I've felt for a while that my understanding of the dismantling of Yugoslavia has been lacking. A couple years ago, I came across a glowing review on MRZine for George Szamuely's "Bombs for Peace: NATO's Humanitarian War on Yugoslavia." I've since searched in vain for some scan or other electronic version of the book somewhere on the vast internet, as is my habit, partly because the damn thing is like $70.
Long story short, I've finally gotten my hands -- physically, that is to say -- on a copy of this book. In light of its poor online availability and seemingly important message, I've decided to share. It'll also help me to overcome my internet-crippled attention span and actually read all the words on every page, because I will have painstakingly typed them out -- including the various end notes, which will be included at the end of each chapter post. Notes are a pain in the fucking ass to transcribe, and now i know what our other brave Lets Read posters go through. Some of these chapters will have in excess of 200 of them, but i'm trying not to think about it. There's some link rot but so far I've been able to dig up workarounds (bolded text).
I intend to shoot for about a chapter a week, but if the discussion really takes off then I may try to step it up. Or maybe other stuff will happen to delay the process. I dunno. I promise nothing, and I'll probably go full irregular with it before too long.
A quick note on the author before we begin:
Szamuely was arrested on October 5, 1999, for having 570 overdue library books from the New York University campus library, many of them rare or out of print and most of them related to political science, which he refused to return after repeated warnings. His fines ran up to $31,000, although this was allegedly the cost of replacing them.
He's the great-nephew of Tibor Szamuely (communist; hated counterrevolutionaries and suggested comrades "suffocate them in their own blood!") and the son of Tibor Szamuely (anticommunist; friend of Robert Conquest).
Most descriptions I can find online bill Szamuely as a "paleoconservative." Yet his twitter account, it should be noted, appears to promote Correct Opinions on many foreign policy issues (including Libya and Syria, as we'll see in the intro chapter). I can't say whether his perspective has evolved leftward since the 90s or not. Given how imperialism structures class struggle in the present world's context, however, I am inclined to more patience with a "conservative" who consistently opposes imperialism than a first-world "socialist" who doesn't.
Anyway, without further ado:
Bombs For Peace
Introduction (see below)
1) Yugoslavia: Destroying States for Fun and for Profit
2) In Search of the Good War
3) Peacemaking v. Humanitarianism
4) Humanitarianism Fulfilled
5) Kosovo: The Denial of Sovereignty
6) Kosovo: The set-up
7) Kosovo: Standing up to the Yugoslav Goliath
Conclusions: Ensuring Success by Lowering Standards
I know how difficult this is, and what I am about to say may sound melodramatic, but history could well hang in the balance tonight. I truly believe that you may never take any decision as public officials more important than this one. Give us bombs for peace. Give us a resumption of the bombing by morning.1
On March 19, 2011, Great Britain, France and the United States began bombing Libya. The action had become necessary, the NATO powers claimed, because Libya was on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe. The government of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi was about to crush armed rebel forces based in the town of Benghazi and heavy casualties were expected. As justification, the Western powers cited U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973. Adopted a few hours before the start of the bombing, the resolution called on U.N. member states “to take all necessary measures … to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack.” The resolution didn’t actually say that such “measures” would include bombing, but there was never any doubt that this was how the Western powers would interpret their mandate.
Governments that a few years earlier had invaded Iraq in defiance of a U.N. refusal to authorize such an action now espoused humanitarianism and solemn compliance with U.N. resolutions. We had to act, President Obama explained in a televised address to the nation on March 28. If we had “waited one more day, Benghazi … could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.” The bombing mission had been undertaken solely in order to save lives. Regime change was most definitely not on the agenda:
If we tried to overthrow Qaddafi by force, our coalition would splinter. We would likely have to put U.S. troops on the ground to accomplish that mission, or risk killing many civilians from the air … To be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq. Thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our troops and the determination of our diplomats, we are hopeful about Iraq’s future. But regime change there took eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly a trillion dollars. That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya.2
There was something more than a little disingenuous about these protestations. What was so urgent about Libya? The Libyan government was using force to put down an armed insurrection. At that very moment, governments in Bahrain and Yemen were doing exactly the same thing and doing so moreover with U.S. support and assistance. The evidence that a massacre was impending in Benghazi was questionable, to say the least. Excessive bloodletting had not been the dominant characteristic of the conflict in Libya. It wasn’t at all clear that atrocities taking place in Libya were any worse than those in Bahrain or Yemen. But then Bahrain is the headquarters of the U.S. Fifth Fleet; Libya is not.
Furthermore, unlike the regime of Bahrain, “a friend and an ally and has been for many years” (to quote Secretary of State Hillary Clinton), the regime of Colonel Qaddafi had been out of favor with Western governments for most of its 40-odd-year rule. (His dalliance as an ally of the West in the war on terror proved to be short-lived.) Libya is oil-rich, sparsely populated and has no nuclear weapons. Oil reserves in Libya are the largest in Africa and the ninth largest in the world. Imported oil from Libyan accounted for 22% of Italy’s and 16% of France’s crude consumption. The happy marriage of humanitarianism and material interests was expressed with remarkable bluntness by the U.S. ambassador to Libya. On the day the U.S. embassy reopened in Tripoli, Ambassador Gene A. Cretz declared that, “We know that oil is the jewel in the crown of Libyan natural resources … If we can get American companies here on a fairly big scale, which we will try to do everything we can to do that, then this will redound to improve the situation in the United States with respect to our own jobs.”3 In other words, Libya was a juicy target.
While Obama was assuring the world that overthrowing Qaddafi was out of the question, key European powers were busily recognizing the Benghazi rebels as the legitimate rulers of Libya. France, the most enthusiastic proponent of the bombing, had extended recognition on March 10. Italy followed on April 4, Spain on June 8, Germany on June 13. Since the rebels’ self-styled government, the National Transitional Council, controlled neither Libya’s territory nor its population, these maneuvers on the part of Western governments should have persuaded anyone but the most willfully blind that regime change had been the goal all along.
Within a week, NATO took over the bombing campaign, and, with characteristic unctuousness, lavished on it the mellifluous-sounding name Operation Unified Protector. While the government in Tripoli and the rebels in Benghazi were locked in a military stalemate, NATO happily acted as the rebels’ air force, striking government targets on a daily basis. Long after any conceivable threat to the residents of Benghazi had disappeared, NATO governments justified their refusal to call a halt to the bombing by invoking the continuing threat Qaddafi supposedly posed to Libya’s civilians. Even when, in late August, the tide of battle finally turned the rebels’ way and Qaddafi was forced to flee Tripoli, NATO didn’t let up on its bombing. While Qaddafi’s forces were holed up in his hometown of Sirte, NATO spokesmen went on repeating with robot-like lack of inflexion that the bombing had to go on because Libya’s civilians were still in danger from the devastating might of Qaddafi’s bedraggled forces. Yet the only civilians in danger were the residents of Sirte. On September 22, for example, Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, commander of Operation Unified Protector, warned during a press briefing that there could be no question of ending the bombing:
(W)e continue to see threats from the regime. Their forces are still dangerous, orders continue to be given and violence against the population continues … NATO shielded the civilian population against a military that is immoral, unethical and continues its illegal action against their own people.4
Even after Qaddafi’s capture and murder, both facilitated by NATO, the bombing went on. NATO needed to go on killing Libyans in order to protect them.
NATO had interpreted Resolution 1973 in an egregiously self-serving way. While the resolution had indeed called for the protection of civilians, this went together with a demand for “immediate establishment of a cease-fire and a complete end to violence.” There was also a call for renewed “efforts to find a solution to the crisis which responds to the legitimate demands of the Libyan people.” These requests were non-starters, however, for NATO had made it clear that there would be no let-up in the bombing as long as Qaddafi remained in power. This didn’t stop NATO from ceaselessly insisting that it wasn’t in the regime-change business. “Our duty and our mandate … is to protect civilians,” wrote British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Obama in a joint statement published in The Times of London, the International Herald Tribune and Le Figaro. “It is not to remove Qaddafi by force.” However, they quickly added, “it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Qaddafi in power.”5
As the three leaders explained, NATO, by serving as the Libyan rebels’ air force, was protecting civilians. Why? Because Qaddafi’s forces posed a threat to civilians and the rebels did not. The claim flew in the face of the findings of independent observers such as Amnesty International, according to whom:
Members and supporters of the opposition, loosely structured under the leadership of the National Transitional Council (NTC), based throughout the conflict in Benghazi, have also committed human rights abuses, in some cases amounting to war crimes, albeit on a smaller scale. In the immediate aftermath of taking control in eastern Libya, angry groups of supporters of the “17 February Revolution” shot, hanged and otherwise killed through lynching dozens of captured soldiers and suspected foreign “mercenaries” — and did so with total impunity. Such attacks subsequently decreased, although SubSaharan African nationals continued to be attacked on what have proved to be largely unfounded suspicions that they were foreign “mercenaries” hired by Colonel al-Gaddafi.6
Yet, as NATO would have it, by keeping the war in Libyan going, it was furthering the cause of peace. Why? Because there could be no peace while Qaddafi remained in power. (This was obviously true since NATO had already promised that it wouldn’t stop bombing until he was gone.) These dizzying “War is Peace” slogans are now such a staple of NATO propaganda that no one even bothers to comment on them. “(B)ecause he (Qaddafi) has lost the consent of his people, any deal that leaves him in power would lead to further chaos and lawlessness,” the three leaders wrote in their statement.
We know from bitter experience what that would mean. Neither Europe, the region, or the world can afford a new safe haven for extremists. There is a pathway to peace that promises new hope for the people of Libya — a future without Qaddafi. However, so long as Qaddafi is in power, NATO must maintain its operations so that civilians remain protected and the pressure on the regime builds. Then a genuine transition from dictatorship to an inclusive constitutional process can really begin, led by a new generation of leaders. In order for that transition to succeed, Qaddafi must go and go for good.
There had to be peace but the war would go on until Qaddafi surrendered power to NATO’s clients. NATO was not pursuing regime change but would continue bombing until Qaddafi was gone. Libyans would decide their own form of government but only as long as their decision resulted in a government that met with NATO’s approval.
NATO’s effort to undermine the legitimacy of the Libyan government was much facilitated by the work of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which got in on the act at a very early stage. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1970, adopted on February 26, had requested the ICC prosecutor to investigate Libya. On March 3, the prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, announced that he had accepted the U.N. mandate and would open an investigation. Barely two months later, on May 4, Moreno-Ocampo told the world that he was ready to submit a request for arrest warrants against three unnamed individuals. On May 16, to no one’s surprise, Moreno-Ocampo disclosed the identity of the three individuals: Qaddafi himself; his son, Saif al-Islam; and his brother-in-law, Libya’s intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi. The three had committed crimes against humanity, the prosecutor said:
(Qaddafi,) personally, ordered attacks on unarmed Libyan civilians. His forces attacked Libyan civilians in their homes and in the public space, repressed demonstrations with live ammunition, used heavy artillery against participants in funeral processions, and placed snipers to kill those leaving mosques after the prayers.
The human rights lobby rejoiced. The arrest warrants were critical to achieving justice, Human Rights Watch said. They were “a warning bell to others that serious crimes will not go unpunished,” said Richard Dicker, international justice director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s a message to those responsible for grave abuses that they will be held to account for their actions … Seeking an arrest warrant for Muammar Gaddafi for crimes in Libya shows that no one is above the law. It is the prosecutor’s job to follow the evidence wherever it leads, even to a head of state.” As usual, there was little serious expectation that NATO would come under the prosecutor’s purview.
The ICC’s actions were odd. Libya was not party to the Rome Statute and was thus not subject to ICC jurisdiction. Moreover, according to Article 16 of the statute, “No investigation or prosecution may be commenced or proceeded with under this Statute for a period of 12 months after the Security Council … has requested the Court to that effect.” But then bizarre, self-serving interpretations of international statutes had also become the norm for NATO. The same Resolution 1970 that had requested investigation of Libya had also stipulated that the ICC would have no jurisdiction over any non-Libyan nationals engaged in military action against Libya. “Nationals, current or former officials or personnel” from any state other than Libya would be “subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of that State for all alleged acts or omissions arising out of or related to operations” authorized by the U.N. Security Council. In other words, immunity for NATO; arrest warrants for Qaddafi. This, too, was par for the course. In February 2006, MorenoOcampo had determined that there was no basis for opening an ICC investigation into possible war crimes committed in Iraq by the Coalition of the Willing. Their alleged crimes — unlike those of Qaddafi — didn’t reach the “threshold of gravity” that was required to trigger an investigation, he explained.7
More troublingly, Moreno-Ocampo gave credence to the most ludicrous and the most glaringly propagandistic pronouncements of NATO officials. He claimed that he had “information to confirm that it was a policy in Libya to rape those who were against the Government,” he said. “We are getting some information that (Libyan leader Muammar al-) Qadhafi decided to (use) rape. Rape is a new aspect of the repression.” Moreno-Ocampo even accepted as confirmed the notoriously discredited Viagra story, which Susan Rice, U.S. permanent representative to the U.N., had circulated: “We are finding some elements confirming this issue of acquisition of Viagra-type of medicaments to show a policy. They were buying containers with products to enhance the possibility to rape, and we are getting the information in detail confirming the policy.”8 By demonizing an adversary of NATO in this way, the ICC was essentially letting it be known that NATO had a blank check to do to Qaddafi whatever it saw fit.
NATO pounced on the ICC arrest warrants to insist it would not end the bombing until Qaddafi surrendered power and handed himself over to the ICC. NATO’s demand ensured that there would be no let-up to the bombing, to the fighting and thus to the casualties to civilians, over whose fate NATO was supposedly so perturbed. As the International Crisis Group pointed out in its report on Libya, to insist that Qaddafi surrender
as the precondition for any negotiation, including that of a ceasefire, is to render a ceasefire all but impossible and so to maximise the prospect of continued armed conflict. To insist that he both leave the country and face trial in the International Criminal Court is virtually to ensure that he will stay in Libya to the bitter end and go down fighting … Only an immediate ceasefire is consistent with the purpose originally claimed for NATO’s intervention, that of protecting civilians. The argument that Qaddafi has failed to deliver a ceasefire ignores the fact that Security Council Resolution 1973 did not place responsibility for achieving a ceasefire exclusively on one side and that no ceasefire can be sustained unless it is observed by both sides.9
Eventually, NATO’s lurid atrocity claims turned out to have been made up out of whole cloth. There was no evidence that Qaddafi had used “aircraft or heavy anti-aircraft machine guns … against crowds. Spent cartridges picked up after protesters were shot at came from Kalashnikovs or similar calibre weapons.” Donatella Rovera, a senior crisis response adviser for Amnesty International, reported that the organization had “not found any evidence or a single victim of rape or a doctor who knew about somebody being raped.” Rovera also dismissed the Viagra story. She said that “rebels dealing with the foreign media in Benghazi started showing journalists packets of Viagra, claiming they came from burned-out tanks, though it is unclear why the packets were not charred.”10
No sooner was the campaign to oust Qaddafi over and done with than the Obama administration turned its attention to Syria. Another humanitarian crisis was emerging, the solution to which was military action and regime change. Once again, U.S. and European officials who shrugged and continue to shrug their shoulders over daily killings in Iraq and Afghanistan purported to be aghast at the horrors taking place in Syria. Once again, only government forces were to blame for the atrocities. Once again, there was a dire threat to civilians. Once again, the only way to stop the killings was to engage in more killings. The human rights advocates quickly took up the cry for military action in Syria. One of its leading lights, Anne-Marie Slaughter, argued that:
Foreign military intervention in Syria offers the best hope for curtailing a long, bloody and destabilizing civil war. The mantra of those opposed to intervention is “Syria is not Libya.” In fact, Syria is far more strategically located than Libya, and a lengthy civil war there would be much more dangerous to our interests. America has a major stake in helping Syria’s neighbors stop the killing.11
With standard disingenuousness, she claimed that the goal of military intervention would be the protection of civilians, not regime change. Military action was needed to establish “no-kill zones,” within which the so-called Free Syrian Army would operate. NATO would provide assistance to this army but only as long as its protégés did not go on the offensive. The moment they did so, this assistance would be withdrawn. The key condition for NATO aid is that
it be used defensively — only to stop attacks by the Syrian military or to clear out government forces that dare to attack the no-kill zones. Although keeping intervention limited is always hard, international assistance could be curtailed if the Free Syrian Army took the offensive. The absolute priority within no-kill zones would be public safety and humanitarian aid; revenge attacks would not be tolerated.
The idea that NATO would withhold support the moment its protégés appeared to be getting the upper hand was laughable. However, humanitarian interventionists such as Slaughter acquire their credibility through their single-minded insistence that their only concern is the protection of civilians. It is left to their favored policymakers to call for regime change. Of course, some humanitarian interventionists don’t even bother to conceal that the goal of military action is regime change. Louise Arbour, the former chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), demanded to know:
If a state launches a massive criminal enterprise against its people, why … “all necessary measures” fall short of disabling those responsible, including by forcibly removing them from power? … (Why) should a military intervention to protect Syrian civilians refrain from toppling the regime? Assuming that military action came to be seen as a viable option — which I doubt, in light of its likely adverse consequences for Syria and the region — why should it not be designed to remove Bashar al-Assad’s regime? After all, how else could it credibly purport to protect Syria’s people from him?12
Let chaos and devastation reign — all in the name of protecting “Syria’s people.” This has become the credo of the humanitarians within the Obama administration. Starting in October 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and future National Security Adviser Susan Rice again and again went before the United Nations to demand the adoption of a resolution calling for action against Syria and the departure of President Bashar al-Assad. Unable to win U.N. Security Council approval for such a resolution, the United States and key NATO powers went the clandestine route. In June 2012, the New York Times reported:
A small number of C.I.A. officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government … The weapons, including auto- introduction | 21 matic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some antitank weapons, are being funneled mostly across the Turkish border by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood and paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar … The C.I.A. officers have been in southern Turkey for several weeks, in part to help keep weapons out of the hands of fighters allied with Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, one senior American official said. The Obama administration has said it is not providing arms to the rebels, but it has also acknowledged that Syria’s neighbors would do so.13
The United States was helping to ensure the flow of money and arms to the rebels, thereby fueling war, increasing killings and empowering the very groups that it had spent the previous decade fighting. The expectation that the United States would be able to “keep weapons out of the hands of fighters allied with Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups” — the most ruthless and effective fighters, in other words — defied history, not to mention common sense. U.S. strategy was cynical and familiar enough. Washington knew perfectly well that, just as the rebels in Libya could not win without NATO’s bombing campaign, Syria’s insurgents had no prospect of winning without foreign military intervention. The calculation appeared to be that at some point the humanitarian crisis in Syria would prove so dire that public revulsion would lead to the sanctioning of yet another NATO military intervention.
It hadn’t taken long, then, for the United States and NATO to recover from the Iraq debacle. Barack Obama, who owed his 2008 electoral victory to his early opposition to the invasion of Iraq, had now become as enthusiastic an advocate of regime change as his predecessor. Back in 2008, it seemed as if the West’s policymaking elite had lost its enthusiasm for waging wars on global delinquents du jour. It should have been clear even then that the moment wouldn’t last for long. While innumerable reasons were proffered to explain the failure of President George W. Bush’s war — too many neo-conservatives, too few troops; faulty intelligence; excessive preoccupation with weapons of mass destruction; too many concerns about oil, too few about human rights — one article of faith withstood challenge: the West has a right to intervene in the internal affairs of any country and by any means necessary, most certainly including military force — with or without the sanction of the United Nations — to secure an outcome that is self-evidently in the best interests of mankind.
This doctrine goes by a number of different, invariably flattering, names: “liberal interventionism,” “humanitarian interventionism,” or, more recently, the “responsibility to protect.” Coming from the mouths of its most enthusiastic proponents — former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner or former British Prime Minister Tony Blair or former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan — these self-laudatory terms refer to Western military interventions in conflicts, whether internal or external, in which, allegedly, no crassly material Western interests are at stake.
The U.S. government has naturally eagerly embraced a doctrine that offers yet another rationale for intervening in the affairs of other countries. In its May 2010 National Security Strategy statement, the Obama administration touted its commitment to the notion of “Responsibility to Protect.” Responsibility for the prevention of genocide or mass atrocities, the statement said, “passes to the broader international community when sovereign governments themselves commit genocide or mass atrocities, or when they prove unable or unwilling to take necessary action to prevent or respond to such crimes inside their borders.”14 The United States, the administration promised, would be “proactively engaged in a strategic effort to prevent mass atrocities and genocide. In the event that prevention fails, the United States will work … to mobilize diplomatic, humanitarian, financial, and — in certain instances — military means to prevent and respond to genocide and mass atrocities.”
In April 2012, Obama announced that henceforth the U.S. government would make the prevention of mass atrocities — by others, of course — a foreign policy priority. To give institutional expression to this aspiration, he announced the creation of an Atrocities Prevention Board, the task of which would be to ensure that the U.S. government “has the structures, the mechanisms” in place “to better prevent and respond to mass atrocities.” U.S. intelligence agencies would prepare National Intelligence Estimates on the risk of mass atrocities and genocide. The Treasury would staunch “the flow of money to abusive regimes.” And the U.S. military would “take additional steps to incorporate the prevention of atrocities into its doctrine and its planning.”15 To no one’s surprise, Obama appointed his special adviser, Samantha Power, to chair the Atrocities Prevention Board. Power, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of A Problem From Hell and Chasing the Flame: Sergio Vieira de Mello and the Fight to Save the World, had been a fervent advocate of bombing Libya. In June 2013, Obama promoted Power to the post of U.S. permanent representative to the U.N., replacing Susan Rice who now became his national security adviser.
The doctrine of humanitarian intervention has a number of key ingredients. There is, first, the jettisoning of state sovereignty, that “essential building block of the nation-state era and of the United Nations itself,” in the words of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Old-fashioned state sovereignty is out. As the humanitarian interventionists would have it, sovereignty is all too often a shield providing impunity for political leaders who are bent on mass violence, ethnic cleansing, and genocide.
“Strictly traditional notions of sovereignty can no longer do justice to the aspirations of peoples everywhere to attain their fundamental freedoms,” former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the General Assembly in 1999. The International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS), a leading advocate of humanitarian intervention, declared in 2001 that, “Where a population is suffering serious harm, as a result of internal war, insurgency, repression or state failure, and the state in question is unwilling or unable to halt or avert it, the principle of non-intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect.” The U.N. Charter, with its “strong bias against military intervention is not to be regarded as absolute when decisive action is required on human protection grounds.”
Second, there is the claim that extreme humanitarian emergencies obviate the need for U.N. Security Council authorization for the use of force. If the Security Council refuses to sign off on a military undertaking, then responsibility falls on any ad hoc group of nations to do the right thing. As Kofi Annan warned:
If the collective conscience of humanity — a conscience which abhors cruelty, renounces injustice and seeks peace for all peoples — cannot find in the United Nations its greatest tribune, there is a grave danger that it will look elsewhere for peace and for justice. If it does not hear in our voices, and see in our actions, reflections of its own aspirations, its needs and its fears, it may soon lose faith in our ability to make a difference.16
The ICISS, which was established by the Canadian government in order to suggest ways to make Annan’s dream a reality, echoed this theme of a supposedly neglectful Security Council refusing to be moved by human suffering. It, too, repeated Annan’s warning of the Security Council’s likely fall into irrelevance should it fail to heed the conscience of humanity:
The Security Council should take into account in all its deliberations that, if it fails to discharge its responsibility to protect in conscience-shocking situations crying out for action, concerned states may not rule out other means to meet the gravity and urgency of that situation — and that the stature and credibility of the United Nations may suffer thereby.17
Third, interventions are to take place in some countries, but not in others: intervention in Libya; sympathy and understanding for Bahrain; intervention in Yugoslavia (a non-NATO member); friendly cooperation with Turkey (a NATO member); anguished and fashionable cries for intervention in Darfur; silence on intervention in Gaza. In addition, while human rights are supposedly universal principles, as set out in documents that all nations have adopted, the enforcement of human rights norms and the punishment of violators are to be placed in the hands of a handful of nations that exclude themselves from the category of potential miscreants.
Fourth, there is the assertion of universal jurisdiction. According to the humanitarian doctrine, political leaders, including heads of state, would no longer be able to bask in sovereign impunity. They would be made to answer for their crimes — at permanent courts, such as the International Criminal Court, or at ad hoc tribunals such as the ICTY or the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Here, too, though, a two-tiered system would be in operation. Political leaders whom the West does not favor can expect swift retribution. The ICTY indicted Slobodan Milošević, secured his arrest through the helpful offices of NATO, imprisoned and then tried him. The United States had insisted that sanctions against Yugoslavia would not be lifted unless Milošević was behind bars at the ICTY. The U.N.-created Special Court for Sierra Leone convicted former Liberian President Charles Taylor for crimes against humanity and sentenced him to 30 years. At the same time, though the ICC issued arrest warrants against Qaddafi and his family, when Libya’s post-Qaddafi government announced that it would ignore the ICC’s extradition request and would itself try Saif al-Islam and Abdullah al-Senussi, the ICC and the United States rushed to reassure Libya that it would be under no pressure to hand anyone over.18 One hardly needs to add that no one expects the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, any NATO memberstate, or indeed any NATO-aligned state to be prosecuted anytime soon.
The humanitarian intervention doctrine came into its own during the halcyon days of 1990s. In the name of “promoting democracy,” “securing national self-determination,” “standing up to the dictators,” “defending victims,” “championing human rights,” or “preventing genocide,” the Western powers — principally, but far from exclusively, the United States — set about reorganizing the affairs of various countries, most notably those of Yugoslavia, a country that had a played a highly visible part in the Cold War.
For the humanitarian interventionists who had cheered on B-2 bombers and cruise missiles in the 1990s, the most unfortunate consequence of the Iraqi fiasco was not the death and suffering inflicted on unfortunate Iraqis or even Western servicemen, but the possible collapse of the interventionist project. In 2008, Samantha Power expressed concern that “Americans will ‘overlearn’ the lessons of Iraq. The response to Iraq can’t be, ‘This is what happens when we try to help people’ … Among the specific reasons Iraq went wrong, one of them is not that we cared for people … Had we cared for people more, we would have been more likely to succeed.”19 Power had little reason to worry. Her boss resolutely refused to “overlearn the lessons of Iraq.” She had little trouble persuading him to bomb Libya to show how much he “cared for people.”
George W. Bush’s Iraq war had gone awry, the humanitarians claimed, because it wasn’t conceived as a humanitarian intervention. Bewailing the end of the Blair era, The Observer’s Andrew Rawnsley lamented that
Iraq has wreaked terrible damage on the cause of liberal interventionism, for which Blair became such a compelling and passionate advocate during the Kosovo conflict. In the Balkans, he found a moral purpose for his premiership that he then amplified as a vision of a world in which states would not be free to slaughter their own citizens with impunity. In the killing grounds of Iraq, that ideal lies bleeding to death.20
New York Times columnist Roger Cohen rushed to separate the good, liberal kind of interventionism from the bad, Bush-Cheney kind. American force, he wrote, was
deployed too late but deployed nonetheless, to end to the mass murder of Muslims in Bosnia by a repressive Serbian regime. It was American power again, used in Kosovo without the backing of a United Nations resolution, that brought to justice the regime’s loathsome dictator, Slobodan Milošević. Have we liberal interventionists of the Balkans, members of the rapidly emptying school of ‘liberal hawks,’ been too quick to abandon our principles out of fear of alignment with the neo-cons? Or perhaps, more inexcusably, have we fallen short merely because of a failure of the imagination, an inability to conceive of and work for a better Middle East, as if Arabs and freedom were somehow incompatible? I think so.21
The same point was made somewhat less emotionally by the late Professor Tony Judt of New York University:
The case for liberal interventionism … had nothing whatever to do with the Iraq war. Those of us who pressed for American-led military action in Bosnia and Kosovo did so for several reasons: because of the refusal of others (the European Union and United Nations) to engage effectively; because there was a demonstrable and immediate threat to rights and lives; and because it was clear we could be effective in this way and in no other. None of these considerations applied in Iraq, which is why I and many others opposed the war. However, it is true that United States military intervention in urgent cases will be much harder to justify and explain in future. But that, of course, is a consequence of the Iraq debacle.22
Note the peculiarity of these claims. First, war is justifiable only if its purpose is to secure a disinterested, humanitarian outcome. Second, war — and its attendant killings, refugees, destruction, physical, moral, and societal collapse, not to mention its inevitable unforeseen consequences — is a jolly useful method to secure benign outcomes. The notion of a humanitarian war may seem like an oxymoron, but to the liberal interventionists it’s a happy combination of testosterone and tenderness.
Thus, while liberal interventionists were ready to write Iraq off as an embarrassing fiasco, they nonetheless insisted with considerable passion that the NATO interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s were shining exemplars of the successful use of force to achieve noble, humanitarian ends. “Unlike Iraq, the Kosovo invasion has gone down in history as a success,” announced vehement Iraq war critic Julian Borger. Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in 2008 was “a triumph of liberal interventionism,” rhapsodized The Independent on Sunday.
The origin of the contemporary humanitarian intervention doctrine can be traced to the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union. The West took this unexpected windfall as vindication of the values it supposedly espouses. Such values therefore needed to be pursued more fervently than ever — abroad, naturally, not at home. The world had to be re-ordered according to Western precepts. The Soviet Union was gone and so was a cardinal principle of international law, enshrined in the U.N. Charter, namely, that nations foreswear interference in the domestic affairs of other nations.
The end of the Cold War thus gave the West, particularly the United States, the opportunity it had long been seeking. It could finally end the indignity of having to subordinate itself to the United Nations as the world’s ostensibly most senior international policymaking body. During the early days of the Cold War, while they enjoyed an overwhelming majority in the Security Council and even in the General Assembly, the Western powers were perfectly satisfied with the U.N. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the United States was more than happy to use the platform of the United Nations to mobilize world opinion against the Soviet Union. However, with the emergence of new states in Africa and Asia following the dissolution of the Western empires and with China’s taking over Taiwan’s seat on the Security Council, the built-in pro-Western majority at the U.N. disappeared. From that moment on, the Western powers were determined to marginalize the U.N. as much as they could.
Under the new post-Cold War dispensation, if the U.N. supports Western policy, the West would take that support and put it in the bank. If the U.N. refuses to support it, the West would ignore the U.N. and invoke as legitimating authority an alternative, ad hoc association of its own.
Thus the new, curious correlation: the humanitarian intervention doctrine is to be accompanied by demotion of the United Nations. Happily, at the start of the 1990s, an alternative grouping of nations was already in existence: the recently triumphant NATO, comprising at that time 16 nations with militaries integrated into a system under U.S. command. NATO could now safely be expanded into a much larger organization. Extending invitations to former Warsaw Pact countries to join NATO seemed unexceptionable enough. It was all part of the expansion of the sphere of the democracies. Transforming NATO from an essentially defensive alliance into a war-making coalition would, however, prove to be a very big deal and would take years to achieve.
There was, first of all, the problem of the North Atlantic Treaty of 1949. Article 1 repeated almost word for word articles 2(3) and 2(4) of the U.N. Charter:
The Parties undertake … to settle any international dispute in which they may be involved by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered, and to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.
During its 40-year existence, NATO had not been involved in a single military action. NATO had eschewed every Cold War U.S. engagement. No NATO power (not even Great Britain) had joined the United States in Vietnam. NATO refused to support the U.S. military airlift for Israel during the 1973 war. NATO did not support U.S. policy in Central America during the 1980s. NATO refused to support the 1986 bombing of Libya. NATO didn’t even follow the Americans in helping to arm and fund the mujahedin in Afghanistan.
An event of some magnitude would therefore be needed to transform NATO into the kind of military organization that the United States envisaged. NATO had to be shown to be essential: it had to undertake some kind of military action. The action would have to take place outside NATO’s sphere since no NATO member state would tolerate intervention in its own internal affairs. Above all, the right enemy was needed: somebody weak and without powerful friends. The breakup of Yugoslavia was to be that event and the Serbs the right enemy.
From 1992 on, NATO, under constant U.S. prodding, seized on the crisis in Yugoslavia to transform itself from a defensive alliance into a global superpower, a coalition of powers that would purport to use force to secure peace and stability, a protagonist in other people’s conflicts yet also a referee. NATO could nonetheless not admit publicly that it had now become a warmaking machine. So it came up with an ingenious formula. Backing one nation against another, airlifting arms to one while imposing sanctions against another, the NATO powers triggered and fueled wars, all the while insisting that their motives were humanitarian and that their only goal was peace. Each intervention, though, not surprisingly, served only to prolong conflicts, to heighten mutual enmity and therefore to fuel louder and more insistent demands for more, and more violent, NATO interventions.
Humanitarian intervention was to become NATO’s credo. As the humanitarian interventionists had it, the wars in the Balkans were a morality tale, pitting unconditional good against unmitigated evil, angelic victims — Bosnian Muslims, Kosovo Albanians and, to a lesser extent, Croats — against villainous Serbs. On one side were the Serbs, led by Serbian President Slobodan Milošević, the latest — but by no means last — incarnation of Hitler. On the other side were their victims, the non-Serbs of Yugoslavia, desperately seeking to be free of Serbian rule in general, and of Milošević’s rule in particular.
According to the widely accepted narrative, which has been lovingly told and re-told with as little variation as Scripture, the wars in Yugoslavia were started by the Serbs, a self-pitying, chauvinist people who had sought to destroy Yugoslavia and to turn it into a mono-ethnic Greater Serbia.
Afraid of domination by the Serbs, the republics of Yugoslavia made a desperate bid for independence. In response, the Serbs invaded: first Slovenia, then Croatia, then Bosnia. Not only were the Serbs uniquely morally reprobate, but they were better armed than anyone else because the Serb-dominated Yugoslav national army lent its support to the Serbs. As Milošević’s killers went on a rampage, the West stood by helplessly and, most immorally, even sought to keep Yugoslavia intact. Belatedly, the West understood that the republics’ longing for independence could not be crushed and extended international recognition to them. Milošević, however, continued to pursue his dream of a Greater Serbia by using Serb proxies to carve out ethnically pure Serb territories out of the newly independent republics with a view to annexing them to Serbia.
Well-meaning and indecisive as ever, the West stood by for years unwilling or unable to intervene to halt the Serb rampage. After the Srebrenica massacre, however, Serb crimes could no longer be tolerated and the United States finally stepped in and unleashed a ferocious bombing campaign to bring the Serbs to heel.
It was this firm United States action that made peace in Bosnia possible. But there was still no lasting peace because the vile Serbs were not done yet. Frustrated in their plans to create a Serb-dominated Yugoslavia and then a Greater Serbia, the Serbs decided to rid their country — which, other than tiny Montenegro, was all that was left of Yugoslavia — of its Albanian population in Kosovo. Here, too, the Serbs failed, as a newly self-confident West, no longer content to sit on the sideline, acted in time and, through a vigorous bombing campaign, averted the certain genocide that awaited the Albanians.
Happily averted also was the nightmare that had haunted liberals throughout the 1990s, namely, that Serb leaders would walk away from their crimes unpunished. Thanks to the passion for justice of the United States, the ICTY came into being to ensure that henceforth political leaders, even heads of state, would no longer be able to claim that sovereign immunity shielded them from answering for their crimes.
No matter how often this story gets repeated and how firmly entrenched it is as authoritative history, every detail of it is false, as I intend to show in this book. In fact, the account was cobbled together in order to justify the West’s reckless and irresponsible policies that served first to trigger and then to fuel the wars that unnecessarily went on for years. Despite the constant refrain of benevolent intent, throughout their interventions in Yugoslavia, Western policymakers did very little to advance the values on behalf of which they professed to be making their heroic exertions.
Moreover, given the starting point in 1990 (a single, civilized, multinational Yugoslavia) and the endpoint (seven small, weak, ethnically pure or ethnically separated states, locked in mutual suspicion and recrimination, trading accusations of genocide and filing lawsuits against one another in the International Court of Justice), humanitarian intervention has been nothing short of disastrous for those vaunted Western values.
The world outside Europe and the United States was distinctly underwhelmed by the new humanitarian intervention doctrine. Non-Westerners saw it as a fraud, a smokescreen to confuse the public, a mélange of wild exaggerations and deceptions to justify intervention in the affairs of small, weak states or in complicated conflicts on behalf of certain protagonists and against others. Sierra Leone wasn’t expected to intervene in the internal affairs of the United States; however, the prospect of the United States intervening in the internal affairs of Sierra Leone was very real.
There was, of course, nothing terribly new about the new humanitarian intervention. Great Powers have been invoking the plight of the oppressed to justify wars since time immemorial. The Hearst press in the United States ran lurid and entirely fabricated stories about the supposed horrors of life in Cuba under Spanish rule. The goal was to incite the United States to attack Spain, which it duly did. One of the most eloquent exponents of the doctrine of humanitarian intervention in recent times was Adolf Hitler. Hitler made a specialty of justifying aggression by invoking the alleged horrors being visited on minorities. For example, speaking on October 6, 1939, just one month after his attack on Poland, Hitler claimed that
minorities living in that country had to suffer what amounted to a reign of terror. I do not consider it my task to speak of the lot of the Ukrainians, or White Russian population, whose interests now lie in the hands of Russia. However, I do feel it my duty to speak of the lot of those helpless thousands of Germans who carried on the tradition of those who first brought culture to that country centuries ago and whom the Poles now began to oppress and drive out. Since March 1939, they had been victims of truly satanic terrorization. How many of them had been abducted and where they are cannot be stated even today. Villages with hundreds of German inhabitants are now left without men because they all have been killed. In others women were violated and murdered, girls and children outraged and killed … It was quite comprehensible that such a state of mind interpreted German longsuffering as a weakness, that is, that every concession on Germany’s part was regarded as proof of the possibility of some further aggressive steps … The warning to suspend or at least to take steps against the unceasing cases of murder, ill treatment and torture of German nationals in Poland had the effect of increasing these atrocities and of calling for more bloodthirsty harangues and provocative speeches from the Polish local administrative officials and military authorities … What the Poles had erroneously interpreted as weakness was in reality our sense of responsibility and my firm determination to come to an understanding if that at all was possible. Since they believed that this patience and longsuffering was a sign of weakness which would allow them to do anything, no other course remained than to show them their mistake by striking back with the weapons which they themselves had used for years.
In fact, invocation of high moral purpose and selflessness is the norm for Great Powers. The last thing they would want to admit is that they were picking on weaker opponents for sordid material gain or because they were, well, weaker. Interventions serve the interests of Great Powers and, within them, certain individuals and groups of individuals. Just as we don’t unquestioningly accept people’s own evaluations of themselves, so interventionists’ claims about their pristine humanitarian motives should be treated with skepticism. This is especially necessary given the undeniable human suffering such interventions cause.
This was a point made by U.N. General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto during a July 23, 2009 U.N. discussion on the “responsibility to protect.” The legacy of colonialism, he explained, gives “developing countries strong reasons to fear that laudable motives can end up being misused … to justify arbitrary and selective interventions against the weakest States.” He mentioned Iraq as an example of the kind of abuse that the responsibility to protect would be susceptible to were some states granted the right “to resort to the use of force against other states.”23 The General Assembly’s endorsement of the responsibility to protect, he lamented, will only generate new “coalitions of the willing,” “crusades such as the intervention in Iraq led by self-appointed saviours who arrogated to themselves the right to intervene with impunity in the name of overcoming nation-state impunity.” A handful of states, he went on, “sometimes only one state, apply rules or benefit from treaties that carry the sanctions of law, but to which they are not subject.”
Crucially, the advocates of humanitarian intervention invariably fail to address its most objectionable aspect. There already exists an international mechanism to intervene, if necessary, in the internal affairs of a U.N. member state. Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter grants the Security Council wide powers to interpret what constitutes a threat to international security and to take enforcement action to address it. What is alarming about the new humanitarian intervention is the assertion by a small group of powerful nations of a right to use force on behalf of a soi-disant “international community” with or without U.N. Security Council authorization. Here, too, the Great Powers were proposing nothing new. Dismissing the Security Council on the grounds that its cumbersome procedures stood in the way of resolute action had been a popular standby on more than a few occasions. The Anglo-French invasion of Egypt in 1956 was not authorized, and had no prospect of being authorized, by the Security Council. Justifying the decision to go ahead with the invasion anyway, British Prime Minister Anthony Eden asked rhetorically: “Should we have put the matter to the Security Council and left it at that? Should we have been content to wait and see if they would act? How long would this have taken?”24
This is why the purported beneficiaries of humanitarian intervention seem so unenthusiastic about it. During the 1999 bombing campaign, NATO spokesmen took to the airwaves to issue lofty pronouncements on the Western powers’ sacred duty to protect Muslims from persecution. Yet the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, many of whose members are Muslims, called for “an immediate cessation of all hostilities” and “the urgent resumption of diplomatic efforts, under the auspices of the United Nations.”25 This was the last thing NATO wanted to hear and of course ignored the advice.
In April 2000, while NATO leaders were still basking in the afterglow of the Kosovo bombing campaign, the Group of 77, meeting at the South Summit in Havana, issued a declaration that drew a clear distinction between military intervention and humanitarian assistance:
We stress the need to maintain a clear distinction between humanitarian assistance and other activities of the United Nations. We reject the so-called “right” of humanitarian intervention, which has no legal basis in the United Nations Charter or in the general principles of international law … Furthermore, we stress that humanitarian assistance should be conducted in full respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence of host countries, and should be initiated in response to a request or with the approval of these States.26
The 2005 World Summit Outcome declaration also emphasized this point. This needs to be remembered since it is often alleged that the 2005 summit endorsed the principle of responsibility to protect. The declaration accepted that “Each individual State has the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.” But the right to interfere in the internal affairs of other states was to be circumscribed. The international community would only be permitted to help states exercise their responsibility and “support the United Nations in establishing an early warning capability.” The responsibility to protect, U.N. Secretary-General Ban explained, is primarily “a matter of State responsibility, because prevention begins at home and the protection of populations is a defining attribute of sovereignty and statehood in the twenty-first century … (T)he international community can at best play a supplemental role.”27
To be sure, the 2005 summit concluded that collective action might be possible “should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities are manifestly failing to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.” However, such action would have to be authorized by the U.N. Security Council, as prescribed by Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter.28
The importance of non-interference was reiterated in May 2006 in Putrajaya, Malaysia at the ministerial meeting of the coordinating bureau of the Non-Aligned Movement. The ministers insisted that the responsibility to protect populations had to bear in mind the “principles of the U.N. Charter and international law, including respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States and non-interference in their internal affairs.” Any peacekeeping operation, therefore, had to be based on “the consent of the parties, the non-use of force except in self-defense and impartiality.” And the ministers firmly rejected a “so-called ‘right’ of humanitarian intervention, which has no basis either in the U.N. Charter or in international law.”29
The U.N. secretary-general’s subsequent report on the implementation of the responsibility to protect also emphasized the unalterable requirement to seek Security Council authorization before any measures at all are taken against other states:
If the international community acts early enough, the choice need not be a stark one between doing nothing or using force. A reasoned, calibrated and timely response could involve any of the broad range of tools available to the United Nations and its partners. These would include pacific measures under Chapter VI of the Charter, coercive ones under Chapter VII and/or collaboration with regional and subregional arrangements under Chapter VIII. The process of determining the best course of action, as well as of implementing it, must fully respect the provisions, principles and purposes of the Charter. In accordance with the Charter, measures under Chapter VII must be authorized by the Security Council.30
Of course, as always, pious declarations from a U.N. secretary-general about the need to seek Security Council authorization should not be taken too seriously. Time and again in recent years, the United States and its followers have sidestepped the Security Council whenever they sought to resort to force. Each time they did so, the Security Council, and the secretary-general, soon came around and issued a post facto endorsement. In August 1995, for example, NATO launched a massive bombing campaign against the Bosnian Serbs without authorization from the Security Council or Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. In no time at all, NATO’s departure from Charter orthodoxy was forgiven and forgotten. This set the stage for the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia. Though not authorized by the Security Council, NATO’s attack on a sovereign state was nonetheless endorsed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan. This forgiving attitude set the stage for the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, neither one of which was ever authorized by the Security Council.
Through his speeches and actions, Secretary-General Ban has clearly shown that he intends to go far beyond what the 2005 summit had agreed on. In his 2009 implementation report, Ban referred to “collective enforcement measures” such as “sanctions or coercive military action.” If states commit egregious crimes, “collective international military assistance may be the surest way to support the State in meeting its obligations relating to the responsibility to protect.” Early, “targeted and restrained use of international military assets and armed forces may be able to save lives and bring a measure of stability so that diplomacy, domestic political processes, healing and reconciliation can have time and space to operate,” he wrote.31
Ban’s soothing platitudes about the “targeted” and “restrained” use of force along with his peppy calls for “diplomacy,” “healing,” and “reconciliation,” though fully in accord with contemporary NATO speechifying, are unlikely to mollify the victims of selfless armed intervention. The purported beneficiaries’ last line of defense against being set upon by the “international community” is the Security Council. Of the five veto-wielding permanent members, three are members of NATO. The two that aren’t could therefore be relied on to thwart armed humanitarian expeditions. Consequently, Ban, like other humanitarian interventionists, had to come up with some legal expedient that could justify ignoring the wishes of the Security Council.
When a state “fails to respond to less coercive measures,” Ban wrote,
it is, in effect, challenging the international community to live up to its own responsibilities … Such collective measures could be authorized by the Security Council under Articles 41 or 42 of the Charter, by the General Assembly under the “Uniting for peace” procedure … or by regional or subregional arrangements under Article 53, with the prior authorization of the Security Council.
Ban’s logic is worth noting. A violation of international law had occurred. Therefore, the proper authorities are obligated to enforce the law. Should they fail to do so, other entities must assume responsibility for punishing delinquents. This was a very interesting formulation. There had been nothing about this in the 2005 World Summit Outcome declaration.
In fact, Ban’s ideas come from the strongly pro-interventionist 2001 ICISS report. The ICISS had gone even further. Its report insisted that absence of Security Council authorization for the use of force should not be the end of the matter. If the Security Council fails to take action, the ICISS asserted, the General Assembly would have to do something under the “Uniting for Peace” procedure. (The 1950 U.S.-led action in Korea had been authorized through this procedure.) If the General Assembly also fails to act, according to the ICISS, there would be no alternative but “action within area of jurisdiction by regional or sub-regional organizations under Chapter VIII of the Charter, subject to their seeking subsequent authorization from the Security Council.”
Few can be in any doubt as to which “regional or sub-regional organizations” Ban or the ICISS have in mind. They obviously aren’t referring to the Organization of American States, which, in its charter, could scarcely be less ambiguous on the issue of foreign intervention. Article 19 states: “No State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. The foregoing principle prohibits not only armed force but also any other form of interference or attempted threat against the personality of the State or against its political, economic, and cultural elements.”
What’s revealing is the invocation by the ICISS of “subsequent authorization.” Recent experience clearly suggests that such authorization would be nothing more than a formality. That a U.N. secretary-general should make speeches or write reports that sound as if they had been drafted at NATO’s press office is a reflection of how much the U.N. has fatefully compromised its independence and neutrality.
The NATO-U.N. partnership was forged in the Balkans, a surprising development perhaps, given that NATO’s humanitarian intervention in Yugoslavia had been made possible only through its deliberate sidelining of the United Nations. The military missions NATO urged and eventually undertook were frequently opposed by the U.N. peacekeeping forces on the ground. While NATO officialdom resorted to propaganda and overwrought, one-sided depictions of the conflicts in Yugoslavia, U.N. observers offered measured analyses that assigned responsibility for the conflict and its attendant atrocities to all sides. The reports, speeches and books of U.N. commanders such as generals Philippe Morillon, Satish Nambiar, Michael Rose, and Lewis MacKenzie repeatedly expressed exasperation at the U.S.-NATO insistence on demonizing Serbs and sanctifying everyone else.
The generals understood something beyond the grasp of the humanitarian interventionists. Humanitarian crises are the consequence of war, not the cause of it. In Bosnia, there was no ethnic cleansing before the war broke out; there were no war crimes before war broke out, there were no refugees before war broke out. Consequently, it was the war that had to be ended first. Once that goal was accomplished, then there would be time to address humanitarian crises. That would be the appropriate time to reverse ethnic cleansing, to ensure that refugees return home. Fueling a war, or “leveling the playing field,” to use the Clinton administration’s catchphrase, could not possibly help solve humanitarian crises. Bosnia’s most important requirement was political compromise. Yet the humanitarian interventionists rejected any compromise on the grounds that this would reward ethnic cleaning. They insisted that the humanitarian crises had to be addressed first. They demanded that ethnic cleansing be reversed, that war criminals be indicted, that international tribunals be established, that “safe areas” be set up. After that, there would be time for peace. The champions of the “no peace without justice” doctrine made sure that there was neither peace nor justice.
NATO is a military alliance comprising a handful of states in the Western hemisphere; the United Nations is supposed to be what its name implies. Yet, throughout much of the 1990s, NATO managed to persuade the Western public that it was acting as the enforcement arm of the U.N. The U.N. went along with this pretense. Despite the occasional protest, Boutros-Ghali signed off on the U.N.-NATO partnership in Bosnia. Boutros-Ghali’s clash with NATO wasn’t over any inappropriate use of force. Boutros-Ghali’s problems arose from his insistence that, as the U.N.’s civilian chief, he was effectively the commander-in-chief of the U.N. peacekeeping forces in Bosnia and Croatia. Therefore, he should have the final say on whether NATO should bomb or not. This was not at all to Washington’s liking. When, in the summer of 1995, Boutros-Ghali made one last attempt to reassert the primacy of the United Nations over NATO, he was unceremoniously shown the door. NATO — or rather the Clinton administration — announced that it was taking decision-making out of the secretary-general’s hands.
A little more than a year later, Boutros-Ghali was gone, fired by the United States. His replacement was a complaisant Ghanaian, Kofi Annan, who had already proved himself to be someone highly attuned to Washington’s requirements. He had facilitated the massive NATO bombing of August 1995 by temporarily taking over from Boutros-Ghali and instructing the “U.N.’s civilian officials and military commanders to relinquish for a limited period of time their authority to veto air strikes in Bosnia.”32 As secretary-general, Annan made all the right noises. State frontiers, he declared in 1998, a few months before NATO’s attack on Yugoslavia, “should no longer be seen as a watertight protection for war criminals or mass murderers.” When the bombing started in March 1999, Annan issued not one word of criticism of NATO’s conduct, not even of its refusal to seek Security Council authorization. He even expressed appropriately NATO-style disdain for the Security Council. “Unless it (the Security Council) is able to assert itself collectively when the cause is just and when the means are available,” he declared, “its credibility in the eyes of the world may well suffer. If States bent on criminal behaviour know that frontiers are not the absolute defence and if they know that the Security Council will take action to halt crimes against humanity, they will not embark on such a course of action in expectation of sovereign impunity.”33
In 2000, Annan issued his Millennium Report in which he dismissed concerns that humanitarian intervention might “become a cover for gratuitous interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states” or that secessionists might deliberately “provoke governments into committing gross violations of human rights in order to trigger external interventions that would aid their cause.” There was no need to be too exercised over such matters. They paled into insignificance next to the unspeakable horrors that were the daily lot of millions. “How should we respond to a Rwanda, to a Srebrenica — to gross and systematic violations of human rights that offend every precept of our common humanity?” he asked. No legal principle “can ever shield crimes against humanity,” he declared. Sounding very much like Blair, he explained that “Where such crimes occur and peaceful attempts to halt them have been exhausted, the Security Council has a moral duty to act on behalf of the international community. The fact that we cannot protect people everywhere is no reason for doing nothing when we can. Armed intervention must always remain the option of last resort, but in the face of mass murder it is an option that cannot be relinquished.”34
In the end, Annan, too, proved to be insufficiently compliant. His undoing was Iraq. Though generally supportive of the Bush/Blair-led invasion of 2003, he nonetheless disclosed in a BBC interview in September 2004 that he believed the attack to be “not in conformity with the U.N. Charter, from our point of view.” From the “Charter point of view it was illegal.”
It was curtains for Annan. He was soon gone, replaced by Ban Ki-moon, a former foreign minister of South Korea, a firm U.S. ally, and hence someone who could be expected to be a reliable servant of the United States. Upon taking over in January 2007, Ban went to great lengths to reassure Washington that the United Nations would act as its global partner and that it shared its outlook on world affairs. One of his first acts as secretary-general was to pay a visit to President George W. Bush. Following the White House meeting, Ban announced that the U.S. and the U.N. were both in the business of “promoting human rights, democracy and freedom and peace and security, as well as mutual prosperity.” Ban then flew to Brussels to meet NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. There he declared himself to be “very much assured and encouraged by what NATO has been contributing to peace and security around the world.” The United Nations and NATO “have the same goals (and) are committed to work very closely together in the future.” Significantly, he added, “There is the need for a close relationship between the United Nations and NATO, more and more you see NATO forces operating under an U.N. umbrella.”
The NATO-U.N. partnership was sealed in New York in September 2008. Ban and De Hoop Scheffer met to sign a Joint Declaration on U.N./NATO Secretariat Cooperation. “Our shared experiences,” the agreement declared, “have demonstrated the value of effective and efficient coordination between our Organizations. We have developed operational cooperation, for example, in peacekeeping in the Balkans and Afghanistan, where U.N.-authorized natoled operations work alongside U.N. peace operations … Further cooperation will significantly contribute to addressing the threats and challenges to which the international community is called upon to respond.” NATO and the United Nations would establish “a framework for consultation and dialogue and cooperation, including … exchanges and dialogue at senior and working levels on political and operational issues.” NATO and the U.N. would provide “assistance to regional and sub-regional organizations, as requested and as appropriate.”
This NATO-U.N. pact is extraordinary for a number of reasons. First, neither the U.N. Security Council nor the U.N. General Assembly was ever consulted on the advisability of such an agreement. Second, it is almost certainly in violation of the U.N. Charter. The U.N. doesn’t forge alliances with regional pacts. Regional pacts can undertake missions on behalf of the U.N., but only if they were previously authorized to do so by the Security Council. NATO is a nuclear-armed military alliance of some European and American powers, in potential conflict with some powers and in actual conflict with others, including some that are on the Security Council. The United Nations is supposed to be something else entirely.
Given NATO’s refusal to seek Security Council authorization before launching its March 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia, given the absence of U.N. authorization for the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, the NATO-U.N. accord essentially turns the U.N. into an adjunct of NATO. The U.N. is there either to sign off on NATO missions or to be ignored if it refuses to do so. The accord also turns the International Criminal Court into what everyone had always suspected it would become: yet another institutional mechanism to be used against NATO’s opponents. If NATO and the U.N. are institutionally bound together, is it conceivable that the U.N. would ever sanction the prosecution of any NATO state official for any crimes?
Actually, long before the 2008 Ban-De Hoop Scheffer pact, the NATO-U.N. partnership had been given institutional expression in the form of a supposed court of law — the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). This body, pompously modeled on the Nuremburg Tribunal, was created by the U.N. Security Council on the basis of powers granted to it by Chapter VII. Very few countries were involved in its creation, certainly not any of Yugoslavia’s combatants. The ICTY set up shop at The Hague for no particular reason other than that it was the home of the venerable International Court of Justice with which it could therefore be, helpfully, confused.
Significantly, the ICTY opened shop long before the Yugoslav wars ended. The NATO powers that created it and determined its policies and personnel had a strong interest in the outcome of those wars. The activities of the ICTY were from the beginning an adjunct to the activities of the NATO powers that were busily financing, supporting, and arming one side against the other. ICTY indictments were always meant to affect situations on the ground. In July 1995, the ICTY indicted the two leaders of the Bosnian Serbs, Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić. The indictments, coming during the period leading up to the Dayton negotiations, served to ensure their absence from the talks. Krajina Serb President Milan Martić was indicted a few days before Croatia launched Operation Storm, which led to the takeover of Krajina. Milošević’s indictment, issued during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, served to shore up flagging public support for the campaign. In none of these cases did the ICTY have the slightest evidence on the basis of which it could issue its indictments. After the wars ended, the ICTY’s budget grew spectacularly as it indicted and tried pretty much the entire Serb military and political leadership of Yugoslavia — seven Serb presidents no less. The indictments and judgments now served to shape the politics of the Balkans, again very much in accordance with the requirements of NATO.
The ICTY’s mission has been to conceal NATO’s political agenda behind the comforting slogan of “No peace without justice.” Rather than foster reconciliation, the ICTY has pursued a one-sided, vindictive approach, using legal obfuscation to promote NATO-sanctioned political outcomes. If, as is likely, Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić are convicted of genocide, these verdicts will undoubtedly serve to undermine the political standing of the Bosnian Serb Republic and of Serbia, outcomes that NATO would find very satisfactory.
The International Criminal Court is well on its way to becoming the ICTY, writ large. The ICTY’s rulings, though poorly argued, illogical, and intellectually threadbare, will undoubtedly serve as the body of humanitarian law that the International Criminal Court will apply. The victims of the ICC are also apparent. They belong to the ranks of countries that have long been subject to Western attack and exploitation.
As D’Escoto pointed out, “No system of justice can be legitimate that, by design, allows principles of justice to be applied differentially.” The United States has refused to ratify the ICC, but is all for using it against adversaries such as Qaddafi. The permanent members of the Security Council can veto any investigation into any possible wrongdoing on their part. “The Security Council,” D’Escoto said, “should not have recourse to the International Criminal Court … until all U.N. member states are party, or at least until all Security Council members, are party to its convention.” The ICC is up and running and eagerly serving as an adjunct to NATO. Its investigations, indictments and trials are part of NATO’s propaganda armory.
The seamless transition from Bush to Obama demonstrates that, despite the wailing of the anti-Bush humanitarians, the invasion of Iraq was very much in the spirit of humanitarian intervention. People today often forget that in the months leading up to the 2003 invasion, much of the anti-Saddam campaign focused precisely on Saddam’s human rights record. Without the NATO bombings of the lands that used to be Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the U.S.-led attack on Iraq would not have taken place. It was made possible by the Clinton/Blair dismissal as trite or irrelevant such traditional concerns as respect for territorial integrity, sovereign equality, and the authority of the United Nations. George Bush’s quip — “International law? Let me call my lawyer.” — could as easily have been uttered by Clinton. Like Bush, Clinton and Blair got around the United Nations by citing the supposed selfishness of other Security Council members. Clinton and Blair complained about Russia; Bush complained about Germany, Russia, and France; Obama would complain about Russia and China. In reality, the U.S. problem, both in Iraq and Yugoslavia, was that in 2003, much as in 1999 and 2012, the United Nations and other international bodies disagreed strongly with the Anglo-American assessment of what was taking place and what needed to be done about it.
The differences between Obama’s war on Libya in 2011, the Bush/Blair war on Iraq in 2003, the Bush/Blair war on Afghanistan in 2001, and the Clinton/Blair war on Yugoslavia in 1999 are more apparent than real. The plaintive cry for humanitarian intervention in Kosovo went together with more hardheaded invocations of dire strategic consequences that would surely transpire in the event of NATO’s failure to bomb. Massive refugee flows, terrorism, drug trafficking, growing Islamic extremism, and all manner of other contributions to global instability would overwhelm Europe unless the West took resolute, preventive action. Anyone could see that NATO intervention would make these alleged impending catastrophes more, rather than less, likely. Yet this obvious insight was suppressed in the frantic rush to conjure up justifications for NATO action.
According to Washington’s world outlook, nothing succeeds like success. For all the invocations of high moral purpose, the standard according to which the humanitarian interventionists judge their military undertakings is spectacularly low. Apparently, any military campaign that doesn’t end in total calamity is considered a success. Today, Washington has even convinced itself that history will deem the invasion of Iraq a success.35 The governmental and societal collapse in Libya is also bizarrely deemed a success.
The 1999 bombing is looked back on as NATO’s shining hour. It constitutes the founding myth of the new NATO. Though it led to a massive refugee flight, the first bombing of a European country since Hitler, extensive casualties, and a serious confrontation with Russia, it is considered a success. However, the only positive outcome of the bombing was that it didn’t end in catastrophe. For this, NATO should thank the Russians and Milošević. It may not always be so lucky. Had NATO gone ahead and launched its threatened ground invasion of Yugoslavia, an extraordinary disaster would have ensued: massive loss of life, armed confrontation with Russia, and a prolonged guerrilla war in Europe. It would have been a suitable ending to a humanitarian endeavor.
1) Richard Holbrooke, To End a War (New York: Random House, 1998), p. 132
3) “U.S. Reopens Its Embassy in Libya,” New York Times, September 23, 2011.
4) NATO press briefing on Libya, http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/opinions_78388.htm
5) “Libya’s Pathway to Peace,” New York Times, April 14, 2011.
6) “The Battle for Libya: Killings, Disappearances and Torture,” Amnesty International, September 13, 2011.
9) “Popular protest in North Africa and the Middle East (V): Making Sense of Libya,” International Crisis Group, June 6, 2011.
10) “Amnesty Questions Claim that Gaddafi Ordered Rape as Weapon of War,” The Independent, June 24, 2011.
11) Anne-Marie Slaughter, “How to Halt the Butchery in Syria,” New York Times, February 23, 2012.
12) Louise Arbour, “For Justice and Civilians, Don’t Rule Out Regime Change,” The Globe and Mail, June 26, 2012.
13) “CIA Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition,” New York Times, June 21, 2012.
14) http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/rss_viewer/national_security_strategy.pdf (lol currently broken, gg trumphouse. Quoted text appears on this page in archives.)
15) Remarks by the president at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, April 23, 2012. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/04/23/remarks-president-united-states-holocaust-memorial-museum
16) U.N. General Assembly, 54th Session, September 20, 1999. A/54/PV.4. This has become a standard argument among the humanitarians. In calling for military action in Syria, Anne-Marie Slaughter was ready to seek authorization from the U.N. Security Council as long as it was forthcoming. If not, too bad: “If Russia and China were willing to abstain rather than exercise another massacre-enabling veto, then the Arab League could go back to the United Nations Security Council for approval. If not, then Turkey and the Arab League should act, on their own authority and that of the other 13 members of the Security Council and 137 members of the General Assembly who voted … to condemn Mr. Assad’s brutality.” Anne-Marie Slaughter, “How to Halt the Butchery in Syria,” New York Times, February 23 2012.
17) “The Responsibility to Protect,” International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: 2011.
18) United Nations Security Council, 6772nd Meeting, May 16, 2012. S/PV.6772.
19) “The Education of Samantha Power,” Chronicle of Higher Education, March 28, 2008.
20) “Iraq is not just Blair’s dark legacy: it defines the future,” The Observer, June 17, 2007.
21) “Of Sarajevo and Baghdad,” International Herald Tribune, June 25, 2007.
22) “From Military Disaster to Moral High Ground,” New York Times, October 7, 2007.
24) A.N. Wilson, Our Times: The Age of Elizabeth II (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2008), p. 64.
25) Statement on the situation in Kosovo, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, issued on 9 April 1999 by the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, S/1999/451.
27) “Implementing the Responsibility to Protect,” Report of the Secretary-General, A/63/677, January 12, 2009, paragraph 14.
28) U.N. Resolution Adopted by the General Assembly, paragraphs 138 and 139, U.N. Doc. A/RES/60/1, Oct. 24, 2005.
29) http://www.un.int/malaysia/NAM/NAM.html (page not found; site doesn’t seem to have content pre-2015. Way to go, UN. So I can’t find the documentation from the May summit in Malaysia. However, the September one in Havana, which likewise reiterates the same point, can be found here, with the quoted passage in paragraph 249.)
30) “Implementing the Responsibility to Protect,” Report of the Secretary-General, A/63/677, January 12, 2009, paragraph 11.
31) “Implementing the Responsibility to Protect,” Report of the Secretary-General, A/63/677, January 12, 2009, paragraph 40.
32) Richard Holbrooke, To End a War (New York: Random House, 1998), p. 99.
33) U.N. General Assembly, 54th Session, September 20, 1999, A/54/PV.4.
34) “We the Peoples: The Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century,” United Nations, 2000, p. 48. http://www.un.org/millennium/sg/report/full.htm (broken, use this one instead)
35) “Former President George W. Bush’s gut instinct that this region craved and needed democracy was always right. It should have and could have been pursued with much better planning and execution. This war has been extraordinarily painful and costly. But democracy was never going to have a virgin birth in a place like Iraq, which has never known any such thing.” So wrote New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman. “It’s up to Iraqis, now. Good luck.” New York Times, March 9, 2010. In December 2011, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta explained that, difficult as the Iraq war may have been, “I think the price has been worth it, to establish a stable government in a very important region of the world.” http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=66515 (broken; use archive subdomain instead of www)
Edited by Constantignoble ()
old man Harpal Brar put together an anthology book about yugoslavia called "nato's predatory war on yugoslavia" written in extremely marxist-leninist voice. i like it.
If @realDonaldTrump were to announce that he's launching a full-scale bombing attack on Syria, those who are so outraged by the "shithole" comment would be clapping their hands with glee. It's OK to turn countries into shitholes; it's just not OK to describe our handiwork as such— George Szamuely (@GeorgeSzamuely) January 12, 2018
hey remember this thread? i am occasionally reminded of it, such as now, when i have around 37,000 more words to deposit in it -- which is to say, one single chapter. that's why i said i'd do like a chapter every six months, iirc. don't question it.
anyway, nextpost inbound as i triple check some formatting stuff. it's a real treat, featuring compulsive liars like Mesić, flagrantly inconsistent arbitrators like Badinter, and a menagerie of other pieces of shit who'll leave your jaw on the floor -- a very untidy thing to do. so that's strike three. and if you like it, then maybe, in another 4 years or so, we'll have the material ready to host readbombsforpeace.org or whatever.
Yugoslavia: Destroying States For Fun and For Profit
The disastrous consequences of the West’s intervention in Yugoslavia stemmed from its willful misunderstanding of the nature of the country’s crisis.
The wars in Yugoslavia were triggered by the insistence of first, Croatia and Slovenia, then Bosnia, then Kosovo to seek independence without bothering to go through the formality of negotiating the terms of their exit. Since there was no way that six-nation, six-republic Yugoslavia could break up without war, and therefore without the atrocities that are inseparable from war, responsibility for the subsequent humanitarian crises rested with those who insisted on secession at all costs, and those who, willfully and recklessly, served as the secessionists’ enablers. War was inevitable once the European Union and the United States accepted — or more accurately, encouraged — the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the face of fierce opposition from at least 40% of its population — the Serbs — and probably from a substantial majority of Yugoslavs.
Origins of the Crisis
The origins of the crisis in the Balkans in the late 1980s lie further back than the secessions of 1991: not in the alleged aspiration of Serbia’s leaders to create a Greater Serbia, but in the massive economic crisis triggered by the inability of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) to repay an international debt it had run up in the 1970s. To avoid defaulting, the SFRY was forced to accept the stewardship of the International Monetary Fund. The IMF’s familiar deflationary remedies had the familiar disastrous effects: cuts in wages, cuts in payroll, cuts in social benefits, shutdowns of supposedly uneconomic factories, and cuts in imports. Living standards plummeted. Resentful at having to shoulder a growing economic burden, the more prosperous regions of Yugoslavia responded much as the more prosperous regions of Italy did in the early 1990s and the Flemish regions of Belgium a little later: they decided they wanted out.
Interestingly, the most forceful opposition to such separatist movements came initially from the International Monetary Fund. As Susan Woodward put it in Balkan Tragedy:
Despite years of pushing decentralization in Yugoslavia, the IMF advisers and economic liberals now attributed the lack of monetary discipline to excessive decentralization of the banking and foreign exchange systems. In their view, the central bank had long ago lost the capacity to discipline its member banks and control the money supply. The dispersed authority over money, credit, and foreign exchange made it impossible to have any effective monetary and effective exchange rate policy, let alone effective industrial and foreign trade policy. Global integration now required a unified domestic market, which meant reintegration of the segmented economies of the republics, and the free movement of labor, capital, and goods across local and republican borders.1
The IMF is the global agency tasked with debt collection on behalf of creditor nations. Disdainful of Yugoslavia’s self-management-style socialism, the IMF focused its criticism on the “virtual stalemate in federal decision-making due to republican and provincial autonomy.” To repay its debts, Yugoslavia would have to undertake drastic changes: no more decentralization, no more self-management and no more political consensus among the republics. Federal institutions and the central bank would have to make decisions on the basis of majority voting, not consensus.
The IMF’s re-centralization program provoked strong resistance, the fiercest coming from those, Woodward said, “who stood to lose economic power and privilege. Wealthier republican and provincial governments felt their control over the flow of labor, capital, and goods in and out of their territories threatened by instruments for internal marketization.” As the Soviet bloc was collapsing during the late 1980s, Western commentators presented the attendant political struggles as clashes pitting reformers against conservatives or liberals against nationalists. But these simple-minded categories, inadequate as they were to explain what was going on in the Soviet Union, were absurdly inappropriate when applied to Yugoslavia. In Yugoslavia, unlike in the Soviet Union, “it was not the central government or the poorer areas that had political and economic privileges to protect, but rather the republican politicians, especially those in the wealthier and more western regions. Those whose views might seem more liberal and Western were, in fact, the most conservative about change, the most anti-reform, and the most nationalistic.”
The most vehement opponents of reform were Western favorites Slovenia and Croatia. As Diana Johnstone described it, “Rather than fostering democratic free enterprise, the IMF reforms encouraged clannishness, nepotism and unfair mutual recriminations between social groups — which in multinational Yugoslavia meant national groups … One of the reactions of Yugoslavs to the economic stress of the 1980s was to blame other national groups — and in particular, to blame the Serbs, by reviving the old belief that Serbs ran the government.”2
The IMF not only urged limits on independent decision-making by Yugoslavia’s republics. It also wanted Serbia to put its house in order and address the problem of its two autonomous provinces. Serbia, unlike any other republic in the SFRY, comprised three separate political entities: Serbia proper and two autonomous provinces — Kosovo and Metohija and Vojvodina. All three had seats on the federal presidency. Kosovo and Vojvodina had been listed as autonomous provinces of Serbia in the 1946, 1963, and 1974 constitutions. The scope of Kosovo’s autonomy increased substantially after 1974, not so much because of any change in its constitutional status but because of the policy of decentralization encouraged by Tito. The same decentralizing constitution that had helped loosen the republics’ ties to the SFRY had also encouraged Serbia’s provinces effectively to govern themselves.
The growing autonomy of the provinces was to prove a real problem for Serbia because, as Woodward explained, it was increasingly “deprived of resources that had previously been channeled through Belgrade … The governments of Vojvodina and Kosovo could veto any policy from Belgrade that applied to the entire territory, while Serbia proper had no equivalent power over decisions within the two provinces.” The IMF wanted reduced autonomy in the provinces and less independence in the republics.
The status of Kosovo and Vojvodina was not unlike that of Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom between 1921 and 1972. While Northern Ireland MPs in Westminster could vote on every issue pertaining to U.K. matters and could even determine whether a Conservative or a Labor government would be formed in London, Westminster had no comparable say in the affairs of Northern Ireland. Kosovo representatives would sit in the Serbian assembly, in the Yugoslav federal assembly, and in the Yugoslav presidency, but Serbs from Serbia proper did not sit in the Kosovo assembly. Worse, the decisions of the courts in Kosovo were not reviewable by the courts of Serbia. While Serbia could not change its constitution without the approval of the assemblies of the autonomous provinces, the Serbian assembly’s approval was not needed for changes to the constitutions of the provinces.
Moreover, during the 1980s, Serbs living in Kosovo continually complained of persecution and discrimination. In November 1987, long before ideological and moralistic posturing took over all discussion of Yugoslavia, a New York Times report described in detail the hardships the Serbs in Kosovo faced:
Ethnic Albanians in the Government have manipulated public funds and regulations to take over land belonging to Serbs … Slavic Orthodox churches have been attacked, and flags have been torn down. Wells have been poisoned and crops burned. Slavic boys have been knifed, and some young ethnic Albanians have been told by their elders to rape Serbian girls … As Slavs flee the protracted violence, Kosovo is becoming what ethnic Albanian nationalists have been demanding for years, and especially strongly since the bloody rioting by ethnic Albanians in Pristina in 1981 — an “ethnically pure” Albanian region, a “Republic of Kosovo” in all but name.3
Furthermore, the Times reporter pointed out that “Ethnic Albanians already control almost every phase of life in the autonomous province of Kosovo, including the police, judiciary, civil service, schools and factories. Non-Albanian visitors almost immediately feel the independence — and suspicion — of the ethnic Albanian authorities.” This account diverges starkly from subsequent oft-told tales of the horrors and indignities the Kosovo Albanians had had to endure in Yugoslavia.
Inevitably, just as London eventually grew tired of the peculiar Northern Ireland arrangement and, in 1972, brought it to an end, so Serbia was bound to seek resolution of the Kosovo problem and to bring its constitutional arrangement into conformity with that of the other republics.
The issue grew in salience as the Kosovo Albanian representatives as well as the Vojvodina representatives were among the fiercest of opponents of the reform programs of the late 1980s. Kosovo, which, as Woodward points out, had been “the recipient of the greatest amount of federal funds,” was not surprisingly the most loath to contemplate the shutting down of uneconomic plants and smokestack industries. “By granting effective veto power to Serbia’s autonomous provinces,” Johnstone writes, “the 1974 Constitution made it impossible for Serbia to carry out serious reform. Kosovo’s local leaders, predominantly Albanian, were most reluctant to accept reforms.” Through their voting, they had made reform in Serbia impossible.
Serbia’s reduction of the autonomy of its provinces in the late 1980s was an integral part of the IMF-sanctioned reformist, centralizing agenda. Reintegration of Kosovo into Serbia paralleled the IMF-urged reintegration of the economies of the individual republics into the economy of Yugoslavia.
In changing its constitution in 1989, Serbia acted in accordance with the federal constitution of Yugoslavia. The other five republics all duly approved Serbia’s move. Moreover, Serbia’s constitutional amendments were in line with amendments to the Yugoslav federal constitution that were enacted in 1988.
However, the Serbs did not abolish the Kosovo assembly; nor did they dictate the manner in which a government of Kosovo would be formed, nor its composition. The Serbs did not reduce Kosovo’s representation in Serbia’s parliament or in any of the federal institutions. The new, 1990 Serbian constitution continued to refer to the “Autonomous Province of Vojvodina and the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija.” Something did change, however, something that was bound to provoke the fury of Kosovo’s Albanian population. Serbia’s reassertion of sovereignty halted the province’s gradual slide toward republican status or independence. Without doubt, this was a blow to Albanian national aspirations. But there had been no loss of autonomy. And there was no ban on the use of the Albanian language. In fact, the 1989 constitutional amendments changed very little. They made explicit what had been implicit in previous constitutions: republican institutions would take precedence over provincial institutions.
That Kosovo had slipped away from Serbia’s control in the decades leading up to 1989 was due more to the indifference of Yugoslav and Serbian Communist leaders than to anything sanctioned by the 1974 constitution. Subsequent mythology had it that the 1974 constitution made Kosovo a republic in all but name. This is not true. Article 228, for example, stated that, “Provincial laws and other regulations … must be in harmony with a republican law.” Article 229 said that if a provincial law was not in accord with a republican law, “republican law shall apply pending a decision by the Constitutional Court of Serbia.” Article 230 allowed the government of Serbia to ask Serbia’s constitutional court to “suspend the implementation of a regulation or other enactment of the executive council of the assembly of an autonomous province or a provincial administrative organ which is not in accordance with” either the constitution of Serbia or a republican law.
Furthermore, according to Article 410, once Serbia’s constitutional court establishes that a provincial law is not “in conformity with a republican law applicable throughout the territory of the Republic,” the provincial assembly was duty-bound to harmonize that provincial law either with Serbia’s constitution or with the republican law within six months. If the provincial assembly failed to meet this specific deadline, the provisions of the law “shall cease to be valid.”
Thus, the 1974 constitution did not challenge Serbia’s sovereignty over Kosovo or the precedence of republican over provincial institutions. The 1989 constitutional amendments formally changed very little in Kosovo. Amendment XXIX, for example, stipulated:
When the Assembly of the SR of Serbia establishes on the basis of the opinion of the Constitutional Court of Serbia that some provisions of the constitution of the autonomous province are in contravention of the Constitution of the SR of Serbia, it shall inform the assembly of the autonomous province about it. Unless the assembly of the autonomous province removes this contravention within one year, these provisions of the constitution of the autonomous province may not be applied.4
This wasn’t all that different from the 1974 constitution.
Moreover, Serbia’s assertion of sovereignty over Kosovo was by no means absolute. For example, Amendment XLVI said that only on the “basis of prior approval by the assemblies of the autonomous provinces” could the “Assembly of the SR Serbia … pass laws which apply universally throughout the territory of the Republic.” Thus, if “either of the assemblies of the autonomous provinces withhold its approval, the law shall not be applied in the territory of the autonomous province in question.”
Kosovo’s Albanians responded to the amendments by boycotting not only all republican and federal political institutions but also all social and economic institutions. They set up their own education system and health service. Needless to say, the bodies were severely underfinanced and far inferior in quality to Yugoslavia’s very good health, education, and welfare system. Visiting observers in Kosovo took these threadbare services as evidence of the existence of some kind of an apartheid system in Serbia, with the Serbs playing the role of whites to the Albanians’ blacks. There was a crucial difference between Serbia and South Africa, though. Separation was a choice made by the Albanians, not the Serbs.
On July 2, 1990, the Kosovo assembly declared that Kosovo was an independent and equal unit of the Yugoslav federation. The assembly also announced that Albanians, “being the majority and one of the largest people in Yugoslavia, are to be considered, like the Serbs and other nations living in Kosovo, a nation and not a national minority.” This assertion was bound to infuriate the Serbs. The Serbs considered themselves to be one of the founding and constituent nations of Yugoslavia. Albanians, like Hungarians or Turks, were not a nation of Yugoslavia but a national minority since their nationhood had already found expression in an existing nation-state that was not Yugoslavia.
The Albanians based their claim on demography. Albanians exceeded Montenegrins, Macedonians, perhaps even Slovenes in numbers; yet these nations all had republics of their own. Yugoslavia’s constitutional court explained the difference in its dismissal of Kosovo’s claim to equal status. On February 19, 1991, the court ruled that:
The Albanians in Kosovo are a nationality and cannot avail themselves of the right to self-determination and proclaim the SAP [Socialist Autonomous Province] of Kosovo a federal unit like the republics. To wit, under the constitution of the SFRY, only the peoples of Yugoslavia, and not the nationalities, have the right to self-determination.
Accepting Kosovo’s proclamation would mean “altering the borders of the SR of Serbia, of which the sap of Kosovo is a part, without its approval, which is not in accordance with the provisions of Article 5 of the Constitution of the SFRY, which establish that the territory and borders of a republic cannot be altered without its approval.”5 Whether one considers this ruling fair or not, it was nonetheless the decision of Yugoslavia’s highest court, the membership of which was divided equally between the republics. It was not the diktat of the Serbs.
Targeting the Yugoslav Federal Government
The problems of Kosovo, one of the poorest regions of Yugoslavia despite years of federal funding, were the opposite of those of Slovenia and Croatia. The two republics, the most prosperous regions of Yugoslavia, resented having to fund regions such as Kosovo. All three, in effect, embarked on a course of making sure that federal institutions were unable to function. “While reformers and the IMF insisted on a more effective federal government,” Woodward writes, “the specific victories of the republics were draining what little power the existing federal institutions had … In March 1987 [the Slovenes] refused to implement the wage restrictions of the federal incomes policy. In the first six months of 1986, all republics and provinces except Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina failed to pay their obligatory portion of the federal budget.” By the late 1980s, the IMF was “conditioning new credits on constitutional change: a strengthened federal administration and a change in the voting rules in the central bank from consensus to majority.”
Rejection of the federal budgetary obligations went together with nationalist revivals in the republics. Republican political leaders mobilized popular support for their fight against the federal government by exploiting national resentments. Croatia, for example, launched a campaign to rehabilitate Archbishop Stepinac, the archbishop of Zagreb during World War II, who had been convicted of collaborating with the Fascist Ustaša regime in Croatia. Meanwhile, right-wing Fascist sympathizers and Ustaša supporters began returning to Croatia. One issue ripe for exploitation was the reluctance of young men to perform their military service in any republic but their own. Refusal to serve in the Yugoslav People’s Army (Jugoslovenska Narodna Armija — JNA) led to complaints about Serbian overrepresentation, then to the nationalist cry that this Serbian army was an occupying army.
In 1990, Yugoslavia held its first multiparty elections. Or rather, the individual republics held multiparty elections. There were no federal elections. Plucky, pro-Western, “democratic” Slovenia had prevented the holding of all-Yugoslav elections. This served to ensure that no all-Yugoslav vote would ever be held on the issue of the preservation of Yugoslavia.
Nationalist parties or parties running on nationalist platforms won in most of the republics and, within a year, Yugoslavia was no more. Triumphant in Croatia was the Croatian Democratic Union (Hrvatska Demokratska Zajednica — HDZ), the party led by Franjo Tudjman, who had been imprisoned during the 1970s for nationalist agitation and who had written a book minimizing the crimes of the Ustaša regime. In Bosnia, the three parties representing each of the three dominant ethnic or religious groups — the Muslims, the Croats, and the Serbs — triumphed.
In Serbia, however, it was the anti-nationalist reform Communists led by Slobodan Milošević who prevailed. The nationalist party led by Vojislav Šešelj was overwhelmingly defeated. The failure of the nationalists in Serbia wasn’t surprising. Serbia was the one republic that was not seeking separation but, to the contrary, the continued existence of Yugoslavia. Slovenia’s Milan Kučan and Croatia’s Tudjman were, like Milošević, former Communists, but, unlike the Serbian leader, were now running as anti-Communists. Milošević’s party, however, not only called itself socialist but proclaimed itself to be the successor party to the Serbian League of Communists. In 1987, the New York Times had even quoted Milošević as declaring, “We will go up against anti-Socialist forces, even if they call us Stalinists.” The horrified Times reporter added, “That a Yugoslav politician would invite someone to call him a Stalinist even four decades after Tito’s epochal break with Stalin, is a measure of the state into which Serbian politics have fallen.”6
The West had no problems with Slovenian and Croatian ex-communists, or Bosnian Serb and Muslim non-communists, gaining popularity by embracing nationalism. What it couldn’t countenance was an open socialist gaining popularity and winning elections.
Playing to the Western Audience
The fight within the SFRY over centralization and decentralization had little to do with Serbia. Croatia and Slovenia’s problems were with the SFRY government of Prime Minister Ante Marković. Slavishly following IMF diktat, Marković’s government was busy eliminating everything Washington found abhorrent about Yugoslav socialism — limits on foreign ownership; profit repatriation and the holding and sale of land; job security; restrictions on managers’ ability to hire and fire; and government obligation to consult workers’ councils on wages and economic policy. The newly elected nationalist governments quickly discovered that, in order to get a sympathetic hearing in Western capitals, their best strategy was to blame everything on the Serbs.
Germans had harbored a long-standing animus toward Serbs dating back to the pre-World War I era. The Americans were only too ready to vent their fury against any nation believed to be Communist, pro-Russian, or, as in the case of Serbia, apparently both. Furthermore, in the United States, the alluring sound of coins dropping into campaign coffers holds politicians in thrall. Ethnic Croat and Albanian groups were highly effective lobbyists. A key figure was Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., Republican Party presidential nominee in 1996 and, throughout the 1990s, one of the fiercest advocates of U.S. military intervention in the Balkans. In June 1986, long before anyone in the United States had ever heard of Slobodan Milošević, Dole introduced a resolution in the Senate stating that Congress was “deeply concerned over the political and economic conditions of ethnic Albanians in Yugoslavia and over the failure of the Yugoslav Government to fully protect their political and economic rights.” From the late 1980s until his retirement from the Senate, his “closest staff person, and one of his closest advisers” (in the words of the New York Times) was the fanatically anti-Serb Mira Baratta, a Croatian-American whose family was actively involved in Croatian émigré politics. According to the Guardian, “Her grandfather fought with Croatian Ustashe forces in the second world war, and her father emigrated to California, where he ran a weekly Croat-language radio show which supported Croatian nationalism and independence.”7 Apparently, her father, Petar Radielovic, did a little more than that. He was also “a leading backer of Croatian nationalist causes in the U.S. and a public defender of alleged Croatian war criminals.”8 Subsequently a vice president of Freedom House, a think tank with close ties to the U.S. government, Baratta was appointed deputy assistant secretary of defense for Eurasia in the administration of George W. Bush.
Moreover, following the fall of the Soviet satellite states in Eastern Europe, the Communist regime in Yugoslavia, hitherto the object of Western flattery, took on the appearance of a potential threat. Here was a Communist government, the survival of which could not be ascribed to the threat of Soviet invasion. To the contrary, not only had Yugoslavia defied Stalin when he was at the height of his reputation, it had developed its own distinct brand of Communism, characterized by decentralization, multi-nationalism, and workers’ control. In addition, Yugoslavia had been one of the founders and leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement — a continual source of annoyance to the United States during the Cold War. The fall of the Berlin Wall thus did not necessarily mean the end of Yugoslav Communism. Indeed, there was a real possibility that it might emerge as an attractive alternative to the shock therapy regime that was being put into effect in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
The Marković government’s attack on Yugoslavia’s system of social protections played into the hands of the republican separatists, who now accused the federal government of inflicting hardships on their republics. “This is characteristic of the ‘globalization’ process. Outside powers dictate policies, and local authorities take the blame for the consequences,” Johnstone writes.9 While Marković was energetically dismantling Yugoslav socialism, the newly elected nationalist governments in the Yugoslav republics, particularly the ones in Croatia and Slovenia, were busily planning their secession.
A sympathetic hearing in the West would be a key ingredient in their campaign. Though the would-be secessionists issued chilling warnings of a Yugoslavia supposedly under threat of Serb subjugation, it was they who were flagrantly interfering in the internal affairs of Serbia. The issue was Kosovo. In 1989, Kosovo’s coal miners went on strike. They objected to the reform socialist program of eliminating smokestack industries. Slovenia came out in support of the Kosovo miners. Since Slovenia had been the republic most vociferous in complaining about subsidizing the poorer regions of Yugoslavia, its laments about the plight of the province’s miners was naturally seen by Serbs as rank hypocrisy, a cynical maneuver to mobilize hostility toward Serbia both within Yugoslavia and abroad.
In the capitals of the West, the republican resistance to the policies of the Marković government was presented as a struggle against Serbian domination, a fight between democracy and human rights in one corner and Communism and Serbian nationalism in the other. Overnight, Ante Marković, the Croat federal prime minister — faithful executor of the IMF program and a favorite of the Bush administration — went from admired reformer to servant of Serb interests.
In October 1989, Marković went to Washington seeking $4 billion in aid. He was to be sorely disappointed. Though U.S. policymakers lavished fulsome praise on his market reform programs, they didn’t offer a penny. There wasn’t even an offer to roll over Yugoslavia’s debt. To the contrary: the U.S. government paid for nothing during his visit. As Warren Zimmermann, the last U.S. ambassador to Yugoslavia, put it, “In fact, the only meal for which Marković didn’t have to pick up the tab was a breakfast roundtable … It certainly showed him that Yugoslavia was not in the center of Washington’s universe.” On the other hand, Zimmerman went on without a trace of irony, Marković “did get a taste of the importance of the Kosovo issue for the Congress. Several members blamed his government for the iniquities of the Serbian position.”10
Here was Washington at its bizarre best: market reforms were crucial, but not crucial enough for the United States to lift a finger to help. The fate of Yugoslavia — population 24 million — wasn’t of any great significance because the Soviet Union no longer loomed large. On the other hand, Kosovo, a tiny, impoverished corner of Yugoslavia — population 2 million — was of immense importance.
Slovenia and Croatia Make Their Move
In 1989, Slovenia took its first steps toward independence. The republic adopted a series of amendments to its constitution, declaring Slovenia’s laws as taking precedence over the laws of the SFRY. Federal laws that were contrary to the laws and constitution of Slovenia would no longer apply in Slovenia. Furthermore, only Slovenia’s authorities had the right to declare a state of emergency.
Yugoslavia’s constitutional court ruled the amendments out of order. The court’s ruling was unexceptionable: “[F]ederal laws and other acts cannot be conditioned by their consonance with the republican constitution and laws. According to the federal constitution, federal laws and other federal acts are obligatory on the whole territory of the SFRY.” The territory of Slovenia constituted part of the single territory of the SFRY. In dealing with threats to the territory of the SFRY, the federal presidency could not be restricted by the need to seek prior approval from the Slovenian assembly. Thus, a state of emergency in any republic comes under the purview of the federal government. The “SFRY Presidency has the right and duty to proclaim a state of emergency on the territory of ” Slovenia, the court said, because “a threat to the existence of one republic or its constitutional order … represents a threat to the existence of the [SFRY] and its constitutional order.”
The constitutional court also warned Slovenia that matters pertaining to self-determination and secession could be addressed only by the SFRY constitution, not by the republican constitution. The right to secession could be “decided only jointly, with the consensus of all socialist republics and autonomous provinces.” This was “because the regulation of the questions and procedures in fulfilling the right to self-determination, including the right to secession, requires the regulation of questions and procedures which affect not only one people or one socialist republic but all of them together in the [SFRY] as their common state.”11 Fulfillment of the “right to self-determination, including the right to secession, cannot be settled unilaterally … but in the manner set out in the SFRY Constitution.”
The ruling could hardly be described as extraordinary. The federal government is responsible for the external borders of the common state. No state allows a province within which mines or oil wells happen to be located or that serves as a popular tourist resort simply to make its way for the exit, while keeping all of its resources and pocketing all of the revenue stemming from them. Since the entire country had invested in the development of a region now enjoying prosperity, the entire country should have some say in the distribution of its income. Anti-Communist, free-market ideologues who had eagerly embraced the cause of Croatian independence claimed that the republic’s prosperity was due to the Croats’ innate entrepreneurial talents, proving that they were far more Western-leaning than their fellow Yugoslavs and thus deserving of the embrace of the freedom-loving nations. The reality was very different. Yugoslavia’s Communist government had invested heavily in the development of the republic’s tourist industry — a crucial source of foreign currency. Many parts of Yugoslavia had had to go without funds for years so that Croatia’s Adriatic coast could become a popular European tourist destination.
Fairness wasn’t the only issue. While Washington obsessed about Milošević’s supposed nationalism, Croatia’s move to restore the symbols of the wartime Ustaša state scarcely elicited a murmur. The appalling record of the Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna Država Hrvatska or NDH) is well known. The Ustaše, headed by Ante Pavelić, were appointed by the German Nazis to run the puppet wartime state. As their first order of business, the Ustaše resolved to deal with Croatia’s Serbs once and for all. The plan was simple enough: a third of the Serbs were to be exterminated, a third deported, and a third converted to Catholicism. According to one standard history of Yugoslavia, the Ustaša regime “declared that one of its chief objectives was to ‘purify’ Croatia of alien elements, especially the Serbs … The process of extermination, which was later judged at Nuremberg to have amounted to genocide, started at once in the areas of Croatia where Serbs were concentrated … The exact number of Serbs who were killed in the NDH is not known. Serbian estimates put it at 750,000; German, at 350,000.”12 Ustaša policy toward the Jews and gypsies was no less savage. But the behavior of the Ustaše was so appalling that even the SS was shocked. According to a 1942 German security police report, “the Ustaša units have carried out their atrocities not only against Orthodox males of a military age, but in particular in the most bestial fashion, against unarmed old men, women and children … innumerable Orthodox have fled to rump Serbia, and their reports have roused the Serbian population to great indignation.” Yet in 1990, Franjo Tudjman, the presidential candidate of the Croatian Democratic Union, felt no compunction about defending the wartime state. The NDH, he said, “was not simply a Quisling creation and a fascist crime, it was also an expression of the historical aspirations of the Croatian people.”13
Upon coming to power, the Croatian nationalists set about rewriting Croatia’s constitution to reflect their state’s projected mono-ethnic character. In contrast, the allegedly rabidly nationalist Serbs sought to preserve multi-ethnic Yugoslavia. For example, Croatia’s 1990 constitution stated that Croatia was to be a “national state of the Croatian people and a state of members of other nations and minorities who are its citizens: Serbs, Muslims, Slovenes, Czechs, Slovaks, Italians, Hungarians, Jews and others, who are guaranteed equality with citizens of Croatian nationality.” By contrast, Serbia’s 1990 constitution was a model of modern democratic, non-national, non-ethnic statehood: “The Republic of Serbia is a democratic State of all citizens living within it, founded upon the freedoms and rights of man and citizen, the rule of law, and social justice.”
Croatia’s new constitution differed sharply, then, from the 1963 and 1974 constitutions, which had deemed the Serbs and Croats co-equal constituent nations of Croatia. According to Article 1 of those constitutions, Croatia had been established “in common struggle with the Serbian nation and the nationalities of Croatia and with the other nations and nationalities in Yugoslavia.”14 Overnight, then, the new constitution had relegated the Serbs of Croatia from constituent nation to national minority. Not only that, Croatia began to restore the symbols of the Ustaša regime, including the red-and-white checkerboard flag. Croatia reintroduced the kuna, the currency of the Fascist Ante Pavelić regime. The language of Croatia was proclaimed to be Croatian, not Serbo-Croat. The Cyrillic alphabet was banned. Serbs were required to swear allegiance to the Croatian state. This was followed by mass firings of Serbs and armed attacks by Croatian gangs on Serbs and Serb property.
The Serbs, persecuted and exterminated by the World War II fascist Croatian regime, responded with alarm. Assurances that Serb rights in Croatia would be protected “were at odds with the nationalist and anti-Serb rhetoric frequently adopted by Tudjman and certain quarters of his party’s leadership,” according to one not especially pro-Serb author.15 Indeed, Tudjman scarcely troubled to conceal his racism when he spoke about the Serbs. As he explained to an interviewer,
Croats belong to a different culture — a different civilization from the Serbs. Croats are part of Western Europe, part of the Mediterranean tradition … The Serbs belong to the East. They are Eastern peoples, like the Turks and Albanians. They belong to the Byzantine culture … Despite similarities in language we cannot be together.16
The West responded with indifference. While the “Never again” slogan pervades contemporary culture, its use is restricted to the Jewish Holocaust. By contrast, the murder of tens of thousands of Serbs at the hands of the Ustaša regime, or the deaths of millions of Russians in World War II, elicits little sympathetic understanding. Israel may bomb Lebanon or the West Bank; the mere mention of the Holocaust suffices to still most criticism. However, when Serbs refer to Jasenovac, to Ante Pavelić, to their fears of a repetition of the horrors of World War II, they are condemned for rehashing ancient grievances, for rabid nationalism and for indulging their victim complex.
The late Nora Beloff, a long-standing observer of Balkan politics, was one of the few who did not share the generally benevolent view of the new Croatia:
By the time I first met [Tudjman] in 1980, he was already pathologically anti-Serb. He has allowed himself to be surrounded by Ustasha sympathizers, many of them returning from Canada and Australia. Tudjman armed his followers, and though they were unable to break into the all-Serb regions, which were ferociously defended, in areas of Croat majority they made life for the Serbs impossible. With jobs denied and homes burnt down, tens of thousands fled long before the federal army and the international community intervened. On a smaller scale, the Serbs retaliated. In Dubrovnik, one year ago, a young Croat girl running her own travel agency described the ravages of the Tudjman regime. To her horror, this little Venice was being transformed into a nationalist stronghold, and she found herself ostracized by her fellow-citizens for rejecting ethnic hatreds which she felt were ruining the country.17
Most commentators refused to see any of this. As they saw it, with the Soviet Union gone, the continued existence of Communist Yugoslavia was highly undesirable. Therefore, Western political support needed to be thrown behind those who were seeking to break up Yugoslavia, whatever their political predilections might be. During a meeting with Zimmermann and Peter Hall, Britain’s ambassador to Yugoslavia, Milošević pointed out that Tudjman was arming his own party. “Nobody has done that since Hitler,” Milošević said. “You Americans and British totally misunderstand the nature of Tudjman’s regime, because you’re obsessed with black and white distinctions between ‘communists’ and ‘democrats.’ For you Milošević is bad, and Marković and Tudjman are good.”18 Milošević evidently understood his interlocutors far better than they did him.
Tudjman, who had been imprisoned by Tito for nationalist activities, had his fan club in the West, one of the most vocal of whom was Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s former prime minister. She saw in Tudjman the reincarnation of the spirit of Lech Wałęsa and Václav Havel. She lauded Tudjman for having “understood that there could be no future for Croatia within a Yugoslavia that had become a prison with brutal Serb jailers.” Oblivious to facts, Thatcher seemed blissfully unaware that in June 1991, when Croatia seceded, the “brutal Serb jailers” included the president of Yugoslavia, Stjepan Mesić (a Croat); the prime minister, Ante Marković (a Croat); the foreign minister, Budimir Lončar (a Croat); the finance minister, Branimir Zekan (a Croat); and the defense minister, Veljko Kadijević (Croatian mother, Serbian father).
Thatcher’s extraordinarily ignorant interventions in the debates over Yugoslavia (she was one of the earliest to argue that the solution to the problem of Yugoslavia entailed nothing more complicated than bombing the Serbs) not only helped substitute hysteria for analysis, but made racist hatred and, eventually, violence directed at Serbs respectable. She even wrote a blurb for a bizarre book, Serbia’s Secret War by Philip J. Cohen, which argued that it was Serbia, not Croatia, which was aligned with Hitler in World War II. Though Cohen’s book hadn’t been endorsed by a single reputable historian, Thatcher felt able to claim that it was a “useful counter to current myths about Serbia’s history during the Second World War. By detailing the reality of past Serbian national socialism and anti-Semitism, [it] allows us to understand more clearly the mentality which has been at work in Belgrade, and so the roots of today’s Yugoslavian tragedy.”
Talk of “Serbian national socialism and anti-Semitism” was music to the ears of the Ustaše alumni gathering in Croatia. Western commentators dismissed Serb concerns by pointing to Tudjman’s wartime service in the Partisans. But the significance of the activities of a 20-year-old was vastly overstated. As David Owen pointed out, Tudjman’s Partisan service was long ago and far away. By 1990, Tudjman had become an ardent Croatian nationalist. In fact, his support depended “on much of Pavelić’s indigenous support.” Fighting Pavelić was for Tudjman
the indiscretion of youth. Far from using his Partisan past to bind up the wounds between Croats and Serbs living in Croatia, he prefers to speak with pride of having been arrested and sentenced by Tito’s regime … to play up his part in the “Croatian Spring” unrest … His political development probably started while he was a senior figure in JNA intelligence, watching over the very Croatians living in exile who later became some of his most fervent supporters.19
As Croats and Slovenes moved toward independence, held referendums, and clandestinely armed themselves, Croatia’s Serbs also took up arms and held a referendum. On July 25, 1990, the Croatian Serb assembly proclaimed the Serbian nation within Croatia to be a sovereign nation. “In the process of establishing new relations in Yugoslavia,” the proclamation said, “the Serbian nation in SR Croatia is fully entitled to opt for a federate or confederate system of state government, either jointly with the Croatian nation, or independently … Nobody else has the historic right to determine the fate of the Serbian nation, which has inhabited these areas for centuries, even before the Croatian state was created.”
The Serbs’ declaration warned of the possible consequences of Croatia’s moving toward independence. If Zagreb insisted on secession from Yugoslavia, the Serbs might “seek political autonomy.” If Zagreb opted not to secede and the Yugoslav federation continued to exist, the “areas in Croatia having a Serbian majority would need to have only the rights necessary for cultural autonomy.”20 The Serbs would be content with unlimited usage of the Serbian literary language, the Cyrillic script, and municipal self-government.
The Serbs scheduled a referendum on the issue of autonomy for August 1990. Tudjman threatened to use force to suppress the referendum and announced the formation of special police detachments. Anticipating the arrival of the special police units, the Serbs put up log barricades on the approach roads leading to the Serb areas. This came to be known as the “log revolution.”
Fearing JNA intervention, Tudjman backed off and the referendum went ahead as planned. As expected, Croatia’s Serbs overwhelmingly endorsed the autonomy declaration.
The Serbs’ rejection of the authority of Zagreb is invariably ascribed to Milošević’s machinations or to the extreme nationalist propaganda emanating from Belgrade. However, Croatia’s Serbs were responding to the policies of Tudjman, Mesić, and their allies. Serb fears may or may not have been justified (subsequent events showed that there was a reasonable foundation for them), but it is disingenuous to suggest that, were it not for Belgrade, Croatia’s Serbs would have peacefully accepted becoming a national minority in Tudjman’s Croatia. The Serbs were protesting the impending loss of Yugoslav citizenship and reduction to minority status within an independent Croatia. For understandable reasons, Croatia’s supporters in the West presented this conflict as one pitting democratic Croatia against Communist Serbia.
On December 21, 1990, the Serbs in the Krajina of Croatia proclaimed the formation of the Serbian Autonomous Region of Krajina. The Serbs established two other autonomous districts: an autonomous district of Slavonia, Baranya, and Western Srem; and an autonomous district of Western Slavonia. These autonomous districts proclaimed themselves as belonging to Yugoslavia, not Serbia.
These Serb actions were entirely in accord with both international law and Yugoslav constitutional law. National self-determination inheres in nations and not in territories. Yugoslavia comprised six nations (under its original name — the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes — it comprised only three) each of which was theoretically free to leave the federation. However, there could be no change to external borders without the consent of all six nations. “It is not our intention to prevent the Croats or any other nation from leaving Yugoslavia,” Milošević told Belgrade University professors on March 21, 1991, “but we are not going to allow anybody to drag the Serbs out with them against their will.”
Milošević’s position was not that of the Yugoslav National Army. The JNA believed its mission to be defense of the territorial integrity of the SFRY. Milošević, however, was coming under pressure from within Serbia and from Serbs living in the other republics to do something to protect the Serbs in the face of the impending secessions. Borislav Jović, at that time Serbia’s representative on the federal presidency, described the situation:
The Serbs in Croatia are exerting pressure, by way of Slobodan, for military protection. Slobodan conveys this to me. Veljko [Kadijević, Yugoslavia’s defense minister] stubbornly refuses, saying that there is a danger that the military will come to be seen as “Serb,” something that he cannot allow. Anyway, nothing can be done without a decision by the Presidency. Slobodan insists on a Presidency decision. I schedule one for the afternoon and ask Veljko for a report on the situation and a proposal. His proposal is “that the military be ready to take action if necessary but only after it is authorized to do so (by the Presidency).”21
Croatia and Slovenia had a clear strategy. They didn’t intend to take on the JNA directly; rather, they planned to proclaim independence, follow that up with a blockade of the federal Yugoslav army barracks, and follow that up with a heart-rending appeal to the rest of the world. It was Hungary 1956 or Czechoslovakia 1968 all over again: a small, independent-minded democracy was under attack from the Red Army, or its latest manifestation, the JNA. The blockade of the JNA garrisons was no act of self-defense. To the contrary, the objective was seizure of JNA weaponry. As General Anton Tus, chief of staff of the Croatian army in 1991, was to explain later:
It was because of the timely and complete blockade that the first attempt of the [JNA] to break out of the garrisons failed … In that way, we captured 230 tanks, more than 400 heavy artillery pieces, coastal artillery, several warships and a large amount of light weapons. In Zagreb alone, we captured 38,000 guns and 20 million rounds of ammunition, which made it possible to establish 11 Zagreb brigades, and much of this was sent to Vukovar and other crisis areas.22
A sympathetic response was virtually guaranteed. On March 13, 1991, three months before the independence declarations, the European Parliament passed a resolution stating that “the constituent republics and autonomous provinces of Yugoslavia must have the right freely to determine their own future in a peaceful and democratic manner and on the basis of recognized international and internal borders.”23 This statement, resonant with standard Western pieties, had nothing whatever to do with the reality of what was taking place in Yugoslavia. The Europeans confused Yugoslavia’s republics with its constituent nations and bestowed the mantle of freedom and democracy on nationalists who were even then illegally arming themselves. The Europeans’ intervention ensured that the federal authorities would have little stomach for halting the country’s slide toward disintegration.
Ineffectuality Runs Rampant
In the meantime, Tudjman’s government continued to receive enormous quantities of arms from Germany and Austria via Hungary. Croatia “used the network of Croatian nationalists abroad to fund and organize gun-running operations. Arms were brought in by ferry, by truck, and, in countless small consignments, by private car.”24
On January 9, 1991, the federal presidency finally got fed up and issued an ultimatum to the paramilitaries to disarm within 10 days or face forcible disarmament. Croatia and Slovenia rejected the call and adopted a variety of maneuvers to avoid disarming its paramilitaries. Details of some of these contrivances emerged in the Milošević trial during the testimony of prosecution witness General Aleksandar Vasiljević, head of JNA’s counterintelligence at the time.
Tudjman’s HDZ, he recounted, announced that members of its illegal military organization would henceforth be considered members of Croatia’s reserve police forces. In order to avoid returning weapons, Croatia’s authorities carried out a clandestine scheme. “They printed over 50,000 IDs for the reserve force of the MUP [Ministry of Interior police] and then distributed these IDs to members of the HDZ so that they could justify the fact that they had weapons in their possession.”25
Vasiljević omitted to mention the deft maneuver of Mesić, who at that time served as Croatia’s representative to the federal presidency. Following the federal presidency’s January disarmament order, Mesić
succeeded in inserting into the resolution the word “illegal.” This was the loophole by which Croatia was to avoid acting on the Federal Presidency’s order. Mesić returned to Zagreb, knowing that Croatia did not have the slightest intention of disarming the police, or the reservists … Croatia would, instead, embark on a ten-day game of brinkmanship with the JNA, arguing that the only “illegal” paramilitaries in Croatia were the rebel Serbs in Krajina.26
The United States Intervenes
It was at this stage that the United States made a fateful intervention in Yugoslavia’s affairs, one that would ensure breakup and war. Washington responded to the federal presidency’s order by insisting that it would not tolerate any forcible disarming of the paramilitaries. On January 17, Warren Zimmermann, the U.S. ambassador, went to see Serbia’s Borislav Jović, who at that time was president of the rotating federal presidency, and told him that “the U.S. would not accept any use of force. A democratic solution had to be found through peaceful negotiation. The Army was not to be used to round up the paramilitaries.”27
Jović, according to his own later account of the meeting, had told Zimmermann that
the very importation of arms and the creation of paramilitary formations constitute preparation for the use of force, and in an illegal way. If the United States really wants to avoid the use of force, it could insist in its contacts with the leaders of those republics that these paramilitary formations surrender their weapons, thus paving the way for a peaceful solution.
Jović pointed out that the presidency had already issued an order to disarm, which had been rejected. Zimmermann, according to Jović, responded by threatening “that if military force is used to resolve the situation in Yugoslavia, the United States will have a very hard time approving economic aid to Yugoslavia.”28
Rounding off the meeting, Zimmermann handed Jović an aide-memoire declaring:
The Serbian repression in Kosovo is a dead-end street for Serbia and for Yugoslavia … The Serbian leadership bears the main responsibility for the diminished prospects of a peaceful, democratic solution in Kosovo, which would respect the rights of all citizens in that province. As long as Kosovo is part of Serbia, Serbia is responsible for respecting the internationally recognized human rights and basic liberties of the Albanian population. Because we support the unity of Yugoslavia, we also feel that the federal government is responsible for satisfying the international obligations that Yugoslavia has accepted, for protecting basic human rights in Yugoslavia, including Kosovo. In the absence of dialogue and progress in the direction of a political solution for Kosovo, the United States will find it difficult to continue offering aid to Yugoslavia.
Zimmermann had now issued two ultimatums, both involving internal Yugoslav matters. According to the first ultimatum, the United States would cut off economic assistance to Yugoslavia if it resorted to force to disarm illegal paramilitaries. According to the second, the United States would cut off economic assistance if Yugoslavia failed to move toward some unspecified “political solution” in Kosovo. Though “Serbian leadership” and “Serbian repression” alone were to blame for the problems of Kosovo, the United States let it be known that it intended to punish all Yugoslavs for the alleged derelictions of the Serbs. Since no one wants to be punished for someone else’s malfeasance, Zimmermann’s threats served only to feed the appetite of those who wanted out of Yugoslavia as soon as possible.
Zimmermann wasn’t done yet. He went to see Tudjman to inform him that while the United States supported Yugoslav unity, it “wouldn’t support the preservation of unity through force.” Tudjman was delighted and told the ambassador that “he was relieved to hear” his message.29 Zimmermann’s activities clearly do not fit the oft-told story of a United States supposedly working round the clock to keep Yugoslavia together.
U.S. conduct was extraordinary. Yugoslavia was not seeking to suppress dissent but to disarm illegally established paramilitaries. Would Washington have demanded that London use only non-violent means to disarm the IRA? Or that Turkey use only non-violent means against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK? Or Colombia against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)? Ostensibly pursuing a humanitarian agenda, Washington was denying Yugoslavia’s legitimate sovereign right to maintain its territorial integrity and thereby encouraging the secessionists.
Zimmermann’s intervention didn’t come out of the blue. The United States had been playing a disingenuous and dangerous game toward Yugoslavia for some time. While outwardly expressing its support for Yugoslav unity, Washington acted to ensure disintegration. In February 1990, for example, Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger visited Yugoslavia and, according to Zimmermann, “expressed the view that human rights, freedom, and a market economy would be best advanced if Yugoslavia remained united.” However, Eagleburger added: “the United States would not advocate the breakup of Yugoslavia, but — if it happened — would have no choice except to live with it.” It is hard to believe that a seasoned diplomat such as Eagleburger would be unaware of the consequences of his words. As Zimmermann sheepishly admitted, “some Slovenes took the deputy secretary’s remark that the United States could live with the breakup of Yugoslavia as a green light to push a secession program.”30 Why wouldn’t they?
In November 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed into law the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act. It included a provision known as the Nickles Amendment that barred bilateral assistance to Yugoslavia and required U.S. representatives to oppose loans to Yugoslavia by all international institutions, including the IMF and the World Bank, unless the U.S. secretary of state certified that all six of the country’s republics had held free and fair elections and that none was engaged in a pattern of gross violations of human rights. “The motive behind the Nickles Amendment originally was to find a legislative vehicle for a group of senators and representatives to penalize the government of the Serbian Republic in particular and Yugoslavia in general for the repression of ethnic Albanians in the Kosovo region of Serbia.”31
Washington’s concern for human rights did not extend to the Serbs in Croatia. As even Zimmermann conceded, “Tudjman had made not the least effort … to assure Croatia’s Serbian citizens that they would be safe in an independent Croatia. Given the past year’s record of discrimination against Serbs in Croatia, the issue wasn’t academic, and Tudjman’s omission wasn’t an oversight.”32
In February 1991, Dole introduced the Direct Aid for Democracy Act, the goal of which was to enable the United States to bypass the Yugoslav federal government and provide direct aid to “the non-Communist republics in Yugoslavia” — deemed by Washington to be struggling for independence from “Communist-controlled central governments.” Interestingly, this was the course the very vocal U.S. human rights lobby was urging. In a November 1990 New York Times op-ed article titled “Why Keep Yugoslavia One Country?”, Jeri Laber, executive director of Helsinki Watch, accused Milošević of engaging “in a calculated policy of colonization that includes relocating Serbians to Kosovo.” She asked, “Why not acknowledge the [federal Yugoslav] Government’s impotence and offer aid to those republics that will protect the rights of all their citizens? We might be able to help them in a peaceful evolution to democracy.”33
That an influential human rights spokesman could describe the Yugoslav republics — which by late 1990 were veering toward war between the secessionists and those who favored unity — as human rights havens that protected “the rights of all citizens” indicated the irresponsibility and absurdity to which a narrow-minded misconception of human rights can lead. Robert M. Hayden, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh and, unlike Laber, genuinely knowledgeable about Yugoslavia, responded with a tragically prescient letter to The Times: “The only political forces in Yugoslavia that favor Helsinki Watch-style human rights are among those that also favor a truly federal Yugoslavia. Those who would break up the country are strong nationalists, not likely to treat minorities within their own borders well. It seems truly bizarre that ‘human rights’ activists so cavalierly advocate policies that are likely to turn Yugoslavia into the Lebanon of Europe.”34 Perhaps it wasn’t so bizarre: the human rights lobby’s concerns meshed only too well with U.S. policymakers’ requirements.
In April 1991, Dole submitted a resolution to the Senate that said that the criteria established in the Nickles Amendment had “not been met by the Yugoslav and Serbian governments.” Passed by a voice vote, the resolution, as usual, singled out Milošević for condemnation, calling on him “to cease all repressive policies against the Albanian population.” In May, just as the constitutional crisis in Yugoslavia was coming to a head, U.S. Secretary of State James Baker refused to issue his certification and U.S. sanctions went into effect. One month before the impending secession of Croatia and Slovenia, State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler explained that the U.S. action was triggered by “the conduct of the Serbian Republic leadership which is exercising severe repression in the Kosovo province.” Kosovo again. Tutwiler added that Serbia had “not conducted fully free and fair elections and is now acting to destabilize the Yugoslav presidency.”35 According to the Los Angeles Times, Croatian and Slovene “officials welcomed the purported American move, seizing it as evidence that President Bush would be willing to support their quest for independence.”36
In the meantime, back in Yugoslavia, civil war was becoming increasingly inevitable as paramilitary organizations continued growing in size. The JNA urged the federal presidency to introduce a nationwide state of emergency. On March 12, during a session of the presidency held at JNA command headquarters, Veljko Kadijević, the federal defense minister, proposed raising the combat readiness of the country’s armed forces and disarming and disbanding the paramilitary organizations. The federal presidency’s January 9 order was supposed to have achieved this but had not done so. Kadijević also proposed that secessionist republics hold referendums “in which every nation is given the opportunity to directly and freely express its will, without any dictates and outvoting.” Yugoslavia, he declared, “was created in wartime amid enormous sacrifices, and that is why none of the people who are currently in power have a right to give their consent to the breakup of Yugoslavia.”
Borislav Jović, Serbia’s representative on the presidency, agreed with Kadijević: “In the chaotic situation of political and physical violence which is in effect, I see no other force in our country other than the armed forces of the SFRY that can guarantee and ensure a peaceful and democratic course of events and a peaceful resolution of the Yugoslav crisis.” Mesić, Croatia’s representative, rejected Kadijević’s proposal. There was no crisis in Croatia, save the one created by the Serbs “in order to draw attention away from Kosovo.” Macedonia and Bosnia also rejected the introduction of a state of emergency. Kosovo’s representative was also against it. And Montenegro did not want to go beyond raising the possibility of imposing a state of emergency.
The military responded by substituting a watered-down proposal: “Preparedness measures should be undertaken in the armed forces, including the mobilization of some units.” Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Vojvodina voted in favor. Croatia, Macedonia, and Bosnia voted against. Slovenia’s representative wasn’t present. Lacking the five votes needed, the proposal failed.37
The JNA supreme command issued a statement declaring that since the SFRY presidency “did not accept the proposed essential measures for the full implementation of its own order of 9 January 1991, [the JNA] cannot bear any responsibility for the possible continuation of illegal arming of citizens or their organizing in military fashion anywhere on Yugoslav territory.”
Jović resigned from the federal presidency, citing “the prevailing balance of power on the SFRY Presidency” which was “not interested in sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of the country.” Rather, it was endeavoring to tie the hands of the JNA, the one remaining institution “that could ensure the conditions for a peaceful and democratic resolution of the crisis.” The representatives of Montenegro and Vojvodina also resigned from the presidency. On March 16, Milošević delivered a televised address announcing that Yugoslavia had “entered the final phase of its agony.” By
sabotaging its own order for the disarmament of paramilitary formations, the Yugoslav Presidency has enabled the creation of republican armies which directly threaten the security of the country, all its citizens and especially the republic of Serbia and the Serb population outside the Republic of Serbia … The Yugoslav Presidency has done everything to prevent its own orders from being implemented and to enable the secession of certain republics and parts of Yugoslavia through combined political maneuvers of obstruction and armed incidents, rather than through peaceful means with the respect of the rights of all peoples to self-determination.
Milošević announced that “Serbia will no longer recognize any decision passed by the SFRY Presidency, because in present circumstances such a decision would be illegitimate. Personally, I will not take any part in the work of a Presidency which has opted for Yugoslavia’s disintegration … [N]o patriot could accept the legitimacy of a collective head of state which acts against the integrity of its country and the existing Constitution.”38
In subsequent years, Milošević’s March 16 statement was to acquire a sinister significance. It was all part of his Greater Serbia design — the “finishing touches on a plan to throw the country into disarray.”39 “Milošević declared ‘Yugoslavia is finished,’ and announced that Serbia no longer considered itself bound by federal bodies,” Silber and Little wrote. “In effect he was declaring Serbia’s secession from Yugoslavia.” The ICTY’s Milošević indictment reads: “In a televised address on 16 March 1991, Slobodan Milošević, in his capacity as President of the Republic of Serbia, declared that Yugoslavia was finished and that Serbia would no longer be bound by decisions of the Federal Presidency.”
And thus we arrive at the shopworn story, according to which Serbia was supposedly both the instigator of the breakup of Yugoslavia and the country’s prison warder. As is often the case, the contemporary record demonstrates the dubiousness of the story. Milošević had never said Yugoslavia was finished. To the contrary: “Yugoslavia exists and it cannot be abolished by unilateral acts and a fait accompli policy, because realistic interests, the freedoms achieved, the democratic achievements and the power of its people, guarantee its survival and successful development.” What Milošević said on March 16 was that the SFRY presidency no longer deserved the respect of Serbia, and this on account of its failure to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Yugoslavia. The headline of that day’s BBC report on Milošević’s televised address had it right: Milošević “Rejects Authority of SFRY Presidency.”
Silber and Little, and the ICTY, go further. Milošević, according to them, had “ordered the mobilization of special reservists and the urgent formation of additional Serbian militia units.” He had now thrown down “the gauntlet to the Federal Army, announcing that he would form his own special forces and carry out decisions bypassing the legal federal institutions.” The ICTY echoed this in its June 2004 dismissal of the motion for Milošević’s acquittal: “On 16 March 1991, the Accused stated that in order to be powerful, the Serbs had to be united, and ordered mobilization of the reserve police to ensure security and to defend the interests of the Republic and Serbs outside Serbia.” The “in order to be powerful” and the “Serbs had to be united” are nice literary touches, at once suggestive and vague.
The issue had been the inconclusive outcome of the March 12 session of the federal presidency. It was now clear that neither the federal presidency nor the JNA could or would do anything to prevent secessions. In such circumstances, Milošević announced, it would be up to the government of Serbia to protect Serbs who may find themselves outside the jurisdiction of Yugoslavia. What Milošević had said was:
In the present circumstance, when attempts are being made to cause disturbances in Sandžak and Kosovo and Metohija, I ordered the mobilization of the reserve security forces of the Serbian Interior Ministry and the urgent formation of additional police forces of the Republic of Serbia. I have asked the Serbian government to carry out all preparations for the formation of additional forces whose volume and strength would guarantee the protection of the interests of Serbia and the Serbian people.
Serbia and the Serbian people; Sandžak and Kosovo and Metohija were regions within Serbia. There is no suggestion in his address that Serbian reserve security forces were being mobilized to fight for Serbs outside of Serbia. Moreover, even if Milošević were advocating this, it would hardly be anything reprehensible. The president of Serbia was promising to defend Serbs given that the federal presidency had shown itself incapable of doing so.
Majority support within the federal presidency for a proclamation of a state of emergency had always been unlikely. Kadijević had fully expected his proposal to be rejected. In fact, the military was thoroughly relieved at not having to do anything. Afraid that Serbia’s absence from the federal presidency would lead to command of the JNA falling into the hands of the secessionists, Jović rescinded his resignation and returned to the presidency.
The Mesić Issue
In the meantime, Europeans and Americans found a new issue over which to obsess. Croatia was scheduled to take over from Serbia the rotating federal presidency. Croatia’s nominee for this position was Tudjman ally Stjepan Mesić, who had been Croatia’s first prime minister following the HDZ’s May 1990 electoral victory. Western dignitaries were determined to see in Mesić a voice of moderation and reasonableness, though there was precious little evidence to support this view. According to Zimmermann, Mesić “understood the problems of Serbs in Croatia better than any other major Croatian politician. He might have been considered the best Croat any reasonable Serb could want in the Yugoslav presidency. But Milošević wasn’t a reasonable Serb, and he felt particularly threatened by moderates.”40
One measure of Mesić’s moderation and reasonableness was his frequently indulged habit of likening Milošević to Hitler. In 1991, he claimed that Milošević was like Hitler in that, “He has a big appetite for territory.” He was also like “Hitler because Hitler said he wanted to protect Germans outside Germany.”41 Doubtless, Zimmermann had no problems with this kind of talk since, by and large, he agreed with it. Not surprisingly, while Zimmermann was reassured by Mesić’s moderation, the Serbs were not.
Succession at the federal presidency was usually automatic, but there was a formality of a vote to go through. Mesić’s opponents on the federal presidency believed — rightly, as it turned out (Mesić did eventually take up his post in July) — that the Croatian leader would use the federal presidency to secure Croatia’s independence. When Mesić’s term as president of the presidency ended, he returned to Croatia and on December 5 announced gleefully to the national assembly, “I have performed my task. Yugoslavia is no more.”42
When Mesić’s nomination came up for a vote, he failed to secure the required majority. In the West, Mesić’s failure was presented as one of Serbia’s denying Croatia its constitutional rights. But the objection to Mesić had nothing to do with any shortchanging of Croatia. Serbia didn’t oppose Croatia assuming the presidency, nor had Serbia objected to Mesić’s membership of the presidency. The issue was Mesić’s becoming its president. Mesić was a Tudjman ally who had made no secret of his intent to detach Croatia from Yugoslavia.
The federal presidency had voted on the matter of Mesić’s succession: Mesić had four votes (including his own); he needed five. Explaining his vote against Mesić, Montenegro’s representative to the presidency, Branko Kostić, said, “I was afraid that as president of the Presidency he would abuse his office with a view to implementing the platform of his party which sent him to the Presidency of the SFRY. This later proved to be true many times over.”43
The Croatian assembly refused to nominate anyone else for that post. Throughout May and June, the West intensified the pressure on Belgrade over the Mesić issue. On May 30, European Commission President Jacques Delors and Luxembourg’s Jacques Santer, then chairman of the European Council of Ministers, flew to Belgrade and demanded that Mesić be allowed to take up his post. The West’s obsession with the minutiae of succession within the presidency contrasted starkly with its insouciance toward the flagrant illegality of Croatia’s and Slovenia’s preparations for secession. When an apoplectic Zimmermann confronted Milošević demanding to know why Mesić hadn’t been allowed to become president, Milošević, according to the ambassador’s account, made the not unreasonable point that, “Just because there was a vote, that doesn’t mean Mesić had to win it. Every country operates according to its constitution, even yours. We Yugoslavs don’t need your advice on how our constitution works.”44
It is important to note that by late May, Croatia had already resolved upon secession, as the West well knew. On May 30, Croatia’s parliament had voted to secede from Yugoslavia unless a confederation agreement could be negotiated by June 15. Mesić’s insistence on becoming head of an institution that he no longer recognized had nothing to do with a supposed concern that it function effectively. His goal was to make sure that while Croatia would act independently of the SFRY, the SFRY would be unable to act independently of Croatia. While Croatia would refuse to recognize the authority of the SFRY presidency, it would nonetheless continue to exercise influence and even control over that presidency.
Slovenia’s Milan Kučan informed Santer and Delors that Slovenia would “probably have to” secede from Yugoslavia through “a unilateral act.” Slovenia was forced to take this action on account of its “failure to obtain understanding from the majority of republics and the federal government.” Tudjman echoed him. There was no reason to negotiate further, he told the European Community chiefs. Only two outcomes were possible for Yugoslavia: “an alliance of sovereign states or … a democratic break-up.”45 Delors said nothing to dissuade Slovenia and Croatia from their secessionist course.
On June 21, four days before Croatia and Slovenia were due to declare independence, Baker made a 10-hour visit to Belgrade to deliver an unambiguous message: no force was to be used to preserve Yugoslavia. Needless to say, he demanded that Mesić be allowed to take up the post of president. For good measure, he described Milošević as “the main source of the crisis” and accused him of “stirring up ethnic tensions” and of propelling Yugoslavia toward “civil war.” Baker also warned Marković that if he resorted to force his “support in the West would be threatened.” The secretary went on insouciantly, “I can see no way to prevent Slovenia from taking over the border posts … If you force the United States to choose between unity and democracy, we will always choose democracy.”46 Once again, the United States was vaguely in favor of preserving Yugoslav unity but opposed to doing anything to achieve this.
The U.S. position was, of course, untenable. Baker could have pointed out that neither the Slovene nor the Croatian nationalists who had won elections a year earlier had run on a platform of independence. There hadn’t even been time for them to seek re-election. To be sure, referendums had taken place in Croatia and Slovenia, but the questions put to the voters were ambiguous, not to say confusing. For example, on December 23, 1990, Slovenes were asked: “Should the Republic of Slovenia become an autonomous and independent state?”47 “Autonomous” and “independent” are by no means synonymous. Nor did the question make clear whether “independent” referred to being inside or outside Yugoslavia. Yet Slovenes were only given the opportunity to say yes to both or to neither. The Croatian plebiscite question was even more confusing. On May 19, 1991, Croats were asked: “Do you agree that the Republic of Croatia as a sovereign and independent state, which guarantees cultural autonomy and all civil rights to Serbs and members of other nationalities in Croatia, may enter into an alliance with other republics?”48 The question was almost entirely incomprehensible. It was thus far from clear that by voting “yes” in the plebiscites Croats and Slovenes were voting to exit Yugoslavia.
Baker also seemed oblivious to the fact that four out of Yugoslavia’s six republics, comprising far more than 50% of the country’s population, were opposed to unilateral secessions. The Yugoslav federal government represented the interests of those republics as well as those of the minorities within Croatia and Slovenia. As Baker well knew, 600,000 Croatian Serbs, constituting some 13% of Croatia’s population, had also exercised their democratic right to opt out of an independent Croatia, and that their wishes were as deserving of international recognition as those of Croats and Slovenes. Whether intended or not, Baker’s message seemed to be: Yugoslav unity was a hopeless cause, everybody had to accept this immediately and not one second should be wasted on constitutional niceties.
The ‘Hour of Europe’
On June 25, Slovenia and Croatia declared independence. Unbeknownst to the public in the West, in the days immediately prior to this, British firms had, with the approval of the British government, sold military communications equipment to Slovenia.49 Radio communication played a key role in Slovenia’s propaganda war against the JNA.
The Slovenes seized the border posts at Yugoslavia’s frontiers with Italy, Hungary, and Austria; took down the Yugoslav flag; replaced the federal border guards with Slovene territorial forces; and placed border posts to separate it from neighboring Croatia. Marković’s federal government issued a decree empowering the defense and interior ministers “to deploy the frontier units of the JNA with the aim of safeguarding the state frontiers at the border-crossings.” On June 27, the SFRY presidency denounced the independence declarations as the “most direct threat to the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia, its state borders and its international legal sovereignty.” The presidency expressed support for the “decisions of the Federal Executive Council to ensure immediately the implementation of federal regulations, on crossing the state border in the territory of the Republic of Slovenia, and the order to prohibit the establishment of so-called border crossings inside the territory of the SFRY.” The federal government was asked to “take measures and actions that will prevent alterations to Yugoslavia, changes to its borders, and the arbitrary assumption by the republics of constitutional and legal competences of the federal organs in any area.”
The JNA made a halfhearted attempt to re-take the border crossings. It ended in fiasco. JNA failure was assured the moment it balked at disarming paramilitaries in January and followed that up with the failure to impose a state of emergency in March. There had then been a possibility of preempting unilateral secessions. Back in March, a state of emergency would have been justified. Armed clashes were taking place in Croatia; the January 1991 disarmament order had not been complied with; the SFRY had filmed evidence of arms smuggling across the Hungarian border.
The JNA now was hardly in any frame of mind to take on Slovenia. Nonetheless, its listless attempt to restore the status quo ante on Slovenia’s borders elicited hysteria in the West. Western media outlets echoed these loud condemnations of the Yugoslav federal authorities. They, not the secessionist republics, were to blame for everything. It was one of those “We are all Slovenians” moments: a small nation crying out for independence and getting crushed by a brutal power while the West looks on with indifference.
Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Germany’s foreign minister, rushed down to Slovenia and accused the JNA of running “amok.” Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger declared, “My sense of it is that the Army is, if not out of control, at least not under control … There are some Serbian generals who are basically in charge, and I think they have decided they’re going to put this thing to an end … I think it’s foolish, I think it’s stupid, I think it’s counterproductive, but I’m afraid that’s where they are.” Czech writer Milan Kundera announced that “Slovenia must be saved.” In the New York Times, Michael Scammell asked, “How is it that whenever some small European nation seeks to establish freedom, democracy and independence for itself, the U.S. invariably backs away from these principles and turns a blind eye to its suppression by force? So Poland in 1953 [sic], Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968 and Poland again in 1980 … [N]ow it seems to be the turn of Croatia and Slovenia.”50 Conservative columnist George F. Will declared that, “Yugoslavia, a manufactured rather than organic entity, is a ‘prison of nations’ (Lenin’s description of the czar’s empire) … The Bush administration, which may not know sufficient American, let alone Balkan, history, is investing U.S. prestige in a cause that is and deserves to be doomed — an attempt to preserve the chimera of Yugoslav nationhood.”
Western bluster was wildly off the mark. The JNA had acted in Slovenia in accordance with the decisions of the legally constituted government as well as the rulings of the country’s constitutional court. The SFRY and the JNA were not “Communists” or “totalitarians.” By 1991, elections had been held throughout Yugoslavia. Election results in Croatia and Slovenia had no greater standing than those in Serbia or Montenegro or Macedonia or Bosnia. An overwhelming majority within the federal presidency had supported military action to take back the border crossings.
The European Community saw this as the hour in which to shine. Warning that “$1 billion in economic aid would be suspended if its military offensive against Slovenia and Croatia continued,” the E.C. dispatched a trio of foreign ministers to Belgrade on June 28. It was on this occasion that one of its number, Jacques Poos, Luxembourg’s foreign minister, famously declared that, “This is the hour of Europe. It is not the hour of the Americans.”51 Joining Poos were Gianni de Michelis, Italy’s foreign minister, and Hans van den Broek, Holland’s foreign minister. Needless to say, one issue uppermost in the minds of the three E.C. worthies was Mesić’s taking up the post of president. Doubtless, they hoped that if Yugoslavia were dissolved under the auspices of a Mesić-controlled presidency, the Europeans would be off the hook.
Upon arriving in Belgrade, the E.C. delegation went straight to the federation palace and spent the next few hours berating Milošević about Mesić. The members of the presidency cooled their heels in another room. Finally, Milošević gave way and urged Jović to withdraw his opposition to Mesić. Jović vividly described his meeting with the E.C. trio:
I raised the question of what sort of guarantees the “trio” can offer Yugoslavia on behalf of the E.C. that Mesić will act in accordance with the country’s Constitution, since it is insisting so strongly that he be elected. All three … lined up to glibly express firm promises and guarantees, on behalf of the E.C., that Mesić, Croatia, and Slovenia, under their influence, will have to act in accordance and in keeping with the SFRY Constitution. It is unclear how they plan to influence Croatia and Slovenia to change their political course, to postpone and suspend the unconstitutional decisions on independence that they have already adopted, but it is not very likely that they will even do that.52
Needless to say, these E.C. commitments were to prove worthless.
The reality of what took place in Slovenia had little connection with the hyperbole. According to Silber and Little, “A force of 400 federal police and 270 federal customs officers were taken to Cerklje air force base in Slovenia and, from there, by helicopters, to the various barracks in Slovenia and Croatia, from which they were to be dispatched. Fewer than 2000 JNA troops were deployed to accompany them. It was scarcely the assembling of an invasion force.”53 Federal troops were not authorized to shoot; many of them indeed lacked ammunition. Slovene territorial defense forces surrounded the JNA bases and cut off their water and electricity supplies as well as their telephone connections. “Slovenia declared war on the JNA, not the other way around. Slovene television ‘milked’ the conflict for every ounce of propaganda value.”54
The secessionists used armed force to seize the border posts from the federal army and armed paramilitaries to blockade federal army barracks. “The not very heroic Slovenian (and later Croatian) tactic was not to take on the JNA directly, but to lay siege to JNA barracks and try to starve the soldiers out,” as Zimmermann described it.55 The war in Slovenia had nothing to do with the Serbs. Writing in Foreign Affairs in 1995, Zimmermann said:
Contrary to the general view, it was the Slovenes who started the war. Their independence declaration, which had not been preceded by even the most token effort to negotiate, effectively put under their control all the border and customs posts between Slovenia and its two neighbors, Italy and Austria. This meant that Slovenia, the only international gateway between the West and Yugoslavia, had unilaterally appropriated the right to goods destined for other republics, as well as customs revenues estimated at some 75 percent of the Yugoslav federal budget. Even an army less primitive than the JNA would have reacted.56
Thought the casualty figures belied the David and Goliath fairy tale — 44 JNA soldiers killed, 187 JNA members wounded, while “[c]asualties on the Slovene side were in the single figures, most of them lorry-drivers passing through”57 — the Western media and governments continued to laud the heroism of the Slovenes and to vent their fury at the JNA and, of course, at Milošević.
Interestingly, while some commentators have denounced Milošević for having started four wars in Yugoslavia, including the one in Slovenia, more sophisticated critics have lambasted Milošević for his supposed indifference to the fate of Slovenia. Silber and Little, as well as Zimmermann, claim that Serbia wanted Slovenia to leave the SFRY so that it could focus on fighting Croatia. According to Silber and Little, the Yugoslav government was
out-manoeuvred by a tacit alliance between Milošević and Kučan, by which Slovenia would be allowed to secede so that the JNA could concentrate its efforts on Croatia and, later, Bosnia … [The JNA generals] thought they were defending the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia. They did not know that that integrity had already been fatally betrayed, and by the very man who, publicly, continued to cast himself in the role of its principal defender.
Zimmermann made the same claim: “With Slovenia out of the game, Milošević and the JNA were now free to take on Croatia no longer buttressed by Slovenia’s support.”58 However, this theory put the cart before the horse. Tudjman had sought to persuade the world that Slovenia and Croatia faced the same problem: bellicose Communists in Belgrade. But the cases of Croatia and Slovenia were very different. Croatia’s population included a substantial Serb minority that insisted on remaining within Yugoslavia. Croatia could not seriously expect to be treated the same as nationally homogeneous Slovenia. Tudjman knew this full well. Railing at Milošević was a good way of changing the subject.
Zimmermann’s observations were right in one sense. Serbia’s acceptance of Slovenia’s unilateral secession had demonstrated that using force and refusing to negotiate were the way to go. Rewarding Slovenia by acceding to its demand for immediate independence was bound to be taken by other republics as a signal that unilateral secession pays. Serbia’s position that any nation could leave Yugoslavia just as long as it didn’t force out of Yugoslavia anyone who didn’t want to go would have unfortunate consequences. The SFRY presidency, which had supported JNA intervention in Slovenia, was unlikely to back any further interventions once Slovenia had been seen to prevail. Also, the JNA would have little stomach to defend the borders of a diminished Yugoslavia.
Meeting at Brioni
The United States and Europe imposed an arms embargo on Yugoslavia. Within days, the Germans were hinting that they would recognize the independence of Croatia and Slovenia. The U.S. government dropped even its pro forma support for Yugoslav unity and announced, “We do not support the use of force to preserve Yugoslavia’s unity.” The United States “supports the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia as the Yugoslavian people themselves determine what that is through peaceful means … [I]t is up to the Yugoslavian people themselves to determine their future, their internal, their external borders.” But since the violence was held to be largely, if not exclusively, the fault of the federal army, the United States was effectively throwing its weight behind the supposed victims of the violence: the Croatian and Slovenian secessionists.
The European Community now stepped in and dispatched a so-called troika of foreign ministers to try to negotiate a ceasefire in Slovenia. The three foreign ministers were Jacques Poos of Luxembourg, Hans van den Broek of the Netherlands, and Gianni de Michelis of Italy. Though ostensibly offering its good offices and proclaiming its neutrality, the E.C. mission arrived armed with threats — but against one side only. Unless Yugoslav federal authorities accepted E.C. policy, the E.C. would be unable to prevent member states from recognizing the independence of Croatia and Slovenia.
On July 7, on the island of Brioni, the E.C. negotiated an agreement between Slovenia and the federal authorities. The deal involved the withdrawal of the JNA and a handover of the border posts to the Slovenian police. The signatories included the leaders of Croatia, Slovenia, the SFRY, and the troika. Serbia’s leaders weren’t at Brioni. Serb interests were represented by Borislav Jović, Serbia’s man on the Yugoslav presidency. In truth, there were no negotiations at Brioni. As Bogić Bogićević, Bosnia’s man on the federal presidency, recounted, Yugoslavia’s representatives “simply did not have the chance to speak out. The Troika of European Ministers said: ‘Amendments are not allowed. Either accept it or reject it.’”59
Subsequent mythologizing had it that at Brioni the E.C. all but promised recognition of Croatian and Slovenian independence. Slovenia and Croatia, according to this story, had agreed to suspend their independence declarations but only for three months and only in return for the E.C. accepting their independence once the three months were up. As usual, the ICTY is a key purveyor of this tale. For example, its indictment of Milošević for alleged crimes in Croatia states that, “The European Community sought to mediate in the conflict. On 8 July 1991 [sic], an agreement was reached that Croatia and Slovenia would suspend implementation of their independence for 90 days until 8 October 1991.”60 The words are lifted almost entirely from Silber and Little’s book — the only historical source the Milošević prosecutors drew on (“Mr. Nice’s lodestar,” as Milošević wittily and accurately put it.61). Silber and Little write, “The agreement imposed a three-month moratorium on the implementation [authors’ italics] of Slovene (and Croatian) independence, but not on the declarations of independence themselves.”62
This is an outright fabrication. Croatia was barely mentioned in the Brioni Declaration. Most of it dealt with Slovenia, which is where what fighting there was had taken place. The declaration demanded that negotiations among the parties “begin urgently, no later than August 1st 1991.” These negotiations would cover “all aspects of the future of Yugoslavia without preconditions” and on the basis of the principles of the Helsinki Final Act and all the other international agreements. The federal presidency was to retain control over the federal armed forces. Most important, “all parties concerned will refrain from any unilateral action, particularly from all acts of violence.”
The declaration stipulated that Slovenian police would take control of border crossings. Customs duties would remain a source of federal revenue, though they would be collected by Slovenian customs officials. The Slovenes were to lift the blockade of JNA units and facilities; JNA units would return to their barracks; territorial defense units would be deactivated; and all facilities and equipment would be returned to the JNA. The sole reference to the three-month period concerned border security. The declaration stated that the pre-June 25 situation was to be re-established. “Within the suspension period (of three months), negotiations shall be completed in order to ensure an orderly transfer of the competencies of the [JNA] in this field.” There were to be three months of unconditional negotiations; there was no mention of implementation.
To be sure, though, the troika spoke one way in public and very differently in private. In public, the troika adhered to the official E.C. line, intoning repeatedly that there could be no recognition of Croatian and Slovenian secessions. In private, the E.C. worthies blamed the violence on the federal authorities and threatened to recognize the secessionist republics if there was any further violence. Such talk could only serve to encourage Croats and Slovenes to provoke violence. According to Borislav Jović’s account, The Last Days of the SFRY, Hans van den Broek told him at Brioni that
if there is a renewed outbreak of violence and unilateral military action, the Community will re-examine its position. It is certain that that would result in a serious situation, and the possibility cannot be ruled out that one country after another would come to the conclusion that the aspirations of the Republic of Croatia and the Republic of Slovenia to self-determination, such as they are, can no longer be disputed.
This was the approach that characterized all subsequent Western interventions, including the one in Kosovo. It enabled policymakers to pretend that they meant well and that their only concern was to avoid bloodshed. However, since blame for the violence inevitably attached to Belgrade, the West’s ostentatious anguish only served to encourage secessionists to press ahead and use violence to secure their aims.
Belgrade was in a bind. If it used force to thwart secession, it would be attacked for standing in the way of national self-determination, and risked E.C. recognition of the rebel states. If it accepted secession, dissolution of Yugoslavia would be unstoppable. If it accepted secession but insisted on respect for the aspirations of the Serbs in Croatia and, later, in Bosnia, it would be denounced for seeking to carve out a Greater Serbia out of the wreckage of Yugoslavia.
Either way, independence for Slovenia and Croatia was guaranteed once the E.C. adopted the position that any use of force by Belgrade to stop the secessions would be met with immediate recognition of the secessions. Not surprisingly, Slovenia made no attempt to stick to the Brioni agreement. The Slovenes “took advantage of the ceasefire to strengthen their barricades. In Ljubljana, the buses and trucks that had acted as makeshift defences were replaced by tank traps made from criss-crossed iron girders, and surrounded by barbed wire. It didn’t matter. The Slovenes knew that they had international public opinion on their side.”63
Oddly enough, on July 18, the SFRY presidency announced the withdrawal of the JNA from Slovenia. There was no requirement for it to do so. In fact, as the presidency pointed out in its announcement, Slovenia had not fulfilled any of its commitments:
The blockade of all JNA units and facilities has not been lifted … JNA assets and equipment that were seized have not been returned. Units of the Republic of Slovenia Territorial Defense have not been deactivated and demobilized. Recruits are not being sent to do their military service in the JNA. The basic human rights of JNA members and their families have been crudely violated.
Nonetheless, the SFRY presidency announced that JNA units in Slovenia would be relocated elsewhere in Yugoslavia. “JNA commands, units and institutions shall cease to be stationed in the territory of the Republic of Slovenia until a definitive agreement is reached on the future of Yugoslavia.” Also, within three months, JNA members “who are Slovenian shall decide whether or not to remain in the JNA.”
The JNA’s withdrawal was in effect an acceptance of Slovenia’s secession and an alteration of Yugoslavia’s international frontiers. According to Yugoslavia’s constitution, as the constitutional court had pointed out, such a decision could be made only by the SFRY Assembly, not by the presidency. Explaining the presidency’s decision, Branko Kostić, Montenegro’s representative on the presidency, told Belgrade daily Večernje Novosti that JNA members stationed in Slovenia were living
in concentration camps: their power and water supply is cut off, their food supply is obstructed, you need a pass to go into and out of the barracks … We could have eliminated this situation … only by using armed force, or by a temporary territorial redeployment of these units from the territory of Slovenia to other areas in Yugoslavia, until the final agreement about the future system is reached.64
No one really believed that this withdrawal of the JNA was either temporary or redeployment.
Mesić was in a minority of one in the presidency in opposing the decision to withdraw from Slovenia. This wasn’t because he wanted to keep the JNA in Slovenia. He simply wanted the presidency to agree to withdraw the JNA from Croatia as well. He demanded that the presidency resolve that the JNA could be used only “at the request of the republic where the particular crisis spot is located.”65 Since Croatia was at that very moment seeking to secede from Yugoslavia and was already involved in an armed conflict with the Croatian Serbs, there was little likelihood of the presidency agreeing to put the JNA at the disposal of Croatia’s government. In fact, the presidency demanded that Croatia cease blockading the JNA barracks. Croatia was told to “ensure that all armed units of the republic … withdraw from JNA facilities and in no way hinder the actions and steps of JNA units and institutions.”
Inventing a New Doctrine
Sensing that Croatia and Slovenia would soon be accepted as new states, Macedonia also decided to hold a referendum. On September 8, the government asked voters: “Are you in favor of a sovereign and autonomous Macedonia with the right to join a future alliance of sovereign states of Yugoslavia?” The question was vague, ambiguous, and unexceptionable; not surprisingly, of those who voted, 95% said yes. However, Macedonia’s substantial Albanian population boycotted the referendum.
Although the secessionist republics had made no attempt to engage in serious negotiations on the future of Yugoslavia, as they were required to do under the terms of the Brioni Declaration, the federal government was blamed for the impasse. The United States stepped up its attacks on Belgrade. By September 1991, Washington had taken to referring to the actions of the JNA within the territory of Yugoslavia as “aggression.” On September 25, Baker went before the U.N. Security Council and declared:
The Yugoslav military has initiated what can only be described as outright military intervention against Croatia, while repudiating the authority of Yugoslav Government institutions which have sought to control it. It is equally clear that the Serbian leadership is actively supporting and encouraging the use of force in Croatia by Serbian militants and the Yugoslav military. The apparent objective of the Serbian leadership and the Yugoslav military working in tandem is to create a “small Yugoslavia” or “greater Serbia” which would exclude Slovenia and a rump Croatia. This new entity would be based on the kind of repression which Serbian authorities have exercised in Kosovo for several years … The aggression within Yugoslavia, therefore, represents a direct threat to international peace and security. And the use of aggression to determine the future internal borders of Yugoslavia or of Serbia also represents a grave challenge to the values and principles which underlie the Helsinki Final Act, the Charter of Paris, and the U.N. Charter.
There was no mention here of the arms smuggling into Croatia; no mention of the arming of paramilitaries. Baker’s comments foreshadowed the West’s disastrously misconceived approach to Yugoslavia. Based on nothing more than wishful thinking, Baker absolved Washington’s golden boy, Ante Marković, of any responsibility for the deployment of the JNA, and assigned blame entirely to Serbia’s leaders. Though claiming to be even-handed, he leveled the charge of “aggression” against the JNA — the only legitimate armed force in the country.
Yet the JNA had exercised considerable restraint in not toppling the Tudjman government (something it was entitled to do given the illegality of his and Slovenia’s declarations of independence), choosing instead to intercede between the combatants (the Croatian and Serbian paramilitaries). It had exercised almost unbelievable restraint in refusing to use force to break the siege of its barracks. Its troops in Croatia were going without food, water, and electricity. Baker accused the “Serbian leadership” of “encouraging the use of force,” even though the Serbs were merely seeking a return to the status quo ante. He was scathing about the idea of “small Yugoslavia” or “greater Serbia” (two entirely different concepts that he treated as if they were synonymous). Most unfairly, he made this into an issue of Serbia versus every other republic. In reality, it was Croatia and Slovenia versus everyone else. In September 1991, Croatia and Slovenia were in the minority. Four of Yugoslavia’s six republics wanted to preserve the union.
Most ominously, Baker suggested something patently nonsensical, an idea that would prove to have tragic consequences for Yugoslavia, namely, that changing the internal borders of Yugoslavia without consent would violate the Helsinki Final Act, the Charter of Paris, and the U.N. Charter. It’s hard to believe that Baker didn’t realize the absurdity of this argument. The U.N. Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, and the Charter of Paris all unambiguously refer to the impermissibility of non-peaceful change to international frontiers. Changes in internal administrative boundaries fall within the domestic jurisdiction of each state. They are not covered by international treaties.
Article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter states: “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” The reference is to territorial integrity of a member state of the U.N. The issue of internal borders is addressed in Article 2(7): “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter.”
Then there’s the Helsinki Final Act: “The participating States regard as inviolable all one another’s frontiers as well as the frontiers of all States in Europe and therefore they will refrain now and in the future from assaulting these frontiers.” Yugoslavia was, of course, one of those participating states. The 1990 Charter of Paris for a New Europe spoke of “the equal rights of peoples and their right to self-determination in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations and with the relevant norms of international law, including those relating to territorial integrity of States.” Yugoslavia was one of the Charter of Paris signatory states that pledged “to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State.”
Baker’s claim might have had some credibility had the Yugoslav republics pre-existed their entry into the state of Yugoslavia. There would then have been a basis for their claim to sovereignty and immutable borders. But that wasn’t the case. Of Yugoslavia’s six republics, Serbia and Montenegro alone pre-existed the creation of the multinational state. The rest were provinces of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires with boundaries drawn up after World War I. While there were unquestionably national, religious, and linguistic differences among the peoples of Yugoslavia, there were no immediate geographic correlates to these differences. The idea that there was a nation-state of Bosnia and Herzegovina to go together with the republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and a nation called Bosnians who inhabited that state was an absurdity. The peoples of Bosnia identified themselves not as Bosnians but as Serbs, Croats, and Muslims.
Bosnia Heads Toward the Precipice
Events in Croatia and Slovenia were now having a major impact on Bosnia. If the conflict in Croatia was nasty, then the one that was sure to erupt in Bosnia would be horrific. No nation in Bosnia constituted a majority of the population. According to the 1991 census, Muslims comprised a plurality of 43.7%; the Serbs were next with 31.4%; Croats made up 17.3% of the population. 5.5% identified themselves as Yugoslavs, many of whom were Serbs.66 Since Muslims resided largely in the cities and a considerable portion of Serbs were farmers, the ownership of land didn’t reflect these population numbers. In 1991, Serbs owned around 64% of the land in Bosnia.67
Bosnia’s first elections were scheduled for November 1990. Serbs, Croats, and Muslims all established political parties based along national lines and, not surprisingly, everyone voted along national lines. The Communists were defeated and the three national parties formed a coalition government.
Alija Izetbegović, leader of Bosnia’s largest Muslim party, the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), indicated that if Croatia and Slovenia seceded from Yugoslavia, Bosnia would follow suit. On September 15, 1990, during the election campaign, Izetbegović announced that Bosnia would not “remain within some federal remains with greater Serbia.” Izetbegović said he favored a sovereign, independent Bosnia within Yugoslavia. But if Croatia and Slovenia were to leave, then he would seek an independent Bosnia within a confederation.68 Western media coverage suggested that the decision was his alone to take. This was not so. According to Bosnia’s constitution, all three of Bosnia’s constituent nations had to approve any changes to the republic’s sovereignty.
In August 1991, following the secession of Croatia and Slovenia, Milošević invited the leaders of Bosnia, Montenegro, and Macedonia to come to Belgrade and discuss a program for the future of Yugoslavia. The so-called Belgrade Initiative envisaged the “possibility that Bosnia-Herzegovina might become part of a new Yugoslavia made up of the non-Catholic republics.”69 Izetbegović refused to attend, arguing that no discussion of Yugoslavia’s future could take place without the presence of representatives of Slovenia and Croatia. Bosnia, he insisted, would not be part of any Yugoslav federation that did not include Croatia.
Izetbegović’s rejection of the Belgrade Initiative is invariably explained as an understandable fear of Bosnia’s becoming dominated by Serbia. However, in a Yugoslavia without Croats and Slovenes, the Muslims would have been the second largest population group. Moreover, given that the Muslim population would have consisted not only of the Muslims of Bosnia but also those of the Sandžak in Serbia as well as the Albanians of Kosovo, and given the Muslims’ historically higher birth rate, it was unlikely the Serbs would have been able to maintain their demographic dominance for long.
To be sure, a Bosnia-Herzegovina that remained in a Yugoslavia without Croatia could well have ended up losing territory, but not on account of Serbia. Once Croatia was out of Yugoslavia, Western Herzegovina (where most of Bosnia’s Croats resided) would more than likely have elected to secede from Bosnia to join Croatia. But loss of Western Herzegovina was quite likely whether Bosnia stayed in Yugoslavia or not. What’s important is that while the loss of Bosnian territory may have been unavoidable, war between Muslims and Serbs could have been avoided.
Izetbegović’s inflexibility did not go unopposed. There were some within the SDA leadership, such as party vice chairman Adil Zulfikarpašić and Muhamed Filipović, who were troubled not only by the growing dominance of Islamism within the party but also by Izetbegović’s clear determination to exit Yugoslavia. They realized early on that Izetbegović’s course would lead Bosnia to disaster. A September 10, 1990 SDA election rally in Velika Kladuša proved to be the final straw. As the Dutch government’s report on Srebrenica recounted:
In the presence of at least 200,000 people, the party made it clear that the Muslims were not prepared to live in a “rump” Yugoslavia and that if need be they would take up arms to defend Bosnia-Hercegovina. Now, Zulfikarpašić really became frightened by what he saw and heard. There were hundreds of green flags, people in Arabic dress and portraits of Saddam Hussein. People were chanting “Long live Saddam Hussein” … After this, Zulfikarpašić no longer trusted Izetbegović.70
On September 22, Zulfikarpašić and Filipović were expelled from the SDA. They, in turn, created a rival, much more secular party, the Muslim Bosniak Organisation (MBO), with Zulfikarpašić as its chairman.
On July 25, 1991, one month after the secessions of Croatia and Slovenia, Zulfikarpašić launched a peace initiative for Bosnia, which was accepted by Radovan Karadžić’s Serbian Democratic Party (SDS). The plan envisaged Bosnia remaining within a diminished Yugoslavia with its borders unchanged. Hailing the agreement, Karadžić said that within this diminished Yugoslavia the Muslims would be the second largest nation next to the Serbs.71 Zulfikarpašić went to see Milošević and returned from Belgrade to declare that Serbia’s president had thrown his support behind the deal.
Izetbegović’s SDA immediately denounced the agreement, claiming that it was unacceptable for two of Bosnia’s nations to gang up on a third, in this case the Serbs and the Muslims against the Croats. The SDA declared that “The constitutional and legal framework which was proposed in the draft ‘historic agreement’ envisages, however, a federation of an earlier type, the nucleus of which would be Serbia and Montenegro and — according to the proposers — Bosnia-Hercegovina. The Muslim people cannot accept that.”72 Izetbegović dismissed any accord between Serbs and Muslims that failed to include the Croats. Bosnia was a republic of three major ethnic communities or it was nothing. Furthermore, Muslims “will not accept a truncated Yugoslavia,” namely, one without Slovenia and Croatia. “We must find a solution which is also suitable for Slovenia and Croatia,” Izetbegović said.73
However, Izetbegović was soon to forget his stricture against two of Bosnia’s national groups ganging up on a third. On October 14, 1991, he engineered a Muslim-Croat alliance against the Serbs. Ignoring Serb objections, representatives of the Croat and Muslim parties in the Bosnian National Assembly introduced a memorandum that declared Bosnia Herzegovina to be a sovereign republic within its existing administrative boundaries. The memorandum also stated that Bosnian delegates would not participate in any federal institution unless representatives of the other five Yugoslav republics were also present. It was again reiterated that Bosnia would not be part of any Yugoslavia that did not include Serbia and Croatia.
The Serb deputies protested, arguing that adoption of the memorandum would violate Bosnia’s constitution. There could be no change in Bosnia’s status within the Yugoslav federation without the agreement of all three of Bosnia’s constituent nations. There was some basis to this claim. In July 1990, the Bosnian assembly had adopted a number of constitutional amendments that emphasized the equality of Bosnia’s three nations. Any attempt by two nations to outvote a third would clearly be a violation of the equality of nations. For example, Amendment LXX declared:
A Chamber for issues of achieving equality among peoples and nationalities … shall be formed in the SRBH Assembly. The Chamber shall comprise an equal number of deputies from the Muslims, Serbs and Croats of BH, and an appropriate number of deputies from the ranks of other peoples, nationalities and groups living in BH. The Chamber shall make its decisions based on agreement of the members of all the peoples and nationalities … Following a proposal from the Chamber, the SRBH Assembly shall decide on issues of interest for implementation of the equality of peoples and nationalities of BH, according to a special procedure determined by the SRBH Assembly Rules of Procedure, and by a two-thirds majority of all the deputies.74
During the debate on the memorandum, the Serb deputies proposed an adjournment. The Muslims and Croats refused to adjourn. The president of the assembly, Momcilo Krajisnik, a Serb and a member of Karadžić’s party, called a halt to the debate. He claimed that the memorandum was unconstitutional and cited an agreement among members of the ruling three-party coalition that one national group could not be outvoted by an alliance of the other two on matters of national interest. Krajisnik adjourned the debate, and the Serb deputies left the chamber. The Muslim and Croat deputies stayed behind and voted to adopt the memorandum.75
The memorandum’s proclamation that it expressed “the will of the majority of the deputies of this Assembly, and as such, also the political will of the majority of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s citizens” could not be taken seriously.76
In response to the adoption of the memorandum, Karadžić’s SDS party withdrew from the Izetbegović-headed coalition government and announced that it would establish its own assembly and that it would hold a referendum on whether Bosnia’s Serbs wished to remain in Yugoslavia. By the end of October, the SDS had established the Assembly of the Serb Nation in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and by early November it had organized the referendum. The question Bosnia’s Serbs were asked was: “Do you agree with the decision of the Assembly of the Serbian people in Bosnia and Herzegovina … that the Serbian people should remain in a common Yugoslav state with Serbia, Montenegro, SAO Krajina, Baranja and Western Srem, and with the others who have come out for remaining [in Yugoslavia]?”77 The answer, not surprisingly, was a near-unanimous yes.
Sabotaging the SFRY Presidency
Meanwhile, as the day approached on which the three-month moratorium negotiated at Brioni was set to expire, Croatia ratcheted up the anti-Belgrade rhetoric. The worse the alleged horrors inflicted on Croatia, the more it deserved international recognition. Leading the chorus of denunciation of the JNA was the president of the SFRY presidency, Stjepan Mesić, the man the Europeans and the Americans were so anxious to thrust into that positions. Claiming he was the president of Yugoslavia (which he wasn’t), Mesić traveled around Europe and America regaling his listeners with horrifying tales of alleged JNA atrocities. The media contributed to the confusion that Mesić was deliberately fostering by continually referring to himself as Yugoslavia’s “Commander in chief,” though he was nothing of the sort.78 If Mesić were the real commander in chief, then it stood to reason that the JNA was either out of control or under the control of the “Serb-dominated collective presidency.”
In early September, Mesić, speaking on behalf of himself, ordered the JNA troops to return to their barracks. “If the army doesn’t react,” he said, “I will declare that the army’s top leaders are acting irregularly, and that means a military coup.”79 In mid-September, Mesić called on the JNA to cease its “aggression on Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina,” and to “go over to the side of the people.” The JNA was “acting on its own will,” Mesić asserted, “following orders not issued by the presidency. We are obviously dealing with a military coup.”80 This was a flat-out lie. There was no evidence that the JNA was circumventing the authority of the federal presidency. Mesić at this time was in a minority of one in the presidency.
Bringing up Bosnia was a shrewd move. There was no fighting at this time in Bosnia. However, if the JNA were to attempt to break the siege of its barracks in Croatia, its forces would have to enter Croatia via Bosnia, where many of them were stationed. The suggestion, however false, that the JNA was launching aggression against Bosnia was bound to have resonance in the rest of Europe. Mesić didn’t forget to keep the United States posted. Visiting Washington, he helpfully informed the senators that “Yugoslavia is responsible for supplying Iraq with the technology to produce sarin chemical weapons in 1986 and was instrumental in the construction of a chemical factory for the same weapon between the years 1983 and 1985.”81 This was barely six months since the end of the first Gulf War and, as expected, Mesić’s “disclosure” had the politicians on Capitol Hill foaming at the mouth. Mesić even found time to tell the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the JNA was using poison gas in Croatia.82
One city Mesić didn’t visit was Belgrade. Throughout September, the SFRY presidency was unable to meet largely because neither Slovenia’s representative nor Mesić would ever show up.83 Finally, on October 1, the SFRY presidency met and announced that Yugoslavia was facing an imminent threat of war.84 This meant that the presidency could meet without having every republican and provincial representative having to be in attendance. All six members of the presidency who attended this meeting voted in favor of this decision.
Mesić immediately denounced both the meeting and the “imminent threat of war” proclamation as a “military putsch.” He alleged that the JNA had prevented him from attending the session of the presidency by “means of tanks on the highway and a blockade of air traffic.” Interestingly, Mesić had had a few problems traveling to Washington a few days earlier. Moreover, Mesić had not requested the SFRY authorities to lay on transport to take him to Belgrade. Instead, he proposed holding a meeting of the presidency on the islands of Brioni, which were a part of Croatia. However, no one else on the presidency favored going to Brioni.
The presidency’s move, Mesić fumed, had been engineered by the “Serbian bloc.” Since non-Serbs had also supported the decision, Mesić was forced to express disappointment that “Messrs Bogić Bogićević [Bosnia’s representative on the presidency] and Vasil Tupurkovski [Macedonia’s representative] have joined the military putsch.” Mesić’s mention of the support of Bogićević and Tupurkovski for the declaration was significant, for it was an acknowledgment that Croatia and Slovenia were in the minority on the presidency. Yet the Western media that echoed Mesić’s claims failed to mention the votes of the representatives of Bosnia and Macedonia for the emergency proclamation.85
On October 3, the SFRY presidency met again. This time, neither Bosnia’s Bogićević nor Macedonia’s Tupurkovski showed up. Nonetheless, the four members of the presidency who were present announced that while the “imminent threat of war” existed the presidency would continually be in session and would adopt decisions on the basis of a majority of votes of those members of the presidency who attended. That same day, the secretary-general of the presidency wrote to Mesić telling him that it was “imperative that members of the SFRJ Presidency be present in Belgrade if possible or at a distance which would enable work to commence within two hours of convening the session.” It was essential therefore to “take measures, through your office and the Head of the Protocol of the SFRJ Presidency, for you to come or be taken to Belgrade in case of need.” Mesić, of course, refused to take up the invitation.
The United States threw its weight behind Mesić. The State Department declared that any meetings of the SFRY presidency amounted to a “clear attempt by Serbia and Montenegro to seize control of the federal Government. In such circumstances, the United States does not accept that this rump group legitimately speaks for Yugoslavia.”86 The JNA’s “use of force against Croatia,” the State Department spokesman added, “is clearly against the will of four of the six Yugoslav republics represented in the Presidency.” The European Community also endorsed Mesić’s claims about illegalities and coups. It issued a statement calling on the “Council [sic] for Security and Cooperation in Europe as well as on the Security Council of the United Nations … to denounce the role played by JNA and the coup d’état by four members of the federal presidency.87
These denunciations were wide off the mark. No one had prevented Mesić or anyone else from attending meetings of the presidency. Though only four out of eight members of the presidency attended, there was no evidence that the SFRY presidency had acted illegally, still less that some kind of a putsch or coup d’état had taken place. The October 1 decision was in accord with the SFRY presidency’s rules of procedure, which were adopted in 1982. The claim that the SFRY was facing an imminent threat of war was unexceptionable. There was a war going on in Croatia. The Yugoslav presidency — not Mesić — was the country’s supreme command. It would have been bizarre for it not to meet. Mesić had been, and would continue to be, invited to attend. Furthermore, he was kept abreast of all decisions taken at the presidency. In any case, neither Mesić nor anyone else took the matter up with Yugoslavia’s constitutional court.
The Western media’s willful gullibility was extraordinary. Almost in unison, they unquestioningly accepted Mesić’s claim that “Only the federal president, Croatia’s Stipe Mesić, is empowered to convene sessions of the ruling body that commands the armed forces.”88 No authority other than the say-so of Mesić was ever cited in support of this contention. In fact, there was nothing in the rules saying that the presidency could only be convened by the president or that it could make no decision without the presence of the president. To the contrary, Article 3 of the presidency’s rules of procedure was quite explicit on the matter: “If the president of the presidency is absent or otherwise unable to do so, the vice president shall convene and preside over the sessions.” According to Article 33, if the vice president is absent or unable to attend, “the session shall be presided over by a member of the Presidency appointed by the Presidency” — by the presidency, not the president.
According to Article 44, the presidency would decide “on matters within its competence by a majority of the votes of all members of the Presidency.” However, on a matter such as “the necessity of passing a law or other regulation on temporary measures,” the presidency could decide with a two-thirds majority of all presidency members. That would include “adopting the Rules of Procedure of the Presidency and acts on the powers of the president of the Presidency in a state of war, in case of imminent danger of war and other such extraordinary circumstances, when the Presidency is unable to meet.” The decision on the “imminent threat of war” had been taken by six of the eight members of the presidency. So the two-thirds standard had been met.
As usual, the ICTY, following the lead of the Western powers and the media, had taken Mesić’s assertions at face-value: Serbia was supposedly trying to seize control of Yugoslavia. The Bosnia indictment against Milošević, for example, said that “On 3 October 1991, the four members of the SFRY Presidency from Serbia and Montenegro … assumed the function of the SFRY Presidency, circumventing the roles and responsibilities of the Presidency members from Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia.” The prosecutors went further and even claimed, ludicrously, that the SFRY presidency had made no finding as to an imminent threat of war. During the Milošević trial, on February 13, 2006, one of the prosecutors claimed that
the six Presidency members did not declare or conclude that there was an imminent threat of war, and therefore that’s why the Presidency, the Rump Presidency, as we call it, is illegal, and all the decision and steps they took were illegal … The movements of the JNA directed by this Rump Presidency, that’s our focus, was all illegal.89
The ICTY claim was particularly absurd given that the presidency’s October 1 decision on the imminent threat of war is in the ICTY’s own archives.90 Curiously, the ICTY’s indignation that the federal presidency had supposedly acted illegally contrasts starkly with its insouciance on the issue of whether Slovenia and Croatia had acted illegally in seceding. The body best qualified to determine who in Yugoslavia had violated the constitution was that country’s constitutional court. The court had ruled that Slovenia and Croatia had both acted illegally when they declared themselves first sovereign, then independent. The court had never ruled the “imminent threat of war” declaration to be unconstitutional.
The ICTY’s insistence on this point is not so strange. The ICTY was established in large part to sustain the regnant E.U.-Washington-NATO version of the breakup of Yugoslavia. According to that story, Serbia waged aggressive war against everyone else in order to create a Greater Serbia. It was this ambition that prevented Yugoslavia’s peaceful dissolution into seven separate states that the Europeans and the Americans had selflessly envisaged. The ICTY’s role is to vindicate the West’s actions in recognizing the secessionist republics and to assign blame for the wars in Yugoslavia on the SFRY presidency and the JNA, which, supposedly, were acting as proxies for Serbia.
In fact, it was Mesić’s determination to convene a meeting of the presidency at Brioni that was flagrantly in violation of the presidency rules. The rules mandated meetings in Belgrade. Any change of venue had to be supported by the presidency members. Mesić had no more authority to hold meetings in Brioni than he had to issue orders to the JNA on behalf of the presidency. Though Washington and Bonn threw their support behind Mesić, no one on the presidency did so. The Slovenes wanted to have nothing to do with Yugoslavia in any form. The Bosnian and Macedonian representatives, though they didn’t attend the sessions of the presidency, did not put their names to any of Mesić’s orders.
What Mesić’s opponents on the federal presidency had feared would happen were he to take over as the president had now come true. Mesić was using the office of president to advocate on behalf of Croatia and to seek the dissolution of Yugoslavia. On October 2, Mesić wrote to U.N. Secretary-General Perez de Cuellar on SFRY presidency-headed notepaper claiming that the JNA was “operating autonomously and outside of the framework of the existing institutions.” Yugoslavia “does not exist anymore,” he announced. It wasn’t Croatia’s secession that had caused this. It was, needless to say, Milošević. He was the one who had “torn down the Yugoslav federation.” Serbia and the JNA were the aggressors. The only way to stop them was “by recognizing the new reality … The only way out now is the recognition of the new subjects within their borders, because otherwise … the flames of war that have already been started by the last bolshevik bastion, Slobodan Milošević’s Serbia, will be spread to the wider European area.”
On October 3, Mesić again wrote to Perez de Cuellar, this time declaring himself to be “the President of a country in which the aggressive policy of one of the republics, the Republic of Serbia, has destroyed the constitutional order of the country and brought the atrocities of war and destruction to the Republic of Croatia.” Mesić now upped the ante, talking of the “human values” that were endangered by the “one-sided and egoistic members of the human race.” He lamented the “inability of the international community to prevent aggressive and totalitarian forces to attack, molest and destroy the democratic societies.” Invoking the spirit of Churchill, Mesić asked “Have we forgotten about international solidarity and the need for the democratic forces of the World to unite against the emerging dark forces of totalitarianism?”
On October 4, Mesić wrote an even more impassioned appeal to Perez de Cuellar, claiming that the Yugoslav federal defense minister, Veljko Kadijević, had declared war on Croatia. “The survival of the republic of Croatia and the Croatian people is at stake,” he asserted. The federal army was “destroying one whole nation for the purposes of the sick ambitions of the Serbian bolshevik [sic] regime.”
“Totalitarianism,” “bolshevik bastion,” democratic solidarity — Mesić certainly knew his audience. Recycling Cold War boilerplate was bound to appeal to Washington. The “Serbia equals Bolshevism equals totalitarianism” equation was to prove a brilliant propaganda coup for Croatia.
Pressure for Recognition
Croatia’s claim that Yugoslavia had ceased to exist was to provide the Europeans with a useful alibi. By October, their resistance to German pressure to recognize the secessionist states was evaporating. Throughout the summer and fall, the Germans had been pressing the Europeans to recognize Croatia and Slovenia, arguing that they were pro-Western democracies that wanted to be free of Communist or Serb-dominated Yugoslavia. By September, even French President François Mitterand had taken to issuing statements such as “It’s clear that these (Yugoslav) republics do not want to live together anymore. It’s important that they do not continue to kill each other, that they determine the borders and pledge to protect minorities.”91
If recognition of Croatia and Slovenia could be presented as reluctant acceptance that Yugoslavia had ceased to exist or, better still, as justified punishment meted out to a government that had used excessive force, then the West would be off the hook on the charge that it had helped to destroy an internationally recognized state. The E.C. governments as well as Washington now raised the volume of the condemnations they rained down on Belgrade. British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd declared that the JNA was “not an army, but a band of brigands.”92 (Hurd’s “brigands” had abjectly withdrawn from Slovenia after a few days of fighting and had responded with extraordinary passivity to a three-month-long siege of its barracks in Croatia. The JNA had made no serious attempt to break the blockade even though conscripts were going without food, water, medicine, and electricity.)
Europeans reassured themselves with the argument that in the new post-national Europe, nation-states were a thing of the past. Secession therefore posed only a human rights problem: if Croatia and Slovenia would commit to the protection of minority rights, there would be nothing further to worry about. The argument was naïve and self-serving. When people lose their state they will not be fobbed off with minority rights, even assuming that such rights would be scrupulously observed, which, in the case of Tudjman’s Croatia, was highly doubtful.
The Carrington Plan
After unsuccessfully negotiating a number of ceasefires, the European Community announced on August 27, 1991 the convening of a peace conference and the establishment of an arbitration procedure. Needless to say, the E.C. used the announcement to denounce once again the JNA and the Serbs, but not the Croats. It “can no longer denied,” the E.C. declared, “that elements of the Yugoslav People’s Army are lending their active support to the Serbian side.” The E.C. called “on the federal presidency to put an immediate end to this illegal use of forces under its command.” The E.C. did not explain what it meant by the “Serbian side” or by “illegal use” of the JNA. The conflict in Croatia at this stage pitted the secessionists against the JNA, the armed forces of the legally constituted authorities. The “Serbian side” was therefore the side of the legally constituted authorities. The claim that the use of the JNA was somehow “illegal” showed the extent to which Europe had by October accepted the Germany/Mesić interpretation of what was going on in Yugoslavia. As would often prove to be the case in subsequent years, the U.N. secretary-general offered a more balanced account in his report of October 25, 1991. He described the conflict in Croatia as “pitting on one side the Yugoslav National Army (JNA) and supplementary military units as well as irregular Serb forces against, on the other side, territorial forces of the Republic of Croatia as well as Croatian irregulars.”93
Lord Peter Carrington, a former British Tory defense secretary, was appointed chairman of the E.C. Peace Conference on Yugoslavia. The arbitration commission was to comprise five members, three of whom would be selected by the E.C. and two by the Yugoslav federal presidency. However, as the Yugoslav presidency couldn’t agree on whom to appoint, the three E.C.-appointed members decided to choose the other two. As a result, not one of the arbitrators came from anywhere other than the European Community. There was no one from the Balkans, no one from Russia; no one, in other words, who might be expected to have some expertise on the issues being considered. No perspective other than that of the E.C. circa 1991 entered into consideration.
The five arbitrators were Robert Badinter, chairman of the French Constitutional Council; Roman Herzog, president of the German Constitutional Court; Aldo Corasaniti, president of the Italian Constitutional Court; Francisco Thomas y Valiente, president of the Spanish Constitutional Court; and Irene Petry, president of the Belgian Constitutional Court. Badinter was selected as chairman. A narrower perspective could scarcely be imagined.
The peace conference, under Carrington’s chairmanship, convened at The Hague on October 4, 1991. In attendance were the presidents of the six republics and the eight members of the federal presidency. While representatives of the Croatian Serbs were invited to the conference, they were told that they could take part only in discussions about the “rights of minorities.” The centerpiece of the conference was a plan for the future of Yugoslavia drawn up by Carrington, grandly titled “Arrangements for General Settlement.” The plan encapsulated the E.C. approach to Yugoslavia. There was to be independence for those who wanted it, minority rights for those who didn’t want it, and no changes to internal boundaries. As Van den Broek, president of the E.C. Council of Ministers, explained, the solution to Yugoslavia’s crisis would be based on “recognition of the independence of those republics wishing it, at the end of the negotiating process conducted in good faith.”
The Carrington plan envisaged Yugoslavia as a very loose confederation of states. The country would consist of “sovereign and independent republics with international personality for those who wish it”; a “free association of the republics with an international personality”; “comprehensive arrangements … for the protection of human rights and special status for certain groups and certain areas”; and “in the framework of a general settlement, recognition of the independence, within the existing borders, unless otherwise agreed, of those republics wishing it.”94
Carrington did, however, stipulate that areas “in which persons belonging to a national or ethnic group form a majority, will enjoy special status (autonomy).” This would include “the right to have and show the national emblems of that group”; the “right to a second nationality for members of that group”; and “a legislative body,” an “administrative structure, including a regional police force” and a “judiciary.”
Carrington and the E.C. now deftly outmaneuvered the Serbs. The eight members of the federal presidency had been invited to The Hague along with the six presidents of the republics. The Serbs could thus count on four votes on the presidency in support of their position that Yugoslavia should continue to exist. The E.C. got around this by arguing that, as the presidency had lost its legal standing by convening meetings withing Mesić, its wishes could be ignored. The only votes that mattered were those of the six republican presidents, whom the E.C. now took to be the legitimate representatives of Yugoslavia.
There was no legal basis for the E.C.’s position. Issues affecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yugoslavia fell within the purview of the federal presidency, the federal assembly, and the federal constitutional court. Article 283 of the 1974 constitution said that only the SFRY Assembly could decide on amendments to the constitution or alterations to the boundaries of the SFRY. Article 313 said that only the federal presidency, not any of the republics, could “represent the [SFRY] at home and abroad.”
Moreover, by taking the six republican presidents as arbiters of the fate of Yugoslavia, the E.C. was ignoring the views not only of national minorities but also of Serbia’s two autonomous provinces. Article 1 of the 1974 constitution said that the SFRY was a “state community of voluntarily united nations and their socialist republics, and of the Socialist Autonomous Provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo, which are constituent parts of the Socialist Republic of Serbia.” Article 2 said that the SFRY consisted of the socialist republics and the socialist autonomous provinces. Therefore, the autonomous provinces had to have a say on any fundamental change to Yugoslavia.
The E.C. worthies, voices still hoarse and blood pressure still dangerously high from all that indignation over the SFRY presidency holding meetings without Mesić, now dismissed the very constitution they had been invoking and ignored the views of Kosovo and Vojvodina, not to mention the SFRY Assembly, the SFRY presidency, and Yugoslavia’s federal constitutional court.
This contrivance enabled the E.C. to secure the outcome it desired. Serbia was obviously expected to oppose the Carrington plan. The Serbs were the most populous nation in Yugoslavia and would therefore be the biggest losers in any dissolution of their common state. More than a third of Yugoslavia’s Serb population would find themselves minorities in someone else’s state. According to the 1981 census, approximately 3 million of the more than 8.1 million Serbs living in Yugoslavia resided outside of Serbia and its two autonomous provinces.95 The Serbs were bound to look upon a Carrington-style confederation as a cover for Yugoslav dissolution. On top of that, confederation would work exclusively to the advantage of the richer republics, which would get unrestricted access to the Yugoslav market but no obligation to pay anything into a common fund for security and regional development. Slovenia, in the meantime, would continue to receive the revenues from customs duties. “These proposals not only disrupt the internal constitutional continuity of Yugoslavia, but also abolish Yugoslavia itself,” Milošević told the conference. “Yugoslavia was created by the Yugoslav peoples and any decision to abolish it must be adopted by means of a people’s referendum. None of the participants at the Conference have the authorization to accede to these arrangements, nor does the Conference as a forum have this right.”96
Slovenia and Croatia, having already declared independence, would naturally be expected to favor the Carrington plan. Macedonia, having held a plebiscite in late September, albeit without Albanian and Serb participation, could also be expected to support the plan. Bosnia, following the October 15 adoption of the memorandum on sovereignty — albeit without the participation of Serb representatives — could also be expected to be in favor. That only left Montenegro. Anxious to win the tiny republic over to its side, the E.C., on the eve of the conference, dangled a huge monetary bribe before Montenegro. Italy and Montenegro launched negotiations for a program of co-operation. According to Italy’s foreign minister, Gianni de Michelis, the program amounted to something in the range of “30 or 40 billion lire in various projects, for Montenegro, a country of 600,000 inhabitants.”97
The bribe worked. Montenegro’s president, Momir Bulatović, came out in favor of the Carrington plan. On the other hand, Montenegro’s representative on the federal presidency, Branko Kostić, rejected it. Carrington got around this little difficulty by refusing to allow Kostić to address the conference.98 Carrington abruptly cut Kostić off in mid-stream. In response, the four members of the post-October 1 Yugoslav federal presidency walked out of the conference room.
These maneuvers enabled the E.C. to pretend that the Serbs were a minority that had been outvoted, five to one, by the other Yugoslavs. The E.C. story had it that Carrington’s plan had been overwhelmingly accepted by everyone in Yugoslavia except for the obstreperous Serbs. Hans van den Broek, the Dutch foreign minister, now openly vented his fury at the Serbs: “It cannot be accepted that one party block progress for the others. If five republics are willing to cooperate, we should continue the negotiations to obtain a settlement with those five. We feel certain pressures have to be carried out to obtain full participation in good faith by all parties.” Belgium’s foreign minister, Mark Eyskens, echoed him: “It appears clear to us now that Serbia and the federal government are blocking the whole peace process.”99
The E.C. foreign ministers now adopted the approach that was to become familiar in the coming years. The Carrington plan had to be accepted in its entirety. Anyone caught quibbling would be subjected to economic sanctions, and perhaps worse. “If Serbia continues to say no, we’ll go on with the (other Yugoslav republics). Then there will be the possibility of sanctions against Serbia,” Van den Broek explained. “An intransigent Serbia could face a gradually strengthening web of sanctions ranging from an end to economic aid, through a freeze on foreign assets to a boycott of oil and trade in general.”100
The E.C.’s resort to sanctions was extraordinary, given that at an October 4 news conference Van den Broek had admitted that the so-called ceasefire in Croatia was being “violated by all parties.” At the same news conference, the Dutchman had demanded that Croatia’s authorities lift “immediately the blockade of JNA garrisons and other facilities.” Yet no blockade-lifting had taken place and the fighting had continued.
Nonetheless, in what was to become a familiar pattern, the E.C. on November 8 made good on its threats and imposed sanctions against one party only: Yugoslavia. Meeting on the fringes of a two-day NATO summit in Rome, the 12 E.C. foreign ministers announced a restriction on imports of Yugoslav textiles, suspension of a trade and economic cooperation agreement worth $900 million, and an end to preferential trade. They also called on the U.N. Security Council to impose an oil embargo.
The E.C.-imposed sanctions didn’t go far enough for Germany. Genscher immediately announced that Germany favored “halting deliveries of oil, coal and steel to Serbia and freezing assets of the Serbian-controlled Yugoslav Central Bank.”101 Of course, the E.C. issued the standard pieties on the subject of recognition. Van den Broek declared that “a policy of fait accompli as such is not acceptable and that assuming that the 12 would ever recognize unilateral change of borders is an illusion.” Furthermore, “the prospect of recognition of the independence of those republics who wish it can only be envisaged in the framework of an overall settlement.”102 This boilerplate was to be rendered null and void within weeks.
On October 25, Carrington circulated a further paper titled “Treaty Provisions for the Convention.” The plan now envisaged that the “special status” areas, those largely inhabited by national minorities, would be demilitarized. There would also be international monitoring of implementation of the “special status of autonomy.” This draft convention included extensive commitments to the protection of human rights. Chapter II, Article 2(c) addressed the special status of minorities. Again, there was a promise, clearly a reference to the Serbs, stipulating that in “areas in which persons belonging to a national or ethnic group form a majority, shall enjoy a special status of autonomy.” Such a status includes “(a) the right to have and show the national emblems of that group; (b) the right to a second nationality for members of that group; (c) an educational system which respects the values and needs of that group; [and] (d) (i) a legislative body, (ii) an administrative structure … and (iii) a judiciary.”103
The Europeans had approached Yugoslavia as if they were dealing with a bunch of particularly retarded juvenile delinquents. Their condescending attitude was perfectly encapsulated by Van den Broek’s exasperated complaint that, though he wanted to “continue impartial mediation,” it was “unacceptable that one or more republics blocks the progress of others.” However, while he and Carrington may have satisfied themselves that their mediation was impartial, this was by no means obvious to anyone else.
Consider the Dutchman’s claim that Serbia alone was holding up the agreement that everyone else had accepted. To begin with, Serbia wasn’t the only republic objecting to Carrington’s plan. Slovenia had also rejected it in tones more disdainful than Serbia’s. Milošević for example, had hailed the Carrington plan, particularly its “special status” provisions, as a “good starting point.” Kučan, on the other hand, had made it clear that he had no interest in any confederal solution. Nothing short of outright independence would satisfy him. He dismissed the conference as a pointless exercise, saying: “It is quite clear Yugoslavia and its central institutions no longer exist. So it is a waste of time an energy to try to restore their legitimacy.”104 Yet no threats of sanctions were forthcoming against Slovenia, not even a warning about the withholding of international recognition.
Second, Montenegro really could not be counted in the pro-Carrington column. Bulatović had accepted the Carrington plan, but not Kostić. Worse, Bulatović came under immediate attack in the Montenegro republican assembly. On returning to Podgorica, Bulatović had to promise the assembly that Montenegro would hold a referendum on the E.C. plan. He then joined Milošević in proposing an amendment to the Carrington plan. Serbia and Montenegro proposed that, in addition to offering independence to those that wanted it, the Carrington plan provide for the continued existence of a diminished Yugoslavia for those who wanted that. Instead of the E.C.’s one-size-fits-all model — namely, independence all round plus a vague, unspecified confederation — there would be the option of a “common state of equal republics and nations that wish to remain in Yugoslavia.”
Third, Van den Broek had blithely ignored an issue that was already staring the Europeans in the face: the growing crisis in Bosnia. The E.C. had foolishly taken Izetbegović as representing the will of Bosnia. But Izetbegović spoke, at best, only for Bosnia's Muslims, who comprised some 43% of the republic’s population. Bosnia's Serbs, who constituted a third of the republic’s population, were clearly opposed to the Carrington plan.
Fourth, the Dutchman had failed to take into consideration the situation in Macedonia and in Serbia’s two autonomous provinces. The E.C. took Kiro Gligorov, Macedonia’s president, to be speaking on behalf of all Macedonians. This was a remarkable sleight of hand in light of the Europeans’ noisy concern over the supposed plight of Kosovo’s Albanians. Macedonia had held a plebiscite in September 1991 on the issue of sovereignty and independence. However, Macedonia’s Albanians, constituting something like 25% of the republic’s population, had refused to take part in the vote. Thus, Albanian support for the effective dissolution of Yugoslavia, and for minority status in an independent Macedonia, could by no means be assumed. The same applied to Kosovo’s Albanians. While their preference may well have been departure from Yugoslavia, given the choice that was on offer to them at The Hague — membership of an independent Serbian republic or membership of a Yugoslav federation — they would very likely have opted for the latter.
Most important, the Serbs were scarcely a small minority of Yugoslavia. According to the 1991 census, Serbs constituted 36.3% of Yugoslavia’s population. Those who identified themselves as Yugoslavs constituted 5.4% of the population.105 Most of them were Serbs. It’s a safe bet that those who identified themselves as Yugoslavs would be in favor of preserving Yugoslavia. That would come to 41.7% of Yugoslavia’s population. Consider then the E.C.’s overwhelming majority: Croats were 19.7%, Muslims 8.9%, Slovenes 7.8%, and Macedonians 5.9%. That comes to 42.3% of the population. Though Bulatović had supported the Carrington plan, Montenegro clearly did not. And Montenegro did elect to join Serbia in maintaining Yugoslavia. Montenegrins constituted 2.5% of Yugoslavia’s population. The Serbia-Montenegro-Yugoslavia bloc constituted 44.2%. Furthermore, the E.C. had not taken into consideration the views of Albanians (7.7%) or the Hungarians (1.9%). Neither the Albanians of Kosovo nor those of Macedonia could be taken to be supportive of the E.C./Carrington/Van den Broek agenda.
Van den Broek’s minority of one out of six was actually 44.2% of Yugoslavia. And his majority of five out of six amounted to 42.3%. Yet the E.C. slapped sanctions on the side representing 44.2% and gave to the side representing 42.3% everything it wanted. The E.C.’s subsequent hand-wringing bafflement as to how its impartial mediation and good intentions could have resulted in war was thoroughly disingenuous. When one tries to ram through a massive constitutional change in the teeth of fierce opposition from at least half of the population, one can hardly then turn around and express astonishment that people resorted to guns to settle matters.
The Non-Arbitration Commission
In its August 27 statement, the E.C. had urged the “relevant authorities” to submit their differences to an “arbitration commission.” However, when the parties submitted their differences, something very odd happened. Carrington took it upon himself to alter significantly the issues the “relevant authorities” had presented. From the start, the task of the arbitration commission was to put a legal gloss on what the E.C. had in effect already decided.
The Arbitration Commission of the International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia wasn’t any kind of arbitration body at all. To be sure, it adopted some of the procedures laid down by the 1907 Hague Convention on the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, but it discarded most of the others. For example, the commission kept the requirement that the panel consist of five members. The commission also followed the specified time limitation of two months. The E.C.’s August 27 declaration stipulated that the decisions had to be ready within two months of the arbitrators being requested to act.
Badinter’s commission didn’t remotely follow the arbitration procedures set down in the 1907 Hague Convention. Article 37 defines arbitration as the settlement of disputes “between States by Judges of their own choice.” In the case of Yugoslavia, however, the parties to the dispute had no say in the appointment of commission members. Crucially, the issues that were presented to the commission for arbitration had been drastically rewritten by the chairman of the conference, who represented no one in the dispute.
The E.C. made sure to rig the commission’s rules. On September 3, it issued a declaration that the “Chairman will transmit to the Arbitration Commission the issues submitted for arbitration, and the results of the Commission’s deliberations will be put back to the Conference through the Chairman.” The rules of procedure for the arbitration were to be established by the arbitrators themselves. Yet Article 52 of the Hague Convention specified that, “The Powers which have recourse to arbitration sign a ‘Compromis,’, in which the subject of the dispute is clearly defined … The ‘Compromis’ likewise defined, if there is occasion, the manner of appointing Arbitrators.” This was repeated almost verbatim in the International Law Commission’s 1958 Model Rules on Arbitral Procedure, which held that the parties “having recourse to arbitration” would “conclude a compromis,” spelling out, first, “[t]he subject-matter of the dispute and, if possible, the points on which the parties are or are not agreed”; and second, “[t]he method of constituting the tribunal and the number of arbitrators.”106
Amusingly, Article 53 of the Hague Convention lays it down that the arbitration is inappropriate if one party declares that “in its opinion the dispute does not belong to the category of disputes which can be submitted to compulsory arbitration.” However, in 1992, when Serbia and Montenegro objected to three of the questions posed by Carrington, claiming that they were outside of the arbitrators’ terms of reference, the Badinter commission ruled that it alone would decide what was and wasn’t within its jurisdiction.107
Rather than explain how existing international law would apply to the conflict in Yugoslavia, Badinter’s commission took it upon itself to rewrite international law altogether. Doubtless that was the reason the E.C. preferred to turn matters over to its own appointed body rather than to the International Court of Justice, the usual forum for resolving legal disputes between states.
The commission’s 13 opinions were literally post-facto in that most of them were issued after the European Community had already recognized Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia. The first opinion came in December 1991, the last in July 1993. The commission made four key rulings. First, it determined that Yugoslavia was a state in dissolution. Therefore, the republics that were seeking to exit Yugoslavia weren’t really seceding. They were responding to an intolerable state of affairs. There was neither a legal nor a factual basis for this finding. Most of Yugoslavia wanted to keep the country going. Slovenia and Croatia were in the minority. In any case, the people of Yugoslavia had not had the opportunity to vote on whether or not to preserve the federation. In addition, Yugoslavia’s constitutional court had already ruled the independence declarations to be illegal. By asserting that Yugoslavia was a state in dissolution, Badinter was essentially prejudging the very issue his commission was set up to arbitrate. The secessionists get everything; the non-secessionists get nothing.
Second, Badinter declared that the internal administrative boundaries drawn up by Tito’s partisans during World War II would be the international frontiers of Yugoslavia’s successor states. Again, this was clearly contrary to Yugoslavia’s constitution. Badinter had adopted the standard Western approach toward Yugoslavia, and indeed toward the former Soviet Union. Communist-era boundaries were deemed sacrosanct, no matter how arbitrarily and opportunistically drawn up. On the other hand, the decisions of the institutions that may have originated in the Communist past were deemed to have no value whatsoever.
Third, Badinter declared that any Yugoslav republic that was interested in becoming an internationally recognized state needed only to hold a referendum on the issue and to pledge undying commitment to the protection of human rights.
Fourth, Badinter declared that the aspirations of those who wanted to remain in Yugoslavia were of no account. Those who wanted to continue to live in Yugoslavia would be unable to do so. Their state would be deemed to be a new state, not the continuation of Yugoslavia. This was really adding insult to injury. Not only had Badinter rewarded the secessionists by granting them all of their wishes, he punished the non-secessionists by refusing to even acknowledge their aspirations.
It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Badinter was seeking to provide a post-facto legal gloss on E.C. policy. The commission justified what it did by pointing to the supposed humanitarian goal at stake, namely, the liberation of oppressed nations.
Curiously enough, there was nothing in Badinter’s opinions about arbitration, nothing about the establishment of a process for resolving disputes. Once Badinter was done, there really was no need to talk any further. The nationalists who had insisted on unilateral and immediate secession got everything they wanted. Therefore, they had no incentive to negotiate something that had already been settled. Those who lost out from Badinter were left with two alternatives. They could accept what European power-brokers had ordained for them and grumble ineffectually about the injustice of it all. Or they could take matters into their own hands, just as the secessionists in Croatia and Slovenia had done. Doubtless, Badinter believed that by presenting the Yugoslavs with a fait accompli, his commission would avert war. In fact, the commission’s rulings made war a certainty. By declaring administrative boundaries to be international frontiers, the commission ensured that any disputes about them would become international conflicts.
The Badinter Maneuvers
The Badinter commission was supposed to answer questions posed by parties to the dispute as transmitted to it by Lord Carrington. However, while Carrington sought out the views of Yugoslavia’s republics, he didn’t bother to solicit the views of the country’s federal government or its constitutional court. He did seek out the personal views of Mesić, who, however, offered his views without consulting the presidency that he nominally headed. Mesić, as usual, served as an advocate on behalf of Croatia.
Crucially, Carrington altered the questions posed by the parties. The dispute that needed arbitrating was the one between the secessionist republics and the federal government. Carrington, however, turned it into a dispute between Serbs and everyone else. For example, Serbia had asked the question: “Is secession a legal act from the standpoint of the United Nations Charter and other rules of international law?” However, Carrington changed this question into a completely different one:
Serbia considers that those Republics which have declared or would declare themselves independent or sovereign have seceded or would secede from the SFRY which would otherwise continue to exist. Other Republics … consider that there is no question of secession, but the question is one of a disintegration or breaking-up of the SFRY as the result of the concurring will of a number of Republics. They consider that the six Republics are to be considered equal successors to the SFRY.
He then asked Badinter for his opinion on the matter. Carrington’s reformulation was significant. Secession isn’t recognized in international law and states abhor it. The Western powers couldn’t go on the record as sanctioning secession. Therefore, if the secession of Croatia and Slovenia were to be recognized, as Germany was demanding, it would have to be called something else. Carrington replaced the term secession by the term disintegration. For the Western powers, avoidance of the word secession had an additional advantage of enabling them to insist that the core state of Yugoslavia, the part that would remain after the secessions, no longer existed.
It was no surprise, therefore, that Badinter did indeed declare Yugoslavia to be a state “in the process of dissolution.” Badinter’s justification for this finding was peculiar. He claimed that the republics had “expressed their desire for independence.” As evidence, he cited the referendums in Croatia, Slovenia, and Macedonia, as well as the sovereignty resolution adopted by the Bosnian parliament in October 1991. But the plebiscites had posed vague, almost incomprehensible questions and had been boycotted in substantial numbers. The constitutionality of Bosnia’s resolution was highly dubious, as even Badinter acknowledged. Neither Macedonia’s plebiscite question nor Bosnia’s sovereignty resolution had even mentioned the word “independence.”
These plebiscites had taken place in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Communism and the first multiparty elections in different republics. There had been no multiparty elections in Yugoslavia. There had been no Yugoslav referendum on the future of Yugoslavia. The governments that had organized these republican plebiscites had not even had time to face re-election. As the SFRY presidency was to note in its bitter response to Badinter’s Opinion No. 1, “no political agreement has been reached in Yugoslavia on the state and political destiny of the country, as a result of a general Yugoslav referendum as advocated by the Presidency of the SFRY.” The referendums that had been held in (a few) republics took place “under conditions of highly exacerbated and even armed conflicts among nations as well as media blockade and closing on the part of some of the republics, as well as in the absence of objective Yugoslav and international control.” The referendums had asked people to “express their will on the basis of questions that were not precise enough, and on the basis of which one cannot definitely and with certainty come to the conclusion about the authentic will of the citizens of the given republic.”
Badinter’s determination lacked any of the legal seriousness that marked the Canadian Supreme Court’s 1998 opinion on the issue of Quebec’s possible secession. Canada’s court pointed out, correctly, that a plebiscite vote for independence does not automatically confer a right to independence:
The democratic vote, by however strong a majority, would have no legal effect on its own and could not push aside the principles of federalism and the rule of law, the rights of individuals and minorities … The negotiations that followed such a vote would address the potential act of secession as well as its possible terms should in fact secession proceed. There would be no conclusions predetermined by law on any issue. Negotiations would need to address the interests of the other provinces, the federal government and Quebec and indeed the rights of all Canadians both within and outside Quebec, and specifically the rights of minorities. The negotiation process would require the reconciliation of the various rights and obligations by negotiation between two legitimate majorities, namely, the majority of the population of Quebec, and that of Canada as a whole.
That’s the point. The secession of any part of a country affects every other part. Therefore, it’s a matter on which every part of a country has to be allowed to have its say. There has to be a nationally agreed upon procedure to address the issue. A locally held plebiscite won’t suffice. It was a point made also by Yugoslavia’s constitutional court apropos of Croatia’s secession. The right to secession, the court said,
cannot be exercised by individual peoples or by documents adopted by their parliaments. This right can be exercised only under specific conditions and in the specific manner agreed upon jointly and severally by all peoples and their republics in accordance with the [SFRY] Constitution. The fact that the [SFRY] Constitution does not contain provisions stipulating the procedure for exercising the right to self-determination, including the right to secession, does not mean that this right can be exercised by unilateral acts.
The same went for Slovenia. Slovenia could not unilaterally declare itself independent of the SFRY until the federal constitution was changed “or until a procedure is determined, on the basis of mutual agreement and the Constitution of the SFRY, on the future arrangement of the relations among the republics, since this would signify a unilateral change in the structure of the [SFRY] and a unilateral alteration of its borders, which is not in accordance with the SFRY Constitution.”
Badinter had craftily made his starting point the assertion that Yugoslavia’s federal organs had ceased to function. They “no longer met the criteria of participation,” the arbitration panel claimed, as they were “powerless to enforce respect for … succeeding ceasefire agreements.” Justifying secession on the ground that secessionists had made the work of government impossible is bad law and even worse morality. By Badinter’s logic, secessionists need only to disrupt the work of government and engage in violence to merit international recognition. It was also the height of impudence for the Western powers — which had threatened the Yugoslav federal government with punishment if it were to resort to force, first to disarm the paramilitaries and second, to end the secessions — now to turn around and cite the inability of the government to exert itself as evidence of its unworthiness to be considered a proper government. Besides, fairness should have dictated that the Croatian secessionists’ failure to enforce respect for ceasefire agreements nullified their claim to a state of their own.
On December 7, 1991, when Badinter published this, his first, opinion, only two of the republics had seceded; most of Yugoslavia was still intact. Crucially, the Western powers that were rushing to declare Yugoslavia to be ancient history had never insisted on a federal plebiscite on the future of Yugoslavia. Clearly, the dissolution of Yugoslavia, which was almost certain to lead to war, was not an outcome the Western powers were anxious to forestall. As Woodward pointed out,
Western powers and organizations enthusiastically welcomed the appearance of competitive elections in 1990 and even the revival of right-wing, exclusionary, ethnic nationalism when it came in the guise of anti-communism. But their apparent commitment to elections … was not strong enough, when republics began to press for independence, to insist that citizens have a chance … to register their preferences on the breakup of the country before it was dissolved. In the decisions made in 1991, Europe accepted without question that the people who had the right to self-determination were the majority nations within the republics, not the Yugoslav people as a whole.108
Badinter’s opinion blithely took no account of what Yugoslavia’s constitutional court had ruled, namely that
Yugoslavia is not a contractual association of sovereign states … Yugoslavia was not created as a federation of sovereign and independent states in the form of republics … but as a federal state of the peoples of Yugoslavia and their republics. Therefore, every republican act by which a republic is declared a sovereign and independent state is an unconstitutional change of the state structure of Yugoslavia, that is, an act of secession.109
Of Yugoslavia’s six republics, only two — Serbia and Montenegro — had existed as independent states before the establishment of Yugoslavia. Interestingly, Serbia and Montenegro were the two states that were keenest on maintaining Yugoslavia.
Carrington also altered the second question that Serbia had posed. Serbia had asked: “Who is entitled to the right to self-determination from the standpoint of public international law: a nation or a federal unit? Is the right to self-determination a subjective, collective right or the right of a territory?” However, the question Carrington transmitted to Badinter was changed to: “Does the Serbian population in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, as one of the constituent peoples of Yugoslavia, have the right to self-determination?” In his response, issued on January 11, 1992, almost a month after Germany had already recognized Croatia and Slovenia, Badinter airily declared that it is “well established” that the “right to self-determination must not involve changes to existing frontiers at the time of independence (uti possidetis juris) except where the States agree otherwise.” Badinter cited no legal opinion to support this extraordinary statement. Nor did he explain how he arrived at the conclusion that Yugoslavia’s existing administrative boundaries merited the label “frontiers.”
The republican borders drawn up by Tito’s Partisans during World War II were never supposed to be anything other than administrative. In his memoirs, Wartime, Milovan Djilas quotes Tito as saying, “With us this will be more of an administrative division, instead of fixed borders, as with the bourgeoisie.”110
Badinter went on to explain that “where there are one or more groups within a State constituting one or more ethnic, religious or language communities, they have the right to recognition of their identity under international law.” Consequently, the Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia had to be “afforded every right accorded to minorities under international conventions.” Badinter had thus not only failed to address the issue that Serbia had raised, namely, who has the right to self-determination, he didn’t even acknowledge Carrington’s point that the Serbs in the SFRY were “one of the constituent peoples of Yugoslavia” and thus possessed of the right to self-determination. Instead, Badinter babbled on about something that was neither here nor there: the rights of minorities.
Although it wasn’t at all clear what Badinter meant by minority rights, it was clear what he did not mean. Minority rights did not include the right to self-determination. The Serbs of Bosnia and Croatia had the right, whether they chose to exercise it or not, to exit Yugoslavia, but not the right to remain in Yugoslavia. They had the right to remain in the independent states of Bosnia and Croatia, but not the right to leave Bosnia or Croatia. Badinter’s message to the Serbs was that they had lost their common state — Yugoslavia — but, not to worry, they would be guaranteed freedom of worship, freedom of assembly, and all the other wonderful freedoms on offer in Europe.
The Badinter commission’s argument wasn’t terribly convincing. If minority rights were really the only issue in contention, then why not stick with the tried and true state? Why not stick with Yugoslavia and promise full minority rights in a state that had already been in existence for more than 70 years? The Western powers would surely be as capable of monitoring Yugoslavia’s compliance with a human rights regime as they would be of monitoring the performance of a half-dozen new states. Wouldn’t one state be easier to guide than six?
Badinter’s most peculiar finding concerned the international frontiers of Yugoslavia’s successor states. In its Opinion No. 3, the Badinter commission declared that Yugoslavia’s internal boundaries had to “become frontiers protected by international law.” Badinter claimed that this conclusion followed from “the principle of respect for the territorial status quo” and from the principle of uti possidetis juris, which, the commission explained, was applied in settling decolonization issues in Africa. In support, Badinter cited the International Court of Justice’s ruling in Burkina Faso v. Mali, which said that the purpose of the principle of uti possidetis was to “prevent the independence and stability of new States being endangered by fratricidal struggles.” Therefore, Badinter claimed, there could be no changes to the boundaries between any of the republics “except by agreement freely arrived at.”
The Burkina Faso decision was of extremely limited relevance to the case of Yugoslavia, as it involved a border dispute between two African states that had formerly been French colonies. It had nothing to do with secession from an existing state. The principle of uti possidetis juris, as it had historically been applied, converted former colonial administrative boundaries into the international borders of newly independent states. However, there was nothing in the Burkina Faso decision to indicate that the ICJ intended this principle to apply in any context other than decolonization. Uti possidetis was designed to prevent border disputes between newly emergent states. “Agreement that existing colonial borders were to be international borders was a precondition to the application of uti possidetis juris in the decolonization context in Latin America and Africa,” international law scholar Peter Radan wrote. But uti possidetis was irrelevant to Yugoslavia, for there were no disputes among the republics over their boundaries within their common existing state. The dispute that had emerged in 1991 was over whether these boundaries could be taken to be international frontiers. The question Carrington had asked Badinter was: “Can the international boundaries between Croatia and Serbia and between Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia be regarded as frontiers in terms of public international law?” Badinter didn’t answer the question, preferring instead to elaborate on why these borders couldn’t be changed.
Furthermore, as Radan pointed out, the principle of “respect for the territorial status quo” was irrelevant to Yugoslavia. This “principle requires that the borders be determined by treaty or agreement. In the case of the SFRY, internal federal borders were not the subject of any legal document or act of any state or republic institution. They were established by the inner sanctum of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia following World War II.”111 They possessed the authority neither of law nor of history.
As proof of the reasonableness of the uti possidetis juris requirement, Badinter pointed triumphantly to Article 5 of the Yugoslavia constitution, which said that the boundaries of the republics could not be altered without their consent. However, Badinter ignored the rest of Article 5, which held that “A border of the SFRY cannot be altered without the concurrence of all republics and autonomous provinces.” In other words, there was no right to unilateral secession. Badinter likewise made no mention of the article’s stipulation that “The territory of the SFRY is indivisible.” Republican borders were inviolable only in the context of the continued existence of Yugoslavia as a whole. This is spelled out in other parts of the 1974 constitution. Articles 283 and 285 stated that only the SFRY assembly could “decide on alteration of the boundaries” of the SFRY.
Yugoslavia did not come into being through a union of pre-existing republics that had determinate borders. It was the nations of Yugoslavia that came together to form a common state. The preamble to the 1974 constitution opens with “The nations of Yugoslavia, proceeding from the right of every nation to self-determination, including the right to secession, on the basis of their freely expressed will … have joined together into a federal republic of free and equal nations and nationalities.”112 It is the nations of Yugoslavia that established a single federal republic of Yugoslavia. It is not individual republics that came together to create a federation of republics. Article 1 said that the SFRY was a “state community of voluntarily united nations and their socialist republics.”
Badinter even had the gall to cite the 1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation Among States, according to which, any alteration “of existing frontiers and boundaries by force is not capable of producing any legal effect.” This was, of course, a highly selective reading of the 1970 declaration. Badinter, much as the ICTY was to do subsequently, arrived at political conclusions, then rummaged around among various legal documents to select various findings, rip them out of context, mix them together, and offer up the resulting stew as weighty legal opinions. That 1970 document, for example, stated:
Nothing … shall be construed as authorizing or encouraging any action which would dismember or impair, totally or in part, the territorial integrity of political unity of sovereign and independent States … Every State shall refrain from any action aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and territorial integrity of any other State or country.
Badinter paid no more attention to this than he paid to Article 5 of the 1974 constitution.
Thus Badinter’s absurd conclusions: the administrative boundaries of the republics are inviolable but the international frontiers of Yugoslavia merit no respect. Self-determination is an inherent right that belongs to territories, not to nations. New states can be trusted to secure the rights of all of their citizens but long-standing states cannot. Minority rights must be vehemently protected, but only as long as such rights don’t include the right of national self-determination.
In Yugoslavia, as in any state, internal boundaries were changed regularly. Such changes were dictated by one administrative exigency or another. By suddenly declaring such borders to be inviolable, Badinter was suggesting that Yugoslavs had been gambling in a casino that, unbeknownst to them, was about to close down for good. The most recent winners on the roulette wheel got to keep all of their winnings. Those on a recent losing streak would have to accept their losses were permanent, as the house was closed for business.
But the Badinter commission wasn’t done yet. In order to reach the desired outcome — the legally existing state of Yugoslavia, having ceased to exist, must be replaced by a half-dozen or so tiny, weak states — it now had to reverse itself. The commission had invoked the principle of uti possidetis to argue that republics deserve international recognition within their inviolable administrative boundaries. But Badinter now turned around to say that uti possidetis did not apply to the core of Yugoslavia, namely, that core that wished to continue as the successor-state to Yugoslavia. Instead, Badinter declared that, as the state of Yugoslavia had ceased to exist, the remnant of Yugoslavia that had not seceded was a new state. It would therefore have to reapply for entry to the United Nations.
“The FRY [Federal Republic of Yugoslavia],” the commission declared, “is a new state that cannot be considered to be the sole successor of the SFRY.” Badinter’s ruling was bizarre, for it contradicted international practice: Russia was taken to be the successor-state of the USSR; Pakistan wasn’t required to reapply to the United Nations after the 1970 secession of East Pakistan and its emergence as the new state of Bangladesh, even though the population size of the latter was greater than that of Pakistan; post-Independence India took over British India’s seat at the U.N. even though its territory had been massively reduced through partition. Badinter didn’t bother to explain why the case of Yugoslavia was different.
Badinter v. Bosnia
Badinter had to say something about Bosnia, a republic that was rapidly heading toward catastrophe. On November 10, 1991, Bosnia’s Serbs voted in a plebiscite to remain in Yugoslavia. On December 21, the Bosnian Serb assembly passed a resolution calling for the formation of a Serbian Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina within a federal Yugoslavia if Bosnia’s Muslims and Croats decided to “change their attitude toward Yugoslavia.” On January 9, 1992, the Bosnian Serb assembly proclaimed the independence of a “Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” with its capital as Sarajevo. A constitution for the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was promulgated on March 16. The preamble reiterated the Serb argument, namely, that the right to self-determination inhered in nations, not in territories. “Proceeding from the inalienable and non-transferable natural right of the Serb people to self-determination … on the basis of which it freely determines its political status.” The republic was proclaimed a “part of the federal state of Yugoslavia.”
Bosnia’s Croats also prepared to secede from Bosnia. Their preferred destination was not Yugoslavia but Tudjman’s Croatia. On August 18, 1990, Bosnia’s Croats established the Croatian Democratic Union (Hrvatska Demokratska Zajednica Bosnia, HDZ). It was closely linked to the Croatian party of the same name led by Tudjman. The Bosnian Croats in no time set up their own state in Western Herzegovina, the “Croatian Community of Herzeg-Bosna,” with Mostar as its capital. Mate Boban was its leader; it had its own flag (derived from the flag of Croatia), its own armed forces, and its own currency, which was the Croatian kuna. “The Croatian national cause was quickly embraced by the Western Herzegovinians, who had broken all ties with the central government in Sarajevo as early as the spring of 1991 and formed a Croat crisis staff in the fall of that year while at the same time organizing paramilitary units to defend the region,” wrote one scholar.113
Bosnia, according to Badinter’s Opinion No. 4 issued on January 11, 1992, did not yet merit recognition as an independent state. This was because the will of the people of Bosnia “cannot be held to have been fully established.” However, rather than apply common sense and point out that the will of the people of Bosnia could only be established if all of the republic’s constituent nations were polled, Badinter announced that the commission would be satisfied with a single “referendum of all the citizens … without distinction, carried out under international supervision.” Since Badinter knew that the Serbs would boycott any referendum in which they were likely to be outvoted by Bosnia’s Muslims and Croats, the commission was sanctioning something that Bosnia’s constitution was designed to avoid, namely, two constituent nations ganging up on the third. It was certainly a strange way of protecting human rights.
On January 25, 1992, while the Serb representatives were absent (they had withdrawn from the chamber following the October 14 memorandum maneuver), Bosnia’s national assembly voted to hold a plebiscite to ask voters the question: “Are you in favor of a sovereign and independent Bosnia and Herzegovina?” Karadžić immediately discounted the results of any such referendum. The Bosnian Serbs had already held a referendum in November 1991. “The Serbian people have held a plebiscite and voted for staying in Yugoslavia with all those who wish to do so,” he said.
The Bosnian referendum nonetheless went ahead on February 29 and March 1, 1992. As expected, the Serbs boycotted the proceedings. Of those who voted, 99.44% were in favor. That was good enough for Badinter, though it shouldn’t have been. While 99.44% may sound like an overwhelming majority, it only amounted to 63.37% of Bosnia’s eligible voters. And that, according to Bosnia’s constitution, was not enough to effect constitutional change. In July 1990, the Bosnian assembly had adopted a constitutional amendment that specified the number of votes needed to bring about fundamental change in Bosnia. Amendment LXII stated that the borders of Bosnia “may be altered by a decision of the [assembly] only in accordance with the will of the people of the entire Republic as expressed by at least two-thirds of registered voters in a referendum.”114 63.37% was obviously not 66.67%.
Furthermore, according to Amendment LXXVII, any bill to amend the constitution could be considered adopted only “if voted for by two-thirds of the total number of deputies of each SRBH Assembly Chapter.” This obviously had not happened because the Serbs had left the assembly. To be sure, Karadžić’s withdrawal from the Bosnian assembly may have been of dubious legality, but it had come in response to moves on the part of the assembly’s Muslim and Croat parties that were also of dubious legality. In any case, it was the height of irresponsibility for Badinter to ignore the Serb boycott and to pretend that the views of all of Bosnia’s citizens had been solicited.
Thus Bosnia — a territory that had never existed as an independent state, having been passed from the ottomans to the Habsburgs to the Karadjordjeviches to the Fascist Independent State of Croatia to Tito’s Yugoslavia; a territory that in 1992 comprised armed groups ready to wage war against one another; a territory presided over by a government with no resources and no authority beyond downtown Sarajevo, this non-existent state — was nonetheless deemed worthy of membership of all the august international institutions.
Badinter’s reasoning was particularly absurd in light of Opinion No. 1, according to which Yugoslavia was no longer in existence because it was supposedly “in the process of dissolution.” As evidence, Badinter had cited the failure of federal authorities to meet the “criteria of participation and representativeness” and “to enforce respect for the succeeding ceasefire agreements concluded under the auspices” of the E.C. and the U.N. These considerations apparently did not apply to the entirely imaginary state of Bosnia.
The E.C. Recognitions
The Badinter recommendations were guaranteed to trigger a mad rush for the exits in Yugoslavia and thus catastrophe. It was not just the Serbs who overnight lost their Yugoslav citizenship and became minorities in states to which they didn’t want to belong. There were also the Kosovo Albanians who now became a minority within Serbia. There were the Albanians in Macedonia who lost their Yugoslav citizenship and became Macedonians. There were Bosnia’s Croats who wanted to join a newly independent Croatia. The secessionists had used force to get what they wanted. If Croatia’s and Slovenia’s seizures of their republican borders could transform them into international frontiers, then why shouldn’t any seizure of land today turn out to be a state frontier tomorrow? Badinter’s bland acceptance of Croatia’s and Slovenia’s unilateral acts as a fait accompli was bound to lead others to conclude that what counts for the so-called international community is use of force to change the facts on the ground. Thus the Balkan wars’ distinctive feature: ethnic cleansing, the purpose of which was to forge new territorial arrangements in anticipation of the next round of international arbitration.
Though Badinter’s recommendations were supposed to be advisory, not binding, the European Community immediately took them to be binding, except of course whenever political expedience suggested that they not be binding. By December 1991, it was clear that the E.C. had lost whatever resistance it once had to Germany’s recognition agenda. On December 16, the E.C. promulgated guidelines for the recognition of new states. To merit recognition, new states would need to demonstrate a commitment to human rights and to the inviolability of frontiers. Crucially, the E.C. stipulated that applicants for recognition “accept the provisions laid down in the draft convention — especially those in Chapter II on human rights and rights of national or ethnic groups — under consideration by the Conference on Yugoslavia.” The draft convention, which Carrington had presented on October 25, had urged “special status of autonomy” for minorities. The E.C. also announced that any Yugoslav republic had until December 23 to apply for recognition. Four of Yugoslavia’s republics, including Bosnia, applied for recognition as independent states.
By issuing this declaration, the E.C. was signaling that it had already pre-judged the issues the Badinter had been appointed to resolve. The reference to minorities indicated that a republic could expect to enjoy recognition as the nation-state of the most populous nation within it. This was particularly absurd when applied to Bosnia, since it suggested that Bosnia was the nation-state of the Bosnians. No such people had ever existed. Residents of Bosnia identified themselves as Muslims, Serbs, and Croats. Yet Bosnia’s secession was now inevitable. Izetbegović had vowed to declare independence the moment Croatia and Slovenia were accepted as no longer part of Yugoslavia.
With war in Bosnia a virtual certainty, Carrington now tried to halt the E.C. juggernaut. On December 2, he wrote a letter to Van den Broek in which he pointed out that, “An early recognition of Croatia would undoubtedly mean the break-up of the conference. There is also a real danger, perhaps even a probability, that Bosnia Herzegovina would also ask for independence and recognition, which would be wholly unacceptable to the Serbs in that republic … This might well be the spark that sets Bosnia Herzegovina alight.”115 Perez de Cuellar also foresaw catastrophe and he too pleaded with the E.C. not to go ahead with recognition. On December 10, the U.N. secretary-general wrote to Van den Broek warning against premature recognition. “I am deeply worried that any early, selective recognition could widen the present conflict and fuel an explosive situation in Bosnia-Hercegovina and also Macedonia; indeed, serious consequences could ensue for the entire Balkan region,” he said.116
In response, on December 13, German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher wrote to Perez de Cuellar arguing that refusal to recognize Croatia and Slovenia
would necessarily lead to a further escalation of the use of violence by the JNA since they would regard this as a confirmation of their policy of aggression. I would like to point out that according to the Helsinki Final Act and the Paris Charter, the borders in Europe are inviolable and cannot be changed by force. Therefore, the E.C. has demanded that the internal and external borders of Yugoslavia be respected.117
Again the equation: recognition is humanitarian; non-recognition is a vote for violence. In his reply, Perez de Cuellar pointed to the startling “omission” from Genscher’s letter “of any reference to the common position” adopted by the E.C. foreign ministers in Rome on November 8, namely, that recognition can only be envisaged within the context of an overall political settlement. There had been nothing remotely approaching a political settlement. Like Carrington, the U.N. chief warned that “early selective recognitions could result in a widening of the present conflict” to Bosnia and Macedonia.118
These last-minute interventions failed. On December 19, just three days after the E.C. had issued its guidelines, Germany broke ranks and recognized Croatia and Slovenia. Though the international borders of Yugoslavia had been altered through manifestly non-peaceful means, the non-international boundaries of Croatia and Slovenia had remained intact. Germany was therefore able to pretend that its action was in accord with the Helsinki Final Act and that its unilateral move was prompted by the German people’s heightened sensitivity to the oppression of nations.
On January 15, 1992, the E.C. followed Germany’s lead and recognized Croatia and Slovenia, claiming the two states had met the conditions laid down by Badinter and its own December 16 guidelines. The E.C.’s claim was wholly untrue. To qualify for independent statehood, Croatia, according to Badinter, needed to amend its constitution to grant “special status” to the Serbs. Croatia had refused to do so. On January 11, 1992, Badinter had issued Opinion No. 5, which stated that Croatia’s constitution had “not fully incorporated all the provisions of the draft Convention … notably those contained in Chapter II, Article 2(c), under the heading ‘Special status.’” Acceptance of the human rights provisions of Carrington’s draft convention had also been one of the requirements for recognition that the E.C. had insisted on in its December 16 declaration. Croatia never did amend the constitution. But that didn’t trouble the Europeans too much. To get the E.C. off the hook, the Germans pressed Tudjman into writing a letter to Badinter on January 13 assuring him that Croatia fully intended to accommodate its Serb minority. That’s all the E.C. needed.
Amusingly, the E.C. refused to recognize Macedonia even though, according to Badinter’s Opinion No. 6, it did merit recognition. Unlike Croatia, Macedonia had satisfied the E.C.’s December 16 guidelines. The reason for the E.C.’s reluctance was not the refusal of some 25% of Macedonia’s population — the Albanians — to take part in the independence referendum. What troubled the Europeans was Macedonia’s name, which Greece, an E.C. member, found irksome. Greece claimed that Macedonia was located in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, incorporating the territories of ancient Macedon.
Having ignored Badinter’s recommendations in regard to Croatia, Bosnia, and Macedonia, the Europeans decided to follow scrupulously the opinion pertaining to the Yugoslav core state. Opinion No. 10 stated that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) was “a new state” and could not be considered to be “the sole successor of the SFRY.” On June 29, 1992, the European Council declared that neither the E.C. nor its member states would “recognize the new federal entity comprising Serbia and Montenegro as the successor State of the former Yugoslavia.” In addition, the European Union would “demand the suspensions of the delegation of Yugoslavia in the proceedings at [the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe] and other international forums and organization.” On July 20, the E.U. announced that, in light of Badinter’s findings, it would “oppose the participation of Yugoslavia in international bodies.”
Interestingly, on April 27, the FRY promulgated a new constitution. It was packed with the sort of human rights and minority rights boilerplate beloved by the E.C. and by Badinter:
The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia shall recognize and guarantee the rights of national minorities to preserve, foster and express their ethnic, cultural, linguistic and other peculiarities, as well as to use their national symbols, in accordance with international law … Freedom of the expression of national sentiments and culture and the use of one’s mother tongue and script shall be guaranteed … Members of national minorities shall have the right to education in their own language, in conformity with the law … Members of national minorities shall have the right to information media in their own language … Any incitement or encouragement of national, racial, religious or other inequality as well as the incitement and fomenting of national, racial, religious or other hatred and intolerance shall be unconstitutional and punishable.
Article 2 declared that the FRY “shall be composed of the Republic of Serbia and the Republic of Montenegro.” No other territories of Yugoslavia, no Serbs residing anywhere other than in Serbia and Montenegro were deemed as belonging to Yugoslavia. Neither the Serb Republic of Krajina nor the Bosnian Serb Republic was part of the FRY. This did nothing to still the cry that Belgrade was seeking to create a Greater Serbia by laying claim to lands belonging to its neighbors.
These commitments made no difference. The constitution committed the cardinal sin of stressing the “unbroken continuity of Yugoslavia.” Washington and Brussels were determined not to recognize the FRY; unlike Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia, it was not permitted to take part in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.
Croatia and Bosnia, which had not fulfilled the E.C.’s or Badinter’s conditions, were now accepted as independent states. Macedonia, which had fulfilled those conditions, wasn’t accepted. The Croatian government did not control about a third of its territory; the Bosnian government controlled little but downtown Sarajevo, if that. Yugoslavia, which was in effective control of its territory, was deemed not to exist.
Sabotaging a Last-Ditch Peace Effort
The Bosnian catastrophe that Carrington and Perez de Cuellar had foreseen was now all but certain. In urging Bosnia to hold a referendum on independence, one that would inevitably be boycotted by one of Bosnia’s three constituent nations, one comprising a third of its population, Badinter and the E.C. were leading Izetbegović to disaster.
On the eve of Bosnia’s international recognition, for the first and probably the last time, there was a rush of common sense among some international worthies. There was a sudden realization that, in order to avoid a catastrophe similar to the one that befell Croatia, it might be prudent to secure a political agreement among the republic’s three nations before a proclamation of independence rather than afterward. The sudden outburst of sanity didn’t last long.
On February 23, 1992, with Portugal holding the E.C. presidency, the country’s foreign minister, Jose Cutileiro, organized a last-minute E.C. conference on Bosnia. Attending the meeting in Lisbon were Radovan Karadžić on behalf of the Bosnian Serbs, Mate Boban on behalf of the Croats, and Alija Izetbegović on behalf of the Muslims. Bosnia’s Serbs, who had previously refused to countenance any other option but remaining within Yugoslavia, were now prepared to accept an independent state of Bosnia, provided the state was divided into three separate units. “We cannot accept the loss of the state of Yugoslavia without getting our own state within Bosnia-Hercegovina,” Karadžić explained. “Either we remain in Yugoslavia, or else we will get a sovereign state in Bosnia-Hercegovina which will form an alliance of states, that is a confederation, together with the other two states.”119
Bosnia’s Croats were also receptive to the idea. With Bosnia’s referendum scheduled for February 29, the Muslim-Croat alliance was suddenly on the brink of collapse. The Croats and the Serbs both now adopted the position that Bosnia should be a state community of three sovereign nations and not a single, unitary state. Izetbegović, on the other hand, continued to insist that Bosnia should be treated like any other Yugoslav republic with sovereignty belonging exclusively to a so-called Bosnian nation.
Cutileiro put forward a plan providing for decentralization, consensual decision-making, and restrictions on simple majority rule. The plan envisaged Bosnia as “a state comprising a number of constituent units, along national principles.” Sovereignty, the plan announced, “rests with members of the Muslim, Serbian and Croatian peoples and other peoples and nationalities who exercise it through their civic participation in the constituent units and the republic’s central organs.” The plan was thus in conformity with Bosnia’s constitution.
The United States was distinctly unenthusiastic about Cutileiro’s proposal. Having been outmaneuvered by the Germans on Croatia and Slovenia, and by the E.C. in general on Yugoslavia, the Americans were scrambling to get in on the action. If Croatia and Slovenia were to be in Germany’s column, Bosnia would belong to the Americans. U.S. Secretary of State James Baker told Haris Silajdžić, Bosnia’s foreign minister, that Washington expected Bosnia’s three warring factions to accept Cutileiro’s plan. However, Baker immediately undercut this by assuring Silajdžić that the application for recognition that Bosnia had submitted to the E.C. on December 20 would be granted given the maturity and responsibility that the republic’s leaders had demonstrated. With recognition of independence assured, Bosnia’s Muslims went to Lisbon with little incentive to reach an agreement.
Nonetheless, on March 18, it appeared as if the leaders of Bosnia’s three national communities had agreed on a formula of independence plus cantonal division. The leaders of Bosnia’s constituent nations signed a statement of principles. Bosnia’s parliament would have two houses. One house would comprise a chamber of citizens; its members would be elected directly. The other house would be a chamber of the constituent units; each constituent unit would have an equal number of representatives. Vital national and constitutional issues would be decided on by the chamber of constituent units by a majority vote of four-fifths of the total number of its representatives.120 Maps of the constituent units would be drawn up by a working group composed of three members from each of the three nations, as well as three people, including the chairman, nominated by the E.C.121
Bosnia’s assembly would have to approve the draft of this constitutional solution. Cutileiro promised that before the draft became law, Bosnia would hold an internationally supervised referendum.
However, the deal was a non-starter from the start. On March 10, the E.C. and the United States declared their intent to recognize Bosnia and expressed strong opposition to “any effort to undermine the stability and territorial integrity” of either Bosnia or Macedonia. This time it was the Americans, not the Germans, who acted as spoilers. Baker urged the European foreign ministers “to recognize Mr. Izetbegović’s Government immediately.” In return, Washington would recognize Croatia and Slovenia. Meanwhile, U.S. policymakers were pressing the Europeans to “stop pushing ethnic cantonization of Bosnia.”122
Once again, the Western powers were only too happy to ignore Badinter’s recommendations whenever it suited them. Badinter had said that Bosnia’s request for recognition could only be considered after a “referendum of all the citizens … without distinction.” The meaning was clear. Recognition could be considered only after a referendum in which Bosnia’s Muslims, Croats, and Serbs had all taken part. Nothing of the sort had occurred. Wisely, neither the Europeans nor the Americans made any attempt to ascertain whether the Bosnian referendum had met Badinter’s conditions. They simply assumed that it had, even though the Serbs, the second-largest constituent nation of Bosnia, had boycotted it.
The March 18 Cutileiro-sponsored agreement had thus put a spanner in the works. The Americans made no secret of their unhappiness with what had taken place in Lisbon. “Izetbegović’s acceptance of partition, which would have denied him and his Muslim party a dominant role in the republic, shocked not only his supporters at home, but also United States policymakers.”123 Through the intervention of Zimmermann, the United States moved, as it was to do many times during the next few years, to sabotage the agreement. Zimmermann called on Izetbegović in Sarajevo. “The Bosnian leader complained bitterly that the European Community and the Bosnian Serbs and Croats had pressured him to accept partition. ‘He said he didn’t like it,’ Mr. Zimmermann recalled. ‘I told him, if he didn’t like it, why sign it?’”124
With U.S. support under his belt and with the international community apparently ready to accept an independent Bosnia with or without cantonization, Izetbegović withdrew his signature from the Lisbon agreement. The division of Bosnia was out of the question, he announced. He had agreed to the Cutileiro plan, he explained, only because he had been subjected to so much pressure. “The European mediators forced us to accept this document … because if we had said no, Bosnia-Hercegovina’s international legal recognition — our main objective at present — would have been jeopardized.”125
A last-minute deal that might have averted war had been successfully thwarted. In a final plea to Western leaders, Karadžić warned that, in the event of recognition, Bosnia’s Serbs would organize their own state within Bosnia. In January 1992, Bosnia’s Serbs had already proclaimed a separate republic of Serbian people in Bosnia. If the Western powers insisted on recognition, Karadžić suggested, they should extend it to the confederation of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The U.S. and the E.U. ignored Karadžić’s plea and rushed to recognize a state that was little more than three warring factions facing off against one another. On April 6, the E.C. recognized Bosnia. On the following day, in accordance with the Washington-Brussels deal, the United States recognized Bosnia, Croatia, and Slovenia.126 Bosnia’s Serbs, as Karadžić had promised, set up their own state: the Serb republic of Bosnia proclaimed its independence from Bosnia and its continuing membership of Yugoslavia.
To be sure, negotiations under Cutileiro’s chairmanship on a constitutional solution for Bosnia continued in a desultory fashion for a little while longer. Needless to say, Izetbegović was thoroughly unenthusiastic about prolonging discussions at the end of which he was bound to end up with less than he had already been given. Cutileiro had to plead with him to return to Lisbon; the E.C. even arranged for a special plane to get him there.
On May 6, in Graz, Austria, Karadžić met Franjo Boras, representative of the Bosnian Croats. After the meeting, Karadžić expressed satisfaction, claiming that the two sides had agreed on Bosnia’s cantonization and that a map of Bosnia-Herzegovina would be ready by May 15. On hearing of these talks at Graz, U.S. Senator Robert Dole (R-Kan.) fired off an angry letter to Tudjman, accused the Serbs and Croats of reaching a deal at the expense of the Muslims. Muslim-Croat deals at the expense of the Serbs were fine; Serb-Croat deals at the expense of the Muslims were abhorrent.
Tudjman now had some fence-mending to do. Dole had long been a keen supporter of Croatia.127 Loss of his patronage on Capitol Hill would be a serious blow. Tudjman knew how to get around Dole: he denounced the Serbs and Communists. The Croats were seeking a reasonable solution, Tudjman explained. The Serbs were “conducting armed aggression against” Bosnia. The Muslims were not much better. They were “in favor of a sovereign and unitarian Bosnia-Hercegovina — as it had been during the communist reign.”128 It was the Croatian side that had come up with “a rational and compromise solution” at the Lisbon conference, namely, preservation of “the sovereignty and integrity of Bosnia-Hercegovina, which would consist of three constituent nations living in their cantons.” The purpose of the bilateral talks in Austria had been to “win over the Serbian side to end the aggression and to agree on peaceful talks between all three nations.” Sadly, he doubted that the Serbs could be won over to the camp of peace. Dole wasn’t buying any of this and the Serb-Croat talks came to an end.
With the situation in Bosnia deteriorating daily, Carrington decided that the Lisbon talks had to be reconvened whether a ceasefire was in place or not. On May 19, the E.C. sent out letters of invitation, drafted by Carrington, to Bosnia’s leaders saying that “only a political agreement based on principles laid down on March 18 by the three parties” could be the basis for lasting peace. In addition to the inviolability of Bosnia’s frontiers and the unacceptability of territorial gains by force, Carrington listed a third guiding principle for the talks: an independent Bosnia would be “formed by three constitutional units, as set down on March 18.”129 Again, Izetbegović was being asked to discuss something he abhorred.
Talks were scheduled to open on May 21. Karadžić and Boban arrived on time; Izetbegović refused to attend. In his place, he sent Haris Silajdžić, Bosnia’s foreign minister. But Silajdžić didn’t arrive in Lisbon until May 23. “The sooner we draw maps, that is, the sooner we agree on delineation, the sooner the war would end,” Karadžić declared at the start of the talks. On May 23, however, the E.C. announced that it was studying what further sanctions it could impose on Yugoslavia. And, on May 24, U.S. Secretary of State Baker announced that he would seek to pressure the United Nations to impose sanctions on Yugoslavia. Quite why Yugoslavia was to blame was a little baffling; for months, the stumbling block had been Izetbegović’s refusal to countenance a cantonal division of Bosnia. Failure of the Lisbon conference was assured.
A total collapse of the talks was secured three days later. On May 27, an enormous explosion took place in Sarajevo, killing at least 17 people queuing for bread outside a bakery. The Muslims immediately blamed the deaths on a Serb mortar attack and pulled out of the Lisbon talks.130 The Serbs denied the accusations, but that made no difference. The same day, before any kind of investigation of the incident could even begin, the E.C. announced an almost complete ban on trade with Yugoslavia. All forms of scientific and technological cooperation with Yugoslavia were suspended, and all export credits frozen. The E.C. also announced that it was withdrawing the various trade concessions that it had dangled before Montenegro in order to induce it to break with Serbia. A gleeful E.C. diplomat was quoted as saying, “The Serbian economy is already close to collapse, with inflation approaching 100 percent annually. These additional measures will bite very hard indeed and must cause the Serbian government to think again about its expansionist strategy elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia.”131
Enter Cyrus Vance
On October 8, 1991, Slovenia and Croatia announced that they were now independent states. Since the E.C. had spectacularly failed to bring the fighting in Croatia to an end, it was now time to turn matters over to the United Nations. Acting as the personal envoy of U.N. Secretary-General Perez de Cuellar, former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance stepped into the Croatian imbroglio. Vance succeeded in negotiating a deal: the Croatian paramilitaries would lift their siege of the JNA barracks; the JNA would withdraw from Croatia; the areas in which the Serbs resided would become U.N.-protected areas; and U.N. peacekeepers would take over from the JNA as protectors of those areas. Furthermore, the United Nations promised the Croatian Serbs that they would not “be subject to the laws and institutions of the Republic of Croatia during the interim period pending a political settlement.”
Vance’s “basic approach,” according to a December 1991 report by the U.N. secretary-general, was to place U.N. peacekeeping forces “in those areas of Croatia in which Serbs constitute the majority or a substantial minority of the population and where inter-communal tensions have led to armed conflict in the recent past.”132 Perez de Cuellar’s language was measured — and accurate: These were not Serb-conquered or Serb-held areas; they were areas in which the Serbs resided and had done so for centuries. In addition, local police “forces would be formed from residents of the [area] in question, in proportions reflecting the national composition of the population which lived in it before the recent hostilities.” This was a particularly crucial point since the conflict in Croatia was triggered by the arrival of Croat police units to replace local forces in the Serb areas.
The four United Nations Protected Areas (UNPAs) were to be Eastern Slavonia (Sector East), Western Slavonia (Sector West), Southern Krajina (Sector South), and Northern Krajina (Sector North). The areas were to be demilitarized, with the U.N. forces ensuring that “all persons residing in them were protected from fear of armed attack.” There remained the tricky issue of where to deploy the peacekeepers. Croatia wanted them placed at the border with Serbia. The Krajina Serbs wanted them along the ceasefire line between the Croat and Serb forces. That way they would be monitoring a de facto border between Krajina and Croatia. Vance, however, insisted on an “inkblot plan”: U.N. forces would be stationed “at points of tension throughout the contested region.”133 The peacekeepers would be within the protected areas, not at the confrontation lines. However, they would control access to the UNPAs through checkpoints on all roads leading into them.
The proposed withdrawal of the JNA alarmed the Croatian Serbs. They suspected — rightly, as it turned out — that the U.N. forces would fail to protect them against a rearmed, resurgent Croatia. Milošević, however, welcomed the plan, and he, along with Yugoslavia’s federal authorities, prevailed upon the Croatian Serbs to accept it.
The leader of the Croatian Serbs tried vainly to thwart the Vance-negotiated plan. On January 8, 1992, Milan Babić, president of the Serbian Krajina, wrote an open letter to the Belgrade newspaper Politika protesting the agreement. Babić pointed out that an extension of the term of the peacekeeping mission would require the approval of Croatia’s government. If the Krajina were disarmed, was it likely that Croatia would agree to prolong the presence of the U.N. peacekeepers? After the withdrawal of the U.N., wouldn’t any reintroduction of Yugoslav forces to help the Krajina be regarded as aggression against Croatia? The questions were reasonable. Milošević dismissed Babić’s concerns but without answering the points he had raised. The assembly of the Republika Srpska Krajina accepted the Vance plan. Later on, the assembly replaced Babić.
The so-called Vance Plan was explicit about not prejudicing the outcome of final status negotiations. “The deployment of the force would not prejudge the outcome of the political process: on the contrary, its purpose would be to stop the fighting and to create the conditions in which political negotiation could take place,” the U.N. secretary-general said in his report.134 This was repeated in the formulation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 743, adopted on February 21, 1992, which established a United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) to implement the peacekeeping plan. The Vance plan was “in no way intended to prejudge the terms of a political settlement.” The ceasefire had presupposed neither Croatia’s final borders nor the status of Croatia’s Serbs. “Because there had been no decisive military victory,” Woodward wrote, “the ceasefire … could only be achieved if both parties saw it as not prejudicing the final outcome. It would create a stalemate ‘without prejudice,’ as the Vance Plan for the U.N.-monitored ceasefire declared.”135
In fact, according to the Vance plan, the peacekeeping operation was to be an “interim arrangement to create the conditions of peace and security required for the negotiation of an overall settlement of the Yugoslav crisis.” In other words, resolution of the crisis in Croatia was inseparable from an overall political settlement in Yugoslavia. It was precisely this stricture that Germany, and subsequently the E.C., was seeking to evade by extending recognition to two republics in the absence of any overall political settlement.
The E.C.’s recognition of Croatia on January 15 immediately resolved all outstanding issues in Croatia’s favor. The E.C.’s move overnight turned the Krajina Serbs into rebels who had no choice but to accept the rule of Zagreb. This was made formal when Croatia became a member of the United Nations in May 1992. By March 30, 1993, when the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 815, the UNPAs were referred to as “integral parts of the territory of the Republic of Croatia.” The outcome of the final status negotiations was no longer in any doubt, and the Croatian government had little incentive to offer any concessions. As Boutros-Ghali was to write, “it was repeatedly emphasized to the local Serb leadership in what were to become UNPAs that … the only basis for a settlement was their acceptance of Croatian sovereignty in return for guarantees of their minority rights.”136
The Croatian Serbs had suffered a considerable injustice, something that could not be remedied by soothing words from Zagreb about minority rights. The Krajina had not been part of historical Croatia. As David Owen pointed out, the Krajina was military frontier territory between the Habsburg and Ottoman empires — “areas which had been ruled from Vienna, but not from Zagreb.” It resisted incorporation into Croatia. The Serbs who lived there had escaped persecution at the hands of the Ottomans and had been recruited by the Habsburgs to serve as frontier guards against the encroachments of the Ottomans. Indeed, the Krajina was only awarded to Croatia in 1881, after Bosnia and Herzegovina came under the administration of Austria-Hungary, in accordance with the 1878 Congress of Berlin. Croatia at that time was, of course, not an independent state, but a part of Hungary. “With the new lands, Croatia added 61 percent more territory and 663,000 more people, of which 55 percent were Serbs.”137
In 1991, Serbs constituted an absolute majority in 11 communes and a relative majority in two communes in the 13 communes that constituted the territory known as Krajina. According to the 1981 census, within the 11 absolute Serbian majority communes, Croats made up only 22% of the population and Serbs 69%. Of the 8% who classified themselves as Yugoslavs, the overwhelming majority were Serbs.138 “Very few commentators … understood or acknowledged that when the Croatian government attacked the Krajina they were not ‘retaking’ or ‘reoccupying’ this land, for the Serbs had inhabited it for more than three centuries,” Owen correctly pointed out.139 Needless to say, the ICTY has been a leading purveyor of the story that the Serbs had somehow “occupied” Krajina, even though they had lived there for centuries. Its indictment of Milošević explained that, “Under the Vance Plan, four United Nations Protected Areas (UNPAs) were established in the areas occupied by Serb forces. The Vance Plan called for the withdrawal of the JNA from Croatia and for the return of displaced persons to their homes in the UNPAs. Although the JNA officially withdrew from Croatia in May 1992, large portions of its weaponry and personnel remained in the Serb-held areas … The territory of the RSK remained under Serb occupation until large portions of it were re-taken by Croatian forces in two operations in 1995.”
It was now simply a matter of time before Croatia would move against the Serbs in order to assert sovereignty over territory that the West deemed belonged rightfully to Zagreb. As UNPROFOR commander General Lewis MacKenzie pointed out, the Croats made little pretense that their acceptance of the Vance Plan was anything other than a tactical maneuver to buy time before mounting an attack against Croatia’s Serbs: “I got the distinct feeling that [the Croats] had signed the Vance Plan for reasons well beyond the basic one of stopping the war. Once the U.N. Protection Force was in place, the plan called for the JNA to withdraw to what was left of the former Yugoslavia. The Croatians barely camouflaged their intention to regain control over the UNPAs with the JNA out of the way, using force if necessary.”140
Chapter 1 Notes:
1) Susan L. Woodward, Balkan Tragedy: Chaos and Dissolution After the Cold War (Washington: The Brookings Institution, 1995), p. 59.
2) Diana Johnstone, Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2002), p. 21.
3) “In Yugoslavia, Rising Ethnic Strife Brings Fears of Worse Civil Conflict,” New York Times, November 1, 1987.
4) Official Gazette of the Socialist Republic of Serbia, Year XLV No. 11, Belgrade, March 28, 1989.
5) SFRY Official Gazette, No. 37, May 20, 1991.
7) “Second Front: Dole’s Women,” The Guardian, March 18, 1996.
8) “The GOP’s Tangled Foreign Policy,” Investor’s Business Daily, March 4, 1999.
9) Johnstone, Fools’ Crusade, p. 23.
10) Warren Zimmermann, Origins of a Catastrophe (New York: Times Books, 1996), p. 47.
11) Official Gazette of the SFRY, February 23, 1990, No. 10, p. 593.
12) Fred Singleton, A Short History of the Yugoslav Peoples (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 177-178.
13) “Tudjman Is Dead; Croat Led Country out of Yugoslavia,” New York Times, December 11, 1999.
14) Ana S. Trbovich, A Legal Geography of Yugoslavia’s Disintegration (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 166.
15) Lenard J. Cohen, Broken Bonds: Yugoslavia’s Disintegration and Balkan Politics in Transition (Boulder: Westview Press, 1995), p. 131.
16) Ibid., p. 211.
17) “Hope and History in Yugoslavia,” Washington Post, November 19, 1991.
18) Zimmermann, Origins of a Catastrophe, p. 150.
19) David Owen, Balkan Odyssey (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1995), pp. 73-74.
20) Cohen, Broken Bonds, p. 132.
21) Borislav Jović, Last Days of the SFRY, ICTY Legal Library.
22) “The War Was Won By Blockading the Garrisons,” Novi Vjesnik, February 7, 1993, ICTY Legal Library.
23) Woodward, Balkan Tragedy, p. 158.
24) Laura Silber and Alan Little, The Death of Yugoslavia (London: Penguin, 1995), p. 117.
25) Milošević Trial Transcript, February 14, 2003, p. 16142.
26) Silber and Little, The Death of Yugoslavia, p. 121.
28) Jović, Last Days of the SFRY.
29) Zimmermann, Origins of a Catastrophe, p. 73.
30) Ibid., p. 62.
31) “U.S., Citing Human Rights, Halts Aid to Yugoslavia,” New York Times, May 19, 1991.
32) Zimmermann, Origins of a Catastrophe, p. 152.
33) “Why Keep Yugoslavia One Country?” New York Times, November 10, 1990.
34) “Don’t Turn Yugoslavia into Europe’s Lebanon,” New York Times, December 3, 1990.
35) “U.S. Confirms Suspension of Aid to Yugoslavia,” Agence France Presse, May 20, 1991.
36) “Rumors of U.S. Aid Halt, Possible Intervention Set Off Yugoslav Furor,” Los Angeles Times, May 24, 1991.
37) Jović, Last Days of the SFRY.
38) “Slobodan Milošević Supports Jović; Rejects Authority of SFRY Presidency,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, March 18, 1991.
39) Silber and Little, The Death of Yugoslavia, p. 139.
40) Zimmermann, Origins of a Catastrophe, p. 124.
41) “Belgrade in Stormy Debate on E.C. Plan,” The Independent, July 13, 1991.
42) Milošević Trial Transcript, February 2, 2006, p. 15877.
43) Ibid., February 1, 2006, p. 47705.
44) Zimmermann, Origins of a Catastrophe, p. 125.
45) “E.C. Officials’ Talks in Yugoslavia,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, June 5, 1991.
46) Zimmermann, Origins of a Catastrophe, p. 137.
47) Trbovich, A Legal Geography of Yugoslavia’s Disintegration, p. 181.
48) Ibid., p. 194.
49) “British Deal Fueled Balkan War,” The Observer, May 28, 2000.
50) “What Price Yugoslavia?” New York Times, July 2, 1991.
51) “Conflict in Yugoslavia; Europeans Send High-Level Team,” New York Times, June 29, 1991.
52) Jović, Last Days of the SFRY.
53) Silber and Little, The Death of Yugoslavia, p. 171
54) Ibid., p. 174.
55) Zimmermann, Origins of a Catastrophe, p. 143.
56) “Origins of a Catastrophe: Memoirs of the Last Ambassador to Yugoslavia,” Foreign Affairs, March/April 1995.
57) Ibid., p. 183.
58) Zimmermann, Origins of a Catastrophe, p. 146.
59) Official Minutes of the 125th Session of the Presidency of the SFRY, July 12, 1991, p. 88.
60) Prosecutor v. Slobodan Milošević, IT-02-54-T, Second Amended Indictment, para. 101.
61) Milošević Trial Transcript, November 29, 2005, p. 46691.
62) Silber and Little, The Death of Yugoslavia, p. 181.
63) Ibid., p. 180.
64) Večernje Novosti, July 20, 1991, ICTY Legal Library; “Stipe Mesić and Other SFRY Presidency Members Explain Views on JNA Withdrawal,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, July 22, 1991.
65) Official Minutes of the 125th Session of the Presidency of the SFRY, July 12, 1991, p. 220.
66) Cohen, Broken Bonds, p. 139.
67) Trbovich, A Legal Geography of Yugoslavia’s Disintegration, p. 218.
68) “Bosnian Muslims’ Party Rejects Federation Without Slovenia and Croatia,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, September 18, 1990.
69) Steven L. Burg and Paul S. Shoup, The War in Bosnia-Herzegovina: Ethnic Conflict and International Intervention (Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, 1999), p. 71.
70) “Srebrenica — a Safe Area: Reconstruction, Background, Consequences and Analyses of the Fall of a Safe Area,” Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (NIOD), Part I, Chapter 3, Section 5.
71) “Bosnian Serbs and Muslims ‘About to Reach Historic Agreement’ on Yugoslavia,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, July 29, 1991.
72) “Party of Democratic Action Rejects Muslim-Serb Agreement,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, August 6, 1991.
73) “Controversy Over ‘Historic Accord’ Between Serbian and Muslim Parties in Bosnia,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, August 12, 1991.
74) Official Gazette of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Year XLVI-Issue 21, July 31, 1990.
75) “Yugoslavia: Bosnia Proclaims Sovereignty,” IPS-Inter Press Service, October 15, 1991.
76) “Bosnia-Hercegovina Assembly Criticizes Government and Discusses Independence,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, October 15, 1991.
77) Burg and Shoup, The War in Bosnia-Herzegovina, p. 74.
78) “Peace Efforts Fail to Halt Croatian Toll,” The Independent, September 21, 1991.
79) “Yugoslavs Trade Accusations as Peace Conference Opens,” Washington Post, September 8, 1991.
80) “Yugoslav Troops Told to Mutiny,” The Independent, September 21, 1991.
81) “Yugoslav Urges Poison Gas Probe,” Washington Times, September 28, 1991.
82) “Yugoslavia to Get More Truce Observers,” Los Angeles Times, September 27, 1991.
83) Mesić’s refusal to attend meetings of the presidency, the leadership of which he had sought so assiduously in May and June, was rarely commented on in press reports. Only when he resigned in December in anticipation of German recognition of Croatia did the press note his record of non-attendance. The New York Times reported, “Since assuming the office, Mr. Mesić has attended few sessions of the presidency, which is dominated by Serbia and its allies.” (“Croat Resigns as Head of Belgrade Presidency,” New York Times, December 6, 1991.)
84) Official Gazette of the SFRY, No. 75/91, October 18, 1991.
85) “Serbia and its allies declared they had the right to take decisions on behalf of the entire Yugoslav federation, and unilaterally assumed special powers freeing the federal army from constraints on its action in the breakaway republic.” (“Full-Scale Army Invasion of Croatia ‘Within Days,’” The Guardian, October 4, 1991.)
86) “Yugoslav Presidency Splits,” New York Times, October 5, 1991.
87) “Yugoslavia: E.C. Toughens Stance Against Serbia,” IPS-Inter Press Service, October 28, 1991.
88) “Serbian-Led Army Pounds Croatian Ports, Threatens to Shell Fortress,” Los Angeles Times, October 5, 1991.
89) Milošević Trial Transcript, February 13, 2006, p. 45335.
90) Official Gazette of the SFRY, October 18, 1991.
91) “Yugoslav Fighting Growing Fiercer,” Los Angeles Times, September 21, 1991.
92) “Croats Vote to Secede as Latest Ceasefire Is Signed,” The Independent, October 9, 1991.
93) Report of the Secretary-General Pursuant to Paragraph 3 of Security Council Resolution 713 (1991), S/23169, October 25, 1991, paragraph 8.
94) Snezana Trifunovska, ed., Yugoslavia Through Documents From Its Creation to Its Dissolution (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff, 1994), p. 357.
95) Cohen Broken Bonds, pp. 126-127.
96) Trifunovska, Yugoslavia Through Documents, p. 364.
97) Silber and Little, The Death of Yugoslavia, p. 215.
98) “Yugoslavia Incident,” Agence France Presse, October 18, 1991; “Yugoslavia: Carrington Proposes ‘Loose Alliance’ in Balkans,” IPS-Inter Press Service, October 18, 1991; “E.C. Claims Progress in Yugoslav Crisis, Despite Serb Objections,” Agence France Presse, October 18, 1991.
99) “E.C. Tells Serbia: Back Peace Or Face Sanctions,” The Associated Press, October 28, 1991.
100) “Dutch Propose Ultimatum for Serbia,” Agence France Presse, October 28, 1991.
101) “Yugoslavia Hit by Trade Sanctions,” Los Angeles Times, November 9, 1991.
102) News Conference Regarding European Community Sanctions Against Yugoslavia, Federal News Service, November 8, 1991.
103) Report of the Secretary-General Pursuant to Paragraph 3 of Security Council Resolution 713 (1991), Annex VII, S/23169, October 25, 1991.
104) “Latest E.C. Peace Conference on Yugoslavia Fails to Bridge Differences,” Agence France Presse, October 25, 1991.
105) Trbovich, A Legal Geography of Yugoslavia’s Disintegration, p. 442.
106) http://untreaty.un.org/ilc/texts/instruments/english/commentaries/10_1_1958.pdf (broken; new link on different subdomain)
107) On May 18, 1992, Carrington asked Badinter: was the FRY a new state that the E.C. would need to recognize “in accordance with the joint statement on Yugoslavia and the Guidelines on the recognition of new states in Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union”? Carrington also asked: if Yugoslavia was in the “process of dissolution” (Badinter’s words) on November 29, 1991, could the “dissolution now be regarded as complete”? And, third: if the SFRY had indeed ceased to exist, “on what basis and by what means should the problems of the succession of states arising between the different states emerging from the SFRY be settled”?
On June 8, Milošević and Momir Bulatović, the president of Montenegro, wrote to Badinter informing him that these issues were outside his remit because any outstanding matters between the FRY and the Yugoslav republics must be resolves through an overall agreement between them. Any matter not susceptible to resolution would need to be referred to the International Court of Justice. Badinter dismissed these objections. The arbitration commission, he averred, was established by the peace conference. “Replying to the questions put by the Chairman of the Conference constitutes Commission participation in the work of the Conference, of which it is a body, and it would require conclusive reasons to bring it to refuse such a request. In the present case, the Commission sees no reason to refuse to perform its functions.” Badinter avoided the salient legal issue of how arbitration can be imposed on parties that had never agreed to arbitration in the first place.
108) Woodward, Balkan Tragedy, pp. 380-381.
109) Trbovich, A Legal Geography of Yugoslavia’s Disintegration, p. 258.
110) Milovan Djilas, Wartime: With Tito and the Partisans (London: Secker & Warburg, 1980), p. 356.
111) Peter Radan, “Post-Secession International Borders: A Critical Analysis of the Opinions of the Badinter Arbitration Commission,” Melbourne University Law Review, April 2000, Vol. 24, No. 1.
112) Trbovich, A Legal Geography of Yugoslavia’s Disintegration, p. 266.
113) Prosecutor v. Brjdjanin, IT-99-36-T, ICTY, Expert Report by Defense Witness Paul S. Shoup, January 23, 2004, p. 14.
114) Official Gazette of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Year XLVI-Issue 21, July 31, 1990.
115) “How Bosnia Paid Price of Major’s Maastricht Ope Out Coup,” The Observer, September 17, 1995.
116) Report of the Secretary-General Pursuant to Paragraph 3 of Security Council Resolution 721 (1991), S/23280, Annex IV, December 11, 1991.
117) Misha Glenny, The Fall of Yugoslavia: The Third Balkan War (New York: Penguin, 1993), p. 190.
118) Balkan Odyssey Digital Archive, http://sca.lib.liv.ac.uk/ead/html/gb141boda-p1.shtml#boda.01.01 (broken; this site has a reference to the same quote, with a footnote pointing to the same source: “Javier Perez de Cuellar to Hans-Dietrich Genscher, 14 December 1991, on CD accompanying Owen, Balkan Odyssey.”)
119) “SDS Leader Radovan Karadžić Calls for Serbian State in Bosnia-Hercegovina,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, March 18, 1992.
120) “Discussion Document on Bosnia-Hercegovina’s Constitutional Organization,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, March 12, 1992.
121) Balkan Odyssey Digital Archive, http://sca.lib.liv.ac.uk/collections/owen/boda/ecco3.pdf (Also broken, as above; site is University of Liverpool library, which currently lists it as “USE IN LIBRARY.” Liverpudlian convenience for ya.)
122) “U.S. Policymakers on Bosnia Admit Errors in Opposing Partition in 1992,” New York Times, August 29, 1993.
124) It’s amusing to note that, though Zimmermann himself had never concealed that it was at his urging that Izetbegović withdrew his signature from the agreement, apologists for U.S. policy to this day continue to insist that, contrary to the extensive public record, Zimmermann had “denied repeatedly” intervening to scuttle the Cutileiro plan. See the testimony of career diplomat Herbert Okun during the Milošević trial. “Ambassador Zimmerman [sic] has denied that repeatedly, and I believe Ambassador Zimmerman.” Milošević Trial Transcript, February 28, 2003, p. 17158.
125) “SDA Rejects Division of Bosnia-Hercegovina on Ethnic Lines,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, March 27, 1992.
126) On March 30 and March 31, talks were held in Brussels under the chairmanship of Cutileiro. Agreement was reached on the establishment of a working group, headed by a representative of the E.C., which would define the territories of Bosnia’s national communities.
127) See the earlier discussion about the influence on him of Mira Baratta.
128) “Tudjman Denies Croats’ Talks in Graz with Serbs Were at Muslims’ Expense,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, May 11, 1992.
129) “Lord Carrington Calls Bosnian Parties to Meet in Lisbon,” Agence France Presse, May 19, 1992.
130) Of course, the Muslims did not want to attend the Lisbon talks in the first place, since the subject under discussion was something they couldn’t countenance, namely, the cantonization of Bosnia. Explaining his withdrawal from Lisbon, Izetbegović said that “we went there at the express demand of the international community, whose demands we cannot ignore. We cannot bite the hand that feeds us and we must listen to these appeals. You know that these appeals have been repeated.” (“Izetbegović Urges ‘All Means’ for Resistance Says SDA Leaving Lisbon Talks,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, May 29, 1992.
131) “European Community Bans Trade with Serbia,” The Guardian, May 28, 1992.
132) Report of the Secretary-General Pursuant to Security Council Resolution 721 (1991), para. 11.
133) Woodward, Balkan Tragedy, p. 190.
134) Further Report of the Secretary-General Pursuant to Security Council Resolution 721 (1991), para. 9(b).
135) Woodward, Balkan Tragedy, p. 188.
136) Report of the Secretary-General Pursuant to Security Council Resolution 815 (1993), S/25777, May 15, 1993, paragraph 4.
137) Trbovich, A Legal Geography of Yugoslavia’s Disintegration, p. 91.
138) Cohen, Broken Bonds, p. 129.
139) Owen, Balkan Odyssey, p. 35.
140) Lewis MacKenzie, Peacekeeper: The Road to Sarajevo (Toronto: HarperCollins, 1993), p. 173.
Edited by Constantignoble ()
This was particularly absurd when applied to Bosnia, since it suggested that Bosnia was the nation-state of the Bosnians. No such people had ever existed.
what the fuck is this supposed to imply
edit: or it occurs to me that someone who actually likes posting on twitter could just ask him for further clarification
Edited by Constantignoble ()
Actually, long before the 2008 Ban-De Hoop Scheffer pact, the NATO-U.N. partnership had been given institutional expression in the form of a supposed court of law — the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). This body, pompously modeled on the Nuremburg Tribunal, was created by the U.N. Security Council on the basis of powers granted to it by Chapter VII. Very few countries were involved in its creation, certainly not any of Yugoslavia’s combatants. The ICTY set up shop at The Hague for no particular reason other than that it was the home of the venerable International Court of Justice with which it could therefore be, helpfully, confused.
The ICTY’s mission has been to conceal NATO’s political agenda behind the comforting slogan of “No peace without justice.” Rather than foster reconciliation, the ICTY has pursued a one-sided, vindictive approach, using legal obfuscation to promote NATO-sanctioned political outcomes. If, as is likely, Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić are convicted of genocide, these verdicts will undoubtedly serve to undermine the political standing of the Bosnian Serb Republic and of Serbia, outcomes that NATO would find very satisfactory.
The International Criminal Court is well on its way to becoming the ICTY, writ large. The ICTY’s rulings, though poorly argued, illogical, and intellectually threadbare, will undoubtedly serve as the body of humanitarian law that the International Criminal Court will apply. The victims of the ICC are also apparent. They belong to the ranks of countries that have long been subject to Western attack and exploitation.
this passage at the end of the intro about the ICTY was backed up by the analysis of this former international war crimes lawyer, who describes it as
"The ICTY has proven to be what we expected it to be, a kangaroo court, using fascist methods of justice that engaged in selective prosecution to advance the NATO agenda of conquest of the Balkans as a prelude to aggression against Russia. NATO uses the tribunal as a propaganda weapon to put out a false history of the events in Yugoslavia, to cover up its own crimes, to keep the former republics of Yugoslavia under its thumb, and to justify NATO aggression and occupation of Yugoslavian territory. It is a stain on civilization."
meanwhile, on the ICC:
The African Union has called for the mass withdrawal of member states from the International Criminal Court (ICC).
id like to read this. can you scan it
initially i figured it'd be better to transcribe it because my options for scanning were all kinda bad. i could do a few hundred flatbed scans of full spreads, which would probably draw unwanted workplace attention (plus i hate spread-per-page pdfs). I could cut off its spine and then try the sheet-fed approach, which would probably address the aesthetic issue, but also would destroy a very attractive and expensive trade paperback, and i don't like that idea
i guess i could probably do the spread-scan thing and then manually split the pages, etc. the other downside there is i can't guarantee 100% accuracy with OCR, especially with all the diacritic marks and such, which I've been very careful about! but i seem to recall petrol had suggested xpdf and scantailor as good alternatives to acrobat, which i am sure will bungle it horribly. maybe worth a shot
that said, at my transcription rate of about 10 minutes to a page, copy-machine-style scans are unquestionably way faster, so i guess if everyone feels really strongly about it i can just do that. floor's open to suggestions/discussion
Edited by Constantignoble ()