July 20, 2002

Shadows of Srebrenica
Not letting facts get in the way

In the summer of 1995, the Bosnian War was rapidly approaching its conclusion. The balance of power was shifting, with Croatia joining the conflict semi-openly (with American blessing and encouragement) and the Bosnian Muslims bolstered by incoming weapons and mujahidin. In June, Muslim forces ("Army of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina") attacked on all fronts, making small gains in the north and central Bosnia but suffering a costly failure around Sarajevo. Then came news of Srebrenica.

This enclave in eastern Bosnia, reportedly home to some 40,000 Muslims (half of them displaced from elsewhere), was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces on July 11. What is alleged to have happened thereafter still casts a shadow over Bosnia and the Balkans.


Over the past seven years, "Srebrenica" has become a series of harrowing sound bites repeated ad infinitum by the media. A typical report calls it the "worst civilian massacre in Europe since World War Two," where "Serb forces slaughtered up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys" (AP). Recent claims by Bosnian Muslims list the number in excess of 9,500!

The "massacre" became "genocide" when the Hague Inquisition convicted Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstic, commander of the Serb forces that took Srebrenica.

Three years ago, as NATO pulverized Serbia, Christopher Hitchens claimed it was to "prevent another Srebrenica" in Kosovo.

Yet to the present day, few facts about the fall of Srebrenica have actually been established. A careful look at the Inquisition's verdict reveals mere estimates of both the numbers and the identities of victims, while the absence of evidence that a massacre took place is taken as proof positive it had, and was subsequently covered up!

Those Pesky Facts

Reports about the Balkans generally suffer from the "don't let facts get in the way of a good story" syndrome, and few more so than the sensational accounts of Srebrenica. But that doesn't mean the facts are not there.

One such fact is the Bosnian Army's 28th Division: two infantry brigades, stationed in the supposedly "demilitarized" Srebrenica. Their commander, Naser Oric, showed videos of his troops' "prowess" to the fascinated foreign reporters. Yet as the Serb force of some 400 men and 5 tanks approached Srebrenica in July 1995, Oric was not in town, and his troops offered less than token resistance. As Serb forces entered Srebrenica, the entire 28th Division was moving towards Muslim-held Tuzla, leaving their families behind.

Those families are another fact that does not fit the reports. Many women and children sought refuge at the UN base in Potocari. Within three days, they were evacuated, by truck and bus, to Muslim-held territory – though whether entirely willingly is somewhat disputable. But they were not harmed.

Men who were among the refugees in Potocari are said to have been taken aside and executed. But the Serbs claim they detained about 800 men, all of whom were released within a month or sooner. Most sources indicate the number of men in Potocari was about 250.

Finally, Hubert Wieland, personal representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the Daily Telegraph (July 24, 1995, electronic edition): "we have not found anyone who saw with their own eyes an atrocity taking place."

Devil in the Details

What became of the 28th Division? Parts of it were reported reaching Tuzla after a couple of weeks. Who are the 4,000 people whose bodies have been exhumed from grave pits between Srebrenica and Tuzla? Only 400 have been identified, so no one knows. How did they die? Again, no information. How many people exactly are missing, or presumed dead? No precise number has ever been established, either for Srebrenica or the entire country, for that matter.

One would think, though, that such a serious accusation as genocide would be thoroughly investigated, documented and corroborated. Instead, the world has heard only the repetition of "8000 massacred" and "the Serbs did it." Why?

"Higher" Agendas

Neither the Muslim political and military leaders nor the Empire seem to be interested in finding out. Why should they be?

David Rohde, an American journalist who contributed most to the claim of "genocide" in Srebrenica, has won numerous awards and is now revered as an example of "human rights journalism."

Richard Holbrooke, the US diplomat who directed the Bosnian endgame through arrogance, hypocrisy, blackmail and "bombs for peace," praised the role Srebrenica played in finally getting the US public opinion to agree to military intervention.

Amnesty International uses the "Srebrenica case" to support the Hague Inquisition and its spawn, the International Criminal Court. Human Rights Watch and allies of the Bosnian Muslims in the US Congress have also invoked Srebrenica to score political points.

Certainly, the regime led by confessed Muslim fundamentalist Alija Izetbegovic has been quick to invoke Srebrenica as a trump card in any discussion about the war. They routinely used Srebrenica refugees as political and propaganda pawns, but did nothing to improve their lot. Quite the contrary, by settling them in abandoned or seized Serb homes, after the war they used them to whip up a frenzy of protest against the Serbs who tried to reclaim their property.

Additionally, while maintaining that a massacre happened, many Muslims also accuse Izetbegovic of letting it happen. Among them are his former military commander Sefer Halilovic, and Srebrenica's police chief Hakija Meholjic.

With reputation, power and credibility at stake, it is understandable that certain people have a vested interest only in the mythical Srebrenica – a story of mass murder whose truthfulness needs no proof, since myths are never questioned. This mythical Srebrenica is NATO's excuse to occupy Bosnia. It guarantees Izetbegovic's hold on the Muslim people. And it is a way to keep the Bosnian Serbs and Serbia down.

Trading Places

Perhaps the best illustration of the extent to which some Bosnian Muslims are manipulating the images of Srebrenica was last week's speech by Mustafa Ceric, the top Muslim cleric in Bosnia and a close associate of Izetbegovic, at the commemoration ceremony in Srebrenica.

"We pray for the sorrow to become hope, for revenge to become justice and for a mother's tear to become a reminder so that Srebrenica and New York will never happen again," Ceric said.

Despite attempts of Empire's henchmen to dismiss Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism as irrelevant in Bosnia and the Balkans, there are just some facts even they cannot cover up.

It was Izetbegovic's regime that issued Osama bin Laden and many of his associates Bosnian passports. In 1970, long before the ayatollahs of Iran and the mullahs of Taliban took power, Izetbegovic wrote "The Islamic Declaration," a veritable "how-to" primer for creating Muslim fundamentalist societies. Ceric himself is a paragon of religious bigotry, hateful towards any non-Muslim symbol or belief in Bosnia.

For such people to compare the trumped-up mystery "genocide" in Srebrenica with a very public terrorist attack by their own associates is at best rank hypocrisy, at worst downright criminal.

The Bloody Shirt

As long as the Empire and its minions are insisting on unsubstantiated "genocide" and "massacre" charges, repeating random numbers, refusing to investigate facts, and seeing Srebrenica as nothing but a "bloody shirt" to be waved as necessary, the people of Bosnia and the Balkans will continue to live a lie.

There won't be any justice for however many who died. Manipulated while living, they will continue to be manipulated in death by people who could not care less about them, their families, or the truth.

There have been too many lies, for too long. It's about time for some unvarnished truth, however ugly or inconvenient it may be. For lies enslave, just as truth liberates.

Enough is enough.

Text-only printable version of this article

Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo, and contributed to the Independent. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia and Serbian politics, many of which have been published by the Serbian Unity Congress. His exclusive column for Antiwar.com appears every Thursday.


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