I am reading another Dervla Murphy book, ‘Through the Embers of Chaos’. The harrowing tale of her trips to Yugoslavia before and after the crises of the 1990s, and the role the International community played in creating and perpetuating the disaster that left ordinary people aghast and wondering where their lives had gone.
I quote a little. Her friend, Kamila, is talking.
“we knew how much aid went to the Chetniks, the UN made deals with them, giving them a percentage – the only way, they said, to get the rest to the starving. You won’t read that in any official report! For sure it made the war longer. I want someone to research this but the UN must protect itself by hiding facts.”
” ‘It’s often been mentioned by responsible journalists,’ I assured her. ‘They called it “blackmail” or “a sensible compromise”, depending on their sympathies.’
‘But a serious study is needed,’ insisted Kamila. ‘Also taking in other war zones, like the Sudan.’
`I question Kamila’s argument,’ said Mevlida. ‘Anyway even if Chetniks got one-third, the starving got the rest.’
`Why were they starving?’ challenged Kamila. ‘Because the Chetniks organized hunger to attract aid convoys! People don’t starve in modern Europe. Without that aid, Serbs and Croats would have been selling food to the displaced. And making it possible for them to earn enough to buy food. “Humanitarian relief” was part of one big damaging package. All wrapped up with the arms embargo, and Unprofor mandated to keep a non-existent peace, and ignorant “senior statesmen” flying around in circles making silly plans. The West complicated everything, while complaining about “Byzantine” Balkan politicians. Their interests muddied our waters. By the summer of ’95 the Chetniks were retreating – suppose we’d been well armed from April ’92? We had one big advantage – the JNA’s poor morale. Those ordinary conscripts had no motive for fighting but we had, once the Chetniks attacked – all we needed was weaponry’
I said, ‘This sounds like one of those big “IFS” of history. Without the package, mightn’t Milosevic and Tudjman have carved up Bosnia?’
Kamila suddenly looked weary. She shrugged and said, ‘But now it’s carved up anyway. And outsiders stay here, ruling us. We’ve gone back a century, to imperial times!’”
I leave you to your own conclusions as to why I should be posting this today. Who will tell us, now that Dervla has gone? A phenomenal writer, fearless of either ‘the powers that be’, or the ordinary people in the streets or brigands in the mountain passes she frequented.
If you are unaware of this wonderful writer I advise you to find out more for yourself. Many of her books tell of wonderful adventures in most remote areas, always an ally of the local people she supped with Kings and homeless alike. She grows more political in her later works but no-one tells a better story. As authentic as only the Irish can be.