Tudjman Health Revelations

Former Tudjman associates have revealed that he was unfit to govern towards the end of his life.

Tudjman Health Revelations

Former Tudjman associates have revealed that he was unfit to govern towards the end of his life.

An inoperable brain tumour severely disrupted the mental capabilities of Franjo Tudjman, Croatia's late president, during his last two years in office, it was claimed recently.


In a series of exposes, former associates of the late president, including members of his medical team, have vied with one another to make public details of Tudjman's condition.


This recent bout of truth telling may be an attempt by Tudjman's one-time party, the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, to dissociate itself from their former leader's more damaging policies.


Tudjman died on December 10, 1999. At the time, he was said to be suffering from a stomach ulcer


In the autumn of 1996, however, CNN reported that doctors treating him at the Walter Reed Washington hospital in the United States had diagnosed stomach cancer. At the time, Tudjman's personal physician, Dr Branimir Jaksic, denied the report, insisting his patient was suffering from an ulcer.


He now says the condition was more serious, claiming the former leader did not want the full diagnosis to be known.


Hrvoje Sarinic, a long time associate of the late president, said he could tell Tudjman's condition was more serious. "I'm not a doctor, but I could tell the tumour was affecting his balance," he said. "When we walked, the president would discreetly hold my elbow. He didn't want anyone to notice."


According to Sarinic, it was suggested that Tudjman undergo neurosurgery at Zagreb's Dubrava hospital. A team of French doctors, on examining the scans, found three small brain tumours. "Surgery was not an option," he said.


Instead, Tudjman underwent radiotherapy, which Sarinic claimed, affected the president's intellectual capabilities.


Dr Andrija Hebrang, who held several government posts and led Tudjman's medical team, said the late president suffered from decision-making problems throughout his last two years in office.


According to Hebrang, Tudjman was also more liable to believe disinformation passed to him by opportunist associates.


"For the last year and a half, Tudjman could not control all that was happening around him," Hebrang said. "But he wasn't aware of his diminished decision-making abilities because the illness struck at the parts of his brain affecting clear judgment.


"One day, when his medical files become public, everyone will understand why these things were as they were."


Hebrang's description of Tudjman's state could perhaps explain some of the late president's more foolish and unreasonable actions in his latter years.


In 1998, for example, he nearly propelled Croatia into conflict with the NATO-led Stabilisation Force, S-For, in Bosnia-Herzegovina. S-For had asked Croatian police to withdraw from the border town of Marin Brod.


Tudjman ordered them to remain. Conflict was avoided when ministers ordered a withdrawal without the president's knowledge.


Around that time, Tudjman accused all international humanitarian organisations operating in Croatia of working for foreign secret services. He even labelled Hebrang a CIA spy. Hebrang promptly tendered his resignation.


That Croatia was governed for two years by a president unfit to hold the office reflects badly on his political associates who were aware of his condition and did nothing to make it public.


Now that those same people are falling over one another to come clean about his state of mind, they should not be permitted to wriggle free of their responsibility for Tudjman's damaging policies.


Vesna Kljajic is a journalist for the daily Glas Slavonije.


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