Balkans

Croatia’s Nazi Orientation Still Continues

A piece of news in BalkanInsight produced a déja vu impression on me. A quote:

A memorial plaque honouring World War II concentration camp victims who died on the Croatian island of Pag has been vandalised again…The attack came just weeks after the plaque was replaced at a commemoration in late June for the victims of the WWII concentration camp complex which included Slana and Metajna on Pag and Jadovno on the nearby Croatian mainland…It was run by the Ustasha authorities who ruled part of the former Yugoslavia during WWII in alliance with Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Nazi Germany. The plaque was installed by Coordination of Jewish Municipalities, the Jadovno 1941 Association, the League of Anti- Fascist Veterans and the Serb National Council in Croatia.

Croatian Nazi Camp Slano on the island of Pag was established for Serbian men and Metajna for Serbian women and children. According to Italian documents and survivors’ testimonies a very large number of Serbian people have been murdered and thrown into the sea. According to the research conducted so far on the complex of Ustasha camps “Jadovno – Gospić 1941”, which also include the island of Pag, no fewer than 40,123 victims were murdered, 38,010 Serbs, 1999 Jews and the rest were ideological opponents of the Independent State of Croatia.

OK – this is only one demolized memorial, similar hooliganism hapens everywhere? Unfortunatelly however in my opinion alarming is that this last event is not an isolated act. I would compare it to the funeral given to Dinko Sakic on Summer 2008. As Sakic was a head of a WWII Jasenovac concentration camp in Zagreb, this ceremony insulted the memory of those killed in the camp run by Croatia’s Nazi-allied Ustasha regime. The Jasenovac commander and murderer was dressed in an Ustasha uniform, the priest who served at the funeral said that Sakic was a model for all Croats. (More about this in my article “Nazi’s funeral shadows Croatia’s past” ).

Memorial Masses for WWII Croatian Mass Murderer Ante Pavelić – the original Butcher of the Balkans – in Zagreb and Split was one act describing very alarming trend to (over)emphasizing Croatia’s Nazi past. Pavelić as the Fascist Head of state of the Nazi puppet government of the “Independent State of Croatia” (NDH) bears direct responsibility for the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of Serbs, tens of thousands of Jews, and numerous Roma. The German Nazis and the Italian Fascist regimes created a puppet State run by the local fascist movement, the Ustashe, headed by Pavelic. He died in Franco’s Spain in 1959 having fled Croatia through the Vatican “rat lines” at the end of the war. To say it politely the ceremonies might indicate that residents in Croatia are still more interested in establishing their national identity than in looking towards Europe. Unfortunately from my point of view the question is more serious.

While Ante Pavelic is being officially rehabilitated in Croatia also streets and public buildings are being named after the architects of the Holocaust.. In addition it should be no surprise that for years the best seller in Croatia has been new edition of “Mein Kampf”- faithful reproduction of the original text by that great European leader, benefactor of Croatian nationalism and leader of the Third Reich, Adolf Hitler. The other bestsellers have been the anti-Semitic classic, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and memories of Pavelic. Proving the existence of a ready audience for fascist thought in Croatia, Mein Kampf was published and sold in the year of 1999 – in the number more than 600 copies in hardback within days at the remarkable price of 500 kuna (75 dollars each) – roughly equivalent to a week’s average salary there.

Srbosjek (knife) used in Croatia by the Ustaše for the quick slaughter of inmates, notably in the Jasenovac concentration camp

Public monuments honoring Ustashe regime while numerous monuments erected in honour of the Partisans as well those erected in honour of civilian victims of war have been damaged or destroyed throughout the country. A square in the central part of Zagreb had been named the “Square of the victims of fascism” because during World War II, over sixteen thousand people had been deported via the square to concentration camps. In the early 1990s, this square was renamed to “Square of great Croats”. This decision was later reverted.

Croatia has no laws against historical revisionism and holocaust denial, nor does it regard denazification as a major priority. Unlike Germany and Austria, Croatia places no restrictions on the exhibition of Nazi and Ustaše symbols. In 2003, an attempt was made to amend the Croatian penal code by adding articles prohibiting the public display of Nazi symbols, the propagation of Nazi ideology, historical revisionism and holocaust denial, but this attempt was prevented by the Croatian constitutional court.

The late Croatian pro-Ustashe Nazi and Hitler-loving, Holocaust-denying antisemitic president, Franjo Tudjman, wrote in his 1988 Croatian version of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, entitled: “Wastelands of Historical Truth” the following:

Genocidal violence is a natural phenomenon in harmony with the societal and mythologically Divine nature. Genocide is not only permitted it is also recommended, even commanded by the Word of the Almighty, whenever it is useful for the survival or the restoration of the earthly kingdom of the chosen nation, or for the preservation and spreading of its one and only correct faith”.

Also in Croatia, August 4 is celebrated as a Victory Day and state authorities as well private citizens are celebrating the military operation carried out by forces from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to retake Krajina with operation ”Storm”, which might be the biggest ethnic cleansing act during Balkan Wars. Alice Mahon the Labour MP visited former Serb villages in the Krajina in 1999 and said: “I can only conclude that the Croatian government is aiming for an ethnically pure state. The international community is tolerating these openly racist policies.” (More in Krajina – Victory with Ethnic Cleansing  and Operation Storm – forgotten pogrom  )

Serbia and the former Yugoslavia, in an exact reprise of the fascist 1940s, have been systematically attacked and dismembered by Germany and Austria since the 1980s. Germany joined the Vatican in illegally recognising Croatia in 1991 which led to that State effectively declaring war on Yugoslavia and on Serbs in Croatia. In this the Croats had the full support of Germany and the Vatican – whose funds, liberally deployed among American PR firms helped to spread pro-Croatia propaganda. Todayrock concerts with neo-nazi symbols etc are indicating wide popular acceptance to display racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Serbian acts and xenophobia in Croatia. Neo-Nazism has still good cooperation with church and e.g Wiesenthal Center has called for immediate dismissal of Director of Croatian Episcopal Archives who denies holocaust crimes at Jasenovac. (More Jasenovac in Jasenovac – Holocaust promoted by Vatican )

What’s striking in Croatia that Church and far right neo-Nazi political groups have succeeded in engaging large crowds of fairly young people, most of whom were born at least forty years after the end of the Second World War. They come out dressed in uniforms with flags and crests of the quisling state which claimed at least half a million lives in less than five years of it’s existence. (See more e.g at Propagandistmag )

Constituent elements of the Croatian extreme right are an emphasis on the Ustasha movement during the Second World War, the creation of a strong state with an authoritarian character, territorial expansion of Croatia to its ethnic borders, especially vis-à-vis the Serbs, and a messianic mission of the Croatian nation as a bulwark of catholic Christianity.Radicalization of the public sphere is most readily visible among the younger generation, particularly in the context of football hooliganism. (Read more: Vedran OBUCINA| Right-Wing Extremism In Croatia, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung,2012)

This happening in a country now in EU unfortunately something about todays EU itself where far-right views, neo-Nazism and xenophobia have been gaining ground during last decade. One should not forget old war crimes and especially they should not be honoured in the way like now in Croatia.

“The gigantic campaign to brainwash America by our media against the Serbian people is just incredible, with its daily dose of one-sided information and outright lies…What is today’s reality? The murderers of Jews, Serbs and Gypsies are back (in Croatia) from the US, Canada, Argentina where they fled after World War II. The Serbs fought the Nazis, and paid a terrible price for standing at the side of the allies against Hitler. Humanity owes them a debt of gratitude.” And how have the Serbs been repaid? What was their reward for their loyalty? Seventy-eight days of unmerciful US-led NATO bombing and continued vilification by the US media. (John Ranz, Chairman of Survivors of Buchenwald Concentration Camp, USA)

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P.S: Btw from 23 Jul 2013 Nazi-hunters are to launch a renewed campaign to track down former death camp guards and others involved in the Holocaust before the last remaining perpetrators of Second World War crimes die. 


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BalkanBlog, Balkans

Who Gets Justice From ICTY?

Finnish leading daily newspaper – Helsingin Sanomat – published today (14/04/2013) an investigative feature story Winners Justice related to recent release of Croatian war criminal Ante Gotovina. Gotovina was responsible about biggest ethnic cleansing during Balkan wars. The article clearly proves the political and biased nature of International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

Headline: Bosniacs have got most justice from Hague, Albanians and Serbs least Lines from top to bottom: Croats, Bosniacs, Serbs, Albanians, Other Column 1: Civilian deaths Column 2: Refugees Column 3: ICTY sentencies (years) about crimes against nations on line Column 4: ICTY sentencies against nations on line/days/civilian death Column 5: ICTY sentencies against nations on line/ratio of civilian deaths+50% of refugee amounth Source: Helsingin Sanomat (http://hs.fi)

Bosniacs have got most justice from Hague, Albanians and Serbs least
Lines from top to bottom: Croats, Bosniacs, Serbs, Albanians, Other
Column 1: Civilian deaths, Column 2: Refugees, Column 3: ICTY sentences (years) about crimes against nations on line, Column 4: ICTY sentences against nations on line/days/civilian death
Column 5: ICTY sentences against nations on line/ratio of deaths + 50% of refugee amount
Free translation AR///Source: Helsingin Sanomat

Ante Gotovina was leading sc Operation Storm against Serb populated Krajina region. Krajina had been under UN protection from 1992, however some 10,000 UN peacekeepers could not stop the attack against civilians – three peacekeepers was murdered and over 200,000 Serbs escaped to Serbia. Croatian army looted homes of Serbs and burned most of them (about 17,000) down. Few thousands old or handicapped Serbs could not flee and hundreds of them were found later decapitated, burned or executed. More about operation Storm and ethnic cleansing in Krajina in my articles Krajina – Victory with Ethnic Cleansing and Operation Storm – forgotten pogrom.

The operation “Storm” successfully finalized the ethnic cleansing of the Republic of Serbian Krajina. Croat president Franjo Tudjman cynically described the pogrom of Croatia Serbs at the opening of the Military school Ban Josip Jelacic in Zagreb, on December 14 1998: “We have, therefore, resolved the Serbian question! There will no longer be 12 percent of Serbs, nor 9 percent of Yugoslavs, as before. One may find some equivalence between terms of Serbian question and Jewish question and not by coincidence as Mr.Tjudman is a widely acclaimed Holocaust denier and international hero to Neo-Nazis.

Serb populated areas in Croatia/Krajina before the Operation Storm

ICTY started to investigate war crimes and ethnic Krajina’s cleansing immediately 1995. U.S. – who was the main financier of ICTY – tried at daily basis to stop investigations and when they however continued U.S. refused to submit satelite photos and other evidencies in their possession to prosecutor. Despite all this sabotage ICTY anyway had enough evidence against Gotovina; after years of hiding he was arrested on 2005 – maybe because his arrest was one preconditition for Croatia’s EU membership. Gotovina got sentence of 24 years in Hague. However ICTY Appeals Chamber released him on Nov. 2012.

The obvious reason for outcome Ante Gotovina’s trial from my perspective is that operation Storm was implemented by help of U.S. All the procedure manifests that ICTY is a political construction to implement U.S. will, to whitewash actions and war crimes implemented by U.S. and their allies and to demonize Serbs to get justification for U.S. intervention to Balkan wars. The dominating political aspect casts shadows also the earlier court decisions – whether accused were acquit or not as well throws suspicion on ongoing trials in Hague.

P.S:

I have tried to tell the other side of Balkan war story in my previous articles such as

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Uncategorized

Jasenovac!

Holokaustin muistopäivän kunniaksi palauttaisin jälleen mieliin Jasenovacin tuhoamisleirin IIMS:n Kroatiassa. Yleiskuvauksen aiheesta kirjoitin jutussani Jasenovac – Holocaust promoted by Vatican – mutta muuta dokumentaatiota löytyy mm seuraavista lähteistä:

Jasenovacista on lisäksi infoa mm yad vashemissa, Wiesenthal-keskuksessa ja jopa wikipediassa. Koska juutalaisia Jasenovacin systeemissä kuoli vain joku 5 % eli n. 37.000 muiden ollessa 90 %:sesti serbejä, on leiri jäänyt hieman sivuun holokaust-keskustelun päävirrasta. Itse olen pyrkinyt eri foorumeilla tuomaan tätäkin asiaa esiin vaan harvaa nykyihmistä lännessä aihe kiinnostaa. Balkanilla tilanne on toinen koska monen serbin sukulainen päätti Jasenovacissa päivänsä.

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Arab St., Balkans, MENA, Middle-East

U.S. Recycles Its Old Balkan Practice With Syria

The Syrian rebellion began in earnest on March 11, 2011, when protests erupted. Since then, the Syrian civil conflict has become increasingly violent. About 70,000 people have died in the country’s civil war over the past two years. Millions of people have been displaced, both internally and abroad. For months regional and Western capitals have officially held back on arming the rebels, in part out of fear that the weapons would fall into the hands of terrorists.

Now however U.S. has begun to support arms delivery to Syrian opposition with recycling its old practice in Balkans. Multiple planeloads (some estimates are up to 160 cargo-planes, 3,500 tn) of weapons have left Croatia since December 2012, when many Yugoslav weapons, previously unseen in the Syrian civil war, began to appear in videos posted by rebels on YouTube. Saudi Arabia has financed a large purchase of infantry weapons from Croatia and quietly funneled them to anti-government fighters in Syria. American intelligence officers have helped the shipment with their earlier practice during Balkan wars. Earlier compared with the heavy weaponry employed by the Syrian regime, most of the equipment of Free Syrian Army (FSA) has been light so now the game is changing.

In Syria, a recoilless gun from the former Yugoslavia. Photo credit The NYT

Some foreign arms have been making their way to the Syrian opposition; the vast majority of guns were bought right from the regime – corrupt regime officials sold them. Another portion of their weapons was bought off the black market from Turkey or Jordan, which made them very expensive.

The opposition began as a secular struggle to overthrow the Assad regime. But many of the loosely linked brigades fighting the Assad regime have incorporated Islamist aims into their mission. These groups range from moderately Islamist outfits such as Liwaa al-Tawhid to more conservative groups such as Ahrar al-Sham, whose members have called for the countrywide implementation of Shariah, or Islamic law. There are also jihadist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra (JAN), which operates as an extension of al Qaeda’s Iraqi franchise and has been declared a terrorist organization by the U.S. JAN boasts foreign connections and members with years of fighting experience, making them invaluable to the uprising.

The M79 Osa, an anti-tank weapon of Yugoslav origin, seized from Syria’s opposition.

Officially besides about $385 million in humanitarian aid has been disbursed by the U.S., there is an additional $115 million in nonlethal support for the fighters. On the other hand U.S. (unofficial) decision to send in more weapons is aimed at another fear in the West about the role of jihadist groups in the opposition. Such groups have been seen as better equipped than many nationalist fighters and potentially more influential. U.S. is covertly working to get those weapons into the right hands. Western officials agree that helping Syrian rebels defeat the brutal Assad regime is a worthwhile cause, but recent reports suggest some of that assistance has already benefited jihadist groups – e.g. JAN fighters have been using weapons originating in Croatia. (Sources: NYT , IBT , Debkafile)

Weapons from Croatia

A conservative estimate of the payload of these flights would be 3,500 tons of military equipment” (Hugh Griffiths, SIPRI, who monitors illicit arms transfers)

Persian Gulf states such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been orchestrating weapons shipments into the conflict for months. Weapons from the former Yugoslavia were spotted in Syria this winter, after a series of military cargo flights from Zagreb to Amman. The arms are typically sent to Turkey and shipped into Syria via ground transport. The airlift, which began on a small scale in early 2012 and continued intermittently through last fall, expanded into a steady and much heavier flow late last year, the data shows. It has grown to include more than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes landing at Esenboga Airport near Ankara, and, to a lesser degree, at other Turkish and Jordanian airports. Also from Jordan and Turkey, trucks take the weapons to the border with Syria.

The anti-Assad front is not like-minded: Riyadh – and Prince Bandar in particular – accuses the Qataris of conspiring to bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Damascus, including radical groups tied to Al Qaeda. Qatari Prime Minister and Secret Service Chief Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem has shot back with the charge that Saudi Arabia is maneuvering for control of the Syrian rebel movement.

The below video posted by the jihadist group Ahrar al-Sham, a collection of various smaller groups based in the north of Syria, mainly around Idlib, Aleppo, and Hama, and not part of the Free Syrian Army, demonstrates that the Yugoslavian weapons – supplied via Croatia – being provided to FSA have now begun to reach the hands of jihadists. These include RBG-6 40mm grenade launcher , the M79 Osa rocket launcher, M79 rocket pods, Yugoslav-made recoilless gun, as well as other assault rifles, grenade launchers, machine guns, mortars and shoulder-fired rockets for use against tanks and armored vehicles.

Youtube video

 One should add that Croatia’s Foreign Ministry and arms-export agency has denied that such shipments had occurred. Croatia, poised this year to join the European Union, now strictly adheres to international rules on arms transfers. However, export figures obtained by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) show that last December, Jordan suddenly began buying Croatian weapons.

MLRS in Syria too?

On March 2013 Syrian rebels in Aleppo have begun receiving their first heavy weapons – 220-mm MLRS rocket launchers – from a large-scale supply operation headed by Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan. According Debkafile in Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo, his agents produced snapped up Russian-made MLRS (Smerch) and Hurricane 9K57 launchers capable of firing scores of 220-mm rockets to a distance of 70 kilometers.

I have some doubts how this Russian made MLRS has came from Croatia. First only one source (Debkafile) indicates so, second I don’t have any confirmation that this system was for sale in Balkans, third some youtube videos from Syria which I have seen about this MLRS are so unclear that the question could be about some similar type of MLRS.

Image shows a M60 recoilless gun (YU) being used to attack an army outpost,Hajez Barad, in Busr al-Harir, Daraa, on March 2nd.

The Saudi operation for shipping heavy rocket launchers from the Balkans to Aleppo is complicated. The rockets are fixed to vehicles weighing 43.7 tons each. The rockets themselves are 7.6 meters long and weigh 800 kilograms. To arrange the transfer of this heavy artillery to the rebels in Aleppo, Prince Bandar contacted Hakan Fidan, head of the MIT-Turkish National Intelligence Organization. They agreed to set up an overland route from the Balkans via Turkey and across the Syrian border to Aleppo, under the protection of the Turkish army.

It may be that Syrian rebels have now also the BM-30 Smerch (tornado), the most powerful multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) in the world. It was developed in the early 1980s and was accepted to service with the Soviet Army in 1987. It is also in service with Belarus and the Ukraine, and has been exported to Kuwait (27 systems) and Algeria (18 systems).India placed an order for an initial 38 systems. Deliveries began in May 2007.

The heavy MLRS rocket launcher in Syrian rebel hands

Former Yugoslavia had three types of MLRS: M 63 Plamen(32 /128),M 77 Ogan(32/128) and M 87 Orkan(12/262) which was produced in cooperation with Iraq and army of Iraq used this system. The M87 Orkan (hurricane) is a MLRS, jointly developed by Yugoslavia and Iraq. Most of development was made in Yugoslavia and some manufacturing took place in Iraq. It was first publicly revealed in 1988 during defense exhibition in Iraq, labeled as the Ababil-50. The Orkan MLRS project was finished in the early 1990s due to collapse of the Yugoslavia and it is estimated that only few system were built. The most modern – 2011 – MLRS in Balkans is LRSVM, which is a modular self-propelled multitube rocket launch system developed by Serbia-based Vazduhoplovno Tehnicki Institut (VTI). Also Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Defense Technologies (EDT) has developed, manufactured and delivered the first unit of the MLRS, which was designed and manufactured locally in UAE but in collaboration with a leading Serbian defence contractor. Perhaps some of these are now in operation theatre.

M87 Organ (YU)

Aleppo is the key to win

The Saudi operation for shipping heavy rocket launchers from the Balkans to Aleppo is complicated. The rockets are fixed to vehicles weighing 43.7 tons each. The rockets themselves are 7.6 meters long and weigh 800 kilograms. To arrange the transfer of this heavy artillery to the rebels in Aleppo, Prince Bandar contacted Hakan Fidan, head of the MIT-Turkish National Intelligence Organization. They agreed to set up an overland route from the Balkans via Turkey and across the Syrian border to Aleppo, under the protection of the Turkish army.

On the other hand Russia brings down its cargo planes loaded with weapons and replacement parts for the Syrian army at Nairab air base attached to Aleppo’s international air port, after the air facilities around Damascus were targeted by rebel fire. Recently Russian and Iranian arms lifts to Nairab were doubled, after rebels seized many Alawite villages in the Aleppo and Idlib regions of northern Syria.

The Saudis hope to expedite the rebel capture of the big Syrian Nairab air base attached to Aleppo’s international air port. The Saudi prince has personally taken the Nairab battle under his wing, convinced that it is the key to the conquest of Aleppo, once Syria’s national commercial and population center, after more than a year’s impasse in the battle for its control. The fall of this air base would also substantially reduce the big Iranian and Russian airlifts to Assad’s army. Moscow has since warned the rebels that if they attack incoming or outgoing Russian planes at Nairab, Russian special forces will come in to wipe out their strength around the base and take over its protection themselves.

U.S., Croatia and common history of clandestine operations

It is not surprising that U.S. is using Croatia for its clandestine operations. Radical Islam has enforced and widened their activities in Balkans last 15 years. During Bosnian war many foreign Islamists came to fight in mujahedeen brigade also many Al Quida figures – including Osama bin Laden – were supporting Bosnian Muslims 1990’s. US took the side with these “freedom fighters” in Bosnia and later in Kosovo. US involvement in the Balkans is not about helping any of the people in the region — Muslims, Croats, Serbs, or Albanians. The only interest of the Pentagon is in creating weak, dependent puppet regimes in order to dominate the entire region economically and politically.

In the 1980s Washington’s secret services had assisted Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran. Then, in 1990, the US fought him in the Gulf. n both Afghanistan and the Gulf, the Pentagon had incurred debts to Islamist groups and their Middle Eastern sponsors. By 93 these groups, many supported by Iran and Saudi Arabia, were anxious to help Bosnian Muslims fighting in the former Yugoslavia and called in their debts with the Americans. Bill Clinton and the Pentagon were keen to be seen as creditworthy and repaid in the form of an Iran-Contra style operation – in flagrant violation of the UN Security Council arms embargo against all combatants in the former Yugoslavia. One could add that Ayman al-Zawahiri, later the leader of al Qaeda, came to America to raise funds in Silicon Valley for Bosnian jihadists.in 1993, Mr. bin Laden had appointed Sheik Ayman Al-Zawahiri, to direct his operations in the Balkans.

The recent history of this issue in Balkans started in June 1993, when President Clinton received the head of the Saudi Arabian intelligence service, Prince Turki al Faisal – a close adviser to his uncle, the King. The Prince urged Clinton to take the lead in the military assistance to Bosnia. The American administration did not dare to do so: the fear of a rift within NATO was too great. However, the United States did consider the Saudi Arabian signal to be important, and therefore a new strategy was elaborated. Its architect was to be Richard Holbrooke, who started to look for a way to arm the Bosnian Muslims. In the summer of 1993, the Pentagon was said to have drawn up a plan for arms assistance to the Bosnian Muslim Army (ABiH), which included supplies of AK-47s and other small arms. This operation was to demand almost three hundred C-130 Hercules transport aircraft flights.The first consignment from Iran landed in Zagreb on 4 May 1994, with sixty tons of explosives and military equipment on board. The arms were transported in Croatian army trucks along the Adriatic coast to Bosnia. Because the supplies attracted too much attention at Pleso Airport in Zagreb, the flights subsequently went mainly to the Croatian island of Krk. Shortly after Iranian cargo aircraft had landed there, a number of Croatian helicopters arrived to continue transporting the load after dusk.

Besides weapons the arrival in the Balkans of the so-called Afghan Arabs, who are from various Middle Eastern states and linked to al-Qaeda, began in 1992 – mujahedeen fighters who travelled to Afghanistan to resist the Soviet occupation in the 1980s later migrated to Bosnia hoping to assist their Islamic brethren in a struggle against Serbian Croatian forces.

In the summer and autumn of 1994 plans were elaborated for training the ABiH. An US ‘mercenary outfit’ was to arrange this training. This was carried out by Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI), a company based in Virginia that employed various retired American generals and intelligence officials. With the consent of the State Department, MPRI trained the Hrvatska Vojska (HV, the Croatian Army) and later also the ABiH. MPRI’s role arose from the signing of the agreement between the United States and Croatia on military collaboration. By engaging MPRI, Washington also reduced the danger of ‘direct’ involvement. The CIA settled on 14,000 tons between May 1994 and December 1996. According to the State Department from May 1994 to January 1996 Iran delivered a total of 5000 tons of arms and ammunition via the Croatian pipeline to Bosnia. (Source Bill Clinton’s Bastard Army by Ares Demertzis ,Feb. 2009 in New English Review)

Links between drug trafficking and the supply of arms to the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) were established also mid-90s. In West KLA was described as terrorist organization but when US selected them as their ally it transformed organization officially to “freedom” fighters. After bombing Serbia 1999 KLA leaders again changed their crime clans officially to political parties. This public image however can not hide the origins of money and power, old channels and connections are still in place in conservative tribe society.  (More e.g in Quadruple Helix – Capturing Kosovo )

The pattern of U.S. collaboration with Muslim fundamentalists against more secular enemies is not new.In both cases all sides committed atrocities, and American intervention in fact favored the side allied with al-Qaeda. Similarly the cause of intervention was fostered by blatant manipulation and falsification of the facts.

Assad is not the only war criminal

Reports of a chemical weapon attack in Syria’s Aleppo Province end of March 2013 provoked leaders and politicians, particularly in the West, to advocate more fiercely for the overthrow of the Assad regime, despite the vague details surrounding the attack. Current data seem to suggest, however, that it was not government forces behind the attack, but rebel forces.The attack, intelligence sources appear to agree, was launched by rebel fighters and not government forces. Since the victims were overwhelmingly the Syrian military, this was not a huge shock, but is important to reiterate. Likewise, the Assad forces called upon the United Nations to launch an investigation into the attack.

Last October, the rebel forces were responsible for four suicide bombings in Aleppo that killed approximately 40 civilians and wounded many more. Jebhat al-Nusra, a group linked to al-Qaeda, has taken credit for the bombings. Additionally, the rebels were also responsible for the massacre of over 90 people in Houla last year. Immediately following that event, the U.S., France, Great Britain, and Germany blamed Assad for the killings and expelled Syria’s ambassadors from their countries in protest. Later reports, however, pointed to evidence that the massacre was in fact carried out by anti-Assad rebel forces.

From the other side Iranian supplies are what keep Assad’s army functioning and his regime in Damascus and other Syrian towns able to survive the rebellion. Iraqi Al Qaeda is also preparing to push trucks loaded with Chlorine gas-CI trucks into Syria for the jihadists to use against Assad’s forces. U.S. has been unable to persuade Iraq cut short the Iranian airlift and land route through his country to Bashar Assad of weapons, fighters and cash.

From my point of view it remains to see if this newest U.S. clandestine recycling operation has better success that earlier in Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya … I doubt.

P.S.

Some sense of proportion should be applied with different conflicts:

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BalkanBlog

Media War of Yugoslav Secession continues

Who needs facts if a good story is available?” (Ari Rusila)

A few weeks ago I promoted new Srebrenica documentary film Srebrenica: A Town Betrayed . Everybody was not happy about critical view of documentary. E.g the Norwegian Helsinki Committee made official complaint to Norwegian Broadcasting Council and Press Complaints Commission. This is not surprising as media war in Bosnia started same time as war on the ground. While the whole artificial outside forced state creature without any own identity is now openly tottering the media again is the tool to improve political interests.

Filmmakers and investigative journalists Ola Flyum and David Hebditch, authors of “Srebrenica: A Town Betrayed”, have been subjected to denunciations by interested parties in Bosnia and in the Bosniak diaspora for presenting their critical and challenging documentary about the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The filmmakers have prepared a detailed issue-by-issue 43-page Response to the derogatory allegations that have been made against them and this document – 2 Response to NHC Complaint ENG – is available in my document archive.

Media War in Bosnia

The media did more damage to us than Nato bombs.” (Radovan Karadzic)

The ‘Holocaust model’,promoted by governments and media, and generally accepted by western public opinion, presented the war as a genocidal war by Serbs against the Bosnian Muslim (Bosniac) population. The war was presented as morally equivalent to Auschwitz – and western intervention as a moral crusade, which no reasonable person could oppose. Few people in western Europe today believe that Serbs are ‘a nation of genocidal rapists’, but that is how many people saw them in the mid-1990’s.

One fabrication got headlines around the world as in 1992 an ITN TV-news shot footage of men staring out from behind barbed wire. They were Bosnian prisoners inside a Serbian concentration camp, ITN explained. An emaciated Muslim caged behind Serb barbed wire, filmed by a British news team, became a worldwide symbol of the war in Bosnia. But the picture is not quite what it seems. It took years before a German journalist Thomas Deichman described how the famous photo was staged by its takers. The picture was very misleading: the ITN photographers were actually inside the compound, and their subjects were outside the fence, looking in. Deichmann reveals the full story in his article The picture that fooled the world. However by that time (1992) the image had done its deed, labeling the Serbs as genocidal mass murderers.

An expample: How to win media war?

Richard Palmer describes one episode of successful media war in his article What Really Happened in Bosnia publiched in TheTrumpet.com

Serbia’s earliest defeat came in the PR war. Early on, Serbia’s enemies engaged Ruder Finn, an American public relations firm, to get their message out. James Harff, director of Ruder Finn’s Global Public Affairs section, boasted about his success against Serbia.

Nobody understood what was going on in (former) Yugoslavia,” he said in an October 1993 interview. “The great majority of Americans were probably asking themselves in which African country Bosnia was situated.” Ruder Finn took advantage of this ignorance. Its first goal was to persuade the Jews to oppose the Serbs—not an easy task. “The Croatian and Bosnian past was marked by a real and cruel anti-Semitism,” said Harff. “Tens of thousands of Jews perished in Croatian camps. So there was every reason for intellectuals and Jewish organizations to be hostile towards the Croats and Bosnians.”

Harff used a couple reports in the New York Newsday about Serbian concentration camps to persuade Jewish groups to demonstrate against the Serbs. “This was a tremendous coup,” said Harff. “When the Jewish organizations entered the game on the side of the Bosnians, we could promptly equate the Serbs with the Nazis in the public mind.” He continued: “By a single move, we were able to present a simple story of good guys and bad guys which would hereafter play itself. We won by targeting Jewish audience, the right target. Almost immediately there was a clear change of language in the press, with the use of words with high emotional content, such as ‘ethnic cleansing,’ ‘concentration camps,’ etc., which evoked inmates of Nazi Germany and the gas chambers of Auschwitz. The emotional change was so powerful that nobody could go against it.”

The fact that the mujahedin had taken over Bosnian Serb towns and villages, had tortured and executed, had ethnically cleansed and displaced Bosnian Serbs and Croats POWs at will has been ignored. Videotapes and reportage were made of these war crimes so it is easy to create a wider picture also today. 

Srebrenica

Mostly forgotten perspective is the context in which Srebrenica events occurred.

In charge of the Muslim forces in Srebrenica was Naser Oric. Here is how French Gen. Philippe Morillon, commander of the UN troops in Bosnia from 1992 to 1993, described him: “Naser Oric engaged in attacks during Orthodox holidays and destroyed villages, massacring all the inhabitants. This created a degree of hatred that was quite extraordinary in the region ….” In another part of his testimony, he stated, “There were terrible massacres committed by the forces of Naser Oric in all the surrounding villages.” It was this hatred and circle of revenge that led to the Srebrenica massacre. The Serbs finally reacted to Oric’s provocations. When they took Srebrenica far more easily than they thought they would they took their revenge on the men they found there. But, unlike Oric, they let the women and children go. Thus it was not an ethnic cleansing, instead it was a partly crime provoked by crimes on the other side. Partly as mostly the dead in Srebrenica on July 1995 happened when 28. Muslim Division tried to escape from town to Muslim held Zenica (as they knew the amounth of hatred among local Serbs) and lost their life during this operation.

In his latest book titled “Srebrenica — The History of Salon Racism” (Srebrenica — die Geschichte eines salonfahigen Rassismus) published 2010 in Berlin, Alexander Dorin focuses on manipulations with the number of Muslims who lost their lives in Srebrenica. “It is perfectly clear that Muslim organizations listed as Srebrenica victims all the Muslim fighters who were killed in the fights after the fall of Srebrenica,” the Swiss researcher said. Dorin explained that director of the Belgrade Center for Investigation of War Crimes Milivoje Ivanišević analyzed the lists of alleged Srebrenica victims. Ivanišević discovered that, a year after the fall of Srebrenica, some 3,000 Muslim men who were supposedly killed in 1995, were voting in the Bosnian Muslim elections. It asserted that no more than 2,000 Bosnian Muslims had died at Srebrenica – all armed soldiers, not civilians – and that 1,600 of them had died in combat or while trying to escape the enclave. In addition, at least 1,000 of the alleged 1995 “Srebrenica massacre victims” have been dead long before or after Bosnian Serb Army took the town over.

The Star Wittness

Germinal Civikov is a native of Bulgaria living nowadays in The Hague and Cologne. In his book, “Srebrenica: Der Kronzeuge” (Wien: Promedia, 2009, published also in English as ”Srebrenica: The Star Wittness) Civikov explains that the ICTY ruling that genocide was committed at Srebrenica on the orders of the Bosnian Serb leadership is based on the testimony of a single witness, a self-confessed perpetrator of one of the massacres called Drazen Erdemovic. Civikov shows that in fact Erdemovic is a pathological liar, he was a mercenary who fought on all three sides in the Bosnian civil war. He was not forced to commit the massacre, indeed his unit was on leave when the massacre was committed. He was not the victim of a later murder attempt to prevent him from testifying, but instead a thug who quarrelled over money with his fellow murderers.

Best Practice in use: Croatia

In Croatia the right-wing party, the Ustashi, came to power using fascist symbols and slogans from the era of Nazi occupation. Its program guaranteed a return to capitalist property relations and denied citizenship, jobs, pensions, passports or land ownership to all other nationalities, but especially targeted the large Serbian minority. In the face of armed expropriations and mass expulsions, the Serbs in Croatia began to arm themselves. The experience of World War II—when almost a million people, primarily Serbs, but also Jews, Roma and tens of thousands of others died in Ustashi death camps—fueled the mobilization. In deed Slobodan Milosevic was equated with Adolph Hitler, which in case of Croatia is quite strange as the Croatian forces during World War II were actually explicitly pro-Nazi and implemented holocaust against Serbs, Jews and other groups in Jasenovac concentration camp (3rd largest of them in Europe during WWII).

In August 1995, Croatia launched a savage attack on Krajina, a region of Croatia that Serbs had inhabited for 500 years. Within four days, the Croatians drove out 150,000 Serbs, the largest ethnic cleansing of the entire Balkan wars. Investigators with the war-crimes tribunal in the Hague have concluded that this campaign was carried out with brutality, wanton murder and indiscriminate shelling of civilians. These war crimes and cleansing were passed over in silence in western media as Croatia was being advised by a shadowy group of retired American officers who had been sent to Croatia to help it fight against the Serbs. In fact especially western mainstream media actively and carefully ignored and covered up the war crimes that its allies committed in Croatia and later in Bosnia and Kosovo.

It is estimated that more civilians were killed in Krajina than Srebrenica, but this consequence was virtually ignored by the Western media and never regarded, as was Srebrenica, a genocide. For Croatian leaders Krajina was the reward for having accepted, under Washington’s pressure, the federation between Croats and Muslims in Bosnia.

A former US ambassador to Croatia – Peter Galbraith, testifying in The Hague war crimes trial – accused Zagreb of plotting and sanctioning the exodus of Serbs in 1995 to create an “ethnically clean” country.

Croatian authorities either ordered or allowed a mass destruction of the Serb property in former (Serb-held region of) Krajina to prevent the return of the population. I consider that to have been a thought through policy” … ”Croatia was an organised country, its army the most disciplined in former Yugoslavia, and therefore I cannot accept that the illegalities that occurred after Storm were spontaneous,” … “President Tudjman and people around him wanted it, wishing for an ethnically clean country.” (Source BalkanInsight )

<span style="font-family:Droid Serif,serif;">More about ”Operation Storm” in my article Krajina – Victory with Ethnic Cleansing

Best Practice in use: Kosovo

In Kosovo U.S. With help of western media used the same best practice as earlier in Croatia and Bosnia. The main elements were need of humanitarian intervention, multiplying (with 10-50) civilian deaths and fabricating massacres. More coverage e.g in High pressure to fabricate Racak reports ja 10th anniversary of Nato’s attack on Serbia) ). In West the war-crimes and other atrocies aginst Serbs were either ignored or labeled as propaganda. Only years after war some reports or new investigations are telling also the other side of story . One of the most important document is the one which Swiss prosecutor-politician Dick Marty gave for Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) on Dec 2010. The report, “Inhuman treatment of people and illicit trafficking in human organs in Kosovo” claims that civilians – Serbian and non-KLA-supporting Kosovan Albanians detained by the KLA in the 1999 hostilities – were shot in northern Albania and their kidneys extracted and sold on the black market. It names Hashim Thaçi, the former leader of the KLA and Kosovo’s prime minister, as the boss of a “mafia-like” group engaged in criminal activity – including heroin trading – since before the 1999 war. More e.g in Kosovo: Two years of Pseudo-state and Captured Pseudo-State Kosovo .

Mafia Clans/KFOR sectors -map made by Laura Canali

KLA’s transformation from OC-/terrorist group to freedom fighters was an amazing media victory which guaranteed the occupation and later capturing of Kosovo. Since then the efforts have been made to whitewash the past and creating a quasi-independent puppet state for safe haven for terrorists and OC. One of latest episodes of media war was played recently when Kosovo’s government has discretely engaged the lobbying services of one of Washington’s top firms (Patton Bogg) for $50,000 a month. Frank Wisner, Patton Bogg’s foreign affairs advisor, met Thaci in the United States last July (2011). Interesting detail is that mentioned Wisner was the US’s special representative to the Kosovo Status Talks in 2005 – like in role of neutral facilitator of talks. Wisner played a crucial role in negotiating Kosovo’s independence. (Source BalkanInsight ).

Receptive mind in West

“He may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.” (Franklin Roosevelt)

As described earlier Bosnian Muslims, Croatians, Kosovo Albanians and their hired lobbyists made very successful media campaign for their case in western mainstream media and in capitals of West. However the campaigns might not have been so effective unless the politicians were so amenable to campaigner’s views. In my opinion this receptivity is linked to geopolitical changes and interests. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, US big business was focusing on reshaping all of Europe. Nato had lost its enemy and military-industrial complex was afraid to lose its old markets. Nonaligned Yugoslavia was no longer needed in this context. The interest of US Military-industrial complex and Pentagon’s was in creating weak, dependent puppet regimes to Balkans, Black Sea region, Caucasus in order to dominate these regions and their energy sources and transportation routes – economically and politically. Without this political and business interest it would not be so easy for PR-agencies to demonize the Serbs, to hide the reality of Croatian fascism, to canonize the Bosnian Muslims, and to whitewash OC-clans in Kosovo.

Military-industrial Complex shaping US-policy

Global military industrial consumption per year is 1.5 trillion U.S. dollars. US share of the cake is about 40% to the current year, 664 billion dollars. This is a good comparison of the UN budget (27 billion), which is a sum of nearly three per cent of its Member States on military expenditure. Peace work is estimated to get yearly 6 billion and conflict prevention 0.6 billion.

US military-industrial complex has been shaping the country’s economy and affecting its foreign policy. A recent count found the Department (Defense) had 47,000 primary contractors, or over 100,000 firms, including subcontractors. Even academia is in tow, with about 350 colleges and universities agreeing to do Pentagon-funded research.

To keep the media on Pentagon’s side, in the US and elsewhere, the military allocates nearly $4.7 billion per year to “influence operations” and has more than 27,000 employees devoted to such activities.

The international community is now willing to invest 200 times more to the war than peace. Against one peace researcher, is estimated to be more than 1100 researcher for weapon (and their use) developers. The difference in what countries are prepared to invest in weapons and their use is huge compared to what they use for example, poverty elimination and economic development in developing countries. And just poverty is one of the causes of violence.

More e.g in my article $1tn G20 deal vs. MI(MA/E)C

More aggressive policies needed a justification for intervention so it was not so surprising when US administration rushed to the Srebrenica scene to confirm and publicize the claims of a massacre, just as William Walker did later at Racak in January 1999. The numbergame in media was similar in Bosnia and Kosovo as later the civilian casualties were confirmed to be in reality some 10 % of that what was marketed before attacks. Same time in Bosnia case U.S officials also diverted attention from larger-scale ethnic cleansing such as Croatian attacks on Serb populated UN Protected Areas (UNPAs) in Western Slavonia (“Operation Flash”) and the Krajina region (“Operation Storm”) in May and August of 1995. Maintaining later an image of demonized Serbs helped Kosovo Albanians implement their ethnic cleansing operations in Kosovo.

My view

The bottom line is that the PR-agencies got their message through the western mainstream that some ethnic cleansing was going on in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo, US administration used created picture to officially stop it and unofficially to improve their own interests. Now people also outside the Balkans understand that US forces intervened against Serb – supposed – ethnic cleansers, but in reality intervened on the side of Croat and Albanian ethnic cleansers.

Some sources and more:

Media War: The Use and Mis-Use of the Visual Image in News Coverage and Propaganda . A study of the visual media war against the Serbs.

Demonizing the Serbs by Marjaleena Repo June 15, 1999 in Counterpunch

One view about issue in video Bosnia and Media Manipulation and The Politics of Genocide foreword by Noam Chomsky by Edward S. Herman and David Peterson

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Balkan, lähi-itä, siviilikriisinhallinta

Historiahankkeet muokkaavat tulevaisuutta

Historiankirjahankkeet ovat nähdäkseni yksi keskeisimpiä alueellisten konfliktien pienimuotoisia aktiviteetteja rauhan rakentamisessa. Vaikka ylätasoilla neuvottelut ja yhteistyö ylipäänsä voivat olla olemattomia niin ruohonjuuritason kyky keskinäiseen vuorovaikutukseen voi ratkaisevasti luoda pohjaa rauhanomaiselle yhteiselolle tulevaisuudessa. Seuraavassa tuon esiin kaksi toisistaan poikkeavaa kirjahanketta; samalla kuitenkin korostan, ettei kirjat kuuluvat osana laajempaan kokonaisuuteen, jonka elementtejä ovat mm historianopettajien verkottuminen yli etnisten rajojen ja muut koulutusta laajemmat aktiviteetit.

Israelilais-palestiinalainen historiankirja on yksi osa “Peace Research Institute in the Middle East’n” aloitteista. Kirjaa valmisteli ensisijaisesti 18 historioitsijaa, joista kolmannes muita kuin israelilaisia tai palestiinalaisia. Hankkeen hyödyntämisen ongelmat puolestaan kuvastavat kuinka ylätason kommunikaatio-ongelmat kuitenkin voivat hidastaa ruohonjuuritason yhteistoimintaa. Pohja on kuitenkin olemassa enkä epäile sen leviävän nopeastikin kunhan tilanne muuttuu. Myös länsimaiselle lukijalle kirja on antoisa monipuolisen perspektiivinsä ansiosta ainakin lukemani tiivistetyn version pohjalta (LEARNING EACH OTHER’S HISTORICAL NARRATIVE: Palestinians and Israelis” )


Saman tyyppinen vaikkakin lopputulemaltaan hieman erilainen hanke on toteutettu myös Balkanilla. Kroatiassa, Bosnia-Herzegovinassa ja Serbiassa on aikaansaatu yhteisen projektin tuloksena yhteinen historiakäsitys – tosin kattaen tällä erää vain vuodet 1945-1990. Tuloksena aikaansaatu oppikirja “Ordinary People in an Extraordinary Country” kuvailee yhteistä historiaa Jugoslaviassa ns. tavallisten kansalaisten arkielämän tasolta nähtynä jolloin teoreettiset analyysit poliittisista motivaatioista ym ylätason toiminnoista ovat taka-alalla. Hankkeeseen on mainituissa maissa osallistunut yli 500 historianopettajaa. Kirja on ladattavissa englanniksi esim. pääblogini dokumenttiarkistosta.

Israelilais-Palestiinalaisen oppikirjan sisältäessä kaksi hyvin poikkeavaa perspektiiviä historiaan on Jugoslavia kirjassa pyritty esittämään yksi yhteisesti hyväksytty näkemys meneeseen aikakauteen. Oli lähestymistapa kumpi hyvänsä ja vaikka itse kirjat mielestäni ovat erinomaisia ei niiden soveltaminen käytäntöön pääse irti ympäröivästä yhteiskunnasta ja siinä vallitsevasta kulloisestakin politiikasta. Niinpä esimerkiksi Bosnia-Herzegovinassa kirjan käyttö ei ole toivotun laajuista johtuen mainitun valtion viimeaikaisesta kehityksestä. Kansainvälinen yhteisö on pyrkinyt pakottamaan Daytonin pohjalta etnisiä ryhmiä keskitetyn hallinnon – valtion – alle kun taas liittovaltion osat ja etniset ryhmät yhä voimakkaammin pyrkivät alueellisen (ja etnisen) autonomian lisäämiseen. (Ks esim kirjoitukseni Bosnia on the road to the EU, sorry to Dissolution ja Rethinking needed after Bosnian elections )

Hankkeet osoittavat prosessin kulttuurien väliseen dialogiin tai edes sietämiseen olevan pitkä mutta mahdollinen. Lähi-idän kirjahankkeen vetäjien (Dan Bar-On ja Sami Adwan) sanoin “Never doubt that a small group of committed teachers—Palestinian and Israeli—can change the world, or at least one part of it, when the time will be ripe.”

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BalkanBlog, Balkans, crisis management

Krajina – Victory with Ethnic Cleansing

Thousands of people across several Balkan countries have held services last week to commemorate those who died in Operation Storm 15-years ago. Like normal in Balkans the views what happened are almost opposite to each other. One side is celebrating victory, the other side has remembrance of those who died during the largest refugee crisis since Holocaust before Kosovo. The focal point was Republic of Serbian Krajina, a country or separatist region on the borderline of today’s Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, which existence came to an end August 1995.

In Croatia, August 4 is celebrated as a Victory Day and Homeland Thanksgiving Day, as well as Veterans Day. Croatia’s Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor headed a delegation of high-ranking officials at Zagreb central cemetery to mark the military operation carried out by forces from her country and Bosnia and Herzegovina to retake areas of Croatia claimed by ethnic Serbs. She said on Wednesday the operation had been “a victory” over the policies of former Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic.

Masses were held at the same time in main churches in Belgrade and Banja Luka for about 2,000 Serbs who were believed to have been killed during the operation, according to Serbian non-governmental organisations. A day earlier, Boris Tadic met in Belgrade with family members of those who went missing during the operation, saying that “the crime must not be forgotten”

Croat member of the Bosnian three-partite Presidency, Zeljko Komsic, sent greetings to his Croatian counterpart, calling the day a day of biggest victory for Croatia, the day when your army in the best possible way showed what does it meant to protect homeland and democracy.

Krajina

Before the war, 12% of Croatian citizens were of Serbian nationality. Half of them lived in the region called Krajina. Krajina was created by Austrians in 16th century as a military zone to protect the Christian West from the advance of Muslim Ottoman Empire. Serbian peasants that escaped Ottoman rule were given free land there in exchange for their military service. After the collapse of both empires Serbs remained living in there throughout both the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the late Yugoslav communist state.


The Republic of Croatia declared its independence on June 25, 1991. By the end of the year, the Yugoslav People’s Army and different Serb forces took control of more than one third of the country, proclaiming their own independent state: Republika Srpska Krajina (RSK) with a capital in Knin.

After the peace agreement brokered by the European Community and the UN, implementation of the so-called Vance Plan started. It envisioned four “protected areas,” with a Serb majority, whose eventual status was planned be resolved through negotiations. In 1992 UN peacekeepers were deployed along the conflict lines surrounding the Krajina. Serbian residents inside Krajina conducted a referendum to declare their independence, printed their own currency, established their own militia (Vojska Krajina) and created a centre of government in the city of Knin. The Croatian military – aided by U.S. and German advisors – continued to build up its forces along the Krajina border.


In January 1993, Croatian forces – between 17,000 and 20,000 troops – launched a surprise attack against the Serb-held Krajina. The Serbs fought back and as part of a ceasefire agreement the area became a so-called “Pink Zone” placed under UNPROFOR protection, and within which the warring factions pledged there would be no fighting. UN Security Council Resolution 802 censured Croatia for the attack and ordered the immediate withdrawal of Croatian troops. At the Geneva Peace Conference on March 2, 1993, the RSK agreed to the Vance-Owen proposal that as the Croatian forces withdrew, only UNPROFOR, would occupy the territory formerly held by the Serbs prior to the Croatian attack. No final agreement was concluded until July 16. Croatian President Franjo Tudjman ordered all United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) units to leave Croatian territory by March 31, 1995. The move, supported by U.S., gave the Croatian Government a green light to start their ethnic cleansing.


On August 2, negotiations took place in Geneva for Krajina to enter a political settlement with Zagreb. The basis for negotiations in Geneva was a modified version of the Z-4 (Zagreb 4 was mini-contact group including U.S., Russia, France, Germany) plan. The plan was meant to allow for the reintegration of the Republic of Serbian Krajina into Croatia by offering wide-ranging autonomy through most of Serbian Krajina. On August 2, Krajina Prime Minister Milan Babic publicly declared his acceptance the Z-4 Plan through negotiations with U.S. Ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith. Croatia refused to acknowledge the plan’s acceptance by Krajina authorities.


Note (AR):

Later after 1995 events The Republic of Serbian Krajina Government-in-exile (“RSK”), a self proclaimed government in exile for the Republic of Serbian Krajina, called for the re-creation of the RSK on the basis of the 1994 Z-4 plan, which had called for Krajina to have a status of “more than autonomy, less than independence” within Croatia (btw Serbia made same offer to Kosovo Albanians during sc “troika” talks). However this government in exile has only marginal support among mainly nationalist politics in Serbia, Russia and Greece.

Storm

Krajina is the reward for having accepted, under Washington’s pressure, the federation between Croats and Muslims in Bosnia.”( Stipe Mesic, former President of Croatia)


From 1992 Croatia’s government feverishly prepared for war, training its troops on the battlefields of Bosnia and staging quick, limited offensives at the strategic edges of UN-protected areas like the Medak Pocket attack in 1993. On May 1, 1995, Croatian troops tested both their readiness and the UN’s will by staging a strike at an exposed Serb enclave of Western Slavonia. The operation was code-named
Bljesak – “flash,” or perhaps more appropriately, “Blitz” describing better Croatia’s old Nazi sympathies. The clear violation of the armistice went unpunished. The stage was set for Storm (Oluja).


On the 04.of August 1995, Croatian armed forces, with NATO’s approval and support, in the joint forces of Croatian defense council (Hrvatsko Vijece odbrane- HVO) and Bosnian (BiH) Army, launched an attack – Operation Storm (Oluja) in Croatia and part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This aggression was executed despite the facts that this area was under UN protection (Sectors South and North) and that RSK delegates, only one day earlier in Geneva with Croatian delegation, before UN delegates and in Belgrade before USA representative, as a leading NATO member, had accepted proposal of international community. The proposal was that negotiation regarding final political agreement about Krajina status is conducted plans.

During this operation, 2,650 Serbs (mainly civilians) were killed and some 250,000 were “ethnically cleansed” from their ancestral homes. Several thousand have disappeared, and their fate is not known to this day. This was the largest refugee crisis since the Holocaust, since World War II and until Kosovo war 1999. Most of the refugees ended in Serbia, Bosnia and eastern Slavonia. Some of those who remained were murdered, tortured and forcibly expelled by the Croatian Army and police. Of those expelled, just a handful have returned, in many instances their return being greeted with abuse and humiliation. For the vast majority, return to their homes and property is but a dream. (More about issue e.g. in my article Operation Storm – forgotten pogrom” )


Some historical background


Croatian side has claimed that most Serbs leaved voluntary from Krajina during attack. That’s true and some historical background – especially the memories of Jasenovac – can explain this. Upon the occupation of Yugoslavia, the German Nazis and the Italian Fascists formed an “independent” state in Croatia, which was basically a Nazi puppet state. Immediately the fascist Ustashe government set up concentration camps, most notably at Jasenovac – a 3rd biggest extermination camp after Auschwitz and Treblinka. Nazi Croatian Ustashi forces slaughtered 300.000-700.000 Serbs, 30.000-60,000 Jews and 40.000-80,000 Gypsies (the exact amount varies depending from source) 65 years ago. Many Croats fled after the war through the “Vatican “Ratline” for Argentina and Juan Peron issued 34,000 Visas to Croatian war criminals. (more in “Jasenovac – Holocaust promoted by Vatican”)


The Nazi past still alive


Croatia was pro-Nazi during World War II, became independent in 1991 and sympathetic to that historical era in the 1990s – prompting Israel to hold off recognizing it until 1997. Since 2000, Croatia’s governments have denounced fascism. In spite of official public statements one alarming trend is (over)emphasizing Croatia’s Nazi past. From time to time some symptoms of this past are occurring also today e.g. in rock concerts and soccer matches and even with support of government (More e.g. in my article “Nazi’s funeral shadows Croatians past”). This said one must state that naturally there is extremists also in Serbia as well jihadists in Bosnia which makes reintegration quite challenging.

My point of view

As I noted in the beginning viewpoints about near history in western Balkans differ drastically and this aspect has great effect also today’s policy and possibilities to create cooperation tomorrow. For reintegration/reconciliation in my opinion is needed go into issues such as following:

  • Missing persons: NGO VERITAS (Center For Collecting Document And Information) was established in late 1993 by citizens of the then Republic of Serbian Krajina – RSK. On the VERITAS evidences, there are names of 1,934 dead and missing Serbs from this action and later on. Among them are 1,196 civilian people, and half of them are older then 60 years. There are 524 women and 14 children among them. Association families of missing persons from Krajina, has still 2.627 missing persons in their data. Now after 15 years of uncertainty about the fait accompli of missing persons should be clarified.
  • Property rights: The property laws allegedly favor Croatians refugees who took residence in houses that were left unoccupied and unguarded by Serbs after Operation Storm. Amnesty International’s 2005 report considers one of the greatest obstacles to the return of thousands of Croatian Serbs has been the failure of the Croatian authorities to provide adequate housing solutions to Croatian Serbs who were stripped of their occupancy rights, including where possible by reinstating occupancy rights to those who had been affected by their discriminatory termination. There is estimation that the value of Serb property in Croatia is worth 30 billion euros. and that this should be paid to the Serbs who lived in Croatia as a part of war reparations.
  • Returns: According census on 1991 there were 581,663 Serbs out of 4,784,265 People in Croatia (12.16%) and on 2001 201,631 Serbs out of 4,437,460 People in Croatia ( 4.54%); these figures clearly show that refugees from Krajina are returning slowly if at all. As part of the settlement of the status of the expelled Serb people there has been initiatives that Croatia should pay war damage compensation for Serb people if their return is not possible. However war damage compensation for Serb people are probably possible only if Croatia or Bosnia did the same towards Serbia so prospects are not very promising. A housing programme in Serbia with possible international aid could be a realistic alternative for returns.
  • History: In my opinion all sides – Serbs, Croats, Bosniaks as well jihadists, mercenaries and Nato – committed war crimes, ethnic cleansing or massacres during Balkan Wars. Today or maybe never there is no common truth about events. Some regional committee should anyway study this near history and find some common description for explaining it e.g. forwarding it in new schoolbooks so that ethnic tensions could decrease by avoiding most exaggerated tales.
  • Justice: The trial of commanders of the Croatian Army, generals Ante Gotovina, Mladen Markac and Ivan Cermak, is underway in the Hague Tribunal, on charges of conspiracy to commit crime, aimed to permanently eliminate the Serbs from that part of Croatia and other war crimes. However, since the “Storm” no Croats have been tried before local courts for the crimes in that operation. I don’t put very much weight to ICTY rulings but however from my point of view the procedure itself brings more facts about events on the table, especially when both the prosecutor and defence have made their case. At best this can make easier to bring justice also to lower level.

Sources of this story e.g:

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BalkanBlog, Balkans, Black Sea region, Caucasus

Freedom 2010 in Balkans and Eastwards

“Freedom of the press, freedom of association, the inviolability of domicile, and all the rest of the rights of man are respected so long as no one tries to use them against the privileged class. On the day they are launched against the privileged they are overthrown.” (Prince Peter Kropotkin)

diagram by David Nolan

diagram by David Nolan

Different aspects of freedom are globally fundamental value of human rights, civil liberties or human development in general. Human development has been described in UNDP as “a process of enlarging people’s choices”. This in turn requires the freedom of people to make their choices and the opportunities to realize them. Rankings or ratings are one kind of (process) benchmarking in which organizations or in this case states evaluate various aspects of their processes in relation to best practice.

In this article I make a short update about political rights and civil liberties, freedom of press and some economical aspects in mostly Balkans and Black Sea regions. As sources (described next paragraph) I have used last reports available. Besides regions mentioned I have included to table also top and worst scores, U.S. as old superpower and BRIC countries as rising superpowers.

Sources of this story:

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is is the UN’s global development network. Since 1990, annual Human Development Reports have explored challenges including poverty, gender, democracy, human rights, cultural liberty, globalization, water scarcity and climate change. The Human Development Index (HDI)Table HDR 2009 measures the average achievements in a country in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living. More: UNDP http://hdr.undp.org/en/

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports the expansion of freedom around the world. Freedom House supports democratic change, monitors freedom, and advocates for democracy and human rights. Founded in 1941 by prominent Americans organization’s viewpoint is mostly Anglo-American. Freedom House has been publishing its Freedom in the World reports since 1972 and it publishes also Freedom in the Press report since 1980. More: Freedom House

Founded in 1973, The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institution—a think tank—whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. Together with The Wall Street Journal they publish e.g. “Economic freedom index”. More: The Heritage Foundation.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is an independent, international organization incorporated as a Swiss not-for-profit foundation. WEF believes that economic progress without social development is not sustainable, while social development without economic progress is not feasible. WEF aims to be: the foremost organization which builds and energizes leading global communities; the creative force shaping global, regional and industry strategies; the catalyst of choice for its communities when undertaking global initiatives to improve the state of the world. WEF defines competitiveness as the set of institutions, policies, and factors that determine the level of productivity of a country. World Economic Forum has published “The Global Competitiveness Report 2009-2010” which gives an other viewpoint to economic freedom.

Reporters Without Borders is registered in France as a non-profit organisation and has consultant status at the United Nations. Reporters Without Borders is present in all five continents through its national branches. Reporters Without Borders: defends journalists and media assistants imprisoned or persecuted for doing their job, fights against censorship, gives financial aid to journalists in difficulty and works to improve the safety of journalists, especially those reporting in war zones. Reporters Without Borders has fought for press freedom on a daily basis since it was founded in 1985.

Summary table of Freedom in Balkans, Black Sea and some comparison data

(Note: the order below is made according UNDP’s “Human development index”, in other categories order can be checked from ranks)

Human development index

(UNDP)

Freedom Status

(Freedom House) Political Rights/ Civil Liberties

Economic Freedom (WSJ/THF) & Competitiveness (WEB) Press Freedom (Reporters w. borders/Freedom House)
Rank

(↑..↓

2006)

Country ///

Name & Score

P R C L Status HF/WSJ Rank/Scr

WEB Rank/

Trend

RWB

Rank/ Score

FH Rank
1. Norway (0.971) 1 1 Free 37./69.4 14 +

1./0,00

1
13. ↓ U.S.A. (0.956) 1 1 Free 8./78.0 2 – 20./4.00 24
25. Greece (0.942) 1 2 Free 73./62.7 71 — 35./ 9,00 29
29. Slovenia (0.929) 1 1 Free 61./64.7 37 ++ 37./ 9,50 25
45. Croatia (0.871) 1 2 Free 92./59.2 72 — 78./ 17,17 85
61. ↓ Bulgaria (0.840) 2 2 Free 75./62.3 76 68./15,61 76
63. ↑ Romania (0.837) 2 2 Free 63./64.2 64 + 50./12,50 88
65. Montenegro (0.834) 3 2 Free 68./ 63.6 62 + 77./17,00 80
67. Serbia (0.826) 2 2 Free 104./56.9 93 — 62./ 15,50 78
70. Albania (0.818) 3 3 Partly Free 53./66.0 96 + 82./21,75 102
71. ↑ Russia (0.817) 6 5 Not Free 143./50.3 63 – 153./60,88 175
72. Macedonia FYR (0.817) 3 3 Partly Free 56./65.7 84 + 34./ 8,75 94
75. Brazil (0.813) 2 2 Free 113./ 55.6 56 ++ 71./15,88 88
76. Bosnia-Herzegovina (0.812) 4 3 Partly Free 110./56.2 109 – 39./ 10,50 97
79. ↓ Turkey (0.806) 3 3 Partly Free 67./63.8 61 + 122./ 38,25 106
NA Kosovo (under UN 1244) 5 4 Partly Free NA NA 75./ 16,58 108
84. ↑ Armenia (0.798) 6 4 Partly Free 38./69.2 97 111./31,13 146
85. ↓ Ukraine (0.796) 3 2 Free 162./46.4 82 — 89./ 22,00 108
86. ↑ Azerbaijan (0.787) 6 5 Not Free 96./58.8 51 + 146./53,50 172
88. ↓ Iran (0.782) 6 6 Not Free 168./43.4 NA 172./104,14 187
89. ↑ Georgia (0.778) 4 4 Partly Free 26./70.4 90 81./18,83 126
92. ↑ China (0.772) 7 6 Not Free 140./51.0 29 + 168./84,50 181
117. Moldova (0.720) 3 4 Partly Free 125./53.7 NA 114./33,75 144
134. India (0.612) 2 3 Free 124./53.8 49 + 105./29,33 72
182. Niger (0.340) 5 4 Partly Free 129./52.9 NA 139./ 48,50 151

Full reports and country analysis from each category can be found from related organizations – see sources above.

Some remarks

UNDP’s methodology includes besides data collection a serial of background seminars and regional and thematic events. Due heavy preparation process the report 2009 is based to oldest data mostly from years 2006-2008. The UNDP 2010 report will launch around the world this autumn and will have three parts. First, a systematic assessment of progress and setbacks in human development since the 1970s, in which we discuss what has been achieved, what seems to work, and what are the key gaps and constraints. The second part will revisit the concept of human development – and its measurement (including the Human Development Index) – and propose the enhancements needed to help policy-makers ensure that people are at the centre of development. In this light, the third and final part would highlight concrete implications for policy and development strategies, and outline recommendations for a new development agenda.

Freedom House’s report “Freedom in the World 2010” reflects developments that took place in the calendar year 2009. The full survey, including the individual country reports, will be available in late spring 2010. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions and 15 civil liberties questions. The political rights questions are grouped into three subcategories: Electoral Process (3 questions), Political Pluralism and Participation (4), and Functioning of Government (3). The civil liberties questions are grouped into four subcategories: Freedom of Expression and Belief (4 questions), Associational and Organizational Rights (3), Rule of Law (4), and Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights (4).

Related to some disputed regions Freedom House ranks status of Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh as Partly Free, but South Ossetia and Transdnistria as Not Free.

WEF defines competitiveness as the set of institutions, policies, and factors that determine the level of productivity of a country. The level of productivity, in turn, sets the sustainable level of prosperity that can be earned by an economy. In other words, more-competitive economies tend to be able to produce higher levels of income for their citizens. The productivity level also determines the rates of return obtained by investments in an economy.

Freedom House’s examination of the level of press freedom in each country currently comprises 23 methodology questions and 109 indicators divided into three broad categories: the legal environment, the political environment, and the economic environment. The 2010 report did note some changes in the region that includes Western Balkan countries. Improvements were noted in several countries, including Bulgaria and Ukraine, primarily due to fewer cases of physical attacks and harassment, as well as greater editorial and ownership diversity. Meanwhile, Armenia and Moldova both saw numerical gains as a result of reduced censorship and restrictions on news coverage. The score improvement for Serbia in 2009 reflected the fact that Kosovo was scored separately for the first time in this edition of the survey. Croatia’s score “fell from 38 to 40 due to the removal of and legal action against journalists covering war crimes, organized crime, and corruption. There was also less diversity due to rising concentration of private media ownership.”

Because freedom is so highly valued factor, there is constant debate over exactly what the word means. Disputes are often politically charged, and they are not likely ever to be completely resolved. James P.Young summarizes following:

Analysis of the idea is also complicated because it is impossible to consider freedom without taking into account related concepts such as democracy and constitutionalism, problems such as majority rule and minority rights, and the tension between liberty and equality. The American Declaration of Independence represents one of the climactic moments in the long development of the idea of freedom and arguably achieves universality, despite having grown out of the specific revolutionary situation in the colonies. Yet throughout their history, Americans have argued about how the principles found in the Declaration should be applied. For example, does the right to life rule out the death penalty?

(More e.g. in “A Short Historical Sketch on the Idea of Freedom” by James P. Young)

The bottom line

Democracy is a form of government that cannot long survive, for as soon as the people learn that they have a voice in the fiscal policies of the government, they will move to vote for themselves all the money in the treasury, and bankrupt the nation.”(Karl Marx)

While comparing different data it seems that there is some conflict between economic freedom and especially competitiveness and other political rights, civil liberties and press freedom. It remains to be seen whether present global and regional financial turmoil and environmental challenges will change the balance one way or the other.

We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than only freedom can make security more secure.”(Sir Karl Popper)

Related articles:

Balkans and Failed States Index (Jan. 2009/failed state index based on social, economical and political inducators)

Competitiveness of Balkans (Oct. 2008)

Freedom in Balkans (Jan. 2009/political rights and civil liberties. Democracy, economy, poverty, movement)

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BalkanBlog, Balkans

Jasenovac – Holocaust promoted by Vatican

The UN General Assembly chose January 27 as the official day for the commemoration, as it was on this day in 1945 that Soviet troops liberated the Auschwitz extermination camp, the last such camp still functioning. Throughout Europe, tributes will be paid to the 53 million people who died during World War II, of whom 31 million were civilians. Commemoration has linked usually also to International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest extermination center created by the Nazis. It has become the symbol of the Holocaust and of wilful radical evil in our time. Few people know that 3rd biggest extermination center was Jasenovac. Two reasons maybe explain this: 1st it is located in Croatia and 2nd the main part of victims were Serbs. The death tolls in extermination centres vary but rough estimations are following (source Wikipedia):

  • Auschwitz II 1,400,000

  • Belzeg 600,000
  • Chelmno 320,000
  • Jasenovac 600,000
  • Majdanek 360,000
  • Maly Trostinets 65,000
  • Sobibor 250,000
  • Treblinka 870,000


Background

Upon the occupation of Yugoslavia, the German Nazis and the Italian Fascists formed an “independent” state in Croatia, which was basically a Nazi puppet state. Immediately upon the establishment of its puppet government, the Ustashe set up militias and gangs that slaughtered Serbs, Jews, Romas and their political foes. Catholic priests, some of them Franciscans, also participated in the acts of slaughter. The cruelty of the Ustashe was so great that even the commander of the German army in Yugoslavia complained. The partisans, led by the Croat Communist Josip Broz Tito, and the Chetniks – Nationalist Serb royalists – fought the Ustashe.


Under the leadership of the Ustasha leader Ante Pavelic’s right-hand man Andrija Artukovic, who earned the nickname “the Himmler of the Balkans,” the Ustashe set up concentration camps, most notably at Jasenovac. According to various estimates, about 100,000 people were murdered at the camp, among them tens of thousands of Jews (it is interesting to note that some of the heads of the Ustashe were married to Jewish women). Throughout Croatia about 700,000 people were murdered.

Jasenovac

Located in Croatia 62 miles south of Zagreb, Jasenovac was Croatia’s largest concentration and extermination camp. Jasenovac, was a network of several sub-camps, established in August 1941 and dissolved in April 1945. Jasenovac was not the only place where Serbia’s neighbour Croatia ran several concentration camps where Jews, Serbs and Roma have been murdered. Bosnian Muslims and Kosovo Albanians were allies of Hitler as well. (More about Jasenevac in my document library under headline Croatia )

In April 1945 the partisan army approached the camp. In an attempt to erase traces of the atrocities, the Ustaša blew up all the installations, killed most of the internees and tried to hide all evidence about brutalities in Jasenovac, all material evidence disappeared as if there had not been any camp in that place. Later – during Tito’s time – the state and the authorities tried to implement “Brotherhood and Unity” motto, with the aim of creating tolerance between the nations and the crime had to be forgotten as soon as possible.

Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, edited by Yisrael Gutman, vol. 1, 1995, pp. 739-740 gives following description about problems to find exact numbers:

It is difficult to establish the number of victims killed in the Jasenovac concentration camp, since many documents were destroyed. The prisoners’ files were destroyed twice (at the beginning of 1943 and in April, 1945) and even if they had been preserved, they would have been of little help discerning the truth, because the Ustasha often killed the newly arrived prisoners immediately, without putting their names into the files. This is particularly true of those who arrived from Slavonia, Srem and Kozara, because it was only noted down that 9,830, or 155 wagons had arrived. For instance, a very small number of Gypsies was filed, only a few hundred, while it is known that all 25,000-35,000 of them from the NDH were killed in Jasenovac. The Jewish community in Yugoslavia has established the number of 20,000 Jews that were killed in Jasenovac. The numbers of killed Serbs are truly varied. The sources from abroad mention numbers from 300,000 to 700,000. Be that as it may, most of the people killed in Jasenovac were Serbs. Exact number being still unknown, but it surely amounts to several hundreds of thousands. The National Committee of Croatia for the investigation of the crimes of the occupation forces and their collaborators stated in its report of November 15, 1945 that 500,000-600,000 people were killed at Jasenovac. ”

The Yad Vashem center claims that over 500,000 Serbs were killed in the NDH (now Croatia), including those who were killed at Jasenovac, where approximately 600,000 victims of all ethnicities were killed.

A documentary film “Jasenovac – the cruellest death camp of all times” can be found from here!


Religious aspect

While for Nazi-Germany Jasenovac was more a tool for ethnic cleansing for Ustashe religious aspect played crucial role. The aim and its implementation efficiency is described differently by people who actually were in Balkans during that period. Ustashe leaders declared they would slaughter a third of the Serb population in Croatia, deport a third and convert the remaining third from Orthodoxy to Roman Catholicism. Anyone who refused to convert was murdered.


One may claim that the religious motivation and the brutality of butchers were leading principles in Jasenovac. The fact that 743 Roman Catholic priests were members of the Ustashi and personally murdered Serbs, Jews and Gypsies. Jasenovac was for a time, run by Fr. Filipovic-Majstorovic, a Catholic priest who admitted to killing “40,000 Serbs with his own hands.” So at one point, a Franciscan monk was camp commandant of what the second largest concentration camp of the war.

The Jasenovac system of Croatian camps also included a camp for children run by Catholic nuns who used toxic soda to save bullets.

Roman Catholic priests who participated in the killing of tens of thousands of Serbs, Jews and Gypsies and the running of Jasenovac escaped Europe through the “Vatican Ratline” run by Fr. Draganovich, a Croatian Catholic priest who helped morons like Clause Barbe escape from Europe. Those Catholic priests escaped to Argentina where they also escaped justice.


Vatican connection


In 1999 a class action law suit was filed at a court in San Franciso against the Vatican Bank (Institute for Religious Works) and against the Franciscan order, the Croatian Liberation Movement (the Ustashe), the National Bank of Switzerland and others to recover $100 million in damages for the Vatican’s participation in these war crimes and money laundering the proceeds from their Serb, Jewish and Roma victims. The suit was filed by Jewish, Ukrainian, Serb and Roma survivors, as well as relatives of victims and various organizations that together represent 300,000 World War II victims. The plaintiffs demanded accounting and restitution.

Franciscans in Rome helped smuggle the Ustasha Tresury and assisted Ustasha war criminals in escaping justice. The Vatican Bank is alleged to have laundered a portion of the Ustasha Treasury. The Vatican not only hoarded the gold the Croats looted, it also helped them escape – with a nod and wink from the OSS and MI6. In 1986 for example, the US government released documents that revealed the Vatican had organised the Ustasha leader Ante Pavelic’s safe-flight from Europe to Argentina, along with 200 senior officials of his regime. Pavelic was given refuge by the Vatican, fascist Spain, and Peronist Argentine. The Ustasha Minister of the Interior, Artukovic, lived openly in California from 1949-1986 when he was finally deported to Yugoslavia and convicted of murder. Thousands of Ustasha escaped justice for their crimes due to their wealth and influence and the backing of the Roman Catholic Church and who along with certain rogue elements in the US and UK governments portrayed these war criminals as anticommunist freedom fighters.

As the war ended, it is now known that the Vatican Bank and other world banks helped to launder and transfer funds out of the Reich, and helped many war criminals to escape justice in what is now nicknamed the “Vatican Ratline”


The Vatican Bank has claimed ignorance of any participation in Ustasha crimes or the disappearance of the Croatian Treasury. The Vatican has refused to open its wartime records despite requests from the US government, Jewish and Roma organizations. My main source about Vatican connection has been “Vatican Bank Claims

A class action law suit against the Vatican Bank to recover $100 million in damages for the Vatican’s participation in these war crimes and money laundering the proceeds from their Serb, Jewish and Roma victims is still ongoing. Vatican lawyers have three times tried to get this case thrown out of court. The Supreme court has rejected their claims.

In US District Court the case against the Vatican Bank (but not the Franciscan Order) was dismissed on grounds the Vatican Bank is an organ of a sovereign entity, the Vatican, which is immune from lawsuits. The just filed appeal however argues that the Vatican Bank is not sovereign and engages in commercial activity in the United States and therefore should be held accountable in a United States Federal Court.


Memory today

On Summer 2008 Israels ambassador to Croatia, Shmuel Meirom, harshly criticized the funeral given to a head of a WWII Jasenovac concentration camp in Zagreb, saying also that it insulted the memory of those killed in the camp run by Croatia’s Nazi-allied Ustasha regime.“I’m convinced that the majority of the Croatian people are shocked by the way the funeral of the Jasenovac commander and murderer, dressed in an Ustasha uniform, was conducted,” ambassador Meirom said in a written statement. “At the same time, I strongly condemn the inappropriate words of the priest who served at the funeral and said that Sakic was a model for all Croats” Meirom said. (More about this in my article “Nazi’s funeral shadows Croatias past” )

Yearly commemoration is important remainder for fair picture of history. At least one day per year is good to think what ultra nationalism can be at its worst level, what kind of interests, power game, attitudes and hidden motivations are creating possibilities for murdering civil populations or ethnic groups.



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BalkanBlog, Balkans

Croatians voted for Change

The last election in Croatia can bring a refreshing change with new President Ivo Josipovic – a university law professor and a composer of classical music – but he will find a much tougher struggle ahead of him. This struggle not only due economical problems (national debt and unemployment) but also problems related to Croatia’s past. These problems are highlighted when Croatia is on final round to come next EU member state.

President elected Mr Josipovic took already new direction towards Croatia’s neighbour Serbia. Croatia and Serbia have filled genocide lawsuits against each other in international court about events during the war of the 1990s. Mr Josipovic told that he is ready to find common solution by direct negotiations with Serbs without trial. “I will negotiate with Belgrade about the missing persons, war crimes trials and the return of cultural treasures. If they accept these conditions there is no reason to proceed with the genocide suit,“ said new Croatian president. (More in my articleCroatia’s and Serbia’s ‘Genocide’ Case to Proceed”)


Historical burdens

However, in Croatia’s accession process, one trial still is left related to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). ICTY wants access to important documents on the use of artillery by Croatian forces during the Balkan war in the 1990s. These are needed in relation with the trial of general Ante Gotovina, indicted by ICTY for war crimes while expelling Krajna Serbs from Croatia in 1995 under the “Operation Storm”. This ethnic cleansing caused innocent victims, and caused around 200,000 Serbs to flee the former Yugoslav republic at the end of the 1991-1995 war. (More about topic in my article “Operation Storm – Forgotten Pogrom”)


Between 1991 and 1995, 220,000 ethnic Croats and subsequently up to 300,000 ethnic Serbs were displaced by armed conflict in Croatia. Since then almost all the Croat IDPs have returned to their homes, while most of the Serbs displaced have resettled in Serbia or in the majority-Serb Danube region of Croatia. Since the end of the conflict, only one third of Croatian Serb IDPs and refugees have been able to return. (More e.g. in article “Forgotten refugees – West-Balkans”)


Croatia & EU-membership

The fact Greece exists in the EU means that we do not have to do anything else in terms of judicial reform, and the fact that certain Baltic states are members means that we have nothing to do in the realm of minority policies. (President of the Croatian Helsinki Committee Žarko Puhovski)

Croatia is suffering due the massive political corruption. During early years of independency Croatia has been transforming itself into a mafia state; ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) have presided over a creeping authoritarian kleptocracy, bribery, kickbacks and cronyism are ubiquitous. Last European Commission progress report of Croatia highlighted the need need to pursue its reform efforts, in particular on the judiciary and public administration, the fight against and organised crime, and minority rights. (EC Croatia 2009 progress report can be found from my Document library)

Government has been also cracking down on the independent media. The regime controls state television and radio, suppressing dissent – especially, any investigations into high-level HDZ corruption – and also recently some journalists have been killed and physically assaulted.


Ironically the Croatian population is not any more so interested about EU, according Gallups mentioned earlier among the Western Balkan countries, Croatia shows the lowest percentage of people convinced that EU accession would be good for their country (29%) the largest group of people in the country (38%) felt that EU membership would neither be good nor bad. The amount of EU Scepticism in Croatia is big despite or because Croatians feel most sufficiently informed about EU in Western Balkans. (Source: “Gallup Balkan Monitor-Focus on EU Perceptions”)


Only 39% thought that a majority supports EU accession, while 45% thought that most Croats are opposed to entering the EU. Opinions about this issue are unevenly distributed: support for the EU is higher among the urban population (35%) and people with a university education (51%).


Differences can also be observed between the different regions of Croatia: support for the EU is highest in the urban region around Zagreb (Zagrebacka Regija, 36%), while rather rural areas such as Istocna Regija and Središnja Hrvatska have rather low support with, respectively, 21% and 22%.


Nationalism

One concern related to Croatia’s joining to the EU could be Croats’ strong identification with their own country: 65% of interviewees (Gallup mentioned earlier) identified very or extremely strongly with Croatia; this was one of the highest percentages in the region. This might indicate that, 17 years after independence, residents in Croatia are still more interested in establishing their national identity than in looking towards Europe.

One very alarming trend is (over)emphasizing Croatia’s Nazi past. During WWII Croatia was created and supported by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. It thus adopted their racial and political doctrines as well practices. Jasenovac was Croatia’s largest concentration and extermination camp. From total 600,000 murdered ones some 25,000 were Gypsies, some 25,000 Jews and over half a million Serbs. From time to time some symptoms of this past are occurring also today ad even with support of government (More e.g. in my article “Nazi’s funeral shadows Croatians past )


One aspect influencing Croatian patriotic feelings is the situation of Croats in neighbouring Bosnia-Herzegovina. Some time ago a Croatian NGO Libertas made public statement in which it says that Croatians in Bosnia are victims of Bosnian Muslim terror and are asking Bosnian Croat political leadership to initiate a plan that will break up the Bosnian Federation entity and form a Croatian one. Do possible three entities (each of them with Bosniak, Croat or Serb majority) of have any reason to hang together in same state or are more alluring prospects other side of the borders?


Bottom line


I believe that Croatia’s road to EU came with elections easier than before e.g. because

  • Josipovic declared that the struggle for justice and against corruption would be his absolute priority;
  • As clean person Josipovic has good credibility with his anti-corruption struggle unlike his opponent had;
  • With landslide victory the voters made a clear choice so appreciating the values and program of new president;
  • New president has already showed his readiness to ease (ethnic) tensions with neighboring Serbia and the same will probably happen also with Bosnia-Herzegovina (his opponent hinted support to create and possible separate Croat dominated region from BiH); the border dispute with Slovenia is already solved;
  • Economical cooperation with Serbia will probably develop e.g. when Croatia is taking more active role with implementation of South Stream gas pipeline project.

The country is expected to complete its accession negotiations in 2010 and join in 2012. With new president this is very realistic.


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