Mini-Yugoslavia in Croatia (?)

Zeljko Glasnovic, MP for Croatian Diaspora

Many Australian Croats as part of the Croatian diaspora are looking forward to the Croatia Uncensored tour that commences next week, headed by the Member of the Croatian Parliament for the Diaspora, retired general Zeljko Glasnovic. Much to talk about, much to ask, much to pursue especially given that Glasnovic has been one of the leading voices and staunchest promoters in the Croatian Parliament and in public for a decommunised and lustrated Croatia.

Croatian people are certainly not the only nation in the world where, when it comes to the state of the nation, people at large are attracted to the problem rather than the solution. Whether a solution to a problem comes, or not, can only depend on actions devised, employed and implemented from the pool of complainants, the unhappy, the angry, the disillusioned, the devastated, the desperate… And so we come to the burning issue of pervasive, in terms of democracy repulsive communist mindset in Croatia despite the brilliantly successful defence of Croatian independence during the war of Serb/Yugoslav aggression in early 1990’s.

Post year-2000 in Croatia there has been no government in power in Croatia that has had a “smooth run”. On the contrary, every such government is marked by loud protests from the masses as well as from individual politicians (usually the independents and opposition) that not enough is done to successfully transition Croatia into a fully functional democratic state by way of reforms and lustration. Lustration, or ridding Croatia of institutionalised communist habits and mindset was/is The “weapon” essential to democratic progress. But, no doubt about it, nepotism, corruption tied to political favouritism, dependency on government/state bred into the nation by the communist regime, among other tactics employed by a totalitarian regime had a life of their own, resisting viciously and indiscriminately needed change and progress.

Despite the economic and standard of living persistent crises, what Croatia had since year 2000 was every government telling or boasting to the nation of reforms and progress it has pursued and achieved but the most important reform – lustration – was not and is not a part of that progress. And yet real progress depends on lustration – absolutely! Lustration for Croatia is akin to the foundations of a solid house; in the sense of building a democratically functional state of Croatia all facets of operational communist Yugoslavia must be excavated from the foundations and Croatian values pursued during the Homeland War, War of Independence, must be cemented into the foundations. Disillusionment and bitterness about the fact that this still has not been done continues and is seen on almost every corner.

And, yet, the fact that the people (i.e. masses / general population) are the ultimate authority in this and every country has it seems eluded the disillusioned. That is to say, much to the government’s delight – I dare say – one cannot see a unification of all that are pursuing lustration, i.e. raising to the top as the national priority of values fought for, paid for in blood and devastation during the Homeland War. And so the past governments thrived on this, as does the current one.

The current Croatian government, as those before it, continues to push the Brussels (EU) so-called Western Balkans project as the key statehood question! Bypassing and downgrading, as all others since year-2000 have, the actual key Croatian statehood question that’s embedded in the values of the Homeland War. To make matters alarmingly worse, Prime Minister Andre Plenkovic has at a public forum in Dubrovnik last week in his speech referred to “some conflicts that have occurred in this region” (not calling those conflicts by their real name “Serb aggression)! The Croatian public was rightfully outraged, for even if after the speech Plenkovic insisted that he was just referring to conflicts in Kosovo, the sensitive and disillusioned public took those words as also referring to the war of Serb/Yugoslav aggression against Croatia in the early 1990’s. After all, why wouldn’t they? The values of Croatia’s Homeland War, apart from hollow rhetoric at certain commemorations, are neither upheld nor promoted through essential reforms, which must include lustration.

There are many examples throughout the past couple of decades or so of government and presidential public rhetoric holding or suggesting that what occurred in Croatia in early 1990’s was a “civil war”! Such statements are malicious and designed to keep communist Yugoslavia breathing, in the hope for a new lease on life; they are fodder for the so-called Western Balkans project. This project factors highly in the heads of some EU leaders, movers and shakers; promoted by Germany’s Angela Merkel especially. The resolve to support Croatia’s independence during the early 1990’s demonstrated by Germany’s key supporters for an independent Croatia Helmut Kohl (former German Chancellor) and Hans-Dietrich Genscher (former German Foreign Minister) has with the coming of Merkel been drowned into insignificance. Plenkovic’s reported ambitions to succeed at leading the EU Commission after Jean-Claude Juncker goes can safely be associated with his line of pursuits that includes supporting the Western Balkans project. To add weight to this, however repulsive and unwanted that weight is to a great majority of Croatian people, Plenkovic’s government, in its seemingly tight coalition with the Independent Serb Democratic Party in Croatia and its president Milorad Pupovac, has opened wide gates for Serbs to wield power and cause distress in Croatia, pushing the line of belittling Croatia’s Homeland War and attempting to negate the bloody and brutal Serb aggression against Croatia in early 1990’s; keeping alive the Greater Serbia project within Croatia; supporting Serbia’s deplorable denial of aggression against Croatia and the utterly repugnant Serbia’s propaganda relating to World War II in Croatia. At this point suffice to say, that Pupovac has, as recently as last month, threatened one of Croatia’s leading researchers into WWII facts on Jasenovac camp, Igor Vukic, for unveiling research results/facts that blow the communist and Serb propaganda against WWII Croatia out of the water!

When in August 2018, on the Day of Croatian Homeland War Victory celebrations, Pupovac accompanied Serbia’s president Aleksandar Vucic in Backa Palanka, Serbia, to give weight and meaning to Vucic’s statement in which he maliciously compared modern Croatian state to a Nazi state, there were no sanctions in Croatia against Pupovac (Member of Croatian Parliament) nor against Serbia. Not even sending Serbia’s Ambassador in Croatia packing, like most countries would do!

No lustration, active degradation of values of Croatia’s Homeland War, negligence and dismissiveness of the importance Croatian veterans and victims of Serb aggression should play in society, active support of Serb anti-Croatian independence politics in Croatia, to name but a few spurs lining the path of keeping the notion of a Yugoslavia alive in Croatia; it is like Yugoslavia still exists there, albeit in a mini version.

A good example demonstrating this for a fully functional democracy (thoroughly rid of communist Yugoslavia) atrocious state in Croatia is perhaps entwined in the recent words by Vukovar’s Mayor Ivan Penava, who is calling the people to a public rally for human rights in October 2018:

All crimes have a first name and a surname, after all that has passed, not all Vukovar citizens can remain hostages of past, present and future deals and negotiations. I seek that we take a clear and decisive stand towards the events of the past, the Yugoslav People’s Army, the Greater Serbia and that we embed without compromise such a relationship in everything we do, on every occasion. It’s impermissible that as a State and a system we have no strength for pointing out the perpetrators, for demanding the acknowledgment of the evil perpetrated by the criminal regime, seek apology and compensation for the victims. Besides all that, we are pursuing alliances with those who among themselves hide the guilty, who know everything about certain crimes but choose to stay silent…In light of that, the City of Vukovar is organising and invites people to a peaceful, non-political rally for basic human rights, and against the shameful silence of institutions of Croatian society…”  Ina Vukic

Croatia: War Crimes Trial Against Serb Dragan Vasiljkovic Finally Commences

DRagan Vasiljkovic at court Split, Croatia 20 September 2016 Photo:Hamze Media

Dragan Vasiljkovic at court
Split, Croatia
20 September 2016
Photo:Hanze Media

 

Serb former paramilitary commander Dragan Vasiljkovic (aka Captain Dragan, Daniel Snedden) went on trial in Croatia on Tuesday 20 September 2016 accused of torturing and killing soldiers and civilians during the 1991-95 war of Serb aggression against Croatia. Prosecution alleges that Vasiljkovic, 61, violated the Geneva Conventions while in charge of a Serb paramilitary unit known as the Red Berets by torturing and murdering civilians, prisoner Croatian soldiers and police in the rebel Serb stronghold of Knin in summer 1991 and Bruska near the town of Benkovac in 1993. The charges carry a maximum 20-year prison sentence in Croatia.

 

The 61-year-old was indicted in January 2016 for the detention and torture of Croatian civilians and police in the ethnic Serb rebel stronghold of Knin (the so-called self-proclaimed Serbian Republic of Krajina) at the start of Croatia’s 1990s independence war. As commander of a Serb paramilitary unit, he did “nothing to prevent and punish such crimes” that occurred in 1991, and personally took part in them, according to the prosecutors.

 

Prosecutors claim he orchestrated a deadly attack in 1991 on the central town of Glina and the surrounding region in which a civilian and a German reporter were killed while the local Croat and other non-Serb population were forced to flee their homes.

 

The trial in the city of Split will be held under heavy security measures and so far the prosecution has put forward 55 of its witnesses and defence is still to put forward its list of witnesses. Hence, its likely that the trial will last quite a while.

Dragan Vasiljkovic at war crimes trial Split, Croatia 20 SEptember 2016 Photo: Hamze Media

Dragan Vasiljkovic
at war crimes trial
Split, Croatia
20 SEptember 2016
Photo: Hanze Media

Vasiljkovic was extradited last year (2015) after Croatian authorities sought an arrest warrant for the fugitive. Extradition process from Australia took ten years, much of which period Vasiljkovic spent in custody awaiting outcomes from and exhaustion of all his rights under the Australian laws. Vasiljkovic has dual Serbian and Australian citizenship, told the court in the Adriatic city of Split that he “feels absolutely no guilt”. He is also accused of drawing up plans to attack police stations.

 

It’s believed to be the first time an Australian citizen has faced court for war crimes and this had ignited a bitter debate about whether he is a national hero (in Serbia) or depraved criminal. Vasiljkovic was born in Belgrade, Serbia and moved to Melbourne aged 14 with his family and was granted Australian citizenship in 1975 according to court documents. He returned to Serbia during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. When Croatia declared independence in 1991 Vasiljkovic trained Serbs to lead operations against the Croats. A Bosnian woman, Jamila Subasic, has accused him of rape and claims he abused her in front of other men. He denies being present at the hotel where it is alleged to have taken place.

Velibor Bracic Photo: NIKSA STIPANICEV / CROPIX

Velibor Bracic
Photo: NIKSA STIPANICEV / CROPIX

A former Croatian prisoner of war, Velibor Bracic, 41, travelled 2009 from Croatia to testify in the NSW Supreme Court in a defamation case brought by Dragan Vasiljkovic against Nationwide News, publisher of The Australian newspaper, had told the court that an Australian citizen accused by Croatia of war crimes (Dragan Vasiljkovic) kicked him in the head in a fortress prison in the early 1990s. recalled how Vasiljkovic personally beat him while showing his subordinates how to do it properly.”He said: ‘If you beat him then you should do it like this’ and then he kicked me in face,” Bracic told Nova TV upon the suspect’s extradition. He described his detention as “24 hours of mistreatment each day… beatings with rifle butts, hands.”
On one occasion, the guards allegedly brought in a baby bear and the inmates were forced to kiss the bear’s backside.
Other times, guns were put in their mouths, while a guard, with his hand on the trigger, would ask: “Do you want us to kill you?” Mr Bracic said. The inmates were also taken outside for mock executions.
The inmates were later transferred to the abandoned Knin hospital. In addition to beatings, the prisoners were allegedly given electric shocks and sexually assaulted.

Anne McElvoy Photo: Twitter

Anne McElvoy
Photo: Twitter

British newspaper executive Anne McElvoy, who was a war correspondent for The Times in 1991, told the Sydney court in 2009 via videolink she had asked a Serb paramilitary commander in Knin, who had said he was Captain Dragan, about his views on targeting civilian buildings.
“He said: ‘Nobody needs to be armed since I got here. I’m not here to kill people, just neutralise the enemy. When the Croatian side uses hospitals or police stations in their villages as fortified positions, I’m sorry, I just have to massacre them.’ ”

 

Slobodna Dalmacija news portal from Split reports that entering the court in the city of Split in Croatia 20th September 2016 Vasiljkovic said that he was defending Yugoslavia, that he had the feeling it was pulling away from him and that he is not an aggressor. In that context he mentioned that he feels the Adriatic Sea is his.
Well, nothing new there – Serbia and Serbs who attacked Croatia all thought the same and many still do. Hence, Croatia needs vigilance for its own safety for the Serb hunger for Croatian lands is quite vicious.

 

 

There is still no limit as to how far Vasiljkovic will go to insult Croatians. At the entry to the court in Split on Tuesday he reportedly also said that many Australian Croats keep the picture of General Ante Gotovina (Croatian General who led the military operation Storm in August 1995 that liberated Knin and occupied Croatian territory of Krajina from Serb occupation) but that they also keep his picture.

 

Dragan Vasiljkovic war crimes trial Split, Croatia 20 September 2016 Photo: Hamze Media

Dragan Vasiljkovic
war crimes trial
Split, Croatia
20 September 2016
Photo: Hanze Media

Mid-September 2016 Vasiljkovic had sent a complaint to the UN claiming he was illegally detained in Australia for years and unlawfully extradited to Croatia. In his statement to the UN he alleged that he had suffered from the “violation of the right to liberty and security of a person, as well as the excessive length of the investigative detention”. He urges the UN Human Rights Committee to tell Croatia that he should be freed from custody and allowed to mount his defence while on bail. His lawyers are now awaiting a positive result from the UN, i.e. that Vasiljkovic will receive bail and be able to defend himself from outside prison. The problem with that is that he is a huge flight risk and I certainly hope that the UN Human Rights Committee will think of human rights his alleged victims had and that is a right to justice. If he gets bail he is likely to flee into Serbia or somewhere like that, which could take another ten years to get him back to trial in Croatia. As I see it, Vasiljkovic has had his ten years of evading justice and it’s now the victims’ turn to get justice. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

RELATED POSTS:

https://inavukic.com/2012/10/06/red-poppies-of-croatian-independence/
https://inavukic.com/2015/07/15/croatia-demands-for-serbias-accountability-for-crimes-in-concentration-camps/
https://inavukic.com/2014/12/17/indicted-serb-war-criminal-dragan-vasiljkovic-loses-final-battle-against-extradition-to-croatia/

A Brief History of The War in Croatia – Background, Battlefields and Outcomes

Vukovar, Croatia 1991 - brutally devastated from Serb aggression

Vukovar, Croatia 1991 – brutally devastated from Serb aggression

Recently this blog received a request from readers and bloggers for a post on what started the war in Croatia in the 1990’s, explaining that perhaps many ordinary Americans understand very little about it. As the subject is complex an article can hardly give it detail justice but it is hoped that this post (with links inserted for further references) will bring the knowledge of facts closer to those who wish to understand and know more. I am grateful to two readers of this blog who helped me a great deal to put this article together in order for it to be published as soon as possible. Ina Vukic.

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To understand Croatia’s war in the 1990s, one needs to understand the historical background, as well as geopolitical interests of the international community, neighbours and international powers – and all of those interests before, during and after the war, as well as in the future.

Croatia was, and still is, the hottest piece of geographic real estate in Europe. Croatia is the gateway between north, south, east and west in Europe. Therefore, it is no surprise that two of the worlds’ largest empires expanded onto Croatian territory, namely the Austro-Hungarian (Hapsburg) Empire and the Ottoman Empire. Smaller powers also coveted Croatian territory, for instance, Serbia and Venice – and later the Italian state.

It must be noted that Croatia joined in union with Hungary first, in 1102, with its arrangement changing with Hungary’s union with Austria.

Croatia’s position within the Hapsburg Empire, which it joined in 1527 (later Austria Hungary), was one of continual de jure statehood and self-rule within empire and with Hungary, albeit with varying degrees of de facto statehood and self-rule shifting within the context of the Austrian-Hungarian power struggles, coupled with external pressure (the Ottomans).

Croatia was continually trying to not only reclaim historical territory, but also gain equal legal and political footing with both Austria and Hungary, joining either one or the other in internal political struggles; with either Austria or Hungary aligning with political actors within Croatia, to and include the Serb minority, whom the Austrians began settling in Croatia without Croatian consent beginning in 1533, who over the centuries were used as a political hammer against Croats by both the Austrians and Hungarians.
Croatia’s history is a long and complicated one.

However the war in the 1990s is traced directly to Croatia’s entry into both Yugoslavias.

The first Yugoslavia was the end objective outlined by the state of Serbia which entailed the domination of Croatia and Croats by Serbia, outlined in 1833 by Serbian Minister of the Interior Ilja Garasanin.

Croats in the first Yugoslavia were second class citizens in an occupied country. Serbian state sponsored violence and terrorism enforced nationalist Serbian policies, which were economically exploitive of Croatia.
This state terrorism culminated with the assassination of the pacifist Croatian politician Stjepan Radic, Croatian Peasant Party head, in Parliament while in session in 1928. The CPP had the overwhelming support of Croats inside and outside of Croatia proper before, during and after Radic’s death, through to WWII.

The Serbian “King” Aleksandar Karadjordjevic (who married United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen Victoria’s great-granddaughter Princess Maria of Romania) declared a royal dictatorship in 1929 – a day later the Ustasha movement (UHRO) formed under Ante Pavelic, the Croatian Party of Rights leader who personally witnessed the state murder of Radic. The repression became worse, leading to over 30,000 political arrests of mostly Croats, and, the emigration of tens of thousands of Croats over the next decade.

With the rise of Adolf Hitler, Western powers were looking to keep Germany in check in the 1930s. They looked to the now renamed Kingdom of Yugoslavia to do so.

However the Croatian question was still festering. Despite Albert Einstein and Heinrich Mann’s denunciation of state-sponsored terrorism in Yugoslavia,  the repression of Croats, and their open call for Croatian independence, no Western democracy called for any pressure against Belgrade for their imperialism.

A Croat-Serb detente was reached in the late 1930s, known as The Sporazum, and granted Croats’ territorial self-rule. Greater Serbian nationalists, who were not just the voting majority amongst Serbs, but the secret police and military heads, derided it. Their pathological hatred of the 1938 Agreement was the main factor for supporting the British sponsored anti-Axis coup in 1941 following the treaty between Yugoslavia and Germany.

With the German invasion, Serbian gendarmes and Yugoslav Army forces, as well as local Chetnik bandits (who were operating in Croatia since 1918) began massacring Croats and Muslims while fleeing the advancing Germans – the first massacre taking place in Bjelovar, before the Independent State of Croatia was even declared. It is in this context that the Italians, who had ambitions for Croatia’s coast, together with the Germans, put Ante Pavelic into power in May 1941.

Except for communist partisans, Croats welcomed the fall of Yugoslavia – they all had every reason to.

It must be noted that not a single Western agent or politician offered the Croats any statehood or recognition prior to, or during WWII.

With the massacres by the fleeing Serbian Gendarmes, the Yugoslav Army, and Chetnik bandits, as well as the ultra-nationalist and genocidal Chetnik movement openly carrying out the Homogeneous Serbia  plan through mass murder and village torching, Croats were left with two choices in WWII: a) Join the Communist led Partisans and fight for a Communist Yugoslavia, which was the declared goal of the Partisans, which for many under direct Italian occupation and genocide was a live or die necessity or b) Join the Croatian Ustashe or Homeguard forces (regular army) and fight for a free (at least in terms of statehood) Croatia.
WWII was a very complicated,  and for Croatia, impossible situation full of Faustian choices.

In the end, the Allies won WWII and the Communist Partisans took over Croatia and all the territory that was the first Yugoslav Kingdom. The Communist “liberation” saw hundreds of thousands of Croatians killed without trial, death marches, the imprisonment and internment of over 1.2 million Yugoslav citizens (the bulk of them Croatian), and one-party rule under the dictator Josip Broz Tito whom the Yugoslav state controlled media and Communist intelligentsia created a bizarre cult of personality worship for. Communist crimes are swept under the carpet while crimes perpetrated as part of the Holocaust saturated the history books, media, daily lives, courts …

In the second Yugoslavia, Croatia saw a continuation of the same cultural imperialism of the first Yugoslavia, and the concept of “Yugoslav” was the same as before, it was supra-nationalist code for Serbian. The 1954 Novi Sad Language Agreement standardized the use of Serbian under the red herring of Serbo-Croatian.
Yugoslavia was a failed economic model. The first reason was that the economy itself was propped up on foreign credit, thanks in part due to Tito’s rejection of Joseph Stalin, which gained him Western support as the Cold War was ongoing. The lavish credits from the West (and USSR, which also payed Tito to stay neutral) was poorly reinvested into the Yugoslav economy, which was run by unqualified Communists who were mostly given positions due to party membership, not technical knowledge of anything.
The second reason was that, by the 1980s, even the Communists estimated that the work force was 40 percent “ghost,” meaning non-productive.
The third reason is that basic infrastructure and long-term projects were rejected out of entirely political reasons, the Zagreb-Split highway for instance, a critical development project, was rejected for fears of Croatian economic development which could in turn mean more Croatian calls for autonomy, or more influence within Yugoslavia, if not help lead to independence, despite more tourist revenues meaning more money for the central government which was through various legal and illegal means, siphoning Croatia’s and Slovenia’s revenues disproportionately through higher tax rates and state-owned schemes.
This failed economic model was compounded by the failed political model, which led to the inevitable failure of the state.
The one-party system was backwards, as were its leaders. The political system Tito led mimicked that of the Austro-Hungarians before him – a carrot and stick approach playing various nations and or minorities off of each other to maintain a status quo of power.
The biggest disruption came with the Croatian Spring,  which was brutally repressed. As a consolidation, the 1974 Constitution was passed, and it, on paper, met some of the Croats’ demands, namely of more autonomy, and it gave Vojvodina and Kosovo (within Serbia) autonomy as well.
Tito’s death in 1980 coincided with the decline of the USSR.
Yugoslavia was no longer important because the USSR was fading into oblivion. Credits were not being pumped into it, but were being called. This caused a domino effect within the painted rust that was the entirely mismanaged and gravely grafted Yugoslav economy which was now faced with paying off lavish loans with an economy that could not even theoretically meet even the most generous payment plans.
With Tito gone and inflation out of control, the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences (SANU) wrote, and the Serbian media published in 1986, the SANU Memorandum,  which was a hysterical, victim-centred propaganda text that not only brought up nearly every single nationalist Serb myth, but also several Communist myths, demonising Croats, Slovenes and Albanians in particular, and more or less openly threatened all non-Serbs with a not-very-coded ‘surrender to our will or suffer the consequences’ message.
It was in this context of Serbian nationalist hysteria, fully flamed, supported and repeated by the Serbian Orthodox Church, Serbian media, Serbian Communists (inside Serbia and outside of it in neighbouring Croatia), and Serbian intelligentsia, that Slobodan Milosevic rose to power.
In a carefully scripted “spontaneous event,” Milosevic told a crowd of rioting Serbs attacking mixed Albanian and Serb Kosovar police in Pristina in 1987 “No one has the right to beat you…. No one will beat you ever.” He instantly became a star and the Serbian media lionized him as the saviour of Serbs.
Milosevic was an opportunist. He sought to centralize Yugoslavia and basically create a Serboslavia using legal and quasi-legal means.
Pressure was put on all of the other republics to meet Serbia’s demand for a unitarist state with no checks and balances and one-man, one-vote deciding who rules the centralised Yugoslav state.
Non-Serbs met this with political opposition.
So Milosevic and Serbia’s intelligence services organised “spontaneous gatherings of the people,” and “happenings of the people” where Serbs would be bussed in to ‘inform’ non-Serbs about the threats facing Serbdom in their Republics and towns (the current so-called ‘Bosniak Spring’ is following the same exact model, with the 14 year attempt to achieve centralisation through legal and quasi-legal means failing, they are turning to staged demonstrations under a false narrative following Milosevic’s playbook).
Between 1987 and 1990, he orchestrated the overthrow of the Montenegrin, Kosovar, and Vojvodina governments (with Kosovo and Vojvodina autonomy abolished in the 1990 Serbian Constitution) and installed people loyal to him – known as the ‘anti-bureaucratic revolution’ colloquially, and the overthrow of the Vojvodina government, the ‘Yogurt Revolution.’
The problem was that each of them had a vote in the collective Yugoslav presidency and by overthrowing and controlling each of those governments, he had half of the Yugoslav collective presidency in his pocket.
Beginning in 1988, Milosevic and Serbian intelligence, as well as senior Serbian General Staff officers in the Yugoslav People’s Army, were beginning to arm Croatian Serbs, and in 1989, followed suit in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) with Bosnian Serbs.
The 1990’s wars in Croatia and B&H were pre-planned in Belgrade.
It must be noted that there was really little opposition to Milosevic’s rise in the West. Media in the West, in fact, praised him as a reformer due to his ‘anti-bureaucratic’ message.
While there was opposition to his racist, neo-apartheid policy in Kosovo by certain US Senators, there was no real action by the US or by the UN to punish Milosevic and Serbia in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Milosevic’s media propaganda message was effective not just in Serbia, but also in the West.
Being that most foreign journalists were in Yugoslavia’s capital Belgrade, something that remained such for a good part of the 1990s, they were wined and dined by Milosevic’s government, bombarded with a sea of lies by pro-Milosevic journalists and academics and their circles, and fed misinformation by Serbian intelligence and counterintelligence planted releases and press releases.
So the media narrative in the west was not the facts-on-the-ground: out of control greater Serbian nationalism, the SANU Memorandum, Serbs’ under Milosevic trampling the 1974 Constitution, but rather Serbian media narratives – “Ustasha” revival, Croatia’s Franjo Tudjman is the new Ante Pavelic, Serbs are a “threatened people,” Croatia’s Constitution is “discriminatory,” etc.
A key part of Serbia’s propaganda was equating responsibility for what was, and remains, clearly a formal, state policy of Serbia of destabilising and waging genocidal aggression against its neighbours.
Western journalists and ambassadors would be reading and hearing in Belgrade about “Croatian and Serb nationalists at each other’s throats, Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) has to separate the warring parties,” with no mention of those Serbian nationalists being organised and armed by the JNA almost two years before the first free elections in Croatia (1990), and ‘separating’ them to consolidate Serbian territorial gains – all reporting the contradictory Belgrade line as fact.
The reason is manifold. With the imminent fall of Communism, amongst many Western governments and intelligence agencies were WWII veterans – all had a subliminal fear of an eventually united Germany, and saw Yugoslavia as some sort of a bulwark against it (despite it being crushed by Germany, and the advance of the Soviet forces into Yugoslavia being the only reason the Partisans won WWII).
There was also the age old geopolitical factors that were combined with this, namely, traditional Russian, French, Dutch, US and especially UK support for Serbia and Yugoslavia whom they all saw Serbs as a guardians of.
Then there was the mythical fairy tale narrative that many opinion makers in left media and academia had about multi-ethnic Socialist Self-Managing Yugoslavia as if the economy was sustainable, and as if the government was not repressive and had not been engaging in spying and murdering its own citizens at home and abroad for 45 years.
Finally, there were personal interests involved, namely, that of Yugoslav Ambassador Lawrence Eagleburger and his colleague in the Bush Sr. administration, Brent Scowcroft, who were as the Washington Post reported in autumn of 1991, in a blatant conflict of interest with their personal business relationships with Crvena Zastava Arms, which was also illegally selling and shipping arms to Muammar Gadaffi’s Libya which was under a UN arms embargo.
This is something that the late and extremely great Dr. Jerry Blaskovich wrote extensively about in his book.

So it is no wonder that the policies of the US were that of equidistance when the ambassador to Yugoslavia in 1991 was a diplomatic and media gatekeeper  for Milosevic and his regime carefully shaping the diplomatic discourse and filtering messages to the US media.
These competing interests from outside Croatia in the international community helped shape their disastrous, ineffective and entirely beneficial-to-Milosevic policies, starting with the obscene arms embargo which guaranteed Serbian military supremacy over Croatia and B&H in terms of not just men, but equipment and operational capabilities that equipment and technology bring to the battlefield.

The Serb aggression against Croatia that commenced in 1991 – the horrendous battlefield of ethnic cleansing, mass murder, rape, concentration camps tantamount to genocidal actions and intents by Croatian rebel Serbs aided by Serbian-led Yugoslav People’s Army:

The sizable ethnic Serb minority in Croatia openly rejected the authority of the newly proclaimed democratic Croatian state and its Constitution citing the right to remain within Yugoslavia (Milosevic and Serbia’s leadership insisted that wherever Serbs lived they have a right to remain in Yugoslavia if they wanted to do so, despite the fact that in the case of Croatia they lived within the internationally defined and recognised borders of the sovereign state of Croatia). With the help of the Yugoslav People’s Army and Serbia, Croatian Serbs rebelled, declaring almost a third of Croatia’s territory under their control to be an independent Serb state. Croats and other non-Serbs were expelled from its territory in a violent campaign of ethnic cleansing. Heavy fighting in the second half of 1991 witnessed the shelling of the ancient city of Dubrovnik, and the siege and destruction of Vukovar by Serb forces.

In red: Serb occupied and ethnically cleansed of non-Serbs areas of Croatia 1991 - 1995

In red: Serb occupied and ethnically cleansed
of non-Serbs areas of Croatia 1991 – 1995

Croatian authorities were determined to assert authority over their own territory, and used its resources to develop and equip its armed forces. In the summer of 1995, the Croatian military undertook two major offensives (Operations Flash and Storm) to regain (liberate) all but a pocket of its territory known as Eastern Slavonia. In a major self-imposed exodus of August 1995, tens of thousands of Serbs fled the Croatian advance to Serb-held areas in Bosnia and Herzegovina and further to Serbia. The war in Croatia effectively ended in Autumn of 1995. Croatia eventually re-asserted its authority over the entire territory, with Eastern Slavonia reverting to its rule in January 1998 following a peaceful transition under UN-administration.

A Brief Timeline of events 1989 – 1995 (1998)

1989 – June – 2,000,000 Serbs listen to Milosevic’s speech in Kosovo, where Milosevic threatened the other Yugoslav republics that “armed conflict” is not ruled out by Serbs to achieve their goals of the centralisation of Yugoslavia.

1990 – May – Serb-led Yugoslav People’s Army seize the arms caches of the Territorial Defenses of Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina, redistributes arms to Serb “defense committees” and other paramilitary and terrorist groups – violence against Croats and other non-Serbs in mixed areas of Croatia increases, thousands flee to other regions of Croatia for safety.

1990 – June – Serbs in the Dalmatia and Lika declare the: Autonomous Municipalities of Northern Dalmatia and Lika” in Croatia.

1991 – March – Serbia declares the mobilisation of Serbian special forces, Slobodan Milosevic declares on television that “Yugoslavia does not exist anymore.”

1991 – March – Croatian police are ambushed in Plitvice Lakes Croatia, one police officer is killed – attacks against Croats in mixed Serb-Croat areas drastically increases – Serb police and Yugoslav People’s Army troops do nothing to prevent or prosecute it.

1991 – April – Serb terrorists disarm Croatian police in the town of Pakrac – the Yugoslav People’s Army, after distributing arms to Serbian terrorists there, moves in to Pakrac to “separate the warring factions,” essentially consolidating Serb territorial gains – Yugoslav People’s Army begins openly siding with the Serb terrorists in Croatia and ethnically cleansing non-Serbs and Croatia-loyal, democratic Serbs from areas that Serb ultra-nationalists claim to be part of “Greater Serbia.”

1991 – May – Ultra-nationalist Serbs hold a sham election in Croatia and declare union with Serbia.

1991 – May – In response to Serb attacks and the terrorist activities of ultra-nationalist Serbs, 86% of eligible Croatian citizens take part in a referendum on independence, with 94% favouring it.

1991 – June – Croatia declares independence from communist Yugoslavia immediately after Slovenia did the same.

1991 – August – The siege of the Croatian city of Vukovar begins as Serbian armed forces, along with the Serb-dominated Yugoslav People’s Army, begin an open scorched earth and ethnic cleansing policy in areas under their control, and begin savage attacks against free Croatian towns, villages and hamlets, in an attempt to cut Croatia off at four strategic points, and force Croatia to cede over 70% of its territory to Serbia.

1991 – November – The siege of Vukovar, which destroyed most of the city, ends – Serb forces massacre 261 hospital workers, and wounded soldiers taken from the hospital – Serb forces are filmed singing “Hey Slobo send us salad, there will be meat, we will slaughter the Croats” – no Western news agencies translated the song even after there was a complaint to BBC regarding this.

1992 – January – European Community peace negotiators are killed in Croatia after being attacked by a Serbian jet after a cease fire is declared between Croatia and Serbia and Croatian Serbs loyal to Milosevic’s regime in Croatia – Serbs violate the agreement and every subsequent agreement until Operation Storm by continuing ground, artillery and air attacks against Croatia – a total of 10,000 Croatian civilians were killed, 30,000 disabled (4,000 of them children) and almost 300,000 were ethnically cleansed with another 100,000 displaced by fleeing to areas out of Serb artillery and mortars. An additional 400 sick and elderly Croats were killed by Serb police, paramilitary and civilians in areas occupied by Serbian terrorists during the UN presence – not a single investigation was launched by Serb authorities. Croats are barred from returning, and Serbs repeatedly refuse peace negotiations that stipulate non-Serbs returning.
1995 –  May – Operation Flash/The Croatian army captured the self-declared Serb enclave of Western Slavonia in its first major bid to retake territories occupied in 1991. In reply the Croatian rebel Serbs launched a rocket attack on Zagreb, the Croatian capital. Milan Martic, Croatian Serb leader of rebel Serb forces, ordered the shelling of Zagreb, killing six people and wounding many.

1995 – June – Srebrenica in Eastern Bosnia falls to Bosnian Serb and regular Serbian army forces – about 8,000 Bosniak (Muslim) men and boys are slaughtered.
1995 – August – Operation Storm/After over four years of endless Serb attacks, with Bihac on the verge of becoming the next Srebrenica, Croatia began this liberation campaign of the Serb self-proclaimed “Krajina” region of Croatia (the US takes action and provides intelligence to Croatian Army as Serb aggression is obvious beyond a shadow of a doubt). This liberating offensive captured in days a region that Serb rebels had held for 4 years. Most of this Serb-occupied area was taken in a 3-day offensive.

Croatian Operation Storm 5 August 1995 Photo: MORH Ministry of defence Repubplic of Croatia (centre left: General Ante Gotovina, centre right: President Franjo Tudjman - standing above liberated town of Knin)

Croatian Operation Storm 5 August 1995 Photo: MORH Ministry of defence Repubplic of Croatia (centre left: General Ante Gotovina, centre right: President Franjo Tudjman – standing above liberated town of Knin)

1998 –  January – Eastern Slavonia part of Croatia was peacefully reintegrated into Croatia.
From the time of this reintegration Croatia has been faced with a different kind of war – the transition into democracy from the communist Yugoslavia totalitarian regime. Battles are and have been many in this sphere, often strewn with misinformation and anti-Croatian propaganda within Croatia and internationally. The future – self-determination, democracy and freedom – that Croatians defended at overwhelming costs to human life and living during the 1990’s war has not yet arrived. With truth and justice gaining their rightful place it will arrive eventually but not without determined pursuits of both, by all who truly want it.

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