DEFENDING AMERICA
David H. Hackworth
May 3, 1994

BLOODBATHS IN THE BALKANS: NOT A NEW FAD

During a reporting trip to Yugoslavia last year, I hooked up with a Bosnian Serb patrol. We halted in a , outside Sarajevo, where the patrol leader ordered his men to dig up a grave -- which seemed weird, considering the occupant died in 1944.

When they struck the rotten casket top, the men climbed out of the hole, lined up and, on command, ceremoniously urinated on the casket. Then, again on order, each soldier sprayed a clip of AK-47 fire into the casket.

The Serbs are meaner than blind rattlesnakes and can get very venomous with nosy reporters, so I asked, as carefully as possible, "Why?" I was told the disinterred was a "Muslim Nazi, who had butchered Serbian women during World War II "He vas a bad man," snarled the leader.

While visiting a Muslim unit in Sarajevo, I saw a group of soldiers gathered in a bunker watching a Mozart concert on TV. What cultured people, I thought. But as I walked outside, a sniper on top of the bunker fired at an old Serb woman gardening 800 yards away. Her head exploded like a pumpkin struck by a sledgehammer. "Count out another one of the pigs," the female Muslim shooter screamed.

Early one morning, a Croatian sniper shot a 10-year-old girl in the leg just outside the Muslim village of Grabvica. She lay in an open field, and, when her screams attracted rescue attempts, the sniper was able to kill three Muslim civilians. No one else tried to get to her -- she was bait in a hideous killing game. By the time darkness provided the concealment needed to get to her, the child was dead.

Apart from greedy arms merchants and ultranationalism, religious and ethnic hatred is the main factor driving the Bosnian three-way civil war madness.

Bosnia is composed of people from three significantly different ethnic tribes, each with their own religion: the Catholic Croats, the Greek Orthodox Serbs and the Muslims. All three groups have their fair share of nuts who hate their neighbors with a serial murderer's terrible logic and passion.

The hatred started in the 1100s when the Ottoman Empire invaded the Balkans, snapping up Serb and Croat land and importing the Islamic religion. It's only grown worse over the past 900 years. During World War II, all three sides joined with either the Axis or Allies, each using the war for their own genocide agenda to finish off the others.

The Nazi Germans, revengeful Nazi Croats and Muslims cheerily created their killing fields and concentration camps and holocausted tens of thousands of Jews and Orthodox Serbs. To further add to the bloodbath, a coalition composed of every ethnic group came together under Croatian leader Josip Broz's (aka Tito) Allied-supported banner and proclaimed themselves Yugoslavians' partisans. They killed tens of thousands of Croats, Muslims, Serbs and their German masters in a brutal no-holds-barred guerrilla campaign.

At the war's end, an iron-fisted Tito consolidated the country, causing all the fanatics -- at least those who wanted to live -- to sit on their rage. They were more afraid of communist Tito's absolute rule than the religious and ethnic devils dwelling in their minds, or their desire to settled old scores and get back their turf. Tito's death in 1980 freed them once again to run amuck.

What's happening in Bosnia is a mirror image of the centuries-old bloodletting still terrorizing Ireland. U.S. intervention in Bosnia -- or Ireland for that matter -- be it with bombs or boys on the ground, won't change the mind-set of hate and revenge.

For reasons unknown to me, except perhaps to benefit the booming global arms business, the United Nations and the United States give the arms embargo mainly lip service. The current blockade has more holes in it than that disinterred Muslim's coffin. It's a joke.

Stopping the flow of bullets into the former Yugoslavia won't stop the killing, but it would slow it down. With nothing to shoot, the killers would have to revert to weapons of old: swords and spears and rocks and clubs. Making the blockade work to wind down the Balkans' blood-bath should be the United Nations' No. 1 priority, not Clinton-NATO bombs over Bosnia.