FRI, 25 OCT 1996 22:54:40 GMT
Five Years Since the War for Dubrovnik
AIM Podgorica, 16 October, 1996
On the fifth anniversary of the raid against Dubrovnik, Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic called this act a visionary accomplishment of his party. Speaking about merits of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialist (DPS), at the promotion on Zabljak, Bulatovic boasted that on 20 September 1991, "the first ecological state in the world" was proclaimed here, and "just a day after that, our boys in uniforms of the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) crossed the border of Republic of Montenegro to legitimately defend the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia". "We were the party which stood behind the one and the other", finally admitted Bulatovic, who had for years attributed this act to the JNA.
On 20 September 1991, it was quite certain that an attack against Croatia was being prepared. With great pomp, "the first ecological state in the world" was proclaimed on Zabljak that day, and the vice-president of the rump presidency of SFRY, Branko Kostic, said that "Montenegro is to be defended not only within its borders", that "Croatian combatants were accumulationg an army on our borders", and if "war was imposed on us, Montenegro will not fail to participate". On that very day, reserve units of the Titograd corps were sent to Herzegovina. To protect inter-ethnic relations, of course. Although it was already late to stop the war, Momir Bulatovic stated to the journalists then: "We can interrupt mobilization at any moment". That is exactly what the opposition parties demanded.
When not long after that, the first member of the Montenegrin reserve units was killed in the vicinity of Stolac, dodging responsibility, Momir's state Presidency disassociated itself by saying that allegedly they "knew nothing about movement of troops on the territory of B&H", so it was demanded from general Kadijevic to come to Montenegro "in order to provide full information", which he has never done. In the meantime, mostly via YUTEL, Montenegrin audience could see how members of reserve units from this Republic gave vent to their low instincts over there. That is why President of B&H Alija Izetbegovic, demanded from the "General Staff to issue an order immediately for withdrawal of armed columns from Montenegro in the same direction they had come from", and from President Bulatovic to do the same "for the sake of the good reputation of the Montenegrin people". However, they remained silent, and Bulatovic in his answer to Alija said that he was "powerless"!
On 1 October 1991, violent armed operation of the JNA from Montenegro and Herzegovina started (assisted by units of the territorial defence of Montenegro and special units of Montenegrin police) on land, the sea and air, officially justified by defence of Prevlaka and borders of Montenegro. It ended by taking possession of a part of the Croatian territory and bombing of the city below hill Srdj (Dubrovnik), and finally after a year of futile warfare it all ended with the agreement between Tudjman and Cosic on demilitarization of Prevlaka and withdrawal of the Yugoslav army 15 kilometres inside Montenegrin territory.
Thirty five thousand soldiers had started towards Dubrovnik, "to draw demarcation lines with the Croats once and for all" (Milo Djukanovic), and as officially declared, 165 Montenegrin members of reserve forces were killed in the operation. Several hundred of them were wounded, many of them disabled for life. In their military cards, the state admitted "participation in the war". The Montenegrins earned the epithet of "destroyers of Konavli and Dubrovnik": 75 per cent of industrial capacities were either destroyed or plundered, more than 2,500 family houses were set on fire, and over 5,000 were more or less damaged.
To make irony even more bitter, the one who summoned citizens of Montenegro into "antifascist front against frantic Ustashe", President of the Republic of Montenegro, Momir Bulatovic, only two years later, without asking forgiveness (and without any consequences!) says: "Dubrovnik was and still is the point of our greatest national shame and a bait which numerous people in the West were caught by treating us as bellgerent and irresponsible people" (from the interview given to NIN in January 1993).
Opening of the front towards Dubrovnik, Svetozar Marovic, member of Republican Presidency and secretary general of the ruling party at the time, justified with the following words: "It was not possible to ensure peace in any other way, and it was possible to protect it by force, because force had attacked peace, and evil had set in motion". Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic was more specific in his conviction that Montenegro would win the "war imposed on it" and that it would draw demarcation lines with Croatia "once and for all", but noting that new borders would be drawn "much more justly and with better logic than it was done by semiskilled Bolshevik cartographers".
It so happened, however, that general of the army Veljko Kadijevic (at the time of "Dubrovnik storm", federal secretary for national defence), after retirement, in his book "My View of Dissolution", clarified the goal of the operation: "By liberation of Prevlaka and broader region around it, Boka Kotorska bay was ensured for the navy, by blocking Dubrovnik, counterbalance was created for the blocked garrisons of the JNA deep within the territory of Croatia, and exit to the coast in the part of Ston-Peljesac was a serious threat to advancing towards Split in cooperation with Mostar group". So much for allegations that Croatia had intended to attack Montenegro!
"My option was not to conquer Dubrovnik, but to block it both from the land and the sea, but to go to the Neretva river and in case the JNA had to withdraw like we withdrew it from the territory of the Republic of Serb Krajina, we would have withdrawn it from the Neretva and Debeli Brijeg", resolutely said Branko Kostic, commander-in-chief and superior to Kadijevic at the time, after he had descended from power in an interview to weekly Monitor. "When that happened, this territory would have been taken over by UN peace forces without jurisdiction of Croatia. That was our conception, and only afterwards we would have talked about demarcation", clarified Kostic three years later.
In 1993, President Bulatovic also started talking about "unfortunate use of the JNA", diminishing his own responsibility for it. As an example, he mentioned burnt Vukovar, but for him, as he told NIN, "Dubrovnik was in the zone of his responsibility". "We were really forced to protect the territory of Montenegro and occupy strategic points for our security. Let me just remind you that our boys from Niksic had taken possession of Mostar airfield just four hours before Ustashe formations arrived there. Similar was the case with Cilipi and the armament and ammunitition storehouse in the Neretva river valley", Bulatovic specified. There years later, Bulatovic changed his stance. In an interview to Slobodna Dalmacija, he tried to shift his own responsibility onto Kadijevic: "Believe me, Kadijevic had literally told me: 'Momir, 30 thousand Ustashe are marching towards Montenegro, and people will not respond if you do not convince them to'", said Bulatovic obligingly, and then confirnmed: "I am not proud because our boys participated in the war, but it was my duty to stand in front of these soldiers". And that was what he had done.
This means that "liberation" and "cleansing" of Dubrovnik was not undertaken because "Ustashe" had attacked Montenegro, even less "for reasons of humaneness" (Branko Kostic), because of blocked military barracks and threatened Serb population in the region of Dubrovnik, and certainly not "because of fascism" (Momir Bulatovic), but it was from the very beginning, an organized and premeditated operation of the state and military top echelons to conquer the whole territory to Split and Neretva, and then dictate negotiations with Croatia and the international community.
When this is so, what connotation is given to the words of Montenegrin minister of defence, Bozidar Babic (who was a colonel, and now is a colonel-general and commander of the Second Army), uttered when Croatia was attacked: "Should the question why outside Montenegro be put at all? Shall we leave the members of the JNA and all those who wish to live together alone, at the mercy of Ustashe beasts? Is not the border wherever a single soldier of ours, the soldier of the JNA is attacked? And finally an attack by force must be answered by force, and make Ustashe commanders, officers and chiefs see that they can leave to their sovereignty they yearn for, but in a slightly different manner than they had imagined". And when Montenegrin democratic opposition sang in Cetinje: "From (mount) Lovcen, a fairy cried, forgive us Dubrovnik, those were all Chetniks, Momir's mercenaries", minister of defence Babic fiercely attacked them by saying: "they had attacked us". "It was not Montenegro and the JNA on their territory that caused, started and waged war against the Ustashe authorities and the misguided Croatian people in that region (of Dubrovnik), but it was the 'democratic' authorities and their armed formations who attacked Montenegro and parts of the armed forces on its borders", bluntly snapped Babic.
Nevertheless, despite the state lie, resistance movement in Montenegro has never yielded. That this is true, writing of Monitor testifies from the very first day, rallys of the opposition, the Liberals primarily, activities of the Civic Committee for Peace, of the Montenegrin PEN Centre, of Montenegrin "Matica", appeals and poems by Jevrem Brkovic, Vitomir Nikolic, members of the Academy Pavle Mijovic and Vojo Stanic...
(AIM) Branko Vojicic