Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Dogs That Didn't Bark

Turning a blind eye to murder

Radovan Karadzic's arrest raises questions about the failure of the US and UN to prevent violence during the Bosnian war

* Ian Williams
o Ian Williams
o Tuesday July 22, 2008

As Radovan Karadzic prepares to take his bow in the dock of the Hague, doubtless backed by a choir of deranged leftist apologists with time on their hands since defending Slobodan Milosevic lost its urgency, we should perhaps also remember all those other people without whom the Bosnian Serb president could not have made such a murderous mark on history.

Karadzic, a poet and psychiatrist, was also a Sherlock Holmes fan, and the key story here is all the dogs that didn't bark, a whole pack of them. For the early part of his career overseeing an orgy of rape, murder and bayonet point deportations across Bosnia, the British and French attitude was very much that "If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly."

In a bizarre replay of the 1930s, Moscow and sundry leftists in Europe and the US made their excuses for Milosevic and his puppet Karadzic, putting their telescopes to their left eye patches: "Murders? I see no murders."

To her credit, Madeleine Albright wanted something to be done, but Bill Clinton's administration did not want to risk any political capital. Other nations' troops had to risk being shot so Clinton could avoid being targeted at home. Colin Powell told Albright that US forces did deserts, not mountains.

The UN security council put peacekeepers in there more as a substitute for real intervention, an excuse for effective inaction, than as a remedy. French troops stood by as Serbs murdered the Bosnian deputy prime minister in their armoured vehicle. Peacekeepers "monitored" how many shells the Serb army put into besieged Sarajevo. Third-world contingents were besieged and fired on by the Serb forces, confident in their impunity.

Everyone pretended to believe that the Serb Republic was not connected to Belgrade, although its arms and even the payroll of its officers came from Belgrade. The butcher of Srebrenica, Ratko Mladic, was on the payroll of the Yugoslav army for the duration, and intercepts show that he took orders from Belgrade as much (if not more) as from Karadzic in his "capital" Pale.

However, his subordinate position does not excuse Karadzic. Milosevic was a cynical politician who used Serb nationalism to build his power base. Karadzic showed all the signs of being a true racist believer.

In the end, US envoy Richard Holbrooke dealt with the ventriloquist rather than the dummy and made the deal directly with Milosevic that left Karadzic's successors with title to the half of Bosnia that they had ethnically cleansed, and where it seems that he was probably hiding out for much of the last decade.

Many in the region think that that agreement involved abandoning the so-called safe areas of Srebrenica, although with the optimistic myopia of diplomats in sight of a deal, they did not reckon on the recidivist bloodlust of the commanders who had raped and massacred their way across the Balkans. Repeated calls for air support for the Dutch contingent in Srebrenica were spurned as they wended their way through the bureaucracies of the UN and Nato.

Now that Karadzic is on his way to the Hague, his arrest raises fascinating questions. He can throw light on many of these issues – so will he make it alive? Obviously, the new government in Belgrade intends the sanguinary poet to be the key to the gates of Europe. Karadzic's arrest vindicates the fortitude of the Dutch and others who resisted the appeasers who wanted to speed Serbian accession to the EU regardless. But what about Mladic, who was much more connected to the military and security establishment that remains unabashed and unashamed since Milosevic appointed them in Belgrade?

Arresting Mladic would be a real test of the strength of Serb president Boris Tadic's reformers. Barack Obama's foreign policy team includes some of the officials who did the deals. He may well want to shuffle them to the back of the pack before the man who ordered and supervised the murder, burial, exhumation and reburial of up to 8,000 people in Srebrenica starts calling them as defence witnesses.

However, perhaps the most important question it may raise is in the minds of Omar al-Bashir and his accomplices in Khartoum. It may be slow, and in its early days, but there is some international justice in this imperfect world.

No comments: