Via Marko Hoare’s blog, here’s an unhappy story about Greek journalist Takis Michas. A few years back, Michas wrote a book about the links between Greece and the Bosnian war — Greek support for Milosevic and Karadzic, Greek volunteers going to fight for the Serb side in Bosnia, and so forth.
Well, now he’s being sued by a Greek veteran of the Bosnian war. The lawsuit seems pretty dubious; the volunteer is claiming that he’s been libelled because Michas described the Greek volunteers as “paramilitaries” who took part in the Srebrenica massacre when (the volunteer says) they were in fact members in good standing of the Serb Bosnian army who just happened to be in Srebrenica around that time. The suit is being funded by something called the “Panhellenic Macedonian Front”, which is an umbrella group for a variety of extreme nationalists. A short interview with Michas, discussing the lawsuit, can be found here:
DANIEL TOLJAGA: Do you have any comments about the lawsuit and the press statements Mr. Vitalis has made?
TAKIS MICHAS: Yes. First of all Mr. Vitalis explicitly admits that Greeks (i.e. himself) took part in the planning and execution of the Serb â€œre-occupationâ€ (as he calls it) of Srebrenica. As he says in his press statement â€œI was present with a group of senior Serb officers in all the operations for the re-occupation of Srebrenica by the Serbsâ€.
Secondly, Mr Vitalis admits that the recruitment of Greek volunteers for the war against the legitimate government of Bosnia took place with the implicit approval of the leading Greek politicians Andreas Papandreou and (to a lesser extent) Constantine Mitsotakis. As he puts it:
â€œThe whole of Greece knows that the Greek volunteers had the broad support of Greek society as a whole as well as the support of politicians, mainly belonging to PASOK, because of the warm friendship between Andreas Papandreou and Radovan Karadzic. They also enjoyed the support of New Democracy, through the friendly diplomatic initiatives of Constantine Mitsotakis.â€
This reinforces the point I have repeatedly made, namely that Greek support for the Serb war effort was not only moral, economic, diplomatic and political but also military.
This is something that’s not widely realized outside the region: Milosevic and Karadzic were incredibly popular in Greece in the 1990s. Support for the Serbs was universal at almost every level of government, while the Greek media consistently gave the Serb version of events and ignored competing narratives. To a great extent, this is still true; Greek discourse on the Balkan wars is completely dominated by pro-Serb narratives. Most Greeks think that (for instance) the Srebrenica massacre was either grossly overblown or completely faked, that Kosovo was a land where Milosevic had to take over to restore order and protect the Serbs from genocide by murderous Albanian terrorists, and that Bosnia was a struggle of Orthodox Christians defending themselves against aggression by Turks… er, Bosniaks.
Or, to put it another way:
DANIEL TOLJAGA: It is interesting that he publicly admitted being present himself â€œin all the military operationsâ€ related to the â€œre-occupationâ€ of Srebrenica. Do you have any idea why Mr. Vitalis has not been investigated for possible war crimes?
TAKIS MICHAS: Because, as I have shown in my book, in Greece Serb actions during the war in Bosnia are not regarded as â€œcrimesâ€ but as â€œheroic deedsâ€. This applies to Srebrenica as well. No Greek government has made any statement at any time during the last 15 years explicitly condemning the killings at Srebrenica – this is a unique state of affairs for a European country.
DANIEL TOLJAGA: Are you worried about the forthcoming trial?
TAKIS MICHAS: In any other European country this lawsuit would have been thrown out of court. But as I have said repeatedly Greece is not a normal European country. Given the spirit of extreme nationalism that permeates the country and the fact that Karadzic and Mladic are venerated as saints by the majority of the public and the political class, I have every reason to feel worried.
Michas thinks there’ll be an effort to put Srebrenica itself on trial — i.e., to give a forum to denialism of the massacre and, if possible, to get a ruling formally ratifying it (at least in Greece). That’s depressingly plausible.