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 »  Home  »  Media Watch  »  (E) Britain's low, dishonest Balkan decade - 2 articles of interest
(E) Britain's low, dishonest Balkan decade - 2 articles of interest
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  11/18/2001 | Media Watch | Unrated
(E) Britain's low, dishonest Balkan decade - 2 articles of interest
2 articles of interest: Unfinest Hour: Britain and the destruction of 
Bosnia by Brendan SimmsBritain's low, dishonest Balkan decadeMarcus Tanner13 
November 2001 
 
  
 
This is a book about grovelling: that is, a book about how the British 
establishment – Parliament, Army, Foreign Office and Fourth Estate – 
grovelled before Serbia's murderous dictator Slobodan Milosevic and his storm 
troopers in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995. Let's start with a photograph. It shows 
General Sir Michael Rose, British head of the UN peacekeepers in Bosnia, 
having what looks like a fantastic time with a mass murderer, Ratko Mladic, 
later indicted as a war criminal by the Hague tribunal. 
 
 
Rose is a central character in the book. Running what Brendan Simms cites as 
a "a cross between a third-rate public school and a brothel" in his Bosnia 
HQ, he epitomised everything that was rotten, wrong and plain wicked about 
British policy in the Balkans. The book shows him to have been a 
mean-spirited bully towards the Muslims, and obsequious when it came to 
dealing with Mladic. Such was the climate of philistine Islamophobia at 
Rose's HQ that when he chanced on President Izetbegovic listening to 
classical music, he wondered how a Muslim could possibly appreciate its 
"Christian sentiments". 
 
 
As Simms makes clear, Rose was not isolated in his doltish prejudices. All 
the departments of the British state and the two main political parties were 
as good as united in the belief that helping Bosnia (and Croatia) survive the 
Serb onslaught meant subscribing to some mysterious German conspiracy to take 
over the world. This phobia informed Britain's hostility to the American 
proposal to "lift and strike", meaning lift the arms embargo on Bosnia and 
strike the Serb armies encircling Sarajevo. 
 
 
This opposition took Britain far down the road towards condoning Serbia's 
genocidal war aims. Listen to this. "The Serbs are one of the bravest, 
fiercest, most patriotic races on earth and always have been – Greater Serbia 
is a dream that will never die." The voice of Milosevic? No, this is a 
British MP, Sir Peter Tapsell, in May 1995, three years after the gigantic 
massacres in the Drina valley and two months before Mladic exterminated the 
entire male Muslim population of Srebrenica, all 7,000 of them. 
 
 
And here is Tam Dalyell, the revered Labour "Father of the House", coming up 
with the strange remark that the Serbs could not be guilty of ethnic 
cleansing because the Bosnian Muslims were not an ethnic group; they were the 
grandchildren of apostate Christians who had betrayed their faith under the 
Turks. Where did Dalyell get this tripe from? It sounds just like history 
according to Tanjug, Milosevic's "news" agency, which churned out mountains 
of pseudo-historical rubbish throughout the war. 
 
 
There is a happy ending of sorts. In 1995 the Americans put Britain back in 
the box. They did what all the British generals and their smart-arsed media 
allies said was certain to bring the house down: they lifted and they struck. 
And no, there was no new Nazi German Reich and no Third World War. What 
happened was that the Greater Serbia that Tapsell had confidently prophesied 
fell apart, and Sarajevo's miserable three-year siege ended. 
 
 
Some books are hard to put down. This one is hard to pick up and read for any 
length of time, so excruciating are the remarks and actions it records. Talk 
about a low, dishonest decade! Reading it made me want to throw my passport 
on the nearest rubbish heap, so total is the indictment not merely of the 
British state but of the British intelligentsia, too, from top to bottom and 
left to right. And how curious that two of the handful of parliamentarians to 
emerge with any credit on the business were David Trimble and Iain Duncan 
Smith. 
 
 
Here we are, a few years on, and wondering why so many Muslims round the 
world – not to mention here – distrust and despise our much-proclaimed 
"values". Want to know why? This book provides part of the answer. 
 
 
The reviewer's book 'Ireland's Holy Wars' is published this week by Yale 
 
 
Also from the null sectionThe 50 Best collection 
 
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 -->Book Reviews 
 
Melanie McDonaghMonday 12th November 2001 
 
 
Unfinest Hour: Britain and the destruction of Bosnia 
 
Brendan Simms Penguin, 462pp, Ł18.99 
 
ISBN 0713994258 
 
 
This is an important book, and opportune. It's not just that Slobodan 
Milosevic is back in the dock at the International War Crimes Tribunal in The 
Hague, threatening to tell all about the "green light" that British and other 
western politicians gave his operations. It is the whole international 
climate that makes this polemical history so timely. Britain and America are 
busy building up an international coalition of Islamic states against 
fundamentalist terrorism, which embraces some of the vilest and most 
repressive regimes in the world, including Sudan and Saudi Arabia. But if you 
cast your mind back a decade - difficult, I know, for those commentators who 
think forever in the present tense - there was rather a different scenario. 
 
 
A European country with a history that long predated the Ottoman conquest, 
which had been recognised by the international community and had a majority 
of Muslims quite unlike those with whom we now have to deal (viz, C of E in 
temperament), was violently dismembered. That was Bosnia, whose war was 
lazily described as a civil war. It wasn't. Without the actions of the 
Belgrade government in arming and directing the minority Serbs, and without 
the arsenal of the Yugoslav army, let alone the propaganda directed from 
Serbia, it would have been impossible for this conflict to have happened as 
it did. It became a complex, multi-sided war, but the origin was simple 
enough. It was an attempt by the Bosnian Serb leadership, backed by 
Milosevic, to cleanse the greater part of Bosnia of its Croats and Muslims. 
It was an end usefully summed up by that silky euphemism, ethnic cleansing, 
and it was achieved with remarkable swiftness (70 per cent of the country was 
cleansed in the first few months) by systematic terrorism, mass rapes, 
detention/murder camps and conspicuously horrific massacres. 
 
 
The worst single massacre of all happened right at the end of the war, when 
Ratko Mladic's forces murdered more than 7,000 men in Srebrenica. He remains 
at large. And when the mad mullahs, from Bradford to Islamabad, start to list 
the iniquities of the west against Islam, they mention not only the bombing 
of Iraq, but Srebrenica, too. What such people wilfully ignore is that the US 
was not to blame for the west's role in that massacre. Quite the contrary. 
The Tory administration in Britain was principally responsible for the policy 
of intervention in the Bosnian war on the wrong side. 
 
 
Brendan Simms subjects the policy of Douglas Hurd to merciless analysis; it 
is remarkable, really, how easily John Major can be discounted on the major 
foreign policy issue of his premiership. But his responsibility - as well as 
that of lesser lights such as Douglas Hogg and Malcolm Rifkind - is no less 
great because they were civilised and, in the case of Rifkind, intelligent 
people. As the author puts it: "Britain played a particularly disastrous role 
in the destruction of Bosnia. Her political leaders became afflicted by a 
particularly disabling form of conservative pessimism which disposed them not 
only to reject military intervention themselves, but to prevent anybody else, 
particularly the Americans, from intervening either." 
 
 
Impartiality in the conflict would have been one thing, but Britain's dual 
policy of the arms embargo, which favoured only the Serbs, and its promotion 
of a series of plans for ethnic partition in Bosnia translated into taking 
the Serbian side. The US policy of "lift and strike" (plus Afghan-style food 
drops for the enclaves ) was a coherent alternative to full-on ground 
involvement, but that was vetoed by the Brits. As for the humanitarian 
effort, Simms sees it, for all its palliative effects, as an alibi for 
political and military non-intervention. 
 
 
For all its measured lucidity, the author's tone is one of contained moral 
indignation. An academic historian and a lecturer in international affairs at 
Cambridge, Simms is good at anger management, even though his main argument 
is that Britain's finest made a bloody hash of the conflict in Bosnia. The 
book is based on sources available at the time to everyone. There's no 
first-person pain, no privileged insight - none of the "I was there and it 
was awful" human-interest journalism. This is a cogent moral argument. 
 
 
Melanie McDonagh reported on the war in Bosnia for the London Evening 
Standard, among other publications 
 
 
Brian Gallagher 
distributed by CROWN (Croatian World Net) - CroworldNet@aol.com 
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