CROATIA: MYTH AND REALITY
C. Michael McAdams
Almost immediately after Croatia's declaration of independence, the myth was born that Germany and the Vatican were responsible for Yugoslavia's demise and war because they were the first to recognize the new state. In fact, the first country to recognize Croatia was Slovenia on June 26, followed by Latvia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Iceland, and Estonia in 1991. A fragile cease fire was established as the Cyrus Vance cease-fire took effect at 6pm on January 3, 1992.

On December 19, 1991, Germany announced that it would recognize Croatia on January 15, 1992, with or without the rest of the European Community. On that date, twenty-one nations, including Germany, recognized Croatia. By the end of January, forty-two nations had recognized Croatia. The Holy See recognized Croatia on January 13, 1992, the same week as virtually every nation in Europe. The United States was fifty-fourth to acknowledge reality, on April 7, 1992. When Germany and the Vatican recognized Croatia and Slovenia, along with forty other nations, the war in Slovenia was over, Croatia was in ruins, and the UN "protection forces" were moving into place as Serbia was preparing for its next victim, Bosnia. German or Vatican recognition obviously had absolutely nothing to do with the break-up of Yugoslavia seven months before, yet this myth continued to be spread by Serbia and repeated in the Western press.

By the end of 1991, one-third of Croatia's territory had been seized, the city of Vukovar and others were totally destroyed and thousands of Croatians had been killed. One hard hit city was the ancient port city of Dubrovnik, known as Ragusa in Roman times. Despite its stature as an internationally protected heritage site, the city was shelled without mercy, ostensibly to protect its Serbian populace of about five percent. Periodic shelling continued for the next four years.

While radio and television reports focused upon the old walled city and the damage it received, the "newer" parts of the city were even more heavily damaged by Serb shelling, especially the small village of Cilipi near Dubrovnik's airport. The airport itself was stripped of every object from luggage belts to ashtrays before each of its buildings was destroyed. The Inter-University Centre, a world-wide consortium for higher education, suffered fifty-two direct hits and was totally destroyed along with its 25,000 volume library. Almost immediately, one of several Serbian propaganda arms in North America, a group known as SAVA - Serbian American Voter's Alliance, with the assistance of a retired Chicago college professor, created the myth that the film and photographs of the shelling of Dubrovnik were done with burning tires and trick camera angles and asserted that the city was not really damaged at all!

In March 1992, the peoples of Bosnia also went to the polls to vote for independence and sovereignty. The Croatian and Bosnian Muslim populations voted overwhelmingly for independence. The Serbs, representing 31% of the Republic's population, boycotted the referendum. When the European Community recognized Bosnia's independence on April 7, Serbia launched a full-scale war of aggression against that new nation. Although the so-called Yugoslavia claimed to have no forces in Bosnia, it was clear that the ongoing war, like the wars against Kosova, Slovenia, Croatia and three previous Balkan wars of the twentieth century (the third got out of hand and was renamed World War I) would be laid at the feet of Serbia.

Protracted Conflict

Mislabeled a "civil war" by the media, the war continued until December 1995. For three years the United Nations, the European Community, and the United States did little to end the aggression as the result of endless back room bickering and disagreement among the erstwhile NATO allies. The so-called Vance peace plan, which led to a cease fire in Croatia, was violated over 7000 times. It left the Serbs in control of one-third of Croatia's territory and seventy per cent of Bosnia by early 1995.

American resistance to intervention in Bosnia and Croatia began to change in June of 1995 when a US Air Force F-16 fighter was blown out of the Bosnian sky by a "Bosnian Serb" surface-to-air missile. Many in the media and US Congress demanded to know how the rag-tag "Serb rebels" with a "third rate air defense system" could so humiliate the UN, the US and NATO. Despite the pilot's heroic escape and rescue, humiliation it was. The answer was that "Serb rebels" did not shoot down the plane. The Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) did, and the UN, NATO and US intelligence services knew it.

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Edición electrónica de Studia Croatica, 1998
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