Blaskovich J. - Anatomy of Deceit. An American Physician's First-hand Encounter with the Realities of the War in Croatia.
(Volume 1, Number 1, Spring 2000.)
New York: Dunhill Publishing, Co., 1997. pp. 247, hard cover.
During the last couple of years, several books on the war in former Yugoslavia were published in the United States. However, all those books offered only one-sided descriptions of the war. Blaskovich's book is the first one to present the other side of the story.
Dr Jerry Blaskovich was born in Chicago, Illinois. In 1960, he started studying medicine at the Zagreb University School of Medicine. He specialized dermatology in the United States where he also got his master's degree, but in a completely different field - the history of Islamic art. Until 1994, he lectured on dermatology at the University of Southern California.
He is a veteran of the Korean War and the field of his special interest is chemical warfare. Since the beginning of the conflict in former Yugoslavia, he visited combat zones several times, evaluating the medical services, visiting the refugee camps, and talking to the victims of rape. He wrote numerous letters and articles on the war in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which were published in American journals and newspapers, and he held many lectures. On the basis of his own experience, he wrote a book "Anatomy of Deceit - An American Physician's First Hand Encounter with the Realities of the War in Croatia", published in the United States in July 1997.
"Anatomy of Deceit" is divided in fourteen chapters, and the Croatian edition has a special preface written by Prof. Andrija Hebrang, MD, PhD, Minister of Health during the war. It is written for an American reader - short, straightforward, "CNN-look-a-like". However, the Croatian reader will find it interesting, too. It shows how facts about the war in Croatia can be stated in a simple and well-documented way, and discloses some, previously unpublished, facts about the work of international community.
In the introductory chapter, "My Rude Awakening: December 15, 1991," Blaskovich remembers his first "war-time" visit to the homeland of his parents (although the first few paragraphs are too dramatic). Blaskovich was invited by Foreign Press Bureu to evaluate the work of medical services and to investigate the rumors about the use of chemical weapons. He reviews the news on the situation on the territory of former Yugoslavia those days, as well as the situation in Zagreb - the first air raids, sniper fire, bombing of the Banski dvori (Office of the President).
At the beginning of the following chapter, "Legend-Induced Paranoia of the Serbs and the Hits and Myths of the Croats," Blaskovich criticizes the lack of well-designed media promotion of Croatia. Croatia's politicians wasted a lot of energy retelling the Croatian history to the foreigners "from the seventh century", instead of answering the simple question: "What can we do?" or "What would you like us to do?" Since the book was written for the American audience, Blaskovich summarizes historical facts, crucial for the understanding of events in former Yugoslavia, as well as the development of the idea of "Greater Serbia" from Garašanin's "Načertanije", through murder in Parliament, up to the SANU Memorandum ("the Serbian equivalent of Mein Kempf").
The third chapter, "The Road to Voćin", describes Tito's Yugoslavia with special focus on the late 1980s and the beginning of 1990s. Blaskovich criticizes the blindness of the international community, and especially the Bush administration which, believing in the survival of Yugoslavia, reacted mildly on the conflict in Slovenia and the foundation of the Serbian Autonomous District in Croatia. One part of this chapter is dedicated to the siege of Dubrovnik in October 1991, when the media started asking questions on the motivation of the Serbian military activities.
The following two chapters, "What Happened in Voćin" and "Post Mortems of Slaughter: The Autopsies," deal with the best forensically documented crime perpetrated on the territory of former Yugoslavia. On December 13, 1991, the members of "Beli Orlovi," Serbian para-military troops, destroyed the eight centuries old church of Our Lady in Voćin and massacred the civilians. The post-mortal remains (I choose not to use the word "body") of 58 victims were found, while the remains of many others, including children, were missing. Blaskovich's description of autopsies begins with the statement that "even the toughest pathologist is on his knees when he deals with burned victims." The summaries of the forensic reports are given. Tomislav Martinković, Katica Martinković, Marija Šimić, Ivan Šimić, Marija and Franjo Mataneia, and Stojan Nenadović (a Serb!) were horrendously tortured before they were burned alive. The only comfort is the fact that the tragedy in Voćin was the first massacre noticed by the media, after four dozen previous slaughters were ignored.
In chapter 6, "The Devastation of Osijek and the Smoldering Ashes of Vukovar," Blaskovich remembers his visit to West Slavonia. He witnessed the fight for Osijek, and the heroic work of the staff in the Osijek General Hospital. Four fifths of the hospital as ruined and the staff was moved to the cellar. However, they managed to maintain the rate of secondary wound infections below 1.7%*. Perhaps the most tragical fact is that the Yugoslav People's Army severely devastated the hospital during the seize of fire (sic!) in September 1991, bombarding from the neighboring base.
Blaskovich reconstructs the siege of Vukovar, the turning point of the war, on the basis of his conversations with eyewitnesses. He describes the work in the basement of the Vukovar General Hospital. I would like to point out two, almost unbelievable, acts of enemy troops: artillery attacks to the central sterilization facility (guided by the "insiders"), and the attacks on the vehicles which were taking away the dead to the cemetery! Part of the chapter describes forensic work on the identification of the corpses of the wounded who were taken to the concentration camps after the fall of Vukovar. Many of them didn't survive the torture.
Chapter 7, "The Media Deception," deals with the role of the media in the war in Croatia. We can learn that the authors of numerous articles on the war in the Balkans, published between 1990 and 1995, were "in love" both with former Yugoslavia and everything it represented. Press agencies used those articles as a basis for a number of their reports published in the early 1990s. In addition, Blaskovich describes the excellent work of Serbian propaganda including hiring many independent public-relations companies. For example, General Lewis MacKenzie, the highest ranking United Nations officer on the territory of former Yugoslavia, was donated USD 150,000 by SerbNet, the official Serbian lobby association in the United States, during his talks with the representatives of the United States Congress.
In the eighth chapter, Blaskovich tries to answer the question from his introduction: "Who committed a greater crime - the one who actually did it or the one who ignored it?" Trying to expose different lies published in foreign press, Blaskovich visited many medical institutions in Croatia. He describes his experience in working with refugees and displaced persons. The crucial part of the chapter is the testimony of Fadila, a woman from Brčko, about the destruction of that Bosnian city and the massacre of civilians in Brčko carried out by the Serbian troops.
"The Infant Democracy's First Steps" is the title of chapter 9. Here, Blaskovich deals with the confusion of the Croatian press in 1990 and 1991, and with the work of the Foreign Press Bureau - "the only bright spot" in Croatia those days. Although the Foreign Press Bureau contributed significantly in fighting prejudices against Croatia that were present in the media, it became the victim of the conflict of interests of Croatia's officials. After that, Blaskovich describes the work of Croatian associations in the United States whose differences eventually led to the loss of both resources and energy in the fight for domination.
Chapter 10, "Physicians, Leaders by Default", deals with physicians and their role in the war in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is very unusual that in such a short period several physicians made it to the top of Croatia's politics. For example: Zdenko Škrabalo, Branimir Jakšić, Ivica Kostović, Andrija Hebrang, Mate Granić, Goran Dodig, Juraj Njavro, Ivica Kračun, Franjo Golem … It is unbelievable coincidence that, at the same time, some leaders in other parts of Yugoslavia were physicians too: Milan Panić, Milan Babić, Radovan Karadžić … Moreover, Lord David Owen is a physician himself. But, one must agree with Blaskovich that Owen and Karadžić must have been absent when it was time to take the Hippocratic oath.
Chapter 11, "Conflicts of Interest", contains some facts not so known in Croatia. Lawrence Eagleburger, former United States Minister of Foreign Affairs, was very intimate with Yugoslav financial circles. Lord Peter Carrington became manager and representative of "Kissinger and Associates," which transferred hundreds of millions of American investments in Yugoslavia. However, neither of them thought that their financial interests would interfere with their ability to make objective judgments about former Yugoslavia. Blaskovich explains the basis of the embargo on the import of weapons to Croatia and characterizes it as one of the most pervert political decisions during the war in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. He also describes the economic sanctions against Yugoslavia imposed by the United Nations, as well as Russia breaking the sanctions and shameless role of Russian peace keeping forces in Croatia. One of their most profitable actions was smuggling oil. The United Nations ignored the smuggling, afraid that the Russians might withdraw from the forces. While talking about the United Nations, Blaskovich describes the slaughter of Muslims in Goražde, the center of the UN security zone. He cites the article from the Los Angeles Times, describing how the UN gave the Serbs UN uniforms and vehicles. Disguised as UN soldiers, the Serbs caught Muslims hiding in the woods after they fled from Srebrenica. All those refugees were executed!
In the 12th chapter, "Croatia's Growing Pains," Blaskovich analyzes the failure of the UNPROFOR mandate in Croatia and the Z-4 Plan. He analyzes events in 1995, the military actions "Flash" and "Storm", which brought down the Serbian autonomous district "Krajina," and the importance of the failure of the siege of Bihać as well as Croatia's involvement in the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In introductory paragraphs, he reviews the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina, "the small Yugoslavia." He deals with the blindness of the Bosnian state politics and its total unpreparedness for the conflict. Although he is not trying to minimize the sufferings of Muslims during the war, he explains why the Croats are the main loosers in the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He also analyzes the reasons Muslims turned against the Croats. At the end of the chapter, all the sufferings of the people of Bosnia are summarized in poem by Enes Kišević, "Hava's Plea".
In the final, fourteenth chapter, "Dayton: Peace for Our Time?" Blaskovich describes the Dayton Peace Agreement. He characterizes the Agreement as a requiem for Bosnia and Herzegovina, and defines Serbs as the only winners. He accuses the international community and the West for horrors committed on the territory of former Yugoslavia.
Although it is written for the American audience, I can recommend "Anatomy of Deceit" to the readers from Croatia and neighboring countries. It is simple, but interesting. Blaskovich dissects the way politics and media can manipulate the information. He discloses all the hypocrisy of the international community which didn't stop the war, although it was able to, because it was partly seduced by the ancient myths about the Serbian military glory and partly corrupted with Serbian money.
Ivan Krešimir Lukić
Croatian Medical Journal
* Janoš K, Lovrić Z.
War Surgery in Osijek During the 1991/92 War in Croatia.
Croatian Medical Journal 1995; 36(2):104-107.