by Boris PAVELIC and Denis ROMAC
In his interview to Globus Bobetko directly accused Imra Agotic, wartime commander of the Croatian Air Force and currently a military advisor to the President of the Republic Mesic, of responsibility for war crimes. Bobetko stated, among other: "Air force should be used when necessary, and not the way Agotic sent aircraft to bomb a column of Serb refuges during the operation ‘Storm'. A lot of civilians died on that occasion(...)"
"I feel sorry for him. Due to his advanced age he has most likely confused some things," was the only comment by General Agotic.
Retired Admiral Davor Domazet-Loso was also reticent. Domazet-Loso is Bobetko's political ally and one of most persistent opponents of Bobetko's extradition to the Hague Tribunal. Bobetko accused Domazet of failing to oversee the withdrawal of the Croatian forces from Medacki Dzep, together with Petar Stipetic, despite Bobetko's orders, which led to numerous crimes there.
"In the Homeland War I was the head of the Intelligence service of the Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Croatia. That is all I have to say," Domazet told us yesterday, decisively and even somewhat angrily, refusing to elaborate. Thus, we can only guess what he wanted to say. Either that Bobetko could not order the chief intelligence officer to oversee the withdrawal of Croatian forces from Medacki Dzep or that Domazet, given the nature of his wartime duties, knows much more than Bobetko is aware of.
General Petar Stipetic, today the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Croatia, did not comment on Bobetko's interview.
Emphasizing that they are aware of current unenviable position of General Bobetko, our collocutors nevertheless said that he was a "bully, always prepared for dishonorable self-promotion". Such a great hero, as Bobetko obviously sees himself, should be prepared to demonstrate his courage in practice and defend Croatia in the Hague. "Instead, he is raising tension and glorifying his wartime role, which is the only goal of his public appearances," one of our collocutors asserted.
In the Homeland War, knowledgeable sources point out, Bobetko did not participate in 1991, or in operation Flash, or in operation Storm, but did in "counterinsurgency strikes" in Maslenica and Medacki Dzep, "and it is now becoming obvious what sort of operations those were". "In 1991 he refused to join the Croatian Army because he did not want to loose his Yugoslav military pension". Others go as far as to claim that in October of 1991 Bobetko personally responded to an invitation to join the defense by saying that he wasn't going to "join Ustashe".
"Bobetko is a bully and has very little knowledge of military strategy," claims one of Croatian Army generals. We were also told that president Tudman was warned by some that he was "making a mistake by taking Bobetko" and that he would "regret that". "He says he would not have lost one third of Croatia in 1991 if he were the Chief of Staff. But the truth is that if he were the Chief of Staff in 1991 we would have lost all of Croatia," some Bobetko's fellow fighters jibe.
"The only Stipetic's duty was to check whether agreements were being respected and he did not do anything on his own accord," said Bobetko, adding that "it was established with a UNPROFOR commission that the task was carried out in accordance with all norms of the international wartime law. Civilian victims were identified and complete documentation turned over to the commander of the UNPROFOR in sector North, General Cot," Bobetko said at the time.
by Boris PAVELIC
Yes, everything is known. The Hague Tribunal was set up in 1993. Croatia supported its establishment from the start. From the very beginning it was clear that the expectations that the Tribunal would only prosecute Serbs would not come through. But it seems no one wasted time on that problem.
Two years later a first ethnic Croat was indicted: Ivica Rajic, a murderer from Ahmici in central Bosnia. Two years later another ten Croats surrendered to the Hague Tribunal. They were seen off at the airport by Miroslav Tudman and Ivic Pasalic. They tried to convince the nation that they were seeing off heroes, who would soon return vindicated to the homeland. Blaskic was sentenced to 45 years in prison - the second longest sentence issued by the Hague Tribunal so far; Kordic was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and no one wasted time on that problem.
One thing, however, is certain: childish Croatian politicians are forcibly keeping the whole nation in the state of political immaturity with their behavior, by preventing it from chasing away the scepters from its recent past. Along the way, they above all have the gall to unsuccessfully pretend to be leading the nation out of the pre-political garden of incoherence.
However, Rahim Ademi was indicted. Cynicism reared its ugly head in that case as well. As at one point it was discovered that Bosnian Croats were not "our guys", now suddenly Ademi was not "our guy" either. Namely, he was an ethnic Albanian. Thus, the officer that demonstrated his officer's honor and accepted responsibility for his wartime actions - for the sake of fake peace was tacitly turned into a second class citizen. Later we found out that the authorities had treated him like a second class citizen for years. And no one wasted time on that problem.
In the meantime courts started showing initial signs of awakening. Some investigations were initiated. But it would be better if they weren't, because now we know that courts in Croatia are not cathedrals but kindergartens of law. Because of them the Hague Tribunal must work even harder.
And finally the favorite of the nation was indicted: Janko Bobetko. If it weren't for him, Tudman would have been indicted - and everyone knows that much. Absolutely everything is known. Still, politicians behave as if the country was struck by the sudden wrath of God. And it wasn't. Given the current system, what happened could not have been avoided. The only victim of the skit in which children disguised as concerned politicians jump around on stage will actually be those who are hoping that finally they will have an opportunity to live the kind of life that this country has forgotten a long time ago: ordinary, civilized, average and peaceful.
by B. PAVELIC and S. VEJNOVIC
"This is like the beginning of the Homeland War," Trusic told us yesterday after we asked him if his friends were armed. Namely, on Tuesday evening, when members of HVIDRA and the Headquarters of Croatian Defenders started gathering around General Bobetko's house Trusic said into the Croatian TV camera: "We are organizing".
However, HVIDRA president Damir Varazdinac rejected Trusic's militant threats. According to Varazdinac, it is true that members of HVIDRA have organized sentries in front of Bobetko's house, but they do not intend to shoot at anyone. Instead, they will block any attempt to arrest the General with their own bodies. "There will be no shooting. They are our police; many of us fought in their uniforms," Varazdinac reminds. He explains: "Our people are keeping watch in front of the house. If someone attempts to arrest the General, they will immediately report so that additional HVIDRA members can rush to the house and prevent the arrest".
However, we learned yesterday from the Police that gatherings in front of general's house are "nothing new". "Immediately two or three days after the indictment against General Bobetko had been issued, men started gathering around his house at 25 Ivan Goran Kovacic Street at Tuskanac. Secret services are watching all of that carefully, and are very well informed about their activities," we learned yesterday from a Police source that wished to remain anonymous. He also added that he was surprised that media hadn't reported that earlier, since some journalists had inquired with the Police about the presence of these "sentries" around General's house. "We are following the situation and taking the necessary steps and measures," our source said, adding that so far there was no need for Police intervention.
True, it is obvious that "sentries" - as the Headquarters of Croat Defenders refers to them - are carefully hiding the true purpose of their presence in front of General Bobetko's house. "We are walking, picking chestnuts," some of them responded yesterday, obviously annoyed at our curiosity. Among "sentries", mostly middle-aged men who are obviously not wealthy, we noticed Madjar, a defender of Vukovar, who left the surrounded city among the last. Around 1pm there were not many guards around the house, perhaps about ten of them. They calmly chatted in several smaller groups. In the morning Ljubo Cesic Rojs visited General Bobetko, followed by General Korade around 1pm. General Korade refused our request to give a statement directing us instead to talk to Vesna Pusic [leader of the Croatian People's Party, HNS].
The reluctance of the "sentries" to explain from whom they were protecting General Bobetko was made up yesterday by Zvonimir Trusic. According to Trusic, General Ivan Basarac and "Viribus Unitis", an association set up by retired generals, are behind the sentries.
Who are the guards? - we asked Trusic. "People who created this country." What do they want? "They want to prevent possible treason. Bobetko is only a symbol. This is much more important than Bobetko". How will they do that? "By respecting general's wish not to be extradited alive to the Hague, which he has repeated on several occasions". Do they wish to say anything to the public? "This is the moment of the truth. All of us are facing a test". What will happen if the authorities, for example, send special forces? "We'll find the strength to fulfill general's wishes," Trusic has no doubts.
Racan's always slow guys are now accusing the world of going to fast, that the counterattack on Croatia was "hasty". Isn't it more likely that Croatian action is hopelessly late? Racan has been aware of the indictment against Bobetko since April, when he was supposed to start his lobbying efforts. Now it's too late to make up for lost time. The strategy of filing complaints against the indictment also turned out to be a failure. The authorities should have fought for the treatment by the Hague Tribunal that would correspond to General's advanced age and frail health.
Now President Mesic and journalists are blamed for the debacle on the international scene. Mesic's is under attack as with his address to the nation he crated a crack in "the national unity". Thank God! They duplicitously claim that by insisting on cooperation with the Hague Tribunal President Mesic provoked the negative response of the international community regarding Racan's administration's views. Upon his return from the unsuccessful visit to the Vatican deputy president of the Parliament Zdravko Tomac blamed journalists for the failed visit. According to Tomac, journalists wrongly claimed that Croatia was against cooperation with the Hague Tribunal. According to Tomac, obstruction is also a mode of partnership. Although even Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Josko Paro warned that Croatia is in danger of having its legal disputes with the Hague Tribunal interpreted as opposition against policies created by the international community.
One wonders what the Government will do once these feeble excuses are used up, when the Hague Tribunal rejects appeals coming from Croatia and the pressure from abroad intensifies. Will Racan extradite the defendant to the Tribunal after all? The block "we won't extradite our generals" is not as unified as at the start. The majority that expressed readiness to defend Bobetko even if international sanctions were imposed against Croatia is slowly fading away. The ruling coalition has also cracked in relation with that issue. Yesterday Damir Kajin from the Istrian Democratic Alliance said: if Racan's government refuses to extradite General Bobetko it is time for new elections.
It could easily happen that the right will win those elections. But one has to wonder what they would do in connection with Bobetko. It is quite possible that the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), without Tudman who always managed to control and if necessary suppress the worst hardliners, would go ahead with its worst threats - break off cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, parole all Croats found guilty of committing war crimes, turn its back to the rest of the world, go back to the nationalist revolution, whatever the cost. On the other hand, President Mesic claims that the right would extradite Bobetko within one week of assuming power. He bases his prediction on the fact that the HDZ has already extradited a number of indictees to the Hague Tribunal.
Actually, it would sort of be fair to force the HDZ to clean up its and Tudman's mess on its own. But it is equally fair to demand that Racan and Tomcic, as Prime Minister and president of the Parliament submit resignations as they totally unnecessarily, based on their mistaken assumptions regarding international relations, pushed recovering Croatia back to where it was left by Tudman.