Jessica Stern


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My War Criminal:


Personal Encounters with an Architect of Genocide

By Jessica Stern


Coming Out January 2020

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 “A gripping look into the psychology behind racialized violence and how it’s carried out, MY WAR CRIMINAL is a powerful and timely book.  Jessica Stern draws a chilling portrait of Radovan Karadžić, giving us an eye-opening new context not only for the Bosnian War, but also of how fear can be harnessed and diverted to violent political ends.” – U.S. Senator Chris Coons

“Based on extraordinary access to a notorious Serbian leader, Jessica Stern has produced a remarkable study that both illuminates the psychology of an individual war criminal and incisively analyzes the dynamic behind ethnic hatred and violence. Timely and compelling.”  Michael Chertoff, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (2005-2009)

“This book is a remarkable blend of biography, history, and psychiatry– only Jessica Stern could have written it.” – Howard Gardner, Hobbs Research Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard University

MY WAR CRIMINAL is a riveting account full of edge-of-your-seat moments as Dr. Jessica Stern explores the boundaries of good and evil through hours of interviews with convicted mass murderer Radovan Karadzic. Complex emotions are unleashed on both sides as the interviewer circles a wily subject skilled at charm, obfuscation, misdirection, and intimidation — and Dr. Stern lays all of this out with extraordinary candor. Must reading for anyone interested in how a narcissistic leader can merge popular grievances and history to produce  human tragedy on a massive scale.” – John McLaughlin, Former Acting Director, CIA

“Boston University global studies professor Stern (coauthor, ISIS: The State of Terror) delivers a fascinating and nuanced portrait of Bosnian Serb leader and convicted war criminal Radovan Karadžić. A former poet and psychiatrist, Karadžić served as president of the Republika Srpska during the Bosnian War; after the war ended in 1996, he spent 12 years disguised as an energy healer before he was arrested and indicted for the mass murder of 8,000 mainly male inhabitants  of Srebrenica, among other war crimes. Stern explores Karadžić’s family background and reveals how his politics were driven by fear and resentment of Muslims. She picks apart his rationalizations and obfuscations, yet notes that his claims about the “artificial” nature of the former Yugoslavia and the U.S. government’s “stigmatization” of Serbs have merit. Intriguingly self-reflective, Stern writes that though she couldn’t bring herself to look into Karadžić’s eyes, she found him to be “likable” and “charming” in their one-on-one interviews; she also admits to “harboring a secret, megalomaniacal dream—that I was going to get him to apologize.” (He didn’t.) This eloquent and revelatory book provides essential insight not just into the Balkan wars, but into the mechanisms of genocide and ethnic hatred all over the world. (Jan.)” – Publisher’s Weekly

“Between 1992 and 1995, the region of Bosnia and Herzegovina erupted into an armed ethnic conflict similar to that in Rwanda. This genocide was sanctioned by a trio of leaders, including Radovan Karadži. In this intriguing study, Stern, a prominent scholar of trauma and global terrorism, profiles the many faces and facets of Karadži to illuminate a larger story about nationalism, fear, separatism, and dissension. Karadži was a trained psychiatrist, published poet, the first president of Republika Srpska, and a convicted war criminal. Stern’s investigation stems from interviews conducted while he was imprisoned at the Hague, conversations held with family and associates, and insights gained from tours of significant places in his life. Her account also includes the story of how Karadži posed as energy healer Dr. Dragan Dabic while on the lam for over a decade. Ultimately, Stern draws chilling parallels between the war criminal and President Trump, including similarities in their tactics of fear-mongering and ethnocentrism, and asks us to question our own moral dexterity and susceptibility to such ethical collapses.” Booklist

“History never really ended and its sitting in a prison cell in The Hague. Radovan Karadzic, the “charming” poet-psychiatrist and leading voice of genocidal Serbian nationalism, will spend the rest of his life locked up for his role in the Bosnian War, and the subsequent massacre of 8,000 Bosniaks, mainly men and boys, at Srbrenica in July 1995. For a two-year period between October 2014 and November 2016 Karadzic was visited by terrorism expert Jessica Stern, who sought, as we must, to understand the psychology of genocide: its motivations, its acts, its perennial surfacing among so-called civilized society. What followed was a series of interviews that form the backbone of this chilling account of how quickly societal order can collapse, particularly when given just the right push from intelligent, charismatic men.”  –  Lit Hub

“A subtle, powerful illustration of terror that resonates today, especially regarding the resurgent white supremacist movement. […] An utterly compelling chronicle form a master scholar and clear writer.” – Kirkus Starred Review


About Jessica Stern

Jessica Stern is a Research Professor at Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies.  Stern has taught courses on counter-terrorism for 20 years – at Boston University, Harvard, and CIA University. She is a Member of the Homeland Security Experts Group, a Fellow at both Hoover Institution and Harvard’s School of Public Health, and a non-resident Fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.  She has participated in several DHS, NATO, and DOD-funded countering-violent extremism projects at Children’s Hospital and the Chan School of Public Health at Harvard. Stern is the coauthor with J.M. Berger of ISIS: The State of Terror, and the author of My War Criminal: Personal Encounters with an Architect of Genocide (forthcoming January 2020), DENIAL: A Memoir of Terror, TERROR IN THE NAME OF GOD: Why Religious Militants Kill.  Stern served on President Clinton’s National Security Council Staff in 1994-95.  She was included among seven “thinkers” in Time Magazine’s 2001 series profiling 100 innovators.  She was selected as a Guggenheim Fellow in 2009, a World Economic Forum Fellow from 2002-2004, an International Affairs Fellow in 1994, and elected to Sigma Xi, an engineering honors society, in 1986.  Stern advises a number of government agencies on issues related to terrorism. She has a bachelor’s degree from Barnard College in chemistry, a master’s degree from MIT in technology policy, and a doctorate from Harvard University in public policy.  She is a 2016 graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Psychoanalysis.