To most of the West, if not all of it except Serbia, Radovan Karadzic is a war criminal: he is somewhere up there with Hitler (perhaps not quite as bad) or Mussolini (perhaps worse). He has been indicted by the UN on two counts of genocide and nine other counts of murder, extermination, persecution, forced deportation and the seizing of 200 UN hostages. He faces possible life imprisonment if convicted.
NATO has obligingly convened a Court at The Hague to bring him to justice.
Or their concept of it.
As his trial finally began, he proclaimed: "I stand before you not to defend the mere mortal that I am but to defend the greatness of a small nation. I will defend that nation of ours and their cause that is just and holy."
And he blamed the appalling suffering and bloodshed of the Bosnian war, in which upwards of 100,000 people were killed and millions displaced, on Islamic militants, the United States of America, Germany and the European Union.
If ever there were an impossible, intractable, inextricable religio-political war, it is the Balkans. And Bosnia must be the epicenter.
Mr Karadzic asserts: ‘Everything the Serbs did as part of their own legitimate defense, all of that is treated as a crime."
He showed the court a photograph of what appeared to be a Middle Eastern militant holding the severed head of a Serb fighter, an image that recalled alleged links between Bosnian Muslims and Islamist groups such as al-Qaeda.
He accused a ‘conspiracy’ of Muslims, hiding behind calls for Bosnian independence, of waging a ‘jihad’ against Serbs. He said: "They had an Islamist goal. They wanted 100 per cent power as it was in the days of the Ottoman Empire. They want Islamic fundamentalism."
He insisted that the war was not started by Serbs but began when the US and the EU triggered the break-up of multi-ethnic Yugoslavia by recognizing unilateral declarations of independence from Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia.
And harking back to World War II, when Serbian partisans fought with Allied support against occupying Nazi forces, Mr Karadzic said that a vengeful Germany had rallied European powers and the US against the Serbs. He believes that the Western media had aided Muslim ‘war tricks’, including the faking of concentration camp photographs and staged atrocities in Sarajevo during the 44 month siege of the city where 12,000 civilians were killed.
Nutter? Liar? Madman?
Well, it is worth recalling the history, and pausing for more than a moment before we dismiss talk of a fundamentalist Muslim plot.
When you are leading an Orthodox nation as proud as Serbia which descends into war and is threatened from without by Roman Catholic Croatia and Muslim Bosnia, do you surrender? If ethnic Serbs are terrorized by Muslim Bosnians, do you simply do nothing? If the leader of the Muslims rejects power-sharing proposals and demands an Islamic republic, do you resist?
And if you resist and fight, is the cause just and holy?
Mr Karadzic said the Bosnian Muslims were the first to attack and ‘their conduct gave rise to our conduct’.
So it was self-defense.
The Serbs, he says, ‘were claiming their own territories’, and, as he observes, ‘that is not a crime’.
He further said: “It was never an intention, never any idea let alone a plan, to expel Muslims and Croats."
In a specific reference to one alleged incident, Mr Karadzic denied Serb responsibility for the 1994 shelling of the Markale market in Sarajevo, which he called ‘an illusion and a trick’. He showed video of an empty market that he claimed was shot before the shell landed, implying that the bodies were brought later. He said the media misrepresented legitimate refugee camps as concentration camps where non-Serbs were tortured and killed.
So, this was a photo-shopped war?
He said the Serbs ‘wanted to live with Muslims, but not under Muslims’.
Perhaps that is not an option.
Mr Karadzic portrayed himself as a conciliator who had been prepared to compromise on Serb ambitions to preserve the Yugoslav federation or to unite predominantly Bosnian Serb territory with Serbia.
And his argument is not without merit.
The break-up of Yugoslavia is the fulfillment par excellence of the EU’s ‘regional principle’. By encouraging petty nationalisms, the EU is able ‘administer’ and ‘develop’ for its own purposes, and it is a whole lot easier to achieve this in those nations where there are already separatist movements and ethnic division (including the UK).
In 1974 Bosnian Muslims became a nation. They were in fact Slavs but were granted nationhood on the basis of a distinct religious identity. It is easily forgotten that it was Germany’s unilateral recognition of Croatia in 1989 which precipitated mass displacement of 500,000 Serbs from Croatia and bloodshed in Kosovo and Belgrade, and it is virtually expunged from the history books that Germany armed the terrorist Kosovo Liberation Army throughout the 1980s and recognized its wartime fascist puppet Croatia in order to provoke Serbia.
And it is worth remembering that Germany was first to recognize Croatia in 1991, followed swiftly by the Vatican. Croats massacred a million Serbs, gypsies and Jews mainly at the Jasenovac concentration camp between 1941-45. Archbishop Stepanic and his priests helped to run the extermination camp and carried out forced conversions of Orthodox Serbs to Roman Catholicism.
In 1998 Pope John Paul II put Cardinal Stepinac of Croatia on the road to sainthood. The Cardinal was the leading Roman Catholic figure in Ustasha-ruled Croatia during the Second World War. The issue of his beatification is as offensive to many Serbs as that of Pope Pius XII is for very many Jews.
It should be remembered that many Orthodox Serbs were forcibly converted to Roman Catholicism, on pain of death.
And how many preferred death.
NATO aided the ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Croatia and Albania which Hitler and Mussolini began.
If Radovan Karadzic is a victim of anything, it is of socialism, corporatist capital, an integrated European superpower and a manipulative élite.
In the report in The Times of London of 10th November 1998, which General Sir Michael Rose recounted a story of the ‘criminal’ Serbs who had been blamed for the destruction of entire Bosnian Croat villages. He disclosed that they had actually been ethnically cleansed by Muslims. And he also talked of the widely-held belief that the Muslim sector of Mostar had been destroyed by the Serbs: he revealed that it had in fact done by the Croats.
If Radovan Karadzic were closer to home, he might just be invited into a power-sharing government. If he were a Muslim, he would be lauded as a freedom fighter. If he were Roman Catholic, he would be asked by Channel 4 to present a program about the ‘real Jesus’.
But he is an Orthodox Serb.