Video footage about “Operation Storm”, broadcast by Belgrade TV station B92 in August 2006, of Bosnian troops killing a Serb civilian, and of Croatian troops harassing a convoy of Serb refugees.
By Paul Mitchell:
Croatian conviction casts light on US responsibility for war crimes
22 April 2011
Last week, the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia in the Hague found two Croatian military leaders, General Ante Gotovina and Assistant Interior Minister Mladen Markac, guilty of war crimes and sentenced them to 24 years and 18 years imprisonment, respectively. A third defendant, Ivan Cermak, was acquitted.
Gotovina and Marcak were accused of taking part in a “joint criminal enterprise”, the purpose of which was “the permanent removal” of the Serb population of the Krajina region of Croatia during the August 1995 Operation Storm military offensive, which broke a United Nations-monitored cease-fire.
Their crimes, involving “deportation and forcible transfer, plunder of public and private property, wanton destruction, murder, inhumane acts and cruel treatment”, led to the deaths of up to 2,200 people, half of them civilians, and the creation of 200,000 Serb refugees.
Tens of thousands have demonstrated in the Croatian capital Zagreb since Gotovina was convicted with banners proclaiming him a hero for his role in the “Homeland War”, which erupted soon after Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia in June 1991. German imperialism, anxious to flex its political muscles after reunification, had promoted Croat secession and rushed to extend recognition. While both the US and the other Western European powers initially opposed recognition, they ultimately accepted Germany’s position.
Warnings that civil war would result were dismissed. Within months Serbs, who dominated the west of Croatia, declared an independent Serb Republic of Krajina (RSK), splitting the country in two. Operation Storm was designed to bring the region back under Croat control.
The conviction of Gotovina and Markac casts further light on the role of the US government in Operation Storm and its responsibility for what has been described as the biggest act of ethnic cleansing during the Balkan Wars.
During the trial, it became apparent that US officials were in constant contact with the Croatian government, encouraging the military offensive at a time when a UN cease-fire was in operation. They knew that war crimes were likely to be committed. The Clinton administration also approved the training of Croat forces, and provided intelligence and air support. No US official or politician has been placed on trial or is likely to be.
Peter Galbraith, a former senior adviser to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and US ambassador to Croatia from 1993 until 1998, was called at the trial as an “expert witness”. …
Galbraith told the court that Croatian President Franjo Tudjman was obsessed with creating an ethnically homogeneous “Greater Croatia”. He believed the Serbs in the Krajina were too numerous and constituted a strategic threat to Croatia. Any who left (or were driven out) should not be allowed to return.
Tudjman had become the US’s closest ally in the Balkans. Galbraith said, “In the first two and a half years, I met with him very frequently; I would say several times a week, on some occasions several times a day.”