‘Srebrenica’– Code Word to Silence Critics of US Policy in the Balkans

The Bosnian Serb military stands accused of committing some of the worst human rights crimes since World War II during and following the battle for Srebrenica in 1995. HOLOCAUST! GENOCIDE! ETHNIC CLEANSING! Claims of 7,000 (or 8,000, or 10,000, or whatever figure is needed to elicit the desired response) Muslim men and boys slaughtered and Dutch troops accused of failing to stop the slaughter! Five years later the allegations not only persist, but are accepted as fact by a compliant and unquestioning media. Yet in five years fewer than 2000 bodies have been discovered in an area where war raged for four years and even those bodies have not been identified as Muslim or Serb, and it has not been determined how they died.

Why then has there been a flurry of articles in recent days regarding the alleged massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslim fighters that occurred over five years ago? Articles such as, "Holbrooke Mourns Srebrenica, urges Reconciliation," (Reuters, 11 July); "Five Years Later: The Battle of Srebrenica Is Now Over the Truth," by David Rohde (New York Times, 9 July) and "Harrowing pilgrimage for Srebrenica Muslims," by Rory Carroll (Guardian [London] 12 July), are all spewing their anti-Serb bias.

The Code word is "Srebrenica." Srebrenica equates to holocaust. Srebrenica equates to genocide. Srebrenica equates to ethnic cleansing. And because claims of mass graves and genocide in Kosovo are being discredited, what better way to continue to demonize the Serbs than for the American people to be reminded of Srebrenica? After all, there is still the unfinished business of dismembering Yugoslavia by amputating Montenegro, Sanjak and Vojvodina. The New World Order beast will not be satisfied until its belly is full and that requires the American people to accept NATO’s next intervention in the Balkans; however, the American people must again be prepared mentally to accept more military action just as they accepted 78 days of dropping bombs on an innocent people. They have to be conditioned to say once again, "After all, the Serbs deserve it!"

During his visit to Washington, D.C. to attend a Congressional briefing in the office of Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio on 19 July, I had a chance to speak with former Canadian Ambassador to Yugoslavia, James Bissett, who has been openly critical of his country’s participation in the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. Last year, he received a phone call from three Dutch military historians who wanted to meet with him to talk about Srebrenica. Ambassador Bissett informed them that he had not been at Srebrenica and could not, therefore, speak as an eyewitness on the subject. However, because of his broad knowledge of the area and the circumstances of the Bosnian War, the Dutch historians still wanted to meet with him. Among other topics, they spoke about Nasir Oric, the dreaded Muslim commander in Srebrenica who had mounted commando raids against surrounding Serbian villages whose remaining population were mainly elderly Serbs, many in their 80s, who refused to leave their homes. Even these poor souls were not spared, but were slaughtered by having their throats slit. Bill Schiller wrote of Oric in the Toronto Star, 16 July 1995, "On a cold and snowy night, I sat in his living room watching a shocking video version of what might had been called Nasir Oric’s Greatest Hits. There were burning houses, dead bodies, severed heads, and people fleeing. Oric grinned throughout admiring his handiwork. ‘We ambushed them,’ he said when a number of dead Serbs appeared on the screen. The next sequence of dead bodies had been done in by explosives: ‘We launched those guys to the moon,’ he boasted. When a footage of a bullet-marked ghost town appeared without any visible bodies, Oric hastened to announce: ‘We killed 114 Serbs there.’ Later there were celebrations, with singers with wobbly voices chanting his praises."

The three Dutch military historians and Ambassador Bissett recalled that Serbian General Radko Mladic has protested the misuse of the so-called "safe haven" of Srebrenica by Oric and warned that continued attacks on surrounding villages would bring a response from the Serbian forces. Forewarned, Oric had pulled his armed troops, including Mujahedin soldiers who had been imported from many of the Islamic countries, out of Srebrenica three days before the final push began. According to the Ambassador, when Serbian General Mladic entered Srebrenica, he entered a city that was mostly devoid of its fighting men. Accused of attacking a "safe haven" by the media and Muslim propaganda, the Serbs were even vilified for putting refugees, mostly women and children, from Srebrenica on buses and sending them to Muslim-held territory. The tragic scenes of the refugees were shown over and over again on TV; yet within a few days, the refugees were seen eating fruit, smoking cigarettes, washing clothes and being housed – thanks to the UN. The Bosnian government refused to provide humanitarian assistance for its own people, preferring that the world see a suffering Muslim population as part of their propaganda ploy.

Tim Butcher of the Daily Telegraph, London (24 July 1995), wrote regarding Srebrenica, "After five days of interviews the United Nations chief investigator into alleged human rights abuses during the fall of Srebrenica has not found any firsthand witnesses of atrocities."

An International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) report, document #37, dated September 13, 1995 states: "Approximately 5,000 Srebrenica Muslim troops left the enclave prior to its fall. The Muslim government has admitted that these men were reassigned to other units of its armed forces. The fact that family members were not informed of it was justified by the obligation to keep it a military secret." The ICRC further reported that there were indications that sporadic clashes broke out between the Muslim soldiers who wanted to stay and fight and other soldiers and civilians who wanted to flee. In some cases, the names of "missing" soldiers are listed as many as two and three times. As previously stated, approximately fewer than 2,000 bodies have been found in graves. Considering that the civil war in Bosnia had lasted over four years, this could not exactly be called a "genocide" when compared to other massacres taking place all over the world such as in Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, and the Indonesia.

A representative in the Bosnian and Federal Parliaments, Ibran Mustafic, gave an explosive interview on Aug. 15, 1996, to Slobodna Bosnia ("Free Bosnia," A Sarajevo newspaper). Mustafic was quoted as saying that the betrayal of Srebrenica "was consciously prepared and that the Bosnian president and the army command were involved in this business," and that was to sacrifice Srebrenica in order to gain the sympathy of the West. Of his internment in a Serbian jail, he writes, "I should have died. They [the Bosnian Muslim authorities] don’t appreciate living people. They appreciate the dead because they cannot talk."

Of course we must not overlook Pulitzer Prize winner David Rohde, who was given a 15-day sentence for entering into Serbian territory with forged documents. He should thank his lucky stars that he was not captured by Muslim fighters or he would have been just another dead journalist, as was ABC’s producer David Kaplan, who, according to Yossef Bodansky (Offensive in the Balkans) was out of range of Serbian forces when he was killed. Regardless, Kaplan’s death was blamed on the Serbs. And what earned Mr. Rohde his coveted award? It was based merely on the discovery of "a pair of glasses, a walking stick and a putrefying leg sticking out of the ground," according to his book, Endgame: The Betrayal and Fall of Srebrenica, in an area where men had fought for over three years. Some genocide!

The mind set of U.S. officials who were in charge of "peacekeeping" efforts might best be understood by considering the view of our current U.N. Ambassador, Richard Holbrooke, who spoke of "The 1995 massacre of thousands of Bosnians Moslems in the U.N.-proclaimed ‘safe area’ of Srebrenica." ("Holbrooke mourns Srebrenica, urges reconciliation", Reuters, July 11). Mr. Holbrooke fails to mention that the so-called "safe area," which was supposed to be demilitarized, was used by the Bosnian Muslims as a staging area to attack surrounding Serbian villages.

The same diplomat, Mr. Holbrooke, said during an interview with Ted Koppel on November 6, 1995 (New Yorker), "The Vietcong were dedicated ideologues, committed to a long-term struggle. These guys [the Serbs] aren’t ideologues; they’re just murderous assholes." [Those are not my offensive words, but the words coming from the bigoted and racist mouth of our well-seasoned US diplomat who represents us at the UN!). Mr. Holbrooke praised the communist Vietcong, who killed over 58,000 Americans and denigrated the brave Serbian people who fought, suffered and sacrificed as our Allies during two world wars.

Yasushi Akashi, former UN Representative in Bosnia, admitted in the Washington Times of 1 November 1995, that "it is a fact that the Bosnian government forces have used the ‘safe areas’ of not only Srebrenica, but Sarajevo, Tuzla, Bihac, Gorazde for training, recuperation and refurbishing their troops." In other words, the so-called safe areas were used as military posts to train Mujahedin fighters from Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Turkey and the entire Islamic world, free to commit their treachery by attacking Serbian villages and returning like thieves in the night back to the safety of their UN protectors who conveniently looked the other way to these violations. Prior to the events at Srebrenica, these "Holy Warriors of Islam" had attacked 42 surrounding Serbian villages and over 3,000 Serbian villagers had been slaughtered without fear of being reprimanded or punished by the UN Yet, when Serbs were provoked to retaliate against these Muslim assaults from these so-called "safe-areas," they were condemned by the entire world.

Further proof of the violations of proclaimed "safe areas" by Bosnian Muslim forces was provided by Lt. Gen. Sir Michael Rose, former UNPROFOR commander who stated that Muslims "shoot on the Serbs to step up the pressure and to obtain a fresh intervention from NATO."

Yossef Bodansky, Staff Director for the Republican Task Force on Terrorism & Unconventional Warfare, US House of Representatives, writes in his book, "Offensive in the Balkans" that "The UN concluded that a special group of Bosnian Muslim forces, many of whom had served with Islamic terrorist organizations, committed a series of atrocities, including ‘some of the worst recent killings,’ against Bosnian Muslim civilians in Sarajevo [another designated "safe area"] as a propaganda ploy to win world sympathy and military intervention. These attacks escalated into premeditated attacks and atrocities committed against Bosnian Serb civilians trying to flee contested areas." Furthermore, Michael Evans and Michael Kallenbach write in the Times (1995), "Thousands of ‘missing’ Bosnian Muslim soldiers from Srebrenica who have been at the centre of reports of possible mass executions by the Serbs, are believed to be safe in the northeast of Tuzla." The question that no one seemed to ask was what were armed Muslim troops doing in an area that was supposed to be a demilitarized zone. Instead, the American media bombarded us with images of then US Ambassador to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright in August 1995, as she frantically waved the satellite photo over her head of the plowed field that was the alleged mass grave of 7,000 Muslim men. Proof positive! she claimed, of those who had been slaughtered and whose bodies were lying there only waiting to be exhumed.

While the world’s attention was deliberately focused on Srebrenica by such theatrical antics by Madeleine Albright, real ethnic cleansing of Serbs was taking place in the Krajina where, in August of 1995, over 250,000 were being driven from their ancestral homes, thousands slaughtered, and those too old or infirm to flee, remained only to have their throats slit. Approximately 650,000 Serbs have been driven out of Croatia since 1992 with little prospect of ever returning. It was US military aid and technology that made it possible for Croatian forces to conduct "Operation Storm" in order to achieve their goal of a pure Croatian state that Hitler could only promise. There was no outrage from Congress when Croatian jets bombed and strafed Serbian refugee columns. No outrage to what Charles Krauthammer described in Newsweek (April 5, 1999) as "the largest ethnic cleansing of the entire Balkan wars. Investigators with the war-crimes tribunal in the Hague have concluded that this campaign was carried out with brutality, wanton murder and indiscriminate shelling of civilians…. No denunciation. No sanctions. No bombing. No indignant speeches about ethnic cleansing and the slaughter of innocents. In fact, in justifying the current bombing of Serbia, Clinton made an indirect reference to this Croatian campaign when he credited the ‘courageous people in Bosnia and in Croatia’ who ‘fought back’ against the Serbs and ‘helped to end the war.’ Indeed, they did. Croatia’s savage ethnic cleansing so demoralized the Serbs that they soon agreed to sign the Dayton peace accord of 1995." But where were the media when all this was happening?

"As the media diverted themselves with satellite photos, the fate of the Serbs from Krajina is being forgotten. The search for mass graves was stepped up last autumn. Journalists from all over the world came to Bosnia to look for bodies. Crews from CNN, CBS, BBC, France II, TG1 (Italy), Dutch Television and from elsewhere arrived in August 1996. But they found very little. Some crews did not bother at all to find the soccer field from the satellite photo, because the journalists had already come to believe that there was no mass grave there anyway. However, it was not reported. Moreover, the said photo is being used as alleged evidence of the existence of a mass grave in many articles even today." ("Missing Evidence," by Linda Ryan, Nova, Frankfurt o/m, March-April, 1996).

So why, after five years of unsuccessful efforts to turn the casualties of a tragic civil war, one less bloody than numerous conflicts around the world, into claims of holocaust and genocide, is the specter of Srebrenica being raised again? The answer is that this is an attempt to intimidate and silence the "revisionists" who are questioning our failed foreign policy in the Balkans, a policy based on lies about atrocities in Bosnia and Kosovo and executed in violations of international law, the NATO treaty and the US Constitution.

As a career military officer’s wife, Stella Jatras has traveled widely and has lived in many foreign countries where she not only learned about other cultures but became very knowledgeable regarding world affairs and world politics. Stella Jatras lived in Moscow for two years where her husband, George, was the Senior Air Attaché), and while there, worked in the Political Section of the US Embassy. Stella has also lived in Germany, Greece and Saudi Arabia. Her travels took her to over twenty countries. She is the author of the "Open Letter to General Michael Short," which antiwar.com carried on 11/3/99, and "From Camp Swampy to Camp Bondsteel!" on 4/6/00.