Silver City

For the past month or so, news from the Balkans has been all Srebrenica, all the time. This quiet little town in eastern Bosnia, which got its name after the old silver mines nearby, has been dragged through the headlines of just about every major paper and across the screens of every TV network. Ten years ago, the Official Truth goes, genocide took place here: evil Serb aggressors, commanded by the bloodthirsty war criminal Ratko Mladic, assaulted the unarmed civilians under UN protection, and executed up to 8,000 men and boys (always emphasized), with their kin and the Dutch peacekeepers watching.

After hundreds of thousands of repetitions, one can be forgiven for assuming any of this is actually true. One can be forgiven for not knowing that Serbs were not “aggressors,” but a native population of Bosnia, themselves ethnically cleansed from Srebrenica in 1992 and subject to most barbaric atrocities in the three following years at the hands of the “unarmed” Muslims of Srebrenica: the 28th Division of the “Army of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina.” Or that on July 11, 1995, there were exactly zero executions at the UN camp in Potocari; the Dutch peacekeepers have testified they saw no atrocities. Or that the civilians who stayed in Srebrenica were given food, water, and safe passage to Muslim-held territory. Or that… well, the list is endless.

Assault of the Official Truth

Unknown thousands did perish in Srebrenica. The question still open is when and how. Last year, the Bosnian Serb government was forced to “confess” that its forces did kill thousands of Muslims – but the actual admission, of “gross violations of international humanitarian law,” was deliberately misinterpreted as a confession of genocide.

In four days, thousands of people will congregate at the Potocari memorial park, where the identified Srebrenica dead are buried as martyrs for the Muslim faith. The attending dignitaries will once again speak of Srebrenica as a symbol of the Bosnian war, engaging in hyperbole and crass emotional manipulation. But there will be no truth, no justice, no peace or reconciliation at the ceremony, or thereafter. It serves only one purpose, to force the reality of the Bosnian tragedy to fit a predetermined narrative, carefully constructed by those who profited from the conflict. Like the eponymous John Sayles film, Bosnia’s “Silver City” is a knot of politics, tragedy, and lies.

The Video Ploy

The run-up to July 11 began in early June, when the foremost Imperial activist in Serbia, Natasa Kandic, organized the airing of an atrocity video supposedly “proving” that not only Serbs, but Serbs from Serbia, were responsible for the “genocide” in Srebrenica. While the images of militiamen gunning down six Muslim prisoners rightly shocked the Serbian public, the following propaganda onslaught by Kandic and her like-minded colleagues produced a backlash. In the meantime, neither Kandic nor the Hague Inquisition have produced a shred of evidence to document their claims that the militia was connected to Serbia or Serbian authorities, or that the six murders were somehow connected to the alleged 8,000.

In retrospect, it is obvious that the video was not evidence at all. Its purpose was to shock and appall, and to trick the Serbian authorities into admitting responsibility for Srebrenica – a goal that did not quite succeed. It was also used to lionize Kandic and her colleagues, who hold Serbia and Serbs in contempt and, quite deservedly, receive contempt in return.

Propaganda, Hyperbole, and Nazis

Every time Srebrenica is mentioned in the Western press, it is accompanied by a judgment that it was the “worst massacre in Europe since World War Two.” A variation of this formulation is present in almost all reports by all wire services and newspapers. It is pure boilerplate, but with a very clear purpose: to associate in the minds of the audience the “genocide” in Srebrenica with World War Two and, more specifically, the Serbs with the Nazis.

After 10 years of such propaganda, even some reporters are beginning to slip in their feigned subtlety. For example, in next week’s Newsweek, their old Balkan hand Rod Nordland openly claims Srebrenica was “Europe’s worst massacre since the Nazi death camps.”

Further down in Nordland’s article, another World War Two comparison is proffered, this time by viceroy Ashdown: “A sixteenth of the population was killed, more than in France after World War II, half the population made homeless, 90 percent of the buildings destroyed.” Only, none of this is true. If Lord Paddy’s numbers were accurate, the death toll would have stood at just north of 280,000, instead of 102,000. The “90 percent of buildings destroyed” is just patently false, as many parts of the country were not exposed to actual fighting. And the two million people weren’t made “homeless” so much as were displaced – some temporarily, others permanently.

Winner and Losers

There is one intriguing observation in the Newsweek article, made by Zdravko Grebo, a Sarajevo law professor: “This war was finished without a victorious side or a defeated side, so everyone won and everyone lost. There was no accepted version of what happened.” Presumably, the “accepted version” would and should be the Official Truth, despite its obvious shortcomings. But the statement is much more significant, though probably not in a way Prof. Grebo intended.

It is true that no one in Bosnia actually won the war. Croats fought for separation from Yugoslavia and annexation to Croatia, winning the former but losing the latter badly. Serbs fought for remaining in Yugoslavia, and failing that, ethnic autonomy; they hoped that the Serb Republic recognized by the Dayton peace agreement would be a guarantor of rights against the majoritarian tyranny of Izetbegovic’s Sarajevo.

Driven by Izetbegovic, most Muslims fought against a purported Serb “aggression and genocide,” and for a centralized, independent Bosnia. The former was a myth, deliberately created and cynically exploited. The latter may be coming courtesy of Imperial occupation, but all too slowly. Izetbegovic has died, but his politics – and more importantly, his worldview – persevere.

The only actual winner in the Bosnian tragedy was the Empire. Through carefully escalated “humanitarian” intervention it has subverted the UN as an arbiter of conflicts, elevated NATO above international law, and even usurped the right to dictate such law by itself (witness the ICTY). The “rescue” of Bosnia set a chain of precedents leading up to the present quagmire in Iraq and Afghanistan, setting the tone for a world dominated by a belligerent hegemon.

Lies Our Rulers Told Us

For the past nine years, Bosnia has been a place where third-rate Western bureaucrats could play God, slap the natives around, and get lavishly paid to do so. Take, for example, Paddy Ashdown, an embarrassing failure in British politics, who now holds absolute power as the viceroy of Bosnia and acts like a decadent despot of eastern fables.

An even longer train of ghouls profited from the rise of the KLA in Kosovo and its environs, but that is another story for another occasion. Suffice to say that the pain and suffering of the people of Bosnia, both real and imagined, has been masterfully and cynically exploited by both their local leaders – almost universally, simply thugs intent on power and plunder – and the purported “saviors” from the West, the soi-disant “international community.” Death, destruction, and loss have become but fodder for vultures who build their careers by producing sordid entertainment for decadent masses, “reality shows” for people whose lives do not feel real enough. Even so, the plebs smells a rat; movies about the Balkans are by and large forgettable cheap thrills. The mainstream media tries very hard to saturate its readers with repetitive descriptions of atrocious acts that unfolded only in the rich imagination of their reporters or sources. But the very success of the “forged reality,” manufactured through manipulation and propaganda, has inured the public to such spectacle.

It makes all the sense in the world for the Empire to harp on about the “genocide” in Srebrenica. Doing so helps redefine the Bosnian War in a way they want it remembered, rather than the way it was. It is a neat little redesign of reality, with a built-in emotional shield against sound judgment. So long as residents of the Empire believe that Bosnia was a war of aggression and genocide that ended only when noble Americans acted and brought justice, they will not wonder how the country they believed stood for freedom and independence became an exporter of tyranny and fear: how the “Republic” for which the Old Glory stands so suddenly became the American Empire.

Author: Nebojsa Malic

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. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia, and Serbian politics. His exclusive column for debuted in November 2000.