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Exhumerade kvarlevor av mördade Bosniaker och Kroater i Tomasica
Exhumerade kvarlevor av mördade Bosniaker och Kroater i Tomasica

ICMP( International Commission on Missing Persons ) det organ som har högsta ansvar för utgrävningen av massgravar och identifikation av offren i Bosnien Hercegovina hade i vetat i flera år om att det fanns en massgrav i Tomasica nära Prijedor. Tipsen hade de fått från ett ångerfull serbisk soldat. Två års hårt arbete med att fastställa exakta platsen för massgraven gav resultat i början av september i år. Nu är vi inne på november och utgrävningarna fortsätter. Experter tror att det är det största massgraven i Bosnien med uppemot 700 kroppar, människor som hade dödats våren och sommaren 1992 i Prijedor-området i nordvästra Bosnien. Prijedor är annars synonymt med Omarska Trnopolje och Keraterm. De första koncentrationslägren i Europa efter andra världskriget.

Tre år innan Ratko Mladic beordrade avrättningen av over 8000 Bosniaker i den bosniska staden Srebrenica juli 1995 gick Ed Vulliamy från the Guardian, Penny Marshall från ITN och Ian Williams från Channel 4 genom grindarna av Omarska Trnopolje och Keraterm och in på vad som var just då fullt fungerande Koncentrationsläger, ställen som hade satts upp med avsikten att köra Bosniaker (Bosniska Muslimer) och Kroater ut från nordvästra Bosnien. Fångar i dessa koncentrationsläger kom i huvudsak från två städer, Kozarac och Prjedor men också de omgivande byarna. De var offren för den ”etniska rensningen” en finare omskrivning för den pågående pogromen av icke-serber som tog plats i 70 % av Bosnien Hercegovina. Bland de som hade tagits till dessa ställen var också Prijedors elit, domare, poliser, akademiker och intellektuella, tjänstemän som arbetat inom den offentliga förvaltningen, viktiga affärsmän, och konstnärer.

När en av journalisterna, Ed Vulliamy satte sig för att prata med en av fångarna, i koncentrationslägret Omarska så svarade fången att: ”jag vill inte ljuga men jag kan inte säga sanningen” Sannigen, som skulle komma fram tio år senare under bla rättegången mot Prijedors förre borgmästare Milomir Stakic var att; fångarna i Omarska, men också Trnopolje och Keraterm utsattes för inte bara systematisk misshandel av vakterna där sexuella övergrepp av bade manliga och kvinnliga fångar ingick av utan att många av fångarna avrättades, under rättegången mot Stakic fick man höra vittnesmål om ett stor antal massavrättningar i de olika lägren, varpå kropparna forslades bort med lastbilar och dumpades i gravar som den i Tomasica. Hundratals fångar dödades på så vis.

En av anledningarna till att det har tagit så lång tid att hitta massgraven i Tomasica är att Dayton-avtalet från 1995 som såg till att avsluta kriget såg också till att belöna det politik som ledde till bildandet av lägren som Omarska och Trnopolje, till belägringen av Sarajevo, Gorazde, Zepa och folkmordet i Srebrenica.

Det gav legitimitet till en entitet (Republika Srpska) som skapades i syfte att ge serber i Bosnien ett slags lebensraum. Som sen skulle införlivas i ett av Milosevic ledd Storserbien. För att det skulle ske, var man tvungen att göra sig av med de ”andra” främst Bosniaker och Kroater. Dayton-avtalet gav också mördarna tid och andrum för att sopa igen spåren. Tipset om var massgraven befann sig må ha kommit från en ångerfull ex-soldat men vintern 1996 rapporterade SVT-s Bengt Norberg och Tonchi Percan om att det fanns en massgrav i Tomasica. Det har tagit 18 år för sanningen att se dagens ljus. Dayton-avtalet stoppade den också den då framryckande bosniska armén som befann sig ett antal mil från Prijedor, och därmed förvägrade man offren möjligheten att kunna befria de städer och byar som de hade fördrivits ifrån.

Bengt Norborgs och Tonchi Percans Inslag från SVT Rapport 1996 om Tomasica

Det gav också de som deltog i pogromerna och mördandet en legitimitet som de aldrig hade kunnat drömma om, man skulle kunna säga så här I efter hand att deras handlingar sanktionerades av de som gav sitt stöd till Dayton-avtalet. För trots att rättegångar har hållits både i Haag men också i Bosnien, Tyskland, Österrike, Serbien gällande krigsförbrytelser i Bosnien Hercegovina så har som jag skrev ovan politiken som ledde till folkmord inte bara inte besegrats utan den har legitimerats. Ifall omvärlden är ärlig så kan man inte låtsas vara chockad over situationen för Bosniaker och Kroater i Republika Srpska. Det är egentligen fullständigt logiskt, varför skulle man inte känna sig berättigad till att göra som man vill? Om man leker med tanken att Hitlers expansionistiska politik hade lyckats så är det fullständigt normalt att vänta sig att man hade tillämpat ett passande sätt att beskriva händelseförloppet, dvs det som ledde till ett etnisk ren “lebensraum” I Republika Srpska har i sin tur lett till ett slags kollektiv tystnad och förnekelse, ett närmast schizofren hållning till historien och kriget där man inte pratar om det som skedde samtidigt som man bygger monument till ”serbiska hjältar” bara ett par meter från gamla koncentrationsläger.

Prijedors borgmästare Marko Pavic som tillhör Radovan Karadzic gamla parti, det nationalistiska SDS, deltog i serbiska övertagandet av Prijedor våren 1992 har konsekvent vägrat erkänna att det som hände i staden var ett folkmord och vägrat ge tillstånd till de överlevande och anhöriga att bygga minnesmärken till de som dödades 1992. Över 3000 människor dödades i Prijedor-området, många av dessa var kvinnor och barn. I år så samlades flera hundra aktivister från hela Bosnien i Prijedor för att ge stöd till de anhöriga i deras kamp för att kunna hedra offren. Bland aktivister fanns Bosniaker, Kroater Serber och andra från hela Bosnien, Pavics svar till de var att kalla det hela för ett “simpelt gay-pride parad” ett homofobisk uttalande som gick hem med hans nationalistiska väljare, tanken med det uttalande var att avfärda de anhörigas och aktivisternas ansträngningar för att få rätten att minnas och hedra sina döda i vad som är deras hemstad.

Därför är upptäcken av den största massgraven i Bosnien så monumental, det gör nämligen tystnaden och förnekelsen omöjlig och kan eventuellt leda till att fler och fler öppnar sina ögon och vågar erkänna vad som skedde, däri ligger också nyckeln till Bosniens framtid, nämligen sanningen.

Det bästa exemplet på är just den serbiske soldat som avslöjade exakt vart graven låg, enligt de som letade efter platsen så kom mannen till dem med informationen själv, han ville inte ha pengar det var samvetet som ledde honom till ICMPs undersökare. Enligt undersökarna så ledde ex-soldaten de till graven, ” de enda vi gav honom var ett regnrock då det regnade den dagen i Tomasica” säger ICMP undersökare. ”Han känner sig lättad, hans samvete plågar inte honom lika mycket som det gjorde förr” han plågades av det han såg i Tomasica, enligt undersökarna ska han ha sagt; ”att han kunde inte fatta vad hans folk hade gjort mot Bosniakerna” Hans enda krav var att han förblev anonym. Enligt ex-soldaten så var lokalbefolkningen i området upprörd över det faktum att graven fanns där, för att de visste. De ska ha klagat både under och efter kriget, klagat på liklukten nådde deras hus genom grundvattnet. ”De höll dock tyst om det, de ville inte eller vägrade informera anhöriga till de hundratals offer” som hade mördats kallblodigt under pogromen i nordvästra Bosnien. ”I Tomasica så fanns flertalet av deras gamla grannar, men de ville inte säga nåt och de hade troligtvis aldrig ha sagt nåt” ska ha ex-soldaten sagt.

Man skulle kunna säga att upptäckten av massgraven i Tomasica är kulmen på det aktivism som har förts av offrens anhöriga, det är främst dock ICMPs hårda arbete som ligger bakom upptäckten, men vi som har följt och stöttat( På det sättet vi har kunnat) de anhöriga har inte kunnat komma ifrån det symbolik som finns bakom det faktum att den kultur av förnekelse, tystnad och historierevisionism som finns i nordvästra och östra Bosnien som har stått i vägen för genuin försoning och sprängdes av upptäcken av Tomaisca. Alla undanflykter, alla lögner, all moralrelativism, all förnekelse, alla öppna hån och förolämpningar av både offren och de anhöriga som Bosnienserbiska politiker har kommit med genom åren drunknade i Tomasica. För genuin försoning krävs det ett sann bild av händelserna.

Som jag har skrivit om tidigare så är försoning ett knepigt ord, det är ett mycket laddat ord. När ordet har tillämpats i Bosnien så har de anhöriga till offren för de serbiska pogromen i nordvästra och östra Bosnien frågat; Vilka ska vi försonas med? Vad har vi gjort? Ska vi försonas med Ratko Mladic? Radovan Karadzic? Milan Lukic? Darko Mrdja? Dusan Tadic? Biljana Plavsic? Kvinnan som kallade Bosniaker för ”defekt avkomma” eller att: “de härstammar från genetiskt deformerat material” Ratko Mladic beordrade det största massmordet på europisk mark sedan andra världskriget, ett massaker vars effekter och omfattning nu systematiskt minimneras, med stöd av ett lobby som får finansiellt stöd från officiellt serbisk håll i Republika Srpska samt den serbiska diasporan. Han som befälhavare för det bosnienserbiska armén hade också huvudansvaret för belägringen av Gorazde, Bihac, Zepa och Sarajevo där över 11000 människor dödades under ett period på tre och halv år. Ska vi försonas med de som fördrev oss från våra hem, förde bort våra nära och kära?

Eller ska vi försonas med våra grannar som förnekar att någonting överhuvudtaget skedde, eller att de vet ingenting, har inte sett eller hört någonting trots att de var där på plats, och mördandet skedde i dagsljus, att det var ett systematisk våldsorige som skedde på offentliga platser och med en nästan ritualistisk karaktär. Allt med slutmålet att “tömma” stora delar av Bosnien Hercegovina på icke-serber.

Det som krävs är katarsis, att det serbiska folket inser att de lurades in i ett krig av nationalistiska och opportunistiska ledare som spelade på och spädde på deras rädslor genom att sprida desinformation om deras grannar, medarbetare, vänner, landsmän, för att på så sätt främja sina egna mål.

För att kunna lura det serbiska folket, för att få de att tro att de hade inget chans att överleva utanför ett Jugoslavien som för övrigt i Milosevic hjärna skulle vara styrd från Belgrad och där de övriga republikerna skulle rättas in i led eller straffas, spred man propaganda som såg till att ingjuta en fruktan i det serbiska folket mot de ”andra” ingenstans hade det värre effekt än i Bosnien Hercegovina, som var en stat med anor som går tillbaka till strax innan medeltiden, och där etnicitet och religiös tillhörighet var mindre viktiga, det som var viktigt var gemenskapen, den bosniska gemenskapen och toleransen förgiftades av Milosevic lögner.

Dröm om ett storserbien var viktigare för Milosevic än Jugoslavien eller det faktum att Bosniens secession från jugoslaven skedde under demokratiska former. Effekterna var som bekant katastrofala. Serbiska nationalister och anhängare till Radovan Karadzic gjorde gemensam med serbiska paramilitära grupper, specialförband och det jugoslaviska armén som vällde in över gränsen från Serbien, invasionen och det första folkmordet i Europa sedan andra världskriget var ett faktum.

Utan katarsis så är det svårt att gå vidare, det finns inte tre olika sanningar, en egennyttig floskel som historierevisionister, folkmordsförnekare och Milosevic-apologeter ofta slänger ur sig. Det finns olika uppfattningar så klart. Framförallt så har serbiska nationalister så klart ett avvikande uppfattning. För de är upptäckten av massgraven i Tomasica förödande, ett argument man brukar använda sig av är att för att kunna gå vidare så ska man inte prata om kriget, de säger det just pga av ställen som Tomasica, Srebrenica Crni Vrh i Östra Bosnien där 629 bosniaker exhumerades i början av 2000-talet. De bryr sig självklart inte om det faktum att för de anhöriga som har letat efter sina närmaste, som har väntat i 20 år att få veta, att få ett avslut att kunna begrava sina makar, söner, döttrar, kusiner och andra släktingar som mördades i den våg av systematisk våld som svepte in över Bosnien under den initiala invasionen av landet.

Men nu 18 år efter krigets slut med tusentals böcker skrivna om kriget i forna jugoslaven, undersökningar gjorda av olika humanitära organisationer, rättegångar i Haag, i Serbien i Bosnien, FN-rapporter, tusentals vittnesmål alltifrån de som överlevde folkmordet i Bosnien till ångerfulla bödlar, till dagböcker, dokument från sammanträden där de som förde aggressionen mot Bosnien planerade själva utförandet så är börjar det bli ensamt ifall man är historierevisionist eller folkmordsförnekare.

På det sättet så verkar ju just Tomasica ha haft förödande effekt på de som fortfarande förnekar folkmordet i Bosnien. Det har också stärkt reformistiska krafter i området. De som söker genuin försoning, Srdjan Puhalo känd psykolog och debattör baserad i Banja Luka nära Prijedor skrev ett inlägg på sin blogg under titeln ”Våra Älskade Krigsförbrytare” där han ställde frågan hur är vi som människor? Hurdant är vårt samhälle? Om vi kan hålla tyst i tjugo år om en sådan sak som massgraven i Tomasica. Han tillade också att det var för honom märkligt det serbiska folket, som hade lidit enormt under andra världskriget inte kunde känna empati med varken offren eller de anhöriga. ”Vi är helt enkelt medskyldiga” skrev Puhalo, ”medskyldiga på grund av vår tystnad. Men, krigsbrott kan inte sopas under mattan! Den filosofi som våra ledare och vår ”elit” har tillämpat där om man inte har ett lik så har man inte ett brott funkar inte längre. Detta är 2000-talet”

”Jag kan förstå att medborgare i Prijedor har tusen olika problem, alla har sina bekymmer, men jag kan inte förstå bristen på empati med folk vars nära och kära mördades och som än idag inte vet vart de är begravna. Att så länge hålla tyst om Tomasica visar tydligt att vi som folk och som gemenskap har inte vänt ”våra” krigsförbrytare ryggen eller tagit avstånd från deras handligar och för det ska vi skämmas. Och det finns ingen; men…”

För oss bosniaker och svenskbosnier var upptäckten av massgraven i Tomasica återigen en påminnelse om vad vi alla hade gått igenom. Det var också en påminnelse om vad som hände ungefär samma tid för tio år sen här i Sverige. Nämligen Ordfrontskandalen. Än en anledning till varför Tomasica är så monumentalt viktigt, för tio år sen så såg jag för första gången i Sverige, det jag hade fått se på olika serbiska propagandakanaler, fascistiska och serbnationalistiska bloggar och sajter vars enda mål var att sprida lögner och hat. Jag kunde inte tro att det var sant att det hade hittat ett plats i svensk media. Hjältarna då var som så många gånger förr Ed Vulliamy och Maciej Zaremba. Framförallt Zarembas artiklar i DN och tillsammans med Expressen under titeln : ( Så förvanskar svenska kulturprofiler historien om offren i ex-Jugoslavien ) så påpekade man att de konspirationsteorier, och smörjan av historiska lögner kort sagt krigsförbrytarnas version av historien hade hittat ett plats på sidor av ett respektabel svensk tidskrift.

I sin artikel : ”Ordfront förnekar folkmord på Balkan” belyste Zaremba problematiken i det artikel som Ordfront och Björn Eklund hade valt att publicera. Zaremba pekar på det faktum att i artikeln så till stora delar består av en intervju med amerikanska författarinnan Diane Johnstone så förnekas de systematiska övergrepp som Milosevic-understödda bosnienserbiska styrkor begick mot Bosniens icke-serbiska befolkning. Folkmordet i Srebrenica förnekas, enligt Johnstone så har det inte skett något folkmord i Srebrenica eller Bosnien, utan att det hela är en del av lysande mediakampanj.

Zaremba skriver :

Enligt Ordfront har folkmordet i Bosnien inte ägt rum. I själva verket var bilden ovan, som i augusti 1992 väckte världsopinionen, bara en lysande början på en gigantisk lögnkampanj. I verkligheten finns det inga bevis för organiserad etnisk rensning, systematisk tortyr eller folkmord. Srebrenica? En myt. Ingen vet vad som egentligen hänt. Men måhända var det USA som låg bakom. Man kan inte heller lita på de experter som identifierar benknotorna, de kommer “naturligtvis att tjäna amerikanska intressen”. Massvåldtäkterna? Fanns inte, läser jag. Och Milosevic? “Den största myten av alla är att Milosevic ville eliminera de andra folken genom etnisk rensning. Milosevic ansåg att det var en styrka för Serbien att vara uppbyggt av många nationaliteter.” Så vad är det som pågår i Haag? En Dreyfusaffär, står det, med Slobodan Milosevic som den oskyldigt anklagade. Tribunalen är inte att lita på, ty även den går USA:s intressen. Vi är alla grundligt lurade av USA, förklarar Ordfront, av Nato, av de bosniska muslimerna, av deras pr-firma samt, på ett obestämt men tydligen effektivt sätt, av “den judiska opinionen”.

Skandalen kulminerade med att dåvarande chefsredaktören för Ordfront, Leif Ericsson var tvungen att göra avbön, och medgav att Johnstones berättelse var till stora delar osann, och att hon valde fakta tendensiöst för att kunna styrka sin berättelse. Ericsson skrev så här om Diane Johnstone i Ordfront magasin 1/2004

En stark ideologisk övertygelse tycks kunna göra att man bli oemottaglig för fakta och argument. Övertygelse övergår i dogmatism. Diana Johnstones bok Fools’ Crusade. Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions (2002) startar med en uttalad tes som hon vill styrka, nämligen att Nato:s militära intervention i Jugoslavien från första stund var en avgörande orsak till tragedin. Men Johnstone tillåter inget som kan ifrågasätta tesen. Hon väljer fakta tendentiöst, tesen blir till en dogm. Institutioner och organisationer som kan komma med fakta som strider mot dogmen dömer hon ut på förhand. Till och med obestridliga fakta från till exempel Haagtribunalen underkänns automatiskt. Haagtribunalen är, enligt Johnstone och Edward S. Herman, NATO:s förlängda propagandaarm som skapades som ett led i krigsförberedelserna mot Serbien. OSSE betecknas som en ockupationsmakt. Människorättsorganisationen Human Rights Watch anser de vara komprometterad, rent av en pro-imperialistisk NGO.

Det hela slutade med att Eklund fick gå från Ordfront som en följd av skandalen men också den inre strid inom Ordfront. Björn Eklund själv, men också serbiska nationalister och folkmordsförnekare här i Sverige har försökt utmåla Eklund som offer för en hetsjakt från Expressen och DN, att det pågick en intern diskussion inom Ordfront om Eklunds artikel och hans ihärdiga försvar av densamma kringgår man. Man kringgår det faktum att det var just stora delar av Ordfronts redaktion som revolterade mot det faktum att Eklund hade valt publicera en artikel som förnekade folkmord. Eklund är ett offer för ”etablissemanget” heter det, där om man inte rättar sig efter vad Expressen och DN så får man leta efter annat jobb. Personligen kan jag inte uttala mig om vad det var som ledde till hans avskedande, hur jobbigt det än kan vara så har även folkmordförnekare rätten till att uttrycka sig, däremot så har vi andra rätten att kalla det vid dess rätta namn.

Tyvärr så slutade inte sagan Eklund där, 8 år senare skulle hans namn dyka upp igen i samband med den numera avpolletterade norsk-serbiska propagandafilmen Staden som Offrades. Filmen fällds av både den norska och svenska granskningsnämnden för bristande opartiskhet och för att den förnekade folkmord. Ett rörande enig svensk presskår ansåg att det den svenska allmänheten fick i bästa sändningstid se återanvänd serbnationalistisk propaganda, av den typen man kunde se under Milosevic-åren. ( Läs mer om det här) Däremot så hade filmen sina supportar också, socialdemokratiske kommunpolitikern Krister Kronlid ( Uddevalla) gick ut på både SVT debatt och på sin blogg tillsammans med Drago Drangel, ordförande för någonting som heter Justitia Pax Veritas och försvarade filmen och Eva Hamilton allt för att det enligt honom en mer nyanserad bild av folkmordet i Srebrenica. Av någon outgrundlig anledning så åberopade han Eklunds försvarstal efter ordfrontskandalen: Hans och Drangels artikel kan läsas här. Min dissektion av Kronlids försvar av filmen kan man hitta här och här. Jag rekommenderar också Jonas Paulssons och Alen Musaefendic utmärkta artiklar om ämnet. Dessa kan hittas här och här.

En av de första sakerna jag tänkte på efter upptäckten av massgraven i Tomasica var just Ordfrontskandalen, jag mindes hur det kändes att det som jag hade själv stött på Internet, folk som Nebojsa Malic, en självutnämnd historiker som spred diverse konspirationsteorier genom sin hemsida, eller Carl Savich, Srdja Trifkovic som är en del av Counterjihadrörelsen och som Expo Research skrev om nyligen hade nu hittat en plats i en respektabel svensk tidskrift. Hade detta skett 2013 istället för 2003 så kunde Zaremba och Vulliamy pekat på den 5000 kvadratmeter stora massgraven i Tomasica där man hittills har grävt upp kvarlevor efter 430 Bosniaker och Kroater, många av dem hade mördats på ställen som Omarska och Trnopolje, och begravts där. Skulle man tro Johnstone och Eklund så fanns ingen grav i närheten av koncentrationslägren eftersom inga övergrepp begicks.

Authorities in Visegrad set to destroy a memorial to Pionirska live pyre victims

Photo of the Pionisrka Street, house. Courtesy of Professor David Pettigrew.
Photo of the Pionisrka Street, house. Courtesy of Professor David Pettigrew.

A house in the eastern Bosnian town of Visegrad, in which dozens of people were burned alive by convicted war criminals Milan and Sredoje Lukic is about to be destroyed due to the construction of a road.

On October 12th I wrote an article on the continued struggle of Victims Associations in Visegrad to stop the destruction of the house on Pionirska Street, the site of the live pyre which took the lives of 53 people. Among the victims of the Pionirska Street fire where a seventy-five-year-old woman, six children between the ages of two and four years old, and a two-day-old infant. According to Mujo Fejzic, a Bosniak member of the Visegrad Municipality: “someone has deliberately extended the zone of expropriation by 4-5 meters at the exact place where the house is. Also it is the only house scheduled for destruction.” According to victim´s associations in Bosnia, this is an attempt at physically removing any traces of war crimes committed during the Bosnian War. Sadly the efforts by the Victims Associations have not been successful. On 16th November Al Jazzera Balkans reported that the municipality in the now predominantly Serb town had decided to destroy the house, which is in the middle of re-construction, started by survivors of the Visegrad genocide and Victims Associations.

This article appeared on Aljazzera Balkans on 16th November.

Source : Aljazzera Balkans.

On June 14th 1992 on Pionirska Street in Visegrad 65 people were forced into a basement of a hose. They were told by Milan Lukić and Mitar Vasiljević that they would be safe there, after that the two men proceeded to rob the women old people and children of any and all valuables, such as jewelry and money and then set fire to the house, burning the victims alive. According to the verdict in the trial of Milan and Sredoje Lukic, the two cousins stood by and fired rounds into those who had managed to escape the fire. Two people managed to escape, a mother and her son.

After she ran out of the burning house she just managed to run the short distance between the house and the sewage drain where she hid, it´s across that drain that the municipality plans to build the road. “I fell into the sewage drain; I spent three days and three nights there. My wounds were infected, I just barely managed to pull myself out of there and head to Kosovo Polje neighborhood, Bakira washed me of and gave me a fresh change of clothes.”

Bakiras struggle

Bakira Hasecic president of the Women Victims of War Association is engaged in a legal struggle with municipality in Visegrad. After she had received information that the authorities had decided to extend the construction of the road so that it runs right thru where the remnants of house lie now, Bakira decided to re-build the house, and turn the basement into a memorial to the victims of the live pyre. She received the permission for that from the owner of the house Sumbula Zeba, who now lives in the US.

However despite that, a building inspector in the municipality, Ljiljana Ćiković decided that a building permit was needed and told Bakira Hasecic to stop all the construction on the house and return the house to its previous condition, meaning a ruin. According to Bakira Hasecic, when she tried to explain what had happened in the house, in order to get Ljiljana Ćiković to understand why it was being re-built Mrs Ćiković told Bakira to; “stop with your fairytales” and that she “was sick of listening to them.”

Bakira Hasecic feels it´s strange that the building inspector in the municipality wants her to apply for a building permit given it´s not a question of building a new house, but a re-construction of an already existing property. It´s also odd that the municipality went forward with the expropriation of the property without informing the owner, Sumbula Zeba.

According to Bakira Hasecic; last year on 17th of November the first discussion about the expropriation of the property was held in the municipality. It was agreed upon that if the expropriation was in for the good of the community then, it could go ahead. A portion of the property would be allocated for the building of the road, given that it bypassed the house.

Al Jazeera wanted to hear other side of the story too. In this case the representatives of the municipality and the building inspection.

“We could not reach Ljiljana Ćiković and head of the building inspection in the municipality. Even though a day earlier we were told that they would talk to us about this matter” Mrs Ćiković was apparently away on duty and could not be reached. According to Al Jazzera reporter Vladimir Bobetić; “given that the two people in question could not be reached, they have left a lot of room for speculation about the decision to stop the re-construction of the house on Pionirska Street, and that it could perhaps have to do with reasons other than strictly those concerning urban development.”

For those that survived the live pyre on Pionirska Street, the attempt to destroy the house in which 65 people were set on fire is simply an extension of that crime. “How do I feel? If it wasn´t for my medicine I would implode,” says one witness. On the day on Al Jazeera visited Bakira Hasecic, the work on the house was in still moving forward. Bakira put in windows and curtains; she wanted everyone to know, that life was returning to the house on Pionirska Street.

See also: Bikavac Live Pyre

The Guardian on Milan Lukic : The warlord of Visegrad

BLOODY TRAIL OF BUTCHERY AT THE BRIDGE; Bosnia the secret war. By Ed Vulliamy

Bikavac Live Pyre

Site of Meho Aljic´s house on Bikavac
Meho Aljic´s house on Bikavac, site of the live pyre. The foundation is all that remains of the house.

On the night of 13 June 1992 several Serb paramilitaries, led by Milan Lukic and his cousin Sredoje Lukic herded over 60 Bosniak Muslim civilians into a house on the edge of the town of Visegrad. Among the civilians were a seventy-five-year-old woman, six children between the ages of two and four years old, and a two-day-old infant. After they were forced into the house the Lukic cousins and their followers set the house on fire. 53 people died. Lukic had positioned his men around the house and as those trapped inside the inferno tried to struggle out, Lukic´s men picked them off one by one. Those that did manage to escape the fire were badly burnt. They now live with permanent physical injuries and with the mental anguish that accompanies those who have witnessed and survived the brutality and violence which Milan Lukic and his men inflicted upon them. The survivors were forced to leave family members or neighbors behind as they tried to escape the inferno. See : Pionirska Street Live Pyre

Two weeks later this pattern of mass killing would repeat itself on Bikavac, a Visegrad neighborhood. On the eve of 27 june 1992 Milan Lukic, Mitar Vasiljevic and a group of armed men arrived in several cars at a house in Bikavac. Milan Lukic had learned from the fire in Pionirska Street where he had killed 59 people. What he had learned was that he had could not leave any witnesses. Several people survived the live pyre in Pionirska Street, Lukic was not about to repeat his mistake. According to testimony, Milan Lukic´s cousin, Sredoje was among the men that took part in the mass killing. The car radio was blasting way Serb nationalist music, when Lukic and the armed men entered the house they instructed those inside to stay there. If they did not comply they would be killed. After that Lukic and his men left the house. At around 20.30 they came back and started knocking on the doors of several other houses in the neighborhood. In one of those houses lived Zehra Turjacanin, when the armed men entered the house they instructed the residents to leave, saying that convoy had been organized to take them out of Visegrad and towards Bajina Basta, just across the border in Serbia. According to Turjacanin; when they exited the house she noticed that there were no vehicles to transport them from Bikavac. Instead, the armed men led them, as well as many of their neighbours, to Meho Aljic’s house which was approximately 100 metres away. Zehra Turjacanin and the other women and children were instructed by the armed men to enter the house.

According to Zehra; when she entered Meho Aljic´s house, Milan Lukic pulled her gold her chain off from around her neck. Approximetly 70 Bosniaks ( Bosnian Muslims) were barricaded in Meho Aljic´s house including Zehra and her relatives as well as young mothers with their children and elderly people. The youngest child in the house was one year old. All of the people in the house were civilians. Most of them were refugees that had fled the surrounding villages and sought shelter in Bikavac until they would eventually leave Visegrad via one of the many promised convoy´s that were supposed to take them out of the town. A few local residents from Bikavac were also in the house. Meho Aljic´s house was a “ground floor house.” According to Zehra there was an atmosphere of fear in the house. All the exits had been blocked by heavy furniture and people were sitting on the floor with their backs against the walls. One of the witnesses saw Milan and Sredoje Lukic place a metal garage door against a door to prevent people from leaving.

Once they had barricaded the house Lukic and his men started throwing rocks and firing rounds into the windows, the bullets hit the walls as the people in the house ducked for cover. Subsequently, the armed men threw in grenades which according to Zehra killed several people; they also threw in some form of powder in order to induce mass suffocation. Two witnesses say they noticed Milan and Sredoje Lukic using petrol to set the house on fire. As the fire broke out it spread very quickly. Zehra had known Milan Lukic in her schooldays, Lukic had gone to school with her brother. According to her testimony she heard him saying; “it was time to set fire to us” One of the witnesses, whose house was some 200-300 meters away said that she had never seen a fire that big. Two other witnesses remember the screams of those trapped inside the house, “like the screams of cats” As grenade fragments entered Zehra´s left leg and her clothes began to burn and her skin began to burn she could see other people burning alive, they were “wailing and screaming” shutting her eyes tightly so that they would not burn, she managed to escape through a small opening about 65 centimeters under, or through the window of, the metal garage door, which was blocking the patio door. Touching the door caused severe burns to her arms and hands, leaving them permanently damaged. All the other people in the house burned to death.

After she escaped the burning house she saw Milan Lukic and several armed men laying in the grass, apparently intoxicated. They shouted; “stop” but Zehra kept on running shaking of her burning clothes during the run from Milan and Sredoje Lukic. In their intoxicated state they could not keep up with her. She hid in the nearby Serb neighborhood called Mejdan where she stayed in a ditch of nettles for several hours. She then returned to Bikavac and went to the houses of other Bosniaks, pleading with them to leave. After midnight she went to the house of two of the witnesses and told them that Milan Lukic had had set people on fire in Meho Aljic’s house and pleded with them, telling them of the fate that befell her and the others in the house and that everyone should escape. After having been to three Bosniak houses in Bikavac warning them about Milan Lukic, Zehra, exhausted and with burn marks all over her body went to the local Serb TO-command post ( Territorial Defense) which was in the Bikavac Hotel, she surrendered after warning all the Bosniak families she could. She lied to the two soldiers she encountered telling them she had been in an accident with a gas cylinder at home and that she had burned herself. She was afraid that if she told them the truth they would torture her. Zehra begged the soldiers to shoot her, she as a Bosniak Muslim could not go anywhere in her condition. Going to the command post was her only option. At the command post, a young Serb soldier took pity on her and hid her in a house across the street where four elderly women lived.

The next morning one of the young soldiers sent for a doctor to treat Zehra´s wounds at the house where she was hiding. The doctor and a nurse arrived at the house, gave her an injection and left her some ointment and pills. The serb doctor told her that he could not return nor could he take her to the hospital because she was a Muslim. It wouldn´t be safe for her. Zehra stayed in the house for 11 days while the elderly women tended her wounds with home remedies, such as sour milk. After the news spread that she had survived the fire, Milan Lukic offered a bounty for her, forcing her on the run. She set out on a ten-hour journey on foot to the settlement of Okrugla where she stayed for four days, those that saw her there said that her “condition was horrendous.” After Okrugla she set out five-day journey together with Bosnian defenders from the Podrinje region who had come for the Bosniaks hiding in the forests and villages in the Visegrad area. They travelled on foot, through woods, over hills and roads to Bosnian-controlled territory in Medjedja. One of her fellow travellers testified that Zehra was in severe pain and asked others to scratch her head as she could not do it herself given that her hands had been severely burned. In Medjedja she recived treatment for her wounds, later that summer a video of her while she was being treated for the wounds appeared, showing the gravity of her wounds. One of the witnesses at the trial of Milan Lukic that had seen Zehra in Medjedja descriebed her condition upon arrival:

Her entire face was black, burnt. It was a wound. Both her arms were bandaged, but they were not medical bandages. Those were just makeshift bandages, five or six of them. The wounds were so infected that when I tried to change the bandages and dress her wounds on her, whilst one arm as I took a couple of layers of the bandages I saw maggots coming out. I fainted at the sight of it.

Zehra Turjacanin at the Trial of Milan and Sredoje Lukic in 2008
Zehra Turjacanin at the Trial of Milan and Sredoje Lukic in 2008

In September 2008 Zehra came face to face with Milan Lukic again, at his trial in The Hague, for the first time since he had forced her and around 70 other Bosniaks from Bikavac to enter Meho Aljic´s house. She described “what it felt like to burn alive” She also described the the strange athomsphere in Visegrad in June 1992 as the town and it´s Bosniak inhabitants were being held hostage by serb authorities and at the mercy of one man. According to Turjacanin “fear reigned” in Visegrad. At night, she would watch from her balcony as Bosniak were men being killed on the Visegrad bridge; their bodies thrown into the Drina River. “I am alive. life is beautiful and I want to live it to the full”, Zehra Turjacanin concluded in her evidence at the trial of Milan and Sredoje Lukic. She has spent years in treatment in France, her “new homeland”, where she is trying to forget what happened to her in Bikavac in 1992.

 

See also: THE MEMORY REMAINS. 20 YEARS SINCE THE VISEGRAD GENOCIDE

Finacial Times Magazine: Unforgiven, unforgotten, unresolved: Bosnia 20 years on.

The video of Zehra Turjacanin in Medjedja

Srebrenica Genocide Denier Stephan Karganovic Banned from The Belgrade Book Fair

Stephan Karganovic
Stephan Karganovic

Stephan Karganovic, head of Hague-based (Holland) NGO, The Srebrenica Historical Project is upset because the upcoming Belgrade Book Fair has banned him from promoting his and his associates work at the fair. Mirjana Lukic the chief coordinator for this year´s fair explained the decision to ban Karganovic by saying in a written statement that those participating in the fair should refrain from texts actions that: “might offend people on the basis of religion, nationality, personal and all other rights of the citizens” It is that part that has upset Stephan Karganovic who demands in a written statement that was recently published by several Serbian portals that Mirjana Lukic explains herself, since Karganovic could not possibly see what he or his team might have done wrong at the 2012 Belgrade Book Fair.

Well, while Karganovic might be bewildered by Mirjana Lukic´s decision, for those of us that know the history of Stephan Karganovic and The Srebrenica Historical Project, it´s really not that hard to understand why Mirjana Lukic felt that it was inappropriate that he and his NGO had their own booth at the prestigious Belgrade Book Fair.

Prior to his role as the head of The Srebrenica Historical Project Karganovic mostly known at the Hague as a lawyer a translator and a member of convicted war criminal Momcilo Krajisnik´s defense team. Krajisnik was sentenced to 20 years in prison by the ICTY for crimes against huminty, such as: persecution, deportation, and forced transfer. Krajisnik was once a close associate of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. The two men had founded the Bosnian Serb nationalist Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) together.

One could say that Karganovic´s rise to prominence as a the uncrowned king of the Srebrenica genocide denier lobby coincided with that of the president of the Bosnian entity Republika Srpska Milorad Dodik´s shift from a west-indorsed moderate to a hard-line Serb nationalist, separatist and a Srebrenica genocide denier. At a pre-election rally in Srebrenica, the very site of the massacre, Dodik exclaimed in September 2010, “that genocide did not take place here” “We will not accept claims that what happened here was genocide, because it was not,” Dodik told the mostly Serb crowd in Srebrenica.

In 2011 he announced that he would be setting up a fund in order to help those Bosnian Serbs that were on trial at the ICTY including Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic. He also complimented Karadzic, saying he (Karadzic) ”made mistakes, but should be credited for establishing Republika Srpska. RS was founded because of his courage.” it´s worth adding that both Karadzic and Ratko Mladic are today on trial for crimes commited in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the war of aggression on the country. Both men are facing charges of crimes against humanity and genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Staying true to his form the last few years, Dodik has countiniued to be an outspoken genocide denier most recently, in September of 2012 during an election rally for his party SNSD in yet again in Srebrenica, he stood at the podium and said that he did not believe that what had happened in the very town that he was in, was in fact genocide. In the very same town there 13 years prior Ratko Mladic had stood and proclaimed in front a TV-camera to the world that: “We give this town to the Serb people as a gift, the time has come to take revenge on the Turks in this region”

Ratko Mladic and the Bosnian Serb Army, police and other security forces then proceeded to execute some 8000 Bosniaks ( Bosnian Muslims) of the region, in what was the single biggest massacre on European soil since the Second World War.

Dodik´s ties to Karganovic and his outfit have been known for a long time in Bosnia, but it was in July 2012 that United States Holocaust Memorial Museum ( USHMM) and their Mladic Files published a story about what was for some a revelation and for others common knowledge. Under the title : Wages of Genocide Denial, USHMM showed that Srebrenica Historical Project was engaged in genocide denial and that it had over the course of five years received over 1 million dollars from the government of Republika Srpska:

It turns out that genocide denial has a price tag — and a hefty one at that. Financial records from the Bosnian Serb entity known as Republika Srpska reveal that a Hague-based group of pseudo-experts that calls itself the ”Srebrenica Historical Project” has received more than $1 million from the cash-strapped mini-state over the past five years. Question, and in many cases deny, basic historical facts concerning massacres carried out by Bosnian Serb forces under the command of General Ratko Mladic in July 1995.

An exhaustive international investigation of the Srebrenica events, involving teams of forensic pathologists, DNA specialists, demographic experts, and detectives has established that Bosnian Serb forces murdered around 7,000 Muslim prisoners in a series of massacres between July 12 and July 16, 1995. A further 1,000 or so Muslim men and boys were killed as a result of ambushes and armed clashes as they tried to reach Muslim-controlled territory north of Srebrenica.

What is most alarming about the Srebrenica Historical Project is not that there are people out there claiming that black is white, but that the denial industry is being financed by the Bosnian Serb authorities. A rough analogy might be the German government and parliament voting every year to fund the research of David Irving and other revisionist Holocaust historians.

While I certainly don´t want to deny any rights to Karganovic and rest of the Srebenica genocide denial lobby, nor do I deny them the right to a continued pursuit to spread falsehoods and misrepresentations about the genocide in Srebrenica. However if one were to speculate as to why Mirjana Lukic felt that Stephan Karganovic presence at the Belgrade Book Fair was inappropriate and offensive. Well one might come to the conclusion that it´s precisely because he and rest of the creepy-crawlies of the genocide denial lobby have via various Serb nationalist sites, anonymous websites, anti-Muslim blogs etc, engaged in well, spreading lies, historical revisionism, and trying to shift the blame on what happened in Srebrenica on the victims.

In short, Karganovic and his colleagues have spent a great deal of time and in the case of The Srebrenica Historical Project tax-payers money in trying to spread falsehoods about the genocide in Srebenica. The most offensive part being the fact that money that should be going into education, construction, building roads, clean water etc, is being spent on insulting the victims and survivors and returnees who themselves are by their role as tax-payers in the entity unwillingly contributing to that denial and that the denial is being endorsed by Milorad Dodik, the president of the entity.

There is of course, more to be said about Karganovic, and it has been said in the past. By USHMM, by the authorative Srebrenica Genocide Blog, a site dedicated to disabusing Srebrenica genocide deniers. A few years back they did a thorough dissection of Karganovic´s methods and his listed his shady anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim friends and fellow travellers. What we are seeing now is of course a direct result of Karganovic´s actions. It´ss not really surprising, people like Karganovic, like Robert Faurisson, and like David Irving have a specific audience. It is when their methods are exposed in the cold light of day, that we really see what they are all about. Karganovic has in his efforts to re-write history finally reached the the level of infamy that Faurisson and Irving reached. One could argue that Karganovic, like Ed Hermann and David Peterson have become Milosevic´s Karadzic´s and Mladic´s very own Faurissson and Irving.

As I wrote in the last paragraph, Srebrenica Genocide Blog wrote a thorough dissection of Karganovic´s methods a few years back. It can be accessed here.

In june this year I wrote a comprehensive article about Bosnian genocide denial where I tried to show Karaganovic´s and other deniers methods. the article can be accessed here.

Uppdate : Two weeks ago media outlets in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia reported that authorities in Republika Srpska, one of Bosnia´s two entities, more precisely the Banja Luka Prosecutors Office had started an investigation into the funds received by the Srebrenica Historical Project. Authorities in RS have during a number of years given large sums to the Hague-based NGO and Karganovic has enjoyed open support from amongst others MIlorad Dodik, premier of the entity. According to reports, during the period  from 2008 to today,  authorities in RS had allocated from their budget close a million Euros, more accurately: 970 892.15 Euros. As I wrote above this is tax payer money, which has in this case gone to denying basic facts about the genocide in Srebrenica as well Stephan Karganovic attempts at re-write the history of the Bosnian War and genocide.

 

Milosevic’s motiveless malignancy By: Srđa Popović

srdja-popovic_660x330

This essay was first published in the book “War and Change in the Balkans” (Cambridge University Press, 2006.) It was later re-published by Serbian portal Peščanik.net in 2009. This is the english version. You can find the serbian version here.

By: Srđa Popović Peščanik.net 2009

Throughout the eight years of conflict in the former Yugoslavia, Western, and particularly American policy in the region has been characterized by confusion, wishful thinking, procrastination, evasions and a lack of focus and determination.

The most likely reason for such behavior on the part of the United States may simply have been that, in 1991, Yugoslavia was very low on the State Department’s list of priorities.[1] This was a time of great turmoil in the world. The end of the Cold War, the fall of communism, and the unification of Germany were certainly all events of epochal and global significance that by far outweighed the petty ethnic bickering of Yugoslav leaders. Especially since, at this time, Yugoslavia was considered the most promising candidate, among former communist states, for a smooth transition into both the parliamentary system and an open market economy, as well as integration into European economic and political institutions. Focused on larger global events and confident in Yugoslavia’s capacity for a smooth transition, Western diplomats underestimated the potential of these petty tensions to escalate into violence.

At the time, optimism was rampant; the United States swore by ‘multilateralism’ hoping to engage Russia in the Security Council and work out global problems by consensus. Little was understood, at the time, about the terrible consequences now encountered by people who had spent half a century or more under the rock of communist rule; little understood about the humiliation of the Soviet Union, yesterday’s mighty empire, now pushed into bankruptcy and political disarray. And most tragically of all, the celebratory mood of the West prevented them from recognizing that, despite the fact that the threat of the Soviet Union had disappeared, the United States could not simply disengage from Europe, just as NATO, far from being an obsolete organization, still had a significant role to play. The dangers created by the dissolution of the bipolar world, by a disintegration of the entire balanced field of political forces, were completely ignored. The West also failed to recognize that with the disappearance of the old world order once imposed upon the world by two hegemonies from above, the possibility was created for the emergence of a new ‘order’. This was created from below by small players, newly released from the rigid old structure and now free to settle their accounts with their neighbours.

For the West, and the United States especially, the fall of communism was a positive development – a victory. And so they failed to recognize that from an internal perspective the situation was fraught with instability and hidden dangers. It was for these reasons that the conflict in the former Yugoslavia found the United States, whose first reflex was to leave the problem to the Europeans, unprepared; after all, Yugoslavia was ‘Europe’s backyard’. The United States was busy cutting down on military spending, getting out of the recession, celebrating the end of the Cold War and going through presidential elections.

When Europeans, left without American leadership, turned out to be unable to formulate a common foreign policy towards Yugoslavia, the United States decided to dump the problem on the United Nations – to act only ‘multilaterally’.[2] It seems that, by this time, it was already clear to American policymakers that the United Nations might not be up to the task, and that this move was meant merely to sweep the problem under the UN carpet.[3]

The UN quickly assumed a ‘neutral’ and ‘evenhanded’ position and the whole process came to a dead end while the US pretended not to notice. The US was satisfied with the situation, in which the ‘neutral’ UN peacekeepers acted as self-appointed hostages and prevented any military action. Yet such action was the only thing that could have stopped the blood bath organised by Milošević, first in Croatia and then in Bosnia.

Needless to say, ‘multilateralism’ did not work, as Russia was happy to reinstate itself as a global player and a factor in the international arena. The ‘evenhanded’ stance taken by the UN could not have been effective, as the whole Yugoslav drama was a one-man show run by Milošević. Both the UN and the United States grossly misjudged this man around whom the vortex of violence turned, and this was perhaps the biggest mistake made by the United States, the UN, and the entire international community from the beginning of the Yugoslav conflict. This misjudgment, along with the failure to understand what the nature of the conflict was in the first place, later caused a string of wrong decisions to be made.

The nature of the conflict was perceived from the very beginning, especially in the United States, in ideological terms: Milošević was ‘a Communist’, and Tudjman and Izetbegović were ‘democrats’.

However, at that point in time, what was playing out in Yugoslavia was not about ideology; it was a simple power struggle.

After the death of Tito, who ruled as an absolute dictator, an enormous power vacuum was felt throughout the country. The Presidency which replaced him, and which was supposed to reach its conclusions by consensus, was practically paralyzed. The whole political system had been adapted to revolve around a single figure and a single will. Tito’s authority was not rooted in his institutional post as the president, but in his role as the head of the Communist Party and, even more importantly, in his role as the commander in chief. It had been made obvious during the party purges, especially in the early seventies, that Tito’s main strength had come from the Yugoslav Army.[4] No single member of the Presidency, or, for that matter, all of them put together, could have fulfilled such a role.

The first result of this power struggle was the splintering of the Communist Party into six disparate parties. Since Tito no longer delegated the power from the top, party leaders sought support from below, by casting themselves as representatives of the interests of their respective republics.

Faced with the fall of communism, these six parties started to form alliances mainly along the lines of reformers and hard-line conservatives. Milošević, threatened by aggressive and militant anti-communists and royalists in Serbia, opted for the hard-line conservative option; he soon found himself politically defeated and isolated.

It is important to understand that he did not choose this position as a result of deeply ingrained political belief. Rather, he chose it because he alone realized that this was the best way to secure the real power, which did not belong to the Communist Party but to the highly indoctrinated Yugoslav army.[5]

Thus, although apparently defeated and isolated within Yugoslavia, Milošević still held the trump card: the army. Nobody in Yugoslavia at tile time realised that this power struggle would be resolved by force, except Milošević. He recognised that the political battle was lost, and he was well positioned and prepared for the military battles in which he would be overwhelmingly superior. He made this clear during his famous Gazimestan speech when he masked his pursuit of power with such nationalist rhetoric as ‘us against them’, promising to ‘defend Serbian interests’ and, if necessary, to do so ‘with military means’.

The main effect of the speech was that it generated a great deal of fear, not only among non-Serbs in Yugoslavia, but also among Serbs who suddenly ‘realised’ the ‘gravity’ of the situation and the stakes involved.

Although at this point Milošević had the support of the army, a simple putsch was too risky to undertake as it might have provoked foreign intervention. Milošević lacked two things in order to effectively use the military force at his disposal: institutional control over the army and casus belli (a viable ‘provocation’).

According to the constitution, the commander in chief was the Presidency and, within the Presidency, Milošević controlled only four votes: those of the representatives of Serbia and its puppets, Montenegro, Kosovo and Vojvodina. In order to obtain even these votes, Milošević had to deprive Kosovo and Vojvodina of autonomy, and stage a putsch in Montenegro. But after all this, he still lacked one vote that would enable him to control the army.

Milošević then made a clever and bold move: he pushed Slovenia out of Yugoslavia (true to his double-talk, he accused them of separatism). This move solved both of his problems; without Slovenia he controlled the majority in the Presidency, but even more significantly, he created the casus belli. He knew that Croatia would run for the door the moment Slovenia left Yugoslavia, i.e., the moment Milošević got hold of the army. At this moment, Milošević knew he would be given an opportunity to use the army in order to prevent Croatia from taking the Serbian minority out of Yugoslavia.

Slovenia readily agreed to leave. Milošević’s threats and aggressive rhetoric were already spreading fear throughout the country. The Slovenians were perfectly aware that by jumping out of the boat they would overturn it, but the stakes were too high, and they opted for independence.

Milošević met with Slovenian President Kučan in May 1991. After their meeting they issued a joint statement in which Milošević agreed for Slovenia to leave the Federation and in which Kučan expressed his ‘understanding for the wish of all Serbians to live in a single state’.

The ‘war’ with Slovenia, which lasted ten days and had just a few casualties, was a show; Milošević never intended to hold them back. In a sense, it was just an overture playing the main theme, a foreshadowing of what would ensue if and when Croatia decided to follow the Slovenes. Croatia did follow and Milošević used the army ‘to protect the Serbs’ in Croatia. With the army in play, the potential power he had held in his hands hence became tragically real.

The popular perception in the West that the consequent armed conflict amounted to Milošević’s ‘fight against separatists’ was also false. Borisav Jović, then president of the Presidency and Milošević’s right-hand man testifies in his book Poslednji Dani SFRJ (Last Days of SFRY), about a conversation he had with Milošević in June of 1990: ‘He agrees with the plan to force Slovenia … out of Yugoslavia’.[6]

Milošević and Jović knew that once the Slovenes left, a threatened Croatia would try to follow. Jović also states in his book that Veljko Kadijević, the chief of staff, had the following plan for Slovenia: to ‘respond forcefully … then withdraw … This will boost the Army morale, scare Croatia, and appease the Serbian people.’ [7]

But pushing Slovenia out was not enough. Milošević and his apparatchiks had to be certain that Croatia would follow their script. On 26January 1991, Jović writes in his dairy: ‘The war should be started by Croatia.’ [8] To this end, they devised a plan whereby Croatia would be forced to act, and apparently without provocation from Belgrade. On 25 February 1991 Jović reported on an idea from the chief of staff, Veljko Kadijević: ‘Serbs in Krajina should be encouraged, not publicly but secretly, to secede from Croatia.’ [9] In his own book, Kadijević also boasts of how the JNA ‘fulfilled its tasks of preparing both politically and militarily the Serbs in Croatia’ for war.[10] Quite contrary to perceptions at the time, Milošević did not go to war in order to prevent Croatian secession and the dissolution of Yugoslavia. According to Jović, on 21 January 1991 during a telephone conversation concerning the ongoing crisis, the Croatian representative in the Presidency, Stipe Mesić, informed Jović that Croatia might choose to leave Yugoslavia in response to the threats coming from Belgrade. Jović warns Mesić that he is ‘choosing war’, and promptly informs Milošević of the conversation. Jović describes Milošević’s reaction in the following words: ‘He was exuberant: excellent’.[11]

The West’s tendency to blindly accept Milošević’s claim that he was ‘protecting Yugoslavia from separatists’ is even more difficult to understand in view of the fact that Serbia designed the first separatist constitution as early as 28 September 1990. This was more than a year before 8 October 1991, when Croatia and Slovenia declared independence.

In article 72, Serbia is declared a ‘sovereign and independent’ country, with its own Army, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Bank etc. In article 135, Serbia declared that it was no longer bound by the laws of SFRY. In the spring of 1991, the Serbian parliament enacted a series of its own laws on monetary and fiscal policy, international relations, and customs (all previously regulated by the federal parliament). When reproached by Jović for the separatist content of the Croatian constitution during the 125th session of the Presidency, the Croatian representative Mesić justly replies: ‘We have done exactly the same as Serbia, we just copied your constitution and we knew we would be attacked for doing so’. It is hard to understand how the Western powers, including the United States, could have been confused and blinded for so long by Milošević’s absurd claims that he was just ‘protecting the unity and territorial integrity of Yugoslavia’, when there was so much evidence to the contrary.

Hundreds of books have been written by diplomats, journalists and self-proclaimed experts who have tried to explain all the intricacies, twists and turns, plots and subplots of the Yugoslav war,[12] but the basic script was rather straightforward and simple. The whole prolonged affair boils down to a simple, single event: the moment Milošević secured control of the army. From this moment on, all the republics (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo and, even today, Montenegro and Vojvodina) just wanted to escape Milošević’s jurisdiction and establish a firm international border between themselves and his aggressive, dangerous and unpredictable regime.[13] Even the Serbs from Serbia fled his jurisdiction in hundreds of thousands by emigrating, especially the young and better educated segments of the population. All the events that followed were just a complication of this basic plot — a bunch of sideshows and distractions.

The United States failed to take a clear position from the start. During Secretary of State Baker’s visit to Yugoslavia a few months before the war erupted, the United States took the position that they were in favour of preserving the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia in accordance with the principle of stable borders as expressed in the Helsinki Accords.[14]But, as the United States favoured the reunification of Germany, they were compelled to shift their position to the principle of self-determination.[15] The United States sent mixed signals: they allowed Milošević to hide behind his ‘preserving the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia’, but then encouraged Croatia’s secession as an act of self-determination of the Croatian people.

The misinformed perception that the conflicts were motivated by ideological differences (communist versus democrats), and their ambivalent position in relation to the two different and contradicting principles described above (territorial integrityversus self-determination), made US policy in Yugoslavia both confused and confusing. The United States failed to recognise the simple picture of one man who had gained control of the army by unconstitutional means (the annexation of Kosovo and the putsch in Montenegro) in the power struggle that had erupted after Tito’s death, and who was now determined to use it to defeat his political opponents. Milošević’s control of the army and his readiness to use it set the stage for his one-man show.

Milošević not only wanted the war, but also needed it in order to be able to dictate the agenda. Once he threatened to use force, all of the other participants, including the international community and the United States, merely reacted to his moves. His discouraging success was the result of the obvious fact that the United States had no intention of intervening militarily, and that the Yugoslav Army had overwhelming superiority over the other players within Yugoslavia.

As Milošević was running the whole show, it would have made all the difference had he been properly understood from the very beginning. But, from the very beginning, Milošević’s motives were misinterpreted. The attempts to appease him, to somehow engage him, to apply too much carrot and no stick, to negotiate with him, to ‘help him save face’, and to see the non-existent ‘other side’ of the issues were all steps in the wrong direction.

Not only did these steps do nothing to stop his aggression, but they also actually encouraged it. To be fair, Milošević’s character and personality are both very unusual. In his case, analogies, the favourite tool of diplomats, did not work. This was so because men of Milošević’s personality and character rarely rise to positions of power, except in extraordinary and highly turbulent, revolutionary circumstances.[16] His ‘motiveless malignancy’, to borrow Coleridge’s words, is a rare trait among politicians in normal times, even within the Communist Party through which he rose to power.

It is a pity how rarely diplomats seem to read poets. This type of personality has been described in literature with great clarity and deep understanding:

“The villain, on the other hand, is shown from the beginning as being a malcontent, a person with a general grudge against life and society. In most cases this is comprehensible because the villain has, in fact, been wronged by Nature or Society. [Both of Milošević’s parents committed suicide].

[His] primary satisfaction is the infliction of suffering on others, or the exercise of power over others against their will. [He has] the pleasure of making a timid conventional man become aggressive and criminal … [he] will not let him alone until he consents to murder.

[His actions are] a demonstration … that man does not always require serious motive for deceiving another. [He is] a practical joker … and all practical jokes are anti-social acts. The satisfaction of the practical joker is the look of astonishment on the faces of others when they learn that all the time they were convinced that they were thinking and acting on their own initiative, they were actually the puppets of another’s will.

The success of a practical joker depends upon his accurate estimate of the weakness of others, their ignorance, their social reflexes, their unquestioned presuppositions, their obsessive desires, and even the most harmless practical joke is an expression of the joker’s contempt for those he deceives.

The practical joker despises his victims, but at the same time he envies them because their desires, however childish and mistaken, are real to them, whereas he has no desire which he can call his own.

Yet the professional practical joker is certainly driven like a gambler, to his activity, but the drive is negative, a fear of lacking a concrete self, of being nobody.

[Since his] ultimate goal is nothingness, he must not only destroy others, but himself as well.”

The ‘villain’ described is Iago and the quotations are taken from W. H. Auden’s essay, ‘The Joker in the Pack’.[17] This analysis of a fictional character, written fifty years ago in a literary essay on a Shakespeare tragedy, defines Milošević’s actions, his personality and his motives more accurately than the hundreds of pages that have been written on him by journalists, diplomats and political analysts.

Milošević had recognised the weakness of the Serbian population that was created by the vacuum of national identity they found themselves in after the death of Tito, and he played a morbid practical joke on them. Imposing the kind of strong leadership they had grown used to, he led them to the worst kind of criminal and aggressive behaviour imaginable: genocide. The nationalist card was simply the easiest means to this end.

If we accept Auden’s characterisation of Milošević, we can easily understand that Milošević was neither a communist nor a Serbian nationalist, and that it was impossible to appease him, to deal with him, to bribe him or to shame him. He was able to stay always a step ahead in this political game ruled by interests (including a personal self-interest) and trade-offs, since he had no such interests and no real stake because he was playing with counterfeit money.

Even the more recent conventional wisdom that he was ‘only interested in preserving power’ seems wrong; for Milošević, power was just a tool that enabled him to play his practical jokes. It was evident that he shunned the usual opportunities to enjoy power, such as interviews, public appearances, rallies and ovations, and his supporters, such as his wife, who spoke of him as a ‘very modest man’ and, tellingly, ‘extraterrestrial’ according to Mihalj Kertes, former minister of the interior.[18]His political statements were usually made by others, by the puppets whose movements he controlled like a ventriloquist behind the scenes: his wife, the Academy of Sciences, Šešelj and members of the ‘government’ (the composition of which was shuffled and reshuffled constantly).

Had Milošević been understood earlier, the number of his victims could have been reduced considerably, and less time would have been lost in futile attempts to ‘deal’ with him. The passivity of the US administration was compounded when, as a result of extensive coverage of the Yugoslav war, public criticism of US policy and demands for military action started to mount. Still unwilling to get militarily involved due to the high political cost of such action, the US administration developed an extensive public campaign to fend off critics, which resulted in an elaborate misrepresentation of the Yugoslav conflict.

The administration tried to persuade the American public mat however terrible were the pictures that they watched every evening on CNN, there was ‘nothing that could be done’ because the conflict was a result of ‘centuries of hatred’, that it was driven by ‘blind forces of history’, that it was a ‘problem from hell’, that ‘there are no good guys in that conflict’ and that the only viable strategy was that which is used for forest fires – ‘let it burn itself out’.

Such misguided persuasion was probably a bigger mistake than the one that it was supposed to cover up. Passivity was bad enough, but the explanations given for such passivity, for example, ‘what can you do against the blind forces of history’, were much worse since they played straight into the hands of Milošević, whose propaganda kept repeating the same mantra: the conflict had erupted spontaneously, he had nothing to do with it, Serbia is not at war.

Of course, there was nothing spontaneous about the conflict. Most of the victims were produced by the professionals of the Yugoslav Army, by the Serbian police and by paramilitary groups whom the Serbian police organised, armed and shipped to the frontlines.

It was only in its later stages that the conflict also assumed some traits of a civil war, because it was impossible for civilians to remain neutral. It was at this later stage, roughly after 1992, that members of various ethnic groups flocked together and armed themselves as an act of self-preservation. It was also at this stage that non-Serbs started to retaliate against their Serbian neighbours for the atrocities committed by Milošević’s professionals. Milošević must have been delighted to learn that, according to the State Department, ‘There were no good guys in the conflict’. Being the main culprit, instigator and executioner, he readily agreed on many occasions that ‘all sides are committing atrocities’, thus equating the victims with the aggressors, and appearing to hold an ‘objective’ position at the same time.

Milošević was well aware that the hatred between Serbs on one hand, and the Croats and Bosnians on the other, was not the cause of the conflict, but the result of the brutal and unprovoked crimes perpetrated against the others (especially in Bosnia) by the Serbian side (his Army and his police). He also knew that these crimes were so terrible that they would create enough hatred for the war to be able to perpetuate itself.

Of course he was happy to hear that this hatred was ‘centuries old’. Both the American and Serbian media repeated these mantras from day to day in enormous circulation. Milošević understood this weakness of the American position, and he exploited it to the best of his ability. A great deal of denial still present among Serbs today was caused by the fact that American foreign policy and media emphatically reinforced Milošević’s own propaganda. At the time, this created among the Serbian population a feeling of omnipotence and triumph, for either the Americans were fooled by Milošević, or else the Western powers were, through their inactivity, actually allowing Milošević to get rid of the Muslims, an opinion frequently entertained in Serbia during the war. The State Department’s attempts to justify US passivity by claiming that the conflict was a spontaneous eruption of centuries old hatred had a devastating effect on the course of the war. From an objective point of view, passivity turned into complicity.

This allowed Milošević to retain the initiative right to the end. As Auden wrote of the tragedy of Othello: ‘I cannot think of any other play in which only one character performs personal action – all the deeds are Iago’s – and all the others without exception only exhibit behaviour’.[19]All the deeds were Milošević’s; everybody else just exhibited ‘behaviour’, including the United States.

Even the grand finale, when the United States led the coalition finally into military intervention to stop the genocide in Kosovo, cannot truly be considered anything else than Milošević’s ‘deed’. Richard Holbrooke testifies that during their last encounter, he asked Milošević: ‘Do you realize fully what will come next?’ to which Milošević calmly responded, ‘Yes, you will bomb us.’[20]

The State Department’s ‘behaviour’ can hardly be viewed as taking action in Kosovo; rather, the State Department painted itself into a corner by harsh rhetoric at Rambouillet by threats it hoped would never have to be carried through.[21] Milošević’s resilience when faced with bombing, and his stubbornness during the bombing, again came as a complete surprise to the State Department.

Even at the end of the game, the State Department did not understand that Milošević cared nothing for the suffering inflicted on ‘his own people’ or the destruction of ‘his own country’ and the isolation of Yugoslavia, and that he welcomed this new opportunity for ‘making the timid and conventional man aggressive and criminal’. In one of Milošević’s courts in Valjevo, President Clinton was ‘indicted [in absentia] for war crimes’. However farfetched it may seem, the use of a court to promote Milošević’s political ends fits perfectly with his stubborn character.

Milošević initially profited from the anti-Western sentiment aroused by the bombing of Serbia, as well as from the desperation of his own population plunged .into poverty by the bombing. As for the subsequent isolation, even though it was short lived, it allowed him to settle his accounts with the pro-Western ‘fifth column’ and the ‘traitors’ of the opposition without having to worry about the niceties of human rights and democratic standards. Milošević never cared about losing Kosovo.

So, what could have been done differently? First, the late Yugoslav prime minister, Ante Marković, should have been helped by every possible means to preserve the formal unity of Yugoslavia; even if that meant injecting some of the billions of dollars later spent on interventions, peacekeeping, reconstruction and conferences. Even the offer of blue helmets in the face of the Milošević/Yugoslav Army conspiracy – if it led only to the subsequent dissolution of Yugoslavia – would have prevented the carnage that ensued.

Second, once Croatia and Bosnia carved out their own independent states, and these states were then internationally recognized, they should have been defended by the international community as members of the United Nations exposed to foreign aggressions. Most certainly, it was the duty of all members of the United Nations (including the United States), under the Convention on the Prevention of Genocide, to intervene in Bosnia. The State Department took pains to avoid even whispering the word ‘genocide’ and instead used Milošević’s carefully and cynically calibrated expression ‘ethnic cleansing’ in its place.

A man of Milošević’s profile with a lethal weapon in his hand could have been and should have been stopped as early as possible. This could only be accomplished by superior force. The United States initially declined to act as a world policeman and then chose to do so at an inappropriate moment, which was at a great cost and done hesitantly and messily. It attacked a sovereign state and interfered with its internal affairs. Of course, it had to be done, but it was done much too late, improperly, and even then half-heartedly, on Milošević’s own terms.

In the end, it required considerable international pressure, and a public divide between the late Prime Minister Zoran Djindjić and President Koštunica to force Milošević out of Serbia to the Hague where he died, while on trial accused of crimes against humanity in Kosovo, Bosnia and Croatia. Indignant, until the end, he prepared his own defence and challenged the legitimacy of the Tribunal. Although he died before justice could be served, the ‘malcontent’ did finally reach the dock.

“War and Change in the Balkans”, Brad K.Blitz, Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Peščanik.net, 11.03.2009.

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[1] See Warren Zimmermann, Origins of a Catastrophe, New York: New York Times Books, 1996. This book is especially valuable given his longstanding relationship with Milošević.

[2] See Mark Thompson, Paper House: The Ending of Yugoslavia, New York: Pantheon Books, 1994.

[3] For a scathing attack on the European Community’s actions and the effects of the US handover to the United Nations, see also Mark Almond,Europe’s Backyard War: The War in the Balkans, London: Heinemann, 1994.

[4] See James Gow, Legitimacy and the Military: The Yugoslav Crisis, London: Pinter; New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992.

[5] For an excellent analysis of the decay of the Titoist political system in the 1980s, focusing on the increasing concentration of legitimacy at the republican level, and on the counter-productive attempts of the Yugoslav Army to restore the legitimacy of the federal regime, see Gow, Legitimacy and the Military.

[6] Borisav Jović, Poslednji dani SFRJ, Belgrade: Politika, 1995, p. 161.

[7] Ibid., p. 349.

[8] Ibid., p. 263.

[9] Ibid., p. 277.

[10] Veljko Kadijević, Moje vidjenje raspada, Belgrade: Politika, 1993, p.128.

[11] Jović,Poslednji,pp. 256-7.

[12] See, for example, Robert Thomas, Serbiaunder Milošević: Politics in the 1990s -How Milošević Won and Exercised Power, London: Hurst & Company, 1999.

[13] See Branka Magas and Ivo Zanić (eds.), The War in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina 1991-1995, London: The Bosnian Institute/Frank Cass, 2001.

[14] Baker, 1995.

[15] For an account of the end of the Cold War from the perspective of the then secretary of state, see James Addison Baker and Thomas M. DeFrank,The Politics of Diplomacy: Revolution, War, and Peace, 1989-1992, New York: Putnam, 1995.

[16] Adam LeBor’s Milošević: A Biography contains several interviews with the Milošević family and inner circle. It presents an image of cold, calculated determination on the part of both Milošević and his wife, Mirjana Marković, who was herself arrested in 2001 and charged with abuse of office before a Serbian court in 2003.

[17] W. H. Auden, The Dyer’s Hand, Random House: New York, 1967.

[18] Mihalj Kertes, a former interior minister and head of the Yugoslav customs, was central to the logistics of the Serb wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. He helped funnel the arms, equipment and money to the Serb militias and paramilitaries in Croatia and Bosnia in the run-up to the 1991-95 wars.

[19] Auden,Dyer’s Hand.

[20] See Richard Holbrooke, To End a War, New York: Random House 1998.

[21] Peter J. Boyer, ‘General Clark’s battles’, The New Yorker, 17 November 2003. This article documents the Clinton administration’s reluctance to intervene until it was absolutely unavoidable, as well as their mistaken view of Milošević.