22 July 2008

Justice Delayed

It isn't often that I post more than once a day. I wrote the post below yesterday, so technically, I guess I'm not writing two posts today. Something pretty important has to happen for two posts.

And important this is. I am both happy and relieved by the news this morning that Radovan Karadzic is under arrest. Need a history lesson? I'm happy to oblige.

During the Balkan Wars, Karadzic was one of the Serbian generals, he orchestrated the siege of Sarajevo. But don't take my word for it. From NPR:

Karadzic has been twice indicted for genocide. He is accused of playing a key role in the 43-month siege of Sarajevo, which claimed 12,000 lives, and of orchestrating the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica, the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II.

I lived in Sweden during the start of the Balkan Wars, with a Croatian family. So yeah, this hits kind of close to home. I watched the news from Zagreb (Croatia's capital) with my host family, learned the words in Croatian that explained the numbers of people killed each day, listened as my host mother talked to her mother in one of the seaside provinces of Croatia and heard the news that her nephew had been drafted, cried with her over her terror that he might not make it home. I was there when they heard about the deaths of old friends, and helped them bid farewell to a fellow expatriate who went home to Croatia to defend his hometown.

Both the nephew and the expat made it home safely, but so many others did not. One of my most treasured possessions from my exchange year is a patch from the expat's army uniform, that he pulled off of the sleeve of his fatigues and gave to me. He handed it to me and said, "This is so you never forget. I want you to remember how ugly and stupid war is, how useless the divisions betweens Croats and Serbs, Christian and Muslim truly are. We're all human. The ethnic divisions are meaningless"

I have never forgotten. The violence escalated in the years after I left Sweden, the horrible tragedy in Sarajevo was several years after I came home. I was always disappointed and confused by what I perceived as apathy in America about the situation in the former Yugoslavia. When I came home in 1992, my friends mostly didn't know what I was talking about when I talked about Croatia. I learned to just keep my thoughts about the genocides to myself.

I still have harsh words about it; there's no oil in the Balkans, and therefore, the US didn't get involved until things were really bad. IMESHO, anyway.

Karadzic's arrest is NOT a case of too little, too late. It is a case of better late than never. Some of those families might have a bit of closure and peace now that he is in custody.

Now it is time for the Serbian government to track down Ratko Mladic, and hold him accountable, too.

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