Ivo Skoric on Tue, 5 Jan 1999 07:37:54 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> war criminals

This is kind of old - but may remind us why the U.S. now declared to 
offer money to whoever brings Mladic and Karadzic to justice. The old 
wild west way. $5 million a pop - but nothing compared to $100 
millions for intelligence about an operation that never happened. 
This of course plainly reveals the U.S. partisanship in the Balkans 
wars. Fortunately, this time at least they picked up the right side. 
Just recently I had a student who is a F-15 pilot and a spec-op. He 
was involved in the Balkans, but not necessarily just in the 
enforcing of the Bosnian no-fly zone. He bragged about things he 
and his pals did in Croatia, that didn't quite fit into the 
mainstream news...


July 26, 1998

    U.S. Cancels Plans for Raid on Bosnia to Capture 2 Serbs


      WASHINGTON -- After spending more than two years and tens of millions of
dollars preparing missions,training commandos and gathering intelligence, the
United States has dropped its secret plans to arrest Bosnia's two most wanted
men accused of war crimes, senior administration officials say. 

    Plans for clandestine missions to seize the men -- Radovan Karadzic and
Gen. Ratko Mladic, the wartime political and military leaders of the Bosnian
Serbs -- have been scuttled by U.S. commanders who fear a blood bath, by French
officers wh o are reluctant to act and by U.S. government officials who share a
growing sense that the mission could rekindle Serbian aggression, present and
former U.S. officials say. 

    Karadzic, a psychiatrist, and Mladic were indicted three years ago Sunday
by an international criminal tribunal on charges of genocide, crimes against
humanity and war crimes. The U.N. court charged them with killing, persecuting,
shelling and deporting civilians throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina; launching
sniper attacks against civilians in Sarajevo; and taking U.N. peacekeepers
hostage and using them as human shields. 

    The court said all members of the United Nations had a legal obligation to
try to arrest the men. Some U.S. officials felt they had a moral obligation as

    "There was a big effort to collect intelligence and to make plans" to
arrest Karadzic and Mladic in 1996 and 1997, said a former senior State
Department official. 

    The National Security Agency, which conducts electronic eavesdropping for
the United States, spent millions of dollarstracking the men. FBI agents and
U.S. Marshals went to Bosnia, where they scouted the men's homes and hideouts. 

    A secret cell of United States and NATO military officers, code-named Amber
Star, shared intelligence and developed ideas. The British favored a mission,
but French officers, whose international peacekeepers control the zone where
Karadzic and Mladic have been living, were deeply skeptical. U.S. officers were
reluctant to share intelligence with the French, fearing it would leak. 

    Still, two plans for an arrest operation took shape. The CIA's Balkans Task
Force supported those plans with fresh information on the targets' whereabouts,
although senior U.S. intelligence officials were dubious about the missions. 

    Over two years, the cost of the intelligence-gathering, the planning and
the training for an operation grew to tens of millions of dollars -- more than
$100 million, by one estimate. At one point last summer, U.S. special
operations soldier s were sent to Germany, ready to carry out a plan to swoop
down on Karadzic. But it all came to nothing, in part because senior U.S.
military officers found the plans too perilous. 

    Discussions about the mission echoed a recurring argument within the
Clinton administration: civilians calling for military operations in the murky
territory between diplomacy and war, and military men wary of undertaking
unorthodox, potent ially controversial missions to police the world's unruly

    Unless U.S. soldiers and their allies went in with overwhelming force, some
of them might die trying to arrest Karadzic and Mladic, the military argued.
And even if they went in with overwhelming force, the commanders contended, the
risks o utweighed the potential political rewards. 

    The risks, one senior administration official said, were that several
hundred Serbs would die in such a military assault by U.S. and NATO troops.
Those deaths, in turn, would galvanize the most violent and bitter elements
among the Serbs. A nd that, he said, could re-ignite war fever in the Balkans. 

    "If you were to try, you've got to make some decisions about casualties --
and not just among NATO troops," this official said. "How many people do you
want to take out on the way? If you don't care about taking out several hundred
people, that would be one kind of operation. There would be a big political
element to an operation of that scale. You make NATO safe by creating a lot of

    Senior U.S. diplomats argued, to no avail, that no lasting peace is
possible in Bosnia until Karadzic and Mladic are brought to justice. 

    "You have to seize these guys," said Peter Galbraith, the former
U.S.ambassador to Croatia. "Justice isn't served unless they're dead or in the
dock." Richard Holbrooke, who negotiated the peace pact in Bosnia and has been
nominated as repr esentative to the United Nations, contends that their arrest
is the most important unfinished business in the Balkans, and the biggest
impediment to a lasting peace. 

    But White House officials -- including President Clinton -- could not
convince the military that arresting the indicted men was a risk worth taking,
present and former administration officials said. 

    "They've certainly been cautious," Galbraith said. "One wants one's
military to be cautious and careful, but still operational." 

    Opportunities to arrest them have not been lacking. "We could have captured
them easily," but for resistance at the highest military levels, said a former
senior Clinton administration official. Evidence of the U.S. military's
reluctance to use its power to arrest the men is replete in public and
classified records, he said. 

    Finding the men would have been among the least-difficult aspects of the
operation. One day in February 1996, for example, Karadzic drove unchallenged
through four NATO checkpoints, two of them manned by Americans. 

    Today, Karadzic is believed to have left his base in Pale, in the mountains
above Sarajevo. He moves from town to town within Bosnia with an escort of
loyal security officers, traveling freely. 

    Mladic, accused of overseeing the killing of thousands of Muslims from
Srebrenica three years ago this month, is said to be living comfortably in
Belgrade, the capital of neighboring Serbia, writing his memoirs, unconcerned
with the threat of arrest. 

    After the Dayton peace accords were signed in November 1995, "the
unfinished business of war criminals loomed very large," said a senior White
House official. "That calculus looks very different right now." The decision to
abandon plans for secret military operations to arrest the men now appears set
in stone. 

    With no deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces, the consensus
within the administration is that discretion is the better part of valor in the

    Now U.S.policy is to wait the men out, to reduce their economic, political
and personal power. In time, the thinking goes,they will "drop like rotten
fruit" into NATO's hands, another official said. 

    Though Karadzic and Mladic remain at large, nearly half of the 62 men
indicted on war-crimes charges by the international tribunal are now in
custody, and the power base built by Karadzic is slowly but surely eroding,
officials said. 

    "The ice is getting thin, particularly under Karadzic," said a senior
administration official. "His ability to buy off the police, to pay for
security guards, is heavily diminished. Some people think he might surrender
someday." That, evide ntly, is the best hope U.S. officials have of bringing
him to justice.
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