Up against Richard Gere and Nicole Kidman, the historical record doesn't stand a chance. Gere is in Bosnia and Kidman just visited Kosovo. Beating a dead horse, the former is entering the familiar genre of anti-Serb films (Behind Enemy Lines, The Peacemaker) -- and UN Goodwill Ambassador (and, coincidentally, Peacemaker star) Kidman is listening to more unverifiable yarns from Kosovo's Serb-loathing Albanian Muslims (without, of course, visiting those who are actually under siege in the province -- the handful of remaining Serbs who can't step outside their miniscule NATO-guarded perimeters without getting killed by Albanians).
How can we fight the jihad when Kidman and Gere are being used to enable it? Just when the Aussie gave us some hope in so prominently signing her name to an anti-terror ad in the L.A. Times -- going against the grain and calling terrorism against Israelis by its name -- we're still at Square One when it comes to terrorism against Serbs.
Of course, if our own government is helping the jihad secure its Balkan base, what does one want from two actors?
For Gere's movie -- a "light-hearted thriller" entitled Spring Break in Bosnia that has him hunting down the fugitive former Bosnian-Serb leader Radovan Karadzic -- filming is being done in Croatia and Bosnia, with the help of local propagandists as consultants, of course. The Serbs, yet again, will be collectively portrayed as the villains in the Balkan tale. Never mind that Gere returned from Bosnia to Croatia ahead of schedule last month, after only 10 days of shooting, reportedly because he was "too scared to stay" in the area.
One wonders what could have spooked him. What did he have to fear from Bosnia? Could it be the ominous signs that the country has been reawakened by the Saudis from its Communist slumber to its Islamic roots? Or did something happen that might have reasserted Bosnia's fascist sympathies, which the UK Telegraph's Robert Fox described in 1993:
These are the men of the Handzar division. "We do everything with the knife, and we always fight on the frontline," a Handzar told one U.N. officer. Up to 6000 strong, the Handzar division glories in a fascist culture. They see themselves as the heirs of the SS Handzar division, formed by Bosnian Muslims in 1943 to fight for the Nazis. Their spiritual model was Mohammed Amin al-Hussein, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who sided with Hitler. According to U.N. officers ... "[m]any of them are Albanian, whether from Kosovo ... or from Albania itself."
They are trained and led by veterans from Afghanistan and Pakistan, say U.N. sources ... The first political act in this new operation appears to have been the murder of the two monks in the monastery ... Mysteriously the police guard disappeared a few minutes before.
Or maybe something happened after Gere "disappeared down a small street in Sarajevo's old Turkish quarter to film the next scene," as BBC.com reported. "It is the early hours of the morning and a Hollywood film crew with blazing lights and buzzing walky-talkies is being put through its paces in the shadow of a mosque."
Whatever it was, Gere returned to the "villa on a hill" where he'd been staying in Zagreb, Croatia. Though the Catholic Croats and Muslim Bosnians are often at each other's throats, they have an uncanny similarity. You see, "Croatian" is more or less a synonym for "Nazi." Except the Croatians managed to sicken even the Germans with the creative lengths they went to for Serb-slaughter, including sawing heads off slowly. (Bosnian Muslims, meanwhile, served in Croatia's concentration camps such as Jasenovac, where 700,000 Serbs were killed alongside tens of thousands of Jews.)
In 1998, NY Times columnist A.M. Rosenthal wrote: "In World War II, Hitler had no executioners more willing, no ally more passionate, than the fascists of Croatia. They are returning, 50 years later, from what should have been their eternal grave, the defeat of Nazi Germany. The Western Allies who dug that grave with the bodies of their servicemen have the power to stop them, but do not."
Indeed, we happily assisted them -- even providing Croatia with Serbian weapons to kill Serbs.
In an article titled "Pro-Nazi extremism lingers in Croatia," the Washington Times in 1997 reported: "A German tank rolls through a small village, and the peasants rush out, lining the road with their right arms raised in a Nazi salute as they chant 'Heil Hitler.' Mobs chase minorities from their homes, kicking them and pelting them with eggs as they flee into the woods. Europe in the 1940s? No. Croatia in the 1990s."
In 1995, the London Evening Standard's Edward Pearce wrote that "you can understand Croatia best by saying flatly that if there is one place in the world where a statue of Adolph Hitler would be revered, it would be in Zagreb."
An AP report the same year described NATO American Commander Colonel Gregory Fontenot in Bosnia turning to two black soldiers in his brigade and saying, "It'll be interesting to hear what you two see, because the Croatians are racist ... They kill people for the color of their skins."
In 2000, Julius Strauss wrote in the UK Daily Telegraph, "Five years may have passed since the end of the Bosnian war but in Ljubuski, one of dozens of Croat villages scattered through the mountains of southwestern Bosnia, hardliners are still in control. By way of greeting, the Croat party official said: 'I hope you're not a Jew or an American. My father fought at Stalingrad. He wore the German insignia with pride. At the end it was only us Croats who stayed faithful to the SS.'
The same year, there was this from The Washington Post: "It was not unusual to see such chilling graffiti as: 'We Croats do not drink wine, we drink the blood of Serbs from Knin,' ... [referring] to the capital of the Krajina region of Croatia where hundreds of thousands of Serbs were ethnically cleansed in 1995 by troops commanded by Gen. [Ante] Gotovina."
In her September 1999 book Nazi Nostalgia in Croatia, Balkans expert Diana Johnstone wrote:
When I visited Croatia three years ago, the book most prominently displayed in the leading bookstores of the capital city Zagreb was a new edition of the notorious anti-Semitic classic, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion". Next came the memoirs of the World War II Croatian fascist Ustashe dictator Ante Pavelic, responsible for the organized genocide of Serbs, Jews and Romany (gypsies) that began in 1941, that is, even before the German Nazi 'final solution'.
And the hit song of 1991, when Croatia once again declared its independence from Yugoslavia and began driving out Serbs, was "Danke Deutschland" in gratitude to Germany's strong diplomatic support for Zagreb's unnegotiated secession. In the West, of course, one will quickly object that the Germany of today is not the Germany of 1941. True enough. But in Zagreb, with a longer historical view, they are so much the same that visiting Germans are sometimes embarrassed when Croats enthusiastically welcome them with a raised arm and a Nazi "Heil!" greeting.
So it should be no surprise that this year's best seller in Croatia is none other than a new edition of "Mein Kampf". The magazine "Globus" reported that "Mein Kampf" is selling like hotcakes in all segments of Croatian society.
Despite the Simon Wiesenthal Center's requests for it to seek extradition, the Croatian government remains uninterested in going after two Croatian Nazis (Ustashi) who killed hundreds of Jews, Serbs and gypsies and now live in brazen retirement in Argentina and Austria.
As independent journalist Stella Jatras summed up, "Today, Croatia arrogantly and blatantly flies its fascist checkerboard flag without fear of condemnation from the world. It has renamed its streets after its Nazi war heroes, and proudly displays its 'Sieg Heil' salute at weddings, funerals, and other functions."
Reenter the moviemakers. Croatian film director Antun Vrdoljak has cast his son-in-law, "ER" actor Goran Visnjic, to play the role of the Hague's top Croatian war crimes suspect Ante Gotovina. According to BBC.com, director Vrdoljak "said he wanted to make the feature film because Gen Gotovina 'is a real hero of the homeland war' ... Gen Gotovina is charged with committing atrocities against Croatian Serbs during the 1990s Balkan wars."
"Gotovina is a metaphor for today's Croatia," Vrdoljak said proudly. According to London's The Independent, "posters with his photo are still plastered across Croatia; T-shirts, mugs and lighters bearing his image are sold and the Spanish wine he was drinking when arrested quickly sold out when it appeared in Croatian stores in December." Vrdoljak has said that he is certain Gotovina will be set free.
He has reason to be certain. While to the world, "Serb" is synonymous with "war criminal" and there is a permanent fixation with the two Serbian fugitives Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, killers of Serbs go unpunished, get acquitted or convicted and released to a hero's welcome -- as Serbs are sentenced to death for killing people who aren't even dead. In Croatia, Serb-cleansing is a national holiday. Whereas Serbia established its own war crimes court in cooperation with the Hague and has been convicting its war criminals, Croatians, Albanians and Bosniaks rally behind their Serb killers, make cinematic homages to them and allow them to pursue political careers.
As for the subject of Gere's fascination -- Karadzic, wanted for "ordering the massacre of '8,000' Muslim males": five thousand were reported missing by their families when they fled to fight elsewhere before Srebrenica's fall, and 3,000 of those have since voted in elections. The remains of the other 3,000, which have been found in and around Srebrenica, died during the three years of fighting, not just when the enclave was overtaken by the Bosnian Serbs. These three years of fighting included the Srebrenica Muslims raiding nearby Serb villages and slaughtering several thousand people. But they're only Serbs and, in practice at least, Serb-killing is a legal, internationally sanctioned sport.
As with Bosnia's Handzar division, in Croatia's Serb-cleansing war of secession from Yugoslavia, the Croats were gifted with an Albanian volunteer -- Agim Ceku -- such a Serb-hunting enthusiast that when the early, Croatian leg of the wars kicked off, this Kosovo Albanian high-tailed it to Croatia and became a colonel in its army. He led Croatian troops in the 1993 offensive on Croatia's Medak Pocket, where Serbs lived. As Canadian journalist Scott Taylor wrote:
It was here that the men of the 2nd Battalion of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry came face to face with the savagery of which [Agim] Ceku was capable. Over 200 Serbian inhabitants of the Medak Pocket were slaughtered in a grotesque manner (the bodies of female rape victims were found after being burned alive). Our traumatized troops who buried the grisly remains were encouraged to collect evidence and were assured that the perpetrators would be brought to justice.
Nevertheless in 1995, Ceku, by then trained by U.S. instructors as a general of artillery, was still at large. In fact, he was the officer responsible for shelling the Serbian refugee columns and for targeting the UN-declared "safe" city of Knin during the Croatian offensive known as Operation Storm [which the New York Times called "the largest single 'ethnic cleansing' of the war"]. Some 500 innocent civilians perished in those merciless barrages, and senior Canadian officers who witnessed the slaughter demanded that Ceku be indicted. Once again, their pleas fell of deaf ears.
Today Ceku is the Prime Minister of Kosovo, and he enjoyed a warm reception from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when the two met over the summer to discuss how best to speed along independence for the Serbian province that this war criminal governs, sans rule of law and beholden to al-Qaeda.
"Throughout the air campaign against Yugoslavia," continues Taylor, Ceku -- by then commanding KLA terrorists in driving two-thirds of the remaining Christian Serbs out, along with the gypsies, Croats, Jews, Ashkalis, Gorani, and other non-Muslim or non-Albanians in Kosovo -- "was portrayed as a loyal ally and he was frequently present at NATO briefings with top generals such as Wesley Clark and Michael Jackson."
Today, the "bin Laden Mosque," built in 2001 (aptly enough), stands tall in Kosovo, where Bill Clinton murals and Wesley Clark Streets are almost as prevalent as bin Laden keychains.
Re-enter Richard Gere, who in 1999 traveled to Macedonia to volunteer in a Kosovo refugee camp. "Reuters reports Hollywood heart throb Richard Gere took tea with ethnic Albanian Kosovo refugees in Macedonia yesterday and promised he would do all he could to help them." On the UK Biography Channel's website at the time, it read, "If nothing else, he uses his star status to give greater voice to his heartfelt beliefs."
And now Gere will use his star status to naively promote the Muslim and Croat causes. Bosnia and Croatia, our modern Fascist allies against our multi-ethnic World War II ally against Fascism -- Serbia.
In 1999, Gere said, "Look, I have the resources and the inclination to find out what's going on in the world. So I feel this responsibility to find out and do the best I can."
In which case he should want to know something about WWII, to better appreciate how the Croatia and Bosnia stories played out in the 1990s, and why the Serbs reacted as they did. Yugoslavia's 40+ years of Communism were a mere interruption in the multilateral genocide of Serbs, which picked up where it left off immediately upon Communism's decline.
Though he ultimately came around to the dominant, de riguer view of the Albanian-Serb conflict, Gere initially had this to say in 1999: "We had been told it was a totally black and white situation and in my estimation it's not black and white. Obviously the violence is horrific, but it's horrific on all sides." And this is precisely the point: The Serbs weren't angels, and they are the only Balkan players to have admitted as much. The trouble is that they were less guilty than their enemies, whose side we inexplicably took. And so it is the Serbs whom we hunt. Because it's easier.
Gere, who is passionate about "learning" why war criminals remain uncaught, recently said of them, "I'm interested in people who cause so much mischief, so much suffering ... I think we can learn from them. Why they are the way they are and why are we so vulnerable to them."
Director Richard Shepard echoed that he hopes the film "is asking a bigger question, which is why are there war criminals throughout the world who the world said they want to catch and yet they don't."
But in choosing a Serbian war criminal as the vehicle through which to answer this question is a hackneyed copout. It is yet another uncontroversial, effortless, risk-free Hollywood choice. (See reality-departure flicks The Pacifier (2004) and The Rock (1999), where the setups involve "Serbian terrorists.") The obsession with Balkans war criminals who are exclusively Serbian is all the more defamatory, given that wartime Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic and Croat leader Franjo Tudjman escaped justice by dying free men as their own war crimes were quietly and reluctantly being investigated by The Hague.
Our policymakers and our media, on the same page throughout the '90s Balkans, took the Hollywood approach themselves, picking the easy side and recycling Muslim and Croatian propaganda about the conflict. They wanted a tale of easy morality, with clear-cut good guys and bad guys. But in no region has this been less clear than the Balkans. "Spring Break in Bosnia" is based on real events in which three American journalists who returned to Sarajevo to try to track down Karadzic themselves -- proving Media Cleansing author Peter Brock's thesis that in the Balkans, the press served openly as co-belligerents in the conflict. Perversely, for the cinematic repetition of our Balkans sins, "auditions for extras have already been held in several Croatian cities and hundreds of people lined up for the chance to appear."
The Balkans drama was scripted from the beginning. By a bipartisan slate of Congresspeople who lined their pockets with Albanian, Bosnian and Croatian money drenched in half a century of Serbian blood (e.g. Engel, Tancredo, McCain, Dole and Dole, Lantos, Hyde, Rohrbacher, Lieberman, etc ... ). And by journalists who, in a departure from their usual shades-of-gray vision of the world, built careers and won Pulitzers on concocting a cheap morality tale that permanently designated the Serbs as international pariahs, as Brock explains in his book. And so Serbs-as-villains has to be played out ad infinitum.
That's why the current movie The Prestige omits any mention of the fact that the David Bowie character -- Nikola Tesla, inventor of, among other things, a transformer capable of wirelessly lighting up distant fluorescent bulbs -- is a Serb, in whose honor a New York street was named this year. And yet such civilized contributions are so much more the norm for Serbs than is genocide -- our programmed association with them no matter how many times, ways and places it's been disproved, including at the Hague (which had to redefine the term 'genocide' to make it fit the alleged crime). Comically enough, Croatia also celebrates Tesla, who was born there, in what amounts to a classic case of the Croatian credo that "the only good Serb is a dead Serb."
It's a curious thing that the ones to bestow and propagate the Serbs-as-Nazis image have been Nazis and Nazi nostalgics themselves. Take the UN's "impartial" mediator for the Kosovo negotiations, Martti Ahtisaari of Finland, who this year made it official: the accursed Serbs "as a nation are guilty." But note that the Finnish government during Ahtisaari's presidency tried to bankroll a monument to the country's volunteer troops of the Waffen SS. If that's not enough to taint a man in fascist hues, the fact that he was the favorite this year for the Nobel Peace Prize should.
We should view with great skepticism the branding of a people as "brutal" or "ruthless" when the people doing the branding were and/or are, literally, Nazis -- and their jihadist former apprentices. If such breeds complain of an enemy's "brutality," it probably means that this enemy fights back like none of the former's other victims have. There's a reason that unlike Europe's other concentration camps, which were placed in remote areas, the Sajmiste camp was in clear view of Belgrade's populace. "[T]hat was the intention," explained Aleksandar Mosic, author of The Jews in Belgrade, "to intimidate other Serbs by showing them what was going on inside because Serbs were much more courageous in resisting the Fascists than other nations."
Our filmmakers, like our policymakers, refuse to take the messier, more accurate and more dangerous route to presenting the Balkans. For it is the more daunting task, and one that would bring us face to face with the realization that was perhaps what spooked Gere first-hand: that the Serbs weren't just fighting their enemies; they were fighting ours.
Coincidentally, the film which just won the top prize at the Rome Film Festival is another Richard Gere pic. It's called The Hoax, and is based on a real-life hoax. Gere and his producers should be aware that their current project is, as well.
Read the entire article on the Front Page Magazine website (new window will open). Reprinted with permission of Front Page Magazine.