“Presumed innocent until proven Serb”
–Balkans forum commenter
“The falseness of the entire situation here defies description.”
– Radovan Karadzic, Opening Defense Statement
Very little in or about the Balkans happens by accident. In 2008 Radovan Karadzic was arrested at a time that the U.S. and EU were desperately ramming through statehood for a criminal enclave named Kosovo. Conveniently, the arrest of Karadzic reinforced the image of Serb as war criminal just as they were looking to have fewer questions about officialdom’s obsession with this tiny place.
And it is again no accident that the date of the Karadzic verdict eight years later was “set for March 24th,” the infamous date in 1999 of America’s greatest international crime and shame, when a purportedly anti-war president took us to war against a Christian, European population that had been America’s historical ally. All for doing battle against domestic terror and the ambitions of Greater Islam which, having little experience with it at the time, Washington dubbed “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing.” As did Berlin, Paris and Brussels.
Payback is a bitch. Particularly when it’s self-orchestrated, as Europe and America are today reaping the karma and consequence of what they’ve sown, making Serbs of us all. As publisher Milo Yelesiyevich, who has translated Karadzic’s Opening Defense Statement, put it in a letter to me:
I hope the Europeans give Dr. K a second look, because they’re in for it now. In a few short decades, they’ve been cast in the role of “Serbs” in their own countries, yet they still refuse to acknowledge their complicity in their own downfall, which stems from having attacked Serbs and Serbia throughout the 1990s [on behalf of what would become the next nexus of jihad — Bosnia and Kosovo].
From the back cover of the hard-copy version of the opening statement, by Kirkus Reviews:
Karadžić’s defense itself is remarkable, by turns eloquent, historically provocative…. Karadžić claimed Serbs had long been champions of peace and compromise, but they met an intransigent Muslim faction that all but insisted on either war or submission. Moreover, he contended that the “forcible removal of Bosnian Muslims and Croats was never our plan.” In many ways, the full account of Karadžić’s defense does add valuable perspective, especially in pointing out that Muslim insurgents were themselves guilty of extraordinary war crimes and that they were often stubbornly unreasonable partners in political dialogue…. This translation remains an important contribution to the understanding of a historically significant war.
No doubt one U.S. presidential candidate in particular will seek to capitalize on the carefully timed verdict to burnish her credentials, for having urged her husband to wage that “successful” 1999 war and for the overall ’90s Balkans legacy that today culminates in this “important” conviction of yet another Serbian official.
A salient point from the book’s web page:
The U.S. and NATO used the Bosnian War as a laboratory to test weapons as well as new methods of perception management, which they deployed in a long series of wars. Americans who no longer believe the U.S. government’s selective presentation of its foreign policy will find much to consider in Dr. Karadžić’s Opening Defense Statement.
With that, a few relevant snippets. First, an October 2013 email from the American who first coined the term “ethnic cleansing” in the context of Bosnia while serving as a foreign service officer, George Kenney. (Kenney subsequently subscribed to a more balanced version of the war than the cartoon that Americans were fed.):
I am still mystified as to why, but last Friday I was invited to a lunch at a fancy restaurant on K Street for Zeljka Cvijanovic, the Bosnian Serb Prime Minister. She was in town for a couple days, opening an office here. About a dozen people attended, including several former government types. After the meal, over coffee, about half a dozen of us lingered, swapping stories.
One guy recalled how he’d been up to Pale with a BBC reporter and a NYT reporter to see Karadzic. Sometime later in the war but before 1995…On a white board he noticed a list titled “war aims,” in Cyrillic, of course. Reading the list he realized that winning the war was not enumerated. In a lull in the reporters’ conversation he mentioned this, in Serbian, to Karadzic. The latter switched to English (no secrets there?!) to explain that the Serbs did not want to win the war. The guy at lunch telling the story thought this demonstrated political ineptitude but another lunch guest, a former senior CIA analyst, offered what I thought was a very insightful comment: Karadzic had continued to think of his political future in terms of Bosnia. Not of a merger with Serbia. Not of a separate statelet. But Bosnia.
And I suppose, thinking some more about it, that Karadzic could not have imagined an outcome in which the Bosnian Muslims dominated the politics of non-Muslims in Bosnia. On that point he was closer to the action and had, arguably, a reasonably realistic idea of what was politically possible. For most westerners at the time, however, the prospect of Bosnian Muslim political domination did not seem at all problematic — the Muslims were really Europeans, after all, except with mildly idiosyncratic religious beliefs. Their potential political dominance, in and of itself, was unimportant. In hindsight, and with the heuristic benefit of all the current turmoil in the Middle East, it’s much more clear how wrong that assumption was.
Next, a revelation at the Karadzic trial that was guaranteed to not make the wires:
Karadzic’s Witness Claims Bosnian Army Attacked its Own People (Balkan Insight, Nov. 12, 2009)
At the trial of Radovan Karadzic, an ex UN military observer claims that in 1992 the Sarajevo authorities “killed their own people for the sake of media“ in order to trigger international military intervention against Serbs.
…Colonel Richard Gray from New Zealand, an ex UN military observer, claimed that attacks on its own civilians was a part of a “full scale strategy” by the predominantly Bosniak government and its army.
Gray stated that the Bosnian army fired mortars from locations near civilian buildings and the UN protection forces, UNPROFOR, headquarters in order to provoke Bosnian Serb forces to open fire.
The witness said that the predominantly Bosniak forces “had a custom” of shelling the area in front of the Bosnian Presidency during visits by international diplomats and peace mediators.
“A grenade would usually explode while a foreign official spoke to Alija Izetbegovic in the Presidency building,” Gray said.
Karadzic, former President of Republika Srpska and the supreme commander of its army, is charged with terrorizing civilians in Sarajevo by artillery and sniper attacks…Gray said that the Bosnian army was most probably responsible for a mortar attack which killed a girl and wounded several teenagers as UNPROFOR soldiers were handing out candies in front their headquarters on July 13, 1992.
The witness added that the UNPROFOR Command was targeted by snipers from the surrounding buildings. […]
Some more details, from the Institute of War and Peace Reporting (IWPR, Nov. 12, 2009):
…[Gray] said that when British for secretary Douglas Hurd visited the city on July 17, 1992, “the Presidency building was shot at [with mortar fire], and that resulted in the deaths of some ten [people]”…Gray mentioned another incident in July 1992, in which he said “a group of teenagers were being shot at by the Bosnian army while some UN peacekeepers were trying to give them candy”.
He also claimed that [the] Bosnian army kept firing at Bosnian Serb Army, VRS, positions from the vicinity of civilian buildings and UN headquarters, in order “to cause the [Serb army] to fire back at these objects”…Gray added that the Bosnian army even fired directly on a group of UN observers stationed in Sarajevo.
Another witness appearing on behalf of Karadzic this week was Savo Simic, the former head of artillery for the 1st Sarajevo Motorised Brigade of the VRS…[Karadzic] read out a summary of Simic’s written statement. It said that “…There was never any kind of intention to terrorise the civilian population” …In court, Simic said there was “a simple reason” why it was practically impossible for the VRS to shoot at civilians: “You see, we were under permanent UN observation, and our positions were being constantly monitored by UN peacekeepers.” […]
Related: Four witnesses dispute alleged Serb bombing of Sarajevo market (AKI, Oct. 31, 2012)
…British ballistic expert Derek Alsop, testifying in Karadzic’s defence, told the court on Wednesday there was “very little evidence” to determine where the grenade which killed 66 people and wounded 140 in February 1994 was fired from.
Earlier on Wednesday and Tuesday three former Canadian officers, who served with the UN peacekeepers (Unprofor) in Bosnia at the time, backed Alsop’s view that it was almost impossible to target the market by a mortar fire from Serb positions in hills overlooking Sarajevo.
Retired Canadian colonel Stephen Youdry went a step further, saying the explosion at Markale was “staged to blame Bosnian Serb forces”. …
Karadzic has been charged on eleven counts of genocide and war crimes, including two attacks on Markale in February 1994 and August 1995…
“The responsibility of one (Serb) side was wrongly determined,” Youdry told the court. Former Canadian general Michael Gaultier said the Unprofor investigation didn’t determine where the grenade was fired from, nor “which side was responsible”.
A spectre of Bosnia’s war (UK Morning Star, Nov. 23, 2010 by Marcus Papadopoulos)
The revelation by Major-General David Fraser, who was military assistant to the UN protection force’s (UNPROFOR) sector Sarajevo commander from April 1994 to May 1995, has of course the potential to become a Pandora’s box for the West - if it was to be widely reported by the media.
At risk is the image of the Bosnian Muslim government as an innocent and peace-loving authority - a perception fostered and propagated not only by Western governments but by Western journalists and Western PR firms - that is being brought into serious question.
Fraser’s testimony would also undermine the basis for the Nato bombing of the Bosnian Serbs in 1994 and 1995.
Under cross-examination by Karadzic, Fraser said he had heard from fellow UN soldiers that the (Muslim) Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina had employed sniper detachments to target Muslim children in the Bosnian capital and to then blame these killings on the Serbian side.
Bosnia’s Serb community had, as the former US secretary of state Colin Powell said, “very good reason to be worried about being in a Muslim-dominated country.”
It was inconceivable that the Serbs would tolerate living in an independent, Muslim-led Bosnia and would not resist this with force.
An important factor in explaining why the Western public largely took a negative view of the Serbs during the war in Bosnia was due to how Western journalists reported the conflict.
As former UNPROFOR commander in Bosnia general Sir Michael Rose said: “The reporting and commenting of some members of the press corps in Sarajevo became close to becoming identified to the propaganda machine of the Bosnian government.”
With the vast majority of Western journalists on their side, the Bosnian Muslim authorities took advantage of this by orchestrating the killing of their own people in Sarajevo and then blaming it on the Serbs, knowing that the foreign press would attribute their actions to the Serbian side.
What were described as Serbian atrocities were used by former US president Bill Clinton as a pretext for the Nato bombing of the Bosnian Serbs in 1994 and 1995, carried out to achieve a foothold for Washington in a strategically important part of Europe, and to prevent the Russians from attaining future influence in the region - Russia is a traditional ally of the Serbs. […]
And from the horse’s mouth:
Bosnian Army ‘Shelled Children in Srebrenica’ (Balkan Insight, Dec. 13, 2013)
A former Bosniak soldier told the trial of Radovan Karadzic this week that the Bosnian Army opened fire on Bosniak children who were playing football in Srebrenica in 1995.
The former Bosniak soldier, a protected defence witness codenamed KW-12, told Karadzic’s trial at the Hague Tribunal this week that the attack took place in 1995 after a letter had been received from the Sarajevo authorities telling the Bosnian Army to “do something” in order to convince NATO to take the Bosniak side against the Serbs.
Testifying with his face hidden and voice electronically altered, KW-12 said that the shelling, which happened “two or three months before the fall of Srebrenica [in July 1995]”, was immediately blamed on Serb forces.
KW-12 said that the authorities in Sarajevo had threatened to kill him after the war because he had told the truth about the events in Srebrenica, but the prosecutor described these claims as “pure fantasy”. […]
ICTY: A common enterprise against the Serbs (Spiked Online, Dec. 6, 2012, by Tara McCormack)
The international court trying cases from the former Yugoslavia is there to heap blame on just one side.
This week, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) found the former prime minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj, not guilty of all charges against him. Haradinaj had been a commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) during the 1999 war in which the majority Albanian area of Kosovo sought to secede from Serbia. The previous week, two Croatian generals, Gotovina and Markac, were acquitted on appeal for charges brought over their role in Operation Storm in 1995. After the verdict of Haradinaj, Serbian president Tomislav Nikolic gave a statement that the ICTY was formed to try the Serbian people. He has a point.
One of the central but unwritten mandates of the ICTY is the establishment of the official history of the break-up of Yugoslavia. In the early 1990s, the break-up of Yugoslavia and the wars that ensued became central to several aspects of Western intellectual and political life. The wars provided a point of clarity for confused and demoralised Western liberals, intellectuals and journalists who chose to interpret what were civil wars as a rerun of the Holocaust, with the Serbs playing the role of the Nazis. The propaganda war and misrepresentation of the conflict were truly staggering. Thus, the Yugoslav wars became the cause célèbre in the early 1990s and achieved notoriety far beyond the reality of the actual conflict. The UN secretary-general at the time, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, is still reviled for his comments that there were 10 worse wars going on at the same time as Bosnia.
The wars were also internationalised and exploited by the international community. For example, the EC - forerunner of the EU - used the crisis as a way of trying to build a joint foreign-policy identity after the signing of the Maastricht treaty. The EC intervened extensively in the very early days of the conflict, exacerbating and inflaming the situation, explicitly forbidding the Federal State of Yugoslavia from asserting control, and actively supporting the secessionist states in the name of democracy and human rights. All the while, the EC cavalierly ignored key questions of statehood, citizenship and self-determination. It was simply assumed that various groups in Yugoslavia couldn’t possibly care about whether the state they had lived in since 1945 was dissolved overnight and new states created - a policy that, of course, no Western state made up of regions, such as Spain or the UK, would tolerate.
The secessionist states reached out for, and received, outside recognition and support, thus avoiding the need for political negotiation and compromise with other republics. Unsurprisingly, these policies failed to end the conflict in a negotiated political settlement. As the conflict raged on, the US became more directly involved, arming the Bosnian Muslims and Croats and allowing Iran to transport Mujahideen into Bosnia to fight the Bosnian Serbs.
When in 1999 the KLA launched a violent guerrilla war in order to achieve secession for Kosovo from Serbia, this script was repeated. Once again, Serbs were portrayed as the new Nazis and the Kosovo Albanians’ key tactic was to gain international support - which they certainly did, with NATO following KLA instructions from the ground. In April that year, at the height of the conflict, Tony Blair delivered his famous ‘Chicago Speech’ in which he spoke of the need to eschew the outdated doctrines of state sovereignty and non-intervention and called for a new type of international community.
So a key role of the ICTY has been that of the ‘court historian’: to write the official history of the break-up of Yugoslavia. The aim is not so much to cover for Western interests as it is to erase the role of external intervention and locate the blame for everything on the Serbs. […]