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Source: Online Newshour, JULY 1, 1996
SERBIAN PUPPET MASTER?
Radovan Karadzic, leader of the Bosnian Serbs and an accused war
criminal wanted by the United Nations war crimes tribunal, turned
leadership over to his vice president, Biljana Plavsic. Western
diplomats, who threatened sanctions if Karadzic did not step down,
question Karadzic's intentions and wonder if Karadzic is still
calling the shots.
MARGARET WARNER: The Dayton Peace Accords
called for Bosnian Serb Leader Radovan
Karadzic to be removed from power and
arrested for war crimes, but neither has
happened, and Karadzic has continued to
run the Bosnian Serb government from its
headquarters in Pale, just outside
Sarajevo. Today there is considerable
confusion over exactly how much
power Karadzic may have given up
in a weekend of maneuvering with western
diplomats. We start with this report from
Lindsay Hilson of Independent Television
LINDSAY HILSON, Independent Television
News: Mr. Karadzic seems to be playing
games with the international community
again. Last week, he appeared in public,
which he'd previously agreed he wouldn't
do. He put conditions on standing down
and was reelected as leader of his
Serbian Democratic Party which is likely
to win elections in September. This
weekend, international officials
trumpeted a signed letter suggesting he
might be replaced. Today's Belgrade
newspapers' headlined "Karadzic Without Power" and "Karadzic Has
Withdrawn." But today Vice President Biljana Plavsic said Mr.
Karadzic was still president.
MICHAEL STEINER, European Union: I think it is now up
to the international community to follow up its
solemn words with actions because this will be the only thing, the
only language which is understood in these circles in Pale.
LINDSAY HILSON: But in Pale, the Bosnian Serb stronghold, it seems
that things are moving, and Mr. Karadzic is gradually ceding
MICHAEL STENTON, Cambridge University: I take his resignation of
his powers completely seriously. He's been under so much pressure,
he's offered so many hints that this is the direction in which
he's going, that I believe it; however, he will remain the leader
of his political party. That has just been reaffirmed, and he will
retain at least for the next couple of months the title of
LINDSAY HILSON: That doesn't satisfy the Americans.
WILLIAM PERRY, Secretary of Defense: It is a first
step. It should not be and it must not be a last
step. We will see what it amounts to in practice. It is my view
that more must be done. It has to be clear that Karadzic is out of
power and unable to influence events in the country.
LINDSAY HILSON: Mr. Karadzic has plans to develop the Bosnian Serb
Republic and his colleagues have similar hard-line nationalist
views. They know that as long as the international community
remains divided over how to defeat him, he still has a good chance
of influencing the future.
MARGARET WARNER: We get two views now. George Kenney was the State
Department desk officer for Yugoslavia until he resigned in
protest over the Bush administration's policies in 1992. He is now
a consultant. David Rieff is a journalist who has written
frequently about Bosnia and was there most recently in April. His
latest book is called Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of
the West. Welcome, both of you. David Rieff, the Bosnian Serbs say
Karadzic has given up at least some power. Is that sufficient, in
DAVID RIEFF, Author: (New York) Well, I think it's
ludicrous, in fact, for Radovan Karadzic to
relinquish power in favor of Mrs. Plavsic, who is really--is like
saying a ventriloquist has relinquished power to his dummy. It's a
preposterous assertion and one utterly without meaning. I think
what you actually see is the Bosnian Serbs and Dr. Karadzic, in
particular, reverting to form. They know, they understand, and
they're right--they understand rightly that there are deep
divisions between European attitudes and U.S. attitudes toward
what to do about the Bosnian Serbs and what, indeed, to do about
the Dayton agreements, and he's counting on the fact, as he did
throughout the war, that by making some minimal concession that he
will be able to hold on to power.
You'll note in the statement that he temporarily relinquishes
power to Mrs. Plavsic. He does not give it up. But you also note
that you have the Americans on one side saying they find it
completely unacceptable, how sincere the Clinton administration,
which is I think known for its flip-flops on this is, I--I can't
really say, and you have people like Carl Bildt, the high
representative of the European Union, on the ground in Bosnia
saying that he accepts it absolutely. It seems to me we've been
MARGARET WARNER: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. George Kenney, what is your
assessment of what we just saw and what has really happened, how
much power, if any, has Karadzic given up?
GEORGE KENNEY, Former State Department Official: I think he's
given up a substantial amount of power. To be realistic, we're not
going to be able to remove his influence entirely for a long time
unless we go after him, physically snatch him, and then cart him
off to the Hague. I doubt very much we'll do that because we don't
really know where to draw the line. Are we going to go after
Karadzic and Mladic, or--
MARGARET WARNER: Mladic being the Bosnian Serb commander who's
also been indicted--
MR. KENNEY: Yes.
MARGARET WARNER: --on war crimes.
MR. KENNEY: It, it probably could be done, getting Karadzic, but
Mladic is a different matter. He's well guarded, with lots of
troops. If we go after Bosnian Serb leaders who are indicted, are
we going to go after Bosnian Croat leaders--Kordzic, for example,
who would be Karadzic's counterpart?
MARGARET WARNER: But let me just ask you just in terms of this
issue of how much power he is exercising, do you agree with David
Rieff that what we just saw this weekend is really a sham and that
he's not given up any substantial power?
MR. KENNEY: I think that he is ceding power, but I think the
question to ask ourselves is: Even if we were able to get Karadzic
to cede power completely, what would replace him? And there, as I
see it at a distance, there really aren't any moderate
alternatives to Karadzic. Indeed, very recently, when Carl Bildt,
the international high representative in Bosnia, tried to boost
the standing of one of Karadzic's so-called moderate rivals,
Karadzic was able to get rid of him, and I see this effect not
only on the Bosnian Serb side but on all sides in Bosnia. When the
West tries to promote moderates, inadvertently we wind up making
the radicals stronger. Probably if we want to get rid of Karadzic,
the best thing to do is be patient, wait, apply steady pressure,
and eventually we'll get him.
MARGARET WARNER: David Rieff, what about that point that the
alternatives aren't any more palatable?
MR. RIEFF: Well, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic stand accused
by the international war crimes tribunal of genocide and crimes
against humanity. That, it seems to me, in law, and I think also
in morality, distinguishes them from others. I quite agree with
George Kennedy that the alternatives are not good, but I would
still insist that there are real distinctions to be made, for
example, between the Bosnian Serbs around Banja Luka, people who
are largely loyal to President Milosevic in Belgrade, and to the
people in Pale, who remain loyal to Karadzic.
The notion that somehow Karadzic is relinquishing
significant rather than symbolic power seems to me
contradicted by his own engineering of his reelection, his
flouting of the international community's insistence that he not
appear publicly, et cetera, et cetera, all the things in your
report. But the more important issue is this. We--there are a
number of different options after Dayton. If you allow the man,
who on the Bosnian side of this war committed these terrible
crimes to remain in charge, then you have decided that Dayton is
simply an instrument of humane partition. George Kenney and I
might agree that they should come out and say that.
MARGARET WARNER: But then you could partition Bosnia.
MR. RIEFF: Yes, a partitioning in Bosnia. If the--if the Europeans
and ourselves want to say that's what Dayton was, then by all
means, leave Karadzic in control, and, indeed, leave Gen. Mladic
alone in, in his bunker. But at least the administration continues
to insist, however disingenuously perhaps, that that's not what
they mean by Dayton. And if we're to take him at face value,
something after four years I'm rather reluctant to do, but if we
are to take them at face value, then Dr. Karadzic must be brought
to account, as well as the people that George Kenney mentions like
Mr. Karadzic. I don't see any problem with that as well.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, George Kenney, we just saw Karadzic at the
soccer game, and how hard would it be to arrest him, and why
hasn't it happened?
MR. KENNEY: Well, we could close off his ability to
leave Pale, put NATO patrols around Pale, and
probably we could drive in and grab him one day and drive back to
Sarajevo. That's not too difficult. But if we do grab Karadzic,
are we then going to go after Mladic, who's very well guarded, or
are we going to go after Kordzic. If you open the door to this, it
becomes very messy very quickly, and I can understand why western
governments are reluctant to do that, but I would raise another
question in relation to what David Rieff was saying, and that is,
is it really so important for Dayton, as far as the Bosnian people
go, to arrest all of these war criminals? In April, a USIA survey
among Bosnians of all three sides, what their most important
concerns were now that the war is over, the majority on all three
sides cite economic concerns. At the bottom of the list, they talk
about arresting war criminals with 1, 2, 3 percent on each side
saying that that's the most important or the second most important
concern they have. But I think that we assign a much higher
priority to this than the Bosnians, themselves.
MARGARET WARNER: David Rieff, what is--explain to people who don't
follow this Bosnian conflict very closely. What is the danger
about leaving Karadzic in power?
MR. RIEFF: Well, the commitment of the United States and of the
other signatories of the Dayton Accords was to bring indicted war
criminals to justice and to prevent their holding and exercising
significant political power in a post war Bosnia. That was the
solemn engagement of the international community, notably of the
Clinton administration, which is the architect of the Dayton
It may very well be true, incidentally. I don't disagree with
George Kenney, that it may well be more important to the
international community than to the average Bosnian. I have no way
of knowing that that's true. It may well be, but I think you
probably could have made the same argument after the Second World
War, that most people found the economic reconstruction of Europe
and bringing the boys home and demobilization and all the rest of
it more important than the Nuremberg trials. But I don't think
that, in itself, is a significant argument against the importance
of the international tribunal and the bringing to account the
breaking of the culture of immunity and impunity, not just in
Bosnia but in Rwanda as well, where there war crimes tribunal is
active. That's the importance, and if it's more important to us
than to them, that seems to me an argument for bringing Dr.
Karadzic to justice, not against it.
MARGARET WARNER: And very briefly, because I want to get back to George Kenney
this, but you said earlier, if the West is essentially saying Dayton was all about
partitioning Bosnia, then, fine, leave it as it is, are you saying
that if Karadzic retains any kind of significant power, that you
believe he will use that to frustrate the Dayton plan, which was
to make Bosnia a multi-ethnic, unified state?
MR. RIEFF: I believe we're a long way from a multi-ethnic unified
state, but I believe that the people in Pale on the Bosnian Serb
side just like the people in West Mostar in the Bosnian Croat
side, to whom George Kenney alluded to earlier, are absolutely
committed to thwarting any possibility of a unitary Bosnia, that
they kill it by their presence. It's not a sure thing, but at
least it's a possibility without them. With them, it's a sure
thing it will not and will never take place.
MARGARET WARNER: George Kenney, what do you think the [discussion]
practical impact, if Karadzic remains not only at
large but enjoying considerable power?
MR. KENNEY: I honestly don't think it will be much different than
if he were gone. David Rieff is raising the right kinds of
questions. What do we expect to see as a result of Dayton? What do
we expect next year? Is Bosnia going to be divided or unified? In
a sense, by focusing so much on Karadzic, the U.S. is able to
avoid asking or answering those questions, but those are really
the key questions. I would differ with David in what he suggests
should be the answers to those questions, but he's right that
those are the important questions.
MARGARET WARNER: David, do you want to have the last word here?
MR. RIEFF: Well, I--
MARGARET WARNER: Do you think, in other words, the West has
basically already decided that the partition is the ultimate--
MR. RIEFF: I think the West is saying one thing, that is, saying
it remains committed to a multi-ethnic Bosnia, and in fact, doing
everything in practical terms, and I fault the Clinton
administration most of all to make partition a certainty.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Well, thank you both very much.
MR. KENNEY: Thank you.
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