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by Chris William Erdman
The Dead Zone
The headlines were eerily familiar, their sequence predictable, as in a recurring nightmare. August 5, 1998: Kosovo: Serbs Roll As West Watches; September 9: Serbs, Ethnic Albanians Trade Atrocity Charges; September 16: Kosovo's Crisis Is Bad, and Getting Worse; September 30: New Massacres by Serb Forces in Kosovo Villages; October 2: The Killing in Kosovo; October 3: U.S. Sets Deadline for Bombing Serbs; October 9: New Kosovo Refugees, Many Ailing, Scramble to Survive; October 14: Milosevic Accepts Kosovo Monitors, Averting Attack.
When was it that we saw those headlines, with just a few words changed, datelined Bosnia? Two years ago? Five years ago? A century? Time moves so fast. And did we learn anything from that time? Can we learn something still?
Books chronicling the horrors of genocide in the Balkans are not bedtime reading. I know: I've spent too many evenings reading these books, then tossed and turned through sleepless nights hoping to shake the images seared into my soul by these graphic texts. My nights and days are haunted by a whole host of troubling questions. What drives a Serb guard to force a Muslim prisoner to bite off the testicles of another prisoner? How can a human being crush another man's skull under his boots, cut off a woman's breasts, force a father to rape his own daughter, then command prisoners to bludgeon each other with sewer pipe—all without going stark raving mad? That's just the trouble with what happened in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and now in Kosovo: the dividing line between sanity and insanity, between heaven and hell, is terribly thin and alarmingly fragile. With frightening ease, men and women stepped over a line and fell into a world that would appall Edgar Allan Poe and sicken Stephen King.
These books are a witness to that descent, a testament of unimaginable and unbearable brutality, a free-fall into a new moral universe in which there is no law, no conscience, no limitation. Brought face to face with the dark side of the ...