The Yugoslav Wars And Modern Evil
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Politics and Activism

The Yugoslav Wars And Modern Evil

Or, Evil with Jet Planes, not Propeller Planes

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The Yugoslav Wars And Modern Evil
Wikimedia Commons

It was one day in my Politics of East Central Europe class, during our discussion of the utter unpleasantness that were the Yugoslav Wars, that I saw a news station interview with Slobodan Milosevic.

For those unaware, I consider Slobodan Milosevic perhaps the most evil man after the fall of the Soviet Union. I use that particular landmark as not a commentary on the fall of the Soviet Union, a country which had improved substantially since the reign of the butcher Stalin, but due to its creation of the modern American-dominated world.

Milosevic was the leader of Serbia after the fall of Yugoslavia, and provided a tremendous amount of aid in supporting Serb militias in Bosnia and in Kosovo, in which they were involved in crimes against humanity. Srebrenica is the most known crime of Serb forces in the West, where Bosniaks were slaughtered, but I don’t consider that the worst I have read about. Foča gets that shameful prize from me.

And yet there I was, sitting at my desk, seeing the Butcher of Bosnia give an almost commonplace interview with a reporter, with all the trappings of the news reports I grew up with. It was the nineties a tad before I was born, but it was similar enough.

Never before had I been made aware of how timeless human butchery is. I had read about the atrocities of Saddam Hussein and of ISIS and of the treatment of the Rohingya and of Darfur and of Bashar al-Assad, but never before had I seen how ‘normal’ this seemed. Milosevic was wearing the same sort of suit I wear at formal events, and the questions seemed like something a reporter would ask a member of Congress.

It’s jarring, especially to a culture that associates mass murder with the Nazis, who were very much products of the 1930s. When we think of mass murder, we think of old-style trench coats, steam trains, propeller planes, black-and-white film, stahlhelms, and 19th century military marches. Contrast this with footage of the Yugoslav Wars or the current war in Syria, with jet planes, modern cars, and music that sounds off-puttingly like modern pop songs.

We tend to think of atrocity as something that happened several decades ago, but that is well and truly a misconception. The absolute worst of humankind is still on display in several parts of the globe, and we Americans, and indeed most Westerners, are insulated from it, and feel content to ignore it when it is reported about. It happens, and it is happening now.

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