- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 9, 2000

As much as U.S. voters have complained about the blandness of presidential material in Campaign 2000, choices for last month's presidential and parliamentary elections in Bosnia give room for gratitude. Their options included a party founded by a war criminal, a hard-line nationalist Croatian party wanting a Croatian ministate and a moderate multiethnic party, to name a few.

Certified victories for nationalist parties made public last week indicate that the ghosts that helped bring Bosnia to war still stalk the country. For example, in the country's Serb Republic, the nationalist candidate from the Serb Democratic Party, founded by indicted war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic, won the presidential election. The president there can in turn nominate the prime minister. With an expected 60,000 Bosnians returning to their homeland this year, it will be important that the nationalist radicalism that has sharpened, not dissipated, since the war be held in check.

Granted, the Dayton peace accord, which ended the Bosnian war and divided the country between a Serb republic and a Muslim-Croat federation, has done little to help matters. Integration of Serbs, Muslims and Croats since the war is practically nonexistent in the Serb Republic, and in the Muslim-Croat Federation the two ethnic groups live with constant tension. The countries' three war-time armies still train to fight each other. Meanwhile, the West has been an unwitting accomplice in propping up the nation's dysfunctional economy and corrupt politicians. Nationalist politicians and others divert millions of dollars each election period from public utility companies funded by foreign aid, Robert Barry, head of the Bosnian office for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told The Washington Post.

So what's a Western benefactor to do? One option would be to investigate the political and corporate beneficiaries and audit frequently. Most important is making a priority of supporting economic reform at the grassroots level, educating parties that attempt to make democratic changes and increase multiethnic understanding.

This is easier said than done in a country torn by a decade of conflict. But Bosnia has little choice. A war technically ended in 1995 is still embedded in the minds of its people, as well as in the land where they fought. As the Drina River receded this week, body parts stuck out of the sand bank. The bodies were believed to be the remains of Bosnian Muslims killed during the war. These were the latest of numerous mass graves which have gradually been uncovered since the end of the war. The discovery should be a reminder to its nationalist politicians of what ethnocentric extremism can bring.

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