The Tragedy of Yugoslavia: Part 1
The Tragedy of Yugoslavia: Part 1.
In war, truth is the first Casualty— Aeschylus
War is a hellish thing. So said Sherman, war is hell. It is the basest of human actions, the most primitive of human urges, the sin of Cain. In war, to kill and destroy, if it can be said to be natural, is systematized and organized. Like machines spinning thread, rounds or swords meet flesh, ripping apart human beings and human innocence. Innocence is the second casualty of war. She lies dying with he, the young soldier, hemorrhaging, screaming for days gone numb, his infant memories; there is not a moment justice to be found, peace is hoped to arrive as quick as death. It is gruesome, deadly, bloody, graphic, the very definition of visceral. It smells, gunpowder, the slick smell of lead on steel, the metallic copper-like odors of blood fused with the salt of sweat and tears ; it hurts physically, what is felt is the psychological, families bury teenagers and neighbors remove body tissue from bombed out homes. It is seen, blood soaked gauze, brains ejected from skulls to lie congealed and plastered like wet oats upon walls and streets; limbs ripped from trees and men, life itself, the metered pulsing of scarlet liquid spraying the medic, it drenches the mind, vanquishes the body, and vacuums the soul. It’s heard, the pit pat, rat tat tat, firing pins on blasting caps, crush and thunder, the heavy repressive thud of distant artillery, an impact then an explosion; the concussive forces of a detonation melts internal organs, leaving its victims squirming to eventually die from unseen wounds. In war, the truth about war is the first causality, as knaves seek to glorify or reduce this mechanized butchery.
“War,” observed Carl von Clausewitz, ” is the continuation of politics by other means,” a description which conjures the image of the genteel formality of the well pampered politician, in between gaff and scandal, eying his adversary from across the table, safely ensconced in an air conditioned paradise, hors d’oevres roundly distributed and roundly praised, sending the word that what couldn’t be solved in the diplomacy room can be solved in the sweat and action, the terror and boredom, of the battlefield. The politician, like the crook, surreptitiously slides into the night.
What we will be reviewing here is a war. The rather labored attempt to paint the picture of horror is to instill the sense that while the academic prose that is to follow may be sanitizing, its content is anything but. The war to be reviewed is a war which will be reviewed because it is generally not reviewed. The breakup of the former Yugoslavia saw as its result the most bloody and protracted conflict on the European continent since the cessation of the Second World War. The western media was quick to rush to the scene of adventure and terror. They knew not the language, the history, or the cause of anything they witnessed; and what they witnessed, if not carefully crafted, was carefully misrepresented. A narrative emerged that the Serbs were savage, vicious, howling, Byzantines. The Muslims and Croats became victims of Serb aggression, gallantly defending their land from a barbarian onslaught. The leader of Serbia became the “new Hitler”, the leaders of Croatia and Bosnia moderate and progressive revolutionaries. “Humanitarian bombing” was undertaken by NATO forces to keep control of “ethnic cleansing.” But if ethnic cleansing was the object of revulsion, NATO forces only mitigated one of the three sides which committed it. And when the Serb threat was eliminated, like a revolving door, NATO was proud to step in place and continue the barbarity. As Lt. Colonel John E. Sray, U.S. army, put it:
America has not been so pathetically deceived since Robert McNamara helped to micromanage and escalate the Vietnam War while secretly lacking the intestinal fortitude to state his personal convictions of self-doubt about the enterprise to the President and nation.”1
Truth is distorted in any conflict, as the fog of war envelopes not just soldiers but information. This war, however, constituted a situation in which the Serbs were demonized to such an extent that they now occupy a close second position on the list of demonized peoples, only eclipsed by the Jews and their state. Throughout the conflict, “massacres” by Serb forces were reported to have happened that never happened or, if they did, they can hardly be called massacres. Massacres that did happen against Serbs failed to be reported. “Ethnic Cleansing” was a term coined in this conflict, and only Serbs were guilty of its definition, which varied from report to report. Amusingly, historians at once rewrote books about former conflicts making sure to include this term to describe the forced or willful migration of any civilian population. A “genocide” was committed by Serb forces in Srebrenica that has since been examined and found to be the result of combat operations and the summary execution of POWs, a war crime, but nothing close to genocide. In fact, the number of journalists who made their careers by misrepresenting this conflict is proportional to the number of Pulitzer prizes that were distributed at a swanky banquet, where well dressed and well fed correspondents were awarded for relating harrowing fables and roundly applauded each other for their courage in doing so. That is only a weak exaggeration. Publications that outed the main progenitors of deceit were sued into oblivion. That is not an exaggeration.2
Ironically, though, I will be using media sources to document the events that transpired in the Balkans. Some in the media where able to keep a clear head and moral bearing in the fog of propaganda; David Binder of the New York Times is one. Along with the scant occasions in which the media was able to report what they would rather not, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, also cited will be documents and statements made by the people on the ground and in the war torn thicket. British General Morse of NATO, an exceptional example of a soldier, Canadian General Lewis Mackenzie, U.N General Satish of India, and numerous other officials and observers from the U.N. and NATO. In recent years, a little publicized revolt against the media narrative has occurred amongst the highest ranking officials that were on the ground and saw first hand the force and consequence of a willing media to advance the agenda of the Muslim and Croatian governments. Diplomats too, who were trying desperately to broker deals between the warring factions, but were in almost every instance disabled by politicians and scandalous media reports, will be cited and their revolt made clear. The writings of later researchers, historians, and intellectuals will also be brought to bear on the issues.
What this work intends to accomplish is to find the truth. A thesis has not been advanced but this and only this: what happened? Why, for example, did the western powers find it necessary to bomb civilian targets in Belgrade in 1999 when the forces that were supposedly undertaking horrid crimes in Kosovo where hundreds of miles away? Further, what happened in the former Yugoslavia that the three sides found no other recourse but to prosecute a vicious civil war? Did the intervention of foreign powers “on the whole…(make) it sure there was going to be a conflict”?3 These and other questions will be examined in the course of this undertaking.
Before we begin our foray into the political and military machinations of Yugoslavia a few prefatory philosophical remarks are necessary.
To study history is to study opinion mixed with fact; to write about it is to almost inevitably to be in a position of error. Often, the lines are blurred to such an extent that any grasp of fact is wholly enveloped by the murky world of sentiment and belief, commitment and ideology. Still further, facts may be presented with a sufficient lack of editorializing that moral commitments to justice and realism may be lost in the dizzying array of academic stringency. The severity of these conditions are entirely, in my view, dependent on the chronological distance of the historical event under examination. Historical events of the bronze age, for instance, are marked by brief glimmers of certainty eclipsed by vast expanses of conjecture and guesswork. Still, studies of ancient peoples and events are more coherent and are brought more easily under the reign of a zeitgeist that the historian establishes. Under this framework, certain conjectures can be either upheld or discarded. The ambiguity brought about by a lack of source material in ancient history is thus codified as a sense of certainty that would be less able to be upheld if more physical and documented evidence was brought to bear on a certain scholarly established interpretation. Therefore, the scholarly debates of ancient history are reserved and subject to a strict agnosticism, making for a civil environ in which conjectural inferences can be advanced and discussed, absorbed into the current established opinion or discarded. Further, there is less opportunity or urgency to moralize about events that are so removed from our present condition that emotional or ideological involvement is minimal.
Conversely, as we approach the present, evidence is more readily available and more subject to the interpretive apparatus of the social sciences as various theories of psychology and sociology are employed to give the historian an increasingly thorough account of the current object of study. With well documented histories we are able to peer into the minds and motivations of the actors and make inferences about what could have been, and the inferential disparity with what was and is. In this situation, editorializing becomes an almost necessary function of the historian, for it not, very little can be said that means anything. The debates which this conditions conjures can become quite vicious, as two differing opinions on the moral and ethical necessity of certain actions collide and spill over into our current social conditions.To study modern history is to study the present, and there are many emotional and political grievances which are found to be incorrect which can cause, for lack of better term, the balkanization of various positions so thoroughly entrenched that discourse can barely manage to move them. As such, any real history of the present is to be subjected to considerable criticism and uncertainty and are described in mere ideological terms.
I mention this because the issues that we will be adventuring into are still issues. Great care must be taken as we are dealing with a segment of history that has, in the media, been characterized as a black and white confrontation, a cowboys and Indians style narrative that appropriates the Serbs to the realm of the “Bad”, the Muslims bosniaks as the “Victim”, and the Croats as the “Good” or neutral party. Complicating matters further is that this conflict is peppered with multiple accusations of genocide and “ethnic cleansing” —a term that was created, invented and nurtured in relation to only this conflict — that telling the facts of the conflict can be attacked, and are attacked, as diminishing the suffering of the victims supposedly involved. I wish not to do this but advance a view, I will admit, which may be perceived as pro-Serb or anti-Croat/Bosniak. This, though, is not the entirety of my intention, as the very reason I am writing this is to help correct an anti-Serb position that has been so maliciously disseminated amongst the media apparatus of the western powers that any healing that may take place in this troubled region requires a rectification of this condition and an appropriate amount of guilt must be distributed to all parties involved.
With these considerations in mind, we must also erase our perceptions of what war is. The high tech weapons that the United States and other modern armies posses have sanitized war; making it a view from above, view from the screen, view from the CNN news-desk, endeavor. This is not what war is, just as a boxing match is not an accurate representation of a life or death fist fight. The parties constricted in conflict during the Balkans war were using antiquated Vietnam era weapons and, in some instances, tactics. The only countries using using laser guided precision weapons were the NATO countries; and they killed more than 1000 civilians in their operations. To expect less civilian casualties during a civil war that was prosecuted in and amongst population centers is insane liberal morality imposing itself on the Serbs especially, and the region in general, which then ultimately bubbled to the boiling of NATO intervention.
The moralist goal of reducing civilian casualties is a modern phenomenon of war. Historically, civilians were considered just as much the enemy as the combatants. The theory went that the civilian population is an equally legitimate target– in some instances a greater one– due to the support and aid, the very means of war, that a civilian population creates and nourishes. Two historic examples will help us understand this.
During the American Civil war General William Sherman engaged in a what he termed “total war”. Instead of campaigns whose goal was to attack and destroy only military targets, leaving the civilian population unaffected, Sherman and his soldiers, as they drove deeper into the American south, began looting and destroying farms to feed their advancing army. Cities and towns were burned and civilians suffered. Confederate soldiers began receiving distressing letters from home telling of the damage and the destitution that their families were now subjected to and these men deserted the confederate ranks to return home to their families faster than any battle could ever persuade them. The devastation that Sherman’s army wrought upon the civilians of the south directly impacted the South’s ability to wage war; and his campaign is viewed by most historians as the reason for the confederate surrender in the spring of 1865 rather than 1868.
Similarly, German air-force tactics against Britain called for the complete destruction of British cities. When Britain finally achieved air supremacy during the Aerial Battle of Britain, along with their new American counterparts, they developed a counter offensive that called for the bombing of German military targets in occupied France and Germany proper. These engagements inflicted pulverizing causalities upon the bomber crews—nearly 100,000 were killed or captured during the war. In an attempt to reduce these devastating loses, the British switched to nighttime bombing only, which would reduce airmen losses, but insure that civilian casualties would increase due to the difficulty of distinguishing between civilian and military targets that nighttime raids produced. Their American counterparts scoffed at this idea, proclaiming it immoral and uncivilized. The British, having seen thousands of their civilians killed and their cities ruined, told the Americans and their appraisal of the circumstances, in that polite British rebuke, to go straight to hell, and the first British bombers began raining destruction upon German cities. This situation acts to show that moralist pretensions are a disposition confined to those nations whose civilians can stroll along 5th avenue and window shop without concerning themselves with the possibility of a V2 rocket dispatching them from the earth.
It was precisely this moralist whining, most of it not in any way related to reality or, for that matter, morality, that became so shrill that the U.N., NATO, and the whole world came to the “rescue” of the “helpless” Croats and Bosnian Muslims, and the later created victim-hood of the Kosovo Albanians. And it was this moralist whining that caused a civil dispute to become a civil war. Let us now turn to the events.
Historical Background and Context
The political geography of the region known as the Balkans has historically afforded itself to considerable conflict. The area was the advanced guard of the European continent against Ottoman expansion into Europe during the middle ages up to first world war. Moments of brief autonomy were eclipsed by extended periods of occupation by foreign empires of both Europe and the near East. Initially, “barring the occasional violent revolt”4, the region was under the control of the the Byzantine Empire. In 1183 an autonomous state of Serbia was established under the Grand Prince Stefan Nemanja in the territory that is modernly known as Kosovo.5 The state was granted international recognition, and the subsequent formation of the Serbian Orthodox Church was established and recognized by the papacy. This autonomy was short lived, though, as the rise and expansion of the Islamic Ottoman empire culminated in the defeat of Serbian forces at the battle of Kosovo in 1389 resulting in the entirety of Serb controlled territory coming under the dominion of the Ottomans.6 Unlike formerly Christian Albania, and parts of the region Known as Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Serbs of Kosovo refused to convert to Islam and were confined to second class status as Dhimmis, which Islamic law requires for all peoples not willing to submit to the metaphysical imperial dictates of Islamic belief.
After a failed revolt against Ottoman rule sponsored and aided by various Christian States, the Serbs of Kosovo, fearing mass reprisals by the Ottomans, fled west and north to other Christian controlled nations. They left behind their cultural homeland and center of spiritual and national life to be conquered and inundated by recently converted Islamic Albanians, who sought to incorporate the region into a greater Albanian state.7 The current demographic anomalies of the region and the definitive distal cause of the conflict of the 90’s can be attributed to Islamic colonization and Imperialism in the region during the reign of the Ottoman empire.
Antechamber of War
The century leading up to the first world war saw an increased demand from the Serbian Orthodox Christians in the regions of the Balkans, now known as Bosnia Herzegovina and Serbia, for independence from the Ottoman empire. The Serbs over the last few centuries prior had been subjected to a rather continuous change in ruling authority, as the Hungarian and Austrian Empires vied for power and control over the region with the Ottomans. This constant oscillation of political power had left the Serbs extended and spread out over the entirety of the Balkan region, having significant ethnic populations extending from Kosovo to Bosnia and further north to what are today known as modern Slovenia and Croatia. The vicissitudes of imperial domination had left the Serbs spread out and decentralized.
The Serbs under continuous Ottoman rule suffered the most significantly as their national and religious identity was systematically sanitized or destroyed. The historian Carl Savich writes:
To ensure their rule and domination over the indigenous Christian Serbian and Croat populations, the Turks forcefully converted the local population under a policy of Turkification or Islamicization or applied intense pressure which was tantamount to forced conversion to create Islamicized Slavs (poTurcenaci), the ancestors of the present-day Bosnian Slavic Muslims, referred to as “Turks” (Turci) by non-Muslims and many Muslims themselves.8
These factors will become ever more crucial as we begin to discuss the most recent conflicts. The point to be forcefully understood here, though, is that the Ottomans were instrumental in creating a political environ in which so called “ethnic” strife was to eventually break out. The region today known as Bosnia was subjected to this Islamification resulting in an economic situation in which those who converted to Islam became more urbanized, as they were granted freedom of business and movement, and occupied the more bourgeoisie financial and business institutions; whereas the Serbian orthodox Christians in the country, a sizable minority, were mainly peasant farmers who inhabited the vast countryside and periphery of the the larger cities like Sarajevo, the inhabitants of which became predominately Muslim.
The Serbian revolutions of 1804 and 1817 against the Ottoman empire brought about a fragile independence that wasn’t fully ratified until the treaty of Berlin following the Russian- Turkish war in which Russia significantly damaged the power of the Ottoman empire. The Treaty recognized The Kingdom of Serbia as a legitimate state for the first time in 400 years. The borders of the kingdom of Serbia, at its very northern point, bumped the Austria-Hungarian Empire, with Belgrade lying on its most northern border. The Austria-Hungarian empire took control of Bosnia from the Turks resulting in a large Muslim and Serbian population coming under its control. The subsequent irredentism of the Serbian nationalists in Bosnia would be the ignition of the the wild fire that would be World War One.
On June 28 1914, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo by a member of a nationalist Serbian movement, existing within both Serbia itself and amongst the majority population of Bosnia, that sought to liberate and incorporate the region into a greater Serbia. This act caused a series of declarations of war beholden to the various alliances and treaties that were signed by the great powers of Europe; like falling dominoes, the nations of Europe were off to war.
Following the horrid destruction of the first world war and the dissolution of the Austrain- Hungarian empire, the first Yugoslav nationalists movements began calling for the unification of the former Austrian Slav states along with Serbia under one kingdom. The main champion of this movement was the Croat Politician Ante Trumbic. He was met with some resistance by the Serbian President Nikola Pasic, who desired a greater Serbia, but the two came to a compromise with the declaration of the Corfu document, which I will quote in its entirety so as to acquaint the reader with the necessary information as to the goals of the federation and so that any ambiguity may be mitigated:
1. The State of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, who are also known by the name of Southern Slays or Yugoslavs, will be a free and independent kingdom, with an indivisible territory and unity of power. This State will be a constitutional, democratic, and Parliamentary monarchy, with the Karageorgevich dynasty, which has always shared the ideals and feelings of the nation in placing above everything else the national liberty and will at its head.
2. The name of this State will be the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, and the title of the sovereign will be King of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes.
3. This State will have one coat-of-arms, only one flag, and one crown.
4 The four different flags of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes will have equal rights, and may be hoisted freely on all occasions. The same will obtain for the four different coats-of-arms.
5. The three national denominations, the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, are equal before the law in all the territory of the kingdom, and each may freely use it on all occasions in public life and before all authorities.
6. The two Cyrillic and Latin alphabets also have the same rights and every one may freely use them in all the territory of the kingdom. The royal and local self-governing authorities have the rights and ought to employ the two alphabets according to the desire of the citizens.
7. All religions are recognized, and may be free and publicly practiced. The Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Mussulman religions, which are most professed in our country, will be equal, and will enjoy the same rights in relation to the State. In view of these principles, the Legislature will be careful to preserve the religious peace in conformity with the spirit and tradition of our entire nation.
8. The Gregorian calendar will be adopted as soon as possible.
9. The territory of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes will comprise all the territory where our nation lives in compact masses and without discontinuity, and where it could not be mutilated without injuring the vital interests of the community. Our nation does not ask for anything which belongs to others, and only claims that which belongs to it. It desires to free itself and establish its unity. That is why it conscientiously and firmly rejects every partial solution of the problem of its freedom from the Austro-Hungarian domination.
10. The Adriatic Sea, in the interests of liberty and equal rights of all nations, is to be free and open to all and each.
11. All citizens throughout the territory of the kingdom are equal, and enjoy the same rights in regard to the State and the law.
12. The election of Deputies to the national representation will take place under universal suffrage, which is to be equal, direct, and secret. The same will apply to the elections in the communes and other administrative institutions. A vote will be taken in each commune.
13. The Constitution to be established after the conclusion of peace by the Constituent Assembly elected by universal, direct, and secret suffrage will serve as a basis for the life of the State. It will be the origin and ultimate end of all the powers and all rights by which the whole national life will be regulated. The Constitution will give the people the opportunity of exercising its particular energies in local autonomies, regulated by natural, social, and economic conditions. The Constitution must be adopted in its entirety by a numerical majority of the Constituent Assembly, and all other laws passed by the Constituent Assembly will not come into force until they have been sanctioned by the King.
Thus the united nation of Serbs, Croatians, and Slovenes will form a State of twelve million inhabitants. This State will be a guarantee of their national independence and of their general national progress and civilization, and a powerful rampart against the pressure of the Germans, and an inseparable ally of all civilized peoples and States.
Having proclaimed the principle of right and liberty and of international justice, it will form a worthy part of the new society of nations.
Signed at Corfu, July 20, 1917, by the President of the Council and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Serbia, Nikola Pashitch, and the President of the Yugoslav Committee, Dr. Ante Trumbic.
This declaration laid the groundwork for the creation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, a political construction in which Serbia was willing to compromise on a great deal of its sovereignty. As a leading Croatian politician, Dr. Ante Trumbich, declared at the time:
Serbia proved ready to sacrifice her state individuality in order that one common state of all Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes might be created. She thus has the absolute right to be called the Yugoslav Piedmont.9
The Rise and Fall of a Kingdom
Not everyone was immediately enthused by this new confederation of Yugoslavia, the land of the Southern Slavs. The Kingdom of Yugoslavia was comprised of a multitude of ethnic groups. While the Corfu document outlined the associated rights that the Serbs, Croatians, and Slovenes were to be granted, the subsequent demographic composition of the entity, and the political rights themselves, fostered a great manner of nationalist sentiments. The political freedom granted to the ethnic groups led to coalitions of ethnic parties, and thus, ethnic strife.
The Kingdom of Yugoslavia, while nicely designed on paper, was headed for catastrophe almost as soon as the ink dried on the parchment of the Corfu document. An experiment in multi-nationalism conjured in the post-war spirit of progressive utopian thinking, patronized and finessed by the Versailles Treaty, the Kingdom essentially and ineptly forced populations who were accustomed to living in animosity under the conditions of empire, to live in harmony. The monarchies and Empires that previously ruled these populations, specifically the Austria-Hungarian and Ottomans, had skillfully kept the various ethnic groups in a state of suspicion and enmity. Maintaining this state of affairs and fraternal disorder provided a means of control for the ruling regimes. A factious society is always a lesser threat than a unified one. Noting this political truism, both the Austo-Hungarian and Ottoman rulers played each group off on each other. Like pugnacious and envious siblings , the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes constantly competed for the countenance of their paternal masters.
The region having been liberated from imperial domination with the dissolution of the Ottoman and Austro-hungarian empire after the war, the Corfu document determined itself to set about uniting the ethnic groups in a political coalition that would insure their collective defense against any future imperial expansion and domination. This noble goal, however, only functioned to inspire radical nationalism. In short, the internationalist mood of the post war period sought political solutions that were supposedly designed to mitigate the potential for any one national or ethnic group to dominate over any other group. The forerunner of the U.N., The league of Nations was created at this time, adding a diplomatic hue to what was truly international domination of National identities. Unfortunately, as history has taught us, but whose lessons we always rush to ignore, the drive towards internationalism only exacerbated nationalist sentiments. The irredentist and nationalist movements that would emerge from what can accurately be called the dictatorship of the international community was, and still is, the most ferocious and radical, brutal and dogmatic that the eyes of history have ever set upon their gaze.
On June 20 1928, Stepjan Radic, a Croatian politician and separatist leader, was felled by an assassins bullet at a session of the Yugoslav Parliament where ethnic recriminations and counter recriminations had been hotly bantered, creating a tense and highly factious political environment in which violence was ripe to bloom. Naturally, this assassination further divided Croat-Serb relations, as the Croatian leaders proclaimed that the killing of a Croatian separatist leader was proof of Serb hegemony over the Kingdom. The assassin, Punisa Racic, a Serb, was a member of the Radical Peoples Party, a name that reveals the limited extent to which democratic and fraternal bonds had been nurtured. Radic, the assassinated, was a member of the Croatian Common Peoples Peasant Party, a name which reveals the effectiveness in political advertising of piling meaningless words on top of one another. The two men were both extremists; if violence had not taken place in the Parliament, their respective fiery rhetoric would have insured that it would have occurred on the “Common People’s” street.
The subsequent cascade of political and popular fury over Radic’s murder inspired the reactionary assassination of King Alexander I in October of 1934. In 1929, Alexander, as his burnt offering to the destruction of the Old Yugoslavia, banned all national parties, abolished the constitution, dismantled the parliament, and set himself as dictator in reaction, certainly in over-reaction, to the political turmoil that followed the assassination of Radic. Although a Serb, Alexander’s malevolence did not discriminate. He attempted to abolish the Serbian Cryllic alphabet to promote the exclusive use of the Latin alphabet used by the Catholics Croats. To alleviate any ambiguity about the nature of his reign he officially changed the name of Yugoslavia from The Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats , and Slovenes to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Nationalities were out and he was in. He chided his prosecutors. According to Croatian Historian Marko Markavic:
Alexander said across an intermediary to the Italian government: If you want to have serious riots in Yugoslavia or cause a regime change, you need to kill me. Shoot at me and be sure you have finished me off, because that’s the only way to make changes in Yugoslavia.10
An alliance of Croatian and Macedonian nationalist, with the aid and support of Benito Mussolini, were all to willing to indulge his demands. He was killed by a sniper’s round in Marseilles, France while in travel to a meeting with French officials.
His successor, prince Paul, immediately attempted to undo what Alexander had done so well. He re-instituted the constitution and granted further autonomy and independence to the Croatians. By this time, however, the tempest of war was beginning to foment to the north. When Prince Paul singed the tripartite pact with Nazi Germany in March Of 1941, the Serbs, a people more inclined to suffer abuse than partake in its distribution or nod approvingly to German fascism, were so incensed that they threw Paul out of government. Hitler was similarly incensed at this coup that he put off the invasion of the Soviet Union to invade Yugoslavia, a decision that would prove fateful for the outcome of the war.
Under Nazi Rule
The invasion and occupation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia by the Nazis saw its ultimate dissolution into one of the most brutal and little talked of genocidal spectacles of the second world war. The Nazi’s divided the country along its Ethno/Geographic lines setting up puppet regimes in Serbia and in a greater Croatia under the Ustashe fascists.
The subsequent resistance movement amongst the Serbs was met with bitter reprisals by the Nazi’s. In fact, the Serbs identified with their Jewish co-nationalist so thoroughly, seeing very little distinction between a Jewish Serbian and a Christian one, that the Nazi’s took to killing masses of Jews in order to stop the resistance fighters from continuing their campaign. The bloodshed of Jewish Serbs deeply affected the Serbian people, so much so that it massacres were used as an effective anti-insurgency tactic against the Serbian populace. Further, and in spite of these dangers. the Serbian resistance was also responsible for one of the largest rescue operations of downed American and allied pilots during the war. The Croats and Muslims of Yugoslavia, on the other hand, were all to willing to indulge the ideological brutality of their new masters.
In the greater Croatia created by the Nazi’s, a bloodthirsty nationalistic and racialist ideology came to be. Called the Ustashe, dominated by Catholic Croatians, they undertook a campaign of such savagery against the minority Serb, Roma(Gypsy) and Jewish Population that it disgusted even the most dedicated Nazis. The Ustashe had nationalist and genocidal aims beyond the German concern for the eradication of the Jews. The Minister of Education, Mile Budak, made clear the Ustashe aims: ‘Our new Croatia will get rid of all Serbs in our midst in order to become one hundred percent Catholic within ten years.’ 11 The method of this goal was threefold. Leaders of the movement delineated
“how a pure Croatia should be built – by forcing one third of the Serbs to leave Croatia, one third to convert to Catholicism, and one third to be exterminated. Soon Ustasha bands initiated a bloody orgy of mass murder of Serbs unfortunate enough not to have converted or left Croatia on time.” 12
The implements of death were positively byzantine:
“Here the Ustashi used primitive implements in putting their victims to death – knives, axes, hammers and other iron tools. A characteristic method was binding pairs of prisoners, back to back, and then throwing them into the Sava River. One source estimates that 770,000 Serbs, 40,000 Gypsies and 20,000 Jews were done to death in the Jasenovac camp.”13
The Ustashe, notwithstanding the comment from the minister of education, while able to permit and carryout this kind of viking barbarity against its Serb, Jewish, and Gypsy population, were not committed to the same when it came to its Muslim minority. This only seems strange if any history of the Ustashe is to leave out the contribution that was made by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem to this unbridled festival of death.
On March 30 1943, the Grand mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin el-Husseini, who in 1941 had met with Hitler about expanding the genocide of the Jews to the middle east, flew to Sarajevo and created an alliance with the Ustashe Catholic regime. Muslims were now seen as member of a religion that “”keeps true the blood of Croats.”14The mufti further galvanized the relationship between the two ideologies by raising and recruiting a Bosnian Muslim SS division which undertook score of crimes against Serbs, Roma, and Jews, when they could be found. The SS division was primarily employed to combat the soviet partisans within Yugoslavia headed by Josip Broz Tito, the future leader of post war Yugoslavia, and the Serb Chetnik resistance. This constituted the trinity of death –Nazism, Catholic Fascism, and Islamic Fascism— which disseminated untold and horrid terror upon the Slavic countryside throughout the second world war.
The Rise of Tito and the New Yugoslavia
Josip Broz Tito came into influence during the Nazi occupation of the former kingdom of Yugoslavia. He was of Croatian ethnicity and despised the forces of fascism that were currently at the helm of the Greater Croatia, the Ustashe. A devoted communist and anti-fascist, he organized a resistance movement against the Nazi and their fascist puppets in Zagreb. After enduring substantial anti-insurgency attacks, and having made some territorial gains, Tito’s partisans became ever increasingly supported by the allies. The dissolution of their resistance rivals, the Serbian Chetniks, due to the Nazi policy of killing masses of Serbs in retaliation for Chetnick attacks, left Tito’s multi-ethnic partisans as the only significant resistance movement remaining in Yugoslavia by the end of 1943. He and his partisans were recognized at the Tehran conference by the leaders of three allied powers, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin. By 1944, the head of the Yugoslavia government in exile, King Peter II, demanded that all Yugoslavs come together under Tito and that all others were to be considered “traitors.”15
At this point, April of 1944, during Serbian Easter, a strange allied airstrike against Belgrade and Serbia occurred. Ostensibly sanctioned to rid the country of remaining Nazi and loyalist forces, the attack struck many civilian targets, including hospitals and peasant farms.16 Speculation among the Serbian populace was that this bombing campaign was undertaken not to rid the Nazis from the region, but to destroy Tito’s rival Serbian Nationalist movements.17 This conjecture is not altogether unwarranted, as it was Tito who chose the targets, all of which were in Serbia.18 The effects of the near obliteration of any party opposed to Tito would usher him to power after the war.
After Yugoslavia was liberated by a combinatorial offensive of Tito’s Partisans and Soviet forces, Tito was elected as the the president of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in what was described as a “highly irregular” electoral process.19 The Yugoslav Peoples Army was established from the partisans and became the 4th largest army in post war Europe. Tito’s reign was established.
Tito and his Slovenian vice president Edvard Kardelj drew up the soviet inspired federalist constitution of 1946, which divided the country into “six federal districts, bosnia- Herzogovinia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia, each with is own administration, mostly under communists.”20 The administrative districts where drawn up in order to maintain a “weak Serbia, for a strong Yugoslavia” as Martin van den Heuval, in his book, The disintegration of Yugoslavia writes in a footnote:
From the first communist agreement about the future political system of Yugoslavia (1943) Tito followed Lenin’s thesis that in a multinational states “the most dangerous nationalism is the one of the largest nation” and the thesis of the Communist International that “Serbian hegemony was the reason for the fall of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia”. According to the opinion of contemporary Serbian intellectuals, that was the motive of the “weak Serbia-strong Yugoslavia” policy, which was concretized(sic) by the establishment of autonomous provinces (the only ones in Yugoslavia) on the territory of Serbia.
The following map from 1968 details the damage that was inflicted on Serbian territorial integrity.
As the above map outlines, a considerable percent of ethnic Serbs found themselves outside the boundaries of Serbia, the majority of this minority being in the “a-national” Bosnia-Herzegovina, which had been under the administration of the Croatian fascist in the Greater Croatia that was established by the Nazi’s during the war. The constitution was set up as a federalist system in which each of the republics maintained autonomy internally, and had representatives at the federal level. The provinces of Kosovo and Vojovinda had autonomy as it related to Serbia. Effectively Serbia was reduced to a federal state within a federal State. The province of Kosovo, remember, was and is the heart of Serbian national and religious sentiment. By this point, however, the province had a majority of Ethnic Albania Muslims whose influx from Albania proper was not in any substantial way checked by the Tito regime. Proposals by the Serbs of Krajina in Croatia, who maintained vivid memories of the destruction brought down upon them by the Ustashe, to create autonomous Serbian regions in Croatia were denied. Increasingly, “many Serbs regarded the overall political arrangement as a solution that was obtained at their expense.” 21
Tito, in following Lenin’s advice, showed little tolerance for nationalist sentiments, jailing anyone who spoke of Croatian, Slovenian, Serbian, or Albanian independence. This status quo remained for much of the three decades following the war.
The latter years of the 1960’s, however, saw an increase in Croatian nationalism, and a reemergence of Ustashe fascist sentiments. After the war, many of the former Ustashe fascists sought refuge in Germany, taking up positions in the west German secret service, the BND, and began a campaign of recruitment and instigation for Croatian nationalism sanctioned by the German government.22 These political machinations ultimately led to the Croatian spring of the 1970’s, in which academics and other political figures within Croatia were all too eager to hear and disseminate the message.
If the original internal administrative borders and political circumstances made the Serbs feel uneasy, the 1974 changes to the Yugoslav constitution did nothing to alleviate these concerns, serving only to exacerbate them. The changes included a granting of greater economic autonomy to the separate administrative republics. Along with these programs, further autonomy was granted to the Serbian provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo. While being granted autonomy from Serbia, these provinces were further allowed more power in the Serbian parliament, inducing a situation in which Kosovo had power over the Serbs, but the Serbs had an increasingly smaller amount, if any, say or influence in the Kosovo province. This situation has been described as a policy of “reverse colonization” where Serbia was at the will and demand of a province that they had very little control over.23
Making the situation increasingly intolerable was the fact that a policy of what can only be described as ethnic cleansing of Serbs had been taking place within Kosovo. With the increase in immigration of Ethnic Muslim Albanians from Albania proper, and the considerably higher birth rate of this population, along with forced removal and harassment, the Kosovo province which was once 50% Serb at the end of WWII, had dwindled to a mere 10% by the 1980’s. 24
After the death of Tito in 1979, who had been declared the president for life under the 1974 constitution, separatists in the Slovene and Croatian Republics used the opportunity to stir up considerably ethnic animosity. Instead of blaming Tito, a Croat, and a communist, for their grievances, the Serbs were blamed for just about every problem the country faced.25 The future leader of the Croatian republic Frando Tudjman, a vile anti-Semite, holocaust denier, Ustashe loyalist, and racial nationalist, wrote the following in his book Wastelands of Historical Reality:
Genocide is a natural phenomenon, in harmony with the societal and mythologically divine nature. Genocide is not only permitted, it is recommended, even commanded by the word of the Almighty, whenever it is useful for the survival or the restoration of the kingdom of the chosen nation, or for the preservation or spreading of its one and only correct faith.26
We will let this be the conclusion to the first part of this unforeseen many part series on this issue. As incoherent as Mr. Tudjman’s statement is, ignoring almost everything of biblical pertinence, these were the sentiments of the Croatian Catholic separatists. The Serbs of the administrative Croatian unit began to see the Croat nationalist movement for exactly what it was, a reestablishment of Ustashe fascism. These pro-Genocide sentiments coupled with a crescendo of anti-Serb sentiment led to the disastrous war of the 1990’s that we will examine in the forthcoming sections.
In the next section we will be introduced to an equally villainous individual in the Bosnian independence movement, Alija Itzebegovich. His Islamic inspired hatred of the Serbs, and virtually everything not Islamic, was the catalyst for the series of wars and massacres that erupted in Bosnia in synchronicity with the Croatian conflagration. Further, the either idiotic or insidious policy of the world community towards the Serbs will begin to be revealed as we examine U.S. policy and U.N. and NATO military interventions.
1. Sray, John E. Lt. Col. U.S. Army. Selling the Bosnian Myth to America: Buyer Beware. October 1995. http://fmso.leavenworth.army.mil/documents/bosnia2.htm
2. See Deichmann, Living Marxism vs. ITN. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Living_Marxism
3. Lord Peter Carrington interview. Documentary: Yugoslavia: The avoidable War
4. Posner, Caleb. Kosovo: Historical Distortions and Current Status. March 7, 2009. http://www.serbianna.com/columns/posner/001.shtml
8. Savich, Carl. The Bosnian Conflict: Origins and History – Bosnia-Hercegovina under Ottoman Rule, 1463-1878 . Serbianna.com
9. Dr. Trifkovic, S. The Yugoslav Crisis and the United States: How to Understand it, What to do About It. Standford Hoover Institute. http://www.srpska-mreza.com/Yugoslavia/views/YU-borders.html
10. Markovic, Marko http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_I_of_Yugoslavia#CITEREFMarkovi.C4.872003
11. Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations,’ Europe, edition 1995, page 91, entry: ‘Croatia.’
13. Dr. Nora Levin, “The Holocaust – The destruction of European Jewry 1933 – 1945,” Schocken Books, New York, Edition 1973, page 515
14. Butić-Jelić, Fikreta. Ustaše i Nezavisna Država Hrvatska 1941-1945. Liber, 1977 Quoted from Wikipedia.
15. Ramet, Sabrina P.; The three Yugoslavias: state-building and legitimation, 1918–2005; Indian University Press, 2005
16. Michael Lees, The Rape of Serbia: The British role in Tito’s Grab for Power, 1943-1945, Harcourt Brace Jovanavich, New York, 1990.
19. Lampe, John R.; Yugoslavia as History: Twice There Was a Country; Cambridge University Press, 2000
20. Encyclopedia Britannica, Book of the year 1946, page 854, Entry “Yugoslavia.”
21. Akahavan, Payam. Yugoslavia, the Former and the Future: Reflections by Scholars of the Region. The United Nations Research Institute for Social Developement. Geneva, Switzerland. 1995. P. 50
22. Doc: Yugoslavia: The Avoidable War
23. Peter Marka, Interviewed by Jared Israel. http://emperors-clothes.com/interviews/tika.htm
24. Doc: Yugoslavia: The Avoidable War
25. Doc: Yugoslavia: The Avoidable War.
26. Tudjman, Franjo. Wastelands of Historical Reality.