Bihać Couldn´t Have Been Another Srebrenica

Bihać

Last weekend Croatia celebrated the 22 anniversary of Operation Storm which took place during the first week of august 1995 and which liberated a large part of Croatian territory seized by units of then co-called ”SAO Krajina”.

That august 1995, along with Operation Storm on the other side of the border units of the Bosnian Army´s 5th Corps liberated Bihać and surrounding areas after three and a half years of siege and occupation. The following two months the Bosnian Army´s 5th Corps would go on an unstoppable offensive in towards south central Bosnia and Hercegovina and along link up with other units of Bosnian Army to liberate several towns and large swaths of land.

Croatia´s political leadership has in the last couple of days, more so then before pointed to the alleged Croatian role in liberating Bihać and thus supposedly avoiding a new Srebrenica. Certainly one of the main reasons for this is the fact that at the end of this year the ICTY´s appeal verdict against the Herceg-Bosna Six for their role in the Joint Criminal Enterprise in Hecegovina and central Bosnia is due. The verdict is almost certain to be identical to the first verdict.

The Croatian premier Andrej Plenković and Miroslav Tuđman (son of late Franjo) have given almost identical statements regarding Bihać: ”Operation Storm helped prevent a new Srebrenica in Bihać”.

It´s no wonder that the Croatian premier Plenković, who spent most of the war in the relative comfort and safety of European capitals and Brussels would say something like that. But, Miroslav Tuđman is familiar with this topic, and yet claims that it was the ”cries of the people of Bihać” that lead to the decision to ”help”. After three and a half years of bloody siege of the Bihać Krajina in which the surrounded Bosnian Army successfully defended itself and managed to mount offensives. Today they are forced to listen to sympathy and lessons from Croatia.

After constant battles in the spring and summer of 1994 the 5th Corps managed to push the Serb Army some 250 square kilometers to the east, and then proceeded to rout and capture almost all of Fikret Abdić´s units. After which the Serbs mounted two powerful counteroffensives; “Štit” and “Pauk”. (Shield and Spider) After bloody and vicious fighting those offensives failed to bring about any significant gains for the Serb Army. It´s was obvious that the Krajina Serbs commanded by Knin and Bosnian Serbs along with units from Serbia couldn´t bring about the fall of Bihać and that they were on the brink of defeat. Miroslav Tuđman knows that the Croatian Army´s and HVO´s offensive began after the Bosnian Army had cut down the Serb offensives on Bihać. Constant battles between the Bosnian Army´s 5th Corps and Bosnian Serb Army, Army of the Serbian Krajina (Croatian Serbs) and numerous units from Serbia with a body count numbering over nine thousand on both sides speaks volumes about who liberated Bihać and destroyed the units of Republika Srpska Krajina and Mladić´s Bosnian Serbs.

Lieutenant General Atif Dudaković, commander of the Bosnian Army´s 5th Corps along with Izet Nanić, commander of the legendary 505th Brigade of the 5th Corps.

There are similarities in the way Bihać was treated by both Milošević and Tuđman (Franjo), along with the question how was it possible that Fikret Abdić could be a serf to both Milošević and Tuđman. And how his forces were always part of the units attacking Bihać and the 5th Corps? It could be said that Abdić was more of a Croatian player then a Serb one. The public in Bosnia and Hercegovina found out about that through transcripts of Tuđman´s meetings. During a meeting with general Janko Bobetko on 22nd of November 1993 Tuđman confirmed his relationship with Abdić : ”We have an agreement with Abdić that if or rather when the split happens “Western Bosnia” becomes an integral part of Croatia.”

The size and scope of the Serbo-Croat cooperation against the people of Bihać Krajina is confirmed by the signatures on the joint statement by Fikret Abdić and Mate Boban in the presence of Franjo Tuđman and the ”Declaration” with Abdić and Karadžić  in the presence of Milošević the following day, on October 22nd 1993.

In that context lay also perhaps the seeds of the tragedy in Srebrenica? Genocide came to Srebrenica gradually, and the horror began to unfold in the spring of 1993. That´s when the Serb offensive started, led by Ratko Mladić and aided by units from Serbia. The large territory that had previously been liberated was reduced to a small enclave under the protection of the international community. Bosnian Army units in Srebrenica were running out of ammunition. While the area around Srebrenica was falling due to the Serb offensive and the people were retreating to Srebrenica itself, a large convoy consisting of 25 trucks full of weapons meant for the Bosnian Army was waiting in Grude from the end of February until the end of March, all the while units of the Bosnian Army in Srebenica were running out of ammunition.

People in Tuzla were waiting in vain for the convoy from Grude in order to help the beleaguered defenders of Podrinje. ( Drina Valley) President Alija Izetbegović himself traveled to Zagreb and pleaded with Tuđman to let the convoy pass. That meeting too is among the Tuđman transcripts. Izetbegović is asking for help while the Croats in return for allowing the arms shipment to pass want the relocation of the ammunition factory Igman from the Bosnian town of Konjic to Croatia. Tuđman´s defense secretary Gojko Šušak tells president Izetbegović: ”Alija, in Zagreb you have five planes ( full of weapons) waiting to be delivered and three more are on the way. Until we fully settle the matter of the relocation of ”Igman” I am not sending you a single bullet”.

And not a single bullet did pass to the Bosnian Army and the convoy in Grude just disappeared.

American diplomats noticed that Croatia was taking 50 % of the arms shipments for the Bosnian Army and that the Croats in Hercegovina were then taking their part, thus leaving scraps for the ARBiH. On January 1993 the HVO´s finacial department ordered a full stop on arms shipments to the Bosnian Army. German human rights activist Tilman Zülch was warning about the ”Croatian embargo” on arms shipments to Bosnia. That fully summarized Franjo Tuđman´s attitude towards Bosnia and Hercegovina.

At the hight of the worst Serb offensives on Krajina, small amounts of wepons were able to get through to Bihać, mostly from Zenica using a risky method of transport, by helicopter. Maybe Bihać was destened to become a another Srebrenica, but the expectations of some people were dashed by the heroism of the people of Krajina.

Croat intentions in Bosnia and Hercegovina are also laid bare in numerous documents by foreign diplomats serving in Bosnia. At that time the Serb army had reached a breaking point and was falling apart under the weight of the Bosnian and Croatian offensive meaning that the two armies stood at the gates of Banja Luka but the final push was stopped due to pressure from international community exclusively because it believed that there was a very real danger that the Croatian Army would not pull out of Banja Luka after the liberation and relinquish control to the legitimate military and civilian authorities of the Republic of Bosnia and Hercegovina.

When it comes to the lifting of the siege of Bihać, the role of the Croatian Army should not be overlooked, however no one has the right, and no one should allow themselves to succumb to the idea that Croatia should take credit for lifting of the siege of Bihać while overlooking the role of the Bosnian Army. Bihać was unfortunately in part a victim of a policy that to this day tries to present itself as a savior.

This article was originally published in Bosnian on August 7th 2017 on the website of the Bosnian news agency Patria

Dragan Lukač Seen Abusing a Prisoner Before Execution

Dragan Lukač (top left) with the prisoner (screencap)
Dragan Lukač (top left) with the prisoner (screencap)

Last Thursday, two of Bosnia and Herzegovina´s most prominent publications/news-sites: Faktor and Slobodna Bosna revealed the news that the current Minister of the Interior of RS ( Republika Srpska enitity) Dragan Lukač was caught on tape abusing a captured, young Bosnian soldier who was later on Dragan Lukač´s order taken away and killed by another Serb soldier, (the young soldider was brutally executed with a bayonet).

According to Faktor and Slobodna Bosna: On the footage released you can clearly see Dragan Lukač, then commander of the Banja Luka detachment of the “special brigade of Republika Srpska Police”. Lukač and rest of the Serb soldiers on the tape are seen physically and verbally abusing the captured young soldier whose name was Nedžad Dizdarević. The young soldier was forced to wear a fez and after a couple of questions the visibly terrified young soldier was taken away on Dragan Lukač´s order. On the footage you can see Lukač telling the others to “take him away”. Dizdarević was later killed by a one Pavle Gajić from Ključ. Gajić admitted to killing Nedžad Dizdarević during his war crimes trial in 2011. According to Faktor; the Bosnian Court sentenced Gajić to seven years in prison for the brutal murder of Dizdarević a member of the Bosnian Army from the Bihać area. Gajić was sentenced in June 2011 after a plea bargain where he admitted to murdering Dizdarević.

Gajić admitted that he had as a member of Bosnian Serb rebel army unit “Orlovi Grmeča” (The Eagles of Grmeč) in November 1994 in a neighbourhood called Sokolac (Bihać municipality) killed the young soldier using a bayonet. According to the presiding judge Vesna Jesenković; the video evidence as well as witness testimony confirm that on the 24th of November 1994 Gajić killed the visibly frightened prisoner; Nedžad Dizdarević  by slicing his throat with a bayonet. Nedžad Dizdarević, a native of Velika Kladuša was only 22 years old when he was brutally murdered by Pavle Gajić. According to Slobodna Bosna, one of the reasons for the low sentence of only seven years for the brutal murder was partly due to admittence of guilt, as well as other extenuating circumstances which have raised eyebrows since the news broke. According to the court, his invalid status, Gajić´s personal family situation, as well as his uneplyoment  were taken into account at the time of sentencing, while another news-site published a more detailed description of Dizdarević´s execution in the form of and excerpt from the verdict.

According to court records, after the Serb takeover of Sokolac, Dizdarević who was captured during the attack was taken to a spot near the village mosque where a large number of Serb soldiers had gathered, they had heard over the radio that someone had been captured and they “wanted to talk to him”. As seen on the footage, after the abuse and the “questioning”  Lukač told the others to take him away. Dizdarević´s throat was slit, which killed him,  afterwards several Serb soldiers fired their guns into his dead body, leaving wounds of his face, head and neck.

The Bihać enclave found itself under a vicious three way, three-and-a-half-year siege, in part by the VRS (Bosnian Serb Rebel Army), the forces of the Republic of Sebian Krajina (Rebel Croatian Serbs) as well the quisling followers of Slobodan Milošević ´s puppet and convicted war criminal, Fikret Abdić later on during the war. But the citizens of Bihać, Cazin and Bužim, the three towns affected by the s siege, managed to hold on, along with refugees from towns in North West Bosnia that had been “ethnically cleansed” by Radovan Karadžić´s Bosnian Serb extremists.

As I´ve written on this blog before; Lukač and the RS Ministry of the Interior are seen by independent observers in Bosnia and Herzegovina to be in essence acting as Milorad Dodik´s Preatorian Guard. In fact, at the beginning of the year Lukač held a press conference in Banja Luka where he accused an independent journalist and blogger Slobodan Vaskovič  of trying to destroy the entity’s institutions. “For years, Slobodan Vaskovič  with his blog has been calling for the destruction and undermining of the institutions of Republika Srpska, especially the Ministry of Interior,” Lukač told the press that day.

The bizarre notion, that a blogger can “destroy the institutions of RS” shows the conspiratorial nature and the volatility of the Dodik-regime and his aides. Vaskovič has not made his feelings about the RS government a secret, regularly calling it a criminal organisation on his blog which is more or less exclusively dedicated to documenting the malfeasance and criminal activity of the leading politicos in RS.

Vaskovič fired back instantly, accusing Lukač of war crimes, including the murder of a young Bosniak in Bihać in 1992, a one Jasmin Kajtazović. At the time I honestly didn´t think much about it, sadly Vaskovič  didn´t offer any proof and his blog post was more of a rant where  Vaskovič  accused Dragan Lukač of Jasmin Kajtazović´s murder and tried to chip away at Lukač´s image as a Serb strongman by saying that he had spent a large part of the war on the other side, i.e. Bosnian Army and various militias, that he met regularly with Hamdija Abdić-Tigar, one of the Bosnian Army commanders in Bihać and that it was the murder of Jasmin Kajtazović that led to his transfer to Serb-held territory, according to Vaskovič; he was transferred in order to avoid retaliation for Jasmin Kajtazović´s murder.

The problem with Vaskovič ´s claims is that he offers very little proof, and there is nothing out of the ordinary about former soldiers meeting each other, even soldiers that served on opposite sides, it happens all the time, even in Bosnia. Unfortunatly for Vaskovič he still mostly known in Bosnia for a tape that surficed in 2011 showing what he himself did during the war. That being said, if one is to treat Vaskovič with some benevolence,  the video of Lukač ordering the young soldier to be “taken away” shortly before he had his throat slit gives some weight to his claims about Kajtazović. Vaskovič, as a veteran journalist also probably knows more about  Lukač´s past then he´s willing to share in a blogpost and should the day come and Dragan Lukač finally brought before a Bosnian court whatever Vaskovič knows about him might be useful.

However as Bosnian writer Amila Kahrović – Posavljak points out for Tacno.net, Dragan Lukač may never see his day in court, that´s in part due to the state of the Bosnian society as a whole, a society that has decided to tolerate the results of the heinous mass atrocities of the 1990´s. To her Dragan Lukač is a symbol of the criminal policy of ethnic cleansing and genocide of the 1990´s. A policy which as she points out led to the birth and consolidation (thru Dayton) of Republika Srpska. Kahrović – Posavljak also points that since its formation at the beginning of the 90´s MUP RS has only served one purpose; ethnic cleansing and genocide or it´s legalization. “The Ministry of the Interior” starting in the early 90´s worked together with Serb paramilitary units like Vojislav Šešelj´s White Eagels or Sima´s Chetniks. A lot of times the groups were subordinate to the MUP RS.

As Kahrović – Posavljak points out: “MUP RS reached the pinnacle of its existence in July 1995 with  genocide in Srebrenica. Verdicts at the ICTY have also legally established the role of MUP RS in the conflict. The campaign of the 90´s has continued into this century with members of MUP RS showing up at the doorstep of returnees, under the pretence of seeing if the people registered at those homes were the ones really living there, all that continued until SNSD (Milorad Dodik´s party) got what it wanted, a new law which seeks to finish the ethnic cleansing of the 90´s. This is just one of many examples. MUP RS never gave up on its wartime “legacy” but instead has continued with the same ideological platform.”

The other side of the story according to Kahrović – Posavljak is the silence of Sarajevo, above all the fighters for human rights, the cultural elite, and the BiH Prosecutor´s Office.  As she rightly points out had this footage, the footage of a minister taking part in the murder showed up anywhere else in the world, that minister would along with the entire government that protects him, and the prosecutors that remain silent be removed. But as Kahrović – Posavljak says; in Bosnia none of that will happen, simply because the ideology of Republika Srpska has happily come togheter with Sarajevo´s  Bosniak political elite.

Dragan Lukac
Dragan Lukač

However, for Kahrović – Posavljak the saddest role here is played by activists in Sarajevo. According to her; easily recognizable by their concern for the fate of the Canadian squirrel, the lack of parking space for bycilces in Sarajevo and the fact that women don´t have the same rights as men in Papua New Guiana and Afghanistan. As she says; “they´ll happily keep tabs on Aleksandar Vučić´s idiotic statements in the media, or the appointment of ministers in Croatia, but they´ll somehow miss that the Minister of the Interior of RS has taken part in a war crime. Is their silence based on the fact that it´s not that fancy to talk, make appeals, protest or seek immediate removal from office? Or is it that pointing out the war crime of a minister in the RS goverment is uncool and won´t lead to reconciliation and all the other cool stuff which lead to even cooler grants. All that remains unknown….”

Kahrović – Posavljak ends by rightly pointing out that Republika Srpska is abundantly clear when it comes to what they want. The reaction of unofficial and official Sarajevo, the NGO sector as well as the government leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth, because it shows a willingness to accept war crimes. As well as the fact that Banja Luka, as well as Mostar have been written out of the sphere of interest, and aside from that when a crime (along with the silence of the moral watchdogs) can act as means to an end, that means a compromise with fascism, something which all of them are fighting against, at least on paper.

Bosnia and Herzegovina hit by more heavy rain and flooding

Zeljezno Polje Photo: Tim Clancy
Zeljezno Polje Photo: Tim Clancy

Last May´s heavy rains caused some of the worst flooding in over a century in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia. Aside from the tragic loss of life damage done to the infrastructure was estimated to be in the billions. Sadly more floods have now hit the region. with both Bosnia and Serbia affected.

According to Balkan Insight :

One man was reported to have drowned in Banja Koviljaca in Serbia in the basement of his home on Tuesday, the Serbian daily newspaper Blic reported.

Many other homes, buildings and streets were flooded in the Loznica area of western Serbia. Extremely poor weather in central and west Serbia brought heavy rain to Kragujevac, Cacak, Ivanjica and Priboj while landslides were said to be active around Mali Zvornik in the west.

In Bosnia, the situation has was worst in the northern Tuzla region and around Zenica, Doboj, Banja Luka and Zvornik, where local rivers have burst and flooded dozens of houses.

Reports said that in the area of town of Lukavac, near Tuzla, around a hundred houses were flooded and that landslides had been recorded. Many local roads were blocked.

Flooding in Lukavac near Tuzla:

One of the places worst hit by last May´s flooding was Zeljezno Polje in central Bosnia. Those living there were still in the process of rebuilding from the May flooding when a the floods hit again. Tim Clancy who was in Zeljezno Polje yesterday has allowed me to post his Facebook flood update from yesterday. I will try to keep this post updated as the news from the affected areas comes in.

Tim Clancy:

FLOOD UPDATE – CRITICAL: Just got back from Zeljezno Polje where torrential rains have created serious flooding, damaged roads further, and caused even more landslides. People are fleeing the area in enough numbers to cause alarm. We evacuated one family living in a tent in the mud stricken valley. The temporary bridges that act as a lifeline to the upper villages are in serious danger of being washed away again. At one critical spot there was only a few centimeters left before the river spilled over the small, makeshift overpass.Double whammy – my guess is most will try to flee towards the main valley to the M-17. If that overpass goes and the landslides continue – a lot of people could hypothetically be stuck, quite literally, between a rock and a hard place. The only place left to go would be the high mountain road towards Begov Han. The same place these poor folks fled to when the devastating landslides hit in May.Terra Dinarica and Postive Pozitivna igra / Positive Play have contacted the GSS (Mountain Rescue Service) from Zavidovici and they have fully mobilized – they are just waiting for the green light from Civil Protection Force (God help us).We tried to evacuate the family to safety in Zepce but were stopped by what we thought was an accident. We were just informed by a friend that it was another landslide that has blocked the M-17 near Zepce. As we headed back to Sarajevo we saw the major landslide in Nemila on the M-17 looking pretty unstable. We got a call ten minutes later from the UN that the landslide in Nemila has blocked the M-17 road entirely. Neither of these are confirmed.It’s gonna be a long night in Zeljezno Polje. Let’s hope some help is in site. This post is not meant to press the panic button – but to bring attention to the situation so it can be dealt with in an adequate and timely manner – which could save lives. Better safe than sorry.

The trouble with John: Marko Attila Hoare on John Schindler´s Bosnia Genocide Denial

By now many of you have presumably heard or seen something about last week´s story about John Schindler, a professor at a US Naval War Collage who had sent pictures of his penis to a fan girl. Gawker, Daily Mail and ABC reported on it as well a flurry of comment on Twitter and other social media outlets. While it´s no crime for consenting adults to send each other pictures of their genitalia despite the fact that some might find it yucky/disgusting the subsequent reactions on Twitter did shine a harsh spot light on John Schindler´s behaviour on Twitter where he according to techdirt.com “constantly berets anyone who questions his claims, calling them “stupid” and refusing to advance the argument past endless appeals to his own authority  (the aforementioned PhD).” according to techdirt.com someone had taken notice of Schindler´s tactic’s and crafted a Tumblr blog with some of John Schindler´s greatest hits called “Schindler tweets” and while one must admit that screen caps of Schindler´s feeble attacks on those who question his claims are funny and very telling of the man´s inability to engage in proper debate it´s not nearly as funny as the fact that he had claimed that the blog, which only contains his own tweets is in fact; defamatory, in other words: John Schindler thinks that his own tweets are defamatory if used by someone else. Despite the fact that it´s simply his own words being imbedded in a blog.

In fairness to Schindler, few days after he had been put on leave by the Naval War Collage, pending an investigation by the NWR, he wrote a Mea Culpa on his blog saying that he had reviewed his “Twitter history” and “that  far too often he had been rude and dismissive of other people´s views” while one can wonder if his Mea Culpa is genuine or simply a response to being put on leave it did not stop his critics from pointing out Schindler´s  tendency to make strange unsubstantiated  claims, including a foray into Wikileaks/Snowden conspiracy theories as well as verbally abusing his opponents.

However his online antics pale in comparison to what came few days after the story broke about Schindler´s “penis pic” To those familiar with the Balkans it did not come as any surprise but it did further put into question John Schindler´s intellectual honesty or lack of it. A damning review of a book he had written on Bosnia, by British historian and Balkan Expert Marko Attila Hoare in which Hoare thru his in-depth knowledge of the region and the war as well as the subsequent genocide that took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina further showed that Schindler´s foray into conspiracy theories (see above) were not an accident and the level of the deception and revisionism he engages in is simply breath-taking.

The review started to circulate on Twitter and other social media due to the attention Schindler´s other antics had drawn and needless to say raised a few eyebrows. I contacted Dr Hoare and asked him for permission to re-publish his review and he agreed, what follows below is  Marko Attila Hoare´s full review of three books, including John Schindler´s. I spoke to Dr Hoare and he confirmed that John Schindler has never been able to answer to Hoare´s criticism despite the review being published in back in 2008.

 

Christopher Deliso, John R. Schindler and Shaul Shay on al-Qaeda in Bosnia

(This article was published in Democratiya, May 2008)

By Marko Attila Hoare

The role of al-Qa’ida and the foreign mujahedin in the wars in the former Yugoslavia of the 1990s remains controversial, but the controversy is not over whether the phenomenon was a positive one or not. Reading some of the coverage of the subject, one might be forgiven for thinking that the wars fought in Bosnia and Kosova were merely individual fronts in something much bigger: the global struggle between the warriors and opponents of radical Islam. Yet as is so often the case, it is the smaller, local struggle that is more bitter and protracted than the global one, and that inspires the greater loyalty and commitment. The recently published books by John R. Schindler and Christopher Deliso, Unholy terror: Bosnia, al-Qa’ida, and the rise of global jihad and The coming Balkan caliphate: The threat of radical Islam to Europe and the West respectively, are really books about the Balkans more than about radical Islam; and it is the rights and wrongs of the Balkan conflicts, more than the threat posed by radical Islam, that motivate the authors. Schindler and Deliso share a hostility to Islam and to the politics of Western liberal interventionism which goes far beyond any mere concern with the alleged Islamist threat in the Balkans.

Deliso’s thesis of a ‘coming Balkan caliphate’ embraces Bosnia, Albania, Kosova, Macedonia and Turkey. Deliso’s animosity in particular is directed against the Albanians, and he faithfully upholds anti-Albanian stereotypes popular among the Balkan Christian peoples. He writes of ‘the opportunism they [the Kosovo Albanians] have shown in siding at various times with the Turks, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Mussolini, Hitler, and, most recently, NATO’ (p. 51), thereby repeating the myth popular among Serbian nationalists, of the Albanians as stooges of repeated foreign invaders, though the Kosova Albanians’ record in this regard is absolutely no worse than that of other Balkan peoples. He attributes the emigration of Serbs from Kosova in the decades before 1999 to the fact that they were fleeing ‘from a culturally and socially incompatible land dominated by clan-based Muslim Albanians’ (p. 37). He complains of the high birthrate of the Balkan Muslims, writing ‘it seems that Muslims, already outright majorities in some countries and political “kingmaker” minorities in others, are still expanding and will thus continue to enjoy all of the political, social, and economic benefits that this position entails.’ And while Deliso recognises that the Balkan Muslim birthrate may eventually fall, he fears that ‘these processes take considerable time and may take effect only after it is “too late” for the Christian populations to avoid returning to their Ottoman status – that is, second class citizens in their own countries.’ (p. 113). Deliso also complains about mosques being too noisy, on account of the call to prayer from the minaret: ‘Although it is not terribly politically correct, the term “sonic cleansing” is an apt one to describe the process by which aggressively visible and audible Islam gradually grinds away at non-Muslims, who gradually move out of what become, essentially, ghettoes by choice.’ (p. 86) shay2

Deliso makes many sweeping statements about the dangers allegedly posed by the Balkan Muslim peoples, which are then refuted by his own account. Hence, he writes that ‘the most fundamentally surreal dimension of the West’s Balkan misadventures must be that specific policies have directly benefited Islamic fundamentalism, as attested by the Western support for Muslim-dominated secessionist movements and paramilitaries with demonstrable ties to terrorists and mafia groups in Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania, and Macedonia’. Indeed, it is self-determination and democracy that are themselves apparently to blame for the alleged Balkan Islamist threat: ‘Ironically, the creation of liberal democracies in docile, pro-Western nation-states also enables the rival development of radical Islam within them.’ (p. 143)

However, throughout his book, Deliso mentions that the fundamentalist version of Islam, as put forward by the Wahhabites, was rejected by ordinary Muslims in Bosnia, Kosova, Albania and Macedonia and by their political leaders, and was out of keeping with their native tradition (e.g. pp. 54-55, 58, 84-85). In one passage, he describes bearded Islamists in the Kosovar town of Pec attacking Albanians holding a candlelit vigil to mourn the American victims of 9/11 (p. 60). Deliso’s account of the aggressive way in which the Wahhabite movement is attempting to penetrate the Balkans, and the lack of receptivity on the part of native Muslims to it, is not uninteresting or uninformative. This is an important subject, and it is a pity that it is drowned in a sea of unsubstantiated propaganda directed against the Balkan Muslims and against Western policy, propaganda which his account of Wahhabite activities actually undermines. For why should self-determination for Muslim peoples, or their high birth-rates, be a problem if they anyway popularly reject radical Islam?

Deliso manages to overcome such contradictions and construct his bogey of a ‘coming Balkan caliphate’ through multiple conflation. He conflates nationalism with religious chauvinism; moderate Balkan Muslim national leaders with the radicals operating in their midst; Sunni al-Qa’ida with Shiite Iran; al-Qa’ida with the regimes of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates; quiet Saudi Wahhabite proselytising with al-Qa’ida terrorism – all these diverse, conflicting elements are thrown together to make a single indeterminate green Islamic stew. Thus, we get passages such as this one, concerning the involvement of the Islamic world in the ‘Bosnian jihad’ of the 1990s:

According to a former Sudanese intelligence agent, Osama bin Laden’s operations in Sudan during the early 1990s involved an “advisory council” made up of some 43 separate Islamic groups, contraband arms depots, and several terrorist camps. Since the Saudi government preferred to keep its hands clean, supplying mostly money and logistical supplies, Iran would play the key role in importing the fighters and military equipment through the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the national intelligence service, SAVAMA… Weapons shipments from Iran via Sudan, overseen by intelligence officials of both countries and utilizing al Qaeda-linked charities like the TWRA, also picked up in 1993 and 1994. (pp. 8-9)

Out of this stew, Deliso draws multiple non-sequiturs, such as this one:

…Alija Izetbegovic’s single dream was the creation of an Islamic state in Europe. This vision was honored in December 2001, when he was awarded one million dirham ($272,480) prize for his services to Islam by the Crown Prince of Dubai. Only two months earlier, however, the terrorist attacks on America had revealed how complicit he and his government had been in allowing al Qaeda to expand in Europe, through the Bosnian jihad.’ (p. 5).

Or this one:

…the Clinton administration was planning for a second war to save yet another allegedly endangered Balkan Muslim population, this time the Albanians of Kosovo, and thus could not openly admit that it had already made a huge mistake in Bosnia – despite a reality of increasingly spectacular Islamic terrorist attacks against American interests globally, like the June 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia and the East Africa embassy bombings of August 1998. (pp. 10-11).

As the reader will note, the various assertions of motive and causality in these two passages are neither substantiated with evidence nor support each other, while the assertion that al-Qa’ida attacks in Saudi Arabia, East Africa and New York were the result of the ‘Bosnian jihad’ is completely out of the blue.

Deliso conflates the mainstream Bosnian Army struggle against Serb and Croat forces with the activities of al-Qa’ida and the foreign mujahedin to create a single ‘Bosnian jihad’, ignoring the fact that existing works on the Bosnian Army and the mujahedin, by authors such as Evan Kohlmann, Esad Hecimovic and myself have comprehensively demolished the case for such a conflation. Yet Deliso admits that it was the police of Izetbegovic’s supposedly ‘Islamist’ state that arrested a terrorist cell on 19 October 2005 that had allegedly been planning to blow up the British Embassy in Sarajevo (p. 14). He interviews a military intelligence analyst who tells him that, apart from the US embassy, ‘nearly all diplomatic facilities in Sarajevo lack even the most rudimentary protection against attack… all the others remain vulnerable to truck bombs or determined individuals wearing suicide vests’ (p. 23), making the failure of the Islamists to carry out a single successful terrorist attack against a Western target in the supposed Bosnian centre of world jihad all the more remarkable. Even Deliso’s questionable ‘expert’ witnesses admit that Islamist terrorist training camps ‘mostly don’t exist’ in Bosnia (p. 161). The facts simply do not fit Deliso’s thesis. In scraping the bottom of the barrel to find some that do, he complains that ‘Bosnian President Sulejman Tihic assured a gathering of dignitaries in Qatar that his country considered the American occupation of Iraq illegal’, something that Deliso attributed to the ‘Islamic factor’ in Bosnian politics (p. 22). But an ‘Islamic factor’ was scarcely a prerequisite to considering the Iraq invasion to be illegal.

Deliso draws upon some highly dubious sources in support of his thesis about the importance of Bosnia in the development of the global jihad. One such is ‘terrorism expert’ Darko Trifunovic of Belgrade University, whom Deliso quotes about ten times in support of his argument. The ‘terrorism expert’ Trifunovic makes statements such as ‘what the West seems to have forgotten is that long before the [2001] terrorist attacks against America, the Bosnian Serbs were fighting against jihad, a literal jihad ordered and funded by Osama bin Laden, in their own country. Former mujahedin have told me that bin Laden personally ordered them to fight Christians in the Balkans – and later, to expand in Europe, especially Italy and Spain. The West is now paying the price for supporting the mujahedin against the Serbs.’ (p. 143) A comment of this kind might raise suspicions as to its author’s objectivity in even the most naive observer – even one who did not already know that Trifunovic had been expelled from participation in the 11th European Police Congress after the organisers learned that he was a Srebrenica denier who reduced the figure for the Srebrenica massacre to less than one hundred, and who, in an email correspondence with two Bosnian Muslims posing as a Serb, said of the Srebrenica Muslims that ‘I wish Mladic had killed them all’.

Another of Deliso’s sources is a certain Nebojsa Malic, whom Deliso describes as a ‘native Bosnian political analyst’. Deliso quotes Malic as saying: ‘Izetbegovic’s vision of Bosnia was not a multi-ethnic democracy, but a multi-caste hierarchy of the kind that existed under the Ottoman Empire, the memories of which were still fresh at his birth in 1925.’ (p. 25) Deliso does not mention that this particular ‘native Bosnian political analyst’ was a signatory of the petition of the ‘International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic’ which describes Milosevic as a ‘Serbian patriot’ whose ‘crime was to set an example to the world by resisting NATO aggression’. Malic supported the neo-Nazi Tomislav Nikolic in this year’s Serbian presidential election; after Nikolic’s defeat, he complained that the Serbs had just proven that they ‘don’t have the guts’ to fight over Kosova.

While quoting the most raving Serb bigots as though they were objective experts, Deliso has consulted few genuine scholarly works on the Balkans, and his references to Balkan history contain some real howlers. Thus, he writes: ‘Both Croatia and Muslim Bosnia had served as fascist puppet states for the Nazis, during the Second World War’ (p. 7) – there was, of course, no Bosnian fascist puppet state during World War II. Deliso describes Yugoslavia as a country that had ‘sided with the United States in two world wars’ (p. 41) – unlikely, given that Yugoslavia did not exist until after World War I, whereas in World War II, Yugoslavia signed an alliance with Nazi Germany but was then invaded and occupied by it – all while the US was still neutral.

Deliso’s account of recent events in the Balkans is no more accurate. He describes Izetbegovic’s close ally Hasan Cengic as ‘a veteran of the World War II SS Handzar Division who reincarnated the unit while serving as Bosnia’s deputy defense minister in the early 1990s.’ (p. 8 ) It is unlikely that Cengic was a veteran of the SS Handzar Division or of World War II – given that he was born in 1957. Nor does Deliso provide any evidence at all to support his assertion that Cengic ‘reincarnated’ the SS Handzar Division in the 1990s. As I have written elsewhere, claims that a ‘Handzar Division’, named after the SS unit from World War II, was ‘reincarnated’ by Bosnian Muslims in the 1990s appear to rest on a single piece of ‘evidence’: an article by British journalist Robert Fox, published in Britain’s Daily Telegraph on 29 December 1993. Fox’s article is based solely on second-hand information and contains factual inaccuracies. Fox himself did not actually meet anyone who belonged to the alleged ‘Handzar Division’, but merely reported its existence on the basis of what unnamed UN officials on the ground told him. But even this weak source, which Deliso cites, does not implicate Cengic in the Handzar Division’s alleged ‘reincarnation’.

Deliso’s book is not merely a piece of bad scholarship – although it is undoubtedly that. He engages in the sort of atrocity denial and conspiracy theorising that characterises supporters of the former regime of Slobodan Milosevic. Thus, in writing of the Serbian massacre of Albanian civilians at the village of Racak in January 1999, Deliso writes: ‘An alleged Serbian “massacre” at the Kosovo village of Racak, later proved by a UN forensics team to have been a place of legitimate battle, provided the necessary justification for Clinton to start the bombing.’ (p. 43) The nonsense statement ‘proved by a UN forensics team to have been a place of legitimate battle’ is a case of Deliso fluffing his denialist lines. shay3

Schindler’s subject matter is narrower than Deliso’s, being confined essentially to Bosnia. It is less a study of the role of al-Qa’ida and the mujahedin in Bosnia and more a diatribe against the Bosnian Muslims and the Bosnian cause. Despite the author’s claim to having had a youthful flirtation with Islam (p. 13), he is clearly hostile to the religion and views the Bosnian war on this basis: ‘Bosnia’s Muslims were really Muslims, and some of them adhered to a faith that was deeply hostile to Western concepts of freedom, democracy, and human rights.’ (p. 19) Furthermore, ‘Muhammad himself endorsed, and practiced, the violent spreading of the faith and considered it the obligation of every Muslim’; consequently, ‘As devout traditionalist Muslims, Izetbegovic and the SDA [Party of Democratic Action] leadership adhered to the ideology of jihad that stands at the center of their faith.’ Schindler considers the term ‘fundamentalist’ meaningless when applied to Islam, because ‘[a]ll truly believing Muslims are, from a Western viewpoint, “fundamentalists”‘ (pp. 116-117). This hostility to Muslims and Islam appears to be the guiding motive behind Schindler’s book.

In this book, al-Qa’ida and the mujahedin play only supporting roles. After the introduction, the first third of the book makes no mention of them; it instead constitutes a polemic against the former regime of Bosnia’s Alija Izetbegovic and against the supporters of Bosnia in the West. Indeed, Schindler follows the well trodden revisionist road that was long ago laid down by supporters of the regime of Slobodan Milosevic and of the Great Serbian cause – of which the British magazine Living Marxism was perhaps the most notorious – of a Western media conspiracy to demonise the Serb side in the war and fabricate Serb atrocities. Schindler puts the term ‘concentration camps’ in quote marks when referring to the Serb camps of Omarska, Manjaca and Trnopolje, claiming that all media reports of such camps were ‘poorly sourced and based on second- and third-hand information, much of which was flat wrong’ (pp. 83-84); and he accuses the Bosnians of staging massacres of their own civilians in order to incriminate the Serbs (pp. 92, 186).

Schindler revises the death-toll of the Srebrenica massacre downward to ‘as many as two thousand Muslim men, mostly soldiers’ (p. 231) – although, in one of several internal contradictions in this book, he earlier put the figure at about seven thousand (p. 227). He argues that ‘[w]hile this was unquestionably a war crime, it is difficult to term it genocide’ (p. 231) – though it was not so difficult for the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, both of which formally described the Srebrenica massacre as ‘genocide’. Instead, Schindler portrays the Srebrenica massacre as Serb revenge for earlier Muslim attacks on Serb civilians, and employs a gross racial stereotype in the process: ‘To Mladic’s troops, who like all Bosnians believed in blood feuds and payback, this was simple revenge.’ (p. 231).

Schindler describes the siege of Sarajevo as a ‘siege manqué’ (p. 189) and as a ‘faux-siege’, where ‘conditions were much more normal than the Western media was willing to portray’ (p. 203), despite the Serb besiegers’ killing of thousands of people in Sarajevo during the war. Perhaps most tellingly of all, he claims (erroneously): ‘Ethnic cleansing, though unpleasant, was no more than the counterinsurgency doctrine learned by three generations of JNA [Yugoslav People’s Army] officers, who were trained in hunting down “fifth columnists” and “terrorists” by expelling sympathisers as well as fighters.’ (p. 82) He then endorses a CIA report, according to which: ‘The Bosnian Serb Army undertook these ethnic cleansing operations because it believed the Muslim population posed an armed threat or could act as a “Fifth Column” during the war with the Bosnian Government.’ (p. 82).

If the above citations suggest whose side Schindler is on, they do not properly convey the sheer extent of the deception in which he engages. He writes: ‘Milosevic wanted Bosnia and Hercegovina to remain in Yugoslavia, but failing that he would settle for a partition that would leave the ethnically Serbian parts under Belgrade’ (p. 63). Anyone who has looked at a map of the areas of Bosnia occupied by Serb forces in the early weeks of the Bosnian war, while they were still under the control of Belgrade and Milosevic, knows that this is untrue; they occupied huge areas in eastern and northern Bosnia in which the Muslims and/or Croats were in the majority. Schindler writes that ‘the [Yugoslav] army in the months leading to war in most cases tried to place itself between Serbs and Muslims and defuse tensions’ (p. 66), suggesting he has not read, or has simply ignored, the books by authors such as Norman Cigar, James Gow, Smail Cekic, myself and others that detail the unity of purpose between the JNA and the Bosnian Serb nationalists in the preparations for war.

Schindler writes that ‘Belgrade sought to arm the Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia, fearing that Yugoslavia was headed for dissolution’ (p. 68 ) – ignoring the fact that Belgrade was itself engineering Yugoslavia’s dissolution, as revealed in sources such as the published diary of Milosevic’s close collaborator Borisav Jovic, former president of Yugoslavia and of the Socialist Party of Serbia. Schindler then writes: ‘The JNA General Staff was not brought into the plan’ of arming the Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia (p. 68 ) – again, he has either not read, or has ignored, the memoirs of Veljko Kadijevic, the most senior figure in the JNA during the war in Croatia, who describes in detail the JNA’s role in arming Serb forces in Croatia and Bosnia. Schindler continues, ‘Belgrade saw this concept [of arming the Serbs] as defensive, a plan to protect Serbs outside Serbia – and, in extremis, to prevent another genocide against Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia’ (p. 68 ) – leading one to ask why Belgrade showed so little interest in protecting the substantial Serb populations of cities such as Zagreb and Split, while devoting so much energy to conquering territories such as eastern Slavonia, where Serbs were a small minority.

Schindler portrays the ‘Muslim’ (i.e. Bosnian) side as being the one that was initiating preparations for war, while the JNA was merely responding (p. 72). In order to make a case for this blatant falsehood and the arguments that flow from it, Schindler simply avoids mentioning almost all the acts of aggression carried out by the JNA in the first weeks of the war: the conquest of Zvornik, Foca, Visegrad, Kupres, Doboj, Derventa, Brcko and other towns; and the shelling of Mostar and Sarajevo. He consequently portrays the Bosnian military’s action as coming out of the blue, enabling him to portray it as the aggressor – not very convincing to anyone who knows the history of the war, but enough to deceive an uninformed reader. Having failed to mention all these coordinated Serbian acts of conquest, he then describes ‘two unprovoked Muslim attacks on the JNA that fatally poisoned relations between the army and the SDA’: the Bosnian attack on the JNA in Sarajevo on 3 May and in Tuzla on 15 May. Well, yes, the attacks were ‘unprovoked’ if you do not consider a military assault on your country, the conquest of many of your towns and massive atrocities against your civilian population to count as a ‘provocation’. Schindler claims the attack on the JNA in Sarajevo ’caused lasting bitterness among the Serbs’, and describes the attack on the JNA in Tuzla as a ‘killing spree’ and a ‘massacre’ (pp. 80-81). Yet the JNA was a military target, and attacking a military target was, presumably, a reasonable thing to do in war. By contrast, Schindler does not mention the Serb and JNA massacres of Muslim civilians that had been taking place all over Bosnia, or whether they might have ’caused lasting bitterness’ among the Muslims. Similarly, Schindler mentions attacks on Serb civilians carried out by Naser Oric, the Bosnian Army commander in Srebrenica, between May and December 1992, claiming that it was ‘[s]mall wonder that the Bosnian Serbs thirsted for revenge against the Muslims of Srebrenica’ (p. 228). But he does not mention the Serb attacks on Muslim civilians all across East Bosnia that preceded Oric’s actions.

While whitewashing the role of the Milosevic regime and Yugoslav army in engineering the war, Schindler suppresses or misrepresents evidence in order to make his case: that Izetbegovic and his fellow SDA politicians were radical Islamists. He therefore makes claims against the Bosnian leadership that anyone with a cursory knowledge of the subject knows to be untrue. This involves attempting to portray Izetbegovic and his SDA as being unwilling to share power with the Bosnian Serbs. He claims that following the fall of the Communist regime in Bosnia in 1990 and the emergence of free political parties, the Serb nationalist leader Radovan Karadzic offered Izetbegovic and his party a coalition, but that the ‘Muslims expressed no interest’ (p. 63). In fact, Izetbegovic and the SDA did indeed form a coalition with the Karadzic’s Serb nationalists, and with the Croat nationalists, that resulted in posts in the Bosnian government, presidency and administration being equally divided between the three groups of nationalists, with key posts going to the Serbs – including the command of the Bosnian Territorial Defence. Schindler then misrepresents the plan negotiated between Karadzic and the dissident Muslim politician Adil Zulfikarpasic in August 1991 as a ‘power-sharing plan’ (p. 71), omitting to mention that Serbs and Muslims already shared power in Bosnia, and that the plan was in fact aimed at keeping Bosnia within Milosevic’s Serbian-dominated rump Yugoslavia. Schindler, indeed, argues that Izetbegovic and his party wished to deny the Bosnian Serbs full citizenship – but produces no evidence to back up his claim, other than an unsupported assertion by the Belgrade historian Aleksa Djilas (p. 64).

Schindler relies on extremely dubious source material to make his case against Izetbegovic and the SDA. One eyewitness whom Schindler quotes approvingly several times is Fikret Abdic (pp. 198, 203, 217). Abdic is certainly very liberal in his denunciation of Izetbegovic, but Schindler fails to mention that Abdic is a convicted war-criminal who staged an armed rebellion against his own democratically elected government, and fought against it on the side of Serb forces invading from outside Bosnia, from Serb-occupied Croatia. Another eyewitness in support of Schindler’s case against Izetbegovic is Aleksandar Vasiljevic, head of Yugoslav military intelligence (p. 72-73) – Schindler takes everything he says about Izetbegovic at face value. A third is the former US State Department official George Kenney (p. 86), who resigned in protest at US inaction over Bosnia, but then changed sides, becoming one of the most vocal enemies of the Izetbegovic regime. Schindler does not mention the extent of Kenney’s conversion, or the fact that Kenney wrote to Milosevic, while the latter was in prison in The Hague, to assure him that he considered him innocent of all charges against him, and that he considered his trial to be a ‘show trial’.

So dubious, indeed, is Schindler’s source material, that it is difficult to believe that he is using it innocently, or that he is attempting to convince anybody but the most naive of the merits of his case. He claims that Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic declared an ‘Islamic holy war’ on Bosnian TV in July 1995 (p. 200) – his source for this is the Belgrade news agency SRNA. He claims that the Bosnian Army murdered the Bosnian Croat commander Vlado Santic (p. 214) – his source for this is the Bosnian Croat newspaper Dnevni list, which is linked the nationalist Croat Democratic Union. He tells of mujahedin snuff videos, in which Bosnian Army commander Sakib Mahmuljin allegedly boasts of having sent a gift of twenty-eight severed Christian heads to Izetbegovic and twenty-eight more to Iran, and of Serb prisoners being made by the mujahedin to kiss the severed heads of other Serbs that were nailed to trees (pp. 166-167) – but Schindler has not actually seen any of these videos; his only source is one Croatian and one Serbian newspaper article. Schindler even endorses the view of the intelligence services of Franjo Tudjman’s Croatia concerning the alleged Islamic threat, arguing that ‘the unheeded warnings from the Croatian intelligence services about the unwisdom of entering an alliance with radical Islam and the likes of al-Qa’ida had been prescient.’ (p. 215).

Schindler describes Osama bin Laden as having been one of Izetbegovic’s ‘friends’ (p. 239), though he has no evidence for this. He cites several sources in support of his claim that bin Laden was in Bosnia during the war; the one he describes as ‘most credible’ being the German journalist Renate Flottau, who claims to have met bin Laden in the foyer of Izetbegovic’s office in the early 1990s (p. 123). Izetbegovic’s staff told Flottau that bin Laden was ‘here every day and we don’t know how to make him go away’ (p. 124). As I mentioned in my own book on the Bosnian Army, Izetbegovic himself never ruled out the possibility that he may have met bin Laden, but stated that he had no recollection of having done so; he pointed out that he met thousands of foreign Muslim visitors during the war. Izetbegovic was, of course, visited by many people during the war who were certainly not his ‘friends’, and many who were not Muslims, but Schindler jumps from providing evidence that bin Laden may have visited Izetbegovic to claiming that bin Laden was Izetbegovic’s ‘friend’. Other evidence that he produces on this score is similar in character: e.g. the claim of one of Izetbegovic’s domestic opponents, the Social Democrat Sejfudin Tokic, who ‘attested that photos exist of Izetbegovic and bin Laden together’ (p. 125) – photos which, needless to say, Schindler has not seen. Most of Schindler’s case against Izetbegovic and the SDA is based upon this sort of unsubstantiated rumour. Like Deliso, Schindler claims that Bosnian Muslim radicals during the war established a military unit named the ‘Handzar Division’, named after the Nazi SS division of the same name that had existed during World War II. And like Deliso, he bases this claim on the solitary, tendentious newspaper article by Robert Fox.

One of the more amusing of Schindler’s blunders concerns the scientific calculation of the figure for Bosnian war-dead carried out by Mirsad Tokaca’s Research and Documentation Centre in Sarajevo, which placed it at about one hundred thousand. Schindler seems to endorse this figure wholeheartedly, seeing it as proof that earlier estimates of Bosnian war-dead had been ‘grossly exaggerated’, and complaining that Tokaca’s result ‘got minimal attention in Bosnia or abroad’ (p. 317). The reason this is amusing is that Tokaca’s figures disprove several of the figures for Serb dead at the hands of Bosnian forces that Schindler himself cites. Thus, Schindler claims that ‘more than 3,000 Bosnian Serbs, some soldiers but at least 1,300 unarmed civilians, had been killed by Muslim forces based in Srebrenica’ (p. 228). Yet according to Tokaca’s calculation, only 849 Serb civilians were killed in the whole of Podrinje – the region that includes Srebrenica, and where Oric’s alleged crimes occurred – in the whole of the war. Likewise, with regard to the Serb victims of the Sarajevo Muslim warlord Musan Topalovic-Caco, Schindler claims: ‘By the war’s end, it was clear that at least two thousand Sarajevo Serbs had fallen victim to Caco’s gang, though the civic association representing the city’s Serbs claimed the true figure was closer to five thousand’ (p. 105). Yet according to Tokaca’s figures, only 1,091 Serb civilians were killed in the whole of the Sarajevo region during the war, and this includes those killed by the Serb siege. Schindler claims that ‘at least 1,500 Croatian civilians were killed in the fighting’ between Muslims and Croats (p. 99), yet according to Tokaca’s figures, in the two regions of Bosnia encompassed by the Muslim-Croat conflict, Central Bosnia and Neretva, only 786 Croat civilians were killed during the entire war, including those killed by Serb forces. So when Schindler writes that Tokaca’s figures ‘got minimal attention in Bosnia or abroad’, he is probably referring to himself.

Schindler claims that the SDA had ‘helped establish the beginnings of an Islamist statelet in Europe’ (p. 253), but scrapes the bottom of the barrel to find evidence for this. He admits that ‘Izetbegovic and the party leadership, for all their waxing Koranic to improve public morality, were careful to never speak openly about their plan for implementing a fully Islamic society.’ (p. 196) But if Schindler is unable to find evidence for Izetbegovic’s alleged Islamist plans in what he said, neither is he able to find it in what he and his party did. He mentions an SDA election poster of 2000, entitled ‘Beautiful like Sarajevo girls’, showing three female faces – ‘two in Western makeup, one in hijab’, and notes: ‘This was the SDA’s new Bosnia, forged in a terrible war, and it had many wondering which worldview – Western and secular or Islamist and radical – the party really stood for.’ (p. 274). Yet an election poster that shows two Western-style women coexisting with a woman in hijab cannot by any stretch of the imagination be taken as evidence of a radical Islamic world-view.

Likewise, concerning the unproven allegation that Izetbegovic collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, Schindler writes: ‘Even out of office, the SDA founder continued to deny allegations that he had been a Nazi collaborator as a young man and had served in the Bosnian Muslim 13th Handzar Division of the Waffen-SS. Though no evidence emerged to tie him directly to the Nazis, it was nevertheless significant, observed a Sarajevo pundit, that Izetbegovic continued to feel the need to publicly deny rumors that had existed for many years.’ (p. 276) – an argument so feeble that it defies comment. Schindler admits that Bosnia engaged in a ‘modest participation in the American-led war on Islamist terrorism’ but complains that this provoked ‘open resentment among Bosnian Muslims’, and that ‘local newspapers regularly carried attacks on America and its leader “the state terrorist Bush.”‘ (p. 293). Damning evidence indeed – most of Christian Europe was probably ‘Islamist’ by this standard.

Most instances of supposed ‘Islamist terrorism’ in the post-Dayton period that Schindler cites in his book turn out simply to be cases of former mujahedin attacking Croat or Serb civilians, above all refugees trying to return to their former homes (pp. 263-264), much as Serbs and Croats likewise attacked returning refugees from other communities – though Schindler does not mention the latter. Schindler explains away the absence of genuine Islamist terrorism in Bosnia by claiming that ‘most mujahidin were wary of targeting US or Western interests in Bosnia – anywhere else was fair game – because they appreciated that NATO gave them a de facto safe haven after Dayton.’ (p. 266). So Bosnia was free of Islamist terrorism because the type of Islamist terrorists based there did not like to attack Western targets. It therefore perhaps did not matter so much that, according to Schindler, ‘the Muslim police underperformed when it came to tracking down wanted holy warriors.’ (p. 262). Yet Schindler, like Deliso, mentions the Bosnian police arresting on 19 October 2005 an armed terrorist cell that was planning to attack the British Embassy (p. 318 ) – somehow the police of the ‘Islamist statelet’ had managed to overcome their reluctance to act against Islamists and staved off an attack against a Western target.

There are so many factual errors and internal contradictions in Schindler’s book that it is impossible to list them all, so what follows are just some examples. Schindler claims that ‘reliable analysis concludes that between five thousand and six thousand Islamic fighters came to Bosnia during the war’ (p. 162) – having previously written that ‘there were probably four thousand foreign Islamists who fought for Sarajevo during the civil war’ (p. 119). He claims that the Bosnian Serbs ‘made up most of the agricultural population in Bosnia, and therefore controlled a disproportionate share of the land to be cleared of non-Serbs’, which is simply rubbish – more agricultural land in Bosnia was owned by Muslims than by Serbs before 1992. Schindler claims that ‘Ustasha’ means ‘uprising’ (p. 33), when in fact it means ‘insurgent’. He claims that Dzafer Kulenovic was made vice-president of the ‘Independent State of Croatia’ in November 1941 (p. 33); in fact, he was made deputy prime-minister. Schindler claims that during World War II ‘the Serbs of Bosnia and Croatia were also the only Yugoslav nation exposed to actual genocide’ (p. 60) – he is either unaware, or chooses to ignore, the work by two leading Yugoslav historians of the World War II genocide, the Serb Vladimir Dedijer and the Croat Antun Miletic, entitled Genocide of the Muslims,1941-1945: Collected documents and testimony (Svjetlost, Sarajevo, 1990), which provides evidence of the wartime Serb Chetnik genocide of the Muslims.

Schindler claims that ‘alone among Bosnia’s peoples they [the Muslims] had made no real contribution to Allied victory, and their collaboration with the Nazis had been unsurpassed’ – another fabrication, since nearly a quarter of all Bosnian Partisans had been Muslims; their readiness to join the Partisans compared favourably with that of the Bosnian Croats; their contribution to the anti-Nazi struggle was, for a nationality of their size, a significant one; and their readiness to speak out against Nazi crimes in 1941, and protect the victims of genocide, was virtually unparalleled in Nazi-occupied Europe. Schindler claims that the senior Bosnian Muslim Communist Osman Karabegovic was expelled from the League of Communists of Yugoslavia in 1972 for Muslim ‘exclusivism’ and ‘nationalism’ (p. 43); this is the opposite of the truth – Karabegovic was expelled because he was too much of a Yugoslav centralist; he would later become one of the most prominent Bosnian Muslims to support Milosevic. The text ‘Virtuous Muslim State’, published in Tuzla in 1993, was not the ‘SDA’s manifesto’, as Schindler claims (p. 95), but merely a proposal put forward by a senior SDA member from Tuzla. Schindler writes of the Bosnian Serb JNA officer Jovan Divjak, that he ‘sided with Izetbegovic and the SDA when war broke out. It was a decision he would regret.’ (p. 102). This is again untrue: Divjak never supported the SDA; he supported his country – Bosnia – in the war, and would never regret having done so. Nor is it true that the anti-nationalist Bosnian Serb journalist Gojko Beric had been ‘an ardent supporter of the SDA’ during the war (p. 310).

When all the rumours, unsubstantiated allegations and outright falsehoods are taken away, Schindler’s case against Izetbegovic and the SDA evaporates. We are left with a picture of a secular Bosnia-Hercegovina under an SDA regime that was undoubtedly highly corrupt and frequently brutal to its political opponents, but that supported the US-led ‘War on Terror’, arrested Islamist terrorist suspects and was essentially free of genuine Islamist terrorist outrages on its soil – certainly more free than the US, Britain, Spain or Turkey. The most that can be said for Schindler’s portrayal of Bosnia as a centre of global jihad is that, yes, some of the foreign mujahedin who fought in Bosnia would subsequently go on to engage in acts of terrorism and jihad elsewhere, some with the dubious benefit derived from possession of Bosnian passports – scarcely a free pass throughout the Western world, as anyone in the West who has Bosnian friends knows. In other words, none of the evidence presented here suggests that the global Islamist jihad would look significantly different today had the Bosnian war never taken place.

One other malevolent error of which both Deliso and Schindler are guilty is their portrayal of the Clinton Administration as being hawkishly pro-Muslim and anti-Serb. You would not know, from reading either of these books, that Clinton had enforced the arms embargo against Bosnia for the best part of the war; that he had come under massive fire from Congress for his unwillingness either to break the arms embargo or to carry out air-strikes against Serb forces; that he had forced the Bosnian Army to halt its victorious advance against Serb forces in the autumn of 1995, leaving half of Bosnia in Serb-rebel hands; that the Clinton-imposed Dayton Accords engineered the recognition of the ‘Republika Srpska’ incorporating nearly half of Bosnia, with a much smaller share of territory going to the Muslims; and that after Dayton, the Clinton Administration avoided arresting the Serb war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. Authors incapable of properly analysing Islamism are equally incapable of analysing US foreign policy. shay4

After reading two such inaccurate, unscholarly, poorly researched and politically motivated works of propaganda, it actually comes as a relief to read a book that is merely very bad. Shaul Shay, unlike Deliso and Schindler, has no Balkan agenda or axe to grind; he is a former Israeli intelligence officer, and he genuinely comes at the Balkans from the perspective of someone primarily interested in radical Islam and the Islamic countries, rather than vice versa. His book contains some rather endearingly naive sentences, such as ‘Yugoslavia is [sic] a mountainous country in the northern Balkans’ (p. 19) and ‘Bosnia-Herzegovina is a mountainous country in the Balkan [sic] that is divided into two historical geographic regions – the Bosnia region in the north and the Herzegovina region in the south’ (p. 39); he elsewhere describes Bosnia as having ‘a Muslim majority and a Serb minority’ (p. 24).

Shay’s run-of-the-mill-first-year-undergraduate-quality potted history of the Balkans repeats some of the historical and other factual errors made by Deliso and Schindler, in particular at the expense of the Bosnian Muslims, and there are numerous misspellings of names (Alija becomes ‘Ilia’, Cengic become ‘Kengic’, Vojvodina becomes ‘Wivodena’ and so on). Having gone into the errors of Deliso and Schindler in detail, I’m not going to bore the reader further by listing Shay’s; his are by far the most innocent of the three. In fact, he appears to be the sort of person that books of the Deliso-Schindler variety might be written to target. If one simply ignores everything Shay’s book has to say about Balkan politics, then one can glean a few nuggets of information from it concerning the politics of radical Islam globally and of the Muslim states of the Middle East. But this is not enough to recommend this book when there are much better treatments of these topics available.

Radical Islam is a genuine problem facing Europe, and although it is actually less of a danger in the Balkans outside of Turkey than it is in Western Europe, this does not mean it is not a problem facing the Balkans as well. We need objective, scholarly analyses of the activities of Wahhabites and other radical Muslims in the Balkans if we are to understand and confront the problem. Unfortunately, this will not happen so long as writers simply use the issue to make propaganda to fight Balkan wars that, ultimately, have little to do with radical Islam.

David N. Gibbs’s bogus complaint

This article has been re-published  from Greater Surbiton Blog with the permission of Dr Marko Attila Hoare. For those who are not familiar with the topic, three years ago a debate raged over Dr Hoare´s review of David N. Gibbs book First do no Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia. As you see for yourself in the article(s) below Gibbs was soundly beaten and exposed as a disingenuous scholar and in the end a Milosevic-apologist. And as is always the case with Milosevic apologists and genocide deniers once they run out of arguments they resort to various forms of intimidation. That is the case with David N. Gibbs who having failed to properly respond to the criticism against his book has resorted to intimidation. But, don´t take my word for it,  in order for the readers to get better acquainted with the debate I have posted links to Dr Hoare´s  entire dissection of David N.Gibbs  book and the tactics used by Gibbs. I highly recommend that you read the links below in order to see how disingenuous scholars use their titles in order to spread lies about the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.

The Bizzare World of Genocide Denial

First Check Their Sources: On David N. Gibbs and ‘shoddy scholarship’

First Check Their Sources 2: The myth that ‘most of Bosnia was owned by the Serbs before the war’

First Check Their Sources 3: The myth that ‘Germany encouraged Croatia to secede from Yugoslavia’

 

Posted on Greater Surbiton 12 april 2014

Three years ago, as readers may recall, David N. Gibbs of the University of Arizona responded to my criticisms of his Srebrenica-genocide-denying propaganda tract First do no Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia with an article published on ModernityBlog, entitled – in his characteristically hyperbolic style – ‘The Second Coming of Joe McCarthy’. What followed was a public debate in the comment boxes of the blog, in which Gibbs was comprehensively defeated on every point: he was unable to counter either my criticisms of his work, or my refutations of his criticisms of my own work. So weak, underhand and disingenuous were Gibbs’s attempts at discussion that the proprietor of the venue – where Gibbs had himself chosen to publish – graciously apologised to me personally for allowing him to post there: ‘I made a mistake by allowing David Gibbs a guest post. At the time I thought he was a reasonable academic who deserved a right of reply, however, subsequently I have had time to reflect on my poor judgement.’

I then published further articles exposing the way in which Gibbs distorted and manipulated source material to construct his fictitious narrative of the war in the former Yugoslavia. I refuted his attempt to justify Serb-nationalist territorial claims in Bosnia and his attempt to blame the break-up of Yugoslavia on a German imperialist conspiracy. I could have gone on to demolish the rest of his book as well, but that would have taken weeks of my life, and I felt I had sufficiently exposed its worthlessness as a supposed piece of scholarship. In January 2011, Gibbs admitted his inability to counter my refutations: ‘In what follows, I will make no pretense that I answer all of Hoare’s allegations, which I find impossible, given the huge quantity of his charges.’

Unable to win in a public debate, Gibbs then attempted to intimidate both me and my institution, Kingston University, in order to silence me. Out of the blue, nine months after our debate, he submitted a bogus complaint against me to my university containing fraudulent allegations. When Kingston inevitably failed to uphold his ‘complaint’, he published an attack on me, on Kingston and on my faculty dean on the far-right website Antiwar.com. He then sent increasingly threatening emails to my institution, which nevertheless continued to reject his ‘complaint’. Let us be clear on this point: despite what Gibbs insinuates, no part of his bogus complaint against me has ever been accepted by Kingston University.

This week, he is attempting yet again to intimidate Kingston University in the hope of silencing me, through a further bogus public complaint published on the anti-Semitic website Counterpunch .

The essence of Gibbs’s ‘complaint’ is that he is unhappy that I have I refuted much of his book. Instead of attempting to counter my arguments, he has simply restated his already refuted claims and portrayed my exposure of their fallaciousness as some sort of legitimate grievance. I am not going to waste my time re-stating points to which he was unable to respond the first time around. I have already refuted at length his wholly fantastical claim that the break-up of Yugoslavia was engineered by Germany; his wholly disingenuous claim to have engaged with existing scholarly literature by Michael Libal, Brendan Simms, Richard Caplan and others that contradicts his own arguments; his wholly spurious denial that he blames the Bosniak side for the Srebrenica massacre (I have dealt with his victim-blaming over Srebrenica twice already); and many of his other claims.

David N. Gibbs
David N. Gibbs

As regards arguments to which I haven’t previously responded, Gibbs’s formal statement condemning Milosevic is little more than a disclaimer in the style of ‘I’m not a racist, but…’. For those who are not familiar with the way these people operate: they rarely deny the crimes of Milosevic and the Serb forces altogether, but usually make an opening gambit along the lines of ‘Of course Milosevic and the Serb forces were guilty of terrible atrocities, but…’ before proceeding to regurgitate the Great Serb propaganda narrative putting the blame for the war on the Croats, Bosniaks and Western imperialism. There is little that is original in Gibbs’s version of this narrative; it has previously been presented in book form by Diana Johnstone, Michael Parenti, Kate Hudson and others, and before that via magazine format by the people behind Living Marxism.

Of course Gibbs does not devote much space in his book to explaining how Milosevic ‘made a central contribution to Yugoslavia’s demise’. No mention of the fact that Milosevic and the Serbian and JNA leaderships were the principal separatists in the break-up of Yugoslavia; that Milosevic’s ally Borisav Jovic recorded in his diary that he, Milosevic and the JNA’s Veljko Kadijevic agreed in June 1990 to work for the forcible expulsion of Slovenia and a dismembered Croatia from Yugoslavia; that Kadijevic in his published memoirs admits that the JNA was working from this time for the ‘peaceful’ exit of Slovenia and Croatia from Yugoslavia; that Serbia’s constitution of 28 September 1990 declared: ‘The Republic of Serbia determines and guarantees: 1) the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the Republic of Serbia and its international position and relations with other states and international organisations’; that the following month Serbia imposed customs duties on imports from Croatia and Slovenia; that on 16 March 1991 Milosevic publicly announced that Serbia would no longer recognise the authority of the Yugoslav Presidency. Instead, Gibbs defends Milosevic as ‘a strong advocate of maintaining both Serbia and Yugoslavia as socialist’ (Gibbs, p. 65). And he makes clear that he blames the war in Croatia on the Croatian side: ‘The Croatian war had its origins with the nationalist forces that were unleashed during the election campaign of 1990, when Franjo Tudjman’s HDZ party came to power.’ (Gibbs, p. 87). And so on and so on.

Contrary to what Gibbs claims, I have never insinuated that he is ‘an extreme anti-Semite’. Gibbs pretends to deduce this supposed insinuation from my comparison of the myth that Germany brought about the destruction of Yugoslavia by engineering Croatian and Slovenian secession (a myth that he upholds) with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In other words, I am comparing an anti-German libel with an anti-Jewish libel, and Gibbs deduces from this that I am therefore accusing those who uphold the anti-German libel of being anti-Semitic. It really is difficult to believe that even Gibbs is quite so logically challenged that he can take his argument here seriously. Moreover, his faux outrage at the fabricated ‘insinuation’ is undermined by the fact that he has chosen to publish his latest attack in an anti-Semitic publication.

Gibbs claims ‘I have never objected to serious condemnation of Milošević’s crimes, in the media or elsewhere.’ But this is untrue. Gibbs wrote in his book: ‘Another feature of the Balkan conflict was the tendency of the Western media needlessly to exaggerate the atrocities committed by Serb armies… Atrocities committed at Serb-run detention camps were presented in sensationalist fashion, for example, and they became “extermination camps” comparable to Auschwitz. President Izetbegovic himself encouraged these interpretations. Yet, in 2003, shortly before his death, Izetbegovic conceded that “there were no extermination camps” in Bosnia. He also conceded that his previous claims to the contrary had been deliberate misrepresentations, intended to outrage Western public opinion and thus trigger Western military intervention against the Serbs.’ (Gibbs, p. 216) So Gibbs has accused the Western media of having ‘exaggerated’ Serb atrocities and presented them in a ‘sensationalist fashion’ (NB Gibbs’s claim regarding Izetbegovic rests not on any credible source, but solely on the self-serving testimony of Bernard Kouchner, who had been a minister in France’s pro-appeasement government during the war in Bosnia).

Gibbs claims ‘Another one of Hoare’s techniques is the use of faked quotations, wherein he fabricates quoted statements, which he attributes to me.’ This is another falsehood, and represents Gibbs’s desperate attempt to deflect attention away from my point-by-point refutation of his book. Here is what he writes:

‘In the above Modernityblog posting, for example, Hoare attributes to me the phrase “creating the hatred,” which he presents as a direct quotation. The implication is that in my view the Bosnian Muslims were “creating the hatred” in the Srebrenica area. In fact, this is a fake quotation. This phrase “creating the hatred” appears nowhere in any of my writings. Then in a later posting, he attributes to me the quote “created the hatred,” which once again implies that in my view the Muslims had created the hatred in Srebrenica. But the quoted phrase appears in none of my writings, and the essence of its meaning corresponds to nothing I have ever said.’

Naturally Gibbs doesn’t provide any link that would allow his readers to check whether indeed I had said what he claims. In fact, this is what Gibbs wrote in his book: ‘The Srebrenica safe area had an especially brutal history, and it was besieged by Serb forces throughout the war. It is important to note, however, that Muslim troops also behaved brutally. Especially problematic was the Muslim commander Brigadier Oric, who based his forces inside Srebrenica and conducted forays against Serb villages in the surrounding region. One UNPROFOR commander later described Oric’s activities as follows: “Oric engaged in attacks during Orthodox holidays and destroyed [Serb] villages, massacring all the inhabitants. This created a degree of hatred that was quite extraordinary in the [Srebrenica] region… [etc.]“‘ (Gibbs, pp. 153-154).

So Gibbs quoted an UNPROFOR commander as saying that the actions of Naser Oric’s Bosnian army ‘created a degree of hatred that was quite extraordinary in the [Srebrenica] region…’. Gibbs treated this claim uncritically, using it to substantiate his attribution of blame for the Srebrenica massacre to Oric’s Bosnian forces. He is now trying to conceal the fact that he wrote this passage, perhaps because he is aware of how shameful it is.

I cited this passage from Gibbs in my first ever post about him, and gave the quote in full. Readers are invited to check what I wrote about him against what he wrote in his book, to see if I cited him accurately. The discussion at Modernity blog was Gibbs’s response to that post. Readers are invited to read the exchange and judge for themselves whether my subsequent references to his statement were accurate or not.

Gibbs continues: ‘And there is yet a third fake quote, in the title of one of Hoare’s reviews: “First Check Their Sources 2: The Myth that ‘Most of Bosnia Was Owned by the Serbs Before the War.’” The first part of the title (“First Check Their Sources”) is a play on words from the title of my book, which is First Do No Harm. The embedded phrase in Hoare’s title (“Most of Bosnia Was Owned…”) is presented as a direct quote, with quotation marks. This quote is yet another fabrication, which falsifies both the literal wording of my book and also the substance of my stated views.’

As Gibbs knows very well, the part of the title in quote marks was not ‘presented as a direct quote’; nowhere did I claim that Gibbs had used those exact words. It was an entirely accurate paraphrasing of the position common to Gibbs and others like him, who do indeed claim that ‘most of Bosnia was owned by the Serbs before the war’. The exact words Gibbs uses are provided in detail in the article in question, with page numbers given. Again, readers are invited to read the article and decide for themselves if it was an accurate paraphrasing. Readers will note that Gibbs was wholly unable to respond to that article, so we may reasonably assume that apart from his quibble over my use of quote marks in the title, he accepts the validity of what I wrote there.

Finally, Gibbs claims ‘Due to Hoare’s tactics, the public understanding of Yugoslavia’s breakup has been fundamentally distorted, due to a climate of intimidation and fear, which has prevented genuine scholarly debate.’ But my ‘tactics’ simply involved writing a negative extended review of Gibbs’s book, exposing its poor scholarship and genocide denial. By contrast, here are Gibbs’s tactics, in his own words: ‘Every time in the future that I am forced to respond to Hoare’s attacks, I will emphasize the role of Kingston University in helping to make these attacks possible. I will especially emphasize the roles of Vice Chancellor Weinberg and Dean McQuillan, who are Hoare’s academic supervisors. Up to this point, there has been too little accountability with regard to Hoare’s conduct. It is time to correct the problem.’

I leave it to readers to make up their own minds about who is guilty of trying to intimidate. Gibbs has revealed himself as a bully with no respect either for truth or for freedom of speech. Neither Kingston University nor any other university worthy of the name will uphold a bogus, malicious complaint published on an unsavoury extremist website; one aimed solely at distracting attention away from an unanswerable refutation of poor scholarship, and at silencing legitimate criticism through threats and smears. But I am not going to be intimidated. I should like to take this opportunity to reaffirm what I have written about Gibbs, and to assure readers that it will not be retracted or taken down.

Serbia´s treatment of convicted war criminals is an affront to the victims

Slobodan Medic in Trnovo July 1995
Slobodan Medic in Trnovo July 1995

On Tuesday 31th of December 2013 Slobodan Medic  his wife and their son were killed in a car crash near the town of Sremska Mitrovica in Serbia. Medic was once one of the  commanders of the notorious paramilitary  unit Scorpions. Working under the patronage of Serbian State Security, the unit was widely used during the fighting and the subsequent pogroms of non-Serbs in Croatia Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina during the wars in the those countries. Since 1991 they had played a key role, especially in eastern Slavonia, which was Serb-held for much of the war in Croatia. Sponsored by and working for Serbian State Security the unit was stationed in Sid, 80km north-west of Belgrade, which during the Croatian war became the starting point for the Serbian attack on eastern Croatia. They were also used by Milosevic´s regime to make sure that the local Serb authority did as they were told, as reward for their efforts the regime in Belgrade looked the other way as Scorpions and other groups indulged in smuggling and looting.

However the unit is mostly known for their involvement in the murder of six Bosniak men and boys after the fall of Srebrenica and the subsequent genocide that took place there in July 1995. The murdered men: Safet Fejzic (1978), Azmir Alispahic (1978), Sidik Salkic (1959), Smajl Ibrahimovic (1960), Dino Salihovic (1979) and Juso Delic (1970)

In 2005 during the trial of Slobodan Milosevic the prosecution submitted into evidence a video tape filmed by a member of the  Scorpions, The 20-minute video showed several members of the Scorpions under the leadership of Slobodan Medic ordering six  Bosniak prisoners, dressed in civilian clothes, from the back of a lorry. The victims  were taken by lorry from Srebrenica to the village of Trnovo, 30min drive from Sarajevo then  marched into nearby forest and shot one by one. Days after the footage was shown at The Hague during the trial of Slobodan Milosevic, Medic was arrested. In 2007 he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his participation in the murders.

At the time of the car accident, Medic was still serving a twenty year sentence for war crimes, at a correctional facility in Sremska Mitrovica. According to Serbian media, Medic was on provisional release, which he was granted for the holidays due to good behavior. Once the news was out about Medic´s death people started asking questions about what he was doing out of prison in the first place. Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) once headed  by one of Serbia’s leading human rights campaigners, Natasa Kandic. The same women responsible for tracking down and delivering the tape to both the Serbian war crimes prosecutor as well as the prosecution team at The Hague, pointed out  in their statement that by giving privileges to convicted war criminals such as Medic, those responsible were in fact trivializing the crimes committed and the suffering of the victims.

Humanitarian Law Center also pointed out that; among the countries of the former Yugoslavia who are faced with the legacy of war crimes, Serbia is the only country where war criminals at an early stage of serving prison sentences, receive privileges such as the right to an annual leave outside the prison, leave out to town, etc, as well as the right to celebrate annual holidays outside correctional facilities. HLC also pointed out in their statement that the legal regulations of the Republic of Serbia which determine the treatment of those convicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity do not correspond with the severity of these crimes, so that treatment of someone convicted of war crimes is determined on the basis of the same criteria as for example someone who is convicted for construction without a building permit. According to HLC given the current praxis of giving privileges to those convicted of war crimes and other serious criminal offenses Serbian institutions were trivializing war crime trials and cruelly betraying the victims’ right to justice. HLC demanded that the  responsible authorities made the rules for granting convicted war criminals privileges more strict.

Serbian author Bojan Toncic was more direct in his criticism of the current treatment of convicted war criminals in Serbia. In a column for the Serbian portal E-Novine right after the accident that killed Medic  his son and wife, Toncic stated the following:

After the accident in which the main villain lost his life “while on leave” one has to ask the question; How good does a monster´s behavior have to be, in order to as someone sentenced to the harshest penalty in the land ( The sentence of twenty years was at the time of the crime a substitute for death by firing squad ) in order for him to receive free weekends and go to New Year’s celebration and one has to wonder what kind of treatment do prisoners that have been convicted of lesser crimes receive? Judging from the circumstances, what we are dealing here is a kind of unauthorized, but above all insensitive despising of “justice” after the fact (fact being a twenty year sentence) by the warden of the correctional facility. A kind of optional sentence in anticipation of the conditions for early release. In other words, this is a scandal that requires the reaction of the Directorate for Execution of Criminal Sanctions and the Minister of Justice.

However there is no point in acting too astonished by the treatment of Slobodan Medic. A man that personifies (He´s not alone) Serbian aggression against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The treatment of a commander of a formation stained by war crimes in Kosovo is not that surprising at all given the fact that we live in a country that for years, regardless of who is in charge has pampered to and tried to improve the image of war criminals, all in the name of “the people” and an innocence in which nobody really believes in. That is the kind of punishment that is preferred for Serbs- those indicted by ICTY and those already convicted if one is to believe the current president Tomislav Nikolic and prime minister Ivica Dacic.

Scorpions were formed under the auspices of the Serbia´s Ministry of the Interior (MUP)  one of those who participated in the creation of the unit was Radovan Stojicic Badza, a police general who rose to prominence during Milosevic´s regime together with Franko Simatovic and Jovica Stanisic. The first commander of the unit was Milan Milovanovic Mrgud, at that time one of the highest ranking officers of the Serbian MUP.

Toncic also pointed to fact that during the trial of Petar Petrasevic, one of the other killers from Trnovo,  Petrasevic had expressed remorse for the murders and admitted his own guilt. “I killed six Muslims, before god I am most certainly guilty. I was following orders” to the mothers of dead who were following the trial, Petrasevic said; “Mothers I will tell you this historic sentence, we killed them because they were Muslims and for that it´s probably better if I was left lying on that same grass as them”

Just before the murders, one of the killers hit one of the Bosniaks in the head, cursing at him and insulting him, “What are you shaking for you motherfucker” as well as; “look at this one, he shit his pants” After that Scorpions executed three of the prisoners, while the cameraman looked for the spare battery. The last two were killed after they were forced to carry the corpses of those that had been executed before them. In the footage you can hear, one of the killers ask “if anyone wants to shoot” and to be careful and not shoot at the wall. As well as, “wait, wait I want to get this on film” “Wait I have three bullets left”, “This one is still breathing, for fuck´s sake” One the tape, you can also hear Aleksandar Medic, brother of Slobodan Medic talk to one of the prisoners, asking the prisoner, an underage boy if he had ever had sex, and then saying; “and you never will.”

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.