Ejup Ganic, second in command to Alija Izetbegovic in Sarajevo, had a traffic accident on the road Sarajevo-Mostar (well that road was not really known for its safety even before the war) just a few hours before the Croatian offensive begun. He was immediately hospitalized in Split, Croatia. Ganic was long suspected by many Croats of being a 'traitor'. In the beginning of the war Ganic supported the idea (which however Izetbegovic and Silajdzic found repulsive) of giving in to Serbs (like forming confederation with Serbs instead of with Croats, and fighting with Serbs against Croats, instead of with Croats against Serbs). He never publicly advocated attacking Croats, and he never openly cooperated with the Karadzic's Serbs. But about two years ago in an interview he said in oblique terms how Muslims are actually Serbs that accepted Islam and how it would be natural to stop that internecine war. Serbs didn't buy it. Izetbegovic overheard it (he kind of reminds me of Ronald Reagan slowly dozing of on all those high-level diplomatic meetings). Tudjman nevertheless fastidiously kept notes.
The Krajina felt in Croatian hands so quickly and helplessly because the brave and invincible Serbian Army performed a full scale 50,000 people vanishing act on Saturday. Now, Milan Martic, their commander calls for re-conquest, Of course this is unrealistic given that they have not been able to defend it with the same force they now want to use to attack it. Soldiers, civilians, their extended families - all 200,000 people that run away in this largest example of 'ethnic cleansing' in the Balkan war yet, were not 'bused' or 'trucked' away at the gunpoint - as this was usual practice applied on cleansed population in Zepa, Srebrenica and less recent places. Serb refugees from Krajina run away lured by the Bosnian Serb Radio aired paranoia hours before Croatian army marched in towns and villages that they held. They run in their own cars, or, for that matter, in cars they stole from their Croatian neighbors who decided to stay in town. On their way they were pelted with rocks and manure and not with mortar shells and grenades. Which is definitely a new and obviously highly effective way of ethnic cleansing. The downside is that you let the enemy healthy able-bodied male population escape the mandatory ritual slaughter. Croatian offensive made Bosnian Serb Army 50,000 men stronger. Now the BSA has the same manpower as the Bosnian government army. So, if the BSA crushes Sarajevo because of that, the international community should be aware of a sacrifice they made Croatian Army make for a presentable p.r.
Internet community can rejoice that this was the first war in history with a dedicated Web page. The war was fully televised, as we are already used to with contemporary warfare. But since Croatian TV (which crew entered every city with Croatian Army) can't be see as extensively as for example CNN, they opted for Internet. Croatian TV created a Web page (few days before the offensive) which it updated hourly with still pictures - images of recaptured townships, Serb refugees, celebrating Croatian forces, maps tracking Croatian army advances, visits of officials (like the U.S. ambassador Peter Galbraith who visited Krajina the day after it's recaptured), damage of Serbian shelling (like a kid without a leg in Bihac), damage (of course, lesser) of Croatian shelling. The page is still there. It has tons of .jpg images. It is certainly partisan to Croats (well, it's done by Croatian state-run TV), but it is not annoyingly and overtly propagandist. To download some fresh pieces of war go to: HTV. (downsides: it is s-l-o-w. Croatia's pipe to Internet is 68kbps. Also, displaying of images is not done thru interlaced giffing) For impatient there is a mirror page served from a U.S. server.
Inspired with the unenviable role of UN protection force in former Yugoslavia, and curious about how do the feel (being hated by all sides whom they are not able to protect from each other), I deliberately decided to put myself in a role of a sarcastic observer in one of relatively benign (at least from a Bosnian perspective) recent NewYorkean conflicts.
On Saturday, August 12, a moderate number of gay community activists marched from Astor Place to Cherry Tavern on 6th street just of Avenue A, shouting on their way: "Whose streets? Our Streets!" which curiously sounded like "Whose streets? Aus- schwitz." They assembled on the opposite side of the street facing Cherry Tavern, which was guarded by three officers and barricaded by blue barricades. Few grinning teens looked disinterested through the iron-fenced Tavern's windows. Police used the Benny's Buritto's outdoors dining area as a 'safe heaven' between the gay community demonstrations and the counter- demonstrations staged by The skinheads on pedestrian crossing on the West side of Avenue A on 6 th street.
Two skinheads seen drinking beer in Cherry Tavern beaten a gay man on that corner. They returned to Cherry Tavern for another beer after beating. Cherry Tavern later cooperated with the police investigation and two perpetrators were arrested. Tavern's bouncer claims that those two were not a part of the regular crowd that frequents the place.
But gays were not pleased with that outcome. So, a gay-community intelligence gathering team was dispatched to Cherry Tavern one evening. At one point they took their cameras out and started taking pictures of a bunch of beer-soaked skinhead kids playing pool. That pissed skins off, which brought more violence to already heated conflict.
The gay community crowd demonstrations featured usual posters and slogans with some of them more event-specific (talking about "hairism"). Occasionally, a lone cry would pierce the air: "Nazis". Speaker (a guy who got beaten in the photographing incident) took an extensive approach to 'skinheads plague', mentioning the killing of Ethiopian student in Portland, Oregon and the similar incident with a Hispanic in Queens, linking both those accidents committed by skinheads in a plausible accusation that all skinheads are intrinsically evil. Skinheads community crowd, from their side of the barrier, featuring no posters, responded with just one 'slogan': "Bullshit." I spotted two most vocal skinheads earlier when they were monitoring the gay group advance to their 'territory.'
The entire event lasted about twenty, twenty-five minutes. Police force was abundant and grumpy, obviously displeased with having to protect people whom they would rather see stab each other. Gays then retreated to their safe grounds in the West Village, while skinheads did a round around the block and back to the Tavern. Bouncer was pacing nervously in front of the Tavern asking everybody who looked suspicious (almost anybody with traces of hair on his head) for ID. Two white-shirted police officers were discussing the safety issues of the event in the middle of 6 th street. One of them was bragging about how he defused some situation, kind of didn't you see stuff. A group of German tourists walked by the Tavern, lively discussing "die zwei Gegendemosntrazionen." They had fun. Patch of alternative journalists with pocket cameras left following the gay group.
All except one: a lady managing editor of The Outlaw Biker. She stayed around the tavern (she was also that defused situation that I mentioned earlier). And I hanged out with her for a while. Mostly because I was too lazy to go all the way to West Village. Tavern's bouncer wore The Outlaw Biker T-shirt, and he was giving instruction to her whom to interview. Not all skinheads have shaved heads, and just a very few of them follow the rigid dress code. Not all of them were white - there are Hispanics, Blacks and Asians among a majority of white kids(well, this is New York, it would be hard to expect any group to manage to be racially "pure"). In the matter of fact - the way how they look they are not much different than the about 60% of those gay rights demonstrants who just left. You can't tell Bosnian of Serbian either. Awgh, peacekeeping is so messy.
The equivalent of the UN sponsored economic sanctions - a boycott - which gay community threw on Cherry Tavern, apparently just made the Tavern cater even more to the skinheads crowd in hope of revenue. Bouncer made a point of being very friendly to every skinheads kid that passed by. This certifies the prevalent importance of economy in any type of situation.
I was allowed in the Tavern but not long enough to scout the male bathroom (which just has to have some interesting drawings or reading matter - it is given for such a place). Well, I'll give it a more closer look the next time when dust settles a little, and a cease fire takes an effect. Anyway, the insides are not particularly different than at any other cheap-beer place in this neighborhood or anywhere else: a pool table, a bar, few inexpensive chairs and tables, a juke-box with plenty of loud and fast alternative rock (Social Distortion was on while I was in). The only thing I recorded as unique to the place is a picture in the corner near the gentlemen's bathroom, featuring a rather large amount of money, called, appropriately, "Money."
The Outlaw Biker editor, blaming the incident on outsiders and picturing the gay community people as such (outsiders, swears that most of the skinheads kids live in the neighborhood. My experience (I lived on St Marks place for 3 years not seeing them around, plus I have few skinheads friends who live in Brooklyn) and observation (one of the skinheads from the Tavern demonstrations took the same train uptown that I took; he got off on 51 st street, probably taking E or F to Queens) tells a different story.
My conclusion? Gay community obviously over-reacted. To a counter-productive effect probably. Skinheads are a social phenomenon: here we have a group of people that generally expect to be hated. They feed on hatred. Because it justifies their somewhat misjudged narrow view of the world. Some sort of reconciliatory educative non-violent conflict resolution project would be recommended. Well, it definitely may work better than shouting "Nazis" and "Bullshit" over a row of policemen who shout "Move on."
A large cockroach emerged on the street in front of the Tavern and amusingly frightened four properly pierced skinhead girls (who did not have shaven heads, though). Everybody was shouting "kill it, kill it." So one of the skinhead guys finished the roach. This roach - the last thing in his life he knew was the sole of a doc martens boot - became thus the next victim of skinhead violence. One of the girls joked that the Animal Rights movement will be now the next to come demonstrating against the Cherry Tavern.
I expect that this article contains a bias towards skinheads (since I was not briefed by any participant of the gay demonstrations). But, also I expect to be taken as partisan and hated by both sides. Which is anyway a fate that awaits any observer.
Just of avenue A on 5th street there is a small pub, with really cool juke-box but with no name or any memorable sight, commonly known as "Sophy's". There, recent off-the-boat Irish and their protestant pals from Ulster, former soldiers of Croatian army together with Serbs (sons from members of the old Yugoslav diplomacy) and skinheads (from Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice) hang out with local artsy crowd shooting pool, playing pinball, rollin' 'em up, and drinking a lot of beer in a perfect harmony. The common denominator: one dollar draft beer.
Conclusion: cheap booze and liberal drug policy are important steps towards the world peace. Living in New York counts, too.