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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Milosevic dead

My initial raction to this provided one of those moments when your first instinct is entirely the wrong one. I though 'good, one less murdering bastard'.

The important thing about Milosevic's trial was that he was on trial. Had a guilty verdict been secured he (and those that assisted him) in turning neighbours against each-other, turning whole countries into the site of the bloodiest and most foul outrages seen for a generation, the world, through judicial strength of character, might have been able to look itself in the eye again over the entire Yugoslav afair.

The wars in what used to be Yugoslavia weren't territory wars, they weren't even what you might call a civil war. It was war carried out as vendetta. Rape was used as a weapon. Mass murders weren't just common they were organised and carried out with the intention of removing entire ethnic groups. Because of the way this war was propogated there were no civilians, no possibility of non-involvement for anyone.

The world failed to step in to Yugoslavia to mediate. In fact it deliberately and in a considered manner decided to do nothing until it was too late to be able to do anything effective. There are various reasons excuses for this. Firstly that for a while at the beginning it looked like a war might not happen, that there would be a skirmish and that Yugoslavia as a nation would cease to be and democratic states would emerge.

Second that interfering in the sovereign affars of another nation without invitation is in itself an act of war. The debate over this at the United Nations prevented any quick action and certainly any police action with a 'robust mandate'. This is often the excuse given by people that find the third possibility a little tough to stomache.

The third and most contentious excuse was that NATO had no purpose now that global communism was effectively beaten. Its' member states saw the opportunity for it to become a global policing body leading them to delay any military commitment from/to the UN. The delay allowed a full blown war to develop which the UN was prevented from doing anything about by the debate in excuse number 2. NATO rolled in the tanks, giving the appearance of impatience with the UN and allowing a lot of talk about the UN being a paper tiger. NATO acted too late and with not enough understanding, it was by then a guerilla war and tanks were inneffective to stop the pogroms taking place in the woods and hills.

Excuse four is that this was a european problem and that the European Union should have taken more of an active role in solving it. Particularly as the intended aim of the EU is to prevent European conflicts by enabling closer political and economic ties. Yugoslavia was not in the EU as it saw it as a partisan organisation in the cold war and Yugoslavia was still in name communist. Prior to the Maastricht Treaty being signed the EU was essentially an economic body. Whilst there was a European Parliament and some European laws all the member states were extremely cautious about any action that implied the sovereignty of the European body over that of the member states. Post Maastricht the Sovereignty of Europe over its individual states is implicit, but very very slow.

Excuse five is more of a flat statement: there was no oil. The conflicts in Yugoslavia began in 1991, the same year that George Bush senior invaded Iraq over Kuwait. A fairly minor infraction compared to the cross border horrors taking place in eastern Europe. Had Yugoslavia been an oil state and of greater economc significance then the world would have acted to protect its' economic interests. Yugoslavia's main industry was tourism and instead of action the world decided it would rather just not go there.

These five pitiful excuses shamed the world and it's post cold war naivety. The world watched and talked whilst people were murdered and displaced. The only possibility of the outside world actually being able to act as if it did anything about the conflicts at all would be to demonstrate that justice was attainable without the use of a gun. The prosecution of Slobodan Milosevic and other perpetrators of offences against humanity on every side of this conflict might have gone some way to extend the reach of international law outside of that merely imposed by force by interested parties. It was important that Milosevic be shown to be guilty that he could be called a convicted war criminal, important because that is all the world had left from the wars in Yugoslavia. Part of me is pleased that the world is denied the right of convicting Milosevic because it serves to underline the fact that all attempts at sorting those bloody wars out were pointless talking shops as his trial has now ultimately become.

Am I sorry the man who gave the world ethnic cleansing is dead? No I'm not, not at all, but it might have been better had he died after being sent to jail.