The Policy of the Military Boot
Author: Stipe Sikavica
Uploaded: Friday, 28 October, 2005
Articles translated from Helsinška povelja (Belgrade) and Monitor (Podgorica) contrast the Serbian political elite's continued reliance on 'the military boot' with its shameful treatment of the former commander of the JNA's Varaždin Corps, who saved his own men and the city's civilians
At the end of July 2005 the Croatian Helsinki Committee made a great effort to lift the veil from the ‘mystery’ surrounding the killing of Serb civilians in and around Osijek in late 1991, involving the former Croatian minister of defence Gojko Sušak and the former ‘sheriff of Osijek’ Branimir Glavaš. Serbian president Boris Tadić thanked the committee’s director Žarko Puhovski and praised his work, but the statement he issued also included an invitation to Croatian president Stipe Mesić to use the opportunity of the tenth anniversary of the well-known military operation Oluja [Storm] to condemn ‘crimes against Serbs’ committed during it ‘in the same way’ that he, Tadić, had ‘condemned the crimes in Srebrenica’.
This statement shows that Tadić upholds the notion of a so-called ‘symmetry of crime’, and that his presence in Srebrenica at the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the massacre was not as sincere as he would wish us to think. It was only to be expected that the Croatian president would make this very point, after saying diplomatically that the explanation for Tadić’s statement should be sought in Serbia’s domestic situation. It would be ludicrous, of course, to deny that crimes were committed during Oluja, but it is equally preposterous to compare Oluja and Srebrenica. Which proves that Tadić is a poor politician (his moral side is none too impressive either) who dances to the tune of the Great Serb intellectual circles, albeit with circumspection, given Serbia’s international position.
Those who hoped that this exchange would end yet another round of the complicated Croatian-Serbian relations proved wrong. The episode turned out to be the introduction to a general propaganda offensive on the part of Patriotic Serbia and its political and intellectual establishment, against Croats in general and official Zagreb in particular. This had a twofold aim at the level of tactics: to contribute - by shamelessly manipulating the truth about Serb victims and (of course) ‘victims’ in Oluja (and other such tempests) - to the widespread attempt to relativize the crimes committed in the name of the Serb people; and at the same time to deflect attention as far as possible from the great problems facing Vojislav Koštunica’s government. The strategic aim of this offensive, meanwhile, was and still is to remind - indirectly yet clearly - all the relevant players on both sides of the Croat-Serb ‘demarcation line’ that the Great (Serb) Project remains in good health and will not easily be abandoned. This is testified to by the aggressive (and dangerous!) message directed to all in ‘Croatia the Beautiful’ - and voiced in the heated atmosphere of the ‘emergency session’ of the ‘government-in-exile’ of the so-called Republika Srpska Krajina, held on 5 August this year in Belgrade - that Serbs will return to Croatia, if necessary wearing ‘military boots’.
This all shows that the policy of the current government in Belgrade - just like Milošević’s policy (and that of most Serbian governing circles before Milošević) - cannot live without the military boot. This fact is veiled over, to be sure, but never enough to hide it completely. One of the instruments used to conceal it are the Serb victims of the recent wars. Regardless of who was their immediate executioner during Milošević’s wars, and regardless of the place, time and manner of their execution, the victims on the Serb side were primarily victims of a policy as crazy as it was dangerous on the part of the Serbian political-military-church leadership, whose strategic project has not been definitively defeated.
Neither Boris Tadić nor Vojislav Koštunica has the courage to stand before their nation and tell it plainly and clearly how many Serb lives were lost in the recent wars; how many of them died wearing the uniform of the regular army, and how many in paramilitary formations; how many civilians died; what is the size of the army of military and civilian invalids; how many have gone missing - not to speak of those moved or deported, not to speak of the great material losses. (We do not deal here with the losses and wounds caused by the Serb war machine to other nations of the former Yugoslavia.)
By all accounts, Serbia will have to wait a long time for any such war audit. Why is that? It is because such a reckoning would also reveal the truth about the main movers of the diabolical machinery in the Balkans at the end of the 20th century, as well as the truth regarding their strategic aims - which they tried to realise by reliance precisely on the military boot. Instead we are bombarded through the media with figures made up by various ‘national avengers’ and ‘patriotically aroused’ ‘researchers’, in which huge numbers are evoked, as favoured by the political, military and police leaders and especially the secret (military and civilian) services.
Where the policy of the military boot leads to can be illustrated by the following examples. We begin with the weird church on Mt Rumija, whose installation deepened an already deep gulf within the Montenegrin political body. Needless to say the main architect of this gulf is Metropolitan Amfilohije. This incident deserves special attention because of the involvement of the army. In fact, General Dragan Paskoš agreed to loan an army helicopter to position the tin construction on top of the mountain without informing the Supreme Defence Council [in which Montenegro has its own representative]. The general subsequently defended himself by saying that he was only helping ‘his Church’; but one wonders whether he would have done the same if the church in question had been Catholic, or Muslim, or indeed any other church. The church was installed along the line of attack of the Serbian right, whose aim is to prevent the referendum on Montenegro’s independence.
In late July and early August the defence ministry and the general staff tried very hard to persuade the public that Colonel Dragomir Krstović had been retired before it became known that in 2002 Krstović was the commander of Ratko Mladić’s personal security guard unit. What is more, Colonel Krstović was at the same time head of the army’s logistics department, and about to be promoted to the rank of general.
Finally, there is the case of General Radoslav K