THEY WOULD NEVER HURT A FLY: War Criminals on Trial in the Hague

Slavenka Drakulic, Author . Viking $22.95 (207p) ISBN 978-0-670-03332-4

What causes people to participate in genocide? Respected Croatian journalist Drakulic (How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed ) set out to explore the psyches of the people who turned her former country, Yugoslavia, into a killing field in the early 1990s. Observing them on trial for war crimes before the International Tribunal in the Hague, Drakulic depicts the perpetrators, from Radomir Kovac, who raped young girls, to the delusional former Serb president Slobodan Milosevic, often from the point of view of the perpetrators themselves. The novelistic imputation of imagined thoughts can be distracting. Nevertheless, with a few exceptions, the snapshots are powerful and horrifying: they include a chilling description of the slaughter at Srebrenica through the eyes of a reluctant Bosnian soldier forced to kill or be killed, and a portrayal of an entire town's complicity in the murder of a Croatian militiaman after he courageously testified before the tribunal. Drakulic's analysis of why people choose evil—fear, opportunism, propaganda, lust for power and identity, historical grievances—offers little that's new, and her conclusion—"if ordinary people committed war crimes, it means that any of us begs the question of why some found the courage to say no. But her focus on the perpetrators and their apparently inexplicable moral choices forces us to face the questions of good and evil these crimes raise. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 06/14/2004
Release date: 08/01/2004
Ebook - 224 pages - 978-1-4406-1520-7
Paperback - 182 pages - 978-0-349-11775-1
Open Ebook - 224 pages - 978-1-4406-5105-2
Paperback - 209 pages - 978-0-14-303542-8
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