NEW YORK – One of the most egregious travesties of justice and international law finally came to and end last week as fugitive Serb war criminal Radovan Karadzic was finally arrested in Belgrade. He is expected to shortly be sent to the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague.
Finally. But we must wonder why it had taken 11 long years to apprehend this notorious Balkan fascist.
In the late 1980’s, I was one of the first journalists to warn that Serbia’s new leader, former communist banker Slobodan Milosevic, was a racist demagogue who would ignite religious persecution and plunge the Balkans into turmoil. Milosevic thundered about all the supposed wrongs Serbia had suffered at the hands of nefarious foreigners and internal `traitors.’ But he saved special venom for Yugoslavia’s Muslims, whom he called `dirty Turks’ and `sub humans,’ and demanded they be `sent back to Istanbul.’
Milosevic sought to create Greater Serbia and make it ethnically pure by exterminating or terrorizing into flight Croats, Bosnian Slav Muslims, and Albanians. In the process, the hate-preaching Milosevic destroyed the federal state of Yugoslavia, and ignited a series of wars that killed over 250,000, drove 2 million from their homes, and left Serbia ruined, bankrupt, and despised around the world.
From 1992-1995, Milosevic’s ally, the president of the self-styled Bosnian Serb Republic, Dr. Radovan Karadzic, and his military commander, Gen. Ratko Mladic, unleashed a storm of ethnic terrorism and butchery against the unarmed Muslims of Bosnia. From Belgrade, the Serb capital, Milosevic and his generals planned and supported the campaign. According to the UN, 200,000 Bosnian Muslims were murdered, and 20,000 Muslim women and girls raped by Serb fascist paramilitary gangs and regular soldiers. Serb forces set up concentration and special rape camps in which Bosnian Muslims were starved, sadistically abused, and violated.
The siege and intense shelling of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, directed by Karadzic and Mladic, left over 10,000 civilians dead. At Srebrenica, Serb forces under the command of Gen. Mladic murdered 8,000-9,000 Muslim men and boys. This horrible crime was initially dismissed by a paid Serb apologist, a retired Canadian general, as `a Serb over-reaction.’ But the truth finally emerged.
This massacre was Europe’s worst crime against humanity since World War II, and, according to the UN, an unquestioned act of genocide. Cowardly Dutch UN troops sent to protect the Muslims of Srebrenica ran away.
Karadzic was a curious combination of buffoon and fascist ideologue. Many educated, intelligent Serbs opposed Milosevic and Karadzic’s brand of Balkan fascism and racism, but it found wild support among Serbia’s pig farmers and industrial workers intoxicated by a potent mythology of past historical wrongs and anti-Muslim hatred.
The European Union made plain that bankrupt Serbia would never be admitted or receive large amounts of aid until it handed over its war criminals. Everyone knew they were being sheltered by Serbia. Serbia’s new pro-western government chose realism over nationalist passions and the still potent influence of neo-fascist and extreme nationalist groups. This is excellent news for Serbs. Their nation is rejecting medievalism and seems headed to joining the European Union.
Why did it take 11 years to find Karadzic? He was hiding in plain sight in Belgrade and even making TV broadcasts. Mladic is also reported strolling about Belgrade. Karadzic did adopt the look and persona of a local Serb faith healer, but Serbia’s secret police and military were well aware of his presence.
Until recently, Britain and France were reluctant to see Karadzic put on trial. He knew too much about how they quietly colluded with Serbia in the 1990’s to block creation of a Muslim state in the Balkans, and stalled efforts to end the wars. The hypocritical, two-faced role of Britain’s deeply anti-Muslim Conservatives was particularly shameful.
Both Britain and France have large, restive Muslim populations. France wanted to extend its influence in the Balkans through old ally Serbia. Both Britain and France appeared content to see the Balkan Muslims driven from their homes.
But Russia’s increasing influence in Serbia finally compelled the EU to arm-twist Belgrade into giving up Karadzic and aligning itself with the western powers. This move was clearly aimed at halting Moscow’s attempts to using Serbia as a bridgehead for expanding its influence in the Balkans.
During the 1990’s, the Muslim world’s inaction in the face of Bosnia’s genocide was even more deplorable than Europe’s. Only Iran and the Afghans sent men or fighters to help Bosnia. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states sent money to help Bosnia, but took no further action.
The actions of Turkey, Bosnia’s former ruler, was particularly shameful. Turkey’s anti-Islamic rightwing generals who commanded a very tough army of 600,000, were too busy razing Kurdish villages to send troops to stop the gang rape of Bosnian Muslim women and girls.
The United States finally came to the rescue of the Balkan Muslims by forcing Serbia to end its ethnic terrorism. This rescue mission was not, as some anti-American critics claim, a plot to expand US influence into the region. I was involved in pressing the Clinton administration to intervene, and I can attest that America acted from reasons of humanity and decency. The entire Muslim world owes the United States an enormous debt of gratitude for saving the Muslims of Bosnia and Kosova.