My War Gone By, I Miss It So
Reading this book, I've learned the importance of not judging books by their titles. The title "My War Gone By, I Miss It So" struck me as interesting, but also a tad dramatic and pretentious.
Yet, Anthony Loyd's book is perhaps one of the most honest, unpretentious personal memoir I have read.
Loyd is blessed with the gift of being deeply introspective without coming across as conceited at all.
At the most base level, the book is the story of war correspondent Anthony Loyd's twin addictions, to war and drugs. Loyd weaves two seemingly different stories together in one memoir. In one, is the story of his time in Bosnia, and later Chechnya. The other is the story of his drug addiction and troubled relationship with his father. With both, Loyd is introspective and brutally honest. He does not seem to be writing for a specific audience, just telling his story.
Both the war and the drugs offer him a high. He jeers at the other Western journalists, who go around wearing bullet proof vests and driving in armoured cars. Loyd on the otherhand, gets as close to the war as possible. Talking to soldiers and war criminals, victims and survivors; Loyd gets into the "thick" of the action as much as possible.
This book is not the 'macho adventure' story it may appear to be. If anything, it is a poignant story of the destruction war causes.
Loyd describes the brutal imprints that the war: of atrocities, of burned out villages and gun battles, leaves.
Beyond just telling about his own personal story during the war; Loyd also gives first hand accounts of the impact of the international community's role in Bosnia.
On the whole, it is not a role to be proud of.
In one of the most memorable stories, Loyd talks about Dina, a three year old girl who is shot during the battle between the ABiH's 5th Corps and Fikret Abdic's Bihac rebels. Badly wounded, she is about to be airlifted to a hospital, but her mother cannot go with her, because she is an adult, and therefore might be a combatant. This story is quite represenative of what I feel is the larger problem of the international community's role in Bosnia. The maddening bureaucracy and rigid "neutrality" created a situaton where a horribly wounded girl was seperated from her mother the moment she needed her the most. The international community went into the Bosnian conflict as being "neutral"; but by being so "neutral" it was inevitably taking sides in the conflict; and siding with the aggressors.
Despite the dark subject matter and cyncism, he book is not without small miracles as well. Dina, the little girl who is wounded, survives against the odds.
One aspect of the book I most appreciated was that he focused on the aspect of the war that has sometimes been pushed aside at best, and completely ignored at worst. That of the HVO's ethnic cleansing campaign against the Bosniaks in Central Bosnia. This "secondary war" made things a bit complicated for the journalists and public, who were having a hard enough time understanding the conflict to begin with. Yet that conflict brought up issues of multiculturalism and indentity that are still having strong repercussions all over the Bosnian-Croat sector of Bosnia to this day.
The deal Trudjman made with Milosevic to cut Bosnia in half, and the atrocties committed by the HVO have at times been ignored and played down; and no doubt had Trudjman lived he would have joined Milosevic at the Hague.
Besides just looking at the Bosniak-Croat war; Loyd also spends a great deal of time describing the "war" between Abdic and the Bosnian army. Loyd is quite clear where his sympathies lie, he is absolutely against Abdic and in the camp of the Bosnian Army, he views Abdic as a traitor and a man running his own personal fiefdom in Bihac. As he did for his description of the Muslim-Croat war he offers another revealing look at an another aspect of the war which has for long been ignored.
By writing at legnth about the Muslim-Croat war and about Abdic and his rebels; Loyd offers something new to the already large collection of books on the Bosnian war.