Tuesday, February 21, 2006

US Involvement in Croatian War Crimes?

When I wrote last week about the EU’s threat to suspend membership talks with Serbia if it does not find General Ratko Mladic and turn him over to the ICTY -- which it looks like it is about to -- I noted that the EU had successfully pursued a similar strategy to prod Croatia to arrest General Ante Gotovina, accused of being responsible for the murder of at least 150 Serbian civilians and the eviction of more than 150,000 Serbs from the Krajina region in August, 1995. As it turns out, Croatia might not have been the only state less than enthusiastic about bringing Gotovina to justice; according to a disturbing recent report in Spiegel Online, the US might have been reluctant as well -- because it helped Gotovina plan and carry out the Krajina offensive:

Croatian military sources told SPIEGEL that Gotovina had direct though secret support from both the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency in planning and carrying out the "Storm" offensive, which was designed to retake the Krajina region from the Serbs. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) behind chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte has charged Gotovina and the late Croatian leader Franco Tudjman with committing a "joint criminal undertaking" with the goal of ethnically cleansing the Serbs from Croatia.

In preparing for the offensive, Croatian soldiers were allegedly trained at
Fort Irwin in California and the Pentagon purportedly aided in planning the operation. Additional training assistance is said to have come from the American firm Military Professional Resources Incorporated. Immediately prior to the offensive, then-Deputy CIA Director George Tenet allegedly met with Gotovina and Tudjman's son -- then in charge of Croatian intelligence -- for last minute consultations. During the operation, a US aircraft is said to have destroyed Serbian communication and anti-aircraft centers and the Pentagon allegedly passed on information gathered by satellite to Gotovina.

Spiegel also reports – even more sensationally – that then-President Clinton was aware of and condoned Gotovina’s intentions:

Earlier this month, the Zagreb weekly Globus, claiming sources within Gotovina's defense team, alleged that then US President Bill Clinton knew all about the planned offensive. Clinton, the paper alleged, was angry at the Serbs for having overrun the UN protected Bosnian "safe area" of Srebrenica the previous month and wanted them punished.

[snip]

Gotovina has pled not guilty to the war crimes charges levied by the Hague tribunal. News reports have indicated that Gotovina's lawyers may be planning to rest his defense on the American participation in the offensive.

Because these allegations come courtesy of Gotovina’s defense team, it's easy to dismiss them as self-serving. They're given credence, however, by the fact that -- according to Spiegel -- an American lawyer, Greg Kehoe, has joined the defense team at the insistence of the Pentagon.

It remains to be seen whether, in light of Kehoe’s participation, Gotovina's the-US-let-me-do-it defense goes ahead as planned. Kehoe is a distinguished attormey; before entering private practice, he spent five years as an ICTY prosecutor and served as an advisor to the Iraqi Special Tribunal. So he can hardly be accused of being soft on war criminals. Then again, he's now on a defense attorney. Stay tuned…

NOTE: A grateful tip of the hat to Professor Charles Bobis of St. John's School of Law for alerting me to the Spiegel article.

8 Comments:

Blogger Canuck10 said...

This is all very well known to us watchers of the Balkans. I remember when US aircraft fired rockets at Serb radar sites during Operation Storm, in support of Croat forces.

The end result was America's open participation in the largest single act of ethnic cleansing since World War II when more than 200,000 Serbs fled their homes on August 5, 1995 during the Croat attack.

Although Gen. Gotovina is indicted and under arrest, it is highly unlikely any US official will ever stand trial for aiding and abetting a war crime.

Today, many thousands of those Serb refugees from the Krajina, remain in refugee centers, living in desperate conditions a full 11 years after being forced from their homes. No media attention highlights the suffering of these victims of real politic.

Another sad chapter in US foreign policy.

3/17/2006 10:23 AM  
Blogger splitvikings said...

Did you know that this so called Krajina area, the area which had been purposely infiltrated by the Serbs for years inorder to create a greater Serbia was populated by 95% Croats.
Weeks before this military action "Storm" took place, there were 0% Croats in their own homes because they were forced out by the Serbs.
The Croats then fought back to get their own and rightful homes/land back.
And if the US did help them, God Bless the USA for doing the right thing!
canuck10, is either a serb or more likely a misinformed "Naive" Canadian (very common in Canada) so you cannot take his thoughts literally.
Have a Merry Christmas!
And again GOD BLESS the USA!

11/12/2006 1:44 AM  
Blogger deana said...

I am sorry to say but splitvikings, you have proven yourself to complete, sterotypicaly Croatian arrogence. Yes, if you have not guessed by now, I am a Serb from the area in question. There is no 'this is Serb and this is Croatian' that is all OURS together. We are one people and because of stupidity many lives were lost in a useless war. Please, try to open your eyes and see that we are one.

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