Appropriating the Passion

The genocide charges against Kosovo Albanians, the alleged Ustashe nature of all Croats, and the alleged race betrayal of Slavic Muslims formed a lethal brew.[25]

The work of political cartoonist Milenko Mihajlovic offers a taste of this brew. In May 1989, at the height of the Kosovo dispute and Serb anger over the Albanian birthrate, Mihajlovic published a cartoon showing throngs of Albanian babies with demented, leering grins swarming out from behind Marshal Tito, who is depicted as a queen bee. In September of the same year, Mihajlovic depicted Ustashe members fishing for Serb babies with barbed fishing line. As the Serb media stepped up its accusations that all Croats were genocidal, Mihajlovic published a cartoon in January 1990 showing a Roman Catholic prelate with a rosary made out of the eyeballs of Serb children; the Serb infants with their eye sockets empty surround the priest. The deadly

Milenko Mihajlovic Political Cartoons

Religious nationalist cartoon by Milenko Mihajlovic: a Catholic cleric and a Muslim cleric fight over a Serbian baby; the Muslim wields a circumcision knife. From The New Combat , September 1990.

Religious nationalist cartoon by Milenko Mihajlovic: a Catholic cleric and a Muslim cleric fight over a Serbian baby; the Muslim wields a circumcision knife. From The New Combat , September 1990.

position of Bosnian Muslims appeared in a Mihajlovic cartoon of September 1990. In the cartoon, a Roman Catholic prelate and a fez-topped Muslim leader argue over a Serb baby. The prelate wants to baptize the baby, the Muslim to circumcise him. The second frame shows the prelate gouging out the baby's eyes, while the Muslim stretches out the foreskin under a large knife. It is a measure of the degree to which nationalism had degraded Serb culture and civic values that the cartoons of Mihajlovic were published not in some obscure journal but in the Literary Gazette (Knjicevne novine) of Belgrade, the official arm of the Association of Serbian Writers.[26]

By 1992, the charges against Albanians, Croats, and Slavic Muslims had been woven together into a claim of both actual and imminent genocide against Serbs by a worldwide Islamic conspiracy aided by Germany and the Vatican. The charges were repeated by Serb Church leaders such as Metropolitan Amfilohije Radovic in cosmic terms reminiscent of Njegos: orthodoxy in the Balkans was "the last island of holiness, of untroubled and unpolluted truth," against which "all the demonic forces are directed."[27] Fears of a demographic plot by Muslims were exploited to spur a higher Serb birthrate. Serb Orthodox Bishop Vasilije, of the Zvornik-Tuzla area in northeast Bosnia, warned of catastrophe from the low Serb birthrate. The Serb Orthodox Church offered medals to Serb mothers for bearing many children. A Serb artist demanded that Serb women give birth every nine months. If a woman refused, "We will hand her over to the Mujahidin (Islamic fighters) from the [United Arab Emirates]. Let her have them inseminate her."[28]

By the time the Bosnian conflict began, the national mythology, hatred, and unfounded charges of actual genocide in Ko-

sovo and imminent genocide in Bosnia had been shaped into a code: the charge of genocide became a signal to begin genocide. In 1992, witnesses began to notice a pattern in the atrocities by Serb forces in Bosnia. A massacre would take place in a village immediately after the local news announced that the Croats and Muslims were about to exterminate Serbs.

José Maria Mendiluce, an official of the UN High Commission for Refugees, was witness to the organized killing of unarmed Muslims in the town of Zvornik. He observed that they fit a pattern of atrocities carried out by the militia of Serb religious nationalist Vojislav Seselj: "For days, the Belgrade media had been writing about how there was a plot to kill all Serbs in Zvornik. The authorities in Zvornik realized that the point in question was a typical maneuver by Seselj's Radical Volunteers. This maneuver always precedes the killing of Muslims, as had already happened in Bijeljina and many places along the left bank of the Drina River."[29] An overlapping and robust ideology had taken shape. To refute any part or even most of the Serb radical position would only lead to new charges and channel the rage in new directions. In justifying the atrocities in Bosnia, Serb nationalists would point to atrocities by Croatian army forces in World War II or in the 1991 Serb-Croat war. When it was pointed out that the largely Muslim population selected for extermination had nothing to do with the Croat army and indeed had been attacked by the Croat army in 1993, Serb nationalists would shift to blaming all Muslims for the acts of those who fought with the Ustashe in World War II. When it was pointed out that many of the families who suffered worst in the Serb army onslaught in Bosnia were families of World War II Partisans who fought against the Ustashe, Serb nationalists would shift to claims

of Ottoman depravity and treat the Muslims as Turks. When it was pointed out that the Slavic Muslims were just as indigenous to the region as Orthodox Christians or Catholics, the discussion would then shift to allegations that the Bosnian Muslims were fundamentalists and that Serbia was defending the West against the fundamentalist threat of radical Islam.When it was pointed out that most Bosnian Muslims were antifundamentalist by tradition and character, the Serb nationalist would move to the final fallback position: that this was a civil war in which all sides were guilty, there were no angels, and the world should allow the people involved to solve their own problems.[ ] Hatred of Albanians, hatred of Croats, hatred of Muslims (both Albanian and Bosnian) were combined and reinforced through endless loops of victimization not accountable to evidence or reason. Then the language of eternal victimization was flipped into a code in which charges of genocide against Serbs became a signal to begin genocidal operations against Bosnian Muslims.

In 1987, a Serbian communist party official by the name of Slobodan Milosevic was upbraided by Serb nationalists in Kosovo for not attending to Serb concerns in the province. Milosevic returned to a tense meeting with Kosovo Serbs. A large Serbian crowd surrounded the building in which the meeting was held. When Milosevic emerged, a vulnerable-looking elderly Serb ran up and shouted that the Albanian-dominated Kosovo police were beating people in the crowd.

"These people will not beat you again!" The response by Milosevic was shown throughout Serbia on all the major television networks. What the viewers were not shown was how the incident was staged. Serb nationalists, with Milosevic's approval, had supplied the crowd with truckloads of heavy stones. At a given

moment the crowd threw the stones directly into the face of police who had been standing by. The violence was instigated through crowd manipulation and exploited through media manipulation, tactics Milosevic would refine during his rise to absolute power.[31]

On June 28, 1989, the Serb Orthodox Patriarch led a procession of three hundred Serb priests in scarlet robes at the Gracanica monastery in Kosovo. They were marking the 600th anniversary of the death of Lazar at the battle of Kosovo. The Patriarch lit two ten-foot candles in honor of the martyrs of the battle of Kosovo and then stored the candles away until they could be lit in another century on the 700th anniversary. For a week, Serb pilgrims had gathered at the monastery to pray before the relics of Lazar.[32]

Nearby, on the plain of Gazimestan where the battle had taken place, a vast crowd of pilgrims estimated at between one million and two million gathered for the commemoration of the battle of Kosovo.[33] On this occasion, June 28, 1989, Serb President Slobodan Milosevic consolidated three years of effort to instigate and appropriate radical nationalist sentiment.

Serbia was accustomed both to a cult of mythic personality (Milos Obilic, Lazar) and the cult of personality under Tito, whose image adorned homes and businesses throughout Yugoslavia. As he stood on the podium before the massive throng at Kosovo on June 28, 1989, Milosevic could see the evidence that he had become the bridge between the Titoist Great Leader and the Serb nationalist icon; in the crowd, next to pictures of Lazar, were pictures of Slobodan Milosevic. Before the vast and euphoric throng, Milosevic spoke of ancient battles to defend Europe and warned of battles to come.

Three vectors of mythic power came together in the 1989 passion play performance. The fourteenth-century- ancestors of Slavic Muslims were characterized as Christ killers and then, through temporal collapse effected by the performance, identified with present-day Slavic Muslims in Bosnia. The hatred of Albanians in Kosovo province in 1989 was fused with the hatred of Slavic Muslims. And the atrocities of World War II were resurrected and attributed to Croats and Muslims as entire peoples.

Three streams of rage—disinterment of remains of Serb victims of genocide in World War II, procession of Lazar's relics through Bosnia and around Kosovo, and pilgrimage of Serbs to visit the relics in Kosovo—were channeled into a single raging torrent. Within three years, those who directed the festivities in 1989 were organizing the unspeakable depravities against Bosnian civilians.[34]

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  • MIKE ROTHSTEIN
    Are all croats ustashe?
    4 years ago

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