History was made this week, in the grandest way. A flying Royal British Air Force paddy wagon transported Slobodan Milosovic to his new residence, a detention hall for war criminals at the Hague. That flight was more important than the Apollo landing on the moon. It was significant that the flight took off from Tuzla, where Milosovic's brutes had committed one of their worst acts of slaughter. When that British RAF delivered its abominable cargo to his holding cell, a new chapter was written in international law.
Milosovic now awaits his trial in a 10 by 20 foot 'presidential suite'. He will be provided the best legal defense and will be judged for the laws he has violated. Hopefully, he will rot in jail for the rest of his life. Pity they didn't give him a ride 10 years ago when he started his first campaign of 'ethnic cleansing' in Croatia with the destruction of Vukovar. At that time and well up to the Dayton Peace agreement, the Western governments had managed to brush off his blood stained attire and present him as a man "we could do business with". So, after all the savagery he inflicted on the people of Bosnia, he still felt up to the challenge of launching a brutal campaign of repression against the Kosovars.
The price of British, American and French appeasement was measured in tens of thousands of graves for innocent victims of a genocidal war by a ruthless dictator. For nine long years, Slobodan was allowed to wear a shield of deniability. He denied direct involvement in Croatia and Bosnia and the West chose to accept his transparent ruse for nearly a decade. This only encouraged the monster to attempt a campaign to depopulate Kosovo with yet another "ethnic cleansing" campaign. It was President Chirac of France who finally decided to put a lid on the Slob. Neither, should we forget the role of ex-Senator Bob Dole, who even after leaving office, exerted intensive pressure on the feeble Clinton Administration to borrow a spine and do the right thing.
The arrest and trial of Milosovic will not bring back a single innocent life and will not rebuild a single village. But it will give his victims a little justice and it will give future dictators an unmistakable warning. International Law against war criminals has been given an enormous boost. Although many of these 'war crime' laws have been on the books for two generations, there has never been a clear mechanism for enforcing them. This special Tribunal for Balkan War Crimes was born without teeth. Many thought it would issue a report, make symbolic condemnations, take down a few statements from the victims and file them in the legal archives. But, fortunately, the cynics have been proven wrong. It has taken enormous work by some very talented, dedicated and courageous jurists to get this far. Even a week ago, many people harbored doubts about whether Milosovic would ever make his appointment with justice.
Today, Milosovic became the first head of state to face the charge of mass murder and crimes against humanity. And a very certain message was delivered to every war criminal that there will be a day of reckoning. You commit the war crime, you do the time. That applies to everybody from a Head of State to generals and officers with 'command responsibility' to the private carrying out illegal orders. One strike and you are out. There will be no second chances for war criminals. These days, Pinochet of Chile is not pleading innocence; he is pleading a feeble mind and failing health. How the mighty and the murderous have fallen.
These two slobs have been taken down a path that paves the way for bringing other leaders responsible for war crimes to justice. But we still have a long way to go. A few days before the historic Royal Air Force flight to the Hague, Tony Blair was entertaining another war criminal, Ariel Sharon, in his official residence at 10 Downing Street. Word on the street is that he did it reluctantly and under great pressure from the Bush Administration. Sharon was next seen in the White House, having a less than cordial discussion with the President. The New York Times and the other usual suspects in the Israel First movement were beating their chests about the second coming of Ariel. As it turns out, he had invited himself to lecture George about 'terrorists and Israeli restraint and the need for retaliation'. Sharon appears to have a very limited vocabulary, every other word out of his mouth is 'terrorist'. This mass murderer who should be sharing a cell with Milosovic should not even be allowed entry into the United States. Yet, he barged into the White House after doing a fund raiser in New York and fully expected Bush to give him another 'green light'.
Unfortunately for Sharon, George Bush had other ideas and let it be known that he expected the Mitchell Plan to be implemented. One of these days, the Americans will come to realize that there is no percentage in 'doing business' with a Milosovic or a Sharon or a Sadam or a Pinochet. At some point, you need to put the slobs out of business and throw away the key. That day will also be a very good day.