Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The evil of Radovan Karadzic

Hmmm nasty Santa?

For some who don't remember the Balkan wars of the 1990s, it's worth having a run down of what happened, step by step:
- Titoist communism was already in decline in the 1980s after he died, with the Yugoslav Communist Party splitting into factions, on largely federal lines, as all of the 6 Yugoslav republics (and two autonomous provinces of Serbia). The decline in the relative power of Belgrade over Yugoslavia was felt in Serbia. Serb nationalist Slobodan Milosevic started evocating nationalist racist rhetoric against Kosovo Albanians in 1989, and spread fear among Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia that they should feel threatened. Albanian was banned in universities and government in Kosovo, despite 90% of the population being Albanian.
- Slovenia and Croatia both were increasingly fed up with the old communist bureaucracy of Yugoslavia and how the national wealth predominantly generated in the north in their republics was redistributed south to Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro. Slovenia was led by non-Serbo Croat speaking liberals who saw Western Europe as the model to follow, Croatia increasingly saw the rise of a reactionary group of nationalists, led by one Franjo Tudjman, who spread the same racist filth about Serbs as Milosevic spread about Croats.
- Milosevic took increasing control of the Federal Yugoslav government and armed forces, and talk of a new Yugoslavia, which would be more centralised was countered by talk of a new looser Yugoslavia with very little federal role beyond foreign affairs and defence. Slovenia decided to declare independence, a minor issue as Slovenia was fairly homogeneous. Croatia swiftly decided to do the same, which was more disconcerting.
- Slovenia was led by a pro-Western liberal government, and beyond a short lived battle with Serb controlled Yugoslav Army forces, successfully seceded de facto and de jure, and is now an EU member state.
- Croatia was led by a fascist nationalist government which glossed over the appalling genocidal past of Croatia in the 1940s, when Ante Pavelic slaughtered and deported non-Catholic Croats with full backing of Nazi Germany. Pavelic's feared "Ustashe" would go from town to town seeking out Muslims, Jews and Orthodox Christians - with the full complicity of the Vatican - and ordered that one third be converted, one third be deported and one third executed. Franjo Tudjman saw himself as the heir of Croat nationalism.
- Serbs in Croatia understandably feared greatly a repeat of history, and Milosevic greatly exaggerated the risk of this, but the fear was real. Serb dominated areas such as Vukovar and the Krajina became the battlegrounds between the Serb dominated Yugoslav National Army and Croatia. Both sides murdered and applied their fascist bigotry to each other, but the worst atrocities were noted at Vukovar. However, the Croats also engaged in "ethnic cleansing".
- Following the independence of Croatia, Bosnia Hercegovina, which had been governed by a fairly cosmopolitan coalition of Croats, Serbs and Bosniaks, the withdrawing Serbian controlled Yugoslav Federal Army started a new mission, the carving up of Bosnia. The fairly tolerant open government in Sarajevo was an anathema to the nationalist fascists in Zagreb and Belgrade, and so carving up Bosnia into parts of greater Croatia and greater Serbia was the mission of both sets of forces.

- Under the lead of Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb forces (essentially the former Yugoslav National Army) secured areas of Bosnia and systematically embarked on its open policy of "ethnic cleansing"which predominantly involved going house to house and kicking non Serbs out of town.
- Under the lead of Karadzic part of the campaign against Bosniaks and Croats was to detain men in camps as POWs, and Bosnian Serb soldiers were given free reign to act as they wished. Many Bosniak women and girls were raped as part of the terror campaign to displace non-Serbs.
- The Srebrenica massacre was the culmination of this policy.

and today Bosnia remains divided between the "Republika Srpska" run by the remaining Serb nationalist parties and the rest of Bosnia, shared by Bosniak and Croat political parties. If Ratko Mladic can also be found and charged, and Croatia hands over its war criminals, then some great steps forward will have been made. Bosnia is the hardest though - for there are stolen homes, massacres and the need to rebuild trust and community among people infected with bigotry. The road to reconciliation in Bosnia will be a long and difficult one. Prosecuting and incarcerating the new nasty Santa will be a first step.

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