by Stella L. Jatras | It is both ironic and tragic that much of the turmoil in the Balkans is the result of German expansionism and Croatian brutality, but the finger of guilt seems always to point at Serbia.
Serbia continues to get the bulk of the blame from many in academic and media circles for today’s catastrophe in the Balkans. An example is Professor Staric in his recently published book entitled Confronting The Yugoslav Controversies. While attempting to appear even-handed, Prof. Staric clearly shows his anti-Serb bias with statements such as, “After Slovenia and Croatia, which were the most developed republics of the former Yugoslavia, had declared their independence on June 25, 1991, the Serbs did not like to lose their ‘cash cows’,” and “The Serbs (mainly) and Croats have clearly shown that they are unable to live in a multinational State, where each would have equal, and not more, rights than the other constitutive nations, just as the citizens of four nationalities have in Switzerland.”
I would remind the good Professor that prior to our sticking our nose into the business of a sovereign nation, Yugoslavia was a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and a multi-religion state. Even during the fighting in the 1990s, tens of thousands of Muslims fled to safety in Belgrade. Today, Serbians have no rights in Croatia.
Although it is important to defend Serbs against unjust accusations, it is first necesary to go back to World War II in order to understand Germany’s role in the Balkans when in 1941, Hitler recognized Croatia as an Independent State for being his loyal ally. Over a million Serbs, Jews and Gypsies were exterminated in Croatia’s Ustashe (Nazi) death camps so brutally that even the German Gestapo was appalled. Fast forward. As part of the Maastricht Netherlands Treaty of 1991, Germany pressured European Community (EC) to recognize the independence of Croatia, Germany’s ally in World War II. “From a position where the EC members were 11-to-1 in favor of maintaining the unity of Yugoslavia, Germany succeeded at 4 a.m. in forcing approval for the recognition of Croatia and Slovenia as independent states (German and U.S. Involvement in the Balkans, Defense & Foreign Affairs Publications London, 1995). In 1993, Uno Mas Uno, in a report entitled, German Finger In The Yugoslav Crisis, wrote, “Those who believed that defeat in two world war had diminished Germany’s expansionist ambitions were certainly wrong. More than ever before, Germans need territories and they want to expand.” Germany knew that by recognizing Croatia, it would foment a civil war to its advantage. In two world wars, Serbia prevented Germany from gaining access to the Adriatic Sea. It was now payback time.
I hope that in his book, Prof. Staric does more than just, as he claims, “mention” Operation Storm where Croatian forces, according to Most Rev. Dr. Robert M. Bowman, Lt Col, USAF, in one of his reports, killed 14,000 Serbs in the region of Krajina. It is estimated that over 650,000 Serbs were driven out of Croatia, 250,000 of them ethnically cleansed from their ancestral homes.
From the 1998 Calgary Herald: “MPs listened in silence Monday as a colonel recounted the story of the Canadian army’s biggest firefight since Korea, the 1993 Battle of the Medak pocket, that left the [Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry] troops picking up 16 corpses of murdered civilians and nursing their own wounds.” The atrocities described by Canadian soldiers as perpetrated by Croatian forces against Serbian civilians are too horrific even to list here, only to say, “Days later the Croats turned over 50 bodies.” (The Ottawa Citizen, Oct. 7, 1996). A color photo which accompanied the article showed the leader of the Canadian peacekeepers, with the caption, “Lt. Col Jim Calvin, left, had to calm his outraged soldiers after they discovered the carnage.”
Charles Krauthammer described the events of Krajina in Newsweek (April 5, 1999) as “The largest ethnic cleansing of the entire Balkan wars. Investigators with the war-crimes tribunal in The Hague have concluded that this campaign was carried out with brutality, wanton murder and indiscriminate shelling of civilians….Croatia’s savage ethnic cleansing so demoralized the Serbs that they soon agreed to sign the Dayton peace accord of 1995.”
The Washington Times of 5 September 1995, reported that Croatian soldiers were given heroin or cocaine twice daily in order to help them face up to the horrors of war in reference to the explulsion of Croatian from Krajina. A Croatian soldier, identified only as Davor, stated, “To attack villages, to cut throats and to kill in cold blood you need a strong anesthetic – a shot of heroin or cocaine was ideal.” This report was also substantiated in The Guardian, on 1 September 1995.
The Washington Times of 29 December 1995 also reported that “Croats will ‘kill people for the color of their skin’.” [US Colonel Fontenot, Commandeef of NATO forces in northeastern Bosnia].
This is the same Croatia about which columnist A. M. Rosenthal, in the New York Times of April 15, wrote: “In World War II, Hitler had no executioners more willing, no ally more passionate, than the fascists of Croatia. They are returning, 50 years later, from what should have been their eternal grave, the defeat of Nazi Germany. The Western Allies who dug that grave with the bodies of their servicemen have the power to stop them, but do not.” This is the same Croatia about which The Washington Times reported (“Pro-Nazi extremism lingers in Croatia, June 15, 1997): “A German tank rolls through a small village, and the peasants rush out, lining the road with their right arms raised in a Nazi salute as they chant “Heil Hitler.” Mobs chase minorities from their homes, kicking them and pelting them with eggs as they flee into the woods. Europe in the 1940s? No. Croatia in the 1990s.”
It is both ironic and tragic that much of the turmoil in the Balkans is the result of German expansionism and Croatian brutality, but the finger of guilt seems always to point at Serbia.