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June 15, 1992
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 38
Ratko Mladic, Gunner

From Sarajevo to Belgrade

by Stojan Cerovic

General Ratko Mladic (Commander of the Serbian Armed Forces in Bosnia) was the last hope of the war enterprise called Greater Serbia. After distinguishing himself as a colonel in Knin, he was promoted and sent to Sarajevo to take the place of another humanist, General Kukanjac. Radovan Karadzic had already defected, setting up his artillery in the hills and enjoying the role of great generalissimus who fearlessly exterminates careless civilians. But Mladic's arrival nonetheless brought evident change.

Already in the manner in which he negotiated the de-blocking of the "Marshal Tito" barracks ("a guarantee of mine is like one of the Almighty") it could be seen whose authority he had taken over and on whose level he was. To someone who has definitely decided never to be accused of treachery, any thought or feeling represents a mortal sin. Because of this General Mladic staunchly insists on ablating brutality which obviously comes easy to him.

When they dispatched him from Belgrade, he was given a free hand, all personnel and weaponry he found was handed over to him, and he was probably warned that he could no longer count on direct assistance. It was left to him to conquer and hold on to the territory until it was considered a fait accompli and recognized as the new reality, which would then bring on the day when a Greater Serbia could be proclaimed.

Milosevic decided to continue his game of hide-and-seek with the world, that he wouldn't admit to this war, like the one in Croatia, believing he had a solid alibi. By creating a small Yugoslavia he wanted to show on paper the proof that he is clean, because he grew up in a system where everything happened on paper, in which only papers were important and bore no reference to reality. It was touching how shocked he was when it became clear that no-one in the world would look at his paper alibi.

But Mladic's flattening of Sarajevo made a deep impression. He hit hardest when the "Marshal Tito" barracks had been evacuated. Maybe he wanted to prove how independent he was of Belgrade against which sanctions had just been enforced, maybe he was just checking out technique and personnel, or maybe, as seen from the hills, the sight of a city in flames is simply irresistible. Maybe he wanted to outshine the conquerors of Vukovar.

In any case, General Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, in their attitude towards urbanism, have finally provoked the concern of Belgrade. First of all Milosevic's headquarters stated that the Serbian side was innocent in Bosnia, then that everyone was guilty, and finally the hope that someone in the world would be against the sanctions. As the final moral justification and proof of propriety was left the theory that military intervention would not take place, that it was too complicated and expensive, that it would maybe occur only in Bosnia, that Belgrade, at least, would not be bombed. Milosevic could still prove himself a great statesman if he manages, in the course of his mandate, to prevent the international community from bombing Belgrade.

If Milosevic is no longer in total control of Mladic's army, so much the worse for him. The world has irrevocably established paternity, or, as Lawrence Eagleburger said: "Belgrade has created a monster and it is its responsibility to put an end to the fighting". Letters are written every day, warning and demanding Belgrade to immediately put a halt to the bombing of Sarajevo, but this is a laughing matter, particularly to Mladic who was advised not to take such demands seriously, even at their most severe. And Milosevic has tangled himself up so much in his own two-faced game that he probably doesn't even know anymore what to take seriously.

As soon as they were introduced, it was clear that the sanctions would achieve their goal, primarily because they were agreed upon unanimously, so that it was difficult for the imaginativeness well-known here to read into world circumstances and signs the theory of a conspiracy. If anyone had been against them, if Russia had at least abstained, this tiny hole would have been enough for Milosevic to get through, and the sanctions would have been counterproductive. It would have been said that Serbia wasn't alone in an unfriendly world, that there was someone who understood the truth, and the people would have been called to heroically withstand the torture.

Milosevic remembered to try once more to hold on with the assistance of so-called support from the interior, telegrams which he would stuff Belgrade full of. Belgrade has begun to fear shots and violence, not so much from the outside as from the inside. There is talk of civil war, for which it has neither the desire or energy. But the time has come to say, with no maliciousness, that a little shooting in Belgrade is not the worst that can happen. The worst has already happened. A state has been broken up, cities destroyed, people killed, millions forced to run, and Belgrade hasn't had such a bad time of it. Its fear of violence in its own backyard is just hypocritical.

Like all real artists, Milosevic's work will outlive him. Pressure from the outside and inside will first bring about a change in regime and Milosevic's fall before an end to the war in Bosnia. The enthusiasm of Karadzic and Mladic will certainly subside, but they still have a lot of ammunition left over, and the other side can't just be called to stop now that it has a better chance of retaliation. Nevertheless, it won't be easy for Mladic to go down in history as a hero and exemplary Serb, even though historians here have known how to carry out similar alchemical exploits. This time history will have to be written in accordance with international standards because the world has become irreparable diaphanous and everyone knows everything and no-one is allowed to stay anymore closed up in a dark backyard. Apart from this, it is now clear that a national version of the history of this war would sow the seeds of a new evil.

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