America’s “Junkyard Dogs”: Operation Storm, 20 Years On

A great explanation from an excellent analyst of what happened in Serbia 20 years ago, and why the Ukraine feels like Deja Vu

‘Operation Storm’ in August 1995, when Croatia overran the Serb-inhabited territory of Krajina, was the biggest single instance of ethnic cleansing in the Yugoslav Wars, Because the attack was backed by the US, however, it was never treated as a crime.

Between August 4 and August 7, up to 2,000 people were killed and over 220,000 driven from their homes by the Croatian army. No “invaders,” these Serbs had lived in the Krajina – their word for borderlands – for centuries. The 1995 onslaught was not just a final phase of the war that began in 1991, but a continuation of the 1940s Nazi atrocities, and a long, sordid history of oppression and betrayal going back to the 1800s.

In the late 1600s, the Hapsburg Empire (later Austria-Hungary) established a buffer zone along the border with the Ottoman Turks. in exchange for military service, the Orthodox Serb frontiersmen were granted religious liberties by the Catholic Hapsburgs. By the 1800s, the Ottomans were in retreat and Austria became obsessed with subjugating the Serbs and trying to subsume them into the Catholic Croat population.

When Austria-Hungary disintegrated in 1918, the Croats chose to join the Serbs in a new South Slav kingdom – Yugoslavia – rather than be partitioned between Hungary, Austria and Italy. In April 1941, as Yugoslavia was invaded by the Axis powers, Croatian Nazis known as “Ustasha” declared an independent state with the backing of Hitler and Mussolini.

This Ustasha Croatia conducted a campaign of mass murder, expulsion and forced conversion of Serbs to Catholicism, which outright disgusted the Italians and made even some Germans recoil in horror. A Croatian legion was sent to the Eastern Front, where it perished under Stalingrad. When the Communist regime of Marshal Tito took over Yugoslavia in 1945, however, Croatian atrocities were hushed up for the sake of “brotherhood and unity.”

The end of Communism in 1990 saw a revival of Nazi symbols and vocabulary in Croatia. President Franjo Tudjman denied Ustasha atrocities and expressed joy his wife was “neither Serb nor Jewish.” Serbs were stripped of equal citizenship and declared a minority. When Tudjman declared independence in June 1991, the Serbs saw 1941 all over again. They took up arms and declared the Krajina Republic – not denying the Croats their right to independence, but disputing Zagreb’s claim to lands Croatia acquired under the same Yugoslavia it now sought to leave.

When the disintegrating Yugoslav Army backed the Krajina Serbs, Zagreb cried “Serbian aggression.” International pressure and UN sanctions sought to cut off Belgrade’s support for the rebels. When Tudjman failed to crush the Serb resistance, an armistice was arranged in January 1992. Krajina was placed under the protection of UN peacekeepers, dubbed UNPROFOR.

Meanwhile, the Clinton administration began backing Croatia and the Bosnian Muslims in their war against the local Serbs. In 1994, MPRI – a private company staffed with retired US military officers – was paid to train and equip the Croatian military. Officially, of course, they were teaching them democracy and human rights.

In May 1995, Croatia launched a strike on the Serb enclave of Western Slavonia. The UN did nothing, while the Western media was firmly focused on Bosnia. Everything was ready for the main event, dubbed “Operation Storm.” It began on August 4, with a predawn artillery barrage and the assault by 200,000 Croatian troops, trained by MPRI and armed with surplus Warsaw Pact weapons procured from eager Eastern European aspirants to NATO membership.

Three days later, most of Krajina’s Serbs had been expelled from their homes, while around 2,000 were dead. Churches, cemeteries and entire villages were razed to the ground, while refugee columns were strafed by fighter jets. Serbia did not react at all, prompting speculation to this day that Slobodan Milosevic was somehow “in on it” with Zagreb and Washington. A simpler explanation may lie in the fact that his Army Chief of Staff and spymaster were both working for the CIA at the time, as General Momcilo Perisic and Jovica Stanisic admitted years later.

The US-backed war crimes tribunal for Yugoslavia made a show of demanding the arrest and extradition of several Croatian generals involved in “Storm.” In April 2011, the tribunal convicted Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, while acquitting Ivan Cermak. However, the basis for their convictions was an arbitrary standard for artillery strikes never previously used – indeed, one that would have acquitted all the Serb officers charged with shelling civilians. The purpose of this became apparent when the tribunal cited this arbitrary standard as grounds for reversing Gotovina and Markac’s convictions on appeal, in November 2012.

By that time, Croatia had already been admitted to NATO (2009), and cleared for membership in the European Union, which it joined in 2013.

Washington claims to be engaged in Croatia to foster “a democratic, secure, and market-oriented society that will be a strong partner in Euro-Atlantic institutions.” Yet in his 1998 memoir ‘To End A War,’ US diplomat Richard Holbrooke paints a different picture, quoting a note from his colleague Robert Frasure written during a meeting with Croatian officials on August 17, 1995:

“Dick: We ‘hired’ these guys to be our junkyard dogs because we were desperate. We need to try to ‘control’ them. But this is no time to get squeamish about things.”

This was just ten days after the mass expulsion and murder of Serbs, as US diplomats directed the Croatian troops’ incursion into Bosnia. Meanwhile, Tudjman’s government gloated over achieving what their Nazi predecessors only dreamed of, thanks to its choice of sponsors. A 2001 census showed 380,000 fewer Serbs in Croatia than a decade prior, a change from citizens with equal rights to a statistical error. The US government was most certainly not “squeamish” – not then, and not now.

If all of this bears an uncanny resemblance to the crisis in Ukraine, that’s because it does. The US is using the same arsenal of accusations employed against Serbia in the 1990s to blame Russia for “aggression” in Ukraine. Those Ukrainians who refused to live under a pro-US coup regime in Kiev are demonized as “terrorists.” Meanwhile, the pro-Nazi elements in Ukraine are being given the same whitewash into “democratic reformers” as their colleagues in Croatia. They even have US troops training and equipping them, quite openly.

Last September, after Kiev’s forces suffered a crushing defeat in attempting to subdue the rebels, one Ukrainian lawmaker suggested following Croatia’s example. While tolerating the existence of Krajina for three years, wrote Yuriy Lutsenko, the Croats strengthened their military and the economy. “And then in a couple hours, a tank attack wiped the separatists off the face of the earth,” he said.

Lest there be any confusion, Lutsenko was the head of the majority Poroshenko Bloc in Ukraine’s parliament. Washington routinely describes the regime of President Petro Poroshenko as democratic reformers bent on bringing Western values to Ukraine – at gunpoint, apparently.

Croatia marked the 20th anniversary of its victorious crime with a military parade and a statue of President Tudjman in the formerly Serb city of Knin. The lands “liberated” in 1995 remain “scattered ghost villages strewn with shell-scarred houses overgrown with ivy and tall grass,” to quote a Reuters description from 2005.

Washington was not content with crushing Krajina. In 1999, NATO attacked what was left of Yugoslavia and occupied Kosovo, a southern province of Serbia, declaring it an independent state in 2008. In October 2000, the US organized a“color revolution” in Belgrade, the first of its kind, bringing into power a puppet government. Serbia has been ruled by client regimes ever since.

By rewarding Tudjman’s atrocities, the West has effectively endorsed the Croatian Nazi atrocities from the 1940s, of which the 1990s policy was a continuation. Two decades after “Operation Storm,” Krajina stands as a symbol of the conviction that the US and its “junkyard dogs” – whether in Zagreb, Kiev, or elsewhere – can act with absolute impunity. Likewise, the fate of Krajina and the Serbs in general is meant to be a message to the world that resistance to US goals is futile.

But the East remembers.


2015-08-05

By Nebojsa Malic

This article originally appeared at Russia Today

Join the debate on our Twitter Timeline!

RELATED POSTS
Operation Barbarossa: The 75th Anniversary Of The Nazi Invasion Of The Soviet Union
Seventy-five years ago Adolf Hitler launched the biggest and most destructive military campaign in history when three million German and allied troops invaded the Soviet Union along a 1,000-mile front. Operation Barbarossa – the codename for the German invasion of Russia - was no ordinary military campaign: it was an ideological and racist war, a war of destruction and extermination that aimed to kill Jews, enslave the Slavic peoples and destroy communism. The result was a war in which 25 million Soviet citizens died, including a million Jews, executed by the SS in 1941-1942 – an action which became the template ...
READ MORE
Warning! Neocons Are Close To Starting a Nuclear War With Russia
We, the undersigned, are Russians living and working in the USA. We have been watching with increasing anxiety as the current US and NATO policies have set us on an extremely dangerous collision course with the Russian Federation, as well as with China. Many respected, patriotic Americans, such as Paul Craig Roberts, Stephen Cohen, Philip Giraldi, Ray McGovern and many others have been issuing warnings of a looming a Third World War. But their voices have been all but lost among the din of a mass media that is full of deceptive and inaccurate stories that characterize the Russian economy ...
READ MORE
Ethnic Intolerance Against Christians in Kosovostan
Recent episodes of ethnic intolerance against the Serbian minority exacerbate conditions in a country which is increasingly an “Islamic island” in the heart of Europe. Kosovo is once again the centre of attention in Orthodox Church circles. In addition to new instances of intolerance against the ethnic Serbian minority, recent actions taken by Russian Patriarch Kirill and Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov), abbot of the Moscow monastery of Sretensky Stavropegic, have drawn attention. Violence against Orthodox Serbs is growing: unsurprisingly, some of them speak openly of cultural genocide. Approximately one hundred and fifteen churches were destroyed or severely damaged during the Albanian attacks, and ...
READ MORE
Nationalism and Territorial Claims of the Yugoslavs
Article by Vladislav B. Sotirovic: „Nationalism and Territorial Claims of the Yugoslavs: Challenge to Re-Map the Balkans in the 21st century. Case Study“, Journal of Security Studies and Global Politics, Vol. 2, № 1, 2017, Islamabad, Pakistan, online: http://sciplatform.com/journals, ISSN (online) 2519-9609, pp. 69−81 (PDF) Save
READ MORE
Neocon Imperialism, 9/11, and the Attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq
One way to understand the effect of 9/11, in most general terms, is to see that it allowed the agenda developed in the 1990s by neoconservatives—-often called simply “neocons”—to be implemented. There is agreement on this point across the political spectrum. From the right, for example, Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke say that 9/11 allowed the “preexisting ideological agenda” of the neoconservatives to be “taken off the shelf . . . and relabeled as the response to terror.”1 Stephen Sniegoski, writing from the left, says that “it was only the traumatic effects of the 9/11 terrorism that enabled the agenda ...
READ MORE
The Srebrenica Massacre: Some Victims Are More Equal Than Others
Last month was the 18th anniversary of the attack on the Serbian village of Kravica committed by Moslem forces from Srebrenica under the command of Naser Orić on Orthodox Christmas day, January 7, 1993. Several dozen villagers were killed in the attack, the remaining Serbian population was forced to flee to safety, and many homes were pillaged, demolished and torched during the several weeks that Kravica was forcibly occupied by neighbours from nearby Srebrenica. Regardless of arcane debates of who started the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, on a human level the attack on the village of Kravica and the ...
READ MORE
Orwell At The UN: Obama Re-Defines Democracy As A Country That Supports U.S. Policy
In his Orwellian September 28, 2015 speech to the United Nations, President Obama said that if democracy had existed in Syria, there never would have been a revolt against Assad. By that, he meant ISIL. Where there is democracy, he said, there is no violence or revolution. This was his threat to promote revolution, coups and violence against any country not deemed a “democracy.” In making this hardly-veiled threat, he redefined the word in the vocabulary of international politics. Democracy is the CIA’s overthrow of Mossedegh in Iran to install the Shah. Democracy is the overthrow of Afghanistan’s secular government by ...
READ MORE
Documentary Film: “Kosovo: Can You Imagine?” (2009, Canada)
“Kosovo: Can You Imagine?” is a documentary film by Canadian film maker Boris Malagurski, about the Serbs that live in Kosovo and the lack of human rights that they have today, in the 21st century. Most of the Kosovo Serbs have been ethnically cleansed by the Albanians who make up the majority of Kosovo. Kosovo has been under UN administration since 1999 when NATO bombed Serbia for 78 days to halt a crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatism in its province of Kosovo. In the years following the war, thousands of Serbs were expelled from their homes, kidnapped and killed. Their houses, cultural and ...
READ MORE
The Ustasha And The Rising Tide Of Neo-Nazi Politics In Croatia
Over the past several years, analysts and commentators have noticed a rising tide of domestic support for the Croatian homegrown Nazi movement of the Second World War, the Ustashe, which actively exterminated Serbs, Jews, and Roma in the territory it controlled from 1941-45. Far from condemning this alarming development, the Croatian government, the European Union, and non-state actors within it have tacitly and actively supported the rising tide of sympathy towards the Ustashe. This disconnect between the ostensible “European values” of human rights and tolerance that the European Union claims to represent, and its tacit support of trends towards extremist politics ...
READ MORE
Serbia: Parliamentary elections for the NATO/EU’s membership
Author’s note: a draft version of the article was originally written at the end of December 2015 and published in March 2016. This is the extended article’s version. On April 24th, 2016 Serbia faced three-level elections: for the national parliament, local municipalities and Vojvodina’s autonomous provincial administration. The elections did not cover Kosovo province as current Serbia’s pro-NATO/EU’s government already two years ago de facto recognized in its negotiations with the EU and Pristina’s government that this province is not any more an integral part of the legal and administrative system of the Republic of Serbia. Nevertheless, these elections were in ...
READ MORE
NATO’s War of Aggression Against Yugoslavia in 1999
Eighteen years ago in the early hours of March 24, 1999, NATO began the bombing the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. “The operation was code-named “Allied Force ” – a cold, uninspired and perfectly descriptive moniker” according to Nebosja Malic. This article was first written in May 1999 at the height of the bombing of Yugoslavia. The causes and consequences of this war have been the object of a vast media disinformation campaign, which has sought to camouflage NATO and US war crimes. It is important to note that a large segment of the “Progressive Left” in Western Europe and  North America were part of this disinformation campaign, presenting ...
READ MORE
“Beating the Drums of War”: How Obama and Clinton Are Endangering All of Us
I am a lifelong FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt) Democrat and therefore am anything other than prejudiced against the Democratic Party. But, that Party died when Bill Clinton became President and undid FDR’s regulations on the megabanks and FDR’s AFDC income program for children in poor families, and when Clinton replaced that with restoration of Wall Street’s control over America (like before FDR, only a more convoluted form of it). However, the way in which both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton endanger all people’s lives and property and health and welfare, has to do with something else, something that’s even more ...
READ MORE
NATO – A Dangerous Alliance
When the Warsaw Pact ended, after the collapse of communism, some optimists might have expected Nato to be broken up too. After all, the Labour Party in Britain had been opposed to Nato in the mid-1980s. But that was not to be. The US, which had always dominated Nato, quickly began to reinvent Nato and furthermore to expand it. Following the end of the Warsaw Pact many central and east European governments wanted to join Nato. This of course was music to the ears of the US military manufacturers. Indeed, the chair of the expand Nato committee, Bruce Jackson, was technical director of ...
READ MORE
The Waffen SS against the Serbian Chetniks: Heinrich Himmler’s inspection tour in Kraljevo, Serbia (October 1942)
Reichsfuehrer SS Heinrich Himmler arrived in Kraljevo, German-occupied Serbia on Thursday, October 15, 1942 to inspect the 7th Waffen SS Mountain Division “Prinz Eugen”. Himmler spent four days in Serbia, leaving on Sunday, October 18. The first offensive or operation of the Prinz Eugen division, the anti-guerrilla military operation against the Kopaonik region of central Serbia, was to attack the Chetnik guerrillas under Draza Mihailovich in the Kopaonik, Goc and Jastrebac mountains of central Serbia. Prinz Eugen attacked Chetnik troops under Chetnik Major Dragutin Keserovic. Himmler was photographed arriving in an air field in a German Junkers Ju 52 transport plane. Te ...
READ MORE
Ukraine Honors Nationalists Whose Troops Butchered Jews
(JTA) — Amid a divisive debate in Ukraine on state honors for nationalists viewed as responsible for anti-Semitic pogroms, the country for the first time observed a minute of silence in memory of Symon Petliura, a 1920s statesman blamed for the murder of 50,000 Jewish compatriots. The minute was observed on May 25, the 90th anniversary of Petliura’s assassination in Paris. National television channels interrupted their programs and broadcast the image of a burning candle for 60 seconds, Ukraine’s Federal News Agency reported. A French court acquitted Sholom Schwartzbard, a Russia-born Jew, of the murder even though he admitted to it after ...
READ MORE
Serbia and the Balkans Wars: The Future Belongs to Those Who Do Not Surrender
Kosovo Muslim Albanian jihad fighters in the Middle East as ISIS members (2016) How accurate is the theory that there are tragic events of exceptional strength that really shape the identity of a nation? How is this happening and what if we do not learn a lesson out of those experiences? – The prominent French writer Renan wrote in his lecture “What is a Nation?” that people are often connected by memories of shared suffering, and Serbs are no exception. Today, when Yugoslavia is no more, there is no reason why Jasenovac should not be brought back to the center of the ...
READ MORE
Kosovo History – Fifth Part
The series of long-scale Christian national movements in the Balkans, triggered off by 1804 Serbian revolution, decided more than in the earlier centuries, the fate of Serbs and made ethnic Albanians (about 70% of whom were Muslims) the main guardians of Turkish order in the European provinces of Ottoman Empire. At a time when the Eastern question was again being raised, particularly in the final quarter of 19th and the first decade of 20th century, Islamic Albanians were the chief instrument of Turkey’s policy in crushing the liberation movements of other Balkan states. After the congress of Berlin (1878) an ...
READ MORE
Remember The Golan Heights?
During the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, Syrian forces had surprised Israel and were fast approaching the edge of the steep Golan Heights, captured by Israel during the 1967 war. It seemed as if Syrian armor and infantry would retake Golan, then pour down into Israeli Galilee. Soviet recon satellites observed Israel moving its nuclear-armed, 500km-range Jericho missiles out of protective caves and onto their launch pads. At the same time, Israel was seen loading nuclear bombs on their US-supplied F-4 fighter-bombers at Tel Nof airbase. Believing Israel was about to use nuclear weapons against Syria and Egypt, Moscow put huge pressure on both ...
READ MORE
Kosovo: Honoring Nazis and the SS
UN negotiator on Kosovo Martti Ahtisaari wanted to honor and commemorate Finnish Nazi SS troops in 1999 when he was the President of Finland. He wanted to have the Finnish taxpayers and the Finnish government fund and finance the construction of a plaque in the Ukraine to commemorate the deaths of Finnish Nazi SS troops killed during Operation Barbarossa. Ahtisaari is not, alone, however, in seeking to honor and celebrate the legacy of Nazis and the SS. Kosovo Albanians have similarly honored and commemorated the legacy of Nazis and the SS. Kosovo Albanians have named a high school in Pec and ...
READ MORE
Operation Barbarossa: The 75th Anniversary Of The Nazi Invasion Of The Soviet Union
Warning! Neocons Are Close To Starting a Nuclear War With Russia
Ethnic Intolerance Against Christians in Kosovostan
Nationalism and Territorial Claims of the Yugoslavs
Neocon Imperialism, 9/11, and the Attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq
The Srebrenica Massacre: Some Victims Are More Equal Than Others
Orwell At The UN: Obama Re-Defines Democracy As A Country That Supports U.S. Policy
Documentary Film: “Kosovo: Can You Imagine?” (2009, Canada)
The Ustasha And The Rising Tide Of Neo-Nazi Politics In Croatia
Serbia: Parliamentary elections for the NATO/EU’s membership
NATO’s War of Aggression Against Yugoslavia in 1999
“Beating the Drums of War”: How Obama and Clinton Are Endangering All of Us
NATO – A Dangerous Alliance
The Waffen SS against the Serbian Chetniks: Heinrich Himmler’s inspection tour in Kraljevo, Serbia (October 1942)
Ukraine Honors Nationalists Whose Troops Butchered Jews
Serbia and the Balkans Wars: The Future Belongs to Those Who Do Not Surrender
Edward S. Herman (ed.), The Srebrenica Massacre: Evidence, Context, Politics (PDF Book)
Kosovo History – Fifth Part
Remember The Golan Heights?
Kosovo: Honoring Nazis and the SS

Comments are closed.