Sunday 27 July 2008
Karadzic, the terrible poet with lust for gore
Little separates our violent nationalists from the Balkans butchers, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards
You'll all have read about the capture of Radovan Karadzic, transformed from a reasonably good-looking guy with great hair into a nutty-looking beardie. No doubt you'll all, like me, be rejoicing that this bastard might now face justice. I would guess that most of us know little about the Serbs except for the atrocities of the early 1990s, when President Karadzic of Republika Srpska and his enforcers Ratko Mladic and Dragomir Milosevic (as opposed to Slobodan Milosevic, President of Serbia -- keep up) carried out what the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia rightly calls "crimes against humanity". There was the three-year siege of Sarajevo, the widespread ethnic cleansing and, most horrible of all, the cold-blooded murder in Srebrenica of around 8,000 men simply because they were Bosnian Muslims.
I was going to write a balancing piece pointing out that while there are no excuses and I hope he -- along with Mladic, who may have betrayed him to save his own skin -- dies in jail, that it was a nasty bit of the world, the Serbs had horrid acts perpetrated on them in the past as well, the civil war in the former Yugoslavia was precipitated by Slovenian, Croatian and Bosnian secessionists, many of the victims of Sarajevo died because the Bosnian authorities wouldn't let them leave the city and we are all guilty because the UN failed spectacularly, even by its dismal standards, to protect the vulnerable: 400 armed Dutch peacekeepers stood by in Srebrenica because to intervene would have exceeded their mandate.
But I'm too fascinated by Karadzic to linger there. The brute wasn't just reponsible for a mass campaign of murder, he fancied himself as a poet and he was given to new-age rubbish. Here's a sample of his poetry, which may, of course, have suffered in translation: "Goodbye Assassins, it seems from now on/The gentlefolks' aortas will gush without me/The last chance to get stained with blood I let go by./Ever more often I answer ancient calls."
When unmasked, as Dr Dragan Dabic, he was purveying human quantum energy. If your Serbian is up to it, you could peruse his website ([email protected]) or email him at [email protected] dragandabic.
The more I thought about him, the more my mind turned to our own violent nationalists, the poet Martin McGuinness ("The lilac creature lay silent and unmoving/As the peaty water flowed over the last of the Mohicans./Stones were the wigwam in a Donegal river/For a decimated breed of free spirits" -- it's about trout), and tree-hugger and plodding propagandistic short-story manufacturer Gerry Adams ("Margaret became a rebel when she was 53 years old").
And I fell to reflecting that all violent nationalists are brothers and sisters under the skin, as are those who support them.
As many Serbs think Karadzic, Mladic and the Milosevics are heroes, so innumerable Lebanese hail Samir Kuntar. Remember him? In 1979, he murdered an Israeli policeman, a civilian and a four-year-old girl, whom he clubbed to death. Ten days ago, he was one of the prisoners freed by the Israelis in exchange for the remains of two soldiers who were kidnapped, tortured and murdered by Hizbollah. When he reached Beirut, he was officially welcomed by the Lebanese president, and Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah made a rousing speech in Kuntar's honour.
Which reminded me again of our own terrorists. Remember that affecting scene at a Sinn Fein Ard Fheis in May 1998, when the Balcombe Street gang were released from jail? This quartet had earned the respect of the Shinners by murdering at least 16 people in England: they carried out inter alia the Guildford and Woolwich pub bombings, and one of their habits was to shoot people eating at smart London restaurants. Hugh Doherty is the best-known of them, being the brother of Pat Doherty MP, the least-known of the troika who have been running Planet Republican for three decades. Doherty oozes amiability on the surface, though the substance is something else: the first time I met him he told me he knew I'd been in Donegal (his fiefdom) two years earlier. Fortunately, I found that flattering rather than intimidating.
Anyway, the gang came on to the platform where they were hugged by the leadership and cheered to the rafters by the footsoldiers. They are, said Gerry Adams, our Nelson Mandelas. Oh, and in case you're interested, Hugh is now an artist and Sinn Fein organiser in Donegal, where I'll be going in a week if I get my visa from Pat.
So when you're tut-tutting about the badness of the Serbs in mourning the capture of Karadzic, think about the badness of Hizbollah for hailing a child-murderer and the badness of those who think it was right to honour Hugh Doherty and his chums for murdering civilians in pubs and restaurants.
At least I'm consistent: I despise them all.
Ruth Dudley Edwards