bosnia report
New Series No: 19/20 October - December 2000
 
The stenographic records flow from Pantovcak
by Miljenko Jergovic

The stenographic records flow from Pantovcak

Miljenko Jergovic

 

At the end of March 1999 there was held one of those meetings between Tudjman and the ‘representatives of the Croats of Bosnia-Herzegovina’. It was most likely reported on by the press and TV, which will have noted that ‘problems over the implementation of the Dayton Accords’ were discussed, and that the ‘representatives’ informed the Croatian president of the ‘obstruction caused by the Bosniak-Muslim authorities’ with ‘their efforts to ensure that the murderer of Jozo Leutar is never found’. The final conclusion was doubtless reached that this meeting too had represented ‘a contribution to safeguarding the constituent status and equality of the Croat nation in Bosnia-Herzegovina’.

Perhaps something more was said, but who is now going to dig through the files - and what point would there be in doing so - when we know very well, and already knew in March 1999, that it was all just a big lie: that all those Jelavices were there with Tudjman for some quite different reason, and that they were not discussing constituent status or equality, and maybe not even Dayton. God knows what was actually discussed, but it is clear as day that it was not the things the newspapers claimed were discussed. Nobody actually believed in any of those reports. Some did not believe them because they knew that Tudjman lied whenever he was not flying into a rage and foaming at the mouth; others did not believe them because they believed that his policy was much deeper and wiser and would sooner or later lead to the achievement of aims that, though they had never been clearly or fully formulated, were carried in the head of every single one of Tudjman's fans, regardless of formation or schooling. Franjo Tudjman experienced politics as some kind of conspiracy against the World such as it was, the World seen from without and experienced from within, so he blustered in the same way and with the same fanaticism against America and against the system of values in the head of each of his disobedient subjects. It is precisely this which all his stenographic records confirm: Tudjman's rage against the West was no different from his rage against the most harmless and insignificant internal enemy. Tudjman knew how the World should be and what had to be done to make the World so; but he also knew that such things must not be publicly stated. His supporters, however, recognised every one of Tudjman's unspoken words, and understood much better than Tudjman's opponents what he did speak aloud. This is why he was able to surprise the latter so much even after he had died and become a stenographic record.

Tudjman would have gone to war just because he felt like it

At all events, you would have thought you knew everything about Tudjman's conversations and that nothing the Croatian president was thinking and talking about in March 1999 could shock you. You were simply wedded to the idea that not even Tudjman could be as bad as you believed him to be. And then it turns out that he was even worse ! For example, you would have sworn that in March 1999 it was already clear to him that partition of Bosnia-Herzegovina was ruled out for a whole period; you would have wagered, too, that he was fascinated by the prospect of NATO intervention in FRY, and was somehow calculating how to profit from that intervention and how to align himself with the side that was now falling upon Miloševic for the purpose of upholding world justice. Do you not somehow feel that would have been in character for Tudjman, in keeping with the logic of his ideology, mind-cast and rule? Just remember that in March 1999 the man was already old and sick, his hair had already fallen out, and he was like a skeleton no longer held together by muscles but by expensive medicaments. He was surrounded by a chemical aroma and seemed - however crazy he may have been - nevertheless to be taking care of himself and intending to draw a golden line under his period of rule. Remember, after all, the fervour and exaltation with which he used to compare himself to George Washington.

Nothing, however, was as a normal person would have expected. Tudjman was horrified by the actions of the NATO alliance and concerned for Miloševic's health and psychological stability. But he was delighted by the prospect of a partition of Kosovo, in which he managed to make himself believe. So he summoned the so-called representatives of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Croats, in order to work out with them ways in which to insert somehow into this partition also the partition of Bosnia-Herzegovina. It never occurred to him that the time was not right for anything of the kind; he was not impressed by Dayton; nor did he take the Hague tribunal seriously. The blood spilled in Croatia and Bosnia had left no trace upon him whatsoever. He was a person, perhaps the only one in these lands, upon whom the war had left absolutely no effect. He would have gone to war again just because he felt like it, or as a game promising some eventual benefit.

We have learned all this from the latest of the dozens of stenographic records that have been flowing from Pantovcak since Stipe Mesic settled into the presidential palace. Tudjman's insanity, like his callousness and latent thirst for blood, would today be merely part of history - and perhaps of our collective satisfaction that during the last ten years we after all survived as best we could - if it were not for the people with whom Franjo Tudjman was discussing that day at the end of March 1999. For the fact is that those people are still alive; they are free; and among them are some who today are still masters of our fate, still the same ‘representatives of the Croats of Bosnia-Herzegovina’.

Transport across the map

What Ante Jelavic, member of the collective presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina, said according to the stenographic records could, in a happier country and in a better time, be classified as high treason. However, since over here nothing is either good or happy, it remains for us merely to note that this former NCO of the Yugoslav People's Army attempted to formulate a solution to the greatest of all Croat problems in Bosnia-Herzegovina: how to partition a country in such a way that foreigners do not notice; and how to carry out simultaneously two plans, one public and the other secret. According to one plan Bosnia would be partitioned legally and in keeping with the terms of Dayton; according to the other Bosnia would be partitioned illegally and in keeping with soon-to-be-established international realities. When those realities were to be established our Ante did not know; but precisely for that purpose he visited Franjo in Zagreb, so that Franjo could explain everything to him. What was beyond all doubt was that those realities would be established, and that they would be exactly as the ‘representatives of the Croats of Bosnia-Herzegovina’ wished them to be and as the President of All Croats and God the Father of Martial-Ethnic Secularism had promised to arrange them.

Ante Jelavic was that day just one of the callous; one of the people who, in keeping with the high politics of Pantovcak, cared nothing for human or national destiny, but in the course of their chit-chat transported the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Croats across the map in much the same way that the Nazis used to transport Jews across the Third Reich, through the wastelands and desolation of the German and Polish lands, before deciding upon the Final Solution. Thus Jozo Maric reported to Tudjman on how many ‘refugees we have’ and where, whither we would ‘resettle’ them when the time came for partition, and how we would ‘disperse’ them throughout the frontier regions of the future Greater Croatia. The way in which that Maric speaks about living people, pulling the numbers out of his sleeves, is truly fascinating: he is the great mathematician and physicist, who scarcely notices what kind of mathematics he is involved in. He is assisted by Ljubo Cesic-Rojs, the supreme Croat engineer, who talks about all the places where we have to build roads and fortifications, where we have to establish garrisons and military camps, so that the partition may be more solid; and who refers to past errors from the time when Ivo Lozancic betrayed the Croat cause and did not carry out what had previously been agreed upon: an exchange of population along a line from Bihac to Zepce. Mijo Brajkovic demonstrates enviable directorial and organisational talents, and is ready to assemble a team of demographers, statisticians, psychologists, sociologists, strategists and experts from other domains to implement the resettlement of Maric's figures from one place to another; to relocate as efficiently as possible this Croat refugee herd, this wretched Bosnian mass, these ill-fated people whom none of the participants considers to be people, treating them simply as fittings for the construction of a monstrous state.

In that discussion there was not a single dissenting voice, no doubt and no fear - whether of man or of God - but all applied themselves wholeheartedly to the crime. Of course, some will say that a discussion cannot be a crime; that even a discussion about ethnic cleansing and resettlement cannot be a crime. But it is worth bearing in mind what was supposed to follow from that discussion, and what would have followed had Franjo Tudjman at the time not been simply an obsessive maniac occupying the presidency of a weak state. Let us just imagine what those Marices and Jelavices, Rojses and Pašalices would have done if Tudjman had been right, and the Americans had intended to partition Kosovo and were already as fed up with Bosnian affairs as, let’s be honest, they might well have been! It would have been enough for Clinton to lack the requisite votes in Congress, for some mishap to befall him in America, or for him simply to decide to concern himself a bit with his American rather than our Bosnian affairs, and those who were merely talking would have become participants in one more great act of butchery. For it is difficult to believe that Jelavic, Rojs, Maric or Pašalic would have held back once they saw how the results of their bloody mathematics looked on the ground.

An answer you must come to yourself.

In the period since March 1999 all kinds of things have changed in Croatia. The HDZ regime has fallen, a grave at Mirogoj bears witness to the fact that it is destroyed forever, and the mood of most citizens has changed, so that yesterday's ministers, advisers and deputies have in the collective perception become thieves, bandits and cut-purses. The nation cannot forgive the regime that it endured for ten years and finally overthrew for its criminality and deceit; but it seems for the moment that it can easily forgive it all its butchery, both executed and planned. It would be too painful for the conscience of Croatian society - if we may speak of a collective conscience - to blame the HDZ today also for murder. After all, those others were killed with our passive acquiescence, whereas we were all robbed without our acquiescence. The citizens of Croatia do not today have the strength, nor any particular reason, to concern themselves with the bloody crimes of Tudjman and his regime; but those few Croats who are left in Bosnia-Herzegovina will probably ponder those crimes for the rest of their lives.

The question is only whether those people will realise who it was who slaughtered and killed them. Who killed their right to live in their own country and their own homes, rather than in the homes of their neighbours ? Let us say that they have so far managed to grasp that they were, according to circumstance, killed and expelled by their Serb and Bosniak neighbours - but did someone else kill and expel them as well?

The answer to this question each of us must find for himself. Over the past ten years we have convinced ourselves countless times that there is no point in pressing for that answer. Every word you speak about Tudjman still always, from the standpoint of an average B-H Croat, targets you the speaker and not the person about whom you are speaking. If you point to a place where Tudjman killed, then from the standpoint of your co-national from Vitez or Grude you become a killer; if you count the towns and villages that Tudjman left without Croats, then you are to blame for the fact that those towns and villages are left without Croats. Those people in Bosnia still do not want to hear, see or read how Tudjman intended to relocate, disperse and resettle them from Okucani and Pakrac to Vukovar and Ilok; nor how, in his criminal strategy, he wanted to turn them into criminals who would kill elderly Serbs and prevent the return of Serbs to Croatia.

But the fact that the stenographic records are flowing and that Stipe Mesic has no intention of halting that flow is today confronting the B-H Croats with a terrible choice: a choice that is no longer so substantive, because the whole lot of us have been more or less stripped of substance, but which is certainly a personal one. After you have read what Ante Jelavic, Mijo Brajkovic, Jozo Maric and all the others who at the time comprised the ‘representatives of the Croats of Bosnia-Herzegovina’ were planning in March 1999, it must be quite clear to you what side you are on if you are on the side of those people today. To be on the side of someone who says he will throw you out of your house tomorrow is truly inexplicable. Such a mentality is one of those where the Bosnian case ceases to be similar to all other cases, and for which all other analogies cease to apply. From a sane standpoint it is unimportant whether B-H Croats have a political alternative, or whether they can identify their political interests with Zubak, Komšic, Lagumdzija, Kljuic, Beslagic or anybody else. It is a question simply of whether you will or will not continue to support those who view you solely as human cattle, to be transported in cattle waggons from one part of the country to the other.

This article has been translated from Dani (Sarajevo), 2 June 2000

 

*****

‘The partition of Bosnia-Herzegovina is the fundamental political idea of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ BiH). In fact it is the idea that has determined the party’s entire activity, and from this perspective it seems also that of the HDZ in Croatia’, says Ivo Komšic, President of the Croat National Council (HNV), in an interview for Dnevni Avaz. He was commenting on the publication of stenographic records of discussions on the partition of Bosnia-Herzegovina which the then Croatian President Franjo Tudjman held on 13 April last year in Zagreb with a delegation of the HDZ BiH under B-H Presidency member Ante Jelavic. ‘It did not surprise me that the partition of Bosnia-Herzegovina was being prepared more than a year ago. It is still being prepared today. The idea is still alive. Unfortunately it is no longer just the idea of the HDZ - today it is the idea of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA). For insofar as somebody is practically and politically in a coalition with the HDZ, they share the fundamental ideas of their coalition partner’, explains Komsic. ‘Nothing of what the HDZ is now doing surprises me. They have nowhere to go: it is clear to them that their whole plan has collapsed and that the party too will collapse along with it. It is bound to collapse here in Bosnia-Herzegovina just as it collapsed in Croatia. These are all just attempts to save it. I am surprised much more by the SDA, which in words was on the other side. It surprised me that they should so easily once again accept the HDZ as their partner.’

From an interview conducted by Fadil Mandal in Dnevni Avaz (Sarajevo), 29 May 2000

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