I met Ratko Mladic only once. He was the general commanding the war machine destroying Bosnia and overseeing the medieval siege of Sarajevo, the capital, where I was living and reporting. I spent my days going to the morgue to count the dead and to sit in hospitals with children who had been blinded by shrapnel.
On a freezing cold day in 1993, as Sarajevo was getting pummeled with shells, I had driven to Mount Igman, a strategic mountain to the southeast, through Bosnian Serb front lines. In a pine forest, on a mud road, I found General Mladic sitting placidly in his jeep. Tentatively, I approached his window to ask him a question about the humanitarian operation in Sarajevo. Food had not been delivered in some time, I said, and people were starving to death. Would he let the trucks carrying food pass?
The Butcher of Bosnia, a nickname I thought let him off lightly, stared at me coldly and muttered something to his aide-de-camp. The aide told me, “The general says, ‘Tell the girl journalist if she comes any closer, I’ll run her down.’ ” Then he added, in English, “And he will do it.”