Swans Commentary » swans.com July 18, 2005  



Srebrenica, Mon Amour
An Ostracized Narrative


by Gilles d'Aymery





Author's Note (added June 6, 2011): Lawrence S. Eagleburger, who just died, spent seven years of his career in Yugoslavia. According to the AP obit, "In 1992, he likened the country's dissolution, which began a year earlier, to a Greek tragedy and predicted 'a lot of people are going to die.' At the same time, Eagleburger was not inclined to intervene militarily. 'There are sometimes problems for which there is no immediate solution, and there are sometimes problems for which there is no solution,' the long-time problem-solver commented paradoxically." And I am reminded of the prescient words of my old friend Lioubomir Mihailovich: "I feel that after this war [Kosovo] things will never be the same. We have opened Pandora's Box and no one knows what we will end up finding." Well, we've found Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, and counting, a non-ending economic depression and growing immiseration.


(Swans - July 18, 2005)  A long-time defender of historical justice in the Balkans recently wrote, "I have become so disillusioned with this whole situation. The media and our politicians have demonized the Serbs so successfully, that I doubt they will ever be able to come back as a people. We didn't even treat the Germans this badly after they lost the war." Indeed, the past week saw its stream of Serb bashing on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the "massacre of Srebrenica."

Then and there, as the 14 July 2005 Editorial of the New York Times reported according to the devoted and beloved narrative,

Ten years ago, during the war in Bosnia, ethnic Serb forces murdered more than 7,000 men and boys in Srebrenica, almost every Muslim male in the city. That genocide stands as the worst atrocity against civilians in Europe since World War II...


The ethnic Serbs who terrorized the Srebrenica region were bent on killing or driving away every Muslim Bosnian. United Nations commanders, knowing that a Serb assault on Srebrenica was imminent, rejected calls from local peacekeepers for airstrikes on Serb positions. The United Nations disarmed the people of the town and declared it a "safe area." But the 370 Dutch peacekeepers assigned there had only light weapons and orders to use them only in self-defense. The United Nations allowed Serb soldiers to round up the men and boys, and to take them away and kill them.

There, you have it. The entire story, in a nutshell -- actually 544 words, title of the Editorial included.

Genocidal Serbs, child killers, incompetent United Nations -- "The United Nations disarmed the people of the town and declared it a 'safe area.'" (ibid.) -- new discovery of a 610-person mass grave "identified through DNA tests of bones," Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic still at bay...a blight on the "civilized" world, undoubtedly.

The Editorial ends, "[C]apturing Mr. Karadzic and Mr. Mladic is not just a way to keep faith with the dead -- it is the only way to move these regions into the modern world."

Mission accomplished.

So, here you are, standing in front of a narrative, written in stone, rehashed year after year for a decade (and another decade will ensue, and another, and another), and you're left faced with the sempiternal question: What to say, what to say?

Not much. It's been repeated for so long that to dare rebuke it or offer a different explanation is a sure means to embark on a trip to the ostracizing abattoir. In these circumstances, myth debunking turns into a futile exercise.

For instance, can the editors of the august paper define what an "ethnic Serb" is, or characterize Serb, Bosnian, Croat ethnicity? Same language, same genetics, but different religions... Has religion become so ingrained in us that it can be "identified through DNA tests of bones dug up from mass graves"?

"Safe Areas" (aka safe havens) is another intriguing myth that keeps being peddled by Officialdom. The UN did not disarm the people in Srebrenica, or in Zepa for that matter; for how can it be explained that an entire division, the 28th Infantry Division of the Bosnian (Muslim) Army was within the Srebrenica enclave from which regular attacks were mounted against the Serbs? And how is it that they were being re-supplied with arms and ordnance? If you don't believe it, you may wish to read the March 17, 2000 Dani (Sarajevo) interview of General Sead Delic who was the commander of the Second Corps of the Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Delic talks candidly on the weapons re-supply issue.

As to the origin of the supplied arms, the editors of the New York Times may wish to grab a copy of Dutch Professor Cees Wiebes's book Intelligence and the War in Bosnia 1992-1995 (LIT Verlag, 2003, ISBN 3-8258-6347-6). They'll discover, if they don't know it yet, that Bill Clinton and the Pentagon were in cahoots with no less than the Iranians, among others (Saudi Arabia, Turkey...), to bring to Bosnia, from 1992 to 1996, both weapons and "advisers" -- that is, Mujihadeen fighters from Afghanistan, Algeria, Chechnya, Yemen, etc. If pressed for time, they may want to read Brendan O'Neill's contextual article, "You are only allowed to see Bosnia in black and white," in Spiked (January 23, 2004). Brendan presents a clear synthesis of Cees Wiebes's findings and the mess created by the Western powers. Another perceptive article, well-worth reading, is "America Used Islamists to Arm the Bosnian Muslims: The Srebrenica Report Reveals the Pentagon's Role in a Dirty War," by Richard J. Aldrich, Professor of Politics at the University of Nottingham, in the Guardian on April 22, 2002, a copy of which can be read on the Global Policy Forum. They'll find out that "[W]eapons flown in during the spring of 1995 were to turn up only a fortnight later in the besieged and demilitarised enclave at Srebrenica. When these shipments were noticed, Americans pressured UNPROFOR to rewrite reports, and when Norwegian officials protested about the flights, they were reportedly threatened into silence." Talk about shades and shadows!

So, the Bosnian Muslims had their armed 28th Division in the "safe area," had not been disarmed by the UN, had plenty capability to defend the town, and yet chose to retreat. Why? Marko Attila Hoare writes in How Bosnia Armed (The Bosnian Institute, 2004): "The counterpart to the Sarajevo offensive was the abandonment of the besieged enclaves of Srebrenica and Zepa in East Bosnia to Serb forces in July. Izetbegovic, Ganic and other SDA leaders had discussed handing over Srebrenica and Zepa to the VRS on several occasions, in exchange for Serb abandonment of the occupied Sarajevo suburbs of Vogosca and Ilijas that separated the capital from the rest of government-held territory." (Cited in "The Story of the Fall of Srebrenica," by Carl Bildt, July 6, 2005.)

Bildt, not particularly a Serb defender, also unmasks the New York Times myth that the UN "rejected calls from local peacekeepers for airstrikes." Says Bildt, "[A] number of combat air support missions were flown by NATO fighter-bombers from their bases in Italy." Adds Bildt, "[B]ut the myth nevertheless remains alive. A particular form is that there was some plot whereby the UN command in Zagreb refused to use air power to defend the enclave due to some sort of deal. But this myth bears no resemblance to the truth. Air power was used -- and proved ineffective."

Truth in politics and warfare, Mr. Bildt should know, heavily depends on the palace guard dogs -- and his Iraq experience when dealing with the US administration should have reinforced this fact. Truth walks hand in hand with power, and the victors write the history books. Indeed, when confronted with the Srebrenica casualties, he dares not stray from the main line.

Here is the tallest hurdle one has to jump over...the gruesome tally. The number involved in the alleged killing is also set in stone. It's either (more than) 7,000 or 8,000 defenseless kids, men, and grandpas -- give or take a thousand. To contest it tars you with the apologetic, fringe radical, label -- whether right or left. How can one question figures that have been so relentlessly advanced over the years?

One cannot.

The single candid statement in the New York Times editorial -- "So far, only 2,000 people have been identified and properly buried." -- speaks loudly about the number game. The decade-long reality is: 2,000. The myth: 7/8,000. Countless so-called satellite pictures of mass graves: Reality: 2,000. Myth:7/8,000. Ten years of corpses search and discovery: Reality: 2,000. Myth: 7/8,000. One hundred twenty months of repeating the myth: Reality (or is it pseudo-reality?) morphs into the mythical 7/8,000. Edward H. Herman tackles this number game in his July 7, 2005 Zmag article, "The Politics of the Srebrenica Massacre." Srebrenica is the only occurrence in the long and tragic history of the disintegration of the Yugoslav socialist federation, when the number has not been revised downward. The Bosnian war, we were told, cost over 250,000 lives (some even said the Balkans war suffered one million dead) but has been revised down to 80/110,000. In Kosovo, the death toll was supposedly 100,000 (some insinuated up to 500,000). It's been revised down to 10 or 11 thousand (the reality is less than 4,000 -- on all sides). In Srebrenica, the figure is...as it was...and will remain.

What can one say?

Nothing much, because the "genocide" label has so tarred the Serbs, collectively, that whether it's 2,000 or 7/8,000, or whatever number, it makes no difference.

Genocide, the premeditated destruction, elimination of racial, national, or religious groups... Does it mean they, the "evil" Serbs, intended to kill all the Muslim Bosnians and drive them, dead or alive, out of Srebrenica, Bosnia, the Balkans? Then, why did they not kill thousands of Bosnian (Muslim) Army personnel when they captured Zepa two weeks later? Why is it that they took some 1,500 prisoners there and none of those prisoners was killed -- but all were dutifully, according to the laws of war, taken care of and subsequently sent back to their like? Can you square both happenstances? In Srebrenica, the Serbs were genocidal; in Zepa, they were "humanitarians" (though it did not make the "News"). Could it be that the difference between Zepa and Srebrenica -- yes, the Bosnian Serb Army did kill a significant number of retreating soldiers of the 28th Infantry Division -- had something to do with the crimes perpetrated by that very division under the command of Naser Oric -- the torching and destruction of over 40 villages and the killing of their inhabitants in the years prior to the fall of Srebrenica? Are the editors of the "paper of record" familiar with what happened in Kravica, the Serb village in the Bratunac municipality, on Orthodox Christmas Day, January 7, 1993? Act of revenge against that particular infantry division in the midst of a civil war? Quite possibly. But certainly not a genocidal act. (I've yet to read in the New York Times any reference to Antietam on September 18, 1863 -- estimated dead: 23,000 -- or Gettysburg on July 1-3, 1863 -- estimated casualties: 51,000 -- as a genocide...)

It was a civil war, after all, eventually turned into a religious war, fueled by the Western powers which wanted to dismember the Yugoslav Federation and pilfer its riches; a civil war for everybody to see -- and for everybody to act upon, whether attempting to diffuse the fuse, like the UN tried again and again, or to light it, as the U.S. (and Germany, and the cowardly French, among others) did, with the terrible consequences that ensued.

Srebrenica, in the last analysis, was to the destruction of Yugoslavia what the non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction has been to Iraq -- another deception to justify the destabilization and destruction of an entire region on behalf of powerful western interests.

Welcome to the "modern world."

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Other references worthy of attention

The little known and much suppressed original SREBRENICA REPORT issued by Republika Srpska Bureau for Cooperation with the ICTY in September 2002.

"Was Srebrenica a hoax?" by Carlos Martins Branco, T-Watch, 4 Mar 1998. -- Interesting analysis by a Portuguese UNMO Deputy Chief Operations Officer who spent almost two years in Bosnia, and, after the fall of the enclave, "a) debriefed UNMOs who were in Srebrenica before and during the operation and suffered the problem on the spot. b) had access to some (in those times) UN confidential assessments on the matter, not disclosed to public opinion. [And] personally debriefed people involved in the incidents." (See follow-up message on T-Watch.)


Internal Resources

Not Only Are They Demons, Serbs Are Imbeciles (7/23/01)

The Circle of Deception: Mapping the Human Rights Crowd in the Balkans (7/23/01)

The Fabrication and Dissemination of Deception (7/23/01)

The Balkans and Yugoslavia on Swans


About the Author

Gilles d'Aymery is Swans' publisher and co-editor.



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Live 8, Gleneagles, And The Fight Against African Poverty - Raymond Garcia

Reflections On The G-8 - Joe Davison

Heading Home To Tavistock Square - Tim Keane

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Published July 18, 2005