January 22, 2005

The (Profoundly Sick) Serbian Literary Scene

Nicholas Wood in the NYT:

Milorad Ulemek is Serbia's most infamous paramilitary soldier, a man who rights groups say was responsible for some the worst atrocities in the Yugoslav wars of the 1990's. He is more commonly known by his nom de guerre, Legija - literally "of the legion," from his time in the French Foreign Legion. He also occasionally adopts the surname Lukovic, which he took from his former wife.

As a nationalist writer, though, he faces some competition. Dr. Radovan Karadzic, the leader of the Bosnian Serbs during the 1992-95 Bosnian conflict and the man most wanted by the United Nations war crimes tribunal, has also written a novel. And just this week, another former president of the Bosnian Serb republic, Biljana Plavsic, who is in a Swedish prison serving a sentence for war crimes, released her book about the war.

While Ms. Plavsic's book is the only one that sheds any light on the events of the war, it is the other two that have prompted the most acclaim here. Nationalist admirers of Mr. Ulemek and Dr. Karadzic have declared their works masterpieces of Serbian literature, comparable in style to the works of Albert Camus and James Joyce. Dr. Karadzic's "The Miraculous Chronicle of the Night," published in October, was short-listed for Serbia's top literary award, the Golden Sunflower.

Such comparisons have provoked indignation among more liberal commentators. Dr. Karadzic, a psychiatrist by profession, is widely regarded by diplomats and historians as the chief architect of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, while Mr. Ulemek is seen as one of the policy's principal executioners.

Most commentators are agreed on one thing: the rave reviews for both novels reflect the near mythic status still accorded here to the nationalist figures of the 1990's, men who helped tear Yugoslavia apart in wars that killed more than 250,000 people.

Both authors managed to produce their books while on the run from various authorities. The war crimes tribunal in The Hague believes Dr. Karadzic has been on the move between Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro. It is not clear how the manuscript found its way to the publishers. [emphasis added]

It is beyond belief that, now 10 years on from Dayton, the odious genocidaire Radovan Karadzic is still afforded the luxury, perhaps in some rustic lair not too far from Pale, of penning novels that are being bandied about for literary awards in the salons of Belgrade. It's indeed truly sad and, of course, increasingly a profound embarassment to the (previously NATO, now EU-led) peacekeeping mission there. Someone must ask, why is the apprehension effort not being pursued full-bore? Is it because of fears of societal dislocations in Republika Srpska? If so, one might fairly ask, should war criminals gain de facto permanent amnesty simply because the commands and civilian leadership of peacekeeping forces lack the strength and conviction to see critical parts of their mandates, despite the real risks of complications to the mission, through? The answer must be no. Justice demands it. Great crimes were committed here. B.D. will never forget the fall of Srebrenica, seen from the vantage point of Zagreb in the summer of '95. My heart sank, as I knew thousands of innocents were about to be slaughtered. And, too, my disgust at Clinton's fecklessness and ineffectual attention to the conflict, pre-insertion of Dick Holbrooke, grew mightily as well. Yes, this is all ancient history for many of us now. But the victims of the seige of Sarajevo, of the slaughter of Srebrenica, of the horrific detention camps around Prijedor--they all still hunger for justice. Let us not let them down. They deserve better.

P.S. Some good people still haven't forgotten the increasingly distant horrors of the Wars of Yugloslav Succession. You can think about lending a hand here.

Posted by Gregory at January 22, 2005 04:15 AM

Greg --

A thought provoking post on the horrors still resonating in the Balkans, and how Serbian society still has not confronted it's dark past.

It also to my mind shows the ineffectual nature of the European alliances, be they NATO, or the EU. These guys can and could be found, but that would take combat troops on the ground, akin to what we have in Iraq (to get Saddam). The Balkans are part of Europe, that Europe can't even confront second raters like Miladec is truly pathetic, and doubtless attracting notice from hungry and adjacent regimes.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at January 22, 2005 04:50 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Why is it yourself and other neo-cons feel the need to be the worlds policeman. Why do you seek to impose you world view on others without ever stopping to ask them whether they want it?

Why is it whever you look at atrocities in places like the Balkans, Darfur or Rwanda, that you all seek to criticise the UN and Europe for being ineffectual or for not caring??

How about being critical of those who started these conflicts in the first place?? Were the French or the Germans or even Clinton responsible for the Massacres in the Balkans? Not - they did not give the orders to slaughter people and nor did UN troops engage in the massacre of numerous people of different ethnicities.

Lets aportion blame where it really belongs - to the Milosovic's and Karadzics first.. Lets look at the UN as an imperfect body that requires much work to make it more effective (and a body which suffers and is further damaged by Unilateral actions of powerful players who are supposed to be aligned with the UN). Lets talk about how to make the UN better and more relevant - instead of pointing out where it has been to slow - afterall those events are now past - lets learn from them instead.

Otherwise it is a lot like GWB's inauguration speech - a lot of hot air about freedom and democracy whilst systematically removing the individual freedoms of US citizens and interfering with Democracy on a Grand Scale at home.

Posted by: Aran B at January 23, 2005 08:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Aran --

I am not a neocon. I voted for Clinton twice, and generally agreed with his policies both foreign and domestic. I am a registered Democrat. Though I support Israel's existence, I am not Jewish (the typical neocon slur).

However, collective security means collective security. 9/11 has convinced me in the most concrete terms (more than 3,000 people murdered in the US by foreign enemies) that I was wrong to support Clinton's policies of risk avoidance (like never exercising for fear of pulling a muscle) which seems to me Clinton himself has come to terms with.

NATO is SUPPOSED to be a collective security organization to preserve peace and order in Europe, and specifically prevent wars and genocide in Europe. NATO failed, and failed completely. Bosnia and Kosovo are in Europe, and the European powers were impotent and helpless to prevent the massacres. The Dutch peacekeepers sat on their hands, under NATO command, at Srebenica while Serbian militias rounded up thousands of Bosnian muslim men and boys and massacred them. Like something out of Nazi Germany. If NATO forces cannot stop THAT, it cannot be relied upon.

The EU's response was to dither around, then have the US bail them out AGAIN to stop the killing.

Lesson: Europe (and the UN) is a useless, largely anti-American (and anti-Semitic) debating society concerned with washing brutal tyrants stolen money, and not much else. As any realistic collective security it is a fraud. Americans do all the fighting, all the dying, and spend all the money. Meanwhile the Europeans, NATO, and the UN constantly critique and arrogate to themselves the "global test" for what the US is allowed to do and what it is not allowed to do.

If the UN, NATO, and the EU actually picked up ANY of the tab, I'd feel different, but they are like a freeloading friend you take to dinner every week, who pays for nothing and kvetches about the choice of restaurant, entrees, and dessert.

I do not want the US to be "Team America World Police" but I don't want to be bound by those who are neither capable or interested in paying their fair share of blood and money for collective defense. Example: NATO offered help in Afghanistan's invasion, and was declined. Why? The Pentagon determined that the NATO troops would be useless in an attack, and require so much US support and so much political costs (NATO troops first and foremost avoid casualties rather than achieving missions) that it would cause the attack to fail.

This seems wise, since even as peacekeepers the NATO forces are pathetic. France has not even been able to provide it's own helicopters, having to lease them from Russia.

I'll add that the lesson of 9/11 is that repression, tyranny, brutality, and hatred are not bound by borders anymore. What happens in Afghanistan, or Ivory Coast, or Rwanda, eventually ends up in the streets of Manhattan or theatres in
Moscow. The UN is as much of a joke as the League of Nations, it's unable to confront evil where it happens and stop it.

Oh wait, no Leftists/Liberals define evil down. Milosevic and Karadzic and Interamhamwe and Pol Pot aren't evil. Just rebelling against imperialist oppressors and somesuch. That probably explains why the UN has never bothered to stop it. Or even do anything of value for Tsunami relief, when it comes to it.

Sorry to impose my worldview, but hacking little kids to death or shooting toddlers is evil no matter who does it. I guess I'm just too stupidly conservative that way.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at January 24, 2005 01:50 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


I'm impressed - and I'm not being sarcastic. I absoutely agree with you about the issues with the UN, but I do see an improved UN as the way forward.

Europe absolutely has had a disgraceful history of ditatorships, murder and opression. However, what I am concerned with is that by breaking away from the UN, and taking a unilateral path the US will unfortunately create a precedent that will ultimately lead the the complete break down of the UN has a body to regulate and provide some ordr in the International Community.

Unilateralism encourages the same from those Contries who are large and powerful enough to go it alone. Imagine if Russia and China also decide to act unilaterally??

Without being a wise-ass, If one were adopt the same degree of spin the Bush Administration uses, it would nto be very hard to paint a picture that America is under threat of becoming a dictatorship. Afterall Civil liberties in the US are now less than they have been since the overturning of Segregation. With some spin it would not be difficult in say China to convince the Populace that America is becoming a Dictatoship and therefore poses a risk to Chinese Security. With Unilateralism now an "accepted" doctrine you can see what could happen....

I appreciate what your saying about freeloading. But perhaps part of the answer is not to have your president proclaiming to be the beacon for freedom and democracy - having tried to implement both by force twice already....

Part of the Answer maybe streamlining the UN so that its much more effective, and to make it worth while for nations to subjugate some of the national interests to those of the wider international community. How?? If I knew I wouldn't be sitting here....

And I apologise for the neocon slur!!!!

Posted by: Aran B at January 24, 2005 08:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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