Yugoslavia 1996

Ferment IX#12
May 6,1996

Yugoslavia in the 90's

"Confused In All Our Abdications" -(Roy Gutman)

Savage be the Balkans! 48 nationalities living together in Sarajevo , some for half a millenium.If ethnic cleansing is an indigenous virus, it has taken a very long time to emerge from its basement: like legionnaire's disease , unwarning us, full blossomed.

A region of an indestructible resilience, of anomalous worldlines and manifest destinies, bewildering in its cultural wealth ; of pathogenic peninsularity and oceanic hatreds; cave for minds as narrow as molecules, or souls boundless as mountains. Is this why it has always been the nettle of vexations to all architects of New World Orders? Tinder, or spark, or catalyst to discord, anarchy, chaos or global conflagration? Resistant to all despots since the turn of the century, stubber of goose-steps, jackboot slasher, victor(at what hideous cost!) against the Sublime Porte, Franz Joseph, Kaiser Wilhelm, Hitler, Churchill , Stalin, until, having freed itself from all the arthritic ideologies of the 20th century, it intoxicates itself with home-brewed fascist rotgut, no less horrible than those which were sweated out.

Although the large-scale stability of Europe has not been on the agenda since the late 40's, it has been the mother of all of the world wars since 1618 , and should not be taken lightly. (The Thirty Years War, the Seven Years War, The French Revolution followed by the Napoleanic Wars, the wars of 1848, WWI and WWII)

The spiritual ordeal of Yugoslavia is the microcosm of the 20th century : its phenomenology can stand representative for the undissipating birth torments of the entire planet. Briefly, the policies, character, strategic location and even the simple existence , of the republics and peoples of the Yugoslav federation have, in this century, (i) capitulated the Old New World Order of Hapsburgs, Hohenzollerns and Romanovs; (ii) undermined the Anglo-American-Soviet dispensation fabricated at Teheran, Quebec, Moscow, Yalta , Potsdam; (iii) repelled the Germans , following a hideous orgy of self-destruction, with no more than nominal assistance from any great power, making them unique in Europe; (iv) destabilized the 'fraternal', that is to say 'Stalinist' order of communist Eastern Europe .

In resume :

  1. Though I consider myself under an obligation never to believe that any war is ever inevitable, given the immoral fiber of the imperial ruling class of the age, World War I, probably was. The sticking point of that war was Austro-Hungary's annexation of Bosnia in 1908. This violation to the doctrine of the Balance of Powers as defined by the Treaty of Berlin in 1878 ( Between Turkey, Russia, Germany, Austro-Hungary, France and England. Only Germany lacked an empire, but it was already economically powerful ) was tolerated because the European co-signers wanted to keep the Turks - and other swarthy Orientals who were so unwestern-civilized that they couldn't even appreciate Mozart's Turkish Rondo - from reimposing their musky aromas.

    Europe and America even then awaited the wreck of the Ottoman Empire with livid impatience; not realizing then, as they do not realize now, that there are lots of innocent people living in that part of the world who might get hurt. The antiquated theory of the Balance of Powers, ( one might call it the converse of the Domino Effect ) , should not be denigrated: Tito used it to keep peace in Yugoslavia for 45 years.

  2. Much of the violence between the Croatian ustashe and the Serbian chetniks in World War II revolved around control of Bosnia-Hercegovina 3. The Muslims were always the victims; they seem to have been destined for this role even before the Turks came to occupy the Balkans in the 14th century. (Not being Turks themselves: they are descended from the Bogomil Christian-Zoroastrians who converted to Islam to escape relentless persecution from both Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians. Bogomils, like Cathars and Albigensians, were guilty of the ideological crime of maintaining that evil really exists in our world.)

  3. Anglo-American hegemony, of very recent origins in world history , is what people really mean whenever the solecism of 'Western Civilization' is used to confuse the issues. The widest cracks in this hegemony during the Second World War were opened by the divergence of imperial objectives in the Adriatic and the Balkans .

    Monarchy has always been the British default mode. Churchill got Roosevelt's hackles up by his efforts to place or replace discredited or defenestrated kings back on the thrones of Yugoslavia, Greece, Rumania and even Italy.("The Iron Curtain" ; Frank J. Harbutt, pg. 73-75) Then, towards the end of 1944, England sent troops into Greece to displace the partisan groups that had done most of the fighting; some of them were communist , but that wasn't the point, nor does it justify anything.("Beginnings of the Cold War" ; Martin F. Herz, pg.116)

    Churchill's proposal that another D-Day landing take place in Croatia, to sweep north to Vienna and meet the Red Army, was surprisingly encouraged by Stalin but strongly opposed by Roosevelt ( Herz, op. cit.; pg 144) ; echoing what appears to be an eternal axiom of our foreign policy, he would never agree to anything that committed American troops to the Balkans. Finally the Trieste crisis, which almost led to the renewal of hostilities between England, the US, Yugoslavia and Russia. Who would have been fighting with whom, or for what, is no doubt unknowable ( in the sense of Quantum Theory: the attempt to understand can only produce more confusion .)

  4. After breaking with Stalin in 1948, Tito shook up Cominform conformity all through the Cold War. The mental incarceration imposed by a harsh, bungling but unshakeable Russian despotism , was constantly being lock- picked by the more innovative experiments of Yugoslavian communism. Admiration for the Yugoslavian model motivated the Poznan revolt in Poland in June of 1955 ; the Hungarian revolution of 1956, ( to which Tito's response was ambivalent and confused ; apparently he drew the line at multiparty democracy ); and the Prague summer of 1968.(M. Thompson, "A Paper House", pg. 75; E. Crankshaw, "Khrushchev-A Career", pg. 239 )

Now, as of this writing, the disintegration of the Yugoslavian federation has all but demolished the Utopian New World Order (some argue that it's completed the job ) , loosed upon the world by George Bush on August 30, 1991 , who somehow imagined that ,consecrated on the blood-drenched sands of Iraq, he could, much in the manner of Bismarck's alchemic marriage of the Germanies in 1879 on the ravaged soils of France, unify the world .

I have discovered , at every turn, far more questions than there are answers:

  1. Why did the 6 republics and 2 provinces, 5 nations , 25 nationalities, ethnic groups and minorities of the Yugoslav federation , having managed to hold together through 35 years of Tito's rule and 4 constitutions, even maintaining an ( increasingly nominal ) cohesion for 11 years after his death, suddenly implode into conflagration within months of the passing away of the Cold War?

  2. Why have all the great powers and organizational structures of Bush's New World Order , while contradicting each other at every level and in every crisis , yet pursued consistentl long-term policies which passively condone, or directly/ indirectly encourage, or even render overt assistance to Serbia's systematic genocide against the Bosnian Muslims?

    It was these two overlooked or ignored open questions , (or merely beyond the reference frames of the press ) , that initially attracted my interest. Although I still don't have good answers for them , it seemed to me that they were related. Each of them is polyhedral, with many facets that reveal themselves depending on how they are turned in the dim illumination, and although both have been thoroughly and competently documented , no deeply inquiring eye has yet been directed to them.

Let me give a few examples. With regard to the first question there was this kind of consideration, which I would have thought was fairly obvious:

The remittances sent home by the Yugoslavian guest worker, that redoubtable semi-skilled European Chicano, were critical to the economic survival of Tito's 'self-managed socialism' . The termination of the Cold War did away with over 4 decades of restrictions on the free movement of populations between Eastern and Western Europe. The flood of this competing , desperate labor force, willing to work for any wage under any conditions, made the Yugoslav guestworker redundant. These new demographics must have been a major factor when Yugoslavia's economy plummeted in 1990.("The Yugoslav economy had, by 1990 for all practical purposes, disintegrated. With unemployment standing at more than 15 percent, an annual inflation rate of 127 percent ( as of March 1991), a foreign debt of $22 billion and a 1990 trade deficit of $2.7 billion, the economic infrastructure itself was becoming unraveled, holding the promise of continued deterioration." Sabrina Ramet, "Balkan Babel", pg. 44 )

Turning now to the second question: one knows that in Tito's Yugoslavia, ethnic nationalism in any form was equated with anti-communism. It followed that the reverse was also true, that extreme anti-communists would readily make common cause with extreme nationalists. ("The authentic Serbian nationalists were anti-communist because federalism ...was a communist affair".M. Thompson, op. cit. pg. 191) Exile groups of Croats, Serbs, Slovenes and others living in the West must have ingratiated themselves to the utmost with our powerful anti-communist organizations, whose enormous wealth has been instrumental in shaping American foreign policy for the last 50 years. This is certainly a factor to consider when seeking an explanation for the puzzling paralysis of Congress and the President since June 24,1991, when war first broke out in Slovenia and Croatia.

In very general terms: the brilliant internal balancing acts of Tito, Djilas, Rankovich and Kardelj, while preserving the artificial orders of applied pilasters of the Yugoslavian cathedral, had also depended on an equally ingenious system of external flying buttresses pitting capitalists against communists. As a liaison state for purposes of trade, negotiation, and espionage, Yugoslavia was able to render valuable services to both sides. "[Yugoslavia] became an anomaly within a world system that, in principle if not in fact, refused to recognize anomalies.... " (Thompson, op, cit, pg. 3)

While following up on these issues , I was developing a long list of other questions, all basic , which I felt needed to be answers, ( from those people who claim to be able to answer them), and for which I could find none. The conclusion that a great deal of the truth is being hidden from us is foregone , not that I would want to believe otherwise : were the truth as silly as what we are supposed to believe, the world would be reduced to a conundrum of madmen and simpletons. Investing a great deal of effort over an adequate period of time would clarify many of these questions, though perhaps not the important ones.


This checklist of questions will be followed by my attempts to deal with them, even if no answer is forthcoming:

  1. What are the immediate causes of the wars that have been raging on the territory of the former Yugoslavia since June 24,1995?

  2. What are the broader causes?

  3. Why did the federation endure at all, even under Tito?

  4. Why did it last a full decade after his death?

  5. Why, although Gorbachev's Perestroika brought no immediate restructuring of the government of Yugoslavia, as it did for Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Rumania, Poland, Bulgaria, Albania, Hungary, and the Soviet Union itself, its effects have been more devastating there than anywhere else?

  6. Why have the most powerful governments and organizations in the modern world left Bosnia to its fate? , to a genocide so blatant that it can scarcely be characterized as "war? "

  7. Why is it that, in an age so infatuated with Holocaust-guilt, that so few voices have been raised in official circles to identify Serbia's destruction of Bosnia by its real name: the return of a fully reified Nazism on the European mainland, complete with Einsatzgruppen , mass exterminations, mass deportations , concentration camps , perverse tortures, systematic rape, and a pre-meditated campaign of obliteration of all the monuments and legacies of Islamic civilization - mosques, schools, museums, libraries?

  8. Why has the American press all but ignored the fact that, while the Serb and Bosnian Serb armies have ethnically cleansed 70% of the territory of Bosnia-Hercegovina , Croatia has created its own enclave in Hercegovina, (Herceg-Bosna ) covering another 20% ?

  9. How did Milosevich, Karadzjic and Mladic know in advance, all the way back in 1990, that they could get away with it?

  10. Why, on September 25, 1991, did the UN pass, then never modify, an arms embargo that only affected the Bosnian Muslims?

  11. What has motivated the dizzying series of policy shifts, evasions and abdications that we have seen coming out of Washington from the last years of the reign of Bush until the Dayton accords that, despite their eccentric orbit, have produced a de facto Balkan policy that would have won the admiration of Neville Chamberlain?

  12. What are the prospects for our future; and, indeed, I am speaking seriously about the world's future?

Solutions and/or Speculations:

1.What are the immediate causes of the wars that have been raging on the territory of the former Yugoslavia since June 24,1995?

The immediate causes are known, although new facts continue to surface. The twin binding forces of the Yugoslavian federation were Josef Broz Tito and communism . One could perhaps describe Tito's peace machine as the dynamic manipulation of semi-stable ethnic servo - mechanisms. Yugoslavians, of whatever nation , could feel that they were not being discriminated against as a whole; but once the governments of the republics declared their independence, their internal imbalances tipped them into civil war. When Tito purged and humiliated Serbs in Croatia, he would see to it that Croats were purged and humiliated in Serbia. What we are seeing today is certainly the most horrible demonstration of everything that is wrong with the often attractive alternative of peace preservation through the strongman's fiat . Mark Thompson gives an excellent description of the system :

" ..... Yugoslav federalism was a technique that depended in the last analysis on Tito's authority and native wit. It functioned by balancing the biggest nations, sometimes using the nationalities, ensuring a parity of grievances as well as rights. Serbia, the dominant nation.....was weakened by turning pre-war 'South Serbia' into the republic of Macedonia, by making Montenegro a nation in its own right, and by creating two further federal units within Serbia: the 'autonomous provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo'. The Serbs of Croatia, meanwhile, were over-represented in their republican elites, as a kind of compensation that also curbed Croatian ambitions. Persecution of Catholic clerics in Zagreb was matched by persecution of Orthodox clerics in Belgrade. After purging the reform movement in Croatia in 1971, Tito moved to purge the Serbian reformists. " (M. Thompson, op.cit., pg, 92 ) The entire political structure, from the tiny group of rulers at the top, to local administrators , managers and civil servants , was embodied in the League of Communists of Yugoslavia:

"The League of Communists of Yugoslavia was the state inside the state. The elaboration contraptions of federal government were never meant to function without it...... Whatever differences arose between members of the federation......could in theory be resolved by the LCY, with its monolithic discipline." (Thompson, op cit pg. 223)

Tito died in May, 1980. The LCY fell apart at the 14th Congress of the LCY at Belgrade, on January 23, 1990. When the Slovenes asked for more democracy in the policies of the LCY, the Serb delegation accused them of attacking democracy as they understood it, that is to say , 'democratic centralism ' Then the Slovenian delegation, followed by Croatia's , stood up and walked out.

In the aftermath of this event, the extreme right, including former banker Slobodan Milosevic, writer Dobrica Cosic , and others gained control of the central government by an appeal to Serbian nationalism with marked tendencies to paranoia. Their instruments were rigged elections, mass demonstrations against minorities, police repression against the Albanians in the state of Kosovo, and a resurrection of the fabulous dream of a lost "Greater Serbia" that had as much do with real history than Noah's Ark with floods in the Ancient Near East. In the wake of a series of provocations that culminated with Milosevic's abrogation of the Yugoslavian constitution of 1974 , Slovenia and Croatia proclaimed their independence on June 25th, 1991 . On June 26th, the Yugoslavian Liberation Army ( JLA - now Serbia's army) , descended on Slovenia with massive force in firepower and troops.

The 20-day war in Slovenia resulted in a total victory for the Slovenes, with a loss of about 70 persons. There is little reason to believe that Serbia could have prevailed. A glance at the map tells everything. Slovenia looks like Britain turned horizontal in a clockwise direction. Its' northern and western borders are contiguous with Italy, Austria and Hungary. It was the most prosperous and most westernized of all the republics of the federation, having been incorporated in the Austro-Hungarian empire for two centuries , and relatively homogeneous population. It does not seem credible that Italy, Austria, NATO or the EC , would have tolerated a common border with Serbia.

Croatia fared much worse. Even before Croatia declared independence, nationalist groups in the regions where the Serbs were concentrated, Eastern and Western Slavonia, Knin and Karolac Krajina, and Banija, had began to arm and organize for rebellion. Now they called upon Serbia for protection; or it might have been the other way around: there is little doubt that Serbia had been active in these regions for some time, stirring up local animosities and fears. Isolated within Croatia, surrounded by lingering memories and visible momentos of the horrors of World War II, in which at least 350,000 Serbs were murdered by fascist Croats, (ustaches) , they had every reason to be apprehensive.

The government of Franjo Tudjman was far from innocent in these developments. Serb fears were hardly appeased when Tudjman began to whip up an obscene chauvinism as terrifying as Milosevic's in Serbia . Although units of the JLA were withdrawn from Croatia in June , this was a transparent ploy ; arms, money and personnel passed over from the JLA to the local Serb leaders in the contested regions. The second war, which began in August of 1991, lasted 7 months. The official death toll is 10,000, with 400,000 refugees abroad, and over 500,000 displaced within the republics of the former federation.

By December the Serbs had established autonomous regions over about 30% of Croatian territory. The "Republic of Serb Krajina", was ruled as a police dictatorship by Milan Martic, whom Milosevic had appointed to his post. Then Germany, followed by the EC , officially recognized Slovenia and Croatia as sovereign nations. This move, contrary to what is often stated, appears to have helped somewhat in the winding down of the war. It was, however, a calamity for Bosnia:

" The revival of the conflict between Serbia and Croatia ...brought Bosnia to the edge of the catastrophe. For a long time this was by no means obvious and the majority of Bosnians remained committed to maintaining the peace.... The decision by the European Community to recognize Slovenia and Croatia pushed Bosnia into the abyss." (Misha Glenny, op.cit, pg. 143)

It is also sometimes argued that Alia Izetbegovic, the president of Bosnia-Hercegovina, should have seen the writing on the wall and negociated with Milosevic for some recognition inside his Serb-dominated federation. The reason people say this is that they want to find some way to throw the blame for the ensuing nightmare back onto the victims themselves. No one can possibly claim that Izetbegovic is a saint, or even a hero, but even his detractors admit that he is civilized, thoughtful and, relative to the Balkan continuum, sane:

" ....the reality was that Alia Izetbegovic was trapped in a Hobson's choice. Along with the President of Macedonia, Gligorov, Izetbegovic had tried desperately throughout 1991 to work out a formula for a loose Yugoslav confederation. It was Slobodan Milosevic who would have none of this, and insisted that what had to happen in Yugoslavia was increased centralization- another way of saying more power for Serbia and for himself.... under a tragically false impression that Europe would guarantee its sovereignty, the Bosnian government opted for a referendum on independence..." ( Slaughterhouse, David Rieff, pg. 162)

It has recently come out that meetings were being held between Tudjman and Milosevic, even before the war in Croatia , in which the partition of Bosnia-Hercegovina was raised. This became the sole item on the agenda in the important secret meeting between them and their advisors held in April, 1991. The following is an excerpt from an article by Slobodan Reljic in the Belgrade journal "Nin" of August 11,1995:

"...Then came the second, secret meeting, in April 1991. The meeting included the two presidents and their military advisors.: Serb representatives were Kosta Mihailovic, Smilja Avramov, Ratko Markovic and Vladan Kutlesic, while Croatia was represented by Dusan Bilandzic, Smiljko Sokol, Josip Sentija and Zvonko Lerotic ......Bosnia was the main theme, and the majority opinion (6:2) was that Bosnia should be divided. The Croatians offered to give up some of Bosnia in exchange for Knin Krajina and the Plitvice lakes. The Bihac pocket was naturally understood to be Croat.

Ethnic maps, with Serb and Croat regions identified by distinct colors were the focal point .There was a serious discussion of population resettlements. Further meetings were held in October of 1991. in Moscow, under Gorbachev's auspices and in the Hague, during the first phase of the "Yugoslavia conference".

It should be said that Franjo Tudjman has never been diffident about going vocal with his intentions. Every time he is interviewed on this matter, he reiterates his intention to carve up Bosnia. At the drop of a napkin, he will draw you a diagram with a large S-shaped curve cutting through its middle.

The invasion of Bosnia began on April 7th, 1992 within hours of the recognition of the sovereignty of Bosnia-Hercegovina by the United States and the European Community. Coordinated by Milosevic , Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadjzic and general Ratko Mladic it was, from its inception in the occupation and destruction of Zvornik, right across the Serbian border in northeast Bosnia, a war based on a strategy of atrocity and slaughter. Within a few months, the Serbs controlled 70% of the territory of Bosnia which, since then, has been methodically subjected to ethnic cleansing of its Muslim population. It can be argued that the struggle for the land was effectively over by the end of 1992 ; since then the Bosnian Serb war effort has been devoted to the expulsion or extermination of its population, and the obliteration of their civilization - 5 years of unrestrained genocide in other words , with little more than paper-rattling from the world community.

One of the novelties of this war has been the introduction of rape as a weapon. Regular readers of Ferment will recognize that I am revealing my biases when I observe that Karadjzic is a psychiatrist and one can expect anything from those people. One must give him credit for the brutal efficacy of his invention. Rape is a form of soul murder. Mass rape, by attacking national consciousness, assists in the nation's psychological destruction.

Croatia has not been idle: after closing its borders to Bosnian refugees , it moved in western Hercegovina to establish a Croatian state , "Herceg-Bosna". This state, rarely mentioned in our press, now covers about 20% of Bosnia-Hercegovina. Incomprehensibly, at around the same time, Croatia entered into an alliance with Bosnia against the Serbs. There had been a breakdown in talks held in Graz, Austria, between Karadjzic and Mate Boban, Gauleiter of Herceg-Bosna . The alliance , though based on conflicting war objectives, lasted until April, 1993, when it collapsed in an orgy of butchery between the two parties.

"At this stage, the fighting in Bosnia-Hercegovina began to break the bounds of imagination . " ( Glenny, op. cit., pg. 230)

The period from May to August, 1995, saw the dramatic changes in all the theatres of the war that have led to the Dayton peace accords . By inflicting yet more suffering on the resident populations, the cartography was moved towards that kind of simplistic stability that the Great Powers seem to like. With the encouragement and most likely the support of Germany and the United States, Croatia recaptured all of the areas it had lost in the war of 1991. More than 80% of its Serb citizenry were expelled, with 450,000 refugees created in a matter of days. Most of these fled into eastern Bosnia, where they have become settlers in those desolate and vacated areas where the indigenous populations have been eliminated.

Russia, sensing , ( or knowing) that the war was coming to an end because there was nothing left to fight for, signed economic and military agreements with Serbia in September 1994, and February ,March and May, 1995.

On July 11th, 1995, the Bosnian Serb army overran Srebrenica, one of the half dozen isolated 'safe havens' in Serb-controlled territory in central Bosnia. 42,000 refugees were bottled up there in a kind of reservation, under the hopeless protection of UNPROFOR. It is believed now that as many as 10,000 of them were liquidated within a few days. Zepa suffered a similar fate.

Today's map shows that almost all Croatians are Croats; almost all occupants of the 'Srbsk Republic' are Serbs; almost all Croats live in territories controlled by Zagreb ; almost all Serbs live in territories controlled by Belgrade; and the remaining Muslims also live in a homogeneous province that covers no more than 6% of the original territory of Bosnia. It was time for America to step in and crow that it had brought peace where the Europeans had failed. I incline to the more cynical perception, that America was now satisfied that all of its foreign policy objectives had been fulfilled.