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Profile: Operation Storm
Operation Storm was a participant or observer in the following events:
The Croatian military launches Operation Storm, a massive assault aimed at seizing Krajina, a Serb-populated region located within Croatia’s borders that, a year and a half earlier, had declared itself an independent state. As the Croatian force of 200,000 approaches the city of Knin, Krajina’s 40,000-strong army quickly retreats. Over the next two days, the Croatian army fires some 3,000 shells on Knin. According to two senior Canadian military officers who are present during the attack, the shelling is indiscriminate and targets civilians. [New York Review of Books, 10/22/1998; New York Times, 3/21/1999; International Review of the Red Cross, 12/31/2000] Col. Andrew Leslie, one of the Canadians, will later say that no more than 250 shells hit military targets, leading him to believe that “the fire was deliberately directed against civilian buildings.” He will also recall seeing corpses of dead Serbians at Knin Hospital “stacked in the corridors… in piles.” [Canada National Post, 4/9/1999] The operation results in a mass exodus of as many as 150,000 Serbian residents, who flee their homes in tractors, cars, and horse-drawn carts. [New York Review of Books, 10/22/1998; New York Times, 3/21/1999; International Review of the Red Cross, 12/31/2000] This event will be remembered as the largest single instance of ethnic cleansing to have occurred during the Yugoslav war. [New York Review of Books, 10/22/1998] A 150-page report later issued by an international war crimes tribunal in The Hague, titled “The Indictment. Operation Storm, A Prima Facie Case,” finds that the Croatians were responsible for a number of atrocities. “During the course of the military offensive, the Croatian armed forces and special police committed numerous violations of international humanitarian law, including but not limited to, shelling of Knin and other cities. During, and in the 100 days following the military offensive, at least 150 Serb civilians were summarily executed, and many hundreds disappeared,” the report will say. “In a widespread and systematic manner, Croatian troops committed murder and other inhumane acts upon and against Croatian Serbs.” [New York Times, 3/21/1999] During the preceding year, Military Professionals Resources, Inc. (MPRI), a private military contractor, had been providing Croatian military officers with training—ostensibly in “Democracy Transition.” After the assault on Krajina, observers will suggest that MPRI’s team of instructors, made up of former US military generals, had actually trained the Croatians in a set of military tactics, known as “AirLand Battle 2000,” which were then used against the Serbs in Krajina. [New York Review of Books, 10/22/1998] A number of media accounts will even report that MPRI personnel helped plan the Croatian occupation and ethnic cleansing of the Serb-populated region. “Even the Foreign Military Training Report published by both the State Department and Department of Defense in May refers to these allegations against MPRI not entirely disparagingly,” UPI reports. [United Press International, 7/18/2002] There is also evidence that the US provided Croatian President Franjo Tudjman with a green light just a few days before the operation. [New York Review of Books, 10/22/1998] In September 1995, USAF General Charles Boyd, who was Deputy Commander in Chief European Command at the time condemns the Clinton Administration for having “watched approvingly as Muslim offensives began this spring, even though these attacks destroyed a cease-fire Washington has supported. This duplicity, so crude and obvious to all in Europe, has weakened America’s moral authority to provide any kind of effective diplomatic leadership. Worse, because of this, the impact of US actions has been to prolong the conflict while bringing it no closer to resolution.” [Foreign Affairs, 9/1995]
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