economical with the truth, to say at least. In order to enrich her knowledge, Hamdija Pozderac did not die in Belgrade but in Sarajevo. Ivan Stambolić, himself a Milošević’s victim, said that Pozderac did not object to constitutional changes demanded by Serbia. Thus her concept of ‘suspicious circumstances’ fails completely. Milošević's closest allies claimed they were not sure of a success of the 8. session. Thus it was very unlikely they would be dealing with Bosnia immediately before that session. They were lacking power for such an operation. When they interfered in Bosnia I explained in detail the work of Serbian secret services in Srebrenica and Bratunac. This might be news for Knežević considering a surprising lack of knowledge she showed in her review.
Her dismissive suggestion about using Borba as a source is contradicted by herself when she claims, while reviewing Kurspahić’s book, it was the last newspaper to resist Milošević. A Borba journalist’s suicide is suspicious for her without any clarification. It is just another conspiracy theory as it is about the ‘protected witness’ at the ICTY (she does not know even the proper name of this Court), Slobodan Lazarević, an agent of the Military Intelligence and not a secret police as Knežević claims. He mainly testified about Serb held parts of Croatia and not about Agrokomerc affair.
Knežević’s complaints about a lack of discussion on Marković is yet another example of her intentionally misleading review. Two whole subchapters in my book deal with his economic policy in detail and he was mentioned on 23 pages (10 percent of my book).
I clearly stated in the conclusion that 'nationalism created in the political elites outside Bosnia-Herzegovina was accepted by those who formed the basis of rural society within the republic.' …'Therefore, the reasons for the nationalists' rise to power in Bosnia-Herzegovina are not to be found in ancient history, but in contemporary politics.' … 'But even the vote for nationalists did not mean support for chauvinist policies...' I also describe another reason: 'a fear of the unknown - a life in democratic conditions with rising nationalism in neighbouring republics- made ethnic homogenization stronger and more widespread.' I also quote Zimmermann, 'the most democratic alternative to nationalists was the communists'. She ignores all this and alleges few quotes to be from my book although only one, taken out of context, was really in my book. Too much inaccuracy even if one lowers the standards to the unacceptable level.