General reveals darkest side of war Account depicts Serbian forces' morale as low

August 15, 1993|By Dusko Doder | Dusko Doder,Contributing Writer

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- The ways in which the Bosnian Serb army and the Serb-led Yugoslav army have been behaving in the last couple of years have shocked the world. But the recent revelations of one general have laid another element of insanity onto the heap.

Some of Gen. Slavko Lisica's revelations reveal brutality. Others look like horrid farce.

They include tales of soldiers firing on their own commander, the same commander ordering an attack on his own men to "motivate" them, and the capture of the much-disputed Maslenica Bridge in defiance of orders from above.

General Lisica's story, told to Nim, a Belgrade weekly, appears to have been motivated by a dispute with his superiors that may have led to his removal from the front line. But they confirm long-held international suspicions that many commanders have acted on their own and that troop morale is so low the Serbs have had to rely mainly on their superiority in heavy weapons.

General Lisica was formerly a career soldier in Yugoslavia's Communist army. Known by his foes as the "crazy colonel" when he commanded troops against the Croats, he boasts of being "the officer who was most on the offensive in the Bosnia war." That was until his recent move to head the Bosnian Serb military academy, after the dispute on which he declines to elaborate.

He does not hide his disappointment with some of his soldiers, whom he describes as insufficiently moved by the Serbian cause to risk their lives. On one occasion, General Lisica claimed, he was so frustrated that he took an artillery commander to one side and told him to have his forces shoot soldiers who refused to advance.

The artillery commander, General Lisica recalled, "was shocked . . . but I ordered him and said, 'If somebody gets killed, so be it.' When this order was carried out, I told the soldiers: 'Can you see what [the enemy] is doing to us? In this way I motivated them, and in two hours, we moved 20 kilometers [12 miles]."

Fight or strip, men

General Lisica's unorthodox tactics were not always so successful. After one group of soldiers retreated, ignoring his orders to advance on the town of Livno, the general attempted to shame them into obedience. "I said those who do not want to fight should lay down their arms and remove their uniforms."

To his surprise, "they all started doing it. Then I got angry. And I said: 'Everything, even your underpants, are army property.' And imagine, a miracle, 40 of them, including the commander, took off their underpants. They were wholly naked." The general said the naked men left the front. "Only one man remained in his boxer shorts. 'You will never get me to take off these shorts,' he said. I extended my hand to him."

That night, the deserters began firing mortar shells on his headquarters, the general said.

General Lisica also expresses thinly veiled contempt for political and military superiors. He admits to doing "some things on my own initiative" and complains about several "mistakes" or "misjudgments" by his superiors that prevented him from taking more territory.

He boasts of defying his commanding officer, Gen. Ratko Mladic, and taking the vital Maslenica Bridge in northern Dalmatia, now the center of a fresh Serbian-Croatian dispute that many fear could spark a new war. "When I reached the Maslenica Bridge, the high command ordered me to retreat immediately," General Lisica recalled. "Mladic asked me to give him my officer's word of honor that I would fulfill this order, and I gave it to him. I announced I was retreating from the bridge. I removed my tanks 6 kilometers back, and I instead pushed Martic [a local commander] and his people to take the bridge."

The general is equally proud of his tactics in capturing the northern Bosnian town of Bosanski Brod late last year without any instructions to do so. At the time, international peace negotiators were highly critical of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, since he had promised to halt offensives.

General Lisica said he was puzzled after his proposal to take Bosanski Brod was rejected. So he decided to do it on his own. He first deliberately created confusion within Bosnian Serb positions by issuing contradictory commands. "When nobody could any longer figure out what was going on, I called a major and told him, 'Tomorrow we are entering [Bosanski] Brod.'

"All the officers stared at each other," the general recalled. "The major began to try to get out of it. I raised my voice and I told him I would make him shorter by a head if he disobeyed. He should carry out orders or commit suicide. So [the major] moved the tanks, and that's how we got to [Bosanski] Brod."

Contempt for 'profiteers'

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