SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina—The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra offered sweet music last night and will again tonight (see “Ode to the EU, Sarajevo-style”), but if you want a sense of how original sin, newly originating every day, struck this city, please watch this short video featuring graphic images and the music of Seal:
During Bosnia’s latest war, from 1991 to 1995, Sarajevo suffered through the longest siege in history, as the United Nations proved itself able only to make things worse by promising peace, peace, when there was no peace. Bizarrely, some Bosnian Serbs fueled by evil leaders and ancestral grievances dating back to 1389, 1804, 1878, 1912–1918, and 1941–1945 worked in offices and factories much of the week and came to the hills above Sarajevo on weekends to turn the city’s main street into a shooting gallery with human targets.
Remember the commercials from a few years ago: “What do you think this is, a Holiday Inn?” Two decades ago the Sarajevo Holiday Inn was a target, and looking out a lit window could be fatal. It was possible to crouch by a window and peer out at residents desperate for daily bread zigzagging across the street (known as “Sniper Alley”) in the hope of evading death—but many bullets did find their mark, and more than 10,000 human beings perished.
That’s why it’s strange to be marking today just the 100th anniversary of the assassination that began what Woodrow Wilson called “the war to end wars,” which would more accurately be titled “the war that led to more wars.” Many other anniversaries need to be remembered, and the future might not be bright. Now, the country officially known as Bosnia and Herzegovina has a population of 3.8 million with unemployment at 27 percent (official data) or 47 percent (the closer-to-reality stat).
Four months ago, in Sarajevo and two-dozen other Bosnian cities, police used rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannon on protesters who set fire to government buildings. Better than real bullets, which shooters did not use—for now.