Friday, September 29, 2006

Article: Provacative Poster

An article about the recent Mladic fan poster printed in a Serbian newspaper.

Mladic Poster article

This line stood out to me:
The response from the journalistic community was prompt. The
Journalists Association said in a statement that publishing the poster
"unacceptable" and "helped make popular individuals who are tied to
massive war
crimes and are being searched for."

My question, and it is probably a loaded one; is why exactly are war criminals percieved as heroes; as brave guys etc?
And I don't think it is a problem which is limited just to the Balkans.

I've been re-reading "My War Gone By, I miss it so." And the author makes some interesting observations on the subject and about his acquaintances with some pretty shady characters who committed horrible crimes.

My own opinion of why war criminals are percieved as heroes is that there are several factors:
1. An inability to believe any allegation of wrong doing on the part of said person; or that if they did any wrong doing, it was strictly a matter of self defense.

2. A genuine belief that the person protected you. I think, that psychologically speaking; it is difficult to admit that the person who you credit with protecting you (whether it is true or not) also committed war crimes.

3. As horrible as the crimes they committed were, most of these guys have qualities that draw people to them.
I thought this article on journalist's Martin Bell's "friendship" with Arkan was a pretty good insight:
My "friend" Arkan
And like I said before, while they committed horrible crimes; most of these guys have charisma, charm, leadership ability and toughness that stands out. Especially perhaps for people who feel very vulnearable.

But, why do you think war criminals and mafiasos and the like are regarded as heroes by some of the population?


Anonymous said...

I was visiting Sarajevo for the second time when Arkan was assasinated, and the news of course was covered pretty heavily. The Serbian neighbor lady wasn't too impressed with Arkan. She considered that he'd done some evil things and said 'let God judge him'
She was however only one person and a person who lived in Sarajevo.
There is a certain thing in people that they'll think a bad guy is cool.
In India they have a social code called 'puktunwalli' or 'village honor'
Basically you do what you must, even if it is ordinarily a wrong deed, to feed or protect your family. Pukhtunwalli applies to women as much as to men.
So if a man has a family to feed and he commits robbery of someone in another village, he's observing pukhtunwalli even if he's breaking the normal law, if a woman has children to feed and no husband and she goes and sells her body to a bunch of truck drivers, she is not judged, she took care of her children. If it were not that situation she would be regarded as a whore.
There is a good deal of sentimentality in that view, and a good deal of moral inconsistancy, and it is a view one sees less clearly defined in Europe and the rest of the world.
Look how popular the 'Godfather' seris is!
I would not have found Mladic or Krajisnik or Milosevic charming company, but since the notions of what is fitting behavior are gone in our times, I can see why others might think that they are 'charming'.
Perhaps if I lived in some place where they were seen as defenders I might have regarded them as heros. I like to think that I personally would not, but I'm trying to put myself in the place of someone hungry and brainwashed.
What upsets me is when people who are educated and should know better go with that sort of leadership.
I'm not too surprised at what people in hard circumstances will think, I'm not too surprised what uninformed people will think.

Shaina said...

The idea about 'puktunwalli' is especially interesting.

Another phenomenom that I think is somewhat interesting is that it is easier for people (using a very overly generalized term here, aware that there are of course many exceptions) to condemn suspected war criminals for their crimes committed outside of the war, than their crimes committed during the war.
For example, I read a post on another blog where the poster essentially defended Arkan as a 'protector of the Serb people'; but as someone who screwed up and lost her respect because of his role in the Serbian mafia.
Now, not taking into consideration the incredulous claims that Arkan was a "defender."
I found it interesting that she had no problem condemning Arkan for his mafia practices, but not for his war crimes.

And the view of war criminals as heores certainly isn't a problem which is limited just to Serbia. Although, I must admit, the view of war criminals as war heroes seems much stronger in Serbia than it does in the neighboring countries.
In Bosnia as well as Croatia there seems to be a much stronger condemnation of the crimes various "thugs/defenders" committed as part of the "Bosna Cosa Nostra" or the Croatian mafia than the crimes they committed during the war.

Is this because war crimes; i.e. the killing of civilians during the Balkan conflict is seen as a more serious crime than the killing of civilians as part of a turf war?

Or, is it because it is easier to condemn someone for crimes where the same ethnicity is the victim, or where the victim's ethnicity is not a factor (such as mafia crimes); than it is to condemn someone for a crime committed against a member of another ethnic group, primarily because of that victim's ethnicity?
(sort of a convoluted sentence, I realize-but hopefully I made myself clear.)

In other words, why is it easier for some people to believe and condemn mafia/gangland crimes than it is for them to even believe the allegations of war crimes might also be true?

Anonymous said...

I think it is easier for most people to condemn mafia like crime, than war crimes, partly because the excuse is gone when the war is gone.

The point people are missing is that there is a lot in common between the criminal elements that are within governments which commit war crimes, and there is a lack of acknowlegement of the damage these sorts of people do to their OWN ethnicity.
Nearly all the war criminals got into what we'd call mafia like crime DURING the war and continued to participate AFTER the war. Quite a few really began their careers of crime before the war.
The justification during and before was just as shaky as after, but I can see how ordinary people might have more problem with post-war crimes.
The excuse is gone.
Still here's my take on it:
After a war, things may actually be far more difficult for absolutely everyone. People in general are much more likely to be in circumstances that lead to them committing crimes in the poverty and disruption that follows a war.