Letter: Destruction of a cultural bridge

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Sir: The vandalism of the Croat nationalist HVO, whose shells destroyed the Mostar bridge, is yet another powerful reminder of the descent into barbarism that slowly envelops all those intent on carving Bosnia-Herzegovina up along some imagined 'ethnic' lines.

Instead of pointing out to the likes of Radovan Karadzic and Mate Boban, as well as to the emerging Muslim hardliners in central Bosnia, the practical impossibility and the moral repulsiveness of the idea that Bosnia could be divided, Western powers have continued to regard Karadzic and Boban as respectable interlocutors, thus giving sustenance to their destructive ambitions.

Yesterday, the day after the fall of the Mostar bridge was reported, Radovan Karadzic stated in an interview for the Serbian radio that Sarajevo 'has always been a Serbian city' and that his claim to the city would be the price of any attempt at increasing elsewhere the territory allotted to the Bosnian government.

The implications of this claim are chillingly clear: if there is to be an independent Bosnia, however small, its independence will have to be paid for by yet more suffering and more destruction, since it cannot be expected that any Bosnian government, either mixed or Muslim-led, would countenance a transfer of Sarajevo to the Serbian nationalists.

Exclusion zones around Sarajevo, Mostar and various other endangered areas in Bosnia may well be an impossibility now that the war has intensified so much, but its intensification is in no small degree an outcome of the willingness of the UN-EC negotiators to regard nationalist megalomaniacs as respectable politicians and of the zeal with which all of them together approached the macabre game of redrawing the map of Bosnia.

Yours sincerely,


Magdalen College


11 November