interview: jacques klein

Jacques Klein is a Senior U.S. member of Bosnia Peacekeeping Force

Q: Could you tell me how you think the new (Bosnian Serb) Government in Banja Luka has affected the situation here?

Ambassador Klein: One, we took Banja Luka television away from the party, from the SDS (Serbian Democratic Party-Serbs in Bosnia) and the hard-liners. And we had Momcilo Krajisnik trapped in the hotel in Banja Luka, where he was going to trash Banja Luka. We trapped him and embarrassed him publicly, and the British forces up there under General Ramsey did a superb job. Then you have an election where 80% of the people voted in difficult conditions, in poor weather, and that showed me that people are looking for means other than violence to resolve disputes. And they did it with great difficulty.

Then we had the Srpska elections with 78% of the people voting. The same thing. So now you have President Dodic who is a credible social democrat. It's not easy for him to form a government because a lot of these people are former SDS people. It wasn't easy to find the international financing to bridge the period of the back pay for October, November, December, January of the doctors, the school teachers, the pensioners. But it's been a breath of fresh air, because he has helped us now restructure SRT. He's engendered other reforms. We're beginning to see the collection of customs and the customs money going in to the coffers of the government of the Republic of Srpska not into the pockets of politicians in Pale. And indeed, as an example, technically, according to the customs record, no one in the Republic of Srpska has smoked a cigarette in the last few years. Suddenly, in the past 3 weeks now with serious customs implementation, several hundred thousand deutsch marks have been collected in customs fees, and that's only a minor example.

Q: So where was that money going before?

Ambassador Klein: In the pockets of politicians.

Q: Which politicians did you have in mind?

Ambassador Klein: Well, I don't want to name them in public, I mean. But the point is that whole regime was corrupt. In other words you had a regime which was a front for Karadzic and the war criminal element. So you can see the climate in the Republic of Srpska has changed. People are open, the traveling is easier, there's not the sense of intimidation and fear, there's much more traffic and trans-integration. And indeed, that area around Banja Luka traditionally, culturally and economically gravitated toward Zagreb.

So, to put it simply, we now have a serious interlocutor in Banja Luka. There's also another additional element. According to Dayton, two thirds of the aid goes to the Federation, International. One third was supposed to go the Rep Srpska. It never did, because of the Pale regime. So now we have a government that you can actually say, yes we can make infrastructure money available, bridges on the Sarba*, rail roads, hydro-electric grids etc. And I must say, even President Plavsic has supported the process. In other words, the difference between she and the Pale crowd, she's as much a nationalist as, as they are. They can't fault her on her nationalism. But she realizes that at this point in history, it is in the best interests of Republic of Srpska to implement Dayton, to support democratic processes, to try to do something about the, the generalized corruption that exists.

Q: Can you give me a kind of thumb-nail sketch of this construct that you describe as the administration in Pale?

Ambassador Klein: Well what you had there was a group of politicians, the SDS party stronghold, who basically farmed out with say, revenue collection, to two or three companies, run by their cronies, who then skimmed off the monies coming into the coffers. There's some quite wealthy individuals up there - four million in the bank, a million-dollar home in Montenegro. The tragedy is, I used to say, that the people of Republic Srpska have been led into one historical cul-de-sac after another, by extremely poor leadership. So for us, to have someone serious to deal with has been a blessing, and I think we've raised now some twenty million dollars Europen Union, US five million to try to support the Dodic government and demonstrate the international community's resolve that if we find serious people to deal with, we will honor our commitments and make the financing available that they need.

Now, the important thing is, he will now, in the next three or four months really begin to control the levers of the power and bringing that revenue in which will actually sustain him over the long-term, which is important. And he's already done that, I mean the income has tripled in terms of revenue collection within Republic Srpska.

Q: And you think that income was going into the pockets of Karadzic?

Ambassador Klein: Absolutely, the pockets of the people in Pale. Very much so. And there's another dimension to this, which is, as he establishes control over the security forces, the blanket that covers Pale that they've been able to hide under becomes ever smaller. The advance tips, the warnings, the leaks etc, which were there before, in the Republic Srpska, will no longer be there. So the blanket under which the war criminals are hiding becomes smaller. And indeed, in the rest of Republic Srpska, people have given themselves up. You see the Croats who were in The Hague, their indictments were evaluated, the evidence was found insufficient, they were let go. That showed us that (quote) "There is an honest process here. And therefore I'm willing to go to The Hague." And we had that in three or four cases.

Now when you ask them "Why didn't you do this earlier - intimidation? Fear? By family and friends? No Serb ever surrenders? No Serb ever gives himself up?" But as one of them said, "Look I'm tired of not being able to sleep. I'm tired of being paranoid. I think I'm innocent I want to get it behind me you know. So, from their perception at least they want to get on with their lives. And between the ones that have volunteered to give themselves up and the ones that SFOR has actually arrested, we're making very good progress, I think.

Q: Comparing it to a year ago, how would you describe Karadzic's position now, as leader as it were, of that Pale group?

Ambassador Klein: I think it's very much eroding, because you see, what happened in the Republic Srpska, as in Herzegovina and in the Federation here, the party identification is your ticket to a job, to your children going to school, to an apartment etc. So naturally, most of the population of Republic Srpska supported the SDS, out of intimidation, out of fear, out of personal gain. Now that you have a different government, people are turning in their party cards, they're looking to Banja Luka, in a sense, for leadership. And so, a lot of the mayors, a lot of the police chiefs are saying you know, "I was always uncomfortable with this, I'm an honest Serb, I don't want to be tainted by this." Because we can't demonize and satanize a people for what a few did. And there's no doubt that they did it, but that we can't demonize a whole population. So it gives the Serbs in Republic Srpska, the honest people many of whom I know, another option, an honest option to work with a government that's credible. And that , I think, is the key thing.

Now, the Karadzic forces haven't given up. You know, we had a long paper that was drafted in his office, how to undermine the Dodic government; how the SDS should reconstitute itself to take on this government; how to undermine western credibility in aid; how to paint Dodic as a tool of the west; all this nonsense. And we assiduously avoided doing that because you and I both know, and I think anyone who understands political science knows, you know the western embrace can often suffocate you. And we've made it a point to let Dodic be his own man, let that government be its own government. Assist as we can, advise when asked, but very much let them be the representative of the Serb people, so they're not tainted by that.

Q: But he has an obligation to turn Karadzic in, doesn't he?

Ambassador Klein: Technically the way it should work is that the entities are responsible for the apprehension of the war criminals in their areas, and that's on all sides. That's in the Croat side, the Muslim, the Bosnian side and the Serb side. But I think Karadzic's days are numbered because it is closing in. It is getting a smaller and smaller blanket and umbrella that he can hide under. In fact his best option would be to go to The Hague. If you have a case to make for your actions during that period, then make it. Have the best international defense available, but have your day in court.

The warrant is not going to go away. We're not going to let this thing slide, and no matter where he goes on the face of the earth, that warrant will eventually be served. Now he has another problem, which is worth thinking about: are there people on that side who don't want to see him go anywhere? Is he probably sometimes more in danger from them than from anyone else? And that's something he has to calculate in his equation as he thinks about what his next step should be.

Q: Do you think he may be danger?

Ambassador Klein: I wouldn't doubt that there's certain people who don't want to see him in a witness stand actually giving testimony. And he has to think that very seriously, because he knows who they are.

Q: Do you think that there is a qualitative difference between bringing someone like Karadic to trial compared with the people lower on the ladder that have been arrested?

Ambassador Klein: It depends. Last year when I was still in Eastern Slavonia I had three indictments. These were for the three military officers who had taken 260 wounded Croatian military personnel out of the hospital in Vukovar, systematically brutalized them, and then machine-gunned them. Now we had warrants for three obviously, but who were all the gunmen? Who did all the machine-gunning? In early spring of last year, the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia ICTY, came down to see me and said "Now we have a sealed indictment. We have a sealed indictment for the former mayor of Vukovar, Slavko Dokmanovic. I said, "Look if he comes across the Danube to Eastern Slavonia, he's got to be the dumbest Serb in all of Yugoslavia." But, lo and behold, in, in May, they said, "there may be an inkling that that he might come across the border", probably for reasons of greed, business deals, the way these things often happen. I then said, "Fine, I'll put together a plan". I called in my force commander there are three or four people on my staff who knew about it, we planned the operation, I had a superb group of Polish Ministry of Interior personnel. And we rehearsed this thing, over and over again. Because, as you understand, my problem was, we're in Eastern Slavonia where we have executive power, but how do I get him from there to Croatia proper to the airfield, into an aeroplane then into The Hague?

So basically we had a very small planning cell, my immediate staff, the force commander General Allsee* and the commander of the Polish Special Group Major Keeta*. And, I said had no way of knowing whether this would happen, but we rehearsed over and over again.

Now, the things you have to factor in: you're not doing a soldier's job which is to basically destroy targets, force you to surrender or kill you. A policeman's job is to arrest you, detain you and hold you for trial. It's a very different construct. So you can have soldiers to do a mission that they're not trained to do. In this case, the Polish group we had was superb and were trained.

Now, then the issue is where do you come across the border in a vehicle, are you by yourself? Are you with your family? Are you armed? Where do you the apprehension, on the highway? Do you wait till you get to the hotel where you're doing a business meeting? Do you do it on the way back? Where is the safest place to do it, where minimum harm would come to the individual you're trying to arrest and certainly to your own people? Well, the individual came across the border, the vehicle was run into a compound which actually had been our camp's

headquarters. The warrant and the arrest documents were served by International Tribunal personnel, lawyers and interpreters and legal staff who were there. Then the individual was searched, he had a pistol with him. A black hood was put over his head, he was taken then in one of our UN vehicles to Osia* to the airport. And actually the question there was asked, "Who is this?" And we said, "Don't worry, it's another one of our rehearsals, we've done this before, you remember last week" etc and they said, "Oh, okay." But then he started to have heart palpitations. Naturally when you're accused of killing 260 people you probably do begin to get nervous when someone arrests you. So he was given a full medical exam, he was treated on the spot, he was put into an aircraft and between three in the evening and seven in the evening he was in The Hague. The first question and, and challenge to the authority was: Was he arrested in Croatia or in Yugoslavia? Well we had a document, it was very clear from the evidence, the video that he had entered Eastern Slavonia and that is Croatia proper. So that was thrown out. And then the actual trial began in January.

Now the other important thing, that when you do something like that is, we fairly quickly went public, and said to the public, "Today so-and-so was arrested based on a sealed indictment. We don't know whether he's guilty or innocent, that's not our judgment, that should be made in The Hague. But he'll receive no fairer trial or adjudication than in The Hague. This warrant would have never gone away and, eventually someone would have served it, possibly in much more dangerous condition. Also, I don't hold him responsible as a representative of the Serb people. We're not here to demonize or satanize the people. Croat murderers, Serb murderers, Bosnian murderers have to be held individually accountable for their actions. Not the people." And then three days later in a very difficult meeting with my deputy we actually met with his wife and daughter and son and met niece, and explained why this was done. Now that was not easy, but I think it was fairly done and we as the United Nations mission, could not under Article 21 avoid our responsibility. Doesn't mean you go looking for people, but if you know someone's coming across you do have the obligation to serve the warrant. So that was the first indicted war criminal in the former Yugoslavia arrested and transported to The Hague. And then, a few weeks later, the British did Prijedor.

Q: And what was the effect of Prijedor do you think?

Ambassador Klein: It was quantum. If you go to Prijedor now, it's a different city. It's open, people aren't afraid. That police chief and those thugs intimidated the local population, they frightened the local population. You found people on the street. Now, remember now I didn't state this but really the most important part of the equation, which we didn't discuss, is we have 700 UN employees living in Serb homes. That concerned us more, from a security perspective than the arrest. The fact that the Poles were superbly trained meant that the arrest would happen one way or the other, that wasn't really the issue.

What would the Serb reaction be to the UN people living in their homes? And after 46 hours or so people were coming up and saying "You know, he wasn't nice to Croats but he wasn't nice to other people either, our own people". And once you heard that then you knew, and I think whatever resistance there was or concern very quickly dampened.

Q: Do you think that by reforming the conditions, the normal decency and the normal way of evaluating these things comes back?

Ambassador Klein: I don't think any Serb that I know, and the Serbs have a long and historic tradition as a people, wants to be associated with war criminals, with murderers, with people who will take wounded military personnel with prosthetic devices on their arms, with drainage bags, with their X-rays under their arms, a man with a wooden leg and massacred them. I don't think any decent Serb wants to associate with someone like that, or people who did those things.

Nor do the Croats want to be associated with some of their people who did some of these things. Nor these people here. We exhumed a gravesite here in October, November where we had 14 Serb military personnel who had their heads chopped off by someone. The heads weren't there, we found the bodies. I don't think any Bosnian here wants to be associated with whoever did that.

Q: How do you view do you view the idea of command responsibility here because clearly people like Karadzic, people in the leadership, are not doing those things that you're talking about. Where does their responsibility lie?

Ambassador Klein: It lies with them ultimately, if you can document it, and then you do that with telephone intercepts, with photographs, with eyewitness testimony, to the people who gave the orders. Who gave the order to cleanse the village? You know, when you interview one of these people, and you say "What is ethnic cleansing?" and he says on camera, "Well, you know, you kill a few people and then the others run away", you say "Well, do you kill 'em all?", "Oh, no, no, no. You don't have to kill them all. You just kill a few and that terrorizes the rest and they leave." I mean, we've had people who've said this on camera.

Now, I will also say though, one has to understand that when this war began, the prisons opened. And by that I mean literally, they opened, everywhere. And every psychopath, every pathological killer, every madman who you'd normally lock up in the darkest dungeon in peacetime, was suddenly on the street. And under the rubric of nationalism, were able to do these things. And then each side tends to do what? You tend to terrorize the other side, mutilate some in hopes of engendering the same reaction, so that you get the mass of your population to support this conflict, which is what they tried to do psychologically. You impress people into service, you take young men who have no choice and force them to serve. You make them dig ditches, and then you say, "Now you've dug a ditch here, if they come, you aided and abetted the war process, you're just as guilty as we are, even though we have the rifle." And I saw that happen throughout the region. So you gang press people into doing things they would normally never do.

Q: And do you think it was possible that people at the highest levels of the government of the Republic of Srpska could have failed to have known what was going on?

Ambassador Klein: They knew. The intelligence was very, very good. Because at numerous meetings, if you read the documentation of this war, where UN Interlocutors or I4 interlocutors talk with the leadership. They knew very well what was going on in the village.... or refused to react, or waited till it was over before saying, "Well I, had a difficult time, I couldn't telephone, the lines were down, the communications didn't work." No the, the leadership, certainly is responsible. You have to document that, you can't just say anecdotal. There's a lot of that around here, "I think so-and-so did X, Y or Z." That's fine, but you have to be able to prove it. And that really means evidentiary material.

That's why for The Hague to indict someone takes a great deal of evidence, for The Hague to convict someone takes even more. And there are probably many people who they have dossiers on, who they really don't, who you and I know are guilty, but how do you indict them unless you have sufficient evidence? Now that may be a failing of the Western legal tradition when there's Anglo-Saxon or Napoleonic. But it's probably better for us that we follow those procedures, rather than ad-hoc do some kind of frontier justice. As I said at Ocara, yes, you have the four Yugoslav army officers, you had Dokmanovic. But who were all the other gunmen? Who formed the gauntlet at the head quarters in Vukovar which they made them run through and brutalize them and beat three of them to death? Where are all those other people? You see, now many of those will never be caught probably because we'll never have the evidence, we'll never have all the facts. But at least we can identify the leadership people and the people who played the leadership role, and hopefully bring them to justice. Because if we don't, it's like a wound that will never heal. In some sense, you have to do this.

Q: You've always said that these atrocities, these war crimes were committed on all sides of the war. Does that point that the leadership knew what was going on also pertain to all sides?

Ambassador Klein: Well I don't have the evidence. I assume that in times of war these things percolate to the top and because you're engaged in a major battle for your lives, for the state, whatever it may be that you say, "Look. I appreciate knowing this but, I think we can deal with that later." And indeed, I think here that happened, you know, where right after the war, they had to clean up a little detritus of the war, some of their own people got radically out of hand, who were challenging the central government. And so I think that happened on all sides.

The Croats had the same problem, where you then have military commanders who start having delusions about the role they played or the authority they have, and you have to clean them up after the war. Replace them, retire them so, that's not unusual.

But it's hard you know, war there's always this, as John Keegan said, "The fog of war is there." You're being overwhelmed by information. Some accurate, some inaccurate, rumors, hearsay, you don't know, this has happened, that's happened, atrocities committed. And in a scenario like that when you're going for three or four months, lack of sleep, daily pressure, you know trying to resolve and plan and campaign. You know the war crimes issue doesn't become that germane. If the media reports it obviously you have to do something and do something about it quickly. But normally these are the kinds of things that come out after the wars, when the victims appear. Now I must tell you, there's a group that came to see me not too long ago, Institute for Peace, I believe, who are trying to document what you would call the Schindler kinds of things. Now the sad part is you can't even identify these good people yet because their own people would still beat them up or work them over, or accuse them. But we know there are cases where someone said, you know, "Look, you have these people in the camp and, and you're killing them, maybe I can get one or two of them." And in the context of doing that actually save twenty or twenty two peoples' lives. Or someone on the street, you have the woman running toward him with a couple of children and they say, "Don't kill us, don't kill us" and he says, "No, I'm not going to kill you" and takes them somewhere, save haven, change their clothes etc. Those are the kinds of things I think we also need to document. And that's harder to do because as I said, if you identify these people, their own people would still take umbrage at the fact that they acted decently in the middle of this carnage, when everyone else was acting abominably.

Q: But that argument about the 'fog of war' I mean, isn't that an argument that Karadzic and the Serbs could use. Because their point is that why is it that it's only their leader that's been indicted?

Ambassador Klein: Well, I would say this. To indict him took a lot of evidence. There's no doubt that an indictment from The Hague, as I said, is not easy to get. So, there must be good evidence. There is a dilemma you have, that whoever supplies evidence to The Hague, that's what's acted on, and some governments in the region were more forthcoming, responded more quickly, set up offices to gather data, documentation, witness interviews and provided that to the Hague where others didn't. I raised this once when the Serbs raised this issue with me in Pale. I said, "Because, one - the Bosnia government has a representative in The Hague, so does the Croatian government. That means he works with the International Tribunal, or they work with the International Tribunal. Why don't you send one of your people? If you have witnesses, why don't you notify the tribunal". By the way, we did that in Eastern Slavonia, you know. As I said, to be very fair when we captured this individual, the complaint was raised, "What about the evil things that so-and-so did on the Croatian side?" And we said, "You find the witnesses, we will invite the International Tribunal to come down." The International Tribunal came down, they interviewed witnesses, and hopefully there will be some indictments for some of those people as well.

My goal was even-handedness. I mean if you take sides here then you lose all your credibility. You have to be absolutely impartial. Because you see, I don't think the Croats or the Serbs or the Bosniacks are bad people. See, that's the premise I think where the International Community is different than they as individuals are at looking at each other. My presumption is, that on all sides, in all societies, there are some nasty, nasty people. And that's what you have to deal with, the individual. I don't believe in a collective guilt. And I think that every country looking at its history has had some of that. And it's a question of how you deal with it that's important.

Q: But there has to be some kind of cultural complicity surely? In the sense that Karadzic found some way of mobilizing his people, Otherwise they wouldn't have followed him?

Ambassador Klein: Well I think if you listen to them, now this is their argument, it's not mine.:They felt that their country "had been stolen from them," that they really wanted to continue to be part of Yugoslavia. And this by voting, by declaring Bosnia an independent state, that they were disenfranchised as a people, that they were fighting for their history, their lives, their nation, which had been fragmented by forces which many of them probably didn't understand. Now you go back to square one and say, "Who started this?" You know, what was the role of the media from 1987-88 on in creating this kind of ethnic hate and bringing up the animosities of the, of the past? And the leadership in Belgrade and elsewhere that played to that theme and exacerbated and worked the population into a frenzy.

So, yes, you're right, and people when they're fighting for what they think are their lives, their culture, their traditions, yes they will support that kind of leadership. You know, sometimes thoughtlessly. But ultimately, you know, reason has to prevail and not all of them did (fight). Obviously the Dodics didn't. Dodic, through the whole war kept his lines of communication with the other side open and so did many other Serbs. In Croatia, there were Serb villages that didn't fight, there were Serb villages who negotiated with the Croatian government and said, "We don't want to be any part of this rebellion, of this Republic Srpska..." As I said, what you try to do, you engender enormous hostility among the ethnic groups. You, you commit atrocities to force the other side to retaliate.

The propaganda war was key in exaggerating, and many of these things were exaggerated. In fact, I would tell you candidly, one of the biggest problems here in the whole Balkans is the lack of understanding of objective history. Now I was trained as a historian, you know, that means you objectively look at history and all sources, and you don't come to closure until you have all your data, and then you analyze it. And always realize that no matter how much data you have, there still may be equations here that are missing.

But here what you had was Marxist history ...for fifty years, nationalistic, crypo-fascist history from World War II, or anecdotal history. 'My grandfather told me, my uncle was there, he told me in World War II'. Now we know that those are called war stories; generally exaggerated, often untrue, often based on myth and rumor. Very seldom is it 'I was actually the one who (bangs on table) did this, I heard from a buddy. In that next village they did X, Y or Z.' And so, when you say then, to someone here, "Have you really read the Oxford, Cambridge, University of Paris and Bonn, University of Indiana of the Balkans?" or something. So they get it all mixed up and they tell you very candidly whatever year these people deserted us in a battle field, and have betrayed us. And Christianity, and then you look at it and you say, "They weren't even on the battle field, that was those guys."

Q: But it's also true that the leaders themselves didn't have an objective history at hand.

Ambassador Klein: No they don't, and they're not well-educated.

Q: Are they whipping up this frenzy in a cynical kind of way?

Ambassador Klein: Oh they are, for personal aggrandizement, for power. What drives many of the people (politicians/leaders) here, that's why I said earlier to you-- can leadership that led you in the war lead you in the peace? And I don't know if that's possible, you know, because they have so much at stake in their personal role they played in this process. What you need here is probably, I hate to say this, a business orientated leadership, a business community that looks at things economically, rather than in this constant ethnic ideological sense. We've had two fairs here, we did a major fair in Banja Luka, which Ambassador Kosrich* and the American Embassy took the lead in, where we took Muslim businessmen , Bosnian businessmen up there.

Then we, reciprocated and had a very large fair here in, in Sarajevo attended by Serbs from both Republic Srpska and Yugoslavia. What did the businessmen say? "Look I had Serb and Croat and Bosniack partners. I had affiliates throughout Bosnia. You politicians talk, I have to meet a payroll. I need raw materials to make my products. And then I've got to distribute my products to make a sale. I need freedom of movement, I need a passport, and I want to get on with it, and I want to rebuild the infrastructure I had, or find my partners and rebuild what we had, because I'm interested in a good life, I'm not interested in running around and dying over flags and symbols. I want a comfortable existence for myself and my family, and a future for my children, hopefully in Europe."

Q: And new history.

Ambassador Klein: Yeah. And, that's why with the flag... you know, we had a flag committee basically working on this flag. And it's interesting what they said to us. They said they wanted to design a flag that no one had died over. And hopefully, would not die over. Something fairly neutral. Blue, which was the European blue, a golden triangle which really symbolizes Bosnia, and the stars which you can say are a symbol of hope. But the goal was to avoid ethnic colors and to avoid ethnic symbols. And indeed with license plates, we did the same thing.

Three numbers, a letter and three numbers. Now immediately, the Republic Srpska President Krajsnik came back and said, "Dayton says very specifically that license plates should have and can have cyrillic, as well as latin characters." And we said, "That's right. It does have cyrillic. There are exactly seven letters that are the same in latin and in cyrillic. And those are the seven letters we're using."

Q: So, going back to arrest and the difficulties of arrest, do you think it was a mistake to have waited so long before apprehending some of the top figures (indictees)?

Ambassador Klein: To be candid, you cannot blame the military. First of all, as I said earlier, I really don't think ... that you can ask a soldier to do that, because he's not trained to do it, unless you're a specially trained unit of some sort. A policeman's job is to arrest, detain, hold for trial. It's a very different construct. And so you have to have the right people to do it, that's the first part of the equation. The second part of the equation is you need national will. It isn't that the soldiers wouldn't do it or that the military chain of command wouldn't execute it, but there has to be a consensus in political will. And that seems to be what's been lacking so far.

Q: Why was it lacking?

Ambassador Klein: Well, you could argue would something like that at the wrong time have caused an enormous reaction? An anti-SFOR reaction? Internal turbulence? Violence directed against our troops, the International Force? Now, well, climates change. Are there as many supporters of Karadzic today as there were two years ago? Do still that many Serbs believe that he is right and is the hero of the Serb people rather than an indicted war criminal? You know, as people become educated, as they become aware of the things that were done, or the nature of the indictment and the evidence, they tend to change. So I don't think it's a question of waiting. I don't know what the situation was in Bosnia, because I wasn't there. I had never imagined that we would arrest anyone in Eastern Slavonia, I never in my ... wildest dreams imagined that any of these people would ever show up. It was just by fluke basically that we had a sealed indictment for someone. There were one or two Croats who committed some egregious acts in Eastern Slavonia. I would have also liked to have got one of them.

Q: But what about that argument that it would have been counter-productive in terms of establishing peace (if SFOR had pro-actively apprehended war criminals from the beginning)?

Ambassador Klein: That's what I think was the argument here, that they felt that the climate in the Republic Srpska was still too tense. I mean one has to factor in the economic situation here; it was desperate. In other words, Dayton says the Federation is to receive 2/3rds of foreign assistance, the Republic Srpska 1/3rd. Republic Srpska has never received anything. It was 97% to 3 why? because of Karadzic, Pale etc. That means salaries for a judge in the Federation, 1200 deutsche mark a month. A judge in the Republic Srpska 250.

In other words you had a Republic Srpska that was already paranoid, imploding economically, isolated by the international community and, that is the climate and the analysis that I think people had to do to say "Now, do we jump in the middle of this and try to extract an individual out of that kind of scenario? What would the reaction of the population be?" Now, you have a Republic Srpska with a government that was elected, foreign aid is coming in, not only the immediate aid to bridge the salary gap, but long-term infrastructure assistance. Dodic and Plavsic are becoming more and more credible and there's a sense of 'I don't want to be identified with war criminals'. People are turning in their SDS party cards and saying, "I did that admittedly for selfish reasons, I needed a job, my children needed to go to school, or I was intimidated." so the climate has changed.

And as I said, as the Dodic government secures its control over the Ministry of Interior, as it establishes itself more firmly, I think that blanket that covers Pale and Karadzic and the rest of them is shrinking. Now, Dodic's government is also not that strong yet, he depends on Bosnia Federation Deputies for roads and a number of deputies that are basically Milosevic people. So he has to be also careful in terms of what he does and how he builds confidence and how he gathers strength.

Q: So he's not strong enough yet, you think, to arrest Karadzic?

Ambassador Klein: No, I don't think so. I think that he just doesn't have that control yet in the Republic Srpska. You know, they had a long time to establish themselves the SDS, in village municipalities, communities, the police, the party infrastructure. They had the money, and they skimmed off the money that should have gone into into the coffers of the government to do public works and pensions and salaries. And they profited enormously from this, and it's like one of the things we said, we've taken Pale's hands out of the peoples' pockets. It's really what happened here in the past six months.

Q: You've taken Pale's hands out?

Ambassador Klein: I think so. I think the decision that Carlos* made... was the seminal decision. We were actually in Brussels that day. And, the Republic Srpska television, SRT, was broadcasting egregious attacks on Judge Arbour, comparing SFOR with the SS in World War II. And they were sent a warning letter that egregious behavior like this will now engender a response. And Krajsnik and his people were the Board of the SRT, it was an SDS government station, even though it was public property, allegedly. Well, I think that action showed the Pale group that SFOR, the International Community, the high representative, could no longer be intimidated. And from then on, we started, I think, gradually and continuing to erode their power.

That culminated in the Dodic government.

Q: So this is a policy of asphyxiation as it were?

Ambassador Klein: It's a number of things. First of all, honest television. In other words, reporting of the news not propaganda. So now, in Banja Luka you have some international personnel, lots of aid from the BBC came, the Americans came in, hundreds of hours of tape which we've managed to get dubbed. NBA basketball. In other words, a, a whole different view of programming television for a listening audience, not just propaganda all day long. And as you said earlier, there is a psychological claustrophobia, a sense of isolation that existed here. The inability to travel; the lack of global news, all those things were there. That's changed, and over time people then really do understand that they've not necessarily always been told the truth in terms of what the political situation was.

Q: What other positive democratic signs do you see?

Now, in relation to what we spoke about earlier with the election, think of people who are intimidated, people who are living as three separate ethnic groups with very defined party structures, SDA, SDS and HDZ. Yet, in spite of all that, in spite of the intimidation, in spite of the callousness of the past, in spite of 50 years of a very cynical communist attitude toward elections, one party, same candidates, no choice, these people I think, around Bosnia made a very dramatic statement..... everywhere we went, in somewhat inclement weather, little ladies, people sitting in buses overnight, who demonstrated to me. You know, it was, to me a gesture to the International Community, "You're trying to help us, we know that. You, you've, you've invested billions". "Maybe we can show you something. Maybe we can show you we believe in the democratic process. And maybe we can show you that we believe that there's another way other than violence to resolve this."

So when you have an 80% turnout in a situation like that, with multiple individuals, coalitions and parties on the ballot, that gave me reassurance. Because the question I asked when I came down here, when Secretary Albright asked me to take this position, was are there enough Bosniacks, Croats and Serbs living in Bosnia who, in spite of all the terrible things that have happened are still willing to live together. And I think the election was a symbol. "Yes. Yes, there'll be differences, we will argue over history, we will argue over school curriculum, we'll argue over flag, we'll argue over many things. Hopefully some of you, the International Community will help us resolve. The others will be argued in the Courts of the media for years. But at least we're telling you something." 80% and in the Republic Srpska 78%. In spite of SDS intimidation and all the attempts they made to undermine the election.

So those people in Brcko, in Banja Luka, in Srebrenica, everywhere where they voted, they were telling us something, I think. And they were telling us that they appreciate I think what the International Community's doing here. But that they're sending us a signal that these are the kinds of processes, these are the kinds of institutions. And, as you know, this year the September election will be a definitive one because it will define Bosnia for the next four years. The Presidencies, down to the mayoral level.

So this is a major undertaking and OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) is already gearing up, you know, the dates have been identified in September. It means full international monitoring. You see, that also sent a signal to people that we're serious. When you bring in two thousand international staff so that you have international monitors in every election booth. When you control the electoral process, so they know there's fairness, and the ballots aren't going to be shredded somewhere. You know, there was that old joke always in Eastern Europe, Joseph Stalin once said, "It doesn't matter who votes, what counts is who counts the votes." Here we're trying to show something very, very different, that the vote matters and it will be counted fairly.


home .  karadzic .  conentration camps .  trying war criminals .  bosnia .  genocide & war crimes .  interviews
discussion .  links .  synopsis .  press reactions .  tapes & transcripts
frontline online .  wgbh .  pbs online

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation