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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Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Andrea Leadsom as Environment Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

A little over a week into Andrea Leadsom’s new role as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and senior industry figures are already questioning her credentials. A growing list of campaigners have called for her resignation, and even the Cabinet Office implied that her department's responsibilities will be downgraded.

So far, so bad.

The appointment would appear to be something of a consolation prize, coming just days after Leadsom pulled out of the Conservative leadership race and allowed Theresa May to enter No 10 unopposed.

Yet while Leadsom may have been able to twist the truth on her CV in the City, no amount of tampering will improve the agriculture-related side to her record: one barely exists. In fact, recent statements made on the subject have only added to her reputation for vacuous opinion: “It would make so much more sense if those with the big fields do the sheep, and those with the hill farms do the butterflies,” she told an audience assembled for a referendum debate. No matter the livelihoods of thousands of the UK’s hilltop sheep farmers, then? No need for butterflies outside of national parks?

Normally such a lack of experience is unsurprising. The department has gained a reputation as something of a ministerial backwater; a useful place to send problematic colleagues for some sobering time-out.

But these are not normal times.

As Brexit negotiations unfold, Defra will be central to establishing new, domestic policies for UK food and farming; sectors worth around £108bn to the economy and responsible for employing one in eight of the population.

In this context, Leadsom’s appointment seems, at best, a misguided attempt to make the architects of Brexit either live up to their promises or be seen to fail in the attempt.

At worst, May might actually think she is a good fit for the job. Leadsom’s one, water-tight credential – her commitment to opposing restraints on industry – certainly has its upsides for a Prime Minister in need of an alternative to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP); a policy responsible for around 40 per cent the entire EU budget.

Why not leave such a daunting task in the hands of someone with an instinct for “abolishing” subsidies  thus freeing up money to spend elsewhere?

As with most things to do with the EU, CAP has some major cons and some equally compelling pros. Take the fact that 80 per cent of CAP aid is paid out to the richest 25 per cent of farmers (most of whom are either landed gentry or vast, industrialised, mega-farmers). But then offset this against the provision of vital lifelines for some of the UK’s most conscientious, local and insecure of food producers.

The NFU told the New Statesman that there are many issues in need of urgent attention; from an improved Basic Payment Scheme, to guarantees for agri-environment funding, and a commitment to the 25-year TB eradication strategy. But that they also hope, above all, “that Mrs Leadsom will champion British food and farming. Our industry has a great story to tell”.

The construction of a new domestic agricultural policy is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Britain to truly decide where its priorities for food and environment lie, as well as to which kind of farmers (as well as which countries) it wants to delegate their delivery.

In the context of so much uncertainty and such great opportunity, Leadsom has a tough job ahead of her. And no amount of “speaking as a mother” will change that.

India Bourke is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.