Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Letters of the Week: On War Criminals

Well, for the first time ever we have a three-way dead heat. Three excellent letters on the glaring hypocrisy we've seen over the Karadzic affair, published in The Observer and Guardian. Liz Milanovich, Cathal Rabbitte and Peter McKenna (writing on our dear friend Richard Holbrooke, pictured above with members of that charming group of terrorists-oops sorry, 'freedom fighters', the KLA), come on down!

Death of a war criminal (From The Observer)
Though Ed Vulliamy is on a rampage with the Karadzic arrest story ('I am waiting. No one has ever said sorry', Focus, last week), The Observer has overlooked that notorious Croatian Nazi war criminal Dinko Sakic (who died on 21 July) was buried in full Nazi regalia and that his funeral was conducted by a Croatian Roman Catholic priest. Interestingly, 'no one [on the Croatian side] has ever said sorry'. No outrage at The Observer.
Liz Milanovich

(Letters published in Guardian 05/08/08)
Karadzic: an everyday sort of monster

What does Slavenka Drakulic (Comment, August 2) mean when she talks about "our belief that [Karadzic] is different, that he is a monster and nothing like us." He looks no different to any western political leader. Is the massive difference in income levels between OECD countries and the rest of the world a natural phenomenon?

Does it ever require the application of state violence?

Shouldn't Karadzic say he was just doing as the others do?

He could even have been a Des Browne or a Donald Rumsfeld, overseeing mass murder and ethnic cleansing in Iraq. Karadzic is no different to them, except that he lost. Had he won, perhaps he could have become a special Middle East peace envoy?

Cathal Rabbitte, Mumbai, India

"It's an invented story and no one ought to believe it," Richard Holbrooke says of the alleged secret deal with Karadzic (No chance of a fair trial, Karadzic says in first statement, August 2).

In his June 1980 testimony before a House subcommittee, Holbrooke said much the same thing about refugees' accounts of death and devastation in East Timor, and the liquidation of a significant proportion of its population. He hailed Indonesia as "one of the greatest nations in the world".

As the State Department's man in Pacific Asia, Holbrooke channelled covert aid to the Indonesian army in 1975 as it embarked upon invasion and genocide in East Timor.Should we really listen to him when he talks about war criminals?

Peter McKenna


Nick said...

An interesting piece, Neil, though I'm not quite certain what your point is.

Re: the letter from Liz Milanovich about Dinko Sakic: the Croatians (eventually) put him on trial and sentenced him to a considerable period in prison (where he died), so I'm not sure what an apology from Croatia would add to this fairly emphatic statement they made about Sakic. As for the Croatian Catholic church and the words spoken by their priest at Sakic's funeral, that's another matter. That particular church seems to have no shame. A pity.

David Lindsay said...

It should be emphasised that the Requiem Mass is an act of intercession for a departed sinner, not a celebration of his life, however it might often be dressed up these days in imitation of trends over the last forty years among Protestants, whose funeral services also used to be about God rather than the deceased, and in their classical forms (such as that in the Book of Common Prayer) still are. The new Pope will put things right.

neil craig said...

Note that one writer is from India & one has a slavic name. I have noticed that letters published are usually under slavic names.

Having had letters published on a number of not overly populist positons (pro-nuclear back when it wasn't popular, pro-lower business taxes, pro British space X-Prizes, even saying that low level radiation is good for you) I can say that getting a letter published, from the other side, about Yugoslavia has the longest odds against it.

My suspicion is that they are allowing "foreign" letters as a way of showing that they aren't censoring opinion while being able to imply that British people are united in support of the official view. Discussion in online sections of papers is showing the majority at least unsatisfied that Karadzic is more guilty than Blair. This is pretty much how online opinion lay about a year & a half ago regarding global warming when we were still being told that "the debate is over".

Nick said...

David, it's not the words of the mass, I think, that caused raised eyebrows, but the words of the priest who, during the service, said words to the effect that Croats should be proud of, celebrate and emulate Sakic's Nazi-style Croatian nationalism during WWII.

David Lindsay said...

Then Ms Milanovich's letter really should have made that clear, Nick.

It gives me no pleasure to write any of this. I believe passionately, as any orthodox Catholic must, in the historic mission of the Croats as 'Antemurale Christianitatis'.

But they have been derelict in that duty twice in the last seventy years, and Christian charity includes the obligation to reproach the brethren when and where necessary.

Roland Hulme said...

I think accusing British or American soldiers of 'ethnic cleansing' in Iraq is wildly inaccurate (and offensive.)

Anonymous said...

I wrote the letter with the India address. I don't think the letters page of the Grauniad is so organised as to only feature letters re Yugoslavia from overseas or Slav names.

I have very mixed feelings about the trial of Karadzic. It's not right that only the losers get to go to the Hague. I can't believe that ethnic cleansers who end up on the winning side still get a free pass in 2008. Karadzic is small fry compared to Rumsfeld.

I feel the same about Khalid Sheikh Mohamed's 'trial' at Guantanamo as reported in the FT at the weekend (16 August). Justice in imperial times is never black and white. After the 1857 rising in India the leaders were executed, many by being tied to a cannon which was then fired. One hundred years later they were lauded as heroes.

I think KSM is going to play the same role for future generations of Muslims- the first doomed stirring of resistance to the empire following the vanquishing of pan arabism. What do 3000 dead Americans mean in comparison to the carnage in Iraq? It's a question that must be answered because it is a question that everyone in the Middle East is asking. Why can't Bush and Brown be arsed counting the dead in Iraq? It makes a mockery of the process of 'justice' on show in Gitmo. Perhaps they needs a new symbol of justice - a heavily unbalanced scales.