Shortly after the death of former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic in the Hague, Michel Collon, a leading member of the strange pro-Serbian chauvinist current among the left, came up with what he called a “media quiz”, which asks “how good is our information on the destruction of Yugoslavia.” For each of his contrived “questions”, Collon then provides his (usually ludicrous) “answer.” Thankfully, in his conclusion, he informs us that he will not be giving us a “score” about what he thinks is our “knowledge.”
Collon himself is an unknown, in fact to the extent he is known at all, in a few quarters, it appears to be entirely due to this kind of work of making crass apologetics for Serbian chauvinism and the wars, ethnic cleansing and genocide committed against other peoples of the Balkans. However, many of the main points made here are the same tired points continually made by a range of people in this odd-ball political subculture, which traverses the bounds of left and right, and fits in very well with certain elements of “left”-right convergence we have seen in recent years, for example, the “left’-Buchaninite alliance in antiwar.com, or the “red”-brown alliances in parts of the former Eastern bloc, including in Serbia and Russia, as well as in Greece.
Given that these points are continually made, indeed, members of this subculture often all reference each other, as if that makes their assertions factual (Collon doesn’t bother with references), I decided it was useful to take up this “quiz” to provide answers to his “answers” and thus take on a significant amount of the revisionism that has crept into parts of “left” discourse about the Balkan wars of the 1990s. This is also important, because while Collon may be a nobody, there are also a couple of big names, most notably Ed Herman and Michael Parenti, plus the less well known, but prolific on this topic, Diana Johnstone, who have been extremely vocal with the revisionist view of the 1990s and trade in all these assertions.
More generally, the problem of discussing conflicts that went on in the previous decade, divorced from the reality of younger leftists coming into politics since 2000, is that with a number (by no means all) big left names spouting this poison, it may be easy enough to simply believe it. Given that the last main leg of this conflict – Kosova 1999 – finally brought in a brutal imperialist air war against Serbia, and against Serbian civilians, which my wing of the left also vigorously opposed, it could also seem easy to view the revisionist pro-Serbian chauvinist arguments as “anti-imperialist.” Alas, nothing of the sort. The final brutal assault came after a decade of accommodation to the regime which destroyed the region. The fact that imperialism finally stepped in, in its usual brutal manner, to put an end to the instability in the region, following a decade of accommodating Milosevic, the source of that instability, no more makes Milosevic’s ultra-rightist, pogromist, Christian-crusader regime any more “progressive” or “anti-imperialist” than were the regimes of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban, both likewise earlier accommodated by imperialism.
The question on Srebrenica in particular is a major one, which reflects the prominence given it in 2005 by Ed Herman, when he wrote a sickening revisionist piece on the anniversary of the massacre of over 8000 defenseless Muslim captives by Serbian fascists. The last two “questions” will be touched on but are unimportant.
1 Did the war begin in 1991 with the secessions of Slovenia and Croatia?
2. Did Germany deliberately provoke the civil war?
3 Did the US really remain 'passive and disinterested' during this war?
4 Did the World Bank and the IMF help destroying this country?
5 Did the media give a phony image of 'our friends' Tudjman & Izetbegovic?
6 Did the media hide the essential history and geography of Bosnia?
7. Was the topic 'Serb aggressors, Croat and Muslim victims' correct?
8 Did Serbia initiate a program of ethnic cleansing?
9 Were the first victims of the war killed by the Serbs?
10 Was the famous image of the 'concentration camps' false?
11 Were we given the true stories on the three large massacres in Sarajevo?
12 Did the media correctly report on Srebrenica?
13 Was the largest ethnic cleansing of the war committed by the Croat Army?
14 Did the US use depleted uranium weapons also in Bosnia?
15 Was the war against Yugoslavia the US's 'only good war'?
1 Did the war begin in 1991 with the secessions of Slovenia and Croatia?
O Yes O No O Don't know
“NO. In 1979, the BND (German CIA) sent a team of secret agents to Zagreb. Mission: to support Franco Tudjman, a racist who actively promoted ethnic hatred and did all he could toward the break-up of Yugoslavia. Germany supported and financed this Croatian Le Pen, and sent him arms before the war.”
So what, even if this is true? That was 1979. Milosevic, the Serbian Le Pen, came to power in 1987 and began dismantling Yugoslavia. The governments of Montenegro and Vojvodina were sacked in 1988. Kosova was crushed and its autonomy stripped, the Yugoslav constitution thereby destroyed, in early 1989. Serbia imposed *economic sanctions* on Slovenia, a fellow republic within the Yugoslav federation, in late 1989. In Serbia's new constitution in 1990, Serbian *independence* was declared (need the quotes?).
Throughout all this time, Croatia said nothing much, it was known as "the great Croatian silence", Tudjman may have been somewhere in the background, irrelevant. Whether the BND had even continued contact with him after 1979 is unclear; to what ends, who knows, especially since Germany had no fight with Yugoslavia. Tudjman wasn't elected until 1990, ie, 3 years after the Serbian nationalist rampage began. He was essentially a mirror of Milosevic. Even then, it was not until June 1991 he organised an independence referendum. Previous to that, the Croatian Serb forces had already declared "independence" in areas they had brought under their military control, and in early 1991, Milosevic abolished the constitution outright by refusing to recognise the new president of Yugoslavia, Stipe Mesic, a Croat (the Yugoslav federation depended on a 'rotating presidency' where each republic had its turn, it was now Croatia's turn). In doing so, the Serbian regime against declared itself to be "sovereign and independent" and said it would no longer take any instructions from the federal government.
As for the allegation that Germany “financed” Tudjman, and “sent him arms before the war,” since Collon gives no evidence of this, and I know of none, I will simply assume that he made it up, a common tactic of the “Red”-Brown sections of the Right-“Left” convergence, for whom pro-Serbian chauvinism is a key issue of agreement.
“To what end? Berlin never acknowledged the existence of the unified Yugoslav state which had courageously resisted German aggression in the two world wars.”
Absolute and total nonsense. A meaningless statement.
“By once more breaking Yugoslavia into easily dominated mini-states, Germany sought to control the Balkans. An economic zone it could annex in order to remove it from local authority, to export German products to it, and to dominate it as a market.”
Complete and utter fiction, and utterly illogical. Germany was *already* the number one economic power in united Yugoslavia, it was already the biggest foreign investor, in Slovenia, in Croatia, *and in Serbia.* The Yugoslav dinar was pegged to the German mark. The idea that Germany of all imperialist powers would want to "break up" a country that it economically dominated, to create new state borders between its economic concerns, break-up of the market, turmoil, war etc, is inconceivably stupid. That is why it did not happen: As late as June 1991, just before the Croatian referendum, and thus just before the onset of a 6-month devastating attack on Croatia by the massively armed Yugoslav army, Genscher had given one of the strongest speeches advocating the retention of a united Yugoslavia to the Berlin Conference of CSCE leaders. The CSCE issued a statement in Berlin expressing their "support for democratic development, unity and territorial integrity of Yugoslavia," stressing that "it is only for the peoples of Yugoslavia themselves to decide on the country's future," and "the existing constitutional disputes should be remedied, and that the way out of the present difficult impasse should be found without recourse to the use of force and in conformity with legal and constitutional procedures."
2. Did Germany deliberately provoke the civil war?
O Yes O No O Don't know
“YES. At the beginning of the Maastricht Summit in 1991, German Chancellor Kohl was alone in wanting to break up Yugoslavia and precipitously to recognize the 'independence' of Slovenia and Croatia, in defiance of both International Law and the Yugoslav Constitution. But the rise of German power would impose this madness on all its partners. Paris and London fell right in line.”
“According to The Observer of London: "Prime Minister Major paid dearly for supporting German policies toward Yugoslavia which all observers said precipitated the war." In effect, all the experts had warned that this 'recognition' would provoke a civil war. Why?”
Complete hogwash. Notice Collon does not say when "in 1991" the "Maastricht Summit" was. It was *at the end* of 1991. I just referred to Germany’s position *at the beginning* of the war. What happened in the 6 months between June and December 1991?
- Croatia and Slovenia both had referendums in which the overwhelming majority voted to declare independence "unless Yugoslavia could be transformed into a looser confederation", given that the previous federation had turned into a Serbia-dominated rump and had been destroyed by Milosevic
- The European Commission (EC) demanded the 2 republics hold off declaring independence
- The Yugoslav Army, the 4th most powerful in Europe, launched a massive attack on Croatian towns and cities, destroying 40% of Croatian industry, expelling hundreds of thousands of Croats from their homes in one third of Croatia that was then converted into an ethnically cleansed "Serb Republic of Krajina", including in regions which previously had absolute Serb minorities, ie East Slavonia, where in a 3 month siege of the multi-ethnic, Croat majority, city of Vukovar, the 'Yugoslav' (ie Serbian) army obliterated it. Reactionary and chauvinist forces allied to Tudjman on the Croat side here and there carried out similar actions against Serbs, but with an absolute inferiority in weaponry, their actions, while often similarly appalling, was comparatively minor.
Now, given that Yugoslavia was by definition a federation of equal nations, hands up how many people think that the Croatian republic would have chosen to remain in such a “federation” in which the army had just bombed it to pieces for 6 months? Especially since they had already voted to escape Serboslavia even before the onslaught? Obviously, no-one. So there is no way Germany advocating recognition in December 1991 could "break up" Yugoslavia which was already irrevocably broken to pieces. As for Collon's assertion above that German recognition would lead to war, this is the kind of hoodwinking that the revisionist set has used for ages, assume people don't know anything so you can bullshit them. The full-scale devastating war began in June 1991, was ending in December 1991, Germany recognised the 2 republics on December 23 1991, its only sin being that was 3 weeks ahead of schedule for the whole EC (and Russia) to recognise them, bringing the war to an end. Facts are stubborn things.
It was not "in defiance of the Yugoslav constitution" whose very first article says that the peoples of Yugoslavia have the right to self-determination including secession.
Germany was simply more realistic than UK, France and US, all of which vociferously opposed Croat independence. Once the war began, and Yugoslavia was blasted to bits by the 'Federal' Army, Germany moved to preserve influence over at least the northern republics, since the German-economically-dominated united Yugoslavia was no more. Of course, in the UK, France and the US, Germany’s WWII enemies, primitive Germanophobia runs high, so blaming the evil Germans for the break-up was indulged in by all these governments alongside their “left” opponents.
Even when the UK and France finally joined and recognised reality on January 15 1992, after the war had ended, the US still refused to do so and insisted it only recognised "one government in the territory of Yugoslavia", ie, Belgrade.
“Nearly every Yugoslav Republic was a mix of diverse nationalities. Separating the territories was as absurd as dividing Paris or London into ethnically pure municipal districts.”
Yes, precisely, but that was the plan and the action of the Lepenist regime of Milosevic, so the mind boggles as to why Collon tries to use this as an argument. Serbs and Croats lived scattered in Croatia, with very few regions of absolute Serb majority; from late *1990*, the 'Yugoslav' army was arming pro-Chetnik forces among the Croatian Serbs to cut out a chunk of Croatia to become a "Serb Republic", this was long before Croatia's independence referendum. Of course, all that goes double and triple for Bosnia, where unlike Tudjman's own racist regime, the Bosnian government of Izetbegovic was a multi-ethnic government consisting of Serbs, Croats, Muslims and mixed Bosnians, ie, a mini-Yugoslavia, but was attacked and destroyed by primarily Serbian, but also their allied Croatian, chauvinist gangs, armed by Milosevic and Tudjman, who cut out "Serb" and "Croat" Republics by expelling over a million people who happened to live in the wrong place.
“By favoring the neo-fascist Tudjman and the Muslim nationalist Izetbegovic (who had in his youth collaborated with Hitler), it was certain that panic would be provoked among the important Serb minorities who had lived for centuries in Croatia and Bosnia. Every Serb family had lost at least one member to the horrible genocide committed by the fascist Croats and Muslims, agents of Nazi Germany in 1941-45.”
The West did not "favour" them at all, it imposed an arms embargo on "all of Yugoslavia", which prevented the new republics from getting arms, while the Serb-dominated federal army was armed to the teeth and also had its own arms factories. It is certainly true that Tudjman's (equally to Milosevic's) racist government "provoked" the Serbs, just as the Croats had been "provoked" by 3 years of the Milosevic rampage, but the answer was unity with the Croatian left, which opposed Tudjman, but supported Croatian independence. Instead, Milosevic steered them to equally fascist leaders who expelled the Croats from 1/3 of Croatia, actually facilitating Tudjman's policies. As for Bosnia, what is said above is simple and arrant nonsense.
To say "the fascist Croats and Muslims allied to Hitler" is simple racism that has no place on the left. In WWII, many Croats, Muslims, *Serbs* and others collaborated with the Nazis in various puppet governments and fascist militias, and many *Croats*, Muslims, Serbs etc also joined the Partisans who resisted the Nazi occupation. The Partisans were led by the Croat Broz Tito, and one of their officers was the young Franco Tudjman. Throughout the war, the largest Partisan forces were in Croatia.
“Only Tito's Yugoslavia had been able to bring about peace, equality and coexistence.”
Yes. So why is Collon giving support to Milosevic, the grave-digger of the entire post-WWII Titoist system.
“But Berlin, then Washington, wanted once and for all to break this country they saw as being 'too far to the Left'”
Hogwash, they energetically campaigned to maintain the "unity of Yugoslavia at all cost" (want about 100 quotes?), even though that meant in practice supporting Milosevic, head of the dominant republic, Serbia, who was recentralising it, as the West, the US, the IMF etc wanted, the problem being that this super-centralisation under a narrow nationalist leadership of the dominant national group is precisely what inadvertently destroyed it.
3 Did the US really remain 'passive and disinterested' during this war?
O Yes O No O Don't know
“NO. Lord Owen, special European Union envoy to Bosnia, and later a well-placed observer, wrote in his memoirs: "I greatly respect the United States. But in recent years (92-95) this nation's diplomacy has been guilty of needlessly prolonging the war in Bosnia."
“What was its aim? While the Germans were busy taking control of Slovenia, Croatia and, eventually, Bosnia, Washington put pressure on Izetbegovic, the Muslim nationalist leader in Sarajevo: "Don't sign any peace agreements proposed by the Europeans. We will win the war for you on the ground." Washington then prolonged for two years the horrible suffering inflicted on all the people of Bosnia.”
“By what means? 1. Setting aside all the advantages Berlin had gained in this strategic region of the Balkans. 2. Dividing and weakening the European Union. 3. Installing NATO as the Continental European policeman. 4. Restricting all Russian access to the Mediterranean Sea. 5. Imposing its military and political leadership on all the other wars being prepared. Because the war against Yugoslavia was at the same time a non-declared war against Europe. After the fall of the Berlin wall, US strategies were geared toward stopping, at all costs, the emergence of a European superpower. So everything was done to weaken Europe militarily and politically.”
For once I find myself almost entirely in agreement with Collon. However, I would add a few points.
First, interesting he quotes UK imperialist leader Lord Owen, because it was Tory-ruled UK that played the most unabashedly pro-Milosevic role in the war, essentially it was the key imperialist power arguing all along in favour of outright Serbian victory, and particularly names such as Owen, Hurd, Carrington, Rifkind, Major, Rose etc stand out here.
Yes, the US was guilty of prolonging the war by bullshitting to the Bosnians that if they did not sign any of the EC-imposed, pro-Serbia, pro-Croatia, apartheid partition plans of Bosnia, that the US might one day help them. Yes, this was part of the US war against European imperialism. But these racist partition plans, which, to quote Collon above, were "as absurd as dividing Paris or London into ethnically pure municipal districts", and more so in Bosnia than in any other republic, were not "peace agreements proposed by the Europeans" but plans to execute and liquidate the UN member state Bosnia, to bring about "peace" by giving Milosevic and his henchmen everything they wanted.
Why should Bosnia have agreed to the EC plan in March 1992 for its own destruction by dividing the thoroughly mixed republic into three ethnic-based territorial states? It was correct to reject it, irrespective of the fact that it corresponded to US manoevures against Europe. The plan itself gave the green light for the Serb and Croat chauvinists to go for broke ethnic cleansing to cut out further land for their “states.” However, regarding the Vance-Owen partition plan of early 1993, when the genocide had been going for a year, the Bosnian government, not trusting Clinton's rejectionist rhetoric, ultimately and with enormous reluctance *did sign* it, while the Bosnian Serb chauvinists, despite pressure from Milosevic, did not – they figured they may as well hang on to the entire 70 percent they had conquered due to absolute military superiority. Note Collon does not mention this, and implies the opposite.
The net result of the US prolonging the war? The Vance-Owen partition plan of early 1993 awarded genocide by giving a "Serb republic" 43% of Bosnia. When the US imposed its own Dayton partition plan in late 1995, it awarded the racist, ethnically cleansed "Serb republic" *49%* of Bosnia - ie, US intervention gave *more* to the racist state than even the EU had been proposing 2.5 years and 10's of 1000's of lives earlier. The US imposed a victory for Milosevic and Greater Serbia.
4 Did the World Bank and the IMF help destroying this country?
O Yes O No O Don't know
“YES. In December 1989, the IMF imposed draconian conditions on Yugoslavia which forced liberal prime minister Markovic to beg for aid from George Bush Sr. This 'help' was aimed at destabilizing and bankrupting all large state-owned businesses. The World Bank dismantled the banking system, laid off 525,000 workers in one year, then ordered the immediate elimination of two out of every three jobs. The quality of life fell dramatically. These policies and the growing incidence of work stoppages in solidarity with displaced workers in all the Republics heightened the contradictions among the leaders of the various Republics to whom Belgrade could no longer provide financing. To get themselves out of this mess, the leaders had to resort to divisive tactics and invested greatly in nationalist hatreds. This war was ignited from abroad. Like so many others.”
This is all true, but incomplete. What he does not say is that precisely to drive through this draconian program of economic "liberalisation", the IMF and World Bank, backed by Washington, demanded a *recentralisation* of Yugoslavia to abolish the extensive rights the republics and provinces had, which could choose to not implement parts of the program. So the IMF/WB/US agenda dovetailed with that of Milosevic, and they supported him, in fact his connections to US capital, going back to the 1970s as the Serbian rep at IMF meetings when he lived in the US, is what got him the job. And it was none other than the famous "Milosevic Commission" of 1988 that began implementing the neo-liberal policies that abolished socialism in Yugoslavia, before Hungary, before Poland, before the Berlin wall: Milosevic was in the vanguard of east European capitalist restoration.
“The war against Yugoslavia was a war of globalization. All the great Western powers sought to liquidate the Yugoslav economic system which they found too Leftist: with a strong public sector, important social rights, resistance to the multinationals...”
Complete nonsense, as my comments above make clear. For a full description of the process of capitalist restoration in Serbia and Yugoslavia, see my following pieces of analysis:
Milosevic's Serbia: No Relation to Socialism
Occupation Regime in Kosova Begin Privatisation Program
5 Did the media give a phony image of 'our friends' Tudjman & Izetbegovic?
O Yes O No O Don't know
“YES. The hyper-nationalist Croat and Muslim leaders were presented as the pure victims, great anti-racist democrats.”
Complete nonsense, create a straw dummy and then try to knock it down.
“But their past as much as their present should have alerted us: When he took power, Franjo Tudjman declared: "I'm happy my wife isn't a Jew or a Serb." He hurriedly renamed the streets that had carried the names of antifascist partisans, reinstated the money and the flag of the old genocidal fascist regime, and changed the Constitution in order to run off the Serbs.”
Funny how I seem to remember clear as day reading about these things in the mainstream media, who were never kind to Tudjman at all, not even in death. Actually, try finding even one flattering article in the mainstream media about Tudjman from January 2000 when he dropped dead. Almost no world leaders attended his funeral. Oh, they called him a “great anti-racist democrat” did they? Pull the other one Collon.
But just a couple of comments to clarify the above so that people understand more about Collon's "methods." Tudjman did not reinstate "the flag of the old genocidal fascist regime." He reinstated the historic chequerboard flag of Croatia, which had been their flag for hundreds of years. The Ustashe flag had used this chequerboard as a background, and placed a huge 'U' over it. The old/new Croatian flag did not contain this 'U', ie the specific Ustashe symbol. Furthermore, the Croatian chequerboard flag had also formed *part* of the actual flag of the Croatian republic within Communist Yugoslavia the whole time from 1945 to 1990, without anyone suggesting it was a 'Ustashe' flag. Collon didn’t know that, did he?
Secondly, he "changed the Constitution in order to run off the Serbs"? Collon does not tell us what that means. The new Croatian constitution declares Croatia a state of the Croats "and other *nations* and minorities such as *the Serbs*, .. (a list of other smaller groups)".
“During his 1990 electoral campaign, Izetbegovic reissued his 'Islamic Declaration': "There can be neither peace nor coexistence between the Islamic religion and those social and political institutions that are non-Islamic." He set up a corrupt and mafia-ridden regime based primarily on the lucrative black market and the hijacking of funds from international aid. He called for assistance, with Washington's blessings, from Islamic mercenaries, most notably from al Qaida.”
This is just blatant Islamophobia. The Bosnian Muslims were largely secular, and intermarriage between Bosnian Muslims, Bosnian Serb orthodox and Bosnian Croat Catholics was enormous, perhaps accounting for 25 percent of marriages. Even if the war of aggression against Bosnia and the genocide of Bosnia's Muslims did drive a proportion of them towards Islamic radicalism, why would Collon single this out in Bosnia, but not in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq etc? It is the mere fact that they are Muslims which makes them "Islamic fundamentalist" and "allies of Al Qaida" and other such nonsense, and why not Collon, repeat what Milosevic and his henchmen were saying, that the Muslims were "Turks", leftovers of the "Ottoman Empire" and a "threat to European civilization" which the Serbs had "for centuries defended" and other such spew.
Re the 'Islamic Declaration': In this work of Islamic philosophy, Izetbegovic excluded "the use of violence in the creation of a Muslim state, because it defiles the beauty of the name of Islam", and in addition, he was referring to a Muslim state in a country where most of the population were Muslim, and explicitly excluded Bosnia or Yugoslavia for that reason. In Izetbegovic's 'Islam between East and West', he charts a course between Islamic values and material progress, arguing for a combination of western secular education with spiritual values he believed were found predominantly in Islamic societies.
Regarding Bosnia itself, in 1990 he declared "we are not on the road to a national state (ie, of the Bosnian Muslims), our only way out is towards a free civic union. This is the future. Some people may want that (to make Bosnia a Muslim state) but this is not a realistic wish. Even though the Muslims are the most numerous nation within the republic, there are not enough of them ... they would have to comprise about seventy percent of the population” (ie before Bosnia could begin to be considered a national state of the Muslims).
(For the record, Muslims were 43% of the Bosnian population, Serbs 30%, Croats 17% and mixed Bosnians, or people who just called themselves "Bosnians", or "Yugoslavs" (the same thing), made up the other 10%)
In any case the record was what? Did Izetbegovic introduce sharia law? No. Force women to wear veils? No. Destroy Catholic and Orthodox churches? No. Take a walk around Sarajevo or Tuzla after the war, both cities having been controlled by the Bosnian govt throughout the war. Plenty of Orthodox and Catholic churches intact. Almost no mosques, however, left in the bulk of Bosnia which had come under the control of Serbian or allied Croatian fascist forces - 1400 mosques in all were dynamited, many turned into parking lots, including historic mosques many centuries old, as were historic museums packed with centuries of medieval Islamic and Jewish Balkan culture, all up in flames.
In what kind of "Islamic state" would the cabinet consist of 9 Muslims, 6 Serbs, 5 Croats and a 'Yugoslav', who were a government fighting to save a multi-ethnic republic from other, rightwing extremist, Serbs and Croats? Where the leading general defending multi-ethnic Sarajevo against 3.5 years of siege by Serbian Chetniks was an ethnic Bosnian Serb himself, General Divjak?
And then there is the routine Islamophobia about Al Qaida, which Collon is not even ashamed of using. The evidence is pretty slim, and for the record the overwhelmingly major Islamic aid for Bosnia was from Iran, which Collon does not want to admit because Iran is "anti-imperialist" and Collon puts on that image too. Of course, so is Al Qaida, but it makes better propaganda, as Collon and the White House know.
6 Did the media hide the essential history and geography of Bosnia?
O Yes O No O Don't know
“YES. We were made to believe that the Serbs were the aggressors, that they had invaded Bosnia from outside its borders. In reality, three national groups had been living in Bosnia for a long time: the Muslims (43%), the Serbs (31%), the Croats (17%). And one should not forget that 7% of 'Yugoslavs' were born of mixed marriages or preferred to eschew narrow national identities. Dividing Bosnia according to nationalities, as the EU did, was absurd and dangerous. Because this diverse population was completely intermingled: the Muslims lived primarily in the cities while the Serbs and Croats made up the peasantry and were dispersed throughout the sub-regions. Bosnia could not be divided without civil war.”
I'm not even sure why Collon put in this partly correct description of the Bosnian reality, in fact I would have thought it blatantly contradicted his attempt to do apologetics for Milosevic. After all, it was Milosevic and his Bosnian Serb Chetnik henchmen who fought for a "Serb republic" to be cut out of Bosnia, despite the fact that the "diverse population was completely intermingled" as Collon correctly notes. Their allies, the Bosnian Croatian fascists and Tudjman also fought for a "Croat republic". After the first couple of months of the Bosnian war, a trade-off between the two ensured there were no further conflicts between the territories claimed by these two so they could concentrate on their united front against the multi-ethnic Bosnian government which aimed to preserve a united multi-ethnic Bosnia based on this "diverse population completely intermingled". I have answered all this more fully in Questions 2.1 and 3. For a full description of the Bosnian reality, who lived where, who claimed and fought for what etc, see my detailed analysis:
Further, when Collon correctly writes: "Dividing Bosnia according to nationalities, as the EU did, was absurd and dangerous", he is blatantly contradicting his own answer to his Question 3, where he writes "Washington put pressure on Izetbegovic, the Muslim nationalist leader in Sarajevo: "Don't sign any peace agreements proposed by the Europeans."" Since these "agreements" were designed to "divide Bosnia according to nationalities", which is "absurd and dangerous" and indeed "provoked" civil war as he says below, then they were not at all "peace agreements". Izetbegovic was correct to resist signing these apartheid pro-Serb, pro-Croat, EU partition plans in order to preserve multi-ethnic Bosnia, though of course Collon is correct that the US was totally cynical in this.
Further, while Collon is correct that the "diverse" populations were completely "intermingled", he nevertheless allows slip in a little propaganda even here which Serb and Croat chauvinists attempted to use to justify cutting out racist "states" far larger than the proportion of the Bosnian population they represented. This is where he writes "the Muslims lived primarily in the cities while the Serbs and Croats made up the peasantry and were dispersed throughout the sub-regions." This can be used by Serb and Croat chauvinists to say, well the countryside is bigger in area than the cities that's why we need more than "the Muslims" (meaning the Muslims, the mixed Bosnians and the multi-ethnic populations). But the claim is just nonsense: there were also large rural areas dominated by Muslims, there were also large city populations of Serbs and Croats, and most areas of Bosnia were either completely "intermingled" literally or else a complete patchwork of ethnic groups.
Nevertheless, overall this part was correct, but then he added the punch line to this answer:
“In fact, the Serbs of Bosnia did not fight to invade the territories of 'others', but to save their own lands and establish corridors of communication between them. It was an absurd and bloody situation, with all the ravages of a civil war, but this civil war was provoked by the great powers.”
This is pure horseshit. When he says "the Serbs", I'm assuming he means the right-wing Serb chauvinist forces headed by the pro-Chetnik figure Karadzic, rather than the Serbs who were in the multi-ethnic Bosnian government and army. In which case they most definitely did "invade lands of others", that is what the war was about. Serbs accounted for 30% of Bosnians, but the "Serb republic" at its height covered 70% of Bosnia due to absolute superiority in weaponry. All the EU and US partition plans gave the racist Serb republic from 43-52% of Bosnia. These were not "Serb" areas or even necessarily "Serb majority" areas. For example, nearly all of East Bosnia, ie the border with Serbia, was overwhelmingly Muslim, and so Muslims had to be brutally expelled, ethnically cleansed. Same with the "northern corridor" which Colon claims was necessary to "establish corridors of communication between them", problem being it was overwhelmingly Muslim and Croat in population. He obviously thinks that the right to construct a racist, ethnic-exclusivist state by expelling non-Serbs also justifies expelling other non-Serbs so they can create "corridors or communication" between different ethnically cleansed territories. Altogether, at least a million non-Serbs - overwhelmingly Muslims but including some 200,000 Croats - had to be expelled to create this racist state.
7. Was the topic 'Serb aggressors, Croat and Muslim victims' correct?
O Yes O No O Don't know
First, before even looking at Collin's answer, let's look at his BS question. Yes there are aggressors and victims, in most if not all conflicts, but that does not make all the actions of those who are primarily victims pure and always 'non-aggressive' either. Think of just about any conflict you know. Of course he expresses it this way for a reason. Second, the conflation of "Croats and Muslims" covers the fact that the Tudjman leadership in Croatia was very similar in character and actions and aims to the Milosevic leadership, whereas the Bosnian situation was quite different. Moreover, it covers the fact that the Tudjman-backed Bosnian Croat chauvinists were the *allies* of the Milosevic-backed Bosnian Serb chauvinists, not of the "Muslims" (by which Collon means the Bosnian government). Anyway:
“NO. In command of the UN forces in Bosnia from July 1993 to January 1994, Belgian general Briquemont was well placed to declare: "The disinformation is total (...) Television needs a scapegoat. For the moment, there is complete unanimity in condemning the Serbs, and that in no way facilitates the search for a solution. I don't think one can view the problem of ex-Yugoslavia and of Bosnia-Herzegovina only from the anti-Serb angle. It is much more complicated than that. One day in the middle of the Croat-Muslim war, we gave some information on the massacres committed by the Croatian army. An American journalist said to me: 'If you give out that sort of information, the American public won't understand anything.'"
Oh sure, some "American journalist" allegedly said that. That settles it then. Anyway, why is the head of the intervening imperialist UN forces, from imperialist Belgium, the standard-bearer of the truth? In fact, Collon could have picked any number of imperialist leaders of the imperialist intervention in Bosnia who would have made virtually the same remarks. Conclusion: the imperialists nearly all repeatedly said "all three groups commit atrocities". Hang on .. isn't that what "leftists" like Collon and other apologists for Serbian nationalism claim? But aren't they arguing against an alleged "imperialist" view that the Serb chauvinist forces were mostly to blame? As Collon goes on to say:
“It is not a question of denying the crimes committed by the Serb forces. The ideology one finds in the writings of Bosnian Serb leader Karadzic is extremely right wing.”
Wow! a little truth crawls in under the carpet ... He continues:
“But in reality, after the break-up of Yugoslavia, on all sides, certain criminal and political forces used the methods of war to seize territory and riches. In the three camps - Croat, Muslim and Serb - militias committed grave crimes. To the detriment of all the people.”
I wonder in which conflict that Collon knows of there have not been "grave crimes" committed by both and all camps? Iraq? Palestine? Turkey/Kurdistan? India/Kashmir? Philippines/Mindanao? France/Algeria? Angola? Russia/Chechnya? UK/Ireland? Need I go on?
It has never been a "left-wing" form of analysis to make idle liberal chatter about "both sides commit crimes, both are terrible, why don't both sides just lower their male egos" etc. Oh yes, Israel/Palestine, terrible, cycle of violence etc. Too bad those two old warriors, Sharon and Arafat, don't die, so both sides can have a chance to talk peace. Holy shit, doesn't all this rubbish make you mad?
Why is it that on just about any conflict, a leftist, while opposing any crimes on both sides, will take pains to distinguish oppressor from oppressed, in order to understand the underlying cause of the conflict and the violence "on both sides", will refuse to put the systematic crimes of the oppressor on the same plane as the sporadic and often desperate crimes, however appalling they may often be, of sections of the oppressed as they resist, but only on the Yugoslav conflict, many of these same "leftists" denounce this entire approach as "demonisation" of one side and parrot on with the same liberal, irrelevant, pedestrian and essentially disgusting crap about "crimes on all sides"?
Oh, because Collon wants to say something different from the imperialists, no matter what - they say this, we say that, no matter the content, right? However, even then, the problem is, as I noted above "Collon could have picked any number of imperialist leaders of the imperialist intervention in Bosnia who would have made virtually the same remarks", ie, the same remarks as Collon’s type of “leftists.” So let's look at a few examples:
President Clinton asserted “The killing is a function of a political fight between three factions...I don’t think the international community has the capacity to stop people within the nation from their civil war until they decide to do it” (Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Washington, January 31, 1994, p144). His Secretary of State Warren Christopher insisted all sides were equally guilty of committing atrocities, (eg, at House Foreign Affairs Committee on May 18, 1993), even though this contradicted the State Department’s own internal research, which consistently showed that the overwhelming majority of crimes were being committed by the Serb nationalist forces. One may question the neutrality of State Department reports if its aim had been to make war on Serbia. However, US leaders continually made public statements at complete variance with their own internal reports in order to justify not intervening, and for maintaining the criminal arms embargo against Bosnia. According to Britain’s Lord Carrington, head of the first conference to partition Bosnia along ethnic lines in February 1992 even before the fighting had begun, “Everybody is to blame for what is happening in BH, and as soon as we get the ceasefire there will be no need to blame anybody” (The Spectator, May 2, 1992). Former and current editors of Foreign Affairs, William Hyland (also former Deputy National Security Adviser) and James Hogue, insisted the war in Bosnia was “a fight among gangsters” and “there (were) no good guys in this battle” (interviews on McNeil-Lehrer Newshour, PBS, February 10, 1993, and The Charlie Rose Show, PBS, February 12, 1993). According to US General Barry McCafferty, there was a “long experience of ethnic hatred” among these “three distinct tribal groupings,” as he claimed before the US Senate Committee on Armed Services (US Senate, Committee on Armed Services, Situation in Bosnia and Appropriate US and Western Responses, August 11, 1992, p29). Bush’s Secretary of State James Baker asserted “we don’t have a dog in this war.” Cheney, then the Defense Secretary, “took a strong stand against use of US ground troops in the vicious civil war in Bosnia between Serbs, Croats, and Muslims that began in April 1992” (‘Dick Cheney on the Issues,’ http://www.issues2000.org/Text/Dick_Cheney_Kosovo.htm). The policy journal, The National Interest, of which Kissinger is on the Advisory Board, in an article by its former editor, Robert Tucker, claimed “..the recognition of Bosnia’s independence itself constituted an illegal intervention in Yugoslavia’s internal affairs, to which Belgrade had every right to object,” the article advocates not only partition, but for the “Serb and Croat entities proposed under the Serb-Croat partition plans” to be directly “absorbed by the mother states,” and for the “Serb state” to take 60 percent of Bosnia (Tucker, R and Hendrickson, D, “America and Bosnia,” The National Interest, Washington, Fall 1993). General Charles Boyd, Deputy Commander in Chief of the US European Command from 1992 to 1995 (ie the whole Bosnian war), wrote that “the Serbs are not trying to conquer new territory but to hold on to what was already theirs,” and that “the distinction among the factions is more power and opportunity than morality.” He also claimed the original sin was the recognition of Bosnia which amounted to the west “accepting the dissolution of a UN member state” (Boyd, C, “Making Peace with the Guilty,” Foreign Affairs, September-October 1995).
Need I go on? Obviously not. The point is of course that a certain group of “leftists” think that saying the same as the majority of imperialist leaders throughout the Bosnian war is to be groovy and “left.” Or even more, as in Michael Parenti’s amateurish book, he thinks that by quoting the imperialist leaders like this, he proves that the war was, as all these leaders say, a war between 3 ethnic groups who all committed atrocities. He assumes the imperialist leaders must all be telling the truth. He then makes the interesting twist of logic that this contradicts the imperialist position. So by quoting the bulk of imperialist leaders who agree with him and Collon, he shows the imperialists were wrong. But which imperialists? The media. You see, the problem was not virtually the entire political and military leadership of the imperialist intervention in Bosnia (which sat on its hands, allowed 3.5 years of vicious ethnic cleansing under its nose, imposed an arms embargo on Bosnia and finally partitioned the republic as demanded all along by Milosevic and co.), no the problem was not them at all, the problem was … Ed Vulliamy, Maggie O’Kane and a few other journalists from some left-liberal media who were actually able to see and show that this was all crap.
But anyway, now let’s answer Collon’s “question”, ie “Was the topic 'Serb aggressors, Croat and Muslim victims' correct?”
In other words, was it just a case of three ethnic groups fighting and all committing atrocities, or was there a more fundamental divide among the combatants that Marxists and leftists usually look for if present?
Yes, in their resistance to aggression and genocide, armed forces under the Bosnian government also at times committed atrocities, including minor cases of reverse ethnic cleansing, as do, for example, Palestinian fighters, Tamil fighters, the IRA, the PKK etc etc. But who was really killing who?
Serbs make up 30% of Bosnia, Croats 17%, Muslims and mixed Bosnians 53%. Within the first few months of the Bosnian war, the Serbian nationalist forces had taken control of 70% of Bosnia and ethnically cleansed a million non-Serbs who just happened to live there. They kept control of this amount of territory for 3.5 years until Bosnian government forces pushed them back to about 50% in late 1995. The US intervened at that point that the Bosnian forces were for the first time on the offensive, making sure the government forces were not able to take back any more ethnically cleansed land, as the golden 50/50 figure for the partition of Bosnia was the US and Milosevic figure.
In 1993, the Bosnian Croat nationalists, who were allied to the Bosnian Serb nationalists, also conquered about 15-20% of Bosnia, thus together the two allied chauvinist armies had 85-90% of Bosnia, while the government forces – representing the Muslim duality of the population, the mixed Bosnians who obviously couldn’t fit in either of the racist states, and large numbers of Serbs and Croats who preferred to keep living next to their Muslim neighbours and relatives rather than shift to some racist hell – only had control of some 10-15% of the country. At the end of 1993, after circumventing the imperialist arms embargo enough acquire small numbers of Iranian arms, the Bosnian government smashed the Croat chauvinists, but they still held onto Western Herzegovina which had a solid Croat majority, maybe about 10% of the country. Thus even after this, the government forces still had no more than 20% of the country.
How is this possible? Don’t these figures in themselves tell us something about who had absolute power and who at bottom was the oppressor and aggressor? If they don’t, they should.
How did it happen? Because the Bosnian Serb Army had overwhelming military superiority. For example, in late 1994, they had 330 tanks, 800 artillery pieces, 400 armoured personnel carriers and 37 military aircraft, while the Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina (ie government forces) had 40 tanks, “a few” artillery pieces, 30 armoured personnel carriers and no aircraft. The Bosnian Croat forces had 75 tanks, 200 artillery pieces, no APCs or aircraft. Given that through most of the war the Serb and Croat nationalists were either officially or unofficially allied, this represents enormous superiority over the government forces. Even when they were not officially allied, the Croat nationalists never carried out any joint fighting with the Bosnian government forces against the Serb nationalists except at the very beginning and very end of the war. Thus at best it was the overwhelmingly superior Serb nationalist forces versus the extremely ill-equipped government forces. Even if a pro-Serb propagandist were to dishonestly put together the Croat and government forces, they were still way, way overwhelmed by the Serb nationalists.
How did the Bosnian Serb Army “just happen” to have such absolute superiority, since it was “just a civil war between 3 ethnic groups”? Answer: because it wasn’t “just a civil war between 3 ethnic groups”. When there was one Yugoslavia, there was one army, a military machine the 4th biggest in Europe with masses of advanced weaponry. This belonged to all Yugoslavs, but when it broke up it came under the control of Serbia, as Serbs had absolutely dominated the officer caste. All non-Serb officers quit when the federal army began to be unconstitutionally used as an arm of Greater Serb war aims.
Still, how did the massive resources of the federal army, based in Serbia itself, get to the Bosnian Serb Army, which was in Bosnia?
Firstly, because it had unconstitutionally began arming the Chetnik military groups in both Croatia and Bosnia from late 1990, in order to prepare their secession from those republics.
Secondly, because at the end of the Federal government/ Serbian attack on Croatia (July-December 1991), former US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance had negotiated an end to that war that allowed the Yugoslav federal army (now entirely Serbian) to take all its advanced weaponry that it had been using in Croatia to destroy that country back into “Yugoslavia”. However, at that time, Bosnia was still in “Yugoslavia”. If you look at the geography, you will see they took their weaponry into Bosnia, not Serbia, and there delivered it to the Bosnian Serb Chetnik forces, who, even months before they launched their own war, had cut out four zones inside Bosnia and taken them under their exclusive control. There can be no doubt that Vance and the US government did this in order to deliver Bosnia to Milosevic.
Thirdly, even after UN recognition of Bosnia in April 1992 and the outbreak of war there, for the first 2 months of the war it was not even theoretically a “civil war” – the Yugoslav army attacked most of the regions throughout Bosnia with its massive firepower, “softening” the areas up for the Bosnian Serb Chetniks to move in for the kill. Actually, not even they were only Bosnian Serbs – fascist militias included those of arch racist Vojislav Seselj of the Serbian Radical Party of * Serbia *, coalition partner with Milosevic’s party in government, and of Serbian mafia leader ‘Arkan’. And it was in those decisive first few months of the war that the “Bosnian Serbs” conquered the bulk of their territory.
Fourthly, even when the ‘Yugoslav’ army was officially withdrawn by Milosevic, a couple of months into the war, it left its massive weapons supplies it had brought from Croatia with the Bosnian Serb Army. In any case, there was no way of ever checking that the ‘Yugoslav’ army had all left; some suggest around 20% of them remained, and various fascist militias from Serbia definitely remained. In any case, the ‘Yugoslav’ government and army back in Serbia paid the salaries of the Bosnian Serb officers, such as Mladic, throughout the war, and continued to supply them with arms, spare parts and oil. Imagine what kind of “having nothing to do with what the Bosnian Serbs do” this is. We generally hold the US and other western governments responsible when they are arming some brutal tyrant suppressing his people. Now imagine a situation where in addition, the US was directly paying the salaries of the officers of, say, Suharto’s Indonesia, throughout the genocide there. From all these leftists, we would never hear the end of it, and quite rightly. Yet in exactly the same case – where Serbia was paying the salaries of the officers of the BSA – they all throw their hands up and look all innocent and ask what could the Serbian government of the good white European Christian man Milosevic possibly have to do with the actions of “the Bosnian Serbs” in a “civil war” in “another country”??!! The hypocrisy certainly is rank.
Thus this was no more a “civil” war between “Serbs” and “Muslims” where “both sides are equally guilty” than the war between the enormous, massively armed Indonesian army and the East Timorese resistance fighters was a “civil war” between “Indonesians” and “Timorese” where “both sides are equally guilty”. Try telling me the difference Collon.
The numbers killed also bear this out. While there is no agreed upon number of dead, and it has been estimated that up to 200,000 may have died in Bosnia, a very sober death count has been taking place by a group of Bosnian Serbs, Croats and Muslims, called the Research and Documentation Centre, where every death is being rigorously cross-checked to rule out double reporting (possible in the chaos of war and displacement), and only those deaths that can be absolutely verified are included, thus excluding many partial remains, and excluding those who died as a result of war-related causes (ie, years of having no electricity) but not directly through killing. The head of the team, Mirsad Tokaca , believes when the research is complete, the numbers will be “over 100,000 but less than 150,000”. As of December 2005, they had a definite count of 93,837, but the project is continuing and will continue to be extended as long as significant numbers continue to be added, which they have been.
The 93,837 to date comprises 63,687 Bosniaks (“Muslims”, ie, 67.87%), 24,216 Serbs (25.81%), 5,057 Croats (5.39%) and 877 others (0.93%). It is very obvious from this that Muslims are way over represented in the dead and the other two groups are underrepresented. This is even clearer when civilian and military deaths are compared. Here is the breakdown: Bosniaks: 30,514 civilians, 30,173 soldiers; Bosnian Serbs: 1,978 civilians, 21,399 soldiers; Bosnian Croats: 2,076 civilians, 2,619 soldiers, 362 status unknown.
So according to this, the number of Bosnian Muslim * civilians * killed was 15 times as many as Serb civilians. And even this is not the end of the story, because large numbers of Bosnians were officially in the army as it was the only way to get a government subsidy. Thus even most of the 8000 Muslim men and boys slaughtered in captivity over a few days in Srebrenica in 1995 are here classified as “soldiers”. Tokaca explains that they in fact were not soldiers, but:
“This is a problem for the state to solve. For many families, the fact that one of its members was filed as a soldier in the Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina was a matter of sheer survival. When these people were confronted with the choice between existence and a lie regarding the status of the victim, they opted for the lie. The only ones who could count on some kind of state support were members of the armed forces, or rather their families. The authorities themselves, however, have failed to confront the problem of civilian casualties. Throughout the past sixty years, in this country you could claim the status of a soldier on the basis of just two people’s testimony. I chose not to become involved with this problem.”
Thus even just adding this group to the Bosnian Muslim civilians their numbers jump to 19 times the number of Serb civilians killed. However you look at it, the reason the BSA could overrun Srebrenica and slaughter 8000 captives was because the captives had no arms to defend themselves, not the usual definition of a “soldier”. Quite unlike Mladic’s forces that did the killing.
I hope all these facts provide a concise answer to this question of Collon’s and help people understand the nature of the war. I’ll just respond to the last bit Collon adds to this question:
“Thus (he’s giving an example of how all sides were “aggressive” etc), in August 1994, the Muslim nationalist leader in Sarajevo, Izetbegovic, attacked the Muslim region of Bihac, controlled by Fikret Abdic, who had distanced himself from Izetbegovic and wanted to live in harmony with his Serb and Croat neighbours. In this offensive, Izetbegovic was aided by six US generals.”
First note how Izetbegovic is called the “Muslim nationalist leader” and Abdic is called a Muslim leader who “wanted to live in harmony with his Serb and Croat neighbours.” What mindless crap. Izetbegovic was the president of Bosnia, of a government consisting of Serbs, Croats, Muslims and ‘Yugoslavs’, and he retook control of part of his country which had been taken over by someone called Abdic who had precisely set up an ‘autonomous’ * Muslim * state in Bihac. He “wanted to live in harmony with his Serb and Croat neighbours” means that he accepted the EU-Serbia-Croatia ethnic partition plans, ie the ones which just above Collon had correctly described as “absurd and dangerous,” and just as there would be racist “Serb” and “Croat” republics all around Bihac, he would have his own “Muslim” one amongst them.
Collon presents it as wrong that the Bosnian government “attacked” Abdic’s fiefdom, and claims it was aided by “six US generals”. Since he tells us nothing about these alleged generals, we can probably treat it with a grain of salt, or even if true, essentially irrelevant. It is more relevant to understand what was going on and the real imperialist intervention which led to this.
The real intervention was that the UN and the EU, headed by the British Foreign Office in the person of Lord David Owen, had drawn up yet another plan to dismember Bosnia into apartheid ethnic-based “republics” based on ethnic cleansing results. This one was called the ‘Owen-Stoltenberg Plan’ in mid-1993. In drawing it up, Owen and Stoltenberg (some Norwegian reactionary) met with Milosevic and Tudjman, and with the Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat chauvinist forces, until they agreed on a deal to give a “Serb Republic” 52 of Bosnia and a “Croat Republic” 18 percent. The legal multi-ethnic Bosnian government, a recognized UN state, was not invited to any of these meetings to dismember its country. When confronted with the deal, it rejected it, as you would. However, Owen saw an opportunity, and encouraged Abdic to break with the government to accept the imperialist partition plan. Owen openly talks about this in his memoirs of the Bosnian war. Abdic was a British imperialist stooge. The Bosnian government was correct to defend its country’s constitutional existence against this imperialist conspiracy against it. If Abdic had any support in Bihac, then, together with the aid he was getting from both Serb and Croat chauvinist forces around his enclave, he could have held off the Bosnian army, confronted as it was by overwhelming odds everywhere in the country. But of course he was just seen as a traitor by the people of Bihac.
8 Did Serbia initiate a program of ethnic cleansing?
O Yes O No O Don't know
“NO. If one believes that ethnic cleansing was actually the program of 'the dictator Milosevic', one has to admit that this program was sadly ineffective. Because throughout the war years and still today, one of every five inhabitants of Serbia is a non-Serb. In Belgrade there are and have always been many minorities living without any difficulty: Muslims, Gypsies, Albanians, Macedonians, Turks, Hungarians, Gorans . . . In reality, contrary to the image given by the press, Serbia is today the only state of the ex-Yugoslavia, along with Macedonia, that remains 'multinational'.”
What outright cynicism. First, let’s just dissect the “facts” as presented above, and then we’ll look at the logical fallacy.
I’m not sure about Collon’s “one in five” figure, but let’s assume it to be true for argument’s sake. The main minorities include:
- the Albanian minority in the Presevo region bordering east Kosova. Collon thinks they live “without any difficulty.” If they thought that, it is odd that they conducted a referendum in 1992 calling for autonomy and for joining Kosova. Unlike the similar minority Serb referendum in Croatia, which had the massive strength of the “Yugoslav” military to back it in smashing Croatia to bits, this referendum of minority Albanians got nowhere. Thousands were expelled from the region in the period after the Kosova war in 1999, leading to an armed struggle led by a group called the Liberation Army of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medjedja (UCPBM). In early 2001, NATO authorized the Serbian army to enter a border region with Kosova to flush out the guerillas. The local people still complain of widespread discrimination.
- The Bosniak (Slavic Muslim) minority, concentrated in the Sanzak region around the borderlands of Serbia and Montenegro, from the Kosovar to Bosnian borders. Collon thinks they live “without any difficulty.” If they thought that, it is odd that they conducted a referendum in 1991 calling for autonomy for Sanzak. And I repeat again, unlike the similar minority Serb referendum in Croatia, which had the massive strength of the “Yugoslav” military to back it in smashing Croatia to bits, this referendum of minority Muslims got nowhere. In 1992, dozens were murdered by right-wing Serbian paramilitaries, of the same type as those doing genocide in Bosnia and fro whom the likes of Collon are apologists. Thousands fled to Bosnia.
- The Hungarian minority in Vojvodina, concentrated especially in the northern half of Vojvodina near the Hungarian border. Being a northern, more wealthy, minority, unlike the brutally oppressed and poverty stricken Albanians and Muslims, the Hungarians are more at ease in Serbia, and have better relations in general with Serbs, who do not traditionally have the same racist attitudes towards them. However, the abolition of Vojvodina’s autonomy in 1988-89 has caused a loss of power to the minority.
- The Croat minority, also in Vojvodina. While the same traditionally applied to them, this changed with the Croatian war. In response, many Croats were forced out, and the minority greatly reduced. At the end of the war in Bosnia and the expulsion of the Serbs from Krajina, Seselj’s Serbian Radical Party (SRS) went around expelling Croats from their homes to put Serb refugees in.
- The Roma minority, who face the same widespread discrimination in Serbia as in other countries of the Balkans. This has included brutal murders of Roma in the streets in broad daylight by right-wing gangs and “skinheads.”
And since this is about the Milosevic regime, rather than Serbia in general, Collon would have a difficult time disproving that the party of Milosevic (SPS) and his key ally (SRS) have almost zero support in any of the areas dominated by these minority groups.
Nevertheless, why didn’t Milosevic drive all these people out, Collon asks, if he was committed to ethnic cleansing? To this simpleton question, we’ll give a logical answer: because Milosevic launched his wars of ethnic cleansing in the republics of Croatia and Bosnia. His aim was to annex large swathes of these two republics for Greater Serbia, so naturally this required these large swathes to be ethnically cleansed. There was no reason to expel the oppressed minorities in Serbia, as they were small and powerless enough to be kept under control, not threatening Serbian rule over them. When the Kosovar Albanians did finally take up arms after a decade of peaceful resistance got them nowhere, to demand the end of Serbian oppression, then Milosevic also launched a massive ethnic cleansing program there. So the areas that were brutally ethnically cleansed were also the same areas destroyed by massive attack by the Serbian military. But Collon tries to turn that against those republics which had suffered this total destruction and ethnic cleansing:
“On the other hand, all the NATO protectorates - Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo - practiced an almost total ethnic purification.”
As above. But Collon does not mean the “Serb republics” that were carved out of Croatia and Bosnia, from which the non-Serbs did indeed suffer “total ethnic purification,” nor ethnically purified Kosova in March-June 1999 under NATO bombs. No, he means what happened when in Croatia and Kosova the local people finally turned the tables on the conquerors and as a result there was in effect a reverse ethnic cleansing, which often included similar examples of brutal violence and revenge killings, but which overwhelmingly consisted of Serbs fleeing out of fear about what might happen to them in revenge for what they knew very well had been done to the non-Serbs now returning. This obviously does not justify any reverse cleansing and revenge violence, but it is totally cynical to be only condemning this rather than the initial violence and cleansing which caused it.
In what way are they “totally ethnically purified”? Mainly in Collon’s head. Some 250,000 Croats had been driven out of the “Serb Republic” in Croatia; some 200,000 Serbs were driven out when Croatia retook its territory. Another 100,000 Serbs had gradually left throughout the war as well, a total of 300,000 of the 600,000 Serbs. Since that time, the UNHCR reports that 120,000 Serbs have returned. Thus two thirds of the original Serb population are now in Croatia. In Bosnia, there has been considerable return of Serbs to the half of Bosnia called the “Muslim-Croat Federation,” and indeed there always remained a significant Serb population there throughout the war, as they were not ethnically cleansed by the multi-ethnic Bosnian government, which indeed, they were part of. However, the proportion of Muslim and Croat returns to the “Serb Republic” half of Bosnia has been miniscule, this remaining the most ethnically “purified” part of the Balkans. In Kosova, of course most of the 850,000 Albanians driven from their country in 1999 were able to return, but tens of thousands of Serbs fled or were driven out. According to the last Yugoslav census, there were 200,000 Serbs in Kosova before 1999; according to the Serbian government Kosovo Coordination Committee in 2003, some 130,000 remained in Kosova, that is, some two thirds of the original number.
“Milosevic objected to the excesses committed by the Serb militias in Bosnia. His wife made several declarations against them. An embargo was even applied by Serbia against Karadzic.”
This is laughable. Declarations by his wife indeed. The entire officer caste of the Bosnian Serb Army were paid their salaries by the “Yugoslav” government of Milosevic. Moreover, at the outset of the war, the “Yugoslav” army bombed Bosnia to pieces to allow the BSA to take over and cleanse a great deal of Bosnia before withdrawing. When it withdrew, it left the BSA with massive stockpiles of arms and all the heavy weaponry brought in from Croatia. Arms and oil crossed the border throughout the war, and no-one even checked whether the ‘BSA’ troops were all ‘BSA’ and did not include lots of “Yugoslav” troops. Who could check? Certainly what is known however is that thousands of irregular militia from Serbia itself were in Bosnia fighting for the BSA, organised as paramilitary or fascist gangs, such as the ‘Tigers’ of the mafia criminal Arkan, Milosevic’s right-hand man, who was given released prisoners from Serbian jails to go and kill and cleanse in Bosnia, and the ‘Cetniks’ of Vojislav Seselj, head of the arch-racist, Chetnik-extremist Serbian Radical Party (SRS), the key coalition party in the Serbian government with Milosevic.
It is true that Milosevic had disagreements with Karadzic and the leadership of the Bosnian Serb nationalists. It was not necessarily that they were too brutal – for example, in the power struggle among the Bosnian Serb leaders themselves, General Mladic, coming from the “Yugoslav” Army tradition, was generally thought to be closer to Milosevic than more outright right-wing Serb chauvinist ideologues like Karadzic, who headed the anti-Communist, pro-Chetnik Serb Democratic Party (SDS). But Mladic was a leader in brutality. The disagreements centred over how much to compromise with imperialism for a regional settlement, which required the Bosnian Serbs nationalists giving up some of the 70 percent they had conquered and cleansed. For imperialist stability, this was too much; there had to be something to offer Tudjman as well, while not leaving the space for Bosnian Muslims so small that absolute ghetto conditions turn them into the Palestinians of Europe. So all the imperialist partition plans, from both EC/EU and US, offered from 43-52 percent of Bosnia as an ethnically cleansed “Serb republic.” Far more than their 30 percent of population. Milosevic understood that this was a very good offer, and an outright victory for Greater Serbia, thus he signed on to every imperialist partition plan. However, the more ideologically driven ultra-right – Karadzic and his SDS in Bosnia, allied to Seselj and his SRS is Serbia – opposed giving up any inch of land.
Thus it is ironic that all these strange leftists who celebrate Milosevic as an “anti-imperialist” leader, and think this may have something to do with the distant left origins of his Socialist Party, have turned reality on its head: precisely because of the distant “left” origins, Milosevic and co were able to be more ‘pragmatic’ when it came to compromise with imperialism over a “national” issue and the extent of the Serbian empire; the ultra-right, Serbian fascists, were the “consistent anti-imperialists” in opposing giving up “any inch of Serb land” for such stability. Thus Serbian nationalism is only “anti-imperialist” in its most right-wing versions; the equivalent is the Kach/Kahane forces in Israel, and other ultra-right parties advocating “transfer” of the Palestinians out of the West Bank and Gaza – they also oppose US interference which forces them, in their view, to some kind of “betrayal,” like the Oslo Agreement, and thus Kach/Kahane is actually on the US list of terrorist organizations. More or less exact ideological cousins of Seselj/Karadzic.
9 Were the first victims of the war killed by the Serbs?
O Yes O No O Don't know
“NO. June 28, 1991, the Slovenian police executed (at least) two unarmed soldiers of the Yugoslav national army who had surrendered at Holmec, a post on the Austrian border. This was acknowledged by the newspaper Slovenske Novice. It has also been 'established from the very beginning' that three soldiers of this same Yugoslav army were executed at a post on the Italian border after surrendering themselves. (Facts and testimony reported to the ICY at The Hague, cfr Forgotten Crimes, Igor Mekina, AIM Ljubljana, 11/02/99).”
Collon is here reporting on an event recently before the courts in Slovenia. The judgement so far is inconclusive, but for argument’s sake let’s assume that the Slovene troops did carry out this killing.
Why would it be the first killing? Only because Collon wants to choose that date. That was June 28. He could have chosen March 31. The Serb nationalist rebels in Croatia, armed by the “Yugoslav” army, had brazenly and illegally taken over the Plitvice National Park, sacked the managers and replaced them by others loyal to them, and sacked some of the workforce. The Croatian government warned them to return the park to its former management and staff, and when they refused, it sent in the police. One Serb and one Croat died. Or he could have chosen May 1, when two Croat policemen were killed in an ambush when they drove into the Serb-majority town of Borovo Selo, during a stupid stunt to change the flag on the main flagpole. Two others were taken prisoner by Serb irregulars. On May 2, a busload of Croatian police entered the town to try to free the prisoners. They were attacked by gunfire and 12 were killed and 20 wounded. Some reportedly had their eyes gouged out. Seselj openly boasted that his “Chetniks” had taken part in the massacre.
Surely these are not only much earlier than June 28, but also more relevant, considering that the big war which first erupted was Serbo-Croatian, not Serb-Slovene. On the contrary, the Slovene skirmish was a brutally staged side-show: as is widely known, Milosevic and Slovene leader Kucan had already made a deal to allow Slovene independence, as Slovenia was of no interest to ‘Greater Serbia’; the more honest, or gullible, pro-‘Yugoslav’ wing of the military, believed they had to do something to preserve ‘Yugoslavia’, so they attempted to take control of the border posts; but the effort was entirely sabotaged by Milosevic and the pro-Serb nationalist wing of the military high command. The soldiers were sent to their deaths for nothing.
Further, if we are to speak of the “first deaths” in the Yugoslav conflict, surely the 24 Kosovar Albanian miners massacred by Milosevic’s troops in early 1989, as he suppressed the Albanian movement to defend the Yugoslav constitution against Milosevic ripping it up, constitutes the first blood.
10 Was the famous image of the 'concentration camps' false?
O Yes O No O Don't know
“YES. Fabricated by Bernard Kouchner and Médecins du Monde, this image showed some 'prisoners' held, seemingly, behind barbed wire. One of them had terribly protruding ribs. Kouchner had pasted beside the photo a guard tower from Auschwitz and the accusation 'mass extermination'. To hammer home the message "Serbs = Nazis". He thus abetted a campaign of demonization launched by the US public relations firm Ruder Finn.But the whole thing was faked and taken from a report by British TV channel ITN. The trickery became obvious when one viewed the footage shot at the same time by a local TV news crew. In reality, the British camera had been deliberately placed behind the two lonely strands of barbed wire that formed a fence surrounding an old enclosure for farming equipment. The 'prisoners' were on the 'outside' of the barbed wire. Free because they were refugees in this camp to escape the war and the militias who would force them to fight. In the complete film, the only prisoner who speaks English declares to the ITN journalist three times that they are being well treated and are safe. The man with the protruding ribs (gravely ill) was called to the foreground when all his mates looked to be in too good a shape. Kouchner's montage was a gross falsehood. (Cfr Liars' Poker, p. 34)”
For someone talking about “fakes,” Collon manages to get nearly every line wrong. But first, where does this “information” come from, since he is so keen to tell us where the “faked” information came from? It comes from a guy named Thomas Deutchman. Obviously someone who had visited the site during the war, studied it, came out with very different conclusions to the ITN journalists etc, right? Wrong. Deutchman had never been to Bosnia, and went the first time in 1997, that is, two years after the end of the war, and five years after the events in question, by which time all the remnants of the death camps were gone, of course. He picked up his views by talking to a couple of local Serbs, and the “footage shot at the same time by a local TV news crew” that Collon refers to above. That is, the footage shot by the Serbian terror state media, allegedly “at the time,” which however Deutchman did not see until 5 years later. I suppose, that is, after plenty of time to doctor it, or even invent it.
A great deal has been made about whether the fence was around the prisoners or an enclosure around the journalists, that the prisoners were looking into, based on which side of the fence the barbed wire was on and other such trivia. The answer appears inconclusive, after so many years. Did the journalists make that bit up? I don’t know, but it is irrelevant. More relevant is the assertion deriving from this: that the prisoners were “treated well” according to one prisoner, that the prisoners were “free because they were refugees in this camp to escape the war and the militias who would force them to fight,” and that it was only one “gravely ill” prisoner who was very thin, who they zeroed in on, while his mates were “in good shape.”
This primitive Goebbelesque stuff is an eyesore coming from anywhere on the left. Anyone who wants to know about the kinds of hideous tortures and daily horrific murders that went on in these death camps only has to look at the very extensive documentation at the Hague, or Red Cross, or Amnesty, or the UN, based on the testimony of thousands of witnesses. And what this testimony shows is that places such as Omarska, Keraterm, Trnopolje, Sanski Most, Brcko, Foca etc represented some of the ugliest events of modern history. “Free” indeed. Whether they were surrounded by barbed wire or not was thus irrelevant, as I said; even if they weren’t, if they had tried to escape, they would have been target practice for the sadistic guards. As for the photos, if you look at enough of them you will see loads of people as skinny as the one man Collon refers to; “in good shape” is in his head. Perhaps just looking at the three photos on this page http://srebrenica-genocide.blogspot.com/2006/07/moral-equivalism-is-flawed.html might already show up the lie of the single allegedly “gravely ill” man.
Anyone who wants to read about these monstrous crimes, these concentration camps, can try these pages from the report of the UN Commission of Experts:
http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/comexpert/ANX/VIII-05.htm#Debut includes Omarska
http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/comexpert/ANX/VIII-06.htm#Debut includes Keraterm and Trnopolje
http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/comexpert/ANX/VIII-07.htm#III.A.67 includes Sanski Most
http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/comexpert/ANX/VIII-03.htm#III.A.25 includes Foca (also a rape camp)
http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/comexpert/ANX/VIII-02.htm#III.A.13 includes Brcko
Anyone reading these reports will soon become aware of the level of complete moral corruption of the pro-genocide wing of the left represented by people like Collon, Michael Parenti, Diana Johnstone and Ed Herman.
I think Ed Vulliamy himself puts it most eloquently himself when describing the irrelevance of LM’s obsession with the wire being on which side of the fence, when compared to the stark reality of these death camps. Referring to the trial at which Deutchman’s group, the bizarre left-right, “red”-brown cult “Living Marxism” (LM), lost the case against ITN, he says (http://www.guardian.co.uk/itn/article/0,2763,184815,00.html):
“Of course Living Marxism was unable to offer a single witness who had been at Trnopolje, the camp they claimed to be a fake, on that putrid afternoon of August 5, 1992. Indeed, they were unable to produce any witnesses at all. Unlike any member of Living Marxism or their sympathisers, I was there with ITN's cameras that day. We went to two camps: Omarska and Trnopolje.
“Living Marxism does not like to mention Omarska: there, we saw little, but enough: skeletal men drilled across a yard and devouring watery stew like famished dogs before being bundled out. One man said: "I do not want to tell any lies, but I cannot tell the truth."
“The truth emerged with time. Omarska turned out to be the kind of place where one prisoner was forced to bite the testicles off another, who had a live pigeon stuffed into his mouth to stifle the screams as he died in agony. The yard at Omarska was a killing field, prisoners obliged to load the mutilated corpses of their friends on to trucks by bulldozer.
“Trnopolje was a marginally less satanic place, some of whose prisoners were transferred from other hideous camps to await forced deportation. Others were rounded up and herded there like cattle, or had even fled there to avoid the systematic shelling and burning of their homes. Unknown to us when we pulled up on the road, in disbelief at the sight before us, it was the former group that was held captive behind the now celebrated barbed wire fence.
“At the time I paid little attention to what would become Living Marxism's myopic obsessions: such as which side of which pole the old barbed wire or fresh barbed wire was fixed. There were more important matters, such as the emaciated Fikret Alic's (accurate and vindicated) recollections of the night he had been assigned to load the bodies of 250 men killed in one night at yet another camp.
“If it is still of any remote interest, I will say this: I now know the compound in which these terrified men were held captive to have been surrounded on one side by recently reinforced barbed wire, on two sides by a chain-link fence patrolled by menacing armed thugs and on a fourth side by a wall. But so what? This was a camp - I would say a concentration camp - and they were its inmates.
“What does it take to convince people? The war ground on, the British foreign office and Living Marxism in perfect synergy over their appeasement of the Serbs while other, worse camps were revealed. The bench in The Hague issued its judgment on Trnopolje in 1997: a verdict that described the camp as infinitely worse than anything we reported - an infernal place of rape, murder and torture. Witness after witness confirmed this. The Financial Times enthusiastically re-iterated Living Marxism's claims of a fabrication, but published a hasty and grovelling retraction when it looked at LM's non-evidence.”
Deutchman’s British cult, the so-called ‘Living Marxism’, was a bizarre outfit, of which, at a certain point in the late 1990s the entire leadership turned completely counterrevolutionary overnight. Since this is impossible, the only explanation is that they already were, and their bizarre tactics, of turning themselves into spokespeople for Serbian ethnic cleansing, were designed to make the left look ridiculous. George Monbiot does an excellent job on this group of right-wing extremists:
The Invasion of the Entryists
Bear in mind that it was the fake propaganda of this cult that was behind much of the “information” that is now used by many of the pro-genocide wing of the “left” and right, who continually retail the same points and continually reference each other, with silly stories often going back to LM.
For the most complete description of the entire issue of the camps and the ITN story and the LM idiocy about it, people must read:
‘Atrocity, memory, photography: imaging the concentration camps of Bosnia - the case of ITN versus Living Marxism’
Anyone who hasn’t read that has simply done no justice to the story. It is superbly well-documented and argued stuff: nothing like Collon’s chaff.
What of Collon’s assertion that this propaganda “abetted a campaign of demonization launched by the US public relations firm Ruder Finn”? Now, that sections of the media may have engaged in ‘demonisation’ in the way they presented news is not in dispute: this commonly occurs. However, reporting on actual death camps is not ‘demonisation’; it is the perpetrators ‘demonising’ themselves. This goes for any conflict. But interestingly here, Collon has it all wrong in terms of the need for such alleged ‘demonisation’. Was the US preparing a war against Serbia, or even to intervene in Bosnia? Since we are talking about 1992, and US intervention in Bosnia did not occur until 1995 (and that essentially to save Milosevic’s arse), why would they be making propaganda back in 1992? The answer: they weren’t. And moreover: if the US had wanted to bomb in 1992, using the concentration camp images, it could have easily, with significant support, without even having to resort to much propaganda beyond the reality.
So, beyond these silly stories, what was actually happening at the time regarding the US and these death camps? In fact, the US government was actively trying to deny their existence until the last moment, until the journalist Roy Gutman thrust them into the international media and into their faces in August 1992. They were clearly aware of these camps: a May 29 report by the International Society for Human Rights had already listed many with graphic details (International Society for Human Rights, British section, Human Rights and Serbia, 1992) and in July the Bosnian government issued a list of 105 such camps and of 9300 deaths in them (Bosnian Government Information Office, ‘List of Concentration Camps and Prisons on the Territory of the Republic of BH,’ July 28, 1992). The US government was clearly aware of this (United States, House of Representatives, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Developments in Yugoslavia and Europe - August 1992, 102nd Congress, Second Session, Washington, GPO, August 4, 1992, p6). US intelligence had also been aware of these camps before this, and the US embassy in Belgrade had sent regular wires to the State Department based on Red Cross and other information (Vulliamy, E, “Bosnia: The Crime of Appeasement,” International Affairs, Vol. 74, No. 1, 1998, p79). The Red Cross had already visited 4000 people in 10 death camps from July 9 and had reported it all to the UN (Developments in Yugoslavia and Europe - August 1992, op cit, p50-51). Even after Gutman’s revelations, the first reaction of US leaders was to deny their existence. Only once they became undeniable did western leaders demand Red Cross examination of these camps; even then they did not demand their closure.
In the US Congress on August 4, efforts by opposition members to bring up the evidence that had been amassed about the camps for months were met with the continual response by government spokesman Thomas Niles, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs, that the US government “cannot confirm” such reports as “we do not have thus far substantiated information.” When asked “Do you have confirmation that some killing and some torture has taken place?” he replied “No, I cannot confirm that.” “You cannot even confirm a single case?” “I cannot” (ibid, p7, and then continually throughout the report. The questioner was Lee Hamilton, chair of the subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East). Amazing – Niles sounds just like Collon, Parenti, Ramsey Clarke etc.
Every question throughout the session about what the US would do to ensure delivery of humanitarian relief was met with legalistic arguments about needing to get a consensus through the UN Security Council, even though the Security Council had already passed resolutions authorising the use of force, and the US has never worried about legalisms. As one congressman pointed out, “The President wasn’t worried about legalisms when it came to Saddam Hussein. President Reagan wasn’t worried about legalisms when it came to a number of countries, including Grenada. So don’t put up the shield of legalisms,” (p52). Asked about the continuing arms embargo against Bosnia, Niles replied that the delivery of food aid to Sarajevo was “the best guarantee that the Serbs will not succeed in conquering the city” (p34).
So Collon, Parenti etc ought to pull the other one when making up stories about how all this was just propaganda to justify US intervention. What a complete joke.
The one thing that can be criticized is some of the sensationalist British media, which blew up the stories of the ITN journalists (Ed Vulliamy, Penny Marshall and Ian Williams) with screaming headlines about “the new Holocaust” featuring in particular the emaciated figures. The journalists themselves criticized this usage of their material. For example, Vulliamy states:
“Let no one for one minute compare Omarska to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Such a course is useless and dangerous. No one was more angry than I at headlines such as “Belsen 1992”. They merely played into the hands of those seeking to downplay and even deny what had happened in the Serbian camps.”
The journalists aimed to show the sheer horror of the death camps; they had not said it was a “new Holocaust.” Some leftists mistakenly took this tabloid sensationalism for the policy of the UK ruling class; but of course it had nothing to do with UK Tory government policy, which was cravenly pro-Serb throughout the Bosnia war, just as much as its cheerleaders in LM; rather it was just that wing of the media which specialize in this kind of “journalism” as a rule.
Finally, Collon adds:
“There certainly were camps in Bosnia. Not for extermination, but rather for the preparation of prisoner exchanges. Violations of Human Rights were committed here. But why were the UN reports on this subject hidden from us? They accounted for six Croat camps, two Serb camps and one Muslim camp.”
It is difficult to know whether Collon is lying or just plain stupid. Only two Serb-run camps in Bosnia were there?
According to the Final Report of the United Nations Commission of Expertsestablished pursuant to security council resolution 780 (1992), “The reports reviewed alleged a total of 677 camps within BiH. Among those camps, 333 (49.2 per cent) were alleged to have been controlled by Bosnian Serbs; 83 (12.2 per cent) by Bosnian Muslims; 51 (7.5 per cent), by Croats; 31 (4.6 per cent) by both Croats and Muslims; 5 (.7 per cent), by private parties; and 174 (25.7 per cent) by unidentified forces (http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/comexpert/ANX/VIII-01.htm#III). Thus if we leave out the “unidentified,” then Serb forces ran two thirds of all the camps.
Of course, not all these were necessarily death camps. Some may have even been the kind of holding camps that Collon describes. Referring to the 960 camps in all of former Yugoslavia (in which the breakdown of ‘ownership’ is basically similar to that of Bosnia), the report states regarding the numbers held and the severity of the crimes recorded:
“As the above statistics and following discussion indicate, the number of camps and reported violations in camps controlled by the Government of BiH and its army are the fewest among the warring factions, irrespective of the ethnic or religious background of the detainees held. The number of reported violations by the Croatian Government, the Croatian Army, and the Croatian Defence Council is larger, particularly against Serbs in Krajina and in eastern and western Slavonia and against Muslims from BiH in Herzegovina. The period of time during which those camps were operated in each of these contexts is relatively limited. The two warring factions identified above are, however, reported to have committed far fewer numbers of violations than those committed by the Serb forces and those working on their behalf, whether in Croatia or BiH. Camps operated by Serbs in BiH are by far where the largest numbers of detainees have been held and where the harshest and largest number of violations occurred.”
No-one has ever denied that Croats and Muslims also had camps, and that massive human rights violations also occurred there. The most important issue, apart from the huge difference in extent of these camps and the abuses, is that the Bosnian government immediately sent Muslim officers to the Hague when they were first accused of running a terrible camp outside Sarajevo where many Serbs and Croats were killed. In fact, for all the alleged “anti-Serb bias” of the Hague, these Muslims were the very first from former Yugoslavia to be convicted by the Hague, while Serb and Croat butchers of a dramatically higher level were – and are - still running around.
11 Were we given the true stories on the three large massacres in Sarajevo?
O Yes O No O Don't know
“NO. Three times Western public opinion was shocked by these terrible images: dozens of victims blown to bits in front of a bakery or in the marketplace of Sarajevo. Immediately the Serbs were accused of having killed civilians by bombarding the city. This despite numerous contradictions in official communications.But never was the public informed of the results of inquiries made outside the UN. Nor of the reports which accused the forces of president Izetbegovic. Furthermore, high Western officials knew about them but kept them carefully hidden. It was only much later that the editor-in-chief of the Nouvel Observateur, Jean Daniel, admitted: "Today I have to say it. I heard, in succession, Edouard Balladur (French Prime Minister at the time), François Léotard (Minister of the Army), Alain Juppé (Foreign Minister) and two 'high-ranking' generals, whose confidence I will not betray by naming them, tell me (. . .) that the shell fired on the marketplace was itself also from the Muslims! They would have brought carnage upon their own people! Was I afraid of this observation? Yes, the Prime Minister answered me without hesitating... "(Nouvel Observateur, August 21, 1995)Why these manipulations? As if by chance, each massacre took place just before an important meeting to justify some Western measures: an embargo against the Serbs (92), a NATO bombing (94), a final offensive (95). NATO and Izetbegovic applied an essential principle of war propaganda: justify the offensive with a media lie, a 'massacre' to shock public opinion.”
This is a pack of lies. But first, let’s look at the implications:
Firstly, yes Collon, we know that Muslims often like to kill themselves. We’ve heard that kind of racist propaganda before.
Secondly, Chetnik bombs, missiles and bullets were raining down on the people of Sarajevo from the surrounding hills for 3.5 years, killing people very day. Some 13,000 people were killed in the siege of Sarajevo. According to Collon and his co-thinkers, despite this, these three particularly large killings did not come from the same place as all these other daily shellings for years, no the big three were when the Muslims killed their own. Chetniks preferred to kill in smaller numbers.
Which reminds one of the US invasion of Iraq. The US was bombing hell out of the country, creating “shock and awe,” but when a marketplace was hit and thus there were a large number of victims in one place, thus very visible for the media, we were told that “it was probably Saddam Hussein that bombed it to make the good Americans look bad.” And of course any leftists worth their salt would have known what to think of such cynicism. Oh, but in exactly the same circumstances, some “leftists” can’t see the logical similarity.
Thirdly, what “evidence” does he present? The opinion of some French imperialist. In fact, I could add the voices of quite a few other imperialist leaders who also expressed this primitive view that “the Muslims bombed themselves.” Britain’s “Lord” Owen for example. What does this tell us? As above, what I wrote about the role of the imperialist, above all British and French, occupation of Bosnia during the war.
What is the truth? Try these two articles for starters:
International Tribunal: Serbs responsible for 1994 Sarajevo Markale Massacre
United Nations Report: Serbs Responsible for 1995 Sarajevo Markale Bombing
As for Collon’s claim that “each massacre took place just before an important meeting to justify some Western measures,” this is strange thinking; the massacres themselves led to these actions. This is particularly clear regarding the massacre in early 1994, which is precisely the one that most doubt has been spread about: before this, it was actually the French government which had suddenly put on a hard-line stance of confronting the latest Chetnik offensive on Sarajevo, while the US was reluctant and considered it to be a French “trick.”
Collon’s thinking here is unclear. Does he mean the western powers connived with the Muslims in bombing themselves in order to “justify” the alleged anti-Serb measures they were about to take at these meetings (he uses the word “justify”), or does he mean that the Muslims were so desperate for western intervention to help them against the ongoing genocide that they killed their own to bring about western intervention.
If it is the second, we have an interesting contradiction that every member of the pro-genocide left falls into on this question: they all believe the imperialist powers were forever desperate to intervene in Bosnia “against the Serbs,” you know, because “the Serbs” (ie, the Milosevic-Karadzic regime) were anti-imperialist heroes etc, and yet despite this, the “Muslims” (ie, the Bosnian government) still felt it had to continually bomb its own people to try to goad the western powers in to doing something that these “leftists” think they wanted to do anyway, and despite both their intentions, and these continuous “Muslim” provocations, the West still just waited and watched for 3.5 years.
This is the thesis also of Ed Herman, who Collon is copying. In his crowning work of Srebrenica massacre genocide revisionism, Herman writes:
“The events of Srebrenica and claims of a major massacre were extremely helpful to the Clinton administration, the Bosnian Muslim leadership, and Croatian authorities. Clinton was under political pressure in 1995 both from the media and from Bob Dole to take more forceful action in favor of the Bosnian Muslims, and his administration was eager to find a justification for more aggressive policies … Bosnian Muslim leaders had been struggling for several years to persuade the NATO powers to intervene more forcibly on their behalf, and there is strong evidence that they were prepared not only to lie but also to sacrifice their own citizens and soldiers to serve the end of inducing intervention.”
Srebrenica will be discussed below, but meantime let’s see. The Bosnian Muslim leaders had been struggling “for several years” to persuade the imperialist powers to intervene on their behalf, which would suggest that what most people outside the lunar right and revisionist left cyber-ghettoes know is clearly correct – that the imperialist powers, including the US, had been extremely reluctant, to put it mildly, to intervene to aid the Bosnian government or the ‘Muslims’ against three and a half years of enormous slaughter by the 4th largest armed force in Europe. And this reluctance even though this slaughter had been occurring all this time in their faces, inside the new Europe of the EU, the Europe of peace and democracy etc, not in some far off land that could more easily be ignored, and the fact that such slaughter could continue for nearly half a decade was enormously damaging to the credibility of NATO and the EU and their “new security architecture” etc. It is obvious that there could be a solid imperialist interest in stopping such slaughter, not due to ‘human rights’ concerns but due to credibility and stability concerns. Yet they did not. In fact, they did intervene all this time, by enforcing a criminal arms embargo on Bosnia despite the overwhelming military superiority of the Serbian nationalist forces, and by constantly pushing Serbo-Croatian plans for the ethnic partition of Bosnia down that country’s throat.
Which all suggests that the last thing they really wanted to do was to in any way help the Bosnian government or the Bosnian Muslims, precisely why, if Herman is correct, the Bosnian government had to “struggle” for years to induce intervention. Now I have my doubts about the story, in fact every pronouncement by Bosnian government leaders emphasised above all the demand for the end of the imperialist arms embargo, ie, the end of imperialist intervention against them, so they could fight for themselves, rather than western intervention. However, there is also no doubt that given the imperialist powers refused to lift the embargo, the besieged government would also look in favour on NATO air strikes against the enormous firepower controlled by the Chetnik forces. But it was a many-year “struggle” for them to get either from any imperialist government, including the US, despite the somewhat stronger verbal posturing of the latter.
For Herman though, this alleged desire for western intervention on their behalf is the evil in itself, not the massive slaughter of Bosnia by vastly superior forces which may have induced Bosnia to beg for help from anywhere they could get it, whether the west or the Islamic world. In this weird little world of the “left” and right revisionists, there was thus no slaughter already going on which may have been the cause of this strange desire to have the west intervene, apparently just for the hell of it. So to achieve this evil aim, the Bosnian government had to create the theatre of slaughters of their own to blame on the Chetniks to induce intervention. That’s why, in Herman’s view, the Bosnian Muslims “bombed themselves” in bread queue and market massacres in 1992, 1994 and 1995, and facilitated the Srebrenica massacre.
The self-contradictory nature of this pack of slanderous assumptions is thus obvious. I’ll deal with Srebrenica separately below.
“It was especially important to present a black and white image of a victim people and their aggressors. In reality, even in Sarajevo, Izetbegovic's snipers regularly killed the inhabitants of Serb sections of the city without anyone ever speaking of it.”
Sarajevo was surrounded by hills, which were occupied by Karadzic’s massively armed Chetnik forces. Every day they pounded Sarajevo. Obviously, the Bosnian army in Sarajevo – led by the ethnic Serb general Divjak – tried to fight back. However, it is difficult to fight back against people up above you on hills, and even more so when you lack heavy weaponry, and even the heavy weaponry you do have is impounded by the UN imperialist occupiers. Even the small arms the Bosnian army had did not have adequate ammunition. Collon expects us to believe the Bosnian army was wasting its precious little ammunition by “sniping” on inhabitants in the part of Sarajevo which was controlled by Karadzic’s troops (this is not the same as the “Serb” part of Sarajevo as the media portrayed it – tens of thousands of Serbs lived in the government-controlled part of Sarajevo as well and many were in the Bosnian army). Did the army sometimes fire back when Karadzic’s troops were attacking from the occupied suburbs rather than the hills? No doubt. Did that sometimes hot inhabitants? No doubt, as happens in wars. Were the irregular and undisciplined Muslim forces who may have from time to time sniped into those suburbs? Could well be. In the early part of the war, there were even Muslim gangs – drawn from the desperation of the besieged city and the thousands of ethnically cleansed refugees who had come in from Chetnik-occupied regions – who attacked Serb civilians inside Sarajevo, and killed many. These gangs were suppressed by the Bosnian government in August 1993, and their leaders – Caco and Cale – were killed.
But all of this is simply a description of war. The essential point was the siege of multi-ethnic Sarajevo by the massively armed Chetnik forces with enormous quantities of heavy weaponry. How do all these apologists explain this continual siege for 3.5 years? Sarajevo was not Serb-majority, but Muslim-majority, and very multi-ethnic, territory. There could be no ethnic basis for including it in a racist “Serb Republic.” The apologists simply have no answer to this, so they invent the idea that the siege of Sarajevo – a world-class war crime – was simply two sides fighting each other. How despicable.
12 Did the media correctly report on Srebrenica?
O Yes O No O Don't know
“NO. First element. Even if it's a matter of condemning abominable crimes, historical truth - necessary for reconciliation - is not served by the propagandistic processes that unreflexively use the term 'genocide', by the obfuscation of the fact that that some of the victims died in combat or by the systematic exaggeration of the numbers. Inquests have determined that many of the 'victims' were found some months later voting in subsequent elections or even taking part in other battles with Izetbegovic's army. This information was and remains obscured. We won't here go into the argument over numbers which only serious historians will be able to sort out definitively.”
I suppose it is not unusual to be getting lectures about ‘obfuscation’, ‘exaggeration’ and ‘historical truth’ by such masters of the former two and great violators of the latter as are members of the pro-genocide wing of the left. And it would be difficult to find a worse example than the massacre of 8000 defenseless Muslim captives by Mladic’s troops in July 1995 when they overran the allegedly “safe” area of Srebrenica under the noses of the UN and NATO. One might expect their basic human shame would get in the way of extending their crass apologetics to Srebrenica itself; perhaps everything else, but just keep quiet about this one, one would think. But no, they are utterly shameless.
Clueless Collon of course “won’t go into the question of numbers”, but nevertheless assures his presumably (to him) gullible readers that these numbers were “greatly exaggerated” and many were killed in battle. That’s right, leave a piece of crude propaganda and then “don’t go into it”. He said it, it must be true.
In fact, much of this is based on an extensive work of genocide revisionism that has been “researched” by a formerly respectable leftist, Ed Herman, who now works full time on such genocide denial alongside some pretty nasty far-right Serb chauvinists. His crowning piece of work can be read here:
There were a number of replies which are well worth reading, by:
Julie Wornan: http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=8323
Bill Weinberg’s excellent reply then turned into an ongoing discussion on his blog, including with Herman and others: http://www.ww4report.com/node/757
It is difficult to know what to add to the excellent replies above, and all the rest of the enormous amount of information available about this massacre. But the crux of the matter is how many died, and Herman and company are claiming it was probably only about 2000 rather than 8000, based on some juggling of figures which, as Weinberg rightly notes, “fans of such pseudo-demographic sophistry will have lots of fun at the Holocaust revisionist websites.”
This despicable number-crunching seems to revolve around two main claims by Herman. One is that some people initially identified as missing later turned up in Tuzla and as Collon says “voting in elections,” and yet “the same number” of around 8000 is still being used, thus the original number was not adjusted to take into account those initially thought to be missing. For Herman/Collon, that clinches it. Never mind that in fact initial estimates were quite fuzzy and tended to be around 10,000, or even in some cases 12,000, and the 7-8000 figures was in fact settled on later; never mind that, like in any bloody event, some may initially be wrongly listed as dead or missing, but meanwhile a great many others that were not originally thought dead or missing turned out to be, thus canceling the whole point. Never mind any of that if you have an Irving-like obsession with trying to minimize an enormous crime if carried out by some tyrant you regard to be “progressive” for reasons best known to yourself.
The other piece of acrobatics by Herman are various figures (people can check his article themselves, I’m not going to bother quoting exact silly figures) that say, well this was the population of Srebrenica at the time, therefore there were this many men and women of these ages, and it is known that this many of each sex and age arrived in Tuzla, therefore 8000 dead is too many. Why Herman is so sure that the exact pre-war population of Srebrenica can be used as a guide in such years of chaos is anybody’s guess; the reality is he knows full well what he is doing with such drivel. Any even casual observer of the Bosnian conflict would have seen regular media reports that Srebrenica’s population was bursting at the seems due to large numbers of Muslim refugees from other parts of ethnically-cleansed East Bosnia pouring in; some estimates during the war put the wartime population there as high as 70,000, compared to the pre-war population of some 40,000.
Leaving aside his juggling and bizarre logic, these are the simple facts. The International Commission of Missing Persons (ICMP) has 7789 people listed as dead or missing from the massacre by relatives or friends. Herman assumes these relatives are co-conspirators in the “hoax” and are making it up. The lists of the Red Cross and Amnesty International give very similar numbers – for example, the Red Cross lists some 2000 confirmed dead and 5,500 missing. Some 6000 bodies have already been discovered, and more are being discovered, and 2000 have already been positively identified. The Bosnian Serb “government” itself made an official admission and apology for the massacre, much to the distress of its “intellectual” defenders like Herman.
Moreover, as Andras Riedlmayer shows, these numbers may be minimum numbers:
“On 5 June 2005 Bosnia's Federal Commission for Missing Persons (Federalna Komisija za nestale osobe) issued a provisional list giving the names, parents' names, dates of birth and unique citizen's registration numbers of 8,106 individuals for whom it has been reliably established from multiple independent sources that they went missing and/or were killed in and around Srebrenica in the summer of 1995. A verification process is underway for another approximately 500 victims whose disappearance or death has not yet been verified from two or more independent sources.”
Thus the real numbers may be over 8500.
Riedlmayer’s piece is an excellent overall summary of the situation:http://listserv.buffalo.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0507&L=justwatch-l&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;D=1&O=D&F=&S=&P=51792
As is this very thorough report:Srebrenica Investigation: Summary of Forensic Evidence – Execution Points and Mass Graves
I also think Bianca Jagger gives an excellent description of the entire Srebrenica ordeal, which is useful not just regarding the issue of numbers, but also other aspects of the story distorted by Ed Herman. Jagger’s articles are at http://www.haverford.edu/relg/sells/srebrenica/BiancaJagger1.html and http://www.haverford.edu/relg/sells/srebrenica/BiancaJagger2.html
This is the Bosnian Serb government’s own report admitting the crime:http://www.domovina.net/srebrenica/page_006/rs_final_srebrenica_report.doc
Weinberg also included a list of other useful links about the Srebrenica massacre, which tend to highlight the kind of rubbish Herman is writing:
"Srebrenica: Anatomy of a Massacre," Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR)http://www.iwpr.net/index.pl?archive/tri/tri_414_1_eng.txt
Dragan Obrenovic statement to ICTYhttp://www.un.org/icty/obrenovic/trialc/facts_030520.htm
Momir Nikolic statement to ICTYhttp://www.un.org/icty/mnikolic/trialc/facts030506.htm
IWPR story on Momir Nikolic perjury, from FreeRepublichttp://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/991985/posts
ICMP press release on identification of bodieshttp://www.ic-mp.org/home.php?act=news&n_id=97&
Open Democracy report, "Srebrenica: ten years on"http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict-yugoslavia/srebrenica_2651.jsp
Radio Netherlands report on the Tribunal ten years after Srebrenicahttp://www2.rnw.nl/rnw/en/currentaffairs/region/easterneurope/srb050708?view=Standard
BBC story on Serb Republic apology for massacrehttp://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3999985.stm
"Serbia Struggles to Face the Truth about Srebrenica," by Tim Judah, Crimes of War Projecthttp://www.crimesofwar.org//news-srebrenica2.html
Deniers of Serbia's War Crimes, Balkan Witnesshttp://www.glypx.com/balkanwitness/Articles-deniers.htm
And then he adds, very appropriately in my opinion, in connection with Herman’s method:
"Did Six Million Really Die?" Holocaust-denial numbers-fudginghttp://theunjustmedia.com/Holocaust/Did%20Six%20Million%20Really%20Die.htm
Anyway, leaving aside the issue of numbers, the Srebrenica genocide revisionist school also uses a number of other completely disingenuous arguments. Collon sums some of them up grubbily here:
“Second element. Why did the media hide the events essential to an understanding of this drama? In the beginning, this region was inhabited by Muslim AND Serbs. The latter were run off in 1993 by an ethnic cleansing committed by the Muslim nationalist troops of Izetbegovic. French general Morillon, who commanded the UN force there, charges: "On the night of the Orthodox Christmas, the holy night of January 1993, Nasser Oric led raids on Serb villages. . . . There were heads cut off, abominable massacres committed by the forces of Nasser Oric in all the neighboring villages." (Documents of information from the French National Assembly, Srebrenica, t 2, pp. 140-154). The desire for vengeance does not excuse the crimes committed later. But why systematically hide the crimes of 'our friends'?”
Where can one start, when one wants to simply despair. “This region was inhabited by Muslims and Serbs.” Yes. Presumably “this region” refers to the whole East Bosnian region along the Drina region, the border with Serbia, not only Srebrenica. Colon then jumps to January 1993 and talks about an attack out of Srebrenica by Muslim forces on nearby Serb villages, claiming the local Serbs were thereby “ethnically cleansed” by the Muslims. And then he has the hide to claim that someone other than himself is “hiding the events essential to understanding this drama.”
The reality is the absolute reverse, of course. Collon cannot of course explain why Muslims were holed up in the tiny “enclaves” of Srebrenica, Zepa and Gorazde in East Bosnia, permanently under siege by the massively armed Bosnian Serb Army all around them, not to mention how these places even became bloody “enclaves” in the first place. The point is, almost the whole of East Bosnia had an overwhelming Muslim majority before the war; in the very first stages of the genocide, in the months after its onset in April 1992, hundreds of thousands of these Muslims were driven out of most of the towns and nearly all the villages. Enormous crimes against humanity were recorded in Zvornik, Visegrad, Bijelina, Foca, Bratunac, Glogova, Sokolac and elsewhere. All vestiges of these people were eradicated; mosques leveled to the ground and replaced by car-parks. Whole books can be written about these crimes; many in fact have. Massive documentation of these crimes is available at the Hague Tribunal. It is not my responsibility to have to quote it all; it is Collon’s and Herman’s responsibility to explain why they systematically ignore this enormous ethnic cleansing that drove thousands of terrified refugees into places like Srebrenica and then kept them holed up there for 3.5 years, constantly besieging them, and instead refer to the desperate retaliatory attacks out of the besieged enclaves, out of the Warsaw Ghetto, out of the Gaza Ghetto, on surrounding villages, as the real initial “ethnic cleansing.”
There is no doubt that war crimes were committed on some occasions by these desperate raids out of the ghetto, particularly the famous Orthodox Christmas raid Collon refers to. In the great majority of cases, these raids aimed at stealing food for survival in the besieged enclave; most deaths were of Serb military personnel, though there certainly were civilian deaths as well, as there usually are in such desperate cases. Yes the desperate attacks out of the Gaza and West Bank prisons also result in Israeli civilian casualties; we do not support attacks on civilians in either cases, but we generally do not equate desperate actions of the ethnically cleansed, terrorized, imprisoned ghetto dwellers with the systematic crimes of the oppressor that drove them into that situation in the first place, let alone putting the main blame on the oppressed.
With breathtaking hypocrisy, Collon notes that “The desire for vengeance does not excuse the crimes committed later, but why systematically hide the crimes of 'our friends'?” He implies that the meticulously organised capture of Srebrenica and the killing of 8000 captives was merely some kind of spontaneous “revenge” of the local Serbs on the Muslims to punish them for these raids out of the ghetto. He does not mention the idea that these raids themselves, apart from a desperate attempt to get food, may have included elements of revenge for the enormous terror and ethnic cleansing that drove out the bulk of the East Bosnian population, some into Srebrenica, in 1992. In fact irony of ironies for the apologist set is that one of the “Serb” villages mentioned as being attacked during some of these raids was Glogova - an originally Muslim village that had been brutally ethnically cleansed by the Chetniks in spring 1992, and then repopulated by Serbs. In the Chetnik attack on Glogova, it has been claimed by one source that every last inhabitant was massacred, on 9 May 1992 by the invading ‘Yugoslav’ Army units and Serb paramilitaries (Emir Suljagic, ‘The victims are interested in forgiveness, not punishment’, Dani (Sarajevo), 6 May 2005). A more appropriate and historically truthful statement would have been “The desire for vengeance (and food) by some of the terrorized and ethnically cleansed Srebrenica Muslims does not justify the crimes committed later (ie, the occasional raids out), but why do Collon and his co-thinkers systematically hide the crimes of their friends?” This kind of hypocrisy is simply beyond the imagination.
Incidentally, how many Serb civilians were killed in these desperate raids out of the ghetto. The revisionists cite Serb government figures claiming several thousand deaths. This however is absurd; of course the same people who meticulously attempt to show the that overall numbers of deaths in the Bosnian war was much lower, want to boost the number of Serb deaths. However, they cannot have it both ways. If the revisionists are satisfied with the meticulous count being carried out by the Sarajevo-based Research and Documentation Centre, consisting of experts from all three Bosnian communities, which by late 2005 had an estimate of close to 93,000 dead in the whole Bosnian war, and likely to rise no higher than 150,000 maximum, rather than the 200,000 or higher earlier believed, then do they also accept the estimates of dead from each group? According to this research, of the 93,000 confirmed dead so far, a total of 1,978 Serb civilians died in * the whole of Bosnia,* alongside some 21,000 Serb troops (compared to over 30,000 Muslim civilians and over 30,000 Muslim troops, accounting for 66 percent of all deaths). Not to mention that many of the Serb civilians killed were residents of multi-ethnic Sarajevo or Tuzla killed by Serbian Chetnik shelling.
If only 1,978 Serb civilians are known definitely so far to have died in the whole of Bosnia during the war, how many of these died in the Bratunac district nearby Srebrenica? On this, the Research and Documentation Centre has a very precise answer:
“The allegations that Serb casualties in Bratunac, between April 1992 and December 1995 amount to over three thousand is an evident falsification of facts. The RDC's [Research and Documentation Center] research of the actual number of Serb victims in Bratunac has been the most extensive carried out in Bosnia and Herzegovina and proves that the overall number of victims is three to nine times smaller than indicated by Serbia and Montenegro.
“Perhaps the clearest illustration of gross exaggeration is that of Kravica, a Serb village near Bratunac attacked by the Bosnian Army on the morning of Orthodox Christmas, January 7, 1993 . The allegations that the attack resulted in hundreds of civilian victims have been shown to be false. Insight into the original documentation of the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) clearly shows that in fact military victims highly outnumber the civilian ones. The document entitled “Warpath of the Bratunac brigade”, puts the military victims at 35 killed and 36 wounded; the number of civilian victims of the attack is eleven.
“In addition to information received from relatives and family members of the victims and inspection of cemeteries, RDC has collected all existing primary sources, official documents and documentation of RS Ministry of Defense and Bratunac brigade of VRS, as well as research by the Serb authors. The victims have been categorized on the basis of two time-related criteria: the first was the municipality of residence at the time of the beginning of war; the second was the municipality of premature and violent death.
“After all the sources have been processed, cross-referenced and reviewed, the results showed that 119 civilians and 424 soldiers classified in the first group died in Bratunac during the war. Under the second category the number of civilians is somewhat higher (119) whereas the number of soldiers is 448. The result demonstrates that 26 members of other VRS units other than Bratunac brigade of VRS fought and died in combat in the municipality of Bratunac.”
(Research & Documentation Center, The Myth Of Bratunac: A Blatant Numbers Game, http://srebrenica-genocide.blogspot.com/2006/05/myth-about-serb-casualties-around.html)
So there we have it: 119 Serb civilians killed during the whole war in that region. By contrast, the number of Muslims killed in Srebrenica includes those killed during the initial months of the cleansing of East Bosnia in the northern summer of 1992, those killed during the constant Chetnik siege and shelling of the town from 1992 to 1995, and the 8000 killed in July 1995. The numbers are probably enormous.
The United Nations' General Assembly Resolution 53/35 (Fifty-fourth session, Agenda item 42, The situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina, 15 November 1999, pages 103-104) has this to say about the occasional raids carried out by the besieged Muslims of Srebrenica:
“A third accusation leveled at the Bosniak defenders of Srebrenica is that they provoked the Serb offensive by attacking out of that safe area. Even though this accusation is often repeated by international sources, there is no credible evidence to support it. Dutchbat personnel on the ground at the time assessed that the few “raids” the Bosniaks mounted out of Srebrenica were of little or no military significance. These raids were often organized in order to gather food, as the Serbs had refused access for humanitarian convoys into the enclave. Even Serb sources approached in the context of this report acknowledged that the Bosniak forces in Srebrenica posed no significant military threat to them. The biggest attack the Bosniaks launched out of Srebrenica during the more than two years which is was designated a safe area appears to have been the raid on the village of Visnjica, on 26 June 1995, in which several houses were burned, up to four Serbs were killed and approximately 100 sheep were stolen. In contrast, the Serbs overran the enclave two weeks later, driving tens of thousands from their homes, and summarily executing thousands of men and boys. The Serbs repeatedly exaggerated the extent of the raids out of Srebrenica as a pretext for the prosecution of a central war aim: to create geographically contiguous and ethnically pure territory along the Drina, while freeing their troops to fight in other parts of the country. The extent to which this pretext was accepted at face value by international actors and observers reflected the prism of “moral equivalency” through which the conflict in Bosnia was viewed by too many for too long.”
(This is quoted from the excellent Srebrenica Genocide blog, at http://srebrenica-genocide.blogspot.com/2005/12/un-report-fall-of-srebrenica-role-of.html. This blog also has many useful articles for people interested in figuring out what happened in Srebrenica and elsewhere).
The there is the final part of the Herman-Collon thesis:
“Third element. Like other so-called demilitarized 'safe havens', Srebrenica was in reality an area used by the forces of Izetbegovic to regroup, the UN protecting them from total defeat. Astonishingly, Oric's troops retreated from Srebrenica just a week before the massacre. French general Germanos: "Oric had widely declared that they had abandoned Srebrenica because they'd wanted Srebrenica to fall. The 'they' was Izetbegovic." And why? It is interesting to return to a curious UN report, written a year and a half earlier by Kofi Annan: "Izetbegovic had learned that a NATO intervention into Bosnia was possible. But it would happen only if the Serbs forced their way into Srebrenica and massacred at least 5,000 people [sic]." A massacre predicted a year and a half before it happened! (UN Report of 28-29 November). General Morillon also informed us that "It is Izetbegovic's people who opposed the evacuation of all those who had asked to be taken out, and there were many." His conclusion: "Mladic fell into a trap at Srebrenica."
Before fully answering this grotesque and self-contradictory frame-up, note the last line, the punch line in essence: “Mladic fell into a trap at Srebrenica.” In other words, when Mladic entered the town, unknown to him, there were people still there, who had not been evacuated (peacefully ethnically cleansed), and they were defenseless, because the mighty Bosnian army, which had allegedly been attacking them for years from this enclave, had not decided to be massacred, so poor old Mladic had no choice but to oblige. I suppose to a French general like Morillon, and a red-brown apologist like Collon, there is simply no alternative to a gigantic massacre when you stumble into a town full of Muslims who have the gall to be living there!
This piece from Collon above is still more direct from Herman, so let’s also add what Herman adds to this. Herman claims that since Izetbegovic was so determined to get US intervention, his government “abandoned” Srebrenica by withdrawing “a military force much larger than that of the attackers,” and then retreating in such a way “that made that larger force vulnerable and caused it to suffer heavy casualties in fighting and vengeance executions,” and this “helped produce numbers that would meet the Clinton criterion.”
We are unclear which is more important to Herman here: to demonstrate that the good Serb military of Mladic only killed about 2000 Muslims, or that they inadvertently had no choice but to kill about 5000 Muslims because that was what Izetbegovic wanted him to do and planned things this way.
You have to get to the footnotes to read that Izetbegovic flatly denied this, but then another person, a Srebrenica chief of police, confirms the Clinton suggestion. Note that, even if Clinton did make such a suggestion, and even if Izetbegovic did pass this information on, nowhere does anyone quoted claim that Izetbegovic or any other Bosnian leader suggest it was a good plan that should be followed through on. This is simply Herman’s implication. The idea that Izetbegovic, who had been “struggling for years” to get some help to end the slaughter may have been appalled at the suggestion by Clinton that more Muslims need to be slaughtered to justify any western help is not considered. It is not part of Herman’s “narrative.”
Where there may perhaps be an argument regarding the culpability of the Bosnian government, given the lack of options after so many years of massacre, was that the withdrawal of the Bosnian Muslim Srebrenica commander, Naser Oric, several months before July 1995 may have weakened their defense. And further, though this is pure conjecture, that this act may have been a final concession by the Bosnian government to the enormous pressure from Serbia and its Chetnik allies, Croatia, and all the imperialist powers, including the US, for the ethnic dismemberment of his country. In other words, if he agreed to give up Srebrenica to the Chetniks, then they may accept a peace agreement – one based on a partition that he was opposed to, but of there was no alternative but continual massacre, then maybe the best was to get as best deal as possible.
If that were the case, it is a bizarre logic to then be putting the blame of Izetbegovic for making this concession to the Chetniks and the US, and laming him for the massacre. If Izetbegovic had agreed to give up Srebrenica without a fight, and had organised the retreat of his troops, then how is that supposed to whitewash Mladic for carrying out a massacre of 8000 captives there. While the claim by Herman and Collon that some of the retreating troops were “killed in battle” with the Chetniks, rather than being essentially defenseless, captured and killed, as every other report claims, is grotesque and disgusting, one wonders why if true there would be a “battle”, when the Bosnian government and army are here being accused of wanting to give up without a fight. Obviously what Herman and Collon mean by a “battle” is the fact that the retreating troops were shot in the back by the Chetniks; it was a “battle” like the “battle” between the US air force and retreating Iraqi troops at the end of the first Gulf war after Hussein’s surrender.
For any doubters, I’ll further quote here another section form the same UN General Assembly report quoted above, which deals with these issues, if not the particular slander against Izetbegovic:
“B. Role of Bosniak forces on the ground475. Criticisms have also been leveled at the Bosniaks in Srebrenica, among them that they did not fully demilitarize and that they did not do enough to defend the enclave. To a degree, these criticisms appear to be contradictory. Concerning the first criticism, it is right to note that the Bosnian Government had entered into demilitarization agreements with the Bosnian Serbs. They did this with the encouragement of the United Nations. While it is also true that the Bosnian fighters in Srebrenica did not fully demilitarize, they did demilitarize enough for UNPROFOR to issue a press release, on 21 April 1993, saying that the process had been a success. Specific instructions from United Nations Headquarters in New York stated that UNPROFOF should not be too zealous in searching for Bosniak weapons and, later, that the Serbs should withdraw their heavy weapons before the Bosniaks gave up their weapons. The Serbs never did withdraw their heavy weapons. 476. Concerning the accusation that the Bosniaks did not do enough to defend Srebrenica, military experts consulted in connection with this report were largely in agreement that the Bosniaks could not have defended Srebrenica for long in the face of a concerted attack supported by armour and artillery. The defenders were undisciplined, untrained, poorly armed, totally isolated force, lying prone in the crowded valley of Srebrenica. They were ill-equipped even to train themselves in the use of the few heavier weapons that had been smuggled to them by their authorities. After over three years of siege, the population was demoralized, afraid and often hungry. The only leader of stature was absent when the attack occurred. Surrounding them, controlling all the high ground, handsomely equipped with the heavy weapons and logistical train of the Yugoslav army, were the Bosnian Serbs. There was no contest. 477. Despite the odds against them, the Bosniaks requested UNPROFOR to return to them the weapons they had surrendered under the demilitarization agreements of 1993. They requested those weapons at the beginning of the Serb offensive, but the request was rejected by the UNPROFOR because, as one commander explained, “it was our responsibility to defend the enclave, not theirs.” Given the limited number and poor quality of Bosniak weapons held by UNPROFOR, it seems unlikely that releasing those weapons to the Bosniaks would have made a significant difference to the outcome of the battle; but the Bosniaks were under attack at that time, they wanted to resist with whatever means they could muster, and UNPROFOR denied them access to some of their own weapons. With the benefit of hindsight, this decision seems to be particularly ill-advised, given UNPROFOR’s own unwillingness consistently to advocate force as a means deterring attacks on the enclave. 478. Many have accused the Bosniak forces of withdrawing from the enclave as the Serb forces advanced on the day of its fall. However, it must be remembered that on the eve of the final Serb assault the Dutchbat commander urged the Bosniaks to withdraw from defensive positions south of Srebrenica town – the direction from which the Serbs were advancing. He did so because he believed that NATO aircraft would soon be launching widespread air strikes against the advancing Serbs.”
Finally, while Collon doesn’t use this argument, this is a useful placed to reply to Herman’s additional argument that the fall of Srebrenica, and the massacre of its inhabitants, was “convenient” for the Bosnian government, which wanted nothing more than US intervention, and was willing to sacrifice its own people to get it. Thus, in allegedly facilitating the Srebrenica massacre (giving poor Mladic no choice), Izetbegovic was acting in the same way as he allegedly did when he got Muslims to “kill their own” in the three big Sarajevo massacres, as discussed above.
For background on this, Izetbegovic and the Bosnian government had signed on, extremely reluctantly, under extreme pressure, to the US-inspired Contact Group partition plan of mid-1994, which offered a full 49 percent of Bosnia to the Chetniks as a recognized “Serb Republic” (Republika Srpska) despite the region having been “cleansed” of its non-Serb, mostly Muslim, plurality (Serbs account for 30 percent of the Bosnian population, and large parts of ‘Republika Srpska’ previously had overwhelming Muslim, Croat or mixed majorities). The other 51 percent would be a “Muslim-Croat Federation”. This was a massive victory for Serbian war aims, and a total defeat to Bosnian government war aims, which had been fighting to preserve the multi-ethnic constitution over the whole of Bosnia, and to allow for the return of refugees. This is why both Milosevic and Tudjman signed on immediately, seeing it as a great deal, especially Milosevic. Tudjman was less thrilled, because it meant giving up the Croat chauvinist statelet in Bosnia, ‘Herzeg-Bosna’, while his Serbian allies had got theirs over half the country. But his Bosnian Croat chauvinist allies had been decisively smashed by the Bosnian armed forces in late 1993, so he had no choice, and figured Croatia would effectively exercise suzerainty over the other half of Bosnia anyway.
So since Milosevic thought it was so good, why did not the Karadzic leadership of the Bosnian Serb Chetnik forces also sign on? At one level, since they had already conquered 70 percent of Bosnia due to overwhelming military superiority, why should they withdraw from any, given they were under no military pressure from the poorly armed Bosnian government forces? This aspect is the background of the decision by the US, in April 1994, to begin turning a blind eye to Iranian arms shipments to Bosnia via Croatia – to allow Bosnia to exert some pressure so that the 51-49 percent lines could be established, certainly not for a victory for Bosnian war aims, which were entirely different. Since the arms were going through Croatia, the US also considered that safe – Croatia could siphon off the best weapons, and make sure Bosnia only got enough to put some pressure, but not break out of the partitionist scenario that the US, EU, Serbia and Croatia were all agreed on.
However, there was another side to Karadzic’s rejection. Perhaps Karadzic would accept the 49 percent, but he wanted the borders of the new Serb Republic to be even less messy, which would require even more ethnic cleansing of people whom happened to be in the wrong areas. Above all, Karadzic and his Chetniks had two strategic aims:
The first was the widening of the northern “corridor”, through the previously Croat-Muslim majority Posavina region, which connected their conquests of previously Muslim-majority East Bosnia, along the Serbia border, with their stronghold in Banja Luka in the northwest, which had had a slight (54%) Serb majority, and which further connected to the overwhelmingly Serb region along the southwest Dinaric range (Bosnia Krajina) which adjoined the Serb Republic of Croatian Krajina. Some 160,000 Croats had been ethnically cleansed from the Posavina to create the ‘corridor’, so widening it would seal this situation.
The second was the elimination of three remaining “enclaves” where Muslim refugees had taken refuge within Serb-conquered East Bosnia – Srebrenica, Zepa and Gorazde, all surrounded by Chetnik-controlled territory. The Chetniks considered it rude that, after having expelled hundreds of thousands of Muslims from East Bosnia, some tens of thousands had remained in these three pockets inside “their” republic.
Clearly, if Karadzic could secure the elimination of three small enclaves, he may be willing to sign on to 51-49. And it is possible that, given the extent of utter western betrayal, Izetbegovic had finally decided that the three small and difficult to defend enclaves may be sacrificed to end the slaughter. I stress “may have”. This is purely conjecture. However, it is conjecture of a far higher order to suggest that he wanted Srebrenica eliminated along with 5000 or 8000 of its inhabitants. If he made a deal, signified by the removal of Oric, it is far more likely to have been along the lines of, OK, we give up Srebrenica, you let the people out alive. The fact that the Chetniks who overran Srebrenica only let some of the people out alive, and captured and killed 8000 others, is likely to have been seen by Izetbegovic as appalling betrayal.
Who, in the end, was the fall of Srebrenica, and also neighbouring Zepa straight afterwards, therefore “convenient” for? Clearly, it was highly convenient for Karadzic’s Chetnik forces, because it allowed their “state” to do away with these troublesome enclaves. If it was so “convenient” for the Bosnian government, it is interesting that when the US imposed the 51-49 partition a few months later, Srebrenica and Zepa were inside the ‘Serb Republic”. One might think that since it was so “convenient” for Clinton, who was allegedly finally searching for an “excuse” for “more aggressive policies” after years and years of ignoring the Bosnians “struggling” to induce US intervention by all means (I’m using Herman’s self-contradictory terms), that the US would make a point of forcing the Chetniks to hand over Srebrenica to the “Muslim-Croat Federation,” to signify a US somehow making amends for refusing to come to the defense of Srebrenica and allowing such a gigantic massacre to take place. Even if the massacre was a “hoax” as Herman thinks, still, since the US pushed this hoax, one may expect it to demand the Chetniks withdraw. Yet it was never even an issue. From the very start of the new US-drawn maps, Srebrenica and Zepa were part of the Serb Republic (along with a widened northern corridor – ie precisely the two strategic aims of Karadzic in rejecting 51-49 up to now had been met). This would seem extremely convenient for the Chetniks, and convenient for Clinton and the US in an entirely different way to that portrayed by the revisionist “left” and right.
13 Was the largest ethnic cleansing of the war committed by the Croat Army?
O Yes O No O Don't know
“YES. On August 4, 1995, a hundred thousand Croat soldiers, a hundred and fifty tanks, two hundred troop transports, more than three hundred pieces of artillery, and forty missile launchers attacked the Serb population of the Krajina. More than 150,000 Serbs were forced to leave this region which they had inhabited for centuries. The worst atrocities of the war were committed: the Croat forces killed the elderly who could not flee, and burned 85% of the abandoned houses."
It is always interesting when people who devote most of their time to being apologists for massive war crimes then go out of their way to emphasise the war crimes of someone else they do not like, forgetting entirely about all the qualifications and arguments they’ve insisted on in order to deny or minimize the crimes of the people they like.
At the outset, I’ll say one thing: I’ve never supported Tudjman, and in fact to properly understand the 1990s, it is necessary to understand that it was not Serbo-Croatian conflict, but the Serbo-Croatian alliance, that dominated that decade in the Balkans. I feel no need whatsoever to be an apologist for Franco Tudjman’s war crimes and crimes against humanity, such as in this example here; it is not I, but Collon, Herman, Johnstone and Parenti who are the war crimes deniers, and their insistence that appalling crimes were committed by Tudjman in Krajina, next to their denials about the enormous crimes committed by Milosevic, Seselj, Karadzic and Mladic in Vukovar, Sarajevo, Srebrenica, the death camps, and Kosova, stands out as rank hypocrisy.
So let’s then look at Collon’s actual statement here. He begins: “On August 4, 1995, a hundred thousand Croat soldiers, a hundred and fifty tanks, two hundred troop transports, more than three hundred pieces of artillery, and forty missile launchers attacked the Serb population of the Krajina.”
Apparently here the size of the heavy weaponry arsenal actually matters. Yet Collon obviously sees no importance in such facts when Croatia was attacked by the ‘Yugoslav’ Army with hundreds of tanks, thousands of artillery pieces of artillery, plus masses of other heavy weaponry in 1991, at a time when Croatia itself had next to no arms; nor obviously does he see any relevance in the fact that Bosnia was attacked by the ‘Yugoslav’ Army and its spin-off ‘Bosnian Serb’ Army which disposed of 330 tanks, 800 artillery pieces, 400 armoured personnel carriers and 37 military aircraft, for years in end, when Bosnia was virtually defenseless. Only some aggressors should be allowed to have such weapons, according to Collon.
The he writes: “More than 150,000 Serbs were forced to leave this region which they had inhabited for centuries.” Yes this is correct. At least Collon uses the population figures based on the actual census, and does not embellish the figure to 200 or 250 or 300 thousand or whatever, as many of his co-thinkers do, or “hundreds of thousands” as Herman does in the same grubby article where he tries to show that not many Muslims were killed in Srebrenica.
Why did Croatia invade the Krajina and expel 150,000 Serbs? Because it was Croatian territory, that had been seized by the Serbian armed forces in 1991, brutally “cleansed” of its Croat population, and taken over as the so-called “Republika Srpska Krajina”. Obviously at some point Croatia was going to attempt to retake its territory. Of course, as socialists, we don’t have any particular obsession with “national” territory if a people in part of that territory consider themselves part of another nation which they want to join. It is Collon and company who are hypocrites, who support the right of the Serb nationalists to rip apart Croatia, create facts on the ground via expelling non-Serbs and set up a new ‘Serb republic’, but oppose the right of the already overwhelming majority Albanian population of Kosova – overwhelming majority without the need for any ethnic cleansing – to gain independence from Serbia, because this is “Serbian territory.”
But let’s leave aside their hypocrisy for the moment, since this entire exercise shows how rank that is. We can agree that in the way Tudjman’s reactionary regime retook the Krajina, with a massive military attack, launching hundreds of missiles directly into the Krajina capital Knin, was a method that guaranteed the expulsion of the Serb population. Furthermore, it is also very clear that many people who stayed behind, mostly old people, were murdered by Croatian troops. We unreservedly condemn Tudjman’s attack in Krajina. So let that be clear.
Now that is clear, let’s go the Collon’s next point: “The worst atrocities of the war were committed” during this offensive. What simply amazing cynicism. This coming from someone who has just done apologetics on the massacre of 8000 Muslim captives in Srebrenica, a month or so earlier, and on the concentration camps, and on the entire three years of genocide in Bosnia, now tells us that the expulsion – not killing – of 150,000 people, involving the killing of some 1000 people, is when the worst atrocities of the war were committed.
This nonsense can simply be dismissed as the ravings of a hypocrite, but it actually forms part of a discourse which is usually a little more coherent – rather than the worst atrocities of the war, which is patently absurd, this discourse usually claims this was the “greatest single act of ethnic cleansing” in the whole war. What this means is that the 150,000 people fled in a few days, whereas the millions that fled their homes in Bosnia, and hundreds of thousands in Croatia in 1991, did so over a greater period of time.
In other words, it is fine to expel a million people from their homes “where they had lived for centuries” if the people at least put up a little fight first, and thus hold up their expulsion, but if they flee en masse without their political and military leadership even making the pretence of a fight, then this is much worse, even if it only involves 150,000 people, relatively small by the standards of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans that decade.
And the simple reason they fled without a fight was that the Krajina Serbs were only ever part of a cynical game. Milosevic allowed Tudjman to overrun this region in 1995, without putting up even the pretence of a fight, as part of a greater Milosevic-Tudjman-US deal to partition Bosnia and the region in a ‘neater’ way, which resulted in the recognition of ‘Republika Srpska’ in Bosnia. This is despite the Krajina Serb leadership being massively armed with napalm and cluster bombs, which they had liberally used against neighbouring Bosnian Muslims in Bihac for years. This is evidence that Milosevic and co. had cynically set up the Krajina Serbs for this later catastrophe, being merely a bargaining chip in the meantime – they were simply in the wrong area to be really of interest as part of greater Serbia, being separated from Serbia by the entire republic of Bosnia.
But if we are to condemn Tudjman’s method of retaking the Krajina, which seemed guaranteed to ensure the flight of the Serb population, then surely we should also condemn the initial ethnic cleansing of the Croats from the Krajina and the other two regions – East and West Slavonia – that were torn out of Croatia in 1991 and called a Serb Republic.” Yet from Collon – and Herman, Johnstone, Parenti etc – total silence. So let’s here set the record straight.
Firstly, the Krajina itself, the furthest part of Croatia from Serbia, was the only part that could actually claim the right to self-determination, as the only of the three regions with a Serb majority. Yet even there Serbs were a majority of only 69 percent – much smaller than the majority status of Albanians in Kosova – and the far-right SDS (Serb Democratic Party) leaders ethnically cleansed the Croat minority of 60-70,000 people from the Krajina, an abominable act that never gets mentioned by the apologists. In fact the first case of ethnic cleansing in the whole war occurred when the ‘Yugoslav’ Army, acted on behalf of the Chetniks, meticulously destroyed the Croat town of Kijevo, situated inconveneintly near Serb majority regions, and sent the entire Croat population packing in July 1991.
Western Slavonia was overwhelmingly Croat in composition, thus its capture resulted in the ethnic cleansing of another 70,000 or so Croats. There was not one region in all western Slavonia with a Serb majority. As for Eastern Slavonia, the population of the whole region originally conquered in 1991 was only 14 percent Serb, and making this region a ‘Serb state’ meant the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Croats. Late in 1991, Croatian armed forces managed to take some of this back and drive out the Serb minority, but at the end of the war, the ‘Serb state’ still covered a region that was originally only 30-35 percent Serb, so some 100,000 Croats and tens of thousands of other non-Serbs remained expelled.
Thus the carving out of a ‘Serb republic’ in Croatia meant the expulsion of some half a million Croats, the big majority of the population of the three regions altogether, and even as Croatian forces retook some of it by late 1991, there remained some 250,000 Croats ethnically cleansed. It is astonishing that the great majority of the left, even the better sections who later sympathised with Bosnia’s Muslims and have no sympathies for Serbian reaction, almost never make mention of the right to return of hundreds of thousands of Croats brutally expelled by the ‘Serboslav’ army and its SDS creation from various parts of their own country, including Croat-majority regions, in 1991. This is despite the fact that they almost always, when talking about the Balkans, correctly condemn Croatia’s ethnic cleansing of 150,000 Serbs when it retook the region four years later, as if this later terror was not directly connected to the former. Croats are simply not politically correct.
So let’s go back to Collon’s sick rhetoric regarding Srebrenica. As we saw, he (and Herman) pretend that the meticulously organised massacre of 8000 defenseless Muslim captives by Mladic’s thugs in July 1995 was merely some kind of spontaneous revenge for the occasional raids out of the Srebrenica ghetto into local Serb villages by traumatised, besieged, starving Muslims, which resulted in some civilian deaths. However, they do not see these desperate raids out of the ghetto as revenge by these terrified refugees who had been driven into the ‘enclave’ of Srebrenica in the first place by the brutal ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Muslims in East Bosnia in the summer of 1992.
Never mind that hypocrisy, what about the method? Collon had said “The desire for vengeance does not excuse the crimes committed later. But why systematically hide the crimes of 'our friends'?” So why doesn’t Collon now say, regarding Tudjman’s expulsion of the Krajina Serbs in 1995, that “the desire for revenge (ie, of the originally expelled Croats of 1991) does not excuse the crimes committed later (in 1995).” And I’d add, quoting him, “but why does he systematically hide the crimes of his friends?”
Finally, when speaking of the numbers expelled from Krajina, another factor needs to be taken into account, regarding the slow process of return. Some 300,000 Serbs were either expelled or left during the war years, of the original Croatian Serb population of 600,000. This included the 150,000 expelled from Krajina, some 20,000 expelled from Western Slavonia, and over 100,000 who drifted out during the years, due to the increasingly chauvinistic atmosphere under Tudjman, or decided to leave Eastern Slavonia when it was peacefully reintegrated into Croatia in 1997. To date, some 120,000 of these 300,000 Serbs have returned to Croatia, meaning two thirds of the original Serb population is in Croatia.
A major problem however is housing. Many of the houses that had belonged to the Krajina Serbs are now occupied by the Posavina Croats – ie, some of the 200,000 Croats expelled by the Bosnian Serb Army and Chetniks from northern Bosnia and the Posavina ‘corridor’, which connects the west and east halves of ‘Republika Srpska’ but was originally largely Croat. Once again, the plight of these people, who cannot return to their homes in Bosnia, is simply not sexy enough for the Chetnikophilic wing of the left. Meanwhile, while the retaking of the Krajina resulted in the expulsion of 150,000 Serbs, and this is certainly abominable, I will leave it to the Collons of the world to give their opinion on the fact that the retaking of the Krajina and Western Slavonia, and later the reintegration of eastern Slavonia, also allowed the return to their homes of 250,000 ethnically cleansed Croats.
And once again, before leaving this topic, I will go to what Herman had to say in this, because it is both crasser and more detailed than Collon’s pulp here. Herman makes a big deal about comparing what he sees as the western reaction to Srebrenica massacre and to the Krajina cleansing, which occurred soon after.
Yet he appears to prefer the politics of doing the reverse of what he sees as bias. So while his whole essay is dedicated to showing that Srebrenica was a hoax, that not many died, that those who did probably died fighting as soldiers, that the Muslims deserved it anyway for “provoking” the Serbs, and that Izetbegovic wanted Mladic to massacre his people in any case, so Mladic is not to blame for carrying it out. Strangely, he makes none of these caveats regarding Krajina. Quite the opposite, he wants to believe the largest figures for people killed and cleansed, and makes no effort to look into the background as I have detailed above at all.
I hardly need to repeat the detail above: it shows up the rank hyprocrisy without any doubt. But what about the figures? According to Herman, the Croatian government was delighted by Srebrenica because “provided a cover for their already planned removal of several hundred thousand Serbs from the Krajina area in Croatia.” After all the Irving-style playing with numbers over Srebrenica, Herman simply couldn’t care less with accuracy at all in Krajina – so the well-established figure of around 150,000, which Collon is honest enough to report, becomes “several hundred thousand.”
Herman then even suggests that this operation “may well have involved the killing of more Serb civilians than Bosnian Muslim civilians killed in the Srebrenica area in July.” Of course, this can only be suggested if you believe the lowest possible figure for the numbers killed in Srebrenica, and the highest possible figures for those killed in Krajina, which Herman naturally does. Herman quotes 1,205 Serbs killed by the Croatian army in the Krajina cleansing, a figure I have no particular quibble with, still less reason to quibble with. But interesting that his source is Veritas (http://www.veritas.org.yu/). Now if you go to the site of Veritas, you are immediately confronted with a page full of the flag of the ‘Republika Srpska Krajina’, that is, the racist Serb statelet set up in parts of Croatia conquered and ethnically cleansed of its non-Serb inhabitants between 1991 and 1995. The site describes itself as a “non-government organisation established in late 1993 by citizens of the then Republic of Serbian Krajina - RSK. Prior to the exile of Krajina population in August 1995, the organization was headquartered in Knin. Afterwards it moved to Belgrade.”
Isn’t it interesting that Herman ridicules as by definition wrong any source from the Bosnian government, and without explanation refuses to accept the very careful work of the Research and Documentation Centre in Sarajevo, even though it includes Serbs, Croats and Muslims, essentially because it doesn’t verify the figures he wants, but when it comes to Krajina, he has no problem immediately accepting the figures provided by an agency of the Croatian Serb Chetnik state! (We could add here as well that whereas the Research and Documentation Centre has made a detailed study of Serb deaths in villages near Srebrenica, and determined that 119 civilians died through the whole war, Herman simply gives the figure of “well over a thousand Serb civilians” without question, and quite innocently puts as his source the “Yugoslav (ie Serbian) government.” Thus the break between his method of believing figures for deaths for Serbs and that for Muslims and Croats is total.
Like any rank populist, he then goes on to give a harrowing description by a UN officer of a particularly ghastly case of murder of a number of Serbs during this operation – the kind of description that one could find thousands of regarding the appalling atrocities carried out by Serbian forces, but which if one quoted them, they would be immediately accused of “demonizing” “the Serbs”. You are only allowed to “demonise” some people, not others, you see.
Apart form all this, Herman’s piece is full of basic inaccuracies, which reveal his lack of any real knowledge of this region he pretends to be a specialist in. His knowledge of anything Croatian is so lousy that he manages to confuse Eastern and Western Slavonia, talks about an alleged slaughter or disappearance of Serbs in ‘Vukovar’ (ie in Eastern Slavonia, where the ‘Yugoslav’ Army led a horrific siege for months in 1991, leading to hundreds if not thousands of deaths), and then links to an article by a guy called Kent, on the ultra-Likudnik, ultra-Islamophobic site ‘Emperor’s Clothes’, which points to ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Western Slavonia, but which is mostly about the Croatian recapture of that region in 1995 rather than 1991, the head starts spinning.
For all his refusal to believe this source and that, Herman has no problem with various ultra-rightist sources. Between Bogdanovic, a reactionary Serb nationalist that Herman is extensively collaborating with (here is a good review of Bogdanovic’s film, giving an idea of his politics: http://www.offoffoff.com/film/2002/yugoslavia.php3), the neo-Confederate arch-racist Trifkovic, his blog ‘grayfalcon’, and another arch-Islamophobic pro-Likud Serbian ultra-right site, ‘Serbianna’, such references account for 12 of Herman’s references, one sixth of the total, not counting the US Republican Policy Committee (which Herman recommends has a “good summary” of the view that Bosnian Muslims regularly bombed themselves, as, I suppose, Muslims tend to do in the view of such a quintessentially reactionary organisation), or various US generals and so on. The neo-Confederate Trifkovic is also highly recommended for a “good summary” of how Muslim suffering was greatly exaggerated. One feels disappointed that Herman hasn’t also referenced the John Birch Society, the Ku Klux Klan, Ariel Sharon, the white South African AWB Boer Resistance and other such scum who all hold similar views to his on former Yugoslavia issues. And as he notes, there are a number of other Serbian nationalists he is “indebted to,” one of which is Milivoje Ivanisevic, a former senator of the Karadzic regime in ‘Republika Srpska’, ie, the half of Bosnia officially turned in to a “Serb Republic” after the non-Serb half of the population, about a million people, had been ethnically cleansed.
Anyway, we’ve digressed to more on Herman regarding both Srebrenica and Krajina, so let’s return to Collon’s final comment on the Krajina issue:
"Clinton called the offensive 'useful'. His Secretary of State said: "The retaking of the Krajina could lead to a new strategic situation which might be favorable for us." Worse yet: the United States advised Croatia in carrying out its offensive, according to an admission by the Croatian foreign minister. Furthermore, it was Washington that took charge of the 'democratic' training of this army. (Liars' Poker, pp. 193-194)”
This is all very true. The US should be made to bear some of the responsibility for the atrocities that took place as part of this operation, not only the Croatian generals that are up on charges at the Hague.
However, it is worthwhile understanding why the US aided the Croatian offensive, because left at that, as it usually is, suggests that, well, the US aided Croatia against the Krajina Serbs because perhaps it likes Croats and doesn’t like Serbs. Yet this hardly squares with the US position during the massive Serboslav attack on Croatia and the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Croats then – the position then was that the US opposed recognition of Croatia, pushed an arms embargo against “all Yugoslavia”, which effectively prevented unarmed Croatia from getting arms to balance the massive arsenal of the ‘Yugoslav’ Army, via Vance brought about a peace agreement that froze the confrontation lines in Serbia’s favour, effectively recognizing the annexation of a third of Croatia, allowed the ‘Yugoslav’ Army to take all its heavy weaponry in Croatia out into Bosnia, and then continued to oppose recognition for months after the EU and Russia had recognised Croatia and Slovenia. So what was the political situation that led to the US arming of Croatia to facilitate its reconquest of the Krajina in 1995?
And why did the US not support the Serbian conquest of Srebrenica, while supporting the Croatian conquest of Krajina? Well, actually, in practice it did. Sure, the US did not arm the Chetniks to help them conquer Srebrenica, that was obviously unnecessary; as the Serb nationalists controlled the great bulk of weaponry, there was little they could do with even more weapons to subjugate a little enclave full of disarmed or semi-armed Muslim refugees.
But the evidence strongly suggests that the conquests of Srebrenica (and Zepa immediately afterwards) and Krajina were a pincer movement in tandem, a last bout of ethnic cleansing aimed at ethnic “tidying up” of the region in order to carry out a neater Serbo-Croatian partition of the region as the basis for the US-imposed Dayton Accord. The fact that not only was no attempt made to prevent the conquest of the Srebrenica-Zepa “safe areas,” despite strong indications the US knew it was coming, but also that from the start, the new US partition plans had ceded Srebrenica and Zepa to ‘Republika Srpska’, a key demand of the Chetniks to sign on to the US plan, indicates this.
This has all been explained above in the section on Srebrenica. What needs to be added to that section was that there was a quid pro quo. If the east Bosnian Muslim ‘enclaves were to be eliminated to create a stronger ‘Republika Srpska’, and RS’s ‘northern corridor’ between its east and west halves through the formerly largely Croat-populated Posavina was to be widened, then Serbia would also agree to forgo those conquests in the very far west of Bosnia on the Croatian Krajina border, and Krajina itself, because even though these were ironically their only conquests where there really had been an overwhelming majority Serb population before the war, they were also the conquests that were the furthest form Serbia geographically, apart form being economically useless rugged land. On the other hand, they were very valuable to Croatia – the Krajina itself was Croatian territory whose loss in 1991 had effectively cut northern Croatia off from the Dalmation coast, while taking over the neighbouring far west section of Bosnia allowed a stronger link to the Bosnian territories controlled by its Bosnian Croat chauvinist puppets, in Western Herzegovina. This explains not only the US arming of Croatia to recapture Krajina, and the US and western facilitation of the Serbian conquest of Srebrenica-Zepa, but also the complete lack of fight by the Krajina Serb leadership and the relatively quite acceptance of the Krajina recapture by Milosevic.
So when, as Collon notes, “Clinton called the offensive 'useful'” and “his Secretary of State said "the retaking of the Krajina could lead to a new strategic situation which might be favorable for us," they were talking a lot of sense. The conquest of Srebrenica-Zepa also led to this same “new situation,” consolidated as the Dayton Accord.
And one final thing that should be noted about Dayton is the fact that the attempt by the non-violent Kosovar Albanian leadership of Ibrahim Rugova to be represented at Dayton so that the Kosova issue could also be addressed was snubbed by the US, quite happy with Milosevic-Tudjman as its strategic partners. It was this snub of the Kosovar Albanians, who had been waging a “Ghandian” campaign for independence right through the 1990s, while the rest of Yugoslavia was engulfed in flames, in concert with the recognition of the gangster state of ‘Republika Srpska’ in half the UN-member state of Bosnia, despite it being nothing but a creation of enormous violence and genocide, that taught the Kosovar Albanians the “painful truth” as enunciated by a KLA commander, that “those that want freedom must fight for it.”
14 Did the US use depleted uranium weapons also in Bosnia?
O Yes O No O Don't know
“YES. At an international conference, "Uranium, the victims speak", organized in Brussels in March 2001, a Bosnian doctor presented a Bosnian Serb forest ranger, a victim like many others of multiple atypical and fast moving cancers. After having been exposed to DU in areas of US bombardment.A Bosnian health official laid out some statistics : the population of a Serb neighbourhood of Sarajevo bombed by US planes in 1995, (a population later expelled from that city), showed a five-fold increase in various types of cancer.The weapons using depleted uranium allowed the US - but also France and Great Britain - to get rid of waste materials from their nuclear plants. These by-products seriously pollute the earth as well as the underground water table, causing cancer, leukemia and monstrous birth defects (including babies born to contaminated GIs). In short, use of these depleted uranium arms transformed several countries into nuclear waste dumps for eternity. (video and brochure "Uranium, the victims speak").”
Since I oppose US military intervention, this is not an issue I have with Collon, in fact on this point I fully agree in condemning the use of DU in Bosnia and Kosova, as in Iraq. Just a point though: since Collon thinks that US intervention is some kind of gauge of the “progressive” nature of regimes that come under attack, for whom we then need to supply crass apologetics, then since 3 tons of DU was dropped on Bosnia and 7 tons on Kosova, but between 300 and 800 tons on Iraq in 1991, does this make the regime of Saddam Hussein 30-80 times more progressive than that of Milosevic?
15 Was the war against Yugoslavia the US's 'only good war'?
We do not need Collon’s answer to this, since I also agree that the US war on Serbia in 1999 was not a “good war” but an act of brutal aggression, while also condemning the equally brutal war being waged by the Serbian regime against the Kosovar Albanian people simultaneously. However, the rest of his answer attempts to show that not only the 1999 bombing, but also everything that happened in Yugoslavia in the 1990s was a “US war against Yugoslavia.” I do not need to answer this nonsense, as the answer is contained within all the answers above.
However, for a general rundown on the actual reasons for the break-up of Yugoslavia and the imperialist role, not in “breaking up” Yugoslavia, but on the contrary, trying first to keep it together by all means, and then maneuvering with Milosevic, see my article ‘The National Question and the Collapse of Yugoslavia’:
Finally, it is worth noting some of the other points often brought up by the Chetnikophilic wing of the left, which have not been brought up by Collon.
Firstly, there is the whole issue often raised about the nature of the Milosevic regime, which some consider to be “socialist”, or at least more socialist than its opponents, and claim that this was the reason for alleged imperialist hostility, as they see it. I have written a couple of extensive replies to this incorrect assertion:
Milosevic's Serbia: No Relation to Socialism
Occupation Regime in Kosova Begin Privatisation Program
For a full length description of the evolution of Titoism and the ‘Yugoslav model’ through nits various phases till its ignomious downfall in the late 1980s, there is the following, based on an essay as part of a PhD (not on Yugoslav socialism, but on Vietnamese socialism, thus the comparisons at the end of the essay):
Yugoslav Market Socialism: From heyday to collapse
For a full description of the Bosnian reality, who lived where, who claimed and fought for what etc, see my detailed analysis:
Yugoslavia and the National Question Following Break-Up: Bosnia, Kosova, Croatia
Other major issues relate particularly to Kosova and the war in 1998-99 and its aftermath, whereas Collon has concentrated on the earlier Yugoslav break-up and the war in Bosnia.
The most common is the attempt to downgrade the suffering of the Kosovar Albanians, in particular a whole lot of warped ‘body counts’ re how many Albanians were killed in 1999. It is hardly the point, since none of the revisionists can really put any concise case that the 850,000 Albanians that were ethnically cleansed by Milosevic’s army in 1999 were not ethnically cleansed by Milosevic’s army. How many were killed in this terror is almost secondary. Nevertheless, their warped body counts are wrong. Here is my refutation of Herman on this:
Reply to Ed Herman on Body Counts in Kosova and Bosnia:
For a full update on the post-Kosova war issues in Kosova itself, while Kosova has been occupied and denied independence by the imperialist powers:
Six Years of Imperialist Occupation of Kosova 2005: A View from the Left
Some other articles at the time of the NATO-Kosova war itself include:
Kosova genocide: made in USA
What is the KLA?
Chossudovskys frame-up of the KLA
Imperialism and the Kosovar struggle for independence
Serbian oppositionists condemn NATO and Milosevic
Finally, the following collects my contributions to an extended discussion on Marxmail in 2003-2004, mostly between myself and the moderator Louis Proyect. The outcome of this discussion, not put in this post below, was my lengthy treatise on the Serbian economy under Milosevic already listed above (Milosevic’s Serbia: No Relation to Socialism), as Proyect continued to demand of me throughout the discussion:
Marxmail Yugoslavia Discussion 2003-2004
Many more smaller articles can be found at http://mihalisk.blogspot.com/