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Serb prejudice

August 07, 2008

Re "Arrival of Karadzic puts tribunal back in spotlight," July 31

The Times' report on Radovan Karadzic carries the usual preconceived prejudices against Serb leaders.

I met Karadzic briefly in the town of Jajce in Bosnia across the Serbian border in 1993. I also spent a couple of hours with his vice president, Nikola Koljevic. I was a friend and colleague of Karadzic's foreign policy advisor, John Zametica. Koljevic and Zametica were not genocidal Hitlers. Nor was Slobodan Milosevic. Nor is Karadzic.

I once asked Koljevic why Serbs were shelling civilians in Sarajevo. He told me that Bosnian Serb forces were untrained militias that act spontaneously. Muslim forces located in heavily civilian areas would fire at Serb militias in the surrounding hills, inviting overwhelming retaliation against their positions in civilian areas. There was deliberate provocation by Muslim forces deliberately hidden among civilians to invite retaliatory fire at their positions.

When Americans do this in Iraq and elsewhere it is called "collateral damage." When Serb forces did this in Bosnia, it was labeled genocide.

George C. Thomas

Glendale, Wis.

The writer was a visiting Fulbright professor at the University of Belgrade in 2006-07, and is the contributing editor of "Yugoslavia Unraveled."

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