Arriving in The Hague for my first glimpse of Mladic since his arrest and extradition last May, I couldn't help thinking about another much-anticipated war crimes trial, 50 years ago. Adolf Eichmann went on trial in Jerusalem in 1961 accused of "crimes against humanity" for his involvement in the deportation and murder of 6 million Jews. The most celebrated chronicler of the Eichmann trial was, of course, Hannah Arendt, who wrote a series of articles for the New Yorker that were eventually turned into a book called Eichmann in Jerusalem. The book was subtitled "a report on the banality of evil," a phrase that sought to explain how the ordinary, harmless-looking bureaucrat in the dock had committed such monstrous, out-of-the-ordinary crimes.
The phrase "banality of evil" may describe men like Eichmann, but I doubt that it applies to Ratko Mladic. Eichmann was responsible for many more murders than Mladic, but he never killed anyone himself. He was a bureaucrat, "a killer behind a desk," in the phrase of the Israeli state prosecutor. He rarely saw the faces of the people he helped to murder. Mladic, by contrast, looked many of his victims in the eye.
Above, Mladic makes his first appearance at the International Criminal Tribunal on June 3, 2011 in The Hague, Netherlands. Mladic had been arrested the week before, after hiding for the past 16 years.