With Srebrenica Remembrance Day not long behind us, and Istros Books’ first Bosnian title –Seven Terrors– due out in October, that troubled Balkan country is much on my mind.
As a volunteer in the Bosnian refugee centres during the early nineties, the Bosnian war became my war too – the first taste of mass evil and the inability to stop it.
Finding this review of Ed Vulliamy’s new book (The War is Dead, Long Live the War – now a few months old), I was struck by the terrible truth of the last few sentences…
Few people – journalists, politicians, soldiers – came out of the Bosnian war with much credit. Western generals supped with the bloodthirsty Mladic, western politicians did deals with the dangerous dreamer Karadzic, a lot of the reporting was either partial or not incisive enough. Vulliamy blames the rottenness of the British system, a notion he repeats rather often. For example, he attacks the former foreign secretary Douglas Hurd, who had handled the Serbs with kid gloves while in office, for doing business deals with them once he had left. Personally, I think the basic reason for the widespread feebleness in dealing with the Serbian monsters lay elsewhere. Moderately decent people are out of their depth when they come face to face with the unquestionably wicked, and rarely react with the necessary toughness. 1992 was a repeat of 1938. We failed yet again to learn from history.
Do the moderately decent not have the power to stand up to the wicked?
And is it their ‘moderateness’ that causes them to fail or their deficiency in decency? in other words do only the truly, purely good possess the counter-balance to evil?
These are the questions that haunt me, and haunt the author of ‘ Seven Terrors’ as much as they must haunt Ed Vulliamy.