Letter: BBC navety in glorifying a Serbian 'war criminal' as a national poet

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Sir: It was with great misgivings that I waited to view the 50-minute film 'Serbian Epics', shown last night in the BBC 2 Bookmark series. Especially after the blurb (the most suitable description) announcing it in the Radio Times indulged in some unpromising mental acrobatics, trying to link the unlinkable: an uncritical view of the tragic current events in Bosnia ('As the Serbs fight in Yugoslavia to regain the land and glory of their medieval empire') with 'a detached look at the epic songs, music and sense of history which drive Serbian identity'.

The promised 'detached look' included some truly mind-boggling scenes. We are thus regaled with a 'detached' view of some thin pedestrian traffic on the streets of Sarajevo through the sights of a heavy machine gun - one of the hundreds of such weapons squatting on the hills encircling this tragic town and picking off at will the hapless civilians scurrying around in their sad task of survival.

We are even shown the jolly and ruddy Serbian gunner squeezing off a long burst after taking careful aim. At whom? Obviously, at those scurrying ants, vermin to be cleansed off the face of Europe by him and thousands of other such jolly and ruddy Serbian gunners glorified by those incredible 50 minutes.

But the nightmarish sequence goes on. We are next shown the same heavy machine gun being expansively offered to the 'visiting' Russian poet Limonov, who, with boyish glee, takes aim and squeezes off a long burst of his own at the vermin. Poet Karadzic playing the jovial host to poet Limanov, indeed]

Or the soft-focused, late-afternoon scene where male-bonding, misty-eyed and clearly tipsy Serbian soldiers relax by singing soulfully the 'detached' lyrics of a Serbian folk ballad: 'And you fair Turkish damsels soon to be baptised by Serbian monks.' You do not have to be a trained cultural anthropologist to detect the mainsprings in the Serbian rural mentality that have effortlessly - but so bafflingly to the European mind - led to the hideous hushed-up campaign of massive rape ('baptism') in Bosnia perpetrated by Serbian warriors ('monks') against Muslim girls and women ('fair Turkish damsels').

The pathetic attempt to present Karadzic as a poet, on that same evening when he was nominated as a potential war criminal in Geneva by responsible statesmen, is truly beneath contempt.

Yours faithfully,



Embassy of the

Republic of Croatia

London, SW1

17 December