- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 31, 2003

It is commonly believed the scourge of racism has been eradicated in the West. Indeed, significant advances have been made in how Western societies treat historically discriminated minorities such as blacks, Hispanics and women. Yet there is one ethnic group that continues to be the victim of widespread discrimination and even hatred: the Slavs.

For example, this subtle but nevertheless real prejudice against the Slavs can be seen in academia. Although the Holocaust and the evils of fascism have been condemned by most scholars, the crimes of communism remain largely ignored. Marxism-Leninism produced the greatest system of mass murder in history, resulting in the deaths of more than 100 million people — a considerable percentage of whom were Eastern European Slavs.

During the 1930s, communist dictator Josef Stalin systematically starved to death 7 million Ukrainians in one of the most murderous genocides of the 20th century. Yet the suffering of Ukraine under Stalin’s totalitarian empire has been largely forgotten. The same is true of the other victims of the Marxist project such as the Russians, Poles, Croats, Slovaks and Serbs who in total lost millions of people to state-sanctioned murder.

Leon Trotsky, one of the leaders of the Bolshevik Revolution, once stated that the “Slavs are a historyless people.” This comment is not only false, but more importantly, it reflects the deep-seated racism of many in the West’s political class who continue to view Eastern Europe as a primitive backwater that is not part of European civilization.

A clear example of this hostility toward the Slavs was the creation of Yugoslavia following the end of the First World War. The establishment of a greater South Slav state violated U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s principle of national self-determination. Forged by Western powers to serve as a bulwark against Germany and Austria, Yugoslavia was a Serb-dominated, multinational empire that abrogated the national aspirations of its subject peoples — Slovenes, Croats, Macedonians, Bosnian Muslims, Albanians and Montenegrins.

Subsequently, while Western leaders as diverse as Franklin Roosevelt, Pierre Trudeau and the first George Bush championed the right to self-determination for peoples in India, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, they were reluctant to grant the same rights to the enslaved nations of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. As late as August 1991, on the eve of Ukraine’s historic vote for independence, Mr. Bush warned Ukrainians of the dangers of “suicidal nationalism.”

As Yugoslavia began to fall apart in the 1990s, the West at first refused to grant diplomatic recognition to the breakaway republics of Slovenia and Croatia, then watched passively as Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic waged ethnic cleansing campaigns against the Croats, Bosnian Muslims and Kosovar Albanians. It took the death of nearly 250,000 people and the displacement of 2 million civilians before NATO finally decided to intervene to stop Mr. Milosevic’s genocidal rampage.

This contrasts sharply with the eagerness of Western governments to recognize the independence of India in 1947; the myriad African nations in the 1960s; Bangladesh in 1971; the Baltic States and East Timor during the 1990s. Apparently, Ukrainians, Belorussians, Croats and Bosnians are not as worthy of statehood as other non-Slavic peoples.

Modern-day Slavophobia can also be seen in the recent indictments issued by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Its chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, is seeking to prosecute leading Croatian generals on trumped-up charges that would be laughed out of any Western courtroom.

Take the case of Gen. Ante Gotovina. He led the 1995 military operation that ended the Croat-Serb war. The general is being prosecuted not for having committed or ordered war crimes, but for failing to have prevented isolated atrocities by individual soldiers during the three-day offensive. This is the equivalent to holding Gen. Wesley Clark legally responsible for the deaths of civilians during NATO’s 1999 bombing campaign against Serbia.

The ICTY is determined to indict leading Croatian generals in order not to appear biased against the Serbs. This means innocent Croats are being sacrificed for the sake of a policy of ethnic balance. Not only is this an unacceptable manner to run a court, but worse, it reflects the Western dismissal of the rights of individuals in the Balkans. Are individual Croats mere cattle that can be exchanged in order to propagate the myth that the ICTY is evenhanded?

A similar indictment against Gen. Clark — or any American — would rightly be unacceptable to Washington. It would demand that the charges be dropped immediately. But in the case of Gen. Gotovina, the State Department is insisting that Croatia hand him over to the tribunal. Ironically, even Serbian human-rights activists have stated that the general is innocent.

Gen. Gotovina is obviously the victim of a racist judicial witch hunt. Too bad he is a Croatian. Otherwise, Western leaders might actually care.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is an assistant national editor at The Washington Times.

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