What is it that we have witnessed over the past few days, in connection with the‘mysterious’ arrest of the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić: a well-rehearsed play for public amusement, or a manoeuvre on the part of the new ‘rather different’ political set-up, telling us that the era of anti-Hague calculations and associated tricks is gone for ever – that Serbia has to join Europe, so the Gordian knot had to be cut? What we were able to hear, see and read in these past days is reminiscent more of the atmosphere of Belgrade’s Luda Kuća [Crazy House] café, which the now legendary Dragan (David) Dabić visited now and then, in order to play the gusle‘in the good old style’, below his own portrait and those of his sponsors and comrades Milošević and Mladić. We shall have to wait a while longer for an answer as to what really happened, when it will become all too clear that Karadžić’s extraditi onto The Hague is part of a more complex and tragic story.
With all these piquant details about Radovan’s second or third life, it is rather as if we were being sold a cuckoo’s egg, whose ‘perfect camouflaging’ suggests that we have once again fallen victim to a fast one pulled by the Serbian secret services. Have we innocent citizens not been told for years by our politicians that, whereas Mladić might be in Serbia, Karadžić certainly was not, accompanied by protestations about the existence of an unquestionable political will to find and deliver the accused to The Hague – belied all the while by the behaviour of the recently replaced head of BIA [Security and Intelligence Agency], Rade Bulatović, and by persistent obstruction on the part of the prime minister, Vojislav Koštunica?
This kind of dalliance with the public and the victims of Karadžić and Mladić, this whole game of hide-and-seek with the Hague tribunal and the international community, is by now acquiring all the features of a banalisation of evil, designed to avoid the necessary confrontation with the past and its serious crimes, and to transfer the burden instead to the Hague prosecutors and judges. Such banalisation leaves no place for serious investigation of the role played by a whole pleiad of Serbian intellectual grandees, from the ‘father of the Nation’ Dobrica Ćosić to the ideologue of ethnic cleansing Milorad Ekmečić, and to a host of writers and assorted academicians, to the church oligarchy, and to the high command of an ethnically cleansed JNA that handed over complete army military areas along with aircraft, tanks and artillery to the Pale war clique.
One should recall here the RAM plan, designed to demarcate the territory of the future Great Serbia, which the pretence that the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina was a civil war has unfairly pushed into the background. Can we set aside the three years of assault on Sarajevo by artillery and snipers? What are we to say about the most terrible crime committed in Europe since the Second World War, when over 8,000 Bosniaks were murdered in a few days in the area of Srebrenica? How many Belgrade senators and ministers rushed off to help Karadžić ‘pay off the historic debt to the Turks’? One recalls here the consternation and disgust caused by Karadžić’s attempt to turn besieged Sarajevo into a tourist destination for ‘the most loyal friends of theSerbs in the world’ – which some of them, people like Eduard Limonov, used in order to try out the guns by targeting innocent civilians, and others, such as Vojislav Koštunica, in order to muse over the future frontiers of an enlarged Serbia.
Is not Karadzić’s arrest a unique opportunity to open up a dialogue -unhesitatingly, sincerely and penitently – about the executions, the rapes, the camps for Bosniaks and Croats, about the violent alteration of the ethnic structure of whole territories, about the dominance of the Bosnian lobby in Belgrade and the arrogant rule of the Karadžić family, about the pillage and the ‘patriotic’ businessmen who made great fortunes in the war, and who, by aligning themselves with the devil of Pale, came to penetrate all Serbia’s political, administrative, economic and media structures. We should recall too the stories about the unique breed of Serb dog trained unmistakably to detect Bosniaks and Croats, and about Tesla’s secret weapon that will destroy all Serben emies.
Such recollection is necessary in order for Serbia to repent its sins, Serbia which – although it ‘did not take part in the war’ – made sure over four years that the most monstrous crimes would be committed systematically and uninterruptedly in the name of the Serb people. It is necessary too for the sake of a new generation that knows nothing about this black period – or only what is being served up in school textbooks that portray an openly expansionist war as a patriotic one, a war of national liberation. Serbia – which for years successfully hid and protected war criminals, and then by ‘political will’ (reluctantly and uncomfortably, in the face of great resistance from the anti-Hague lobby and the security services too) produced so-called ‘voluntary surrenders’ – must, above all, not be rewarded with candidature for EU membership and access to the Union’s funds while simultaneously avoiding confrontation with the crimes, with their ideologues, creators and executors. Facing up to all this is the necessary condition for Serbia’s own Europeanisation -for its acceptance of values meaning that crimes must not be forgotten or minimised, and that perpetrators must be punished.
It unfortunately seems, however, that the ‘historic arrest’ of the Bosnian Serb leader will not lead to rewinding the film of the past; that Karadžić and his story will instead be left to be dealt with by The Hague; that Serbian citizens will hear and read only what is supplied by the Hague courthouse. Yet if the current banalisation of Karadžić’s person and deeds continues, so too will the adoration of a person whose whole career is based on fraud and crime. From the first crime he committed in Sarajevo in 1984, when he spent eleven months in prison for stealing public money to build himself a country retreat in Pale, via the three-year prison sentence for embezzlement a year later, via the most monstrous wartime nationalist swindle, to his hippy swaggering round Belgrade. Until someone decided that it was in the interest of Serbia and its future that Karadžić’s trickery should finally be ended.
We are left to wait for his performance in the Hague courtroom.
Translated by Bosnian Insitute