Sunday, 21 November 2010

Croatia: Myth and Reality (10) - C. Michael McAdams - The New Mythology: Equal Guilt or Serbian Innocence

C. Michael McAdams

At Dayton another less noticed agreement was reached that established a one to two year transition of the remaining Serb-occupied lands in Croatia back to Croatian civil control. Since the transition was to be overseen by the only remaining UN force in Croatia, and not NATO as in Bosnia, the threat of renewed war remained high. The Serbian population that drove out or slaughtered thousands of Croatians and reduced the city of Vukovar to rubble, did not look forward to their neighbors return. Given previous UN incompetence and open support of the Serbs, the two-year "transition" could fail. Croatia let the Serb population know that it is willing to work with an open hand. But unlike 1991, Croatia's open hand in 1996 was backed by a powerful fist in the form of the combat-proven Croatian Army.

The New Mythology: Equal Guilt or Serbian Innocence

For the first time since World War II, an International Tribunal was established at The Hague in the Netherlands to investigate and prosecute rape, murder, slavery, and crimes against humanity. Among the first to be charged with crimes in November of 1995 were "Bosnian Serb" leaders Karadzic, Mladic and over forty others. In February 1996, two other high ranking Serb officers were captured in Bosnia and extradited. Whether the true architect of the war and the crimes, Slobodan Milosevic will be charged remains to be seen at this writing. The magnitude of the crimes may never be known as concerted efforts were made to hide evidence, destroy documents and bury bodies. As many as 8,500 Muslim men may have been executed at a single site after Serb forces over ran the UN "safe haven" of Srebrenica in July, 1995. The total number of deaths was over one quarter million. Rapes were estimated at twenty to forty thousand, and well into 1996 thousands were still be held in Serbian concentration camps or in forced labor for the Serbian Yet even as the entire world took notice and as one first-hand report after another appeared, the Serbian disinformation campaign to hide the crimes began. The New York Times labeled it "a war against memory." As early as 1993 Texas journalist Peter Brock, writing in the journal Foreign Policy, lamented the unfair treatment that Serbs received in the press. He wrote of "minimally damaged Dubrovnik," Muslim provocation of the Serbian army and even hinted that Muslims had shelled themselves to gain Western sympathy. In the same article, the reporter for the El Paso Herald-Post dismissed the Pulitzer Prize winning works of Roy Gutman of Newsday and John Burns of the New York Times on Serbian atrocities.

In early 1996 the blatantly propagandistic film Vukovar made its debut in the United States. The movie was to have been shown at the United Nations in late 1995 but was rejected for its revisionist character and because it was made in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. The movie was made in Serbian occupied Croatia and violated a number of UN sanctions. Despite that, it made the rounds of North American theaters with its less than subtle message that the Croatians had started the war and they were responsible for the destruction of Vukovar.

At the same time, a Croatian film Vukovar - The Way Home, describing the plight of the true victims of Vukovar living in train box cars, drew little notice. While critics from a number of leading papers panned the Serbian film as obvious propaganda, a United States Senator called it "prophetic and lyrical" and urged a White House screening and the Los Angeles Times wrote in March 1996, that despite the film's "...clear attempt at objectivity the Croatian government blocked the screening of this courageous and power anti-war film at the United Nations."

Despite such mythology, and unlike the crimes of the past, Serbia will not be able to make these crimes disappear. Far too much was seen by far too many. The facts recognized by the entire world were that Kosova, Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina were the victims of Serbian aggression. A quarter of a million died, tens of thousands of women and men were raped, two million were made homeless, hundreds of towns, villages and cities were laid to waste. But not one shot was fired in Serbia; no blade of grass was bent; no window was broken. Serbia emerged untouched with half of Bosnia as its prize for rape and pillage. No amount of ancient fiction or new mythology will ever make Serbia the victim or erase these crimes. From this war, myth will not triumph over reality.

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