Serbia Forces Croatian Operation Storm Into Intense False Memory Battlefield

 

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (R)
greets Croatian Defense Minister Damir Krsticevic (L)
before an honor cordon at the Pentagon,
July 12, 2017.
DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

You are on the side of the victorious; of those who defeated aggression, occupiers, injustice and mass murderers! Now, just imagine this: World War II Allied countries celebrate victory and they get criticised and demonised for not commemorating their enemy’s war dead or displaced at the same time! You can’t imagine such criticism – let alone stand it without firm protest.

Croatia, once again, this year, prepares for the celebration of 5 August 1995 Operation Storm victory over Serb aggressor and occupier. But, once again, not without being criticised and demonised by Serbia’s leadership for not including in those celebrations come commemoration the Serb victims who perished as brutal aggressors against Croatia and those who fled Croatia into Serbia once it became clear that their onslaught against Croatia had come to an end with the military operation Storm.

Operation Storm was one of two critical military operations (the other being Operation Flash, May 1995) to bring to an end of the war of Serb-aggression in Croatia that was sparked by Croatia’s proclamation of independence from the former Yugoslavia. Serbia and Serbs became the aggressors against Croatia, using in the process the Belgrade based remnants of the still existing Yugoslav People’s Army at the time.

While Croatia has been celebrating the anniversary as its Victory Day, Serbia declared the same date as an official day of mourning for Serbs perished or displaced or who fled as part of its military and paramilitary forces. And even though the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia Appeals Chamber had in November 2012 (in the case against generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac) found that there had been no forced deportation of Serb population in Croatia, Serbia continues playing its malicious tune, branding the military operation Storm as one ethnic cleansing (of Serbs). In the same breath, Serbia omits to mention that it was the Serb forces that actually ethnically cleansed of Croats and other non-Serbs one-third of Croatia’s territory they had occupied between 1991 and August 1995.

Last week, July 12th, Croatia’s defence minister Damir Krsticevic, visited Washington and met with the US Secretary of defense, Jim Mattis, who praised the Croatian Operation Storm, saying:

Seeing you here today reminds me of my time at Supreme Allied Commander Transformation when Croatia joined NATO. And that was a very good day for the alliance.

Twenty-two years ago next month marks the anniversary of an operation named Storm, an operation that is studied in the U.S. military to show what a well-led force, well trained, well equipped, and with good political guidance, how it can change the course of history. And we are honored to have you here today for your role in that operation.

We have great respect here for our friend and ally. It’s a small country, but I would just say that it, as we say, bats above its weight, fights above its weight. You’ve been a wonderful example…”

But, wouldn’t you know it, Serbia’s president Aleksandar Vucic, upon his visit to Washington this week wasted no time to criticise the US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis for praising Croatia’s operation Storm. Straight-faced, Vucic continues to spread lies about the operation Storm saying that it caused deportation of 250,00 Serbs from Croatia. What a repulsively brazen liar! But, if we are reminded that Vucic himself was heavily involved is Serbia’s anti-Croatian independence in the 1990’s and was one of the political mouthpieces for the Serb brutal aggression against Croatian territory in order to ethnically cleanse the areas of non-Serbs for Serb occupation, then we know that his denial of Serb aggression also serves as his own defence mechanism against personal guilt.

I am all for reconciliation, but this kind of behavior that Vucic perpetuates in order to deny Serb aggression and crimes in Croatia is just too much to take for anyone.

Serbia’s president Vucic continues to claim that:

1) Croatia’s Operation Storm was aggressive – it was not! It was defensive operation and the one that liberated Croatian territory from Serb occupation. It was a legal and the cleanest of military operations seen to that date throughout the world. It was the Serbs who engaged in ethnic cleansing by forcefully deporting or murdering Croats and other non-Serbs from the Croatian territory they occupied.

2) 2,000 Serbs were killed during the aggression – wrong again; less than 700 Serb casualties as confirmed by the ICTY;

3) over 250,000 Serbs expelled – wrong again, this number does even compare to pre war census; the Serb leadership of the self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina (read Croatian territory occupied by Serbs between 1991 and August 1995) ordered (via a directive from Belgrade, Serbia) a pre-planned evacuation of Serbs from Croatia and the ICTY confirmed that there was no expelling of Serbs from Croatia! What is worse, during their evacuation Serbia’s “brave” warriors, in their haste to retreat, ran over and killed scores of their own people.

4) Operation Storm was unprovoked – wrong yet again – it was war and Croatia did all it could to peacefully resolve the situation, but after 4-5 years of repeated honest attempts by Croatia, Serbian belligerence could no longer be tolerated either by Croatia or the international community – years of failed peace talks that the Serbs purposefully sabotaged for failure, disrespected by Serbs UN Resolutions, broken cease fires by Serbs before the ink could even dry on the paper, even after terms so favourable to the Serbs that even the international community was surprised at how favourable the peace could be to Serbs and, yet, Serbs rejected them without consideration. Croatia had to act. It had to liberate its own territory; it had to deal with more than a million displaced people it cared for in many refugee camps and settlements.

A UN Report of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights (UN General Assembly 23 January 2014) states that “memory has become an intense battlefield”, in which remembering serves to justify political agendas. Wilful distortions of memory by way of disregarding facts or truth, such as practiced by Serbia’s president Vucic and others in Serbia certainly add a terrifying aspect to that battlefield. Not even the platform of politics can justify or accept it. Ina Vukic

About Removing Liberty For Serbia On Croatian Soil

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic in Washington DC Photo: Screenshot hrt.hr

Croatian President
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
in Washington DC
Photo: Screenshot hrt.hr

As Americans grow increasingly weary of involvement in messy overseas conflicts and espionage-flavoured intrigues, foreign dignitaries’ travel to US has in this transition time between two administrations grown increasingly more complicated —and potentially perilous to their political aggregate — as they try to show their foreign policy bona fides to America. For the foreign policy bona fides on show to America or any foreign country, to be seen as genuine it must, usually, be first seen as having been cemented in practice and demonstrated in one’s own country. Otherwise, all kinds of politically unsavoury fallout can and will drop like a hot potato there where it hurts.

 

Croatia’s President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic’s unannounced and largely unexplained to the public visit to Washington DC this past week appears to have been a visit where she sought to display her foreign policy bona fides to those associated with the new Donald Trump administration currently being put together. Croatia’s President simply disappeared from the country for a few days and all that the public knew about this was in the note on the Office of the President website, which said: “the Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic will Sunday (1 January 2017) be going on a visit to the USA where she will remain until 5th January.

 

In the spirit of the mainstream media’s view that the public has a right to know details of the purpose of the President’s overseas visits, regardless of how biased this mainstream media leans away from the conservative side of the political spectrum from whence the President came, it does strike one rather disquieting and odd that more details as to the purpose of the President’s visit to Washington weren’t forthcoming for days. It can justifiably be assumed that this secrecy regarding the purpose of the visit was responsible for the restless spate of terrible, vicious, insulting media attacks and ridicule against the President within Croatia during the past week.

 

For optimal success, there’s that crucial and vital thing called risk assessment and risk management we must attend to carefully in what we undertake in various aspects of daily life, in work or politics. It would appear none of that was a part of the considerations flagged at the President’s Office regarding the information the public will have about the Washington visit. Yet another blaring example of hopeless gaping holes in the President’s political and media analytical team. However, if  by some chance there were such a prudent thing, as assessing the risk of not saying anything, then most likely the President would not have copped so many vicious, insulting attacks. The risk would have been managed and or mitigated. But then, denying the public even the basic information about the visit to Washington could actually have been a carefully planned trigger for a public outcry that would paint Croatia politically unstable in the first place (?).

 

But, as these things usually go, President Grabar-Kitarovic seems to have caved into the pressure and 4th January was filmed for Croatian TV news from Washington telling the nation that “…there’s absolutely nothing secretive about my visit…this was an official visit designed to make use of this time of transition between the two administrations for the purpose of positioning Croatia as a factor that will actively participate in the creation of American foreign politics. I’m especially bothered by the fact that in the Croatian foreign politics we always follow someone, instead of being leaders…we cannot as a country wait around for someone to include us in their agenda, we must impose, we must be here…”

Impose, assert, be proactive…I could not agree more. Generally, an important distinction is made between assertiveness and aggressiveness. To be assertive is to be forthright and firm, but to be aggressive is to be rude and pushy and that often earns enemies more than it does successes. It’s the former the President meant, so thumbs up on that. Asserting ones stand is the stuff of what most would see as good politics.

 

It’s a shame though that this assertion in foreign politics President Grabar-Kitarovic speaks of has not been noticed when it comes to Croatia’s foreign politics on neighbouring Serbia and its constant abuses and lies against Croatia. If assertion of Croatian rights and interests had been established as the way of carrying out foreign politics, then Serbia’s Prime Minster Aleksanadar Vucic’s representative, or anyone from Serbia, would not dare stand on Croatia’s soil and threaten Croatia or maliciously imply wrongdoing against Serb minority living in Croatia!

Serb Orthodox Christmas reception in Zagreb Croatia 5 January 2017 Vladimir Bozovic (R) representing Serbia's PM Andrej Plenkovic (C) Croatian Prime Minister Milorad Pupovac (L) head of Serb National Council in Croatia and MP

Serb Orthodox Christmas reception
in Zagreb Croatia 5 January 2017
Vladimir Bozovic (R) representing Serbia’s PM
Andrej Plenkovic (C) Croatian Prime Minister
Milorad Pupovac (L) head of
Serb National Council in Croatia and MP

 

A shattering, terrible, intolerable thing happened in this line of foreign politics smack in the middle of Croatia’s capital Zagreb on Thursday 5th January while the President was still out of the country in Washington. And, the President has not yet reacted to it with even a whiff of that assertion in foreign politics she mentioned in front of TV cameras in Washington. Disappointing to the core!

 

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, foreign minister Davor Ivo Stier and most of Croatia’s political leaders attended the Orthodox Christmas reception organised by the Serbian National Council and its head Milorad Pupovac on 5th January. In his speech at the event the guest Vladimir Bozovic from Serbia, representing Serbia’s Prime Minister Vucic, went on to say in a threatening manner and tone: “…to all Serbs and all their institutions in Croatia we send the message of togetherness, unity and increased activity on the realisation of our mission and role with the promise from the homeland state of Serbia that Serbia will defend them with all her available means in all their problems and tribulations, whenever they’re endangered…”

 

Shock, horror – all that the Croatian leadership could muster by way of reaction was a rather mild criticism and statement of inappropriateness of Bozovic’s message to Croatian citizens of Serb ethnic background, as well as reminding people that Croatia was a victim of Greater Serbia aggression (in the 1990’s)/and not the other way around. No walking out of the room by the Croatian leadership in disgust and protest, or better still – no showing the guest from Serbia where the exit door was. Neither the President, or the Prime Minister or the Foreign Minister of Croatia have shown any assertiveness in protecting the Croatian people and nation and state from the persisting abuse that has been coming out of Serbia. It does infuriate and inflict true pain when Serbia’s representatives, acting in promoting Serbia’s quest of denial of their own war crimes, display an ease at going about abusing Croatia and her people on her own soil.

This kind of liberty must be impermissible on Croatia’s soil. This kind of liberty Serbia gives itself on Croatian soil must be removed and denied. No self-respecting country would permit it. Such and other abuses, malicious insinuations and expressions of hatred by Serbia against Croatia, on Croatia’s soil, must come to a stop and surely must fall within the assertion in foreign politics President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic now publicly espouses. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Unwavering Threat To Croatia From Serbia

Croatia's President Kolinda Grabar-KItarovic Photo: Reuters/ Kacper Pempel

Croatia’s President
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
Photo: Reuters/ Kacper Pempel

The first Yugoslavia (1919-1941) was created in Versailles for Serbs and dominated by the Serbs, under a Serbian royal family. The Serb ideology led to centralist government policies and a dictatorship after 1929, which provoked greater resistance from other national groups – Croats, Slovenes, Bosniaks, Macedonians… However, in April 1941, the Axis powers bombed Belgrade and invaded Yugoslavia. The Germans proceeded to dismantle the Versailles division of territory by returning much of Vojvodina to Hungary and Macedonia to Bulgaria, while attaching Bosnia and Herzegovina to a newly proclaimed “Independent State of Croatia,” known as the NDH after its Croatian name: Nezavisna Dražava Hrvatska under the control of a Croatian nationalist party, the Ustashe and their leader Ante Pavelic. Despite Croatia’s claim to be independent, Germany and Italy divided Croatia into zones of influence, in which each stationed troops. The Germans occupied Serbia and the nationalist Serbian government headed by Milan Nedic administered the Nazi policies and politics.

The Allies won WWII and Yugoslavia’s communists were on that side and Allies utterly ignored the pre-WWII plights for independence from Serb-controlled Kingdom of Yugoslavia by Croats and Slovenes in particular,  thus strengthening the installation of communist Yugoslavia. Communist Yugoslavia set up headquarters in Serbia and was dominated by Serbs in all key positions of political and economic power. The forty-five years of communist Yugoslavia (1945-1991) did not produce the politically desired “brotherhood and unity” between its constituent nationalities/ethnic groups (Serb, Croat, Macedonian, Slovene, Bosnian and Herzegovinian). Instead, amidst blatant discrimination against non-Serb nationalities and oppression, the country gradually fragmented again into increasing pursuits in various states (Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina) towards independence and secession from communist Yugoslavia. The early 1990’s freedom and secession from communist Yugoslavia pursuits succeeded in all states of Yugoslavia bar Serbia and Montenegro, who united as self-proclaimed the natural heir to Yugoslavia.

Serbia contested and protested the right of the Yugoslav republics to self-determination. To them, the Croats could have their Croatia, but not within its sovereign and internationally recognized borders and, according to Serbs it could not include areas with large numbers of Serbs. Similarly, if the Muslims and Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina wanted an independent Bosnia and Herzegovina, it could not include regions with large numbers of Serbs. Hence, a most murderous and criminal clearing (ethnic cleansing via genocide, mass murder, forced deportations …) of non-Serbs ensued in 1991 in Croatia and 1992 in Bosnia. Military Operation Storm in August 1995 in Croatia liberated most of the Croatian Serb-occupied territory while later in the same year the Dayton Peace Agreement ended the armed conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

On 5 August Croatia celebrates its 1995 Operation Storm victory over the Serb aggressor and Serbs, including Serbian leadership have still not accepted anything from that aggression as their responsibility; heck, they keep denying it and keep supporting the evil myth that hundreds of thousands of Serbs were forcefully deported from Croatia in 1995 after the Operation Storm when in fact even the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague way back in November 2012 (in the case of Croatian Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac) found that there had been no forced deportations of Serbs by Croats or Croatian forces.

Ever since the Croatian court quashed the communist Yugoslavia verdict against the Blessed Alysius (Alojzije) Stepinac on 22 July 2016, Serbia’s government leadership and President (Prime Minster Aleksandar Vucic, Foreign Affairs Minister Ivica Dacic and President Tomislav Nikolic) have been escalating their hateful rhetoric against Croatia, alleging that this quashing of the verdict signals that Croatia is rehabilitating the WWII Ustashe regime and fascism! What a load of hateful stuff.

 

Relations between Croatia and Serbia have plunged deep in recent days to the level where one must ask why Croatia even bothers relating at all to its aggressor who has not even acknowledged its murderous ways let alone offered any decent podium for true reconciliation. Inflammatory protest notes and harsh statements have been flung across the border from Serbia that in effect constitute Serbia’s meddling in Croatia’s internal affairs. Impermissible!

 

Tension is expected to escalate even more in coming days as Croatia gears up for the annual anniversary celebration of its victorious 1995 military operation, Oluja, (Storm), on August 5, marking the day when the Croatian military quashed a Serb occupation and power-hold in south-west Krajina region.

 

Some naïve political analysts have said “despite the angry rhetoric from politicians in both countries, the escalation in tensions between Croatia and Serbia is not expected to have long-term consequences for their relations or for regional security. Nor is it expected to be a setback for Serbia’s progress towards EU accession. Overall, this is a re-raising of tensions, which are always present.”  Such a light outlook on such a serious matter is most damaging because the Croatian people continue to suffer vilification and fear a resurgence of Serb aggression within their own country, and which fear had not been removed by the victory of Operation Storm in 1995.

 

The absolute need for Croatia to block the closing of Chapter 23 in Serbia’s path to EU membership unless Serbia changes, does away with its laws through which it, Serbia, gives itself the right to prosecute people across the territory of former Yugoslavia for crimes committed anywhere on that territory during the 1990’s war of aggression, in which Serbs were the aggressors, must be pursued by Croatian authorities. According to its current law, Serbia has universal jurisdiction over war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia and can prosecute all crimes, no matter where they took place or who were the perpetrators. This  potentially and actually means that a British, Irish, French, German, US, Canadian, Australian or Middle East national could also be prosecuted by Serbia as individuals from those countries did join the fight for freedom against Serb aggression in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina etc.

 

Trumped up charges are no strangers to Serbia in its quest to clear its name as aggressor using denial and false assertions.

 

Furthermore, that which corroborates the fact that Croats justifiably fear Serb aggression to this day is found a reported Open letter to the President of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, reportedly written on 25 July 2016 by a bunch of thugs living in Serbia who call themselves “The Government of the Serbian Republic of Krajina (RSK) in Exile” – the thugs and criminal their associates who ethnically cleansed of non-Serbs one third of Croatian territory (Krajina) and occupied it between 1991 and 1995! The letter reportedly includes the following demands:

1. That she express remorse and apology to Serbs who were expelled from the RSK and Croatia. (Now, the facts are that Serbs, after having ethnically cleansed and destroyed much og Krajina fled voluntarily, fearing any possible repercussions to their murderous deeds in Croatia, as Croat forces regained the occupied territory in 1995 and ICTY in the Hague ruled there had been no expulsions/forceful deportations of Serbs in Croatia).

2. Stop the Ustashe events on 5th August in Knin (Operation Storm celebrations). Stop gloating and pour salt over our painful wound of early August, because you have not defeated anyone, except the elderly women and children you killed in their homes. Moral nations are ashamed of such victories. Milosevic’s officers had pulled the Krajina army out, probably fearing threats from your NATO patrons, not your defence forces. (While being a demand of florid lunacy, in here the Serbs admit they pulled their army out of Croatia [who by the way took the Serb civilians with them] and yet in the demand above they say Serbs were expelled.)

3. Return to us Serbs our stolen land Serbian Republic of Krajina (This corroborates the pathetic and dangerous belief that Serbs maintain regarding owning part of Croatia’s sovereign territory. This territory had always been Croatian despite the fact that under the Austro-Hungarian Empire Serbs from Serbia were centuries ago permitted to settle on Croatian land.)

4.Return our to us our property in the same condition as we had left it when we fled and that you had destroyed. You destroyed property, you fix it. (Well now, while Croatia has done a great deal in ensuring housing etc for those Serbs who had returned to live in Croatia after the war, Serbia and Serbs have done absolutely nothing in paying for damages to properties belonging to non-Serbs they had destroyed in Croatia. It’s time Croatia does more on this with view to demanding compensation from Serbs.)

5.Return the Serbs into the Constitution of R. Croatia, as an equal and constitutional people. (Well Croatia has never been populated in such a way that would justify this. Furthermore, majority Serbs in Croatia had never been loyal to Croatia as their hiomeland but always looked to Serbia as their only homeland and wanted to annexe part of Croatia for Serbia.) … etc to 14 demands.

As far as we, the representatives of the people of Krajina, are concerned we are ready for talks and negotiations on all the points of our demands. If anyone considers that we will give up Krajina they are terribly fooled. Throughout the history Serbs have been coming in and out of Krajina but they had always returned to it! We also will return. It’s only a matter of time and worldly circumstances… In Belgrade, 25 July 2016, Rajko Lezaic, president of RSK Assembly.”
Can anyone believe this appalling state of affairs? Croatia’s president Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic should ignore this letter if it reaches her office abut she should not discard its implications. It constitutes an important part of the threat that has been incessantly, with increasing force, coming from Serbia into Croatia. It should form a part of firm and resolute policie in dealing with these threats and vilification against the Croatian people for the good of peace and piece of mind. The inflammatory diplomatic notes, the distressing statements and claims Serbia and Serbs are making against Croatia currently may tone down after the 11 September 2016 general elections in Croatia but they will never tone out unless Croatia’s leadership shows some teeth in Serbia’s direction and rejects publicly, so the whole world can hear, all such vilifying rhetoric from Serbia and Serbs against Croatia. In order to prove EU still desirable after Brexit the EU may regretfully show a lighter hand in its requirements for Serbia to become an EU member state, but that does not mean Croatia must accept those lighter standards. No way!  Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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