by Sir Vojislav Milosevic, Director, Center for Counter-terrorism & World Peace
“In my battalion, out of 320 soldiers, 280 died during the war. What did we fight for? I know that they are now trying to humiliate people from Srebrenica and spread rumors that we supposedly did not fight and were slain while running away from Srebrenica.
No one can deny that in the Srebrenica municipality there are 2,000 buried fighters. No one can deny that we set up a large free territory. However, without assistance from outside we could not hold out for long surrounded by the enemy. You can write that I absolutely support the statement by Hakija Meholjic that we were betrayed.”
Statement to Sarajevo daily “Dani”, January 18, 1999
- The film claims that at that first short meeting Clinton suggested to Izetbegovic another holocaust – sacrifice of 5000 Muslims in Srebrenica and that Izetbegovic shared that sinister plan with Srebrenica defenders delegation. So the men of Srebrenica were sacrificed by their own government for a political objective. The actual motive behind these background machinations might be besides Nato intervention also a land-swap deal acceptable to all sides (Muslims/Serbs/Croats).
- The western mainstream media has demonized Serbs and their action in Bosnia and later also in Kosovo. The atrocities implemented by others have widely ignored. At the start of the 1992-95 Bosnia war, Muslims and Croats were allies against the Bosnian Serb forces, but they fought each other briefly when Croat forces tried to create a separate Croat autonomy in northeastern Bosnia. Now also Bosnian Muslims themselves expose what really happened before, during and after what is been called `the European genocide of our time`.
- Among numerous of the film’s revelations is the fact that the humanitarian convoys which the Serbs were allowing to pass to Srebrenica were being intercepted by Bosnian “hero”, actually war criminal – Naser Oric and sold on the black market.
- Interesting detail is also that Mladic had 1600 armed locals but he didn’t trust them since they lacked discipline and would use every opportunity to revenge warlord Oric’s attacks and massacres on the Serbian villages.
In mid 1995, the prolongation of the war had dampened public interest. There had been a substantial reduction in the pressure of public opinion in the western democracies. An incident of this importance would nonetheless provide hot news material for the media during several weeks, could awaken public opinion and incite new passions.
In this manner it would be possible to kill two birds with one stone: pressure could be laid to bear in order to lift the embargo and simultaneously the occupying countries would find it difficult to withdraw their forces, a hypothesis which had been advanced by leading UN figures such as Akashi and Boutros-Boutros Ghali.
The Muslims always harbored a secret hope that the embargo would be lifted. This had become the prime objective of the Sarajevo government, and had been fueled by the vote in the US Senate and Congress in favor of such a measure.
President Clinton, however, vetoed the decision and required a two thirds majority in both houses. The enclaves collapse gave the decisive push that the campaign needed. After its fall, the US Senate voted with over a two thirds majority in favor of lifting the embargo.
It was clear that sooner or later the enclaves would fall into the hands of the Serbians, it was an inevitability.
There was a consensus amongst the negotiators (the US administration, the UN and European governments) that it was impossible to maintain the three Muslim enclaves, and that they should be exchanged for territories in Central Bosnia.
Madeleine Albright suggested this exchange on numerous occasions to Izetbegovic, based on the proposals of the Contact Group.
As early as 1993, at the time of the first crisis of the enclave, Karadzic had proposed to Izetbgovic to exchange Srebrenica for the suburb of Vogosca. This exchange included the movement of populations in both directions.
It was the purpose of secret negotiations in order to avoid undesirable publicity. This implied that the western countries accepted and encouraged ethnic separation.
The truth is that both the Americans and President Izetbegovic had tacitly agreed that it made no sense to insist in maintaining these isolated enclaves in a divided Bosnia. In 1995 nobody believed any longer in the inevitability of ethnic division of the territory.
In the month of June 1995, before the military operation in Srebrenica, Alexander Vershbow, Special Assistant to President Clinton stated that “America should encourage the Bosnians to think in terms of territories with greater territorial coherence and compactness.”
In other words this meant that the enclaves should be forgotten. The attack on Srebrenica, with no help from Belgrade, was completely unnecessary and proved to be one of the most significant examples of the political failure of the Serbian leadership.
Meanwhile the western media exacerbated the situation by transforming the enclaves into a powerful mass-media icon; a situation which Izetbegovic was quick to explore.
CNN had daily broadcasts of the images of mass graves for thousands of corpses, obtained from spy satellites.
Despite the microscopic precision in the localization of these graves, it is certain that no discovery to date has confirmed such suspicions.
Since there are no longer restrictions on movement, we inevitably speculate on why they have still not been shown to the world.
The mass graves are filled by a limited number of corpses from both sides, the consequence of heated battle and combat and not the result of a premeditated plan of genocide, as occurred against the Serbian populations in Krajina, in the Summer of 1995, when the Croatian army implemented the mass murder of all Serbians found there.
In this instance, the media maintained an absolute silence, despite the fact that the genocide occurred over a three month period. The objective of Srebrenica was ethnic cleansing and not genocide, unlike what happened in Krajina, in which although there was no military action, the Croatian army decimated villages.
Srebrenica was the last straw which led western governments to reach agreement on the need to cease their neutrality and commence a military action against one side in the conflict. It was the last straw which united the West in their desire to break “Serbian bestiality”.
Sarajevo was conscious of the fact that it lacked the military capacity to defeat the Serbs. It was necessary to create conditions via which the international community could do this for them. Srebrenica played a vital role in this process.
“The side which had everything to win by demonstrating the impotence of the UN was the Sarajevo leadership and not that of Pale (Bosnian Serbs). In 1995 it was clear that the change in the status quo required a powerful intervention which would overthrow the Serbian military power. Srebrenica was one of the pretexts, resulting from the short-sightedness of the Bosnian Serbian leaders“.
(Carlos Martins Branco, a Portuguese military officer who served in Bosnia as a UNMO (UN Military Observers) Deputy Chief Operations Officer in the UNPF (UN Peace Forces) at theatre level, teaches at the European University Institute, Department of Social and Political Sciences, Badia Fiesolana, Italy.)
“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.”
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.
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.
A second was that there had been (and were after Srebrenica) a series of claimed 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.
A third is that the evidence for a „massacre“, certainly of one in which 8,000 men and boys were executed, has always been problematic, to say the least.
“5.000 Muslim lives for air strikes” (President Clinton)
The events of Srebrenica and claims of a major massacre were extremely helpful to the Clinton administration, the Bosnian Muslim leadership, and Croatian authorities.
Clinton was under political pressure in 1995 both from the media and from Bob Dole (who got the money from Albanian lobby) to take more forceful action in favor of the Bosnian Muslims, and his administration was eager to find a justification for more aggressive policies.
Clinton officials rushed to the Srebrenica scene to confirm and publicize the claims of a massacre, just as William Walker did later at Racak in January 1999. Walker’s immediate report to Madeleine Albright caused her to exult that “spring has come early this year.” Srebrenica allowed the “fall to come early” for the Clinton administration in the summer of 1995.
General of Muslim Army in Bosnia, Atif Dudaković ordering killing of Serbian prisoners:
Bosnian Muslim leaders had been struggling for several years to persuade the NATO powers to intervene more forcibly on their behalf, and there is strong evidence that they were prepared not only to lie but also to sacrifice their own citizens and soldiers to serve the end of inducing intervention.
Bosnian Muslim officials have claimed that their leader, Alija Izetbegovic, told them that Clinton had advised him that U.S. intervention would only occur if the Serbs killed at least 5,000 at Srebrenica.
The abandonment of Srebrenica by a military force much larger than that of the attackers, and a retreat that made that larger force vulnerable and caused it to suffer heavy casualties in fighting and vengeance executions, helped produce numbers that would meet the Clinton criterion, by hook or by crook.
There is other evidence that the retreat from Srebrenica was not based on any military necessity but was strategic, with the personnel losses incurred considered a necessary sacrifice for a larger purpose.
Croatian authorities were also delighted with the claims of a Srebrenica massacre, as this deflected attention from their prior devastating ethnic cleansing of Serbs and Bosnian Muslims in Western Bosnia (almost entirely ignored by the Western media), and it provided a cover for their already planned removal of several hundred thousand Serbs from the Krajina area in Croatia.
This massive ethnic cleansing operation was carried out with U.S. approval and logistical support within a month of the Srebrenica events, and it may well have involved the killing of more Serb civilians than Bosnian Muslim civilians killed in the Srebrenica area in July.
Most of the Bosnian Muslim victims were fighters, not civilians, as the Bosnian Serbs bused the Srebrenica women and children to safety; the Croatians made no such provision and many women, children and old people were slaughtered in Krajina.
The ruthlessness of the Croats was impressive: “UN troops watched horrified as Croat soldiers dragged the bodies of dead Serbs along the road outside the UN compound and then pumped them full of rounds from the AK-47s. They then crushed the bullet-ridden bodies under the tracks of a tank.”
But this was hardly noticed in the wake of the indignation and propaganda generated around Srebrenica with the aid of the mainstream media, whose co-belligerency role in the Balkan wars was already well-entrenched.
The International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY) and UN also had an important role to play in the consolidation of the standard Srebrenica massacre narrative.
From its inception the ICTY served as an arm of the NATO powers, who created it, funded it, served as its police arm and main information source, and expected and got responsive service from the organization.
The ICTY focused intensively on Srebrenica and provided important and nominally independent corroboration of the massacre claims along with proven “judicial” claims of planned “genocide.”
The UN is less thoroughly integrated into NATO-power demands, but it is highly responsive and in the Srebrenica case it came through just as the United States and its main allies desired.
At each stage in the dismantlement of Yugoslavia, its ethnic cleansing, and before and during the NATO war over the Kosovo province of Serbia in 1999, propaganda lies played a very important role in forwarding conflict and anti-Serb actions. There were lies of omission and lies that directly conveyed false impressions and information.
An important form of lie of omission was the regular presentation of Serb misbehavior as unique to the Serbs, not also characteristic of the behavior of the Muslims and Croatians or of the conflict overall. In case after case the media would report on Serb attacks and atrocities, having neglected to report the prior assaults on Serbs in those same towns and making the Serb behavior seem like unprovoked acts of aggression and barbarity.
This was evident from the very start of the serious fighting in 1991 in the republic of Croatia. In their treatment of the Eastern Croatian city of Vukovar, for example, the media (and ICTY) focused exclusively on the federal Yugoslav army’s capture of the town in the fall of 1991, completely ignoring the prior spring and summer’s slaughter by Croatian National Guard troops and paramilitaries of hundreds of ethnic Serbs who had lived in the Vukovar area.
According to Raymond K. Kent, “a substantial Serb population in the major Slavonian city of Vukovar disappeared without having fled, leaving traces of torture in the old Austrian the spring catacombs under the city along with evidence of murder and rape. The Western media, whose demonization of the Serbs was well underway, chose to overlook these events…” This selective and misleading focus was standard media and ICTY practice.
Lies of omission were also clear in the attention given Bosnian Serb prison camps like Omarska, which the media focused on intensively and with indignation, when in fact the Muslims and Croats had very similar prison camps-at Celebici, Tarcin, Livno, Bradina, Odzak, and in the Zetra camp in Sarajevo, among other sites with roughly comparable numbers, facilities, and certainly no worse treatment of prisoners.
But in contrast with the Serbs, the Muslims and Croats hired competent PR firms and refused permission to inspect their facilities-and the already well-developed structure of bias made the media little interested in any but Serb camps.
Wild allegations of Auschwitz-like conditions in Serb “concentration camps” were spread by “journalists of attachment” who lapped up propaganda handouts by Muslim and Croat officials and PR hirelings. Roy Gutman, who won a Pulitzer prize jointly with John Burns for Bosnia reporting in 1993, depended heavily on Croat and Muslim officials and witnesses with suspect credentials and implausible claims, and he was a major source of inflated, one-sided, and false “concentration camp” propaganda.
John Burns’ Pulitzer award was based on an extended interview with Boris Herak, a captured Bosnian Serb supplied to him and a Soros-funded film-maker by the Bosnian Muslims. Several years later Herak admitted that his extremely implausible confession had been coerced and that he had been forced to memorize many pages of lies. Two of his alleged victims also turned up alive in later years.
In reporting on Herak, John Burns and the New York Times (and the Soros-funded film) suppressed the credibility-damaging fact that Herak had also accused former UNPROFOR commandant, Canadian General Lewis Mackenzie, of having raped young Muslim women at a Serb-run bordello. These scandalous awards are symptomatic of the media bias that was already overwhelming in 1992 and 1993.
In a recent development of interest, on a visit to the dying Alija Izetbegovic, Bernard Kouchner asked him about the Bosnian Serb concentration camps, whereupon Izetbegovic, surprisingly, admitted that these claims had been inflated with the aim of getting NATO to bomb the Serbs. This important confession has not been mentioned in the U.S. or British mainstream media.
One of the most important propaganda lies of the 1990s featured the Serb-run Trnopolje camp, visited by Britain’s ITN reporters in August 1992. These reporters photographed the resident Fikret Alic, showing him emaciated and seemingly inside a concentration camp fence.
In fact, Fikret Alic was in a transit camp, was a sick man (and was sick with tuberculosis long before reaching the camp), was not in any way representative of others in the camp, and was soon able to move to Sweden. Furthermore, the fence was around the photographers, not the man photographed.
But this hugely dishonest photo was featured everywhere in the West as proving a Serb-organized Auschwitz, was denounced by NATO high officials, and helped provide the moral basis for the creation of the ICTY and its clear focus on „Serb evil“.
In the case of the siege of Sarajevo, as with conflict around many “safe haven” towns, the Bosnian Muslim government engaged in a steady program of provoking the Serbs, blaming them for the ensuing response, lying about casualties, and trying-usually successfully-to place the blame on the Serbs.
As Tim Fenton has said, “Massacre allegations by the Bosnian Muslims followed any reported conflict as night followed day: most notoriously Muslim Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic claimed the UN was responsible for the deaths of 70,000 in Bihac in early 1995, when in fact there had barely been any fighting and casualties were small.”
The Problematic Massacre Claims
In this environment, context-stripping was easy. One element of context was the fact that the “safe area” concept was a fraud, as the safe areas were supposed to have been disarmed, but weren’t, and with UN connivance. They were therefore used by the Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica and other safe havens as launching pads for attacks on nearby Serb villages.
In the three years prior to the massacre well over a thousand Serb civilians were killed by Muslim forces in scores of devastated nearby villages; and well before July 1995 the Srebrenica Muslim commander Nasir Oric proudly showed Western reporters videos of some of his beheaded Serb victims and bragged about his killings.
Testifying before the Tribunal on February 12, 2004, UN military commander in Bosnia in 1992 and 1993, General Philippe Morillon, stated his conviction that the attack on Srebrenica was a “direct reaction” to the massacres of Serbs by Nasir Oric and his forces in 1992 and 1993, massacres with which Morillon was closely familiar.
Morillon’s testimony was of no interest to the Western media, and when the ICTY finally got around to indicting Nasir Oric on March 28, 2003, very possibly to create the image of judicial balance, he was charged with killing only seven Serbs who were tortured and beaten to death after capture, and with the “wanton destruction” of nearby villages.
Although he openly bragged to Western reporters of slaughtering Serb civilians, the ICTY reportedly “found no evidence that there were civilian casualties in the attacks on Serb villages in his theater of operations.”
When the Bosnian Serbs captured Srebrenica in July 1995, it was reported that the 28th regiment of the Bosnian Muslim Army (BMA), comprising several thousand men, had just fled the town. The media failed to ask how such a large force could have been present in a disarmed “safe area.”
Having also succeeded in ignoring the prior abuses emanating from the safe area, this allowed them to follow a quickly established party line of a planned “genocide” and inexplicable brutality rather than the vengeance which the media allow as semi-exoneration of violence by “worthy” victims (e.g., Kosovo Albanians driving out and killing Serbs and Roma after the NATO takeover of Kosovo).
A second element of context was the possible political basis for the surrender of Srebrenica by a force in a good defensive position, outnumbering the attacking BSA by a 6-1 or 8-1 ratio, but retreating in advance of the assault, their leaders having been withdrawn previously by order of the Bosnian Muslim leadership. This left the population unprotected, and made the BMA cadres vulnerable as they retreated in disarray toward Bosnian Muslim lines.
Could this have been another self-sacrificing maneuver by the leadership to produce victims, perhaps designed to help meet the Clinton 5,000 target and induce more forcible NATO intervention? These questions never arose in the mainstream media.
The Srebrenica events had a number of features that made it possible to claim 8,000 “men and boys” executed. One was the confusion and uncertainty about the fate of the fleeing Bosnian Muslim forces, some reaching Tuzla safely, some killed in the fighting, and some captured. The 8,000 figure was first provided by the Red Cross, based on their crude estimate that the BSA had captured 3,000 men and that 5,000 were reported “missing.”
It is well established that thousands of those “missing” had reached Tuzla or were killed in the fighting, but in an amazing transformation displaying the eagerness to find the Bosnian Serbs evil and the Muslims victims, the “reaching safety/killed-in-action” basis of being missing was ignored and the missing were taken as executed!
This misleading conclusion was helped along by the Red Cross’s reference to the 5,000 as having “simply disappeared,” and its failure to correct this politically biased usage and claim despite its own recognition that “several thousand” refugees had reached Central Bosnia.
It was also helped along by the Bosnian Muslim leadership’s refusal to disclose the names and numbers of those reaching safety, but there was a remarkable readiness in the Western establishment not only to ignore those reaching safety, but also to disregard deaths in fighting and to take dead bodies as proving executions.
The will to believe here was limitless: reporter David Rohde saw a bone sticking up in a grave site near Srebrenica, which he just knew by instinct was a remnant of an execution and serious evidence of a “massacre.” It was standard media practice to move from an asserted and unproven claim of thousands missing, or a report of the uncovering of bodies in a grave site, to the conclusion that the claim of 8,000 executed was thereby demonstrated.
With 8,000 executed and thousands killed in the fighting there should have been huge grave sites and satellite evidence of both executions, burials, and any body removals. But the body searches in the Srebrenica vicinity were painfully disappointing, with only some two thousand bodies found in searches through 1999, including bodies killed in action and possibly Serb bodies, some pre-dating July 1995.
The sparseness of these findings led to claims of body removal and reburial, but this was singularly unconvincing as the Bosnian Serbs were under intense military pressure after July 1995. This was the period when NATO was bombing Serb positions and Croat/Muslim armies were driving towards Banja Luka. The BSA was on the defensive and was extremely short of equipment and resources, including gasoline.
o have mounted an operation of the magnitude required to exhume, transport and rebury thousands of corpses would have been far beyond the BSA’s capacity at that time. Furthermore, in carrying out such a program they could hardly hope to escape observation from OSCE personnel, local civilians, and satellite observations.
On August 10, 1995, Madeleine Albright showed some satellite photos at a closed session of the Security Council, as part of a denunciation of the Bosnian Serbs, including one photo showing people allegedly Bosnian Muslims near Srebrenica assembled in a stadium, and one allegedly taken shortly thereafter showing a nearby field with “disturbed” soil.
These photos have never been publicly released, but even if they are genuine they don’t prove either executions or burials. Furthermore, although the ICTY speaks of “an organized and comprehensive effort” to hide bodies, and David Rohde claimed a “huge Serb effort to hide bodies,” neither Albright nor anyone else has ever shown a satellite photo of people actually being executed, buried, or dug up for reburial, or of trucks conveying thousands of bodies elsewhere.
This evidence blank occurred despite Albright’s warning the Serbs that “We will be watching,” and with satellites at that time making at least eight passes per day and geostationary drones able to hover and take finely detailed pictures in position over Bosnia during the summer of 1995. The mainstream media have found this failure to confirm of no interest.
The 8,000 figure is also incompatible with the basic arithmetic of Srebrenica numbers before and after July 1995. Displaced persons from Srebrenica-that is, massacre survivors registered with the World Health Organization and Bosnian government in early August 1995, totalled 35,632.
Muslim men who reached Muslim lines “without their families being informed” totaled at least 2,000, and some 2,000 were killed in the fighting. That gives us 37,632 survivors plus the 2,000 combat deaths, which would require the prewar population of Srebrenica to have been 47,000 if 8,000 were executed, whereas the population before July was more like 37-40,000 (Tribunal judge Patricia Wald gave 37,000 as her estimate). The numbers don’t add up.
One anomaly connected with Srebrenica has been the stability of the figure of Bosnian Muslim victims-8,000 in July 1995 and 8,000 today, despite the crudity of the initial estimate, the evidence that many or most of the 5,000 “missing” reached Bosnian Muslim territory or were killed in the fighting, and the clear failure to produce supportive physical evidence despite a massive effort.
In other cases, like the 9/11 fatality estimate, and even the Bosnian killings and Kosovo bombing war estimates, the original figures were radically scaled down as evidence of body counts made the earlier inflated numbers unsustainable. But because of its key political role for the United States, Bosnian Muslims and Croats, and an almost religious ardour of belief in this claim, Sebrenica has
been immune to evidence. From the beginning until today the number has been taken as a given, a higher truth, the questioning of which would show a lack of faith and very likely “apologetics” for the demon.
Media treatment of the Srebrenica and Krajina cases followed the same pattern and illustrates well how the media make some victims worthy and others unworthy in accord with a political agenda. With the Serbs their government’s target, and their government actively aiding the massive Croat ethnic cleansing program in Krajina, the media gave huge and indignant treatment to the first, with invidious language, calls for action, and little context.
With Krajina, attention was slight and passing, indignation was absent, detailed reporting on the condition of the victims was minimal, descriptive language was neutral, and there was context offered that made the events understandable.
The contrast is so gross as to be droll: the attack on Srebrenica “chilling, „murderous“,”savagery,” “cold-blooded killing,” “genocidal,” “aggression,”and of course “ethnic cleansing.” With Krajina, the media used no such strong language-even ethnic cleansing was too much for them. The Croat assault was merely a big “upheaval” that is “softening up the enemy,” “a lightning offensive,” explained away as a “response to Srebrenica” and a result of Serb leaders “overplaying their hand.”
The Washington Post even cited U.S. Ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith saying the “the Serb exodus was not ‘ethnic cleansing’.” The paper does not allow a challenge to that judgment. In fact, however, the Croat operations in Krajina left Croatia as the most ethnically purified of all the former components of the former Yugoslavia, although the NATO occupation of Kosovo has allowed an Albanian ethnic cleansing that is rivaling that of Croatia in ethnic purification.
Director of Center for Counter Terrorism and World Peace (Centra za Anti-Terorizam i Svetski Mir). Milosevic graduated at the Faculty for Political Sciences in Belgrade in 1980 with postgraduate studies in Islamic fundamentalism. He has worked with UNESCO and UNCTAD, a journalist, counselor at the Protocol of the Federal Parliament, speaker, politician, and book author.