A lot of people are upset that I’m not answering every one of the 600 letters I got. Sorry, that’s not possible. But over the next couple days I will be answering certain repeated points that were made in some of the more civil letters. Here is the relevant part of one such letter, from Marija Valentic:

As interesting and confusing your article is about Croatia, I have two questions that I would like for you to answer. They are two simple questions, and if you cannot answer these easy history questions, then you need to do more research about Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Kosova, Germany, America, etc. The questions are as follows: Did the Croatians enter into Serbia, or did the Serbians enter into Croatia? Question 2 - Did the Croatians try to create one country called Greater Croatia, or did the Serbs try to create one country called Greater Serbia? How would you feel if someone came into our free country of America and try to create an entirely different country. All Americans would and should be upset, as were the Croatians. If you cannot answer these questions, then shame on you for making a very biast opinion and influencing other people.

I’m so glad you asked, Marija! Starting in 1990, the Krajina Serbs, who had been living in Krajina for close to 500 years, were facing a new Croatian constitution that would reduce Serb status and rights from a “national constituency” to a “national minority.” The Krajina Serbs were then denied autonomy within Croatia and then denied independence, while Croatia went on to declare independence. For some reason, those strange, strange Serbs decided it’s probably not a good idea to live with minority status under people who slaughtered them in WWII. To this day, Serbs in Croatia continue to face the real-world consequences of Tudjman’s constitution, such as losses of jobs and housing rights — in addition to violent attacks.

To an outside observer, it appears that people’s biggest beef with the Serbs closely resembles the beef that the world has with Israelis: that they refuse to happily drop dead. (Interestingly, I heard from many Croatian “critics” of Israel.)

As Boston Herald columnist Don Feder has pointed out: If independence is good for Slovenians, for Macedonians, for Croatians, for Bosniaks, and even for the Albanians of Kosovo, why not for the Krajina Serbs? The answer is…DRUM ROLL, DRUM ROLL, DRUM ROLL… The answer is always the same: THE SERBS LOSE. That’s the golden rule that has guided Balkans policy, from within and from without:

Q: What’s the temperature outside?
A: The Serbs lose.
Q: What time is it?
A: The Serbs lose.
Q: What’s your dog’s name?
A: The Serbs lose.

Writer Nebojsa Malic questions this golden rule in his 2005 piece “Empire’s Endgame”:

What sense does it make to insist on the inviolability of republic borders when Yugoslavia was falling apart — which meant insisting on the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Croatia while disenfranchising some 2 million Serbs therein — but arguing precisely the opposite when it comes to some 2 million Albanians in Kosovo and within the borders of Serbia? Indeed, what is the logic behind the eagerness of Serbs, Croats, Muslims, and Albanians to join the EU for the sake of belonging to something bigger, when 15 years ago, they had that something. It was called Yugoslavia.

Now, Marija, I’m even happier that you asked the second question — the one about whether it was Croatia that tried to create a country called Greater Croatia, or if it was Serbia that tried to create a country called Greater Serbia. Here is your answer, something that I was originally going to post as a self-contained blog by itself, called “Gee, I Could Have Sworn…”

Gee, I could have sworn that we were told Slobodan Milosevic was responsible for the Balkan wars — that he was part of a “joint criminal enterprise” that tried to form a “Greater Serbia.” Does anyone else remember this? I just could have sworn that was part of the indictment against him. But, in addition to countless other findings to the contrary, doesn’t this recent report from the Institute of War and Peace — a body as conformingly anti-Serb as anyone else — kind of put a wrinkle in that theory:


Speaking at the war crimes trial of six Bosnian Croat officials, former [U.S.] ambassador Peter Galbraith testified that his government pressured the authorities in Croatia to secure the dismissal of Slobodan Praljak, the military commander of Bosnian Croat forces, HVO, and Mate Boban, the then president of the wartime entity of Herceg-Bosna.

The six accused…were senior political and military figures in Herceg-Bosna. They are charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity [and] accused of being part of a “joint criminal enterprise to politically and militarily subjugate, permanently remove and ethnically cleanse Bosnian Muslims and other non-Croats” from parts of Bosnia that was claimed as part of Herceg-Bosna, and “to join these areas as part of a Greater Croatia”.

The indictments says [sic] that others involved in this joint criminal enterprise included the former president of Croatia Franjo Tudman, former Croatian defence minister Gojko Susak, and Mate Boban, who was president of Herceg-Bosna. All three are now deceased.

Earlier in his testimony, Galbraith claimed that during the conflict, Tudjman was just as much the president of the Herceg-Bosna entity as he was of the Republic of Croatia, and had ultimate control of both the HVO and Croatia’s regular army.

…The witness gave a fascinating insight into the mind of Tudjman and his obsession with creating what Galbraith termed “a great greater Croatia” by carving up and appending parts of neighbouring Bosnia.

Tudjman “believed BiH [Bosnia and Hercegovina] could not or should not continue as a sovereign independent state and that a substantial part of Bosnian territory should become territory of Croatia”, Galbraith said.

The Croatian leader never gave up on this obsession, he said, and kept trying to convert him to his way of thinking, despite being aware of the US position that everyone must accept “the borders of the [former Yugoslav] states as they had emerged in 1991”, the year the country imploded.

First to cross-examine Galbraith on his testimony was Praljak, who is conducting his own defence. The former theatre director…commended Galbraith on his “great eloquence”, before demanding to know what information he had that Praljak, as the former leader of the HVO, was “doing bad things”.

Galbraith simply answered, “You were the commander of the HVO.” He then went on to list a catalogue of abuses for which the HVO was allegedly responsible, including the obstruction of humanitarian convoys into Bosnia, the shelling of the east Mostar, the killing of large numbers of Muslim civilians, and the detention of others in inhumane conditions.

“Rapes took place in HVO camps, and you were in charge of this,” he concluded.

What?! You mean the Serbs weren’t the only ones involved in rapes and “concentration camps” (Note the word “detention” camps is used when talking about non-Serb Balkan players.) As for Milosevic’s alleged dream of a “Greater Serbia,” here’s where that conversation ended at the Milosevic trial, during the testimony of defense witness Vojislav Seselj:

Hague transcript, Aug. 25, 2005 —

WITNESS: …the concept of Greater Serbia can by no means be identified with any sort of practice of persecuting Catholic, Muslim, or any other population. In all the proclamations of the freedom-loving Serbian movement, the Serbian Radical Party, and all other parties I’ve led, we keep appealing for the unification of Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim, and all other Serbs. That cannot be linked with the concept of Greater Serbia. Persecution is not in line with the concept of Greater Serbia, but you won’t let me say it. That’s why we insist on including Catholics, Protestants, Muslims into our party and giving them high positions. We are opposing the Vatican policy that appeals to Catholics to declare themselves as Catholics, non-Serbs…

[ICTY’s COUNSEL TO THE DEFENSE STEVEN KAY reads back to prosecutor Geoffrey Nice an opening statement by the prosecution]: “The army, the evidence will be, was no better, it having committed itself to the accused’s programme. Officers being instilled with the ideology of brotherhood and unity totally abandoned everything in favour of a Greater Serbia. They shared the arrogance, did the army, of the civilian leaders and saw no reason to confer.” It did seem that the thrust of the Prosecution case was that there had been a plan by this accused for a Greater Serbia, and there has been cross-examination to that effect…So if concessions are going to be made on the issue, they must be made clearly and frankly and transparently.

JUDGE [PATRICK] ROBINSON: I am fully in agreement with you, Mr. Kay, and I’m going to ask Mr. Nice now if his position is different, then say so…Because I had the clear impression that this was an essential foundation of the Prosecution’s case.

MR. NICE: Your Honour, I’m very sorry about that…Now, I have always made it plain…that the words “Greater Serbia” come from others and not from the accused. What we allege against the accused is that he cleaved to — for his own purposes maybe — a plan to have all Serbs living in one state. That creates a de facto Greater Serbia because the western boundaries, Virovitica-Karlobag line are all the same. But are we saying that he is a proponent personally of an historical Greater Serbia concept? We haven’t said that…

JUDGE ROBINSON: But you’re not saying it was one of the basic foundations that one of the basic ideas prompting the joint criminal enterprise?

MR. NICE: The concept that all Serbs should live in one state is different from the concept of a Greater Serbia as you’ve just heard from this witness…It’s different…Maybe with his being put in the driving seat of movements of others that did espouse Greater Serbia he pursued policies that may have had a similar effect. But have we ever said that that was his driving force, the historical concept of a Greater Serbia; no, we haven’t…

As some ICTY observers have concluded, the decision to add the Bosnia and Croatia indictments to the trial once the prosecution came up empty-handed in the Kosovo indictment was made because of a perception that Milosevic provoked all three conflicts as part of a conspiracy to create a “Greater Serbia.”

A “joint criminal enterprise” was just one of many charges against Milosevic that fell through during the course of the trial that no one covered. A week later, when Seselj testified that Milosevic couldn’t exceed his authority as Serbia’s — and not Yugoslavia’s — president and therefore his acts of omission had to do with the limits of his office, Judge Robinson said that the charges of torture and forced deportation by the Yugoslav National Army had no basis if neither Serbia nor Milosevic controlled the army. Indeed, with his role limited to merely advising and strategizing with the Bosnian Serbs, Milosevic in 1993 convinced the Bosnian Serbs to not attack Srebrenica, enabling the UN to set up a “safe haven” and heading off that offensive by two years.

(Safe haven is in quotes because, as UN General Philippe Morillon testified, he failed to demilitarize it and so the Bosnian Muslims used it as a launching pad for attacks on Serb civilians and soldiers.)

By the beginning of 2006, the court found itself still nowhere close to a conviction, yet acquittal wasn’t an option, since the worldwide riots that would result from such an outcome would make the Mohammad cartoon riots look like a pep rally. Less than three months later, Milosevic himself solved the court’s quandary by dying, after the court denied him further medical treatment.

Meanwhile, Greater Albania chugs along full steam as Kosovo is set to get independence this year, with U.S. support fully behind it.