HAIKU (MAUI), HAWAII GLOBAL AFFAIRS
Time to bury the hatchet, speak full truth, confess wrongs, offer amends and accept judgment standing upright again
Beat Swords into Plowshares at the Hague
Mladic, Karadzic have a chance at the Hague not only to redeem themselves, but to return dignity and honor to entire Serbian nation
Serbia vs. America: Which is a more civilized society?
HAIKU, Maui, June 2 (updated June 3) - Tomorrow, on June 3, Serb General Ratko Mladic will have his first day in court. After 15 years in hiding, Europe's "most wanted" war crimes suspect will face the three judges of the International Criminal Court for former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The top military commander of the Bosnian Serb army is charged with "genocide, complicity to commit genocide, persecutions, extermination, murder, deportation, inhumane acts, terror, unlawful attacks, taking of hostages" during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia. Heavy charges.
So far, Mladic has remained unrepentant. His son, Darko, speaking at a May 29 rally in Belgrade, quoted his father as saying that he had nothing to do with the alleged massacre of thousands of Muslim men in July 1995 near Srebrenica.
"The Army of the Bosnian Serb Republic has not participated in any crimes; has not committed any crimes," Gen. Mladic himself asserted in a Mar 1996 interview with NIN, a Belgrade weekly.
This also jives with what Mladic told me himself the last time we met in May 1996 in Han Pijesak, Bosnia.
Mladic and I spent about 90 minutes talking over a lunch of a lean bean soup in what used to be Gen. Djukic's office at the Bosnian Serb army headquarters. Alone. Mladic had sent everybody else out. I suspect so he could speak freely.
The last time I was there nearly two years earlier, the same office was teaming with generals, colonels and majors anxious to tell me their side of the Bosnian war story (see pictures and Bosnia War Diary, July 1994). Mladic was ebullient and magnanimous. Now the office was deserted and forlorn, a fitting backdrop to the mood of a subdued general. The war was lost. He felt betrayed. Deserted. Alone. An erstwhile hero now charged with war crimes. A sad ending after a glorious beginning.
"So what do you want to talk about?" the interviewee asked the interviewer after the initial small talk.
I told him about a May 8 New York Times article, and the increased pitch in the West for him and Radovan Karadzic to be removed from their posts.
“Why am I, a mere Serbian soldier, so important to a great country like the U.S.?” he asked, acting rather theatrically.
“He just can’t let go of BS and sarcasm,” I thought, but didn’t say anything.
“They want to put you and Karadzic behind bars to set an example for the world to see what happens when someone is disobedient to, and challenges the New World Order,” I replied out loud.
Mladic nodded pensively.
He then asked me what I thought the West was trying to accomplish through the Hague Court.
I said I had a feeling that it may well become a permanent court, a judicial instrument of the globalists’ “world government” power, just as the UN is a political tool. "Bosnia/Yugoslavia are merely its first cases," I suggested.
“Is the U.S. a democracy?” Mladic asked, changing the subject, as if he were interviewing the reporter.
“Most Americans think it is,” I replied.
“And what do you think?” he persisted.
“I think it’s a plutocracy.”
He nodded affirmatively.
“Do you know what a plutocracy is?” I asked.
He nodded again, looking rather grim.
Feeling Betrayed, Defeated
“And now I have to ask you something,” I said, trying to turn tables back to normal. “Why did you sign the (Aug 29, 1995) Dobanovci agreement? (which gave Slobodan Milosevic, the late Yugoslav president, the power to negotiate on Bosnian Serbs’ behalf) You must have, or should have, known that your signature meant either a certain death sentence, or a life imprisonment for you."
Silence fell upon the room.
I stared at Mladic quietly, yet intently, allowing time for the weight of my words to sink into his heart. Mladic leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms across his chest in a defensive position.
Finally, without looking me straight in the eyes, he replied: “Because I didn’t expect such a turnaround.”
“Such a turnaround?” I repeated. “You mean you didn’t expect the NATO bombing?” (which followed almost immediately afterward - in Sep 1995).
Mladic paused again before answering. His head hung low. Looking down at his feat, he almost whispered: “I didn’t expect such a turn about face on our side” (meaning the Milosevic betrayal).
To me, this seemed incredible.
“Was he really that naive and stupid?” I wondered. And even if he were, which I doubted, there were others around him who surely knew which end was up in dealing with Milosevic. After all, he had already sold them down the river at least once before (in Aug 1994 when Yugoslavia imposed its own embargo on the Bosnian Serbs).
“No,” I concluded. "It was not na´vetÚ. It was an act of desperation, a surrender. It must be just that it is too hard and painful for the general to admit total defeat even to himself."
Indeed, later on the same day, another Bosnian Serb officer agreed with me. “It was a matter of total capitulation or this,” he said. By “this,” he meant accepting the humiliating terms of the Milosevic-US-controlled Dayton agreement. Which ended up being the same thing - total capitulation.
But Mladic did not feel betrayed only by his fellow-communist. He also felt down by his people. This was evident from what he said close to the end of our meeting.
"There is one thing I admire about America," he said Mladic. "Look at you, for example. You are an American. If one of us harmed as much as one of your hairs, the entire country would rise up in your defense."
Yet here he was, down and out, a hero who fell from grace, yet there were scant few among his people who offered a hand to lift him up.
When my meeting with Mladic was over, the person in charge of the army press center told me that I was one of only two foreign journalists out of 300 requests to whom Mladic had granted an interview. The other was from a Greek paper, he said (also see The End Game Is Near: Kosovo, Montenegro Next Serb Dominos to Fall?, May 1996).
What Happened in Srebrenica?
And what about Srebrenica?
"No mass graves have been found, despite so many people coming and looking in and around Srebrenica," Mladic replied when I asked him if his troops had carried out the massacre. “I’ve never waged war on any civilians,” he added.
Which fits with what I had personally observed when I was in Bosnia at the time of Srebrenica's fall (see "On the Run," and All in a Day's Work (Karadzic), July 1995). I saw truckloads and busloads of Muslim civilians were being transported to Tuzla, the nearest city on the Muslim territory. Karadzic and I also watched the global networks carry similar pictures as I sat in his office on July 13, 1995.
But it's what I did NOT see that troubled me. I had no doubts that the West had good reasons to lure the Serbs into a trap of attacking Srebrenica and Zepa, the two isolated Muslim enclaves in eastern Bosnia (see the map - right). In fact, I even know from several insiders how it was done. The "why" was obvious. NATO needed an excuse to get involved in the war on the side of the Muslims and the Croats, whom the West was portraying as victims of the Serb aggression. What I did not understand was why the Serbs obliged. They won the battle but lost the war as a result.
“Attacking Srebrenica and later Zepa was a mistake,” an officer close to Mladic admitted to me in May 1996. “These Muslim enclaves weren’t a threat to us. They would have fallen, sooner or later.”
He added that "they (NATO) were hoping that we would also attack Gorazde (another Muslim enclave). But once we realized this was a trap, we stopped. So they had to stage the ‘Markale II’ massacre in Sarajevo (Aug 28, 1995), which they blamed on us, to give themselves a pretext to bomb us.”
Back to July 1995, I was supposed to meet with Mladic during that Bosnia trip. But for several days, he was unavailable. His staff kept putting off our meeting. I did meet with Radovan Karadzic (Pres - right in 1994, and left now), Momcilo Krajisnik (Speaker of Parliament - right), and Nikola Koljevic (late VP), another (minor) general, and with the head of the Military Intelligence. And all I can say is that none of them were physically in Srebrenica at the time.
Which doesn't exculpate them. I was not with them 24/7. Their phones were working. I listened to several Karadzic conversations while in his office. None indicated any knowledge of or his acquiescence to war crimes. But again, I spent only a little over two hours with him.
"Silence Is Acquiescence"
Meanwhile, Mladic evidently was in Srebrenica. And if he did not give direct orders for mass executions, who did? Besides, a supreme commander is responsible for actions of everyone under him. “The buck stops here,” and all that.
What has also troubled me is that neither Mladic nor anyone else in the command position has tried to exculpate themselves by bringing the allegedly rogue Serb perpetrators to justice while they were still in power. You know what they say, "silence is acquiescence."
That’s what I also said to Slobodan Milosevic in Feb 1992 at his office in Belgrade, before the Bosnian war had even started. I warned the then Yugoslav president that he may be prosecuted eventually for war crimes himself, unless he puts the Serbian war criminals on trial for crimes committed in Croatia (in 1991 - see "Milosevic: 'A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery, July 1998).
Mladic's own behavior since our last meeting in May 1996 has also puzzled me. Why would a man who has done nothing wrong go into hiding for 15 years? Ditto re. Karadzic who was captured in 2008. Why not declare his innocence in the court of law and use the Hague platform to broadcast his truth to the world?
Besides, as the trials of several other senior officers accused of war crimes in connection with Srebrenica have shown, contrary to Mladic's assertion 15 years ago, a number of Srebrenica mass graves have been unearthed. The trials also produced evidence that the Bosnian Serbs may have used heavy construction equipment to relocate some of grave sites and disperse the evidence. If you click on General Krstic Judgment Summary (8/02/2001), for example, you can see for yourself what the Court had to say about that.
I only read this document for the first time today during the research for this story. And it was quite shocking. It does not leave much doubt that crimes were committed. Krstic was the general working under Mladic who was in charge of the operations in and around Srebrenica and Zepa in July 1995. He was sentenced in 2001 to 46 years in prison.
Back to Bosnia in May 1996, as we said our goodbyes, Mladic drove off in a green military jeep accompanied by two soldiers. Gone was his Mercedes, and a back up Audi which he lent me in 1994 for visits to various battlefields. Gone were his drivers and the special forces men who once escorted him and his generals around Bosnia. He waved to me from the jeep as they drove off. I waved back.
Overall, Mladic looked and acted like a defeated man. He was subdued and quiet. He never smiled. He looked deeply hurt. Or guilt-ridden? The impression he left on me was worse than I had expected. Although one could still feel occasional sparks in his remarks, gone was the bravado and the fire which once burned fiercely inside this warrior heart. Isolated and alone, he now had only his staff and rare visitors, like myself, to impress. And he was not even trying to do that.
Still Seen as War Hero in Serbia
Still, according to an I-FOR survey in 1996, Mladic's approval rating went up from 80% to 93% since Dayton. Karadzic’s went up from 63% to 68% in the same time frame. And even now, 15 years later, the majority of Serbs believe Mladic is innocent. More than 10,000 people demonstrated in Belgrade on May 29 against his arrest (right).
Polls from before Mladic's capture suggest that 34% of Serbs would approve of his arrest, while 40% still regarded him as a hero. An overwhelming 78% said they would not report Mladic to the authorities. The poll was conducted for the Serbian government's National Council for Cooperation with The Hague Tribunal. Check out also this BBC video report...
How to Become Peacetime Heroes
Serbia has a long and rich warrior tradition. From Kosovo in 1389, when it stood as Christian Europe's bulwark against the Islamic invasion, to its liberation from the Turkish oppression in the 19th century, to its heroic resistance to the Austro-Hungarian and German empire's attack in World War I, to its rebellion against the Nazi occupation in 1941, Serbian people have shown no lack of battlefield courage. I have also witnessed it in the 1990s in Bosnia, in Croatia and in Serbia during the NATO bombing of 1999.
But in the end, what did all these wars do for Serbia? In a word, nothing. In fact, Serbia is today a smaller country than it was 900 years ago. And it is smaller than it was 10 years ago. And Serbian people are the unsung victims of their leaders' ambitions and incompetence. Check out these staggering statistics...
There have been 530,000 displaced Serbs in Bosnia alone. The Serbs in the Serb Krajina and other parts of Croatia driven from their homes add up to close to 400,000, my Bosnian Serb army sources said. The photo on the right is a picture of "ethnic cleansing" - of the Serbs in August 1995, not of the Muslims or the Croats, as claimed by the global media.
Images like that is not something CNN or other major world media were anxious to broadcast. Because the Serbs were supposed to have been the designated villains, not victims. Yet, the Serbian people may have suffered greater casualties than any other party in the Yugoslav wars.
For example, the Bosnian Serb Army alone suffered 10,000 killed and 30,000 wounded, of which 10,000 were badly wounded. These figures do not include any civilian casualties. Nobody knows how many Serb civilians perished in Bosnia and Croatia. We know that nearly one million were driven from their homes. Those tragic statistics are a sad legacy of Milosevic, Mladic, Karadzic and other Serb wartime leaders' policies and actions.
Only stupid people keep on doing the same thing hoping for a different outcome. It may be time for the Serbs to learn from history, bury the hatchet, and "beat swords into plowshares," as the Bible teaches. And not just the Bible...
"To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill," taught Sun Tzu, an ancient Chinese military strategist and philosopher (544BC-496BC). "To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill."
And to do that, requires not only wisdom, but also courage to control one's wild impulses.
"Heroism is defending one's people against an enemy," he said. "Nobility is defending an enemy against yourself."
The time has come for the Serb wartime heroes to stop blaming others for their failures, to tell the full truth, confess their wrongs, offer amends to the victims, and then accept judgment standing upright again. At least, that's what this writer would do in their shoes.
Of course, I am not in their shoes. So I cannot presume to tell them what to do. But I will offer them two important reasons why they should consider it.
First, as an ordained shaman, I can tell them that we humans don't get too many chances to repent and correct our wrongs in a single lifetime. And if we don't, the karma only accumulates and carries onto the next lifetime. And the next... and so on. So Mladic's, Karadzic's and other former Serb leaders' souls can save themselves a lot of needless suffering in the future if they faced the Creator with the full truth now.
Second, they should consider doing it as their ultimate and final act of heroism. By confessing and repenting, they will be also washing clean the face of the Serbian nation which their wartime actions had smeared.
It is time to stop blaming the mirror. And even if the accused do find many faults with the UN Tribunal, as I also do, and with the "lamestream" media, as I also do - by facing the "enemy" and making amends to him and to the victims, they could help erase the Serbian national karma.
That would be an unselfish act. That would be a noble gesture. It would take extraordinary courage to do it. If they did that, they could achieve in an unfriendly and biased court what they had failed to do on the battlefield: Give themselves and their country back their dignity. And then take whatever punishment is meted out to them standing upright, like honorable men again. Not unlike what Jesus of Nazareth had to endure when faced with unjust accusations by his own people and a foreign (Roman) judge.
In short, if they followed this path, accused war criminals could morph into peacetime heroes. They can do it by contrition and humility, not by swagger and arrogance. Look where the latter has landed them.
Serbia vs. America: Which Is a More Civilized Society?
The Serbian people have already started to walk on that path. It is a path of peaceful resolution of conflict and dignified behavior of a civilized society. Just contrast the way Serbia handled the case of Europe's "most wanted" war criminal (Mladic) with the way the American government acted in the case of its "most wanted" adversary (Bin Laden). Serbia opted for a rule of law. Washington chose a bloody revenge and a "might is right" courtroom. And then, just like the savages from the wars past displayed their scalps and war trophies, Washington offered the masses ghoulish headlines and bloody images trumpeting the "superheroes" who carried out the attack on the Bin Laden compound in Pakistan.
Those pictures alone will now serve as call-to-arms posters for new Al Qaida recruits in their Jihad (holy war) against the "infidels."
Some people never learn. Violence begets violence. For, that's also what happened in Bosnia when the Serbs had the upper hand militarily. The image on the right depicts a unit of foreign Islamic "mujahedeen's" who came to Bosnia to fight the Christian Serbs. That was almost a decade before the same thing happened when our troops arrived in in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Given the two raids, which society is a more civilized - Serbia's or America's? That's something we should ponder as we wait for Mladic's appearance in the Hague courtroom in a few hours.
You may also want to contemplate the opening paragraph of my comment on 9/11. It was being written the morning we were all still stunned, watched the World Trade Center towers burning:
"Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword." [Matthew 26: 52]
Neither Bush nor Obama heeded this advice. And look where we are today, a decade later. Still fighting the "war on terror" until it eventually consumes us. Let's stop before that happens.
For, violence begets violence. The cycle of violence must end if humanity is to advance. We must stop looking to the past except to learn from repeated examples of failures whenever religious hatred of any kind was backed up by violence. We can’t change others. We can only change ourselves and how we perceive and react to others.
Just look at the Middle East, the Soviet Empire, the Roman Empire, the Crusades, the Jihad, the Inca Empire… and any other example of man trying to use violence to achieve dominance. What makes the "American Empire" think that we are an exception? That’s why it is essential for Washington to renounce violence and lead the world by peaceful examples. Not necessarily because of altruism but to save ourselves while we still can.
P.S. Last night (June 1), I wrote to the ICTY court at the Hague and offered to go there and meet with Mladic, Karadzic and other Serb defendants whom I know, and talk to them about what I said in this article. Also, subject to certain conditions, I said I would be willing to testify in the Karadzic and Mladic trial, if it comes to that. Click here to read it.
Bob Djurdjevic is a former war correspondent from Bosnia and Serbia. He is also a thrice-ordained Inca-trained shaman, writer, musician and consultant based in Maui, Hawaii. You can find more of his stories at www.altzar.org (arts & spirituality), www.truthinmedia.org (geopolitical) and www.djurdjevic.com (business).
lso check out... Beat Swords into Plowshares at the Hague (June 2), Humane Sides of Accused War Criminals, Sometimes Truth Hurts, But It Always Sets You Free (June 6), Milosevic: Who Says There's No Death Penalty at the Hague? (Mar 2006); "Put the UN Justice on Trial" - TiM Bulletin (8/17/98); Rise and Fall of General Perisic: From Hero to Snitch (Mar 2005); The End Game Is Near: Kosovo, Montenegro Next Serb Dominos to Fall? (May 1996); "The Woman Who Broke Gen. Mladic's Heart" (Mar 1996); Bosnia: What’s the Full Truth? (Letter to Wall Street Journal, Feb 1996); Bosnia War Diary (July 1994); All in a Day's Work (Karadzic) (July 1995); Wartime Diary Notes about Karadzic, Krajisnik (May 1994); "Collateral Damage" Hits Home (9/11/11)