‘Of course, there was nothing spontaneous about the conflict. Most of the victims were produced by the professionals of the Yugoslav Army, by the Serbian police and by paramilitary groups whom the Serbian police organised, armed and shipped to the frontlines.
It was only in its later stages that the conflict also assumed some traits of a civil war, because it was impossible for civilians to remain neutral. It was at this later stage, roughly after 1992, that members of various ethnic groups flocked together and armed themselves as an act of self-preservation. It was also at this stage that non-Serbs started to retaliate against their Serbian neighbours for the atrocities committed by Milošević’s professionals. Milošević must have been delighted to learn that, according to the State Department, ‘There were no good guys in the conflict’. Being the main culprit, instigator and executioner, he readily agreed on many occasions that ‘all sides are committing atrocities’, thus equating the victims with the aggressors, and appearing to hold an ‘objective’ position at the same time.
Milošević was well aware that the hatred between Serbs on one hand, and the Croats and Bosnians on the other, was not the cause of the conflict, but the result of the brutal and unprovoked crimes perpetrated against the others (especially in Bosnia) by the Serbian side (his Army and his police). He also knew that these crimes were so terrible that they would create enough hatred for the war to be able to perpetuate itself.’
This essay was first published in the book “War and Change in the Balkans” (Cambridge University Press, 2006.) It was later re-published by Serbian portal Peščanik.net in 2009. This is the english version. You can find the serbian version here.
By: Srđa Popović Peščanik.net 2009
Throughout the eight years of conflict in the former Yugoslavia, Western, and particularly American policy in the region has been characterized by confusion, wishful thinking, procrastination, evasions and a lack of focus and determination.
The most likely reason for such behavior on the part of the United States may simply have been that, in 1991, Yugoslavia was very low on the State Department’s list of priorities. This was a time of great turmoil in the world. The end of the Cold War, the fall of communism, and the unification of Germany were certainly all events of epochal and global significance that by far outweighed the…
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