* Â Scratch the surface and you find a Wahabite:
Newsflash: Two Taliban Are Killed in Revenge by Afghans
In an unusual response to a local politician’s assassination, villagers captured and killed two members of the Taliban.Source:Â New York Times
Islam, a work in progress: Ceric with fellow headbangers
February 8, 2009 â€“ 8:39 pmÂ Bosnian Muslim chief Imam Mustafa Ceric has expressed his support for the growing Wahhabi brand of Islam in Bosnia and condemned those who are worried over the spread of this extremist islamic doctrine for “spreading islamophobia”.
* How can this be? Didn’t Rotten Totten and the Lizard army give these wonderful people a ringing endorsement back in December 2008?Â Â Peek a boo, here…
* You can watch Mustafa Ceric shake his scimitar and threaten to kill all Jews in Wilders FITNA, here...
“Those that are accusing us that their situation is bad because of Islam and the ‘new’ Muslims are joining the islamophobia that is us, Bosnian Muslims, old and new remind on the experience of the survived genocide,” said Ceric during the ISlamic prayer on Friday in the mosque in the eastern town of Sokolac.
Ceric also said that to some “new muslims who call themselves Wahhabis” are troubling and that is because these Muslims have “survived genocide and are against the regime of apartheid” that dominates in Bosnia.
Wahhabis have been reintroduced to Bosnia during the 1990s when Bosnian Muslims waged Jihad against Bosnian Christians and invited holy warriors from Middle East to Bosnia granting them citizenship and marrying them off with Bosnian Muslim women.
Bosnian Muslims believe that supposedly a genocide of them occurred during the time when they waged Jihad in the 1990s.
Ceric’s support for the Bosnian Wahhabis comes days after a Croatian cardinal Puljic expressed concern at the growing Islamic extremism.
“There is a certain mentality that is not native to Bosnia. I do not know it well but I know that they call it Wahhabis,” said Puljic. “I speak of this rarely because I immediately get threats.”
After Puljic’s comments, Imam Ceric said publicly that Bosnian Muslims are a capable of meeting modern challenges and that they do not need anyone’s “paternalism”.
Ceric said that “Bosnian Muslims, not the old nor the new will infringe no ones right to life, liberty, property and dignity”.
Puljic’s statements were made during his visit to Washington where he met congressmen and held lectures.
While there, Puljic pleaded for protection of Bosnia’s Catholics saying that nearly half of Croats have left Bosnia.
Puljic also spoke with Steward Jones, Jason Hyland and Rosemary DiCarlo from the State Department.
“It is a sad fact that in those conversations one people were never mentioned, Croatians, not to mention about their rights,” Puljic commented on those meetings.
February 8, 2009
How Willie Clitman and a pack of Western journo’s screwed the Christian Serbs to help the Mujaheddin Â establish an Islamic Jihad-narco statelet
* Slowly, slowly the truth is seeping through:
This important and valuable book complements perfectly the superb volumes onÂ Yugoslavia by Diana JohnstoneÂ (Fools’ Crusade) and Michael Mandel (How America Gets Away With Murder). Johnstone provides essential history and context to the Balkan wars, analyzing the indigenous participants, their backgrounds, motivations and strategies, and the very important role played there by external interveners (the Croatian and Bosnian Muslim diaspora and PR firms, Austria, Germany, the United States, and the UN and Yugoslavia Tribunal [ICTY]). Mandel provides an outstanding study ofÂ the recent U.S. aggressions and the role and abuse of international law and the ICTY in facilitating those aggressions. Brock focuses onÂ the role of the media, which like the NATO powers and ICTY were “co-belligerents,” doing yeoman service in advancing the program ofÂ the individuals, groups and governments that wanted war. “Embedded” journalists did not start with the Iraq invasion-occupation;Â voluntaryÂ embeds were a dominant feature ofÂ the Western media in the Balkans conflicts.Â
The huge irony that Brock reveals so clearly is that the media co-belligerents, pushing relentlessly for more aggressive action, supposedly in the interests of Â stopping ethnic cleansing and killing,Â played into the hands ofÂ parties with a political agenda that assured and produced far more ethnic cleansing and killing than might have taken place without their bellicosity and war propaganda service. The same irony is clear in Johnstone’s and Mandel’s volumes that deal with the ends and means ofÂ the indigenous and external participants. The focus on “justice” as opposed to peace, and the demonizing of the Serbs and making them the unique group needing punishment, was the vehicle used by Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic and his close associates, and Clinton/Albright and Kohl-Genscher and their associates, to prevent a peaceful settlement–most importantly in backing out of the 1992 Lisbon Agreement–and to work incessantly to get NATO to intervene militarily on behalf, first, ofÂ Izetbegovic and the Bosnian Muslims and then the Kosovo Liberation Army and Kosovo Albanians. Brock shows that the media served these pro-violence and anti-peace ends relentlessly and effectively.
He argues convincingly that this was a model case of Â “pack journalism,” and also of what has been called “advocacy journalism” or “the journalism of attachment.” The journalists were quickly convinced that good was fighting evil, or that it was obligatory and less risky to take this as a given, and so they joined the pack and became advocates attached to the supposed good side and their victims. This was aided in the Balkans by the fact that most of the journalists didn’t know the language or history of the area, and that, because of the threat of bodily harm in trying to do real journalism, they tended to congregate in protected areasâ€”many of them, as one cynical observer noted, only reported what they saw “150 meters on either side of theÂ Holiday Inn” (General Lewis MacKenzie).
This made them dependent for “news” on one another and on the official sources happy to service their needs. As they stayed in the part ofÂ Sarajevo controlled by the Bosnian Muslims, they, along with U.S. officials, were the main sources of news, and as Brock notes they were hardly aware of the existence of a large Serb population in Sarajevo, some 50,000 of whose members left or were driven out of the city. The pack were even unaware of the exodus of the Jewish population of Sarajevo (pp. 131-3), quietly threatened by the dominant Muslims and recalling well (like the Serbs) the murderous behavior ofÂ the Muslims and Croats in the era ofÂ Nazi rule during World War II.
The pack journalists in Sarajevo (and elsewhere in the Balkans) were thus highly manageable, knowing the broader truth in advance, dispensing with notions of substantive objectivity and balance, and on the hunt for stories that would both confirm the institutionalized bias–and therefore please their editors at home–and advance the cause that they advocated and for which they campaigned. Journalists like David Rieff, Roy Gutman and Ed Vulliamy openly acknowledged that they were campaigners for more aggressive NATO intervention (i.e., war), and they were by no means alone. But this meant that they had ceased to be serious journalists who would check out the facts and claims of all sides and provide a full and fair picture ofÂ the complex events in the struggle. They would instead gravitate to stories that advanced the cause and would treat them with uncritical zeal. As another cynical observer described it, this meant that Izetbegovic “could play them like a Stradivarius,” and in effect use them as agents of Bosnian Muslim propaganda and disinformation. (The more “balanced” Roy Gutman was played like a Stradivarius by the Croatian information service and U.S. Embassy as well as Muslim authorities.)
This pack and bandwagon process fed on itself. As it focused only on the victimization of the Bosnian Muslims, featuring grim pictures and stories ofÂ their suffering, ignoring Serb victims and context, and aided by the parallel agenda and bias of the ICTY and Western political establishment, the party line ofÂ almost exclusively one-sided evil was steadily reinforced. (Former State Department officialÂ George Kenney’s research disclosed, however, that “the percentage of each population base killed was roughly identical,” and even an ICTY-sponsored study found Serb deaths not far below their proportion ofÂ the Bosnia-Herzegovina population–see Ewa Tabeau and Jacub Bijak,Â Â “font-family: Verdana;”>“War-related Deaths in the 1992â€“1995 Armed Conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina: A Critique of Previous Estimates and Recent Results,”Â Â European Journal of Population/Revue europÃ©enne de DÃ©mographie, June, 2005). Â Gullibility and the demand for more spectacular showings ofÂ evil encouraged increasingly irresponsible reporting and claims ofÂ victimization in “rape camps” and Auschwitz-like “death camps.” The books of these journalists would be what Brock calls “victim epics,” with politically correct selective victimization based largely on witness evidence supplied by partisan sources that was regrettably “unconfirmed.”
Brock has a detailed and convincing deconstruction of the claims ofÂ rape camps and rape as a Serb military tactic and exclusive (chapter 5). While certainly never denying Serb rapes, he shows that there is not the slightest evidence that Serb rapes were more numerous or organized than those of Bosnian Muslim or Croatian forces. He points out that the documentation of Serb rape victims is more extensive and of better quality than that ofÂ victims ofÂ Serbs, despite the sizable resources put into collecting evidence of the latter. The Serb data just never could attract the interest of the pack (and the same was true ofÂ the pack’s treatment ofÂ Serb dossiers ofÂ war crimes and prison camps in which Serbs were victims). The bias confused the mediaâ€”Paul Lewis writing in theÂ New York TimesÂ on “Rape Was Weapon of the Serbs” (Oct. 20, 1993) noted that a UN report had identified “800 victims by name,” but Lewis failed to mention that they were Serb women. The estimates of 50,000 or 20,000 rape victims of Serbs were based on no evidence whatsoever, and the belief that rape was a special Serb crime rested strictly on the overwhelming politicalÂ bias of the pack and superior public relations and propaganda activity ofÂ the Croats and Bosnian Muslims. (A January 1994 UN report evaluating all the documentation on rapes, excluding evidence from the Serbs, listed 126 confirmedÂ victims. This finding did not interest the media.)
Â The media role in this hysterical propaganda barrage, with the best of the reports noting that the claims are “unconfirmed” (!), was a scandal,Â reflecting a media completely out of control and justifying UN official Aracelly Santana’s comment that “I’ve never seen so much lack of professionalismÂ and ethics in the press.” The UN representatives and British officials dealing with the media inÂ Sarajevo looked upon the pack with contempt as a destructive force, some of them even calling its members “the reptiles.”
Brock also has a very good discussion of the famous photo of Fikret Alic, taken at the Trnopolje transit camp in August 1992, another fine illustration of the quest for denigration of the enemy and the lack of scruple ofÂ Western reporters and media. He shows that the three British reporters, two from Independent Television News (ITN) and one from theÂ Guardian,Â sought out the uniquely emaciated man among the camp residents, and carefully arranged for a photo that made it look as ifÂ Alic was enclosed in a fenced prison,Â the reporters having deliberately placed themselves behind four strands ofÂ rusted and sagging barbed wire, strung haphazardly between two posts, with a thin chicken wire mesh hanging beneath, with Alic on the other side. “The cameramen and layout editors cropped the photos ofÂ Alic so that the three or four strands of barbed wire were emphasized.” There was no barbed wire fence around the camp, which was a transit facility and not even a prison encampment, andÂ the refugees in the camp were even free to leave.
But the Fikret Alic picture was quickly seized upon by the Western media, and juxtaposed with pictures ofBelsen and Auschwitz, and the media featured this “death camp” with frenzied indignation and thoroughgoing dishonesty. Compelling evidence by Thomas Deichmann that the photo was a propaganda fraud led to a journalistic bloodbath: “The reactionary attacks from pack-journalism’s interventionists commenced with fury and gusto,” and led to a libel suit and bankruptcy ofÂ the British magazineÂ Living MarxismÂ that had published Deichmann’s article. The suit was lost byÂ Living MarxismÂ not on the ground that the facts in the article were wrong but rather that it had not been proved that there was an intent to deceiveâ€”the huge deception, which happened to fit both the biases ofÂ the reporters, editors and Western establishment, was inadvertent!
This deceptive photo worked wonders in advancing the demonization process and war agenda, and though based on serious misrepresentation itÂ was not correctible in the mainstream and remains alive today (in Emma Brockes’ recent attack on Noam Chomsky inÂ The GuardianÂ she mentions that ITN won its libel suit on this topic, but she failed to note that it was won on the question of intent, not Â on the question of whether the facts relating to the photo wereÂ misleading). And the pack journalists would provide a steady stream ofÂ followup negatives, always one-sided andÂ stripped of context, and often falsifications. Brock has a number ofÂ pages that simply list misrepresentations, sometimes photos of victims identified as Muslims but actually Serbs (see pp. 30-32, Â 122-4, 170-2), and dozens of illustrations ofÂ blatant bias are scattered throughout the book. Brock also shows how regularly the pack journalists would report on Serb attacks on various townsâ€”e.g., Goradze, Mostar, Bihac, Vukovar, and Strugaâ€”never mentioning either the fact that the towns had previously been ethnically cleansed of Serbs, or that the Serbs were retaliating for recent attacks emanating from these towns. The decontextualization and misreading ofÂ the recent sequence of events was standard reportorial operating practice, resting on bias plus uncritical dependence on Bosnian Muslim or CroatÂ sources. (On lies regarding the Serb attack on Goradze, pp. 75-76; Â on Vukovar, pp. xiii-xv; onÂ the remarkable effectiveness of Croat propaganda and lack ofÂ integrity of AP and other Western sources at Struga, Â pp. 42-45; on Michael Gordon’s lies on the numbers in Serb concentration camps, pp. 80-81). Â Â
Brock notes that there were dissenters from party line pack journalism, but he shows that these were quickly attacked and marginalized, in a familiar process. This is the “media cleansing,” that permitted the triumph of “dirty reporting.” Brock himself, having written an article critical of the already closed party line media coverage back in 1993 (“Dateline Yugoslavia: The Partisan Press,”Â Foreign Policy, Winter 1993-1994), was harshly assailed by members of the pack, and the publisher ofÂ his article was also put under pressure and threatened for this deviationism.Â George Kenney, a former State Department official working on the Balkans, who had quit because ofÂ insufficient U.S. intervention in the ongoing wars, changed his views and became a serious critic of the party line. Kenney, like Brock, was quickly subjected to nasty attacks and dropped by the BBC and U.S. mainstream media as a commentator on the Balkans struggle. Even Lt. General Michael Rose, the UNPROFOR commander in Sarajevo, was subjected to slashing attacks by pack members, who resented his frequent confutations ofÂ pack disinformation, and who, as campaigners for the Bosnian Muslims, were angry at the failure ofÂ UNPROFOR to bomb the Serbs (see Brock’s crushing analysis of Peter Jennings’ biased, ignorant and nasty attack on Rose–“The Peacekeepersâ€”How the UN Failed in Bosnia,” ABC, April 24, 1995, at pp. 175-6; and on Jennings’ and ABC’s journalistic abuses more broadly, p. 173 ).
Â Perhaps the most interesting case was that of David Binder, who writes a Foreword to Brock’s book under review here, and who was the most experienced and knowledgeableÂ New York TimesÂ reporter working in the Balkans in the 1980s and 1990s. Binder, however, was not a party liner, having witnessed and reported on the Kosovo Albanians attempts to drive Serbs out of Kosovo in the 1980s and who recognized that important elements of that community were striving for ethnic purification. But with the firming up of the party line in the 1990s his insistence on sometimes reporting items putting the Bosnian Muslims or Kosovo Albanians in a bad light was looked upon with disfavor by his editors. In one notorious case discussed by Brock, Binder wrote an article based on the testimony of numerous qualified UN and military insiders that pointed to the Bosnian Muslims as the source ofÂ the bomb that killed mainly Bosnian Muslim civilians in Sarajevo in the Markale market bombing of February 5, 1994, but which helped sell more aggressive NATO actions against the Serbs. The Times refused to publish the article, which forced Binder to resort to a Swiss newspaper,Â Die WeltwocheÂ and the journalÂ Foreign Policy(“Anatomy of a Massacre,” Winter 1994-95).
Eventually Binder was removed from reporting on the Balkans in favor of reporters like Roger Cohen, Carlotta Gall, Marlise Simons, and John F. Burns, who were prepared to toe the party line–and sometimes disseminated lies, but only lies that reinforced the party line and its biases (see the discussion of John F. Burns below). The treatment of Binder was reminiscent of the removal ofÂ Raymond Bonner from reporting onÂ Central America in the 1980s, after Bonner failed to stop sending in copy on the murderous operationsÂ of Â the U.S.-supported Salvadoran army. The firing of Bonner was widely seen as a warning to journalist deviationists; the removal ofÂ Binder and the attacks on Brock and Kenney had a similar chilling effect. Â Â
Under the pack system, and with the triumph of the demonization process and simple Manichean world view of the struggle, there was a Â massive voluntary embedding and collapse of journalistic standards. The rush was on to illustrate villainy at all costs, a process also notorious at the end of the Kosovo war in June 1999 when NATO-country Â pack journalists rushed into Kosovo searching for rape victims, dead bodies, and stories ofÂ Serb atrocities. In this environment journalistic fraud flourishes and gullibility is great, making the journalists sitting ducks for interested propagandists. If Bosnian Muslim officials claimed 200,000 Bosnian Muslim victims in 1992-1993, that was swallowed uncritically by the media (and Clinton)Â despite implausibility, inconsistencies, andÂ doubts expressed by the likes ofÂ George Kenney. This figure persists up to today–see the editorialsÂ “Bosnia,Â 10 Years Later” in theÂ New York Times,Â Â Nov. 25, 2005 and “Bosnia’s Slow Progress,”Â Washington Post, Nov. 29–despite repudiation even by ICTY-sponsored sources, which have lowered the number for deaths on all sides, civilian and military, to something like 100,000. (See the Tabeau/Biljac study cited earlier.) We may recall the history of the figure ofÂ 2 million murdered by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, first provided by Jean Lacouture in early 1977, then acknowledged by him to have been created out of the whole cloth, but accepted and persisting up to today. The rule for demonized enemies is that the worst is believable and can be institutionalized even if demonstrably fraudulent.
Brock shows that it was a regular practice for the media to swallow and transmit without verification Bosnian Muslim official Â and even ham radio station claims of deaths in various battle zones. These were almost always inflated or entirely false, but the media took the bait, and while disappointed to find later that they had been gulled, neither issued corrections norÂ learned to be cautious. There were no real costs for the journalists or media in making errors damaging to the demonized enemy
Brock is at his best in analyzing the work ofÂ John F. Burns of theÂ New York TimesÂ and Roy Gutman ofNewsday, who shared the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for journalism Â for their work inÂ Bosnia. Brock shows that this award is a perfect manifestation of the corruption ofÂ the “journalism of attachment” and ofÂ the Pulitzer award system, which is an index ofÂ the corruption ofÂ journalism more broadly. The Burns case is the more dramatic, and even funny, as Burns got the award based in large part on a long Times article that focused on the confession ofÂ a Bosnian Serb prisoner of the Muslims,Â Borislav Herak, who confessed to having murdered 29 Muslims and raped eight women. Burns’s article was billed as offering “insight into the way thousands of others have died in Bosnia.”
Burns, who was well-known at the time to be an Izetbegovic favorite, had been given quick access to Herak, along with a Soros-funded movie-maker (whose presence at the interrogation was never acknowledged in the Burns report). Herak appeared very frightened,Â told his story to Burns “partly in the presence of prison officials,” and after one session asked Burns Â to get the prison authorities to promise not to beat him after his testimony! There was no corroborating evidence in corpses or eyewitnesses to his alleged crimes, and a fellow Bosnian Serb arrested with Herak had said right away that Herak was lying. Both Burns and the movie-maker suppressedÂ the fact that Herak had accused UNPROFOR head, Canadian General Lewis MacKenzie, ofÂ having rapedÂ Bosnian women in a local bordello. Burns acknowledgedÂ to MacKenzie that this would reduce Herak’s credibility and spoil the story, but he suppressed the information in violation ofÂ professional standards and in support of lies thatÂ he should have known were lies. Â
Several years later Herak recanted, claiming that he had been tortured and forced to memorize his confession lines. Shortly after this admission two of his alleged murder victims turned up alive. The Times, in reporting on the appearance of the two supposed Herak victims, said that this was an embarrassment to the Bosnian Muslim government, but it found nothing embarrassing in the incident to theÂ New York Times, and there has been no move by the Pulitzer award committee to remove Burns’ Pulitzer award based on a confession under torture with compromising evidence suppressed.
Brock has quite a few other illustrations of Burns’ violations ofÂ journalistic ethics. Burns pioneered in alleging 200,000 Muslim deaths in the warfare as early as July 1993, up from his estimate in April of 140,000;Â and, “venturing less and less outsideÂ Sarajevo, [Burns] consistently reported the government’s inflated casualty counts during the war.” On the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour (Jan. 10, 1994) Burns upped the ante to 300,000 killed and 900,000 wounded. (For other Burns lies, misrepresentations and suppressions of evidence, pp. 77-80, 187.)
Brock’s analysis of the work of Roy Gutman is equally devastating. He shows compellingly that Gutman was notÂ AÂ WitnessÂ to GenocideÂ (the title of Gutman 1993 book based on his dispatches fromÂ Bosnia), but rather an agent ofÂ propaganda provided, directly or indirectly, by parties with an axe to grind. Many of his sources were not witnesses but purveyors ofÂ hearsay evidence from alleged witnesses. Gutman treated his sources uncritically; even speaking at one point of “reliable rumors.” He rarely demanded–and even more rarely obtained and supplied–any corroboration to allegations ofÂ Serb abuse. If the Bosnian Muslims and Croats claimed 100,000 prisoners in Serb prison camps that was enough for Gutman; the fact that the Red Cross estimated that there were only some 10,000 prisoners in the camps of the Serbs, Croats and Bosnian Muslims taken together was of no interest to him; their finding meant that his preferred larger number was “unconfirmed.” His business was making the case against the bad guys, and he didn’t just cut corners in making that case, with the help ofÂ hisÂ badly compromised sources he wrote works of fiction that had some “unconfirmed” elements ofÂ reality.
Gutman located most of his sources with the help of Croatian, Bosnian Muslim and U.S. Embassy intermediaries, most extensively from the Croatian Information Center (CIC), a government propaganda agency whose work GutmanÂ found to be “more or less scholarly.” Gutman claimed to have met a major propaganda agent of the CIC, and Gutman source, Jadranka Cigelj, “by chance,” but he admits to having gotten a number of witnesses (or purveyors of witness hearsay) fromÂ Croatian “charitable foundations” and theÂ U.S. embassy. As one critical journalist (Joan Phillips) put it, his death camp stories “are based on very few accounts from alleged survivors. They rely on hearsay and double hearsay. They are given the stamp of authority by speculation and surmise from officials.”
Gutman was very free in using analogies toÂ Belsen, AuschwitzÂ and references to “death camps” and “concentration camps,”Â “deportations,” and estimates ofÂ Serb death camp killings running up to 5,000, although his word usage and numbers varied based on probable audience knowledge and receptivity. The lack of scruple here was marked, and misstatements were frequent. “It was like Jews being deported to Auschwitz” was a lie, as there was no evidence whatsoever that Bosnian Muslims moved around by the Serbs were going to gas chambers. Phillips notes that the 350 journalists who rushed into Bosnia looking for death camps “didn’t find them, nor did they find any evidence that they existed.” There was in fact never any evidence that treatment in the Bosnian Serb camps was any worse than that in the Croatian and Bosnian Muslim camps, that were of no interest to Gutman.
Brock’s detailed analysis of Gutman’s work (pp. 87-116) is a compelling study in journalistic malpractice that should by read by every student of the media, especially given the fact that the outrageous performance that Brock describes here resulted in a Pulitzer prize, shared by Gutman’s rival in disinformation John F. Burns! Gutman didn’t relish any analysis by Brock, warning him by e-mail that hisWitness to GenocideÂ could “not be quoted under any circumstances.” He didn’t even relish exposure atthe Hague, refusing to testify there, where he would have had to deal with cross-examination.
Brock’s book has many other good things in it, like a discussion ofÂ the role ofÂ George Soros, public relations firms, Germany, the Vatican, and of course the Tribunal as an instrument ofÂ NATO. It is a very important work filling a needed gap in the critical literature on the Balkans wars and enlightening on the work of the mainstream media. It is a sad commentary on the intellectual culture that this book, like that of Johnstone and Mandel, which contests an institutionalized party line, will be ignored in the mainstream.
Equally troubling, just as neither Johnstone nor Mandel was reviewed in the supposedly “left”Â Nation,Â In These Times,Â Â Progressive,Â andÂ Mother Jones, there is a good chance that Brock will join them in being bypassed in favor of less “controversial” works. This is a testimonial to the ability ofÂ imperialism to make an official party line on an imperial project unchallengeable even on its purported left. This is hegemony at its finest. Â Â
‘I was put on trial by al-Qaeda’
The BBC’s Allan Little reported on the Balkan wars of the 1990s, following at close range the fighting between Bosnian, Serb and Croat forces. But, one day in 1993, he came face to face with a different group, the “Bosnian mujahideen”.
BBC correspondent Allan Little reporting from Sarajevo in 1992
A year into the war, hundreds of men from other parts of the Muslim world had arrived in Bosnia. Many had come to train. Some – though we did not know it at the time – had already fought in Afghanistan.We Western reporters knew they were there. What we did not know is that they were already part of a nascent global jihad led by a group whose name was not yet familiar to us: al-Qaeda. We thought them a sideshow – irrelevant to the much more compelling dynamic of the war between actual Bosnians.
One bright cold morning a camera crew and I drove from our house in the Lashva Valley to the town of Zenica accompanied by our translator, a brave and formidable young woman called Vera Kordic.
We made our way quietly through deserted outskirts. We turned into the main thoroughfare. And then we saw them: a column of men hundreds strong marching towards us in ordered ranks.
They wore green uniforms, and bandanas, and carried banners with slogans written not in Serbo-Croatian but in Arabic script. Some wore turbans and heavy beards.
Members of the Seventh Muslim Brigade on parade in Zenica in 1996
We saw the green shimmer of the Saudi national flag, and the red and green bands of the Iranian. They were highly charged, pumped up with a raw, aggressive energy, chanting, brandishing weapons above their heads.Instinctively, we did what TV crews do. We started filming. Suddenly we were surrounded. I heard the cocking of an AK47 at my side, felt a pistol at my temple.
Cameramen are notoriously the most vulnerable of us. They watch the world through a viewfinder and can see only what is on the end of their lens.
Greg, our cameraman, had not seen the pistol at his own head. I told him to stop filming. We were manhandled down the street and into a walled compound.
The foreigners who had come to Bosnia had organised themselves into an independent fighting force known as the Seventh Muslim Brigade. Local commanders had little control over them.
Presently we were led into a room. There, behind a table draped with green cloth, sat three middle-aged men, too dark-skinned to be Bosnian. Throughout what followed, they never spoke.
A local man, bearing the insignia of the brigade, told us we were on trial, that this was a tribunal. I asked what we were accused of. “Spying,” he said.
They began to call witnesses. “Yes I saw the spies trying to run away when they were arrested,” the witnesses said, one after the other.
Â We are the civilian police and we try to uphold the law, but there are so many of them and they are well armed. They do what they likeÂUnnamed police chief, Zenica
I began to doubt the reliability of my own memory. Had we tried to run away? Yes we had run, but only to get quickly into the best vantage point for the camera.The local man asked me whether I understood the seriousness of the charge, whether I understood that the rules of war demanded that spies be shot?
I began to play over and over again in my mind the moment we had made what I now thought of as our fatal error. If only we had turned left and not right. If only we had arrived 20 minutes later, or 20 minutes earlier. We sat and waited to hear our fate.
Three men arrived. They directed us to the town’s police station.
The police chief was large, taciturn, manifestly exhausted. We were in his custody now. He had a piece of paper taped to his door identifying him as the “INSPEKTOR ZA STRANCI” – the inspector for foreigners.
In my anxiety, the title struck me as bizarre. There were no foreigners in Zenica except aid workers and peace keepers and us. And then it struck me. Of course there were other foreigners.
The Seventh Muslim Brigade. The so-called foreign mujahideen.
The inspector sat behind his desk. A young woman, not yet 30 I guessed, slim, pretty, long chestnut hair, sat beside him looking on. “Give me your passports,” the inspector said. Three of us handed over our passports.
Greg said he had left his in the car. The inspector turned to the young woman. “Take this one to the car, get his passport, bring him back,” he said. Greg and the young woman got up and left.
The inspector waited until the door was closed and he had heard the high-heeled clip-clop of her footsteps disappear down the corridor.
“Now listen to me,” he said, as Vera translated.
“I am going to do my best for you, but you are in deep trouble. The foreign Muslims want you shot as spies. This would be a disaster for us, for our reputation abroad.
“But there’s been huge tension in this town since they arrived. We are the civilian police and we try to uphold the law, but there are so many of them and they are well armed. They do what they like.
“Today they’ve come back from the front line and they are fired up. They’ve been going round town smashing up shops that sell liquor, killing people’s pigs and burning the carcasses. It seems Bosnia is not Muslim enough for them.
“I am in danger myself,” he said. “I am distrusted by them because I am a Roman Catholic, a Croat, even though this is my home town.
“The woman who has gone to car with your colleague has been put in my office to spy on me. So please, when she comes back, this conversation never happened.”
And he repeated, “I will do my best for you.”
After a few minutes, Greg and the young woman reappeared. Greg was visibly shaken. The colour had drained from his face.
I asked him what was wrong. He described what he’d seen.
The police station was under siege, he said, surrounded by two concentric rings of men – an inner ring of men dressed in blue police uniforms, with their guns trained out; and an outer ring of men in green, with their guns trained in.
We sat in sullen impotence for what seemed like hours. And then, as quickly as our crisis had emerged, it ended.
The Inspector for Foreigners came into the room. He looked out the window. He said, “Come with me.”
He led us down two flights of stairs to the front door of the station. The Muslim Brigade had disappeared.
“Go to your car,” the Inspector said. “Walk, don’t run. Behave normally. And get out of town.”
Years later, long after 9/11 had changed the world and the war in Bosnia was all but forgotten, I found myself at a drinks reception at a London think tank.
New York’s World Trade Centre after the fatal bomb explosion in 1993
I fell into conversation with a war crimes lawyer who worked at the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia in the Hague.I related this story to him.
“When was this?” he asked. “In November 1993,” I said.
His eyes widened. “Do you have any idea how much trouble you were in?” he said.
“It was a few months after the first attack on the World Trade Centre in New York which killed six people,” he added.
“Some of those guys were already on the run.
“No wonder they didn’t like your cameras around.”
I was put on trial by al-QaedaÂ will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday 8 February and Sunday 16 February at 22.45. Or listen again via theÂ BBC iPlayer.