Here's my journal entry for November in Bosnia. It's mostly about the elections, before and after, and why they represent a big step backwards for Bosnia. But look through the verbiage and you'll also find a couple other topics: Sarajevo's hill neighborhood of Vratnik, why Burhan wants to enlist in the U.S. army, what happened to the Jewish cemetery, and the latest polishing of Sarajevo. Enjoy.
Friday, November 10 The Bosnian National Elections:
The Republika Srpska
I returned to Bosnia four days ago on a bus from Zagreb. Riding through the Serb entity (Republika Srpska) I was greeted by a splashy display of campaign posters. Bosnia has apparently found a way to solve the paper glut in the entire western Balkans.
The nation-wide campaign for Parliamentary and local representatives, as well as for a new president of the Republika Srpska, is winding up and tomorrow the elections will take place. If political posters were sticks and stones, there would be no one left to vote in this country.
The message in the Republika Srpska (RS) was, "Vote for us and we will protect the Serbs." In other words, nothing new is going on there. Acting Prime Minister Dodik's poster says, "For the benefit of Srpska," i.e. for the Serb entity. But the same grammar connotes the benefit of the Serbs. That, in an entity that is supposed to be multi-ethnic, although one would not know this by the name of the entity. Another of Dodik's posters says, "We understand each other," and another, "I can do it."
Dodik is not very popular, however. Although he is the favorite of the international community, the economic situation has only gotten worse during his tenure, and most areas of the RS have experienced only insignificant minority refugee return.
The other main parties running in the RS are the SDS (nationalist party founded by war criminal Radovan Karadzic) and the new, "moderate" PDP, The Progressive Democratic Party. The SDS has the lead in surveys. This in spite of, or perhaps assisted by the fact that both U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Richard Holbrooke and the respected International Crisis Group (ICG) recently called the SDS a party of war criminals and called for it to be banned.
High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch declined, saying that the SDS would have to do something really egregious to merit banning, and that on the contrary, they were toning down their nationalist rhetoric. One SDS spokesperson said, "We are not separatist, but we are fighting against unitarism" (meaning reunification of Bosnia). Meanwhile, the ICG published a list of 75 members of the SDS who had participated in mass murder, ethnic cleansing, and mass rape. The list includes mayors, police, and delegates to the Serb parliament. The publication made a splash but didn't affect Petritsch's policy. It couldn't be expected to affect it, since the international community's policy is (consistently since Dayton) tolerance of war criminals and of de facto partition. Of course, Petritsch's statements contradict my what I just wrote, but they are just statements.
Since my bus from Zagreb was Croatian-owned, we passed through many of the parts of the Federation controlled by the Croats: Jajce, Novi Travnik, Vitez, Kiseljak. Here I was treated to a display of the tactics of the strongest Croat nationalist party, the HDZ. The HDZ ran Croat policy during the war, but in the last year has lost in popularity. For that matter, nationalist parties on all three sides have lost popularity in this period, as regular people have gotten desperately tired of unemployment and corruption on all sides. However, the HDZ doesn't have a strong opposition among the Croats of Bosnia.
The nationalists especially in the Federation are losing steam, so they are reacting with desperate rhetoric and other manipulative measures. The HDZ has come up with something particularly effective. In October the OHR (Office of the High Representative) decreed that delegates to the House of Peoples (the upper house of the national Parliament) should be elected in a way that would cause the hard-line nationalists to lose their monopoly over Croat votes. Given this, the HDZ decided to call a referendum.
Together with several other nationalist Croat parties, the HDZ established a "Croatian National Congress" and held a meeting in Novi Travnik at the end of last month. They drafted a Declaration that "the sovereignty of the Croat people is unquestionable and inalienable. It demands the full constitutional and true equality of all three sovereign and constitutive peoples in BH, which can be established with equal constitutional and administrative-territorial internal organization of the entire BH..."
What this means in English is that the Croats should have a third entity, although HDZ leaders deny that they are calling for this. The Congress called for a referendum, to take place on the same day as elections, wherein people will simply mark whether they approve of the Declaration or not. This is pretty clever, as anyone who bothers to go vote in the referendum (to be held in a separate place from the elections) will vote in favor of it.
The way the referendum has been advertised is with signs that say, "DETERMINATION OR EXTERMINATION." HDZ leaders have equated the OHR's electoral decree with genocide. In fact, HDZ chairman and member of the Bosnian Presidency Ante Jelavic, soon after the OHR decision, declared that the Federation is dead. This is exactly what the Croat separatists have been working towards since the Federation was created, but it's still wishful thinking.
The OHR responded by declaring that the referendum was illegal, but that they would not interfere with it if it does not interfere with the elections. The OHR rationale is that the referendum is really an HDZ campaign activity, and all campaign activities are supposed to cease before the day of the elections. They did finally ban the "extermination" posters, the day before yesterday. It's smart of them not to further intervene, since it would only play into the hands of the HDZ.
After an OSCE spokesperson called the referendum an HDZ campaign ploy, Jelavic called the spokesperson a liar. The OHR and OSCE have hinted that they will sanction the HDZ after the elections for violating the rules, but they haven't specified how this will be done. For the HDZ's part, Jelavic said that it would no longer participate in the upper house of Parliament, but would turn the Croatian National Congress into an alternative legislature. And after the OSCE decision to dismiss some Croat candidates, he declared the OSCE decision invalid, and pointed out that the OSCE was supposed to leave in 1996. In other words, "Take a hike so we can finish dividing up Bosnia."
Another campaign tool the HDZ used was a film clip of Muslims on horseback riding into battle, which was banned by the OHR as hate propaganda.
In the Muslim-controlled part of the Federation, the non-nationalist SDP (Social Democrat Party) is favored to take at least a plurality. They made advances in the April municipal elections, for the first time winning majorities outside of Tuzla. Now, SDP chairman Zlatko Lagumdzija says that his party's victory will be visible "from a satellite."
Even after a short three-month absence I see improvement in Sarajevo. They finally repaired the main Post Office on the river, which, after burning during the war, had been decorated with scaffolding on and off for years. Downtown Sarajevo is cleaner and more attractive than ever. Most of the facades, pock-marked from mortar shrapnel, are now fixed. Reconstruction continues. Food stores have been turned into banks, and banks into travel agencies. By mid-2001 there will finally be a McDonalds near the Cathedral. Finally you can use credit cards in this country. And there are fewer beggars on the streets than in New York or Seattle. Car-alarms and motion-sensitive lighting have arrived. It even appears Bosnia can run its elections better than the U.S.
But I'm afraid Bosnia has not progressed beyond facades. Unemployment is running around 50%, and smuggling costs a half billion DM a year. Pensions are paid months late, and strikes are increasing. Companies and banks are failing, and billions in foreign assistance are all that keeps the country going. More than a million displaced persons and refugees are still waiting to return to their pre-war homes. Everyone knows that corrupt politicians and their gangster-profiteer cronies are responsible for this. The international diplomats know it, and the voters know it. What keeps these people in power is their skill at manipulating their ethnic constituencies to fear the other. In this, the nationalist politicians are actually collaborators, not rivals. As the leader of the SDP said, "When you vote for your nationalist party, you get the other two as a dowry."
The nationalists are weakening, but it is a slow process. They are skillful and their non-nationalist opponents are swimming upstream. The inherent cynicism about politics keeps some people from voting at all (unlike in the United States). Some of my friends have told me that they are not going to vote because they see no option that appeals to them. Others are voting without anticipating good results "in the next 15 to 30 years."
The poster/propaganda war in Sarajevo is quite entertaining. Of course, everyone urges you to vote for the "future" and for "change." The Muslim nationalist SDA (party of Alija Izetbegovic) exhorts, "Let's outvote injustice and lies," and "Vote for your people." (I.e., for Muslim politicians, be they crooks or not.) I am told that the nationalists are panicking. Just yesterday the SDA posted a slogan, "We're better than the others."
Seeing the SDP as a greater threat than the other nationalists, the Muslim nationalists have made them a special target. Late the other night I witnessed five or six young men going around the center pasting up posters with a photo of Zlatko Lagumdzija, a Muslim, wearing a yarmulke at Jerusalem's Western Wall. The poster read, "Muslims, get smart!" and, "Anonymous quote: 'I am voting for Lagumdzija because the Westerners cooked him up to do in the Muslims once and for all.' " Amazing.
In addition to this bit of fanaticism, Muslim extremists are saying that the SDP is favored by the United States, and that they are communists. As Lagumdzija pointed out, it's not really believable that the United States would be trying to install a communist government in Bosnia.
Besides the referendum one of the more controversial campaigns is that of the "Party for Bosnia," run by Haris Silajdzic, former Prime Minister of the Federation. Until earlier this year he was allied with Izetbegovic. His main slogan is, "Bosnia without entities." This is, after all, a good idea. What a lousy idea to name an entire 49% of Bosnia after one of its ethnicities!-especially after the genocide.
The entities should of course be abolished. However, they were created by Dayton, which is not going to be modified soon. Silajdzic's campaign is coded to attract Muslims, since it is the Muslims who most oppose partition of the country. The Serbs and Croats won't vote for Silajdzic's party. As such the Party for Bosnia is striving to replace the SDA as standard-bearer for a veiled Muslim nationalism. Lagumdzija called the anti-entity program "pre-election folklore."
Silajdzic has referred in his speeches to the area "that was known as the Republika Srpska." For this he was admonished by the OHR not to use speech that could confuse people as to the status of that entity. Serb nationalists have gotten mileage out of Silajdzic's campaign. Mladen Ivanic, "moderate" nationalist leader of the PDP, said that instead of doing without entities Bosnia could do without Silajdzic. He then said that if Silajdzic's wins the Republika Srpska should move towards independence. Short of annexation to Serbia, this is what most Serb politicians in the RS really want.
The OSCE as organizer of the elections has tried in various ways to civilize the elections, characterized as the "dirtiest in a long time." It has put up its own posters calling for people to use their heads and to "outvote corruption," to vote "for jobs," and "for a better life." It has also removed candidates here and there for violating election rules. But the OSCE is up against world-class diddlers. Really, it cannot create democracy in Bosnia, because the profiteers and separatists have too much power. They need to go to jail, but the electorate cannot vote them out in installments every other year.
Just yesterday a former spokesperson for the OSCE published an article that described in strong terms the mistakes of the international community and what needs to be done. Besides Dayton's legalizing the partition of Bosnia, the OSCE ran elections in 1996, far too early for democracy to take root. The criminals, according to the writer, should have been rooted out before elections ever took place. My feeling is that this mistake was made more through carelessness than ignorance. That is, it doesn't matter so much to the international community whether Bosnia suffers forever or not, just as long as people are not fighting and causing Western Europe a lot of awkwardness.
I would like to be proven wrong. For that to happen, SFOR (U.N. troops) would have to show some resolve and arrest many more than the 75 politicians listed by the International Crisis Group. International officials are closing the campaign period with veiled threats, saying that further assistance depends on voters getting rid of their nationalist leaders. But the citizens of Bosnia need help. Short of drastic actions on the part of the international community, I doubt that Bosnia will be able to pull itself out of the present trap.
* Monday November 13
"Everyone is asserting that they won: the SDA, the SDS, the Party for Bosnia, the HDZ, and Gore, and Bush. But it would be hard for all of them to right," said the SDP leader.
The Bosnian elections have passed. The results are not known yet, but there have been no great irregularities. The international community proclaimed these the best-run elections since the war. That is probably true. No dead people were elected. Probably very few dead people voted. Hardly anyone was turned away from the polls, and there were only scattered instances of confusion about the ballots.
Although the official count is not yet it, everyone proclaimed himself the winner by midnight on the day of the elections, on the basis of 40% of the vote being counted. Lagumdzija of the SDP said that now the nationalist parties would be driven into the opposition. The SDA said it was the strongest party. The truth will come out in the wash: After the horse race comes the mud wrestling, in which the various parties that got twenty to thirty per cent of the vote scramble to see who will form a coalition with whom.
So it's too soon to know who won, except in the Republika Srpska, where most probably the SDS, party of Radovan Karadzic won. According to various reports they have "eschewed nationalism for economic recovery" in their campaign. This is nice, since they were in huge measure responsible for the economic destruction in the first place, as well as subsequent looting. Surely they are sincere. They know what sounds nice to the international community which can sanction them, and they passed the test with flying colors.
The High Representative declared that only the HDZ, the Croat nationalist party that held the referendum, was anti-Dayton. The threat of sanctions against the HDZ and its leader Ante Jelavic, Croat member of Bosnia's three-part presidency, are still hanging in the air, but it will be a few more days before the shoe drops.
An HDZ leader declared yesterday that more Croat voters participated in the referendum than in the elections, and that 99% of them voted their approval with the Croat declaration. Jelavic said, "We're not afraid of any sanctions." For that matter, he declared that the HDZ no longer recognized the authority of the OSCE, the U.N. Mission, and the OHR. If he and his separatists don't get a bruising from the international community soon, it will be all downhill from here.
The funny thing is, hardly anyone knew what the contents of the referendum were. People I talked to said that it was a vote for a third entity, which it was not, at least not literally. It took me much digging to find out the true contents of the referendum.
The international diplomats had warned that if nationalists were elected, Bosnia would be left behind in the Balkan "trend to join Europe." High Representative Petritsch also said, by way of a threat, that it was a possibility that George Bush will become the next U.S. President. In other words, that the international community will not remain interested in Bosnia forever. What a perverse setup, to fashion a peace agreement that partitions the country and leaves the war criminals in power, and then adds insult to injury by chastising Bosnia for falling behind.
The smoothness of the elections, commended by the international community, is not enough. This smoothness was remarkable in Kosovo, where people haven't quite stopped killing each other. But what's important in Bosnia is that the elections drive the profiteers out of power, and that's still up in the air. Say Bosnia now has a perfect democratic mechanism. That doesn't guarantee democracy, any more than several true sentences strung together guarantee the truth.
People have been writing me to come clear up things in Florida. 'Fraid I can't help. Can't count that fast. Anyway, this is the only interesting thing that has happened in these U.S. elections, or for that matter probably any national elections in my lifetime. And it's still not that interesting. If either of the candidates had been interesting, if either one had been anything more than the lesser of two evils, the race would not have been this close. Everyone from the Cubans to the Zimbabweans is laughing at the U.S. electoral system now, as well they should. I say, let the farce go on a while. Let the country think hard about the value of the electoral college. The only thing is, probably the higher-ups will get so embarrassed pretty soon that they'll have to go start a diversionary war somewhere.
Today's news was that some vandals damaged 25 or 30 tombstones in the Sarajevo Jewish cemetery, where I spent so much time last year. The beautiful ancient cemetery on the hill, with a view of Sarajevo, with inscriptions in Hebrew, Spanish, Serbo-Croatian, and German. My first thought was that this was some kind of propagandistic retaliation for the ongoing slow-motion massacre of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, although there's never really been any tension here between Jews and Muslims. But the newspapers say it was a bunch of kids. The four kids who were caught say that they don't even know why they did it, that they were "bored."
Tuesday November 14
Last night I moved up to Vratnik. My old apartment downtown was too crowded so I moved in with my landlady's family in this old Ottoman residential neighborhood, on a steep slope above the Bas-Carsija, the old Turkish commercial district. I've always enjoyed walking through this section on my way to the hills overlooking Sarajevo. It seemed to me that the only way you could really know this Kasbah was to have been born here.
Now I can look out my window and see half of Sarajevo: the Cathedral in the center, the two commercial towers in Marindvor half-skinned by the bombardment, and the surrounding mountains. As I'm working I hear the pleasant cacophony of five muezzins at once.
My landlady Fata tells me that they were not able to use the upstairs rooms during the war, because of the danger of flying shrapnel.
There's not a perpendicular corner or square building in the whole quarter, not a vertical wall. Protruding upper floors maintain a Turkish look. The mud-brick homes tumble over each other, most of them crumbling-only those that were really smashed by bombs during the war have been renewed. The mortar is flaking off the rest of them and you can press your fingernails into the decaying bricks.
All the people who live here or ever lived here are Muslims. You greet them with "Merhaba," not "Dobar dan." The streets have old Turkish names: "Sunbul cesma," Nightingale's fountain. Or pre-Turkish heroes: Kulin Ban.
The youth of this steep neighborhood have strong legs and are just as tall and handsome (remember not to stare!) as any other Bosnians or Europeans. There's no real traffic, as the alleys are too steep and cobblestony. They're also too steep and narrow for the kids to play soccer, but they do anyway.
There's a little corner mosque every few blocks. They have all been fixed up since the war, with new minarets, which were one of the first targets of the siege. In this election period SDA stickers proliferate, but there are plenty of people here who are quietly sick of the corruption, unemployment, and late pensions, and they didn't all vote for the Muslim nationalist party.
The newspapers devoted a page today to commentary on the vandalism in the Jewish cemetery. One international official said that it was good that it was not a political act. Another said that it was an "expression of extremism." The truth has not really come out, although they have arrested five teenagers.
A day before the vandalism I was talking to my friend Damir about the violence in Palestine/Israel. We agreed it was horrible, but he said, "But you know, the Palestinians aren't all good either." I asked him what he expected after thirty years of uprooting of olive trees, collective punishment, and bypass roads. I said I was surprised there was not more random violence here in Bosnia.
Now there is "random violence." A columnist today wrote that the Muslims here have no leaders here who will speak out for tolerance, and on the other side, the Serbs who took over predominantly Muslim towns like Zvornik and Srebrenica are now building churches and apartment buildings where there used to be mosques. This in a place that is becoming a "legal and democratic country." The resulting frustration is bound to be expressed against the nearest target.
Monday, November 20
Most of the election results are in-enough to tell which way the wind is blowing. As with the U.S. elections, the final results were supposed to be announced on the 17th, but not all the counting is done. And although at least one dissatisfied party is calling for a hand recount, there the similarity ends.
In the end, the Croat and Serb nationalist parties did rather well, the Muslim nationalist party did fair, and the main non-nationalist party, the SDP (Social Democrats), made advances. They are now just about even with the SDA, which is a great improvement over their showing in the general elections of two years ago.
An optimist would say that this is progress. Anyone familiar with Bosnian politics, on the other hand, would note that the nationalists of one ethnicity or another, except in a couple cantons of the Federation, are in the great majority. Not that much has changed. The "steady progress" noted by the SDP is not adequate to the situation. In fact, the re-polarization of Bosnia harks back to Bosnia's first multi-party elections before the war.
Why did this happen? Non-nationalist party commentators, journalists, "moderate" politicians, and international officials have all publicly recognized the elections as a setback to their hopes for progress in Bosnia. One local writer noted the lack of unification of opposition parties (in contrast to Croatia and Serbia, and said, "The way things are now, we can only hope for early elections, because the parties in power now can only lead us to hell." The electorate has again chosen the destructive option.
There are a couple of exceptions to this. The SDP took Sarajevo and Tuzla Cantons for the first time. They are about even with the SDA in a couple of others, and they could wield a lot of power in coalition with some other non-nationalist parties. But the SDS (party founded by Karadzic) won handily throughout most of the Serb entity, and the HDZ (Croat nationalist party) took the lead in half of the ten Cantons of the Federation.
The most common explanation has been the "nationalist domino effect." One extremism leads to another. Former Federation Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic's Party for Bosnia called for a "Bosnia without Entities"-a reasonable idea whose time has not come-and the Serbs logically interpreted this as a threat to make the Republika Srpska disappear. And the Croats were quite loudly and clearly warned by the HDZ that they were going to be exterminated if they did not circle their wagons and vote for that party.
There were other factors leading to the pro-nationalist vote. In the Republika Srpska, the economy has continued sinking to the disaster level during the tenure of the international community's darling, prime minister Milorad Dodik. Since people always vote for change in such a situation, and the only alternative was the SDS, the SDS won-regardless of the fact that they are far bigger thieves than Dodik's group.
The international officials who run Bosnia as a semi-protectorate should take a large portion of the blame for this outcome. First, for leaving the warlords and profiteers in power. Secondly, for coddling "moderates" like Dodik instead of making real change happen. When they talked about change, their talk was ineffectual, and their threats only made things worse. Holbrooke's pre-election talk about the SDS being a "criminal organization," all too true, made the Serbs circle their wagons. And the OSCE's tweaking of election procedures to give leverage to the Croat moderates turned out to be just the ammunition the HDZ needed to put its fear-mongering campaign over the top.
This election is more than a "disappointment;" it is a tragedy, because it shows that the international community has no strategy. They are floundering; they are amateurs, and the domestic nationalist are far more clever operators than the international diplomats. The ordinary people of Bosnia are that much further from recovery.
Now, the question is who will make a coalition with whom. The rumors are that the SDP will make a coalition with the other non-nationalist parties. Who? Haris Silajdzic's Party for Bosnia, first of all. A non-nationalist Croat party, the NHI. Maybe one of the "moderate" Serb parties. The Party for Bosnia is the kingmaker. They received on average the third largest bloc of votes. Since the war they have been in a coalition with the main Muslim nationalist party, but this coalition broke up earlier this year.
It will be very ironic if Haris decides to throw in his lot with the SDP. I'm hard put to see the Party for Bosnia and the SDP collaborating together, as Haris's party has been an alter-ego for the Muslim nationalist SDA. But it could happen.
Before the elections the OSCE made it clear that there would be sanctions against violators of election rules. Then, as a local columnist wrote, "The mountain shook, and a mouse was born." Two of the Party for Bosnia's mandates (representatives) were removed for the party's clear "anti-Dayton" (anti-entity) platform. The SDA was similarly punished in one canton for distributing a pamphlet, "How to Vote for the SDA." The HDZ received the strongest punishment, removal of three of its federal and ten cantonal representatives. This was in response to its illegal use of the "referendum" as a fear-mongering campaign.
The OSCE also punished the SDS for its actions in the only municipal election that was held, in Srebrenica. There were many complaints of violations there, from high SDS officials voting multiple times, to use of false identification, to polling station committee members voting on behalf of voters who did not show up. For all this and more, fully half of the local SDS representatives were removed from the municipal assembly without chance of being replaced. What's more, the SDS must publicly demonstrate that certain unsavory members of its local party branch have been removed by November 24th, or else _the rest_ of its delegates will be removed. Pretty strong stuff. If this kind of action had been taken against the nationalists throughout Bosnia, a few years ago... If.
The HDZ party leaders reacted to their sanctions by saying that the OSCE wanted to destroy them, and that they were going to boycott certain levels of government. Both the Muslim and Croat nationalist parties accused the OSCE of "election engineering." The SDP complained that the HDZ had been "all but rewarded." Then the OSCE admonished that the HDZ must participate in the government, because the voters had elected them. This after removing thirteen of their representatives. Go figure.
The Elections Appeals Sub-Commission is further investigating 200 appeals it has received. At this rate, there will be no politicians left in office to screw Bosnia.
SDS leader Mirko Sarovic, who will probably be the next president of the Republika Srpska, gave an interview to a Russian newspaper. In this interview he said that if there is a referendum for independence in Kosovo, his party will push for a similar referendum in the RS. I have not heard talk of a referendum in Kosovo. This was probably meant for domestic consumption, but it shows that the heartfelt desires of the Serb extremists have not changed, regardless of how much they have sworn their "devotion to Dayton." Why shouldn't they be devoted to Dayton?
In the interview, when Sarovic was asked if Serbs should apologize to other people in the territory of the former Yugoslavia, he said that he did not know what would they apologize for. What else could he say?
Serb politicians of the RS and Yugoslavia are now increasing the volume of their call for "special relations," including dual citizenship for Serbs in the RS. I doubt that dual citizenship would apply to returned Muslims in the RS, since they are not even treated as citizens there.
Yugoslav president Kostunica the other day described the SDS as a "moderate nationalist party." Kostunica is the new darling of the West. The political and economic center of gravity has shifted eastward to Serbia, in any case. The West absolutely must create ties with Serbia now, in order to cultivate influence there. Never mind that Kostunica has still refused even to remove Milosevic's heads of the army and security agencies!
The West's headlong rush to normalize with Yugoslavia continues. 184 people were removed from the list of those who are persona non grata, prevented from travel to the West. This includes people like former Yugoslav prime minister Momir Bulatovic, as responsible for the dissolution of Yugoslavia as anyone else under Milosevic. Never mind forgiving; all is forgotten.
The fifth anniversary of Dayton passed a few days ago. This weekend saw the present leaders of Bosnia, Croatia, and Yugoslavia meeting at Dayton, Ohio to make their contribution to global warming. Richard Holbrooke said many good things, calling for a unified Bosnian army, refugee return, an end to corruption, reconstruction of the economy...the usual stuff.
Holbrooke has a lot of atoning to do, as he was the one who pushed through Dayton in the first place. He can't compensate for that, even though he appears to see clearly the damage done by the legal partitioning of Bosnia. He said that the "trend towards nationalism in Bosnia would soon reverse as Bosnians see their true interests." He also said, ..."They [the nationalist parties] should understand that the long-term future is definitely against them." Holbrooke should understand that declarations that start with "They should understand..." never change anything.
* Funny: Haris Silajdzic commented at Dayton on the problematic U.S. elections: "It's for the Americans to decide, but if there is a problem with the presidency, they can always borrow our system," "We have three presidents rotating," Silajdzic told reporters... "I am sure Mr. Nader will be glad to hear that."
* A recent United Nations survey found 62% of young people want to leave the country - 100,000 people of all ages have left since the end of the war.
My friend Burhan says, "The same old thieves have won the elections. I'm sick of this country. As far as I'm concerned, this whole region, with the exception of Slovenia, should go to hell. It should be buried under the mud. Then you can come back here as an archaeologist in fifteen years and sort it all out."
Burhan asked me how the pay is in the U.S. Army. He was trying to find that out over the internet. He heard that foreigners can enlist, and that then when they are through with their service, they get a green card. Burhan is preparing to send $45 to the U.S. Immigration lottery, on the off chance that he will be one of the 55,000 worldwide who are picked yearly to immigrate.
I asked my landlady Fata if people she knew in Vratnik neighborhood voted for the SDA. She said, "No, many of them didn't. We're all sick of this. You see, before the war things were better. We didn't care what ethnicity someone was who ran the government. We had Tito, and he was Josip. (meaning, he was a Croat.) Her husband Riza added, "O.k., what was, was. That's gone now. But just let us live so that we can eat and sleep without worrying."
I visited the old Jewish cemetery to see the damage. There were a couple police guarding the place as I entered a little before dark. Two or three dozen of the tombstones near the entrance were knocked down. My friend Damir said that no one could be expected to believe that this was thought up by bored kids. Fifteen kids were reported to have participated in this; I rather think that had to have been organized.
I think most of the damage can be fixed, as it is only overturned stones. But this has to be one of the most desecrated graveyards in Europe, if you count the mines planted by the Serbs during the war, and the shells hitting the tombstones from both sides during that time. In 1998 the cemetery was de-mined, but not repaired. Now the little synagogue in one corner is finally being repaired. I expect the Jewish community will eventually receive money to carry out other repairs.
Bosnian commentators have declared that the vandalism could not have just been the whim of some children, but had to have been backed by some serious organization, and they call it an attack on (what's left of) Bosnia's multi-culturalism. They also note that it took place one day after the anniversary of Kristallnacht.