Friday, 21 April 2017

    From the café I continued eastwards along Ferhadija[1] to the Baščaršija, the old bazaar and focal point for Islam in the city since the 15th century. I then spent the afternoon and early evening walking to Pale in the “Republika Srpska” (Serb) part of Bosnia, glimpsing mice, a pair of Dippers, and a deer at close quarters on the way. As was my wont, I had in mind to track down the church, but before finding it I decided that a bar called “Bolero” might be worth a visit. In Russian (mostly quite popular among Serbs) I tried to explain to the young lady serving drinks that her workplace took its name from the piece of music by Ravel which accompanied Jane Torville and Christopher Dean’s gold medal-garnering exploits at the 1984 (Sarajevo) Winter Olympics; one or two older guys seemed to have an idea of what I was talking about. She didn't let me pay for my tea and tipped me off about a great inexpensive hostel place, where I spent the night. For the Sunday service at church next morning I wore my kilt for the first time, with jacket and tie etc; though I subsequently learnt that such attire is not strictly appropriate in an Orthodox place of worship, so I had reason to be grateful that none of the handful of people who noticed me objected.
   Changing back into civvies, from Pale I made my way to a town called Podgrab, where I engaged in a pleasant conversation with some schoolchildren about our respective national patron saints, George and Sava, among other things. St. Sava was the first Serbian Bishop, and is revered in both Orthodox and Catholic Christianity. Taking advantage of dry weather I then walked on in the dark to Praca, in the predominantly Muslim division of Bosnia. However there were no hotels; but a benevolent Serb policajac took me to a house where I could stay inexpensively, belonging to a lady whose son played professional ice hockey in the United States. Plying me with nice food and drink, she and the policeman together insisted that the onward road to Ustipraca, which looked fine on my map, might be dangerous (‘Mujahadin’ was a word I clearly made out), so I agreed to be given a lift by one of his colleagues who was due to make the journey next day.
   Refreshed by a great sleep and breakfast, after keeping an 8am appointment at the police station this other copper drove me about 25km in an unmarked car along a rough, narrow and all but deserted track. Having done part of his police training in Moscow, in Russian he told me that the string of pitch black tunnels we went through had been built during Austro-Hungarian rule, a hundred years before. To the accompaniment of characteristically Turkish-sounding Serb music from the stereo, we also discussed the prospects of our respective countries in the forthcoming World Cup.
   Višegrad is best-known for its beautiful Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge, the subject of a fabulous Nobel Prize-winning historical novel by Ivo Andric. Crossing that “Bridge over the Drina” when I came to it, after being very kindly allowed to phone home from a café-bar I found a little unfrequented store room in which to sleep. At a different café next morning, when a lady learnt I was from Britain she went out to fetch a young acquaintance of hers, ‘Zvonko’, on a vac but studying in Sarajevo.[2] He spoke excellent English and we agreed on just about everything; the importance of Christian faith, Russia’s positive role in the world, and Kosovo. I left him with a school atlas I’d brought with me, dating from 2004, showing Kosovo as still part of Serbia, which of course it is.[3] On the way east from there I visited a beautiful monastery with a 14th century church at Dobrun, before coming to the border with Serbia proper.

[1] Now named after a famous 15th century mosque in the Bosnian city of Banja Luka, Ferhadija was previously called Vase Miskina Street. On 27 May 1992 it was the scene of a brutal explosion, ostensibly from a mortar shell of the type used by Sarajevo’s Bosnian Serb besiegers, which ripped through a line of people queuing for bread, killing 17 and wounding dozens more. As intended by the crime’s perpetrators, the international media seized on the atrocity as yet more evidence of Serb inhumanity, although even at the time a UN official was quoted: “We believe it was a command-detonated explosion, probably in a can. The impact which is there now is not necessarily similar or anywhere near as large as we came to expect with a mortar round landing on a paved surface.” The work of forces loyal to the fundamentalist Muslim regime of President Alija Izetbegovic (but tirelessly covered up by western governments and their media patsies, for whom evidence they were wrong is the very acme of inconvenience), it was carefully timed to coincide with a meeting of European ambassadors considering sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It stands as the supreme example of a deliberate massacre of civilians on one’s own side, for the purpose of poisoning western opinion against the enemies of fanatical Islam. Meeting with great ‘success’, this satanic practice was replicated with at least two further attacks on Sarajevo’s market in succeeding years, the second of which was used as justification for anti-Serb Nato airstrikes. These unspeakable crimes against humanity provided a template for KLA activities and have been emulated more recently by extremist anti-government terrorists in Syria.
[2] As did both Gavrilo Princip and Ivo Andric; friends, remarkably, who moved in the same circles in the years before 1914.
[3] Before dawn on 15 December 1998, an armed band of KLA personnel crossed into the troubled province from neighbouring Albania. Ambushed by Serbian security forces, the ensuing firefight left 31 terrorists dead. Later on the same day, masked men with machine guns opened fire at random into the ‘Panda’ student café in the nearby city of Pec, killing six young Serb civilians, including five teenagers aged 14-17, and wounding 15 others. Primary responsibility for investigating and documenting events like these fell to the Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM), established less than two months previously under the auspices of the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe). William G. Walker, the veteran US diplomat appointed by Madeleine Albright to lead the KVM, shared some reflections with Allan Little in ‘Moral Combat: Nato at War’, the euphemistically named BBC documentary:
Walker: “It really looked like this was a tit for tat again. KLA hearing about their people being killed up on the border had done this in Pec.”
Little: “There is a huge difference, isn't there, between people killed in a legitimate military exchange and a bunch of hooded unknowns walking into a bar and killing some teenagers..?”
Walker: “I think the point is, we really didn't know what had happened in Pec. Yes the government was saying it was KLA gangsters who had come in and sprayed this bar. When you don't know what has happened, it's a lot more difficult to sort of pronounce yourself.”
Walker’s “difficulty” here would appear to dovetail neatly with a comment he makes elsewhere in the same interview, when he is reminded of (NB not confronted with) the minutes of behind-closed-doors meetings of Nato’s North Atlantic Council, directly contradicting his public statements about where blame chiefly lay for ceasefire violations:
Little: “You told the North Atlantic Council that it was the KLA side who were largely responsible.”
Walker: “I would have to go back and re-read my notes. I don't remember. Most of the briefings I gave to the North Atlantic Council was that both sides were in non-compliance. Both sides were doing things that were wrong. Obviously it was easier to point at the government.” (my emphasis)
Quite how the former US ambassador to El Salvador is allowed to get away with saying this, when by Little’s account he is recorded in the minutes of the North Atlantic Council stating that “…the KLA… has launched what appears to be a deliberate campaign of provocation”, is not easy to vouchsafe. In any case however, we can see that in public, Walker found it was easier to lay the blame at the door of the Serb authorities; and, in his words, it was “difficult to sort of pronounce yourself” against the KLA terrorists – although that is exactly what he did, outside the media spotlight. And again, this seems to tally with useful snippets of contextual info such as that provided in the same documentary by Canadian Capt. Roland Keith, director of the Kosovo Polje field office of the same Kosovo Verification Mission:
   “Ambassador Walker was not just working for the OSCE. He was part of the American diplomatic policy that was occurring which had vilified Slobodan Milosevic, demonised the Serbian Administration and generally was providing diplomatic support to the KLA leadership.”
Without putting too fine a point on it, this knowledge only intensifies the foul stench of systematic, premeditated fraudulence hanging over that part of Allan Little’s commentary which follows immediately after we hear about Walker’s “difficulty in sort of pronouncing himself”:
   “One month later Walker was to break this rule to spectacular effect. He pronounced himself with absolute certainty about a massacre that occurred here, in the village of Račak. Even now, more than a year on, important questions about what happened here remain unanswered. This is the story of that massacre, of the political uses to which it was put, of how it galvanised the west to go to war, and of the pivotal role played by William Walker. There is nothing remarkable about Račak. Except that by January 1999, the KLA had moved in, most of the villagers had fled, and trenches had been dug on the edge of the village.”
More to follow.

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