Srebrenica And the Politics of War Crimes – Findings of the Srebrenica Research Group

http://www.srebrenica-report.com/foreword.htm

Srebrenica

And the Politics of

War Crimes

Findings of the Srebrenica Research Group

into the allegations of events and the background leading up to them, in Srebrenica, Bosnia & Herzegovina, in 1995.

Foreword

By Philip Corwin

O

n July 11, 1995, the town of Srebrenica fell to the Bosnian Serb army. At the time, I was the highest ranking United Nations civilian official in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In my book, Dubious Mandate (Duke University Press, 1999), I made some comments on that tragedy. Beyond that, I decried the distortions of the international press in their reporting, not only on that event, but on the wars in Yugoslavia (1992-95) in general. I expressed the wish that there could have been, and must be, some balance in telling the story of what actually happened in Srebrenica and in all of former Yugoslavia, if we are to learn from our experience.

The report by the Srebrenica Research Group, Srebrenica: Manipulating a Tragedy, answers that call. It presents an alternative and well-documented assessment of the tragedy of Srebrenica, and of the suffering of all the constituent peoples of former Yugoslavia. It is an invaluable document. Of course, there will be those who will disagree with the report’s perspective. But if we are to open a discussion that has been closed to all but the faithful, if we are to prevent similar tragedies from occurring again, then we must take seriously the accounts put forward by the bright and discerning contributors to this document. No honest reader can doubt the credentials of these authors. And no honest reader should doubt the importance of what they have to say. I congratulate them on their scholarship and their courage.

*

Coincidentally, I have a personal reason for recalling what happened on July 11, 1995, for not only was that the day Srebrenica fell, but it was also the day that a Bosnian sniper tried to assassinate me as my vehicle, white and clearly marked as a UN vehicle, was driving over Mt. Igman on the way back to Sarajevo from a staff visit to Gorni Vakuf. A Bosnian sniper targeted our vehicle as we sped around the hairpin turns of that narrow, rutted mountain road, and it was due only to the courageous efforts of Bruno Chaubert, the Corsican warrant officer who was my driver, that we survived. We knew from the trajectory of the bullet, and the fact that we had identified ourselves only minutes earlier at a Bosnian army checkpoint, that the sniper who fired on us was in Bosnian government controlled territory, and that he knew who we were. Actually, the sniper had targeted the driver, because he knew if the driver had lost control, then the vehicle and all its passengers would have gone over the mountain. At the time, however, I chose not to publicize the event because the Bosnian government would have denied it, and the UN would not have protested, given its gaping lack of credibility with the Bosnian government. But the message was clear. The Bosnian government considered the UN to be its enemy.

*

When I think back on the atmosphere at UN headquarters in Sarajevo in the days leading up to fall of Srebrenica, I think mainly of confusion. UK General Rupert Smith, the UNPROFOR commander in Sarajevo at the time, when speaking of the military situation in the theater, was fond of saying “We have no intelligence”. NATO was unwilling to share with the UN whatever intelligence it had, and the UN had very few intelligence resources of its own. The UN had no satellites, and its unarmed military observers (UNMOs) were not authorized to gather intelligence. Of course they did, but they were limited in what they could collect. General Smith was on target. We had very little intelligence regarding what was happening in and around Srebrenica.

When the Serbs first began moving on Srebrenica, we had no firm idea of the size of their forces or of their intentions. In fact, most of the Western European officers, including those of the UK, thought the Serbs were just going to lop off the southern third of Srebrenica in order to be able to save mileage when transporting troops and supplies across Bosnia from Serbia and points east. The Serbs were terribly strapped for fuel. If they could cut across the southern third of Srebrenica instead of going around it, they could save 40-50 kilometers. Besides, they appeared not to be attacking from the north, and not to be creating a pincer movement that would have signaled their intention to take the whole of Srebrenica.

Only the Russians knew what was happening. The Russians in our command that I talked to at the time smiled when I asked about Serb intentions in Srebrenica. They knew the Serbs were going to take all of Srebrenica, and if possible the other enclaves of Zepa and Gorazde. “It’s only reasonable,” one Russian officer said to me.

Meanwhile, General Kees Nicolai, a Dutch national and UNPROFOR Chief of Staff, was on the phone constantly to The Hague, to discuss whether or not NATO should bomb. Sentiment was divided. There were about 300 lightly-armed Dutch soldiers in Srebrenica, scattered among the local population, and they would be at risk. And the Dutch public would not take lightly having their soldiers killed by NATO bombs, or being taken hostage in a country where their presence was dubious. The Dutch government might even fall.

And then there was the weather. Clouds, then sun, then clouds again. It was unpredictable, weather satellites notwithstanding. Anyone today who says otherwise is stretching the truth – in other words, lying. Yes, we had regular weather reports, but they changed constantly. Meanwhile, the laptop bombardiers, particularly those in faraway Washington, kept demanding air strikes. But to European powers, the demands of the United States, which had no troops on the ground and was tardy in paying its assessments, seemed like those of a proverbial cowboy – full of bravado and recklessness, but short on wisdom. And while certain elements in Washington seemed willing to fight to the death of the last Dutch soldier, other nations with troops on the ground that might have been killed or taken hostage were not so eager to welcome NATO intervention.

*

Once the takeover of Srebrenica had been completed, I decided I would try to go there. Obviously, I would not have been allowed to enter while the fighting was going on. But once it was over, I thought I might be able to bring an international presence to the scene, and perhaps negotiate the safety of the survivors. I was able to get through by satellite phone to Bosnian Serb Vice President Nikola Koljevic in Pale. I told him I wanted to go to Srebrenica, and I wanted to bring General Nicolai with me. Koljevic returned my call within the hour and said he had cleared the way for me to come alone. General Nicolai would have to stay in Sarajevo. I would meet Koljevic in Pale, and we would go together to Srebrenica. I then called my headquarters in Zagreb to tell them I intended to go to Srebrenica, even though I knew the Bosnian Army might not let me out of Sarajevo, or might never let me back in if I left. I thought it was worth a try. As anyone involved in humanitarian work will attest, there is nothing that gives one a rush like the prospect of being able to save hundreds, perhaps thousands, of lives.

My headquarters in Zagreb, however, suggested that I should stay in Sarajevo, and send instead to Srebrenica one of my staff, a former U.S. military officer now with the UN in Tuzla. I said I would consider it, but the fact was that no other UN officer in Bosnia had the trust of the Bosnian Serbs. Zagreb didn’t understand. It was not a matter of sending a UN representative. It was a question of sending me or no one.

I had to make a quick decision, and I had no one to consult. General Smith was busy; General Nikolai was busy. And neither would not have told me what to do anyway. It was my decision. I knew that my trip to Srbrenica would be resented by the Bosnian government. As for danger, if I were with Koljevic, I would be safe in Serb territory. The danger would be from the Bosnian government when I returned. They had already blamed the UN for the fall of Srebrenica. They had already tried once to assassinate me.

Looking back now, I doubt if it would have mattered whether I went to Srbrenica, even though at the time I had hoped it would. General Mladic was not about to be deterred or dissuaded from his chosen course of action by my presence. In any case, I decided not to go for a reason that I think was sound. I didn’t want to be used.

I imagined myself on television shaking hands with General Mladic as if I were endorsing whatever was happening. No, I’d had enough of Balkan theater. I called Koljevic and told him I wasn’t coming.

*

In the years since Srebrenica fell, the name itself has become a buzzword for allegations of Serbian genocide. Books have been written, reports have been compiled, and radio and television broadcasts have saturated the air waves with “evidence” of this crime against humanity. The United Nations Security Council has convened an international tribunal in The Hague to “prove” this pre-trial judgment. It would not be an exaggeration to say some journalists and aspiring politicians have made careers out of promoting this allegation.

But the situation is a bit more complicated than the public relations specialists would have us believe. That there were killings of non-combatants in Srebrenica, as in all war zones, is a certainty. And those who perpetrated them deserve to be condemned and prosecuted. And whether it was three or 30 or 300 innocent civilians who were killed, it was a heinous crime. There can be no equivocation about that. At the same time, the facts presented in this report make a very cogent argument that the figure of 7,000 killed, which is often bandied about in the international community, is an unsupportable exaggeration. The true figure may be closer to 700.

The fact that the figure in question has been so distorted, however, suggests that the issue has been politicized. There is much more shock value in the death of 7,000 than in the death of 700.

There is also evidence in this report that thousands of Serbs were massacred, expelled, tortured, raped, and humiliated during the wars within former Yugoslavia. The international community has not seen fit to publicize these atrocities with as much vigor as it has those of Srebrenica. That simple observation does not justify what occurred in Srebrenica. But it is another piece of the puzzle that explains the anger of the Serbs when they assaulted Srebrenica. In May 1995, for example, just two months before Srebrenica fell, the Croatian army captured Western Slavonia and expelled 90 per cent of the Serb population in that region. Serbs had lived in Western Slavonia for hundreds of years. But the international community said nothing about those expulsions; in fact, it applauded the Croatian action, as though the Serb civilians deserved what had happened. To massacre Croatians or Bosnians or Kosovars was genocide. To massacre Serbs was regarded appropriate retribution. Clearly, the international community has not seen fit to consecrate the massacres of Serbs with monuments. Instead, it has issued arrest warrants for Serb leaders.

*

There are several points to be made in any consideration of what happened at Srebrenica on July 11, 1995. First, one has to realize that the tragedy of Srebrenica was part of a larger tragedy, and that the attempt to interpret the wars in former Yugoslavia in terms of what happened at Srebrenica, to present that one event as a microcosm of the larger picture, is an attempt to distort the larger picture and to demonize one of its actors. The experience of Srebrenica must broaden our understanding of history, not diminish it.

What happened in Srebrenica was not a single large massacre of Muslims by Serbs, but rather a series of very bloody attacks and counterattacks over a three-year period, which reached a crescendo in 1995. And the number of Muslim dead in the last battle of Srebrenica, as BBC reporter Jonathan Rooper has pointed out, was most likely in the hundreds, not in the thousands. Moreover, it is likely that the number of Muslim dead was probably no more than the number of Serbs that had been killed in Srebrenica and its environs during the preceding years by Bosnian Commander Naser Oric and his predatory gangs.

Foreign interventionists are fond of praising themselves for having invaded former Yugoslavia for what they refer to as “humanitarian reasons”. But there has never been a war fought for humanitarian reasons, and the wars in former Yugoslavia at the end of the 20th century were no exception.

The events at Srebrenica in July 1995 did not occur in a political vacuum. In fact, they might never have occurred at all if Yugoslavia had not been forcibly dismembered against the will of 45 percent of its people, the Serbs. (Serbs were about 31 percent of pre-war Bosnia). The break-up of Yugoslavia, in fact, was contrary to the Yugoslav Constitution, which required that all three of the main populations of Yugoslavia had to agree to any partition of Yugoslavia. And of course, the Serbs never agreed. In my book, Dubious Mandate, I report the following question, which was posed to me by a Bosnian Serb: why, after 50 years as a Yugoslav, should I suddenly be told I’m a minority in a Moslem State, when I was never even given a choice?

People can get very angry when you take away their country.

Today, one can only imagine what might have happened in the Balkans if diplomacy had been given a better chance, if NATO had not had the ambition it had to push eastward, up to the borders of the former Soviet Union, to annex what is now being called “the new Europe”. It is possible – not certain, but possible — that in due time there might have been a peaceful break-up of former Yugoslavia, probably along different boundary lines. But the decisions to fracture former Yugoslavia were taken precipitously, by minority communities within Yugoslavia, and were driven by powerful forces outside Yugoslavia – namely, those of NATO, especially the newly-reunited Germany.

One of the big lies we heard during the wars in Yugoslavia was that NATO had to intervene because there was danger the conflict would spread. But no group within former Yugoslavia had ambitions outside of Yugoslavia. It was the nations outside Yugoslavia that had ambitions inside Yugoslavia.

When the greatest military power of all time has an identity crisis, the world is in danger. With the end of the Cold War, NATO’s role as a defensive alliance ended. There were those who said that NATO should have been dissolved, now that there was no more Soviet Union. But there were also those – many of whom were bureaucrats benefiting from the existence of such a massive organization — who said NATO should now be used as a weapon to forge “democracy” around the world – in other words, it should be used to promote the global economy, and make the world free for Coca-Cola. Four of the six constituent republics within former Yugoslavia agreed to this immediate transition to “democracy”. Serbia did not, and it paid the price. In fact, everyone in former Yugoslavia paid the price, and Srebrenica was part of that price.

Post mortem studies of events in the former Yugoslavia, including those by the United Nations, have cited the international community’s inability to recognize “evil” as the main reason for its being unable to end the wars of the 1990s in the Balkans. If such self-delusion were not so tragic, it would be comic. Wars have never been fought to destroy evil, no matter what religious zealots may assert. Wars have been fought for economic, political, strategic and social reasons. The wars of the 1990s in the Balkans were no different. It was geopolitics, not original sin, that drove NATO’s ambitions.

But take this quixotic assertion about evil one step further. As I have asked in my book Doomed in Afghanistan (Rutgers University Press, 2003), are we to prepare peacekeepers for deployment in the world’s trouble spots by giving them EAT (Evil Awareness Training)? Must the world’s leaders receive religious instruction on the nature of evil before they can be effective interlocutors and diplomats?

This abstract flummery about evil has an even more insidious dimension, in that implies that the only effective action is military action; therefore, NATO should have acted sooner to bomb the Serbs, a people clearly demonic for not wanting to have its country dismembered. Trying to understand why one party to the conflict acted as it did is not an option for the Ayatollahs of the international community.

And there is still more mischief that flows from this assertion that policy decisions should be made on the basis of evil awareness. If recognition of evil is to be the basis for military intervention, then who shall be The Grand Inquisitor? Who shall decide who is evil? The answer is not very difficult to imagine. Apparently, the most powerful nations, themselves exemplars of The Good, shall determine who is evil. And for now, the Inquisitors, the identifiers of evil in the Balkans, reside in The Hague.

*

On 21 August 2000, a blue-ribbon panel on UN Peace Operations issued a report that sought to provide direction for future peacekeeping operations in light of lessons learned from several operations during the 19900s, that in former Yugoslavia among them. In its report the Panel had this astonishing paragraph:

Impartiality for United Nations operations must therefore mean adherence to the principles of the Charter: where one party to a peace agreement clearly and incontrovertibly is violating its terms, continued equal treatment of all parties by the United Nations can in the best case result in ineffectiveness and in the worst may amount to complicity with evil. (UN document A/55/305)

And what should the peacekeeping forces do in such as a case in order to ward off “complicity with evil?” The Panel suggests that the peacekeepers should transcend their mandate and behave in accordance with the higher principles of the Charter. In other words, the mandate of the peace keeping force, a mandate diligently negotiated by the Security Council, should be abandoned if Satan is spotted on the horizon.  This is the lesson learned, the Panel would have us believe. And if this lesson had been learned before the Balkan wars of the 1990s, NATO would have bombed the Serbs much sooner, is the undeniable implication. Thus, the vendetta continues against a country whose great sin was its refusal to be dismembered in order to make way for the global economy.

For the record, the United Nations has never worked in such a fashion. The normal procedure is for the Security Council to adopt a resolution containing a mandate for its peace keeping forces. Each mandate is unique, depending on the situation. If a mandate proves to be ineffective, then the Security Council can change that mandate. Those nations that voted for a mandate do not appreciate having it changed at the whim of those who claim to have sighted Evil. If a mandate is to be changed, it must be changed by those who adopted it.

*

There is one more general comment I must make, by way of background, about the wars in former Yugoslavia, and that comment involves the concept of historical memory. We allow certain peoples to have historical memory. We allow the Jewish people to remember the Holocaust. And they should remember it. It was a terrible tragedy. But we do not allow the Serbian people to remember their massacre during World War II at the hands of the Nazis, whose puppets at the time were Bosnian and Croatian fascists. This is not to say that all Bosnians and Croatians were Nazi collaborators; but the Croatian Ustaše regime, which included Bosnia, was. And why should Serbs not have been suspicious and angry when they were suddenly told that vast numbers of their people were about to become minorities in new countries that were their killers during World War II? Especially when the Serbs had never even been consulted! They would have been crazy not to be anxious. Imagine if a decade ago the people of Israel had been told that they would immediately become a minority in Yassir Arafat’s Palestine. My question is, why did the international community not understand the perplexity, the anger, and the historical memory of the Serbs?

The events at Srebrenica in July 1995 had a history. To begin with, when it and other towns in Bosnia were declared safe areas, those areas were never “delimited”. In other words, no one had specified what were the legal boundaries of Srebrenica. That meant there was no definition as to where demilitarization was supposed to end. The town of Srebrenica was generally considered to be within the safe area, but from the town outward there was a large region comprising villages, forests, and hills, which were not considered part of the safe area. Thus, if those areas were attacked, or if an attack were launched from there, either by Serb or Bosnian armies, the UN had no right under its mandate to intervene unless the attack were directly against UN soldiers, in which case they could exercise the right to self-defense.

And let me assure you, there were attacks on Serb villages in the region, and they were launched from within the safe area of Srebrenica.

Here is a comment by two Dutch journalists, Jan Willem Honig and Norbert Both, from their book entitled: Srebrenica: Record of a War Crime:

On 16 April 1993, the Security Council adopted Resolution 819, which declared Srebrenica a safe area. The resolution was dangerously inconsistent . . . The Council agreed on creating a safe area without specifying what the “area” was and how its safety could be achieved . . . The Council firmly placed the onus on the Serbs and the Muslims to make Srebrenica safe. UNPROFOR’s role would simply be to “monitor” the humanitarian situations. (pp. 103-104)

Meanwhile, the main threat in Srebrenica to any legitimate cease fire was the Bosnian commander in the area, Naser Oric, who used Srebrenica as a base for his murderous forays into Serbian villages in the countryside. Once again, let me quote Honig and Both:

The Dutch were blamed for the perceived failure of the UN to do enough for the people of Srebrenica. Matters were not helped by the character and behaviour of the dominant personalities in the enclave. Naser Oric, the overall military commander, and his two main “brigade commanders”, Zulfo Tursunovic and Hakija Meholjic, appeared to the Dutch to be little more than gangsters, who terrorized the refugee population and profited greatly from the war. These men jealously protected their own fiefdoms. As the refugees were not represented in the local governments, international aid agencies suggested in the second half of 1993 that the refugees should elect their own representative to assist in the distribution of food. The man was found murdered the day after his election.

Oric and his cronies were also responsible for much of the trouble with the Serbs, which stemmed from Muslim raids on Serb communities just outside the enclave. Also, Oric’s men had the disconcerting habit of taking up positions close to the Dutch and then opening fire on the Serbs, hoping to entice them and the Dutch into a firefight. (pp. 132-133.)

Two other journalists, Laura Silber and Allan Little, who will never be accused of being sympathetic to the Serbs, note in their book Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation, that “on January 7, 1993 (the Orthodox Christmas), Oric’s forces launched a surprise attack on Serb positions to the north, killing Serb civilians and burning their villages.” (pp. 265-266) Serb sources claim Oric massacred as many as 2,500 Serbs on this occasion. Even allowing for exaggeration in the count, there is no doubt that the number slaughtered was substantial, brutal, and not to be forgotten. And this attack occurred only three months before Srebrenica was declared a safe area. In short, Serbs had good reason to doubt that Srebrenica would ever be safe for them so long as Naser Oric and his gang were operating there.

In his report issued on 30 May 1995, the UN Secretary-General had this to say about the Bosnian Government’s provocations from the safe areas:

The party defending a safe area must comply with certain obligations if it is to achieve the primary objective of the safe area regime, that is, the protection of the civilian population. Unprovoked attacks launched from safe areas are inconsistent with the whole concept.

In recent months, (Bosnian) government forces have considerably increased their military activity in and around most safe areas, and many of them, including Sarajevo, Tuzla and Bihac, have been incorporated into the broader military campaigns of the government side. The headquarters and logistic installations of the Fifth Corps of the government army are located in the town of Bihac and those of the Second Corps in the town of Tuzla. The Government also maintains a substantial number of troops in Srebrenica (in this case, a violation of a demilitarization agreement), Gorazde and Zepa, while Sarajevo is the location of the General Command of the government army and other military installations.

Please note that in his report, the Secretary-General refers to all the safe areas, not just Srebrenica. And just as Srebrenica could not be isolated then in any discussion of the Bosnian Government’s military campaigns, it should not be isolated now in any discussion of what happened in Srebrenica three months later when Serb forces overran the town. From a military standpoint there was no question that the Bosnian Serb army had to react to military attacks from the enclaves. The safe areas in eastern Bosnia were like holes in a blanket. All of the enclaves were behind Serb military lines, and had to be closed off. Not only did they pose a military threat, but their location forced Serb forces to detour around them and waste precious fuel in a time of war. As the Russian officer in Sarajevo had said to me, it was only “reasonable” that the Serbs should capture the eastern enclaves.

(And while I am on the subject of fuel, let me point out how foolish it is to allege, as some have alleged, that the Serbian army loaded hundreds of its victims at Srebrenica into refrigerated trucks, and transported the bodies to some obscure site, and then buried them in mass graves. Where would the Serbs have found the fuel to perform such an operation? I can personally recall when UNPROFOR had to give the Serbian army fuel to withdraw Serbian tanks from the exclusion zone around Sarajevo. The Serbs, whatever their political agenda, didn’t have the fuel to move hundreds or thousands of bodies anywhere, not in refrigerated trucks, not in any trucks.)

Back to military concerns. It was evident by July 1995 that the Bosnian Serb army could not continue to allow five enemy bases to exist behind its front lines. Mind you, I am not speaking about the humanitarian issue here, because I have never, and will never, condone the slaughter of civilians. But it would be irresponsible to ignore the military aspect of the campaign in eastern Bosnia when discussing Srebrenica, just as it would be foolish to ignore the historical process that led up to the events of July 1995.

Today in Bosnia there is a campaign of disinformation that has all but buried the facts along with the bodies. To pretend that the events in Srebrenica were a microcosm of any sort is to take an oversimplified, fast-food view of history. One isolated event does not explain a process as complicated as war. History is not a collection of sound bites. History is a process with several watersheds, and to understand Srebrenica one must understand the watershed of NATO’s identity crisis.

As part of that campaign of disinformation, the authors of recent reports about Srebrenica, both inside and outside the UN, have judiciously avoided interviewing those in the know who might not have told them what they wanted to hear. For example, the authors of the first comprehensive United Nations report on Srebrenica, entitled “The Fall of Srebrenica,” issued in the fall of 1999, never interviewed me, and did not list my book in their short bibliography, even though I was the ranking UN official in Bosnia at the time of the takeover of Srebrenica. Nor was I alone in being ignored by the compilers of politically correct history.

In my case, my major error was that I dared to defend the United Nations at a time when it was fighting as hard as possible to be a scapegoat. UN leadership, which was desperately trying to curry favor with the United States in order to prevent the world organization from completely collapsing, could not afford to criticize the world’s only superpower. The United States, which had been useless in Rwanda, embarrassed in Somalia, and frustrated in former Yugoslavia, needed a sacrificial lamb. And because I refused to be part of the UN’s mea maxima culpa campaign, I was ignored. There were others too, prominent intellectuals, who were ignored in the flurry of reports that emerged, “studies” righteously denouncing the United Nations for not having recognized the existence of evil. But one day their story, our story, must be heard if one is ever to understand the history of Srebrenica, of former Yugoslavia, of Europe, and of the world. The beginnings of that untold story, hitherto marginalized by official renditions, are here for all to read in this report.

July 2005

New York City

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3 Antworten

  1. […] rosy_mju wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptThe international community has not seen fit to publicize these atrocities with as much vigor as it has those of Srebrenica. That simple observation does not justify what occurred in Srebrenica. But it is another piece of the puzzle … […]

  2. APPEAL TO PRESIDENT BORIS TADIĆ AND THE SERBIAN PARLIAMENT: DO NOT GAMBLE WITH YOUR COUNTRY’S FUTURE! NO TO THE SREBRENICA RESOLUTION.

    Dear Mr. President and honorable deputies,

    As concerned American and European Union intellectuals, we call on you to seriously reconsider the plan to adopt a parliamentary resolution that would treat the Srebrenica massacre of July 1995 as a paradigmatic event of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in doing so to use language that could be interpreted as Serbia’s acceptance of responsibility for “genocide.”

    The execution of Moslem prisoners in July of 1995, after Bosnian Serb forces took over Srebrenica, was a war crime, but it is by no means a paradigmatic event. The informed public in Western countries knows that, at that time, Serbian forces executed in three days approximately as many Moslems as Moslem forces, raiding surrounding Serbian villages out of Srebrenica, had murdered during the preceding three years. There is nothing to set one crime apart from the other, except that its commission was more condensed in time. In a vicious civil war, in which all sides commit crimes, all innocent victims are entitled to compassion but the victims of one ethnic group should have no special moral claim to unique recognition. Putting the suffering of one group on a pedestal necessarily derogates from the right of the other group – in this case Serbian non-combatants in the devastated villages surrounding the enclave of Srebrenica – to an equal measure of sympathy.

    More importantly, the issue is still not settled what really happened in Srebrenica in July of 1995, why, and who was behind it. The accepted version of events, shaped mainly by war propaganda and hyperbolic media reports, is becoming increasingly obsolete because it is being vigorously questioned and reassessed by critical thinkers in the Western world. Much reliable information on these events is still unavailable and needs to be researched, but without it responsible conclusions on the nature and scope of the Srebrenica massacre cannot be drawn. Both the event’s alleged scope and its legal description as “genocide” are intensely in dispute. It would therefore be very unwise for Serbia and its parliament to formally commit themselves to a version of events that is thin on evidence but long on moral and political implications that are extremely detrimental to Serbia and its people.

    We are also troubled by the prospect of Serbia and its parliament might accept the thesis that the massacre in Srebrenica, regrettable as it may be, amounts to “genocide.” That would unpardonably diminish genuine genocide as a phenomenon of the 20th century, of which the Holocaust of the Jewish people and the mass extermination campaigns against Armenians, Kurds, and the Roma are some outstanding examples.

    We are concerned that the politicisation of human suffering and the frivolous usage of the grave legal category of genocide greatly cheapens these important concepts and constitutes an undeserved insult to innocent victims of political violence everywhere in the world.

    Not only would Serbia, by an act of its own parliament, put itself in the same league with Nazi Germany if such a resolution were passed. It would also sanctify at Serbia’s extreme disadvantage a propaganda narrative whose key components are factually unsupported. It would implicitly endorse the view that the Republic of Srpska was built on genocide and thus endanger its further existence and play into the hands of those pressuring for the centralisation of Bosnia. Finally, it would expose Serbian taxpayers to the possibility of a multi billion euro suit for damages which they are ill equipped at the present moment to pay [and have no obligation to do so, for that matter].

    For all these reasons, we appeal to you to refrain from passing the projected Srebrenica resolution. If you feel it your duty to perform an act of public compassion toward the victims of the Bosnian war, we recommend as the only proper method that you pass a single resolution, written in ethnically neutral language, encompassing all of the victims and honoring them equally.

    Signed:

    Addendum. Professor Edward Herman suggests the inclusion of the following points for the consideration of the Serbian authorities in formulating their resolution: “(1) When is the EU going to insist on an apology to Serbs from Croatia and the United States and UN for Operations Flash and Storm, which involved the greatest ethnic cleansing operations in the Balkan wars, and ones where, in contrast with others, the victims have never been able to return?; (2) when will the EU and NATO apologize to the Kosovo Serbs for the greatest „proportionate“ ethnic cleansing of the Yugoslav wars carried out under NATO auspices after June 10, 1999? (and to the Roma for their ethnic victimization in the same period?); (3) when will the EU and United States apologize for introducing Al Qaeda into Bosnia and Europe to fight (and behead) Serbs, as described in detail in „Unholy Terror: Bosnia, Al Qaida, and the Rise of Global Jihad,“ by John R. Schindler, Professor at the U.S. National War College and former National Security Council specialist in Bosnia?”

    Recipients are invited to sign on to this addendum also if they wish to do so.

    Signed:

    1) Ana Milosevic, President of the European Development Centre, Italy

  3. Some very interesting information here, and a very interesting blog too.

    I will have to bookmark this and stop by more often.

    thanks.

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