America ‚Has Joined War‘ in Bosnia

: The European, Nov 1994, re US assisting Bosnian military

The European, November 18-24, 1994 WORLD EXCLUSIVE
America ‚Has Joined War‘ in Bosnia
By Askold Krushelnycky, Chief Correspondent, in Vitez,
and Ian Mather, Diplomatic EditorThe United States, chastised by its European allies for its decision to stop enforcing the arms embargo against Bosnia, is already deeply involved in helping the war effort of the mainly Muslim government army, The European can reveal.

European sources confirm that small teams of non-uniformed personnel working for the CIA are now in position in Bosnia and have begun providing direct assistance to the Bosnian Muslims.

That assistance includes training in tactical operations, providing satellite intelligence and controlling air traffic.

„They are teaching the Bosnian Muslims how to fight the Bosnian Serbs,“ said a European defence source. „We are talking about the Americans taking sides. They have, in fact, joined in the war.“

The European has learned that the deal was sealed among the rubble of the main street of the central Bosnian town of Gornji Vakuf, with an earnest 30-minute conversation between a group of senior American officers and the Bosnian army’s most important field commander.

The official line was that the discussions were to promote the Muslim-Croat confederation in Bosnia, and show support for U.N. forces. But the real reason was to make recommendations to the Pentagon about how to provide military support to the Bosnian presidency. The result was a U.S. decision to launch a covert plan to help the Bosnian Muslims, thus becoming for the first time an active participant in the ground war in Bosnia.

Though the number of Americans in Bosnia is said to be small, the technology at their disposal gives them enormous potential to influence the course of the fighting. Information from American military satellites, which provide the only comprehensive picture of Bosnian Serb positions for NATO warplanes overlying Bosnia, is being „downgraded“ to the U.S. teams on the ground, who pass it to the Bosnian Muslim forces.

Senior officers of the U.N. protection force, UNPROFOR, say that they know that the U.S. military and CIA personnel have been playing a role in helping train soldiers and planning Bosnian army operations. One west European UNPROFOR officer in Vitez said: „We have seen Americans in uniform and out of uniform for some months. They stay at some of the Bosnian army bases and keep themselves to themselves. We have seen a number of places where the road has been converted into a landing strip.“

The European visited one such airstrip in central Bosnia. The gently winding two-lane highway turns into a straight stretch nearly a kilometer long. Broad white lines mark the ends of the runway and white lines sandwiched between red lines run along the center of the road. The yellow crash barriers on their side of the road have been carefully dismantled and lie along the grass verge.

A heavily camouflaged base belonging to the Bosnian army’s Third Corps is hidden in fields off the road. One farmer said: „I have seen small planes landing, and sometimes they are parked near the base under camouflage netting.“

The Americans, according to a western source, are also masterminding the construction of a secret airfield in an isolated valley between Visoko and Kakanj in central Bosnia, about 25 km from the nearest Bosnian-Serb positions. The airstrip, constructed of crushed stones, is ready to cope with the supply of weapons if the arms embargo is lifted.

Tactical training to overcome one of the main weaknesses of the Bosnian Muslim army, which is now 200,000-strong after being swollen by large numbers of new recruits, is also being undertaken by the American „advisers“ in Bosnia. The assistance of the U.S. teams has been vital in recent Bosnian army successes. The breakout by the Bosnian Muslims from the Bihac pocket in October and the capture of Kupres are said to have indicated skills obtained by outside training.

The Gornji Vakuf meeting was between a U.S. team led by General Charles ‚Chuck‘ Boyd and General Filip Alagic, commander of the Bosnian Army’s Sixth Corps. Boyd was accompanied by Brigadier General Mike Hayden, head of intelligence in the U.S. European Command, Brigadier-General Mike Miza, Director of Operations at the U.S. European Command, and Brigadier Andrew Ridgway, local sector commander of U.N. forces. Two U.S. ambassadors were there to assess whether the U.S. should lift the arms embargo on the Bosnian Muslims.

A senior U.N. official told The European that he was unaware of any U.S. service personnel training Bosnian troops. A Pentagon official said he had „no information“ on U.S. military involvement on the ground in Bosnia. But, according to another Pentagon official, a contingency plan for training the Bosnian troops outside Bosnia does exist, though he refused to elaborate.

Further evidence of the extent to which the U.S. is aligning itself with Bosnia came with Washington’s abrupt announcement that it was unilaterally withdrawing its support for the arms embargo. The allied ships operating the embargo in the Adriatic rely on U.S. satellite intelligence for information about gun-runners.

As NATO reeled from the blow its secretary-general Willy Claes travelled to the U.S. for urgent talks with President Clinton to try to persuade him not to drop the embargo – a move opposed by Russia and Europe.
– – –
Printed for Fair Use only

John Redwood censors a reply to a reply to a comment of mine on a thread of his on the historic British policy in Europe being to oppose the strongest power Slovenians probably, by a somewhat greater margin than the Scots do but a smaller one that the Basques and Kurds do. The Croatians wanted a lot more than their own country – they wanted another people’s country – large areas of “Croatia” contained a Serb majority whose populations NATO carefully helped them to “purify” and exterminate. The majority of “Bosnians” never wanted and do not now want a Moslem dictatorship, since they are not Moslems – again the problem was not the separation which every NATO country which was not being racist was equally keen to go to war with Spain and Turkey over, but that they wanted to grab other people’s lands and get rid of the people.
The Albanians already have their own country. It is called Albania and the current Albanian majority in Kosovo was created by Albanians deciding they did not want to live in Albania but some more prosperous country. I assume you would like to see NATO go to war to ensure the Mexicans get their own country too, in southern Texas and California?


Mass grave of history: Vatican’s WWII identity crisis

BY JULIA GORIN02/22/2010 22:47



Catholic Church, looking for a bulwark against communism, supported what became genocidal regime of Nazi satellite Croatia.

 By Courtesy of Unites States Holocaust Memorial Museu

The controversy over the canonization of Pope Pius XII concerns whether he spoke out enough against the slaughter of Jews during World War II. But that question is a red herring when trying to grasp the big picture of the Vatican’s role during the war.The real question is whether the Vatican supported the world order, or at least aspects of it, that the Third Reich promised to bring, a world order in which dead Jews were collateral damage – which Pius indeed regretted. The answer can be found in a region of Europe that is generally ignored despite being the nexus of world wars: the Balkans.

The Catholic Church was looking for a bulwark against expanding, ruthless, church-destroying communism, but in doing so it supported a Croatian movement called Ustasha, which rose to become the genocidal regime of Nazi satellite Croatia.

American historian Jared Israel points to a February 17, 1941New York Times article which reported that the archbishop of Zagreb (Croatia’s capital), Alojzije (Aloysius) Stepinac, was holding conferences in Vatican City „seeking the freedom of Catholic priests detained in [pre-Nazi] Croatia in connection with the circulation of… ‚Free Croatia!‘ pamphlets, attributed to Ante Pavelic.“ Pavelic, who once criticized Hitler for originally being too soft on the Jews, was the founder of the fascist Ustashas, who were engaging in terrorism all over Europe to „liberate“ Croatia from Yugoslavia. He famously said, „A good Ustasha is one who can use a knife to cut a child from the womb of its mother.“

Israel explains the significance of the understated Timesarticle: „The arrested priests were agitating for a fascist coup d’etat,“ and if these had been rogue priests, „the Vatican would have disciplined them and perhaps issued a statement condemning them; it certainly would not have [held] top-level conferences to manage their defense.“

At the time, Pavelic was being harbored in Mussolini’s Italy – where his Ustasha soldiers were being trained – after France sentenced him to death for masterminding the 1934 double assassination of Yugoslavian King Alexander I and French foreign minister Louis Barthou. When Hitler invaded Yugoslavia in April 1941, Pavelic was activated and became fuehrer, or „Poglavnik,“ of the new, clerical-fascist Croatia.

Archbishop Stepinac held a banquet for Pavelic, blessed the Ustasha leader and regime, calling them „God’s hand at work,“ and the following month had Pavelic received by Pius XII. This was four days after the massacre in the town of Glina, where the Ustashas locked hundreds of Serbian Orthodox inside their church and burned it down, as became standard practice in Pavelic’s Independent State of Croatia (known by its Croatian acronym NDH). Pius XII received Pavelic despite a Yugoslav envoy’s request that he not do so, given the atrocities taking place.

In July of that year, Pavelic’s minister of education, Mile Budak, publicly outlined the purification process, already being implemented against Serbs: Kill a third, expel a third, convert a third.

That August, more than a thousand Serbs had gathered inside another Glina church for conversion, after which Zagreb police chief Bozidar Corouski announced, „Now that you are all Roman Catholics, I guarantee you that I can save your souls, but I cannot save your bodies.“ In came Ustasha henchmen with bludgeons, knives and axes, killing all but one man – Ljuban Jednak – who played dead, then stole away from the mass grave he was dumped into.

Pius and Pavelic continued exchanging „cordial telegrams,“ as author Vladimir Dedijer – former cochairman of Bertrand Russell’s International War Crimes Tribunal – wrote in his 1992 book The Yugoslav Auschwitz and the Vatican. The Croatian Catholic press consistently published approving articles about the regime.

In his forthcoming book The Krajina Chronicles: A Short History of Serbs in Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia, Dr. Srdja Trifkovic writes, „A part of the Roman Catholic hierarchy became de facto accomplices, as did a majority of the clergy. The leading NDH racial ‚theorist‘ was a clergyman, Dr. Ivo Guberina… He urged Croatia’s ‚cleansing of foreign elements‘ by any means. His views were echoed by the influential head of the Ustasha Central Propaganda Office, Fr. Grga Peinovic.

„When the anti-Serb and anti-Jewish racial laws of April and May 1941 were enacted, the Catholic press welcomed them as vital for ‚the survival and development of the Croatian nation’… Archbishop of Sarajevo [then part of Croatia] Ivan Saric declared… ‚It is stupid and unworthy of Christ’s disciples to think that the struggle against evil could be waged… with gloves on.'“

IN AN unusual move, Germany entrusted Croatia with running its own concentration camps, without oversight. Shamefully, clergy members took a voracious dive into the bloodbath, serving as guards, commanders and executioners at the 40 camps, most famously Jasenovac, the Holocaust’s third-largest yet least spoken-of camp. There, they killed Serbs, Jews, Gypsies and anti-fascist Croats. On August 29, 1942, a friar from the monastery of Siroki Brijeg, named Petar Brzica, won first place for killing the most Serbs in the shortest time, boasting 1,350 throats slit in one night.

Historian Carl Savich quotes an AP report stating that „a priest from Petricevac led Croat fascists, armed with hatchets and knives, to a nearby village. In the 1942 attack, they butchered 2,300 Serbs.“ Testimony from a survivor of that February 7 massacre, Selo Drakulic, reads: „Prior to killing the adults, unborn children were violently cut from their mothers‘ womb[s] and slaughtered. Of the remaining children in the village, all under the age of 12, the Ustashas brutally removed arms, legs, noses, ears and genitals. Young girls were raped and killed, while their families were forced to witness the violation and carnage. The most grotesque torture of all was the decapitation of children, their heads thrown into the laps of their mothers, who were themselves then killed.“

Archive photos of sadism that would make horror filmmakers blush survive today: Ustashas displaying an Orthodox priest’s head; an eyeless peasant woman; Serbs and Jews being pushed off a cliff; a Serb with a saw to his neck; and a smiling Ustasha holding the still-beating heart of prominent industrialist Milos Teslitch, who had been castrated, disemboweled and his ears and lips cut off.

Italian writer Curzio Malaparte in his 1944 book Kaputt offers this detail: „While [Pavelic] spoke, I gazed at a wicker basketon the Poglavnik’s desk [which] seemed to be filled with mussels, or shelled oysters… ‚Are they Dalmatian oysters?‘ I asked. [Pavelic] said smiling, ‚It is a present from my loyal Ustashas… Forty pounds of human eyes.'“

In their 1991 book Unholy Trinity: The Vatican, the Nazis and the Swiss Banks, reporter Mark Aarons and former Justice Department attorney John Loftus corroborate the grisly Croatian crimes, as does Genocide in Satellite Croatia 1941-1945 by Edmond Paris: „The Italians photographed an Ustasha wearing two chains of human tongues and ears around his neck.“

It has been 60 years, and the world still doesn’t know the story of wartime Croatia, where not only did the Vatican notspeak out against crimes, not only was it complicit in the genocide of a million people, but it subsequently never expressed remorse for the spilled Orthodox blood as it’s done for Jewish blood. Because the world never demanded it. Which points to the same apprehensions that have dogged Jewish groups about the Vatican’s genuineness, especially with its reluctance to open archives about Pius’s World War II conduct.

ONE CAN’T help wondering whether the Vatican as an institution was silently cheering the decimation of its Orthodox rival. Stepinac, who was photographed blessing the Ustashas before an upcoming battle or slaughter, reported in May 1944 the good news about 244,000 forced conversions to Pius. (Pius himself might have caught BBC broadcasts such as on February 16, 1942: „The Orthodox are being forcibly converted to Catholicism and we do not hear the archbishop’s voice preaching revolt. Instead it is reported that he is taking part in Nazi and fascist parades.“) Observing the liquidation of Croatia’s Orthodox, Heinrich Himmler’s second-in-command, Reinhard Heydrich, wrote a February 17, 1942, letter to Himmler stating, „It is clear that the Croat-Serbian state of tension is not least of all a struggle of the Catholic Church against the Orthodox Church.“

It is not Jews to whom the Church owes the biggest apology over World War II, but Serbs. If by not speaking out about Europe’s Jews Pius hoped to avoid endangering millions of Catholics, what could have been the reason for not speaking out about Croatia, which itself horrified the Nazis to the point that German and Italian soldiers started shielding Serbs from Ustashas? And what would have been the risk to the faithful inside Croatia?

A July 5, 1994, Washington Times article attempted to get to the bottom of why so little is known of the Croatia chapter of World War II, and why Jasenovac is so rarely spoken of: „For years the gruesome details… remained officially taboo. Although documents and eyewitness accounts were at first ignored, and then mysteriously removed from international archives… [i]t now appears that a vast international conspiracy involving Marshal Josip Broz Tito… [and] the United Nations, some Vatican officials and even Jewish organizations strove to keep the Jasenovac story buried forever… Tito’s watchwords were ‚brotherhood and unity,‘ and to pursue these high goals he tried to erase the chapter of Jasenovac. The West generally went along, particularly after Tito broke with Stalin in 1948. The Vatican wanted to protect Roman Catholic Croats, who had been willing Nazi proxies in the Balkans.

„The silence of Jewish organizations is less easily explained… [The late Milan Bulajic, of Belgrade’s Genocide Museum, met] officials of the Holocaust Museum [in Washington to] find out why no one mentions the Yugoslav Jews who died there. He did not seem to get a clear-cut answer… When Yugoslavia fell apart in 1991… troops of newly independent Croatia briefly captured the site and, according to Serbian sources, blew up whatever was left of the camp and destroyed all remaining records.“

An apology is also owed to Catholic clergy whose appeals the Church ignored. Archbishop Misic of Mostar, Herzegovina, asked Stepinac to use his influence with authorities to prevent the massacres. And Bulajic wrote of a group of Slovenian Catholic priests who were „sent to the Jasenovac camp because they refused to serve a mass of thanksgiving to Ustasha leader Ante Pavelic… One of the imprisoned Slovenian priests, Anton Rantasa, managed to escape… On 10 November 1942, he informed [Stepinac and the papal legate Ramiro Marcone]… on the crimes of genocide being perpetrated at Jasenovac. He was told to keep silent.“

Similarly, historian Savich writes, „It bears noting that Stepinac was tried and convicted… by Roman Catholic Croats… under the regime of a Roman Catholic Croatian… Many of the historians who documented the Ustasha NDH genocide were Roman Catholic Croats, such as Viktor Novak.“

In his 1950 book Behind the Purple Curtain, Walter Montano wrote of the Stepinac trial: „A parade of prosecution witnesses testified at Zagreb, on October 5, 1946, that Catholic priests armed with pistols went out to convert Orthodox Serbs and massacred them… Most of the witnesses were Croat Catholic peasants and laborers.“

INDEED, JUST as blame for tacit approval of a genocide and subsequent escape for the perpetrators can’t fall merely on „a few individuals,“ it’s more than a few individuals who deserve credit for the opposite. For example, Jews were saved by the entire Catholic nation of Italy (in its sovereign pre-1943 form), including the commandant of the Ferramonti concentration camp, who „said his job was to protect the inmates, not kill them,“ as UPI reported in 2003. Not surprisingly, Italian soldiers also intervened in the slaughter of Serbs by Croats and Axis-aligned Albanians in Kosovo.

Unfortunately, rather than distancing the Church from Aloysius Stepinac, the Vatican-centered newspaperL’Osservatore Romano responded that the „trial was a trial against the Catholic Church.“ New York cardinal Francis Spellman outrageously named a parochial school in White Plains after Stepinac, and in 1952 Pius XII made him cardinal. Then, despite requests by the Simon Wiesenthal Center to hold off until the cardinal’s wartime role could be better assessed, Pope John Paul II beatified Stepinac in 1998.

Croatian groups (and some Croatian Jews) even appealed to Yad Vashem to give Stepinac the Righteous Gentile title, since he saved some Jews on condition of conversion. To which Yad Vashem had to reply in almost absurd terms: „Persons who assisted Jews but simultaneously collaborated or were linked with a fascist regime which took part in the Nazi-orchestrated persecution of Jews, may be disqualified for the Righteous title.“

The same should be said to Pope Benedict about his efforts to canonize Pius XII. Even as it denied Stepinac’s well known association with the Ustasha, Pius’s Vatican served as the conduit for smuggling the Ustashas out after the war. According to declassified US documents introduced in a recent class-action lawsuit against the Vatican Bank for laundering Ustasha loot – used to finance the Ustashas‘ escapes and postwar sustenance – Pavelic was hidden in a Croatian Catholic monastery in Rome, where the office of the American Counterintelligence Corps on September 12, 1947, reported that „Pavelic’s contacts are so high, and his present position is so compromising to the Vatican, that any extradition of subject would deal a staggering blow to the Roman Catholic Church.“ From Rome, Pavelic fled to Argentina, where he became a security adviser to Juan Peron, who issued thousands of visas to fleeing Ustashas.

Haaretz in 2006 reported that Msgr. Giovanni Battista Montini, Pius’s undersecretary of state and later Pope Paul VI, learned of „the investigation [that US Army counterintelligence agent William] Gowen’s unit was conducting. Montini complained about Gowen to his superiors and accused him of having violated the Vatican’s immunity by having entered church buildings, such as the Croatian college, and conducting searches there. The aim of the complaint was to interfere with the investigation.“

A May 2007 press release from plaintiffs‘ attorney Jonathan Levy in the Vatican Bank case states, „To date, the Vatican attorneys… [are] insisting that the Vatican Bank’s money laundering scheme for Axis plunder violated no international law, since the Ustasha’s victims, mainly Orthodox Christian Serbs, were technically citizens of ‚Independent‘ Croatia. The unrepentant tone of the Vatican bodes poorly for Pius XII and the current controversy involving his elevation to sainthood.“

THE VATICAN’S ongoing World War II identity crisis was evident last September when, after prodding from Croatian leaders, Zagreb Archbishop Josip Bozanic paid a 60-year-late visit to the Jasenovac memorial site, the first official representative of the Croatian Church to attend the annual memorial ceremony. Instead of an apology, Bozanic defended Stepinac and the Church, and used the long-awaited moment to also mourn the massacre of fleeing Nazis by partisans in Bleiburg, Austria – where an annual, Croatian government-sponsored commemoration ceremony is well attended by Catholic dignitaries. Bozanic was not reproached by the Vatican, which also doesn’t reproach the Croatian Church’s tolerance of the ubiquitous pro-Nazi symbolism in that country, which reemerged as Croatian „culture“ in the early 1990s.

President Stjepan Mesic himself, who just left office after 10 years, had to recently ask the Vatican to pay closer attention to a bishop and military chaplain who regularly recites a violent poem that ends with the Ustasha saying: „For the fatherland, ready.“

This is the Balkan country that’s on the fast-track for EU membership. That’s where decades of evasion, deflection and cover-up get us, something that contributed to John Paul II’s own neglect of Jasenovac – the Balkans‘ largest killing grounds – during his three trips to Croatia. It also leads us to last December’s spectacle of Pope Benedict having a private audience with Marko Perkovic, lead singer of the notorious clerical-fascist Croatian pop band Thompson, which regularly invokes „For the fatherland, ready“ and had odes to concentration camps on earlier albums. Many Thompson fans engage in Nazi salutes, and nuns and politicians attend the „patriotic“ concerts.

People bury history in order to repeat it. John Ranz, chairman of Buchenwald Survivors, in a 1996 letter to The New York Times, wrote: „Ironically, with US help, [1990s president] Franjo Tudjman was able to accomplish last year what the Nazis and their World War II collaborators could not, namely the uprooting of the entire Serbian Krajina population… The World War II fascist regime of Ante Pavelic is being officially rehabilitated in Croatia today. Streets and public buildings are being named after the architects of the Holocaust, Nazi-era currency revived, while the numbers and scope of the human carnage are being rewritten.“

Had history not been dumped into a mass grave, Western publics might have been allowed a fuller understanding of the Balkan wars, given that by 1991 it was „normal to kill Serbs,“ as Zarko Puhovski, of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, put it. When Croatia seceded from Yugoslavia in June 1991 – and the Vatican was the first to recognize it despite a UN resolution warning this could imperil a peaceful solution – survival dictated that the Serbs secede from the secessionists. „A few days after the Croatians declared war,“ writes historian Israel, Pope John Paul II „sent a letter to the Yugoslav government demanding it not suppress the rebellion.“ And so it was that in 1991 three Croatian soldiers saw „truckloads of bloated, stinking bodies, mothers and children blown up by bombs, and someone wearing a necklace made of ears,“ Reuters reported on January 28, 1998.

And so it was that president Tudjman was a prominent guest at the inauguration of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1993, despite saying that „900,000 died, not 6 million,“ and ranged from calling Jasenovac a „myth,“ to blaming Jews for the killings there, to offering a formal apology for the 20,000 Jews killed there – but not for the several hundred thousand Serbs. And so it was that in 1995, as Croatian soldiers with Ustasha insignia cleansed the Krajina of Serbs – under US air cover – the Glina massacre survivor Ljuban Jednak once again fled for his life, dying a refugee in 1997.

And so it was that in 2005, when then Hague prosecutor Carla del Ponte learned that indicted 1990s war criminal Gen. Ante Gotovina was being sheltered in a Franciscan monastery in Croatia, the Roman Catholic lady found herself  „‚extremely disappointed‘ to encounter a wall of silence from the Vatican“ which, she told the Daily Telegraph, „could probably pinpoint exactly which of Croatia’s 80 monasteries was sheltering him ‚in a few days.'“

And so it was that at the 2006 inauguration of the spruced-up Jasenovac memorial, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Efraim Zuroff observed „the absence of any identification of the individuals responsible for the crimes described… I was amazed that none of the speakers mentioned… Croatia’s greatest achievement in facing its Ustasha past – the prosecution and conviction of Jasenovac commander Dinko Sakic… Could it be that the punishment of such a criminal… is so unpopular, even in today’s Croatia…?“

And so it was that Sakic was buried last July in full Nazi uniform, with a Father Vjekoslav Lasic – one of many who hold masses in honor of Ante Pavelic – officiating. „Independent State of Croatia is the foundation of today’s homeland of Croatia,“ Lasic said. „Every honorable Croat is proud of the name Dinko Sakic.“

When no Croatian official of stature spoke out against the display, Zuroff called on the president to condemn the organizers and remind Croatian society that Sakic brought it shame, not pride.

In enshrining the Church’s divided World War II loyalties by canonizing the ambivalent pope at the time, the Church would be announcing to the world what it’s made of. But the Church is better than the sum of its nastier parts. Canonizing Pius XII would be unjust to Catholics who did more than he, and an insult to Catholics everywhere. Pius shouldn’t be demonized, but he shouldn’t be sanctified.

The writer specializes in the Balkans, and is an unpaid advisory board member of the American Council for Kosovo.


You`re young, you`re drunk, you`re in bed,

you have knives; shit happens…

When I get logical, and I don’t trust my instincts

– that’s when I get in trouble.

– Angelina Jolie[1]

Well, that’s showbiz, Mrs. Pitt!

‘Blood and Honey’ directorial debut a ‘flop’

by Peter Brock


he critics and movie-goers “doth protest too much.”

Make that a silent protest because apparently they have better things to do than say much of anything about Angelina Jolie’s inaugural attempt at writing/directing “In the Land of Blood and Honey.”

The first month’s box office take will likely not even amount to a .01-percent trickle of the $13 million blown on this celluloid cliché that promoters had tried to hype as a Romeo and Juliet tragedy set against the recent Bosnian war. By late January, the three-week mini-run that soaked $90,000 in ticket sales from gullible movie-goers is sputtering.

Only a handful of Balkan war critics had been stirring themselves up at this latest revisionist bid by Hollywood to rile the conscience of the world—while making a few bucks for their trouble. They and diaspora Serbs had grudgingly read the pre-screening synopses which borrowed from two decades worth of lurid headlines about contrived tales of genocide, tens of thousands of fictitious rapes, hyped “concentration camps” and the like.

But after all the buildup, the long-awaited flick rolled in only seven New York and Los Angeles theaters, beginning two days before Christmas in “limited distribution” by FilmDistrict that, as a matter of fact, was quickly getting more limited by the minute. One theater in New York lost no time in yanking it off the marquee.

Worth mentioning is that it didn’t take a second sniff for “Serbian tycoon and media magnate Željko Mitrović” who was earlier asked if Jolie could use his sound stages and studio sets.

“‘I’ve held great affection and admiration for Angelina Jolie both as a person and as an artist, but unfortunately she’s full of prejudice against the Serbs. I do not wish to be part of something that for the umpteenth time presents the Serbs as eternal bad guys.’” It was about the nicest thing anyone would say of the whole project, start to finish.

Story goes that Jolie had originally received a near-epiphany over coffee with unnamed journalists in Budapest when she became inspired to direct the film. A decisive “séance” also occurred with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour whose own words, echoed later by Jolie, were tediously familiar as the former’s signature commentary in wartime “scoops” from Bosnian muslim presidents, prime ministers, United Nations’ goons, bloodthirsty NATO brass and U.S. State Department shills during the ‘90s:

“This was, you know, the worst genocide since World War II in Europe …What were we all doing? And did we do enough? And why do we not speak about this enough?” parrots Jolie.

Amanpour introduced Jolie and the film at its New York Premiere last December 5.

The glitzy premiere after-party was held on The Standard Hotel’s rooftop Hudson River overlook and was co-sponsored by the foreign policy think-tank Council on Foreign Relations of which Jolie, having studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, somehow earned membership. General Wesley Clark, who chaired the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Bosnian War and oversaw 78 straight days of indiscriminate bombing of Serb cities in 1999, also attended the fete and called the film “incredible.”

At first, reviewers grit their teeth while trying to be nice to Jolie—half of the Brad Pitt/Jolie cinematic power couple—in her La-La-Land netherworld romance between a Muslim painter and her fated Serbian lover and guard at one of those sinister “camps”:

“…where rape and brutality against women is business as usual by most Serbian soldiers… Jolie’s phony plotting and graphic depictions of sexual assault and murder are transparent attempts to bluntly convey the war’s atrocities. …Images of men mowed down on the streets, groups of innocents executed in front of mass graves and women raped in the company of their fellow captives all prove Jolie’s admirable commitment to directly addressing the Serbians’ heinous actions. …Her dialogue-heavy sequences are aesthetically inert, further muting the momentum of a tale that, in narrative terms, winds up being a series of clichés piled on top of general preposterousness. …(T)his wannabe-serious film comes off as not just unenlightening, but borderline-interminable.” –
But, it was as plain as the worrisome wrinkle above one of her eyebrows that Jolie’s film had “flopped and appears to be on its way out of theaters”, said after only two holiday weekends.

“…(N)ot even art-house audiences were clamoring for a subtitled drama about the Bosnian war over the Christmas holiday. …Featuring a cast of no-name performers and the brutal setting of the Bosnian war, the film is an almost impossible sell for audiences of any stripe”, bloggers.

Wrote The New York Times Manohla Dargis on the eve of the showing, touting Jolie’s gratuitous title as Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees:

“…(T)here’s a somewhat awkward instructional, at times almost proselytizing aspect to the story that seems of a piece with her laudable humanitarian work. That’s especially true in the scenes in which Ms. Jolie switches into full-on expository mode, putting dry, plodding words into the characters’ mouths that would work better in the kind of on-screen textual explanations, with their snippets of history and politics, that open and close the movie.”

That’s Dargis’ long definition of “propaganda.”

Reviewers wasted no time getting into step:

“Is it a bad sign when you want a movie to end almost as much as the war it’s about?” asked Sam Adams in the LA Times.[2]

“A mix of the powerful and the ridiculous, and eventually the ridiculous wins,” said Mick LaSalle nearly simultaneously in the San Francisco Chronicle.[3]

Variety’s Justin Chang penned a pre-release review of the movie, branding it a “dramatically misguided attempt to renew public awareness of the 1992-95 Balkan conflict” that “springs less from artistic conviction than from an over-earnest humanitarian impulse … “(I)ts scenario tilting into tarted-up banality.”[4]

Likewise, The Village Voice’s Karina Longworth characterized it as a coin-toss “between predictable tragedy and ludicrous redemption …a United Nations extra-credit project about the Bosnian War” and sniped at Jolie for “producing a sanctimonious vanity commercial for her own good intentions.”[5]

Nathan Rabin of the A.V. Club panned it as “a film of shuddering earnestness and fevered good intentions gone awry, a dreary slog of a message movie with little but noble if unfulfilled aspirations to commend it.”[6] He noted that “Serbian groups have justifiably complained about Jolie’s glib stereotyping of Serbs as racist heavies” and that she “once again succeeded in attracting international attention to international atrocities and it’s possible, if not particularly likely, that someday she will get around to dramatizing atrocities compellingly as well.”

Maybe even by both/all sides?

Intuiting yowls of protest from the star of “Catwoman”, her litter of “industry” cronies rushed to salve her ruffled fur in early December when the Producers Guild of America announced that the film would receive its 2012 Stanley Kramer Award[7], followed by more institutional feel-good and a nomination in the Best Foreign Language category for the 69th Golden Globe Awards.[8]

Truth be told, Hollywood doesn’t do well with movies about “those” Balkan wars of the 1990’s. Some would like to think that fans got wise to all the political manipulations and simplistic propaganda by American media about Serbs wearing black hats and everyone else as chaste as Snow White in a burka. But Angie, who signed that pre-nup with Brad in 2007 worth $220 million, isn’t getting hurt.[9]

A roll-call of some Balkan war films shows only one money-maker:

● “Behind Enemy Lines” with Gene Hackman from 2001, budgeted at $40 million, earnings worldwide of $92 million. But not a bonanza. (Rotten Tomatoes based on reviews from 129 critics, dubbed it “Rotten”)

● “Welcome to Sarajevo” in 1997 with Woody Harrelson, budgeted at $9 million, no earnings appear visible. No surprise.

● “Savior” and Dennis Quaid in 1998, $10 million budget. Ditto.

● “No Man’s Land,” in 2002, only worth mentioning because it got the Oscar for best foreign film. It cost $14 million; earned $5 million.

● “The Hunting Party”, in 2007 with Richard Gere spent $40 million and made less than a million in the U.S., but $7 million overseas. Kindest words were from New York Times’ Dargis, who called it a “huge disappointment …A misfired, misguided would-be satire.”

Surprisingly, Roger Ebert blinked in lieu of candor—and he probably had a free ticket. What, a quiz?:

“Although the United States and the United Nations had troops involved, I have a feeling that a good many Americans never worked up much interest in the Bosnian war. There were too many complexities for a soundbite. Was it Serbs against Croatians? Christians against Muslims? A free for all? Wasn’t it all once Yugoslavia? Which side were we on? Or did we simply want all of them to stop fighting?

“I hope I don’t sound snarky. The indifference of many moviegoers to world events affects the box office for any movie about such conflicts. It took a long struggle to get audiences worked up over, and even then, the key words were ‘bomb disposal’ and not ‘Iraq.’ Although we’ve spent a fortune in blood and resources in the Middle East, Hollywood has found audience indifference to events there. Even more so in the former Yugoslavia. When I mention Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia, how many nations have I named? Are they in fact nations? Here’s a curveball: Where are the Balkans?…[10]

Too touchy for ol’ Rog and all his politically-correct pals who sit together in the balconies?

But, among the biggest head-scratchers for “In the Land of Blood and Honey”? Why the obscure title? From an obscure poet? Or, more likely because Jolie had to hurry because bad pre-premiere publicity was going around that the film celebrated rape, and production had to be shortened before the “Mothers of Srebrenica” came stomping over the castle moat—with torches and pitchforks!

She told last May that coming up with the title was “driving me crazy. I have lists and lists of titles all over. She cited the subject matter of the film, which is set against the backdrop of the Bonsian Civil War in the 1990s, as the primary reason she was having such a hard time.

“‘It’s a heavy film,’ she added. ‘You want to find that title that really helps the audience know what they’re walking into.’”

Or, not walking into, as it turns out.

“…In making the announcement, Jolie said: ‘The film is specific to the Bosnian War, but it’s also universal. I wanted to tell a story of how human relationships and behavior are deeply affected by living inside a war.’”

Huh? Which “universe” does she live in?

[2] Los Angeles Times, January 6, 2012.

[3] San Francisco Chronicle, January 5, 2012.

[4] Variety, December 16, 2011.

[5] The Village Voice, December 21, 2011.

[6] The A.V. Club, December 22, 2011.

[7] MSNBC. December 13, 2011.

[8] The Telegraph. December 15, 2011.

[9], July 13, 2007

[10] January 4, 2012.

William J. Sullivan
12 Jan

Dear Pete,
Glad to see Amanpour and Clark stake their reputations and flop.  Poetic justice.  And Roger Ebert gets it right?  Amazing!  I understand the East German critic gave the movie a rating of much, much less than zero.           Bill


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Posted on February 3, 2012

Seselj close to death – legal team

Tags: NewsICTYSocietyWorldSerbia
Jan 8, 2012 21:16 Moscow Time
Supporters of ultra nationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS), hold picture of their party leader Vojislav Seselj. Photo: EPA

The legal team of the leader of Serbia’s Radical Party Vojislav Seselj have told the media that their patron is close to death because of inadequate treatment for liver and heart problems in his jail at The Hague. His condition has been made even worse by a 28-day hunger strike against his prison conditions.

Seselj has already spent 9 years behind bars.

In March 2006, former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic died in his prison cell at The Hague.

From: S. K. <>
Subject: Srebrenica Historical Project: Urgent appeal on behalf of ICTY prisoner of conscience, Vojislav Seselj
Date: Tuesday, January 31, 2012, 4:21 AM


Postbus 90471,


Den Haag, The Netherlands

+31 64 878 09078 (Holland)

+381 64 403 3612 (Serbia)


Web site:


[As you are probably aware, the medical condition of ICTY political prisoner Vojislav Seselj is now critical and nearing the point of judicial murder. Coincidentally, on January 24 in Paris the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation, headed by distinguished Russian historian Natalia Narochnitskaya, conducted a round table conference on the Hague Tribunal in which the president of “Srebrenica Historical Project” participated. The focus of the conference was on three cases: Karadzic, Mladic, and Seselj. Stephen Karganovic’s remarks concerned the Seselj case. Here they are on the IDC web page in English: and in French:

Maximum publicity for Seselj’s predicament is perhaps the only chance we have got to ensure that he gets adequate medical treatment and an opportunity to stay alive long enough to again demolish the prosecution in the closing arguments scheduled for March. If you have that possibility, please reprint and distribute these remarks as widely as possible in order to raise public awareness and to exert pressure on the Hague Tribunal to desist from withholding proper medical attention from Vojislav Seselj. Once that is successfully accomplished, the next step is for his case to be given proper legal attention, including an objective assessment of whether there are any grounds for continuing the failed trial. If not, the ICTY prisoner of conscience, Vojislav Seselj, must be released immediately. The effort to prevent the judicial murder of Vojislav Seselj and to ensure that internationally recognised legal procedures are applied in his case is a matter of principle for all who believe in human rights and the rule of law. It is not a comment on or endorsement of his political views.]

Remarks at the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation, Paris, 24 January 2012.


Or, perhaps, after a nine year extra-judicial agony we may now dispense with expectations of justice and rephrase the question more practically in the following way: is there hope that at least some of the procedural norms of civilized jurisprudence might finally be put into effect in the course of these proceedings?

As I expect to illustrate, that alone would constitute huge progress in this case and would lead to a just result – dismissal of the charges – even without a formal verdict of acquittal after due deliberation on the evidence. That is so for at least two reasons. First, the five year pre-trial delay and concomitant denial of provisional release, coupled with the inexpeditious pace of the trial since it finally started, constitute a grave violation of the right to a speedy trial and thus a valid reason for quashing further proceedings. Be it noted that the right to a “fair and expeditious trial” is guaranteed in Rule 65ter (B) of the Tribunal’s own Rules of Evidence and Procedure, which the nine-year and counting incarceration of Vojislav Šešelj by any reasonable standard appears to have violated. Secondly, the complete collapse of prosecution’s case by the time it drew to a close in March of 2011 and the consequent failure to demonstrate a single charge in the indictment. According to the Tribunal’s own rules, Rule 98bis to be exact, at that stage the chamber should have assessed the evidence in the light most favorable to the accused and abrogated further proceedings if it appeared that the prosecution failed to present evidence that might reasonably lead to a conviction.

Despite prosecution’s manifest failure to present such evidence, and the clearly expressed view of chamber president Antoneti that the concept of joint criminal enterprise, upon which much of the indictment hinges, was misapplied in the Šešelj case, the majority of the chamber voted for the trial to proceed. The political beneficiaries of this prolongation are the present rulers of Serbia. As a result of it, they will not have to face the unsavory prospect of a triumphant Šešelj returning any time soon to lead his resurgent Radical Party in the forthcoming Serbian elections. To make matters even more absurd, instead of moving forward since the 98bis hearing last Spring, the case-in-chief has been meandering around collateral issues, specifically contempt of court charges against the defendant for allegedly publicizing the identities of prosecution’s protected witnesses. It does not matter that all those witnesses have signed affidavits that they do not object to the lifting of protective measures. The trial is thus effectively prevented from advancing into the defence phase while these contrived issues are being considered, although the conclusion of the tedious proceedings as a whole is long overdue.

A word is in order about Judge Jean-Claude Antoneti. After several judges in succession were replaced, he was appointed to head the chamber on the eve of the trial’s commencement. Judged by purely formal standards, his performance has been commendable. But note should be taken of the fact that, though he has, unlike his predecessors, been a generally fair umpire in the courtroom, Antoneti alone has no decisive influence on the outcome, flanked as he is by judges Harhoff and Latanzzi who make no attempt to conceal their animosity toward the defendant. There is no particular reason to question Antoneti’s personal honour and professional rectitude, but his practical role in the Šešelj proceedings is limited and may be likened to that of Dubček: he acts as the Tribunal’s “human face”. Whatever the ultimate reason for Antoneti’s assignment, it must be recognized that his generally reasonable conduct has had the paradoxical effect of improving the quality of Šešelj’s defence. No longer obliged to assume the posture of an enfant terrible in order to dramatise the unfairness and absurdity of the proceedings against him, Vojislav Šešelj, who may not be a man of great social refinement but who does happen to be a person of enormous erudition and legal competence, could at last focus on the effective conduct of his defence and demonstrate publicly his complete mastery of the lawyer’s craft.

The list of procedural violations in the Šešelj case is long and varied, but we may reduce it to the following principal issues.

Undoubtedly, a fundamental issue in this category is the apparent fact that the indictment itself was not motivated by legal but by crassly political reasons. As we learned by reading former chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte’s memoirs, the prosecution was virtually invited by the then prime minister of Serbia, Zoran Djindjić, to contrive a case against Šešelj. On that occasion he used the infamous expression: “Please take Šešelj away from here, and do not ever bring him back.” Though scandalous, that attitude is somewhat understandable coming from the politician Djindjić, who sought to get rid of his foremost political rival. But that a supposedly reputable international judicial institution should act upon such a crudely political invitation, as The Hague Tribunal appears to have done, is an outrage of the first order.

Such an infelicitous inception of the Šešelj case could not but lead to a lengthy train of subsequent abuses. In spite of the fact that Šešelj turned himself in voluntarily within days of being informed of the indictment against him and that he satisfied all of the Tribunal’s own criteria for pre-trial release, he was denied that privilege. By contrast, Kosovo Albanian politician Ramush Haradinaj, who was accused not of verbal offences but of mayhem and torture, was granted not merely provisional release but also the right to engage in politics while free, pending the commencement of his trial.

While for almost five years Vojislav Šešelj was incarcerated in pre-trial limbo, waiting for the prosecution to scrape together anything that remotely resembled inculpatory evidence that it could use in court against him, he had to simultaneously fight two momentous procedural battles.

The first was for the Tribunal to recognize Šešelj’s right to represent himself. One would think that should have been a simple matter because Article 21 of ICTY’s own Statute guarantees that option to each defendant, unconditionally and in plain language. For many years, however, that right was denied to Šešelj, a former law professor, on the spurious grounds that it would be disruptive of the proceedings! In the end, Šešelj had to go on a hunger strike before the appellate chamber reversed the position and finally recognized his elementary right to self-representation.

The second battle, in which he achieved only a partial victory that always remained precarious, was fought under the banner of “equality of arms.” Briefly, the concept mandates that there should be a rough equivalence of resources between the parties as they confront each other in court. The prosecution has dozens of assistants and investigators and considerable funds at its disposal. By comparison, even when everything is going smoothly by ICTY standards, the resources assigned to the defence are miniscule. In his characteristic “go for broke” fashion, Šešelj bombarded the chamber with a demand that was perfectly reasonable but got nowhere: for disclosure of the funds and personnel that were made available to the prosecution to mount its case against him and, under the “equality of arms” doctrine, that he be accorded comparable resources. The farthest he ever got after filing countless motions and engaging in interminable courtroom histrionics was the chamber’s agreement finally that he should be given some funds with which to finance his defence as opposed to none at all, which was the court’s original position. Like every bizarre ruling in The Hague, this one also was motivated by exquisite sophistical reasoning. When you choose to represent yourself, so their rationale went, you also assume the entire responsibility for financing your own defence.

Tainted from the outset, the case against Vojislav Šešelj began to really unravel once the trial started. It turned out that “expert” witnesses brought by the prosecution were a parade of half-wits and ignoramuses or, in Šešelj’s own memorable courtroom phrase, “If they know less than I do about the subject matter of their expertise, they have no business being here.” The alleged percipient witnesses to Šešelj’s crimes were an unmitigated disaster for the prosecution, whose performance was marked by wholesale perjury. The vast majority admitted in court, under Šešelj’s merciless cross-examination, that they were blackmailed, pressured, or suborned to give false evidence against him under the direction of the prosecutor. One even revealed in open court that prosecution investigators had promised him access to “girls” if he agreed to give incriminating evidence against the defendant. Many prosecution witnesses, apparently relieved that they could finally do so in the relative safety of open court, withdrew large portions or all of their previously given statements and one, to the apparent amazement of the judges, requested permission to walk over to the defendant and to embrace him.

The prosecution of Vojislav Šešelj, more than any other scandalous proceeding at ICTY, symbolises most clearly its institutional corruption and it illustrates the true nature of the Hague Tribunal which was best encapsulated by a distinguished authority in the title of one of his books: travesty.

Oh, yes, and haven’t we forgotten to mention the official charges against Vojislav Šešelj? Not at all, they just happen to be completely ludicrous and of negligible import in relation to the gross subversion of basic legal principles that the conduct of his trial in all its phases represents. The defendant stands accused of “inciting” to violence and ethnic persecution in his political statements, an offence that is not even listed as a crime in the Tribunal’s Statute, any more than is the elusive doctrine of Joint Criminal Enterprise, and that in any event would be regarded as legally protected free speech from any but a politically vindictive point of view.

Just a few days ago, Foreign Minister Lavrov in his annual press conference singled out the persecution of Vojislav Šešelj for particular criticism and cited it as one of the significant reasons for closing down the Hague Tribunal. The record of illegality and systematic professional misconduct that has characterised the Šešelj case makes Mr. Lavrov’s recommendation urgent and entirely appropriate. One should only like to add that after more than a decade and a half of serious damage to international law it would not be enough to merely shut it down. All its decisions and verdicts must also be reviewed, the pernicious precedents it set dismissed, and its willing servants disciplined professionally.

Stephen Karganovic


All Too Familiar

Posted by Julia Gorin

I’ve often said that in bombing the Serbs, we were bombing the same clueless, multi-culti, in -denial types that we are. The difference is that over there, the shit had hit the fan and the Serbs found themselves under physical attack and being forced to react. A reality that God has been kind enough so far, to drag out over decades for us here. From a series of letters by “S.J.,” starting in October:

…In spite of what is usually thought about the conflict in B&H, it wasn’t a clear-cut three-sided ethnic conflict (or, perhaps more correctly, ethno-religious conflict). The fact of the matter is, little was done to curb the rising nationalism among Croats and Muslims early on. People like Tudjman and Izetbegovic were let off with a slap on the wrist, even though they openly advocated policies that were identical to those that led to WWII.

Under normal circumstances such people wouldn’t be likely to survive for long in a communist/socialist country, and the fact they didn’t conveniently “disappear” is a clear indication those who shared their views had infiltrated the Yugoslav institutions. These people, with outside assistance, formed groups of like-minded individuals that were FAR from
representative of the views held by average people (who generally wouldn’t have supported the breakup of Yugoslavia), so, theoretically at least these groups shouldn’t have been able to do what they did.

In reality, the people didn’t really even know what was going on. Characteristically, Serbs (and particularly those from the urban areas, who were far less in touch with the reality, and less aware of the rising hatred that was more openly expressed in the rural areas) were less aware than most, and the war came to most as a COMPLETE surprise. My family lived in Mostar, and even after a terrorist attack on one of the military bases, and a massacre at a Serbian wedding party, and the advice given to my mother by a Muslim friend (advice that my mother, like other Serbs, thought was completely out of the blue, which further indicates just how detached from reality they were), they decided it was perhaps a good time to visit my grandparents’ village for a few days. Little did my parents know that they would never again return home. They took nothing with them, as it was never meant to be the start of their refugee life. They, like most others, thought that the Yugoslav government would sort everything out in no time. But things quickly spiraled out of control.

The Muslims and the Croat secessionists, together with more and more Croats and Muslims from within the Yugoslavian military, organised further attacks, and the war broke out in no time. The Serbs, on the other hand, had no paramilitary organisations (not until later on), and were entirely unprepared. They were completely reliant on the Yugoslavian state, which was disintegrating on all levels.

To get back to the issue of ethnic conflict: It is commonly thought that it was simply a conflict BETWEEN different ethnicities. It wasn’t. Yes, all Serbs were on one side, the side of the legitimate state. But it wasn’t so clear-cut among Croats and Muslims. Not only were there Muslims who fought on the side of Yugoslavia, but there were conflicts among the secessionist Muslims as well. It’s not exactly clear why they fought with each other, but these were Muslims coming from extremely backward rural areas, and their reasons are as complex to fathom as the reasons behind the tribal conflicts in Afghanistan.

Some of these villages were almost unknown. I’ve heard of at least one instance of a Serbian village being attacked by Muslims coming down from the mountains behind the village, that the Serbs didn’t know were even inhabited. It was later found out that there we 13 Muslim villages on that mountain, mostly formed by mujahideen and their families preparing for the war. How they escaped detection is unknown. Regardless, Serbs — faced with the realisation that they were in the midst of something that was CLEARLY planned, and a war that all but they prepared for — soon formed their own paramilitaries.

With subsequent accusations of genocide and whatnot, all sides were further polarised, and the conflict became an inter-ethnic one. Most Western media, late on the scene as always and not caring enough that it was crossing the line between journalism and propaganda, only showed that later side of the conflict.

November letter:

“Zelenilo’, which approximately translates to ‘greenery’, a Croatian organization charged with taking care of public spaces and the like, posted overdue-payment notices on Jewish graves in the cemetery in Karlovac. Essentially, it’s to inform the “visitors” that the dead have overstayed their lease. It’s, however, uncertain who “Zelenilo” expects to pay for an extension of the leases, given that virtually all of the descendants of those buried were killed in the Holocaust.

Truth be told, the article comes from a Croatian news portal, and the tone seems to suggest they are a bit surprised as well (not necessarily shocked in a “this is incredibly insensitive” sense, but more like “this is ridiculous”).

But this is nothing new. The Croats and Muslims alike seem to have very little respect for the graves of others. Knowing from past experiences, many Serbs fleeing during “Operation Storm” decided to exhume the bones of their more recently deceased, and took them for reburial in more deceased-friendly regions. That [is] in stark contrast to what happened in my grandmother’s village (to give an example of which I have first-hand knowledge), where a Muslim graveyard was built INSIDE the village (which had no Muslim population) while the Turks still ruled, specifically to annoy the Serbs (as both Serbs and Muslims normally don’t build graveyards so close to houses. The fact that they did in a village that was entirely Orthodox seems to indicate malice on their part). Anyway, the Muslim graves were never touched. The Serbs even built a fence around it recently, to prevent cattle from disturbing the graves (something the Muslims didn’t bother with).

December letter, in response to my blog “Jewish Cemetery Desecrated in Kosovo Capital“:

Desecration of cemeteries is nothing new to the enemies of Serbs (be they Croats, Muslims, Albanians or Hungarians). Traditionally (and despite the decades of communist brain-washing, still today) Serbs have enormous respect for the dead. It manifests itself in various ways, with one of them being the tendency (again, among those “in touch” with their roots) to NOT speak badly of the recently deceased…. Those sentiments don’t seem to be present among our neighbours, and desecration of Serbian cemeteries, which to many Serbs is even more horrifying that the slaughter of the living (as it is seen as something absolutely sacrilegious, cruel, and when you think about it, unnecessary regardless of how much you hate someone), become one of the preferred methods of terrorizing Serbs. The dead don’t fight back, after all.

[And if dead Serbs did, they’d be tried for war crimes.]

That tactic was employed by the Croats in Croatia (to be fair, it wasn’t done EVERYWHERE, at least not back then), and it became clear to us Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia to what extent the Serbs from Croatia were brutalized when we saw them in convoys, on trucks and in cars, with the bones of their dead wrapped in plastic. It seemed morbid even to us (and somewhat sacrilegious in itself, as bones are not meant to be moved without Church, family and State approval), but one can understand the sentiments of a mother not wanting the grave of her child desecrated by those who did similar things in the past (WWII).

Of course, what happened afterwards proved that these measures were necessary… The number of times swastikas and “U’ signs (Ustasha equivalent of a swastika) have appeared scribbled on Serbian Churches, particularly in the Dalmatian region and other areas where Serbs were a significant element, is alarming, and a clear message to Serbs that they’re not welcome.

In Kosovo we saw an even worse level of savagery. It wasn’t enough to vandalize graves and destroy churches. They resorted to turning Churches into PUBLIC TOILETS, and some graveyards proved useful spaces for rubbish [dumps].

…It’s important to mention that [my grandmother’s] village, [inside which a Muslim cemetery still stands,] like most in Herzegovina, was a target of Ustashe and Handzar terror. My grandmother’s elderly parents were locked inside their house by the Ustashe…and the house was set on fire. Some people were thrown into “jame” (pit caves), injured or dead, and some sent to Jasenovac (my grandfather was among those sent to Jasenovac, but he managed to escape by jumping into a river and swimming for his life. As it was nearly winter, the Croats just let him go, probably thinking he’d freeze to death anyway). And as if that wasn’t enough, “jame” throughout the region were later concreted over by the communists, as it was seen that “dwelling on the dead” would cause a strain in ethnic relations.

So, if anyone had reason to hate, it was these people, but they didn’t resort to desecrating the graves of others. If only the Albanians, who enjoyed a better life in Yugoslavia and Serbia than in Albania itself, and who have essentially had everything go their way, had just a little bit of that respect. They don’t even have the “excuse’ of taking revenge. Revenge for WHAT, exactly? […]

And from this week, in response to my “Disfiguring the Disfigurement of Jasenovac” blog:

More information can be found here:

The difficulty in establishing definitive facts in relation to the WWII genocide in Yugoslavia (by which I mean ALL of Yugoslavia, including the areas occupied by Germans, Italians, Bulgarians, Hungarians, Albanians, and Croatia which was controlled by the Ustashe with the aid of Bosnian Muslims who took part in both SS Handzar divisions and special Muslim Ustashe divisions) lies in the fact that study was repressed for some 50 years by the communists, and some 20 years by the West and their local allies.

Nevertheless, there is more than enough information to go on. However, one thing needs to be made clear. Evidence DOES NOT MEAN bodies, because there simply aren’t as many bodies as those killed. Just as in the Holocaust outside Yugoslavia, bodies were burned, or otherwise completely disposed of, so that the actual mass graves don’t contain as many bodies as there were people killed. The Ustashe went one step further (some rather sickening details will follow, for which I apologise, but it is necessary), and cremated people WHILE STILL ALIVE, threw people into icy rivers, after cutting their abdomens open to ensure there was no “risk” of survival, but there was still suffering involved. They also used the body fat to make soap, similar to how lampshades were made out of skin of Jews.

I won’t go on, but in short, body count isn’t something we can rely on. So to compensate for it, Serbian historians have relied on reports made by the Croats, Italians, and Nazis, and also on the census information. Not even that is entirely reliable, as those in more remote areas wouldn’t have been covered by the census, and as entire families and villages were wiped out, there was no one to report the deaths after the war.

Another thing needs to be taken into consideration: Jasenovac was only ONE of many concentration camps operated by the Ustashe. It wasn’t even the worst among them, as there was one camp which was only for children. That particular camp was run by Catholic nuns, and the wives and sisters of those who operated Jasenovac.

Another thing Serbs find particularly insulting is the insistence on referring to almost all camps in Yugoslavia as “concentration camps”. VERY FEW were concentration camps, and most were in fact death camps. One of them, Sajmiste in Belgrade, has a unique position in WWII history in that it was the only URBAN death camp. No other death camp operated so openly. Sajmiste was designed to frighten Serbs into submission, its horrors a daily [reminder] as they went to and from work and school.

Also related to the Jasenovac post, reader Steve responded:

Hi, just read your piece about Jasenovac. I can’t remember the source now, but I read someone quoting that in German war archives it is clear in German Officers records that 1,000,000 Serbs were killed by Croatians.

Indeed, I am reminded that in the course of doing research for my 2010Jerusalem Post article “Mass Grave of History,” I came across such an official German figure for Croatia. So we know that at least a million Serbs were killed there.

February 06th 2012 04:49:54 PM

A follow-up to this ongoing case from 2010, in which 17 Albanian gangsters were arrested in New York, Canada and Albania including an Albanian government aide. No wire story on this outcome. No New York story either.

Just the FBI press release:

Two Leaders of Violent Albanian Drug Gang Found Guilty in Manhattan Federal Court
Defendants Convicted of Two Murders, Three Kidnappings, Racketeering, and Other Offenses

U.S. Attorney’s Office December 07, 2011, Southern District of New York

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that brothers BRUNO KRASNIQI and SAIMIR KRASNIQI, leaders of a violent Albanian organized crime group, were convicted yesterday of numerous crimes, including racketeering, murder, conspiracy to murder, kidnapping, narcotics trafficking, arson, robbery, extortion, obstruction of justice, interstate transportation of stolen narcotics, and possession and use of firearms. The KRASNIQIs were found guilty after a five-week jury trial presided over by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Holwell.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Bruno and Saimir Krasniqi led one of the most brutal and violent organized crime groups in recent memory. In one six-month period, they committed two murders, two kidnappings, two drug robberies, and an arson. Today, nearly six years after the brutal murders they orchestrated, the jury’s swift verdict has brought the Krasniqis’ reign of terror to an end and the perpetrators of these vicious crimes to justice.”

According to the trial evidence and other documents filed in the case:

BRUNO KRASNIQI and SAIMIR KRASNIQI led a racketeering enterprise (the “Krasniqi Organization”) that engaged in murder, kidnapping, narcotics trafficking, extortion, robbery, arson, obstruction of justice, and interstate transportation of stolen goods. The Krasniqi Organization operated in New York, Michigan, and Connecticut, among other locations.

Among other offenses, BRUNO KRASNIQI and SAIMIR KRASNIQI were convicted of two separate homicides. On July 17, 2005, Erion Shehu, a member of a rival Albanian drug crew, was murdered outside a Queens café in a drive-by shooting carried out by the Krasniqi Organization. On the night of the murder, SAIMIR KRASNIQI parked in front of Shehu’s car, trapping him inside. BRUNO KRASNIQI and another member of the organization then shot Shehu approximately 11 times with a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun and a .22 caliber handgun equipped with a silencer. Shehu died of multiple gunshot wounds shortly thereafter.

The murder of Erion Shehu was the result of a turf battle with a rival Albanian drug gang. The Krasniqi Organization had previously robbed a member of the rival gang at gunpoint of approximately 20 pounds of marijuana. Approximately two weeks prior to the murder of Shehu, members of the Krasniqi Organization, including BRUNO KRASNIQI and SAIMIR KRASNIQI, kidnapped another member of the rival drug gang, Neritan Kocareli, at gunpoint, pistol-whipped him, and threatened to kill him if he did not disclose the locations of other members of his narcotics crew.

On January 13, 2006, the KRASNIQIs executed Erenick Grezda, a member of their organization, because they believed he had previously set BRUNO KRASNIQI up to be kidnapped by rival drug dealers from whom BRUNO KRASNIQI had stolen $250,000 worth of marijuana. Grezda was shot twice in the head while he was sitting in an SUV that belonged to another member of the organization. Following the murder, the KRASNIQIs and other organization members drove the SUV to New Jersey, where they set it on fire in an attempt to destroy evidence inside.

In addition to these crimes, the KRASNIQIs were convicted of participating in two other kidnappings. In 2003, members of the Krasniqi organization kidnapped a victim in Michigan at gunpoint and threatened to kill him because they believed he had disrespected one of their members. In July 2005, members of the Krasniqi Organization kidnapped and shot at a victim in Staten Island as part of a dispute with yet another Albanian drug gang.

The KRASNIQIs were also convicted of conspiring to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana, conspiring to commit extortion, two counts of firearms possession and use, including possession of a firearm with a silencer, and obstruction of justice.

BRUNO KRASNIQI and SAIMIR KRASNIQI each face two mandatory minimum sentences of life in prison, as well as 60-year mandatory minimum sentences for the narcotics and firearms convictions.

Mr. Bharara praised the work of the FBI’s Balkan Organized Crime Task Force, comprised of Special Agents of the FBI and Detectives of the New York City Police Department, for their work on the investigation. He also thanked the Office of International Affairs, U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division, the U.S. State Department, and the Albanian authorities, for their assistance in the investigation and extradition of Almir Rrapo, who had been employed as the Senior Administrative Assistant to the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Albania at the time of his arrest in Albania on charges relating to his association with the Krasniqi Organization and his participation in the murder of Erion Shehu, the kidnapping of Neritan Kocareli, and narcotics trafficking. On April 11, 2011, following his extradition to the United States, Rrapo pled guilty to racketeering, murder, kidnapping, narcotics, and firearms charges pursuant to a cooperation agreement with the government.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Organized Crime Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Avi Weitzman, Natalie LaMarque, and Ian McGinley are in charge of the prosecution.


Call to Action: Retire NATO, Create Jobs & Fund Peace

Chicago – May 2012


Sponsored by: Network for a NATO-Free World: Global Peace and Justice*



In a land that’s known as freedom
How can such a thing be fair
Won’t you please come to
For the help that we can bring

We can change the world

Re-arrange the world
It’s dying … to get better


                                                                                  Crosby, Stills & Nash


NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is holding a summit meeting in Chicago, May 2012.  We, peace and justice activists, will gather at a counter summit to voice a new vision of global security and peace.

Join us in Chicago May 18 & 19 for a counter-summit conference to conceive and help build a more peaceful, economically secure and environmentally sustainable world.

As the majority of the U.S. people know, it’s long past time to end the U.S./NATO war in Afghanistan, bring home all U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan, Iraq and around the world, to end the attacks on Libya and to begin to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction and redirect monies from wars and weapons back to our communities.

Despite its claims, NATO was never a defensive alliance, and since the end of the Cold War has been transformed into global alliance structured to wage “out of area” wars in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, as well as to “contain” China. NATO’s creed is aggressive, expansionist, militarist and undemocratic.

From Yugoslavia to Afghanistan and Libya the US has used NATO to enhance and extend its military, economic and political aims that ensure U.S. and European dominance of the resources, markets and labor of the Global South. It has spread the cost of these adventures to its NATO partners.

While ignoring human needs here at home, the U.S. has spent more than a trillion dollars on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and tens of billions of dollars more each year to maintain hundreds of military bases and nuclear weapons across Europe.  Instead of wasting money on NATO, our tax dollars should be used to provide real security by creating green jobs and investing in infrastructure modernization for the 21st century, clean water, education, housing and health care for all.

The crisis of every day life in countries around the globe demands international cooperation based on respect for international law, and national sovereignty, not wars and an escalating global arms race – an arms race of one, driven by the US.

The NATO summit provides an opportunity to join in solidarity with our international counterparts to mount an education campaign to help people across the United States and in other NATO nations understand the true nature of NATO and mobilize to abolish it.

By joining together, we can visibly and nonviolently demonstrate how NATO undermines people’s real security in every dimension of life. As we discuss and demand alternative and life-affirming foreign policies, we will help to build the worldwide movement that opposes NATO and its wars, and create a world of peace, justice and economic prosperity.

Diplomacy, international law, national sovereignty, international collaborations, and nonviolent conflict resolution are the foundations of real, global security.

Help us mobilize activists to come to Chicago to participate in an international conference.

A better, more peaceful, secure and prosperous world is possible.

We demand:

  • Complete withdrawal of all U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan.
  • Withdrawal of all foreign deployed U.S. troops, bases, nuclear weapons and “missile defenses,”
  • Substantial reductions in U.S. and NATO military spending to fund our communities and to meet human needs.
  • Restitution of the UN Charter and International Law as means of resolving international disputes.
  • Retire NATO!

Network for a NATO-Free World: Global Peace and Justice (List in formation): American Friends Service Committee-Peace and Economic Security Program, Code Pink, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, Maryknoll Office of Concerns, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Peace Action, United for Peace and Justice, US Labor Against the War, US Peace Council, War Resisters League. Chicago: American Friends Service Committee-Chicago, Code Pink, Greater Chicago Area Peace Action, New New Deal, US Labor Against the War,


For additional information and to sign onto this call contact: Judith Le Blanc mailto:( or Joseph Gerson (

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