War crime guilt is a global affair:

Former Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic will soon be in The Hague. He won’t be there for a nice holiday in one of the lovely Dutch capitals. No, he’ll be facing the International War Crimes Tribunal for crimes against humanity. Rumour has it he may be tried for genocide, the most serious of war crimes. My question is simple: Why?

The first real international war crimes trials followed the Second World War. Various leaders of the Nazi party, save those who committed suicide when all was lost, were arrested and tried as if they were common criminals who stole cars or robbed banks. They were given defence lawyers. Evidence was submitted on both sides. In the end nearly every one of them, at least every relatively big fish like Hermann Goering, was found guilty and sentenced either to death or long prison sentences. Goering committed suicide in his cell before he could be hanged.

The reason for the trials following World War II was the whole Treaty of Versailles debacle that followed World War I. Germany had to be shown that it and it alone was to blame for the war and the resulting Holocaust. The Allies had something to prove–therefore the trials at Nuremberg served a purpose.

The trial of Milosevic will serve no such purpose. Those accusing him are just as guilty. The United Nations, NATO or the European Union, whoever is in charge here, knew about the concentration camps and the genocide. The camps and mass graves were paraded daily on CNN. The war in the Balkans began when Croatia and Slovenia left the Yugoslav union in 1991, yet Milosevic was not arrested until 2000. He was not Hitler hiding in his bunker behind the mighty army of the Third Reich. He was simply the petty despot of some poor country who could have been stopped had those now putting him on trial demonstrated the initiative to act. But they didn’t and much like in Nazi Germany, thousands were herded into concentration camps, raped and then murdered.

Will trying Milosevic–which will probably be put off until the Americans stop bombing Red Cross buildings in Afghanistan–prove anything? I don’t think so. Maybe we’ll find out how many Bosnians and Croats were placed in camps or how many 11-year-old girls were raped. But who cares? Governments of the West, including ours, are just as guilty. They knew what was going on and their inaction is as much to blame as Milosevic’s action. Probably moreso, as it was the inaction and indifference of world leaders that allowed the government in Belgrade to have its way. Strong words and verbal condemnations are just lip service when real people are being hunted as game or raped and tortured in front of their families.

Milosevic will be found guilty. On which counts I do not know, but he will not see the light of day again and he shouldn’t. But in the future, or rather with the way current events are unfolding in the present, the West should not sit by and let X number of people be killed until it decides on action. Either do something right away, or let the people die. It may be a heartless choice, but at least it’s not a hypocritical one.

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