Monday, June 06, 2005


"Serbia is deeply shocked" (updated)

"Serbia is deeply shocked," said its President Boris Tadic, according to CNN. What has shocked Serbia is the screening of a video of a massacre at the war crimes trial of former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic. President Tadic continued, "Those images are proof of a monstrous crime committed against persons of a different religion. And the guilty had walked as free men until now."

In the video a Serbian Orthodox priest blesses the soldiers before they go off to carry out the executions of 6 Muslims. Members of the unit were members of the Serbian police force. The video was subsequently shown on Serbian television, which has led to the arrests of ten members of the "Scorpions," the paramilitary unit that carried out the massacre.

According to NPR, President Tadic has also promised the arrest of General Mladic before the 10th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre next month. Mladic has been hiding in the open with the support of the army and police. A recent Serbian poll found that 50% of the population did not believe that massacres occurred.

Scoop reported that a Belgrade newspaper has revealed that copies of the videotape had been passed around for years in the Scorpions' home town.

The newspaper quoted residents of Sid, where the Scorpions special police battalion was based, as saying the local video rental shop once possessed five copies of the execution tape, shot in Bosnia at the time of the Srebrenica massacre of 8000 Muslims by Bosnian Serb forces.

The copies were not for the general public, with only those close to the Scorpions allowed to view them, the paper quoted locals as saying.

There is also a torture video but that has not been released to the public.

I note all this to point to the complicity of the population in such actions, though the CNN account would indicate that not all are complicit—

Among those stunned by Wednesday's broadcast were the wife and daughters of Branislav Medic, a Serb mechanic and part-time paramilitary volunteer in Bosnia in 1995.

Talking to the daily Blic, she recalled that he went off with his 'Scorpions' unit that summer and came back exhausted.

"We turned on the TV," she was quoted as saying. "He said we should send our two younger daughters to bed. The two oldest stayed, one is 19, the other 17. The younger one closed her eyes. I viewed the footage for just a second.

"I did not have strength to watch. Only the sound could be heard. The older one watched until the end. She hasn't said a word since then. She just cried."

Torturers, murderers and executioners always seem to turn out to be so ordinary. You can usually find characterizations such as "family man," "hard worker," "well-respected." Afterward government spokesmen give their "bad apple" speech and all is forgotten.

Thank God that could never happen here.

4:46 pm

I've just been reading Rod Norland's article in Newsweek. Norland was a war cheerleader who is leaving Iraq deeply depressed. I couldn't help but think of the shocked Serbs as I read his account.

Things really went downhill in Iraq after Abu Ghraib, he says. Then he adds,

The most shocking thing about Abu Ghraib was not the behavior of U.S. troops, but the incompetence of their leaders. Against the conduct of the Lynndie Englands and the Charles Graners, I'll gladly set the honesty and courage of Specialist Joseph Darby, the young MP who reported the abuse. A few soldiers will always do bad things.

I'm glad that Mr. Norland applauds Spc. Darby vs. the "bad apples." His feelings, however, were not shared by the folks back home.

Here's the caption in the Joe Darby story from last August as told by Wil S. Hylton at GQ—

When he saw the horrific abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, Joe Darby knew he had to blow the whistle. But coming forward would change his life—as well as his family's—forever, and for the worse. Because back in his own community and in the small towns of America, handing over those photos didn't make Joe Darby a hero. It made him a traitor.

His fellow Americans so admired him that he had to be hidden and his family moved. Basically they had to go into a witness protection program.

Also last August, Staff Sgt. Ivan “Chip” Frederick, one of the first to plead guilty to a crime in the Abu Ghraib scandal, issued a plea on Darby's behalf—

Lastly, I am concerned for the well-being of Specialist Darby and his family. I just learned that he was placed in protective custody because of threats against him. To all who have supported me, I want you to know that I have no bad feelings towards Specialist Darby and neither should you. He did what he thought was right, and it was right. I ask you to accept that and move on.

So Mr. Norlund of Newsweek thinks that Mr. Darby is somehow representative and the others are just bad apples? As disconnected from reality as Mr. Norlund appears to be, he was nevertheless one of the more important representatives of the media responsible for bringing us the news from Iraq!

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