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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Under The Blue Flag: My Mission in Kosovo » User review

Very Interesting True Story

  • Oct 11, 2010
Rating:
+5
Under the Blue Flag is attorney Philip Kearney's memoir of a year he spent in Kosovo prosecuting war crimes that took place during the time when Yugoslavia was breaking up. Slobodan Milosevic ruled Serbia, of which Kosovo was a part. However, ethnic Serbs were a minority in Kosovo, which was made up mostly of ethnic Albanians, most of whom were Muslim. These two groups of people hated each other and their war can fairly be characterized as the most recent eruption of ethnic and religious hostilities that go back hundreds of years.

Kearney writes well and is able to give readers a keen sense of the bleak and wretched world inhabited by most Kosovars at the turn of this century. Headquartered in the capital of Pristina, Kearney and other internationals were employed by the United Nations to help bring the rule of law to a country that was essentially a war zone. Killings in the street were routine. Electricity was spotty and sanitation a luxury. Yet amidst all this, Kearney fell in love with the work and with the mission of the UN.

Kearney was formerly an assistant DA in San Francisco and he draws some parallels between his work prosecuting murderers in the US and in Kosovo. While the latter was certainly more challenging due to the absence of the rule of law and the deep ethnic animosities, Kearney goes out of his way to make the point that hideous crimes are not just the province of "those other people" somewhere else, but of us in the US as well -- and by extension of all the developed nations. I liked that attitude very much because it helped frame Kearney's story in a way that drew empathy from me for the Kosovars (victim and perpetrator alike), rather than judgment.

War crimes are horrible deeds, particularly those that involve genocide of the sort that occurred in the Balkans, and I don't want to give the impression that Kearney (or I) excuse them. But merely condemning such crimes won't help keep them from happening again. Better to do as Kearney and his UN colleagues did: try to understand the context and build an impartial legal system that discourages such behavior in the future.

I highly recommend Under the Blue Flag for anyone interested in international affairs and nation building.
Very Interesting True Story

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More Under The Blue Flag: My Missio... reviews
review by . October 24, 2010
Under the Blue Flag is attorney Philip Kearney's memoir of a year he spent in Kosovo prosecuting war crimes that took place during the time when Yugoslavia was breaking up. Slobodan Milosevic ruled Serbia, of which Kosovo was a part. However, ethnic Serbs were a minority in Kosovo, which was made up mostly of ethnic Albanians, most of whom were Muslim. These two groups of people hated each other and their war can fairly be characterized as the most recent eruption of ethnic and religious hostilities …
review by . June 22, 2010
Though I haven't been to Kosovo, I did spend two years living in Bosnia which struggled with many of the same challenges in the aftermath of the breakup of Yugoslavia. Kearney does a good job of framing an incredibly complicated set of issues in order to make them palatable to readers unfamiliar with the complexities of war crimes tribunals. His picture of working for the UN as an American rings true and provides an excellent introduction into that lifestyle. Though I would have preferred more focus …
About the reviewer
Bonnie McEwan ()
Ranked #130
I own a communications consultancy in NYC called MAKE WAVES, which serves nonprofit organizations and foundations. I also hold a Visiting Lecturer position at Milano: The New School for Management & … more
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Seeking to escape the monotony he had come to endure in his job as assistant District Attorney in San Francisco, Philip Kearney needed a change. His solution came one day in a casual email from a friend: "U.N. has opening here for an international prosecutor doing war crimes stuff. You should apply, gotta go."

"Here" meant Pristina, Kosovo. And "stuff" - Kearney soon finds out, after landing the job despite his inexperience with international law and an inability to speak any foreign languages - meant a harrowing string of investigations involving the most brutal and devastating crimes imaginable. Abruptly removed from the comforts of home and the order and stability of America's justice system, Kearney finds himself the sole international prosecutor assigned to a region of nearly one million people. Welcome to the Balkans circa 2001.

Kearney is thrown headlong into a series of historic investigations that quickly land him under the protection of four armed security guards. Armed himself with only the region's archaic criminal justice code, Kearney is soon prosecuting local street thugs, shutting down a ring of international sex-traffickers and spearheading an investigation into secret death camps - a case that ultimately implicates local officials and inflames ethnic violence. He developed an urgent passion, stemming from devastating stories of torture, murder and slavery that dominate Kosovo's bleak ...

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Details

ISBN-10: 1607477289
ISBN-13: 978-1607477280
Author: Philip Kearney
Genre: Biography
Publisher: Phoenix Books
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