Greater Surbiton

The perfect is the enemy of the good

A tale of two generals

Army general Veljko Kadijevic (pictured), former Secretary for People’s Defence in the government of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia, therefore the top Yugoslav military commander at the time of the 1991 war in Croatia, has been awarded Russian citizenship. Kadijevic was, after Slobodan Milosevic, probably the single individual most responsible for launching Serbia’s war of aggression against its neighbours in the early 1990s. Thanks to him and to his deputy, Chief of Staff Blagoje Adzic, Milosevic’s regime in Serbia was able to employ the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) to wage its war of conquest in Croatia, and subsequently in Bosnia. Without this army, Serbia would have lacked the military superiority over Croatia and Bosnia that made this war of conquest feasible.

Kadijevic was a traitor to Yugoslavia. In his memoirs, published in Belgrade in the 1990s, he admits that his policy from the spring of 1990, when non-Communist regimes came to power in Slovenia and Croatia, was to bring about the ‘peaceful’ exit of these republics from the Yugoslav federation – with appropriate territorial concessions on Croatia’s part, of course. This policy has been confirmed in the published diary of his ally, Borisav Jovic, the former Yugoslav president, Serbian representative on the federal presidency and president of Milosevic’s Socialist Party of Serbia, who admits that he and Kadijevic planned ‘forcibly to expel’ Slovenia and a dismembered Croatia from Yugoslavia. So Kadijevic’s war in Croatia had nothing to do with preserving Yugoslav unity. Nor was he motivated by loyalty to the Yugoslav constitutional order. In 1991, he travelled to Moscow to seek the support of his Soviet counterpart, Dmitry Yazov, for a projected military coup in Yugoslavia (Yazov was, it will be remembered, an equally treacherous conspirator involved in the coup against Mikhail Gorbachev later that year).

Thus, Kadijevic saw his job as ‘defence minister’ as defending ‘Yugoslavia’ from its own government and presidency. Although he vacillated between support for military dictatorship to keep Yugoslavia united, and support for the break-up of Yugoslavia and establishment of a Great Serbia, it was the latter policy for which he eventually opted. Yet Kadijevic was, at all times, a close ally of Milosevic’s regime in Serbia and enemy of the other Yugoslav republics (except for Serbia’s satellite Montenegro), ready to violate his duties toward the Yugoslav presidency, which was constitutionally his supreme commander, in the interests of this alliance. Before Franjo Tudjman’s Croatian nationalists had even had a chance to take over the reigns of power in Croatia, in the interval in 1990 following their electoral victory over the former Croatian Communists and during the handover of power, Kadijevic carried out the disarmament of Croatia’s Territorial Defence, in close consultation with Jovic, who was then Yugoslav president. Thus did Kadijevic begin the Serbian war of aggression against Croatia, before Tudjman’s regime had even had a chance to be guilty of anything whatsoever. Yet subsequently, when Croatia’s Stjepan Mesic became Yugoslav President, Kadijevic simply ignored Mesic’s instructions to the Yugoslav army, as he gloatingly recalls in his memoirs. In other words, his ‘obedience’ to his supreme commander, the Yugoslav presidency, was entirely dependent on whether the latter was pursuing Serbia’s policy or not. The war Kadijevic and the Yugoslav army waged against Croatia was totally illegal and unconstitutional; it was not authorised by the Yugoslav presidency (partly because there was no functioning presidency – Serbia having blocked the election of a Yugoslav president in May 1991, effectively leaving the country without an executive).

Kadijevic’s enmity was not, however, limited to Yugoslav politicians such as Mesic who supported Croatian independence; he was a sworn enemy also of Yugoslav Prime Minister Ante Markovic, a man who – unlike Milosevic, Jovic and Kadijevic himself – actually supported a united Yugoslavia. And although Kadijevic was sacked by the Belgrade regime before full-scale war in Bosnia was launched, he was instrumental in preparing the ground for the destruction of Bosnia – the one Yugoslav republic aside from Macedonia that actually wanted to keep Yugoslavia together (Milosevic’s Serbia declared its independence from Yugoslavia back in September 1990 – before Alija Izetbegovic was even elected to power in Bosnia – then formally announced its secession for the second time in March 1991, when Milosevic stated that Serbia would no longer be bound by the authority of the Yugoslav presidency).

Kadijevic is himself a native of Croatia, from near the town of Imotski, and despite his support for the Great Serbian war-drive in 1990-91, is of ethnically mixed background, with a Serb father and a Croat mother. He was, nevertheless, the man responsible for destroying the Croatian town of Vukovar in 1991; in his published diary, Jovic describes Kadijevic’s policy in Croatia as one of ‘destroying cities’. Not surprisingly, therefore, Croatia issued an Interpol warrant for Kadijevic’s arrest. Now, however, Russia’s award of citizenship to Kadijevic definitely stymies any possibility for Kadijevic’s extradition, as Russian law forbids the extradition of Russian citizens.

Russia’s sheltering of this Yugoslav traitor and mass murderer is, of course, what one would expect from the regime of Vladimir Putin, a man who is, in many ways, a kindred spirit of Kadijevic’s. One would, indeed, have been stunned if Moscow had respected Kadijevic’s international arrest warrant; Putin’s regime has not exactly been notable for its respect for international law. Yet Moscow might not, at least, have been able to get away with this quite so easily had the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague itself indicted Kadijevic.

The sad truth is, however, that neither Kadijevic nor his former deputy Adzic has been indicted by the Hague tribunal. The two top military officers of the army that was formally Yugoslav but de facto Serbian, who presided over the planning and launching of the wars against Croatia and Bosnia, were ultimately not considered worthy of prosecution by the ICTY’s prosecutors.

The same cannot be said for the two top military officers of the army that defended Bosnia. Sefer Halilovic and Rasim Delic, chief of staff and commander of the Bosnian army respectively, were both indicted by the Hague tribunal, despite the cases against them being extremely weak. While Halilovic was wholly acquitted by the judges, Rasim Delic was last month acquitted of most of the charges against him, including murder, but found guilty only of ‘cruel treatment’ of prisoners at the village of Livade and the Kamenica camp in the period July-August 1995. He was sentenced to three years in prison which, given that he has already spent nearly half that time in custody, means that he will be out soon.

Delic was, unlike Kadijevic, a professional officer who played no role in politics until full-scale war in Bosnia broke out in the spring of 1992. Up till that time, he had been simply a loyal soldier of the Yugoslav army, but he then joined Bosnia’s defenders. Given his lack of political ambition and his readiness to serve President Izetbegovic unquestioningly, he was promoted to the top post in the Bosnian army in 1993 in place of the self-willed Halilovic. During the last two years of the Bosnian war, 1993-95, he quietly allowed the Izetbegovic regime and the ruling Party of Democratic Action to assume full control over the Bosnian army, turning it into a politicised instrument of their own rule.

For all that, it is remarkable – given the degree of the brutality to which Bosnia and its population were subjected by the forces of Milosevic’s Serbia and Radovan Karadzic’s Bosnian Serb rebels – just how small-scale were the war-crimes carried out by the Bosnian army. Despite being Bosnia’s top commander for over two years, Delic was convicted only of failing to prevent or punish the cruel treatment of twelve captured Serb soldiers in a single village and camp in July and August 1995. The troops responsible for these abuses, furthermore, were not regular Bosnian soldiers, but foreign mujahedin, whose agenda was not that of the Bosnian army as a whole and over whom Delic’s authority was uncertain. Although two of the members of the ICTY’s three-judge panel felt that Delic could have punished the mujahedin for the abuses in Kamenica, presiding judge Bacone Moloto argued in a dissenting opinion that Delic ‘did not have effective control over the EMD at any time from the time of his assumption of duties as the Commander of the Main Staff of the ABiH…until the EMD was disbanded’ (the ‘EMD’ or ‘El Mujahed Detachment’ being the Bosnian army’s unit of foreign mujahedin). Be this as it may, there is no suggestion that Delic ordered the abuses. His crime may be compared in scale to the largest crime carried out by Serb forces in the same period, under the direction of Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic himself: the genocidal massacre of 8,000 Bosniak men and boys at Srebrenica.

So there we have it: the contrasting fates of generals Kadijevic and Delic. The first was an orchestrator of the war and of the destruction of Yugoslavia, who ordered the conquest of Croatia, presided over the destruction of Vukovar and siege of Dubrovnik, and laid the ground for the attack on Bosnia. The second was a professional officer who avoided politics until his country was attacked, and then led a military campaign notable for abuses that were small and few enough that the prosecution had difficulty pinning anything at all on him. The second was indicted by the ICTY; the first was not. This is the work of what some would have us believe is an ‘anti-Serb tribunal’.

While we are on the subject of the ‘anti-Serb bias’ of the ICTY – all part of the global German-American-Vatican-Comintern-Zionist-Islamist conspiracy to frame Milosevic, Karadzic and their lovely, merry men as bad people – it is worth comparing the treatment of the crimes at Livade and Kamenica with those at Vukovar. The top Bosnian commander was indicted for crimes carried out by irregular forces in a particular locality, while for the much larger-scale crime carried out at Ovcara following the capture of Vukovar, only middle-ranking Yugoslav officers were indicted. For the murder, torture and cruel treatment of 194 patients taken from the Vukovar hospital following its capture by the Serbs, Mile Mrksic was sentenced to twenty years’ imprisonment. Veselin Sljivancanin received five years imprisonment for aiding and abetting the torture of the victims, while Miroslav Radic was acquitted of all charges.

Yes, that’s right – the ‘anti-Serb tribunal’ at which Naser Oric and Sefer Halilovic were acquitted, and at which Rasim Delic received only a three-year sentence, also acquitted one of the three Yugoslav officers accused over the massacre of Vukovar hospital patients at Ovcara, and sentenced one of the others to only five years.

And if that’s evidence of ‘anti-Serb bias’, then I’m Sarah Palin.

In fairness, the ICTY’s shocking, disgraceful record in prosecuting the top military leaders of the Bosnian people’s struggle against genocide while failing to prosecute the top military leaders of the side carrying out the genocide should be seen in context. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) last year found Serbia guilty of failing to prevent and punish genocide at Srebrenica, but acquitted it of graver genocide-related charges that might have involved financial compensation for the plaintiff. Despite its indisputable role in organising, arming and financing the Bosnian Serb army responsible for Srebrenica, Serbia got away scot free. Likewise, Dutch courts recently ruled that neither the United Nations nor the Dutch state could be held responsible for the failure to prevent the Srebrenica massacre; the Dutch because their soldiers (‘peacekeepers’) who failed to defend the enclave were under UN command; the UN because it enjoys immunity. So the ICTY’s record, poor though it is, is probably no worse than the record of international justice and the courts in general.

Justice for genocide victims ? Just ask General Kadijevic…

I apologise to my readers for the absence of posts recently. I have been on holiday, and am currently attending a conference abroad. Normal blogging activity will hopefully resume after I return home on Sunday.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008 - Posted by | Balkans, Bosnia, Croatia, Former Soviet Union, Former Yugoslavia, Genocide, Netherlands, Red-Brown Alliance, Russia, Serbia

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