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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BalkanBlog, Balkans

New Cannibalism in Europe too?

This post was first published in TH!NK ABOUT IT site 2nd March 2009.

Market economy and free trade are the prevailing trend in today’s developed countries. One drastic phenomenon of its darker side is known as “medical apartheid” or the “New Cannibalism”. One of those cases in Europe got more light last week, when new evidence from the “Human Organ Trafficking” -case came public in Serbia. (More about case in my article “War crime selected – organ harvesting from Serbs by KLA“).

The story about harvesting organs from captured Serbs by Kosovo Albanian guerrillas 1998-99 was kept undercover by western mainstream media until last April 2008 before former UN war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte opened her mouth. Reportages of German Der Spiegel magazine and British The Guardian followed, justice departments from Albania and Serbia started high level cooperation for case.  Also Council of Europe decided to re-examine the case, which maybe has also link to illegal organ transplant clinic raided in Pristina, Kosovo, early November 2008. (More e.g. Der Spiegel)

KLA slaughterhouse

It is believed KLA kidnapped the victims, and then secretly transported them to camps in northern Albania, where their vital organs were removed to be sold in the black market. Carla Del Ponte gave greater credence of a macabre operation, in which as many as 300 Serbs were abducted and transported to Albania to have their organs removed. In a memoir, she wrote: “Victims deprived of only their kidney were sewn up and confined again inside the shack until they were killed for their vital organs.”

The Serbian War Crimes Prosecution has so far identified 10 members of the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) suspected of killing kidnapped Serb civilians. Those suspects identified, prosecution spokesman Bruno Vekarić said in Belgrade on 25th Wednesday , are linked with the case of decapitated soldiers, “which has been publicized by the news media”. (Source B92, Beta, Tanjug)

The prosecution (of Serbia) will send an official report to authorized institutions in Albania in order to inform them of the investigation’s new evidence. The prosecution now intends to present this new evidence to the Council of Europe rapporteur Dick Marty, who is due there March and also to chief prosecutor of Eulex mission in Kosovo to catch suspected persons. This may be more difficult as both Kosovo’s present and former Prime Ministries (commanders of KLA and best friends and allies of West) presumably have been involved in case.

EU

European Union started to show more interest into illegal organ trade on 2006 when few MEPs raised a question in European Parliament about Chinese Communist Party’s Organ Harvesting 2006. There was a good base for suspicion about the Chinese regime’s “organ harvesting,” the name for the fatal removal and sale of organs from death row prisoners and from Falun Gong practitioners held for their beliefs. (More e.g. here )

EP was also considering Olympic boycott due the case already Summer 2006. Edward McMillan-Scott, vice president of the EP had straight talks in China and he believed that nearly 400 hospitals in China shared the lucrative trade in transplant organs, with websites advertising new kidneys for $60,000. (Source)

Last year EP was calling on satellite company Eutelsat to resume broadcast of an independent Chinese-language television network into China. MEPs pointed out three areas of pressing concern for human rights in China, including the persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual group, the suppression of rights in Tibet and third the Chinese regime’s “organ harvesting,”.

Global trade


There are about 95,000 people waiting for kidney transplants in the United States and about 65,000 in Europe, said Michael Bos of the Netherlands Health Council. Annual transplant rates run about 25,000 in the United States and 16,000 in Europe. “Something like 10,000 kidneys are transplanted every year from living donors who are paid sometimes small amounts,” Bos said, calling the situation “a kind of medical apartheid.” “This goes from the poor to the rich, from underdeveloped to rich countries, from black and coloured people to whites and often from women to men.”


U.S. and European laws ban the sale of human organs and most tissue for transplant is taken fresh from the cadavers of the newly deceased. A smaller amount also comes from live donors, mostly people giving to save the life of a relative or friend. But these supplies cannot expand to meet the demand, which is booming as medical advances make transplantation more reliable and illnesses cause more cases of kidney failure.  (Source: article in Javno newsportal Apr 2nd 2007)

The U.N. World Health Oranization estimates one-fifth of the 70,000 kidneys transplanted around the world each year come from the black market.

Transplant tourism

The Geneva-based WHO believes that “transplant tourism” is rising, as rich patients bypassed bans on buying organs at home by travelling abroad to receive kidneys from poor donors. Beside kidneys also trafficking of half-livers, eyes, skin and blood is flourishing. (More e.g. UPI Jan 12th 2009)

Below: Kidney prices in different countries:

The organ trafficking is negotiated by an elaborate network of criminals. For about $150,000, an organ broker connects a buyer and seller to a “broker-friendly” U.S. hospital, where surgeons are either complicit in the scheme or willing to turn a blind eye. The organ seller typically gets a few thousand dollars, plus a chance to see a U.S. city.

Reputable U.S. medical centers transplant kidneys and other human organs they get illegally through the black market, a university anthropologist asserts. Surgeons take black-market kidneys from people in the world’s most impoverished slums and put them into wealthy dialysis patients from the United States, Europe and and Israel, Nancy Scheper-Hughes of the University of California at Berkeley told Newsweek. (Source Newsweek 10th Jan 2009)

The transplant tourism goes also opposite direction e.g. to China. One example about this global business and tourism is a case, when a New Yorker paid $60,000 to receive a kidney in a South African hospital from a Brazilian who was paid $6,000 for it; an Israeli businessman set up the deal.

The bottom line

With organ trafficking one can see inequality at its cruellest form. The main discriminative feature is between wealthy upper-class and the rest of the population. The other distinctive line goes between developed rich countries and the rest of the world.

Transplantation is a growing problem in rich states because waiting lists are growing far faster than the supply of organs. Adding the trend of changing population-structure in developed countries one can easily estimate that the need of new transplants is growing creating bigger market for illegal organ trade.

Is there anything to stop this trend? Short term I don’t believe so. Future can however change situation when research brings new solutions e.g. through gene, stem cell or material innovations. Even then the problem is who can pay these new treatments.

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BalkanBlog, Balkans

Holocaust, commemoration and Balkans

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 concentration camp. 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. The background is, that on January 27, 1945, Soviet troops entered the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, the last such camp still functioning. They found 7,000 survivors from among the more than 1,000,000 people murdered there. The memory of the Holocaust in western Europe has historically been a kind of spur for ‘anti-racist’ movements, but how to define Holocaust?

Definitions 

Most scholars define the Holocaust as a genocide of European Jewry alone, or what the Nazis called the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question”. Taking into account all the victims of Nazi persecution, the total number of victims would be between nine and 11 million of which figure appr. six million were Jews.

Earlier the word holocaust has been used since the 18th century to refer to the violent deaths of a large number of people, e.g. many writers used it before World War II to describe the Armenian Genocide of WWI.

If and when the word holocaust is reserved to describe murdering six million Jews during WWII the other similar brutalities need another term and the word Genocide is most used to describe the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group. A word pogrom is used mostly in relation with a form of riot directed against a particular group, whether ethnic, religious, or other, and characterized by the killing and destruction of their homes, businesses, and religious centers.

Balkans

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. The death tolls in extermination centers 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

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. From total 600,000 murdered ones some 25,000 were Gypsies, some 25,000 Jews and over half a million Serbs.

Yad VaShem – “Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority” – is Israel’s official memorial to the Jewish victims of the holocaust describes Jasenovac as follows (source):

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. The Nazis gave control of Jasenovac to the puppet Croatian government, which was run by the fascist Ustasa movement. A large number of Ustasa members served in the camp, most notably Miroslav Filipovic-Majstorovic, who was notorious for killing prisoners with his bare hands.

The Independent State of Croatia was created and supported by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. It thus adopted their racial and political doctrines. Jasenovac had a role in the Nazi “final solution”; it was also used, however, in the ethnic cleansing of Romany and Serbian inhabitants. So during the WWII, Serbs shared the similar fate as Jews at the hands of Nazis. 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 )

Memory today

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 and killed most of the internees. An escape attempt by the prisoners failed, and only a few survived.

It seems that after WWII Croats 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.

On Summer 2008 Israel’s 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 to the state news agency Hina. “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 )

So commemoration or International Holocaust Remembrance Day or events and history related to them has recent times been observed with various ways. In Serbia Serbs and Jews held the main commemoration ceremony at the Memorial to the Victims of Genocide in the Second World War at the Old Fairgrounds (Staro Sajmiste) in Belgrade – a place where thousands of them were murdered during WWII.

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.  And to remember that these actions have been continuing also after WWII e.g. in Cambodia, Ruanda and Darfur even today.



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BalkanBlog

Bosnia collapsing?

Last week top level European politicians have awaken to reality concerning the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina, namely that this artificial creature made by Dayton agreement is starting to collapse. This in spite of hundreds of millions of euros which e.g. EU has thrown away to build some kind of multi-ethnical ideal.

Dayton Agreement was made 1995 after bloody war (1992-95) had almost finished ethnic cleansings/transfer of populations so that it was possible to draw administrative boundaries according ethnical groups. The agreement split Bosnia into two semi-independent entities – the Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat Federation and three ethnic groups – Croats, Serbs and Bosniaks – are trying to lead state together and separately. Entities are unitedby weak central institutions, administration is quite heavy loaded with some 170 ministers and whole system is supervised by international presence. (Note: Dayton Agreement one may find from here.)

Dayton designer and former Bosnia administrator are worried

On 22nd Oct. 2008 the former United States diplomat Richard Holbrooke and former High Representative in Bosnia Paddy Ashdown published an article urging European Union and US leaders to reinforce their engagement in Bosnia and halt a new crisis which threatens to bring the country to collapse.

The two diplomats say that Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik has taken advantage of the weakness of constitutional state structures, fatigue and the international community’s saturation, as well as the inability of the EU to meet its own conditions, and over the course of the last two years has succeeded in destroying the majority of the real progress made in Bosnia-Hercegovina in the last 13 years.”

On the other hand the two diplomats add that “Chairman of the Bosnian Presidency Haris Silajdžić has frequently made statement on the need to abolish the two entities that comprise Bosnia-Hercegovina, and the need to create an undivided country not made up of federal units.“ “Poisonous relations and clashes between the two of them are at the heart of the current crisis in Bosnia-Hercegovina,“ which is why “doubts and fears have revived that were the basis for the start of the war in 1992,“ states the text.

…as well EU and Nato

On 27th Oct. 2008 EU’s foreign policy chief Javier Solana said in Brussels that the EU has warned politicians in Bosnia they are jeopardising the country’s Euro-Atlantic integration with the heated nationalist rhetoric. “We are concerned about the rhetoric which is growing and this rhetoric cannot contribute to the objective of getting Bosnia and Herzegovina more engaged with the European Union and Euro-Atlantic institutions,”.

Solana met NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the regular NATO-EU meeting, while the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina was the main focus of discussions. The NATO chief expressed his concern about the heated statements by some politicians in the country. “The situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is of course secure and stable but the political rhetoric leads to concern,” Scheffer said. “We will have to address and we will address,” he added.

Last week the EU Enlargement Commissioner, Olli Rehn, said Bosnia has made “a significant step forward” by signing a key pre-membership deal called the Stabilisation and Association Agreement on June 16. “The EU could initial the Stabilisation and Association Agreement last December and sign it in June because the country’s political leaders pulled together and reached consensus on the main conditions, particularly police reform. This proves that progress can be achieved and crises overcome, when the political will exists,”. “However, this consensus has since collapsed and reforms halted,” … “Nationalist rhetoric ahead of the October local elections was a factor in this deterioration. Yet, the country’s political problems run much deeper.” Rehn said in his speech.

Republica Srpska

A short news popped to my eyes from BalkanInsight.com which describes quite well political trends in Republica Srpska – one of the entities.  I quate (Source) :

The government of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity of Republika Srpska, has hired a US law firm to deal with the Office of the High Representative and upcoming key reforms. Republika Srpska Premier Milorad Dodik said that the firm, Dewey and LeBoeuf, will advise his government on relations with the international community and all other legal matters, including on a list of reforms required for closing the Office of the High Representative, OHR, local media reported on Monday.

The OHR was supposed to end its mandate in Bosnia by 2008, but because of the worsening political deadlock in the country over the past two years, it has set up a list of reforms which – once implemented – will enable its closure and transfer to a stronger European Union mission in the country. So far, the OHR was the ultimate interpreter of the Dayton peace accord and hence the main interpreter of its own mandate. But by hiring a United States law firm specialised in international law, Dodik’s is seen as moving his arguments against the OHR onto legal grounds.

In addition to hiring the US law firm, Dodik has recently confirmed that his government has hired a US lobbying company that was supposed to represent Republika Srpska in Washington and other western countries. Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) officials complained that this, as well as the opening of Republika Srpska offices abroad, showed that Republika Srpska continue taking responsibilities which belong to the state.  Some Bosniak officials also complained that Dodik is strengthening its representation abroad as a part of lobbying that should soften world powers to the idea of Republika Srpska’s eventual declaration of independence.

So one entity is

  • challenging international supervision also with legal grounds,
  • opening own offices abroad to make its own foreign policy, and
  • lobbying potential (separatist) independence declaration

5th November 2008 EU Commission will publish its “Progress report” about the road of western Balkan countries towards European integration/enlargement.  What I have seen in drafts is not very favorable to Bosnia-Herzegovina and actions cited above are not smoothing the road to EU.

My view

The recent past of Bosnia-Herzegovina is violent and there was not only one brutal side – there was three of them. This past has its impact today and real truth behind successful propaganda about events of war 1992-95 is still unclear. (Note: same remarks about this one may find from my previous article “Opening Bosnian X-files”, check my Archives:Blog).

The worries of top politicians have good base. It is not anymore dispute between Serbs and Bosniaks, this year has showed serious dissension between Bosniaks and Croats which may be related to rise of radical Islam in Balkans. (Note: I wrote a couple of articles about this earlier October, check my Archives:Blog).

One may have seen pictures where Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) and Bosnian Croats have been busy rioting again following the defeat of Croatia by Turkey in the Euro 2008 football match. The Bosniaks supported Turkey, the Croats Croatia. Meanwhile when Serbia plays Bosnia, Bosnian Serbs root for Serbia. This gives quite clear picture about national identity and multi-ethnic ideals – or lack of them. Can any country survive without some minimal mutual self-identification across its citizens as a whole? If the shared non-ethnic Bosnian identity is taking steps backwards does this not mean that this artificial western desk-drawer plan is doomed to fail? I am afraid so but maybe it is loss only for those top level designers not for local population.

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500.000 bodies or sign!

Some of you may have been reading my earlier column “Do you hear Mr. Nobel rolling in his grave? on 12th Oct.2008.  Now I was reading an shocking article “How the Nobel Peace Prize Was Won” by Gregory Elich at CounterPunch. Original article can be found from here.

One of the main points highlights Ahtisaari’s mediator tactics when he is threatening President Milosevic that those whom Ahtisaari represented were willing to flatten Belgrade and to kill 500.000 people in a week unless President Milosevic does not sign his offer.

Sign or get 500.000 bodies!

“Ahtisaari opened the meeting by declaring, “We are not here to discuss or negotiate,” after which Chernomyrdin read aloud the text of the plan. Ahtisaari says that Milosevic asked about the possibility of modifying the plan, to which he replied, “No. This is the best that Viktor and I have managed to do. You have to agree to it in every part.” Ristic reports that as Milosevic listened to the reading of the text, he realized that the “Russians and the Europeans had put us in the hands of the British and the Americans.” Milosevic took the papers and asked, “What will happen if I do not sign?” In answer, “Ahtisaari made a gesture on the table,” and then moved aside the flower centerpiece. Then Ahtisaari said, “Belgrade will be like this table. We will immediately begin carpet-bombing Belgrade.” Repeating the gesture of sweeping the table, Ahtisaari threatened, “This is what we will do to Belgrade.” A moment of silence passed, and then he added, “There will be half a million dead within a week.” Chernomyrdin’s silence confirmed that the Russian government would do nothing to discourage carpet-bombing. The meaning was clear. To refuse the ultimatum would lead to the deaths of large numbers of civilians and total devastation. President Milosevic summoned the leaders of the parties in the governing coalition and explained the situation to them. “A few things are not logical, but the main thing is, we have no choice. I personally think we should accept…To reject the document means the destruction of our state and nation.”

True story

I originally found above mentioned article from a column by Dr. Jan Oberg, who is a Danish co-founder of Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research.  He also checked from a  Canadian lawyer Chistopher Black if the quotation was true.  The lawyer confirmed that it was exactly the same what President Milosevic had earlier told him in his cell in the Hague.

Dr. Oberg published also 22nd Oct. 2008 an article which headline “Peace Laureate Ahtisaari endorsed terrorism” tells quite a lot about content. I really recommend you read this analytical article yourself.  It can be found from here. If link does not open so copy/paste following address: http://www.transnational.org/Resources_Treasures/2008/Oberg_Ahtisaari_2.html

The bottom line

After reading articles mentioned above, having followed Kosovo conflict management on the ground as well from different reports and sources I would conclude, that

  • methods to stop Nato bombings were not so sophisticated than maybe earlier assumed
  • it is not anymore unclear, why Serbs had reservations for Ahtisaari and his impartiality as UN envoy/mediator
  • it is easy to understand why there was not real negotiations – status talks – 2005-2006, why they failed and why the outcome – Ahtisaari plan/report – is what it is

The lesson learned could be that crisis management with using force to get imposed solutions without real negotiations between local stakeholders are not sustainable.



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BalkanBlog

High pressure to fabricate Racak reports

Forensic dentist Helena Ranta says that officials of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs had tried to influence the content of her reports in 2000, when Ranta was commissioned by the European Union to investigate the events of Racak in Kosovo. Ranta put forward her allegations on Wednesday October 15th at the publication of her biography in Helsinki.

More than 40 Albanians were killed in the village of Racak in January 1999. The investigation by Ranta’s working group was very charged from the beginning. It was commonly assumed that Serb forces had perpetrated a massacre, which helped persuade NATO to launch bombings of Yugoslavia in the spring of 1999.

According to Ranta, in the winter of 1999 William Walker, the head of the OSCE Kosovo monitoring mission, broke a pencil in two and threw the pieces at her when she was not willing to use sufficiently strong language about the Serbs. (Source HS 15/10/2008)

There is a widespread belief, that Walker’s role in Racak was to assist the KLA in fabricating a Serb massacre that could be used as an excuse for military action.  The theory was that the KLA had gathered their own dead after the battle, removed their uniforms, put them in civilian clothes, and then called in the observers.

Walker’s background

Walker was U.S. ambassador to El Salvador in November 1989 when six leading Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter were dragged from their beds and murdered by the Salvadoran Army.  The killings were carried out by the Atlacatl Battalion, which was recruited, trained, and deployed by the U.S. military, supposedly in order to improve the Salvadoran Army’s human rights performance.  The Atlacatl was responsible for the worst atrocities of the entire war.

Walker first emerged in the Iran-Contra Scandal as the right-hand man of Oliver North and Elliott Abrams in illegal arms shipments to the Contras out of Ilopango airbase in El Salvador.  Before that, he was deputy chief of mission at the embassy in Honduras when U.S. authorities were recruiting officers from Somoza’s deposed National Guard to establish the Contras, and forming military death squads that murdered hundreds of Honduran workers, labor organizers and students. Information about Mr. Walker’s background one may find e.g. from article “Meet Mister Massacre” by Mark Ames and Matt Taibbi here.

Some remarks

Biography of Mrs. Ranta is one more example about political aspect in modern time’s information wars.  Similar examples from last year are interview of former Haague Tribunal spokeswoman Florence Hartmann (see my article “Opening Bosnian X-files” 12th Aug.2008 from my Archives right)   – as well the book of her former boss del Ponte describing e.g.  organ trafficking of Serb civils by Albanian mafia – are giving quite disgusting picture about “realpolitik” behind noble statements of international community.

With this kind of now public exposures I would like to draw quite clear conclusion which is that latest mid-90s the western powers had decided heir position against the Serbs.

First there was case of Srebrenica July 1995, which launched publicly US support to Bosnian Muslims with claims of massacre of 8000 civilians (later few thousand was found, some of them were died years before, some of those 8000 returned alive few years later etc).

Second they were silent about massive ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Krajina (more in my article “Operation Storm” 5th Aug.2008  here) .

Third there was Racak case which launched Nato bombings 1999.

The story – manipulation public by mainstream media with fabricated reports for political aims – continued later this decade in Iraq operation and partly Georgia case (stories started with Russian invasion 8th Aug.2008 when in reality Georgia made attack to civil targets 7th Aug.2008, also fabricated pictures of Reuters came soon pubic).

After all this it is hard to believe on the other hand to official reports of states/international organizations and on the other hand the neutral or investigative journalism in sc. free press. Especially alarming it is now to read reports about nuclear program of Iran – what is true and are big players again starting new unnecessary war with false evidence.

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BalkanBlog

Kosovo – failed UN (justice) mission

Tim Guldimann, head of the OSCE mission in Kosovo, said on Monday 8th that Kosovo today is “not what we could call a multi-ethnic society”. “Different communities live in Kosovo, but a multi-ethnic society means integration, mutual understanding, tolerance and cohabitation. We do not see this,” he stated. His words have good base in a new OSCE report on human rights, ethnic relations and democracy in Kosovo for the period from the summer of 2007 to the summer of 2008. Also the headline of other report by Amnesty International tells enough “Kosovo (Serbia): The challenge to fix a failed UN justice mission.

The Kosovo judiciary continues to suffer from serious shortcomings due to the failure to properly apply the law and international human rights standards. OSCE report e.g. highlights that

  • Almost nine years after the conflict, a large number of properties remain illegally occupied, despite the resolution of almost 30,000 residential property cases as of summer 2008. In total, these property claims and cases amount to approximately 59,000 the vast majority of which involve Kosovo Serbs, whose properties were damaged, destroyed or illegally occupied as a result of the conflict and have not yet been addressed or settled.
  • The Kosovo judiciary failed “to properly apply the law and international human rights standards,” the report said, resulting “in widespread violations of fair trial standards.”
  • Both police and courts “are often exposed to political interference,”

Guldimann added that “When it comes to the return of members of the Serb community, the question if there are conditions for Serbs to view their future in Kosovo as safe and if they trust Kosovo institutions needs to be answered.”

Ethnic cleansings

The facts are showing that other ethnic groups than Albanians do not see their future in Kosovo. Since Kosovo separatists took power, over two thirds of ethnic Serbs have been ethnically cleansed by Albanian separatist. According to statistics from the UNHCR there are about 206,000 internally displaced persons from Kosovo living in Serbia. This fact has mostly ignored in western mainstream media. Their attitude is understandable since this media from the very beginning had fixed their one-sided picture about good and bad guys so Serbs somehow deserved their fate. The outcome is that Serb Refugees (from Croatia and Bosnia) and IDPs (from Kosovo) are one of the forgotten and forsaken victim groups in the former Yugoslavia.

The vast majority of those people – Serbs, Roma and Gorani – were forced out by ethnic violence and intimidation and still live in dreadful conditions in camps and emergency housing in Serbia. The remaining Serbs in Kosovo are barricaded into enclaves keeping their lives mainly with help of international KFOR troops or in de facto separated Serb majority region in North Kosovo.

Wasted billions

The situation described here and e.g. in OSCE report is very discouraging also from other perspective. Since 2000, the international community has likely invested more non-military resources per capita in Kosovo for stabilizing and developing Kosovo than in any other post-conflict area in the world. In spite of the billions and billions of dollars the international community has poured into Kosovo since NATO ousted Serbia’s military in 1999 the result is mono ethnic, corrupted society where gangs of thugs are left free to roam around terrorizing the people and pretty much imposing their own ‘law’ either on streets or in government.

Failed mission has lead to failed state.



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