ichael . benson on Sun, 20 Jun 1999 14:46:02 +0000

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Re: Syndicate: moral responsibility

James writes:

> I am always struck by how simple your view of the break up of the
> Former Yugoslavia is.  There are never Serbian refugees, or Croatian
> or Bosnian atrocities.  

I submit:

>>Date sent:        Tue, 30 Mar 1999 23:47:10 +0000:

>>...reports, forensic evidence, satellite photographs, etc. I refer
>>you also to war crimes transcripts at the International Human Rights
>>Tribunal at The Hague. These sources are more than enough to
>>establish a very clear pattern of behavior on the part of the
>>Serbian fascist --I'll say it again: fascist; that's what it is --

>>This does not mean I am an apologist for the disgusting and corrupt
>>Croatian regime, which is also fascist, nor does it mean I'm working
>>for anybody; sorry!  

You know, deploring one doesn't have to involve endorsing the other. 
We're not living in a black and white world! 

Or this:

>>Date sent:        Thu, 24 Jun 1999 14:16:46 +0000

>>In fact, Bush-and-Clinton, Major, Mitterand and company
>>should probably have gotten together to write a new text book on
>>post-modern appeasement techniques -- in which the appearance of
>>action cloaks a total unwillingness to take the political risks
>>necessary to counter Serbian (or for that matter, Croatian)
>>territorial conquest in Bosnia. 

And etc. 

James, you say:

>The Serbs did not desolve a relatively functional state on their
> own.  

No, on the contrary what they did was to try to re-assert centralized
control in a state that had been quite effectively decentralized by
Tito in the early 70's precisely to forestall nascent nationalist
discontent. He was a cunning guy, Tito, and he understood how to keep
a multinational country together far better than (the understatement
of the decade!) Slobodan Milosevic.

Of course, the above is a simplification of a complex story abridged
to make a point. It involved throwing various people into jail. 

Removal of the autonomous status of Kosovo and Vojvodina was part of
those late-80's moves by the Serbian socialist government under
Milosevic to extend direct rule from Belgrade. This marked the
beginning of the transition from "brotherhood and unity" socialism to
"blut-boden" *national* socialism. Late 80's and 1990 attempts to 
broker a solution acceptable to all the republics, which would have 
preserved Yugoslavia, were consistently blocked by Milosevic. They 
all had many meetings, we saw it all on TV, they were unable to come 
to an agreement. Then his government stole 2/3rds of the entire state 
budget of Yugoslavia, one fine weekend in 1990! After that decisions 
were made, in Ljubljana Zagreb and elsewhere, that it was impossible 
to continue with the Yugoslav project. Correct decisions. Seems to 

This is all on the public record. 

>Was/Is Tudjman some sort of innocent?

Tudjman is a corrupt fascist on the model of South American banana
republic leaders of the 50's-60's-70's. Since you asked. Braids on the
shoulders, ribbons on the chest, a snake in the heart.

In my judgement, though, Tudjman never would have started a war. I may
be wrong about this. I think Tudjman would have been content to
exploit the wealth of Croatia, buy himself large state yachts and Lear
jets, and make sure that every Croatian bookstore was packed to the
gills with large coffee-table type books with his portrait on the
cover and 500 pages or so of laudatory text inside about what a
benevolent genius and father of his country he is. That's his idea of
a good time.

This doesn't take away from the back-log of war crimes that lead right
to his door. He deserves indictment as well. But, at the beginning at
least, he was reactive, not active. After all, one third of Croatia
was occupied by the Yugoslav Army! 

But we were talking about Kosovo. Tudjman doesn't figure.

> Why was Germany, and much of the West, so eager to support the
> breakup of the old state?  

This is a typical compound of an exceedingly small percentage of truth
and a large boat-load of falsehood. Secretary of State James Baker
flew into Belgrade in '90 and basically said -- to Slobo and the
assembled generals -- "we support the territorial integrity of
Yugoslavia." Which was widely read as a big green light to impose that
integrity by force. (Incidentally, Baker is also responsible for
another colossal boner, when he instructed US Ambassador to Iraq April
Gallaspie to tell Saddam Hussein -- in response to Hussein's direct
question conveyed to Baker through Gallaspie -- that the US had "no
position on Iraq's border dispute with Kuwait." Baker was a kind of
green light specialist. Other people had to pay.)

On the other hand, when it became clear that nothing, nothing 
at all, was going to keep Slovenia and Croatia from jumping 
out of the leaking Yugoslav boat, German foreign minister Genscher
definitely saw an opportunity for Germany to re-assert a leading role
in post-socialist Central Europe. And forced through recognition of
those states. Over the objections of a lot of other countries. I 
believe, though, that he thought that such recognition might help end 
the Belgrade-directed campaign against Croatia. 

You would probably say the road to hell is paved with good 
intentions. My problem with Genscher's action was that it didn't hold
out the requirement that Croatia adhere, in a verifiable way, to the
human rights standards that are even spelled out in the Croatian
constitution. After recognition that leverage was gone.

Tudjman should have gone to Jasenovac, gotten down on his knees, and
said that Croatia would never be able to live down that tragedy and
would certainly protect the rights of its minorities. It wouldn't have
been in character, though, to put it mildly! But I still think it
wouldn't have changed anything. In the summer of 1990, Mihajlo
Markovic, the Praxis group philosopher and a close advisor of
Milosevic, made it clear to me in an interview that "steps would be
taken" in Croatia. Slovenia, he said, would be allowed to leave.

>Did Serbs have no legitimate interest in trying to protect Serbian
> populations long established in Croatia, Bosnia, and now Kosovo?

Yeah, but not by evicting the non Serbian populations in a campaign of
terror and murder! Why is it so hard to understand that? The so-called
Krajna region of Croatia was the first massive example of ethnic
cleansing -- and I'm not talking about Serbs being evicted by
victorious Croats here, I'm talking about Croats being evicted by the
JNA (under the command of the appropriately-named Ratko Mladic) and
vicious hordes of paramilitaries. This is all well-documented. Those
who piss and moan about the very real disaster that befell the Serbs
evicted from their ancestral lands in Croatia several years later
generally fail to mention that those lands had been entirely cleansed
of their Croat populations in '91-92. When the Croatian army showed
up, the local Serbs of course ran like hell, and with good reason.
"Those to whom evil is done / do evil in return". Auden.

Not a justification. An observation.

Some would say that Serbian 'cleansing' of the Krajna, total 
destruction of Vukovar, shelling of Dubrovnik, etc., was all 
pre-emptive -- that the Serbs had a legitimate fear of the 'Ustache
regime' in Zagreb. Well, again we have a percentage of truth and a
large amount of falsehood. Tudjman did very little to assuage the
fears of the Serbs. But the reason state-controlled Serbian media is
directly complicit in the manufacture of this war is that they worked
overtime to fan the fears of the Croatian and Bosnian Serbs -- most of
whom were peasants really unable to be skeptical about what they were
being told, ceaselessly, by their TV's. This created conditions ripe
for the ethnic cleansing that followed. When you pour into this mix
the power of the JNA, and the deployment of paramilitaries
specifically recruited from jails, in groups run by hardened criminals
wanted by interpol (no, I'm not making this up), you've got the
makings of a real blood-bath. 

> You try to sound fair minded, but you see this in a way in which all
> evil in the Balkans is Serbian.  

No, not really. But I'm not shy about identifying where that evil
started, at least in it's current wave. (For a look at its origins in 
 previous wave, look at the tragic personal family stories of 
Milosevic, Mladic, Adzic, Mirjana Markovic. Everything we've seen is 
a 20th century story.) Again, evil has a way of breeding yet more 
evil. If you corral civilized, essentially non-violent people in 
squalid ethnic ghettoes, shell them for years, all the while shouting 
that they are Turks, mujahadeen fanatics, etc., you are going to end 
up reaping the whirlwind. And you will certainly create another 
generation bent on revenge, a new twist in the DNA spiral of 
violence. You would have me out there as some pro-NATO warmonger. 
What I deplore is all this violence, from the beginning, and the 
necessity of the NATO action in the first place. It doesn't mean I 
don't see that necessity, though; I do. It should have happened much, 
much earlier. Like for example at Vukovar. All this could have been 
avoided, with some enlightened leadership in the West. That's the 
real crime.

Slobodan says it takes two to make a war. Well sure; somebody 
hits you repeatedly in the face, and you either let that person beat
you to death or you fight back, if you can. When you fight back, you
are open to accusations of being a war-monger. It's not very
Quakerly, but there it is. 

James, you accuse me of having a simple view of the break-up of
Yugoslavia. It's fluff.


Michael Benson  <michael.benson@pristop.si>
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