What is the responsibility of those who “did not know” what was going on, despite the fact that Feral, or Globus, or Novi List wrote about the crimes committed in Pakracka Poljana and Gospic as early as 1992 and 1993, almost immediately after they took place? Those who even today, despite numerous old issues of newspapers and magazines that can be consulted in various libraries, arrogantly dare claim that “at the time crimes took place the Croat public was mostly unaware of that”.
Note the use of the term “mostly” used in his hypocritical commentary “Patriotism and crimes” (Jutarnji List, September 3) by the spokesperson of the Catholic Church in Croatia, Zivko Kustic. Kustic’s “mostly” indicates that at least a part of the public knew about the crimes. Is Zivko Kustic a part of that public? That knew. And kept quiet! Or perhaps, that not at all harmless church dignitary, whose comrades, some of the more prominent bishops, in the name of the Church and the State punctually blessed weaponry, used altar as stage for their dangerous chauvinist speeches or, as recently as yesterday, stood in defense of Mirko Norac who, according to the testimony that could be heard in the court, defended Croatia by executing elderly Serb women with one shot fired in the back of their heads, sees himself as a part of “the majority of residents of Zagreb who during WWII had no idea of what was going on in Jasenovac”?
Kustic’s “during WWII” should, of course, be read as during the Independent State of Croatia [NDH, Croat pro-Nazi puppet state], when, according to Kustic and most of dignitaries of the Catholic Church, most Croats had no idea what Jasenovac was, nor why their neighbors, Jews, Serbs, Roma, Communists, were disappearing overnight. And accordingly, their conscience is clear, there is no need to feel any responsibility, especially now that Tudman’s henchmen have proclaimed the NDH for the model of the organization of the new Croat state, while Jasenovac was described as an ideal spa in which camp inmates had a chance to enjoy opera performances, as Tudman’s academician, certain Mihanovic, claimed.
But, lets consider Kustic’s weak assertion that most Croats did not know anything about crimes committed during the NDH or at least had the luxury of being able to pretend they did not know anything, given the undeveloped media infrastructure at the time. To Kustic’s great sorrow, however, they had to know, even if they did not want to, about the crimes of Tudman’s state. Simply because the crimes were a media fact, while the stench of hidden and buried corpses was spreading from the pages of the independent publications. Immediately after the crimes took place. But the issue here is not the public or its co-responsibility for the silence that shrouded crimes committed in the name of the monstrous ethnically clean state. The issue here is Kustic who cowardly manipulates allegedly uninformed and uneducated public to justify his own decision to ignore those crimes until this day when, as he says, “recent war crime trials make is increasingly obvious that such crimes did happen”.
Kustic, as one of most prominent voices of the Catholic Church in Croatia, therefore, does not want any more to be a part of the public and church dignitaries that until recently howled at mass demonstrations “All of us are Mirko Norac”; on the contrary, he is, sort of, kind of, making a public repentance. That belated distancing from ten years of acceptance, and consequently justification, of crime, about which everyone knew everything, came to Kustic and those like him only at the moment when the public is being presented with undeniable evidence that Mirko Norac and those like him committed utterly ordinary and therefore horrendous crimes against elderly women of wrong ethnicity. Consequently, Don Jure tries to wrap his fake repentance in sentences such as: “We wanted to proudly rejoice and – consciously or unconsciously – we failed to notice information that would have spoiled our enjoyment”. Thus, for Kustic, massacred victims from Gospic, Sisak and elsewhere are nothing but “information” that could “spoil enjoyment” to him and those like him. Enjoyment of what? Creation of an ethnically clean, if possibly, enlarged (with a chunk of Bosnia) state. And the real truth is that Kustic and so many like him hoped that the truth about the crimes would never move from the pages of media published by “mercenary traitorous scum” into court houses, and therefore on the sensitive palate of the public that did not want to know about them.
A bit further in his attempt to justify his own actions, perhaps in fear of God whom he is supposed to serve, Kustic typically contradicts himself, confirming that the public did know about the crimes by saying: “For example, the public was quite shocked by the murder of the Zec family” and he personally, of course, “loudly protested about that”. Where and how exactly did Kustic protest against or condemn the murder of twelve-year-old Aleksandra Zec and her parents? In the newspapers? On TV? In one of his sermons? Please, that would only spoil “happiness and patriotic zeal that was at the time displayed by Croat Catholics”. Consequently, Kustic “approached minister Susak, whose advisor for relationship with religious communities I was at the time. He did not seem upset with my outburst”. Therefore, Kustic approached directly the criminal and Tudman’s protector of all Noracs, Oreskovics and other murderers from the field, since as a person employed by Gojko Susak, logically, he did not want to know that precisely the person who “did not seem upset” ordered the execution of the Zagreb family Zec, and imprisonment and executions of numerous others in Pakracka Poljana.
Today, anno domini 2002, this religious figure arrogantly asks: “Now, when everything is becoming obvious, what are we going to do with spiritual scars?” As if all of that was not known ten years ago, and not as “spiritual scars” but as very concrete, deep, deadly wounds inflicted on real human beings. However, Kustic is unstoppable, he keeps going, slyly presenting his selfish and ridiculous dilemma as the one that should be shared by the whole society: “Should one withdraw from public in shame(…) or continue to responsibly participate in public life(…)?” However, there is no dilemma. If there were God, that former advisor to infamous Gojko Susak, just like so many other warmongers – instead of talking about fake spiritual scars – should be held accountable for much baser and much more concrete actions. Or, as servant of God, he should at least chose the latter possibility from his dilemma and quietly and in disgrace disappear from public life. The problem, however, is that Kustic and those like him accept only their own God, the one who took a long, very long vacation while Serb civilians were being slaughtered.