Our friend Radovan

What is the esteemed Dr Radovan Karadzic, poet, psychiatrist to Sarajevo football club, confidante of presidents and all-around statesman doing banged up in the UN detention centre at The Hague? He should be power-schmoozing and re-drawing the map of the Balkans, or so I argue in today’s Times:

Why is Radovan Karadzic on trial? Surely the Bosnian Serb leader should be ensconced in a comfortable think-tank somewhere, pontificating on the subject he knows best: bamboozling Western diplomats.

It’s a serious question. Until summer 1995, when he was finally indicted for war crimes, Radovan Karadzic was Our Friend. Had he manoeuvred a little more sharply and realised a little earlier that the game was up, he probably still would be.

During the early 1990s I covered the UN Bosnian peace talks in Geneva for The Times. They were a nauseating spectacle. Karadzic, like his boss and paymaster Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian President, was treated like a visiting statesman instead of a war criminal.

In Washington, London and Paris, teams of analysts pondered Karadzic’s every utterance in the vain hope that peace was around the corner. The Serbian poet, psychiatrist and Balkan warlord loved every minute of it, holding court, waving maps and issuing gnomic utterances. Who wouldn’t? We journalists, too, were part of the spectacle, building towers of analysis on hints and whispers.

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