Tag Archives: war crimes

Video of Marines Urinating on Taliban Dead…and here is why it is wrong.

I have a history with this, having witnessed the Mock execution of a Serbian POW in the mountains above Sarajevo in October 1994. The incident is detailed in my book, Everything for Love. I am certain the young man from the neighboring town of Trnovo was spared because of my presence. I also have no doubt he was taken elsewhere and executed. Without doubt the would-be executioner, an average sort in his mid to late thirties could recite chapter and verse about Serbian atrocities, and likely had one or more family, friends or neighbors killed, wounded or otherwise terrible affected at the hand of Serbs, whether intentionally and cruelly or as a consequence of the war. I could recite those acts as well, and had personally witnessed enough to justify reprisals against those “inhuman” Serbs.

Those would be judgements of the human heart, however, a tinderbox fully at the mercy of vengeance and our selfish soul. It is our intellect and reason, and a moral standard that upholds human dignity, selfless mercy and the standards of human rights-one that is bolstered by laws and ideals that sanction those who violate those laws and ideals.

It has been a point of study into the psychology of war atrocities. Organizing relief, I was fascinated by the utter inhumanity that Hutu neighbors, friends and even family turned on their Tutsi kin in Rwanda. I had looked into the eyes of an elderly man who was so friendly and hospitable to me and others, only to smile gleefully and draw a finger across his throat at the blindfolded young Serb. Study the faces of men and women captured on film at executions and other atrocious acts, and you will find mostly complacent stoicism, but enjoyment and satisfaction in others. Other times there is a tribal, animal sort of orgiastic frenzy akin to videos of great apes and chimpanzees brutalizing others of their species.

The filming and ritual of degrading enemy dead-civilian and soldier alike- is hardly new. There seems to be an impetus to document such deeds, like posing with an animal after a hunt. It is tribal and perverse, apart from the illegalities. Worse it is shameful and wrong for some very fundamental reasons.

Preeminent among those reasons is the very assertion of many in this nation that America is the greatest nation on the earth, the “shining city on the hill,” and “the last best hope for mankind.” How does an act such as this further than notion, or convince our enemies otherwise? And if we discount enemies and other nations, how does this act strengthen those notions for ourselves?

If we truly believe we are the righteous in this conflict, is this how the righteous act? Where does is say in the Bible that in war it is alright to desecrate the enemy’s dead? It is an immoral statement to justify such acts by pointing to the enemy, if not for the reason above, then on the premise that it lowers us to the level of an “immoral” enemy. We demand that police abide by laws, and must adhere to the constitution and civil liberties in those duties. No one reasonably argues that the police can act lawlessly when dealing with lawless criminals, i.e., summary street executions, bombings, lootings of suspect houses or the wholesale beating of say a shoplifter or car thief.

Many on the Right heralded and praised the act with the patently immoral and thoughtless lament that “it is war.” They would not have considered that excuse for Nazi death camp guards or Japanese soldiers during the Second World War. Those criminals were held to account, often at the cost of their lives. War is not a frat party with license for abandon. It is not a right of passage, and even if it was, a soul does not switch off the tribal act of desecrating enemy dead in such a way when they return to “peaceful” society.

I have seen firsthand how acts of violence in war-whether justified or not, resonate terribly well beyond war. These men crossed a terrible line, not just in the act, but in their soul, and by the witness of thousands, and perhaps millions, have pulled us across that terrible line with them.  War is not a time for boys to be boys. It should be an aberration from rational human interaction and conflist resolution. It is a terrible and evil necessity, one that a nation should align itself on the side of righteousness and the weak.

I fully comprehend the moral entanlgements and confusion in combat. I have been there. I also understand revenge. I understand the emotions in a battle that would compel one to desire the ultimate fate upon an enemy. That is the specter of vengeance and the unhinged human heart. i confess to those emtions(watching Serb s purposely fire antiaircraft rounds at a mother and two children). I also understand that the world is a harsher and far more dangerous place when we give ourselves fully to that unbridled hate.

In the end, for these three Taliban fighters, who espouse a world and belief system I am very much opposed to, and who I believe must be defeated, the fight was over when the life left their bodies. What those soldiers then did is the worst side of all Americans and was a filthy and unnecessary act that can only be defended by those who have never been to war, or those who are too filled with innate anger and hate to see past the storms of their own heart.

Mladic Plea: Continuing his brave defense of beloved Serbia?

Mladic’s refusal to plead at the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague gave a legal middle finger to the Serbs who rallied to his defense this week following his arrest for ordering the murder of 7000 men and boys at Srebrenica, Bosnia in 1995. More than that it served to truly clarify his passionate love and stalwart defense of the Serbian people.

10,000 civilians and 4,000 soldiers died during Sarajevo's 4 year siege

For give me for deviating a bit from the point, but Mladic in Bosnia was the bloody tip of the spear for Serbia’s then leader, Slobodan Milosevic’s policy that Serbia was besieged by the world, and that he was defending Serbian culture from Europe and the United States. Funny how so many of those who swallowed such tripe now reside in the US and Western Europe, or want integration with the EU precisely because of the policies of Serbian nationalist leaders. And all of them cried at the end of the Emir Kusturica film, Underground, at the line, “Once upon a time there was a country…” I guess true nationalism crumbles when toilet paper and potatoes are hard to afford any longer.

But Mladic did not rise before the court and boldly decry the legitimacy of its mandate. Nor did he stand in defense of his reconstructed national history, invented historic victimhood or Serbian sovereignty. He did not assert that the 7000 unarmed and bound men executed and bulldozed into graves, or herded into schoolhouses and grenaded to death were terrorists and evil-eyed jihadists bent on annihilating all Serbs. There wasn’t a whisper about Jasenovac, the battle of Kosovo, the German firebombing of Belgrade in 1941, the Austrian invasion of 1914 or any other propagandized national calamities. No, Mladic claimed he was a sick old man with a terminal illness.

Patriot? A patriot stands by his nation, above his own needs. Particularly a proud general who pledges before god and  country to offer his life in defense of the nation. Mladic did none of that. Instead he acted in court as he did in so-called battle in Bosnia. He fought like a coward, besieging towns and cities, shelling and sniping civilians, allowing weekend warriors-civilians from Belgrade on sad and perverse adventures, to come and fire upon civilians for sport. He harassed journalists, and murdered some. The vanquished, frightened and innocent he gathered in fields and disposed of them like trash. He fought as a coward and now meets justice as a coward. Maybe this will reveal to Serbs everywhere the  true character of the fight in Bosnia that all too many of them still accept and defend.

For his victims and the survivors of his victims, perhaps you can take some solace from his pathetic repose. Perhaps the ridiculous ends of Milosevic, Mladic, and Radovan Karadzic reveals that the war was indeed criminal and selfish and not at all how it was characterized in the Press as a war against religions. Perhaps Bosnians of all religions will realize that religion was not the reason for the war, but the excuse, much like paying one’s light bill is the excuse not the reason for robbing a bank. Perhaps the farcical charade these men concocted that caused 120,000 deaths and uprooted the lives of millions brings Muslims, Serbs and Croats closer to the reconciliation they sorely need. Perhaps.

Serbian War Crimes: Mladic arrest not the end of the story

Nothing in the Balkans is ever as it seems. Within every angle are shadows and shadows upon shadows. Two things are always for certain, the Serbs will be intransigent to a sport, and the West never quite gets their historic meddling right. Both play the other for the fool, and both are almost always proved correct.

A bit of background on the good General Mladic I think is put better from my Book, Everything for Love, about my travels in the Balkans during the break up:

“Ratko Mladich, hunted by the world for the slaughter of seven thousand men and Boys in Srebrenica, became a fugitive exile from the land he and his army coveted. Mladich grew into a soldier in a nation that threw off the Nazi occupation. He rose through the ranks of the Yugoslav National Army hoping for the glory of his forefathers. When that time came he fought battles not against a seasoned adversary, pitting wit and boldness and strategy against a worthy opponent, instead his army vanquished old men and boys without guns, murdered old women and forced desperate villagers from their homes and looted them. He lives in Belgrade, protected by paid thugs.”

Like Karadzic, he fled from the courage of his pretend convictions. There was no defiant stand to defend the indiscriminate shelling of Tuzla, Sarajevo and Gorazde, or the sniping of civilians or the execution of the 7500 men and boys now being unearthed from mass graves around Srebrenica. These weren’t the acts to protect Serbian nationhood, but criminal acts hiding the transfer of territory and wealth through the perverse prism of manufactured ethnic animosity. Instead Mladic hid behind enablers and Serbian thugs under an assumed identity. Hardly the actions of even a self-respecting zealot, but rather a criminal who knew in the end his assertions of Serbdom were facades to a crime.

But the longest legacy of all this is that the Serbian people, as complicit in those crimes as the men who fired the weapons at civilians, have reached no catharsis about those terrible acts perpetrated in their name. They believed the nationalist’s hatred and drew siege lines around reason and human decency, blinding themselves to morality in believing they were the ultimate victims.

Mladic’s arrest, like Karadzic’s, were not sudden awakenings to the cause of human rights and an understanding of the brutality inflicted upon innocents in Croatia and Bosnia and Kosovo. They were bargaining chips for reconciliation with the rest of Europe. In that way this is a cynical act that the victims of their crimes-the survivors should not find justice in. Justice may come to the man, but the Serbs would happily sweep the years of war into the dustbin of history to be forgotten, erased from their own conscience. Would we have accepted that from the Germans over the Holocaust, or the Japanese after Nanking?

To my Serbian friends, it is not about Serbia’s soul only. It is about the soul of humanity, that each time we bury the past it returns with a vengeance, and that the only way to move forward from the tragedies and crimes of our collective pasts are to confront them resolutely and humbly, where them as a scar and never forget. Only then will “Never Again,” actually mean anything.

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