April 23, 1999 Halifax Herald

When madmen rule, ordinary citizens suffer

As I watch nightly news telecasts and see the horrors taking place in and around Kosovo my stomach rebels in revulsion. Can a person responsible for the commission of such horrendous deeds be judged intelligent? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is “yes.” Its not a shortage of brainpower that permits despots and their henchmen to unleash unholy hell upon innocents, but the absence of conscience and compassion in their psychological make-up.

When such men set their sights on acquiring and keeping power, nothing short of death or imprisonment deters them. The maniac urge to have complete control legitimizes, in their minds, the use of genocide and other atrocities. I don't imagine that Yugoslavia's Slobodan Milosevic loses any sleep because of the ungodly human suffering he has wrought in Kosovo, Bosnia, etc.

When I see pictures of him sitting before a table, which generally has a beautiful floral arrangement as a centrepiece, he smiles often and looks rested. The hundreds of thousands of souls that he is responsible for dispatching, by permitting his police and troops to use atrocities, troubles him naught.

The main trait that brings such monsters to power, and allows them to keep it, is an ability to bring out the worst in a significant number of their countrymen. History is awash with the blood of millions who were victimized by men from hell with such abilities: Hitler, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Stalin, to name a few modern ones. In most instances, all they had to do to take control was to gain the support of from ten to twenty percent, or less, of their country's population.

After assuming power, it’s simple for such villains to put in place the means to retain it. From among the minority of like-minded citizens, they recruit many willing candidates for the purpose of applying mayhem and terror to control the majority. Despots know that only true-blue idealists, or those with suicidal tendencies, will dare speak out against them. I have no doubt that when Serbia's citizens are fully appraised of the facts of the present situation, that the majority will react as most of us have - with horrified revulsion.

Unfortunately for humanity, because power-crazed madmen are generally very charismatic and polished, there is no way to identify despots before they start their climb to power. With a craftiness motivated by warped desires, they can disguise and hide idiosyncrasies and paranoia until goals are reached. Enough signals come from them in the early stages of their ascendency to ring alarm bells. But, for some weird reason, our leaders fail to recognize, or they ignore the warnings. Then, after a nut assumes power, they think they can deal with him in an honourable way. Appeasement becomes the preferred tool.

As history documents, this doesn't work. Hitler could have been stopped in the early stages by a show of strength, but European leaders opted for a show of weakness. Bullies prosper from this type of approach. On the other hand, the original success of the war effort in Iraq was due to the fact that it was tackled with strength. Then Bush faltered and left the job unfinished. Because of his lack of resolve, Saddam has thrived. Weakness does not equal peace!

And now, for the same reasons, Milosevic has thrived and prospered in Serbia. Over the past ten years or so, it didn't seem to matter to the leaders of Europe how many atrocities he was responsible for; they still tried to appease him. I was beginning to think that corpses would have to be piled a mile high all over the Balkans before military action was taken. Now that NATO has acted, it is only a half-assed effort; and for tens of thousands of abused Kosovar Albanians, it is too little too late.

The horrors these people have suffered, and are yet suffering, are horrors straight out of a Devil's pleasant dream. Men are being lined up and shot; some are being herded into houses and burned alive. Women and children are also being murdered, rapes are rampant, and hundreds of thousands have been forced to march hundreds of kilometres and to live in unspeakable conditions. Hundreds, maybe thousands, have died from exposure and disease.

If this World is ever to make a valid claim of being civilized, it must end this kind of conduct forever. Civilized human beings do not engage in such barbarous deeds, nor do they condone them. I find it unacceptable that, over the past decade alone, to our everlasting shame, we have condoned genocide in so many countries - Rwanda, Cambodia, Bosnia, to name just a few.

Over this short period, millions were brutally butchered. How many more must die for no reason other than to satisfy the desire of the aggrieved to have an eye for an eye for crimes against humanity which were committed by despots in the past? What the descendants of these victims fail to accept is that the ordinary citizen of states which have indulged in committing atrocities were generally powerless bystanders, watching in horror the barbarities perpetuated by their own. So, why punish them for the sins of historical nutcases?

A gem of wisdom by William Arthur Ward nicely identifies what begets mindless hate and mayhem: “The only thing heavier than carrying a chip on our shoulder is carrying a grudge in our heart.”

Daniel N. Paul


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