Tuesday, June 13, 2006

GREEKS SLAUGHTERED BOSNIAN CIVILIANS

GREEK COMPLICITY IN BOSNIAN WAR CRIMES UNHOLY ALLIANCE: GREECE AND MILOSEVIC'S SERBIA

By: Takis Michas

(Takis Michas is a journalist living in Athens. His book Unholy Alliance: Greece and Milosevic's Serbia has been released by Texas A&M University Press)

Perhaps the most shocking part of the multi-volume, seven-thousand-page long Dutch report of the Srebrenica massacre - which led to the recent resignation of the Dutch government - is contained in the third volume.


Entitled 'Intelligence en de oorlog in Bosnie,' this volume deals with the involvement of foreign secret agencies and foreign powers in the war in Bosnia. Its author, Professor Cees Wiebes of Amsterdam University, has had for five years unrestricted access to the Netherlands intelligence community and to various foreign archives and the archives of the United Nations. Moreover, more than 90 foreign intelligence officials were interviewed for the project.
Aficionados of Greece's Balkan politics will find lots of interesting new material in the Dutch report, although it deals only with the years 1994-5. This was the period, however, when some of the worst atrocities were committed in eastern Bosnia, including the massacre of 8,000 Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) at Srebrenica in July 1995.


Greece's support for Milosevic's Serbia under the Mitsotakis government which ruled Greece in the early 1990's was restricted - notwithstanding the occasional breaking of the UN-imposed oil embargo - mostly to the symbolic level. However it seems that under the subsequent PASOK government of Andreas Papandreou, Athens' pro-Milosevic policies took a more sinister turn. As the report indicates, during that period Greece was not content with simply providing humanitarian assistance or even encouraging its oil tycoons to break the UN-imposed fuel embargo on Serbia. It also provided military assistance to the Bosnian Serbs and to indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic.


'There were lots of weapons transferred from Greece,' Professor Wiebes told me in the course of a telephone interview, 'to the port of Bar in Montenegro; from there they would find their way to the Bosnian Serb Army.' The weapons consisted mostly of light arms and ammunition. Another aspect of Greek military assistance took the form of leaking NATO's military secrets to the Bosnian Serbs. 'NATO officials were very reluctant to share intelligence with either the Turks or the Greeks,' said Professor Wiebes, 'because they were afraid that intelligence would leak to either the Bosnians or the Bosnian Serbs. At some point NATO simply stopped sharing intelligence with the Greeks.'


Equally interesting were the activities of a contingent of Greek paramilitaries who were fighting in Bosnia as part of the Drina Corps under indicted war criminal General Ratko Mladic. As it was reported at the time, this group of Greek paramilitaries were in close contact with the Greek intelligence agencies, providing the latter with info concerning military developments on the various fronts of the war. According to the Dutch report, the Greek paramilitaries took part in the Srebrenica massacre and the Greek flag was hoisted in the city after it had fallen to the Serbs. The report bases its findings on telephone intercepts of the Bosnian Serb Army provided by Bosnian intelligence. 'One of the intercepted messages,' Professor Wiebes told me, 'was from General Mladic, who asked for the Greek flag to be hoisted in the city' - presumably to honor the Greek lads.


The presence of Greek paramilitaries and the hoisting of the Greek flag in defeated Srebrenica were reported at the time by some Greek and foreign media. The Greek government, however, vehemently denied the allegations. Moreover, throughout the war in former Yugoslavia the Greek authorities ignored consistently the open and public recruitment of paramilitaries in Greece, who were going to fight against the UN-recognized legal government of Bosnia.

The Dutch report comes a few months after the revelation that Slobodan Milosevic had 250 (!) accounts in various Greek banks during the years 1992-6. The money was used to secretly finance Serbian military operations in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990's. The revelations were contained in a document from the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal, asking the Greek authorities to assist in opening the accounts. Throughout the 1990's the Greek banking authorities had repeatedly denied foreign press reports concerning the existence of Milosevic's secret funds in Greece, while leading Greek judges had publicly refused to cooperate with Carla Del Ponte, chief prosecutor at the Tribunal.


Greece provided a safe heaven for members of Milosevic’s secret services accused by international organizations for serious wrongdoings. In one such case in 1996 the Greek authorities protected and helped get away a member of Belgrade’s secret services who was wanted by the Belgian government and the Interpol for murdering Kosovo Albanian activists in Europe.


The above mentioned allegations represent of course just the tip of the iceberg of the whole sad story. The time has come for the government of Costas Simitis to make public all the information it has at its disposal and to launch a parliamentary investigation into those allegations. If Mr.Simitis fails to do so, he will be perceived as continuing the policy of his predecessors, which included in covering up serious wrongdoings. The results of such an investigation would pose no threat to either Mr. Simitis or to his close associates who always maintained a healthy distance from the Balkan policies of their predecesors. Yes, the results may prove extremely embarrassing to some of the leading PASOK cadres and ministers who constitute the o guard of Andreas Papandreou diehards as well as to some "elder statesmen" from the New Democracy opposition party. But this should not deter him. Let them face the penalty they deserve for supporting in words and deeds some of the most heinous crimes committed in Europe since World War Two.


- - - - -
Greece's Balkan Ghosts
By: Matthew Kaminski


As Takis Michas relates in "Unholy Alliance ," Greece hasn't fitted into the European mainstream comfortably. His study has, overtly, a narrower aim: Greece's relations with Serbia during the bloody dissolution of Yugoslavia. Far from working together with its Western allies, Greece routinely obstructed NATO and EU initiatives, starting with the independence of Macedonia in 1991 to the Kosovo war in 1999. Its political and business class as well as the Greek Orthodox Church collaborated with the Serbia of Slobodan Milosevic and the Bosnian Serbs under Radovan Karadzic.


Public opinion sympathized with the Serbs and turned a deaf ear to reports of Serb war crimes and ethnic cleansing against the Muslims and Catholics. In seeking to understand Greek behavior, Mr. Michas holds up a mirror to his nation's collective psyche. He produces a polemic about Greece's tortuous path to modernization as much as an account of the time. As history, Unholy Alliance fills a gap in the large body of work on the Balkan crises. Athens was an important side actor whose policies and motivations are well discussed here. Whether left or right, successive governments during the 1990s thought they had found a kindred spirit in Milosevic. We get a few insights into Balkan-style diplomacy. Antonis Samaras, the foreign minister in the early 1990s, evidently entertained Milosevic's grand schemes for dividing up Yugoslavia.


In the fall of 1991, the Serb dictator suggested to the Greek chief diplomat he was even willing to carve up Macedonia to create a common Serb-Greek border. Samaras, who could have used his position to dissuade the Serbs from launching a series of disastrous wars, merely demurred. The Greek political establishment was too taken with leader of this "kindred Orthodox" state to notice his deadly designs. The hard-line toward Macedonia over the use of its name and the courting of Serbia dates back to the government of Constantine Mitsotakis. But the man who most shaped Greece in these days was still Andreas Papandreou, who ruled throughout the 1980s and returned to power as prime minister in 1993.


As with Milosevic, he was a Socialist who whipped up a new sort of nationalism after the end of the Cold War. Looking back, it is a wonder the Balkan wars didn't spread beyond the territory of the former Yugoslavia. Not thanks to Greece. Papandreou helped Serbia bypass the U.N.-imposed trade embargo, feeding the Milosevic war machine. Michas says the Greeks supplied oil and guns, and its banks were safe homes for Belgrade's cash, "with the knowledge -- if not the approval -- of the Greek government." Others have uncovered stronger evidence of business collusion with Milosevic's Serbia than is presented here.


Michas gets a few scoops of his own. We learn about the Greek paramilitaries who fought alongside the Bosnian Serbs. When Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic took Srebrenica and massacred 8,000 Bosniak men and boys, the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II, a Greek flag went up over the fallen city. The government knew but did nothing. Other interesting tidbits include the lengths the Greek Orthodox Church went to host Karadzic during his visits and to stop any domestic protests.


It turns out, as well, Greece routinely denied visas to members of the Serbian democratic opposition which today rules that country. And of course during NATO's 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia -- military action that Greece signed up to in Brussels -- 95% of Greeks opposed the bombing and easily dismissed reports of atrocities against Kosovar Albanians. Greece sympathized not only with Serbia, but "with Serbia's darkest side." Why? Mr. Michas, a journalistic heretic within Greece and contributor to these pages, says "the events of the last decade have demonstrated the weakness of Greek society, its vulnerability to the sirens of intolerance and willingness to fall under. . . the 'spell' of ethno-nationalism." Greek leaders openly questioned that the collapse of Yugoslavia could yield peaceful, multiethnic successor states, implicitly saying that ethnic cleansing was not only inevitable but good. A mixed Bosnia or Kosovo would undermine Greece's own founding myth as an ethnically pure Greek nation descended directly from Pericles.If Greece is to become a truly modern European state, it must have the confidence to face up to a different reality: like its neighbors who were also carved out of the Ottoman Empire, Greece is home to large minorities, among them an estimated 200,000 Slavs whose existence Athens denies to this day. While Brussels never says so, Turkey isn't the only country which needs to treat its ethnic minorities better.


Greece's insecurity over northern frontiers, created only in the early 1990s, and self-denial of its own multi-ethnic character dates back to the Greek civil war of 1945-48 when many Slavs sided with the Communists. The failure to bury those ghosts shaped Greek foreign policy in the 1990s, and helps explain the misguided approach toward Belgrade. Papandreou promoted the idea that Greece was under threat-from tiny Macedonia, from the U.S., from Turkey -- and spun conspiracy theories to justify his policies. It continues to this day. Two years ago, a court in Athens sentenced a Greek citizen to 15 months in jail for promoting the language of the Vlachs, another small minority that lives alongside the Slavs in Greek Macedonia.


Michas's impassioned and often obsessive account deserves to be taken seriously for exposing mistakes that must not be repeated.

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