“What about the U.S. role in Croatian atrocities?”
by George Jatras – Letter published in Washington Times – 28 April 2002
The Washington Times
Sunday, April 28, 2002/page B2
Your April 22 article, “Indicted general accuses U.S., Clinton of war atrocities,” brings to light two problems that should be of concern to all Americans: The duplicity and injustice of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and shortsighted and unprincipled aspects of U.S. foreign policy.
In the article, you report that a Croatian general indicted by the war crimes tribunal in The Hague for being responsible for atrocities committed against Krajina Serbs during “Operation Storm” in 1995 claimed that leading members of the Clinton administration authorized and oversaw the operation. The article states that 150,000 Serbs were ethnically cleansed from the region. The Croatian general is accused of “command responsibility” for the killing of 150 Serbian civilians. Other reliable sources put the figure of those ethnically cleansed at 250,000 and the number of civilians killed at over 5000.
A spokeswoman for chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte is quoted as saying, “It’s not Operation Storm that is being indicted, but the crimes that were committed during and afterward” — in this case, by Croatian soldiers whose actions fell under the responsibility of the accused general.
However, the whole object of “Operation Sotrm” was to “ethnically cleanse” all Serbs from the Krajina region of Croatia, the same kind of war crimes for which Slobodan Milosevic and other defendants have been charged by the tribunal. The main difference is that without U.S. military aid and technology, “Operation Storm” may not have been successful.
In another example of the deceptions that are common from The Hague tribunal, Mrs. del Ponte’s spokeswoman stated that U.S. support for the operation “has yet to be established. I don’t know that the [Clinton] administration was involved.” Such bald-face lies from a representative of the ICTY should be a warning to anyone who supports the forming of a permanent International Criminal Court. The facts of U.S. involvement have been widely reported, albeit ignored.
A headline in the Aug. 25, 1995 Navy Times read: “4 Navy jets bomb Serb missile sites.” The accompanying article reported that the air strike took place on Aug. 4, 1995, at the beginning of the Croatian offensive.
The air strike reportedly was in response to a request for air support by a contingent of Pakistani U.N. peacekeepers who reported Croatian artillery rounds striking near their outpost. When the Navy jets entered the region they were picked up by Serbian air defense radar. Upon being “targeted” by the Serbian radar, the jets bombed two Serbian surface-to-air missile sites.
It seems more than a coincident that the air strike eliminated a Serbian missile site in the very area which was under attack by the Croatians. The Navy Times gave the name of the ship from which two of the planes launched, the name of the flight leader and the name of the Italian air base from which the other two planes took off. Both the Chicago Tribune and the International Tribune carried similar articles.
After reading the articles, I called the office of Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, to ask why, when we claimed to be neutral, U.S. aircraft had put in an air strike against Serb facilities in support of the Croatian offensive in Krajina. After all, the request from the Pakistani peacekeepers was because they were endangered by Croatian artillery and any aircraft entering Serbian air space should expect to be picked up by air defense radar.
In response to inquiries to the Pentagon, Sen. Warner’s staff assistant was told that no air strike was made. The response was the same even after the Pentagon official was told of the Navy Times, Chicago Tribune and the International Tribune articles. I pursued the issue by calling NATO’s AIRSOUTH headquarters in Naples where I was handed from one person to another but never received a satisfactory answer – a classic example of stonewalling.
Further proof of U.S. involvement which seems to have eluded Ms. del Ponte’s staff was in aNov. 25, 1995 story in the Washington Times, “Retired U.S. brass sell military expertise,” which described the operation of Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI), a group of retired senior military officers and NCOs based in Alexandria, VA, that sells its expertise to a number of foreign countries.
The Croatian Defense Ministry was a customer of the company. Even though the officers claim, presumably with straight faces, to have taught the Croats “only mundane aspects of leadership and the military’s role in a democracy,” as you reported, the timing of the training program just prior to Operation Storm and the similarity of the Croatian tactics to American doctrine raises questions as to how mundane the training was.
Another article in The Washington Times, “Pentagon played role in US help for Croatia,” which appeared Oct. 30, 1995, cited a source who described a visit to Croatia by MPRI vice-president and general manager, retired General Carl Vuono, former Army Chief of Staff, which included ten meetings “with senior Croatian officers in the five days before the Krajina offensive, during which time they worked out computer simulations that turned out to be remarkably similar to what actually took place.”
A statement by MPRI’s spokesman, retired Lt. Gen. Ed Soyster, reveals perhaps more than intended regarding official U.S. government involvement in MPRI’s activities in Croatia and elsewhere: “These are guys [MPRI’s members] who devoted 35 years of their lives supporting government policy. We’re not going to turn our back on that.” I guess that explains why MPRI is willing to train Kosovo Liberation Army and National Liberation Army narco-terrorists who are also trained and financed by Osama bin Laden and may one day be shooting at American GIs.
In his July 2001 syndicated column, “Wanted — Guns for Hire,” Col. David Hackworth refers to MPRI as “the same outfit that in the early 1990s trained Croatian soldiers for Operation Storm.”
Regarding MPRI’s ethics, Hackworth continues, “But others have had the moral decency to say, ‘Take your high-paying mercenary job and stick it in your ear.’ ”
It’s time for Americans to wake up to the fact that we are on the verge of losing our sovereignty to U.N. kangaroo courts. It is also time that MPRI and similar organizations realize that duty, honor, country come before “supporting government policy.”
COL. GEORGE JATRAS
Air Force (retired)