Wednesday, February 05, 2003

When Stupidity Becomes Contagious

If USA goes to war against Iraq, relying on support from countries like Croatia would be one of few reasons for Saddam to have some slim chance. In the eve of this conflict, Croatia practically lost its air force. The pilots started so-called "white strike", citing a huge list of grievances – some related to low wages, and many related to abysmal conditions of their flying machines. News about major discontent among pilots reached the media.

Yet, military pilots on strike are not the most scandalous thing in today's Croatia. Even more scandalous is the way Ministry of Defence reacted to this crisis. Croatia in its short history as an independent state didn't have much luck with their defence ministers, but hardly anyone is so utterly incompetent as Željka Antunović (Zeljka Antunovic). When confronted about crisis, she denied everything and instead threatened the potential whistleblowers with criminal proceedings for "spreading of false information" – the felony which was inherited into Croatian criminal law from Communist era and never used even in the darkest days of Tudjman's reign.

But Antunović didn't stop there. Few days later she admitted that Croatian Air Force indeed has problems with putting its planes in the air, and that they might be even situations when none of its jets is operational. Yet, in the same time, and with straight face, she said that "Croatian national security is not compromised". So, Croatia doesn't have an air force, but the national security is not compromised? Tell that to the next terrorist or lunatic who hijacks the plane and start circling over Zagreb.

On the other hand, Antunović's statements are hardly surprising, because she had plenty of opportunity to show her level of intelligence as somewhat lower-ranking member of Račan's (Racan's) SDP Nomenklatura. Some of her statements (like her telling people to read government-controlled (and virtually unread) Zagreb daily Vjesnik if they want to see real journalism) made her the godsend for HDZ propaganda. With her demeanour, image and lack of finesse and other
political skills, Antunović is almost indistinguishable from Communist-era aparatchicks, which is quite damaging for the party frequently being accused for each and every atrocity in Croatia from 1945 till 1990. Ironically, Antunović was never Communist; she got into SDP in 1994, when SDSH, her old and very anti-Communist party in early 1990s, merged with their Račan's people.

But Antunović is not alone in claiming that two and two equals five. On today's session of Sabor's Internal Policy & National Security Committee, its chairman Ante Markov (HSS) claimed that, despite all problems within the air force, Croatian national security is not compromised. So, stupidity in Croatia indeed can be contagious.


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