Pogledaj Full Version : Behind the war against Croatia

Željko Zidarić
13th-June-2012, 10:29 PM
Source: GreenLeft (http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/68)
Wednesday, December 11, 1991 - 11:00

The following is an abridged text of a talk given to a public meeting in Melbourne on November 21 by KATHY BROZOVIC, a member of the Croatian Coordinating Committee and the Croatian Feminist Movement.

The war in Croatia is being waged by the Serbian regime of Slobodan Milosevic and the so-called Yugoslav Federal Army of generals Kadijevic and Raseta, against the Croatian Republic and its people.

Milosevic, Kadijevic and Raseta argue that the invasion of Croatia — the destruction of cities, towns and villages and the brutal attacks on the civilian population — is for the protection of the Serbian minority in Croatia. This ignores the reality of the Croatian constitution, the charter on human rights and the charter on the rights of Serbs and other ethnic minorities in Croatia. This argument is only a screen to hide the real agenda of Milosevic and the Serbian generals.

The war against Croatia is a war by the oppressor against the oppressed. It is an attempt to crush the desire of the Croatian people for self-determination and to provide all the other republics and minorities in the former Yugoslavia with an example of what to expect should they rise up against the regime in Belgrade.

It is an attempt to maintain former Yugoslavia and to create a Greater Serbia. It is an attempt to maintain a centralist, repressive regime controlled by Belgrade in which the power and privileges of the Serbian-dominated bureaucracy and military would be preserved.

Three fronts

The war against Croatia is being fought on several fronts.

On the military front we have seen:

* the indiscriminate bombardment of Croatian cities, towns and villages from land, sea and air;

* the destruction of civilian targets including homes, schools, hospitals, churches, factories and cultural monuments;

* the blockading and destruction of roads, bridges and ports;

* the blockading of power, water, food and medical supplies.

What hasn't been shown on our television sets is the forced clearing and evacuation of towns and villages, followed by looting, torture, rape and murder carried out by the Chetnik Serbian extremists, who are backed by the federal army.

The second front is the war of political propaganda centred on:

* misinformation about the rights of minorities in Croatia;

* portrayal of the Croatian people and their and Ustasha;

* the representation of the Croatian defence forces as illegal paramilitary units;

* the representation of the Croatian and Slovenian republics as unreasonable secessionists who are unwilling to negotiate;

* a regurgitation of distorted facts about World War II.

What is less obvious, however, is the subtle war of diplomacy, which constitutes a third front in the conflict. Involved here is the protection of foreign interests in "Yugoslavia" and the preservation of colonialism. "Yugoslavia" is a test case for the imperialist powers as they try to create their New World Order and maintain their domination of the globe.


The Croatian and Serbian people have for centuries been distinct and different cultures and nations which have coexisted in the same region, often peacefully. Both nations have been subjected to the domination of foreign powers.

For a long time Croatia was occupied by the Austro-Hungarian empire, while Serbia was dominated by the Ottoman Turks. But throughout these periods, both peoples maintained their own cultural identities.

Following World War I there was an unsuccessful attempt to unify the so-called South Slavs through the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. This attempt failed because it was primarily based on one nation — Serbia — dominating the others. This domination and subsequent repression led to growing disenchantment amongst the Croatian people prior to World War II.

In 1941 the opportunist Ante Pavelic proclaimed the Independent State of Croatia and received backing from the Axis powers. Pavelic and his Ustasha regime were in fact puppets of fascist Germany and Italy.

The Pavelic regime was neither democratically elected nor politically supported by the majority of the Croatian people. This is evidenced by the fact that Croatia had a large anti-fascist movement during this period. In fact, over 40% of all partisans in Yugoslavia during World War II were Croats.

The Pavelic regime and its secret police committed atrocities, not only against Serbs, Jews and Gypsies, but also against Croatians who opposed them.

Other atrocities also occurred during this period — atrocities which are not always spoken about but of which it is crucial to be aware.

In Serbia, the Serbian partisans were at war with the Chetniks. As today, the Chetniks were monarchists, committed to the creation of a Greater Serbia, headed by King Petar Karadjordjevic. Remnants of this royal family still live in London, waiting for their return to the

The Chetniks were supported by Mussolini. Just as the Ustasha, the Chetniks were an extreme nationalist movement, backed by fascism, with a history of committing atrocities against Jews, Gypsies, Croats and even Serbian people who opposed their ideas.

Tito's government

Following the war, with the agreement signed by Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin, Yugoslavia became a buffer zone between the eastern and western blocs. But after Tito's split with Stalin in 1948, Yugoslavia turned more and more to the United States, Britain and western Europe, becoming relatively prosperous through the foreign aid, investments and loans which these countries bestowed upon it.

While some parts of the Australian left romantically viewed Yugoslavia under Tito as a model socialist state, the reality was that this supposed melting pot of the South Slavs meant a denial of cultural expression and language, numerous human rights violations and an increasingly bureaucratised economic and political system. Yugoslavia under Tito was a repressive regime not only for the Croats but for other non-Serbian ethnic groups as well — hence the massive migration out of Yugoslavia after World War II, especially after 1968.

Paralleling the movement for reform in Czechoslovakia in 1968, Croatian dissatisfaction during this period led to a massive upsurge — the Croatian Spring. This movement of students, workers and intellectuals called for reforms and greater powers for each of the republics within Yugoslavia. The Croatian Spring failed to achieve its aims, and many of its leaders were subsequently imprisoned or executed.

In 1974 some reforms did finally occur, and a new Yugoslav constitution was adopted. This guaranteed greater powers to the six republics and to the two autonomous provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo. It also established a Territorial Defence Force in each republic, accountable to the republic.

After Tito's death in 1978, a rotating presidency was established, with all republics and provinces represented. Each member took a turn at presiding over the federation for a one-year term, until this process was completely frustrated by the Serbian bloc against Croatia's Stipe Mesic in 1991.

Uprising in Kosovo

In 1980 came the beginning of the Albanian uprising in Kosovo. Soon afterwards, signs of Serbian nationalism began to emerge as anger against the Albanian population began to grow, particularly in Serbia itself. The uprising continued to expand as students, workers, intellectuals and ordinary people repeatedly took to the streets.

Thus it was that the emergence in 1987 of the chauvinist Slobodan Milosevic as the leader who would solve the Kosovan crisis was welcomed by many Serbian people.

The brutality used to crush the Kosovan uprising was applauded by Serbian nationalists and extremists. It was designed to show all the ssent and movements for reform would not be tolerated. In addition, Milosevic and the generals were confident of military backing from the hardline Soviet military. They also counted on the discreet political and economic support of the United States and its allies, which continued to pour money into Belgrade. The maintenance of the Yugoslav status quo was the primary objective of both superpowers at that time.

In September 1990, after the Kosovo parliament declared independence and complete autonomy from Serbia, an act was passed in the Serbian parliament to dissolve the autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina. Both were annexed by Serbia and their parliaments reduced to local-government status. This action was in complete breach of the 1974 constitution.

Most Kosovan representatives were arrested or fled into hiding, where they remain today. Meanwhile, Serbia kept the additional two positions it had gained on the federal presidency — thereby, along with its long-time ally Montenegro, securing four of the eight voting positions for itself.

Defence Force disarmed

Some months earlier, the Croatian and Slovenian Communist Parties legalised the registration of other political parties in their respective republics, and announced general elections.

Prior to the conclusion of elections in Croatia, and in anticipation of a win by Franjo Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Union, the federal army undertook a complete disarmament of Croatia's Territorial Defence Force. At the same time, the Serbian-dominated federal army continued to provide direct assistance to extremist Chetnik agitators in the so-called Krajina in eastern Croatia, who were threatening to secede from Croatia by declaring an autonomous Serbian enclave which would be linked to Belgrade.

While Serbs constitute a majority in this part of Croatia, in fact only 26% of all Serbian people in Croatia live in this region; they amount to 3% of the total population of Croatia. The remaining 74% of Serbs in Croatia live across the republic and, on the whole, coexist quite peacefully with Croats and people from other ethnic minorities.

The new Croatian parliament and the new Croatian president, Franjo Tudjman, did not immediately set out on the road to secession. In an effort to maintain some form of cooperation, the republics of Croatia and Slovenia made numerous attempts to negotiate a confederation between all the republics in Yugoslavia. All these proposals were rejected by Serbia and Montenegro with their bloc of four votes on the federal presidency.

As a result, both Slovenia and Croatia held referendums of their populations. In Croatia over 94% of the vote was for independence. On June 26, the Croatian and Slovenian parliaments declared their sovereignty and independence, along with their intention to negotiate a withdrawal from Yugoslavia. This was met with an escalation of violence by the Chetniks in Croatia backed by the federal army, along with the military onslaught on Slovenia.

Hidden players

Earlier this year, the US secretary of state, James Baker, visited Belgrade for discussions with Milosevic. Baker stated clearly that neither he nor the US supported the break-up of Yugoslavia. This was a very clear message to Milosevic: go for it!

In July the European Community insisted on a three-month moratorium on the Slovenian and Croatian declarations of independence, claiming that secession had to be negotiated in order to prevent bloodshed. The Slovenian and Croatian parliaments agreed. However, while the hostilities in Slovenia eventually ended, in Croatia they escalated.

At the same time, the United Nations imposed an arms embargo on "Yugoslavia" and claimed that it could not intervene in internal conflicts within the borders of a member state. This embargo ensured that no additional military equipment was imported into any of the republics.

The EC and its "peace negotiator," Lord Carrington, have all the while attempted to negotiate cease-fires and agreements in an effort to preserve Yugoslavia at all costs. Yet all these peace agreements have so far failed completely.

All they have achieved is to allow time for the Chetniks and the federal army to regroup, pick up the pieces and plan new, more devastating attacks on an exhausted, poorly equipped, Croatian Defence Force (or national guard).

In recent weeks further economic sanctions have been imposed, including a supposed oil embargo. These apply to all of "Yugoslavia", but they will particularly affect those republics deemed to be uncooperative in the peace negotiations.

To put western policy in the region into sharp focus, the following questions should be asked:

* Who benefited from Baker's visit to Belgrade and his declaration there?

* Who benefited from the three-month moratorium on the independence declarations of Slovenia and Croatia?

* Who benefits from the arms embargo on "Yugoslavia" when the federal army is the world's ninth military power and when Yugoslavia is a significant arms producer and exporter?

* Who benefited from the 13 broken cease-fire agreements and who is daily trying to capture more and more Croatian territory and inflict more destruction and casualties on Croatia?

It is no coincidence that the US government was silent on the war in Croatia until the massive bombardment of Dubrovnik and its old city: only then did it express token outrage at the destruction of the "world's cultural heritage".

It is no coincidence that this war began prior to the renegotiation of the NATO pact, at a time when the Soviet Union and the other eastern European countries were no longer perceived as a threat to the west, and at a time when France and Germany were discussing the a new EC defence force. It is no coincidence that the US and even the EC were silent on the issue of sanctions until after the NATO pact was redrawn and the US military presence in the region maintained.

It is also no coincidence that neither the EC nor the US has given recognition to Slovenia or Croatia despite claiming to be the champions of democracy. The EC and the US want to maintain some form of "Yugoslavia" and are opposed to the creation of new sovereign states.

There are two key reasons for this stand. Firstly, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have a lot of money invested in Yugoslavia. Who will repay this debt if Yugoslavia falls apart?

Secondly, the histories of the US, Britain and many other European countries are histories of colonisation. The break-up of Serbian-dominated Yugoslavia would open a whole new set of debates for the west. Northern Ireland, the Basque country, Kanaky are cases in point. There are many more instances where people are struggling for the right to self-determination and freedom from foreign domination.

A just struggle

The struggle of the Croatian people for self-determination is a just one. But I fear that before genuine peace and justice is achieved, a lot worse is likely to come. The situation in Bosnia-Hercegovina is ready to explode, and Croatia's fate awaits our neighbours in Macedonia, Kosovo, Vojvodina and even in Sandzak.

Last night on the SBS world news I watched footage of the so-called liberators of Vukovar marching through the town carrying their black skull-and-crossbones flag. The commentator said they were soldiers from the "Yugoslav federal army", but quite clearly they carried the Chetnik flag.

As they marched they sang: "Milsevicu donesi nam salate, bit ce mesa, klat ce mo Hrvate ..." In English this means: "Milosevic, bring us the salads; there'll be meat, we'll slaughter the Croats".

I ask you to do something to help stop this war and to bring about Croatia's recognition — now!