Crimes That Need No Exaggeration

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Richard Holbrooke's July 23 op-ed, "The Face of Evil," sadly repeated the caricature of Radovan Karadzic originally formed in Western media in the 1990s. According to this account, Mr. Karadzic eagerly chose war in Bosnia, ordered the massacre at Srebrenica and caused the death of "nearly 300,000 people" -- but The Hague now will deliver justice and closure.

The truth about Mr. Karadzic is bad enough, but the repetition of these myths demands correction:

· Prior to the war in Bosnia, Mr. Karadzic actually favored and then signed an E.U.-negotiated peace deal that would have averted war, but this deal was rejected by Muslims and Croats. U.S. ambassador Warren Zimmermann later acknowledged that the Karadzic-embraced peace offer "wasn't bad at all."

· Mr. Karadzic did lead a government responsible for war crimes and ethnic cleansing -- and therefore should be found guilty in The Hague -- but there is zero evidence that he ordered, knew in advance of or supported the massacre in Srebrenica, which was the doing of Ratko Mladic.

· The death toll in Bosnia is now documented to the name, place and date of each victim -- and it is several times lower than Mr. Holbrooke's exaggerated figure, which repeated incorrect estimates from the 1990s. The actual total is less than 100,000, which includes 39,684 civilians of all ethnicities, of whom 33,070 were Muslim.

· Finally, The Hague recently acquitted both the most notorious accused Bosnian Muslim, Naser Oric, and the highest-ranked accused Kosovo Albanian, Ramush Haradinaj, despite the killing of thousands of Serb civilians. In this light, Mr. Karadzic's conviction, though fully justified, will smack of "victor's justice" -- more likely to hinder than to promote long-term reconciliation.

ALAN J. KUPERMAN

Austin


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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