MLADIC GAMES: CRIME OF ALL
By Bojan Al Pinto Brkic
In case someone's forgotten, Ratko Mladic was an anonymous officer of
the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), artillery commander in Skopje, likely to be revealed to
a decent man only as a name in Politika's obituaries. Born in Kalinovik, a cadet of
military-industry school who subsequently specialized in logistics and served in a system
wherein the army was the guardian of the constitutional order (i.e. plurality of
self-management interests of the republics' elites), he would have made a lt. colonel or
full colonel, go about his duties in a provincial garrison, until he was given an
apartment, earned his pension and the respect of his neighbors who would vote him
president of the tenants' council for life.
The about-turn in his career came during preparations for the war.
Someone placed high up in the circles of power, probably wishing to ingratiate himself
with the new leader, who had already presented his war plan and intention to see it
through, asked a highly placed military official, perhaps even the defense secretary of
the time Veljko Kadijevic, to instruct the army personnel department to find the right
man, a dishonorable high officer from rural parts, insufficiently professional, with a
problematic ego, a man who enjoyed in the sufferings of other people and failed to
understand political circumstances. Quite a tall order. The choice was not easy to make.
Mladic's 1991 appointment for commander of the JNA 9th corps with
headquarters in Knin is unexplainable. He had neither the required experience nor the
right education. Thus, it was a political decision. At that time, the army was only
formally under the control of the federal government and the SFRY Presidency. The generals
openly admired Milosevic, and he needed someone to sow fear in the field. Mladic's job
description including the disarming of the police, taking of villages, burning houses,
banishing the population, killings, threats to civil authorities.
He enjoyed every moment of it: his orders came directly from the top,
there were confidential calls, couriers, and cables spelling his name. He was the main
executor of the great plan, the most trusted man. The banality of evil, which Hannah
Arendt depicted in Adolph Eichmann, "the expert for the Jewish question", who read
books on Zionism and visited influential members of Jewish communities to then organize
and manage the transports of death, obtained new frameworks with Mladic in 1991.
At that time, he must have already been well acquainted with Milosevic.
Their relation marked the period mankind would have otherwise remembered as fin de
siècle. Together, they changed the picture of the Balkans, committing crimes to
fill history textbooks. It resembled a pact of beasts. A multiple murderer and his enraged
mentor, sheltering each other from humanity.
Mladic's actions against the civilian population in the field, made him
eligible for a court martial according to the laws of the former Yugoslavia. Instead, he
received three extraordinary promotions in a single year, which was unprecedented in the
history of the Serbian army, including the liberation wars. Borisav Jovic, Branko Kostic
and Jugoslav Kostic should tell you why. The forces he fought in Croatia had almost no
artillery, and the enemy air force comprised agricultural and sports planes, armed with
boilers ready to explode.
In April 1992, immediately after the referendum on the independence of
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mladic was made the chief of staff of the Second Army Group with
headquarters in Sarajevo, under equally unexplainable circumstances. The army, at that
time fully controlled by Milosevic, did not wonder why its superiors made a command
appointment, bound to become redundant with the army's withdrawal, or why they chose an
officer with insufficient strategic education and experience to fill the vacancy. Mladic
had the rank of a lt. general and was crowned with war laurels. Anyway, his allegiance was
known. That is why he was made chief of staff of the Bosnian Serb forces. Radovan Karadzic
wasted no time to add the third star to his shoulder patch, so no other officer could, God
forbid, have a higher rank in the newly formed army. Milosevic's favorite had to have an
Mladic's war in Bosnia is, indirectly, described by the testimonies of
two men, also to be remembered in the Serbian history. General Jovan Divjak, deputy chief
of staff of the B-H army, a Knight of the Legion of Honor, recalls that as commander of
defense in Sarajevo at the beginning of the three and a half year siege of the city, he
had three tanks at his disposal (soon to be destroyed), one in each three of his soldiers
with firearms (most often hunting rifles), and several brigade commanders lacking even the
basic military training. Dobrica Cosic, president of the FRY, addressing the parliament
convened to depose him upon the initiative of the radicals, allegedly for planning a
military coup, delivered a longish speech wherein he defended his patriotism by recalling
such details as hundreds and thousands of arms and other equipment sent to the Bosnian
Serb forces. Cosic certainly would not lie about such things, and, obviously, Mladic's
army was not short of ordnance.
In the field, Milosevic's favorite earned glory by commanding the forces
that revived the memories of concentration camps, almost turned rape into sport and held
cities under siege. Those were the years of rampage of diverse barbaric groups - some of
which became known to the Serbian public only when they were indicted by the prosecutor
for warm crimes - while Biljana Plavsic, provided a scientific justification of the
campaign to cleanse the genetic structure of the Bosnian population. European countries
would have surely continued to send their incapable generals to wine and dine with Mladic,
had it not been for Srebrenica - the crime of all crimes. Milosevic got the idea that
Bosniaks should disappear from the enclaves in Eastern Bosnia. The plan was to have Mladic
cleanse the territory, while Belgrade would seemingly contribute to the peace efforts
(deciding who should get the municipalities where thousands of Bosnians had miraculously
After Dayton, Milosevic rewarded his favorite with the rank of a
general, with a special status in the 30th personnel center, and a villa close to the
Kosutnjak hill in Belgrade (Blagoja Parovica st.), presumably to remind him of the days
spent in the forest. The market value of this real estate equals lifetime earnings of
several men, but what Mladic did for Milosevic could never be expressed in money terms.
But for Mladic as his main subcontractor, Milosevic could have never succeeded in
demolishing the state and society and saddling the people with a burden to carry through
history. Any one else would show at least a hint of humanity, if not more.
In order to understand the reluctance of the authorities to bring Mladic
to justice, after having deposed Milosevic on October 5, 2000, or today, one should first
understand the complex story about him. He was not only Milosevic's favorite, he was also
the hero of the nationalist circles. Mladic was more than an all-rounder in the Serbian
imperial adventure without limits. He is our pledge against stability and progress in
Bosnia. He is an obstacle to establishing credible institutions in Serbia. He is a
challenge to the feeling of justice anywhere in the world.
For a Serbian nationalist, for the military establishment, for the
people who have in one way or another financed and supported his war, Mladic is a mythical
Gorgon one should not look in the face, lest he died. It is high time to make this clear
to all, instead of letting him be turned into a victim.
He, allegedly, has to go to the Hague so we could continue our
stabilization and association negotiations with the EU, and be admitted to the Partnership
for Peace, and be given some money, and not because Vojislav Kostunica's government
depends on Ivica Dacic, a.k.a. Small Sloba, even the socialist would like to be rid of,
and therefore needs a card it could play in the coming period, when Kosovo and Montenegro
appear lost in advance.