Thursday, May 26, 2011
With the capture of Mladic, another ogre is brought to justice. Perhaps or hopefully the Balkans can heal
Another ogre was found today. While we felt justice had been done in the killing of Osama Bin Laden, though a decade passed, it took 16 years to bring to justice another mass killer, the Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic, indicted by the Hague Tribunal for crafting and carrying out ethnic cleansing in the Balkan wars. Both Bin Laden and Mladic were driven by hatred…Bin Laden declared a jihadist war against the Christian West and Mladic set about systematically to cleanse parts of Bosnia of Muslims and Croatian Catholics.
A three year siege of Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia, but mostly Muslim, was overseen by Mladic and thousands were killed because of their ethnicity or the result of the siege and elsewhere. The world, and particularly Europe, dithered in the name of “fairness” to both sides. 9/11 was the final outrage that put Bin Laden on the most wanted list. The massacre of over seven thousand Muslim males between the ages of 10 and 77 was the catalyst for worldwide outrage, which ended that phase of the war that dragged on in Kosovo, ending with NATO bombing of Belgrade.
The parallel comparisons between the two are easy to draw: both outraged the Western world and the West drew a line of behavior that was Post World War II unacceptable. Terror, which Mladic practiced to force Muslims out of predominantly Serbian areas, was honed finely, using rape as a calculated tool (not just as a spoils of war), and mass ethnic executions to eliminate groups of undesirable ethnics. The ethnic division he engineered exists today in modern Bosnia, which is ungovernable, ungoverned, and poor. Osama Bin Laden’s calculated tactics of terror and mass killing of innocents in a mad attempt to bring the West to its knees do not need repeating. We are all too familiar with it as an effective tool for a small group to control and destroy a larger one by frightening and killing off innocents.
It is suspected that Osama’s supporters within Pakistan made it possible for him to live in plain sight for 6 years there. Until 2001 Mladic had been living a normal, open life in Belgrade, Serbia under the protection of Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian president, even though Mladic had been indicted by the Hague for war crimes and arrest warrants and rewards had been issued in 1995. Milosovic was finally deposed and brought to the Hague in 2001 (where he died of natural causes during the trial). After 2001, we now believe Mladic lived among cousins and other Bosnian Serb refugees in northern Serbia, though he kept undercover and was suspected to have been protected by elements of the Serbian military.
In 2007, a new, younger generation of Serbs, looking to the West and feeling the results of a poor economy, elected a younger leader, Boris Tadic. Even then, it took three years to “find” Mladic. Serbians began to see membership in the European Unions as a way out of their depressed economy, enough so that the desire for moving on outweighed the Serbian nationalism that had protected Mladic. The EU was to meet in this coming November to begin the long process to admit Serbia to the EU, but failure to capture Mladic was their deal killer. He was found (uttered on the BBC today that US and UK intelligence helped “find”him), but the actual arrest was credited to the Serbs themselves.
There the comparison is harder to make. Bin Laden was not brought to the Hague, nor was Saddam Hussein of Iraq. Bin Laden faced justice at the end of a SEALS weapon, but he had admitted to and had taken credit for 9/11. Saddam had a trial, fair or not, and was hanged by his own people. Mladic, as did Milosovic before him, will probably try to claim he knew nothing and was not in control. The Hague Court has always been condemned by die hard Serbian nationalist supporters as anti-Serb. Sixteen years of evidence gathering and a pledge by Pres. Tadic to bring to justice to Mladic’s lieutenants may make the Mladic defense a weak one.
Perhaps now Serbia can move forward toward a better economy and connections with Western Europe. Perhaps now Bosnia can begin to heal. Perhaps now that the tyrants of this world who are motivated by ethnic and religious hatred to use terrorism as a tool know that eventually they will pay for their outrages against humanity.
I will be visiting Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia this summer. I hope the “perhaps” will turn into “hopefully” as those in the region digest the closing of the Mladic chapter.