Friday, June 3, 2011


          They finally arrested General Ratko Mladic last week, todays Monster of the Week. There will be others, tomorrow, next week and next year. These “monsters to be” will be Libyan, Somali, Egyptian, Israeli or even Americans, depending how events unfold and how the world media perceives the truth. It is easy to demonize a person, accuse him of war crimes, ascribe to him horrible acts of insane violence, and condemn him but never the roots, the causes of the conflicts that precipitated them to the world stage.
          It makes us feel good. Another criminal behind bars waiting for justice to be done. We all collectively breathe a sigh of relief. Civilization has been saved. But then another war, another revolution erupts and the cycle repeats itself. Mass graves abound and they all look alike, year in and year out.
          And then there are conflicts, wars, Iraq and Afghanistan being but two that make the news day in day out, yet somehow escape being tainted by accusations of war crimes, of genocide or simply the murder of civilians. Those deaths, those murders fly under the radar of international scrutiny. They are simply ignored while we smugly congratulate ourselves on our moral hypocrisy.   
          I do not like Ratko Mladic much. I met him twice back in 1994 during the wars in Bosnia, ex-Yugoslavia. He was an arrogant, ignorant blowhard son of a bitch. He was, and remains, a dumb Bosnian peasant, who just happened to be a Serb. He proudly wore his ignorance as a badge of honor as stupid as that First World War military cap of his, sporting a “kokarda”, an insignia of some sort or another. He was at home in a dump of a café in Han Pijesak, a small decrepit town in Eastern Bosnia close to Sarajevo, where I met him, surrounded by a fawning retinue of like jerks. He was sitting on the terrace of the café, the very image of a war lord, beefy and loud, full of himself. The colorful red and white umbrellas kept us cool and in the shade. There was a lull in the war. The war didn’t seem real.
          Srebrenica, the massacre of 8,373 Bosnian men and boys, was to be a year later in July, 1995. Mladic is accused of ordering this tragedy. As in any war there are deaths in the thousands. Many are soldiers but most probably many more are just innocent civilians. Dresden, a declared “safe haven” at the end of World War II, had 600,000 refugees, and a population 350 times larger than Srebrenica. We, the Allies, fire bombed it and between 150,000 and 200,000 civilians died. In 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki accounted for at least a quarter of a million civilian deaths [150,000 for Hiroshima; 75,000 for Nagasaki; with another 500,000 dead from radiation, starvation and cancer.] Extenuating circumstances were claimed, save our fighting boys, better them than us.
There are always claims of extenuating and mitigating circumstances if you want to justify your war crimes. Naser Oric, a common street thug no better than Mladic, was the Muslim military commander in Srebrenica. He abused the United Nations “safe area” by launching attacks against the Serb population resulting in some 1,800 deaths. But that does condone or excuse Mladic’s actions, nor anyone else.
          Eight thousand deaths is an appalling number, yet insignificant if taken in the context of the civilian casualties of the Iraq War. People disagree as to the actual numbers of deaths, but they all agree that the deaths are in the hundreds of thousands.
          The Iraq Family Health Service, whatever that entity may be, pegs the deaths at 151,000 from March, 2003 to June, 2006. The Lancet, the respected British medical journal dedicated to world health, estimates 601,027 deaths for the same period. Opinion Research weighs in at 1,033,000 deaths as a result of the conflict from 2003 to 2007. The Associated Press reports in at 110,600 deaths for 2003 to 2009. The Iraq Body Count Project claims either 98,170 or 107,152 civilian deaths for the same period. WikiLeaks, leaking official United States classified Iraq war cables reports 104,924 Iraqi deaths, including 66,081 civilians. And so it goes.
          So now we have that dumb, stupid Ratko Mladic in the dock accused of 8,000 deaths, with the world braying for human sacrifice, for justice. So who stands accused for the hundred thousands of dead Iraqis?  Any one? No one? Whatever!