Warcrimes In Kalinovik

Honoring the dead in Kalinovik (photo: Anadolu Agency)
Honoring the dead in Kalinovik (photo: Anadolu Agency)

Nesteled in the Eastern Bosnian mountains, some 70 kilometres from Sarajevo lies Kalinovik, a small hamlet with a population of 2,500, a drop from the 4,657 it had after the 1991 census, the settlements Bosniaks and Croats forced out of their homes and a large number brutally murdered during the wave of “ethnic cleansing” that swept over large parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the spring and summer of 1992. Some have returned, but the war has decimated Kalinovik´s population. Bosnian courts have by now handed out sentences in total of 71 years’ jail time for crimes committed during the war.

As Bosnian media reported on Sunday 26th of June a commemoration was held for the people killed, raped and tortured by Serb forces in various location around Kalinovik. The commemoration also served as a platform for the survivors and the grieving to point out that that Bosnian courts, prosecutors and investigators had failed to find out the whereabouts of some of the mass graves that contain the as of yet undiscovered remains of 48 victims. The survivors also complained about what they characterized as the irresponsible behaviour of the BiH Prosecutor´s Office when it comes to processing and arresting those suspected for crimes committed in Kalinovik.

During the commemoration the survivors and family members of the killed payed their respects to the dead in front of the primary school in Kalinovik, the school was turned into a detention centre for Bosniaks and other non-Serbs, over 1,000 women, children and men were “processed” through the detention centre. 14 people were killed, 30 women were raped, humiliated and tortured in the school. The survivors and family members also paid their respect to 87 men that were killed in another detention centre called Barutni magacin as well as a barn called Tuzlaka in the village of Ratina where 25 men were executed and then set on fire. According to The Reaserch and Documentation Centre in Sarajevo, 117 Bosniak civilians were murdered in Kalinovik, 89 men and 28 women.

As Faktor.ba reports; this year a memorial plaque to those Bosniaks killed in Tuzlaka barn was also unveiled as a way of remembering the victims. According to the members of a local family and survivor association “Istina – Kalinovik 92” the unveiling of the plaque represents a first step towards finally discovering the full truth and marking all the places in that particular area where crimes were committed against Bosniak civilians during the Bosnian genocide of the 1990´s.

In 1993, veteran British journalist Robert Fisk heard the story of several Bosniak women from Kalinovik, then living in East Mostar, expelled from their homes in Eastern Bosnia about the horrors they endured in Kalinovik and neighbouring Gacko at the hands of Bosnian Serb paramilitaries, and  the “White Eagles”, led by self-proclamied Chetnik Duke (Vojvoda) Vojislav Šešelj, leader of the Serbian Radical Party. The women Fisk talked to described how one day about a dozen drunk Serb militiamen stormed into a school gymnasium in which she and more than 100 other young Bosniak women were being held along with their children. “They came in with guns and grenades and they screamed at us,” said one of the women to Fisk. “They (The Chetniks) shouted at us: “Look at how many children you can have. Now you are going to have our children. You are going to have our little Chetniks.”

According to Fisk the women told them that Serbs were not interested in women excepting babies because they could not make them pregnant. One of the women remembered how her two children clinged to her as she was forced to leave, they thought that she was going to be killed. The woman, named Ziba along with 11 other young women, the youngest, Sanela only 16 were taken to Kalinovik´s only hotel, five of the women, including Ziba were from Gacko while rest of the women were from Kalinovik itself. While Fisk rightly points out that the ordeal faced by the women imprisoned in Kalinovik was one shared by thousands of Bosniak, and non-Serb women in Bosnia at the hands of Serb military and para-military units, what makes the ordeal of the women from Kalinovik so important is the extraordinary detail of their mistreatment. A gynaecologist from Gacko, who had performed seven abortions on the survivors at the time of the story compiled a complete list of names and ages of the women raped, including five girls that were taken away by the Serbs and forced to work as prostitutes. They were never heard from again. The survivors, then living in shell-damaged buildings in Jablanica and Mostar, at the time under HVO-siege, compiled a list of names of the young men who were murdered in their presence, and of at least 71 other women who were machine-gunned by Serb forces in a neighbouring village.

According to Fisk at least one of the women kept a secret diary where she recorded the daily abuse of Bosniak women by Serb soldiers. The women have also been able to name some of their tormentors, all of whom they say belonged to the White Eagles paramilitary unit. The women´s children were traumatised by their experience. Several of the children were held to a table while knives were placed at their throats in an effort to persuade their mother to part with jewellery and money.

As Fisk writes, the horrors of the Bosnian war began for those women in early June and July when Serb forces started rounding up men in the area of Gacko. The women saw the arrests and the murders of several of those taken by Serb forces. According to their testimony one day 120 young men were arrested, 10 were murdered openly, one of the men whom they identified as Šerif Kapetanović, a 70-year-old who had his throat cut. According to the women´s testimonies over a 100 people were killed in Gacko, mostly men and some women and children, ( according to Mirsad Tokača´s Reaserch and Documentation Centre 179 Bosniak civilans were killed in Gacko, 73 of those killed were women.)  the rest were sent to a detention camp in nearby Bileća. As the word of the killings spread to nearby villages thousands of Bosniaks in the surrounding villages fled into the woods of Zelengora mountains. Many were rounded up, the Bosnian Serbs employing the usual procedure of separating the men and women. According to Fisk the men were never seen again, (also not uncommon) while the women were put on buses to Kosovo capital Prishtina  (then under Serbian control) and then to the Macedonian capital Skopje where they were freed by the local authorities and sent back to Bosnian government-controlled territory via Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary. According to Fisk; 200 women were rescued by the International Red Cross as they were being driven by Bosnian Serb forces to an alleged mass grave.

As Fisk points out, these women were the lucky ones. Those still hiding in the woods tried to make it to Bosnian government-controlled territory, and places like Stolac and Konjic, with their children but were caught by Serb forces who took them to Kalinovik.  There was 209 people in total hiding in the woods, among them 24 old men. The Serbs separated the men from the women, the men never to be seen again. 185 women and children were put on six open trucks in the rain and taken to Kalinovik where they were housed in the town´s school gymnasium guarded by men with guns. At first they were treated well by the Serb guards and even brought food and milk smuggled in to them by a Serb girl, but everything changed on August 2d when the old guards were replaced by Šešelj´s men, who were filthy and shouted obscenities at the women. Soon after the sexual violence started.

One of the women Fisk interviewed, Emira, who was one of the 10 women that escaped being raped by telling the Serbs that she had a two-month old baby recalls that the rapists were both cruel and systematic. The girls were dragged out of the room, crying and screaming but there was nothing anybody could do. The other women could hear the shrieks. The children would cry and shriek when their mothers were taken from them.

On February 22d 2001 in what was  then called a “landmark” verdict, the ICTY ( International Criminal Court for former Yugoslavia ) sentenced three Bosnian Serbs for their treatment of women at a rape camp run by Serb forces in the town of Foča in eastern Bosnia. Foča is located some 53 kilometres from Kalinovik. During the massacres and “ethnic cleansing” in the spring and summer of 1992, Serb forces murdered close to 2000 Bosniak civilians in Foča according to the Reaserch and Documentation Centre. The three men, Dragoljub Kunarac, were to sentenced to 28 years in prison, Radomir Kovač 20 years and Zoran Vuković  12 years. The men were charged with torture, rape, and enslavement. During the trial of the three men, the Trial Chamber heard from sixty-three witnesses, sixteen of them had been held captive by Serb soldiers as slaves and subjected to gang rapes by the three men accused and other Serb soldiers and paramilitaries. The women and girls from the Foča area captured by Serb forces were held in various locations before being transferred to Foča Secondary School. Some of the girls were later taken to other places around Foča, houses, apartments and most notably the Partizan Sports Hall. According to the verdict, the conditions in these places were horrible, there was a lack of hygiene facilities and a lack of food. According to the verdcit, it was established that aside from his sexual abuse of women in Foča, Kunarac had also visited the school gymnasium in Kalinovik where the women, girls and and their children were held. It was established that several of his victims had been held in the Kalinovik school gymnasium as well. The verdict also establsihed that there was a widespread and systematic attack on the Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) civilian population of the area.

A 2011 PBS (American Public Broadcasting Services) documentary, I Came to Testify highlighted the plight of the thousands of women that had been systematically raped as a tactic of ethnic cleansing. Above all it told the story of 16 brave women who had been imprisoned by Serb forces in Foča and had decided to break the silence and testifty of what had been done to them. The documentary, focused on among other things the Kunarac, Kovač and  Vuković trial.

Jo Cox´s Bosnia Connection

Jo Cox
Jo Cox

Thursday brought the horrible news of the murder of Helen Joanne “Jo” Cox. Mother of two, member of British Labour as well as Member of Parliament and one of the most prominent members of the British “Remain” movement, fighting to keep England and UK in the European Union and sadly fighting against an increasingly not only openly, but at times vicously xenophobic “Leave” movement. By all accounts Cox was killed as a result of her outspoken belief that Great Britain should remain in the EU. According to the Guardian one witness who lives nearby said he heard the man shout “Britain first” before shooting and during his arrest. According to eyewitnesses Cox was shot three times and stabbed multiple times by her attacker. The police soon after arrested a one Thomas Mair. Soon after photos of Mair standing togheter with members of the far-right Britain First, holding their banner emerged on social media.

The Guardian also reported that special police units who searched Mair´s home found samples of Nazi regalia and far-right literature. Mair was also known to have bought books from a US-based neo-Nazi group, including guides on how to build homemade guns and explosives. American Hate-watch group; SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) published receipts that showed Mair bought, among other books, a manual on how to make a homemade pistol from the National Alliance. Some of the receipts go back to 1990´s showing that interest in and involvement with the far-right goes back at least 2 decades. According to SPLC: National Alliance was the premier neo-Nazi organization in the United States, going back decades. In 1999 Mair bought a manual from them on how to build a gun. SPLC´s investigation into Mair´s purchases in the US showed that he spent over 620 dollars for material from the National Alliance according to invocies from National Vanguard Books, which serves are NA printing imprint, according to SPLC:

Mair purchased subscriptions for periodicals published by the imprint and he bought works that instruct readers on the “Chemistry of Powder & Explosives,” “Incendiaries,” and a work called “Improvised Munitions Handbook.” Under “Section III, No. 9” (page 125) of that handbook, there are detailed instructions for constructing a “Pipe Pistol For .38 Caliber Ammunition” from components that can be purchased from nearly any hardware store.

The NA may be best-known for the work of its now-deceased founder, William Pierce, a former physics professor who also wrote racist novels. One, The Turner Diaries, tells the post-apocalyptic fictional story of a white man fighting in a race war that may have provided inspiration for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh

On Saturday media in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Balkan Insight reported that aside from Cox strong involvement in the Remain campaign as well as her Syria activism she had taken a passionate interest in the Balkans, specially Srebrenica, site of Europe´s biggest post WW2 massacre by among other things running a camp for orphans from the Bosnian town. Cox also gave her first-born child a Bosniak name; Lejla. According to Kate Proctor of the Yorkshire Evening Post she and her husband helped run the camp for families and orphans connected to the massacre. According to Proctor, the spirit of the Bosnian people had a lasting impact on them and the couple named their first child Lejla.

During his first appearance before a judge on Saturday, Mair said that his name was “death to traitors, freedom for Britain”. Mair was also formally charged with the murder of Jo Cox on Saturday. Cox´s murder, the brutality, and the timing didn´t go unnoticed in Sweden. Shortly after Cox´s murder, dozens of Swedes and others across Europe took to social media saying how much the murder reminded them of the murder of Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, 13 years earlier. She was killed by a young Swedish-Serb with an apparent fascination for knives and possibly a grudge against Lindh. According to the killers friends who spoke to Ed Vulliamy, the man who did the reporting for the Guardian, Mijailo Mijailović, Lindh´s killer, decided to kill her after a speech she made in support of NATO´s military intervention against Serbian troops in Kosovo and the NATO-bombings of strategic targets in Serbia and in order to cripple Milošević´s military and it´s movement from Serbia to Kosovo. Aside from her support for NATO´s intervention against Milošević, she had previously supported Bosnia as well.

However in 2011 Mijailović gave an interview for one of the country´s biggest newspapers, Expressen, where he claimed that his attack on Lindh had nothing to do with the NATO intervention, but a general disliking of politicians, both Swedish and Serbian and blaming them for his personal failures. He also said that he attended a political rally with then leader of Folkpartiet, the Swedish liberal party (Ostensibly  anyway) but that he did not have a knife on him, if had he might have attacked him instead.

In the interview he also admitted that he had faked having psychological issues in order to avoid jail. As Vulliamy pointed out in his article from 2003 Mijailović had asked to be represented by Tom Cruise, and claimed that he was Cruise himself. In the interview for Expressen in 2011 he said  that he made all that up, saying that the more you rant the more the doctors will listen, he also said that he played Anders Forsman ( late, renowned professor of forensic psychiatry, at Sahlgernska University Hospital, Gothenburg,) for a fool, adding that  “if you can trick a professor of psychiatry then anything is possible. You say that you hear voices during the attack and he buys it and makes a diagnoses based on made up symptoms. Some psychiatrists are so enthusiastic and kind that they swallow it all up.” He admitted that he wanted to end up in a forensic psychiatric care unit because he believed that you could have a better standard of living there then in prison.

Unfortunatly for him the courts mostly didn´t buy it and sentenced Mijailović to life in prison, Stockholm´s district court sentenced him to life in prison, while a court of appeals changed the verdict to forensic psychiatric care, a verdict that was finally squashed by the Swedish Supreme Court which re-instated the life sentence.

His interview with Expressen also showed that the murder of Anna Lindh was premeditated, he admitted that he saw Lindh on the street before she entered the NK department store and decided then and there that he would kill her. He had a knife on him and followed her into NK looking floor after floor for her before he saw her and struck. His interview for Expressen also showed someone capable of manipulating the system easily, as Vulliamy pointed out in his article from 2003 Mijailović had been in and out of forensic psychiatric care for much of his life up until the murder, for various other crimes including attacking his father with a knife. Given what he revealed in the interview it´s also difficult to rule out political motive, despite, or rather beacuse of his own admissions, given his proven ability to lie and manipulate the system and as Vulliamy pointed out a proclaimed loyalty to Slobodan Milošević. After all his general disliking for Swedish and Serbian politicians could have to do, (aside from blaming personal failures on them), the fact that both Lindh and large portion of the Swedish political establishment ( Folkpartiet playing a prominent role)  had supported NATO´s intervention in Kosovo, and Lindh´s support for Bosnia as well as the fact that Lindh staunchly supported the reformist forces in Serbia, led by Zoran Đinđić who was assassinated in March 2003, seven months before the Lindh murder.

In any case, regardless of Mijailović´s motives, be they personal or political it´s clear that Cox´s murder struck a chord with many Swedes, bringing back painful memories. Lindh´s murder also came days before Sweden was about to vote on entering the Eurozone. Many of us who voted in that referendum remember it as a very tense time, by Swedish standards anyway, still, to be honest it´s difficult to compare it to the viciousness of the Leave-campaign leading up to the upcoming referendum in Great Britain.

Der Spiegel, The Sun and “Balkan Experts”

On April 5th Germany´s Der Spiegel published a highly biased and sensationalistic article about the presence of ISIS or “Islamic State” in Bosnia and Herzegovina. While the problem does exist the article gives space to one of the most notorious apologists for Slobodan Milošević´s crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina and “Greater Serbian” expansionism known today, namely John R. Schindler.

Schindler has become something of a Twitter celebrity, beloved by the right, and the far-right and butt of jokes for the rest of us giving his erratic tweeting which includes warning about impending nuclear war in Europe and praising Adolf Hitler´s and Benito Mussolini´s war record, in fairness to Schindler he was saying that to make a point about how Trump was just a con-man and didn´t have the balls to become a fascist strongman like those two men, because they had seen “The Shit.”

Schindler who was forced to resign from his beloved position as nothing less than a *full professor* at the Naval War College due to among other things inappropriate behaviour including sending phots of his genitals to people as well as trying to dox someone who had written unfavourably about him, is given ample space in the article to claim that  Bosnia “is considered something of a ‘safehouse’ for radicals, and now harbours a stable terrorist infrastructure”  without the journalist Walter Mayr ever asking Schindler what he is basing this on,  given that fact that Schindler has not worked at the NSA for over a decade and has lost his security clearance it seems resonable to ask this. As well as the fact that Schindler´s propaganda tract against Bosnia and in particular Bosniaks; Unholy Terror, was eviscierated by an actual historian and genocide scholar Marko Attila Hoare. In his devastating review (read full article here) Hoare showed that John R. Schindler had based most of his reaserch on what later turned out to be esentually propaganda coming from Milošević ´s Serb nationalist media which Schindler treats as a wholly relible source.

Last year during the 20-year commemoration of the Srebenica genocide I took Schindler to task about his Srebrenica revisionism (read full article here) needless to say he has not yet responded. Of course it didn´t take long before Der Speigel´s  piece on Bosnia was picked up by conservative and isolationist media outlets including The American Intrest and the Little Englander trash rag we all know and love: The Sun. While Der Speigel tried to give an apperance of treating this as  serious journalism while citing known bigots and loons like John R. Schindler, The Sun didn´t bother with that, it took the Der Speigel piece and made it its own. Here below a comment on some of the factual inaccuracies in The Sun piece by Adnan Ćerimagić, analyst for @ESI_eu

Comment by Adnan Ćerimagić

UK newspapers The Sun published an article today under a title:

“Don’t let them in: As Bosnia bids to join EU, experts say ex-Yugoslav state is now ’breeding ground’ for terrorism”

The article is full of factual mistakes and shallow observations. Here are the most striking.

First, the article claims that Bosnia is home to three million Muslims.

“Experts said the former Yugoslav republic, which is home to three million Muslims…”

According to the 2013 census Bosnia’s population is 3.8 million. Although official and full results of census are still not published, most estimates state that Muslims make around 50 percent of population. Bosnia is therefore not the home to three million Muslims but around 1.9 million of them.

Second, the article claims that Bosnia applied for EU membership after being recognized as a candidate country by the EU.

“Bosnia has applied for EU membership after being recognised as a candidate country.”

Bosnia is not “a candidate country for the EU membership”, but a “potential candidate country.” Together with Albania, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, as “potential candidate country”, Bosnia was recognized in 2003 by EU member states. Following Bosnia’s February 2016 EU membership application the country will first have to go through a European Commission led assessment on whether the country sufficiently complies with EU standards to become a candidate for membership. Bosnia could became official candidate country by the end of 2017.

Third, the article claims that the European Commission has pledged more than £1.1billion for infrastructure in Bosnia.

“The European Commission has pledged more than £1.1billion over the next three years to boost Bosnia’s transport links.”

It is not clear to which funds the author refers. What is clear, however, is that the European Commission definitely did not pledge more than £1.1billion over the next three years for Bosnia’s transport infrastructure.

For the sake of argument, if the author refers to EU pre-accession funding made available for Bosnia then of all the countries covered by the EU enlargement policy Bosnia is the only country that is not able to use EU pre-accession funds (so-called IPA) for transport in the period from 2014 to 2017. This is due to the fact that Bosnia does not have a state-wide strategic document for this policy area. Furthermore, total funding allocation from IPA for Bosnia from 2014 to 2017 is 165.8 million Euro. Far from £1.1billion.

If the author refers to the so-called “Connectivity Agenda” for the Western Balkans then following things need to be understood. This initiative is not focused on Bosnia, but on all six Western Balkan countries. The Agenda is based on principle of co-financing. So the European Commission committed itself to provide 1 billion Euros over a period of six years (2014-2020) with the expectation to attract additional funding of 10 billion Euros by non-EU sources. Again, this is for all six Western Balkan countries and not for Bosnia.

Forth, the article claims that Bosnia’s EU membership application in February 2016 is paving the way for Bosnia to become a full EU member state by 2020.

“Bosnian leaders are demanding candidate status by next year, paving the way to become a full member after 2020.

With plans to enlarge the European Union even further, Bosnia is now being lined up to join.”

Author’s claim that Bosnia’s application in February 2016 could lead to full EU membership in 2020 is exaggeration. Over the decades the road from application to full membership in the EU has become ever harder, complicated and longer. The fastest country in the history of EU enlargement on this road was Finland: the country applied in March 1992 and became a full member in January 1995 (less than three years). Finland, however, is more of an exception. Even for Austria it took longer to become EU member than what the author suggests for Bosnia. Austrians needed five years and five months.

The only two former Yugoslav countries that so far joined the EU, Slovenia and Croatia, needed eight and ten years to go from application to membership in the EU. Bosnia’s road will probably take even longer.

Fifth, the article claims that weapons and firearms used in January and November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks originate from Bosnia.

“Bosnian weapons were used in the 2015 terror attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices in Paris.

Some of the firearms used in last November’s IS attacks on the French capital, including the Bataclan theatre massacre, were also sourced in Bosnia.”

During the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack the ammunition used by terrorists was produced by Bosnian Igman Company, a state-owned factory in the town of Konjic south of Sarajevo. The ammunition was, however, produced in 1986. In January 2015 The Telegraph wrote about this and noted:

“The company is one of the five largest ammunition manufacturers in the world, supplying over 30 countries.

Bullets have been stolen from Igman stockpiles in the past. But Mr Marjanac (Zivko Marjanac, Bosnia’s deputy defence minister) emphasised that the bullets were produced almost thirty years ago – and it was impossible to establish how they reached France.”

The assault rifles used by terrorists in November 2015 Paris attacks were produced in Serbia. Not Bosnia! And director of the Serbian Zastava (Banner) Arms factory in the city of Kragujevac told Reuters:

“We have checked seven, maybe eight serial numbers received from the police in our database and found that guns from that particular batch were sent to military depots in Slovenia, Bosnia and Macedonia.”

Sixth, the article then notes that radicals assemble at dozen of places in Bosnia undisturbed by authorities.

“German investigators believe there are a dozen places where Salafists have assembled radicals undisturbed by the authorities.”

Which “German investigators”?

Article also refers to high youth unemployment, UK tax payers money being sent to Bosnia and concludes with a following quote:

“The only way Brits can be sure Bosnian terrorists won’t come here freely, and our money will not be sent there, is by voting to leave the EU on June 23.”

This post is too short to explain how a decade long credible, strict and fair EU accession process for Bosnia is in interest of both the UK and Bosnia. And Europe. And how the EU (and the UK) could (and hopefully will) support positive transformation in/of Bosnia.

This article is only one in series of many shallow and factually wrong articles on Bosnia. When foreign and local observers write about Bosnian political, security, social or economic problems then almost everything is allowed. The storyline is dominated by big words and not that many facts. They cannot be bothered by details.

What is sure is that more articles such as this one will follow. The question is if the Bosnians will have enough capacity, strength and knowledge to counter factual mistakes and shallow observations. And while doing that find enough time, energy and knowledge to identify and tackle real problems. Credible, strict and fair EU accession process for Bosnia would help.

Vita Kränkta (Kultur) Män

kränktis

Ca en timme efter att jag hade lämnat flera kommentarer på Jasenko Selimovic Facebook-vägg om Knausgårds försvar av  författaren och folkmordsförnekaren Peter Handke fick jag ett argt telefonsamtal från Selimovic som gnällde om det jag skrev om Karl Ove Knausgård. Knausgård var inte den ende  (Fd) KULTURMANNEN som var kränkt den här veckan. Jag tänker inte skriva vad han sa men det var fullständigt oacceptabelt och ovärdigt en man i hans position.  Det räcker med att säga att jag hade KRÄNKT Jasenko. Jag tror inte att han hade reagerat så hade om Ozan och Cissi hade skrivit någonting liknande på hans FB-vägg. Jag hade sårat Jasenko djupt…

Nu spekulerar jag bara så klart (not really) men jag skulle tro att kränkningen låg i det faktum att jag hade påpekat någonting som flesta svenskbosnier, eller rättare sagt de svenskbosnier som Selimovic är Facebook-vän med inte visste mycket om. Nämligen det faktum att samma man vars text Selimovic hyllade (Knausgård) var Peter Handkes främsta försvarare under den långa och bitvis bittra debatten som rasade i flera månader i Norge. Det faktum att jag påpekade detta gjorde Selimovic sårbar och sur då han har byggt upp ett rykte som någon som har aktivt kämpat mot folkmordsförnekare de sista fem-sex åren här i Sverige, någonting som har (med allt rätt) gett honom mycket beröm och respekt bland svenskbosnier och eventuellt en del röster för Folkpartiet. Skulle det komma fram att han hyllade en man som hade av den Norska Helsingforskommitén anklagats för “hvitvasking” dvs ett försök att förminska vad Peter Handke hade sagt och skrivit gällande krigen i forna Jugoslavien och folkmordet i Bosnien skulle det va dåligt…(duh!)

Den bekantskapen och FB-vänskapen tog slut den dan 😦 Jag tänkte inte mer på det förrän på kvällen då en vän frågade om jag inte skulle svara på Selimovic kommentar som tydligen förvrängde allt jag hade sagt. Vännen skickade över en skärmdump och som väntat hade jag tydligen sagt både det ena och det andra. Jag kan förstå hans situation och försvaret av Kanusgårds text framförallt med tanke på att hela det svenska borgerligheten är i extas över Kanusgårds självömkande text (enligt säkra källor så ejakulerade Erik Helmersson & Ivar Arpi  medan de läste texten)

Ett svar är på sin plats.

1) Min första kommentar syftade till den långa artikeln där Knausgård utmålade sig själv som offer trots att han publiceras i landets största tidningar, hans böcker säljer som smör här i “Cyklopernas Land” och att det är i själva verket kritiken som han inte tål, att alla kan inte se geniet Knausgård utan att vissa av oss ser en självömkande privilegierad man som uppenbart inte ser hur privilegierad han är. Jag kunde ha uttryckt mig bättre men jag tog mig tiden att läsa en fruktansvärt lång text som fick plats i Sveriges största dagstidning av en man som hävdar att man försöker tysta ner honom (!) och två meningar var det enda jag orkade få fram. Jag var utmattad och ska jag vara helt ärlig: deprimerad efter att ha läst Knausgårds text.  Jonas Gardell förklarade det så mycket bättre & senare även Robin Enander & Aleksa Lundberg.

2) Min klagomål på Knausgård var inte ”allmän” utan jag pekade specifikt på ett antal saker, däribland Knausgårds försvar av Handke som var byggt på halmgubbe-argument. Har man yttrandefrihet så kan man påpeka när någon förnekar eller relativiserar brott mot mänskligheten och folkmord framförallt då offrens anhöriga och överlevare är fortfarande vid liv och den politiken som orsakade folkmordet är också med och plågar landet. Kanusgårds försvar av Handke har dissekerats i en mängd artiklar. En del av yttrandefriheten är rätten att kunna kritisera folk. När det gäller Kanusgårds författarskap så kan jag faktiskt inte uttala mig, jag har inte läst hans verk och min uppfattning om honom kommer utifrån de artiklar han har skrivit här i Sverige och i Handkedebatten.

3) Enligt Selimovic var Kanusgårds åsikt om till priset Handke ”förfärligt oreflekterat” vilket är också ett sätt förminska Knausgårds roll och hur starkt han försvarade Handke. Debatten pågick i flera månader och var bland de smutsigare jag har sett och slagen under bältet kom från Kanusgård och hans bundsförvanter som klamrade sig fast vid halmgubbe-argument och kunde aldrig svara på de många frågor som ställdes av en lång rad insatta människor. Knausgård visste mycket väl vad han gjorde. Om man leker med tanken att det hade rört sig om Nobelpriset i litteratur och utdelningen var här i Sverige och Handke hade försvarats av Åsa Linderborg (hon och Erik Wjik har försvarat Björn Eklund, även om hon verkar ha gått vidare till att vara Putins nyttiga idiot.) eller någon annan från vänster så hade Selimovic inte tvekat utan hade gått till angrepp mot henne eller vem de nu må vara (med all rätt) dock med en svepande ton och passat på att samla politiska poäng genom att anklaga hela vänstern i Sverige och undrat hur de kan se sig själva i spegeln o.s.v Men, skulle Handke bli aktuell för Nobelpriset och han återigen försvaras av Kanusgård så misstänker dock jag att Selimovic skulle vara betydligt lugnare. (En diskussion om Knausgård/Handke och hur lämpligt det var att priset gick till Handke fördes öppet i Norge men Selimovic fegade ur)

4) Jag har rätt att kritisera Handke för hans försvar av Milosevic och hur smart är det egentligen att belöna såna människor med priser som oftast finansieras av skattepengar? Vad skickar det för budskap? Jag var inte ensam om det. Jag har också rätt att kritisera Kanusgård, jag var inte ensam där heller, en rad norska författare och den Norska Helsingforskommitén kritiserade honom också och det hade inte med hans författarskap att göra.  Jag kommer inte sluta läsa verk av författare som har “dålig moral”  är “kontroversiella” eller som har sagt någonting dumt, på mina bokhyllor har jag Hunter S. Thompson,( man har inte levt om man inte har läst Hunter S. Thompson) Ellis, Vonnegut och faktiskt Branko Copic och Miroslav Krleza (som inte är på nåt sätt kontroversiella, vet inte vad Jasenko snackar om????)  …  men jag känner ändå att jag måste dra gränsen någonstans. Jag drar den nog vid  folkmordsförnekelse, och framförallt då offren är folk som jag känner eller är släkt med. Visst är jag självisk? Andra får läsa Handke och Knausgård hur mycket de vill….

Men för att vara rättvis, Jasenko är bara en fotsoldat i en all mer uppskruvad strid och  som varje lojal soldat så gör det han måste. Borgerligheten är i extas över Knausgårds text. Det är därför som ni kommer fortsätta hitta honom till höger om Jonas Khemiri, till höger om strukturell rasism, till höger om Jonas Gardell & Aleksa Lundberg oavsett om de har har rätt eller fel. Som vi säger i Bosnien: Jasenko se bavi politikom. Odjebi Jasenko.

Selimovic kommentar till mig. Tack till D.
Selimovic kommentar till mig. Tack till D.

 

Låt inte Putin få fotfäste i Bosnien

Jag gör en uppdatering på min blogg just nu, vilket inkluderar artiklar som har publicerats i tidningar och nyhetsajter. Den här artikeln publicerades i Eskilstuna-Kuriren  03-02-2015

I september förra året lade den ukrainska regeringen en order hos två bosniska vapentillverkare, värd drygt fem miljoner euro, gällande bland annat pansarbrytande ammunition. Ukraina befinner sig i en otroligt svår situation. Landet utkämpar ett krig mot grannen och jätten Ryssland och det råder inte längre någon tvekan om att ryska trupper är på plats i Ukraina. Ukraina behöver all hjälp landet kan få och de bosniska firmorna var mer än redo att ställa upp. Ryska intressen i Bosnien Hercegovina har dock gjort allt för att affären inte ska bli av. En minister från Milorad Dodiks parti SNSD avgick i protest mot den planerade försäljningen, medan Moskva har gått så långt som att varna Bosnien för att gastillförseln kan komma att strypas.

Fortsätt läsa på Eskilstuna-Kuriren…

The intellectual and the totalitarian – a sad affair

Peter Handke at the funeral of Slobodan Milosevic
Peter Handke at the funeral of Slobodan Milosevic

This article appeared on Friday 19.9.2014 on the website of VG Nyheter in Norwegian as a part of the debate about the controversial decision to award the prestigious Ibsen Award to Peter Handke. Written by professor Øystein Sørensen of Oslo University.

On Sunday, Austrian Peter Handke will receive The Ibsen Award. Handke is one of today’s best-known playwrights. He is also one of those that has downplayed and excused war crimes and genocide in the Balkans. Among other things, he made ​​his mark with a funeral speech for Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian ex-president who was charged with genocide and that certainly would have been convicted of it too.

Handke follows a long and sad tradition. A new book: Intellectuals and the Totalitarian looks into this tradition. It looks at how some intellectuals in different ways and at different times have embraced, legitimized, excused and explained away some of the worst regimes and ideologies mankind has experienced.

In a more conceptual sense, it is a question of intellectuals who have embraced and advocated totalitarian ideologies, or at least have been willing to defend and understand totalitarian regimes because of the ideas they have been based on.

What and who is an intellectual? There is no shortage of proposals for definitions. Here’s a suggestion: Intellectuals working with ideas, their business begins and ends with ideas.

These ideas can in turn be more or less original and good, they may have greater or lesser impact and more or less directly influence on human life and history. But the result of an intellectual’s efforts is ideas. Brain Surgeons and engineers are not intellectuals as such, as brilliant as they might be at their field. They operate brains and construct bridges – the result of their driven activities is something tangible. Adam Smith produced ideas but he never ran a business himself, Karl Marx produced ideas but he never operated a Gulag, and so on.

Now we have Peter Handke as an example of an intellectual who lives in a free and democratic society. On the whole , people like him can mean what ever they want, without it having a particularly large impact. They can even get awards. That is a problem in itself, that so many that live with free speech and by free speech have rallied behind, defended and made excuses for some of the worst atrocities by some of the most bloody regimes.

There will be fierce competition to blink out any totalitarian regime that has been worst for the purposes of the intellectual (and vice versa ) . A strong candidate must obviously be the Communist Pol Pot regime in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979.

Glasses

Among the many grotesque aspects of this regime was that intellectual be killed only by virtue of the fact that they were intellectual . The ideological rationale was , in brief, that the regime should build a new awareness in the population , a new communist man , from scratch. Among the many grotesque aspects of this regime was that intellectual be killed only by virtue of the fact that they were intellectual . The ideological rationale was, in brief, that the regime should build a new awareness in the population, a new communist man, from scratch. The idea then was that intellectuals from the old Cambodia would have strong mental ties to the former regime and therefore had to be cleared away. A spectacular feature of the Pol Pot regime´s rise to power in 1975 was that the capital Pnomh Penh was emptied of people, people who were forced into the countryside. How to distinguish who´s an intellectual under such conditions ? Apparently there was an rule of thumb, glasses – people with glasses were presumably intellectuals and had to be killed.

It ‘s just that the entire leadership of the regime, people who carefully thought out, planned and arranged to carry out the genocide in Cambodia, were  intellectuals themselves. Some of the most prominent was educated in Paris and had thoroughly thought out in advance how to build the new society and creating new people in Cambodia. Some of the foremost used  glasses.

In this story naturally intellectuals in the West who praised , defended and excused the Pol Pot regime also belong. Intellectuals who were at a safe distance from what actually happened ( although some of them did attend carefully arranged tours to Cambodia), which did not have to worry about being killed and not felt that they needed to take some moral responsibility for what the killers did. In Norway this was particularly true for the intellectuals in and around the Maoist party AKP. (ml)

The party’s chief ideologue Tron Øgrim hailed for example the regime in Cambodia as particularly advanced on a Marxist scale, with a “specific and creative application of Marxism – Leninism .”  Øgrim could opt for a “light and relaxed ” atmosphere in Cambodia, with the enthusiastic masses who joined the party leadership , the evacuation of towns and collectivization of land in the countryside. AKP and Øgrim was also, especially internationally, in prominent company.

Trapped by ideas 

So why have so many been so wrong , have made such monumental and grotesque errors and been so arrogantly mistaken?

Here we need to of course make a point that one should not generalize. It is certainly not the case that all intellectuals have been ensnared by totalitarian ideas. Some have shown great personal courage in combating not only these schools of thought, but already existing totalitarian regimes. Yet it is strikingly many people we are talking about. Handke is not a special case.

The answer is obviously complex, among many explanations, let me highlight one set: Human intellectual activity revolves around ideas. Many of them think big ideas about liberation , peace , justice and happiness. Many other things too. They can easily be captured by these ideas. They may be convinced that they have found magnificent solutions. They will probably be convinced that they will be good. what they want is good. Not least, they will certainly be convinced that they know better than others when they hold on to their grand ideas. And before they know it , they risk not only become prisoners of ideas, but prisoners of history.

A shameful award

Ivar Amundsen
Ivar Amundsen

This article appeared originally in Norwegian on the website of VG Nyheter on Sunday 21.9.14 as a part of the debate about the controversial decision to award the prestigious Ibsen Award to Peter Handke. Written by Norway´s honorary consul to Bosnia and Herzegovina; Ivar Amundsen.

 

Handke has declared himself as an unabashed supporter of the Serbian fascism that led to the wars in the Balkans after the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the early 90s. He doted to the Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic and the Serbian leader in Bosnia, Radovan Karadzic. Both were predominantly responsible for the carnage in Bosnia that took over 100,000 lives and both were sent to Criminal Tribunal in The Hague. Handke visited Milosevic in prison there and hailed him later in a speech at his funeral.

In 1996, Handke was asked if he was touched by at all by the Bosnian people’s suffering during the war. He replied: “As far as I am concerned, you can take and put that up your ass.” Statement came just months after the Serbian genocide of 8000 Muslim boys and men in Srebrenica. Two years later he said the Serbs had suffered more in the last eight years than Jews had done throughout the twentieth century. That made Peter Handke a hero among extreme Serb nationalists.

Giving the award to Handke has given rise to a massive criticism in Norway and internationally; especially in Bosnia where this is perceived as a Norwegian sanctioning of war crimes and an insult to the victims. It is a scandal for the government, for Norway, and it draws Henrik Ibsen’s name in the mud. Helsinki Committee organized last Wednesday a seminar on the issue in the House of Literature, but no one from the  jury or culture ministry had the courage to show up.

Jury chairman, Per Boye Hansen, has sat quiet as a mouse and watched the criticism rise. Last Tuesday he came on the pitch. Surprisingly enough he didn´t fall to the temptation to separate Handke’s writing from his extreme statement which are in violation of international law. On the contrary, he made clear that Handke political views were taken into consideration and not disqualified him. Pure words for money!

Here Boye Hansen’s reasoning is actually correct – but the conclusion is wrong. All parts of Handke´s personality should of course fall into consideration – but that should also disqualify him.

The jury has demonstrated extremely poor judgment and morality and has been commended for its decision by an ill-advised minister of culture. The award to Handke should be taken back and the jury for The Ibsen Award deprived of their duties. If it is still being given to him in the National Theatre today at 17:00, those who choose to be present to experience the session will do so with a bland taste in their mouth.