bosnia report
New Series No: 39-40 April - July 2004
Some Simple Facts
by Branka Magaš

The tenor of Neven Anđelić’s response to Gordana Knežević’s review of his book prompts me to record here some simple facts.

-- Knežević does not ‘argue against the fact that SDS was the last nationalist party to be formed’. She makes a different and more serious claim which is that the SDS was a party forged by Belgrade for its own anti-Bosnian purposes and launched when Belgrade decided that the time was right. The appearance of the SDS was in fact an integral part of Serbia’s planned military aggression against Bosnia-Herzegovina, which is why, in contrast to the creation of the SDA and HDZ, its appearance was a dangerous development. I shall return to this.

-- Knežević does not say that the SDA and HDZ never created military wings. What she says is that these parties did not have their own military formations at the time of their appearance, in contrast to the SDS which - even before its formal appearance - had at its disposal the enormous military machine of the JNA. The JNA was in control of much of Bosnia-Herzegovina before either the SDA or the HDZ had developed their armed units - which, moreover, remained puny throughout the war in comparison with its mighty structure.

-- She does not say that the ‘JNA withdrew in spring of 1991 from Slovenia and Croatia and [was] put in position around Sarajevo’. What she says is that the JNA troops withdrawn from Slovenia and Croatia were redeployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina before the start of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In fact, as the former Yugoslav minister of defence and head of the JNA General Veljko Kadijević informs us in his book Moje viđenje raspada (My View of the Break-Up), Belgrade 1993, pp.121-2, the Yugoslav Federal Presidency agreed on 18 July 1991 that JNA troops leaving Slovenia should be relocated to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro. Although this redeployment was interrupted briefly with the start of the war in Croatia, it was still possible to both ‘implement all the JNA tasks in Croatia and simultaneously also continue full and unhindered implementation of the plan for the JNA’s relocation from Slovenia’ (my italics).

-- The fact that Hamdija Pozderac died in Sarajevo rather than in Belgrade does not change the fact that Belgrade (i.e. the JNA and Serbian security services) did indeed provoke and use the Agrokomerc affair to destabilize Bosnia-Herzegovina, and to remove its leadership as a factor of resistance to its plan to refashion the Yugoslav Federation into a centralized state ruled by Serbia.

-- The constitutional changes to which Ivan Stambolić refers related to the constitution of the Republic of Serbia not of Yugoslavia, and at that stage involved changes of a far more modest nature than those subsequently enacted by Slobodan Milošević. The fact that ‘Milošević’s closest allies claimed they were not sure of success of the Eighth Session’ does not of itself negate the fact that the destabilisation of Bosnia, and the removal of the relatively moderate Stambolić leadership in Serbia in 1987, were planned and executed by the same interest groups which brought Milošević to power.

-- Knežević does not say that Borba was a tainted source. What she says is that Agrokomerc was not the only Yugoslav firm using illegal accounting methods: that was a widespread practice at the time. As she points out, the fact that Abdić was pilloried would not have been so strange in itself, were it not for the fact that hundreds of thousands of animals reared on the Agrokomerc farms were left to starve to death, and that the economy of a whole region was suddenly and inexplicably allowed to collapse. Such things happened in Communist states only for political reasons, and even then only in extraordinary political circumstances. The suicide (if it was suicide) of the Borba journalist who revealed Fikret Abdić’s accounting methods must inevitably be treated as suspicious, just as the recent suicide here in Britain of a civil servant working for MoD was considered a matter worthy of official investigation. Given this, it really does not matter much whether Slobodan Lazarević is described as an ‘agent of the Yugoslav secret police’ rather than ‘of the Military Intelligence’, particularly as KOS - the JNA’s powerful intelligence service - habitually infiltrated the Yugoslav civilian secret police systems. The real question is what Lazarević was doing at that time in Agrokomerc.

-- Knežević, finally, does not ‘complain’ that Anđelić did not discuss Ante Marković’s economic reform, but merely wonders why Anđelić did not ‘elaborate on the relentless opposition’ to it. According to General Kadijević, the main cause of his own conflict with Yugoslav Federal premier Ante Marković was the latter’s refusal to agree with the Army’s proposals for changing the Yugoslav constitution, i.e. Marković’s ‘totally destructive policies based on his anti-Serb stance and his unlimited personal ambitions’ (pp. 89-90). Kadijević writes that he lost ‘all his illusions’ in Ante Marković in early April 1990, after which he retired from the work of the Federal government - without, however, relinquishing his post of minister of defence (p.108).

What Kind of War in Bosnia-Herzegovina?

Anđelić states in the introduction to his book (Anđelić, p. 12) that the aggression against Bosnia-Herzegovina was not the only cause of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Knežević interprets this to mean that the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina was in origin also a civil war. Anđelić replies: ‘I never ever said it was a civil war’. His intention, he says, was ‘to help people understand local politics and society’ prior to the war, i.e. in the period between ‘the end of Communism and the rise of nationalism’. The trouble is that his book does not limit itself to describing and analysing internal events of that period, but also passes judgment upon them. For example, the behaviour of the three nationalist parties was such that it ‘brought the economy and society to a near collapse in only a few months’ (Anđelić, pp.203-4); under their government ‘the rule of law was unachievable’ (ibid., p.205); their inability to reach compromise ‘made a violent conclusion more certain’ (ibid., pp.208-9); ‘the only way out of the republic’s chaotic situation was war’ (ibid., p.204). In 1991 ‘the road to war [in Bosnia-Herzegovina] was already outlined’ (ibid., p.207) : ‘all of the conditions for war were in place by the spring of 1991' , and ‘the only remaining question was when the war would start’ (ibid., p.209). It is hard not to conclude on the basis of these categorical statements that in the author’s view Bosnia-Herzegovina had ceased to exist as a viable state and society by early spring 1991, which made the war both necessary and inevitable. All the three parties were equally to be blamed for this outcome: though the SDA was in some ways different from the HDZ and the SDS , ‘ it also led the way to the destruction of Bosnia-Herzegovina’ (ibid., p.204). Bosnia-Herzegovina, in sum, was destroyed by domestic nationalist politicians rather than by the aggression from outside. In fact, according to Anđelić, Bosnia-Herzegovina’s disappearance was as inevitable as that of Yugoslavia (ibid., p.188). The view that Bosnia-Herzegovina fell victim not to military aggression but to, in effect, parliamentary democracy is/was shared by Milošević, Tuđman, Karadžić and Kadijević who - clearly impatient with the slowness of the attrition - hurried it along by force of arms.

Anđelić tells us that the country was set on the road to war in the spring of 1991, but does not tell us why precisely then - nor, indeed, why it took another year for it actually to break out. General Veljko Kadijević’s book supplies the answer.


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