Planning Croatia's Final Solution
HARPERīS MAGAZINE, December 2001, pp. 20-22 READINGS

From minutes of the September 12 and September 19, 1993, meetings of the Council for Defense and National Security of the Republic of Croatia. That year, Croat forces murdered up to 400 Serb civilians in the town of Gospic; in 1995 almost 600,000 Serbs were driven from the Krajina region. This transcript is the first proof that President Franjo Tudjman planned and directed ethnic cleansing and other war crimes. The minutes were obtained by Chris Hedges of the New York Times. Tudjman died in December 1999.

SEPTEMBER 12, 1993

PRESIDENT FRANJO TUDJMAN: Gentlemen, it seems that during the last few days we have had a great military success with the Gospic operation. At the moment when the whole world is recommending - those from the friendly countries as well as the others - that we pursue extreme caution and political flexibility, we nevertheless let ourselves be drawn, both by the Serbsī provocations as well as by our own decision, into a situation that, momentarily, no matter how we interpret it, we have commenced an attack, which they have survived, and, given our own preparations, that cannot be hidden. Croatia can be held to a charge that it is preparing a war with the Serbs in Croatia.

I must admit, that this is my responsibility, as I have permitted the Gospic operation. When General Bobetko came to me with the proposal I took into account the Serb provocations - small provocations; for example, their entrance into the Velebit Range, where they killed some three special policemen, cutting off an ear of one, then the placing of mines at Pakrac, thereby creating a certain political climate both in the public and the parliament - so I accepted the proposal that we are going into this operation, although I was not informed, as I later found out, about all the elements. For example, I knew that Divoselo is Serb, but I did not know that all of these villages, which we conquered, were Serb.

In that way, too, considering that we were carrying on the negotiations about a cease-fire, we brought ourselves into a situation that we can justify only with difficulty, that at a moment when we were discussing a cease-fire we turned to a war operation. The members of the international community followed what is happening and why it is happening. And then we gave them a little bit of different material. Do not think that what General Bobetko is proposing, that we prepare two attacks, that they do not observe this and they do not have the exact information. And then, in addition, in our statements we brought ourselves into a very unfortunate situation. General Bobetko, I told you that after this operation it should be explained that they attacked first - that is, in the Velebit - and that they did what they did, etc. I said that one has to go before the TV cameras and show the captured tanks.

GEN. JANKO BOBETKO: That will be this evening.

PRESIDENT: Therefore, we have to attempt to put our actions in harmony with international policy in order to regain sovereignty over the whole territory with international support and in a peaceful way. Of course, I am not an illusionist to think that we shall succeed in this, but then we should not make our tasks more difficult. We have to get ready.

PRIME MINISTER NIKICA VALENTIC: Mr. President, I have to say a word. President, with the Serbs in Croatia we shall not solve the problem. The only question is when is the time to solve it in another way.

PRESIDENT: Yes, I know that.

VALENTIC: Therefore, and this is something of which I want to convince you, as a man who spent his whole life down there [in the Gospic area], the Serbs do not accept any political solution. I think that all we need to do is to prepare better and hit them from several sides. Thank you.

PRESIDENT: Prime Minister Valentic, with the Serbs in Croatia, those who are now leading Knin and Baranja, no. But that is just a small group, and they still depend on Belgrade. And the problem is, will the international community force Belgrade to stop supplying them?

The moment when Serbia is forced to do this, then we are going to solve the question of Serbs in Croatia. Then that miserable group of some 10 to 20 percent will leave Croatia and then we shall solve that.

And it is clear that we shall not be able to solve it. But should we begin only with that premise, then that means war, which the world will not permit. That is not the only focal point, only the question of national minorities in Croatia. Such problems exist throughout the world, in the Soviet Union, Africa, the Middle East, etc. The international community is oriented toward the resolution of these questions in a peaceful way - for example, as the relations between the Arabs and Israel are being resolved - and that directs us to follow that path, not by war; whereas in our country there is a growing understanding that Croatia must resolve the problem by war, contrary to international norms, meaning by ethnically cleansing the Serbs from Croatia. That is happening in practice because we cannot hide that they have the information that in Slavonia, western Slavonia, some thirty Serb villages disappeared from the face of the earth, and that now these three, four Serb villages were eradicated. This creates a certain picture of Croatia on which we cannot build our political status or economic relations with the world. Understand that.

VALENTIC: That is not the issue, President, but this awaits us in a year again. It is only the question of timing. This awaits us.

PRESIDENT: Yes, if it awaits us then it means that we have to prepare also politically, that we have to prepare ourselves better militarily, and then we also have to prepare so that after our future operation they will no longer be able to hit Zagreb.

VALENTIC: President, as you know, there are many mixed marriages in Gospic; several civilians and old ladies are in Senj, where there is a certain concentration camp, and that is where we should take those that we captured at Citluk and Pocitelj. We should place them there in an acceptable way and then show them off and say a few things. Because I know this for sure - because they asked me to intervene, a granddaughter of one of these is married to my cousin - that in Senj there is a concentration area where you have these refugees from Citluk, Divoselo, and Pocitelj. Then we show them that we do it in this fashion.

PRESIDENT: That would be very good, very good.

VALENTIC: And then when we display them, we pretty them up, wash them, etc.

SEPTEMBER 19, 1993

PRESIDENT: Gentlemen, I open this meeting of the Council for Defense and National Security with the agenda: the development of the situation concerning Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croat-Serb relations. In addition, these UNPROFOR people [U.N. peacekeepers] and others tell us that we did not have to leave the cleanest clearance behind us after we retreated.

MATE GRANIC [Foreign Minister]: That is the last news, the main news of the last twenty-four hours on the SKY News and CNN.

BOBETKO: We turned over fifty-two, so it was said, usable Serb bodies, and the rest were removed. There are some fifty, sixty, in the forest, because it is more difficult to collect them in the forest. But it could happen that they [UNPROFOR] entered a little bit too fast. However, that was cleansed, absolutely. They cannot find anything over there, at least I think so.

PRESIDENT: Gentlemen, to conclude, I have another obligation. Three things: no military actions from our side now and no provocations; prepare to swallow, because now things are being solved in the United Nations and it is important to know whether the Croats are for a peaceful solution or not. Therefore, continue the conversations with Serbs on all levels. That is one thing. Second, Mate [Granic], in Bosnia and Herzegovina under all circumstances carry through the agreements [with the Bosnians], particularly everything that we did there - concentration camps, etc., etc.

[John R. MacArthur, President and Publisher of Harperīs Magazine, is the author of "Censorship and Propaganda" in the Gulf War, New York: Hill and Wang, 1992.]

This web site, intended for research purposes, contains copyright material included "for fair use only"