Butcher of Sarajevo on trial
Serb General Ratko Mladic is accused of killing at least five times more civilians than Osama bin Laden, yet for years no one seemed in any hurry to find the “Butcher of Sarajevo.” Mladic managed to hide in plain sight in Serbia for 16 years, no doubt with aid from the Serb Secret Police, military intelligence, and his old Yugoslav National Army buddies.
To many Serbs, he was a national hero. Having covered the Balkan Wars of the 1990’s, it always amazed me that the man who gloried in massacring Muslim women and children or blowing up mosques never had a price put on his head by any Muslim government. Where were all the so-called defenders of Islam when the Muslims of the Balkans were being murdered, starved, tortured and raped?
As I once said had the victims of Mladic and his Serb fascist allies Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic been Jews, the Israeli Army would have rushed to their rescue and taken the murderers and tortures back in a cage.
The world did not want to know about the eruption of Nazi brutality in the Balkans. From 1989-1991, I wrote a series of newspaper articles warning that violent anti-Muslim hate-mongering and claims of Serb superiority being preached by demagogue Milosevic would eventually provoke war and genocide that would destroy Yugoslavia. Milosevic, backed by Serbia’s Orthodox Church, fascist paramilitary gangs and, ever so quietly, Greece, lit the fuse that blew apart Yugoslavia. The unnatural, unstable Yugoslav state created to benefit the Allied victors of World War I, blew apart, unleashing some of the most horrific cruelty seen in the 20th century.
Gen. Mladic’s mission was to head the so-called Bosnian Serb Army (an extension of the old Yugo Army), and create a Greater Serbia by murdering or expelling all Muslim Bosnians and Catholic Croats. This he did with medieval gusto, killing over 110,000 civilians and driving 250,000 from their homes. Barbarities were committed by all sides, but 90 per cent of them were by Serb forces that conducted mass killings, gang rapes of girls as young as 12, and ran concentration camps in which prisoners were starved, tortured, and raped. Their bodies were dissolved in acid, burned, buried, or thrown into mines and rivers.
Mladic and Karadzic laid siege to Bosnia’s capital, Sarajevo, killing over 10,000 civilians in a three-year assault. Then came the massacre at the supposed UN safe haven of Srebrenica. Cowardly Dutch UN troops assigned to protect Muslim refugees threw down their guns and ran away, to the undying shame of Holland.
Over three days, Mladic’s troops murdered at least 7,500-10,000 unarmed Bosnian Muslim men and boys. The full total will never be known as many bodies were skillfully concealed. This was the worst atrocity in Europe since Word War II.
But at the time, nothing was done about it. Britain’s then ruling Conservatives, led by John Major, Lord Hurd, and Malcom Rifkind were deeply anti-Muslim. They deftly blocked or sabotaged efforts by the US and other nations to rescue the terrorised Bosnians. France joined in the cynical faux peace talks while telling Serbia to hurry up and finish off Bosnia’s Muslims.
Britain and France both worried their large, downtrodden Muslim minorities might somehow become inflamed by creation of a tiny Muslim-majority state in Bosnia. Serbia was a traditional French ally and arms customers. Britain’s Tories worried that Germany might dominate a new Bosnian-Croat state. So they abetted murder most foul while preaching peace.
US forces could have captured Mladic but they were under orders not to risk the recent Dayton accords that ended the war by sanctifying ethnic cleansing.
Without US military intervention, the Balkan Wars and later ethnic cleansing in Kosova, would never have been stopped. US President Bill Clinton finally did the right thing and ordered NATO to end Serbia’s genocide. Europe was too cynical and divided to act.
Mladic has many stories to tell. Hopefully, we will now begin to hear some at his long overdue trial at The Hague.
Eric Margolis is a veteran US journalist
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