Hey New York Times – Croatia’s Franjo Tudjman’s True Image Needs No Buffing!

Having read the latest New York Times article by Andrew Higgins, “To Buff a Balkan Leader’s Image, a Filmmaker Calls In Kevin Spacey”, published 3 January 2023, few things must be said first up in response to this journalistic tripe.

First, Croatia’s First President’s Franjo Tudjman’s true image does not need buffing – it already shines where it counts – among and with all Croatian people bar some former communist Yugoslavia operatives and their lapdogs; he as leader achieved independence, ushered Croatia out of the communist regime albeit soaked in blood and set Croatia towards the path of democracy and European Union.

Second, Andrew Higgins may wish to refresh his knowledge of the Balkan Peninsula countries or change his preferences about placing Croatia on the geographical map that covers Balkan Peninsula. Croatia is not considered to be a Balkan country in the full sense given that almost 60% of its territory is not situated nor has it ever been within the borders of the Balkan Peninsula maps. Furthermore, Franjo Tudjman was born and bred in the part of Croatia that is not and never has been included in the map of the Balkan Peninsula. Croatian people do not consider Croatia as a Balkan country but a South-eastern European country just as all bar the “Higginses” of the world place it.

Third, 1990’s war of independence from communist Yugoslavia in Croatia (and Bosnia and Herzegovina) did not happen by spontaneous combustion, where no culprit can be found. It happened by Serb and former Yugoslav People’s Army brutal and genocidal aggression and, hence, Croatia’s absolute and rightful need to defend bare lives of its people.

Fourth, the Croatians did not ethnically cleanse Serbs out of Croatia after the liberating military Operation Storm in August 1995 as Higgins evidently would like the world to believe. Serb evacuation was planned and ordered by Serbs and Serbia, but Serbs did ethnically cleanse of Croats 25% of Croatian territory known as Krajina as they occupied the area with the help of rebel Serbs in Croatia who did not want an independent Croatia.

One can’t help but wonder and stare in disbelief and bitter disappointment at what some journalists, even Pulitzer Prize winners, are capable of concocting to aid a push for a bigoted line they obviously pursue when it comes important issues such as exiting communist regime for democracy, defending oneself from brutal aggression etc. And so, it is more than plain that New York Times journalist Andrew Higgins did not and does not like Croatia’s first President, Franjo Tudjman, and that such personal sentiments may, sadly, have influenced this latest abominably biased and fact-twisting article on Croatia’s fight for independence in the 1990’s. But then again, Andrew Higgins has appeared, along with a couple of other New York Times journalists, as the butt of jokes in Kyiv, Ukraine, for “getting matters wrong”. Andrew Higgins in this article writes about Croatian “ethnic cleansing” in this war, of Serbs! The fact is that it was Serbs who ethnically cleansed all Croats and other non-Serbs from the quarter of Croatia’s territory they occupied at the start of their war of aggression. They also ethnically cleansed a large part of Bosnia and Herzegovina of Croats and Bosniaks (Muslims)! 

When Croatian forces as part of the liberating military operation Storm on 5 August 1995 entered Croatia’s Serb-occupied town of Knin, the town was already deserted (see for example the well-documented book by Nikica Baric, “Serb rebellion in Croatia 1991 – 1995”, 2005, p. 520). Serb paramilitary forces, Serb insurgent leadership, and “civilians” fled Knin for Republika Srpska (Self-proclaimed Serbian Republic on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina) and Serbia. Estimates of the number of Serbs who fled from Croatia vary by sources. Different sources cite different numbers of Serbs that left Croatia at the time and immediately after the Operation Storm that liberated Serb-occupied Croatian territory. These figures vary from 90,00 to 150,000 to 300,000. Of course, the latter figure is a fabrication of Serbia’s propaganda to aid its fanciful and politically driven claims that Serbs were victims! The departure of the Serbs from Serb-occupied areas liberated by the 1995 Operation Storm was planned, organised, and executed by the insurgent Serb leadership from Knin with Slobodan Milosevic’s directive backing from Belgrade. This is a well-documented historical fact that seems to have eluded Andrew Higgins and those like him who prefer to make their false assertions appear credible by talking to people like Dejan Jovic, a staunch opposer of Croatian independence, of Serbian origins and pro-communist Yugoslavia “academic crusader”.  The fact is that the vast majority of Serb “civilians” from Northern Dalmatia and Lika were evacuated with the aid of Serb forces, ignoring Franjo Tudjman’s pleas to remain in Croatia as equal citizens of Croatia (see further my article dated August 4, 2020). Between 4 and 5 August 1995 the evacuation of Serbs from Croatia followed the decision made by the Serb self-proclaimed authorities of the Republic of Serb Krajina Supreme Defence Council, led by its president Milan Martic (convicted in June 2007 to 35 years prison by the International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague ICTY for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Croatia) and commander-in-chief of the Serb Army of Krajina (the Serb-occupied part of Croatia) lieutenant general Mile Mrksic (Convicted by ICTY in 2012 to 20 years prison for war crimes, viz murder, torture, inhumane acts in Croatia against Croats). Although the decision to evacuate Croatian areas they had occupied and ethnically cleansed of Croats did not apply to Serb military forces, they nevertheless joined the “civilians” and left the area with them. 

“Croatia, almost ethnically homogeneous as a result of the 1990s violence that drove out many Serbs and members of other minorities,” writes Higgins, leading one to believe that it was Croats who ethnically cleansed the Serbs from their homes in Croatia and the truth is and was the opposite! Indeed, it occurs to a lucid and decent mind that Serbs may well have fled Croatia in 1995, including “civilians”, largely due to fear of vengeance for the horror and crimes they themselves committed there between 1991 and August 1995.  Furthermore, the fact that their evacuation was an order even from Belgrade, Serbia, seems to suggest that Serbia planned well in advance to try and convince the world of a fallacy that Croats ethnically cleansed them! Such an elaborate plan was not beyond Serbia’s propaganda machinery, and it does not seem beyond it today. Annihilation of Croats and Croatia was Serbia’s goal and political platform to which even so-called civilians subscribed. Multitudes of these Serb “civilians” in Croatia (or Bosnia and Herzegovina) cannot truly be considered civilians as per international humanitarian laws but rather non-combatant civilians. Many held convictions of Greater Serbia creation, acted upon them without a gun in their hands, aided the Serb paramilitary, military, and Yugoslav forces in various ways. Many, for example, are held responsible for or actively contributing to the rounding up of their Croatian (and Bosniak/Muslim) neighbours as they were being forcefully taken to concentration camps in Serbia, e.g, Begejci and Sremska Mitrovica ( the ABC TV Australia Award-winning 1995 documentary by journalist Chris Masters, “The Coward’s War”, is a great record of truth on these matters) where they were tortured, starved, raped, humiliated. Had the international criminal tribunal for Former Yugoslavia in the Hague tested and differentiated between groups of so-called civilians to a fuller extent it would have found, I am convinced, an overwhelming Serb “civilian” following and aiding the military aggressor.

Andrew Higgins quotes Warren Zimmerman, US Ambassador to former Yugoslavia, who in 1992 wrote that “Mr. Tudjman’s election as Croatia’s president in May 1990 had brought to power ‘a narrow-minded, crypto-racist regime’ that, in tandem with Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, was unleashing ‘nationalism, the Balkan killer.” Not a single word here that Croatian people wanted out of the oppressive communist Yugoslavia, they overwhelmingly voted for Franjo Tudjman to lead them into democracy and independence! One simply cannot call a will for democracy and freedom by the name of nationalism, with negative connotations, and get away with it. Especially not in the case of Yugoslavia which was first created in 1918 to benefit the Serbian Monarchy and Croatian parliament never ratified the decision by a few to join Croatia to Serbia and Slovenia and form Yugoslavia (first kingdom and then post WWII totalitarian communist nightmare for most Croats). Higgins, hence, subscribes it seems to a small army of politically twisted and biased people who keep spinning the corrupt idea that it was nationalism that sparked and aided the terrible war of Serb and Yugoslav aggression against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina!  The war occurred because majority of Croats wanted out of communist Yugoslavia and Serbs did not want this. They murdered, tortured, raped, ethnically cleansed, destroyed homes and buildings… in Croatia to try and stop Croatian independence and expand the power of the rotten pursuits to create a Greater Serbia, stealing other people’s territory. Croatia had no option or choice but to defend itself and kick-in its will power for the right to self-preservation. Indeed, nationalism was not responsible for the bloodshed. It was Serb brutal aggression, laced with pursuits to create an ethnically clean Greater Serbia.

Why Andrew Higgins blatantly in this article takes it upon himself to encourage the world to shun and condemn a man – Kevin Spacey – who has so far not been found guilty of sexual abuse entailed in reported allegations against him, or any other crime, can perhaps be answered by any of us who have lived the democracy in which all are innocent until proven guilty. If this article is to serve as any measure of decency towards society, towards democratic rule of law, towards someone who is the subject of criminal allegations but not yet proven guilty then Andrew Higgins appears to gravely lack any decency towards justice and due process to say the least. Andrew Higgins, it appears delights in spreading the awful occurrences where some (even Hollywood!) have written Kevin Spacey off although charges against him have not been tested or proven in a court of law. A large dose of glee, or “schadenfreude” as Germans would put it, in this article is saddening.

It’s difficult to even fathom what went through Andrew Higgins’ mind when he wrote this mean article in which he obviously tries to convince the unsuspecting public that Croatia’s First President Franjo Tudjman’s true image needs “buffing” (i.e., cleaning or polishing). Then, he implies that “buffing” is not likely to happen through the film in which Kevin Spacey plays the role of Tudjman.   

Franjo Tudjman is and has been a popular leader among those that matter, those who wanted Croatia’s freedom and independence, and that was 94% of voters in 1991 independence referendum. As for others, including perhaps Andrew Higgins, no amount of buffing could remove the effects of untruths and half-truths spread about Tudjman have had on some. No, the film with Kevin Spacey is not made to buff Tudjman’s image it was made to present, once again, considering so many lies and untruths being repeatedly spread about Tudjman, the glorious truth of Croatia’s fight and courage for independence!

Contrary to a common narrative whereby politics drives susceptibility to fake news, we are overall as society of the world fortunate with the reality that people are ‘better’ at discerning truth from falsehood when evaluating politically concordant news or published content. This is truly comforting as one trusts that falsehoods and hatred portrayed against Croatia and its 1990’s War of Independence as one finds in this Andrew Higgins article, will mellow in time, and end up in dark corners and abysses where they belong. Ina Vukic

Comments

  1. I knew many things unique from your different articles on Croatia . When I was a college student in early eighties of the past century , I was , of the opinion , that Croatia was the part of larger Balkan region . But as you have clarified that almost 60% of the area of Croatia is out of the Balkan region . You are also right when you say that the article by Higgins in the The New York Times on Croatia is abominably biased and fact twisting as such . Thanks !

  2. Thanks !

  3. Happy new year madam

  4. Your comments pinpoint why many no longer read the NYT. What used to be a revered news source has sold itself to special interests. Thanks for setting it straight.

    • Thank you Jacqui! For a while now we have not been able to trust the mainstream media and journalists for impartiality and facts. No wonder the need to check almost everything one reads has spread like wildfire. Terrible stuff. Cheers!

  5. We visited Croatia and Serbia after the War . Such a tragic site. I found your site and let’s follow each other. Thanks Anita

  6. Zoran Nosić, Canada says:

    Ina, once again you scream our indignity to the abysmal treatment we Croatians continue to receive in the media. It’s incredible that 30+ years on, with such overwhelming evidence, the blind continue to be blind.

    Thank for all the years of great work on behalf all Croatians, even those that are still blind. 🙏🍷

    • It is and it’s like that because Croatian governments and presidency since year 2000 have been riddled with communist operatives or admirers of that hateful regime. One day a full transition from communism will finally come! Let’s pray and stay alert!

  7. Hmm

  8. Little wonder the “NY Times” is losing subscribers and credibility! I don’t bother with that paper.

    *Put on librarian’s hat* For US blog readers, if you don’t have a “NY Times” subscription and have hit a paywall, check your local public library system for their online newspaper offerings. You can get a free digital access pass to the “Times” with your library card.

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