Hopefully Mladic’s Arrest Will Bring Answers

GraphThe arrest of General Ratko Mladic for atrocities committed during the Bosnian war is a very welcome development.

Undoubtedly his defence team have an incentive to exaggerate his health difficulties, to seek to avoid or delay extradition to the Hague; but he may genuinely be seriously ill.

We need to hope that his trial can proceed, and that answers will be forthcoming to the murky questions that surround the chain of command and criminal responsibility.

The rapid descent of Yugoslavia from being a seemingly stable and relatively harmonious society into a vicious warzone fractured along ethno-linguistic and religious lines is hard to understand.

How did Mladic evolve so quickly from being a general in the army of the socialist state of Yugoslvia, in command of the 2nd Army District,  into being an ultra-nationalist prepared to massacre people who had been his fellow citizens of Yugoslavia?

How did the civil war degenerate so quickly, and why did the multi-national Yugoslavian civic identity prove so fragile?

33 comments on “Hopefully Mladic’s Arrest Will Bring Answers

  1. Thank God he has been caught is all i can say hopefully his victims will find some kind of solace

  2. Caergy on said:

    You have to understand that this whole idea of numerous nationalities living together in harmony under the banner of socialism was not true. While certainly for much of the postwar period Tito was able to prevent national sentiment from materialising publicly due to rule with an iron fist and an economy that (by communist standards) was actually rather good for its citizens, making national identity an almost secondary concern. Yet under the surface these troubles had been building up for many years prior to the wars as Serbs grew resentful of the way in which Tito was seen to have prioritised the importance of other nationalities over theres in government and set the groundwork for the conflicts.

    Tito created a system of rule in Yugoslavia that was essentially dependent on him for its existence, when he died with the economy in a downward spiral and the collapse in communism leading to an awareness of national cultures for the first time in decades it essentially created a perfect storm of resentment and power struggle that scars the region to this day.

  3. John Palmer on said:

    Andy:Yugoslavia was “a socialist state” in name alone. It was always an authoritarian state which brooked no genuine opposition. After Tito’s death the ruling bureaucracy degenerated quickly into its constituent nationalist factions as being the best route to smash-and-grab – get-rich-quick advancement. Increasingly the Serb nationalists – including ultra nationalists on the far right – and their Croat opposite numbers dominated what was left of the “federation.” Secession of Slovenia, then Croatia etc became inevitable. The Serb and Croat “strong men” agreed on one thing; Bosnia which was the most “Yugoslav” on the ground of all the republics was an intolerable example of multi-ethnicity and had to be pillaged and ultimate divided between Belgrade and Zagreb. The rest of the very bloody story – including the genocidal massacres needs no re-telling.

  4. Caergy on said:

    #4 “Yugoslavia was “a socialist state” in name alone. It was always an authoritarian state which brooked no genuine opposition.” Sounds similar to most other socialist states to be perfectly honest.

  5. David Ellis on said:

    Throw away the key on this guy. History will not forget how the self-serving ultra chauvinist Serbian stalinists allied with Mladic and Karadic’s Bosnian Serb fascist irregulars in a vile land grab as part of the descruction of Yugoslavia prior to the restoration of capitalist rule.

  6. Vanya on said:

    Imo part of the problem was the fear that it was necessary to get the retaliation in first.

    The last time Croatia and Bosnia-Herzeogovina had been separate from Yugoslavia the Serb population did not exactly fare very well at the hands of many of their Croat and Muslim neighbours. The latter day Croat militia identified closely with the fascist Ushtase goernment which murdered hundreds of thousansd of Serbs under Nazi tutelage, many Muslims (as zionists never tire of telling us) had fought in the SS, and an independent Bosnia in the 1990s could never have been viable as the Serbs made up nearly half the population.

    These fears were open to exageration, a slide into the easy justification of atrocities, and then add to the mixture the fact that the Germany, Austria and then the USA were all seen to be supporting the break-up, adding to paranoia and an increased feeling of victimhood and you end up with a pretty lethal cocktail.

  7. I remember speaking to Yugoslav friends of mine as well about this, who explained how many in their parents generation strongly identified with the Yugoslav national identity, because they perceived Titoism as having transformed their life chances.

    Now similar personal liberations happened in all rural societies that industrialised, but nevertheless in Yugoslavia it was Tito who acheived it, and in particular the Partisans had ended the ethnic slaughter of WW2.

    One friend who served in the Serbian army in Kosovo told me that he had never thought of himself as a Serb, and had an “Albanian” wife, who had herself also only ever thought of herself as Yugoslavian. But they both felt obliged to take identities forced upon them by the disintegration of the state; and there was certainly an aspect where those who identified with Yugoslavia were more inclined to see Serbia as the defenders of past acheivements.

    These were frends from Belgrade, and it may well have been completly different in country areas.

  8. David Ellis on said:

    #8 Is that supposed to be an excuse or is it a straighforward justification for Mladic’s conduct?

    The `fear’ was cranked up to destroy Yugoslavia and restore capitalism. The chauvinist serbian stalinists bear 90% of the repsonsibility for this. They paid for the setting up of Mladic and Karadic’s fascist Bosnian Serb irregulars and Milosovic was negotiating with Douglas Hurd for the bank he was working for to fund the privatisation of the Serbian telecoms industry around the time of the war.

    The far right’s serious use of Islamaphobia across Europe can be traced back to this war. It worked wonders for Mladic’s power grab and they think it will do the same for them.

  9. cynic on said:

    Now they’ve given up Mladic will Serbia be allowed to join the Napoleonic monstrosity that is the European Union or will they have to renounce all claims on Kosovo first?

  10. Sam64 on said:

    To answer your question Andy, not easy, here goes:

    Yugoslavia was brought down by (in no particular order):
    • Opportunistic politicians using nationalism to bolster themselves as the Titoist ideology of brotherhood and unity frayed around the edges.
    • Irresponsible journalists who gleefully stoked the nationalist fire.
    • Irresponsible religious leaders who gleefully stoked the nationalist fire.
    • Unemployed football hooligans.
    • Right wing émigrés

    All of the above, to different degrees and extents, on the make, not least Mladic and his Croat nemesis Gotovina who no doubt he’ll soon be dining with, playing cards etc. The final chapter of Slavenka Drakulic’s, They Would Never Hurt a Fly (2004) details how the inmates of the Scheveningen detention unit in The Hague have recreated a mini Yugoslavia where they all get on great together.

    This was in the context of:
    • An economy in long-term decline but with profound regional differences.
    • An almost complete lack of civil society and stupefying level of apathy in Yugoslavia that allowed the demagogues to take centre stage c.1990.
    • Add to this a certain peasant fatalism about Balkan war and its grotesque forms once the conflict had actually started. That doesn’t obviate the fact that most people in the country were simultaneously genuinely surprised that neighbour could kill neighbour.
    • The failure to deal frankly and honestly with the breakup of the first Yugoslavia, 41-45. Instead, post war generations were told a childish lie of heroic Partisans v. fascists (Chetniks and Ustache).

  11. Vanya on said:

    #10 Neither David. Perhaps you noticed the word “atrocities” in my comment.

  12. Sam64 on said:

    I see the SWP post is where the action is.

    On Mladic specifically, I think I’m right in saying that he is from a Serbian village near Knin in Croatia that saw Ustache atrocities during WW2, including I think his parents. That region, the krjina, was the bastian of Serbian nationalism until the Serbs were expelled in 1995. Misha Glenny deals with Mladic in The Death of Yugoslavia. He has Mladic down as a genuine nationalist, unlike Milosevic. At the same time, he prints a conversation recorded by a journalist between Mladic and a Croat commander in Split. The 2 friends swap pleasantries, discuss family and old times in the JLA before making arrangements for the return of the bodies of young men from their forces killed in the bloody fighting.

  13. Anonymous on said:

    Yugoslavia was brought down by (in no particular order):
    • Opportunistic politicians using nationalism to bolster themselves as the Titoist ideology of brotherhood and unity frayed around the edges.
    • Irresponsible journalists who gleefully stoked the nationalist fire.
    • Irresponsible religious leaders who gleefully stoked the nationalist fire.
    • Unemployed football hooligans.
    • Right wing émigrés

    all to familiar in the break up of many unions.

  14. non-partisan on said:

    15* Not just ‘opportunist politicians’ but Stalinists (in method) former leaders of the party who saw the wind changing and nationalism as a way of keeping their snouts in the trough, as party membership had been previously. All of them, milosovic, trudjman etc had previously been party leaders.

  15. Sam64 on said:

    Yes, Tudjman actually fought with the Partisans during WW2 and then had an interregnum having written a revisionist history that played down Serb casualties during the independent State of Croatia. Milosevic, kept on going with the Yugoslav Socialist Party, just Serbian nationalised it.

  16. No need for a trial then? Why am I not surprised to see ‘socialists’ gleefully echoing NATO propaganda? This was the ‘good’ humanitarian intervention, that showed that the West isn’t prejudiced against muslims, and really does wear the white hat sometimes? Pass the sick bag. If you haven’t read Diana Johnstone and Ed Herman etc on this by now, you’re just not interested, so I’m not going to waste my energies arguing it.

    But would anyone here care to explain why they feel no trial is necessary to establish Mladic’s guilt? Let me guess – because the BBC says so? Not that he’s going to get a real trial at the ICC – anyone here care to tell me that he’s going to get a fair trial there? Andy, do you believe there is genuine international justice?

    Lots of apparatchiks on the radio today insisting that this time the trial isn’t ‘sidetracked and used for grandstanding’, the way Milosevic did… i.e. this time just tape up his mouth, convict him quickly and give him the Saddam Hussein treatment, public televised humiliation and execution, maybe test the water for establishing the occasional rectitude of cruel and unusual punishments, now that torture is firmly re-habilitated.

  17. #18

    I don’t actually take ed Herman seriously, but if you read what I wrote I said:

    We need to hope that his trial can proceed, and that answers will be forthcoming to the murky questions that surround the chain of command and criminal responsibility.

    Mladic was certainly in command at the time of atrocities, even if the exact scale and nature of the atrocities may be disputed. A court will be able to hear evidence on that, but the court will also have to establish Mladic’s actual responsibility, what he knew about, and what he ordered.

  18. Yes, fair enough. But why don’t you take Ed Herman seriously? Do you take Misha Glenny seriously? An MI6 hack if ever I say one.

    Herman has earned the right to respect with a long track record of courageous and groundbreaking work. I’ve never known him to be wrong. On the other hand, I’ve still to find any record anywhere that any court ( or any other body) has identified even ONE Bosnian Muslim as having been summarily executed by Serbs after the fall of Srebrenica.

  19. David Ellis on said:

    #18 `This was the ‘good’ humanitarian intervention, that showed that the West isn’t prejudiced against muslims’

    Sarajevo, a major European city, under medieval siege for three years without a finger lifted and the people of Srebrenica disarmed by the UN prior to their being murdered by Mladic? NATO gave the Serbs every opportunity to finish the job but the Srebrenica massacre and the heroic resistance of Sarajevo meant that public opinion would not allow it to stand aside any longer. How was it ever going to be possible to allow the Bosnia Serbs to enter Sarajevo and do a Srebrenica on a far greater scale there? Even then NATO went in with the intention of legitimising already achieved ethnic cleansing and a few proposals of its own that would further it.

    NATO doesn’t come out of it with any kind of credibility and of course when they finally did intervene it became a launch pad for further cack handed and disastrous imperialist interventions both there and eventually in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  20. David Ellis on said:

    #13 I noticed the word atrocities but I also noticed that nobody was to blame for them except the Muslims, the Croations, the Germans, the Austrians and the USA.

  21. Vanya on said:

    David, do you deny that there was also ethnic cleansing of Serbs?

    Are you aware of what happened in the Krainja when the Croatian army moved in at the end of the war with the help of western forces?

    Do you think that it was reasonable to expect Serbs in Croatia having the protection of Yugoslav citizenship taken away from them (as the declaration of Croatian independence did) by people who looked back with nostalgia to a regime that massacred their grandparents and great grandparents, and in the case of Bosnia to accept the result of a referendum for independence when they were nearly half of the population?

    Why no mention in your analysis of the Muslim victims of Croatian militias?

    The majority of atrocities may have been committed by Serb forces under whichever command, but that is no reason to fall into a narrative that puts all the blame for the war itself on one side.

  22. Left Burglar on said:

    To blame the Serbs exclusively, or exonerate their leaders as helpless victims, are of course both wrong and simplistic. There were atrocities on all sides, as is the nature with a nationalist war of all ethnicities against all.

    The tragedy is that if the socialist, internationalist and anti-chauvinist settlement of Titoism had lasted even a few daces longer, this would probably never have happened. I remember talking to people from the former Yugoslavia who pointed out that the tensions which exploded into war came from World War 2, the scars of which were still raw, but which would have by, say, around now, begun to die out with the generation which lived through them.

    Instead capitalism was restored under a nationalist banner, as over the rest of Eastern Europe including the powerful mother Russia itself, at what was possibly the last chance for nationalism to undo all the good of previous decades. During which Yugoslavia was forged into a nation, and stood independent and nonaligned in the world, based on an attempted balancing of national claims in autonomous republics, which with the introduction of the free market became nationalist competitors.

    Tito, possibly the best European state supporter of genuine national liberation movements, should not be condemned for supressing ethnic nationalism, its just a shame he wasn’t successful enough.

  23. sylvia ebberly on said:

    This relative stability was smashed by two things. Firstly, the re-introduction of capitalism into Eastern Europe and dissolution of the Warsaw Pact made special relations with Yugoslavia superfluous for the west. Secondly, in these circumstances, having become dependent upon financial support from the IMF, by the mid-1980s the latter, with the support of the Yugoslav federal government, imposed economic reforms designed to open the way to the privatisation of the economy. This brought the economy to the point of collapse.

    This provoked two different reactions within Yugoslavia – both directed against the federal government. In the two richest republics, Slovenia and Croatia, these policies had brought to the fore political forces which proposed pulling out of Yugoslavia, in order to stop subsidising the poorest parts of the federation. These forces co-ordinated their activities with German imperialism.

  24. sylvia ebberly on said:

    and the left-then…as now
    needed clarification

    The part of the far left which had welcomed the transition from planned economies to capitalism in Eastern Europe continued its degeneration in the course of the war. The largest internationally organised such current was the Fourth International. While formally opposing the bombing, the Fourth International played little role in the international anti-war movement because its primary axis before, during and after the bombing was opposition to the Milosevic regime and ‘self-determination’ for Kosovo – when the real issue was the plan by US imperialism to establish a new NATO colony in the province. The French language journal of the Fourth International, Inprecor, codified this orientation with the headline on its editorial: ‘Neither NATO, nor Milosevic, self-determination for Kosovars.’ This ‘third camp’, of opposition to the Yugoslav army and NATO, no more existed in the war than it had at the time of the Bay of Pigs US invasion of Cuba or the war in Vietnam. The Fourth International confirmed its trajectory towards the camp of liberal imperialism in the course of the war by calling for support for the International War Crimes Tribunal and its indictment of Milosevic (‘Not that we reject the International War Crimes Tribunal nor its indictment of Milosevic’ – From the Balkans War to the world order: balance sheet of the war, September 1999). Even bourgeois observers were capable of recognising that the Tribunal is a pure instrument of NATO intervention in Yugoslavia. As NATO spokesperson, Jamie Shea, put it on 17 May: ‘Without NATO countries there would be no International Court of Justice, nor would there be any International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia because NATO countries are in the forefront of those who have established these two tribunals, who fund these tribunals and who support on a daily basis their activities’ (John Luaghland, The Times, 17 June 1999).

    One of the most grotesque such currents was the British Workers’ Liberty, whose main activity during the bombing was to participate in the KLA’s small pro-NATO counter-demonstrations against the anti-war movement – on which the main flags were always that of NATO, alongside the union jack and the stars and stripes.

  25. jock mctrousers on said:

    Which 4th International? There’s about a dozen of them. But it hardly matters, because I’d be surprised if any didn’t fit the pattern (maybe the WSWS lot), because I’m hard pressed to think of a left organisation, 4th Int. or not, and official communists too (maybe the CPGB(ML)excepted)who didn’t line up with the demonisation of Milosevic. When he died, the Socialist Worker (and they were actually better than most) had an editorial headed something like ” good riddance to the Butcher of the Balkans”, and the Morning Star wasn’t much better, though at least they gave space to Neil Clark and the Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic. The SWPers, like Richard Seymour, still insist that Milosevic was brought down by ‘working class power’, rather than a massively US-funded colour revolution.

    It’s not just the courts in the Hague that are NATO operations; don’t forget that the International Committee for Missing Persons (Yugoslavia) is also a NATO outfit. It used to be plain on their website – they had a list of their officials on the site, most of whom were listed as also NATO officers of some kind, but they seem to have changed that – officers still listed, but NATO position not – so you have to do your own digging.

  26. Vanya on said:

    Recognising that NATO military intervention against Serbia should have been opposed is one thing, as is recognising that various imperialist powers had a big role to play in the break-up of Yugoslavia and the consequent bloodshed, and that ethnic cleansing and other crimes were committed by all sides.

    But to jump from that to portraying Milosevic and the Bosnian Serb leadership as somehow the good guys is ludicrous to my way of looking at the situation.

    Western reporters can’t all be dupes-What do you say about someone like Robert Fisk?

    And Sylvia, never mind the USFI. What about Ken Livingstone? Supporting not only the Kosovo war but prior to that iirc demanding that British troops be pulled out of Ireland to go to Bosnia to help the Muslims against the Serbs before NATO even began its airstrikes near Sarajevo?

    All of that while certain people were involved in closely advising him.

    The USFI crossed ‘class lines’, but not Ken?

    And I can understand why people felt tempted to take the view that Ken did. I was involved myself in Workers Aid for Bosnia at the time, and while I have no idea of the true scale of what happened at Srebrenica, I simply do not believe the whole thing was a hoax.

    But I also see why an interventionist line was mistaken, and the ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Krainja and large parts of Kosovo only reinforces that.

  27. titchmitch on said:

    Jugoslavia had one of the most advanced constitutions recognising the rights of all minorities to culture, education, tv stations etc eg hungarian and roumanian rights in serbia etc etc….
    but economic and political pressure (read susan woodwards ‘balkan tragedy’) where the disintegration of the nation and encouragement of ultra nationalist forces by national governments could only lead to one thing-violent disintegration-in a country which suffered the worst percentage population loss in WW2 -but who in the west cares about these costs of recolonisation-you can always blame the victims of course…… shame on the west once again

  28. prianikoff on said:

    “How did the civil war degenerate so quickly, and why did the multi-national Yugoslavian civic identity prove so fragile?”
    The post-war Titoite system spoke of equality between the republics, a federal system and socialism.
    But by the 1980’s the reality was that the the debt crisis had led to rampant inflation, unemployment and falling living standards.
    One of the main political consequences was nationalist discontent in the Republics.
    The growth of regional separatism in turn provoked fears on the part of the Serb minorities.
    This was particularly the case in Bosnia, given its intermingled population and Kosovo with its large Serb minority.

    Yugoslavia could not be held together on the basis of Serb nationalism.
    But Milosevic encouraged this in his incendiary speeches in Kosovo.
    His approach legitimised Karadzic and Mladic in their attempt at armed U.D.I in the Serb enclaves of Bosnia.

    There’s no doubt that atrocities were committed as a result, although not exclusively by the Serbs.
    The Croats also committed atrocities, as did some Bosnian Muslim units and the KLA in Kosovo.
    But unlike the Serbs, they generally received NATO military support.

    NATO intervened to reinforce Partition.
    It became one of the main instigators of “ethnic cleansing” in the entire course of the war.
    It targeted Milosevic because the Serb government was the main impediment to the break up Yugoslavia into manageable Protectorates.
    This made it easier to absorb Yugoslavia into the Western capitalist economy.
    Serbia’s entry into the E.C. is the final act in this process.

    Mladic’s whereabouts haven’t exactly been a secret all these years.
    He’s frequently appeared at public functions and was staying with his brother.
    His delivery to the Hague is the price of Serbia’s entry to the E.C.
    But the biggest warmongers will never appear before the warmonger’s own court.

  29. Vanya on said:

    As far as courts are concerned iirc at the same time that US money was flooding in to sponsor the tribunal on former Yugoslavia, the US government was bullying any 3rd World country that did not want to fall foul of it to agree not to support any prosecution of US service personel in the International Criminal Court, the establishment of which it did not agree with.