Puppetry in Motion

Tony Cascarino, Croatia

"Nacional was established by the Serbian intelligence services. Their main function is to write against the state leadership in order to change the character of the Homeland War and the Croatian generals." - Croatian Admiral Davor Domazet-Lošo, former head of the Croatian army Intelligence Service and army Chief of Staff.

"Nacional published a series of lies, slander and falsehood, unfounded, unsubstantiated and without any evidence... The title and content of the text, which laid out a series of lies and misinformation, grossly defamed ... a man, a Croatian defender, war volunteer, war commander and Croatian Minister of Defence... these facts clearly indicate an attempt on placing untrue and unfounded allegations, which are harmful to the reputation and honour of the Minister of Defence..." - MORH spokesperson, Croatian Ministry of Defence.

"Nacional speaks lies and spreads disharmony amongst veterans ... the most honourable sons of the Croatian people have been subjected to (Nacionals) attacks.... We wonder who is next in line..." - Narod.hr quoting Dražimir Jukić, President of the Association of Croatian Guard war veterans statement at joint war veteran press conference in Split.

The following is an update (14.01.2019) of a 2005 article:

In January 2005, Plamenko Cvitić published an attempted assassination against my character, and Croatia's Foreign Volunteers, in the 'sensationalist' Croatian weekly Nacional - based on the supposed evidence of alleged anonymous witnesses.  Ostensibly presented as a result of in-depth research, which, he claimed, was both in collaboration with supposed unnamed foreign journalists, and supported by the testimonials of unnamed former combatants; he perpetually ridiculed himself. In almost 3,500 words Cvitić practically breached almost every ethical code of the Croatian Journalists’ Association (HND).  Due to his on-line article recently reappearing on search engines; I hereby update and elaborate on the circumstances surrounding his buffoonery, and motives for trying to portray Croatia's 1991 defenders and I in anything other than a positive light.


The Millennium pyrotechnics triggered memories of my experiences as a volunteer combatant in defence of Croatia in 1991. It inspired me to write an article consisting of the following facts: several of my ancestors had fought as Óglaigh na hÉireann Irish Volunteers, including my grandfather, an officer and IRB man noted for a prison escape; and that I was a trained soldier. Due to the Croatian domestic hostile political environment, the article was penned under my wartime nickname, Cascarino. I detailed my participation in operations as a member of Ante Gotovina’s team; and subsequent HOS operations, including the day besieged Vukovar fell to Serb forces. I further stated our team participated in the defence of the Zagreb HOS GHQ when the then HSP President, Dobroslav Paraga, was arrested. That my team then departed Croatia after the Sarajevo Ceasefire, and concluded that I considered my role was ‘little compared to others.’ All the above are undeniable confirmed facts; and indeed have all been confirmed by historical documentation, including, though not limited to: contemporary  newspaper reports, TV documentary, and hospital records; named participant written testimonies, including by the HOS co-founder and Supreme Commander, a prominent Croatian Special Forces Brigadier, and a renowned Royal Marine; video-interviews with Ante Gotovina's former team members; and published academic research such as both the Cambridge and Harvard University Press.  These details have also never been questioned by anybody other than non-war participants Plamenko Cvitić, and his controversial Nacional boss, Ivo Pukanić, as being anything other than fact. 

Puppet in a Box

Despite creating a fake media smokescreen of selective investigative journalism and insincere anti-ICTY sentiment, Ivo Pukanić's real agenda was simply to arrange Ante Gotovina's surrender to the ICTY and capitalise on it, politically and financially. I, and my associates, opposed this. In January 2005, four years after my manuscript had been publicly accessible, reported in the Croatian media, and serialised in the Australian-Croatian Hrvatski Vjesnik; I was notified that Ivo Pukanić  attacked my character during a live Croatian TV political debate show. Soon after the verbal venom sprayed from Pukanić’s forked tongue, he opened up a box marked ‘Puppet’, tugged on a string - and out popped Cvitić. What followed involved Nacional’s standard ingredients of distortion, omission and pure invention.
Despite having no previous history whatsoever of writing about Croatian War related affairs, transparent from his shoddy article, Cvitić and his fictional workshop transported me through space and time to places I've never been and had anonymous sources for every occasion, including medical and academic experts to provide my psychological diagnosis and educational level.  Over fences they had me leaping, wearing uniforms I've never worn, attributing quotes I’ve never stated, and wandering confused in places I’ve never been. I have to admit - it was the funniest thing I’d read in ages.
His continued gaffs grew increasingly ridiculous. He sought for instance to discredit me on the grounds of my age, yet, hypocritically, accepted the alleged testimony of someone else the same age. Then it subsequently transpired Cvitić himself had been a 14 year old boy during the war period he was addressing. He claimed nobody in Croatia knew my name, though, when it suited him, he alleged he'd shown my photo to numerous veterans who immediately all identified me by the same name he said nobody knew. When he claimed that weapons I'd described ‘didn’t exist in the Croatian forces arsenal’ smirks turned to chuckles, as he could only have been referring to Heckler and Kochs or Argentinean FAL’s. Whilst both weapons were widely known to have been used by certain Croatian units, including ours, the latter were confirmed via a highly publicised arms trial of the former Argentinean president Carlos Menem.  

Puppet Propaganda

Cvitić’s opening contradictory contention, was that, despite supposedly not being a fellow combatant of Ante Gotovina, I was, he claimed, a fabrication of British intelligence which attempted to discredit the then ICTY-hunted General in exaggerated media reports by connecting him to organised crime and terrorism. In fact, his original plan, still transparent amidst his jumbled text, was to say I didn’t even exist at all. 
The media was unquestionably rife with exaggerated media reports concerning Ante Gotovina, and British intelligence, who had no justified grounds to interfere in Croatian affairs, most likely was disseminating misinformation, essentially supporting supposed evidence that Ante was in Croatia.
Cvitić stated that the first ever mention of me in public, was on a web site in 2003. This was directly demolished by a 2003 statement issued by Ante Gotovina’s attorney stating not only that my connection with Ante was a ‘widely known fact’ but that the web site hosting the manuscript had been there the past two years, i.e. 2001. My manuscript had actually been written during 2000, several former participants were consulted, and it was sent to the Croatian government for verification prior to its 2001 internet publication -  prior to Ante Gotovina’s indictment. However, the first public mention of our team was via an article published in The Observer during the peak of the fighting in November 1991, describing us as: ‘A feared and respected elité within Croatia’s most elité fighting force.’ Several of our team also featured in the BBC documentary 'Croatia gets tough' which was broadcast around the same time.

Significantly, Cvitić claimed to have read my manuscript then proceeded to give his analysis and criticism, based on content and statements which weren’t even in it. Enter his anonymous academic experts deeming me ‘poorly educated…incapable of writing a book...’ unable to ‘write three complete sentences’ and, absurdly, criticising that I never wandered around the front lines jotting notes.  
Furthermore, the media reports speculating I was connected to Ante Gotovina’s absence, apparently based on a 2003 (POA) Croatian intelligence report, suggested Ante was outside Croatia; whilst MI6 and the ICTY prosecutors were trying their hardest to prove he was in Croatia and were (unjustly) blocking Croatia’s EU entry based on this. In presenting one of his many false arguments, Cvitić stated that the British military authorities could have identified me to the police and issued an international arrest warrant, and as this had not occurred, Cvitić illogically suggested, then this indicated that I had no military previous experience, did not participate in my described Croatian military operations, and never came into contact with Ante Gotovina. 
Besides the fact that the (false) media allegations relating to me to which Cvitić referred specifically concerned the alleged transportation of Ante Gotovina from Croatia prior to the unsealing of his indictment, I could not have been suspected of having committed any crime for any warrant to have been issued by any judicial body. Furthermore, if a Globus report citing an alleged unnamed source close to the then ICTY Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte is to be believed, the Croatian government had submitted the aforementioned classified POA report to Del Ponte containing information concerning me of which her office had apparently already been aware of the previous year. Whilst annoyed it was leaked to the press, the ICTY was no longer interested in pursuing: ‘…the single foreign (alleged) collaborator in the complex organization of Gotovina's escape…’ on the basis that they seemed convinced Ante was back in Croatia. 
Our ‘intrepid’ journalist never ceased to amaze. Whether he was too engrossed meditating on Josef Goebbels' the bigger the lie the more it will be believed; or distracted by the scissors and paste on his desk when he concocted this one remains unclear. Because the simple truth of the matter is that the false unsubstantiated allegations of organised crime and terrorism against Ante Gotovina, originated exclusively from, and were disseminated by, what a surprise: Cvitićs very own publication: Nacional.

Puppet Master

From the Magyars to Milošević, few come close to Nacional's anti-Croatian independence propaganda. Not only had Nacional a track record of attacking Croatia's defenders from its 1995 inception; Ivo Pukanić was the very first 'journalist' to attack Ante Gotovina and other defenders in the late 1990’s with unsubstantiated allegations of criminality, and had obsessively launched a series of malicious attacks against him in the run-up to the election that ousted the ruling nationalist HDZ and subsequently. Indeed his fixation with discrediting Ante only culminated in 1999 when Pukanić accused Ante of plotting a presidential coup resulting in his dismissal as Chief Inspectorate. Notably, these Nacional articles were mostly based on the supposed evidence of ‘anonymous sources’.
But there was much more. Such as the May 2002 report from The Centre for Geo-Political Drug studies of alleged ‘Powerful Criminal Political Networks’ in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina stating Ante as being ‘suspected of arms trafficking in Croatia’ though fails to explain why or by whom. It deserves mention that the only source cited in the entire article was, wait for it: Nacional.  Or what about the December 2002 report prepared for the US Library of Congress concerning supposed links between the Croatian Ministry of Defence and ‘Irish terrorists, drug traffickers, arms dealers and organised crime’ again unsubstantiated and widely disseminated by both the international media and intelligence agencies which once more cites: Nacional.
Despite these facts, Pukanić, oddly, was subsequently promoted as a ‘Gotovina supporter’ in certain elements of the British media during the man-hunt. Notably after reports he had visited London.  
Pukanić, incidentally, was later unanimously expelled from the Croatian Journalists’ Association (HND) for violation of its code of ethics. A ‘disgrace to the entire journalistic profession’ and ‘bully’ to quote javno.com who should be commended for their extensive coverage of the alarming circumstances. He reportedly responded to the expulsion in typical fashion by cursing ‘ugly insults’ and dismissing HND’s leadership as ‘drunks layabouts and third-grade reporters.’ (Author note: Pukanić was subsequently tragically assassinated in Zagreb in 2008).

Puppet meets puppet

Cvitić inferred his extensive research skills ‘succeeded in finding’ Goran Pavković - his sole named witness. He falsely asserted I'd previously described myself as being ‘under Pavković's command', which I've never done, as he was never my commander, nor anyone else's for that matter. The truth is, it was I who supplied this individual’s details via an associate to Cvitić. After Cvitić made email contact with a feeble ruse claiming he was acting in both Ante and my interests, the associate informed I had not seen Ante Gotovina since the war and neither knew his whereabouts nor communicated with him during his absence. Cvitić was also denied an interview due to Nacional’s aforementioned history of hostility to Croatia’s defenders. He then stated he wished to dispel some undisclosed supposed  ‘rumours’ and asked for a name to confirm I knew Ante Gotovina. Pavković, an administrative clerk, exclusively bar and barrack based during the period, was suggested as he could confirm my connection to Ante Gotovina whilst not being in a position to compromise anyone else who may possibly still have been in contact with the hunted General at that time. Pavković, who invited me to share his barrack room, and repeatedly told my wounded comrade and I to our faces we were ‘heroes who’d never be forgotten’, evidently changed his opinions of us when approached by Cvitić. My final word on that man is for anyone who believes in fact to look him straight in the eyes and ask him if he stole a camera film; and if he was ever confronted by Ante Gotovina over stolen weapons. 

Puppet Deception

Cvitić did get one thing right – my manuscript incorrectly stated our HQ was in Lipovljani, the next village, rather than on the road to Lipovljani in Novska. But let’s take a further look at his deception. He claimed an anonymous witness stated ‘some of the battles he writes about in his book never even happened, or didn’t happen in the way he described.’ I reiterate that the combat scenes I described as both being easily confirmable, and well documented. What’s also interesting about this, is that the Novska operations which ‘never even happened’ are detailed in the Tiger Brigade’s official history. A Croatian Special Forces Brigadier has formally stated in notarised statement I was a member of a Special Force unit in the area during the period and he was personally with me on special assignments. The local guide who led us on the operations, is documented on film in front of numerous witnesses confirming I was ‘one of Ante’s men’, was at the forefront of the operations immediately next to Ante, and my accounts are accurate. Furthermore, the guide, a confident of Ante Gotovina who was also adjacent to him when he was shot on Brezina, also clarified that our team was based separately to the other Croatian soldiers, whom we only met on operations as we all, including Ante, ‘moved around from area to area’. He further stated that he himself only knew our faces and not names or identities.  Cvitić tried to exploit our ubiquitous activity and distort it, by first referring to static based army units and falsely implying I was a member of one, and then inferring that I regularly ‘disappeared’ from  them. None of the former participants of the operations or former soldiers still resident in Novska who I've spoken with have ever heard from Plamenko Cvitić, or any other Nacional reporter, regarding the operations. Indeed, several have stated it nonsensical any participant would deny the existence of noted operations, in which enemy lives were taken and their own lives at risk, to a publication renowned for its political opposition and hostility. 

Puppet Revisionism

Cvitić concedes I defended Croatia for six months. Throughout that time, which he casually dismisses as ‘only a few months’, Croatia was at constant war. Cities were surrounded and mercilessly bombed by land, sea and air whilst Croatian citizens were subjected to genocide, ethnic cleansing, torture and persecution. One such ‘month', October, when the enemy launched a widespread major offensive aimed at crushing Croatia within 20 days, was, to quote the then Croatian Chief of Staff, the ‘most difficult month of the entire war.’ Croatia had commenced as the lightly armed underdog in a gross military imbalance hindered by an arms embargo. 14 ceasefires had failed. Over 10,000 were killed, as many missing, hundred of thousands made refugee and 30 per cent of the industrial infrastructure destroyed. The aggressor’s aim had been the complete annihilation of the nascent, small, and lightly equipped  Croatian army. However, by December, the latter had equipped and built up quadrupling to over 230,000 men and successfully halted the enemy. At the ‘Sarajevo Ceasefire’ in January 1992 the front lines froze, Croatia’s independence was sealed, and 14,000 Vance-Plan implemented UNPROFOR peacekeepers arrived shortly after. An official order was then issued to demobilise the foreign volunteers. My team disbanded and departed Croatia. Sporadic shelling of Croatia ensued over the next four years with intermittent, though declining, Croatian army liberation operations culminating in August 1995 in the midst of the Bosnian war. However from January 1992, Croatia was not defenceless as it had been, which was why I, and a great deal of my fellow volunteers – all foreigners free to leave at any time before the ceasefire - fought. 
Cvitić also questioned why I never joined the Osijek-based International Brigade, inferring they were the sole existing foreigner’s unit. Presumably due to his complete ignorance of related affairs, it’s the only one he’s ever heard of. It was one unit of many, and the vast majority of foreigners didn’t serve in it. 

Many veterans I’ve spoken with unequivocally rejected Cvitićs sweeping misrepresentation of Croatia’s 1991 foreign combatants – many of whom were killed or wounded – as militarily inexperienced profit-seeking trigger-happy adventurers deployed by the Croats as canon fodder.
Devoid of fact and blinded with completing his master’s quest, as mentioned earlier, Cvitić attempted to belittle me by age (then 20 yrs). In desperation he deliberately dropped it to 19, and inferred this signified I had no military experience. In reality, however, I, like several of my fellow combatants, passed regular adult army selection at age 15 and enlisted at 16, a well-known tradition of the British forces. Including approximately one third of all Royal Marine recruits at the Commando Training Centre, of which several of my fellow Croatian fighters had undertaken. Before the age of 17, three years before the Croatian war, I’d completed the army's twelve month intensive Junior Leader course and qualified as a military communications signaller before serving operationally. All my comrades, including former Royal Marine Commandos and Foreign Legion paratroopers, were experienced professional soldiers. Ante Gotovina also assumed a lead position on operations, and was with us side by side during enemy contacts. He was no armchair commander deploying foreigners whilst observing from a safe distance as Cvitić suggested. Cvitićs sweeping disparaging remarks concerning those who travelled miles at personal expense to defend Croatia from that tyrant’s forces  as the world stood idly by speaks volumes. A number of these men were killed, badly wounded, or left traumatised by their experiences. It was a time with events and people he will never understand. Most deplorable of all, was Cvitićs attempt to gain an emotive response by claiming one of his alleged anonymous sources was handicapped in an attempt to justify his fabricated article.

It's noteworthy that his supposed revealing expose, actually failed to reveal the identity of the subject of his attack; and whilst Nacional denied my right to reply to the allegations, despite Cvitić's alleged legion of supposed anonymous witnesses, the comments box underneath the online article was never enabled.

Highly amusing, however, was Cvitić's post-publication claim, alleging that anonymous witnesses had contacted him - to confirm the claims of his alleged anonymous witnesses he'd mentioned in his article. 

Puppet Summary

To summarise, Plamenko Cvitić consciously, deliberately and maliciously; fabricated an article by means of generalisation, omission, distortion and invention. He attempted to present it as professional well-researched and sourced journalism.  Dobroslav Paraga, has confirmed that the statements Cvitić attributed to him in the article are false. The remainder of his alleged sources were anonymous, less the one name supplied to him by us, indicating Cvitić’s alleged sources were probably all fictional.  He claimed to be acting in the interests of Ante Gotovina, yet denied noted operations occurred commanded by Ante Gotovina, where enemy lives were taken and our team were at great personal risk. Cvitić attempted to attribute spurious uncorroborated and false media allegations to me. Whereas, the very same allegations originated from, and were disseminated by, his very own publication. He also created confused contradictory arguments attempting to offload his own publication’s previous falsified media allegations, by forcing tenuous links or non-existent connections with my manuscript, and desperately tried to make them stick. One would seriously struggle to find a more inept, pathetic politicised propagandist, Fake News Numpty, and professional liar, operating behind the cover of 'journalism,' and greater disgrace to the media profession.

Finally, I have something to personally thank Plamenko Cvitić for. Following his article's publication former Tiger Brigade officers arranged my return to Croatia and reunited me with several of the men from the operations Cvitić claimed didn’t happen who I hadn’t seen in years. Thanks for that Plamenko – and for the entertainment. 

Now slacken your strings, crawl back to your box: and close tight the lid. 


​Pukanić was tragically assassinated in 2008, most likely due to his renowned dealings with regional criminal elements. Nacional then exploited the prevailing public shock to attack genuine Croatian journalists who'd previously exposed Pukanić's true nature. Nacional named them in print and TV interview, falsely accusing them as being responsible for Pukanić's death and sought to whitewash Pukanić of his previous behaviour. Nacional was strongly criticised by the HND who considered Nacional's actions as tantamount to threats of violence to the journalists.

In 2012, General Ante Gotovina was acquitted on appeal by the ICTY. Nacional has continued its falsified attacks against Croatia's wartime defenders, the most recent being unfounded allegations regarding the incumbent Minister of Defence, General Damir Krstičević. (The quotes cited at the beginning of this article were in response to this.)

Plamenko Cvitić, continued with his anonymous source based propaganda - prior to storming out of Nacional's office in a tantrum and subsequently promoting himself as a 'Media expert'. His articles included a xenophobic attempted character assassination of an anti-corruption campaigner; a fabricated story regarding deceased murder victim Ivana Hodak; and an article regarding Pukanić's late wife following their acrimonious split and her announcement of 'serious allegations' against him:

"Having created his pre-determined argument to absolve his boss of any blame and discredit Mirjana, Cvitić proceeded to publish an article with a lengthy diatribe citing supposed instances from her medical history in an attempt to prove her mentally unstable and thus unreliable; but also sought to undermine the human rights workers who supported her."​

Cvitić's 'journalism' can be viewed  here

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