Posted: June 16, 2006


Our man in Bosnia checks in

There was a taste of Delaware last weekend for Richard S. Gebelein, the former Superior Court judge who has turned into a man of the world.

Gebelein took a break from his work on an international tribunal in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia & Herzegovina, to watch the commencement of the first class of graduates from a business school run jointly by the University of Delaware and Sarajevo University.

Gebelein has been overseas since last August with a judicial appointment through the U.S. State Department to hear cases involving war crimes and organized crimes in Bosnia, which emerged from the former Yugoslavia amid ethnic strife in the 1990s. His assignment grew out of his work as a JAG officer in Afghanistan on a National Guard call-up.

In e-mail received Wednesday from his e-address, Gebelein wrote to Delaware Grapevine:

"Last weekend I was able to attend the first graduation of the Sarajevo Graduate School of Business. For the first time in Bosnia, MBA degrees were conferred. It was a truly great occasion for the graduates and for Bosnia. The school is a joint venture between the University of Delaware and Sarajevo University.

"The graduates received two degrees, an MBA from Delaware’s prestigious Lehner School of Business as well as a degree from Sarajevo University’s Faculty of Economics. Good business practices and good business ethics are very much needed here.

"Tonight as I was having dinner I began to feel a little bit like a resident. With spring the tourists have returned to Sarajevo. You now hear German, French, Italian and English spoken in the streets. While it would be impossible for an outsider to become Sarajlije, just like in Delaware, it is possible to feel quite at home.

"I was eating at a small restaurant called 'To Be.' It was one of the places my son Zak (now back at home) and I came to frequent on a regular basis. Its name of course comes from the quote in Hamlet. During the siege of Sarajevo, this restaurant, located at Cizmedziluk 5 on the small street next to Gazi Husrev Beg Mosque, was open every day.

"It took the name 'To Be or Not To Be,' reflecting the fatalistic philosophy of those in the city. This philosophy I recognized from my time in Kabul. The city here was being shelled every day. If you were near where the bomb landed, you died. There was nothing you could do about that. After the war the restaurant had survived and happily crossed out 'or Not' from the sign. 

"As I was seated at one of the two tables set up in the street, I noticed the splattered red marks in the road about eight feet from my chair. It looks like spilled red paint but is actually a memorial. It is a 'Sarajevo Rose' or a memorial placed on the street or sidewalk in each place where more than seven people died from a rocket, shell or grenade.

"I watched as two tourists from New Zealand purchased one of the posters created by the owners of To Be. The poster is entitled 'Zima 1993,' ('Winter 1993'), and it is of a base player seated in his tuxedo in the ruins of the National Library about to begin playing. The library, containing many irreplaceable books and manuscripts that documented the long history of Sarajevo, was deliberately targeted and destroyed. 

"It has been ten years since the Dayton Agreements ended the shooting war here. Much has changed, and yet there are constant reminders of that dreadful time. There are the destroyed buildings, never rebuilt; the villages abandoned and now consisting of nothing but piles of stone; the bullet holes prominent on most downtown buildings; and of course the Sarajevo Roses and so many new gravestones in all the cemeteries bearing the dates 1993, 1994, 1995. 

The State of Bosnia & Herzegovina is at a crossroads right now. As expressed most passionately by their young people, the 'State' must succeed. It is the only real answer to further turmoil and violence. It is United States policy to help the State succeed, and the young people here are most grateful for that policy. There is however a danger. The danger would be that the international community, and especially the United States, loses patience. It has been more than 10 years.

"There are still nationalist forces and criminal elements who desire that the State fail. Some of those forces recently helped prevent changes in the constitution that would have made the State more viable. It would be a critical error to reduce our commitment and our support at a crucial time.  

"A failed state of Bosnia & Herzegovina could become a tinderbox and a breeding ground for terrorists. Indeed, a number of recent terrorist arrests in the United Kingdom as well as Canada have had their Bosnian connection. Intelligence that is developed here by NATO and EUFOR [European Union Force] in conjunction with Bosnian authorities has been helpful in those cases. 

"This beautiful country with so many wonderful people deserves a better fate. With a moderate amount of support it can succeed as a country. This is what the large majority of young people want."

Bar fight

Lawyers will be lawyers. They cannot help taking sides, even within their own law firms, and politics gives them a wonderful opportunity.

Since these are law firms in Delaware, where there are not enough of us to allow for lasting animosities without risking isolation, the political conflicts co-exist comfortably with collegiality.

The pace-setter has been the firm of Bifferato Gentilotti Biden & Balick, the friendly confines for both Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III and William Swain Lee. In the race for attorney general, Biden is the Democratic candidate and Lee is duty-bound to get out the vote against him as the Sussex County Republican chair, a post he took after retiring from the Superior Court bench to run for governor in 2004.

Now comes Klett Rooney Lieber & Schorling. One of the senior lawyers there is Richard A. Forsten, better known by his nickname "Shark," who is counsel to the Delaware Republican Party. His wife Kate also got into politics this year as a campaign aide to Jan C. Ting, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate.

The newest lawyer at the firm is Andrew H. Lippstone, who also happens to be the campaign treasurer for U.S. Sen. Thomas R. Carper, the Democrat whom Ting is challenging. Lippstone goes way back with Carper. Before law school, he was a deputy press secretary when Carper was governor.

The same secretary works for both Forsten and Lippstone. In this adversarial world of law and politics, she is is a Democrat who has chosen sides, too.