The deafening silence: A Diet of Serbian Imperialism
By Linda Paric
Green Left, Issue #56.
20 May 1992.
On Mother’s Day 1992, my village died. It was killed by Serbian mortars, guns and bombs. It never made the news, just like dozens of Croatian and Muslim villages and towns in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina. It is another Vukovar, Osijek, Mostar, Sarajevo, Ravno, Foca, Visegrad, Vinkovci, Skabrnje, Bijelina, Dalj, Ulice …
Gorice, in north-east Bosnia, had survived 500 years of Turkish occupation, the poverty created by its Serbian landlords since 1914, two world wars and postwar illness and famine.
Like most Croats and Bosniaks in Bosnia-Herzegovina, I grew up on a diet of Serbian imperialism. They were the police, the public servants, the bureaucrats, the politicians and the teachers. Like my brothers before me, I had a Serbian teacher, even though we were all Croatian. He taught us Serbian, under the guise of Serbo-Croat, and gave extra marks if we wrote in Cyrillic script.
Even this was not enough. Only the total destruction of anything that is not Serbian will now satisfy.
Surviving relatives have pieced together the death of my village. After shelling from neighbouring Serbian villages, the Serbian/Chetnik forces moved in with full army equipment: mortars, tanks, guns and anti-aircraft missiles.
Those who had not fled were rounded up in house-to-house searches. Many were killed during this exercise. My father’s childhood friend was blown up by a grenade thrown at him; the Serbs/Chetniks wanted to see how far a Croatian body would scatter. A father and his two sons were shot at point-blank range, one of the sons disabled.
Elderly women were raped and their bodies riddled with bullets. For refusing to leave their ancestral home and land, whole families were wiped out. The dead were not even allowed the dignity of a burial. The bodies were loaded onto trucks and taken to a Muslim village which now serves as a mass graveyard.
The looting was efficient and thorough: even the carpets were removed before the village was bombarded. The local church was the first casualty. All over Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, the looting has been carried out with military precision. Towns and villages that have not fallen will be starved into surrender. Their livestock and grain were either burnt or taken to Serbia.
This is a war with no rules and no Geneva Conventions. Here 70% of the victims do not wear army fatigues. United Nations food aid is hijacked; the president of Bosnia-Herzegovina [Alija Izetbegovic] is held prisoner in his own country; hospitals are prime targets; homes for the disabled and the psychiatrically ill are blown up in the same way as an enemy air base; buses full of children are legitimate targets; cluster 500 kilograms are dropped on villages.
The cluster bombs keep coming while the world community reaffirms that they are forbidden. This same community wrings its hands and declares that nothing can be done. It is the same community that imposed a total ban on arms sales to all the Yugoslav republics a year ago, leaving Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina at the mercy of Serbia, a major arms-producing republic. Serbia also unilaterally inherited Europe’s third-largest and one of its best-equipped armies: in a race to win influence, Washington and Moscow had sent billions in military aid to Belgrade.
Talk about an oil embargo has been dropped from the agenda, and the Serbian planes fly over countries recognised by the world, dropping their deadly cargo with impunity.
It is this impunity that the leaders of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Dr Franjo Tudjman and Alija Izetbegovic, never understood. Like the three wise monkeys, the world sees no massacres; it does not hear the cries of the tortured, the maimed, the abandoned and the orphaned; and it speaks no evil.
Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic has run this military campaign like clockwork. While he declares that Serbia has no territorial intentions on either Bosnia-Hercegovina or Croatia, 30% of Croatia is occupied and another 50% is still at war. All of Bosnia is still at war.
More than a million Croats and Bosniaks have been expelled from north-east Croatia and north and east Bosnia-Herzegovina. The destruction and occupation of northern and eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina is the vital link for the occupied territory in north-east Croatia and a corridor to the south-east, where the Serbs launched their war in Croatia. Greater Serbia has already been created while the world community twiddles its thumbs.
The United Nations will not go to Bosnia-Herzegovina. It has been a very soft target and the Serbs do not need help to quell resistance. In north-east Croatia the UN troops are needed to neutralise opposition. The expulsion of any remaining Croats in that area has gone on unabated under the eyes of the Russian contingent.
For those Croats and Bosniaks who have survived the destruction of their towns, beatings, torture, maiming and rape, mere survival is not always preferable to death. Those still alive have fled from one part of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina to another, as the bombing and destruction spread. Many face hunger and illness. The survivors are scattered in all the countries of Europe and a number of other continents. They are now homeless, and for many there will never be another chance. Many of those who are middle aged have sacrificed their health as “guest workers” in Germany, Austria, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands and any other country that needed labourers to live as foreigners without rights.
And for those like me it is all gone — the room in which both my grandfather and I were born, the graves of my ancestors, the golden wheat fields, the corn where I played hide and seek and the pear tree that was my view of the world.
In my part of the world the silence is deafening. The politicians, the unions, the champions against military takeover in the media, the peace organisations, the aid groups — their silence is deafening.