Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Karadzic and the "Highway to Hell"

The title of the "Bosnia's Highway to Hell" series referred clearly to Karadzic's speak on October 14th 1991, when the Muslim-Croat alliance in the Bosnian parliament was attempting to pass a declaration on the sovereignty and independence of Bosnia. Although I refered to this speech, I did not really explain it, which I feel I should, as it is claimed to be a threatening, genocidal speech. Propagandists quote the end of the speech to try to show this, which went as follows:

"Do not think that you will not lead Bosnia-Herzegovina to hell. And do not think that you will not perhaps lead the Muslim people into annihilation because the Muslim people cannot defend themselves if there is war. How will you prevent everyone from being killed in Bosnia-Herzegovina?"

Taken by itself, this does indeed appear like some sort of threat of genocide. But if we look at the whole speech, we can clearly see that this is not the case, as Karadzic explicitly said so himself. The whole speech (or, at least, more of it) reads as follows:

"I'm asking you once again, I'm not threatening, but asking you to take seriously the interpretation of the political will of the Serbian people who are represented here by the Serbian Democratic Party and the Serbian Renewal Movement and a couple of Serbs from other parties. I ask you to take seriously the fact that what you are doing is not good. Is this the road under which you want to direct Bosnia-Herzegovina? The same highway to hell and suffering that Slovenia and Croatia are travelling? Do not think that you will not lead Bosnia-Herzegovina to hell. And do not think that you will not perhaps lead the Muslim people into annihilation because the Muslim people cannot defend themselves if there is war. How will you prevent everyone from being killed in Bosnia-Herzegovina?"

So Kardazic explicitly said "I'm not threatening, but asking you". So you can understand the speech properly, I will now explain the context.

The Serbs were adamently opposed to this unilateral declaration of a sovereign and independent Bosnia, as they wanted to remain in Yugoslavia, not live in an independent and unitary Bosnian state. Izetbegovic had earlier attempted to pass a similar declaration in spring 1991, but backed down due to Serb opposition (I incorrectly stated in Part One that the Croats had opposed it then - they had not, the matter was simply shelved for the time being). This time, however, Izetbegovic was not leaving this controversial and potentially extremely dangerous declaration to the side - he was trying to push it through.

According to the constitutional amendments passed in 1990 by the Bosnian League of Communists, in which they made the transition to democracy, in Bosnia a 'Chamber of National Equality' was supposed to be created. This was expected to consist of 20 members from each of the three nations (Muslim, Serb, and Croat), and would protect national equality. If in regular parliament 20 MPs called for an item to be removed because it conflicted with the principle of national equality, it would immediately be removed, and referred to this Chamber of Nationial Equality. It would then be sent back to parliament for consideration only if there was consensus in that Chamber, ensuring that nothing could be passed (or declared) that one of the nations was adamently against, preventing out-voting of the nations.

However, Izetbegovic and his party refused to have this body constituted. Despite this, the formula essentially worked. Although the Chamber was never constituted, in general whenever 20 MPs called for an item to be removed because it violated national equality, it was done so. It thus worked rather effectively.

So, when on 14 October 1991 this SDA-proposed declaration was being debated, (far more than 20) Serb MPs complained that this violated national equality, as the Serbs were completely opposed, and asked for its removal. However, this time the principle was not accepted. The Serbs' objection was simply ignored, and they continued discussing and preparing the declaration. It was then that Karadzic made his famous speech.

The excert quoted earlier makes clear exactly what he was saying. He was practically begging them to take seriously Serb opposition, and not continue on this attempt to out-vote them and take Bosnia out of Yugoslavia against their will. He asked them whether this path, the path that Slovenia and Croatia went along, is really the path they wanted to take. He was trying to get them to take seriously the fact that this was not good. We can clearly see, then, that the part about the Muslims disappearing was not a threat, as he explicitly said, it was a warning, in the poetic, passionate language typical of Karadzic, of what hell this would lead Bosnia into, and what a catastrophe it would be for the Muslims.

Karadzic was trying desperately to stop Izetbegovic sacrificing peace in Bosnia for sovereignty, as he had explicitly said he was prepared to do earlier 1991. (Serb leaders made similar desperate attempts in early April, when Izetbegovic mobilised the territorial defence for war against the Yugoslav People's Army and the Bosnian Serbs. They called up Izetbegovic in shock, asking them whether it was really true he had orded mobilisation, saying that this would cause a war. Izetbegovic, however, refused to recall the mobilisation, and war ensued.)

So that basically explains that famous speech of Karadzic, which my Bosnia articles alluded to but did not really explain.

As I stated at the end of the Sandzak article, I am too busy to really make any more posts until July. It just occurred to me that I needed to explain this, but, unfortunately, I cannot spend more time on this.


Anonymous chris said...

hi thank you for explaining what was in these peoples minds when they spoke i truly believe you were prey to their most intimate thoughts and plans when NOBODY else was even their political army colleagues i notice you leave out the refugee crisis which he failed to stop and the wars of seperation which he also failed to stop. (having seen photos of serb heads hanging on afghan fighters belts in kosovo and serb army officers executing muslim people) why are the ethnic peoples of these areas not allowed self determination. i believe you are wrong as you fail to reference any facts only opinions . the facts are milosevic could not control his own government and therefore he could not stop his country being destroyed. we limit any mans power in this country to 12 years i advise your country to do the same. "Only the winner writes the history books"....winston churchill.

2:14 PM, March 20, 2006  
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