Witnessing at The Hague by Srdja Trifkovic • September 23, 2008 • Printer-friendly
All history is to some extent contemporary, but none more so than that analyzed, interpreted, and sometimes constructed by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at The Hague. I had my second appearance before that institution earlier this month, on September 4—no longer as an expert witness (like in the Stakic case in March 2003), but as a material witness in the defense of Col. Beara, a Bosnian-Serb officer accused of war crimes in Srebrenica. I offer the transcript of that testimony to our readers, insignificantly abbreviated, for three reasons. First of all, it is a genuinely interesting, real-life courtroom mini-drama, a good read quite apart from the political context. Secondly, it throws some long-overdue light on the intra-Serbian tensions that were exploited by Slobodan Milosevic and the Clinton Administration alike, and proved decisive to the outcome of the Bosnian war. Last but not least, the final third of the transcript illustrates the apparent inability of the Western elite class—embodied in this instance by the cross-examiner for the Prosecution, Mr. Vanderpuye—to grasp the significance of the Jihadist threat to our civilization and our way of life.
Mr. Ostojic, for the Defense: Share with us, if you will, if you ever had an opportunity to go to Pale and meet with Radovan Karadzic.
A. The first such occasion was in my capacity as Crown Prince Alexander’s advisor, which was at the end of July of 1993, at the time of the Igman and Bjelasnica operation. I also brought, in my car, a consignment of humanitarian assistance and medicines sent by the Crown Prince’s wife, Princess Catherine. I also had a meeting at that time with a number of political and military leaders in a purely ceremonial capacity, conveying the best wishes from the Crown Prince and delivering the packages to the hospital, the Koran hospital at Pale.
Q. Were you ever asked to assist with any of the mainstream media from Dr. Karadzic or people from Republika Srpska in connection with, or based upon your experience as a journalist and being knowledgeable in the Balkan area?
A. That initiative came later on. In September of 1993, my wife and I were touring northern France, and we stopped in Geneva where at that time one of the negotiating sessions was going on. I was personally acquainted with the late professor Nikola Koljevic somewhat more closely than with the others from the Republika Srpska leadership. It was from him that the initiative came that I would be useful as a spokesperson, in some capacity, because I think he had seen some of my articles and my media appearances up to that time.
Q. And did you accept to attain such a position as a spokesman?
A. Well, the situation was somewhat delicate because accepting the position of an official spokesman would have severely curtailed my capacity to function as a freelance journalist and also to provide the kind of analysis of the political background to the conflict in former Yugoslavia that I wanted to continue doing as I deemed fit. I therefore indicated to Professor Koljevic, before he formalized the proposal to Dr. Karadzic, that I would accept an informal arrangement, whereby my ability to continue with my other professional pursuits would not be hindered and which would also enable me to present and articulate positions and analysis in accordance with my own understanding rather than in accordance with anyone’s formal instructions. I also believed that in this way I could provide a more comprehensive and more useful information to the media consumers in the English-speaking world, especially since, to be perfectly frank with you, I was also skeptical about the ability of people in Pale, the ability of people in the Serbian lands in general, to present and articulate their positions in a way that would be both readily understood by the western media consumer and that would be presented in a convincing and coherent manner. […]
Q. Now, Mr. Trifkovic, if you could just give us an idea, and since you started in approximately mid-to late September  in the role as Balkan affairs analyst with close links to the Bosnian Serbs, can you tell us in that year how often you would meet with the Republika Srpska leadership, just so we can get a general sense of
A. I spent a week in late November of 1993 in Geneva at the Palace of Nations where I tried to set up some kind of media management for – I obviously wasn’t going to stay there, but I wanted to help them out with the art of composing press releases and formal statements, and not relying on improvisation as they had been doing until that time. I am afraid that I was successful in this endeavour to a very limited extent. And after that, during 1994 I paid a total of four visits to the Republika Srpska. At times they coincided with my coming to Belgrade on private business or vacations. One or two occasions in 1994, and one occasion in 1995 were purpose-made trips, because I simply wanted to find out what was the view from Pale, so to say, at particularly sensitive moments of the Bosnian crisis, such as the Gorazde crisis in 1994, the aftermath of ex-President Carter’s visit in 1995. Ironically, in the summer of 1995 I visited Pale because I had already intended to be in Belgrade as part of my summer break, without ever suspecting that those days in the month of July would subsequently prove to be critical in many ways. […]
Q. Are you familiar… with events [in Banja Luka in] September 1993? […]
A. The latent tensions between the political leadership of the Republika Srpska and the military leadership had always been present to some extent. The military leadership was composed to a large extent of the former YPA officers who were viewed by the political leaders belonging to the Serbian Democratic Party as people with a great deal of ideological baggage in their tow. But my first awareness of these tensions came, actually, during the very first visit to Pale, during the Igman and Bjelasnica operation [July 1993]. I gathered from conversations with other people, such as one of the advisors to Dr. Karadzic, that Karadzic viewed that operation as detrimental to what he believed was a possible diplomatic political breakthrough, and that he believed that by acting without the clear approval from the civilian leadership, the military was somehow undermining the political and diplomatic efforts of the civilian leadership.
I did not believe that this was substantively the case, even if Dr. Karadzic believed it to be so. In fact, I was pretty certain that no immediate political-diplomatic breakthrough was on the horizon. As we have seen, subsequent to the summer of 1993, in the fall of 1993 the negotiations in Geneva under Stoltenberg and Owen – which had a promising framework of the three entities that had the attributes of sovereignty – duly collapsed, torpedoed by the United States just as the previous Vance-Owen plan had been torpedoed in the spring of ’93.
The second crisis, if you will, in the [civilian-military] relations occurred in September of 1993 with a protest by the war veterans, handicapped and wounded soldiers, and the families of the fallen, and there were two versions of those events. One was that of the political leadership, which claimed that this was engineered by the military top brass as a means of putting pressure on politicians and as a means of pointing out the existence of Banja Luka as the alternative power centre to Pale. On the other hand, the view of the soldiers was that the Serbian Democratic Party establishment, allegedly both corrupt and inept, was manipulating the perfectly justified grievances of the veterans, the wounded, the handicapped, and the widows and orphans, in order to engineer a show-down with the military that would give them an excuse to replace the top brass of the BSA. I do not have the information that would enable me even at this stage to pass the verdict, whether it was one or the other, or the mix of the two. But either way, it certainly proved that something was rotten in, not the kingdom of Denmark but the Republika Srpska.[…]
Q. Now, help me with this: Since you were there and based on your personal observations and experiences, were there any idealogical differences between the civilian authorities, let’s call them, in Pale and Banja Luka and those who were former JNA either officers or members; and then if you can, describe that for us.
A. Well, even at this distance of more than a decade, it is hard to tell to what extent differences that acquired the guise of ideology were rooted in the differences over personalities, the position in the power structure, or even the accusations of corrupt dealings and outright criminality which was occasionally levelled by the military leaders against the civilian authorities and in particular against the SDS party structure on the grounds. But suffice to say that I became aware of these differences in fairly outspoken references by Dr. Karadzic to the “commie bastards,” komunjare, and the Red Plague, which I do not recall being referenced to any particular person but which I took to imply the top brass, basically, the top leadership of Bosnian-Serb army. The constant spirit of this underlying animosity was based on the claim that they had divided loyalties, and that many of them were still on the payroll of the Yugoslav Army, which at that time was no longer Yugoslav People’s Army but was – became VJ, and Milosevic himself; and that they were playing a duplicitous game: on the one hand, accepting the primacy of the political leadership; but on the other, still continuing to act as an independent power centre in its own right.
The view from the military was that the political leadership displayed a mix of political and diplomatic inaptitude on one hand and the proclivity to corruption and even criminality on the other. The civilian leadership had failed to proclaim the state of war in the entire territory of the Republika Srpska; it had failed to control the smuggling of fuel, cigarettes, and even munitions and military hardware, either by the politically connected individuals or through the state company, which – even though was supposedly serving the treasury of the Republika Srpska – was still in the end allegedly used by the various SDS bigwigs and well-connected individuals to line their pockets…
In the summer of 1995 – that was my final visit – I had two meetings with Dr. Karadzic [and] became aware of rather strong language used with reference to the events surrounding the Assembly of the Republika Srpska held at Sanski Most in mid-April. The reference to what amounted to a “coup” was not something I heard from Karadzic himself, I cannot exactly recall who made that particular reference or who used that metaphor, but I believe it was an exaggeration. The attempt by the military leaders at that assembly to obtain a number of decisions from the politicians regarding the conduct of the war, the organisation of both the production geared to supplying the military, and [spreading] more evenly the burden of the effort on different strata of the population, that was certainly interpreted by the political leaders as an attack on their own position and on their own authority. […] My understanding is that General Mladic came up with a list of specific demands, and that, on behalf of the SDS, the party secretary Velibor Ostojic responded in vehement terms – that those demands were an act of disobedience, disloyalty. […]
Q. Why did you go [to Pale in July 1995]?
A. Because at that time the Srebrenica military operation was in full swing, and I generally wanted to hear what was their take on what looked like an unexpected development. By the way, I had intended to go even before the military operations started unfolding, but when I left, which was July 12th, I was really keen to obtain the kind of firsthand account of what was going on and what was the political leaders’ take on future course of events, so that upon my return to London, which was scheduled for July 17th or 18th, I could address the media with some degree of authority…
Q. And did you provide such interviews or commentary to the news media?
A. Well, yes, and one point on which the political leaders were particularly insistent, Karadzic, Koljevic, and their advisors, was that the failure of the United Nations to demilitarise the UN-protected zone of Srebrenica had effectively compromised its status as a “protected zone.” The military operation was made necessary by the failure of the UN to act in the way that would prevent its further use as an armed camp, when raids are carried out against surrounding Serb villages on the one hand – and as a UN-protected zone when the Serbs threatened retaliation.
Q: And just so the Court’s aware, this is an excerpt from an appointment calendar for Radovan Karadzic in July 1995… And so what does it say with respect to you in the meeting that you had with Dr. Karadzic [on] the 13th…
A. On the 13th [Dr. Karadzic] gave a rather optimistic account of the likelihood for a speedy political and diplomatic conclusion to the war. With the fall of the eastern enclaves, “we are probably going to enter the period of intense diplomatic activity” which, as he believed, would pave the way for peace on terms favourable to the Serbs. […] There wasn’t really a discussion. It was more in the form of a fairly long and detailed monologue by Dr. Karadzic, on what I remember as a rather optimistic view of developments and his confident expectation that with the fall of the two enclaves of Srebrenica and Zepa we are on the threshold of a diplomatic solution to the war, by which I believe he implied the realization by the Western powers, primarily the United States, that the Serbs had the wherewithal to end the war by military means and that they, meaning the Western powers, will finally come up with an offer that was better than, as I remember him putting it, the meaningless offer of the Contact Group, which consisted of nothing more than an unacceptable map.
I wasn’t sure at the time, since we didn’t have a private meeting, whether this was actually what he believed or whether it was more of a – how shall I say – public gloss for the other two visitors. But in view of the fact that the meeting lasted a fairly long time and that my own views were distinctly more dim regarding the likelihood of a speedy political solution on terms favourable to the Serbian side, I was particularly keen to meet him one more time, which happened the following day in the presence of Dr. Zametica, when in fact even without the presence of visitors he reiterated what I can only call a rose-tinted view of developments and predictions about the future…
My overall impression from those meetings was that he was in an upbeat mood and believed that the end of the war was on the horizon in the form of an improved political package that would give the Serb Republic the elements of sovereign statehood within whatever Bosnian package was finally negotiated. As I say, I did not agree with that analysis, but on the basis of previous similar encounters I did not argue the point, either. […]
Q. What did you do on the 13th of July, 1995, during the day when you didn’t have this meeting with him?
A. I also had a meeting with Professor Koljevic later that evening, and also during the day, I do not recall exactly at what time, I had a lengthy conversation with Dr. Zametica. […] Professor Koljevic shared Karadzic’s optimistic predictions and upbeat mood, and he was also planning to go to Srebrenica the following day, as he put it, to provide reassurance to the civilians that they would be treated properly, which, by the way, was a point strongly emphasized by Dr. Karadzic, and I had the distinct impression that at that point Dr. Koljevic was under the impression that the civilians were still there. And obviously, I myself was not in the position to know what was the score on the ground, but in retrospect I found it remarkable that Professor Koljevic on the evening of the 13th seems to have believed that he would be going the following day, the 14th, and that the civilians would still be in Srebrenica. It implied to some extent, again, looking back with hindsight, that maybe the left hand didn’t quite know what the right hand was doing. […]
Q. Now we’re looking at the 14th of July, 1995, and can you remember as you sit here whether you had a meeting with Radovan Karadzic on the 14th of July?
A. Even without the diary I would have remembered that it was a meeting late in the evening with Dr. Zametica in attendance. It was a fairly short meeting. Far from giving me some useful insights that would have been at odds with this upbeat and optimistic assessment given on the 13th in the presence of two visitors, on that occasion Dr. Karadzic broadly reiterated the points already made at that meeting. In other words, his firm belief that the military successes were heralding the political and diplomatic end-game that would work out to the Serbs’ favour. […]
Q. When was the last time you had any meeting or had contact with Dr. Radovan Karadzic?
A. It was on the evening of the 14th [of July, 1995].
Cross-examination by Mr. Vanderpuye
Q. … On behalf of the Prosecution, I’m going to put some questions to you in relation to your direct examination and also in relation to your cross-examination… You indicated that you had gone down to Pale from Belgrade on the 12th of July, 1995, right?
A. That’s right.
Q. Okay. And about what time did you arrive at Pale?
A. It was towards late afternoon, early evening. I would be hard-pressed to give you more precise time than between 5:30 and 7 or so.
Q. All right. And for what purpose were you going?
A. I was spending the previous ten days in Serbia on – as part of the summer break, and was going to visit anyway at some point, in order to learn the details of what was going on in the aftermath of the Srebrenica operation which, of course, was very much in the news at that time, although obviously not for the reasons that we are mostly concerned these days. And the two friends of mine from the United States – independently of each other, by the way – were also in Serbia, and it was a sort of friendly favour that I took them along to pay a visit which both of them very earnestly wanted to make. But my primary interest was, to put it colloquially, to get the score on the views from Pale, which I could then usefully employ in my own analysis, writings, and media presentations.
Q. Okay. And the two friends you are talking about are Tom Premovic and Slavica Ristic?
A. That’s right. […] On the evening of the 12th, the only persons I recall meeting were Dr. Koljevic’s Chief of Staff Zdravko Miovcic and Dr. Karadzic’s advisor Dr. Zametica.
Q. And were these meetings actually scheduled beforehand or were they scheduled simply…
A. No, I knew them privately, so to say. They were not people with whom I would need to formally schedule a meeting. They were people on whom I relied to give me informal behind-the-screens briefing of what’s going on. […] I wouldn’t necessarily call it a meeting. It was a private conversation that had the character of a social get-together, with snacks and drinks and informal off-the-record chat about what’s going on, who’s doing what to whom, what’s the mood, the kind of friendly briefing that you get from people you know personally rather than people who are communicating with you on the basis of their function or the chain of authority.
Q. And what is the nature of the informal conversations that you had with Mr. Miovcic?
A. I don’t have precise recollection, but I would guess that it had to do with the unexpected or seemingly unexpected collapse of the defence of Srebrenica and the diplomatic implications and what was the take at Pale on the significance of this event and on the presentation of the issue… Also whether there would be a continuation of the military activity in the direction of Gorazde, whether they would try to wrap it up in one swoop. Also what feedback, if any, were they getting from the UN and from various other international powers-that-be. I know this would be the kind of conversation I would have with Zametica and Miovcic, with both of whom I had a better personal rapport than with the officials higher up, and also with whom I was able to be more frank about my disagreements or differences of opinion than would have been the case with someone like Karadzic or even Koljevic.
Q. Well, seeing as you’ve discussed this matter with them, did you get the sense with them at any point as to what direction this particular operation was going?
A. I had a strong sense, both then and the following day, that they were generally surprised that Srebrenica fell effectively without a fight; and that there was also some difficulty in getting the feedback from the ground as to what was actually going on. I remember while I was with the other two visitors at Karadzic’s office the following day that on a couple of occasions he actually was interrupted and tried to get the connection through to someone at Han Pijesak, but one particular term I remember used is that “the line is down.” So what I got from those two gentlemen was the sense that they really didn’t know what happened, that after, you know, a long period of tenacious defence that Srebrenica just fell.
Q. Well, did you discuss some of the concerns that would normally arise in the situation like that, such as humanitarian concerns?
A. Absolutely… that it would be very important for the Serbian side to make sure that nothing happens in the treatment of the civilians – and, by the way, the focus was primarily in our conversations with the civilians – that would be used in the way that during the different episodes earlier on – with Gorazde, with Bihac, and of course, Sarajevo itself – that there was media treatment of the Serbian side that was greatly detrimental to the Serbian interests, which was at least to some extent, even though possibly exaggerated, but at least to some extent based on real events. I had the impression that they shared this assessment, and I also have the impression that during the meeting the following day, Dr. Karadzic was particularly insistent that he would issue orders that nothing would happen to the civilians that could be used in the media presentation as a tool against the Serbs.
Q. Well, why did you – what gave you the impression that they shared that particular concern?
A. I commented, first of all, that I saw a number of civilian buses, that as we drove down from the Drina River, from the Serbian border towards Pale, I didn’t see much in the way of traffic, military or civilian, but there were certainly buses parked by the roadside, especially in the area where the road turns left towards Bratunac from the main highway from Zvornik to Sokolac. And on that first evening, which is the 12th, I have to emphasize that my own knowledge or understanding of what was actually going on was sketchy in the extreme. On the other hand, I again have to reiterate that even the following evening, the 13th, Dr. Koljevic, the vice-president, expressed intention to go and visit Srebrenica the following day, the 14th, which would at least suggest that he, also, was not fully appraised of the fact that the civilians had been removed or were being removed at that time. […]
Q. What you have in front of you now, sir, is a – it’s a broadcast of an interview with Dr. Karadzic on 12 July 1995… In particular, the reason why I’ve put it up on the screen for you to see, it relates to the information that Dr. Karadzic had on the 12th of July, and in particular it touches upon some of the concerns that you raised with Mr. Miovcic in your meeting with him as regards the humanitarian concerns following the fall of Srebrenica… Dr. Karadzic is saying: “Our army is enabling the establishing of our civil authorities there because the Serbs were exiled from Srebrenica at the beginning of the war.” … Further on it says: “And there is now as affairs settle down an activity of the refugees who want to leave.” Before I go on, let me ask you first: Did you have any of this information on the 12th pursuant to your meeting with Mr. Zametica and Mr. Miovcic?
A. No, I did not.
Q. Did this particular issue come up at all?
A. It came in the general sense that it would be important for the Serbian side to avoid any mistreatment or appearance of mistreatment of the Muslims, not only as a matter of principle but also in order to prevent media treatment of any such incident in the way that would magnify it and render it politically useful to the other side. In other words, it was more a discussion in principle of an issue that was presumably going to be on the agenda, in view of the fact that there were large numbers of people in Srebrenica. So it wasn’t prompted by any specific information I had. It was simply the discussion that presumably I would have had if at that time either Bihac or Gorazde, rather than Srebrenica, was on the agenda.
Q. All right. So your understanding from your conversations on the 12th which were followed up with Dr. Karadzic in a sense on the 13th was that it was important, at least from the point of view of the western press, that was there was the appearance that humanitarian treatment of the refugees is being appropriately administered, right?
A. No. I was not saying is that there should be the “appearance,” but rather that such treatment should be substantively so, in order to avoid the media presentation of – or rather, misrepresentation of the appearance of mistreatment.
Q. Okay. Thank you for clarifying that. If we could go to the next page, please… This is in response to a question put to Mr. Karadzic: “Mr. President, what information do you have on the humanitarian situation in this town?” And I’ll refer you to where it starts: “Secondly…” It says: “Our commissariat for refugees as you can see rushed in to help. Everyone can see that these people look well-fed and that there are no problems at all. If you compared what happened in western Slavonia where the Croatians were allegedly liberating with what has happened in Srebrenica where the Serbs are doing the liberating, there is such a difference that it is impossible to talk about war at all.” Now, first of all, I just want to ask you: Did you discuss western Slavonia at all during your conversations with Mr. Zametica and Mr. Miovcic?
A. I can’t remember that I did. I can only tell you, if we did, what I would have said about western Slavonia. I would have used it as one of the arguments for my constant misgivings or unease that Milosevic had some kind of deal with Tudjman, and that the overall lay of the land didn’t look right to me. The way that western Slavonia fell, and as indeed it happened with the Krajina on a grander scale in August, reflected my constant suspicion that the powers that be in Belgrade were striking deals that were detrimental to the western Serbs’ position.
Q. Did you discuss with Mr. Karadzic at some point what his consideration or concerns were about western Slavonia as they related to Srebrenica?
A. No, I don’t have any memory of that. I do remember, however, that in the meeting on the 13th he stressed that the treatment of the Muslim civilians in Srebrenica will be such as to put the Serbian side beyond any reproach even by the non-benevolent media.
Q. And when you say non-benevolent media, what do you mean by that?
A. I would say that he would regard most of the western mainstream media as not friendly to the Serbian side in their reporting or analysis.
Q. All right. And in fact, you yourself have referred to the situation in western Slavonia on a number of occasions in interviews that you gave, right?
A. I would need to look at those interviews. It’s been a long while, and I believe, yes, that I did make a number of observations about it at the time, yes. […]
Q. Let me see if that refreshes your recollection. This is an interview with BBC TV Newsnight live. It’s dated 28th May, 1995, and it’s entitled: “UN Making Mockery of its Own Resolutions.” Interview with Dr. S. Trifkovic. Presenter: Peter Snow. And in this interview, the question is put to you: “What is going on? Have the Serbs now thrown all restraint to the wind?” In your answer you say: “If mockery is made of UN-protected zones, it is of the UN’s own making. They are not enforcing their own resolutions when it is the Croats and the Muslims who are violating them. The Serbs are fed up. They are feeling very irritated because only three weeks ago in western Slavonia we had a slaughter of Serb civilians. We had a mass exodus of Serb civilians, and the UN did nothing. They did not even castigate the Croatians in the security counsel; ditto with the misuse of the safe havens.” Is that essentially what Dr. Karadzic is referring to in this 12 July broadcast interview?
A. Well, first of all, let me emphasize that I did not either receive inputs from Pale or seek them in my presentation of – in fact, the image of the mood of the Serbs at that time was more than amply supplied by the media from Serbia proper or Republika Srpska. It was the early days of the Internet, but it was already possible at that time to have it at one’s fingertips, if you will, not video streaming but certainly written reports. And my judgement on what happened in western Slavonia in the first week of May of 1995 did not need to rely on Dr. Karadzic’s assessment. If the two coincide, it is probably because there was some substance to such an impression, that, indeed, it was an attack in violation of the UN rules, and that, indeed, it was both brutal and indiscriminate when it came to the treatment of the Serb civilians.
Q. … [T]his is one from London News Radio, and this one is dated Monday, 17 July 1995, at 21:35. It’s entitled “Consequences Of Failure To Demilitarise. Live interview with Srdja Trifkovic. Presenter: Paul Reynolds.” … You finish the previous paragraph saying: “These places have not been demilitarised.” He says: “But is that an excuse to have the Muslims of Srebrenica ethnically cleansed?” And in your response, you say:
“In the Balkans, one ethnic group does not trust soldiers belonging to another ethnic group. In the hundreds of years of civil and religious wars in the Balkans, this has been a regular feature. Only two months ago we had a tragedy on a much greater scale in western Slavonia, also nominally a UN-protected area, where the Croat army attacked the Serbs, drove them out, and massacred hundreds of them. There are 600.000 Serb refugees in both Serbia and the Serb Republics of Krajina and Bosnia.”
Now, this is a separate interview, obviously, and it’s dated just about a week – well, five days after the interview with President Karadzic. Now, in relation to your statement there, were those statements predicated upon your conversations with Dr. Karadzic or your understanding of what Dr. Karadzic is referring to on the 12th of July?
A. Well, in fact, no. If you read my response to that particular question, I’m actually making a factual statement that is amply supported by the empirical evidence of the wars of Yugoslav succession, that, indeed, the ethnic group that is faced with the sudden change of authority in a given territory will do its best to depart the territory because it does not trust, and I’m not either quantifying the degree of unpleasantness of one group towards the other or trying to qualify in any way that the Serbs behaved necessarily better or worse than the other two sides.
I’m simply stating a fact that has been a regular feature of warfare in that part of the world for a very long time, that if, for instance, the Croat troops come into the Neretva valley, the Serbs from Mostar will run away to Trebinje or Nevesinje, or when the Muslims overrun parts of central Bosnia, the Croats will be the ones who – sometimes even using Serbian territory – will escape to Croatia proper, and needless to say that the Muslims, when the Serbian army advances, will feel more comfortable going to Tuzla or Zenica than staying put. It is, I would say, more of a descriptive factual statement than analytical, let alone a value judgement.
Q. In fact, in the interview that Dr. Karadzic gave on 12 July 1995, he says, “I would also like to remind the entire international community of a particular hypocrisy. Whenever Muslim forces from these safe havens advance through the Serb territory from Bihac” – as you’ve just mentioned – “Tuzla, Sarajevo” – as you also mentioned – “and even from Gorazde, the whole word applauds. But when the Serbs undertake counteroffensives and neutralise their opponents, then the world starts to wail and mourn over the losses. You can see that the Muslim civilians
haven’t lost anything, but the Muslim army has.” Now, did you have any information as concerns the Muslim civilians when you spoke to Mr. Miovcic and Mr. Zametica on the 12th of July?
A. Other than the agreement with the absolute necessity of acting in the way that would be beyond reproach, and other than the indication given by Koljevic that he still believed that basically they were there on the evening of the 13th, no. However, I was becoming aware that the evacuation was underway, or had already taken place, at the tail end of my stay, ironically, more through listening to the BBC World Service than being told firsthand by anyone over there.
Q. […] This is an urgent combat report. It’s directed to the president of the Republika Srpska, and it’s dated 12 July 1995: “The enemy has been attempting to withdraw from the Srebrenica enclave with women and children in the direction of Ravno Buljine and Konjevic Polje but ran into a mine field.” Go to the next page, and we look at B, “Situation In The Corps.” – “parts of our units in the MUP have laid ambushes in order to destroy Muslim extremists who have not surrendered and who are attempting to break out of the enclave in the direction of Tuzla.” So my question to you is in respect of the information that is contained in this report, did you have any discussions on the 12th, or for that matter, on the 13th as regards these Muslim extremists who have not surrendered and are attempting to break out of the enclave?
A. In order to answer this adequately, I have to emphasize that on the 12th I drove with two visitors from Zvornik from Karakaj border crossing to Pale on that very road, and at the checkpoint outside Zvornik driving south, we were warned of the possibility of small armed groups crossing the road and that we were proceeding on our own responsibility. We were not either told to take a detour or advised not to proceed. We were also told that in case of any such movement, it is best to avoid contact or to make a U-turn, but certainly didn’t look like they were overtly concerned at the level of military activity was such that it would make the trip risky.
So I have to admit that, on the basis of what looked like a fairly uneventful drive through the very area of Konjevic Polje and the vicinity of Bratunac and Milici, and from there up to Vlasenica and so on to Pale, [I was] maybe lulled into a false sense that the military activity was practically over… But I was certainly not aware of – in fact, the conversations at Pale proceeded with the assumption that it’s over, the enclave has fallen. There was… imminent expectation of the news of Zepa, but I wasn’t aware at that time of any attempts by the armed groups of significant size and magnitude to break through.
Q. All right. So nobody at Pale when you had these conversations within the circle of the Presidency actually discussed this particular information with you —
Q. – at least not on that day?
A. The focus of the conversation both on the first day when I came with the two visitors from the United States and on the second day late in the evening when I was there accompanied by Dr. Zametica, was on Dr. Karadzic’s view of the political-diplomatic aftermath of Srebrenica’s fall. In other words, on the first day I heard what looked like, in my opinion, excessively optimistic assessment, and on the second I really hoped to have a more realistic conversation. … [Even] without the presence of those first-time visitors, having encountered a similar outlook, I basically did not argue the case. On a number of previous occasions, with assessments that I regarded as faulty or poorly based by Dr. Karadzic, I tried to enter into some kind of analysis in terms of realpolitik and scenario-making, and I never got very far with it. On the contrary, I could sense that the discussions based on the non-acceptance of his favourable assessments were not welcome or encouraged.
Q. Okay. Now, with respect to the information that you received concerning these small armed groups, did you receive that before you crossed at Zvornik?
A. Well, no, but I think that it stood to reason to assume that in such immediate aftermath of what at that time one assumed was a fairly major military operation, that it would be necessary to obtain the information from the military on the ground about the possibility of the road… And that’s why I mentioned this relaxed attitude of the Serbian soldiers at the checkpoint exiting Zvornik – because I didn’t have any specific information about the level of military activity, but I assumed that it was possible that some was still in evidence.
Q. But in fact, somebody did tell you that you should be aware of … small arms groups?
A. Yes. That was the [VRS] soldiers manning the checkpoint exiting Zvornik in the direction of Konjevic Polje.
Q. Okay. And they had the information concerning these potential extremists that are mentioned in this combat report?
A. Well, in retrospect I would say that their demeanour was more relaxed and —
Q. Well, they’re further away, too, right?
A. But I would say that, you know, in retrospect and with hindsight I would not have made that drive. It was maybe their assessment or their impression of the situation, but certainly we were told that, yeah, we should exercise caution, but it was not presented in terms of a serious warning that there is some likelihood of encounters that could be dangerous.
Q. Okay. Now, I think I may have forgotten to ask you, but you tell me if I’ve repeated the question. I’m sure my colleague will tell me. When you met with Mr. Zametica and Miovcic, did you meet with them alone, or did you meet them, also, with Mr. Premovic and Mrs. Ristic?
A. I believe that Mrs. Ristic was tired and was not with us. Mr. Premovic would have been with us at least part of the time, I really can’t be sure. But the conversation was certainly of the kind that had more to do with background briefing of the overall mood of the place, outlook, hopes, expectations, rather than any specific information that would preclude the desirability of a third-party presence.
14 Q. All right. Did you meet with anybody else following your meeting with Mr. Zametica and Mr. Miovcic on the 12th of July?
A. No, I believe that was it. In fact, it was getting on, anyway, and it had been a long day.
Q. All right. Now, you’ve indicated that you also met – you met with Mr. Karadzic on the 13th of July?
A. That was with the visitors from the States, yes. It was on the 13th in the afternoon.
Q. And this is when you described his upbeat monologue that he delivered?
Q. And you indicated, also, in relation to your contact with Mr. Karadzic that you had some notes concerning these conversations that you had over the 13th and the 14th, right?
A. Yes. I don’t think I had my laptop with me on that particular occasion, but I would have entered then from scribblings, brief notes made at the end of the day. However, with my laptop crashing I believe in 1997 and the backup diskettes not covering some of these – in fact, it’s a source of great regret to me personally. But to be perfectly frank, I had the overall sense of deep frustration and misgivings, not for the first time, after what was yet another encounter with the inability of Dr. Karadzic to look at the predicament of the Republika Srpska in the full complexity of the wider international situation, and I make no qualms about that. I think that that meeting would have been yet another occasion for such sense of frustration, that the view from Pale was rather narrow and based on wishful thinking rather than a comprehensive analysis of the global diplomatic and political situation.
Q. You mentioned that you met with Mr. Karadzic on the 13th for between one and two hours.
A. I believe from the diary it would appear that it was about an hour and a half.
Q. And you met with him in the company of Mr. Premovic, Ms. Ristic, right?
A. That’s right.
Q. Was anybody else present during the course of this meeting?
A. I think that Mr. Zametica came in and out but was not present throughout.
Q. Okay. And during the course of your meeting with Dr. Karadzic, was he in contact with anybody else, any soldiers or —
A. Well, I remember him shouting a few times, “give me connection,” what’s up with the connection, “veze su u prekidu,” who exactly he was trying to contact [I don’t know], but I also got the sense that some lines were down.
Q. How many times did he shout this during this hour and a half that you were with him?
A. I would say two or three times.
Q. Okay. And did he have access to any other telephones that were there?
A. Yes. Occasionally, the phone would ring, and – I wouldn’t be able to say how many times, but yes, our meeting was being interrupted, and it wasn’t a particularly structured meeting in that it was mostly his resume of how he saw things to the visitors.
Q. Okay. You said that he seemed – well, “buoyant” is, I think, too strong a term, but optimistic?
A. Upbeat, optimistic. Yes.
Q. … Well, tell us why that was, what your understanding was of that.
A. This would really take us into the overall propensity of Dr. Karadzic to look upon the situation of the Republika Srpska in a more optimistic and more upbeat manner than was warranted by circumstances or by the attitudes of the great powers. For instance, the hope or expectation, even, that Russia would take a more strongly pro-Serbian position had been a salient feature of his comments and remarks throughout the – I wouldn’t say each and every time I came, but I would say that the majority of times he would say something like, “Rusija se budi,” “Rusija progledava,” Russia is waking up, Russia is coming to see the light, an opinion I didn’t share. I actually believed – and as we know in retrospect, this is correct – that Yeltsin’s Russia did not want to confront the West over the Balkans at that time. Likewise, I think that his hope or expectation that some kind of diplomatic deal or offer was imminent is another salient feature of his comments in the winter of 1995, in January, after the visit of President Carter or, for that matter, in the spring of 1994 after the Gorazde operation.
So all the time I had the increasing sense of frustration with the inability to communicate my understanding of the problem of the Bosnian-Serb position as seen from the other side of the Atlantic or from London in the way that would be readily understood, because ultimately I realized that in a very deep cultural sense we did not speak the same language.
Q. Well, speaking of language, what exactly did he say to you during the course of this meeting? What exactly did he say in terms of his position concerning the operation?
A. Because of my lack of precise notes, I can only give you the best recollection I have of the meeting after 13 years, which is that he was greatly optimistic that the outside world will realise from the success of Serbian arms in Srebrenica that it is futile to expect the Serbs to continue taking punishment and not getting the elements of a political package that they can live with. He expressed repeatedly his confidence that in the near future, as the result of this demonstration of Serbian military might, there should be a political movement and diplomatic movement that would actually wrap up the war. I do remember – and I’m sorry, before coming here I didn’t call Mrs. Ristic or Mr. Premovic to compare, not notes but memories – but I do remember his saying that the war is coming to a close. Now, with hindsight we know it was but certainly not on the terms he had in mind. […]
Q. Can you tell us what, if anything, else he said during the course of that meeting?
A. On the basis of my conversation with Dr. Zametica and Mr. Miovcic the previous evening, I recall being curious about the military details of what seemed to be rather sudden, unexpected, and swift fall of Srebrenica, on which he didn’t really enlighten me. In fact, to be perfectly honest I left Pale and the Republika Srpska on the 16th still none the wiser as to what actually happened in terms of the military aspect of the operation itself. Bearing in mind the tenacious fighting in Bihac in the fall of 1994 or Gorazde in the spring of 1994 or Srebrenica in 1993, I have to admit that the issue as to what actually happened to make the fall of this enclave so swift and so unexpected – at least my impression was that to them up in Pale it was unexpected – I still didn’t get the answers to that particular question.
Q. No, I understand that, Mr. Trifkovic, and I appreciate your response. But my question to you is specifically what it is that Dr. Karadzic told you during the course of that meeting, and you understand the distinction … between that and what your impressions of what he said are?
A. I have to confine myself to overall impressions because I don’t have the minutes, and after all this time the memories tend to acquire the character of overall impressions rather than specific snippets or quotes.
Q. I understand that, too, but as you recall, you did testify about a conversation that you had which concerns Mr. Beara in 1993. I take it you don’t have notes of that conversation?
A. Well, no, but it was, nevertheless, to someone who had encountered these grassroots soldiers from the ranks, if you will, for the first time, it was a memorable experience. It was also the first time that I sensed, first-hand, this latent mistrust, bordering even on animosity between the two traditions among the Bosnian Serbs. It would be a caricature to describe as the partisan tradition versus the Chetnik tradition, but it was certainly something of that spirit at work there.
Q. Well, Mr. Trifkovic, at that period of time in particular, that is, on the 13th of July, 1995, you were still functioning in some respects in the capacity of dealing with the western media regarding specifically the information that you came to acquire?
A. Well, when it comes to the attitude of the western media to the issue of Srebrenica, I became aware of the question of what happened to the military men or men of military age only after returning to London. In fact, the theme of conversations that I had was solely the treatment of civilians. The issue of the treatment of military prisoners didn’t even come up. But again, to give you a very precise answer, I didn’t find that particular visit useful when it came to articulating positions in media interviews. I didn’t find the optimistic scenario for the future useful. I certainly wouldn’t have condoned it, or shared its overall tone.
Q. Well, maybe I’ve misunderstood what you’ve said, but on your direct examination I believe you said that you came down — the reason why you went to Pale was to get information about the specific goings on as concerns the Srebrenica operation for the purpose of dealing with the western press or the outside media. So my question to you is this…. If that’s the reason why you went there and you actually had an appointment and spoke to the object, the purpose of your being there, you spoke to the president of the Republika Srpska, and he spoke to you about the specific incident that you were there to inquire about, but is it your testimony that you have no recollection of what he told you on the 13th of July knowing … knowing now in retrospect what transpired on the 13th of July?
A. No. My answer is that it wasn’t particularly fruitful or useful meeting from the point of view of having either a closer understanding of what was going on on the ground or of getting an insight into the political background and the realistic scenario for the end game to which Srebrenica might lead. So whereas it was, indeed, very much the purpose of my visit to have a clear picture, from the meetings with Dr. Karadzic, far from getting clear picture, I got an upbeat story of the war entering its finale on terms favourable to the Serbs, and the absence of clear description, even, of what actually happened to make Srebrenica fall quickly and unexpectedly.
Q. Did you ask the question?
A. Yes, I did. Yes.
Q. Did you ask him what happened to the military that was in Srebrenica —
A. Well, actually, the —
Q. — that is, the Muslims?
A. The issue of what happened to the military had never arisen until that moment, and I’ll tell you why.
Q. I just want to know if you asked.
A. No, I didn’t… It didn’t occur to me because in all previous operations the prisoners – my understanding was that the prisoners were regarded as valuable assets to be exchanged for one’s own side, and I had no reason to believe that this was an issue, and I didn’t ask.
Q. I take it you asked about civilians?
A. Very much so because —
Q. And what did he tell you?
A. Well, I expressed the opinion that I already shared with Miovcic and Zametica on the first evening, that it would be extremely important to avoid any incidents or excesses that would be detrimental to what I believed was very sensitive political situation of the Serbs at that moment, and that Dr. Karadzic gave me assurances on this point. In fact, I believe that I was also given a press release in Serbian about these assurances to translate into English in the absence of Dr. Zametica for further distribution by the SRNA news agency.
Q. And what did this press release say?
A. If there is a record of the SRNA news agency releases for that period, you might see the precise wording, but my memory is that it contained specific guarantees that their safety would be – that they would be looked after and they have nothing to fear.
Q. All right. Now, I’ve asked you a lot of questions and a lot of time as concerns about – as concerns what Dr. Karadzic told you on the 13th. Is it your testimony that you have no specific recollection as to what he spoke to you about or what he said, I should say, over that hour and a half to two hours that you were with him on the 13th of July, 1995?
A. Well, first of all, it wasn’t two. It was an hour and a half during which time some interruptions due to phone calls and his attempts to make them were taking place. Some of the time was taken up by social niceties connected with the introduction of the two visitors, but I am being perfectly frank with you when I say that what I recall of that meeting is, first of all, a very long discourse on the end game which he confidently expected to follow that would be favourable to the Serbian point of view; and secondly, the agreement with my insistence that it is both substantially and in terms of media relations extremely important to avoid any incidents in the treatment of the civilian population that would be reminiscent of the early stages of the war.
Q. And that’s your best of your recollection?
A. It is, indeed.
Q. Now, you mentioned that you had you notes concerning these meetings that you had with Dr. Karadzic on the 13th?
A. Particularly what I recall, and I don’t know if the record of it exists somewhere else, was a letter that I wrote to A.M. Rosenthal, the former editor of the New York Times, by Dr. Karadzic in which he praised his editorial published a few days previously and made some specific
suggestions about the renewal of direct contacts between the Clinton administration and the Republika Srpska leadership. So this is the closest I can get to some specifics of our conversation that were contingent upon his overall favourable assessment of the situation, that
he felt so confident that in fact the situation is ripe for some kind of diplomatic end game that he approached Rosenthal with a suggestion that he explores the possibility of such contact.
Q. The notes that you referred to that were on your computer, you say they were destroyed?
A. No, they were not destroyed. I had what they call a hard disk crash… either in late 1996 or early 1997, and I had not been doing backups in a timely manner at the time. […]
Q. Did you produce any articles based on the information that you had in that computer, the notes that you took?
A. Well, no, because I must emphasize, the meeting with Dr. Karadzic was both disappointing in terms of his analysis and not particularly informative in terms of the background to the specific military circumstances surrounding the fall of Srebrenica. So on the basis of that particular meeting, I did not write anything or publish anything.
Q. All right. But you did have contact with the press after that, right?
A. Yes, I did, and in fact I don’t think that my comments to the press would have been much different if I had not gone to Pale at all in July of 1995.
Q. In other words, they were not specific, but they were general comments that you made?
A. Even if they refer to – again, you have some advantage over me because I haven’t actually been revisiting my old interviews in awhile. But suffice to say that the only point that I came with was the assurance that the civilians would be treated well, and also, let me add, the reiteration of the insistence that military operation was necessitated by the failure of the UN to demilitarise the enclave. But there was nothing new about that. That had been the old theme early on, in the spring of 1994, in connection with Gorazde.
Q. All right. Mr. Trifkovic, you met again with Dr. Karadzic on the 14th – well, first, before I get to that, I’m sorry. On the 13th – and you’ll correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you mentioned on the 13th that he had mentioned something about Zepa?
A. I think it was taken more or less for granted. I have no recollection whether Zepa had already fallen or was about to, but it was pretty much taken for granted that it would.
Q. Well, let me ask, again, then: What did he say in respect of Zepa on the 13th?
A. Again, I can only say that he said with Srebrenica and Zepa, we have proven that the strength of our weaponry, our military prowess is such that it can no longer be assumed that the Serbs will accept any terms of final settlement that do not address their key interests. I don’t know even on what specific day Zepa fell, but I think that he assumed that it was going to happen as a matter of course.
Q. All right. You met with him on the 14th, right?
A. On the 14th it was quite late at night. It was with Jovan Zametica, and the specific purpose of that meeting, as far as I was concerned, was to try and see if there was a more nuanced and a more critical view or understanding of the overall political and diplomatic situation than the one displayed the previous afternoon. In other words, to be perfectly frank, whether he was playing to the gallery with Serbian-American visitors who are prominent in their local community, and presenting the upbeat front for their benefit – or whether it was indeed what he believed; and it was indeed what he believed.
Q. Well, since you recall so specifically what he believed, can you recall what he told you on the 14th?
A. I think that it is possible to recall the overall tone, flavour, and “stimmung” is the German word, which maybe the best in English equivalent would be — yeah, the overall tone is good enough, without recalling the specific quotes. He was saying that the war is coming to a close, that the Serbian military success in Srebrenica will present the world with the reality that can no longer be denied, and that after this we can look forward to the diplomatic movement which will finally be based upon the realisation that the Serbs cannot be defeated and that they will not accept a settlement that does not address their key concerns. I’m again quoting from memory of many years ago, but again, what I found remarkable is that in a more private meeting, in a different setting, just with his advisor Dr. Zametica in attendance, he essentially repeated the same-old, same-old, which I found deeply flawed both in terms of the rigor of analysis and in terms of the understanding of the diplomatic facts of life.
Q. Well — and forgive me for this, but I’m a bit puzzled. You’re a historian by profession, by training, right?
Q. You have a PhD —
Q. – in history?
Q. An historian is a kind of person who remembers dates, events, places and things of that nature very well, right? And can recall them?
A. I would argue that, in fact, it is far more important in the study of history to remember the essential underlying intent of the key participants rather than their verbatim quotes. We don’t know exactly word-for-word who said what to whom in July 1914, but we do know that the underlying tendency was for the Wilhelmine Germany to give Austria a blank cheque to deal with Serbia as she deemed fit. And if you ask me how —
Q. Mr. Trifkovic, you are were in the middle an historic event concerning the former Yugoslavia, full-out war, and you were there in the midst of it with a note pad, with a computer, and for the specific purpose of gaining access to information that would help you discharge your obligations to the – to the civilian authorities of the Republika Srpska. That’s why you’re there, and you’re a historian, and you’re telling this Court today that you have no recollection, specific
recollection of what Dr. Karadzic told you on two separate occasions on the 13th and 14th of July, 1995, knowing fully well looking back what was occurring on those days? You know that on the 13th of July, 1995, that people were being killed?
A. I know now.
A. I didn’t know then.
Q. Well, you knew that in 1996.
A. I have to remind you that I’ve tried to give a fairly detailed and comprehensive answer about the essentials of that conversation, and my inability to reproduce verbatim quotes is really based on my respect for occasion that we need to get – to understand the character of that meeting rather than try to and reproduce unreliably the specific, quote-unquote verbatim segments of it, and in that respect I’ve done my best today.
Q. All right. I appreciate your concern for the integrity of these proceedings and your respect for the Court as concerns the information that you’re providing and the accuracy that you wish to provide it in. Now, you have written a number of articles in the past, right?
Q. And you’ve also testified at these – at this particular Tribunal in the past as well, right?
A. As an expert witness in the Stakic case five and a half years ago.
Q. Now, do you recall writing an article in 1996 called “The Hague Tribunal: Bad Justice and Worse Politics”?
A. Indeed, I do.
Q. And it is true that you wrote in that article that the tradition, that is to say “the International Court of Justice tradition which is now being destroyed by a pseudolegal imposter, the Yugoslav war crimes Tribunal, which was inserted deliberately into The Hague to provide the pretender with a legal and cultural pedigree and at that same time devalue the true legacy.”
A. Yes, I did.
Q. “It’s as if Jimmy Swaggart set up shop in Rome, took a crash course in Latin, and took to wearing a miter.” Did you write that?
A. Yes, I did. Yes.
Q. You also wrote that: “This so-called Tribunal uses legal language. It has jurists on its panels, and they are dressed in a bizarre imitation of continental judicial attire.” And you said that “It has funds, lots of funds, but it’s a fraud.” Right?
A. It’s been a few years, but certainly, the sentiment is right.
Q. Okay. Well, in fact, what you said on page 13790 of that transcript, that is, in the Stakic case, is that — yeah, that’s a verbatim section of the article published in June 1996, and you readily admit that you have considerably modified your views of the Tribunal since then. That was back in 2003.
A. Right. That’s what I said, yes.
Q. And in fact, other than the comments about the judicial attire, you still hold the view that the Tribunal is in fact a fraud, don’t you?
A. I would say that this has to be somewhat qualified in – on several counts. First of all, I think that the Tribunal is an extremely important forum for the presentation of the historical record. Secondly, I believe that some of the decisions of the Tribunal, particularly in the Haradinaj case and in the Oric case would only reinforce skepticism of its modus operandi and its process, but at the same time that, because of the need to set the historical record straight as comprehensively and as dispassionately as possible, I certainly respect it as the forum in which the attempt to get a very complex story analysed in as comprehensive a manner as possible is indeed here.
Q. … In an interview with BBC… on 22nd of July, 2008, you were asked about the indictment of Mr. Karadzic, and you were asked specifically, “Do you think the war crimes were committed?” And your answer to that was: “The war crimes were committed. Absolutely. What remains to be seen is to what extent the war crimes committed by the Serbs will continue to be treated as uniquely more substantial, more evil, and more massive than those committed by the other two sides.” Do you recall giving that answer to that question?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. And you stand by it, don’t you?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. Okay. Because you think – well, in your opinion, I should say, this Tribunal is anti-Serb?
A. No. If you look at that quote, I said it remains to be seen. Which means I’m —
Q. So you’re optimistic?
A. I’m still giving this Tribunal the benefit of the doubt that after two verdicts that, indeed, would reinforce the skepticism about its nature and its underlying premises, the Haradinaj and Oric case, we may as yet with the Karadzic case get a more dispassionate and more evenhanded treatment than the one that, as I say, we’ve seen in those cases… It would sound haughty and arrogant for me to say that I’m giving the Court the benefit of the doubt, but hopes springs eternal.
Q. Well, do you think that that somehow makes it sound less haughty or arrogant?
A. No, it is maybe a human touch that the lawyers will take as such.
Q. You have expressed the view that you expect Mr. Karadzic to be convicted because the verdict has already been written, haven’t you?
A. Well, the verdict I didn’t say was written by the Court, but the verdict but the media chorus and of the commentators on each and every flickering screen and printed page in the world is not only written; it’s cast in stone.
Q. All right. And that’s your view as you sit here testifying before this Tribunal today, isn’t it?
A. Yes, indeed, it is.
Q. You’ve also written several pieces with respect to your views about Muslims, haven’t you?
A. We have to draw the distinction between pieces about the Muslims and pieces about the Islamic ideology. I would appreciate if you’d let me know which of the two you particularly refer to.
Q. Well, I’m referring to Muslims. This is an article that you wrote. It appears to be on the 24th of November, 2003, and it’s entitled: “Islam and Slavery: The Concealed Truth. Excerpt from a lecture by Srdja Trifkovic.” Xavier University of Louisiana, New Orleans, 14th November, 2003: … “The violent and inherently discriminatory message of the Koran is a huge problem for all Muslims. We cannot solve it for them, and we should not be asked to deem the problem solved by pretending that the Koran is a pacifist tract.” Right?
Q. And that’s your view with respect to not only Islam but as to all Muslims, right?
A. No. I don’t see where you see the connection.
Q. I see the connection where you say “all Muslims.”
A. It is the problem for all Muslims, and some Muslims resolve it by choosing to reinterpret the Koran while others stick to the view that the Koran is the unadulterated view of Allah, which is immutable for all time and cannot be interpreted but must be taken literally. And there is a great deal of distinction between saying that it is a problem for all Muslims and further saying, which I’m not, that all Muslims regard the Koran as literal – in its literalist way, the way that, for instance, the Wahabis do and the way that in which the Ullema of the chief centres of learning at Al Azhar University do.
Q. Well, let’s look a little bit further down on the page if we could. Looks like it’s just about the last sentence on that paragraph, you say: “The West has yet to learn fully the lesson that my Balkan ancestors were forced to learn six centuries ago, that Islam a collective psychosis seeking to become global, and any attempt to compromise with madness is to become part of the madness oneself.” You wrote those words, right?
A. Yes, I did.
Q. You believe that Islam is a collective psychosis, right?
A. Yes, I do, but without putting it in the context of the literalistic interpretation, it wasn’t conveyed. In other words, you are taking this totally out of context.
Q. Am I?
A. If we say that in the discriminatory message of the Koran is a huge problem and if we, then, say that Islam is a collective psychosis without reference to the particular problem that the Koran presents with its inherently discriminatory message, then it would be necessary to explain whether this collective psychosis reference refers to each and every Muslim believer or to those who take the Koranic message in its literalist sense. This is where I think you have to look at it in the totality of my piece and not in isolation.
Q. All right. Well, looking at it in that context, then, it would make sense that people that are not Muslim should seek ways to defend themselves, right, by disengaging from the world of Islam physically and figuratively? Does that make sense to you?
A. That disengagement is indeed something that I have long advocated, which is vastly different from attempts to intervene in the Muslim world and to “bring democracy to the Muslim world.” In fact, I think that from the civilisational point of view it is far more productive, far more promising of a peaceful discourse to disengage than to engage in the way that engagement has been practiced in Mesopotamia and Afghanistan.
Q. All right. So that means it would make sense to separate from somebody from the Islamic faith, right? Because that would be the most practical solution to the problems that you’ve identified in Islam, isn’t it?
A. It would indeed be the best advisible strategy for the western world to deal with the problem of Jihad, not by trying to bring counter-Jihad to the heartlands of Islam but to, indeed, disengage in the way that would preclude open-ended military commitments that are only helping the Jihadists obtain new recruits for their cause.
Q. All right. In your article dated January 26, 2007, “Dinesh the Dhimmi” and that was published in Chronicles Magazine, you say … “Now, think how amazing this is. Has it ever happened in this country – I’m not talking about some totalitarian country, but America – has it ever happened that a prominent intellectual called on leading writers on a subject of major importance to stop writing what they are writing because it would offend someone?” That’s your question. You answer it. “No, this is has never happened before. It has never happened before because it is only in response to Mohammedinism that westerners adopt the posture of preemptive surrender which Bat Ye’or calls mental dhimmitude. Of all the social, ethnic, religious, political movements in the world, only Islam has the ability to evoke this eagerly cringing attitude. Only Islam has this faculty of inducing people to surrender psychologically to it even before it has any actual power over them.” You believe that, right?
A. Well, in fact, this is Bat Yeor’s quote, but I agree with it, that in fact the self-censorship that the elite class of the western world exercises when it comes to misogyny, violence, and the active attempt to change the liberal nature of the western society in order to accommodate the views and beliefs that are not shared by the overwhelming majority of the host population is, indeed, unprecedented. I think that the level of self-censorship witnessed in connection with Muhamed’s cartoons, for instance, or with the non-reporting of the dark side of family violence among the Muslim diaspora in western Europe and so on, reflects this fundamental truth: that if there is any other social, ethnic, religious, or political movement that is deemed guilty of such transgressions, for instance, deep-Southern evangelical Christianists, or in terms of ideologies, members of either far left or far right movements, the level of public indignation of the media class and of disclosure and unmasking of the facts of the case would be far greater.
I think that it is not even particularly unique nowadays to complain of this tendency to self-censorship. You will find it in articles by Stein or by Robert Spencer, by – in fact, it is beginning to come from both the left and the right, that one does not help either the continuation of the liberal character of the western society or the integration of the Islamic community to gloss over the unpleasantness that is all too often present. And yet, the media editors prefer not to dwell on it because not only is it tricky; it can be physically dangerous as unfortunately, I said almost Vincent van Gogh – the documentaries, van Gogh found to his peril on the streets of Amsterdam not a million miles from here a few years back.
Q. In your article… dated 27th February, 2002 “Islamic Terrorism In Italy: The shape Of Things To Come” […] it says: “In Britain today where Islam controls the inner cities…” Now, I’ll grant you this article was written in 2002. Now, when you make this reference to inner cities and Islam controlling inner cities, do you have any particular cities in mind?
A. Well, this is actually something that needs qualification. The inner cities does not refer to areas not inhabited by Muslims, but on the other hand, there are significant areas of some inner cities, specifically Leeds, Bradford, Birmingham, Leicester, parts of east London, parts of other industrial cities in the midlands, such as Wolverhampton and also in Yorkshire that, indeed, exist de facto communities under their own Islamic-based rule. You will not find alcohol in any of the shops, you will not find video stores that would offer material not to the liking of the adherents of Mohammed’s faith, and you will find that there is a great deal of pressure on local people to conform to such an extent that even young Britons of Pakistani origin are very keen to leave such areas if they do not subscribe to the cultural assumptions and the lifestyle prevalent in them. Again, to those of us who know circumstances in Britain, this I think is neither particularly new nor, indeed, remarkable.
Q. Well, Mr. Trifkovic, with all due respect, that’s known in some circles as commercialism. One does not sell what another will not buy, and that’s why you don’t find these things in certain shops in all kinds of places around the world.
A. At the same time, those who would try to test the market for alternative products which are not offered would soon find his shop window smashed and his physical security jeopardised, and that is —
Q. And that’s what we call the mafia, and that exists all over the world, too, Mr. Trifkovic.
A. No, not if it is not motivated by commercial interest but by ideological convictions of the perpetrators, which by the way is similar to what is it happening in France where young girls who in similar suburbs of eastern banlieus of Paris do not wear the head scarf, risk getting something called the “smile,” which is a knife slash that goes from the angle of the lip to the lower earlobe. So no, it is not the Mafia; it is fanaticism.
Q. Let me ask you this question. If we could go to page 5. You see that paragraph that leads “Meanwhile across the Channel…”… You write in this paragraph: “In Germany, the highest Court in the land ruled in January 2002 that Muslim butchers should be allowed to slaughter animals according to Islamic practice by slitting their throats and letting them bleed to death and without stunning them first in any way. German law says animals cannot be slaughtered without first being stunned, but the constitutional court has now overturned it. The head of Germany’s Islamic counsel Hassan Hosjogan [phoen] declared that this will be an important step in the integration of Muslims in Germany.” You then write: “If and when the constitutional court allows a clitorectomy for Germany’s Muslim girls, presumably another important step will be made, but that integration will be complete only when Pakistanis in Britain, Algerians in France, and Turks in Germany turn the host country into an Islamic society by compelling it to adapt to their way of life.” You wrote that, right?
Q. And you believe it?
A. Believe what specifically?
Q. Well, you believe that the only way that a Muslim person can integrate into a Christian society is by turning the Christian society into one that is based on Islamic law, right?
A. I’m not saying it, it is the Islamic activists that are saying it: that the only end-product of their activism is the complete triumph of Dar al-Islam over Dar al-Harb; and if you doubt that this is indeed the self-proclaimed objective of each and every Islamic activist in the world, given the sufficient time I would be more than happy to supply you with ample quotes that may settle the matter beyond any doubt. This is not suggesting that all Pakistanis in Britain, Algerians in France, and Turks in Germany are sharing such views. In fact, specifically for the Turks in Germany I would say it is, indeed, a minority. But I’m suggesting, and I still stand behind this view: that making legal exceptions and exemptions for a religious group in order to accommodate its particular demands only feeds appetites for further demands, which are ultimately unlimited in scope and nature.
Q. Well, thank you very much for that, Mr. Trifkovic. I do appreciate your candor. […]
JUDGE AGIUS: All right. That’s – do you have any questions? Do you have? Mr. Trifkovic, that means that we have come to the end of your testimony. I was wrong in the beginning when I imagined you will be with us again tomorrow, but I’m sure you are happier. On behalf of the Trial Chamber, I wish to thank you for having come over, and on behalf of everyone present here I also wish you a safe journey back home.
THE WITNESS: Thank you very much, Your Honour. [The witness withdrew]
Tagged as: Foreign Policy, Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, The Hague abc123″>18 Responses<a href="#respond"
Leave a Reply