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 »  Home  »  Letters to the Editors  »  (E) Bogdanich's film in New York T. Needs your letters
(E) Bogdanich's film in New York T. Needs your letters
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  03/15/2002 | Letters to the Editors | Unrated
(E) Bogdanich's film in New York T. Needs your letters
 
Dear folks: George Bogdanich has been getting excellent press. Set forth below is a review of his movie which appeared in today's NY Times. Coincidentally (?), the paper trashed Harrison's Flower's. As I write, I am listening to Bogdanich being interviewed on our local National Public Radio station. You may be able to listen to the interview later today at http://www.wnyc.org/new/talk/nyandco/nyconew 
  
Luckily, the interviewer knows about his Serbnet connections and has asked him about that. 
  
Set forth below is a letter I wrote to the NY Times concerning the review. 
  
John Kraljic 
 
Op-ed 
letters@nytimes.com 
nb 
 
The Horrors of the Balkan Wars as Shrewdly Staged Illusions 
By STEPHEN HOLDEN 
One of the many unsettling contentions of George Bogdanich's documentary film, "Yugoslavia, the Avoidable War," is its assertion that many of the most horrendous events in the recent Balkan wars were stage-managed for the news media. A number of the massacres and atrocities reported on television with bodies on display, it maintains, were shrewdly planned illusions concocted by the Bosnian Muslims to inflame international opinion against the Serbs. The city of Sarajevo in particular served more than once as an accessible location for deceptive television coverage. 
Although it would be inaccurate to label this documentary pro-Serbian, the film, which opens today at the Two Boots Pioneer Theater, methodically sets out to demolish much of the conventional wisdom about who did what to whom and who was to blame. It insists that a regional civil war that could have been settled without prolonged bloodshed was turned into a major conflagration by outside interference and national self-interest. 
As the United States government has tacitly acknowledged by keeping the press at bay in Afghanistan, public relations and the ability to get your version of events across is almost as important as weaponry in modern warfare. The version of a war that is reported on television becomes the official version that in turn motivates crucial political decisions. 
 
The film asserts that partly because of American television's need for clear-cut heroes and villains, a scenario of good guys (the oppressed Bosnian Muslims) versus bad (the evil, barbaric Serbs) came to dominate mainstream news coverage of the war. After one reporter heard a Serbian use the words "ethnic cleansing," for instance, the term, with its repugnant genocidal associations, was seized on by the Clinton administration as a buzzword and used to bash the Serbs, when in fact all sides were equally intent on "cleansing" their territories of undesirables. 
This heroes-and-villains mentality, the film contends, also served American interests by giving the United States an excuse to preserve and strengthen NATO in the post-Communist era when its relevance had become debatable. 
It allowed us to keep our power base in Europe. The film bluntly calls "an occupying force" the NATO forces (led by the United States) that remain in Kosovo, Bosnia and Macedonia without an official date for withdrawing, and it goes so far as to accuse that 19-nation army of conspiring to commit war crimes. 
Almost anything we thought we knew about the Balkan wars is thrown into question by the film. Did a highly publicized civilian massacre of Bosnian Muslims by Serbs in Kosovo that prompted NATO to intensify the bombing of Yugoslavia really take place? Or did Bosnian Muslims transport the bodies of dead soldiers (not civilians) overnight to the site and then cry massacre? 
And what about the numbers? Subsequent investigations, the movie claims, have shown that the tally of casualties at the hands of Serbs, including the supposed mass rapes of Bosnian women, was outrageously inflated. 
Whether or not you're convinced by the film's assertions, many of which are based on information provided by the Red Cross, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other organizations that investigated reported events after the fact, "Yugoslavia, the Avoidable War" does an impressive job of relating the complicated history of the war and of filling in the background. Some of that background has been overshadowed by the designation of the Serbs as the villains. The Croatians, it reminds us, collaborated closely with the Nazis during World War II in the slaughter of 750,000 Serbs, Jews and Gypsies in their territory. 
As for the Bosnian Muslims, the film says there is ample evidence documenting Bosnians' alliance with Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network. 
Mr. bin Laden was a regular visitor to the office of Bosnia's president Alija Izetbegovic in early 1993, a time when the United States was lauding his commitment to moderation and multiethnic cooperation. 
As the meticulously chronological account of the Balkan wars unfolds event by event, failed peace initiative by failed peace initiative, "Yugoslavia, the Avoidable War" leads you to a no man's land of doubt. 
The truth, of course, was never as black-and-white as it is has been painted for us. It rarely is. 
YUGOSLAVIA, THE AVOIDABLE WAR 
Directed by George Bogdanich; directors of photography, Michael Moser, Vladimir Bibic, Dragan Milinkovic, David Hansen, Joe Friendly and Predrag Bambic; edited by Mary Patierno; title song, "Road to Hell," by Chris Rea; produced by Mr. Bogdanich and Martin Lettmayer; released by Hargrove Entertainmnet. At the Two Boots Pioneer Theater, 155 East Third Street, East Village. Running time: 165 minutes. This film is not rated. 
 
WITH: Sanya Popovic (Narrator) and Lord Peter Carrington, James Baker, Lawrence Eagleburger, Hans Dietrich Genscher, Nora Beloff, Susan Woodward and Ted Galen Carpenter. 
+++++++++++++++++++ 
 
Letters to the Editor 
The New York Times 
229 West 43rd Street 
New York, NY 10036 
 
Re: "The Horrors of the Balkan Wars as Shrewdly Staged Illusions" By Stephen Holden, March 15, 2002 (Movie Review) 
 
To the Editor: 
 
Stephen Holden notes that it would be "inaccurate" to portray George Bogdanich's film "Yugoslavia, the Avoidable War" as "pro-Serbian." That is certainly a surprise to those of us who have known of Bogdanich's Croat, Albanian and Bosnian bashing ever since the outbreak of the war in Croatia in 1991. 
 
That Bogdanich continues in this vein is seen by the supposed reminder of Croatian collaboration with the Nazis during World War II. No doubt Mr. Bogdanich conveniently forgot to mention the substantial role played by hundreds of thousands of Croats in the Yugoslav Partisans. His demonization tactics are further evident by his exponential inflation of the number of victims of the Croatian Ustashe. 
 
What is most surprising is that The New York Times, which extensively reported on the war in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and whose own reporters wrote from first hand experience about the genocide inflicted by Serb forces there would uncritically accept Bogdanich's contentions that the various bombings and massacres of Croat and Bosnian civilians 
was self-inflicted. 
 
Very truly yours, 
  
  
John P. Kraljic 
President, National Federation of 
Croatian Americans 
 
 
Write to: letters@nytimes.com 
 
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