Truth in Media Global Watch Bulletins

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TiM Bulletin 2011-03a

June 4, 2011

Few humans are one-dimensional monsters, as the "lamestream" media would have us believe painting black and white stereotypes

Humane Sides of Accused War Criminals

Karadzic, Mladic, Krajisnik... all started as good souls with many likeable qualities



 "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to cast a stone..." (at the accused)     [John 8:7]



Few humans are one-dimensional monsters, as the "lamestream" media would have us believe painting black and white stereotypes

Humane Sides of Accused War Criminals

Karadzic, Mladic, Krajisnik... all started as good souls with many likeable qualities

Sometimes Truth Hurts, But It Always Sets You Free (click here, June 6)

The essay on war and peace "Beat Swords into Plowshares" was one of the toughest writing challenges this writer has ever faced.  It had been a gut-wrenching and soul-searching process.  Partly, that's because almost a decade ago, I distanced myself from political commentary to do with Serbia and the Balkans.  "Been there, done that," as they say.  I figured the wars were over, the Serbs and others had made their choices, and it was time to butt out and move on.

I felt the same way when Gen. Ratko Mladic was arrested in late May even though s number of people tried to get me re-involved.   Then something happened earlier this week that turned all that around.  I received some new information I had not been aware of before.  The essay on war and peace was a result, as was my letter to the Hague (referenced within it). I did both mostly to clear my conscience as someone who may have been duped into believing certain people who, while ostensibly trying to help their nation, ended up actually hurting the interests of the Serbian people.  One only has to look at the staggering losses (quoted in the article) the Serbs had suffered to understand the gravity of their leaders' failures.

But as humans, we know are all broken.  So we must also show compassion, especially for people who are down and out.   "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to cast a stone..."  For all their faults, none of these men are one-dimensional monsters as the "lamestream" western media tends to portray them, painting the black and white stereotypes for primitive consumption.  They all started out as good souls with many likeable qualities.  Here are just some examples...

HAIKU, Maui, June 4 - Human nature is rarely one-dimensional.  There are two sides to each coin.  Here’s the flip side of the essay on war and peace…

Radovan Karadzic, President & Poet

When this writer met with former Bosnian Serb president Dr. Radovan Karadzic at his office in Pale, Bosnia in May 1994, he told me at one point that he may get the "Sholohov Award" for his books of poems. The award is a top Russian literature recognition, he added.

Indeed, later in the afternoon the same day, he received a call from Moscow confirming it.  The award was supposed to be announced that weekend, he said.

Karadzic, an MD by training, seemed more proud of his poetry than of any military victory or his medical degree (in psychiatry). Karadzic told me that he would travel to Moscow in June (1994) to receive the award. 

When I next met him in July 1995, he was also a proud Daddy who had just married off his daughter.  As several TV screens in his office flickered with CNN and SKY news pictures of what was happening in and around Srebrenica, he was recounting to me the fond details of a three-day wedding he had given his daughter.

Karadzic was also deeply religious.  Some say even superstitious.  As Col. Milan Milutinovic, Mladic's former head public relations officer, remembers it, it was hard for the army to accept Karadzic's "witch cult." Milutinovic told the German "Mirror" (Der Spiegel) magazine that Karadzic "always brought the fortune teller 'Baba Stane' from Bijeljine with him to the front. She had to make incantations on fields and trees before the fighting started. Entire areas were marked off with crosses to draw a Serbian border."

Afterward, I wondered how many U.S. presidents were also poets.  And how many poets were accused of being war criminals.  A lyrical soul is not typically associated with either of those two roles.  But appreciation of poetry seems to be universal.  Maybe that's why President Obama invited distinguished American poets for a special evening of poetry at the White House on May 12, 2011: 


Love of poetry seems to be at least one thing that the two presidents have in common.

Ratko Mladic, Scythe-wielding, Gracious Host

When I first met the former top military commander of the Bosnian Serb army in July 1994, Ratko Mladic looked as sunburned as if he had just gotten off a Hawaiian surfboard (left shot). I asked around what he had been up to.

As it turned out, the general had all his staff, plus the top Bosnian Serb politicians, join him in a special Sunday project - scything the grass on Mount Romanija.  President Radovan Karadzic, vice president, the quite frail and scholarly late professor Nikola Koljevic (right, committed suicide in 1997), and about 100 other Bosnian Serb political and military leaders, all took part in, what I figured, was their version of "bonding" (together and with the people).

[For those of you not familiar with the art of manual grass mowing, here's the sketch of a medieval scyther - right].

Later, I wrote down in my diary: "I could not help but try to picture Bill Clinton or Al Gore with a scythe in their hands."  And I could not.  "The picture just did not fit... I am afraid the twosome would have been a great danger, first to themselves, and then to others."  As was Dick Cheney when he shot his friend in Feb 2006 during a quail hunting trip in Texas.

At one stage during the luncheon which consisted of a typical military white bean soup (my favorite Serb dish!), and a grilled fresh water fish (a surprise delicacy for wartime conditions!?), Mladic said, "you Americans, always have trouble eating our fish.  That's because you're used to having it deboned for you."

I didn't argue.  Deboning would have been nice.  So the general tried to help me with another "more boneless" piece.  I smiled at his evidently genuine hospitality.

On another occasion, he showed just how observant he can be.  Looking at my wrist he asked, "are you on American time?"  I looked at my watch.  It had stopped.  "I'm afraid I'm not," I replied smiling.  "My watch is on the blink again."  I took it off and put it in my pocket (which is why you cannot see it on any of the numerous photographs which were subsequently taken).

After lunch, Gen. Zdravko Tolimir, a mild-mannered man, grabbed my camera and started to snap some pictures of Mladic and I.  Then Mladic reached for the camera and took some pictures of Tolimir and this writer (right).  Mladic added that he used to be an amateur photographer.  Hm... another hidden talent. First scything, then photography. The "photo session" continued outside the building, where the general's car was parked where the above left picture was taken.

Who would have thought that 17 years later, both Mladic and Tolimir would be at the Hague, on trials for war crimes? (above left photo, taken at the Hague court).

Momcilo Krajisnik, Loving Father

I met with Momcilo Krajisnik, the Speaker of the Bosnian Parliament, at the end of a long day in May 1994. I was on my way back to Serbia. As we sat down facing each other across a large conference table at his office, I told Krajisnik about the Easter services that year in Phoenix, when the St. Sava church was so full that the crowd overflowed into the yard. 

"See what happens when the Serbs get scared?," I joked, trying to lighten up the conversation.  "They remember their church." 

Krajisnik's eyes lit up.  He proceeded to talk with almost a Messianic zeal about the Bosnian Serbs' cause. 

"All Serbs should know that we are building a new Serbian state here," he said.  "That's why we must get it done right.  Which means that both democracy and our religious traditions must be respected."

Krajisnik paused and smiled.  It was evident that he had just recalled something. 

"During the session of our National Assembly in May 1993 (held to decide about the Vance-Owen plan - right photo), we had all sorts of dignitaries here," Krajisnik said.  (The Greek Prime Minister) "Mitsotakis was here; (Slobodan) Milosevic (Serbia's president) was here; (Dobrica) Cosic (Yugoslav president) was here... And so was a Bosnian Serb bishop." 

(Cosic and Milosevic were both former Communists and self-declared atheists).

Nevertheless, "we insisted on carrying on all our traditions," Krajisnik said.  "Which meant we kept getting them up on their feet quite often.  First, when the national anthem was played.  Then, when the Bishop said the Lord's prayer before dinner.  Being of Orthodox faith, Mitsotakis, of course, took part in everything with enthusiasm.  But we noticed that ,although Cosic and Milosevic got up, they never crossed themselves."

Then dinner was then served.  After the desert, the Bishop was getting ready to say another prayer, to thank God for the food they had just received.  That's when Milosevic got antsy.  He leaned toward Krajisnik and said, "Look at the priest ("pop") fidgeting!  He is getting ready to make us get up again."  :-)

I told Krajisnik that I'd had a similar experience during my last meeting with Milosevic in February 1992.  As we were trying to coordinate our schedules, his Communist-secretary Mira, told my assistant, "Oh yes.  I remember.  Mr. Djurdjevic has a meeting with the priest ("pop") at 6 p.m." 

The “priest” (“pop”) was none other than Patriarch Pavle, the head of the Serbian Orthodox Christian Church. That would be like calling the Pope a monk.  (Which is actually not inaccurate).

"As they say in English - 'like father, like son,'" I said.  "Except that, in this case, it's more 'like boss, like secretary.'" 

Krajisnik smiled and nodded in agreement.

At one point, Krajisnik's secretary Milena, entered the room with a camera in hand. 

"I hope you don't mind if she takes a picture of us as a souvenir?," Krajisnik asked.  .

After Milena took the picture, I asked her to do the same using my camera.  She obliged (right picture).

When she left, Krajisnik said that he was an economist by training, who specialized in financial analysis. 

He also said that he had three children.  His wife had died during the war.  She suffered a broken leg in a mine explosion.  The wound got infected which led to a blocked artery.  And since the Serbs didn’t have adequate health care services under war conditions, she was gone before anyone could save her (also see "How Ordinary People Became Extraordinary Heroes" for more on poor wartime medical services in the Bosnian Serb Republic).

As I was leaving his office, Krajisnik introduced me to his three teenage children who were waiting outside.  Their names are Njegos, Milos and Jagoda.  The way they looked at Krajisnik with adoring eyes said it all about how devoted a father he must have been, despite being a single parent during war and his state duties.

Outside, dark clouds which had been gathering all afternoon had turned to rain. 

"When do you go back?" Krajisnik asked me. 

"This evening," I replied. 

Krajisnik suddenly became agitated.  "In that case, please leave right away.  The front lines are quite close to the road in some places.  It really isn't wise to travel at night.  The last thing we need is that something, God forbid, would happen to you while you're our guest here." 

He paused as if reflecting upon what he had just said.  Then he shook his head.  "No, you should definitely leave without delay."

He spoke like a man who is more concerned more about the welfare of his guest than about his own.  You see, Krajisnik himself had just come through those allegedly dangerous stretches of the road (albeit in daylight) to meet me. 

Krajisnik was found guilty of war crimes in March 2009 and sentenced to 20 years in prison.  The court decision is currently on appeal.  He is serving his sentence in Great Britain.


Bob Djurdjevic is a former war correspondent from Bosnia and Serbia.  He is also a thrice-ordained Inca-trained shaman, writer, musician and consultant based in Maui, Hawaii.  You can find more of his stories at (arts & spirituality),  (geopolitical) and (business).


The full excerpt from the Bible [John 8:7]:

...Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to cast a stone at her." Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"

"No one, sir," she said.

"Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin.                 

Also check out...  Milosevic: Who Says There's No Death Penalty at the Hague?  (Mar 2006); Rise and Fall of General Perisic: From Hero to Snitch  (Mar 2005); The End Game Is Near: Kosovo, Montenegro Next Serb Dominos to Fall? (May 1996); "The Woman Who Broke Gen. Mladic's Heart" (Mar 1996);  Bosnia: What’s the Full Truth? (Letter to Wall Street Journal, Feb 1996); Bosnia War Diary (July 1994); All in a Day's Work (Karadzic) (July 1995); Wartime Diary Notes about Karadzic, Krajisnik (May 1994); "Collateral Damage" Hits Home (9/11/11)

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