Balkans, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Yugoslavia

Edward S. Herman: The Politics of the Srebrenica Massacre

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“Srebrenica” has become the symbol of evil, and specifically Serb evil. It is commonly described as “a horror without parallel in the history of Europe since the Second World War” in which there was a cold-blooded execution “of at least 8,000 Muslim men and boys.” [1] The events in question took place in or near the Bosnian town of Srebrenica between July 10 and 19, 1995, as the Bosnian Serb army (BSA) occupied that town and fought with and killed many Bosnian Muslims, unknown numbers dying in the fighting and by executions. There is no question but that there were executions, and that many Bosnian Muslim men died during the evacuation of Srebrenica and its aftermath. But even though only rarely discussed there is a major issue of how many were executed, as numerous bodies found in local grave sites were victims of fighting, and many Bosnian Muslim men who fled Srebrenica reached Bosnian Muslim territory safely. Some bodies were also those of the many Serbs killed in the forays by the Bosnian Muslims out of Srebrenica in the years before July 1995.

The Srebrenica massacre has played a special role in the politics of Western treatment of the restructuring of the former-Yugoslavia and in Western interventionism more broadly, and it is receiving renewed attention and memorialization at its tenth anniversary in July 2005. It is regularly cited as proof of Serb evil and genocidal intent and helped justify a focus on punishing the Serbs and Milosevic and NATO’s 1999 war on Serbia. It has also provided important moral support for the further Western wars of vengeance, power projection, and “liberation,” having shown that there is evil that the West can and must deal with forcibly.

However, there are three matters that should have raised serious questions about the massacre at the time and since, but didn’t and haven’t. One was that the massacre was extremely convenient to the political needs of the Clinton administration, the Bosnian Muslims, and the Croats (see Section 1 below). A second was that there had been (and were after Srebrenica) a series ofclaimed Serb atrocities, that were regularly brought forth at strategic moments when forcible intervention by the United States and NATO bloc was in the offing but needed some solid public relations support, but which were later shown to be fraudulent (Section 2). A third is that the evidence for a massacre, certainly ofone in which 8,000 men and boys were executed, has always been problematic,