15. Anniversary of the
HATRED READY FOR USE
By Stipe Sikavica
This year, more or less as usual, the cause, the course and mostly the
consequences of the Croatia's military operation launched fifteen years ago under the code
name "Storm" was discussed, commented and analyzed, here and over there, by the
people well-informed about the action itself and the general context in which it took
place (especially about its political and military aspects) and honorable intentions, the
people with bits of knowledge and unclear intentions and those totally ignorant but with
evil intent (as it seems, the latter were in the majority).
For the fifteenth time in a row Croatia was paying homage to its
soldiers, especially to those killed in the operation, and glorifying its armed forces.
Over here, in Serbia, highest church (but also secular) dignitaries were commemorating
those killed in the Storm but also the living ones who had fled from their home towns -
either faced by actual danger or by propaganda machinery - and predicting some unclear,
poor prospects for their return to "ancestral hearths." However, what made a
common denominator of this year's manifestations on both sides of the border was,
unfortunately, the fact that hate was still a reliable driving force in Serbia-Croatia
relations. Hate speech was here and there despite official claims that bilateral relations
have never been better before.
Serbia's top policymakers with President of the Republic Boris Tadic at
helm attended the liturgy for the Serbs killed in the Storm operation served in the St.
Marko Church on August 4, 2010 by Patriarch Irinej. Speaking from today's perspective
about the operation that marked the end of the war in Croatia, Patriarch Irinej said,
"We have assembled here to pray for and commemorate the innocent ones killed fifteen
years ago, whose only guilt was their Eastern Orthodox religion and Serb origin."
Labeling the Storm operation a crime, the Patriarch pointed out, "What is even more
tragic is that this crime persists - and the world does nothing to find the graves of
missing persons, while those expelled long for their homes but are prevented from
returning to them."
The Serb Orthodox Church is not the only institution interpreting the
said operation as a crime and its interpretation is nothing original. In early August,
Serb media and public space in general were brimming with the crimes committed during the
Storm. Anyway, for fifteen years now the operation has been treated in Serbia as a
criminal action. To better understand this qualification marking the public discourse in
Serbia one should bear in mind that once again, this year, President Tadic was the main
orchestra player for the media and overall propaganda machinery. At the meeting with
refugees from Croatia on August 2, he reiterated his well-known stance on the Storm: a
crime. His statement can hardly be seen as wise and statesmanly, the more so since it has
almost nothing to do with the truth.
Should someone knowing nothing about the operation itself and the
developments in Croatia in 1990s judge by all the statements permeating Serbia's public
space, the only logical conclusion he could reach would be that Serbs in Croatia were just
a docile, modest, naive and innocent civilian ethnic group faced with Croatian armada
ruthlessly killing them and expelling from Croatia just because they belonged to
"Eastern Orthodoxy and were Serbs." It goes without saying that such perception
of the developments in stormy times fuel hatred for "persecutors and murders of
Serbs." And this category, notably from the angle of the young whose picture of the
war calamities is totally distorted, includes almost all Croats - called Ustashi in
jargon. Such attitude and interpretation frustrates the "other side" and keeps
hatred ready for use.
Of course, all the Serbs who fled from Croatia are not innocent as a
lamb or a dove. There is no telling whether some of them has looked at his reflection in
the mirror and wondered about his sins in the homeland. Did he ask himself whether the
elites (intellectual, political, church and military) were responsible for his ill
fortune? It's much easier for those people (and their elites as well) to blame
"Ustashi" - actually Croats - for their misfortune. That's the best possible
course for Serbia's regime (and opposition): it implies no effort and no accountability
but is most profitable for the electoral circus of all sorts. The official Serbia
persistently turns a blind eye to embarrassing facts: following on the "lumber
revolution" and establishment of the quasi-state Republika Srpska Krajina, almost all
the Croat population were expelled from that territory. In fact, that was the Storm No. 1.
True, Serbs in Croatia have found themselves between a rock and a hard
place in a most unfavorable historical moment: between Franjo Tudjman and his
nationalistic policy treating them as "factors of disturbance" and Slobodan
Milosevic and his policy in which they (like all other Serbs outside Serbia) were nothing
but a faceless mass easy to manipulate in the attainment of the goals of the Greater
Serbia program. Moreover, refugees cherished the illusion that the "motherland"
would gladly take them under its wing which - apart from being exposed to actual danger
and bombarded with propaganda from all the sides - only fueled their headless flee from
The situation in Croatia has been catastrophic for almost four years -
with skirmishes that begun in summer 1991 and soon grew into a ruthless war. Croatia has
been dismembered once "glorious Serb warriors" under the command of Gen. Slavko
Lisica toppled the Maslenica bridge and thus physically separated two-thirds of Dalmatia
from the rest of the country at the very onset of the war, which made it possible to
establish the so-called Republika Srpska Krajina on the Dalmatia-Lika region and
Slavonija-Baranja region (where the actual master of life and death was domestic
"hero" Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan). Croatia has been destroyed by the war,
plundered, mines were planted under one-third of its territory, transportation was
paralyzed and economy in collapse.
Counting on the deadlock Tudjman and his top officials were faced with,
on mere luck, "Serbs' military genius" and destructive capacities of the then
Yugoslav People's Army testified by "liberation" of Dubrovnik and Vukovar,
Serbian political and military brains in the Belgrade headquarters and their nodders in
"the third Serb state" in the territory of ex-Yugoslavia were stubbornly
refusing or boycotting any peace settlement in Croatia, including the well-known plan Z-4.
What other choice has been left to Croatia but planning and implementation of the Storm
Despite the fact that one of the operation's branches broke away and
took a criminal course and despite the fact that "the father of the nation,"
Franjo Tudjman, and Croatia's nationalistic, Ustashi current wanted to seize the
opportunity to get rid of at least the majority of Serbs, with its basic idea and course
the Storm was a fully legitimate military operation. Labeling it a criminal enterprise is
not only wrong but dishonorable as well. From professional point of view, it could be said
that the Storm was a perfectly planned, prepared and effectuated offensive. It makes no
difference that all this is now often overblown by Croat strategists and ordinary
Hence, Croats have reasons enough and moral and any other right to
celebrate their Victory Day. They have not found yet a proper measure for dignified and
civilized celebration of this major date in their history, but that's another story. This
year again tributes to those "sacrificing their lives at the altar of the homeland)
were paid in the shadow of general euphoria (intoned with sob stories and kitsch). On the
other hand, crimes are casting a gloom on the entire operation. For these crimes against
innocent and helpless Serb civilians, notably at the stage of their mass flee from their
homes, generals Gotovina, Markac and Cermak are about to be sentenced at ICTY. Neither The
Hague nor the God could possibly cleanse the Storm from the crimes committed. Neither
could Serbs - refugees nor even less those in the motherland - accomplish anything with
their prayers, curses or hatred. Only Croats could do that and only in good will and sense
True, Croatia has done a lot for the return of refugees and punishment
of criminals. But as long as the famous Ustashi-prone concert star, Marko Perkovic
Tompson, can attract as much as 60,000 souls in his hometown for an "alternative
celebration of the 15th anniversary of the Storm operation" that glorified the
infamous NDH and witnessed columns of, unfortunately, young people wearing emblems of the
Ustashi "black legion," and as long as Serb returnees are beaten up and
intimidated, whereas the official Croatia treats everything as harmless incidents, the
hatred between Serbs and Croats will be duly maintained at operating temperature and the
Storm operation will be marked in the same way for the next 50 years.