Something strange happened at the Hague Inquisition today. The faux court, styling itself the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia) passed judgment on three Croatian generals, accused of atrocities during the 1995 campaign that obliterated the UN-guarded zones inhabited by ethnic Serbs. Two generals, Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, were sentenced to prison terms; the third, Ivan Cermak, was acquitted.
The strangeness was not in that the court more or less specifically established in order to persecute (not a typo) Serbs has actually convicted Serb-killers. That has happened a time or two before. Rather, Gotovina and Markac were convicted on grounds of belonging to a "joint criminal enterprise" (JCE) against the Serbs, led by Croatia's first president, the late Franjo Tudjman.
So far, that quasi-legal construction, developed specifically for the prosecution of Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, has been used solely to prosecute every Serb official that the Inquisition could get its hands on. While pointedly not interested in examining jus ad bellum questions, the Tribunal has nonetheless sought to delegitimize all Serb war efforts by blaming the Yugoslav wars on Milosevic's alleged - but never proven - conspiracy to create a "Greater Serbia." Meanwhile, other belligerents were put on trial infrequently, and then only for jus in bello infractions and always individually. So the use of the JCE against Croatians is a somewhat unexpected turn.
The generals' defense, like that of official Zagreb, has been two-pronged. On one hand there was the "logic" that Croatian troops could not have possible done anything illegal, since they were only acting in legitimate self-defense. (This is the sort of morality that runs rampant these days, where the deeds themselves do not matter, only the identity of the perpetrator.) On the other hand, faced with tapes and transcripts of Tudjman's orders to obliterate the Serbs, they argue that they were only doing Empire's bidding, and ought not be punished for it.
For it was Washington that coordinated the August 1995 operation (known as Oluja, or "Storm") with Tudjman and his generals, having trained and equipped the Croatian military through the "private contractor" MPRI. There are numerous testimonies about this, including one in Richard Holbrooke's memoir of his colleague Robert Frasure referring to the Croats as America's "junkyard dogs," about whose methods one ought not get "squeamish." Washington's Ambassador to Zagreb, Peter Galbraith, even said that the exodus of Serbs in 1995 could not be qualified as "ethnic cleansing," since ethnic cleansing was something only the Serbs committed!
Given that both ICTY and Croatia were instruments of Imperial policy, it was not unreasonable of Zagreb to expect never having to answer for its actions. The Empire is notorious for throwing its allies under the bus, though, once they've served their purpose...
It would be a mistake to believe that the Tribunal or the Empire have suddenly developed a case of caring about Serb suffering. At best, the judgment against the generals is a gambit to create the perception of impartiality, while continuing to pursue the "Greater Serbian conspiracy." Under the JCE, the accused is guilty of merely existing - i.e. holding a position of authority the Tribunal decides should have had control or even awareness of events - so the fact that one of the generals was acquitted strongly suggests the verdict was political. It is entirely possible that the other two will be acquitted in the appeals process (as was the case with Bosnian Muslim warlord Naser Oric).
None of this is helping the Croatians cope; they've been told for years that their side was virtuous, innocent and pure, their cause just and unimpeachable. This verdict plays havoc with their self-perception. It also threatens the current government, which has very little to show for two decades of independence, and prefers to hide behind the mask of patriotism (per Samuel Johnson).
Predictably, there has been very little solidarity among the Serbs for Croatia's situation (just as there never is any the other way 'round). But to cheer the Inquisition's persecution of someone else actually means validating its persecution of one's own, by recognizing the ICTY's dubious legitimacy. Namely, this ad hoc Tribunal is thoroughly illegal and illegitimate, having been established by the UN Security Council as an instrument of peacekeeping. The UNSC does not have judicial powers, and therefore cannot delegate any; the ICTY's legitimacy is a thinly stretched fiction, occasionally bolstered by displays of facetious even-handedness such as the Gotovina/Markac verdict.