Archive for the Europe category

January 16th, 2013

Roots of Fascism:
Hesse’s essays on Dostoevsky

Two odd essays, from 1919, the year of Demian, are interesting re the roots of what we’ve come to call fascism.

I’ve copied the first here — on the Brothers Karamazov.

April 6th, 2012

20 Years After:
Two Trips to Sarajevo

Last year Minka Prolic, in whose home I stayed during wartime visits to Sarajevo, passed away.

Here then is some old journalism — Two Trips to Sarajevo — about private life in the city under siege, focused on Minka, her husband Hazim, their son Haris, and their extended family.

Comments about the stories and photos may be placed here below.

Many photos — enriched with comments from Sarajevans — may also be found on my Facebook page, in an album open to the public, whether Fbook members or no. Search there for William Ney, New York, N.Y., with education refs at CUNY Graduate School and St John’s College.

January 21st, 2011

Pasternak’s granddaughter loathes the new translation of
Doctor Zhivago


August 25th, 2010

Notes for DYING DAYS

Posted in Bosnia et al., Movies, Writing by ed

When things get too confused on the screen, go to paper.


March 16th, 2010

Third novel: Dying Days

It has begun.

What the Dice Man has joined may none put asunder.

If your brakes don’t work, smile as you go under.


What’s he building in there?

This is actually a conversion of a screenplay, the antepenultimate, my fifth, from 2005, into a novel. Thought about doing it before. Now it seems to have gone and …

Oh brother.

The opening paragraph seems to be:

In June 2004, after five Medecins Sans Frontieres were found murdered in the middle of nowhere in Afghanistan, Aaron called, for the first time since coming to New York with Maya. Long out of touch had been the pattern of a friendship born and first aborted in Texas, then again at Duke, before settling down to disjointed maturity during years of criss-crossing work overseas. Since the rebirth of History the routine had been that to meet for coffee one went to Baghdad or Bosnia or Berlin.

That, or perhaps:

He would miss his turn.

And so on to the end.

If we shall suppose that writing lengthy bits that no one shall ever read is one of those offenses which, in the providence of Dog, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both Yea and Ney this terrible task as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living Dog always ascribe to Him?

Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of lore may speedily pass away.

Yet, if Dog wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the pen man’s sore head and hands and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the quill shall be paid by another drawn by the horde, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, “The judgments of the lord are true and righteous altogether.

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as Dog gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

November 9th, 2009

Twenty Years On:
The Berlin Wall
and Alexander Zinoviev

Posted in Europe, Goodbye to All That by ed




Again, on the anniversary: My little memoir of when the world changed.

Today’s NY Times coverage. Including a first report of Clamor in the East.

A Berlin Wall Quiz at Germany’s Der Spiegel.

Great coverage there.

The East German colonel who opened the first portal.

Nice to see Gorbachev on the streets today in Berlin.

But his partner, willy nillly, in peaceful disassembling, Lech Walesa, offers only backhanded compliments.

Here’s Gorby’s successor, the young Russian president Dmitri Medvedev, as to how the Wall’s fall “united us again.”

“Again?” one might wonder, thinking of the Teutonic Knights battling Alexander Nevsky, and of course the recent war.

But Germans and Russians were indeed allies (of a disorganized sort) against Bonaparte. And for much of early modernity German royalty and high footmen ran the Russian state. That famous equestrienne Catherine the Great, to begin …

I recall Alexander Zinoviev, during a wondrous six-hour chat in Munich in March 1990, suggesting I beware a renewed bonding of Germany and the eastern colossus:

ZINOVIEV: What do you think, the possibility of world war does not exist? It would be a very big simplification to consider the situation in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union only from just one point of view. …

TNC: Assuming that the states involved want peace — perhaps that’s a large assumption — what’s the best solution of what they call the German Question of reunification?

ZINOVIEV: Best solution? For who, the Soviet Union?

TNC: For peace.

ZINOVIEV: For peace ?!

TNC: To prevent a world war.

ZINOVIEV: It is too abstract an approach. The unification of Germany from my point of view will increase the danger of a new world war. Germany can destroy the balance in Western Europe and the world.

TNC: What about NATO and Warsaw Pact? Should Germany be neutral —

ZINOVIEV: Warsaw Pact doesn’t play a very important role. The East German army is ready to be destoryed, to join the West German army. The Czechoslovakian army is nothing, the Hungarian army is nothing — Warsaw Pact?! What is the Warsaw Pact?! it is the Soviet army! The Soviet army and Western Europe.

From the military point of view, for the Soviet Union, it is no longer necessary to keep its army in Eastern Europe. Today’s weapon is of such a kind that the Soviet Union can send its rockets to the United States, you know, and if it is necessary to occupy Eastern Europe, the Soviet army is able to make that in two days.

Gradually, it seems to me, there is going to be a struggle between the Soviet Union and the United States. The Soviet Union wants to push the Americans from Europe. I thought some years ago that it was ready to betray, to sell, East Germany, under conditions that the Americans would leave Europe.

Together with Germany, the Soviet Union can control Western Europe completely. It lost East Germany, but it can win the whole Germany. As a partner. Not only a trading partner, but a military partner, perhaps. It is senseless to divide the different aspects of life.


Gorby & Erich Honneker, Oct 6, 1989, as Raisa looks on.

October 12th, 2009

Radovan Karadzic on trial

Ed Note: See comments across time to follow the progress.

Radovan Karadzic, political leader of the Bosnian Serbs in the early 90s, will go on trial next week.

A Guardian piece looks forward to that — and back to Srebrenica. Very much worth reading.

See here for a primer on War Crime law, such as it is.

And see here for a reminder of what all the shooting was about.


March 16th, 2009

Deja vu all over again:
PNACker promotes
perpetual world war.
Obama-Gates-Mullen: Me too


The Times in the person of familiar fool-tool Thom Shanker explained this weekend why the Pentagon must be redoubled to fight not just one, not just two, but several wars, indeed many, simultaneously …

The piece focuses on Gates and anonymous brass, and is clear that the movement to re-tool the Pentagon for perpetual occupation of new far flung places (and thus for continual “counterinsurgency” warfare) is front and center.

This unilateral militarist movement became policy with the installation of Bush-Cheney, after a struggle during the 90s, post collapse of Soviet Union, among the hearts & minds of Washington and Wall Street.

And Obama — by making no changes atop the Pentagon and hiring generals to run most of the remainder of the foreign policy establishment — is doing little more than shout Me Too.  No Change We Need.  Very little change at all.

While the policy is not eccentric, Shanker quotes at some length a familiar Beltway cretin named Donnelly selling it.

Donnelly was the “Principal Author” of Rebuilding America’s Defenses — that manifesto of global conquest issued in September 2000 by Likud Lobby organ The Project for the New American Century (founded in 1997 by Perle, Wolfowitz, baby Kristol, the Kagans, etc, to promote a US war on Iraq).

Sounding like Rumsfeld, Principal Author Donnelly encourages Obama to sound like Cheney:


Thomas Donnelly, a defense policy expert with the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said he believed that the Obama administration would be seeking to come up with “a multiwar, multioperation, multifront, walk-and-chew-gum construct.”

“We have to do many things simultaneously if our goal is to remain the ultimate guarantor of international security,” Mr. Donnelly said.

“The hedge against a rising China requires a very different kind of force than fighting an irregular war in Afghanistan or invading Iraq or building partnership capacity in Africa.”


Preparing to win a nuclear war with China is a primary concern of the 2000 manifesto. Consolidating the Pentagon’s new empire in Africa is a more recent now familiar clanging bell.

Donnelly plainly needs a hole to drain the swamp between his ears.

As for Shanker, who willy nilly figured loudly in a disinformation campaign years ago designed, by Brit-Franco interests, to confuse and deflect US policy and thus ease the Bosnian state and people into oblivion … Something more like an Egyptian dungeon perhaps …

But, again, while the salesmanship may here be eccentric, the policy is mainstream, although largely unreported upon in the mainstream.    And so far Obama seems entirely in step with it. Enter the War Room.


November 13th, 2008

Kemal Bakarsic:
The Libraries of Sarajevo …


There has never been a place on TNC to post comments about “The Libraries of Sarajevo and the Book that Saved Our Lives” by Kemal Bakarsic.

Now, thoughts may be posted here below.

October 21st, 2008

Bosnia: Things falling apart in the ill-conceived federal state

Posted in Bosnia et al. by ed

A bad moon rising again.  Everyone who knew anything at the time of the Dayton Accord felt it wouldn’t work. 

Richard Holbroke (the chief architect-salesman) now seems to agree.

July 24th, 2008

War Crime Tribunals – A Primer

What a surprise, this week, to find Radovan Karadzic in custody, and the game still afoot.

Mad Rad. A strange case. Surely nothing stranger than man walks the earth.

One was then led to wonder about the likelihood that the likes of baby Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith might someday be indicted by international authorities for crimes in Iraq, Egypt, Guantanamo Bay and who knows where else.

A friend who knows about these things explains the international legal framework:


1. The court where our friend Radovan is about to face justice at long last is the International Criminal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). As its name implies, this court’s jurisdiction is limited to serious violations of international humanitarian law (war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide) committed on the territory of the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s.

The time-frame of the ICTY’s jurisdiction starts in 1991 and effectively ends a decade later, when the ICTY was told by the UN Security Council to cease issuing new indictments and to wind up all cases and appeals by 2010.

The Russians and the Chinese were particularly insistent on this, but the other permanent members (US, France, UK) did not object too strongly. The only reason our friend Radovan is still eligible for trial is because he was indicted by the ICTY more than 13 years ago and has been on the lam ever since.

See here for details about the ICTY, and the reasons why it cannot charge or try Feith, Rumsfeld et al.

2. There is another famous UN court based in The Hague, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), also known as the World Court. Unlike the ICTY, the ICJ is a permanent court and won’t be told to shut down by the Security Council.

However, it has no jurisdiction to try any individuals. It’s strictly a legal venue where states can turn to resolve disputes about, e.g., the delineation of borders, observance of treaties etc. It’s essentially the large-scale equivalent of a civil court, where one can sue for damages and determinations of ownership and the like.

For more, see the ICJ’s website.

So Rumsfeld & co. aren’t eligible for prosecution in either of the above, simply because the ICTY and the ICJ lack jurisdiction.

3. But there’s also a third court in The Hague, so brand new that it’s still in rented space, awaiting construction of its permanent premises and has yet to bring its first case to trial. That new court is the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Unlike the other two Hague courts (ICJ and ICTY), the new International Criminal Court was not set up by the United Nations. The ICC is a treaty body, established by the Treaty of Rome, which came into effect on 1 July 2002, 60 days ater the 60th state had deposited its ratification of the Rome Treaty.

The ICC can prosecute individuals (not states) for serious violations of international humanitarian law specified in its statute. While it’s somewhat complicated (see the ICC’s FAQ page), the important catch for our purposes is that the U.S. is not a signatory to the Rome Treaty.

4. In short, it’s unlikely Rumsfeld et al. have reason to worry about facing prosecution by the ICC, or by any other international court at The Hague.

The eventuality that should give them reason to worry is cases brought in national jurisdictions — such as the UK court case that gave Pinochet the scare of his life back in 1999-2000, when the retired Chilean dictator came to London for a bit of quiet rest and relaxation and shopping and found himself under house arrest for 16 months, potentially facing trial for torture and other crimes against humanity.

For these reasons (again, the legal side is a bit complicated) the Bush administration’s torturers and enablers of torture, as well as certain Israeli and other officials with similarly murky pasts are well-advised these days to be consult a lawyer before they make their travel plans. See here for more on this heartening new trend.


Ed from the Future says: See comments below to follow the Karadzic trial in October 2009.

March 13th, 2008

Andras Riedlmayer re events in Kosovo

Posted in Bosnia et al. by ed

Ed Note: Andras J. Riedlmayer has been a student of Balkan affairs since his school days. During the Yugoslavian wars of the 90s he became a prime mover in an international effort to reconstitute books and the like destroyed in the war, and in the aftermath traveled extensively in the region researching cultural destruction in support of the war crimes trials at the Hague.

A 1994 print issue of The New Combat featured a piece by András about the war in Bosnia. So, last week, after posting a few distant thoughts about Kosovo’s move for independence, including worries about a resumed shooting war, I asked Andras to clue me in with some particulars. He writes:

Good riddance to Prime Minister Kostunica, who was never a real reformer and whose self-engineered resignation is no loss for Serbian democracy.

Kostunica’s personal popularity and that of his party has been on the decline. He has been trying hard to whip up popular anger over the Kosovo issue and make it his own, but try as he may, as a demagogue Kostunica is at best a poor imitation of Sloba in his prime. The frenzy over Kosovo, the engineered riots in Belgrade, the attacks on foreign embassies, and the toppling of the government are all part of a calculated political gamble. But it’s a gamble that may not pay off if Kostunica fails to deliver on his one promise — that he alone will “save” Kosovo for Serbia.

The beneficiaries of the current political crisis in Serbia are more likely to be the Radicals, who under Seselj’s successor Tomislav Nikolic have been trying to remake their image into something less scary than the neo-fascist party that they are. If the Radicals end up forming the new government — in coalition with Kostunica’s DSS (and Milosevic’s Socialists, et al.), they’ll only be blamed for

(a) having posed as the only party that can stop Kosovo independence, only to be powerless to prevent or reverse it; and

(b) for the economic and political repercussions for Serbia, likely to include political isolation and economic stagnation.

As recently as last month, many Serbs were looking forward to being able to travel to the EU again, as they haven’t been able to do since the 1980s. With Nikolic & Co. running the government in Belgrade, the offer of visa-free travel in the EU and the prospect of increased EU aid and investment is likely to evaporate. Which may finally provide a much needed reality check, both for the Serbian public and for the EU leadership.

As in the 1990s, it’s high time once again for the EU to be disabused of its illusion that the way to “guarantee stability” in the Balkans is by continually rewarding Belgrade for bad behavior. Only last week, EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn was still gamely insisting that Serbia should be allowed to continue its EU accession process without having to meet the precondition of arresting and handing over Mladic first — a concession he believes necessary in order to encourage a “silent majority” of pro-EU citizens in Serbia. But in fact EU concessions on matters of principle, such as the surrender of war criminals, will only serve to embolden the Radicals and their allies, who have already announced that they will cut off all cooperation with The Hague once they are in power.

While the short-term political future in Serbia is not looking good, the 1914 scenario is not something even the Radicals take seriously. Even they recognize that Serbia no longer has the wherewithal to credibly threaten its neighbors, as it did at the time of the collapse of Yugoslavia.

At the outset of the Balkan wars of the 1990s, Yugoslavia had the fourth largest army in Europe with 180,000 active duty soldiers and more than a million trained reservists. In addition, the special forces of Belgrade’s ministry of the interior were trained and equipped to army standards. Milosevic also had at his disposal the infamous paramilitaries, and territorial defense units, and assorted volunteers and weekend cut-throats. The Yugoslav army of the time was well armed and well equipped with thousands of tanks; a great deal of heavy artillery (the better to shell Sarajevo); modern Soviet-made air defense systems; etc.

Since 2004, Serbia’s army has been busy scrapping the bulk of its obsolescent Soviet-model tanks (made in the 1970s and 80s) and disposing of much of the rest of its surplus armaments and facilities. Most of the air force is gone, as is all of the former Yugoslav navy (Serbia is landlocked since Montenegro went its own way in 2006). At present the Serbian Army (VS) is in the process of reorganizing and reinventing itself as a small, all-professional force of 32,000 — as it gets ready to meet standards for eventual NATO membership. But while the scrapping of the old ironmongery has proceeded on schedule, a lack of funds has delayed the acquisition of new hardware and the training of the new, professional force. Meanwhile, Serbia’s Defense Ministry is having trouble paying the pensions of veterans of the wars of the 1990s and of the large number of newly-demobilized troops. There have been noisy demonstrations of Serb veterans demanding their unpaid army pensions.

In short, today’s Serbian Army (VS) is not the threat that the JNA was two decades ago. Meanwhile the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS), the force that Ratko Mladic commanded in the days of his “triumph” at Srebrenica, has now been successfully merged into the integrated Bosnian army. Unlike Karadzic back then, today Republika Srpska Prime Minister Dodik has no army of his own to command. It seems the worst that he and his colleagues in Belgrade can do these days is to pull out the stops on the rhetoric … and instruct police to look the other way as drunken teenagers attack foreign diplomatic missions.

March 9th, 2008

Serbian government dissolves over Kosovo

Posted in Bosnia et al. by ed

Serbia’s nationalist prime minister is calling it quits, having found no resolution of his party’s dispute with their West-friendly president over Kosovo’s recent declaration of independence.

European Union membership for Serbia is on the table. The Serb nationalists are saying it cannot go forward unless the EU states that have recognized Kosovo’s independence rescind that recognition. Fat chance.

Would be more than interesting (shades of 1914) if this triggers something regional, particularly if Moscow decides to assert itself on behalf of Serbia as a way to draw the line on EU and NATO expansion east, which has been ongoing, so provocatively, since Bill Clinton gently blessed the idea in the mid 90s.

(In 1914, on the first day of the 20th century, so to speak, a group of Serb nationalists angry about a proposal in Vienna (the imperial capital) to make Bosnia- Hercegovina an autonomous province, placing it beyond Belgrade’s reach, killed the heir to the throne of the tottering Austro-Hungarian empire.

Austria challenged Serbia, to whose aid big brother Russia came. The bristling German state that Bismarck had lately united then stepped to brother Austria’s side. So Britain and France backed the Slavs to contain the Germans. Weeks later the Western world — Christendom — blew apart. It has never recovered its mind or soul. Thus do civilizations die.)

February 21st, 2008


Posted in Bosnia et al. by ed


I was surprised to hear Bush mention in passing while touring Africa that the U.S. recognized Kosovo’s claim to independence.

In normal times one would assume such an utterance was the result of much discussion and represented the consensus of the US foreign policy establishment. Perhaps even that the Kosovar claim was made only after getting a green light from Washington.

But given what Bush-Cheney have done to international relations and to regard for Washington, and given Bush’s record of casual incompetence, perhaps normal assumptions are risky.

Then again, here today, as the US embassy in Belgrade burns on TV, General Wesley Clarke (who led NATO in Kosovo in the 90s and ran for president as a Dem four years ago) is on the tube endorsing the Kosovar claim with some passion.

So perhaps Bush’s comment does reflect the considered US view.

We still have uniformed bodies on the ground there — Americans being the leaders of the 16,000 NATO force. I remember Gates (secy of defense) worrying about it a few months ago. Worrying about the possibility of escalating obligations there.

If Serb nationalist forces start shooting the peacekeepers, who of the western powers will send in the cavalry? The US seems no longer to have the horses — or is Kosovo our best Iraq exit strategy?

It will be interesting to see how Putin responds [see first comment posted below], and if China (fellow SCO member) sticks with Russia as the UN debate develops. Curious to see how the Bushwhacked NATO alliance will react to the likely unrest.

When, last month, Nicholas Burns abruptly announced he would resign from his perch atop the State Department, I wondered why. He was intensely involved in Yugoslavia in the 90s. Perhaps things returning to a boil in Kosovo had something to do with his move. ?? Perhaps — despite his sympathies — he thought simple recognition ill advised, and didn’t want to be detailed by Rice-Bush to attend to the mess that will now ensue?

I spent a fair amount of time in Bosnia and Croatia 1993-96, during the wars triggered by their secessions from Yugoslavia. Hard to think much has changed since in the mind of the Serb nationalists, for whom Kosovo is more sacred ground than anything west in Bosnia and Croatia.

The US/European backing of Kosovo launched protests in Banja Luka, a sick little city in northwestern Bosnia that practiced “normalized ethnic cleansing” throughout the Bosnian war then became the capital of the silly “Serb Republic” within Bosnia that fell out of the ill advised (but perhaps necessary) Dayton accord. Reuters reports:

In Banja Luka, capital of the Bosnian Serb Republic, protesters demanding Serb independence from Bosnia threw stones at U.S., French and German consulates. They chanted “Kill, Kill Shiptars”, a pejorative name for Albanians.

I confess that the Serb nationalist mind sickens me. As, for that matter, does the Likud mind. The two have much in common: militarism, racism, antique claims on real estate and, fundamentally, religious chauvanism.

This philosophical kinship found practical application during the early 90s, when it was an open secret that Israel was covertly arming the Serb nationalists in their war upon Bosnians (roughly 43% of whom were muslim) and Croatia (seat of the local nazi puppet regime during the early 40s). A wire story from 1/12/95 painted the picture:

“We don’t take sides in the conflict”, insists the [Israeli] Foreign Ministry spokesman, adding: “Because of anti-Semitic sentiments in (Croat president) Franjo Tudjman’s book and the Hizballah-Iran help to the Muslims, you may draw the conclusion where our sympathies lie.”

Today the US lacks not only horses but moral authority in this sphere, given, in particular, the blank check Bush-Cheney gave the Likud (contra Palestinians) as one of their first orders of business in 2001. I suspect Washington’s recognition of the new supposed state will prove largely empty, and that Kosovo will burn and be allowed to burn like Darfur.

Or perhaps we’ll see Russia and China take the lead, as the western powers recede?