How coincidentally, the evening discussion on Yugoslavia happened on November 29, the day we former Yugoslavs used to know as "Dan Republike", which was then an equivalent of what 4th of July is for the U.S. This made non-Serbs particularly scornful of the event. It seemed as the date was intentionally picked by so-called yugo-nostalgics.
The rest of the evening did not appear to alleviate their doubts. Srdja Popovic did not appear. And other speakers appeared lame if not outrageous. Mihajlo Mihajlov, Former Yugoslav dissident, Radio Free Europe editor and a Committee for Defense of Democratic Dissidents in Yugoslavia president, now a Senior Fellow with the Program on Transitions to Democracy (George Washington University), stood up and claimed in his full consciousness that from all over the former Yugoslavia the largest freedom of the press today was enjoyed in Serbia. Actually in his view Serbia is perhaps the only country that emerged from former Yugoslavia with some freedom of the press. That's because of B-92. Although that independent (though Soros and National Endowement for Democracy financed) and outspoken radio station is impossible to find on a dial if you move half a mile beyond downtown Belgrade, it appeared now as a savior of Serbian democratic tradition. Well, at least now I know why Milosevic didn't arrest or did something worse to my friend Veran Matic (who is editor-in-chief at that station) all the way through the war: he needed Veran, because Veran is his ticket to approval by the free world in the likes of Mihajlo Mihajlov and other well-paid "scholars" and "fellows", who always kind of sympathized with proteges of their wealthy patrons. A man with such an impressive collection of titles sure knows well to appreciate the hand that butters his bread.
Apart from that little incident, the discussion proved worthless because there was no discussion about the media in Yugoslavia before the war and about the role of media in the war. Without understanding of media in former Yugoslavia it is impossible to discuss the present media in that territory. Also, failure to talk about the media as a vehicle to spread ethnic hatred necessary for this war, completely betrayed expectations of majority of the audience. They obviously missed the point and wasted their time: the discussion was organized merely as a promotional effort for certain individuals who have to sell their books.
However, I am glad to have announced it, because I wanted for as many people to get acquainted with how disgusting is the politics of media behind the walls of suffering of people in the Balkans.
From the frontlines: as we all expected, nobody except Clinton's administration is happy with the Dayton agreement. Congress is boycotting it. French are boycotting it. Bosnian Serbs are flatly rejecting it. Bosnian Croats are flatly rejecting it. Russians are very reserved. Bosnian Muslims are very reserved, too. And the president of Iran, Hashemi Rasfanjani claims that the agreement was "unjust". That however doesn't necessary means that agreement was wrong. Congress regularly boycotts President's foreign policy decisions. French regularly boycott American moves. Bosnian Serbs flatly rejected any peace proposal so far. Bosnian Croats are not all that different from Bosnian Serbs. Russians are not very happy with NATO taking over Bosnia, this is of course clear. Bosnian Muslims are not sure what they really want, this is also clear by now. And Rasfanjani thinks that it is unjust that Americans take over Bosnia now, when his Revolutionary Army fighters helped Bosnian Army over past few years to defend its cities. Americans too are not all that happy with Serbs in front of them and Iranian mujahedins behind their backs, remembering the hostage crisis of 1980.
Things do move on, however. Americans are coming as it was planned. The initially undisclosed military base in Eastern Europe is a Hungarian air-force base in Taszavar near Kaposzvar, 180 km south-east from Budapest. Congress slowly moves to support the troops, thanks to Dole's political maturity. Chirac retired his rebelling commander in Sarajevo. Tudjman sacked the rebelling Bosnian-Croat leaders. Milosevic might as well do the same to his Bosnian-Serb proxies in coming week. Rasfanjani will probably take back his troops and satisfy Iran with an economical foothold in Europe through Bosnia (like financing Bosnian Army buying weapons). And Russians and Bosnians are going to get along - after all they are to make profit out of this, so why should they be opposed: Bosnian-Muslims will get weapons mostly from Eastern-European countries (because they are trained to use them) under current American plan (to allow the U.S. to remain "neutral"), which should make Russian military-industrial complex at least a bit happy. Serbs in Sarajevo should not worry as much: after all Sarajevo will remain in French hands under the occupation rules, and French showed great impartiality (sometimes even too great impartiality) in Serb-Muslim conflict. But just to remain on the safe side Karazdic still keeps two French pilots imprisoned in Pale as a bargaining chip.
Tudjman's sacking Hercegovina leadership was probably welcomed in Zagreb, which was for a long time critical of Tudjman's over-reliance on "Hercegovina lobby". Tudjman is a pure autocrat who behaves by the Machiavellian principles, which is not all that bad in this times there: he heavily invested in arming and defending of Hercegovina at the time when Serbs were closing in on Dalmatia. With Serbs shelling coastal cities of Zadar (North) and Dubrovnik (South) at the same time and with the entire coastal region from Zadar to Dubrovnik being cut off from Croatia's railroads, roads, electrical grid, etc. by the Serbs in Krajina, it seemed in a moment that Croatia would loose a half of its long but tiny coastal line. Hercegovina was a natural protection: mountainous region right behind Dalmatia homogeneously populated with Croatian people.
In the beginning of the war in Croatia, Yugoslav Army attacked on two fronts: Dalmatia and Eastern Slavonia. In a decision that left citizens of "nuked" Vukovar with a lot of resentment towards Croatian president, Tudjman gave up Eastern Slavonia at that time and diverted weapons earmarked for Vukovar to Hercegovina (Fikret Abdic helped about transport). This saved Dalmatia. Now with Dalmatia safe and Krajina regained, Hercegovina lost its ultimate strategic appeal, particularly in wake of regaining Eastern Slavonia. Also, with the Washington and Dayton agreement where Tudjman is obviously a senior partner in Tudjman-Izetbegovic firm, he expects to exert his influence over entire Bosnian-Croat federation. Die hard nationalists in Bosnian-Croat leadership suddenly became an obstacle, which was therefore quickly, Tudjmanesque, removed. Tudjman's dictatorial, militaristic style of rule, resented by Croatian human rights, independent media and political democracy activists, is welcomed by the "Great Powers" as a sign of "leadership". Politics was never a nice place to be, wasn't it?