The Vampire of Greater Serbia
by Branka Magas
Vampire. 1734. [a word of Slavonic origin.] 1. A preternatural being of a malignant nature (in the orig. and usual form of belief, a reanimated corpse), supposed to seek nourishment, or do harm, by sucking the blood of sleeping persons; a man or woman endowed with similar habits. 2.transf. A person of a malignant and loathsome character, esp. one who preys ruthlessly on others; a vile and cruel exactor or extortioner 1741. OED
Reanimating Greater Serbia
The mosaic that the ICTY has been painfully assembling over the past years out of the testimony presented by hundreds of witnesses and scores of independent experts - and now increasingly from confessions by some of the perpetrators - has brought to public view not only the crimes actually committed by individuals, but also the proof, if ever one was needed, of the anti-civilizational nature of the Greater Serbia project itself.
‘Milošević's regime came into being in 1987, following a coup within then ruling party, the League of Communists of Serbia. A purge of thousands of party and state officials, liberal intellectuals and independently minded enterprise managers was conducted in close synchronization with the overthrow of the governments in Vojvodina and Montenegro (then similarly purged) and a military occupation of Kosovo, whose assembly and government were simply eradicated. The ideological argument for this entire aggressive strategy was provided by the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences, which insisted that Serbs were threatened by their neighbours and that the postwar federal system was inimical to Serb national interests. Ever since then, the Serb population has been exposed to a morbid propaganda in which the allegedly "tragic" Serb history and Serb war graves are chief ingredients. The Ottoman invasion, the Balkan Wars, the First and the Second World Wars - all are presented as little more than a plot against the Serb nation. Dobrica Ćosić, a writer of turgid historical "epics" often proclaimed as the spiritual "father of the nation", announced to all Serbs that now their last chance had come, and missing it would lead to their obliteration as a nation for ever. Thus does the regime, in vampire-like fashion, feed off blood spilt in the past, while proceeding to spill fresh blood in Kosovo, in Slovenia, and now, with particular ferocity, in Croatia. Bosnia-Herzegovina will be next. Never mind the fact that 90 per cent of the Kosovo population is Albanian, or that only 17 per cent of the population in the Croatian province of eastern Slavonia - scene of the most intense fighting over the past month - is Serb. It makes little difference that "Krajina" is an ethnically mixed area, which does not even border on Serbia; that Bosnia-Herzegovina is in majority non-Serb; that 91 per cent of the inhabitants of Montenegro declared themselves non-Serb at the last (April 1991) census; that northern Macedonia comtains only a handful of Serbs. In the eyes of the Belgrade vampires, these are all "ethnic and historic" Serb lands. This, of course, means war now and war in the future. But then the regime's life (like that of the Nazi Party) depends on the continuation and further escalation of bloodshed. In those parts of other republics earmarked for inclusion in Greater Serbia, the conflict cannot but escalate into total war, targeted directly and in the main against the local population.'
This was written twelve years ago in September 1991, when Greater Serbia, resurrected by Belgrade's morbid propaganda, was already on the march. The above assessment failed, however, to capture the horror of what would ensue. Hundreds of thousands of lives were extinguished to supply blood for the burgeoning vampire organism. Centuries-old communities - Albanian, Bosnian, Croat, Hungarian, Serb, Slovak, Roma and others, living singly or more often in close embrace - were destroyed to sustain the a life of this preternatural being of malignant nature that could not otherwise exist. Cities, villages, places of worship, cultural monuments, schools, hospitals, cemeteries, farms and farm animals, factories, roads, railways - just about everything that the human hand had built or nurtured as a depositary of memory, life, hope and love - were destroyed in this Greater Serbian frenzy (imitated and assisted for a while by advocates of a misbegotten Greater Croatia).
The testimony of Nikolić and Obrenović concerning the extermination of over 7,000 Bosnian men and boys, captured either immediately after UNPROFOR’S surrender of Srebrenica to Serb forces or in the days that followed, shows in stark detail how the Serbian death machine operated. We learn that the killing procedure - Operation Exterminate (operacija ubijanje) - involved several discrete tasks: capture, transport, imprisonment, surveillance, execution, burial, and later also reburial.
The sheer number of people destined for capture and execution clearly overwhelmed the local police and army units. They had ‘terrible trouble with burying the dead and guarding the prisoners who were to be shot’. The presence of so many captives became a serious security problem in Orahovica and Bratunac, where there was the possibility that prisoners might escape. At the same time, the column of Srebrenica survivors that was passing through Serb lines in the direction of free territory posed a threat ‘to Zvornik and the front's rear’. There was a possibility that Zvornik could fall to them. When local officers asked their superiors for permission to let the column pass, they were refused. The commander of the Drina Corps ordered ‘the use of all military equipment at their disposal to stop and destroy the column’. Pale believed that air strikes would do the trick. The destruction of such a large number of human beings, however, proved to be no simple task. It was not easy to assemble a sufficient number of execution squads, since not all Serb soldiers or policemen were keen to join in the kill. There was also the problem of having to bury the huge number of bodies. Everyone who could be spared was impressed for this task, including the local civil guard, the Bijeljina 10th Diversionary Corps, the 6th Battalion of the Zvornik Brigade. Another worry was the need to keep the crime secret. This involved digging up existing mass graves and redistributing their contents over a wider area. Police cordons were provided for the occasion, and the bulldozer drivers regularly replaced as part of the cover-up.
As one reads this testimony, two thoughts come to mind. The first is that the execution and the disposal of bodies took time, around ten days in fact, and that it was possible, therefore, even after Srebrenica had fallen, to save many of the survivors. Yet the Contact Group countries and the UN, which knew what was happening, did nothing. Was it because the removal - by the expulsion of the women and small children and the extermination of the men and boys - of the Bosnian Muslim population from the soil of the western Drina valley formed a key element of the Dayton settlement? Would this explain too why Izetbegović's government averted its eyes from the tragedy unfolding in eastern Bosnia?
The second thought that comes to mind is that the Nazis, faced by a similar problem of having to guard, accommodate, shoot and bury a large number of Jews, were moved in the end to invent gas chambers. The Serbian troops did not need these: they managed to kill over 7,000 people within less than a fortnight, using only guns and knives. They did this in order to ensure that when the area came to be included in ‘Republika Srpska’, which was about to be legalized at Dayton, it would not disturb the latter’s ‘pure’ Serb character - achieved, it should not be forgotten, through the application of other similar operations, each with its own set of discrete tasks: arrest or capture, transport, imprison, guard, execute, bury, re-bury. Hundreds of thousands of Bosnia-Herzegovina citizens were in this way either deported or murdered. One wonders, however, what would have happened if Western states, beginning with neighbouring Croatia, some moved by compassion and others by political calculation, had not opened their doors to the people that fled or were deported, and if UN bodies had not been at hand to take them across the borders at designated points and scatter them all over the world. Would not the Greater Serbian genocidal machine, in the absence of such help, not also have felt pressed to provide a more efficient system for getting rid of them, in its quest for a racially pure state?