In defense of the Serbs

The off-and-on war crimes trial of Ratko Mladic got underway again this week in The Hagueafter a month-long summer break. As the prosecution outlines its case, I am planning a series of posts that will attempt to explain the mindset of the former Bosnian Serb military commander. By way of introduction, I want to look at the terrible war in the former Yugoslavia from the viewpoint of the Serbs, widely viewed in the West as the aggressors.

My focus in this blog has been the crimes of a single individual, and in particular Mladic’s decision to kill or deport the Muslim population of Srebrenica in July 1995, which has become the centerpiece of the genocide charge against him. While I have inevitably talked a lot about Mladic’s crimes against Bosnian Muslims, I do not mean to imply that Serbs were the only people committing war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, or that Serbian leaders were exclusively responsible for the war.

In fact, Serbs had some perfectly legitimate concerns both prior to and during the war that are often overlooked by western commentators who have painted an excessively black-and-white picture of the conflict. Foremost among these concerns was the security and rights of some two million Serbs living in the breakaway republics of Croatia and Bosnia. The terrible atrocities committed against Serbs in both Croatia and Bosnia during World War II by Croatian Ustashe remained fresh in the minds of many Serbs, stirred up by the poisonous propaganda of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic

To read the full blog post on Foreign Policy, click here.  

Mladic, the family man

Ratko Mladic was an archival packrat, documenting his own life meticulously through diaries, videos, and photographs. Many of these records are now in the hands of Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, to be used in his genocide trial, which adjourned today until August 21. The materials provide unique insights into not just Mladic: the war criminal, but Mladic: the family man — a loving husband, doting granddad, and grieving father.

At the top of this post, you will find a photograph of Mladic with his beloved daughter, Ana, taken from a video recorded in October 1993, at the height of the war in Bosnia. A medical student, Ana killed herself with her father’s pistol five months later on March 23, 1994. The following two photographs show Mladic weeping over her coffin at the funeral in Belgrade, and being consoled by his wife, Bosiljka. I have described the Ana suicide, and the devastating impact that it had on Mladic, in a previous post.

To read the full blog post on Foreign Policy, click here