As the Mladić bubble deflates

For Danas, Ratko Femić gathers up a set of responses to yesterday's conflicting and apparently inaccurate reports of the arrest or impending arrest of Ratko Mladić. An unidentified "source close to the Serbian government" believes that the government "tried something but did not succeed." Another anonymous "source from the security structures" believes that Mladić will be arrested soon, but that this will not be announced for some time "because discussions will have to be carried out then with the indictee." The same source (I think) also suggests that Mladić would have to be offered a large sum of gotovina, though why he would be paid off after being arrested seems a bit unclear.

Civil defence specialist Zoran Dragišić believes that the government is attempting to find a way to make Mladić's arrest "appear to be a voluntary surrender," and thinks that the "media noise" of yesterday was a part of this strategy. Military analyst Aleksandar Radić suggests a wider strategy to "send a variety of disinformation to the public" as a means of "applying psychological pressure," but Radić also does not exclude the possibility that the psychological action might not be directed toward the indictee, but toward testing the response of public opinion.

Nobody, of course, is persuaded by the denials coming from the government and from the ICTY prosecutors: these seem to be regarded either as signals that the opposite of what is being said is true, or as parts of a strategy to direct attention away from ongoing activities. And although nobody can say with any certainty how many people thought that Mladić had in fact been arrested when the news came out, one thing is clear: there were no protests, no support rallies, no rushed telegrams, and no campaigns to mobilise feelings of wounded innocence. The practitioners of violence who controlled the media persuaded themselves well that they have popular support. They do not.

Update: Oh, why not inflate the bubble a little again. The not-as-amusing-as-Kurir tabloid Glas javnosti is speculating that (take your pick) Mladić was either 1) already arrested on Cer, and authorities have not yet figured out how to get him to Scheveningen, 2) already arrested in Belgrade, several hours ahead of the point at which he had agreed to surrender, and that authorities are trying to persuade him to publicly fake a voluntary surrender, or 3) already arrested on Cer, sent to Belgrade, packed off to Tuzla, and delivered to the Hague. Vladeta Janković commented to the (unidentified, hm) journalist for Glas, "What are you thinking?" The article does not help to answer Mr Janković's question much.

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