Thousands of Serbs on Sunday are protesting the arrest of former army general Ratko Mladic.

Mladic was arrested on May 26, 2011 by special police forces from the ruling regime of Boris Tadic.

Mladic’s supporters hail him as a patriotic hero and denounce Tadic as a Western puppet.  They have poured out to the streets of Serbia with flags and posters.  They have also made the house at which he was arrested in a site of pilgrimage, reported AP.

Over 3,000 riot police have taken their position in the capital city of Belgrade to protect government buildings and Western embassies.  Police are ready to react if needed, said Dusan Puaca, a senior police official, reported AP.

But wait a minute.

Isn’t Mladic the bad guy?  Don’t these Serbs know that he butchered 8,000 civilians? Don’t they know that he’s the 'monster' who committed genocide?

Most of the Serbs protesting today probably know that he killed thousands of civilian Muslim Bosniaks.  However, they just don’t hold it against him.

When Mladic committed the genocide, he claimed it was revenge against the abuse Serbs suffered under five centuries of occupation by Muslim Turks.  He saw Muslim Bosniaks as “Turks” and even called them by that name. 

Many Serbs probably felt the same way and supported Mladic’s act of revenge.

Another point to consider is that he was a successful military commander who scored victories against the ‘enemies’ of his people.

After WWII and Nazi Germany’s genocide against the Jews, Western countries began to take this issue seriously and tried to end it in modern warfare, which is admirable.

But throughout history, genocides were routinely perpetrated by victorious military generals.  Many historic figures considered national heroes – like Genghis Kahn, Attila the Hun, Alexander the Great, Charlemagne – would all be considered ‘war criminals’ by today’s standards.

That not to excuse genocide; the modern stance against it is a major step forward in civilization.

However, it also shouldn’t surprise anyone that people like Ratko Mladic, Saddam Hussein, and Osama bin Laden are hailed as heroes by their faithfuls.

An additional force at work is xenophobia and anti-Western sentiment.  Western Europeans have already imposed the label of genocide to the Serbs.  Now, they’re applauding the arrest of Mladic and stating that it will open the door for Serbia’s EU integration.

To many Serbs, it looks like Tadic is selling out a Serb patriot in order to curry favor with his Western puppet masters.

No wonder they’re angry.