- The Washington Times - Monday, July 28, 2008

Radovan Karadzic, once the world’s most-wanted man, is said by Serbian patrons of a cafe in New Belgrade to have enjoyed sipping wine, listening to epic poetry set to music and occasionally glancing up at photos above the bar of himself as a former “president.”

No one in the “Madhouse” cafe - not even the bartender - knew that beneath the billowing beard and plaited locks of the would-be Orthodox mystic and new-age health guru was the man wanted for reputedly sanctioning genocide in the former Yugoslav republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Serbian authorities finally caught up with Dr. Karadzic, a certified psychiatrist who oversaw the brutal siege of Sarajevo, on a public bus a few days ago in Belgrade, blindfolded him and placed him under arrest for extradition to The Hague.

By most accounts, Dr. Karadzic relished his life on the lam. He even had his own Web site. In setting up a page that bears his full-length photo and shots of therapy sessions with his patients, Dr. Karadzic appeared to spoof the very idea that he was hiding from the world. (On the Web site, he curiously quotes a Chinese saying: “The one who gives up his own shall dig two graves.”)

The guise worked like a charm. “I knew Karadzic and met with him a number of times before he went into hiding, but I still can barely believe that it is him in the photos,” said a Western diplomat in Washington. “When I saw them, all I could think of was Jerry Garcia,” the now-deceased Grateful Dead guitarist.

As long as Dr. Karadzic remained on the run, he could be confident that he was also making a mockery of the efforts to bring justice and reconciliation to the Balkans.

And like the world’s current “most-wanted” man, Osama bin Laden, Dr. Karadzic had no aversion to appearing on television. The main difference: the Bosnian hid in plain sight, not in a cave. He was televised participating in alternative health conferences alongside his “mistress.”

Dr. Karadzic thought his disguise would protect him, and for years it did. American diplomats believe bin Laden does not bother with altered appearances, preferring to keep a coterie of bodyguards at his side and remain in a remote location, probably somewhere in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province.

Former New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis began one column about his futile efforts to petition for the Serbian psychiatrist’s arrest: “Secretary of Defense William Perry is ordinarily an unflappable man, radiating inner confidence. But the other day, while on a visit to Bosnia, he blew up at a reporter who asked him why NATO forces did not arrest Radovan Karadzic, the accused war criminal who leads the Bosnian Serbs.”

Mr. Lewis, who retired in 2001, cautioned that then President Clinton would “pay a price if Dr. Karadzic and General [Ratko] Mladic get away with undoing Dayton [the Yugoslav peace accords] — and mocking American leadership.” Mr. Lewis wrote that both men were making the United States look like a “weakling.”

Later, well after NATO had finally threatened his arrest and Dr. Karadzic had gone underground, this reporter traveled to his remote home village near Niksic, Montenegro in an attempt to pick up the reputed war criminal’s trail.

His mustachioed brother, Luka, a postman, chuckled at the idea that his brother would ever be caught. He gave me a volume of his brother’s epic poetry to read as a kind of “thank-you-for-asking-and-now-get-lost” present.

By Sept. 11, I had left the Balkans for Egypt. After the attacks, I set out on another terrorist trail to watch my nation attempt to capture bin Laden. I often joked with Lutfullah Mashal, my Afghan associate and interpreter and now a senior intelligence official, that we kept an empty whiskey bottle rolled up a Persian carpet in the back seat in case we caught the Saudi mastermind traipsing through the mountains on horseback. We made plans to whack him over the head, roll him up and drive him to New Delhi.

When we broke the story of bin Laden’s stealthy getaway from Tora Bora into Pakistan in several newspapers, the Pentagon’s top brass adamantly denied that he had even been there.

The CIA’s Tora Bora operations chief at the time, Gary Berntsen, later insisted that he angrily petitioned the White House to send in 5,000 extra troops to seal off the escape routes into Pakistan.

He now believes that bin Laden has separated himself entirely from al Qaeda’s military operations and is solely focused on the terrorist network’s propaganda activities. “He has made a clean break, and that is why he is so darn difficult to trace,” said Mr. Berntsen in an interview after spending the last year in eastern Afghanistan.

Unlike Dr. Karadzic, bin Laden is still on the lam. Though he may relish his freedom, it is unlikely — given his fundamentalist Islamic views — that he will be found sitting on a barstool gazing at photos of himself.

One thing seems certain, however. With the capture of Radovan Karadzic, there’s one less fugitive wanted on mass murder charges on the loose.

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