‘I believe that the charge against me is unique in international war law. Never before have commanders and chiefs of staff been considered responsible for crimes committed by soldiers of other states or entities’, General [Momčilo] Perišić told the judges on the second day of his trial. Danas, 3.10.2009.
In 2006 Momir Bulatović published a book titled Slobodan Milošević, Unstated Defence. Bulatović said in the introduction that the contents of the book was in fact his intended testimony as a witness for the defence at Milošević’s trial. The testimony was never given because, as Bulatović said, ‘fate (or God) did not endow Milošević with better health or a longer life’. Milošević himself is the true author of the book, writes Bulatović. ‘I prepared it [the intended testimony] with respect for the truth, but [watch out: BUT!] also in conformity with Slobodan Milošević’s instructions and binding orders.’ Truth is a good thing, BUT … instructions are even better!
As part of his testimony, Bulatović intended to bring along and place before the Hague tribunal also some minutes of meetings of VSO [the Supreme Defence Council of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, made up of Serbia and Montenegro], which in his view supported Milošević’s defence. The book therefore also includes minutes of the ninth session of VSO, held on 2 June 1993. This is what happened on that occasion:
Života Panić: One of our particular problems is payment of the soldiers of the Army of Republika Srpska. We have done what the Supreme Council asked us to do. But there are officers from this area who are active in the Army of Yugoslavia (VJ), but go for one or two months or longer to that area. (p.160).
Pavle Bulatović: This is an order signed by General Adžić. .. It says here: Members of the JNA who remain on the territory of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, or who are sent to that territory, retain all the rights enjoyed by other members of the JNA. (p.161)
Momir Bulatović: When we, as the JNA, had to retreat from the area of Bosnia-Herzegovina, it was logical then to conduct all activities that would enable the birth and creation of the Army of Republika Srpska. (p.163)
Pavle Bulatović: But it provides the basis for a legal charge against the Army of Yugoslavia! (p.165)
Slobodan Milošević: For us to pay part of the officer corps is highly compromising. (p.165)
Pavle Bulatović: This has been so since May 1992. (p.162)
Let’s see what is being said here in fact. That by order of the Supreme Defence Council officers, members of the JNA from Serbia, were sent to the territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina and that the JNA paid them for that. Let’s look now how shamelessly Milošević spins the facts. This is Milošević’s characteristic method – one could call it the simultaneous revision of history, the ‘renaming of facts’ at the moment of their birth. This led by the end of his rule to what was called Milošević’s ‘autism’, the parallel world of propaganda in which all facts were reinterpreted by simply ignoring and denying reality. Having established at this meeting of VSO that the fact was ‘highly compromising’ that, on the orders of VSO, officers of the JNA were being sent to Bosnia-Herzegovina to command the ‘Serb forces’, Milošević proceeded – doubtless to the astonishment and admiration of those present – to spin reality in this manner:
Milošević: This is not clear to me, and it’s the second time that it has come up at this meeting. I was not aware that we have members of the Army of Yugoslavia in the army of Bosnia-Herzegovina. They are not members of the Army of Yugoslavia. (p.161) Let us not delude ourselves here that they are officers of the Army of Yugoslavia. (p.162) It would be different if we were sending officers from here over there. (p.185)
That was decided, then. None of those present had anything to say about this violation of the truth. They understood the ‘coded’ message that the truth had to be denied. But what remains unexplained, however, is the other unpalatable fact that the officers who ‘are not members of the Army of Yugoslavia’ were nevertheless paid by the Army of Yugoslavia. This issue was posed again at the VSO meeting of 29 September 1994.
Momčilo Perišić: We have the wages for members of the VJ [serving] in Republika Srpska. There are 4,614 people there, in two categories. Since I have searched for modalities [?!], I propose… that we give them to the end of the year, not as wages but as a kind of aid to the families.
Slobodan Milošević: I think the idea is to reduce the families’ social problems? In regard to social aid, I think we should shift this to the ministry for social and veteran questions, and make it possible for them to give certain aid in accordance with modalities that they themselves would work out. Why should the Army do that? (p.184)
The mechanism that Milošević and the VSO employ during the actual meeting to tacitly hide it from themselves, to deceive themselves, is psychologically interesting. And when Perišić finally ended up in The Hague, having successfully deceived himself he was to be genuinely surprised that he was being charged with ‘crimes committed by members of the armies of other states and entities’. Milošević is gone, Perišić is at The Hague, but the Serbian nationalist public has learnt all by itself, without help from them, how to continue to ‘deceive’ itself in this manner.
Translated by Bosnian Institute