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,
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
in Fort Irwin 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 California aircraft is said to have destroyed Serbian communication and anti-aircraft centers and the Pentagon allegedly passed on information gathered by satellite to Gotovina. US
Spiegel also reports – even more sensationally – that then-President
Earlier this month, the
weekly Globus, claiming sources within Gotovina's defense team, alleged that then Zagreb President Bill Clinton knew all about the planned offensive. US , 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. Clinton
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.