"It's tragic, it's terrible," bemoaned President Clinton, in a June 1995 interview with Larry King. "But their enmities go back five hundred years, some would say almost a thousand years." (Larry King Live, June 5, 1995) A month after those words were spoken, the United States government, along with the other governments of the UN Security Council and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, refused to respond as the Serb army overran the UN-Declared "safe haven" of Srebrenica. The next week, at a meeting in London, the same group of leaders declared that a second "safe haven," Zepa, would not be protected. From six to seven thousand of the approximately fifty thousand inhabitants of Srebenica and Zepa are missing. Amnesty International and the International Red Cross estimate that thousands have been killed. Although leaders of NATO countries expressed surprise at the atrocities, these events surprised no one familiar with the documented behavior of the Serb army and Serb irregular militias in Bosnia.
There is a critical relationship between the facts on the ground in Bosnia (the genocide known as "ethnic cleansing") and the statements of Western leaders such as President Bill Clinton about "ageold antagonisms," "ancient hatreds," and "Balkan ghosts." Such phrases have been used to portray the people of Bosnia as alien, and as historically or even genetically fated to kill one another. The "ageold antagonisms" refrain, as used by UN and NATO officials, served as the primary excuse for the four-year policy that culminated at Srebenica.
In Belgrade, the notion of age-old antagonism is operative in a more primary manner. Serb nationalists used the martyrdom of the Serb prince Lazar at the battle in Kosovo in 1389 as a central component of the ideology of "ethnic cleansing." In the passion play commemorating the battle of 1389, Lazar is portrayed as a Christ figure with disciples (sometimes explicitly twelve), one of whom is a traitor. The Turks are Christ-killers, and the Judas figure, Vuk Brankovic, becomes the ancestral curse of all Slavic Muslims. The ways in which the power of the Kosovo myth and ritual has been harnessed to promote genocide are partially concealed within a symbolic code, but occasionally the ideology is expressed in completely transparent terms. Thus Norris cites the Belgrade academic Miroljub Jevtic:
Because of this [the battle of Kosovo and the conversion of Bosnians to Islam], the hands of the Muslims who are with us are stained and polluted with the blood of their ancestors from among the inhabitants of Bosnia at that time, namely those who did not embrace Islam.
This study will show each step in the appropriation and radicalizing of the Kosovo myth to create an ideology of genocide. It should be pointed out at the very beginning that such an analysis is not meant to indict the role of Kosovo in Serb culture as such. Indeed, those who used Kosovo to justify the crimes described below may ultimately be considered by Serbs as betrayers of the values of Kosovo and as having dragged the most cherished themes of Serb culture through internationally recognized crimes against humanity. If that is the case, and Serb tradition is to be retrieved, then difficult theological and cultural issues about the interpretation and place of certain themes from the Kosovo myth will need to be seriously addressed. Yet the same tradition may offer resources for such a retrieval; as the Kosovo legend was taken over by ethno-nationalist militants, the deeper, more human aspects of the Kosovo tradition were submerged, namely those works that managed, through the Kosovo theme, to present the sorrow and loss of the figures portrayed not as the property of Serb militancy, but as Serbia's distinctive contribution to a shared human understanding.
What is "Ethnic Cleansing"?
To understand the nature and goals of the "ethnic cleansing," it helps to begin with the burning of the National Library, a collection of 1.2 million volumes, and Sarajevo's major example of Austrian neo-Moorish architecture, and the events that preceded it. The army of General Mladic systematically targeted the major libraries, manuscript collections, museums, and other cultural institutions in Sarajevo, Mostar, and other besieged cities. Eastern Mostar, with its priceless heritage of ancient Bosnian culture, was leveled by Serb artillery. What the Serb artillery missed, the Croat Defense Force (HVO) hit. The HVO has shelled cultural institutions in Mostar and other cities under siege.
On May 17, 1992, General Mladic targeted the Oriental Institute in Sarajevo, the largest collection of Islamic and Jewish manuscripts in South Eastern Europe. Over five thousand priceless manuscripts, in South Slav Aljamiado, Hebrew, Persian, Arabic, and Turkish, went up in flames. Mladic's forces then targeted the National Museum for destruction. It burned in August.
Behind Serb and HVO lines, the destruction was even more systematic. HVO forces expelled Serbs and Muslims, and dynamited Orthodox churches and Muslim mosques throughout the region, including the centuries-old mosques in Stolac and Pocitelj, two of the more ancient and beautiful towns in Herzegovina. Most Catholic churches and all mosques (over six hundred) have been methodically dynamited or vandalized by Serb militias, including masterworks of South Slavic culture such as the sixteenth-century Ferhadija Mosque in Banja Luka and the "Colored Mosque" in Foca, built in 1551. Graveyards, birth records, work records, and every other trace of the people "cleansed" have been destroyed.
What General Mladic and his Croat extremist imitators destroyed was the graphic and palpable evidence of over 500 years of interrellgiously shared life in Bosnia. And despite conflicts in the past, this methodical destruction is new. The art, manuscripts, and artistic monuments being burned and dynamited have existed for centuries, and in cities such as Mostar and Sarajevo, the religious monuments are built next to one another. After all the mosques in the formerly Muslim-majority city of Zvornik were systematically destroyed, the warlord Branko Grujic declared, "There never were any mosques in Zvornik." Once destroyed, the banalities about "age-old antagonism" become irrefutable. History is recreated in the image of the destroyer. What was destroyed was the evidence not only of the five-hundred-year-old Bosnian Muslim civilization of Zvornik, but also of five hundred years of shared living between the two major populations groups in Zvornik, Muslim and Serb. In addition, the names used for such acts can and have been manipulated and abused. Indeed, a premise of this study is that it was the original manipulation of such names in the decade of the 1980s that led to the ideology that fostered the most extreme Serb-nationalist violence in Bosnia in 1992. How are we to name the various components of the "ethnic cleansing" strategy of Serb regular and irregular militias in the spring and summer of 1992? And how are we to properly name what has been called "ethnic cleansing" despite the fact that the alleged "ethnicity" is based merely and solely upon one's religious identification? This latter question can only be answered properly once the individual components of the "ethnic cleansing" program have been properly described.
In each area occupied by the Serb military, killing camps and killing centers were established, and individual massacres were carried out. Such centers included the Drina River Bridge at Visegrad, the Drina Bridge at Foca, the stadium at Bratunac, and schools, mosques, stadiums, and roadsides throughout Serb-army occupied BosniaHerzegovina. In such places the killing went on for weeks. Thus the famous Visegrad Drina Bridge, built by the Ottomans in the sixteenth century, was used for nightly killing "sport festivals" by Serb soldiers who would torture their victims, throw them off the bridge, and try to see if they could shoot them as they tumbled down into the Drina River.
After the Serb army had consolidated the seventy percent of Bosnian territory it controlled, the killing switched to controlled intimidation, with a pattern of localized killings and rapes in cities such as Banja Luka and Bijeljina, where significant non-Serb population remained. Various camps, off-limits to all International Red Cross inspection, continued to operate to the time of this writing. Especially notorious is the Lopare camp near Brcko.
The International Red Cross made an extraordinary appeal to the NATO nations to stop the "ethnic cleansings" in Banja Luka and Bijeljina. The appeal was ignored. The first victims were intellectual and cultural leaders: teachers, lawyers, doctors, businesspeople, religious leaders, artists, poets, and musicians. The object of such "eliticide" was to destroy the cultural memory. Gradually, the killing slipped over into something more random as the acts of cruelty and massacre took on an interior momentum and logic of their own.
Those who survived the killings were subjected to a final ritual: the stripping of all property and possession. Buses of refugees were continually stopped by militias and army units. Everything of possible value was taken: not only hard currency, but even shoes and jewelry of little financial value. The stealing of wedding rings (with threats to cut off the finger of anyone whose ring did not come off easily) was a special part of the ritual. From the pervasive nature of this ritual, an interpretation can be made. The stolen wedding rings-of a trivial value in relation to the enormous booty taken by the Serb army and militias-represent the last symbol of a cultural group identity, as well as a symbol of a future procreative possibility. The strange fixation with which militia members persisted in stealing weddings rings, and often in presenting them to their own girlfriends, can only be explained through such deeper symbolism.
The term "genocide" was coined by Rafael Lemkin as part of an effort to learn from the experience of the Holocaust and to develop an international legal consensus about certain kinds of systematic atrocities. The "Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide" adopted by Resolution 260 (111) A of the General Assembly of the United Nations, December 9, 1948, makes the following key provisions:
Article I: The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether
committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international
law which they undertake to prevent and to punish.
Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
There can be little doubt that the "ethnic cleansing" practiced by the regular and irregular Serb militias in Bosnia- Herzegovina from 1992 to 1995 constitutes genocide. These practices were a systematic effort to destroy Bosnian multireligious culture and Bosnian Muslim culture, and to destroy the Bosnian and Bosnian Muslim peoples as a people.
Christoslavism: Slavic Muslims as Christ-Killers
The antagonism between nationalist Serbs and Bosnian Muslims is, as they say, "old." But it is also re cent. While historians dis pute the significance of the Kosovo battle of 1389, in which both the Serbian Prince Lazar and the Ottoman Sultan Murat were killed, in Serbian mythology the battle entailed the loss of Serb independence, a loss that was represented in cosmic terms. Yet despite the cliche about "age-old antagonisms," the marshaling of the Lazar legend to place an unbridgeable gap between Slavic Muslim and Serb was achieved only in the nationalistic literature of the nineteenth century. It is In the literature of the nineteenth century that the Lazar Christ-character takes on explicit form. Lazar is now a Christ figure, with knight disciples, who is slain, and with him dies the Serb nation, to rise again only with the resurrection of Lazar. Turks are thus equated with Christ-killers and Vuk Brankovic, the "Turk within," becomes a symbol, and the ancestral curse, of all Slavic Muslims.
The classic illustration of this is The Mountain Wreath, written by Prince-Bishop Petar II (known by the pen name of Njegos), which portrays the eighteenth-century Montenegrin extermination of Slavic Muslims, the Istraga Poturica. The drama opens with Bishop Danilo, the play's protagonist, brooding on the evil of Islam, the tragedy of Kosovo, and the treason of Vuk Brankovic. Danilo's warriors suggest celebrating the holy day (Pentecost) by "cleansing" (cistimo) the land of non-Christians. The chorus chants: "The high mountains reek with the stench of non-Christians." One of Danilo's men proclaims that struggle will not come to an end until "we or the Turks are exterminated." The reference to the Slavic Muslims as "Turks" crystallizes the view that by converting to Islam the Muslims have changed their racial identity and have become the Turks who killed the Christ-Prince Lazar.
The conflict is explicitly placed outside the category of the bloodfeud, common to the Balkans. In tribal Montenegro and Serbia a blood-feud, however ruthless and fatal, could be reconciled; it was not interminable. The godfather (Kum) ceremony was used to reconcile clans who had fallen into blood-feud. In The Mountain Wreath, when the Muslims suggest a Kuma reconciliation, Danilo's men object that the Kum ceremony requires baptism. The Muslims offer an ecumenical analogy, suggesting that the Muslim hair-cutting ceremony is a parallel in their tradition to baptism. Danilo's men respond with a stream of scatological insults against Islam, its prophet, and Muslims. With each set of insults, the chorus chants "Tako, Vec nikako" (this way; there is no other) to indicate the "act" that must be taken. The play ends with the triumphant Christmas Eve extermination of Slavic Muslims as a formal initiation of Serb nationhood.
By moving the conflict from the realm of blood-feud into a cosmic duality of good and evil, Njegos placed Slavic Muslims in a permanent state of otherness. The sympathetic qualities of the Muslims are the last temptation of Danilo. However sympathetic in person, Muslims are Christ-killers, "blasphemers," "spitters on the cross." After slaughtering the Muslims-man, woman, and child-the Serb warriors take communion without the confession that was mandatory after blood-vengeance.
The explicitly Christological patterning of Njegos's portrayal of the Kosovo myth was echoed in other art and literature produced or collected during the Romantic period, in particular a fragment of poetry, known as the "Last Supper," which depicts Lazar's banquet on the eve of the battle. Lazar knows that he will be betrayed, and he suspects Milos, his most faithful knight, who had been slandered earlier. The prince proposes a toast to Milos in which he accuses him. Extremely hurt, Milos promises to prove his loyalty by killing the sultan before the battle. He then points the finger to the real traitor, Vuk Brankovic. Lazar's last supper is represented in Adam Stefanovic's lithograph "The Feast of the Prince (Lazar)" with Lazar in the center of the banquet table, surrounded by knights in the pose of a thousand depictions of Christ's disciples, with light* suffusing the countenance of the prince, and traitor Vuk brooding silently in the background.
As part of the preparations for the six-hundredth anniversary of Kosovo, there was a revival of interest in Njegos. The importance of Njegos, the fact that his verses are memorized by a great many Serbs, and the notion that Njegos, himself the poet of Serb crucifixion and future resurrection, was being resurrected, were all part of the Kosovo memorials of 1989. "Throughout Serbia, Vojvodina and Montenegro, people at gatherings carried Njegos's picture and posters with his verses," wrote Pavle Zoric, going on to intone that "this was an 30 Michael Sells unforgettable sight. Is there anything more beautiful, more sincere and more profound.... Njegos was resurrected in the memory of people."
"Race-betrayal" is a major theme of The Mountain Wreath and the strand of Serbian literature it represents. By converting to Islam, Njegos insisted, Slavic Muslims became "Turks." Ivo Andric, Yugoslavia's Nobel laureate in literature, writes that:
Njegos, who can always be counted on for the truest expression of the people's mode of thinking and apprehending, portrays in his terse and plastic manner the process of conversion thus: "The lions [those who remained Christian] turned into tillers of the soil, the cowardly and covetous turned into Turks."
If this is the message of "the people," Bosnian Muslims are by definition not part of the people, even though they are regarded as descendants from common ancestors of Serbs and Croats. For Andric, the ancient Bosnian church, persecuted as heretic by both Catholic and Orthodox forces, was a sign of a "young Slavic race" still torn between "heathen concepts with dualistic coloring and unclear Christian dogmas." Most Bosnians believe that the members of the Bosnian Church, called Bogomils or Patarins, were the ancestors of the Bosnian Muslims. Andric portrays Bosnian Muslims not only as cowardly and covetous and the "heathen element of a young race," but finally as the corrupted "Orient" that cut off the Slavic race from the "civilizing currents" of the West.
Andric's most famous novel centers on the bridge on the Drina River commissioned by Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic, a Serb who had been taken to Istanbul and become a pasha. To appease fairies, vile, holding up the bridge's construction, the builders must wall up two Christian infants within it. Two holes that appear in the bridge are interpreted as the place where the infants' mothers would come to suckle their babies.
The story crystallizes the view that an essentially Christic race of Slavs is walled up within the encrustation of an alien religion. It also represents an obsession with the Ottoman practice of selecting Serb boys to be sent to Istanbul and brought up Muslim; such people, however successful, remain perpetual exiles to themselves, cut off from the Christian essence of their Slavic souls. The key event in Bridge on the Drina is the impaling of a Serb dissident by the Turks and their helpers, Bosnian Muslims and Gypsies. The scene contains a long, anatomically detailed portrayal of the death of the heroic Serb, with powerful evocations of the crucifixion.
Andric is a hero to both Serb and Croat nationalists who have been "cleansing" Muslims from Bosnia. On June 28, 1989, approximately one million pilgrims streamed into Kosovo for the Passion Play commemoration of the six- hundredth anniversary of the battle of Kosovo. On this occasion, Serb President Slobodan Milosevic consolidated three years of effort in both fomenting and appropriating radical nationalist sentiment. Within three years, those who directed the passion play, acted in it, and sat in the first rows in 1989, were among the organizers and executors of the most unspeakable depravities against Bosnian civilians.
The Kosovo "Genocide"
You silence the number of atrocities per capita in Kosovo which is unprecedented in the twentieth century. It is forever recorded, but not only on paper. The judiciary groans under the weight of unsolved disputes. And every dispute is a drama. Serbian houses, blinded and empty, sink into the ground together with tombs, so that the houses and tombs will soon vanish.
The above global denunciation of Albanians is from a speech given by Milan Komnenic at the meeting "Serbians and Albanians in Yugoslavia Today," on April 26, 1988. It was then incorporated into one of the memorial volumes on the six-hundredth anniversary of the battle of Kosovo, as a special issue of the Serbian Literary Quarterly.
Kosovo has been called by some the "Serb Jerusalem." Not only is Kosovo the place of the archetypal founding event in Serb romantic mythology, it is also the center of many of Serbia's greatest works of religious architecture and the ancient seat of the Serb Orthodox leadership. The Serb Patriarchate was established at Pec in Kosovo in 1346. The Patriarchate was re-established in 1557 by Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic, in the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent, and the first Serb occupant of the chair is believed to have been a brother of Mehmet Pasha. The Patriarchate lasted until 1765 when, during the period of increasing Serb resistance to Ottoman rule, it was abolished.
The notion of purging the majority population of Albanians from Kosovo had reappeared at periods of crisis during modern Serbian history. In the period between the two World Wars, Albanians in Kosovo were repressed and Serb colonization was encouraged. In 1966 Tito acceded partially to Albanian demands for more autonomy. In 1974 Kosovo was given a special status as an autonomous region, within the Republic of Serbia but with its own vote in the Yugoslav presidency.
In 1986 radical nationalists, Serb clerics, and a branch of the Yugoslav Communist Party began a major campaign orchestrating the dramatic charge that Albanians were engaged in "genocide" against Serbs. The charge of genocide was combined with lurid tales of rape, the beating of nuns, and other alleged atrocities. The high Albanian birth rate, it was now alleged, was part of this genocide. In January two hundred Belgrade intellectuals signed a petition to the Yugoslav and Serbian national assemblies known as the "Memorandum." The memorandum demanded a restructuring of the relationship of the autonomous province of Kosovo to Serbia. It indicted the autonomy and majority rule in Kosovo, established in the Yugoslav constitutional reform of 1974, as a "national treason" and part of an antiSerb plot. It made references to the "genocide" in Kosovo.
What was the truth of these grave charges, the repetition of which helped galvanize radical Serb nationalism within Yugoslavia? According to police records, the incidence of rape in Albania was at a rate below that of Serbia proper. According to the same records there was exactly one recorded instance of the rape of a Serb by an Albanian. When Mihajlo Markovic and two other proponents of the Kosovo genocide charge were confronted with these facts, they had no answer. Instead, they continued to pose unfounded allegations as fact, referring to the Albanian leadership's aspiration to an "ethnically clean" Kosovo.
Despite protestations by Serb nationalists that Albanians were being given especially lenient treatment, the opposite was the case. Amnesty International reported that Albanians, who were eight percent of the population of Yugoslavia, accounted for seventy-five percent of its prisoners of conscience. The claims of genocide, widespread ethnically-caused rape, and systematic annihilation of cultural heritage were in fact not only incorrect and filled with interior contradictions, but they were ultimately insidious. As officials of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Eastern Bosnia reported, the claim by Serb nationalists of "genocide," "ethnic cleansing," "mass rape," and "cultural annihilation" against Serbs in a particular region was a code for Serbian militias, from within Bosnia and from Serbia proper, to begin the "ethnic cleansing" of a region, practicing in fact all the atrocities that they claimed (falsely) were being practiced against Serbs.
A clear example of the escalation of rhetoric and charges of genocide can be found in the language of Serb Orthodox leaders. In 1969, the Holy Council of Bishops wrote to Yugoslav President Tito to express their concern about vandalism of Serb property and intimidation of Serbs in Kosovo. The language is specific and the concerns are grounded in factual incidents that are described without ethnic or religious vilification or generic blame against all Albanians. In 1982, in a Good Friday appeal by Serb priests and monks, the language had changed. With constant allusions to the theme of the crucifixion of the Serb nation, the battle of 1389, the alleged centuries-long plot by Albanians to exterminate Serb culture, the alleged depravity of the Ottoman Turks, the appeal tied all of this history to the charge of genocide:
It is no exaggeration to say that planned GENOCIDE [emphasis in original] is being perpetrated against the Serbian people in Kosovo! What otherwise would be the meaning of "ethnically pure Kosovo" which is being relentlessly put into effect through ceaseless and neverending migrations?
In 1987, 60,000 Serbs signed a petition protesting the "fascist genocide" in Kosovo. In none of these articles, petitions, and appeals was any evidence whatsoever offered of an Albanian program to create an "ethnically pure" state in Kosovo, nor was the allegation that over 250,000 Albanians had emigrated to Kosovo from Albania proper ever demonstrated or even argued.
What started out as a convenient language of "genocide" against Serbs with which to rally Serb nationalists was transmuted by 1992 into a code for genocide by Serb nationalists. The code is apparent in the anti-Albanian hate literature of the period. Thus, Milan Komnenic makes the Serb-nationalist allegation that 300,000 Albanians are refugees from Albania proper and should be returned. Komnenic goes on to cite Njegos himself:
We do not seek mercy from you, don't you seek it from us. You have never given it to us, and we no longer have the right to give it to you. Yes, we are, according to the words of Dostojevski, an evangelical people, but we are faithful to the mountain gospel of Njegos.... Do not pretend that you love us, because we do not love you. We have long ago eaten up the moldy pretzel of internationalism that falsely joins us in brotherhood and falsely unites us.
Such open contempt for the notion of "brotherhood and unity" that was the widely acknowledged sine qua non for holding together the delicate ethno-religious fabric of Yugoslavia, published in a prestigious Serbian literary journal, was nothing less than an open declaration of war.
Such was the contextual backdrop for the six-hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo. Although the hatred was directed at Albanians in Kosovo, the literature and archetypes made Slavic Muslims particularly vulnerable. By the time of the anniversary, the construction of a language of "genocide" against Serbs in Kosovo was conflated with the original martyrdom of Prince Lazar. From such a perspective, there could be no safety. Even the peaceful smile might be the smile of the traitor, Vuk Brankovic, the Serbian Judas.
The Return of the Ustashe
Parallel to the construction of an alleged genocide in Kosovo, Serb nationalists began alleging the return of the Ustashe. Just as Kosovo Albanians were, as a group, held responsible for German collaborators in the Second World War, all Croats came under suspicion for Ustashe activities. The Bosnian Muslims were also targeted by the generic blame. During the Second World War, Bosnian Muslims were caught on all sides of the battle lines; some fought with the Ustashe, many with the Partisans, and many others were massacred by both Ustashe and Chetnik groups.
As polarization grew, the Serb clergy and Serb nationalists began a program of disinterring the bones of Serb victims of the Ustashe in the Second World War. The disinterment of the victims of Ustashe genocide took place simultaneously with the procession of the bones of Prince Lazar. In this way the pain and anger of living memory (and most Serbs had family perish in the Second World War) was combined with the pain and anger of mythic time- a potent interconnection that collapses the Second World War and 1389.
Six-Hundredth Anniversary: A Tradition Betrayed
By June 28, 1989, the Kosovo myth and history had been completely nationalized and appropriated. At this epochal moment in Serbian history, Slobodan Milosevic stood upon a podium with an enormous, theatrical backdrop. Directly behind Milosevic was a huge depiction of peonies, increasingly evoked as symbols of the blood of the martyrs killed at Kosovo. Above them was a massive Serbian nationalist Insignia: an Orthodox Cross surrounded by the four Cyrillic Ss, standIng for "Only Unity/Harmony Saves the Serb" (samo sloga srbina spasava). The full symbolic power of the Kosovo theme, the anger and fear generated by the genocide charge against Kosovo Albanians and the resurrection of the Ustashe atrocities, and the fundamental iconography of Kosovo were skillfully combined with the familiar cult of personality from the era of Tito. Pictures of Prince Lazar and pictures of Slobodan Milosevic were seen side by side in Serb homes and at Kosovo celebrations.
What happened in Yugoslavia is not the result of unique Balkan antagonisms; such antagonisms exist in every society. The media campaign took the charges against Kosovo Albanians, the alleged Ustashe nature of all Croats, and the alleged betrayal of Slavic Muslims, to a new pitch of repetitive intensity. One barometer of the Serb nationalist media was the work of the cartoonist Milenko Mihajlovic. In May 1989, at the height of the Kosovo dispute and Serb anger over the Albanian birthrate, Mihajlovic published a cartoon showing hordes of baby Albanians, with demented, leering grins, swarming out from a queen-bee-like figure of Marshall Tito. In September 1989, he depicted Ustashe members fishing Serb babies with barbed fishing lines. As the Serb media heightened the pitch on its accusations that all Croats were fundamentally genocidal, Mihajlovic published a cartoon in January 1990 showing a Roman Catholic prelate with a rosary made out of the eyeballs of Serb children, with the Serb infants, their eye sockets empty, surrounding the prelate. Mihallovic's cartoon of September 1990 showed a Roman Catholic prelate and fez-topped Muslim leader arguing over a Serb baby. The prelate wanted baptism, the Muslim wanted circumcision. The second frame shows the prelate gouging out the baby's eyes, while the Muslim, with a demented grin, stretches out the foreskin under a large knife. The cartoons of Mihajlovic were not published in an obscure, fringe journal, but in the Literary Gazette of Belgrade, the official organ of the Association of Serbian Writers.
At the same time, the Yugoslav National Army, the last force of federal cohesion after the dissolution of the Yugoslav Communist Party and federal government, was transformed into a Serb-nationalist ist controlled implement of the struggle for a Greater Serbia. Major purges of non-Serbs and Serbs who were not sufficiently nationalist began in the early 1990s and continued up until the period of this writing. By 1992, the Yugoslav army had been transformed into an instrument of Serb nationalism and had been hardened by the carnage of the Serb- Croat war and the annihilation the city of Vukovar.
Finally, the extreme fringe of Serb politics, represented by ethno- fascist leader Vojislav Seselj and militia leaders such as Arkan, Mirko Jovic, and Dragoslav Bokan, was given access by Milosevic to media, political leverage, and military and security protection and patronage It was these groups-numbered at over forty by the Serb democratic opposition journal, Vreme-that worked carefully with the regular Serb forces in early 1992 to spread terror throughout Eastern and W Northern Bosnia. Vojislav Seselj's militias committed the. most heinous atrocities. When Seselj challenged Milosevic, Milosevic turned his patronage to another genocide-squad leader, Arkan.
With such a strategy in place, the Kosovo myth was ready for appropriation. Just as Good Friday remembrances of the passion of Christ were used by anti-Semites to instigate attacks on Jews, so the Kosovo Passion Play became the occasion for persecution. When the international "contact group" suggested a peace plan that would give the thirty-two percent of Serbs in Bosnia forty-nine percent of the land, including the areas on which they carried out the most systematic "ethnic cleansing," the Serbian Church vehemently opposed the peace plan as unfair to Serbs and attacked the Serbian government of Slobodan Milosevic for supporting the plan.
As early as 1989, the Kosovo mythology had become a symbolic complex, made up of the Christ-killer theme, the fear of the traitor, the Kosovo "genocide," and the resurrection of the Ustashe. Through sheer repetition, the allegations took on a life of their own. They then took the turn into the realm of horror. Reporters and UN officials who witnessed atrocities by Serb forces in Bosnia in 1992 began to notice a pattern. A massacre would take place in a village immediately after the local news began announcing that the Croat and Muslim population was planning to exterminate the Serbs. Indeed it was by tracing such a pattern that some reporters were able to follow the chain of massacres and killing centers. A vivid example of this process at work was offered by the UNHCR's Jose Maria Mendiluce:
I knew how the system of ethnic cleansing functioned and in Zvornik I had the opportunity to witness it. For days, the Belgrade media had been writing about how there was a plot to kill all Serbs in Zvornik. The authorities in Zvornik realized that the point in question was a typical maneuver by Seselj's Radicals-volunteers. This maneuver always precedes the killing of Muslims, as had already happened in Bijeljina and many places along the left bank of the Drina River. There were many soldiers, tanks and much shooting in the city. I guess they were so preoccupied with shooting and killing that they did not see me. There were many corpses strewn about and I saw them kill some elderly people who were unable to escape.
Even eyewitness accounts did not shake the ideological structure underlying ethnic cleansing. In justifying the atrocities in Bosnia, Serb nationalists would point to atrocities by Croats. When it was pointed out that the Muslim population had nothing to do with the Croat army and, indeed, had been attacked by the Croat army in 1993, the Serb nationalists shifted to generic blame of all Muslims for the acts of those who fought with the Ustashe. When it was pointed out that many of the families who suffered had fought against the Ustashe, the Serb nationalists would shift to claims of Ottoman depravity and treat the Muslims as Turks. When it was pointed out that the Slavic Muslims are just as indigenous to the region as Orthodox Christians or Catholics, the discussion would then shift to allegations that the Bosnian Muslims were fundamentalists and that Serbia was defending the West against the fundamentalist threat of radical Islam. When it was pointed out that, in fact, most Bosnian Muslims were antifundamentalist by tradition and character, the Serb nationalists would insist that this was a civil war, in which all sides were guilty, there were no angels, and the world should allow the people involved to solve their own problems. These last two positions, although part of the interior Serb nationalist symbol-complex, are also woven into an international discourse of Balkanism and Orientalism. To examine them we must move back from the field of Kosovo to a wider frame of reference.
Between Orientalism and Balkanism
In 1980 Alija Izetbegovic was tried and imprisoned for writing the Islamic Declaration. A few years later, he wrote a more extensive work, Islam between East and West, that suggested two modelsIslam and European liberal democracy-as antidotes to the problems besetting Europe at the time. When Izetbegovic became president of Bosnia in 1989, the vast majority of Bosnians had never read The Islamic Declaration.
But Serb ultranationalists not only had read it, they had republished it, and were using it as the key element in their charge that they were defending the Western world from radical Islamic fundamentalists in Bosnia. Although Izetbegovic pleaded with Europe not to recognize Croatia until the issue of Serb minorities in Croatia and Bosnia was settled, Serb nationalists accused him of abandoning Yugoslavia with the purpose of establishing an Islamic state. Other indications of this alleged militant Islamic plot to establish a fundamentalist state Bosnia were the fact that Haris Silajdzic (now Prime Minister of Bosnia) stayed in Libya and the fact that some Bosnian Muslims had had special relations with Libya during the period that Libya and Yugoslavia considered themselves allies in the Nonaligned Movement. Ironically, the government of Libya has been one of Slobodan Milosevic's most faithful supporters.
The charges of fundamentalism were placed-without any apparent understanding of the contradiction-with the charge that Bosnian Muslims were plotting to recreate the Ottoman rule over Bosnia. It is not hard to detect in this language traces of "Orientalism," the view that "Orientals "-which invariably means Muslims, of whatever geographical origin- are by nature voluptuaries, aesthetes, authoritarians and, ultimately, perverts. It was necessary to kill Muslims because the Bosnian Muslims wanted to "Steal Serb women for their harems." Penetrating the "harem" is a standard feature of Orientalizing discourse. Reflecting European racism of the nineteenth century, Orientalism serves as a handy excuse for dismissing the claims of non-Europeans to legitimate moral and political authority.
The term "harem" is the Islamic term for the sacred, and refers particularly to times, spaces, and objects to which access is ritually controlled. The Ka'ba in Mecca is the primary Islamic haram. The mihrab, the prayer niche in each mosque that orients the worshipper toward Mecca, is a sign of sacrality. And the deliberate violation of Muslim women is then at one with such desecration of other "harems." Despite the fact that Serb soldiers are well aware that polygamy is not practiced by Bosnian Muslims, the notion that Bosnians want to "steal Serb women for their harems" is used by the military as a mode of indoctrination.
The tendency to use "Muslim" in an "Orientalist" manner made it 'ble to convey, if not a threat, at least a reason for doubting the Possi integrity of the community. Particularly galling to many Bosnians has been the constant reference by NATO power diplomats and by the members of the news media to the "Muslim-dominated government of Bosnia-Herzegovina." Bosnians ask why there are not also, then, references to the Protestant-dominated government of the United States or the Anglican-dominated government of Britain.
Behind the Orientalist propaganda were the Serb-nationalist academics. Miroljub Jevtic, Professor of Political Science at the University of Belgrade, describes the imminent threat to Europe by Muslims, and the Bosnian Muslims as having the "blood" of the martyrs of Kosovo on their hands. Alexandar Popovic, a Serb academic turned nationalIst, writes on Islam as a fundamentally "totalitarian" religion because it embraces all aspects of life. Use of the term "totalitarianism" equates Islam with Stalinist and Nazi regimes, the wounds of which are still fresh in the former Yugoslavia, and shifts the pain of those wounds in a generic way onto an entire people, identified as Muslim. The diplomats of NATO nations have been careful in public not to reveal anti-Islamic prejudice, but their refusal to allow the Bosnians arms with which to defend themselves, excused on the grounds that such arms would only add "fuel" to the fire or create an equal killing field," were based solidly on fear of Islam. Yet by continually urging ethnic partition, they have contributed to the possibility that what remains of Bosnia might indeed become an Islamic state." Ironically, while Bosnian Muslims were prevented by European powers from gaining arms to defend themselves with, out of fear of their possible fundamentalism, support in the Islamic world was slow in coming, partially because some Muslim leaders viewed Bosnians as less than assiduous in their practice of Islam.
Bosnian Muslims are doubly damned in another way. Not only are they prey to dehumanizing Orientalist discourse about Muslims, but pi, they are also the object of an equally dehumanizing discourse about Balkan peoples in general. The Belgrade and Pale regimes, backed continually by voices in the NATO powers, found it convenient to dehumanize all sides in the Balkan tragedy. This is a "civil war," they maintained, and this is the way people in the Balkans have always behaved. The dehumanization of Bosnians as "Balkan" tribal haters, outside the realm of reason and civilization, was promoted by a wide variety of Western diplomats as the major reason for the refusal to stop the genocide when it became known in the early summer of 1992.
The notion that the Balkans are particularly unsuited for civilization goes all the way back to Toynbee. The Balkans are too close, historically and graphically, to the Orient (read Islam) to be truly a part of Europe, the assumption goes. This construction of Balkan peoples and cultures as unamenable to civilized standards of behavior and locked in unchanging, perpetual tribal hatreds, was repopularized in Robert Kaplan's Balkan Ghosts, which dwelled on the Balkan border with Turkey as Europe's "rear door."
A key aspect of the Balkanist stereotype is the mythic history of the superhuman Serb warrior. Serbs, we are told, tied down many Nazi divisions. No effort is made to distinguish between the Partisans of the Second World War, a multiethnic group, many of whose descendants were being annihilated in the Serb army genocide of 1992, from the ethno-nationalist militias of fifty years later. The invincible Serb paradigm served as a "green light" for the conquest and ethnic cleansing by the Serb army of Ratko Mladic. When the Croatian army saw that the NATO powers not only would not intervene to stop the . ethnic cleansing," but were prepared to cede the-territories "cleansed" to the cleansers, they began their own "ethnic cleansing" campaign against Bosnian Muslims in the winter of 1992. For over three years, the NATO alliance, the largest military alliance in the history of humankind, maintained that any rolling back of Serb cleansed" areas would require hundreds of thousands of NATO ground troops and massive casualties.
The policy of containment was the policy of the Bush, Mitterrand, and Major administrations, allowing the Bosnians to be given over, piece by piece, to ethno-nationalist conquest. Candidate Clinton's position, which recognized the genocide for what it was, began to shift as soon as President Clinton entered office, and as it shifted, Balkanist language made a steady entry. On February 10, 1993, Clinton was still acknowledging the massive human rights violations, but speaking now of "containing it." By March 26, 1993, Clinton was talking of a "full court press" to secure "agreement of the Serbs," and, on April 25 of the same year, he reminded us that "Hitler sent tens of thousands of soldiers to that area and was never successful in subduing it." Balkanism was immediately combined with the notion, advanced both by Serb President Slobodan Milosevic, Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic, and the British government, that what was Occurring was a "civil war." By February 10, 1994, the dehumanization of the Bosnians had resulted in Clinton blaming the victims: -'Until these folks get tired of killing each other ... bad things will continue to happen."
The notion that the peoples of the Balkans are somehow genetically or historically fated to kill one another has been a key rationale for UN and NATO refusal to protect Bosnians from the genocide. "Age-old antagonisms," "ancient tribal hatreds," "blood-feuds"-the vocabulary is seldom related to any careful consideration of the history of the region. just as the genocide against Serbs in Kosovo took on a "reality" of its own through the manipulation of constant assertions, so the construction of the ancient Balkan tribal hatreds - unamenable to the efforts of civilized nations to change-took on its own reality. For the thousands of Bosnian Muslims, Serbs, Croats, Gypsies, Jews, and others, who died trying to save their heritage, the libraries and monuments, the evidence of five hundred years of shared inheritance and civilization, these repeated assertions of an ancient, unchangeable, Balkan, tribal mentality of ethnic hatred and mass murder have been particularly ironic
At the heart of the Balkanist strategy is a moral equalizing. "There are no angels in this conflict," is one refrain, as if genocide should only be a matter of concern if the victims are angels, rather than human beings. While no side in any war has ever been free of blame, to equalize such disparate programs is to engage in a fundamental act of falsehood.
Moral equalizing was paralleled by political equalizing. While solemnly announcing at the London conference of 1992 that the territorial integrity of Bosnia was to be protected and that no military conquests would be recognized as the basis for peace agreements, the NATO powers immediately developed a competing language in which the Bosnian government was only one of three "warring factions." The political equalization allowed an abandonment of the recognition of Bosnia's sovereignty and culminated in the Stoltenberg-Owen Plan of June 1993, where Bosnia was to be divided up according to a secret agreement between Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman. The principle, in Lord Owen's phrase, was "reality on the ground." The result was a peace plan that would have done exactly what the London conference, which created Owen's and Stoltenberg's positions as peace mediators, promised would never be done. Territorial conquest would be recognized. Serb nationalists would receive most of BosniaHerzegovina, Croat nationalists most of the rest, and Muslims and any others who wished to remain in Bosnia proper would be relegated to a discontinuous set of enclaves or ghettoes, with little military, economic, or political chance of survival.
Perhaps the clearest example of moral and political equalization occurs in the work of Susan Woodward, a senior fellow in the Foreign Policy Studies program at the Brookings Institute. In Woodward's view, the problems in Bosnia are not the result of age-old tribal hatreds, but the consequences of organizational breakdown following the Cold War. In such an approach, there seems to be no real crime and no one really responsible for a crime. Thus "methods of populations transfers varied," "Muslim elites were murdered or brutally expelled," and "local rivalries were encouraged to play out." Note how the continual use of passives or intransitive verbs systematically strips the discourse of an agent. There is no named party carrying out the activities. They just happen in certain ways. Woodward then goes on to claim that "the victimization of Muslims through ethnic cleansing was also a result of the political contest behind the wars, not ethnic or religious hatreds." Throughout, the killing centers and rape camps, the methodical and consistent practice of massacre, the systematic annihilation of every trace of the people targeted are not mentioned. Only the use of siege warfare (shelling, enforced starvation, and disease) is mentioned specifically, with the statement that the object of such warfare was "to persuade civilians of a different ethnicity to leave without putting up a fight. What such language hides is the reality that people who had already given up all efforts to fight, and would have gladly left with their lives, were killed in huge numbers. The sanitized language of procedures and organizations allows the reader no real sense of either the immensity of the human suffering or the enormity of the crimes committed. It is not surprising that Woodward finds little moral or political distinction among the parties in the Bosnian conflict and treats with undisguised disdain the efforts to establish a War Crimes Tribunal to reestablish Geneva principles forbidding genocide.
The crimes against Bosnians, and particularly against Bosnian Muslims, have a pervasive religious component. Religious symbols, rituals and institutions were used by members of the Serb Church, as well as by secular nationalists, ways that promote an ideology of genocide. The most virulent form of hatred, the cosmic dualism between Slavic Muslim and Slavic Christian, was constructed by Romantic nationalists in the nineteenth century and revived (or, as the Serb nationalist said, "resurrected") at the end of the Cold War. This ideology itself is indeed potent. It was made more potent when rituals were combined: the ritualized charges of genocide against Serbs in Kosovo; the translation of Lazar's bones; the disinterment of the Serb victims of the Second World War; and the passion play observances of 1989. This complex of symbols, by itself, was not capable of causing genocide. Still needed was concerted action by the media, politicians, secret police, militias, and army officers to move from symbolic potency to active aggression. Also needed was the arms embargo on the victims of the aggression, a policy rooted in Balkanist and Orientalist stereotypes. The manipulation of religion and history by Serb nationalists was in this sense supported by the manipulation of Balkan history by Western leaders.
The genocide in Bosnia raises more general questions as well. Will Europe be able to tolerate a flourishing non- Christian cultural entity? If not, are we not drifting toward a new and more dangerous cold war, pitting the Orthodox Slavs, now being 'inflamed by Russian nationalists, against the NATO alliance, with the world of Islam still in a state of shock and disbelief at what has been done to Bosnians? The outcome of such a conflict can hardly be predicted, but that is no ground for optimism.