Posted by Nathan Pearlstein
The Balkan Conflict: The Psychological Strategy Aspects
Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy
Volume XX, Number 12, December 31, 1992
Croatia has resumed its “liquidation” of Serbs, while arguing that “ethnic cleansing” is a Serbian creation . . .
“The Big Lie” technique is alive and well. Croatia has used the media and skilful image manipulation to hide its renewed genocide against the Serbs while at the same time ensuring that Serbs are themselves wrongly accused of the same type of crime, and more.
Editor-in-Chief Gregory Copley reports from the Balkans.
To Forget Jasenovac
Croatian President Franjo Tudjman took immediate steps, once his power was secure in the newly-recognized State of Croatia to obliterate all traces and memory of the concentration camp of Jasenovac, founded in August 1941, in the marshy Lonjsko Polje, at the confluence of the Una and Sava rivers. Jasenovac Concentration and Labour Camp, as it was officially known, flourished until 1945, and had branches along the Sava, from Krapja and Gradina in the west to Stara Gradiska in the east. It covered 210 sq.km., broken into about 10 smaller camps, each with its own system for individual and mass killings of inmates.Immediately after World War II while signs of the “Ustashi” activity were still fresh, the Commission for Establishing the Crimes Committed by the Occupying Forces and Their Domestic Helpers found that Jasenovac had killed 600,000 people in 1,335 days and nights; most of the dead were Serbs, Jews and Gypsies. Some 360,000 died in the village of Gradina, where most of the killing was achieved by poisoning, starvation and incineration. Some 20,000 of the Gradina victims were children under the age of 14. Even the Germans were horrified: “What is involved is a camp of the worst possible kind, which is comparable to Dante Alighieri’s hell,” officer Arthur Hofner wrote in his report of November 18, 1942.
Roman Catholic priest, Friar Miroslav Flipovic (Miroslav Majstorovic known as “Friar Satan”), commanded the camp for four months, and, according to his own confession, was responsible for killing between 20.000 and 30,000 inmates. Before that, he had organized massacres in a number of villages, where he took an active role in the killing. Once in the camps, he noted, “I personally killed about 100 inmates from Jasenovac and Stara Gradiska”.
“Ustashi” killers used specially shaped knives mallets and axes for individual killings. The same techniques are being used by the “Ustashi” today. Friar Dionizije Juricev, Head of the Religious Department of the NDH Government in 1941, said: “Today it is not a sin to kill even a small child which is in the way of the “Ustashi” movement.”
Croatian President Franjo Tudjman in 1991 had all the buildings at Jasenovac — which had been preserved as a memorial, with many artefacts and records inside–bulldozed to make way for a “rare bird sanctuary”. Jasenovac was the third most “productive” of the Third Reich’s concentration camps, but because the War Crimes trials focussed almost solely on Germany itself, many “Ustashi” killers of Jasenovac escaped trial and punishment and are free today.
War, Or Religious Bonfire?
Friar Dionizije Juricev, Head of the Religious Department of World War II Croatia noted the sentiment which is carried today by extremist “Ustasha” militia in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina: “No people other than Croats may any longer live in this land, because this is Croatian land, and we will know what to do with anybody who is not willing to get converted. In those regions yonder, I arranged for everything to be cleared away, everything from a chicken to an old man, and should that be necessary, I shall do so here, too, since it is not sinful nowadays to kill even a seven-year-old child, if it is standing in the way of our “Ustashi” order.”
“We all have to be Croats now and expand, and once we have expanded and grown stronger, we shall, if necessary, take even more from others. Pay no heed to my [religious] vestments, for you should know that whenever necessity arises, I take into my hands a machine gun and exterminate everybody down to the cradle, everybody who is opposed to the “Ustashi” State and Government.”
Friar Dr. Srecko Peric, from Livno, said in July 1941 in his sermons: “My Croat brethren! Go and slay all Serbs! First of all my sister, who is married to a Serb. After that, come to me, and I shall take on my soul all your sins …” Today, in the new genocide, Croat wives have demanded the death of their Serb husbands. The nature, and style, of the conflict seems almost identical to that of World War II.
To Forget Prebilovci
It was only in August 1991, after half a century of silence, that the remains of the Serbs who were thrown to their death by the Croatian “Ustasha” into a pit at Sumarici in August 1941 were buried in the Serbian Orthodox village of Prebilovici, near Capljina in lower Herzegovina. Tito had forbidden mention of the massacres but, by 1991, the new freedom allowed the families to exhume the pit and bury their dead. The village, in 1941, had a population of 1,000. Earlier, it had given volunteers to join the Bosnian-Herzegovinian uprising against the Turks in 1875-78, and it had contributed 20 volunteers to the Serbian Army in Salonica in World War I and many villagers died as prisoners in Austro-Hungarian Empire concentration camps. Croat nationalists, however, harboured hatred at Prebilovci’s contribution to the World War I Serbian army.
Prebilovci was surrounded on the night of August 4, 1941, by some 3,000 “Ustashi” made up of the village’s Muslim and Croat neighbours. Expecting the attack, the townsfolk had fled to the hills on the night of August 3, but at dawn the women and children returned to their homes only to be either captured and herded into the elementary school or killed in their homes. Atrocities began in the villages including the killing of 50 infants who were swung by their legs so that their heads could be dashed against the school wall. There was continuous rape of the young girls there, and at other locations. On August 6, 150 “Ustasha” under Ivan Jovanovic (“Blacky”) were joined by another 400 “Ustasha” from Capljina, and took the prisoners in rail cattle-cars to Vranac, some 500 to 1,000m from the Golubinks pit, one of many such natural, near-vertical cave formations in the region.
There the 550 “Ustasha” took small groups of prisoners to the pit and, family-by-family pushed them into it. The initial vertical fall was some 27m, followed by a 100m steep slope to the base of the pit. Small children were thrown up into the air before falling into the pit. One woman is known to have given birth as she fell into the pit. The newborn infant died with her under the crush of bodies.
One entire family of 78 persons died in the crush of the Golubinka Pit in Surmanci. And after all were pushed into it, the “Ustasha” sat around drinking and celebrating. Only 170 villagers survived. Remarkably, 45 survived the crush of the pits and escaped later to tell of the disaster. Only 14 of the 550 known “Ustasha” were brought to trial after the war, and one of the judges was himself an “Ustashi” close to the crime. Only six were sentenced to death, the remainder received prison sentences, the majority around three years.
The remains were dug up before the Bosnian-Herzegovinian civil war erupted in 1992, and a monument built. It has now been damaged or destroyed by the war. But even in 1991, when the carefully and reverently collected bones of the dead were being transported to a burial site, the truck passed under a bridge bearing the hastily-daubed sign in Serbo-Croat: “Come visit us again–God and the Croats”.
Twice before in this Century there have been well documented attempts by the Croats to destroy the Serbian people, and to obliterate their culture, religion and memory. It first began, during the upheaval of the Austro-Hungarian Empire–of which Croatia, but not Serbia, was part –with World War I. Then, after a period of apparent Balkan har- mony under the first Yugoslavia–the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes–it resurfaced with the invasion and occupation of Yugoslavia by Italy and Germany. Nazi Germany on April 10, 1941, proclaimed Croatia an independent state for the first time in its history, and installed a neo-nazi puppet Government of the Independent State of Croatia (known in Serbo-Croatian as Nezavisna Drzava Hrvatska: NDH).
Between 1941 and 1945, the “Ustasha” NDH Government of Poglavnik (leader) Ante Pavelic systematically killed as many as one-million Serb men, women and children. Serbian historians claim that as many as two-million Serbs have been killed by Croatia in this century. Population figures over this century give credence to the latter claim. Documented evidence confirms the approximate accuracy of the World War II deaths. From the beginning, the Pavelic Government repeated: “there can be no Serbs or Orthodoxy in Croatia.” NDH official Dr. Milovan Zanic said at a meeting in Nova Gradiska on June 2, 1941: “This will be a country of Croats and none other, and we as “Ustasha” will use every possible method to make this country truly Croat and purge it of the Serbs. We are not hiding this, it is the policy of the state and when it is carried out, we will be carrying out what is written down in the “Ustasha” principles.”
Today, the newly-independent State of Croatia has adopted the same symbols as the “Ustasha” puppet nazi state. In many instances its military and paramilitary units have adopted the same uniforms of the 1941-45 “Ustasha” Black Legions. And the killing has begun again. The dispossession has begun again. The NDH puppet Government, with the full support of the Nazi German occupying Army, destroyed some 450 Serbian Orthodox churches in World War II. The newly-independent State of Croatia has either directly or indirectly supported the destruction of more than 300 Serbian Orthodox churches–many of which had been rebuilt on the rubble of the World War II sites –in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Between 600,000 and 800,000 ethnic Serbs have fled from Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina to Serbia to come under the protection of the Yugoslav National Army (JNA).
Austrian historian Freidrich Heer noted in 1968 that what happened in NDH Croatia was the result of “archaic fanaticism and pre-historic times”. Pavelic, he said, was “a singular murderer of the 20th Century.” Pavelic is today lauded as a hero of modern Croatia; his picture (and that of l9th Century “Ustasha” ideologue Ante Starcevic) adorns the T-shirts of a generation of Croatians who were unborn at the end of World War II.
Pavelic had noted: “The Slavoserbs are the rubbish of a nation, the type of people who will sell themselves to anyone and at any price, and to every buyer …” By June 12, 1941, the movement of all Jews and Serbs in Croatia had been restricted, but by then the mass killings had already begun.
Croat writer Mile Budak declared in Gospic on July 22, 1941: “… We shall slay one third of the Serbian population, drive away another [third], and the rest we shall convert to the Roman Catholic faith and thus assimilate into Croats. Thus we will destroy every trace of theirs, and all that which will be left, will be an evil memory of them ….” The Roman Catholic Church, far more zealous in Croatia than elsewhere in the world, did not fight the nazis as they did in Poland, but embraced them and the “Ustasha”. Croat Catholic priests, in clerical garb and out of it, joined in personally as killers in the concentration camps of Croatia.
Today, it is with more than a hint of concern that Serbs see the Catholic church offering apparently unlimited support to the new Croatian Government and its “Ustasha” principles, despite 1963 apology of the Roman Catholic church in Croatia for the atrocities of World War II. “It is actually in this country that many of our Orthodox brothers were killed in the last war because they were Orthodox,” said Alfred Pihler, Catholic Bishop of Banja Luka in his 1963 Christmas pastoral letter to Roman Catholics. “And those Christians were killed because they were not Croat and Catholics. We admit painfully such a terrible fallacy of those people who had gone astray, and beg a our brothers of Orthodox faith to forgive us, the same as Christ forgave us all on the cross.”
It is significant that, in the 1991-1992 conflict, there has been no similar flood of Croatian refugees from Serbia (Yugoslavia) to Croatia, as a counterbalance to those Serbs (and others) who have been fleeing from Croatia. Indeed, so many Croatians have fled to Serbia after opposing the new “Ustasha” juggernaut of the Franjo Tudjman Government of Croatia that organizations such as the Association of Croatian Journalists have been set up in exile in Belgrade. And yet the world has not heard anything of this.
Croatia, in two world wars, fought on the side of Germany against the Western Allies (while on both occasions Serbia fought with the Allies). Today, modern Croatia is regarded as a creature of the West, while what is left of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) is regarded as a hostile vestige of Tito’s communist administration. Why, or how, can such a massive thing as the attempted genocide of a whole people, be misrepresented so that the victims, rather than the oppressors, are called the criminals? Can such a misrepresentation be the result solely of accidental misinterpretation of the facts? It is not possible.
There is no doubt that the genocide against Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina resumed immediately after Germany forced the European Community, in 1991, into the premature recognition of what is now Croatia. Defense & Foreign Affairs correspondents have seen irrefutable evidence of the facts. It is precisely because of the renewed genocide against the Serbs that those ethnic Serbs whose ancestors lived for centuries in Bosnia-Herzegovina, rebelled and began protecting their villages and their lives, rather than once again face slaughter or deprivation of their lands.
Defense & Foreign Affairs has had the opportunity to match many of the photographs and videotape of the war dead which have gone out on the news networks worldwide during the past 18 months. In virtually every instance, the Western media has captioned the pictures of dead as being Croatian, or Muslims from Bosnia-Herzegovina. In many instances, families of the dead have come forward to identify the victims as ethnic Serbs slaughtered by Croats, or sometimes by Muslims.
Virtually every piece of news footage and photography which emerges from the conflict zone comes out through the Croatian capital, Zagreb, or Muslim controlled Bosnian outlets. Western media chiefs have been warned off accepting “propaganda” from what is purported to be the “vile neo-communist authorities” of Belgrade, the capital of both Serbia and Yugoslavia. Western television, including the Eurovision exchange, has consistently refused to accept anything emanating from Belgrade. Defense & Foreign Affairs has seen the evidence of this, too.
It is significant that the only television satellite uplink in Yugoslavia when the state was prematurely broken up was in Zagreb, so it was Croatia which was able to corner the outflow of television pictures. Belgrade’s links into the European satellite system were then relegated to second status, and so today it must switch frequencies constantly in order to broadcast. As a result, Serbian-speaking audiences and listeners in Western Europe generally cannot find the Serbian or Yugoslav broadcasts, and, on top of that, there seems fairly good evidence that Germany is attempting to jam, or interfere with, the broadcasting which does find an occasional channel.
Croatian expatriates have had a long time to establish themselves in the West, and gain a good grasp on some levers of power. The exiled Serbs many of whom fled Yugoslavia after World War II because of their opposition to Tito’s communism, were harried by Tito’s intelligence services wherever they went, even in Australia. Croatian exiles, however, were left largely undisturbed by the communist intelligence services, largely because Tito himself was a Croat. Today, as a result, Croat nationalists find themselves in respected posts in respected Western organizations.
Christopher Cviic is a classic example, supposedly an impartial Balkan expert in the Royal Institute of International Affairs. From this vantage point he is invited onto BBC programmes to give the Institute view on the Balkans, only to reinforce a rabidly anti-Serb anti-(new)Yugoslav viewpoint. The fact that the prestigious institute was used in 1991 to publish Cviic’s tract, “Remaking the Balkans”, is testament to the subversion of respected bodies to achieve pro-Croatian aims.
Edward Gibbon, in his “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” noted: “Diligence and accuracy are the only merits which an historical writer may ascribe to himself; if any merit can be assumed from the performance of an indispensible duty.” Diligence, accuracy and balance have been removed from the current writings on the historic events now underway in the Balkans. Part of this is due to the fact that journalists have a natural tendency to report mostly that to which they can have easy access; believe most readily that which has been laid out for them in forms, and through channels, with which they feel comfortable. Traditionally, when one journalist, or only a small number, works harder, takes more risks, strives more to understand the broader picture, and reports a view contrary to that of his editorial cousins, he is not hailed for his achievement. He is castigated for breaking ranks with the accepted line, the accepted truth. A journalist who admits (in the light of later-discovered truths) that his work may not have been all that it should fears most and first the wrath of his editor. The editor himself rejects correction (for fear of losing credibility, a news medium’s only asset) unless the laws of libel force such apology or correction. And in war there is no libel. Better to sustain a lie than to lose circulation, viewers or listeners, by a revision of the view.
Perhaps this accounts for the apparently consistent effort to ensure that the Serbian and Yugoslav message is not allowed to compete with that of other vested interests?
It is clear that Croatian strategic aims have been considerably advanced by the increasing persecution of Serbs, Serbia and Yugoslavia in the current Balkan conflict. Indeed, Croatia’s grand strategy is considerably advanced by ensuring that a confused image appears in the minds of the international policymaking audience (and the media which influences it) as to the differences between Bosnian Serbs, Serbia and Yugoslavia.
To begin with, Croatian strategic objectives have been historically stated and are today re-stated, to include the elimination of all Serbs from what the Croatian leadership believes to be its territory. Croatia’s territorial objectives are stated, whenever possible, as the recreation of the boundaries of the 1941-1945 so-called Independent State of Croatia, which subsumes virtually all of Bosnia-Herzegovina and much of Serbia. Additionally, modern Croatia will not abandon the gift which Yugoslavia’s communist Croatian leader gave it: virtually all of the Dalmatian coastline and key ports. The World War II division of spoils gave this to Italy; today, with no historic precedent to justify it, the land has been recognized as Croatian.
The propaganda to remove Bosnian Serbs from Bosnia-Herzegovina enables Croatian forces to consolidate their hold over as much of that newly independent state as possible. The Militias of Croatian Bosnians together with some 40,000 Croatian Armed Forces personnel have been consolidating their control over much of Bosnia-Herzegovina at the expense not only of the Bosnian Serbs, but also of the Bosnian Muslims who are themselves ethnically and linguistically Serb.
The campaign of genocide and terror against the Bosnian and Croatian Serbs helps reduce the Serbian populations of those two states, helping to ensure Croatian dominance. The campaign to claim that the genocide is Serbian in origin and that the victims are Croats or Muslims puts the Serbs on the defensive and builds the case for Croatia to have the international community guarantee Croatia’s status quo and its expansion in the Balkans.
The late 1991 battle for Vukovar was portrayed in the Western media as a battle between heroic Croatian defenders against overwhelming Yugoslav (ie: Serbian) modern military might. Significantly, as in World War II Germany when the concentration camp ovens kept burning as the Allied forces swept toward them, Croats in Vukovar from June 1 to November 23 1991, were busy exterminating those Serb families who had not been able to flee. It was for this reason that the JNA –the Yugoslav Army–fought back into Vukovar.
At least 1,000 Serbs, mostly women, old people and children, were shot, knifed, axed or bludgeoned to death systematically, one-by-one, in two main centres; one the Borovo Footwear Factory, the other the Rowing Club of Vukovar. Many of the bodies were dumped into the Danube, left to float down to Belgrade. And in many instances, the Croats took pictures, or recorded the deaths. One visiting Croat female journalist, during the Vukovar fighting, unfamiliar with firearms, asked one of the young gunmen to cock a pistol for her so that she could feel what it was like to kill a Serb. She shot, indiscriminately, an old Serb woman who was standing under Croat guard.
One Serb, Branko Stankovic, was captured after being wounded in the leg by Croat forces. He was taken to a hospital where he was forced to make a television broadcast for Croatian television, saying how well he and other prisoners were being treated. He was then taken out and killed. Photographs of his tortured, mutilated body were subsequently found. So, too, were a significant variety of specially made implements for torturing and killing.
Vukovar has seen it before: Between August 8 and September 16, 1942, some 10,000 Serbs were killed and scores of thousands more were tortured by their Croat captors.
But the Vukovar tragedy of 1991 is but one of thousands of new killings which have occurred during the past year or so of independence in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. There were similar atrocities in the Croatian town of Gospic in mid-October 1991. And in Glina, another World War II massacre site revisited by “Ustashi” in December 1991. And Kupres. There, 1,036 Serbs were killed in World War II under the orders of the “Ustasha” (who killed 889 of the Serbs), by Italian troops and by German troops. A still unknown number of Serbs were butchered by several Croatian military formations, the HOS, ZNG and foreign mercenaries, in early April 1992.
What is significant is that the slogans of the Croats are those of the “Ustashi” of World War II and pre-World War II. The weapons used for ritual killing are also, symbolically, virtually the same. The knife is a favourite, and many special knives were made during the Vukovar killings. These, along with the Serb victims, were found later. Many Serbian villages and towns were razed during the past 18 months in Croatia and Croatian-held parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Even in Zagreb, where no fighting officially took place, more than 100 Serbs had been killed in 1991 alone, and the Orthodox churches there damaged or destroyed.
Journalists and analysts looking at the overall situation in the Balkans today must ask why in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina hundreds of Orthodox churches have been destroyed, while in Orthodox Serbia no Croatian institutions or Catholic churches have been attacked. The answer is that in Croatia — as has been historically documented — there is widespread Croatian Catholic xenophobia aimed at the Orthodox church and Serbs, whereas there has been no such xenophobia against Croats or Catholics in Serbia or Montenegro.
More than 40 percent of the population of Serbia is non-Serbian, and there has been a history of multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural cooperation which has not prevailed in Croatia. Indeed, where Croatia’s government today intimates that there were excesses in Croatia during World War II, it also says that there were similar excesses by Serbs in Serbia at the same time. The truth is that Croatia, when it greeted its German “liberators” with open arms on September 10, 1941 began its own campaign of extermination of Serbs, Jews and Gypsies. On the other hand, the extermination of Jews and Gypsies in Serbia was carried out virtually entirely by Germans or Yugoslavs of German background.
Today, the bodies of Serbs still float down the Danube into Serbia. Today, Serbians and Yugoslavs are ending their 50 years of silence –demanded and enforced by Tito–about the World War II anti-Serb genocide. A project to record “Genocide Against the Serbs, 1991/92″ was began by Miss Bojana Isakovic. The project, currently a massive display of documents, photographs and artifacts, has become a tragic focal point for displaced Croatian and Bosnian Serbs, who bring photographs or reports of missing family members to the Museum of Applied Arts in Belgrade, hoping to find news of their kin. Many burned corpses have, through painstaking forensic research, been identified as a result of information brought to the centre.On more than one occasion, Serbs living outside the Balkans, some in Germany, have seen television of Croats (or Muslims) butchered by Serbs and have recognized their own (Serbian) family members wrongly labelled as Croats or Muslims. The pattern has been too consistent to have been accidental. Similarly, the many stories alleging rapes by Bosnian Serbs of Muslim women in Bosnia-Herzegovina have clearly involved carefully staged performances by non-Muslims dressed up as Muslims. Rape (on all sides) is one of the byproducts of all conflicts, but the clear staging of these events by Croats has been significant.
The United Nations has already said that now, after proper research, it knows that several major incidents were staged by Bosnian Muslims or Croats so that they could be blamed on Serbs. These include the famous (televised) mortaring of a Muslim bread queue in Sarajevo, undertaken by Muslim forces against their own people when television cameramen had been alerted. The attack was blamed on Serbian forces (now disproven) and, despite the UN findings, has never been refuted by Western news media. Another, similar incident occurred (as verified by the UN), when Muslim snipers shot at mourners attending a Muslim funeral in Sarajevo, for the benefit of specially-placed TV cameramen. The UN has also said that the shooting down of the Italian Air Force G- 222 supply aircraft near Sarajevo was the work of Croats, not Serbs as originally blamed. The Western media has not corrected the story.
Today, trucks bearing United Nations relief supplies rumble down through Hungary and across Yugoslavia (in safety) and then into Bosnia- Herzegovina. It is only there that they come under fire and then mostly from Muslim forces. Ironically, the Muslims counted on Croatian military support during their conflict to gain supremacy over the Bosnian Serbs. Time and again, Croatian forces helped the Muslims right up to the point that direct conflict was initiated against the Bosnian Serbs, and then Croatian forces withdrew to leave the Muslims exposed. And this despite the many occasions (World War II included) that Muslims helped the Croatian genocide against the Serbs.
The accounts of Croatian genocide against Serbs in World ar II, assisted by both local Muslim leaders and by many Catholic priests, have been absolutely verified by international observers and acknowledged by the Vatican. When Dr Franjo Tudjman proclaimed the new Croatian state in 1990, it was a new “Ustasha” state, with all the old symbols (including the red and white “Ustasha” chequerboard shield), and in the presence of a papal representative and Muslim leadership. Tudjman, at the first convention of the Croatian Democratic Union (Hrvatska Demokratska Zajednica: HDZ), on February 26, 1990, said, in the presence of more than 100 Ustashi war criminals who had escaped the law courts and fled to international havens after World War II: “The Independent State of Croatia [ie: the World War II state] was not only a mere Quisling creation, but also an expression of the historical aspirations of the Croatian people for an independent state of their own and recognition of international factors–the Government of Hitler’s Germany in this case.”
The use of “Ustasha” symbols and slogans had the same effect on modern Serbs as if, today, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl had used swastikas and the red, white and black of the nazis to proclaim the new unified Germany. And yet the Western world, ignorant of the Balkan history, paid no attention to this highly-charged local symbolism.
Indeed, Bavarian German Catholics, while indignant and upset at the rise of neo-nazism in Germany, have sent massive monetary aid to the new Croatian “Ustashi” , who have openly proclaimed their identity with the “Ustasha” Administration of 1941-1945 and its fervent Support for Hitler.
Tudjman delivered a speech to the Croatian Sabor (parliament) on the occasion of the proclamation of the Republic of Croatia on December 22, 1990. In the Constitution he proposed, and which was adopted, the Serbs lost their nation status within Croatia, and were relegated to the status of a national minority. The official war against the Serbs had been resumed.
Even before Croatia became independent, the Croatian Minister of Internal Affairs, Martin Spegelj, advised his colleagues: “We are in the war with [ie: against] the Army [Yugoslav Army:JNA] Should anything happen, kill them all in the streets, in their homes, through hand grenades, fire pistols into their bellies, women, children …We will deal with [the Croatian Serb town of] Knin by butchering.”
The premature recognition of Croatia’s independence by Germany, without consultation with the other EC states, also saw the fact that a substantial Croatian Army had been created well in advance, fully equipped with German-supplied uniforms and weapons. The suddenness of the situation deprived all the states of the old Yugoslavia the opportunity to negotiate their separation and to define their boundaries along proper historical, geographic and, if necessary, ethnic lines. The Croatian militias (there are several) attacked the JNA, the Yugoslav Army, which was still in its barracks in Croatia, ensuring that there could be no orderly withdrawal from Croatia.
That was not the case in the former Yugoslav state of Macedonia, where consensus allowed an orderly and peaceful withdrawal of the JNA back into the new Yugoslav borders.
But in Croatia, the new leadership wanted (a) to initiate conflict against Belgrade and therefore the Serbs, (b) to begin the process of rolling Serbian and Bosnia-Herzegovina borders back to the World War II borders, and (c) to seize JNA military assets. At least two brigades of main battle tanks and two brigades worth of armoured personnel carriers were successfully seized by the Croats through this stratagem of unilaterally declaring war on the rump Yugoslavia and the Serb Peoples (both in and out of Serbia). Today, the impact of “The Big Lie” which accuses the Serbs of genocide in the current Balkan war is the equivalent of looking back at 1939 and demanding sanctions against the worldwide Jewish population because,”German Jews had begun a campaign of genocide against the German people”. History will show that the massive deception against the Serbs was not only unjust, it also helped allow the wholly avoidable genocide which has occurred against the Serbian people for the third time this century. And it also was the major cause for the conflict which rages today.
Croats, Serbs and the Bosnian Muslims are ethnically indistinguishable; they are all of the same Slavic stock. This highlights the irony of one people, the Croats (sometimes aided in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina by the Muslims), setting out to annihilate its twin, the Serbs. The most outstanding difference to which most observers would point today would be the fact that Croatians define themselves by their Roman Catholicism; Serbs by their adherence to the Serbian Orthodox Church. But that is too simple. The two peoples were raised in different, albeit adjacent, territories, Serbia being traditionally independent, and Croatia for many centuries part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Croatians have also nurtured for much of this time a dream of a greater Croatia, extending well into land held by Serbs nd the Serbs who had been converted to Islam under the Turkish invasions. This has created a Croatian mentality which is widespread and which resents the very existence of the Serbs.
It is significant, and proven repeatedly through history, that Serbs have not been raised with similar nationalistic or territorial ambitions. It was in this century always the Serbs who were prepared to surrender land and prestige (not to mention power) for the good of the greater Yugoslavia. But, during the Kingdom and then the post-World War II republic, Croats always referred to themselves as Croatians first and Yugoslavs second. Serbian culture held, during the Yugoslav era, that it would have been in poor taste to boast first of being Serbian and to relegate Yugoslav status to second place. The Serbs have not sought geographic or cultural dominance within Yugoslavia. Most Serbs within the Republic of Serbia and within the new Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) are not seeking to embrace the ethnically Serbian areas of Bosnia-Herzegovina into Serbia or Yugoslavia, even though they are almost universally reluctant to turn their backs on their co-ethnic brothers across the border.
And yet the JNA cannot go into Bosnia-Herzegovina or Croatia to protect Serbs from the attacks which were started respectively by the Croatians and Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croatians. Today, Croatia admits having its troops [40,000 of them] in Bosnia-Herzegovina, alongside the Bosnia-Herzegovina Croat militias. All three so called ethnic groups (Muslims, Serbs and Croats) in Bosnia-Herzegovina drifted into what is now, for the first time, an independent state, artificially created by Austro-Hungarian cartographers and by Josip Broz Tito, the late Croatian head of Yugoslavia. And, save for the barbarities which came alive in World Wars I and II and in 1991-92, all lived and shared the land with reasonable equanimity.
Croatia’s leaders, and Croatian warlords who roam freely with their militias throughout Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, are today given complete power by the West and particular by Western media.
The story is bigger than this, and more complex. The tragedy of the genocide which continues against the Serbs is bigger and more vulgar than there is scope here to indicate. The reversal of the blame for the state of affairs is more than tragedy. It is of strategic importance on a near global scale.
A micro-state, Croatia, is dragging much of the world into what could be a major, protracted conflict, by making the United Nations an ignorant party to its strategic objectives. The geopolitical aspects are of significance: Germany’s reluctance to recognise that Croatia’s new leaders and body politic are a throwback to an era for which Germany has itself had to atone for a half-century is because Germany does not wish to surrender this “open route to the Mediterranean” which can pass through Croatia. Russia itself sees long term geopolitical gain in supporting Serbia as a stalking horse to the South (and Yugoslav leaders are most reluctant to invoke Russian support for fear of attracting the unwanted embrace of Moscow, resisted for so long even when Yugoslavia was, under the Croatian leadership of Tito, a Western form of communist state).
Perhaps the most ironic image which Franjo Tudjman invokes is that he, and the new Republic of Croatia, are “part of the West, part of Europe”. Tudjman’s “democratic” nation is becoming a one-party state, in a reversal of trends in Eastern and Western Europe. It has become a neo-nazi “Ustasha” state, harkening back to the last division (rather than the new unification) of Europe. And it stiffly resists tendencies to move toward a market economy; less than 10 percent of the GNP is generated by private industry. It is overwhelmingly a nationalist socialist state, while blindly pointing at what is the new Yugoslavia as the rump of a sort of communist state. Indeed, in Yugoslavia today there is considerable momentum toward a broadly-based mixed economy in a pluralistic society, the reverse of trends in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
But the greatest deception perpetrated on the international media is the fact that the Croatian Administration has purged all of the Croatian media of any opposition (let alone Serbian) elements, at the same time that the Western media were led to believe that the Serbian media were universally controlled by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. And yet in Serbia most television and press would consider itself to be freely in opposition to, or at least critical of, the current leadership.
Will the prevailing official and media views of the Balkan crisis ever come into balance? Will this information war create a major conflict?