The scandal has a few devastatingly discrediting dimensions, out of which, of course, a conscious attempt to mislead the public comes first. But, even if we were to ignore that, the impression would not be any less nauseating. Because, it is no less catastrophic that the mentioned forgery is the one with which Krpina, Tolj and others unsuccessfully tried to prove that the goal of the operation Storm was not to cleanse Krajina with murder and arson.
Thus, what a disappointing turnaround, exactly because of the carelessness of the veteran of anti-Tudmanism Mesic (and the asinine stupidity of his collaborators and "friends"), Croatia has been thrown a whole decade back. And you already know where we are supposed to land. Then, let us remind you, even supposedly independent attachments hanging on the leader's chest would state without blinking that in 1941 Croats totally correctly opted for their state, even if that state included "elements of crime".
And, of course, if crimes could not discredit even the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), they definitely have no business in the story about the "democratic and sovereign" Croatia, which, even though reluctantly, was recognized by the whole world?! From that starting point, one exceedingly smart mind came up with the noted motto that Croats in a defensive war could not have committed crimes, even though Bosniaks, in an even "more defensive" war obviously, could.
That disfigured credo, which, by the way, quite a lot resembles the current American diddling in connection with the International Criminal Court, irritated the rest of the world so much that in the end it had to be withdrawn from the official use. Today it is advocated only by the marginalized headquarters for the defense of what they refer to as the dignity of the Homeland War. But, it turns out that that seemingly rejected pompous stupidity only lost elections in 2000, elections that were anyway decided by totally different issues.
Really, it cocooned quietly in the subconscious of more or less all Croatian political parties, including the currently ruling parties, as was best illustrated by the trial of the so-called Gospic group. That first just verdict of Croatian courts for crimes committed by Croats was understood only as something that must be done because it was imposed from abroad. A clear indication of such an attitude is the fact that none of the leading politicians found it appropriate to say in public for what sort of horrendous crime Oreskovic, Norac, and Grandic were tried and found guilty of, and even that this state does not want to be based on such "elements of crime".
True, a response to that could be that this trial still isn't over, and that politicians should not publicly react to cases pending appeal. But, in that case the same should apply to Gotovina. Well, you see, that is not the case. On the contrary, the operation of decriminalization of the fugitive general took place at the worst, truly worst moment. To make that even clearer, let us return briefly to 1994 when the UN Security Council, which had just established the Hague Tribunal for War Crimes Committed in the Former Yugoslavia, published first estimates of crimes committed until then in the ex-Yugoslavia.
Mass graves were taken as an indicator, and ethnic breakdown of the culprits was used to demonstrate which group was most severely affected by the crimes. 187 mass graves are mentioned, out of which Serbs are responsible for 81, Croats for 16 and Muslims for 5. In 87 cases perpetrators were still unknown, but even without that it was obvious that Serb crimes predominated, and given later killing fields (especially Srebrenica) that domination was only strengthened.
From the very beginning, therefore, the UN "government" made sure not to "draw parallels" between the attackers and their victims, the favorite topic for whole bookshelves of stupid complaints in this country. "Parallels" were not drawn even later, when the Hague Tribunal started issuing indictments and trying defendants. On the contrary, as many as seventy or so indictments were issued against Serbs. That is many times higher than the number of indictments issued against Croats, while against Croats from Croatia not even a single case (?!) is anywhere close to the final verdict.
If one were to try to be at least minimally objective, he would have to admit that these figures do not look well at all. They in fact slide towards a sort of reprisal against one of the warring sides, which should not be the purpose of judiciary, even in the cases of most severe punishment. That, therefore, could in no case be the interest of the Hague, nor immediate neighbors of Serbia, nor the rest of the world (a previous such reprisal, against Germany after WWI, resulted in practice in almost immediate preparations of Germans for WWII).
That is also why the most recent developments in connection with Gotovina constitute a big risk. In the situation when in Serbia they are finishing up with the cleaning up of Serb war crimes (especially since Karadzic and Mladic, as the last remaining major defendants, are strictly speaking not under jurisdiction of the Serbian authorities), on her western border time seems to have all but stopped. Croatia is going all the way and digging in, assuming the attitude from the nineties; with the creation of a sort of abolitionist movement for Gotovina she is taking yet another step in the wrong direction. Serb extremists are as if on a platter served evidence that "the Hague tries only Serbs".
Here, it should be said that Gotovina only reaffirmed the whole movement, but that everything had started earlier. A few weeks ago in several newspapers in Croatia we could read a rumor - denied later by one of the officials in charge of relationship with the Hague - that there will be no new trials of Croats in the Hague, and that all trials would be transferred to the Croatian judiciary. Someone is obviously creating the impression that now when the Hague investigations are reaching their end, the Tribunal is not as powerful as in the past and tortured Croat patriots have no reason for fear.
At the same time newspapers are these days full of other similar rumors. Americans will, we are told, support Croatia in connection with Gotovina in exchange for a Croatian agreement to protect American citizens from extradition to the International Criminal Court (which, to tell the truth, does sound plausible). Also, there is supposedly a secret agreement with Carla Del Ponte (which is on the other hand denied by another rumor, according to which she is behind recent SFOR hunt on generals).
All together the impression left by these rumors is that in Croatia almost no one sees the Hague Tribunal as a place where justice - true frequently deficient - is distributed, but exclusively as a place for making deals, if at all possible, for all sorts of shenanigans. That is extremely interesting. For example, it is a big irony that Croats participated with more sincerity in joint institutions (including judiciary) of the former Yugoslavia, than now in European and Western institutions even though they supposedly can't wait to embrace both.
It is not surprising that the Brussels is reserved but furious. According to Jutarnji List, recent positive opinion about Croatian accession to the European Union, actually includes the opinion that Croatia does not fulfill conditions for membership. In order to change that opinion, the report demands that Racan call on Croatian Serb refugees to return to their homeland, which has been done, and to deliver Gotovina to the Hague, which still hasn't happened.
Even now, after Carla Del Ponte has rejected Mesic's intercession on behalf of Gotovina, the latter condition does not mean that Croatian authorities should not assist Gotovina. On the contrary, if there is even a smallest indication (but this time, please, authentic, not forged) that he is innocent, he should be helped. A golden legal rule is that it is better to release one hundred culpable individuals than to imprison one innocent person.
But, as someone said recently, if Gotovina is not guilty, someone is! If Serbs voluntarily left Croatia, as Goran Granic and Mesic's office now claim, did they also commit numerous suicides?! While Croatia does not offer answers to those questions, she will be able to save Gotovina only by accepting "elements of crimes" he has been charged with.