Gojko Beric, editor of the Sarajevo weekly 'Svijet' and a regular commentator on Bosnian events in the Split weekly 'Feral Tribune', looks at the political controversy in Bosnia behind the book of the former Bosnian army chief - of - staff, Sefer Halilovic.
As far back as five years ago, in an agreement with Milosevic and Tudjman, Alija Izetbegovic wanted to creat a feudal Islamic state in Bosnia, he tricked all those who at the beginning of the war believed in him that he was fighting for a unified country in its prewar borders and has silently went over the crimes committed by his army against the Croats in Uzdol and Grabovica ! These accusations against Izetbegovic are presented by general Sefer Halilovic, first commander of the BiH Army, in his recently published book 'Cunning Strategy'. The book split the public opinion in Bosnia, so that the number who have just now felt manipulated grew somewhat. Independent Sarajevo magazine 'Dani' accused the Agency for Research and Documentation (AID), of preventing reports on the promotion of 'Cunning Strategy', which, of course, raised its sales.
At a first glance, a big affair is knocking on the political doors of Izetbegovic's apartment, out of which none of the named will come out unscathed. This would happen if Halilovic's disclosures were really the news. But in essence they are not. The notion that Izetbegovic wants to create an Islamic republic in Bosnia is a thesis which is in circulation as long as the infamous Karadjordjevo agreement between Milosevic and Tudjman. But, in difference to the Croatian president, who is not capable to cover up his obsession with Karadjordjevo nostalgia. Izetbegovic never publicly stated that his goal is the creation of an Islamic state on the territory that remained after Serb - Croat division. Whenever asked about this by the foreign journalists, he would decidedly deny such a notion.
As far as the crimes in Uzdol and Grabovica are concerned, the matters are, at least on a mental plane, clear for a while now. See, nothing is a greater testimony to the similarties among the Balkan nations and their new leaders as this criminal war conducted in Croatia and Bosnia. All were equally cruel in crime, and it was the military might that determined their quantity. There, the Serbs are in first place, followed by the Croats, while the end of the crime list belongs to the Bosniaks. It is clear that Izetbegovic knew about the slaughter in Uzdol, a village near Prozor, and in Grabovica. But, didn't Milosevic know for mass crimes of Karadzic Serbs and Chetnik paramilitaries from Serbia ? Still, he did not even blink. He has been fooling the world for a long time that he know nothing of it, and when they proved to him that this was impossible, he defended himself saying that he has nothing to do with this.
Didn't Tudjman know about the slaughter of Serbs in the Pakrac valley even before 'Feral' wrote about it ? He knew, so what ? It did not even occur to him to condemn this and other crimes. As far as the crimes committed by HVO in Hercegovina are concerned, he imitated Milosevic. Izetbegovic is the only one who, during the war, condemned any killing of women, children and older people, and did not usher revenge, even though his desperate position of a victim allowed him to use all means available.
Today, war bills are reaching everybody, and those most unpleasant are with the Hague seal on the stamps. Insisting on their unconditional payment, the international community placed a mortgage on the political fate of Milosevic and Tudjman, and now even a hot potato has been placed on the palm of Alija Izetbegovic. This has created confusion in Sarajevo: military commanders who had anything to do with the Grabovica case are quarreling and sending accusations each other's way.
The crime in that village on the Neretva river, known by the hydroelectric plant of the same name, happened on September 9, 1993, when 32 civilians have been massacred. At that time a number of military commanders were visiting the area around Grabovica, but all of them say that they learned about the crime at a later date. They don't even mention the names of perpetrators by chance. A general has privately told me that the crime could have only be committed by the people of Ramiz Delalic Celo or Zulfikar Alispago - Zuka. At that time, Delalic was the deputy commander of the Ninth Motorized Brigade, while Zuka was the Commander of the Special Use Unit of the General Command.
The rope of this story, on of the number of similar ones from the previous war was first pulled by Ramiz Delalic - Celo. He attempted to give his story to Sarajevo magazine 'Dani' a confessional character: 'The military security knows by name who fired, who did what and who killed. There is at least hundred statements by fighters who were eyewitnesses. Some of the perpetrators of this massacre were in jail: on October 26, 1993 when I was arrested and when more than 5000 soldiers were arrested in Sarajevo - those that killed in Grabovica were arrested too. Why were they released'?
Ramiz Delalic squares the responsibility for the massacre in Grabovica on colonel Vehbija Karic, accusing him that with his order, he created a psychosis among already frustrated soldiers that nobody will be held responsible if they kill 'a rebellious Croat?.
General Sefer Halilovic states in his book that the state and military top knows exactly the names of the perpetrators, but that they are completely indifferent to this fact. It is certain that at least some of these names are known to general Halilovic, particularly if he states that some of the murderers of civilians live in Sarajevo today. Why doesn?t he identify them publicly then ? Of course, Halilovic does not have a good answer to that key question. It is not a particularly big achievement to accuse Alija Izetbegovic for the division of Bosnia, because nobody will be arrested for such accusations, even less so murdered. It is much more dangerous to say: so and so killed a whole Croat family in Grabovica ! But, if general Halilovic is scared, why is Ramiz Delalic scared, one of the legends of the Sarajevo siege ?
Bearing down on Halilovic, whom it calls 'a cellar officer in white socks, Sarajevo weekly 'Ljiljan' (inclined towards the official circles) reminds its readers that exactly at the time when he was the commander of the BiH Army, in Celebici near Konjic, a camp was formed for the detention of Serbs, about which generals Arif Pasalic and Jovo Divjak testified recently in the Hague. It is up to the court in the Hague to, among other things, establish in the process against Zejnil Delalic, Zdravko Mucic, Hazim Delic and Esad Landzo, accused of war crimes in that camp, to whom was responsible the first accused Delalic, as the commander of the Tactical Group, at the time when the camp was formed. Pasalic stated in the Hague that Delalic was subordinated to general Sefer Halilovic, while the latter states that Delalic was under Pasalic's command.
The background of this general?s quarrel is not simple at all. The complete sense of the book Cunning Strategy?, many explain with the following statement by Halilovic: 'Bosniak authorities intend to send me to the Hague!'. It seems that his book is supposed to nip this idea in the bud.
It is possible that by writing this book, Halilovic took notice of this. But, when more thought is given, this book is only one more addition to the classical story about personal intolerances among the generals and politicians. As Izetbegovic is convinced that any decision of his was the best possible during the war, Halilovic is convinced that it was exactly Izetbegovic who prevented his victorious march to all four sides of Bosnia, removing him as an able soldier who could prevent its division.