Ratko Mladic and Osama bin Laden

Glenn Greenwald asks two questions about the cases of Osama bin Laden and Ratko Mladic. Helpfully, the second answers the first.

Glenn Greenwald asks two questions about the cases of Osama bin Laden and Ratko Mladic. Helpfully, the second answers the first.

(1) The NYT says that, for Europe, Mladic’s arrest “has a resonance on the magnitude of the killing of Osama bin Laden for Americans.”  That’s understandable, as the crimes of which Mladic is accused are at least as grave and serious as those bin Laden allegedly committed.  Mladic is almost certainly responsible for more deaths than the Al Qaeda leader was.  There is probably less doubt about his guilt worldwide than there was (and is) about bin Laden’s.  And when he was found, Mladic “had two pistols with him” (though “he made no attempt to use” them).

In light of all that, what’s the point of arresting Mladic and putting him on trial?  Why is that considered “bringing him to justice”?  Why not just pump his skull full of bullets and dump his corpse into the ocean, and then proclaim that “justice has been done”?  For those who have embraced the idea that we are “at war” with Al Qaeda, one could argue that that “war” is still ongoing while the Bosnian war has long been over, but, beyond legalisms, why is that a difference that matters?  If “justice” demands that this heinous Serbian war criminal be arrested and tried before being punished, why was the same not true for bin Laden?

Well . . .

(2) This European fixation on apprehending Mladic was the ultimate exercise in “Looking Backward, not Forward.”  His accused crimes took place more than 15 years ago in a war that has been over for more than a decade.  He’s now 75 years old, completely stripped of any remnants of power, and reportedly in ill health (“he appeared disoriented and tired, and [] one of his hands appeared to be paralyzed, possibly because of a stroke”).

Precisely right.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Quick Takes, Terrorism
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Chad S says:

    Bin Laden was still in command(to what extent is a good question) of a terrorist force in the field. Mladic wasn’t. If we declared war against Mladic forces in the 90s, it would have been legal to send in Seal Team 6 if we had his location.

    Greenwald can’t see the forest for the trees and it ruins his work.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    Yeah, whats the point in arresting a mass murderer? Maybe the Israeli’s should have left Mengele alone, too. After all, there’s a statute of limitations on killing children, right?

  3. Southern Hooser says:

    Arresting Mladic and bringing him to trial is no different than bringing a Nazi war criminal to trial. Think of it as being racist. We hunt down European war criminals and bring them to trial. Muslims we just hunt down like mad dogs and shoot them. It might be up close and personal like the SEALS or we do it remotely with a Predator.

  4. Southern Hooser says:

    michael reynolds says: Friday, May 27, 2011 at 20:58

    Yeah, whats the point in arresting a mass murderer? Maybe the Israeli’s should have left Mengele alone, too.

    You mean Eichmann don’t you?

  5. Aidan says:

    Was Ratko Mladic still actively planning new massacres of civilians or serving as an inspiration to those who are?

  6. An Interested Party says:

    Think of it as being racist.

    Well you certainly know of what you write…

  7. michael reynolds says:

    I do mean Eichmann, thanks.

  8. Southern Hooser says:

    michael reynolds says:
    Friday, May 27, 2011 at 23:47
    I do mean Eichmann, thanks.

    NP

  9. Southern Hooser says:

    An Interested Party says: Friday, May 27, 2011 at 23:09

    Think of it as being racist.

    Well you certainly know of what you write…

    I know. And you don’t.

  10. An Interested Party says:

    I’m stung by your oh so biting wit…I wonder if you displayed such cleverness at Stormfront…