Bosnia is the United Nations’ first major experiment in nation-building, and the experiences of this multiethnic/multicultural state provide discouraging evidence that the “international community” is no more virtuous or high-minded than the old rogues who governed nation- states. Take the case of Thomas Miller, the United States ambassador in Sarajevo, who is rumored to have conspired a year ago with Milorad Dodik, then prime minister of the Bosnian-Serb Republic, to divert $500,000 of an American aid package to the Gore/Lieberman campaign. This claim, made privately by a former minister in Dodik’s government, has been confirmed by another highly placed source in Banja Luka, the capital of the Republika Srpska (RS).
The alleged deal was simple: Last July, Ambassador Miller is said to have arranged a multimillion-dollar USAID grant for the RS budget. Once the money arrived in Banja Luka, half a million was allocated to the prime minister’s “discretionary fund”—over which he had exclusive control—and promptly sent back to the United States as his contribution to the Gore/Lieberman campaign. This was not the only payment to a Western political figure from the fund (the existence of which Dodik admitted in a television interview last November), but it was the largest single disbursement. The source insists that Miller was behind the scheme but does not know whether the administration or “Gore’s people in Washington” were aware of what was going on: “It is possible that Ambassador Miller arranged it all on his own initiative, because he is a committed Democrat—just like all other key U.S. officials in Bosnia: Jacques Klein, U.N. mission chief in Sarajevo, Ralph Johnson, first deputy high representative, and Robert Berry, OSCE mission chief They all rooted for Gore, and Miller is known to have expressed his concern for ‘the future of Bosnia’ if Bush won. And he could not conceal his fury at the outcome of the election dispute in Florida.”
When some revelations of Dodik’s corrupt practices—including the first partial disclosure of the Gore deal—were published by the Banja Luka magazine Extra last February, it looked like the cat was out of the bag. Interestingly, there has been no follow-up. It was widely expected that the new government of Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic would make public the results of an investigation into his predecessor’s practices. This has not happened so far, and our sources indicate that Dr. Ivanic is under heavy pressure from Ambassador Miller and other American political heavyweights in Bosnia not to do so.
Their motives are easy to understand. Dodik was persona gratissima in Bill Clinton’s Washington —Madeleine Albright once described him as “a breath of fresh air”—and the proponents of “continuity” of the U.S. policy in Bosnia want to keep him in reserve as a tried and true quisling. He could come in handy if they are allowed to play the next act in their arcane Balkan game: the scrapping of the Dayton Accord in favor of a centralized Bosnian state. Even after Dodik’s crushing defeat at last fall’s RS general election. Ambassador Miller was promoting him for a ministerial position at the federal level in Sarajevo. Because Dodik’s reputation for greed and graft has made him odious even to the Muslim politicians who had found him useful in the past, he was unsuccessful. In addition, Mr. Miller, a protégé of Richard Holbrooke, may have strong personal reasons for wanting the new RS government to keep quiet about some of Dodik’s shenanigans. If the allegations are corroborated, it could mark not only the end of his diplomatic career but the beginning of a criminal investigation once he is back in Washington.
The cover-up may not hold for long, however, because Miller has stepped on too many toes during his tenure. He has openly campaigned for the “non-nationalist” parties in Bosnia’s elections and earned the lasting wrath of both Serbs and Groats, who resented his support for the Muslims’ preferred model of a centralized Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Serb member of the tripartite Bosnian presidency, Zivko Radisic, even asked for Miller’s recall because “his activities in support of his preferred political parties and personalities in Bosnia are incompatible with the proper role of a diplomat.” The Groats are equally resentful of Miller in the aftermath of the clampdown by the “international community” on their stronghold in Mostar, which included a raid on the vault of the bank used by their main political party.
Even if the Bosnian Serb government is bullied into silence, our source says that it should be possible to learn the truth about any misuse of USAID funds from Deloitte Touche Tohmantsu (DTT) and KPMG, as those two companies manage the consulting and lending program that makes USAIL^ the largest lender in the RS and Bosiria. Right now, the source claims, DTT is covering up malfeasance in its Bosnian projects: “An effort is under way, sometimes desperate, by DTT to prevent an independent investigation of what is behind observed suspicious behavior in its project. They probably know if the alleged contribution to the Gore campaign has been made, but there is reason to suspect a corrupt connection between the DTT project and Dodik, and to expect that Ambassador Miller will go out of his way to thwart an independent investigation.”
If there is a scandal involving foreign aid, it won’t be the first since the “international community” started its involvement in post-Daj-ton Bosnia. In the summer of 1999, the office of the high representative—the U.N. Gauleiter in Sarajevo who wields the real power in the hybrid “country”—confirmed that more than one billion dollars had been lost in postwar Bosnia through tax evasion, customs fraud, or embezzlement of public funds. Much of that money was simply stolen from international aid projects, worth over five billion dollars in 1996-1999. Another form of institutionalized corruption involves international bureaucrats who lobby local politicians on behalf of companies from their countries. According to our source in Banja Luka, “The British dominate the so-called Independent Commission for Media, and they swiftly tailored the privatization of the Bosnian television system so that British companies appear as best qualified potential buyers. The Bosnian tsar himself, High Representative Wolfgang Petritseh, tirelessly demands that Austria Telecom be granted the license as the second mobile-phone provider for Bosnia-Herzegovina. His deputy, Ralph Johnson of the United States, is involved in setting up consolidated public utilities for gas and electrcity so that they can be sold off more easily to foreign investors who fit his bill. Lower down the scale, foreign bureaucrats-especially those from Eastern Europe and the Third World—are involved in large-scale smuggling of American cigarettes that arrive from Montenegro and are then shipped via Bosnia to the European Union.”
Foreigners have absolute power in Bosnia. The results were to be expected. As for Ambassador Miller and his crony Milorad Dodik, watch this space.
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