Spies Like Us

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Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase – Spies Like Us (one of my favourite movie scenes)

Exactly two years ago (almost to the day!) pengovsky wrote about a series of break-ins which were alter conveniently described as being drug-related.

Last Monday night person or persons unknown broke into the building of Social Democrats. Having entered through a small ground-floor window they disabled the alarm system and then thrashed the place up. None of the equipment was stolen, but the perpetrators did break open an iron safe where the party apparently kept documents related to membership in the Socialist International.

One wonders what else were they keeping in there.

There are several options. There is always the possibility that someone forgot to lock up. People at SD are more or less a friendly bunch which would probably be quite happy to water your flowers while you’re on vacation. But I wouldn’t exactly trust them with keys to my crib. If you know what I mean. But since the alarm system was disabled – apparently without the security company noticing – and nothing of tangible value was taken, the possibility that this was a crime of opportunity diminished rapidly.

So, perhaps we should turn our attention to the usual suspect(s). First of all there should be no doubt as to whether Janša is capable of orchestrating something like this. Not only abusing security services for his own political agenda (he’s done it before), but also being able to. He had four years to reaffirm his influence in Slovenian intelligence community where he had considerable influence to start with. Secondly, since he successfully tore apart the Slovenian Intelligence Agency (SOVA) he can do more or less as he pleases. If he so wishes. It is obvious that whoever broke into the building knew what he was looking for. And trust me, it wasn’t SD’s Socialist International membership card. This bears all the hallmarks of a politically-motivated break-in and since every time such things happened in Slovenia Janez Janša and his SDS found themselves in or around the centre of the affair, odds are that this time will be no different.

Given the fact that a) the new government as about as good at keeping secrets as Ronald Reagan was at remembering them and b) PM Pahor was out of the country at the time of the break-in, it could be that it had something to do with him rather than the party. One must take into account that special advisor for ore exploration and wasting time Dimitrij Rupel fell out with the PM and is running back to Janez Janša, as well as the fact that Slovenia and Croatia are in a make-or-break phase of the border/EU membership dispute. Add to that the fact that Janša and Sanader had a history of discussing the issue and that Janša and Rupel dealt a severe blow to Slovenian position in 2005 by heeding Croatian demands of taking the case to the International Court in the Hague and certain contours start to emerge. And finally, one must not forget that Pahor never really explained why on Earth he took Rupel on-board. The bullshit about Rupel being well connected is a bed-time story at best and an insult to our intelligence at worst.

My bet is that Rupel sold out to Pahor and handed him documents incriminating Janša – either relating to Croatia or to the Patria affair. But since the new PM is not amused by Rupel’s I-made-Slovenia-independent-so-I’m-above-the-law antics the latter had a change of heart and ran back to Janša, telling him (amid tears?) what he had done. Consequently Janša went in to get the documents.

But I’m sure they’ll find out it was the junkies.

He’s in. He’s out. He’s in…

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I know, you’ve seen it already

As of yesterday, speculation is rife about Dimitrij Rupel (yes, him) resigning from his post of special emissary of the prime minister. Throughout the day conflicting reports were coming in about special emissary for general affairs quitting his job over a letter he sent to interior minister Katarina Kresal.

Namely. While he was the seemingly-eternal foreign minister, the bad, bad press caught his wife using ministry car and driver to run errands such as shopping and similar. As pre-election tensions were extremely high and Rupel’s popularity was extremely low (where it remains to this day) all hell broke loose and a criminal investigation began. Which was – not at all suprisingly – dropped soon enough. Come election day and the government changes, with Rupel apparently switching sides and becoming Borut Pahor’s special emissary for god-knows-what. Most of the coalition has a heart attack over this. Three months later interior minister Katarina Kresal names a new chief of police, who – somewhat suprisingly – retains the same head of Crim Police who dropped the investigation against Rupel and his wife. And lo! Behold! Suddenly the investigation is re-opened. Which is possible, as it was dropped rather than closed.

This apparently prompts Dimitrij Rupel to write an angry letter to the minister of the interior, copies of which he sent to the PM, the ombudsman as well as Janez Janša. In the letter he apparently demanded that the investigation be stopped, not in the least because he is one of the architects of Slovenian independence. Rupel reportedly sent the letter in his official capacity as special advisor to the PM, which is yet another example of abuse of power, and PM Borut Pahor apparently asked him to leave his post. Initially it was reported that Rupel did resign, but as the evening progressed, Rupel’s lawyer denied those reports.

If Rupel gets sacked, he will be returning to an unspecified senior diplomatic post within the foreign ministry. Where (adding insult to injury) he will have to report to his succesor, foreign minister Samuel Žbogar. The latter diplomatically said that Rupel would probably be quite useful within the ministry.

In any case: hopefully PM Pahor now finally sees that having Rupel on-board was not such a bright idea. He’s bad news all around and has once again proven that he is not above distorting historical fact if it suits his particular needs. How can I tell? In his rant over at SDS website Rupel (among other wonders of sci-fi) writes that


From the beginning when the first democratic government tackled hostilities of Belgrade and mistrust of the international community, through independence to last year’s EU presidency, it was hard to survive in all the crossfire. Let us not forget that just before the start of the presidenty the then-opposition wanted to topple the government, but the latter won the vote of confidence

Nicely put. Except for the fact that it wasn’t the then-opposition which demanded the vote of confidence. It was then-PM Janez Janša, who wanted to shift the focus and offset the political damage to his right wing government done by Danilo Türk’s victory in presidential elections.

Either Rupel has serious memory problems or he’s a lying bastard. In any case Pahor should get rid of him ASAP.

Rewriting History

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Members of Home Guard swear allegiance to Hitler in Ljubljana stadium, 1944 (left, source), Aleksandar Todorović during a protest of the Erased in front ot the Parliament, 2006 (right. source)

As of 2004 historians estimate that some 14,000 Slovenes were killed post-war summary executions. Around 11.000 of those were members of the Home Guard, a collaborationist army formation. Being held as “enemy combatants” (no, Bush&Cheney didn’t make that up, the Allies did), they were stripped of any legal status, denied due process and as such fell victim to post-war revenge. Fact of the matter is that although they were collaborators, their act of treason should have been proven in a court of law.

As of 2009 it is clear that some 25,000 people were erased from records of the ministry of interior. Of these some 450 were in some way connected to the enemy Yugoslav Army. Suddenly stripped of their residence, their documents were invalidated and they found themselves without any legal status and virtually defenceless fell prey to continuous outpouring of nationalism, revenge and violation of human rights.

Certain political elements now flock en masse to the latest scene of the post-war revenge, where they call for nothing less than rewriting of history, presumably hoping that acts of treason and collaboration would somehow be redefined as profoundly patriotic. At the same time these very elements simultaneously deny that the erasure ever took place and claim that collaborators are being rewarded for their treason.

No wonder reconciliation is not possible. If siding with the occupator is patriotism and failing to get your papers in order is treason, we have a long way to go.

Reconciliation

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Image from Reconciliation ’04 – a computer game* by Mladina weekly (source)

A joke from the socialist times, naturally.

Two brothers fought the war on opposing sides. The older joined the Partisans, the younger joined the Home Guard. When the war was over, the older, although he was a decorated hero, couldn’t get a decent job. He kept being pushed around as a janitor, doorman and the likes. The younger brother, however, went on to become general manager of a successful company. How was that possible?

Simple.

The older brother had a problem, because his brother was a member of the Home Guard, whereas the younger had great credentials since his brother was a decorated war hero.

:mrgreen:

*The game is a tetris parody of the partisan/home guard rift. It is marvelously politically incorrect, as you can pick which side will you be throwing in the pit. Or you can throw them both. 😀

Coming To Terms With Our History

Apparently there are some 550 inter- and post-WWII graves in Slovenia. Some are invidiual and some are more-or-less mass graves. One of them was uncovered, following a long excavation, in the vicinity of Huda Jama in the middle of last week. Located in Laško municipality (yes, the beer), Huda Jama was a mining hamlet which was long abandoned. Until last week only a handful of people knew that the mine holds things much more horrid than coal.

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Mass grave at Huda Jama (source)

As more avid visitors to this blog know, Slovenes are unable to bury our dead. There are numerous reasons for that, including (but probably not limited to) the fact that mass murders were a more or less closely guarded secret under socialism and people only spoke about it in closed circles, but also due to the fact that the losing side, the Home Guard, which – for one reason or another – collaborated with Nazi and Fascist occupators is trying to use the post-war mass murders as justification for collaboration, conveniently omitting the fact collaboration came first and summary executions followed.

THE MESS

But if it were really that simple, it would be more or less a closed case of Slovenian winners taking it out on Slovenian losers, with the latter crying foul 65 years later. Obviously it is not that simple. It never is. As more and more graves and surrounding facts are uncovered, the picture grows ever more complex and unpleasant for everyone.

It is generally accepted fact that World War II ended on May 9, when Nazi Germany surrendered to Soviet Russia (following a surrender to Allies a day earlier). That may be true for most of Europe, but in Slovenia the fighting continued until May 15 1945 as German troops and their collaborators from the Balkans and the Caucasus were trying to make a dash for British-controlled part of Austria, trying to evade capture by either Yugoslav or Soviet army (the latter generally avoided Slovenia entered it briefly only in Prekmurje, at the very north-east end of the country). Retreating German army was closely followed by its various collaborators from all over the Balkans. Chetniks, Ustasha, Home Guard and various others knew that their collaboration with the enemy will not go unpunished. Some collaborationist units made it across the border and some didn’t. And even those who did, were returned to Yugoslavia, where they met their demise, usually without due process. Not that due process was a luxury they could hope to have been extended. The Second World War, one of the most dehumanizing experiences in modern history was over and what little of humanity there was left, it fell prey to revenge of the victors who prevailed against all odds, themselves mostly sentenced to extinction by the occupators and happily persecuted by the collaborators. And while the debate in Slovenia is raging mostly between Partisans and Home Guard (domobranci, the collaborators), the nationality of vicitims of these summary executions is varied. As was – it seems – the nationality of the executors.

Namely, as of late the debate is focusing on finding the people responsible for the executions, which is no easy task after six-and-a-half decades. Given the fact that in Slovenia the issue is highly politicised, has completely permeated the political discourse (ha! My studies weren’t in vain after all!) and has a habit of occasionally hijacking it entirely, every debate tends to be explosive even after 65 years and makes one think that if 80-year-olds can be at each others’ throats after all these years, the level of hatred during and after the was must have been incredible.

WHO DID IT?

And so every discovery of a mass grave is used by the losing side, usually associated with the political right wing, to try to prove the fact that it was the victorious side who were actually the bad guys, whereas they were only defending Slovenia. This is immediately followed by all hell breaking loose with the victorious side, usually associated with the political left wing, pointing out (in my opinion rightfully) that it was them (partisans) who fought against the Germans and Italians and that collaboration is a really strange way of defending a country doomed to be erased from the map.

As a result inter-war and post-war graves tend to get mixed up in the debate, which is sad, because during the war both sides committed atrocities, often outdoing one another. Cynical as it may sound, this is “normal” during a war and it was especially normal during WWII, even more so in the Balkans where centuries-old grievances tend to surface during any blood-letting. But if inter-war massacres can be discarded for a moment, this leaves us with post-war massacres, like the one at Huda Jama, committed in the months immediately after the war.

By the final stages of the war various Yugoslav Partisan units (including Slovenian) were already transformed into a regular army under centralised command. And as the Germans and their collaborationist units were retreating, they were closely followed by Yugoslav 3rd army under the command of General Kosta Nađ. This went on from Srem in Vojvodina (north of Serbia) to Slovene-Austrian border, with some elements of his army going over the border and liberating Celovec/Klagenfurt and Pliberk/Bleiburg, among other areas. Nađ’s 3rd Army was apparently comprised of units of all Yugoslav nationalities and it is safe to assume that units under his command were tasked with executions. Furthermore, similar operations by other belligerents in WWII suggest that this was done by a small number of specially motivated units and not by the regular battle-weary forces.

POLITICAL FALLOUT and DEFAMATION OF HISTORY

But rather than looking for people responsible in that general direction and giving proper burial to the victims, the debate in Slovenia is again shifting to attempts to decriminalise collaboration and shift the blame to both sides, saying that “everybody is to blame”. Indeed the latter sentiment has become dangerously familiar in the last few years, because it equals collaboration with post-war massacres. Which is of course a defamation of history. As a result, Slovenian parliament was repeatedly unable to pass a law on victims of inter-war and post-war violence which would hopefully close at least one (political) chapter in this debate and allow this nation to come to terms with its own history.

To illustrate just how volatile the atmosphere surrounding this issue is, take the Prez who on Sunday – when asked to comment on it – said that he will not talk comment on second-class issues. When he was additionally asked whether post-war executions are a second class issue, he answered that this goes for political manipulations of the subejct. This was enough to cause an uproar with SLS demanding his apology or immediate resignation. Yesterday the President had to clarify his position saying that post-was executions were not a second-class issue, but that political manipulations are a second-class issue.

WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT?

It is time to bury our dead. It is high time to find out who is responsible for post-was deaths. It is also high time to stop demands that victors of WWII apologize to wining the war. But it seems that reconciliation of a nation divided is impossible. Nobody illustrates that more than Janez Stanovnik and his cousin Justin Stanovnik. The former is leader of the Partisans’ Veteran Organisation, while the former is one of the more prominent spokesperson for Home Guard Veterans. Cousins, who – together with four other people – appeared in yesterday’s programme on state television and would not refer to each other by first names.

But perhaps sad chapter in Slovenian history can be closed with the help of victims of another sad chapter of our history. The first person to enter the Huda Jama mass grave last week was Mehmedalija Alić, also a guest on the programme, a mining expert who was one of the 25.000 of the Erased and who lost most of his family either in WWII or in the Srebrenica massacre. The symbolism of the moment could not be more telling. A man whose family was erased from physical existence by warfare in the Balkans and who – by no fault of his own – was erased from bureaucratic existence by a country which claims to be heaven on Earth is now bringing that same country to terms with its own history. You can only do that if you’ve come to terms with your own personal history. The legendary Boris Dežulović has a brilliant piece on this man (via dr. filomena, Croatian only)

HOW TO GO ABOUT IT?

Surprising as it may seem, I completely agree with Bernad Nežmah, a right-wing columnist who said that the mass grave should be left exactly as it is. As a reminder of the past, present and future, when the word “traitor” overshadowed the concept of human rights