The doctor and the commander

The past week has not been kind to genocidal war criminals, nor to those accused of being one. First, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was apprehended in Belgrade, living quite openly under an assumed name (and one heck of a disguise). Karadzic is charged with responsibility in, among other things, the Srebrenica massacre. From Wikipedia:

Karadzic is accused of personal and command responsibility for numerous war crimes committed against non-Serbs, in his roles as Supreme Commander of the Bosnian Serb armed forces and President of the National Security Council of the Republika Srpska. Under his direction and command, Bosnian Serb forces initiated the Siege of Sarajevo and carried out numerous massacres across Bosnia. Tens of thousands of non-Serbs were killed, hundreds of thousands were driven from their homes and thousands more were imprisoned in <span class="mw-redirect">concentration camps</span>where many died. He is accused of ordering the Srebrenica massacrein 1995, directing Bosnian Serb forces to "create an unbearable situation of total insecurity with no hope of further survival of life" in the UN safe area. In addition, he is accused of ordering that United Nations personnel be taken hostage in May-June 1995.

A lovely human being. Of course, it should be remembered that the Serbs, who have so often been demonized in the Western press, are not solely to blame for the horrors that have been perpetrated in the Balkans. During World War II, the Croatian fascists, the Ustashe, were allied with the Nazis, and carried out acts of depravity comparable to anything that Himmler and his minions could dream up.

One of them, Dinko Sakic, died this week in Croatia, where he had been extradited from Argentina, which sheltered him for over fifty years. Sakic was commandant of the concentration camp complex of Jasenovac, known as the "Auschwitz of the Balkans." From the New York Times:

Mr. Sakic was found guilty of killing more than 2,000 Serbs, Jews and Gypsies at the camp named Jasenovac. Among other crimes, the verdict said, he ordered executions; did not treat the sick; worked inmates to death; starved and tortured some with a blowtorch; and hanged others, sometimes leaving them dangling for days. He personally shot at least four prisoners dead, two of them for smiling…in 1994, during a state visit to Argentina by (Croatian) President Tudjman, Mr. Sakic spoke to Magazin, a Croatian magazine. "I'd do it all again," he said, adding that he wished more Serbs had died at Jasenovac. "I sleep like a baby."

An equally lovely human being.

The moral of all this, if there is one, is this: in human affairs, there is always more than enough blame to go around. In war, no side is completely blameless. The atrocities committed by the Croats during World War II, which were just one more chapter in an ongoing saga of interethnic hatred, provided a rationale for Serb extremists to commit atrocities against Croats. This does not excuse either side for what it did; rather, it condemns each of them equally. Sakic and Karadzic were both monsters. Sakic is answering to God for his crimes; in time, so will Karadzic.

Addendum: Early reports had it that Karadzic hid by disguising himself as a Serbian Orthodox priest. For a well-rounded discussion of this topic, and the role of the church in the Balkans, see this blog article by Terry Mattingly. (Disclaimer: Mr. Mattingly, like myself, is Orthodox.)