Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ratko Mladic caught but what does it change in Sarajevo, Bosnia and the Balkans?

Ratko Mladic is finally caught, 16 years after the end of the Bosnian war but his story is far from over. As we have seen time and time again at the Hague tribunal everything will be done to slow down justice, obscure facts in the case, prove that he is too weak to stand trial and endless delays to review evidence. This is a far cry from the Justice a brutal commander of a genocidal army deserves.
Ratko Mladic was a military opportunist, his chance to rise to fame began during the war in Croatia in 1991 when he attacked the lightly armed village of Kijevo, razing it to the ground even though it was only defended by a lightly armed police force. He was much less successful when facing a lightly armed but very determined HV during operation Coastline 1991, when the JNA tried to sever the Dalmatian coast from Croatian proper.
He then moved on to the bigger prize, the chance to attack his home country of Bosnia and Herzegovina were he showed no mercy and more brutality than the world could have imagined. Ratko Mladic's own daughter Ana took her own life, soon after returning to Belgrade from a trip abroad in 1994. She was unable to bear the truth of the brutal crimes her father committed, when exposed for the first time to independent media outside of Serbia, the truth of what kind of a man her father was.
Ratko Mladic is often called a brilliant commander by the media, he was highly decorated and regarded by the JNA. The truth is he had the backing of the fourth largest army in Europe and faced off against a civilian defense force in BiH at the beginning of the war and yet he was foiled in his attempts at overrunning the Bosnian defense forces. He had a large professional officer corps,a large amount of money, material, logistics and weapons superiority. What the Bosnians had in their defense was the motivation to fight at all costs, driven by the brutality of their enemies. A report produced by the CIA after the war disputed the claim that Mladic was a great military commander, pointing out the fact that he couldn't defeat a lightly armed opponent who enjoyed none of the advantages the Serbian VRS/JNA army did. He employed mostly outdated siege tactics preferred by the Soviet bloc armies as opposed to direct combat operations.
The psychological pressures put upon the Bosnian civilian's during the war were unimaginable for the world to understand. The idea that you would snipe children walking with parents, shell a playground or soccer pitch is unimaginable. Shelling breadlines, markets and water queues were not an unusual sight in Bosnia during the war. Not even mentioning the sniper campaign, ethnic cleansing of towns and villages, mass rapes, genocide and unspeakable acts perpetrated upon the Bosnian citizens. Adding insult to injury, death and massacres was the constant claims that Bosnians were either making it up or were doing it to themselves.
The arrest and future trial of Mladic will serve as a piece of justice for the victims and survivors. It will not however, serve to change the climate in Bosnia and Serbia. Serbia and the RS still harbor the same ambitions more or less than Karadzic, Mladic and Milosevic. Serbia inspires RS to push for defacto Independence and Dodik has positioned himself as the mini-Putin of BiH. A man who will do anything to retain and strengthen his power base, which is based upon ethnic division. The same people that led Bosnia to ruins are still in power, the war profiteers benefit from the Bosnian division and lack of government authority and rule of law. The same policy of division remains alive in the hearts and minds of politicians who rule based upon ethnic divisions and divide and conquer. The arrest of Mladic will not improve the economy, move Bosnia closer to Europe or push the country towards a unified, well run and organized country based upon the rule of law. Until the goals of the war time leaders of BiH are given up in exchange for economic prosperity, were the countries rulers are making decisions based on what will benefit of the citizens instead of it's rulers. Bosnia is a long way away from the hopes and dreams of me and so many other supporters...

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