1990s >> 1995 >> no-1095-november-1995

Book Review: ‘Slaughterhouse – Bosnia and the Failure of the West’

Labyrinth of lies and propaganda

Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West, by David Rieff (Vintage £8.99)

Written by a journalist who has worked almost continuously in Bosnia since the war began this recently published book gives penetrating insights into a number of aspects of the Bosnian conflict, focusing primarily on the role of the West.

One of the most persistent myths about the Yugoslav wars, especially that in Bosnia, is that they were caused by “ancient hatreds”, with Serbs, Croats and Muslims straining to get at each others throats for decades, but only able to do so when the collapse of Tito’s federalism allowed them to slip the leash. In actual fact the violence that occurred in Bosnia’s ethnically mixed towns and villages was deliberately stirred up by Serbian Nationalists, often by means of the most extreme terror. Rieff describes the common method of placing a gun or knife in the hands of a Serb villager and ordering him to kill a Muslim neighbour in front of other villagers. If he refused (and apparently many did) he was shot on the spot and the process was repeated, A young Cetnik interviewed by Rieff in Bosanka Krupa boasted that: “By the third house, they’re shitting themselves and asking you where you want the Muslim shot, and how many times.” And yet this same youth goes on to tell Rieff that before the war he had many Muslim friends, attempting to explain this by saying: “But I didn’t understand many things at that time.” Apart from the young man’s naïveté this shows clearly that Bosnia was not torn apart by “ancient hatreds”, but by a very modern nationalist poison that has left thousands dead and thousands more traumatised and brutalised.

Anyone who wants to find their way out of the labyrinth of myths, lies, distortions and propaganda peddled by western politicians and their lackeys in the media about what is happening in Bosnia; and who wants a graphic illustration of just how hypocritical, duplicitous and cynical the capitalist great powers are, even with regard to the international laws they themselves have made, would be well advised to read this book. For those who wish to remain blind to the facts and dismiss this as just another war between mutually aggressive neighbours with heroic western peacekeepers caught in the middle, keep taking the tabloids.

Ian Simpson

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