By Chet Yarbrough
Written by: Barry Friedman
Narration by: Roger Friedman
“Assignment: Bosnia” is a fictional story of an American’s investigation of ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavian territories. It is more of a radio play than an audiobook. The author, Barry Friedman paints a picture of American embassy ineptitude, local police ineffectiveness, and Serbian atrocity.
The hero of the story is an ex-Vietnam officer who has recently lost re-election to the Senate and is offered an assignment to Bosnia to investigate missing persons from the Balkan wars. Friedman’s story is about Harrison-Ford-like’ adventures of this former Senator.
Friedman’s writing is unexceptional but he shows how aerial reconnaissance became a useful tool in finding mass grave sites that were denied by the Serbian government. Through a combination of aerial imaging, thermal data, light detection and ranging technology–software algorithms are created to find mass grave sites.
Freidman notes that land mines are an ever-present danger in the territory. The land mine issue remains a significant danger in Bosnia and Herzegovina as shown in the following 2014 film:
A moderately interesting (probably unintended part of the author’s story) is how and why private sector subcontractors enlist former congressional officials to become part of their company.
An employee of a company contacts former elected officials who are on special government assignment. An unwritten presumption in Friedman’s story is that a private sector employee’s objective is to enhance his company’s prospect for getting government contracts. Friedman offers a story that puts the best face on an ex-Senator’s hiring by making the private sector employee a former good friend. The good friend just happens to be in Bosnia experimenting with a new aerial surveillance product designed to find left-over land mines from the war. The hero ex-Senator of the story offers to go to work for the company if $500,000 in service and equipment is contributed to the Bosnian government for aerial investigation of mass graves. Everyone wins; i.e. the private company gets a new employee with government experience and influence, Bosnia gets help with the cost of aerial surveillance, and an ex-Senator becomes a well-paid American hero.
At best, Friedman’s story reminds one of the terrible consequence of the disintegration of Yugoslavia. It is a story of events that are repeating themselves in the Middle East and parts of Africa. Anarchy, as well as bad government, can lead to ethnic cleansing and brutal internecine warfare. “Assignment Bosnia” is not well written but it sheds some light on the plight of Balkan citizens in the last years of the twentieth century.