Why Yugoslavia Still Matters
John Feffer | April 6, 2009
Editor: Emily Schwartz Greco
Foreign Policy In Focus
This is part of a strategic dialogue on Yugoslavia. See Ed Herman\'s opposing argument here, and their respective responses here.
Yugoslavia, though you cannot find it any longer on maps, is still very much with us. The wars and political turmoil that convulsed this multiethnic country in the 1990s continue to reverberate today. These aftershocks can be felt in the standoff around Kosovo\'s independence, the political fragmentation in Bosnia, the conflict between Macedonia and Greece, and the failure of European integration to encompass most of what was once Eastern Europe\'s most Western-leaning country.
The country held responsible for Yugoslavia\'s disintegration and many of the ills that still affect the region is Serbia. Slobodan Milosevic, even after his death in 2006, remains a symbol of all that went wrong in that corner of southeastern Europe: corruption, militarism, ethnic cleansing. His four-year trial at the UN International Criminal Tribunal provided the world with a picture of a proud, self-serving, and mendacious figure desperate to rescue his legacy: the Richard Nixon of the Balkans.
It\'s all too easy to pin the blame for Yugoslavia\'s disintegration solely on Serbia and Milosevic. Other actors share responsibility for what took place in the 1990s, including the United States and NATO. The best writers on Yugoslavia have chronicled Croatia\'s ethnic cleansing campaigns, Slovenia\'s role in undoing Yugoslav federalism, and the war crimes of mujahideen fighters in Bosnia. They have challenged claims of genocide in Kosovo prior to NATO\'s bombing in 1999, and they have detailed the crimes committed against ethnic Serbs.
Providing such a well-rounded picture of Yugoslavia is essential, particularly in order to move beyond the current stalemates in the region. But the crimes committed by Serbia and Slobodan Milosevic in particular shouldn\'t disappear from all of this contextualizing. Unfortunately, for some writers on the left, providing a full context for understanding the disintegration of Yugoslavia requires just such a whitewashing. This revisionist history of Yugoslavia is even more one-sided than the mainstream media reporting that it criticizes. For every useful fact that the revisionists bring to the table there is a telling gap or historical distortion in their accounts.
The revisionists have disputed Milosevic\'s guilt, the disproportionate role that Serbia played in the Balkan bloodshed, and even the genocide of Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) in Srebrenica. It would be as if a group of analysts of World War II suddenly focused on the crimes of Hungarian, Romanian, and Ukrainian fascists in order to deny or diminish German responsibility for the Final Solution. The question is: Why are these revisionists fighting the Yugoslav wars all over again?
Anyone visiting Belgrade in the late 1980s without a cursory knowledge of Cyrillic might have mistaken all the signs and bumper stickers with hearts on them for a festival of love. In fact, the signs declared: I [Heart] Serbia. They frequently appeared next to pictures of the Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic. Marooned in Belgrade in the summer of 1989 on my way to Dubrovnik, I was taken aback by this outpouring of affection for homeland and leader. I was still under the impression that Yugoslavia was an outpost of communist internationalism and that only post-war leader Marshal Tito merited a personality cult.
After doing a little research I discovered that Serbia was indeed experiencing a nationalist revival, which had been gathering steam since Tito\'s death in 1980. An adherent of the formula \"strong Yugoslavia, weak Serbia,\" Tito had deliberately cut Serbia down to size by creating within the republic two autonomous regions — Kosovo and Vojvodina. Under Slobodan Milosevic, Serbia attempted to regain its past, mythic glory. From July 1988 to spring 1989, according to Robert Thomas in The Politics of Serbia in the 1990s, Milosevic organized mass public rallies that featured nationalist songs and slogans — \"In all the places where there are Serbian souls, that is the home and the hearth-place of my birth\" — that mobilized 5 million Serbs. In spring 1989, on the heels of these rallies and just before my trip to Belgrade, Milosevic rescinded a 1974 compromise that had given Kosovo an even greater measure of autonomy from Belgrade. In March, ethnic Albanians demonstrated in Pristina, and riot police killed 24 demonstrators. The federal government cracked down, and Kosovo\'s intifada began.
When I returned to the United States that fall, I gave various presentations on the situation in Eastern Europe in that miraculous year of 1989. At one presentation, however, several people in the audience took issue with my characterization of a Serbian nationalist resurgence. \"There is no such thing,\" they told me. \"But I saw it with my own eyes,\" I reported. \"You are mistaken,\" they told me. \"Mihailo Markovic says that Milosevic is not a Serbian nationalist.\"
Mihailo Markovic was an influential Yugoslav philosopher who helped found the critical-thinking Praxis group, which combined Marxism and humanism. He\'d taught in the United States and had lost his teaching job in Belgrade because of his heretical views. More recently, though, he\'d become a kind of presiding figure for a sliver of the U.S. left that believed, against much evidence to the contrary, that Slobodan Milosevic was Yugoslavia\'s last, true socialist and internationalist.
Markovic appears in this guise as a witness for the defense in Milosevic\'s trial in The Hague in Edward Herman and David Peterson\'s revisionist essay The Dismantling of Yugoslavia. In this account, Markovic confirms Milosevic\'s contention that there never was a plan for a Greater Serbia. This was the equivalent of Adolf Hitler calling Joseph Goebbels as a witness for his defense. What Herman and Peterson neglect to mention is that Markovic was a chief ideologue for Milosevic\'s party and a defender of Milosevic\'s push for Serbian expansion. In the mid-1980s, Markovic was one of the authors of a controversial memorandum that stoked the fires of Serb nationalism. \"The SANU Memorandum laid the groundwork for all that is happening now, foreseeing as it did the coming together of all Serbs from Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina and the ethnic borders, thus enabling a clash with the creators of the new world order,\" Markovic wrote.
Milosevic was not by any means a blood-and-soil nationalist like his sometimes right-wing partner Vojislav Seselj. Milosevic used nationalism as a mechanism to seize power within the Yugoslav Socialist Party, to whip up political support by exploiting the Kosovo issue, and to mobilize Serbian fears in the conflict with Croatia. His instrumental devotion to a Greater Serbia is well-documented. As the country around him disintegrated, he used \"Yugoslavia\" as a code word for Serbian domination. \"Either Yugoslavia\'s various nations would accept Serbia\'s vision of a \'normal,\' unified state that served Serbian interests, or Serbs from all the republics would \'join together\' and achieve their national unity by force,\" writes Serbian peace activist Vesna Pesic.
Milosevic was willing to unleash the furies of nationalism to achieve his political goals. Long before his Kosovo campaign of the late 1990s — and NATO\'s response — Milosevic set Yugoslavia on the road to disintegration: not because he desired that outcome but because he craved power above all.
Vukovar and Srebrenica
In their accounts of the wars that convulsed Yugoslavia, the revisionists often jump over the incidents that reflect most poorly on Milosevic and Serbian state policy. Consider the matter of Vukovar, the town in Croatia that the Yugoslav People\'s Army (JNA) along with Serbian paramilitary forces leveled in fall 1991. As Croatia seceded from Yugoslavia, the Milosevic regime encouraged the Serb minority in Croatia to declare its independence in turn. The Serb minority had reason to be concerned about the clerical, authoritarian state that Franjo Tudjman was creating in Croatia, and it was within its rights to clamor for greater self-determination. But Milosevic wasn\'t interested in asserting political principles. Through control of the national army and the secret police, Milosevic militarized the conflict.
The culmination of this strategy was the battle over the border town of Vukovar. Preceded by the killing and mutilation of Croatian policemen and the ethnic cleansing of several surrounding villages, Vukovar became the symbol of Serbian aggression. The siege of the town lasted for 87 days. The JNA won in the end, but sustained heavy losses. Tens of thousands of Croatians were expelled, an unknown number were executed. In the most notorious massacre, Serbian paramilitaries executed nearly 200 hospital patients. It wasn\'t only the international community that turned against Serbia and Milosevic after Vukovar. Serbs themselves, disgusted by the war, expressed their disapproval by draft-dodging in large numbers, leaving the country, and supporting the Serbian peace movement.
When it comes to Srebrenica, the revisionists work hard to call into question the very notion that a massacre took place there in July 1995. The Internet is full of stories declaring the massacre a \"hoax.\" Diana Johnstone, in her book Fool\'s Crusade, takes on the commonly cited figure of 8,000 Bosniak deaths. She points out that only 2,300 bodies were exhumed by 2001 and only 50 identified. \"In an area where fighting had raged for years, some of the bodies were certainly of Serbs as well as of Muslims,\" she writes.
Johnstone writes as though we have only forensic evidence. But there are countless eyewitness accounts, interviews with survivors, meticulously composed lists of missing persons, and even video footage taken by the Serbian Ministry of the Interior\'s Skorpion unit involved in the massacre. In any case, her numbers are now out of date. More mass graves have been found in the last several years. The International Commission on Missing Persons has exhumed and identified more than 5,000 victims through DNA analysis. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague has convicted several of those responsible for the massacre. And the Bosnian Serb government itself has apologized after issuing a report acknowledging the responsibility of Bosnian Serb forces in killing more than 7,000 Bosniaks.
Serbs against Milosevic
Some of the strongest voices against Milosevic, against the Serb conduct in the Yugoslav wars, and against Serbian nationalism in general have come from Serbs themselves. These voices are largely absent from the revisionist accounts. Serbia under Milosevic was not Germany under Hitler. Thousands of Serbs protested against Milosevic; thousands dodged the draft and went AWOL; thousands joined the peace movement and the opposition. And, in 2000, they succeeded in a nonviolent democratic revolution to unseat Milosevic once and for all.
The Serbian left — Svetozar Stojanovic, also of the Praxis Group, Vesna Pesic of the anti-war movement, Sonja Licht formerly of the Open Society Fund — was particularly harsh in its criticism of Milosevic. Zoran Djindjic, who handed Milosevic over to the war crimes tribunal, spoke for many in Serbian society when he told Norwegian writer Asne Seierstad that Milosevic \"built a web of wickedness. He manipulated us for 13 years. He starved the whole country with his madness for war, and turned the rest of the world against us.\" Maja Miljkovic wrote: \"Under the Milosevic regime the Serbian political elite succeeded in destroying the basis of the identity of the Serbian nation: its democratic structure, economy, and culture.\"
Milosevic was able to secure a measure of popular support. Thanks to his manipulation of Serbian fears and his control of the media, he managed to win elections. His opposition was often more nationalist than he was. Even the democratic opposition took nationalist stands, particularly on the Kosovo issue. This, too, was Milosevic\'s legacy: putting nationalism at the core of Serbian politics to such a degree that no candidate or party could easily resist its pull. Still, Milosevic did not represent all Serbian views. And when his project sputtered in Croatia and Bosnia — much as the imperial project of the Bush administration did in Iraq and Afghanistan — the people turned away from him.
Serbia has begun the difficult process of shouldering responsibility for the tragedies of the Balkan wars. In The Hague, 147 accused have appeared before the ICTY: 95 Serbs, 31 Croats, 14 Bosniaks, and seven Kosovar Albanians. Serbian government officials, sometimes under pressure but often as a result of evidence presented, have cooperated with the tribunal. Today, Serbia is a different place than it was during the Milosevic years, one with a thriving civil society and cultural scene. \"Everything has changed in Serbia from the point of view of economy, of understanding difference, of intercultural discussion,\" activist Andrej Nosov told me in Belgrade in 2007. \"But in connection with Kosovo, nothing has changed.\" So, this process of coming to terms with the past is still a vital part of Serbia\'s present.
The revisionist eagerness to rescue Milosevic\'s reputation seems odd. He wasn\'t an attractive or charismatic figure. He wasn\'t committed to progressive politics. He was overthrown by his own people. He did, however, stand up to the United States. Under Milosevic, Serbia withstood the first ever military campaign by NATO. Herein seems to lie the revisionist motive. If Milosevic stood up to the U.S. imperium in 1999, then surely he must have been a worthy figure during the preceding wars.
This \"enemy of my enemy is my friend\" approach has seduced the left in the past, prompting support of figures like Mao in China or Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. Just as we should be clear-eyed about U.S. military and economic power, we should be equally attentive to the motives, actions, and lies of authoritarian leaders who stand up to the United States.
The flip side of this softness for anti-American tyrants is the tendency to see the U.S. hand behind all the world\'s ills. The revisionists focus on U.S. imposition of neoliberal economic reforms in Yugoslavia in the late 1980s, relying a great deal on Susan Woodward\'s arguments in the book Balkan Tragedy. As someone who made such arguments even before Woodward, I am sympathetic to this analysis. However, the application of shock therapy was part of the cookie-cutter approach that the United States and the International Monetary Fund brought to the region. I don\'t believe that U.S. officials intended such measures to destroy Yugoslavia. The country wasn\'t, after all, an enemy, and U.S. officials generally prefer predictability and stability.
This preference for stability carried through into the war years. George H.W. Bush\'s administration was determined to stay out of the brewing conflict (\"We have no dog in that fight,\" Secretary of State James Baker famously said at the time). The Clinton administration was dragged kicking and screaming into involvement in the conflict, and U.S. negotiators like Richard Holbrooke showed a predilection for negotiating with Milosevic in the service of preserving some measure of status quo. Later, of course, the Clinton administration backed the Croatian army in its terrifying turning of the tables and bombed Belgrade to put an end to the Kosovo crisis. As a result of these actions, the United States indeed has much to answer for. But it would be a mistake to project this involvement back into the earlier stages of the war.
So, in the end, the revisionists are fighting the Yugoslav wars again for the same reason that the neoconservatives fight the Vietnam War over and over. Both want to repair the reputation of a statesman (Milosevic, Nixon), salve the wounds of the losers (Serbia, the United States), and explain the resolution of the conflict through reference to a conspiracy (U.S. malfeasance behind the scenes by the government in the first case and the peace movement in the second).
Serbia, like Vietnam, has moved on. It\'s time for the revisionists to do likewise.
John Feffer is the co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies.
Y ahora el segundo artículo
Serb Demonization as Propaganda Coup
Edward S. Herman | April 6, 2009
Editor: Emily Schwartz Greco
Foreign Policy In Focus
This is part of a strategic dialogue on Yugoslavia. See John Feffer\'s opposing argument here, and their respective responses here.
The successful demonization of the Serbs, making them largely responsible for the Yugoslav wars, and as unique and genocidal killers, was one of the great propaganda triumphs of our era. It was done so quickly, with such uniformity and uncritical zeal in the mainstream Western media, that disinformation had (and still has, after almost two decades) a field day.
The demonization flowed from the gullibility of Western interests and media (and intellectuals). With Yugoslavia no longer useful as an ally after the fall of the Soviet Union, and actually an obstacle as an independent state with a still social democratic bent, the NATO powers aimed at its dismantlement, and they actively supported the secession of Slovenia, Croatia, the Bosnian Muslims, and the Kosovo Albanians. That these were driven away by Serb actions and threats is untrue: they had their own nationalistic and economic motives for exit, stronger than those of the Serbs.
Milosevic\'s famous speeches of 1987 and 1989 weren\'t nationalistic — despite the lies to the contrary, both speeches called for tolerance of all \"nations\" within Yugoslavia. He also never sought a \"Greater Serbia,\" but rather tried to maintain a unified Yugoslavia, and when this failed — with the active assistance of the NATO powers — he tried, only fitfully, to allow stranded Serb minorities to stay within Yugoslavia or join Serbia, a matter of obvious \"self-determination\" that NATO granted to Kosovo Albanians and everybody but Serbs (for documentation on these points, see this Monthly Review article I co-authored with David Peterson in October, 2007).
Many well-qualified observers of the Bosnia wars were appalled at the biased reporting and gullibility of mainstream journalists, who followed a party line and swallowed anything the Bosnian Muslim (and U.S.) officials told them. The remarkable inflation of claims of Serb evil and violence (and playing down of NATO-clients\' violence), with fabricated \"concentration camps,\" \"rape camps,\" and similar Nazi- and Auschwitz-like analogies, caused the onetime head of the U.S. intelligence section in Sarajevo, Lieutenant Colonel John Sray, to state back in 1995 that
America has not been so pathetically deceived since Robert McNamara helped to micromanage and escalate the Vietnam War…Popular perceptions pertaining to the Bosnian Muslim government…have been forged by a prolific propaganda machine. A strange combination of three major spin doctors, including public relations (PR) firms in the employ of the Bosniacs, media pundits, and sympathetic elements of the US State Department, have managed to manipulate illusions to further Muslim goals.
Numerous others made the same point: Cedric Thornberry, a high UN official who investigated atrocities in Bosnia wrote in Foreign Policy in 1996 that
By early 1993 a consensus developed — especially in the United States, but also in some Western European countries and prominently in parts of the international liberal media — that the Serbs were the only villains…This view did not correspond to the perceptions of successive senior UN personnel in touch with daily events..[and one kindly soul at UN headquarters] warned me to take cover — the fix is on.
The same point was made by Canadian General Lewis Mackenzie, who insisted that \"it was not a black-and-white picture and that \'bad\' buys had not killed \'good\' guys. The situation was far more complex\" (Globe & Mail, July 15, 2005). The same was said by former NATO Deputy Commander Charles Boyd, former UNPROFOR Commander Satish Nambiar, UN officials Philip Corwin and Carlos Martins Branco, and former U.S. State Department official George Kenney. But anybody who parted from the party line was ignored or marginalized.
When George Kenney changed his mind from anti-Serb interventionist to critic, he was quickly dropped by the mainstream media. Journalist Peter Brock, who wrote \"Dateline Yugoslavia: The Partisan Press,\" in Foreign Policy\'s Winter 1993-1994 issue, which documented systematic bias and errors, was viciously attacked and driven into multi-year silence. A reporter like David Binder of The New York Times who refused to adhere to the party-demonization line was soon taken off the beat.
An important part of the fix was dishonest demonization, as with the famous August 1992 picture of Fikret Alic, an emaciated prisoner behind barbed wire in a Serb \"concentration camp.\" But the UK journalists had pushed forward a man who was sick and quite unrepresentative: the barbed wire was around the journalists, not the camp, and it was a transit camp, not a concentration camp. Western journalists went berserk over these alleged camps, but failed to report the Red Cross finding that \"Serbs, Croats, and Muslims all run detention camps and must share equal blame.\" John Burns\' Pulitzer for 1993 was based heavily on his interview with an alleged Serb killer-rapist, Borislav Herak, who later confessed that after torture he had recited lines forced on him by his Bosnian Muslim captors.
The joint Pulitzer winner in 1993 was Roy Gutman, who specialized in hearsay evidence and handouts from Croatian and Bosnian Muslim propaganda sources. Gutman never got around to Croat and Muslim camps. His and other journalists\' claims about \"an archipelago of [Serb] sex-enslavement camps\" were spectacular and wrong — ultimately, there were more credible affidavits of Serb than Bosnian Muslim women rape victims. (For an excellent discussion of the wild news reports versus ascertainable facts, see Chapter Five of Peter Brock\'s Media Cleansing: Dirty Reporting [GM Books, 2005]). All these journalists portrayed the Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegović as a devotee of ethnic tolerance; none ever quoted his Islamic Declaration, which proclaimed that \"there is neither peace nor coexistence between the \'Islamic religion\' and non-Islamic social and political institutions.\" For an extensive discussion of Izetbegović\'s close relations with Iran and commitment to an Islamic state, see John Schindler\'s Unholy Terror (Zenith Press, 2007), which I reviewed in Z Magazine.
Another part of the fix was the failure to pay any attention to crimes that preceded brutal Serb actions. This was frequent, although there certainly were cases where the Serbs (mainly paramilitary forces) struck first. But the tit-for-tat was common and much of it, and many of the mutual fears, were traceable back to the mass murders — disproportionately of Serbs — of World War II, the Nazi occupation, and Croatian fascist Ustasha. This background of truly mass killing was blacked out in the mainstream propaganda system.
Most important in recent tit-for-tat was the Srebrenica case, where the background to the Serb behavior in July 1995 was (and remains) ignored. You won\'t read in the U.S. press the claim by veteran British journalist Joan Phillips that by March 31, 1993, \"out of 9,300 Serbs who used to live (in the Srebrenica municipality), less than 900 remain…only three Serbian villages remain and around 26 have been destroyed.\" (\"Victims and Villains in Bosnia\'s War,\" South Slav Journal, Spring-Summer 1992 — published in 1993). Many more were destroyed after that, and a 1995 Serb monograph entitled The Book of the Dead listed 3,287 Serbs from the Srebrenica region who were killed in the three years before July 1995. Serb forensic expert Dr. Zoran Stankovic and his team uncovered over a thousand Serb bodies in the Srebrenica area well before July 1995, and General Lewis Mackenzie has stated that \"evidence to date suggests that he (Naser Oric, a Bosnian Muslim commander in Srebrenica) was responsible for killing as many Serb civilians outside Srebrenica as the Bosnian Serb army was for massacring Bosnian Muslims inside the town.\" Stankovic and the Serb authorities could never get the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) or Western media interested in these massacres.
A microcosm of the bias of the ICTY can be seen in its treatment of Naser Oric. When a video turned up in 2005 showing an alleged Bosnian Serb execution of six Bosnian Muslims (its provenance and authenticity uncertain), this received widespread and indignant attention in the West, and was alleged to be a \"smoking gun\" proving the 8,000 executed at Srebrenica. But there are more clearly authentic videos that Oric showed to Toronto Star journalist Bill Schiller and Washington Post reporter John Pomfret, in which Oric brags about the Serb killings and beheadings displayed for them, and claims to have killed 114 Serbs in just one of these incidents. Pomfret had a single back page article on this, Schiller two, and otherwise silence reigned. Nobody said this was a \"smoking gun\" proving that Serb victimization in the Srebrenica area was massive and that the supposed \"demilitarization\" of that \"safe area\" was a fraud. There was no comment when it took the ICTY till 2002 to indict Oric, charging him not with killing but failure to control his subordinates in six cases, and ultimately throwing out the case on a technicality. The ICTY never took evidence from Schiller or Pomfret, and failed to use the videos they had seen as part of the evidence.
The ICTY also failed to take the evidence of Ibran Mustafic, a Bosnian Muslim official in Srebrenica, who in his recent book, Planned Chaos, declares Oric to be \"a war criminal without par,\" and describes personally observed gruesome murders by Oric. French General Philippe Morillon, was also not called, although he had testified in the Milosevic trial, claiming that Oric \"took no prisoners,\" and that his mass killings from the \"safe area\" had been the key factor in explaining Serb vengefulness in their takeover of Srebrenica.
The ICTY wasn\'t an instrument of justice — it was a faux-judicial arm of NATO, created to service its aims in the Balkan wars, which it did in numerous ways. But a key role was to focus on, demonize, isolate and condemn Serbs, who were the NATO target. Whenever NATO needed a lift, the ICTY was there to help — indicting Karadzic and Mladic explicitly to remove them as negotiators at Dayton; indicting Milosevic in May 1999 just as NATO was starting to draw criticism for its bombing of Serbian civilian facilities (war crimes). For crushing analyses of the ICTY and its role, see Travesty by John Laughland (Pluto Press, 2007) and Michael Mandel\'s How America Gets Away with Murder (Pluto Press, 2004).
Inflating Serb killings was institutionalized early in the Yugoslavia conflict, crucially helped by media and liberal-left gullibility. There was huge dependence on Bosnian Muslim and U.S. officials, who lied often, but were never doubted by the press. In the case of the infamous Markale Market massacre on August 27, 1993, timed just before a NATO meeting at which bombing the Serbs was approved, key experts and observers on the scene — UK, French, Canadian, UN, even U.S. — were convinced that this was carried out by the Bosnian Muslims. But this could make no headway in the mainstream media. The Bosnian Muslims claimed 200,000 dead by early 1993 (and of course, exclusively Serb concentration and rape camps) and it was swallowed, along with the alleged drive for a \"Greater Serbia.\"
The same inflation took place regarding Kosovo both before and after the bombing war, with an alleged pre-war genocide and a more wildly claimed bombing-war genocide (with the State Department estimating as many as 500,000 Kosovo Albanians murdered). These were all big lies. The 200,000 (later, up to 300,000) has shrunk to 100,000, including about 65,000 civilians, on all sides in Bosnia. The prewar Kosovo toll was diminished to some 2,000 in the year before the bombing, a majority of them victims of the KLA rather than the Serbs (according to British Defense Secretary George Robertson), and the body-plus-missing total for Kosovo during the bombing war contracted to some 6,000-7,000 on all sides. But there were neither apologies nor reassessment from the mainstream media or liberal apologists for the \"good war.\"
They still have Srebrenica. But like the other inflated or untrue elements of the demonization process, they have it by cheating. There\'s no doubt that there were executions at Srebrenica, but nothing like 8,000 and very possibly not any more than the number of Serb civilians killed by Naser Oric in the Srebrenica areas, as suggested by General Lewis Mackenzie (who in my opinion was conservative on this point). The morality tale rests heavily on failure to acknowledge that Srebrenica wasn\'t a demilitarized \"safe area\" but a protected Bosnian Muslim military base that had been used to decimate the local Serb population. It also rests on the failure to see that the massacre was immensely useful, like the Markale Market massacre, with the hope and expectation that it would produce a NATO military response. Bosnian Muslim leaders were crying \"genocide\" even before the Serbs captured Srebrenica.
It also rests on numbers manipulation. There were only about 2,000 bodies found near Srebrenica after intense searches over the next six years, not all Bosnian Muslims and those that were not necessarily executed. There had been intense fighting outside Srebrenica, but it was convenient for numbers inflation that these deaths could be ignored and any \"missing\" could be assumed executed.
The idea that the Serbs moved several thousand bodies en masse has never been plausible: Trucking them would have been easily caught by satellite surveillance — no such pictures have been produced — and some of the alleged new graves were closer to Srebrenica than the alleged places of removal. The belated grave findings after the year 2000 have been under the control of the Bosnian Muslim leadership, which has provided disinformation from 1992 on a very consistent basis. Their post-2000 findings and DNA identifications have been further compromised by their very unscientific handling of the body remains (in the ground five or more years), their inability to distinguish between bodies killed in fighting and executed, or those that may have died before or after 1995, and their frequent timing to reinforce political events.
The continuous publicity over Srebrenica, like its initial surge, has been hugely political — this selective and inflated victimization has political payoffs for the victims and their patrons, along with psychological rewards in inflicting pain on longstanding enemies and targets. And in this case, the imperial rulers aren\'t only able to point to an allegedly justified \"humanitarian intervention\" to help cover over their larger plans in a global projection of power, but they have been able to transform the Balkans into a staging ground for NATO\'s post-Cold war expansionist order.
Edward S. Herman, Professor Emeritus of Finance at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, is the author of many books on economics, foreign policy, and the media, including Degraded Capability: The Media and the Kosovo Crisis (with Philip Hammond, eds., Pluto, 2000).