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Zimmerman - Origins of Catastrophe: Yugoslavia & Its Destroyers (1999)

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This is Warren Zimmerman's informative book Origins of a Catastrophe - Yugoslavia and Its Destroyers (1999) where America's last ambassador to Yugoslavia offers an authoritative diplomatic history and firsthand report of events leading up to the conflagration that destroyed that east European state. In this candid insider's account he recounts the failures of American and European diplomacy to prevent a catastrophe that was, according to Zimmerman, not only foreseeable but entirely preventable. The most chilling pages depict Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who looked the ambassador in the eye, puffed on his Italian cigarillos, and stated that "Serbia has nothing to do with Bosnia." Making short shrift of such arguments as that the country was a tragedy waiting to happen and that it was impossible for its diverse ethnic groups to live together, the ambassador lays the blame for the "catastrophe" squarely on the various republican leaders whose selfish interests overrode the goal of maintaining national unity. He leaves no doubt that the architect of the genocidal war that followed upon the breakup of the state was Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic. One of the most intriguing parts of the book is the author's reports of his meetings with Yugoslav politicians who played roles in their nation's demise, including Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and Ante Markovic, the last prime minister of Yugoslavia. From the vantage of hindsight, Zimmerman expresses regret that he didn't recommend the use of force by the U.S. and its allies to stop Serbian aggression as early as 1991. He also blames the Serbian Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church in Croatia for their "disgraceful role by exacerbating racial tensions." Origins of a Catastrophe argues the official line that Yugoslavia was destroyed from the top down by vicious politicians and as a consequence of failed economic policies. For a casual observer, especially those who watched countless hours of TV "news" propaganda, this may indeed seem so. Yet behind the scenes an incredible picture of a concerted effort of disintegration of Yugoslavia emerges and played by many actors, both inside the country and all around the world. Their goal seems to have been to use the already preexisting national/ethnic tensions and monetary breakdown to split the big train into smaller national vagons and later attach them one after another to the expanding European Union. 290 pages, few pictures. A must read for everyone.