November 25, 2017


Memories of the cruel Balkan Wars of 1992-1995 are already slipping away.   But the sentence to life in prison for Serb general Ratko Mladic by the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing last week shows that justice occasionally prevails.

These crimes in the Balkans were of epic proportion, sadistic, and profoundly sickening, even to a hardened war correspondent like me.

Serbia’s banker-turned demagogue, Slobodan Milosevic, and Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, formulated a strategy to create an ethnically pure Greater Serbia, purged of Catholics and Muslims, that would recreate the glory of the medieval Serb kingdom.  They rose to power on calls to ‘send the Turks (i.e. Muslims) back to Turkey.’  Ironically, Bosnia’s Muslims were mainly descendants of medieval Christian Bogomil heretics who had been savagely persecuted by Orthodox Christians and converted to Islam for protection.

Mladic led the Bosnian Serb army (along with units from Serbia’s Army) in a multi-year campaign to uproot, expel or kill the Catholic Croat and Muslim population of the ex-Yugoslav republic of Bosnia.   The Serb Army then turned its murderous rage to the former Yugoslav region of Kosovo that was 95-98% ethnic Albanian.  The world learned the term, ‘ethnic cleansing.’ 

Gen. Mladic was convicted of engineering the massacre of over 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica, and the bloody siege of Bosnia’s capitol, Sarajevo.  Srebrenica was the worst war crime in Europe since World War II.  To these atrocities add ethnic massacres across Bosnia and Kosovo, rape camps where Muslim women were routinely violated, and concentration camps where Muslim and Croat prisoners were starved and tortured.

As sadistic Serb paramilitary thugs and the Serb Army rampaged through Bosnia and Kosovo, the world largely averted its eyes, blaming the massacres, rapes, and looting on ‘centuries of hatreds.’ Not true.  Modern-day power-thirsty demagogues and the Orthodox Church played the key role.

In truth, the orgy of killing and ethnic uprooting was even quietly welcomed by certain governments, like Greece, France (traditional ally of Serbia), Britain’s Conservatives, Russia, Hungary and Romania.  

Britain and France managed to thwart, then delay, multi-national efforts to end the massacres while shedding crocodile tears and secretly aiding Serbia.

Equally contemptible was the reaction of the Muslim world, which averted its eyes while offering bromides and platitudes.  The Saudis, self-styled ‘Defenders of Islam,’ were too busy in Europe’s casinos and brothels to care about tortured Bosnia.  The Turks, with 600,000 soldiers, were too fearful of angering Europe to do anything.  The only peoples to help the Balkan Muslims were some Afghan mujahidin and Iran, which supplied arms to the Bosnians with tacit CIA approval.

As a keynote speaker at a major Islamic Conference, I could not resist telling the delegates from around the globe: ‘if Jews were being persecuted in Bosnia they way Muslims are, I’m sure the Israeli defense forces would have landed and put Mladic and his Serbs in a cage.’   I was never again invited to speak at an Islamic conference.

In the end, the United States, which had no strategic interests in the Balkans, finally took military action to end the Balkan horrors.  American Jewish groups, who knew genocide when they saw it, demanded the Clinton administration take action to end the massacres of the Balkan Muslims.  Serbia’s crimes became too egregious to ignore.  Clinton ordered military intervention in alliance with Croatia.  Serbia finally sued for peace and ended ethnic cleansing.  Large numbers of Serbs, Muslims and Croats were left refugees.

This was one of America’s proudest moments since WWII.  America became a hero to the entire Muslim world – until the dimwitted George W. Bush decided to invade Afghanistan and Iraq.  American critics who still decry the Balkan intervention simply don’t understand the region or the issues involved.

Today, little Bosnia remains a shattered country, its people still dazed with horror over the evils that have befallen them.  Albanian Kosovo also remains walking wounded.   Mladic and Karadzic are in prison; Milosevic died of a heart attack during his trial.   Many Serbs insist on their innocence and still claim to be victims of plots by Germany and Muslim nations.  They won’t accept guilt and move into the 21st Century. Forward-thinking Serbs have embraced Europe.

But just as the world lays to rest the ghosts of Bosnia and Kosovo, a new genocidal horror emerged in Asia as Myanmar (formerly Burma) used murder and rape to terrorize into flight over 600,000 brown-skinned Muslim Rohingyas.  Once again, the world watched passively.  While Rohingya children starved, the Saudis were busy building new palaces. And once again it may fall to the United States to end these crimes against humanity.


Copyright  Eric S. Margolis  2017


This post is in: Balkans


  1. Mike Smith says:

    Three counterpoints… at the same time Bill Clinton made his demands of Serbia, he not only turned a blind eye to Russia crushing Chechnya and their independence movement. While painting Milosevic as evil he called Boris Yeltsin ” Russias Abraham Lincoln ” While I do not believe the US should jump into every conflict around the globe… it was very hypocritical not to acknowledge and condemn such actions, unless the real motive is not selfless at all ?
    Second the sanctions regime against Iraq, imposed by the Americans and their allies ( although many of those allies did not agree ) reportedly killed between 2 and 5 million including 500,000 children by blocking imports of food, medicine, and water purification equipment among other things. These sanctions were supposed to be pressure to get Iraq to give up non existent WMD despite UN inspection teams not finding any. Civilian deaths occur around the world daily due to this ” economic warfare ” A former co-worker of mine from Iran lost his mother to a treatable cancer… his family had money for treatment but the medicines required were on the embargo list. If not genocide, then at least purges worthy of Stalin… should that not be condemned and punished ?
    And lastly, by failing to sign the Rome Statutes and agree to the jurisdiction of the ICC the Americans really have no standing at the Hague. They act above the law and that in part causes the resentment that turns into violence against them. The recent pressure against the Palestinians to attempt to force them not to seek the protection of the ICC in regards to the Israeli occupation shows the contempt the US government has for any application of international law deemed not in their interest. The US calls itself ” The Leader of the Free World ” but is that really by the free worlds choice ? or is it simply a form of occupation enforced by diplomatic, economic and military means ?

  2. The fault for preventing this disaster lies with the UN. They were aware of it, had the resources to do something about it, and did nothing.

    Time to disband the UN and re-charter it in a meaningful fashion.

    Truly an impotent paper tiger…

    • Mike Smith says:

      I think the fault lies in the security council. Several UN members wanted to intervene in Rwanda, but were blocked by the US ( Bill Clinton again ) and Britain ( who seems to vote with the US without exception ) No veto power and a wider field of countries voting would be a start.

  3. Excellent article. But, don’t count on Trump to do anything about the Rohingyas and Myanmar’s ethnic cleaning, since he seems to despise Muslims. There is an off-chance that his daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law Jared Kushner will persuade Trump to act decisively in this matter, but we can’t be overly optimistic.

  4. Anne Frank is famously noted for saying “I truly believe that deep inside all people are good.” History has proven this childish delusion is utterly false and the total opposite is true. Deep inside all people are absolute evil and it takes remarkably little for the good in people to be pushed aside.

  5. Demographics definitely played a part in creating this disaster. I believe the Muslim population was expanding rapidly over the past century displacing other groups.

    At some point this explodes. If this is indeed what happened, then it fits the profiles of many wars in the past. When populations exceed the limits of their initial boundaries and press outward, their neighbours resist.

    The result is very messy and particularly so in ex-Yugoslavia. it makes for compelling reading but it would be nice to read more about the root causes of the conflict.

    John M.

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