Posted by: James Atticus Bowden | June 21, 2017

Sarajevo Roses

A documentary about the siege of Sarajevo

Last week an old Army buddy of mine, who is a friend “closer than a brother”, invited me to see the documentary ‘Sarajevo Roses’. It was an engaging, moving, provoking experience. It tied together thoughts and emotions that date from back during the Vietnam War for me forward to today’s wars and coming certain cataclysms.   It’ll take a number of written pieces to put together the puzzle the movie illustrated. Consider this an intro to “Why Neighbors Kill Neighbors.”

Neighbors have killed neighbors since brother Cain killed Abel. Yet, murdering people who are very much like you severely disturbed the West through the aftermath of World War I. The 17th Century Treaty of Westphalia and the 19th Century Congress of Vienna created the illusion of limited war and greater peace across the ancient killing cockpit of Europe. The mega-deaths of industrial age warfare in World War I shocked Western Civilization to its core. Then came World War II. The genocide, crowning a second world war more horrific than the mass slaughter which masqueraded as WW I, shook the foundations of the West. The West questioned its confidence in its own culture.

How could Western Civilization, with all of its success in elevating the human condition, be debased in the mud of World War I and denied in the mass murder of World War II concentration camps?   How could the West descend to barbarism? Why would civilized neighbors kill their neighbors?

Existentialism as a philosophy attempted to answer the insanity of discretionary – and completely avoidable – violence and horror, but failed. Meanwhile, wars and rumors of wars forever evolved the end of World War II into the cold-ish World War III Super Power struggle. The mystery of why neighbors murder neighbors receded in public consciousness as most people got on with living. Then, when the epic struggle of the Cold War ended in 1992 a new war erupted in Europe – and neighbors killed neighbors again. The former Yugoslavia broke up into warring Balkan factions – who murdered each other.

Almost 12 thousand people died in the 4 year siege of Sarajevo. A Norfolk photo-journalist, who experienced much of the war, made a documentary – Sarajevo Roses.

One of the three main protagonists, Asim Haracic, is a psychiatrist in NoVa. He served as a plastic surgeon and ER doctor during the war. He watched the movie with Bill and me. He answered questions afterwards from the audience. He is a dear friend of my dear friend, Bill Stuebner. Bill says he is one of the finest human beings on the planet. Asim is Bosnian Muslim. He’s an American now.

Asim is still trying to sort out why neighbors killed neighbors in his hometown.

Bill served doing humanitarian duties during the Bosnian War. He retired from the U.S. Army at the same time I did – 1992. Later he worked on building the cases for war crimes for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague. Earlier, from 1986 to 1992, Bill saw neighbor murder neighbor in El Salvador. He was a participant and witness for 11 years to two vicious, horrific killing fields in what should be Western Civilization.

Bill hates war.

I know why – even though I’m the unbloodied, wannabe warrior of us two. Bill saw the Heart of Darkness. Bill experienced his wars for what they are, always have been and always will be – evil. There’s no such thing as a good war. I reject Christian Jus Belli concepts – as I have since I was a teenager at West Point thinking through my role and complicity in the Vietnam War.

All wars are evil. Some wars are necessary. Many wars, once fighting begins, are worth winning. Personally, I was willing from age 17 to 60 (when I became legally unfit) to go to any war my country called me to serve.

Neighbors kill neighbors because of evil. Sin. Neighbors might murder neighbors anywhere in Western Civilization – at any time – as shocking as that seems.   When evil is unleashed with the dogs of war to run amuck, unconstrained, among the nicest of neighbors – awful, horrible things happen.

It’s coming again, sooner or later, in a very predictable cataclysm in Western Civilization. Jihad will likely spark a “Jacquerie”. That wasn’t the fight in Bosnia that created the Sarajevo ‘roses’ – which are marks of death on city streets.   Regardless, neighbor will kill neighbor in Western Civilization again.

Let’s see if we can keep it from America.

Asim Haracic and Bill Stuebner



  1. We are likely to mill each other over memes
    and school shaping and university propogands
    Language and demonization of political opponents. Characterizations demonstrably
    untrue in simple surveys. Very few have the
    acumen to explain their positions and
    implications. Even university faculty are

    • Mike, Don’t follow your comment, but understand there are different perspectives.

      • Think I meant kill

  2. I have not seen the film. I have done years of study and discussed both the causes of the war and what happened during the war. I was a strategic defense reform advisor to the Bosnia and Herzegovina government for 4 years, living in Sarajevo for two years with a Muslim family and in Banja Luka for 2 years, traveling throughout the country with Carte Blanch authority backed up by the US, OSCE, NATO, UN, and a special law enacted by the Bosnian Parliament and approved by all three Presidents and the UNHR. I developed relationships of trust with many senior military veterans of that conflict as I (part of a very small select team of retired US officers) went about the serious task of transforming the former three warring armies into one unified multiethnic army. I came to the conclusion from my studies (which have continued for another 8 years) that all stories done about the war for Western consumption are mined with fake facts, exaggerated body counts, and continue to be ethnic faction propaganda done by whichever side is telling the story. In hindsight I believe the US backed the wrong side in this war, swayed by the professional propaganda corporations (i.e., US advertising public relations firms in NYC) hired to seek international sympathy and tens of billions of dollars given to corrupt political leaders and enough military power for their faction to dominate the other two. So I offer caution and skepticism. Not all things are as they seem.

    • MIke,
      Classmate, I don’t think I have any illusions about the Balkans. The Croats, Serbs and Muslims all committed awful, horrific crimes, not war, during the latest conflict. I think Kissinger was right in 92 when he said they should partition Bosnia Herzegovina. I’ve heard about the corruption, deception and propaganda. I’m not the expert you are. Best, JAB

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