This post was edited by dostoevskydr at 2016-3-27 15:11|
Charlie Chaplin once said, “Life is a tragedy when seen in close up, but a comedy in long shot.” No matter how dark or horrifying something may be, the basic absurdity of human existence will always shine through. Such was the case with the hunt for Bosnian-Serb war criminal Radovan Karadzic, who was convicted of genocide and sentenced to 40 years in prison on 24th March.
The tragic part is obvious. As leader of the breakaway Republika Srpska during the devastating Bosnian War, Karadzic was the architect of the war’s ethnic cleansing. It was his ultra-nationalist rhetoric that led to the sectarian conflict that killed 100,000 people. It was his orders to forge a “pure” Serbian state that created the concentration camps, the siege of Sarajevo, and the genocide at Srebrenica. In league with his pudgy general, Ratko Mladic, and Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, he brought the worst massacres that Europe had seen since the end of World War II.
Yet his 13-year flight from justice after the war’s conclusion was frequently less tragic and more darkly comic and surreal. In his attempts to escape the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Karadzic went to such bizarre lengths that his story seems more suited to a dark
Hollywood farce than real life.
A pretty village in the Bosnian mountains, Pale’s bright colors mask its horrifying past. During the devastating 1992–1995 war, it became the capital of the breakaway Republika Srpska, the ethnically pure Serbian state that Karadzic was attempting to build. It was only a few kilometers from there that Bosnian-Serb snipers and artillery targeted civilians in the Siege of Sarajevo, killing around 13,000. It was also there that Karadzic settled after the war, living openly for two whole years.
Imagine for a second that Hitler had escaped his bunker at the end of World War II. Now imagine he then went and set up shop near Stalingrad or Leningrad, within eyesight of those cities’ devastated buildings. That improbable scenario is what happened here. The Siege of Sarajevo was the worst since German troops surrounded Leningrad; Karadzic’s siege actually lasted six months longer than Hitler’s. Mortars pounded the city day and night. The parliament building was destroyed, and 56,000 people were wounded, including 15,000 children. Yet, thanks to the fragile peace agreement, Karadzic was able to live openly less than 18 kilometers (11 mi) away.
To add insult to injury, Bosnia, a country the size of Louisiana, was crawling with 64,000 NATO-led troops at the time. This led to many farcical moments where troops had to pretend not to see the war criminals passing in the street or act like they didn’t know who the wanted men greeting them were. Karadzic kept this up until 1997, when international pressure finally caused him to flee. But rather than get more desperate, his story from here on in only becomes more surreal.
The Warlord And The Gorilla Suit
After Karadzic vanished, the international manhunt for him intensified. Bill Clinton declared that money was no object in finding the Serbian warlord, leading to the largest manhunt in history before 9/11. Even with all that money kicking around, conventional means still couldn’t find Karadzic, so those involved began to look to less conventional ones. The least conventional of all involved Delta Force, a concussion grenade, and a man in a gorilla suit.
In his in-depth book on the manhunt, journalist Julian Borger recounts how Delta Force received word that Karadzic’s car would be passing along a certain road in less than a week. The car would contain his young daughter, meaning that a firefight was out of the question. Delta Force decided to use a concussion grenade. But it could only work if the car was going 32 kilometers per hour (20 mph) or slower. To ensure that the car slowed down, a soldier known as “Blade” came up with an impressively odd idea. They would get a man in a monkey suit to leap out in front of it.
The idea was that the sight of a gorilla in central Bosnia would so confuse the drivers that they would automatically slow to get a good look at it. In those precious seconds, Delta Force would wham the car with the concussion grenade and capture Karadzic. It was a bold, inventive, and bizarre plan. It also didn’t work.
Karadzic never showed up that day. It’s highly likely that Delta Force’s information was bogus. If you had wandered down a particular stretch of Bosnian road that day, you would have seen one of the most elite military units in the world standing around with a man dressed as an ape, looking severely pissed off. It wouldn’t be the last crazy thing connected to the manhunt for Karadzic.