AP: “Hungary puts inmates to work on border fence”

Arsenal Bolt: Quick updates on the news stories we’re following.


Last month from AFD: “Border fence politics comes to the EU”

Yesterday, Associated Press: “Hungary puts inmates to work on border fence to bar migrants”

Using materials prepared by inmates in Hungarian prisons, 900 soldiers will build a fence along Hungary’s border with Serbia by December to stem the torrent of migrants, officials said Thursday
Prime Minister Viktor Orban says Hungary does not want any migrants from outside Europe. But over the past months, 80 percent of the refugees requesting asylum in Hungary have come from war-torn countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Most leave within days to richer EU countries like Germany before their asylum claims are settled.

The government’s anti-immigrant billboard campaign and a questionnaire sent to voters linking migration with terrorism have been criticized by the U.N.’s refugee agency, among others.

Orbanism Rising.

My War

New video game review: “This War of Mine”

Scavenging in the ruins of a bombed-out school, Pavle was able to locate wood, water, scrap parts, tobacco and vital medicine for his compatriots. Icy temperatures had led to an outbreak of sickness in the ruined building that Pavle and three other survivors were squatting in to avoid snipers. I had neglected to build a vital furnace in the early days of the game. Pavle’s nighttime excursions, which often meant dodging armed patrols and hostile civilians, were critical for gathering the food and supplies necessary for the daily struggle for survival in “This War of Mine.”

An image from one of the trailer videos for "This War of Mine."

An image from one of the trailer videos for “This War of Mine.”

Released last month on Steam for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux by the Polish company 11-Bit studios, “This War of Mine” is a gritty, haunting simulation of life during the Siege of Sarajevo in the war in Bosnia. By day, you race to construct everything from armchairs to moonshine stills. By night, you must risk everything to find the supplies vital to survival. The game is reminiscent of Minecraft in both its addictiveness and the depth of its crafting system. I played for hours straight, angrily restarting when I felt I had done a poor job of gathering resources (or when my characters started starving). Before long, you are anxiously cooking food and carefully apportioning supplies, lest any of the characters you’ve become invested in die from wounds, sickness, starvation, or suicide.

The game forces you to make complex moral decisions that could potentially affect your group’s morale. If you aid the various neighbors who come calling for your assistance, you will lose a player for the night but increase the happiness of your group. Steal from from a family and, despite the necessities of survival, your group might get angry. Sometimes it pays to do both — I once traded medicine to a sick old man and then cleaned out his basement of rare supplies and weapons, darting out the back exit when the old man’s son came to check on the noise downstairs. In another incident, Zlata raided a supply crate with a neighbor and I was later offered food and cigarettes by soldiers if we ratted out our neighbors as supply crate thieves (I refused). Cigarettes and books can also increase the group’s happiness.

Smart players will find ways to survive through the barter system. Moonshine and homemade cigarettes can be traded for food and medicine with a traveling salesman, soldiers or friendly civilians. Trade for and cook with vegetables to double food yield.

Although not an impossibly difficult or complex game, “This War of Mine” is appropriately unforgiving for beginners — only after several runs though were my citizens comfortable after a week. My really only complaint is the limited space in some characters backpacks — only a few characters had anything beyond 10 spaces. While frustrating, this really forces the player to make tough choices about supplies. Perhaps the controls for guns could be a bit better, as my scavenger is often killed by bandits before I can fire. That’s probably on me, however, and not my civilians.

While not one of the flashy, cinematic shooters that dominate game shelves these days, “This War of Mine” is a more compelling and realistic war game than any “Call of Duty” released recently. Highly addictive and challenging, “This War of Mine” is a must-own on Steam.

Alleged genocide inciter may incite his way out of trial

Vojislav Seselj has been on trial at The Hague since 2003, representing himself against charges of inciting fellow Serb nationalists to commit war crimes in Croatia and Bosnia during the 1990s Balkan Wars. Now he has cancer, and they’re going to consider sending him back to Serbia, of all places, as if no other countries — including the Netherlands, where he’s on trial — have cancer treatment. Why? Because this (alleged) genocide-inciting dude is literally so obnoxious, insufferable, and dangerous on trial (over the course of eleven years!) that they might just prefer to send him home to die rather than continue putting up with him … and probably not reach justice anyway in time.

He’s been such a headache and awful monster during the trial — repeatedly convicted of contempt of court and continually publishing classified court documents to expose the identities of key witnesses — that his behavior might force the international court system to completely rethink how it conducts trials for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other similar cases. It’s quite possibly more harmful to keep going with his trial than to suspend it.

Incitement trials, I suspect, are basically asking for insufferable grandstanding under the current system. If someone has the wherewithal to inspire people through the power of words to go kill members of a rival sect they’re probably pretty talented at haranguing and badgering everyone in the courtroom for a decade and generally putting on a big show about being victimized.

Those who intervened

It is the 20th anniversary right now of the start of the Rwandan Genocide. In Yugoslavia, in the same time span, there were many massacres and ethnic purges occurring as well, as the country continued to disintegrate over the the 1990s. (Next year will be the anniversary of the worst European massacre in postwar history.) There have been a number of compelling and important perspectives and accounts surfacing now, two decades later, from both episodes.

In Rwanda, there was very little outside intervention until the very end, when it was already over. In Bosnia and the wider Yugoslav conflict, there was some intervention off and on by outside powers to try to halt the violence, but it was generally too little too late. Certainly much of the external narrative focuses on those who failed to stand up — inside and outside the countries — to protect the innocent civilians. I think that’s important and justified, in that we should not forget and must do better. But it’s also important to remember and honor those who did intervene in these crises, at great personal risk — because their stories are the ones that remind us we could have and should have helped.

Here are two accounts I’ve read this week that I wanted to highlight. I’ve pulled just one paragraph from each, to encourage you to read the full articles.


Background: As the cowardly UN Security Council voted to start pulling hundreds of peacekeepers out of Rwanda during the genocide, a Ghanaian general decided on his own (for which he would be scolded by his president later) that he would not withdraw his last 454 troops from the country. They were young, inexperienced, and barely armed. The militias had already brazenly executed Belgian peacekeeping troops with impunity. And still the Ghanaians stayed. They are credited with saving as many as 30,000 lives, often simply by refusing to move out of the way and talking and talking until the militiamen left in frustration. There were only 5 casualties.

Excerpt from “Ghana peacekeepers remember Rwanda’s genocide” by Chris Stein for Al Jazeera:

The colonel demanded that they call their commanders, going back and forth with the leaders of the assembled mob for hours. The militiamen would threaten him with grenades, going so far as to pull out their pins in front of his face. [Col.] Yaache would pick the pins up off the ground and put them back in the grenades himself.


“I Found the Man Who Saved My Family From a Balkan Death Camp” by Kenan Trebinčević for Slate.


I realized that Pero never had the power to stop the massacres. Yet he’d carry our murdered citizens on his conscience. I could never forget: He saved my family. I decided he was a noble man trapped in a depravity he didn’t ask for. While I was a bilingual world traveler nearly able to move on, history held him hostage, keeping him from rest. I wondered for the first time if he’d suffered more than I did.

Court: Dutch troops liable in Srebenica massacre

18 years later, Dutch UN Peacekeepers who served at Srebenica have been found liable by the Dutch Supreme Court for having ordered refugee men and boys out of the sanctuary of their base and into the waiting ranks of the Serb paramilitaries outside who then massacred them. Although their non-Dutch UN commanders gave the orders, the Court found they should not have followed the orders and that the Dutch government and commanders back home could have and should have intervened. The liability finding means the Netherlands will have to pay reparations to victim families in Bosnia. Meanwhile, in a just irony, the paramilitary commander who led the massacres is on trial now in the Hague (also in the Netherlands).

Serbia signs Kosovo deal

If nothing else good happens today, we can at least take comfort in the amazing news that Serbia has just signed an accord recognizing the independence of Kosovo and setting up a plan for integration of ethnic Serb residents in Kosovo’s democracy, 5 years after they declared independence and 14 years after NATO had to intervene to stop Serbia’s Milosevic from an ethnic cleansing campaign there.

Croatia and the drawbacks of the EU

There have definitely been some benefits to Croatia through the process leading to E.U. membership (some of which I’ve seen firsthand), especially in terms of anti-corruption efforts and resolution to some lingering war crimes/human rights problems from the Balkan wars.

But there have also been some serious drawbacks, and the E.U. regulations and anti-tariff/subsidy rules are going to cripple a lot of smaller, locally-owned businesses and put a lot of workers in subsidized industries out of work. The latter has already begun due to forced-privatization as part of membership planning.

Generally, I’m supportive of increased international trade and decreased restrictions, but European Union governments over the past two decades have proved extremely bad at managing the resulting social/economic problems and helping the people hurt. This is only going to get worse with tightening budgetary restrictions from the eurozone crisis, as national governments are forced to cut deficits by cutting unemployment benefits, jobs programs, and social programs.

What’s more, the E.U. has — I now believe — been a fundamentally undemocratic, elite-level project from the start that has not brought the popular support I might once have expected because it has not helped average people.

Croatia, rather unusually, has taken the step of opening the membership decision to a popular referendum. However, this referendum is being held just 20 days after it was announced/scheduled, and the government is putting $800,00 USD in public money behind the pro-E.U. campaign, while the opposition coalition has just $5,000 in private funds to campaign against membership.

Even if one supports membership and the continued growth of “the European project” (despite the current crisis), this seems massively unfair and undemocratic and will continue the trend of the Union being a very undemocratic project executed in a deeply problematic manner.

A New York Times article yesterday provides a lot more specific examples of how the path to membership has both helped and hurt Croatia, and perhaps more importantly who’s going to benefit from membership and who’s not. Hint: A lot of big corporations from other E.U. countries are going to benefit from reduced trade restrictions and industry standardization. Local companies, not so much.