Serbia’s president Aleksandar Vucic, upon his visit to Washington this week wasted no time to criticise the US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis for praising Croatia’s operation Storm. Straight-faced, Vucic continues to spread lies about the operation Storm saying that it caused deportation of 250,00 Serbs from Croatia. What a repulsively brazen liar! But, if we are reminded that Vucic himself was heavily involved is Serbia’s anti-Croatian independence in the 1990’s and was one of the political mouthpieces for the Serb brutal aggression against Croatian territory in order to ethnically cleanse the areas of non-Serbs for Serb occupation, then we know that his denial of Serb aggression also serves as his own defence mechanism against personal guilt.
You are on the side of the victorious; of those who defeated aggression, occupiers, injustice and mass murderers! Now, just imagine this: World War II Allied countries celebrate victory and they get criticised and demonised for not commemorating their enemy’s war dead or displaced at the same time! You can’t imagine such criticism – let alone stand it without firm protest.
Croatia, once again, this year, prepares for the celebration of 5 August 1995 Operation Storm victory over Serb aggressor and occupier. But, once again, not without being criticised and demonised by Serbia’s leadership for not including in those celebrations come commemoration the Serb victims who perished as brutal aggressors against Croatia and those who fled Croatia into Serbia once it became clear that their onslaught against Croatia had come to an end with the military operation Storm.
Operation Storm was one of two critical military operations (the other being Operation Flash, May 1995) to bring to an end of the war of Serb-aggression in Croatia that was sparked by Croatia’s proclamation of independence from the former Yugoslavia. Serbia and Serbs became the aggressors against Croatia, using in the process the Belgrade based remnants of the still existing Yugoslav People’s Army at the time.
While Croatia has been celebrating the anniversary as its Victory Day, Serbia declared the same date as an official day of mourning for Serbs perished or displaced or who fled as part of its military and paramilitary forces. And even though the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia Appeals Chamber had in November 2012 (in the case against generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac) found that there had been no forced deportation of Serb population in Croatia, Serbia continues playing its malicious tune, branding the military operation Storm as one ethnic cleansing (of Serbs). In the same breath, Serbia omits to mention that it was the Serb forces that actually ethnically cleansed of Croats and other non-Serbs one-third of Croatia’s territory they had occupied between 1991 and August 1995.
Last week, July 12th, Croatia’s defence minister Damir Krsticevic, visited Washington and met with the US Secretary of defense, Jim Mattis, who praised the Croatian Operation Storm, saying:
“Seeing you here today reminds me of my time at Supreme Allied Commander Transformation when Croatia joined NATO. And that was a very good day for the alliance.
Twenty-two years ago next month marks the anniversary of an operation named Storm, an operation that is studied in the U.S. military to show what a well-led force, well trained, well equipped, and with good political guidance, how it can change the course of history. And we are honored to have you here today for your role in that operation.
We have great respect here for our friend and ally. It’s a small country, but I would just say that it, as we say, bats above its weight, fights above its weight. You’ve been a wonderful example…”
But, wouldn’t you know it, Serbia’s president Aleksandar Vucic, upon his visit to Washington this week wasted no time to criticise the US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis for praising Croatia’s operation Storm. Straight-faced, Vucic continues to spread lies about the operation Storm saying that it caused deportation of 250,00 Serbs from Croatia. What a repulsively brazen liar! But, if we are reminded that Vucic himself was heavily involved is Serbia’s anti-Croatian independence in the 1990’s and was one of the political mouthpieces for the Serb brutal aggression against Croatian territory in order to ethnically cleanse the areas of non-Serbs for Serb occupation, then we know that his denial of Serb aggression also serves as his own defence mechanism against personal guilt.
I am all for reconciliation, but this kind of behavior that Vucic perpetuates in order to deny Serb aggression and crimes in Croatia is just too much to take for anyone.
Serbia’s president Vucic continues to claim that:
1) Croatia’s Operation Storm was aggressive – it was not! It was defensive operation and the one that liberated Croatian territory from Serb occupation. It was a legal and the cleanest of military operations seen to that date throughout the world. It was the Serbs who engaged in ethnic cleansing by forcefully deporting or murdering Croats and other non-Serbs from the Croatian territory they occupied.
2) 2,000 Serbs were killed during the aggression – wrong again; less than 700 Serb casualties as confirmed by the ICTY;
3) over 250,000 Serbs expelled – wrong again, this number does even compare to pre war census; the Serb leadership of the self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina (read Croatian territory occupied by Serbs between 1991 and August 1995) ordered (via a directive from Belgrade, Serbia) a pre-planned evacuation of Serbs from Croatia and the ICTY confirmed that there was no expelling of Serbs from Croatia! What is worse, during their evacuation Serbia’s “brave” warriors, in their haste to retreat, ran over and killed scores of their own people.
4) Operation Storm was unprovoked – wrong yet again – it was war and Croatia did all it could to peacefully resolve the situation, but after 4-5 years of repeated honest attempts by Croatia, Serbian belligerence could no longer be tolerated either by Croatia or the international community – years of failed peace talks that the Serbs purposefully sabotaged for failure, disrespected by Serbs UN Resolutions, broken cease fires by Serbs before the ink could even dry on the paper, even after terms so favourable to the Serbs that even the international community was surprised at how favourable the peace could be to Serbs and, yet, Serbs rejected them without consideration. Croatia had to act. It had to liberate its own territory; it had to deal with more than a million displaced people it cared for in many refugee camps and settlements.
A UN Report of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights (UN General Assembly 23 January 2014) states that “memory has become an intense battlefield”, in which remembering serves to justify political agendas. Wilful distortions of memory by way of disregarding facts or truth, such as practiced by Serbia’s president Vucic and others in Serbia certainly add a terrifying aspect to that battlefield. Not even the platform of politics can justify or accept it.