Richard Holbrooke on the Karadzic Arrest 'He Would Have Made a Good Nazi'

Richard Holbrooke, the 67-year-old American diplomat who brokered the Dayton Accords deal that brought peace to the Balkans, discusses the arrest of war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic, who he calls a "crazed racist" responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths.


SPIEGEL: You called Radovan Karadzic Europe's Osama Bin Laden. As the negotiator of the Dayton peace agreement, you sat directly across from him. What does his arrest mean to you personally?

Richard Holbrooke: "There will be plenty of witnesses."
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Richard Holbrooke: "There will be plenty of witnesses."

Holbrooke: I was overjoyed. This was bringing to justice one of the worst, most evil men in the world. He is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths. I think he was worse than even Slobodan Milosevic and Ratko Mladic in the sense that he was the true believer in the racist theories. He believed in racial superiority even though Muslims and Serbs were really basically the same ethnicity. But they took different religious courses several centuries ago. He would have made a good Nazi.

SPIEGEL: What influence did the new pro-Western government under the leadership of President Boris Tadic have on Karadzic's arrest?

Holbrooke: The newly elected government of Tadic had the political strength to force the security services to take this action. I have great, great respect for President Tadic for his courage and his tremendous achievement. Up to now the security services were protecting Karadzic and his military chief Mladic. Furthermore, the previous government was intimidated by the fascist thugs and mafioso that were also protecting Karadzic and Mladic.

SPIEGEL: Could Karadzic and Mladic have been arrested earlier if the European Union and the United States had exerted greater pressure on Serbia?

Holbrooke: I believe it was a big mistake not to arrest him right after Dayton when everyone knew where he was. He was going to his office every day. Then NATO commander (of the peacekeeping troops) at the time, Admiral Leighton Smith, tragically made no effort to capture him

SPIEGEL: Do you feel the European Union played a role in the fact that Karadzic was arrested?

Holbrooke: I have often been critical of the European Union. In this case, the EU handled itself perfectly and effectively. Congratulations to them.

SPIEGEL: What does Karadzic's arrest mean for Serbia politically?

Holbrooke: This means there will be a weakening of the extremist forces there. That is also true for Bosnia. After all, Karadzic's cause was not Serbia. It was Bosnian Serbia. Back then, he declared independence for the Serb portion of Bosnia, an illegal act. That is what the war was about and his departure from the scene is going to strengthen the forces of cohesion and reconciliation in Bosnia.

SPIEGEL: What can Europe and the US do to further support this development?

Holbrooke: The first thing is to push for the arrest of former Army General Mladic. Second is to push for further reconciliation between Muslims and Serbs and Croats in both Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. And third is to try to reduce the tensions over Kosovo.

SPIEGEL: Karadzic will soon be transferred to The Hague. Will it be as difficult to prove his crimes as it was with Serbia's Ex-President Slobodan Milosevic?

Holbrooke: No. There will be plenty of witnesses. This was a guy who liked to pose with the snipers up in the hills. He was a crazed racist.

SPIEGEL: Rumors circulated for a long time that you made a personal deal with Radovan Karadzic: If he retired from politics, he would not be sent to The Hague.

Holbrooke: Those are lies that I do not comment on any longer.

Interview conducted by Cordula Meyer.

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