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New Series no.17/18 July - September 2000


Days of barbarism and shame

On 20 September 1991 Montenegro was proclaimed an ecological state, as its reservists were sent off to Mostar and Dubrovnik. The operation was called `War for Peace'. Monitor published a series of articles about this peace-making. `Those who in the course of January and September 1991 were assuring us through the state media that the Croats were a genocidal people and the Croatian borders ``unjust'', found it easy in October to take up arms and move with a song against Dubrovnik.' During the September days Monitor argued that the attempt to draw Montenegro into the Serbo-Croat conflict could succeed only by exaggerating the danger of Croatian expansionism and by provoking a conflict at Debeli Brijeg [on the Croatian-Montenegrin border]. `The announcement that a massing of Croatian police and National Guard forces has been observed on the Croatian-Montenegrin border, and that roadblocks have been erected there to prevent speedy getaways, is intended as a media shock to prepare those already brainwashed by an unprecedented media campaign for the glorious aim of defending Montenegrin territory against the ``Ustashe''!'

`Is it Dubrovnik's turn?', asked Monitor. `At a time when thousands of mobilized Montenegrin reservists are fighting outside their republic, the official version that Montenegro is not at war may be acceptable to someone with loftier concerns, but it is unsupported by any arguments. If anything, it is highly offensive to all those who have fallen in battle. Unwilling to admit the ultimate goal of the troops moving in the direction of Dubrovnik, official circles have instead circulated several mutually contradictory explanations. The warriors on the Dubrovnik front insist that they are defending Yugoslavia, which is undoubtedly their strongest argument; but this stance contradicts the recent statement made by prime minister Milo dukanovic, which is that we are about to establish a new and final frontier with Croatia.'

Monitor's comment `We shall remain alone' - published soon after the start of the operation on the Dubrovnik-Herzegovina front, undertaken on the pretext of Montenegrin self-defence - explained the nature of the military offensive: `Given that the original thesis - that we were concerned with the defence of Boka Kotorska and the garrison on Prevlaka - has been rendered meaningless, not even the best-intentioned interpreter of official statements can explain the point of the attack on Dubrovnik. Since there are no garrisons either in that city or in Cavtat, the explanation that it has to do with their liberation is obviously bankrupt. Those who, for whatever motive, launched the attack knew or should have known that the whole world was watching them. Why this job was given mainly to Montenegrin reservists is a question that we hope will soon be answered. But the Montenegrin government should not wait to tell us that those who fell on the Dubrovnik battlefront fell in vain. In the excited and saddened Montenegro of today, it is difficult and dangerous to speak of this futile loss of life. Those whose nearest and dearest have died on the battlefield will resist the thought of this futility with all their being. The powerful state propaganda will maintain a strong martial enthusiasm for a while longer. It will be aided in this enterprise by the political war profiteers, who are bent on gaining maximum advantage for themselves and a maximum reward for their patriotism. Who will be presented with the bill for the bloodshed? Who will then be charged with treason? Sooner or later someone will have to explain to those sent to fight against fascism why no country sent a message of support for their struggle, and why instead the world is threatening us with the most rigorous sanctions.'

Monitor wrote also of the likely consequences: `We shall remain on our own, counting our dead, while some will find comfort in the fact that ``their'' side suffered more. We shall have new war heroes, new war invalids and new war orphans. Nothing in the world will change the fact, however, that Boka and Dubrovnik will continue to be splashed by the same sea. The only change will be that the people will become more dejected, and sooner or later they will feel ashamed.'

`Liberation of garrisons or liberation of minds?' - was the dilemma posed by Monitor in October 1991 [peace negotiations at The Hague]. `The principle that borders cannot be changed by force implies, among other things, that the Montenegrin units now occupying Konavle will miss the opportunity to ``liberate'' Dubrovnik and will have to return whence they came. Indeed, when Der Spiegel asked Serbia's foreign minister what the Serbs were doing in Zadar, Sibenik and Dubrovnik, his calm reply was that the Serbs had nothing to do with it, and that ``the battles there are the JNA's concern''. It remains to be seen whether this hand-washing applies to the Montenegrins too. Serbian vice-president and well-known peace-lover Kosutic recently told British television that the reason for Montenegro's attack on Konavle was that `the Ustashe have destroyed two ancient Montenegrin cities: Herzeg Novi and Prevlaka [sic]!' If the units from Montenegro obey the request to withdraw from the Dubrovnik area, and if the Hague arbiters refuse to accept Montenegro's official request that Prevlaka be placed under Serbian control in order to protect Boka Kotorska, the bereaved families are bound to demand further explanations from the Montenegrin government regarding this patriotic undertaking. It would not come as a surprise if the latter were to place the whole blame on the peace movement, i.e. the opposition', wrote Monitor.

`The Montenegrin attack on the Dubrovnik area was planned for reasons that are even more monstrous and sinister than the destruction of Dubrovnik', wrote Monitor at the time when Montenegrin units were successfully `liberating' Konavle. `These units have destroyed all the national, cultural, economic and other ties that for centuries have linked Montenegro with Croatia, whose close relationship was not much disturbed even during World War II. The people of Boka, Konavle and Dubrovnik and others inhabiting this maritime area have for centuries displayed great religious and ethnic tolerance and exemplary co-existence. These interactions, which have formed a recognizable and highly developed Mediterranean cultural mentality, have served as a reference point for the Montenegrin opposition's defence of the Montenegrin people's spiritual and national individuality. This is why they are detested by the creators of Serbo-slavia. This is why the latter have decided to sever once and for all the Montenegrin-Croatian ties and the Adriatic cultural highway that binds them together. They hope that Montenegro, having quarrelled with all its neighbours, will have no other option but to place itself under the patronage of Greater Serbia. Many more waves have to splash against the coast of Herzeg-Novi and Dubrovnik before cars with Montenegrin number plates will once again be able to cross the border at Debeli Brijeg', wrote one of Monitor's commentators in an article entitled `Caught in a trap of one's own making'. `One day, when the propaganda veil comes to be lifted and life has found new paths, who will be able to account for the fact that the policy of ``active'' defence, involving no declared Montenegrin political and war aims, represented nothing but an attack on the historical and cultural treasure called Dubrovnik. The reasons offered, which already look pretty unconvincing and which will be ridiculed by future generations, will not prevent a future, lawful state from applying the principles of the Nuremberg Trials, the Convention on Genocide, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.'

A contribution entitled `What they are doing to us' published in November 1991 said the following: `Serbian foreign minister Jovanovic was unfortunately quite right when, in response to Lord Carrington's question why Dubrovnik was being attacked, he calmly stated that he had no idea. Serbia, he declared, had nothing to do with the operations conducted in the Dubrovnik area; the question should instead be posed to Mr Bulatovic [Montenegro's president]. Bulatovic turned green, but could say nothing. Montenegro cannot pretend any longer that only the JNA is waging war against Dubrovnik. First, because Bulatovic himself has visited the soldiers on the front line, something that the less naive Milosevic has never done. The Montenegrin government insisted before the outbreak of hostilities that Montenegro was being threatened, which is why it was forced to resort to war. In other words it publicly opted for war, though it never signed a piece of paper stating this in so many words. The prime reason for an eventual indictment of Montenegro by the international community lies not only in the fact that Montenegrin Territorial Defence units, formally under the control of the republican leadership, were dispatched against Dubrovnik, but also and more to the point in the fact that Montenegro also sent to the Dubrovnik theatre of war its police force, its ``internal army'', subject solely to the republican civilian authorities. No one can deny the fateful fact that a supposed police unit was the first to enter Cavtat.'

In December 1991 a Monitor reporter made a tour of the Dubrovnik area and recorded traces of the crimes committed. The article `A faltering aristocrat [i.e. Dubrovnik]' offered the following description: `Along the road, burnt forests and destroyed houses. Some of those in Grude appear untouched, at least from the outside. Doors on some houses remain wide open. Of the post office in Cilipi, only the walls remain. The petrol station no longer exists. We could not visit the airport buildings. In Mocici the same picture. The hamlet of Zvekavica no longer exists. A Yugoslav flag is stuck in a pile of sand. I tell myself that Yugoslavia itself is nothing but a pile of sand. A house along the road carries graffiti: ``You got what you asked for'', signed ``Montenegro''. An anonymous hero found time to leave this message on our behalf. And so on along the road - everywhere one finds the inevitable ``four Ss''. On a road sign someone has written in large letters: ``Serbia''.'

In February 1992 the Liberal Party organized a big rally in Cetinje in favour of independence. Monitor reported that `From thousands of throats came the cry: ``Dubrovnik, forgive us!''.'

It is 24 September 1992. Monitor has published a profile of Jevrem Brkovic [Montenegrin poet]. He was asked why he had gone into exile. `You should know that the drunken, bearded and deformed reserve soldiery which wears the uniform of an army which is no longer either People's or Yugoslav, is not Montenegrin. Today the true Montenegrins are those who refuse to be drafted, refuse to shoot at their brothers, refuse to be mobilized and sent beyond Montenegro's borders.' This was the message sent by the poet in his letter of apology to the Croats and Muslims of Herzegovina for the behaviour of the Montenegrin conscripts. The authorities' response was to initiate court proceedings against him and to issue a warrant for his arrest.

Monitor witnessed also the epilogue. `The last members of the Army of Yugoslavia, Prevlaka commander Colonel Miodrag Mladenovic and his closest aides, left Konavle and the Prevlaka peninsula on 20 October at 20.30 precisely. According to the agreement between Cosic and Tudman, the Yugo-army has evacuated the wider Prevlaka area and surrendered control of the military objects there to UN monitors. It took with it all that it could, even beds and blankets, which suggests that it has no intention of returning.' On the eve of this `historical event', some `patriotic forces' organized a raid on Prevlaka in order to prevent this `treason'. Monitor was there to record this latest bit of playacting: `Momir [Bulatovic] of The Hague has ran aground at Prevlaka, on our very doorstep.' The article `A pointless incursion' ended as follows: `Despite the calls of ``Bozo [Vucurevic, mayor of Trebinje in Herzegovina], give us arms!'' and ``Out with the traitors!'', the whole thing ended with the old demand that the Federal Assembly confirm Prevlaka as an integral part of Boka, Montenegro and Yugoslavia. A dirty rain continued to fall.'

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