More on the 'Mladic's friend' affair
Author: Noel Malcolm and WWC deputy director
Uploaded: Monday, 19 May, 2008
A further exchange (see 'International protest at public role for Mladic friend', posted on Monday 12 May above) between Noel Malcolm and the Woodrow Wilson Center in Athens, following the latter's invitation to a prominent supporter of Ratko Mladic to chair a public event
Dear Ms McCarter,
I should be very grateful if you could reply to my e-mail of 8 May (repeated
below); I went to some trouble to put a number of points to you, and should
like to have your considered response to them. I feel that this is not an
unreasonable request to make, given that you are described as the person
responsible for 'Outreach and Communications' at the Woodrow Wilson Center.
Dr Noel Malcolm
12 May 2008
Dear Ms McCarter,
I have seen a copy of the reply you sent to the prominent Greek journalist Takis Michas, responding to his e-mail about your invitation of Mr Alexandros Lykourezos to your award ceremony on 15 May. I am surprised and disturbed by some of the things you say.
You write that you are 'pleased to have the benefit of his [Mr Lykourezos's] leadership'; that you 'respect any and all opinions'; and at the same time, that 'the Center does not endorse any actions against the principles of freedom, justice and democracy'.
Mr Lykourezos has publicly stated his warm feelings of personal friendship for a mass murderer, Ratko Mladic (see, for example, the New York Times, 4 August 1996); he has also publicly questioned the reality of the mass murder of 7,000 people which occurred at Srebrenica. That genocide did occur there has been established by an international court of justice. That Mladic was directly responsible for it is something for which the prima facie evidence is overwhelming - evidence which was in the public domain long before Mr Lykourezos expressed his friendly feelings for him in 1996.
Your statement that you respect 'any and all opinions' is so general as to defy belief: it is just not credible, for example, that you would respect the opinions of a Holocaust denier, or of a person who expressed admiration for Hitler. You must surely set some limits of acceptability, and it is impossible to see why admiration for Mladic should fall within those limits. Your wording also suggests that you think you can make a neat distinction between 'opinions' and 'actions'; but what is at issue here is Mr Lykourezos's action of expressing his opinion. Mr Lykourezos's 'leadership', to which you refer, consists of his adoption of a prominent role on public issues, and the issue of Mladic is one of them. When he stood for election to the Greek Parliament, he included a photograph of himself and Mladic in his election materials. Is that really the sort of 'leadership' of which the Woodrow Wilson Center is 'pleased to have the benefit'?
(I note, from your website, that your awards are given to 'individuals who . have shown a special commitment to seeking out informed opinions and thoughtful views'. I find it extraordinary that the award-giving occasion should be chaired by someone who has so conspicuously ignored informed opinions and thoughtful views on a major international issue in the recent past.)
No less troubling is your statement that 'the Center notes that Mr Lykourezos' views on the Bosnian crisis of the 1990s are views shared by much of the Greek population'. I do not know whether this is a correct statement where his warm feelings for Ratko Mladic are concerned; but if it is, why do you suppose that the fact that extreme and offensive views are widely shared makes them unobjectionable?
You say that 'Mr Lykourezos was not asked his political views when he was asked to be a dinner chairman.' You also say, however, that 'he has indicated that he had no direct or indirect contact with General Mladic after 1997 or with Slobodan Milosevic after 2000', which suggests that you did at least make subsequent inquiries. But if you thought it was relevant to make those inquiries, presumably on the grounds that a connection with Mladic could disqualify him from presiding at your ceremony, why do you think that these pieces of chronological information exonerate him? Would it not be more relevant to ask him at what date he publicly retracted, and apologised for, the warm feelings of friendship for Mladic which he expressed in 1996? And if the answer to that question is that he has never retracted or apologised for them, why should the mere fact that he has not recently had contact with Mladic make any difference?
My impression is that you simply did not know the relevant facts about Mr Lykourezos when you invited him to take part in this event, and for that I do not blame you. But you surely know now. It is not too late for you to disinvite him, thereby saving the Woodrow Wilson Center from serious blame, and the damaging of its reputation in the eyes of many scholars and human rights activists around the world - to say nothing of many thousands of ordinary Bosnians, whose grief and suffering Mr Lykourezos has, in effect, so grossly insulted.
Dr Noel Malcolm
Fellow of the British Academy;
Senior Research Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford University]
Dear Dr. Malcolm
Thank you for your e-mailed letter of May 8, 2008 and follow up
communication of May 12th. Sharon McCarter is out of town and unavailable,
and I am replying for her.
We read your comments regarding the Woodrow Wilson Center's Awards Dinner in
Athens, Greece in honor of His Eminence Bartholomew I and George
Paraskavaides and his family which is being held today.
As you may know, the Center is a nonpartisan institution of advanced
research, supported by public and private funds, engaged in the study of
national and world affairs. The Center establishes and maintains a neutral
forum for free, open, and informed dialogue on issues that affect our
globalized societies. The East European Studies Program and the Southeast
Europe Project which examine issues in the Balkans and Southeast Europe
adhere to those principles in an exemplary fashion.
The Center's mission is to commemorate the ideals and concerns of Woodrow
Wilson by providing a link between the world of ideas and the world of
policy, by bringing a broad spectrum of individuals together to discuss
important public policy issues, by serving to bridge cultures and
viewpoints, and by seeking to find common ground.
The Woodrow Wilson Awards which the Center offers occasionally are among the
most prestigious given throughout the world and have been given
internationally to leaders, entrepreneurs, peacekeepers, and policymakers,
to show gratitude for the positive impact their accomplishments have had on
our global culture.
The event the Woodrow Wilson Center is holding in Athens tonight is only,
and all, about two remarkable individuals, the Ecumenical Patriarch and
George Paraskevaides, and their extraordinary accomplishments. Every other
person in attendance there is incidental to those two individuals being
It is our practice here at the Woodrow Wilson Center to respect the requests
of the Awardees for the dinner Chairs. Alexandros Lykourezos is one of
those whom the honorees asked to help with the event. He, like the staff of
the Center and others who will be in attendance working on the event, is
there solely to promote the honoring of the two Awardees. Mr. Lykourezos
is, we are told, a significant presence in Greek society, and in that
context he had been asked by the Awardees to chair and help support this