Truth in Media Global Watch Bulletins

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TiM Bulletin 93-11 November 1993

From a Trip through Bosnia, Serbia...

Don't Mess with Serb Generals!

Serb Politicians: Stupid or Crafty?



Serb Sarajevo        1. Don't Mess with Serb Generals!

Belgrade                2. Serb Politicians: Stupid or Crafty?


In late September (1993), Bob Djurdjevic returned from a 12-day trip through Bosnia and Serbia, during which he met with Dr. Radovan Karadzic, Patriarch Pavle, the top diplomats at the U.S., British, French, Russian, Canadian and Belgian embassies, plus a number of Serbian government and opposition leaders, and other opinion-makers.  He has also talked to Bosnian Serb soldiers, ordinary citizens and doctors in both Bosnia and Serbia.  In this issue, we bring you the next three articles in a series based on these conversations.

1. Don't Mess with Serb Generals

© 1993 by Bob Djurdjevic

SERB SARAJEVO, Bosnia, September 1993 -  "We have to teach them (the former Communist officers) once again that when a Serbian officer gives his word, that's something sacred," said Dr. Radovan Karadzic, president of Bosnian Serbs, during our recent late night-early morning meeting in Serb Sarajevo.  

Dr. Karadzic, a psychiatrist by profession, was referring to a need for "re-education" of the former Communists in the Bosnian Serb army to whom lying and cheating had been a natural way of life for so many decades under the rule of the late Yugoslav President Tito.  At the same time, he was also referring to a need to reestablish the moral values and a proud military tradition of the Serbian army, which despite its small size became one of the most celebrated military outfits in World War I.  

After being practically decimated by the advancing German and Austrian forces in the early years of the war, the Serbs retreated via Albania, to recuperate and regroup on the island of Corfu, Greece.  When they returned to the battlefield on the Thessalonika front, on September 15, 1918, they launched a counterattack against the Central Powers' forces with such a ferocity that neither their own rear guard, nor the French or the British units in reserve, could keep up.  In just 46 days, relentlessly pursuing the retreating enemy over the rugged mountainous terrain, they were in Belgrade, some 400 miles to the north.  The day was November 1, 1918.  Two days later, the Austro-Hungarian Empire capitulated.  On November 11, Germany surrendered.  World War I was over.

Most North American students learn in their history classes that it was a Serb's assassination of an Austrian archduke in Sarajevo that started World War I.  Few  are aware, however, that it was the Serbian Army's military prowess that led to its swift end.  But, the contemporaries knew that:

"When the history of this war is written, the most celebrated chapter will be entitled - Serbia.  The Serbian army had displayed miraculous heroism; the Serbian nation has suffered untold hardships.  Such sacrifices and determination cannot go by unnoticed,  They must be rewarded."

Robert Lansing, U.S. Secretary of State, (1915-1920)

Secretary Lansing would be probably turning in his grave now if he knew how the current generation of American politicians is "rewarding" his Serbian friends.  The cruel and genocidal sanctions which deprive an entire nation of access to medicines kill not just the soldiers on the battlefield, as the Germans, Austrians, Turks and Bulgarians did, but also the women and the children.

Meanwhile, back in Bosnia, some former Yugoslav Army officers have managed to rekindle a fighting spirit among the Serbian troops there and in Krajina (a Serb territory in Croatia).  Despite their Communist heritage, Generals Ratko (the word means "warrior" in Serbian) Mladic and Momcilo (a "spry, young man") Perisic, stand out in this respect.

General Mladic

General Mladic was the commander of the Yugoslav Army unit based in Knin, Serbian Krajina, when the Croatian war broke out in the summer of 1991.  Now, he is the top field general of the Bosnian Serbs - by all accounts the military victors so far in the Bosnian war.  Even the anti-Serbian NEW YORK TIMES has written flattering stories about him.  The following is an example of this general's lore, based on my Yugoslav sources:

Earlier this year, General Mladic and (UNPROFOR's Swedish) General Wahlgren were negotiating a cease-fire agreement in Srebrenica.  Wahlgren accused the Serbs of using the white painted U.N. vehicles and wearing blue helmets when entering Muslim villages, then shooting up the civilians who thought that they were the UNPROFOR troops.  General Mladic said that that was not true.  "We are positive about that," Wahlgren replied.  Mladic asked for details, such as the names of villages, the dates and times of the alleged incidents.  Wahlgren gave it to him.  Mladic then called in one of his aides, gave him the piece of paper and whispered something in his ear.  The aide walked out.  Meanwhile, Wahlgren and Mladic continued their discussion of other issues.

After a while, the aide returned and whispered something into Mladic's ear.  Mladic then turned to Wahlgren and said, "your reports are false."  "But, we are certain of it, " Wahlgren insisted.  "What are your sources?" Mladic asked.  "The (Muslim) ham radio operators," Wahlgren replied.  Mladic grinned.  "Some sources!" he replied sarcastically.  "I am telling you such reports aren't true."  "But, we insist..." Wahlgren started to say, before Mladic interrupted him.  "Eat shit!" Mladic yelled, staring at the Swedish general angrily.

The stunned interpreter paused and looked at Mladic hesitantly.  Wahlgren also must have sensed that something was seriously wrong.  "Translate!" Mladic ordered the interpreter.  He did.  It was now Wahlgren's turn to look at Mladic in shock.  The two stared at each other for a few seconds in silence.  Then, without saying a word, the Swede calmly went on to the next item of business.  The tension had eased.  It was clear that Wahlgren now believed Mladic.  A four-letter word had helped the two generals find a common language.

 General Perisic

In 1991, General Perisic (then a colonel) was the commander of the Yugoslav Army elite artillery base in Zadar.  Now he is "the Colin Powell of the Serbian Army."  "Zadar was the place where the artillery officers used to go to for special training," a Yugoslav military source explained.  When the Croatian war started in the summer of 1991, the city of Zadar turned off the water and the electricity to the base.  Perisic responded by giving the Croatian authorities a deadline of noon, the following day, to restore these utilities, "or else he would punish them."  Perisic did not say how.

The noon hour came and went and the water and electricity had still not been restored.  At about 14:00, Perisic got on the phone and called the mayor of Zadar.  He asked the mayor if the Croatian authorities intended to lift the blockade of the barracks.  The Croatian mayor just laughed and told the colonel basically to go stuff himself.  Speaking very calmly, Perisic replied that in that case, the mayor had exactly five minutes to clear his family out of his home.  The mayor was still laughing.  "Oh, yeah? he said.  "And who do you think you're kidding?"  But, he told his family to get out just in case. 

At 14:05, a surface-to-surface rocket landed on the mayor's house.  There was some minor damage to the surrounding houses, but the mayor's home was totaled.  By 16:00, the water and the electricity were restored to the Yugoslav Army barracks.

"You see, that's how this man operated," our source said.  "He was tough with the enemy.  And he was tough with his own soldiers.  When some of his officers questioned his decision to fire upon the mayor's home, fearing that they might miss it, Perisic said that if they, the artillery elite of the Yugoslav Army, could not hit a house from four miles out, we'd better all surrender and go home."

As a result of his tough-minded tactics, Perisic managed to get all his soldiers out of this Croatian (read enemy) city without a loss of life.  That's certainly a heck of a lot better than what had happened with most Yugoslav Army garrisons in Croatia.  Or for that matter even with the American troops in Beirut.  Or Grenada.  Or Somalia... Or Haiti...

And just think - if upstart rebels like these gave us such a hard time, what would it be like going up against a modern army of a country where soldiering is "in the blood" of the nation?  Secretary Lansing could have certainly vouched for that.  And any of the French and British generals who served alongside the Serbian troops on the Thessalonika front.  

Of course, they are all gone now.  And younger generations always seem to want to make their own mistakes.  But, if we can't handle the Aidids of this world, why mess with generals like Mladic and Perisic?  Especially since we have no business in any of these trouble spots in the first place.


2. Serb Politicians: Stupid or Crafty?

© 1993 by Bob Djurdjevic

MOUNT JAHORINA, Bosnia, September 1993 -  A low-flying aircraft screamed overhead, halting my conversation with some Serb soldiers in mid-sentence.  It was one of the NATO planes enforcing the "No Fly Zone" over Bosnia.  An older man waved his arm angrily toward the sky and swore.  Inside the hotel on Mount Jahorina, near Sarajevo, the Bosnian Serb parliament was in session.

A young soldier from the Srebrenica district, one of the areas where the U.S. food drops for the Bosnian Muslims took place last winter, only smiled.  "Whenever American planes dropped the 'humanitarian aid'," he said, "we knew that the next day an attack by the Muslims  would follow."  That's because the supposed "U.S. air drops of food actually contained ammo," he explained.  The soldier was speaking calmly, matter-of-factly, as a person who is used to treachery.  There was not a trace of anger or indignation in his voice.  Just mild sarcasm.  And quiet confidence.  After all, despite such U.S. duplicity, the U.N. sanctions against Serbia, and the satanization of the Serbs by the Western media, this young man and his comrades have been winning the war on the battlefield - at least so far.

But, the Serb politicians seem to have concluded that the time has come to appease the enemy.  The president of the Bosnian Serb parliament, Momcilo Krajisnik, and the Serbian president, Slobodan Milosevic, issued a statement on October 15, in which they said, "it is necessary to help the Bosnian Muslim community, who are now in a very difficult predicament."

I could not help but recall a 1938 photo of the jubilant British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, declaring, "peace in our time," upon return from Hitler's Germany.  It was foolish to believe then that you can appease a bellicose enemy by tossing him a few bones.  It is equally foolish today for the Serb politicians to show sudden empathy for Muslims.  Except if that's only their  public façade - a new-found craftiness picked up from a devious enemy.

You see, the Bosnian Muslims have no intentions of giving up.  "The Muslims will wage a guerrilla war of 30 to 40 years, if necessary, to retrieve the lands lost to the Serbian nationalists," the Bosnian Muslim president, Alija Izetbegovic, vowed (see the NEW YORK TIMES, October 11).  "The only way out of the situation the Muslims are (in) now is to regain consciousness and participate in the religious war," declared Husein Muratovic, a Muslim military commander in Northeast Bosnia, in a recent interview with the Muslim paper, LILY.

Meanwhile, "possession is 90% of law," an American proverb says.  Which means that the Serbs in Bosnia have the upper hand.  Before the war started, they owned about 64% of the land.  Now they control about 70% of Bosnia.

In a naive belief that peace was what the Muslims were after, the Serbs offered to return to the enemy not just some of their "war booty," but also some of the land the Serbs had owned even before the outbreak of hostilities.  According to the Geneva peace agreement, the Serbs would have ended up with only 52% of the territory - 12% less than they had before the war! 

Can anyone remember the last time a losing side in a war which it started (the Muslims) got to dictate the peace terms?  And that the supposed "winner" (the Serbs) ended up with less land than before the war?  I can't.  Yet, that's exactly what the Serbs offered in Geneva.  Fortunately for the Serbs, the Muslims turned the deal down.  It was a clear message that peace was not high on their minds.  More Serb territory was.

The Serbs also should keep in mind that even without the open warfare, the higher Muslim birth rate and their ensuing terrorism against Serb civilians, will help their cause in Bosnia, as it had in the last 50 years in Kosovo.  Before World War II, the Serbs had a 60% majority in Kosovo.  Now they are less than a 10% of the population.

According to British intelligence reports, the Muslims are planning a provocation in Kosovo, which would then be blamed on the Serbs.  "The ensuing widespread violence in Kosovo, the Bosnian government believes, could then be used to induce Western militarily intervention against Yugoslavia itself," the STRATEGIC POLICY magazine reported in its July 31, 1993 issue.

Despite all that, the Serb politicians are trying to be magnanimous?!  Why?  Because they fear a NATO intervention?  Because they think that a policy of appeasment would cause the U.N. to lift the sanctions?  If so, they are wrong on both counts.  The chances of a U.S. intervention in Bosnia, or of its easing up on the sanctions against Serbia, are just about nil.  The sanctions are likely to stay no matter how fast Milosevic wags his tail now.  Just consider the October 4 U.N. Resolution 871.  The embargo against Serbia was EXPANDED even though it was the Croatians who violated the Vance agreements and attacked the Serb Krajina. 

Of course, there was a time when policy of accommodation with the Muslims and the Croats was desirable - before the war started.  But, after more than 250,000 people have lost their lives, it is illusory to pretend that the three Bosnian ethnic groups can simply kiss and make up.  And even if the politicians did it, the victimized people will never forget the loved ones they lost.

Meanwhile, with each passing day, Serbia is getting weaker - physically, militarily and morally.  Time is on the Muslim side.  Which is why they rejected peace.  The Serbs should oblige and give the Muslim politicians what they want - war.  And not the "limited" kind, either.  "Limited" wars never work.  Who knows, that may even spur some cooler heads among the Muslims to depose their reckless leaders?

In any event, as Mr. Chamberlain had discovered, a lasting peace must be won not begged for.  A "peace" which leaves old wounds festering is no better than war.  It merely shifts the burden of war onto future generations.  Just look at what happened in the former Yugoslavia.  And pray to God that the Serbs have learned their lesson.  Because their forefathers agreed to a lousy deal following the Serb military victory in WW I, their great-grandchildren are now having to fight again for their own land; their own statehood; their own rights.

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Also, check out... Truth in Media Statement on the Kosovo War, "Wither Dayton, Sprout New War?", "On the Brink of Madness", "Tragic Deja Vu's," "Seven U.S. Senators Suggest Ouster of Milosevic", "Biting the Hand That Feeds You", "A Balkan Affairs Potpourri", "Put the U.N. Justice on Trial", "International Justice 'Progresses' from Kidnapping to Murder", "Milosevic: 'A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery'...", "Kosovo Lie Allowed to Stand", "New World Order's Inquisition in Bosnia", "Kosovo Heating Up""Decani Monastery Under Siege?", "Murder on Wall Street""Kosovo: 'Bosnia II', Serbia's Aztlan""What If the Shoe Were on the Other Foot?", "Serb WW II General Exhonerated by British Archives," "Green Interstate - Not Worth American Lives", "An American Hero or Actor of the Year?" (A June '95 TiM story) and/or "Clinton arme secrètement les musulmans bosniaques", "Kocevje: Tito's Greatest Crime?", "Perfidious Albion Strikes Again, Aided by Uncle Sam," "Lift the Sanctions, Now!" (1993)

Or Djurdjevic's WASHINGTON TIMES columns: "Chinese Dragon Wagging Macedonian Tail,"  "An Ugly Double Standard in Kosovo Conflict?", "NATO's Bullyboys", "Kosovo: Why Are We Involved?", and "Ginning Up Another Crisis"

Or Djurdjevic's NEW DAWN magazine columns: "Washington's Crisis Factory,"  and "A New Iron Curtain Over Europe"