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NO 97-98

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Helsinki Charter No. 97-98

July - August 2006



By Teofil Pancic

Cheerful countenances of President and Prime Minister of Croatia at the anniversary celebration of victory, and gloomy ones of President and Prime Minister of Serbia at the anniversary mass for victims. That was the scene this August, like in previous Augusts, since that early August 1995 when the "military action 'Storm'" took place. Who would ever guess that those people were in fact marking the same event/anniversary? Well, we have learnt from anthropological anecdotes about primitive tribes that their understanding of fortune and misfortune, as well as of the good and evil, may be rather in a rudimentary, tribal way: "It is good or fortunate when we raid their villages, kill their cattle and rape their women, and evil or misfortune when they do it to us.> But in the example from the beginning of this text we are not dealing with charming natives from impenetrable jungles, but rather with serious, grown-up and educated men, in pricey clothes, we are dealing with elite representatives of the two-at least in principle...-democratic European countries which cherish good-neighbourly relations and are rushing towards famous >Euro-Atlantic integrations>, overtaking each other on an open European highway.

"Storm" and related comments are therefore only the tip of the iceberg or of a big frozen stone under which had been swept all we should know about , at least for the sake of avoiding the repeat of such events. But Belgrade political, and largely intellectual establishment is of the opinion that such things should not be responsibly and rationally discussed, for at play is an extensive intentional emotionalization of discourse about recent wars and consequences thereof, whereby the said emotionality is of course charmingly selective: it is reserved only for "our victims" which are by default, the only innocent victims...Less because they are victims, more because they are our victims... And what happens when such a taboo is radically contested, is best seen by reactions to the two sentences uttered by a local intellectual and politician. And those reactions were tantamount to a local publicistic storm. But let us explain the sequence of events: Žarko Korac in the days preceding the "jubilee" of controversial "Storm", probably provoked by the local (Serb) absolute and consistent isolation, that is stubborn attempts to abstract from any real and historical context the story about "Storm" and the ensuing exodus of Serb population, wrote the following: "Are all the victims from the column of expellees innocent victims? Don't some of them have personal responsibility for what has happened?" The response to those two sentences in the shape of a specific odour of a violent and intense outburst of public hatred could have surprised even those who believed that they they were immune to all surprises.

Prior to analyzing those two sentences and reactions caused by them, we shall first tackle the motive mentioned early on in this text. How come that the two (at least conditionally) democratic, political-media, academic etc. elites are separated by such an interpretative abyss, devoid of any common denominator? For the first group "Storm" was a grand liberating action, after which there were some collateral crimes against civilian population, regretable, but not staining in any way the sheer magnificence of the Event:, for the second group "Storm" is "a great, unpunished crime" (V. Koštunica) and nothing else. Commentator of "Feral Tribjun" Marinko Culic has well noted that what we lack as regards the "Storm" is an acceptable definition thereof. A definition not ignoring or at least minimazing crimes committed in its fake, and a fundamental, resultant, far-reaching demographic change (the one which had not been calculated in advance), a definition which on the other hand would not treat that change as a democratic-abstract Evil, which unprovoked befell us and our Unquestionable Innocence. To put it simply a definition which would place the in a historical context, and would take into account historical-political legality and causality. And now is the right moment to tackle the statement uttered by Korac.

When such a simple assertion-or rather a dilemma-causes such a histerical animosity and outburst, that usually means that it has hit smack on in the epicentre of an agreed taboo, of a genuine omerta. Hence twose two sentences should be literally trampled upon and even better, destroyed, for if they were allowed to survive they could even start to have an impact. And what would be the shape of that impact? Well, then the local, properly story about the , and consequently the whole story of the 90's, could rear its ugly head from the mythical - narcissistic - self - commiserating and try to return to the rational discourse. And by the way such a return would not harm even in a symbolic way all those counteless genuine victims of the , it would not make them less of the victims. When Korac, albeit a bit tacktlessly uses an emotionally mobilizing image of the , that is when he suggests that some of them should be held accountable before the God's and human laws, he is committing a Terrible Offence, for he is thus reminding the old and new Belgrade establishment of some hard-to-be removed stains that is, facts. Notably the following one: a foolish, mutinous creation of Republika Srpska Krajina (structured as a genuine political and economic parasite or semi-official extension of the Republic of Serbia) emerged as a wild growth, within internationally recognized borders of the Republic of Croatia. In 1991, like much later in 1995, all the normal people were aware of the fact that it would have to be dismantled willy-nilly, most probably crushed by force. For a willing dismantling of that creation was not possible, and we know who is to be with opposition to such a development. The integral part of constituting of RSK was the idea of massive ethnic cleansing (or euphemistically speaking-"exodus", ) of the Croat population from those territories. As Koštunica has put it "it was a big, unpunished crime". But that cleansing was not 100% executed. Thus in Krajina you could come across a remaining Croat "living peacefully", but also after "Storm" you could find , therefore the former could not serve as a valid argument. The whole RSK is therefore a direct product of the police-military force and ethnic-cleansing. And consequently it ended up as a victim of the police-military force and ethnic-cleansing. Summer and autumn of 1995 were just a cruel and mirror image of summer and autumn 1991. Those who eagerly and enthsiastically took part in creating RSK in 1991, only four years later had to pack up their things and with such tractor-loads head towards an uncertain fate, together with those who had no role whatsover in or influence on intitial developments. That is the gist of of the two famous Korac sentences. And you will find that gist if you dare look for it. Of course it is easier to let out roars of hatred.

Korac's sin is in his implicit attempt, through a soberingly simple statement, to transfer the discourse on the war and its consequences to the political and genuinely historical terrain, in quest for causes and consequences, and by pointing out the human responsibility for consequences of his or her non-action. Those angered by his statement are not interested in keeping an apriori, so-called "metaphysical> innocence of "the column of expellees," but rather vexed by the knowledge that responsibilty starts at that terrible place, then climbs, to end up with the upper echelons of members the elite Belgrade drawing-room from a shameless time.


NO 97-98

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