July 07th 2011 02:32:07 PM
“Kosovars” Show their Enthusiasm for Impartial Justice, Law and Order; Croatians: We’re Entitled to Kill Serbs TooPosted by Julia Gorin
This is what happens when the West doesn’t turn a blind eye to crimes in Kosovo — and when there IS enough evidence to complete an investigation:
Some two thousand ethnic Albanians have protested against the arrests of former rebels charged by a European Union prosecutor of war crimes during the 1998-99 Kosovo war.
The protesters, most of them former members of the now disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army, carried banners blaming the EU police mission for tarnishing the image of the rebels that fought an independence war against Serbia.
A former government minister was among 11 former rebels suspected of torturing and killing Serb captives and their ethnic Albanian collaborators. [”Collaborators” of civilians — I think those are called friends and neighbors.] Nine were arrested last Wednesday.
Thousands protest in Kosovo against EU Police (Sofia Echo/VOANews, March 29)
Thousands of protesters in Kosovo gathered Tuesday for a demonstration against the European Union police force, following the arrests of former rebels suspected of war crimes.
The demonstrators marched through downtown Pristina, shouting slogans against EULEX, the EU’s police mission in Kosovo.
Protesters also showed their support for the former Kosovo Liberation Army, after the EU police arrested nine of its members earlier this month. […]
Now, note the familiar theme of “tarnishing the image of the rebels [who] fought an independence war against Serbia” — just like, if you recall, the murder-for-organs investigation is “an attack on all of Kosovo and its legitimacy.” Here is that same theme coming up with the Albanians’ kindred spirits in Croatia — and notice throughout these reports, whether about Albanian or Croat supremacists, the word “nationalists” appears nowhere (unlike articles about Serbs):
…Judges sentenced Ante Gotovina to 24 years and Mladen Markac to 18 years in jail for crimes including murder, persecution and plunder.
The BBC’s Mark Lowen in Zagreb says crowds who had gathered to watch the tribunal’s hearing on big screens in the Croatian capital booed and hissed when the judge announced the guilty verdicts.
The UN war crimes tribunal cleared a third defendant, Ivan Cermak, of all charges.
About 200,000 ethnic Serbs were driven from Croatia in 1995 and at least 150 were killed in a military offensive known as Operation Storm. [150???]
The fast-paced military operation, ordered by former Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, began with heavy shelling of the area, which forced many Serbs to flee to Serbia.
During his verdict, Presiding Judge Alphons Orie characterised the operation as a “joint criminal enterprise” between the military commanders and Mr Tudjman, who died in 1999 while under investigation by the tribunal.
Judge Orie said there had been widespread and concerted attacks on the Serb civilian population in Krajina.
Both Gotovina and Markac had played a part in planning and overseeing this operation, the court ruled.
Croatia’s Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor said implicating the government in a criminal enterprise was unacceptable.
She said the operation was legitimate and aimed at liberating Croatian territory from occupation. [Of course! If you live in Croatia and you’re not Croatian, you’re “occupying” the country. There’s actually something Muslimy about that.]
War veterans, many of whom turned out in Zagreb to protest at the verdicts, are a powerful lobby group in the country. [A redundancy for nationalist Croatia, just as in Kosovo.]
“All of us have been convicted, including the Republic of Croatia,” said protester Branko Borkovic, a former army commander.
There you have it! Indeed, if the Croats — like the Albanians — themselves don’t make distinctions between their war criminals and the public that supports those crimes, the whole country should be convicted as the criminal enterprise that it is.
…Former French legionnaire Gotovina, 55, is regarded as a national hero in Croatia for his role during the war sparked by the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.
Prosecutors at the trial that opened in March 2008 accused Gotovina of having sought the “permanent removal of the ethnic Serb population from the Krajina region in Croatia” during the war for independence from Belgrade.
All three ex-generals were accused of aiding and abetting the murders of Krajina Serb civilians and prisoners of war by “shooting, burning and/or stabbing” them.
Markac was a former commander of the special police of Croatia’s interior ministry while Cermak, an assistant defence minister from 1991 to 1993, headed troops alleged to have carried out “ethnic cleansing” of Serbs.
“The conduct of Gotovina amounted to a significant contribution to the joint criminal entreprise,” the court ruled, citing his “order to unlawfully attack civilians and civilian objects”, notably in shelling the towns of Benkovac, Knin and Obrovac.
The court concluded that the evidence did not establish that Cermak was a member of the joint criminal entreprise, or made any intentional and significant contribution to it.
Ivan Cermak, 61, returned home to Zagreb late Friday where he was welcomed by Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor.
Kosor slammed the court’s finding “that the Croatian state leadership acted in a joint criminal enterprise against international law and UN conventions.”
“My government will do everything possible within the legal framework to get these qualifications withdrawn (on appeal),” she added.
Fortunately, Croatia has Zarko Puhovski of the Helsinki Committee to respond to the culture of lies that Kosor exemplifies: He “told Zagreb daily Vjesnik [that] Kosor should face the reality and concentrate on prosecuting war crimes instead.” He said this in the course of disputing the state prosecutor’s claim in late April that thousands of people had been prosecuted for war crimes committed during Storm:
“According to our data, no members of the Croatian army or police, nor anyone else, has been sentenced for war crimes against Serbs, civilians or soldiers…” said the committee in a statement published by Croatian media….
The rights organisation rejected Croatia’s state prosecutor’s claim that 3,728 people had been indicted for crimes committed in the “Storm” operation and 2,380 jailed, [figures which] were “deliberately distorted” and aimed to deceive the population.
The prosecutor’s figures concentrated on minor crimes such as arson and looting, while wartime atrocities had gone unpunished, said the rights group.
In addition, most of those prosecuted for war crimes were Serbs, it said.
Back to the main article:
The country’s powerful Catholic Church also slammed the verdicts.
“When defending homeland is declared a criminal enterprise than it is a slap in the face, not to our people, but to Europe and the whole world,” head of Croatia’s bishops’ conference Marin Srakic said.
After the verdict around 100 protesters, carrying Croatian flags and pictures of Gotovina, marched to the headquarters of the ruling HDZ party, blamed for not supporting veterans of the war.
“After today nothing will be the same. We announce a fight against those who brought Croatia into this situation,” leading veteran Zvonimir Trusic said. [That is, they’re doing exactly what Washington Times columnist Jeffrey Kuhner suggested that they do; incidentally, Kuhner too stated that the verdict undermines Croatia’s legitimacy. Not that Croatia had any legitimacy for the verdict to undermine.]
“Now we are officially criminals,” a 50-year-old veteran called Marko said, while wartime interior minister Ivan Vekic labeled the verdicts a “defeat of Croatia.”
Gotovina’s lawyer Kehoe said, “I am very angry.
“It is almost as if many of the facts presented were completely ignored by the chamber.” [Admittedly, it does have a habit of doing that — I guess this is what you can expect to happen to you when you don’t care about evidence being dismissed or destroyed as long as only Serbs are the ones being gratuitously convicted in the process.]
In Serbia, President Boris Tadic, who has led efforts to reconcile the former enemies, said the sentences were passed in accordance with the law. [Oh boy! Be careful now; being happy about the killers of your people getting some justice isn’t going to foster “good neighborly relations.” Tadic should instead act like he’s pissed that someone other than Serbs is getting convicted.]
“More important than the verdicts is the fact that the tribunal established that ethnic cleansing was conducted,” Serbia’s Beta news agency quoted justice ministry Slobodan Homen as saying.
The trial was the first and only one before the ICTY of Croats charged with war crimes committed against Serbs during the war in Croatia. [With the exception of Mirko Norac, whose case started at the ICTY and was transferred to Zagreb.]
Croatia’s powerful Roman Catholic Church on Friday called on the country’s believers to fast and pray ahead of the verdict next month in the trial of three former generals before a UN war crimes court.
Croatia bishops’ conference said in a statement it was calling on all Catholics in Croatia to fast and pray “for a just verdict for the Croatian generals in The Hague, on Fridays April 1, 8 and 15″.
A war veterans group said they would organise a live broadcast of the verdict at Zagreb’s main square and called on “all Croatians to wait together for a liberating verdict of the Croatian generals”.
Another war veterans association announced a protest at the main square a day after the verdict to support “all detained and condemned war veterans”. [That is, whether they’re war criminals or not. In other words, by definition, there can be no Croatian war criminals — much like Albanian ones.]
Many in Croatia see the country’s officers as heroes and their indictments sparked protests in the past. Nearly 90 percent of Croatia’s population of 4.4 million are Roman Catholics.
A reminder: Here was the Croatian Church in 2003 urging the country to defy the international community over another indictment.
LJUBLJANA — A former spokeswoman for Carla Del Ponte says western powers didn’t want to see ex-Croat generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač receive long jail terms. [Of course not — they were killing Serbs!]
“Some major powers wanted Gotovina to be set free,” Florence Hartmann told Slovenia’s POP TV.
“There are many who believe that countries which take part in wars in their own territory should not be held accountable for war crimes. Croatia had the right to defend its independence and integrity, but a criminal enterprise, whose aim was the ethnic cleansing of Serbs, did exist,” she pointed out.
Of course, Croatia was fighting a war on Yugoslavian territory. So it’s the Serbs who were fighting in their own territory. What Hartmann said is like saying that Texas has the right to defend its independence and integrity. The statement assumes secession was done legally in the first place. As for using the word “defend,” it appears Ms. Hartmann has internalized the Croatian propaganda that it didn’t start the war. It opted for war over a legal secession precisely in order to “have an excuse to ethnically cleanse the Serbian population.” The theme popped up again recently when Croatia commemorated the soldiers who got rid of Western Slavonia’s 15,000 Serbs, killing 280 of them, in “Operation Flash” in May 1995. While the Croatian parliament, armed forces, police and veterans’ families laid wreaths, military bishop Juraj Jezerinac served mass and emphasized “that the war had been imposed on Croatia. ‘Croatian defenders, led by Franjo Tudjman and the generals, managed to liberate not only this, but also other occupied areas, for which Croatia will be eternally grateful to them.’” Even though Tudjman’s former police minister admitted in 2009 that Croatians started the war: “Back then, in 1991, Serbs and Yugoslavia were under attack, not Croatia…[Tudjman] wanted the war at any cost…The war was not a necessity — it was an intention. According to Tudjman’s concept, Serbs had to disappear from Croatia,” Josip Boljkovac said.
Back to the article about Hartmann:
The former spokeswoman for Del Ponte, who served as the tribunal’s chief prosecutor, added that the trial chamber did not use the co-called Brioni records as the only proof of the joint criminal enterprise, but that the Tribunal has other evidence, namely the laws passed after 1995, which prevented the exiled Serbs from returning to their homes.
“This speaks to the existence of the intention to ethnically cleanse the liberated ground,” Hartmann was quoted as saying.
Gotovina and Markač were on Friday in The Hague found guilty of involvement in a joint criminal enterprise whose aim - during and after Operation Storm in August 1995 - was to forcefully and permanently remove the Serb population from Croatia.
Now let’s hear from one of those Westerners who wanted Gotovina freed:
…Appearing on the Croatian state television, [former U.S. ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith] reiterated his position that there was no ethnic cleansing in operation Storm, Hina agency reported.
“In my opinion, this was not ethnic cleansing, because that means an army expelling people from a territory,” said he. [As said Kuhner, recall.]
“In this case, the people ran away, and maybe they were justified, but in any case they left the territory before the arrival of the Croatian armed forces”…Galbraith assessed that the Hague judgment “had a slightly different meaning and that they relied on meetings”, particularly the one held on the Brioni Islands, to ascertain intention existed to drive out the Serb population. […]
(NATO former Secretary-General Lord Carrington would beg to differ on that point.)
To explain the Brioni meeting that keeps coming up, this refers to the meeting where Tudjman and his senior military commanders agreed to get rid of the Serbs but make it seem like they at least had the intention of following international human rights conventions. So as for there not being any “ethnic cleansing” as such, give me a break. Here Andy Wilcoxson lays it out as it happened at that Brioni meeting on July 31, 1995, just days before Operation Storm:
[Tudjman] says, “it is important that those [Serbian] civilians set out, and then the army will follow them, and when the columns set out they will have a psychological impact on each other.”
Expanding on Tudjman’s remarks[,] general Gotovina says, “[I]f we continue this pressure, probably for some time to come, there won’t be so many civilians just those who have to stay, who have no possibility of leaving.”
…Tudjman explains that, for the benefit of propaganda in the international community, leaflets should be given to Serbian civilians saying, “We are appealing to you not to withdraw, we guarantee … This means giving them a way out, while pretending to guarantee civil rights etc…”…
Tudjman was very conscious of propaganda. He said on page 1 [of the meeting transcript] that “every military operation must have its political justification.” For Tudjman and his generals this meant staging fake Serbian attacks. On page 19 Tudjman says that the Serbs “should provide us with a pretext and provoke us.”
Chief of staff Zvonimir Cervenko replies, “We should ask Markac to do that.”
Mladen Markac, a high ranking official in Croatia’s interior ministry, interjects saying, “… and we accuse them of having launched a sabotage attack against us…
The fact that Croatia is prone to staging fake attacks against itself raises some disturbing questions in the context of its recent admission to NATO – especially given that Article 5 of the NATO charter says, “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.”
This is hard evidence of a conspiracy that goes straight to the top of the Croatian political and military structure, and it gets worse. To gain time to prepare their ethnic cleansing campaign, Croatia participated in the Z-4 peace negotiations in bad faith and the Germans knew it.
On page 2 of the transcript Tudjman explains that he will agree to send a delegation to the Z-4 negotiations in Geneva “as a mask.” On page 32 he expands on that remark saying, “I am going to Geneva to hide this and not to talk … I want to hide what we are preparing [so] we can rebut any argument in the world about how we didn’t want to talk.”
The transcript contains strong indications that Germany, which apparently hasn’t taken the right lessons from its Nazi past, was an enthusiastic supporter of the Croatian ethnic cleansing campaign. On page 1 of the transcript Tudjman says, “We have a friend, Germany, which consistently supports us.” On page 32 of the transcript Tudjman says that Germany supports the planned operation. He says, “Kinkel has promised that Germany will support us, but we have to inform them ahead of time.”
If the Tribunal had this kind of evidence against any Serbian leaders you can bet that we never would have heard the end of it in the media. According to the date-stamp at the end of the document, the ICTY prosecutor’s office has had this transcript in its possession since 2003. […]
One suspects from this August AP report that the prosecution most likely saw the document:
Croatian forces shelled civilians and torched their homes in a deliberate effort to expel tens of thousands of Serbs…Prosecutors claim 324 Serbs were killed, including elderly and disabled villagers — many “executed” with gunshots to the head…Prosecutor Alan Tieger told the three-judge panel that it was “patently absurd that there was any genuine intent to implement [orders against committing crimes].” Instead, he said the orders were intended to fool the international community into believing Zagreb was acting to prevent crimes and to distance the Croat government and military from atrocities.
Prosecutor Ed Russo said Croatia used a campaign of indiscriminate shelling to spark terror among the Serb population and followed it with “psychological operations” including dropping leaflets advising Serbs how to flee the region. Once the Serbs were gone, Zagreb began an operation to repopulate the region with Croats. […]
But to break down what Galbraith was saying, what we end up with is that when a population flees or is removed from Serbian or Bosnian-Serb land, it can only be ethnic cleansing. Like when the Serbs helped the UN bus Muslims out of Srebrenica or when a bishop obliged in busing out Muslims from a town in Herzegovina where there was heavy fighting between Muslims and Serbs, those are ethnic cleansing war crimes. Or when Radovan Karadzic was warning that there wouldn’t be a Muslim left in parts of Bosnia if President Izetbegovic went through with his war, because of the mutual bloodbath it would unleash, or when the KLA and NATO stage an Albanian exodus including bombs targeting Albanian civilians who are reluctant to flee or are returning — all that counts as ethnic cleansing by Serbs. But when Serbs are the ones doing the fleeing or being removed (by their much bloodthirstier enemies), that’s not ethnic cleansing.
Galbraith said as much himself, and the reason for the double standard is deduced easily enough:
For it was Washington that coordinated the August 1995 operation…with Tudjman and his generals, having trained and equipped the Croatian military through the “private contractor” MPRI. There are numerous testimonies about this, including one in Richard Holbrooke’s memoir of his colleague Robert Frasure referring to the Croats as America’s “junkyard dogs,” about whose methods one ought not get “squeamish.” Washington’s Ambassador to Zagreb, Peter Galbraith, even said that the exodus of Serbs in 1995 could not be qualified as “ethnic cleansing,” since ethnic cleansing was something only the Serbs committed!
Given that both ICTY and Croatia were instruments of Imperial policy, it was not unreasonable of Zagreb to expect never having to answer for its actions…It would be a mistake to believe that the Tribunal or the Empire have suddenly developed a case of caring about Serb suffering. At best, the judgment against the generals is a gambit to create the perception of impartiality, while continuing to pursue the “Greater Serbian conspiracy.”…It is entirely possible that the other two will be acquitted in the appeals process (as was the case with Bosnian Muslim warlord Naser Oric).
None of this is helping the Croatians cope; they’ve been told for years that their side was virtuous, innocent and pure, their cause just and unimpeachable. This verdict plays havoc with their self-perception. It also threatens the current government….
…[T]o cheer the Inquisition’s persecution of someone else actually means validating its persecution of one’s own, by recognizing the ICTY’s dubious legitimacy. Namely, this ad hoc Tribunal is thoroughly illegal and illegitimate, having been established by the UN Security Council as an instrument of peacekeeping. The UNSC does not have judicial powers, and therefore cannot delegate any; the ICTY’s legitimacy is a thinly stretched fiction, occasionally bolstered by displays of facetious even-handedness such as the Gotovina/Markac verdict.
And of course ethnic cleansing of Serbs is, as always, merely a “Serbian charge” according to this Strategy Page paragraph from September: “Operation Storm…effectively ended the Bosnian War as well. In the attack Croat troops drove Serbian forces out of southern Croatia…Between 150,000 and 200,000 ethnic Serbs fled Croatia after the attack. Serbians charge that the attack was an act of ethnic cleansing.”
Meanwhile, if Galbraith’s words about the Serbs “fleeing justifiably” as opposed to being removed by the Croatian Army are to be taken at face value, it’s interesting to note that Serbs voluntarily run from their enemies while the latter have to be nudged out of living among Serbs. Clearly, who are the scarier characters here?
One observer named Dragan wrote the following in a general email:
Knowing that the criminal operations were sponsored by the USA government, Bill Clinton and his administration, and that Peter G[a]lbraith was a part of it, it is most natural that he tries to minimize the crimes that were committed by then Croat president Franjo Tudjman and recently accused generals Gotovina an Markac. If in spite of testimonies of those expelled, 200 [thousand] of them…Mr. G[a]lbraith insists that they left voluntarily, then there is a huge problem of moral and other forms in the US politics and the so called US democracy.
On the other hand, one could say that in Bosnia or in Kosovo there was no ethnic cleansing or “genocide” either. Albanians left Kosovo by themselves to be safe in the mountains, and the victims of Racak committed the collective suicide.
By trying to justify those Croat generals, Mr. G[a]lbraith only confirms that USA was directly involved in military operations against the Serbian population in Croatia in 1995, and the programmed ethnic cleansing.
A related letter in the Washington Times letter by Stella Jatras:
…In 1999, journalist Charles Krauthammer described Operation Storm in Newsweek as “the largest ethnic cleansing of the entire Balkan wars. Investigators with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague have concluded that this campaign was carried out with brutality, wanton murder and indiscriminate shelling of civilians.” As The Washington Times reported on Sept. 5, 1995, Croatian soldiers were given heroin or cocaine twice daily in order to help them face the expulsion of Croatian Serbs from Krajina. A Croatian soldier, identified only as Davor, stated in news reports, “To attack villages, to cut throats and to kill in cold blood you need a strong anesthetic — a shot of heroin or cocaine was ideal.” This report was also substantiated in [T]he Guardian on Sept. 1, 1995…
(I must say, I was not aware that heroin or cocaine were needed to get Croatians to slit Serbian throats. This actually humanizes Croats somewhat in my view, since I always just thought that Croats were born ready and able to kill Serbs.)
The idea of there being no such thing as ethnic cleansing when Serbs are the ones cleansed recalls U.S. colonel Geoffrey Corn’s 2009 testimony in defense of Gotovina: “No such thing as a civilian target“:
…Corn sees Gotovina’s order to place Serb towns under fire as merely a wrong formulation by one of his administrative staff since, according to him, “Gotovina obviously meant hitting exclusively military targets”.
The Hague prosecution claims that Gotovina should not have allowed artillery to fire on urban areas, and that the dead civilians are proof of the crime and of the joint criminal enterprise….
Corn responded to this by saying: “Collateral victims are not prohibited nor are they a crime, unfortunately they are common in war.” The American witness said that “the fact is there are such victims, especially when the enemy is defending from urban areas”. [So then what’s all the fuss about the “Siege of Sarajevo,” a city in which entrenched Muslim forces shelled Serb positions, as General Dragomir Milosevic — sentenced to 33 years over the “siege” — pointed out at trial.]
“What civilian targets, there’s no such thing, targets are always military,” reports say Corn told [the] panel of judges, and went on to explain that it is always up to military commanders to appraise whether the expected military gains would outweigh possible civilian losses.
He likened the August 1995 Croatian military onslaught against ethnic Serb areas, known as Operation Storm, to the 1999 NATO attacks on Serbia, saying that orders to shell targets in the Krajina towns of Knin, Obrovac, Gračac and Drvar were comparable to NATO’s attacks, carried out with hundreds of cruise missiles and bombs, against Belgrade. [He’s got that right.]
The witness went on to comment on the transcripts of former Croatian President Franjo Tudjman’s Brioni meeting with the top military and police officials on July 31, 1995.
Those remarks, Corn said, were “schizophrenic, since on the one hand, he was trying to figure out how to expel Serb civilians, and on the other, he didn’t want to draw criticism from the international community”.
But Sense news agency reminds that the prosecution claimed that Tudjman’s address “was not schizophrenic at all, as he had actually planned to reconcile those two things: to expel the Serbs from Krajina and create the illusion that their human rights were respected in the eyes of the international community”.
But according to Corn, this is no proof that Gotovina agreed to violate the provisions of the international law of war.
“It was not the first time in the history of warfare for the highest political figure in a state to put pressure on the army to do something, only to have the military commanders find a way around it in practice,” the witness said. [See now, that’s interesting, given that the defense often given for Tudjman is that he genuinely intended for the order to not harm civilians to be carried out and it’s the military that went rogue. But here this “expert” is saying that Gotovina understood there to be a tacit go-ahead (how that constitutes “pressure” I’m not sure) to harm civilians — and he somehow “found a way around” harming civilians. Though the whole point of the conversation is to determine who is responsible for the harm that came to civilians.]
…He also told the court that “civilians departing” – in the case of Operation Storm some 250,000 Serbs were expelled from their homes – is not illegal…
To make the whole thing even richer, of course, it’s Croatia that’s been trying to sue Serbia for ethnic cleansing and “genocide” because everything that, as we’ve learned here, doesn’t count when it’s done to Serbs does count when it’s done to Croatians on a smaller scale — and in a situation that they caused: “Croatia launched the lawsuit against Belgrade in 1999, arguing that a campaign of ethnic cleansing during the four-year war in Croatia yielded ‘a form of genocide which resulted in large numbers of Croatian citizens being displaced, killed, tortured, or illegally detained, as well as extensive property destruction.’” Never mind that none of the Krajina leaders indicted by the ICTY have been charged or convicted for anything like genocide (so how can the more tenuously connected Serbia be responsible?) — and never mind that Croatia has yet to even formally recognize the very real WWII genocide against the Serbs, let alone have itself sued for it and offer reparations.
Meanwhile, the word “draconian” has come up in relation to the 24- and 18-year verdicts. One certainly never heard the 46-year sentences imposed on Serbian generals for lesser, and usually lesser-proved, crimes referred to as “draconian.”
This April 25th Voice of Russia report explains in simple terms why Croatia and the West are so up in arms over the Gotovina/Markac verdict:
…So why has the verdict triggered such stormy emotions not only among the Croats but also in the Western countries[?] The point is that throughout the history of the existence of The Hague Tribunal[,] the key defendant [at] the UN court, who was often referred to as “Doctor Evil”[,] was Yugoslavia’s last president Milosevic and of course, his supporters and Serbia itself. There even appeared people in some countries in Europe and in the USA who started saying that the justice of The Hague was one-sided. This postulate needed no proofs for either Russia or the other countries, which were not involved in the “anti-Yugoslav coalition”. However, judging by the facts, those in The Hague have decided to improve their image and to put into life the principle that was declared by the tribunal itself, that is, that “all sides are to blame for the atrocities and that no nation was more responsible than the other”. As a result, the Croatian generals, who were accused of ousting 100,000 peaceful civilians and of murdering hundreds of Serbs, were jailed. As it might seem, justice was obtained. And the fact that the Croats have got angry is simply an expected “side effect”.
However, what followed was that the angry “progressive public”- meaning the leading Western media - has undertaken to conduct an investigation of its own. “The Washington Times”, “The Wall Street Journal”, Newsweek, and “The Jerusalem Post”, after studying Storm Operation 1995, came to the conclusion that Ante Gotovina had committed no crimes at all. Moreover, the general is a real Croatian patriot and hero, and that his campaign had not only restored Croatia’s territorial integrity but had also destroyed the dream of the deceased Serb ruler Slobodan Milosevic about “Greater Serbia”. Besides, the Western editions said that by its irresponsible verdicts The Hague Tribunal is stirring up a new war.
The first thought that comes to mind after reading all these “journalist investigations” is that the West wants to preserve the status quo in the Balkans, which suits it…Should The Hague Tribunal start conducting an unbiased investigation, many influential persons will be surely hurt….
The piece, by Igor Siletsky, also admonishes Western presses and bureaucrats about all their talk of a new Balkan war, quoting Yelena Guskova, head of the Centre for the Study of the Modern Balkan Crisis under the Institute of Slavic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences:
“The new data about the human organ trafficking and about the atrocities, committed by the Croats , offer proof that it is necessary to [be objective]….the Serbs, the Croats and the Muslims have already suffered too much. They have no potential to take up arms again. Thus, to say that a new war will break out in the Balkans soon is [irresponsible].”
Thus, instead of intimidating the Balkan nations by saying that a new war will break out, it is necessary to afford the UN court an opportunity to go [on] with its investigations. And the Croats, the Serbs, the Albanians, and the Bosnians will decide themselves how they should coexist together.
I can’t agree with the conclusion of the piece, however — that the people of the Balkans have had enough war and want to coexist. Albanians never tire of war, and Croatians will never pass up an opportunity to kill Serbs.
And here is a translated report from Argentina, where there is a the third-largest Croatian emigre community. Why? Because that’s where a lot of the Nazis fled after WWII.
In Argentina, where the Croatian community is estimated the third largest, various reactions have been published…on Facebook:
“We must protest internationally against this sentence from The Hague which lacks respect for the nation, for the Croatian state and its independence heroes.
“But not only with papers and declaration, we must MOBILIZE THE DIASPORA OF THE ENTIRE WORLD we must repudiate (peacefully) but with mobilization of the masses in the streets, with PERSONAL PRESENCE IN INSTITUTIONS, we must make them feel that today CROATIA IS AN INJURED LION!!!!!!!!!!”
To place readers in a historical context, blogger Mislataman looks back at what led to the military operation:
“After Croatia had proclaimed its independence in a democratic and unequivocal referendum, Serbians (12% of the population) that had lived for centuries in what what was now an independent country had various options to find a framework in which to feel comfortable and various possible political models to accommodate their specific needs. [All were denied them by the self-proclaimed new state.]
“Instead, they opted for the worse route possible, armed secession. Assisted by the Yugoslavian Army, dominated by Serbians [yes and no], they raised arms again[st] the Croatian authorities who were too weak to face them[,] and proclaimed the Serbian Republic of Krajina, that occupied the zones where Serbians were the majority.”
That’s as much as anyone needs to read of that. “How about those ‘weak Croatians,’” comments Liz, who circulated the Argentina item, “who somehow manage to massacre very readily, whenever the mood hits them.” Indeed, notice how in every one of the Balkan wars, the “victim” population — whether the Croats, the Bosniaks or the KLA — is always described as “outgunned”; “underdogs”; “disorganized”; “no match for the Serbs”; “overwhelmed” — and therefore in need of Western assistance to even out the battlefield. In which case one wonders, given that the Mexican drug cartels and al Qaeda are still outgunned by us, why we’re not helping them? As emailer Dragan reveals:
The first channel of the Croat television just finished the documentary and the testimony of General Ivo Jelsic, about the offensives during 1991 and 1995. I cannot enumerate all names of Croat participants, but what is significant is that according all testimonies, Croats were superior against the “cetnik [Serb] aggression led by then Colonel Ratko Mladic”.
What I would like to notice is that the international community blamed the former Yugoslav army…for aggression against Croatia and Bosnia, but Croats in this documentary announced their superiority in the conflict. As far as I remember, the foreign media hammered that Croats, Bosnians and later on Kosovo Albanians had no arms, especially heavy arms, and according to the Croat general Ivo Jelsic, in Dubrovnik, Zadar and Split they provided the heavy artillery and defeated cetnik forces and stopped their advancing. By glorifying their “success” in those regions, the Croats just confirm that they were not that weak, that they were even superior in certain actions, and therefore, they cannot pretend that they were victims of aggression.
One participant noticed that in 1991 “the actions were led by the Croat irregular forces against the Serb rebels”, showing thus that, again, they were not really victims but those who already planned the ethnic cleansing.
It would be good that in spite of internal relationship[s] or different political opinions, certain serbian discussion groups take this seriously, and do not accept to be treated as aggressors but victims, and do all to get necessary arguments to denounce lies and crimes.
The rest of the Argentina item:
…The post by Spanish journalist Ramon Lobo, titled “Criminal heroes in Croatia”, has generated reactions against it on the part of Argentine Croatians….
The blog of the organization Studia Croatica, an entity created in and with its headquarters in Argentina, published a declaration:
“We repudiate in plain language the sentence, especially in how much it questions the foundations of the Croatian State and its existence. The sentence perversely overturns the entire question: the attacked is guilty for defending himself. Pretending to rewrite history. We flatly reject all Balkanized and Yugo-nostalgic tendencies and actions, from whatever quarter.”
Meanwhile, the Croatians worldwide are seeking support for the prosecuted general by sending letters, as published by the blog of one of the radii of the Croatian community in Argentina, Bar Croata:
“I am writing you this mail with the intention that you will send this letter of support to the Croatian patriots Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac…I hope that at least a million letters arrive to them in The Hague.” […]
Given the widespread Croatian reaction, we can say: So much for London professor Stephen Chan’s pathetic shilling for Croatia’s European-ness in his 2008 article “Croatia has moved on from its fascist past“: ‘A few Nazi diehards should not obscure the fact that it is a tolerant, cosmopolitan nation.’ In the article, Chan nervily reproaches dissident writer-in-exile Slavenka Drakulic for saying precisely what the furious Croats here have demonstrated: that “Croatia still harbours the mentality that ‘fighters for the “national cause” cannot by definition be criminals.’” (And of course this is what Hartmann and Croatia’s American champions are saying too.) But Chan argues: “Croatia made a huge breakthrough against this mentality by surrendering Ante Gotovina to The Hague.” We see how that went over.
A few weeks ago a movement to “end the persecution of Croatian defenders” attempted to “block a part of the town in order to prevent Brammertz from meeting with Croatia’s officials.” The leader, Zvonimir Trusić, “blast[ed] the policy conducted by the authorities as ‘capitulatory and treasonous’…[and] told reporters that he was convinced his stance was shared by most Croats….”
Meanwhile, here is a righteous Croatian that you won’t find Croatians defending as he’s arrested and tried: Renato Petrov was arrested in Germany on April 5th, based on an Interpol warrant issued by Croatia. He was tried and sentenced in absentia to 20 years in prison for the “Skabrnja massacre” in November 1991, when “43 civilians and defenders” allegedly died (notice the soldiers and civilians being lumped together). Given that Zagreb has pretty much indicted everyone who fought in the Krajina military or police forces, odds are these charges are completely scurrilous.
A letter in Petrov’s defense from the government-in-exile of the Republic of Serbian Krajina follows:
THE REPUBLIC OF SERBIAN KRAJINA - GOVERNMENT IN EXILE
A Letter addressed to Mrs. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany (April 15)
We know that you do not like to receive letters from the Government of the Republic of Serbian Krajina. However, we send you this letter because we believe its contents to be of the greatest importance, especially for a German leader.
German police recently arrested Renato Petrov, a citizen of the Republic of Serbian Krajina and a refugee who fled to the US after the illegal occupation of the Republic of Serbian Krajina by Croatia.
Unfortunately, Germany has arrested Renate Petrov based on false allegations made against him by the Croatian authorities.
Croats[,] Slovenians and Bosnian Muslims caused the disintegration of Yugoslavia which resulted in the collective banishment of the Serbian population from the Republic of Serbian Krajina.
As you may be aware, the Serbs of Krajina had always enjoyed political rights, in Hungary from 1471, in Austria from 1630 and also in the Republic of Venice from 1647.
Croatia expelled the Serbs from Krajina and unlawfully confiscated their private property.
Such activities were also carried out in Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler, when German Nazis murdered Jews, expelled them and confiscated their private property.
These facts cannot be ignored and in that respect there was passed The Resolution on European and International Protection of Nazi Concentration Camps as Monuments.
This resolution was passed in [Strasbourg] on 10 February 1993. The Resolution obligates countries to take measures in order to prevent activities which promote racism, xenophobia and Nazism.
Germany has acted unlawfully in arresting Renato Petrov and Germany has not taken any measures, as stated in the Resolution, to prevent racist intentions.
The order to arrest Renate Petrov is a racist act on behalf of Croatia. Petrov fought against racism and neo-Nazism in Croatia. Fighters against racism and neo-Nazism should not be imprisoned, especially not in Germany.
Renato Petrov is not a Serb but a Croat. His father, before him, had refused to join the Axis Forces and become a fascist soldier in 1941. Instead, he joined the Serbian Partisans. Renato Petrov’s father, Šime Petrov, was a moral Croat who realized that Germany and Croatia were committing a biological extermination of Serbs during WW2. In 1991, Renato Petrov followed his father’s example when he realized that Croatia was preparing mass murders and expulsion of Serbs from Krajina, just as Germany and Croatia had done in 1941.
Along with other righteous Croats, Renate Petrov fought against Croatian neo-Nazism from 1991 to 1995.
Your Excellency, Madam Angela Merkel, you should act in compliance with the international law and your country’s state documents which obligate countries to prevent racism and Nazism. Therefore you should release ethnic Croat Renato Petrov from imprisonment, in the name of history and justice.
THE REPUBLIC OF SERBIAN KRAJINA
R. ličina, minister
To round out the earlier theme (above) of Croatian-Albanian commonalities, Nebojsa Malic reminds us that, like Kosovo Albanians do to keep Serb refugees from returning, Croats accuse returnees of being “war criminals”:
Pavelic’s Croatia had a program of killing a third, expelling a third, and converting the remnant to Catholicism. The murder and expulsion was pretty much done by 1995, and the conversions are ongoing (they are now trying to get the remaining Serbs to call themselves “Greek Catholics”, and there was even an attempt to create a “Croatian Orthodox Church”). Either way, everything is being done to prevent the return of any expelled Serbs, or restoration of their property rights. The principal way of accomplishing that is targeting the returnees with accusations of “war crimes”; even when they are cleared of charges, the harassment is enough to deter others from trying their luck.
That is, “democratic, European” Croatia is persistently persecuting its expelled population with “war crimes charges” aimed at preventing any meaningful return of Serbs or any attempt to claim their civil rights. Whether it is Tudjman’s party or the Social-democrats in charge, Croatia’s policy towards the Serbs is the same: “there ought not be any.”
In the end, it took a Bosniak to deliver just about the only piece of level-headed mainstream coverage and call a Craotian spade a spade:
In Croatia, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back (RFERL, May 1, by Anes Alic)
Croatia (along with its neighbors) has long had difficulty accepting the wartime atrocities committed by its forces during the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s. But the recent reaction of the Croatian public to sentences handed down to two retired Croatian generals — still viewed by some as heroes — was indeed out of all proportion.
In its ruling, the court said that the convicted generals “were part of a joint criminal enterprise whose objective was the permanent removal of the Serb population from the Krajina region.” The verdict also said that the wartime Croatian president, the late Franjo Tudjman, was a key member of this so-called joint criminal enterprise.
This sentencing was devastating to a large part of the Croatian population, which considers the two generals to be heroes of the war and the country’s liberators. The response was colorful, telling, and self-destructive. Demobilized soldiers took to cutting themselves with razors and teenagers donned Ustasha outfits from the World War II era, protesting against The Hague tribunal and the European Union. At protests across the country, posters with pictures of two wartime generals, Branimir Glavas and Mirko Norac, both convicted of war crimes, and Bosnian Croat leader Dario Kordic, also sentenced for war crimes, were on display.
The Croatian government continues to maintain that Operation Storm was justifiable on the grounds that a sovereign state has the right to take control of its own territory, apparently by any means. The court, however, disagreed, essentially sending Croatia a message that its decisive victory during the war and the sealing of its independent statehood was a criminal act. This, of course, is unacceptable to both the Croatian authorities and the public. Indeed, in a survey conducted prior to the verdict, only 50 percent of Croatians believed that the three would be convicted; and no one expected that the entire wartime government would be implicated in a “criminal enterprise.”
Rather than accept that this military victory came at the unacceptable cost of civilian lives, internal displacement, and destruction, the Croatian government has chosen to form a team of “experts” to help Gotovina and Markac appeal the verdict. This is likely to raise more than a few international eyebrows and could slow the country’s EU membership aspirations [not likely: “Chance to close Croatia’s accession talks in June, EU presidency says“], at a time when Zagreb is making significant progress and has indeed been the shining example of Western Balkan stability . [Apparently, ethnic purity causes a ’shine.’] A red carpet welcome was given to Cermak, who was acquitted, and met personally by Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor at the Zagreb airport upon his release from custody in The Hague.
What has happened, primarily, is that both the public and the government have pressured each other into overreacting. The Croatian authorities’ situation is not an easy one, squeezed as they are on one side by nationalists and war veterans supported by a powerful Catholic Church that is not averse to dabbling in politics, and on the other side by Brussels, which expects Zagreb to face up to the crimes committed by the Croatian military.
With the country gearing up for competitive parliamentary elections later this year, the pressure for politicians to express their patriotism will be ever greater. Managing this balancing act between EU integration and jingoism is a formidable challenge, and it’s not clear at this point if Zagreb is up to the task. At the same time, its own reaction to the situation has provoked even greater public outrage.
Regardless of the sentiments, these are the facts: Around 250,000 Croatian Serbs left Krajina within a few days in early August 1995, having made up the majority of the population in the region since the 18th century. Operation Storm, ordered by Tudjman, began with heavy shelling of the area, which forced many Serbs to flee to Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. In total, Operation Storm resulted in the deaths of between 1,600 and 2,200 people, mostly civilians, and the creation of nearly 230,000 Serb refugees. The majority of the population continues to live in exile in Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The prewar census of 1991 was the last Yugoslav census held in Croatia, when around 580,000 citizens declared themselves Serbs, comprising around 12 percent of the population. Today, this figure is around 4 percent.
There is the other side of this story, in which Croatian Serbs rebelled against Croatia’s much-desired independence and found backing in Belgrade [except when it didn’t] — a move for which the vast majority of Croats still cannot forgive their Serb countrymen. [Croatians cannot forgive Serbs for not acquiescing to live under third-class citizenship and the constant threat of disembowelment, and not wanting to have one’s house dynamited or village destroyed, or to be fired, randomly arrested or have one’s child in an orchestrated school mocking, or to end up in a detention camp or mass execution like in WWII.] As such, those Croatian Serbs who have been bold enough to return to the country are often viewed as intruders rather than citizens.
For their wartime role, The Hague has indicted the leaders of Croatian Serbs for crimes committed against Croats. Milan Martic, who held various leadership positions in the short-lived Republic of Serbian Krajina, including president, defense minister, and interior minister, was sentenced in 2007 to 35 years in prison. Another president of the rebel region, Milan Babic, was sentenced to 13 years in prison but was found dead in his Hague prison cell in March 2006. He was the first indicted Balkan war criminal to admit guilt and accept a plea bargain with the prosecution. His cooperation resulted in the presentation of evidence in several other cases, including the one against Martic, former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, and several others. A third president of Republic of Serbian Krajina, Goran Hadzic, was indicted by The Hague but remains at large [aren’t you scared?!], along with former Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic [trembling in my boots]. All three lived in Serbia following the fall of their rebel republic.
Despite these simmering tensions, the international media’s headline-teasing predictions of a new war are an overreaction [unless the U.S. has something to do about it]. What is likely to happen now? Perhaps the creation of a national Operation Storm celebration day [as opposed to…the national Operation Storm celebration day?], or a few more streets named after heroes-war criminals. But not another conflict, despite the Western media’s sensationalist predictions.
As a side effect of the Gotovina and Markac verdicts, several other questions are surfacing, including whether Croatian authorities will be obligated to pay compensation to the Serbs, or to grant them special rights in Croatia, and, most importantly, whether Tudjman — viewed by many as the father of Croatia — will be diminished in status. […]
On the author’s point of overreaction, meanwhile, one notices from the comments posted below it that, gee, now the Serb-war-criminal-fixated Hague is “racist” against Croats — just like “Richard Holbrooke confirmed his ‘hatred’ for Croatia.” And another comment poster wrote, “The author of this article obviously has some ulterior motive/agenda and would better serve it by openly writing propaganda pieces for the side he is subliminally promoting here.”
Again, what is the difference between Croatians and Albanians? Not much. Closing with some quotes:
“Croatia has resumed its ‘liquidation’ of Serbs, while arguing that ‘ethnic cleansing’ is a Serbian creation.”
– International Strategic Studies Association, Dec. 31, 1992 ( “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.”)
“Croatian Helsinki Committee chairman Žarko Puhovski says it is unacceptable for the Croatian media to use the term ‘alleged crimes’ …Puhovski said the crimes were real and should be treated as such.” — B92, Aug. 16, 2006
“Osijek war crimes remain unsolved because Croatia in the 1990’s was a place where killing Serbs was normal, Žarko Puhovski says. ‘In the first few years it was normal to kill Serbs, then it was normal to forget they had been killed, and now we finally talk about it.’” — B92, Oct. 25, 2006
“Amb. Galbraith is famous for having described the light rain that was falling when Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown’s plane crashed near Dubrovnik as the worst storm in a decade. He also approved the importation of arms by Croatia in violation of the U.N. embargo…In the words of Peter Galbraith, the NATO bombing is designed to ’save defenseless people from ethnic cleansing.’ But the U.S. did not bomb Croatia in an effort to make that government welcome back the Serbs to their Krajina region. Questioned by callers on C-SPAN, Galbraith called the treatment of the Krajina Serbs a ‘terrible atrocity’ and a ‘massive human rights violation.’ But he refused to describe it as ethnic cleansing… Galbraith said, ‘I and the Clinton administration repeatedly criticized Croatia for this and we in fact imposed sanctions on Croatia…’ This is laughable on its face. As far as those ’sanctions’ are concerned, the Clinton administration announced on April 9, as the bombing of Yugoslavia was underway, that Croatia is now eligible to purchase U.S. military equipment directly.” — Reed Irvine, Accuracy in Media, May 1999
“Marking the 15th anniversary of Operation Storm in early August, Serbian President Boris Tadic called it a ‘crime which shouldn’t be forgotten.’ His Croatian counterpart Ivo Josipovic responded that it was ‘above all, the crown of the justified liberation war.’” — AP, August 30, 2010
“Krajina, Jasenovac’s appendage hasn’t gone unpunished.” — Spanish blogger Miguel Angel de Uña commending the ICTY verdict, April 16, 2011
During the early hours of 4th August, UN troops throughout the Krajina were warned to be in their bomb shelters by 5am. Exactly at 5am, the Croatian artillery barrage began. All along the front hundreds of guns and rocket launchers rained shells and rockets on the hapless Serbs.
In Knin, the barrage was indiscriminate. Some 300 shells landed around the city in the first 30 minutes. UN personnel and Serb civilians raced for whatever cover they could find. After an intense barrage lasting for 90 minutes, the shelling subsided, and the city’s residents emerged from the cellars to see the effect of the barrage.
According to UN personnel, bodies were lining the streets and ambulances roamed Knin collecting corpses to be taken to the city mortuary to prevent disease breaking out in the hot summer heat. UN soldiers in the Sector South Headquarters on the outskirts of city watched in horror as Croat artillery fire resumed during the day, seeming to move around the Krajina Serb capital effortlessly destroying houses and blocks of flats….
Thousands of Serb refugees were streaming into Knin from frontline areas. They did not stop, but headed northwards out of the city, along the back roads to Bosnia. Knin residents were joining the exodus in droves…
An all-out effort was made by the HV [Croatian Army] to break though the Serb defences on the morning of 5th August. At 10 am the barrage reached a crescendo. Forty-five minutes later it stopped and the Croat ground assault went in. Soon small arms and tank fire could be heard on the outskirts of the town. By midday, three Croat tanks were parked outside the UN compound.
Canadian UN personnel rushed to defend the gate and perimeter fence of the camp after Slovak and Jordanian troops fled their posts. Colonel [Andrew] Leslie went to face down the Croat commander who wanted to enter the camp and search for Krajina Serb soldiers. For the second time in a month, a UN compound was being ringed by hostile troops wanting to hunt down and kill their opponents.
The UN troops had neither the political mandate or military means to resist the Croat advance or even protect civilians. The Multi-National Brigade (MNB) had just been committed to Sarajevo, and 24 Airmobile Brigade had yet to fully deploy in Ploce because of Croat obstructions.
Eventually, the Croat troops outside the UN compound backed down and agreed to leave the UN in peace, but only as long as the peacekeepers remained inside…For five days the UN personnel were trapped inside the compound while the Croats mopped up the city….
UN troops watched horrified as Croat soldiers dragged the bodies of dead Serbs along the road outside the UN compound and then pumped them full of rounds from their AK-47s. They then crushed the bullet-ridden bodies under the tracks of a tank.
When they were able to get out of the camp, UN officers described the scene as “horrific.” The city was all but deserted apart from drunken Croat soldiers who were robbing UN personnel at will. UN officers, mostly Canadian, French, Belgians and a few British, as well as UNMOs [UN Military Observers] and personnel from UNPF Headquarters in Zagreb, started to patrol the area around Knin to find out if any Serbs had remained. In village after village, they found carnage…On the morning of 7th August, the UN were at last able to broker a ceasefire that held….
During the five days of Operation Storm, some 180,000 Serbs fled the Krajina, in what was then the largest single refugee exodus since World War Two. What had started out as a well planned and executed military operation had descended into a squalid exercise in looting and murder….Most of this took place out of sight of the world’s media who were kept out of the area by the Croats during the first days of the operation….
UN and other international personnel have submitted evidence on Croat atrocities during Operation Storm to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. However, the Tribunal refuses to confirm if they are to issue indictments against any Croat political leaders or soldiers even though press reports emerged in early 1999 that three HV generals were to be indicted.