Karadzic and Srebrenica

Teach British school children the lessons of the July 1995 massacre of Bosnian Muslims in a UN "safe

The arrest of Radovan Karadzic could not have been more timely. Just as international institutions needed a boost, international public enemy number one is delivered to the Hague tribunal. Received wisdom had it that the Serbs would never hand over their most prized war criminal and Karadzic would end his days in a monastery somewhere in the mountains of eastern Bosnia. But sometimes good things really do happen. What's more, Karadzic was working in alternative therapy. What a perfect profession for a mass murdering psychopath.

I am not a great one for making moral equivalences: wars and the atrocities they engender tend to be historically specific. The holocaust was uniquely evil. The IRA is not the same as al-Qaeda. Israel is not the same as apartheid-era South Africa.

But I have always believed that all British school children should be taught about the unique horror of the Srebrenica massacre in the same way that they are all taught about Auschwitz. The failure of the international community to come to the aid of the 8,000 Bosnian Muslim boys and men massacred in the safe haven of Srebrenica in July 1995. The massacre had a huge influence on Tony Blair's policy of humanitarian intervention, which he relied on as justification for intervention in Kosovo and, to some extent Afghanistan and Iraq.

When I heard about the arrest, I went back to the brilliant book "Safe Area" by the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Rohde who had these words to say in 1997 on Karadzic and his partner in war crime Ratko Mladic:

"Both men appear to have been driven by a classic deep-rooteed racism that lay at the core of their nationalism. The Muslim prisoners around Bratunac [a town next to Srebrenica] that night [July 13 1995] were things that "bred" too quickly. the prisoners were also an opportuninty for Mladic and KAradzic to make a dramatic hitorical statement.
For them, the fall of Srebrenica was part of the Serb people's centuries-old struggle against Islam and the Turks, It was an opportunity to avenge the Serbs killed in the Srebrenica area during World War II and an opportunity to wipe out several thousand soldiers whom the manpower-short Bosnian Serb army would face again if they were exchanged."

Rohde continues:

"It would be comforting to think that the executions were a strategic mistake; that the massive manhunt Mladic launched to capture Srebrenica's men diverted his troops and allowed the Croatian Army to advance unchecked on the other side of the country. But the Bosnian Serbs still control 49 per cent of Bosnia. Both Karadzic and Mladic have gotten away with Europe's worst massacre since World War II.
American, French and British policy in Bosnia has created twin cancers. Serb nationalist were taught that 'ethnic cleansing' could succeed; Muslims learned that their lives didn't matter."

Writing in the New York Times today Rohde says that the arrest gives new credibility to the war crimes tribunal. I hope he's right.

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The buck doesn't stop with Grant Shapps - and probably shouldn't stop with Lord Feldman, either

The question of "who knew what, and when?" shouldn't stop with the Conservative peer.

If Grant Shapps’ enforced resignation as a minister was intended to draw a line under the Mark Clarke affair, it has had the reverse effect. Attention is now shifting to Lord Feldman, who was joint chair during Shapps’  tenure at the top of CCHQ.  It is not just the allegations of sexual harrassment, bullying, and extortion against Mark Clarke, but the question of who knew what, and when.

Although Shapps’ resignation letter says that “the buck” stops with him, his allies are privately furious at his de facto sacking, and they are pointing the finger at Feldman. They point out that not only was Feldman the senior partner on paper, but when the rewards for the unexpected election victory were handed out, it was Feldman who was held up as the key man, while Shapps was given what they see as a relatively lowly position in the Department for International Development.  Yet Feldman is still in post while Shapps was effectively forced out by David Cameron. Once again, says one, “the PM’s mates are protected, the rest of us shafted”.

As Simon Walters reports in this morning’s Mail on Sunday, the focus is turning onto Feldman, while Paul Goodman, the editor of the influential grassroots website ConservativeHome has piled further pressure on the peer by calling for him to go.

But even Feldman’s resignation is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Although the scope of the allegations against Clarke were unknown to many, questions about his behaviour were widespread, and fears about the conduct of elections in the party’s youth wing are also longstanding. Shortly after the 2010 election, Conservative student activists told me they’d cheered when Sadiq Khan defeated Clarke in Tooting, while a group of Conservative staffers were said to be part of the “Six per cent club” – they wanted a swing big enough for a Tory majority, but too small for Clarke to win his seat. The viciousness of Conservative Future’s internal elections is sufficiently well-known, meanwhile, to be a repeated refrain among defenders of the notoriously opaque democratic process in Labour Students, with supporters of a one member one vote system asked if they would risk elections as vicious as those in their Tory equivalent.

Just as it seems unlikely that Feldman remained ignorant of allegations against Clarke if Shapps knew, it feels untenable to argue that Clarke’s defeat could be cheered by both student Conservatives and Tory staffers and the unpleasantness of the party’s internal election sufficiently well-known by its opponents, without coming across the desk of Conservative politicians above even the chair of CCHQ’s paygrade.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.