Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Another Victory for Humanism Over Faith-Based Barbarity


Ratko Mladić, mass murdering war criminal
Ratko Mladic jailed for life over Bosnia war genocide - BBC News

Ratko Mladić, devout Orthodox Christian, the Butcher of Bosnia, has been found guilty by the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague of crime against humanity for his part in the Bosnian Genocide in the early 1990's.

He has been on trial since 2012 since when he has been held at the Scheveningen prison in The Hague where he spends his days playing chess against his compatriot, coreligionist and fellow genocidist, Radovan Karadžić, former president of Serbia, who was convicted of genocide in 2016. The third member of the murderous regime that took over Serbia following the break up of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milošević, escaped conviction by dying during his trial.

Mladić, aged 74, has been sentenced to life imprisonment.

The crimes were committed in the series of wars which followed the break-up of former Yugoslavia when Orthodox Christian Serbia tried to exert control over neighbouring Bosnia and Croatia to create a 'Greater Serbia', maintaining the traditional Serbian domination of Yugoslavian politics.

The war was characterised by its savagery and atrocities committed by all sides as ancient enmity and hostility between the major religions erupted into armed conflict between different religious factions. The Balkans is a hotch-potch of different religions, the result of being the interface between the two major factions of Christianity and of Islam. Orthodox Christianity deriving principally from Greece and the remnants of the Byzantine successors to the Eastern Roman Empire based on Byzantium (Constantinople, now Istanbul) dominates the south; Roman Catholicism, from Italy and Austria dominates the north and in between are the Muslims who moved into the Balkans as Turkic people moving into Anatolia crossed the Bosporus, enjoying the protection of the Ottoman Turks.

Mladić's victims, re-interred in a cemetery and memorial park
The result of these tidal movements of people back and forth is a patchwork of people speaking different languages, using different alphabets and often speaking the same language but writing it in different alphabets as the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets are identified with different cultures and traditions.

Underpinning the whole thing is religion with each population strongly identifying with one sect or another and seeing any compromise or concession as an attack on their cultural heritage. The Serbian sense of national identity, for example, stems from their victory at the so-called Battle of the Field of Blackbirds over the Ottoman Turks in 1389. The chequered black and white Serbian flag represents the blackbirds in the field where the battle took place. One of the reasons Serbia tried to hold on to break-away Kosovo is because the battle site is actually in Kosovo.

So, with this historical background of mutual hostility, Serbia attempted to occupy and 'ethnically cleanse' as much of Bosnia as it could take, aided by a volunteer brigade recruited in Greece with the active complicity of Greek Orthodox priests. It was one of these volunteer brigades together with Serbian militia led by Mladić that occupied the Bosnian town of Srebrenica which had been declared a UN 'safe area' under the protection of 600-strong, lightly armed Dutch UN peace-keeping force.

Bosniaks in a Serbian-controlled concentration camp
Mladić gave the Dutch commander an ultimatum to disarm the Bosniaks (i.e. Bosnian Muslims) or they would be killed. An estimated 23,000 Bosniak women and children were bussed to Bosniak areas while Mladić's militia separated out the males aged 12 to 77. These were then driven away and over the next four days they were executed and buried in mass graves at sites around Srbrenica. An estimated 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were murdered.

This massacre was the worst atrocity in Europe since the WWII.

Ratko Mladić, was eventually arrested by the Serbian authorities and handed over to the UN for trial on 2011; an event believed to be not unconnected with Serbia's application to join the European Union.

The War Crimes Tribunal found that Mladić had "significantly contributed" to the genocide in Srebrenica. It also found the troops under his command were guilty of:

  • Mass rapes of Bosniak women and girls
  • Keeping Bosniak prisoners in appalling conditions - starving, thirsty and sick - and beating them
  • Terrorising civilians in Sarajevo by shelling and sniping at them
  • Deporting Bosniaks forcibly en masse
  • Destroying Bosniaks' homes and mosques

Mostar Bridge, Stari Most, destroyed by Croatian forces in an earlier conflict with Bosniaks,
It is impossible to escape the conclusion that religion and religious differences, even the subtle differences between Catholic and Orthodox Christianity, were the root cause of the wars and atrocities on all sides. Even Sarajevo, a city which just a few years earlier had celebrated its tolerant, secular culture, became polarised and former fiends and work-colleagues became mortal enemies almost overnight. Cities such as Mostar found their former 16th-Century symbol of unity - the famous Mostar Bridge, Stari Most, which gave the city it's name - destroyed to form a new symbol of distrust and disunity.

Such is the Balkanising effect of the in-group versus out-group mentality that characterised almost all religions, which can rarely peacefully co-exist indefinitely, especially those such as the Abrahamic, mutually exclusive 'one true faith' religions. Religions constantly schism and fragment hence some 38,000 and growing different Protestant sects alone.

And often these difference erupt into these great convulsions of dehumanisation and blood-letting - the very stuff of European and Middle Eastern history. But then again, as just avout every other Christian will assure you, they weren't true Christians - every other Christian that is apart from the Greek Orthodox priests who recruited and blessed the volunteers who went north to massacre Bosniaks and then, having done such a great service for Jesus, came back to Greece to found the Greek neo-fascist party, Golden Dawn.

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