Monday, April 06, 2009

April 6

1941: Enraged by Belgrade's rejection of the Tripartite Pact, Adolf Hitler orders Unternehmen Strafgericht (Operation Punishment), the attack on the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Italy, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria join the invasion. By April 10, Croat troops had mutinied and the "Independent State of Croatia" was established, eagerly welcoming the Germans. By April 18, the war was over and Yugoslavia had ceased to exist, partitioned by the invaders.

What followed was four years of uprisings (by royalists and Communists), brutal reprisals by the occupiers, and a genocide of Serbs, Jews and Roma by the "Independent State of Croatia." Whether the Yugoslav insurgency really disrupted the German war effort to any great extent is debatable, but the fact remains that Hitler's whim delayed the planned invasion of the USSR by five weeks.

1992: Washington and countries of the EEC (precursor to the EU) recognize Bosnia-Herzegovina as an independent state. The recognition was requested by the Muslim-dominated regime of Alija Izetbegovic, seeking to trump the objections of the country's Serbs. Just over a third of the country's population, the Serbs supported staying in Yugoslavia, but were willing to accept an independent Bosnia if it were organized on the Swiss model (a confederation of ethnic cantons). Bosnian Croats backed Izetbegovic's declaration of independence, but also sought territorial autonomy; units of Croatian Army were already present in many parts of Bosnia, skirmishing with the retreating Yugoslav federal army and Serb militias.

In February of 1992 it seemed that a compromised had been achieved under the aegis of the EEC, with all three groups agreeing on a proposal submitted by Portuguese diplomat Jose Cutilheiro. However, in March Izetbegovic reneged on the agreement, following a consultation with the U.S. Ambassador to Yugoslavia, Warren Zimmerman. Convinced (erroneously) that he had Croatia's backing, confident in U.S. support, willing to sacrifice as many lives as necessary to achieve his goal of Muslim-dominated Bosnia, Izetbegovic simply refused to make any deals with the Serbs. Recognition of his regime closed the door on all political and diplomatic avenues of resolving the Bosnian conundrum; Western policymakers claimed it was supposed to prevent a war; in fact, it made war inevitable.

9 comments:

M said...

Great post, as always. I recalled very well the 1941 anniversary but because of all the things to do, I had forgotten the 1992 anniversary which is weird since, about BiH, I never forget the other 1992 date. March 1, I mean. Best wishes, GF.

Suvorov said...

I just read a post which relates to this topic: http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/5973
I am referring to the one written by "Anonymous" (apparently he wasn't proud enough of his real Croatian name to reveal it). Would you please take a look at what he wrote if you have time. This was written in response to Edward Herman's article, which I found on de-construct. Thanks.

Suvorov said...

Nice article on antiwar. If I may, I'd like to suggest that you allow comments there as well (I don't know the mechanism, but some other contributors have done it). I just think there could be great discussions that way. Thanks.

Gray Falcon said...

Thanks! The comment feature on Antiwar is pretty new (they redesigned the site just recently), so I haven't looked into it much, but I'll ask. My position on comments, however, is that maybe 5% of worth anything, and dealing with the other 95% is a colossal waste of time. Present company excepted, of course.

The ratio is somewhat better when one looks at responses to Herman's essay, but it's an exception confirming the rule. The anonymous poster, as well as other Defenders of Official Truthiness (to shamelessly borrow Colbert's term, because it fits) show that a lot of people have a vested interest in history remaining just the way it is...

Suvorov said...

Thanks for your reply and for looking at that post! Actually, if you are willing and have time to read my response to Feffer's article, here it is: http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/6016
I would also like to ask you a few more questions. How many Chetniks were there under Mihajlovic's command? How many were there in other factions? How many people were in Nedic's guard and other similar "German-inspired" formations? How many Partizans were there and what percent of them were Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, (of course there were also Bosniaks, Albanians, and other small numbers of ethnic groups living in Yugoslavia)? Yesterday I became familiar with the story behind "Serbia's Secret War", a book supposedly written by American dermatologist Philip Cohen with no background in history or any knowledge of Serbo-Croatian, who later received a medal from Franjo Tudjman...
By the way, is there any book in English about Balkans during WWII which you would recommend? Thanks again.

Gray Falcon said...

Solid response to Feffer; Markovic was Yugoslavia's Prime Minister, not President, but that doesn't detract from your argument.

I frown upon comparisons with the Confederacy, because that was a case of Union aggression. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the eighty-odd years of practice up to that point never disputed the legality of secession from the U.S. What Lincoln did was not provide an argument against secession, but have those who supported it killed. Of course, as soon as this is pointed out, the DOT (see earlier comment) invoke slavery; and I've got plenty of Serbian issues to deal with without getting into that particular fight. Suffice to say that the "Lincoln defense" is neither accurate nor appropriate (see http://www.antiwar.com/malic/?articleid=702)

Gray Falcon said...

Oh, as for the question about the numbers of Royalists and Communists, I'm consulting an authority on the subject; I hope to have that info soon, and put it in a blog post of its own.

Suvorov said...

Thank you so much for researching that subject! Yes, I agree with your point about the American Civil War. I can't quote Gore Vidal verbatim at the moment, but he said that the reason some historians argue that the war was about freeing the slaves is that historians are made from the same stuff as journalists nowadays. I am only finding it noteworthy that those who regard Lincoln as their hero, at the same time consider Serbs to be the aggressors. This is getting off topic, but I just wonder how much we really know about history. I recently read in a history book that 300,000 people were killed in Bosnia in 1992-1995. It also talks about Serb concentration camps and quotes a Serb guard (his name and the location of the camp are naturally not given) who said: "We won't waste bullets on them." Could have come straight from Amanpour report. But why would anyone think that historical records from more distant past are more accurate?

Deucaon said...

I think this might be relevant to this particular discussion.

http://illyria.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=srbijaserbia&action=display&thread=21800&page=2