Saturday, 20 November 2010

Croatia: Myth and Reality (07) - C. Michael McAdams - Strike Two: Operation Storm

C. Michael McAdams

By the end of April, Serbs were randomly shooting at motorists who tried to travel the road resulting in four deaths and a number of wounded as UN Jordanian and Nepalese "peacekeepers" looked on. When Serb forces moved to strengthen their hold on the highway, all 2,750 UN "peacekeepers" in the region took shelter in their base camps. On April 30th the Croatian government demanded that the UN forces follow their mandate by preventing attacks on Croatian civilians.

When the UN again refused to take action the Croatian police and army moved to restore control over the motorway on May lst. Thirty-three hours later the Croatian Army had liberated a two hundred square mile pocket that had been under Serbian occupation since 1991. UN and EC observers, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and the Red Cross were immediately brought into the area to assure that no ethnic Serb residents were mistreated. Rumors of such mistreatment (some of which made it into the Western press) were immediately proved false by UN and EC observers.

The Serbs responded with their only proven tactic, firing missiles into Zagreb and six other cities. Serb targets included the airport, the National Theater where 43 ballet dancers from a dozen countries were wounded, the Academy of Arts and Sciences (missing by a few yards and almost hitting the US Embassy), and the Children's Hospital wounding a number of ill children and killing one police officer.

Other targets of the internationally-banned "cluster rockets" included a school and the Zagreb cathedral. Despite the fact that Croatian and Bosnian forces had heavy artillery within visual range of the rebel Serbs capital of Knin, there was no retaliation.

By May 8th most ethnic Serbs in the liberated territories had returned to their homes, including the Serbian-installed mayor. Most of the 1500 Serb soldiers captured were granted amnesty. One hundred and eighty-six were held on charges of rape, mass murder, and service in concentration camps. The Croatian government allowed UN troops to return and reestablish a buffer zone between their forces and remaining pockets of Serbian occupation despite the UN's obvious inaction in preventing Serbian aggression of the previous four years. The swift and decisive action took the so-called "Great Powers" by surprise and was an embarrassing reminder of the total inaction of the United Nations of the previous four years. Rather than being praised, Croatia was condemned by some for violating the "truce," which in fact had never existed for front-line towns and villages throughout Croatia. The United Nations Security Council went so far as to condemn Croatia and the news was filled with accounts of "Croatia's spring offensive." As had happened so often in this war, the victim of aggression became the aggressor in the eyes of the UN.

Unlike the UN, the European Community, NATO and the United States, Croatia now appeared willing and indeed able to contain Serbian expansionism and aggression despite the illegal and immoral arms embargo against it.

Strike Two: Operation Storm

In August of 1995 the world again looked on in disbelief as the small Croatian army launched "Operation Storm" to liberate remaining lands occupied by "rebel Serbs" supported by Belgrade. Despite years of warnings by the socalled "Great Powers" that the Serbs were virtually invincible and that such an assault would take months, if not years, and thousands of lives, the Croatian operation was over in days with few casualties.

For four years the Serbs of the occupied area known as Krajina ("Borderland") had shelled Croatian cities on a daily basis. Despite the assaults, the Croatian government continued to negotiate without success. In late July 1995 a tentative agreement was reached to give the Krajina Serbs, three percent of Croatia's population, their own mini-state with its own flag, currency, and local police, and the Serbian language protected by Croatia. The response was more shelling. The government then warned the Krajina Serbs that further shelling would be met with a military response. Before Croatia took any action, it notified the UN which dutifully notified the Serbian army. The first pin-point Croatian artillery knocked out key military posts and communications with virtually no damage to the city of Knin. The Serbian army turned and ran while intentionally panicking the civilian population, integrating its fleeing forces, tanks, and artillery with the civilian exodus.

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