The Srebrenica Massacre

Don’t know whether or not you’ve had the chance to look over Edward Herman’s “The Politics of the Srebrenica Massacre,” first posted to ZNet last Thursday, and then circulated around who-knows-how-many other websites since. It is a powerful analysis of the nexus that (let us say) for the past 15 years has existed between (a) the U.S.-dominated NATO-bloc, particularly following its liberation from containment by the old Soviet bloc after the collapse of the Soviet bloc (late 1989) and, indeed, the collapse of the Soviet Union itself (late 1991), on the one hand, and on the other (b) the surviving NATO-bloc’s material and propagandistic exploitation of the wars over the breakup of Yugoslavia, culminating in their propagandistic uses of the fall-evacuation of the Srebrenica enclave ten years ago. But especially the phony moralistic exploitation of these wars by Western propagandists, perhaps the purest expression of which was Christopher Hitchens’ late 1995 assertion that these were wars "between all those who favor ethnic and religious partition and all those who oppose it"—so that if one wanted to be morally hip, and to have one’s work count, one knew which side to take, and how to frame the conflicts. To excerpt the several paragraphs that comprise Herman’s "Conclusion" (minus the footnotes):

The “Srebrenica massacre” is the greatest triumph of propaganda to emerge from the Balkan wars. Other claims and outright lies have played their role in the Balkan conflicts, but while some have retained a modest place in the propaganda repertoire despite challenge (Racak, the Markale massacre, the Serb refusal to negotiate at Rambouillet, 250,000 Bosnian dead, the aim of a Greater Serbia as the driving force in the Balkan wars), the Srebrenica massacre reigns supreme for symbolic power. It is the symbol of Serb evil and Bosnian Muslim victimhood, and the justice of the Western dismantling of Yugoslavia and intervention there at many levels, including a bombing war and colonial occupations of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. But the link of this propaganda triumph to truth and justice is non-existent. The disconnection with truth is epitomized by the fact that the original estimate of 8,000, including 5,000 “missing”–who had left Srebrenica for Bosnian Muslim lines—was maintained even after it had been quickly established that several thousand had reached those lines and that several thousand more had perished in battle. This nice round number lives on today in the face of a failure to find the executed bodies and despite the absence of a single satellite photo showing executions, bodies, digging, or trucks transporting bodies for reburial. The media have carefully refrained from asking questions on this point, despite Albright’s August 1995 promise that “We will be watching.” That Albright statement, and the photos she did display at the time, helped divert attention from the ongoing “Krajina massacre” of Serbs in Croatian Krajina, an ethnic cleansing process of great brutality and wider scope than that at Srebrenica, in which there was less real fighting than at Srebrenica, mainly attacks on and the killing and removal of defenseless civilians. At Srebrenica the Bosnian Serbs moved women and children to safety, and there is no evidence of any of them being murdered; whereas in Krajina there was no such separation and an estimated 368 women and children were killed, along with many too old and infirm to flee. One measure of the propaganda success of the “Srebrenica massacre” is that the possibility that the intense focus on the Srebrenica massacre was serving as a cover for the immediately following “Krajina massacre,” supported by the United States, was outside the orbit of thought of the media. For the media, Srebrenica helped bring about Krajina, and the Serbs had it coming. The media have played an important role in making the Srebrenica massacre a propaganda triumph. As noted earlier, the media had become a co-belligerent by 1991, and all standards of objectivity disappeared in their subservience to the pro-Bosnian Muslim and anti-Serb agenda. Describing the reporting of Christine Amanpour and others on a battle around Goradze, U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel John Sray wrote back in October 1995 that these news reports “were devoid of any semblance of truth,” that Americans were suffering from “a cornucopia of disinformation,” that “America has not been so pathetically deceived” since the Vietnam War, and that popular perceptions of Bosnia “have been forged by a prolific propaganda machine..[that has] managed to manipulate illusions to further Muslim goals.” That propaganda machine also conquered the liberals and much of the left in the United States, who swallowed the dominant narrative of the evil Serbs seeking hegemony, employing uniquely brutal and genocidal strategies, and upsetting a previous multi-cultural haven in Bosnia—run by Osama bin Laden’s friend and ally Alija Izetbegovic, and with rectification brought belatedly by Clinton, Holbrooke and Albright working closely with Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia! The liberal/left war coalition needed to find the Serbs demons in order to justify imperial warfare, and they did so by accepting and internalizing a set of lies and myths that make up the dominant narrative. This liberal/”cruise missile left” combo was important in helping develop the “humanitarian intervention” rationale for attacking Serbia on behalf of the Kosovo Liberation Army, and in fact preparing the ground for Bush’s eventual basing of his own wars on the quest for “liberation.” The Srebrenica massacre helped make the liberals and CML true believers in the crusade in the Balkans and gave moral backup to their servicing the expanding imperial role of their country and its allies. Former UN official Cedric Thornberry, writing in 1996, noted that “prominently in parts of the international liberal media” the position is “that the Serbs were the only villains,” and back at UN headquarters in the spring of 1993 he was warned: “Take cover—the fix is on.” The fix was on, even if only tacit and built-in to the government-media-Tribunal relationship. It helped make the Srebrenica massacre the symbol of evil and, with the help of Tribunal “justice,” and support of liberals and [cruise-missile leftists], provided a cover for the U.S.-NATO attack on and dismantling of Yugoslavia, colonial occupations in Bosnia and Kosovo, and justification for “humanitarian intervention” more broadly. What more could be asked of a propaganda system?

The fix indeed. And years before the head of the British MI6 told his colleagues about the "intelligence and facts…being fixed around the policy" for very much the same kind of imperial war—contrasting rhetorics aside, of course, the one to be justified by the conjunction of genocide and humanitarian intervention, the other by the conjunction of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. As Cees Wiebes writes in his superb Intelligence and the War in Bosnia 1992-1995 ("4. The Perception and information position of the Western intelligence services," Lit Verlag, 2002-2003, pp. 66-67):

The American services originally adopted a wait-and-see attitude to the conflict in Bosnia. They did not work with black-and-white views on the roles and operating methods of the warring factions; according to the services, the Muslims were also guilty of misdeeds. It was concluded that the Bosnian Muslims were often guilty of frustrating agreements and peace arrangements in the political and military spheres, and that they bore a large responsibility for the poor humanitarian situation in Sarajevo and other areas. At the end of 1994, the CIA in particular performed an about-turn, and the service started to adhere to the Clinton administration’s course more closely. According to a senior US intelligence official, Woolsey resigned from the CIA because he had no working relationship with the President. He had only two semi-private meetings with the President in two years and thus no real direct access to Clinton who was more involved with domestic priorities. Apart from that, Woolsey was not an intimate of the Clinton team. Despite the fact that vice-president Al Gore in November 1994 asked him to stay, Woolsey decided to resign. There is no doubt that the departure of Woolsey, in early 1995 somewhat contributed to the fact of the CIA becoming more political and more hawkish. Later, the CIA was even accused of releasing ‘blatantly distorting’ intelligence products to support the Muslims’ case. However, Woolsey doubts that the CIA was distorting intelligence on this subject but admitted that he had no first-hand knowledge either way.

The "about-turn" about which Wiebes writes very well may have occurred within the centers of the American "intelligence" community as late as Wiebes reports, but around the Clinton White House, and above all around the American intelligentsia and journalistic communities, it preceded late 1994 by a considerable margin—perhaps by as much as two-and-a-half years. If not longer. The content of this "about-turn," however, couldn’t have been clearer: In the official narrative about the breakup of Yugoslavia, one of the warring factions wore black hats, and the others white hats. With the Great Cowboy in the West wearing the biggest and the whitest hat of all. About which, nothing more needs to be added here. For the rest, read Herman’s analysis. But this is, and has always been, the real politics behind the "Srebrenica Massacre." No matter how simplistic. How comic-strip-like. How false. Still. I’ve always been intrigued by what it must be like to live beneath the boot of the kind of Western moral imperialism that we see reaching its climax this month at the Memorial Center Potocari, in the vicinity of Srebrenica, way off in the easternmost tip of the Republika Srpska, where it borders Serbia. Also of great interest to me has been what kind of psycho-historical Groupthink must be at work behind the legions of politicos and intellectuals and moralists and, ultimately, body-counters who, over the past ten years, have impelled the Bosnian Muslims to keep digging up bodies, and the Bosnian Serbs (or Serbs as an entire ethnic group) to keep telling the world that they are truly sorry, and to confess to their criminality. Imagine having this, as a way of public life, shoved down one’s throat for all of these years, culminating with the current spectacles of grieving and commemoration! Cynical, you think? Then you tell me whom it is that keeps the noses of these peoples plowing the dirt of the former Yugoslavia, inhaling the stench of the graves. On this Sunday and Monday in July, 2005, one can’t pick up a newspaper and escape the phenomenon—and this despite the interruption caused by the London bombings last Tuesday. Doubtless a successful example of what one veteran of the wars over Yugoslavia, Rudner Finn, likes to call "surround sound" programming: The development of "messages that will best resonate with critical stakeholders on multiple levels to influence their perceptions about the company and its performance in key markets," as this Washington-based P.R. firm explains the approach it has been using for years. Except that here, the so-called critical stakeholders have always been the Western politicos and moralists—the ones whom, more than anyone else, have a critical stake in the white-hat, black-hat narrative of the breakup of Yugoslavia, and will go to their graves clinging to it. Just as the so-called company is precisely this narrative, precisely this reigning version of the wars there: The version expressed in the quote from Hitchens (above), wherein American-led NATO-bloc arms intervened to make things right—though much too late, in most sub-versions. Henceforth just as they have marched, they will continue to march, good little soldiers all, each in lockstep with the others: The Australian. The Boston Globe. The Christian Science Monitor. The Los Angeles Times. The New York Times. USA Today. The Washington Post. The International Herald Tribune. The Toronto Star. The Financial Times. The Guardian. The Independent. The Sunday Times. And so on. Hell. Even the typically reliable New Statesman has fallen for the white-hat, black-hat script. It seems they simply cannot help themselves. All victims of Groupmorality. All the way around. "Up to 50,000 mourners were expected at the memorial for Europe’s worst massacre since World War Two," Reuters is reporting, "among them former U.S. Balkans envoy Richard Holbrooke who brokered the Dayton Accords to bring Bosnia an uneasy peace." (Richard Holbrooke: Now there is a critical stakeholder in the reigning narrative if ever there were one.) "A new mass grave thought to contain the bodies of people killed in the Srebrenica massacre has been found, the Bosnian government has said," the BBC News World Edition reports, by way of adding an exclamation point to Monday’s memorials. The European Parliament, Green Party, and Berlin’s Heinrich Boell Foundation held a conference in Sarajevo on Sunday. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum will devote Monday to a program on the Srebrenica massacre. A document titled "Remembering Srebrenica" has been posted to the website of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Even Amnesty International USA has been sponsoring a paid "Srebrenica Ten Years Later" weblink for the sake of the search engines. These are but a trickle of what’s happening right now. None of them holds a candle to the events scheduled Monday in and around Srebrenica. Not that I believe for one moment that the motive behind any of these memorials, commemorations, and 10th anniversary web-endeavors has had more than two- to three- to maybe five-percent’s worth of the spirit of truth and reconciliation behind them. (Or "transitional justice," to use the even sexier phrase.) Instead, what I think they betray is the depth of the commitment to the reigning narrative—to the black-hats and the white-hats and the avenging powers on high. This—and to Western moral imperialism. Traffic in which still flourishes. Even today. Postscript: The Starboard at Portside Don’t know whether or not you’ve noticed Edward Herman’s letter to Portside, which was placed into circulation some time on Saturday: "2) Re: Kandic and the Serb Video" (July 9). But I for one find it more than a little interesting that Portside has chosen to publish (i.e., to circulate among its listserve, with the Internet’s sky’s the limit beyond this) an intelligent and critical set of comments on Natasa Kandic, the breakup of Yugoslavia, the "Srebrenica Massacre," and the Left’s (for which Portside can serve us as a proxy) decade-and-a-half-long collapse on any and all topics that have touched on the former Yugoslavia, as nothing more important than one of its daily "Tidbits" (or letters to Portside), rather than as one of the daily Portside entries in its own right—in point of fact, how Portside had treated Daniel Williams’ gravely compromised original drawn, of all places, from that leftist bastion the Washington Post ("Srebrenica Video Vindicates Long Pursuit by Serb Activist," June 26, 2005). (For the Washington Post‘s June 25 original, see "Srebrenica Video Vindicates Long Pursuit by Serb Activist.") And on top of this, within its "Tidbits" for July 9, Portside gave priority to no less than two short and inoffensive letters lamenting the predominance of sports fare within the establishment media, rather than to a critique of power and ideology and the service of "portsiders" to a narrative of the breakup of Yugoslavia wherein emotionalism has been not only allowed, but been mandatory and often hysterical, and typified by the Left’s "taking sides." As if they were watching the New York Yankees play the New York Mets in American Baseball’s World Series. As if the internal wars and grudges then rending the former Yugoslavia were but spectacles staged on behalf of these phony moralists and "internationalists" of the Left, and they, in their great wisdom, rooting for one side in the gladiatorial display, and giving the thumbs-down to the other. So (a) the uncritical, unleftist, and no-better-than reigning-narrative-regurgitating Washington Post original receives prominent treatment at Portside, but the highly critical, leftist response-to-the-contrary is given the "Tidbit" treatment; and (b) in a venue wherein lamentations are circulated about the predominance of sports fare and celebrity gossip in the establishment media, yet more lamentations about sports fare are given greater prominence than incisive criticism of perhaps the single most egregiously misrepresented event of the decade of the 1990s. Is Portside for real?

Srebrenica And the Politics of War Crimes, Srebrenica Research Group, July, 2005 “The Politics of the Srebrenica Massacre,” Edward S. Herman, ZNet, July 7, 2005 "Debating Srebrenica," Edward S. Herman et al., ZNet, July7 on "The real story behind Srebrenica," Lewis MacKenzie, Toronto Globe and Mail, July 14, 2005 (as posted to the Centre for Peace in the Balkans website) "Srebrenica, Mon Amour: An Ostracized Narrative," Gilles d’Aymery, Swans, July 18, 2005 "Srebrenica: Prolonging the Wounds of War," David Chandler, Spiked Online, July 20, 2005 "A chronicle of deaths foretold – The Srebrenica massacre," The Economist, July 7, 2005 "10 Years After Massacre, 2 Top Bosnian Serbs Still Hunted," Nicholas Wood and David Rohde, New York Times, July 8, 2005 "Massacre memorial clouded by desire for bloody revenge," Anthony Loyd, The Times, July 8, 2005 "Ten years on, survivors of Srebrenica march again on road to the killing fields," Peter Popham, The Independent, July 9, 2005 "Srebrenica: Lessons of a terrible blunder," Alexander Ivanko, International Herald Tribune, July 9, 2005 "Srebrenica: Anniversary of a genocide," Janine Di Giovanni, International Herald Tribune, July 9, 2005 "Time is running out for the bad guys," Rosa Brooks, Los Angeles Times, July 10, 2005 "10 Years Later, Tormenting Memories of Srebrenica," David Rohde and Nicholas Wood, New York Times, July 10, 2005 "‘Damned’ of Srebrenica bury their dead," Jon Swain, Sunday Times, July 10, 2005 "Bystanders To a Massacre; How the U.N. Failed Srebrenica," Edward P. Joseph, Washington Post, July 10, 2005 "Unfinished Balkan Business," R. Nicholas Burns, Washington Post, July 10, 2005 "10 years on, bungles haunt UN," David Nason, The Australian, July 11, 2005 "The Three Lessons of Srebrenica," Swanee Hunt, Boston Globe, July 11, 2005 "Srebrenica, 10 years on – the ‘what ifs’," David Scheffer, Christian Science Monitor, July 11, 2005 "Bosnia is shackled as long as war criminals are free," Javier Solana, Financial Times, July 11 2005 "Srebrenica: The scar of Europe," Editorial, The Guardian, July 11, 2005 "Lessons from Bosnia in Dealing with an Atrocity," Editorial, The Independent, July 11, 2005 [$$$$$] "Srebrenica’s Scars May Never Fade," Alissa J. Rubin, Los Angeles Times, July 11, 2005 "Bombshell in the Balkans," Tim Judah, New Statesman, July 11, 2005 "Bosnian Muslims Retrace Steps of Those Killed in 1995," David Rohde, New York Times, July 11, 2005 "The Wages of Denial," Courtney Angela Brkic, New York Times, July 11, 2005 "Haunted by 8,000 ghosts," Sandro Contenta, Toronto Star, July 11, 2005 "Though Bosnia’s war is long over, battle lines remain clearly drawn," Beth Kampschror, USA Today, July 11, 2005 Balkan Witness, ZNet, May 24, 2004 Counting Bodies at the World Trade Center, June 14, 2004 Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Neocolonial Community, June 30, 2004 Srebrenica and the Neocolonial Community, ZNet, October 17, 2004 Not-So-Strange Bedfellows, ZNet, July 3, 2005 The Srebrenica Massacre, July 10, 2005


Postscript (February 15, 2006): For those among you who have never come across it before, there is a relatively new weblog titled:

Srebrenica Genocide Blog

Believe it or not.

According to the information on the website, this blog was launched in early December, 2005—so it’s only a little more than two months old.

Still.  Notice the timing: Shortly after the October 31, 2005 start of The Guardian – Chomsky thing.  (The endless points and counterpoints and recriminations.)  The formal halving of the estimated death-toll to have been caused during the 1992 – 1995 wars over Bosnia and Herzegovina to somewhere around 100,000.  But now, crucially, by researchers working for the Demographic Unit of the Office of the Prosecutor at the ICTY.  Similar work being carried out by the Sarajevo-based Research and Documentation Center.  As well as the other contests to have arisen over the questions of body-counts.  Causes and intent.  The historical record. (Who gets to keep it, ultimately?  And who doesn’t?)  And the whole series of ludicrous and politically motivated charges these overlapping subject areas have generated the past eight months or so.  But above all those tied to the most ludicrous charges of them all: That there was indeed an event best characterized as the Bosnian Genocide.  (By which the Bosnian Genocide Affirmers and the Bosnian Genocide Promoters mean a project undertaken by ethnic Serbs during the wars in Bosnia and Herzegovina, not just to kill their enemies in the war and to seize and occupy their enemies’ territory, but also to [fill in the blank, as nobody within the camp of Affirmers and Promoters has ever been able to do].)  And that the Truth of this particular Genocide, namely the Bosnian Genocide, which evidently was a Genocide and forever will be a Genocide, whether 250,000, 200,000, or 100,000 people on all sides were killed during the wars, is so well-established, so important, and so incorrigibly true, no one can dispute the use of the term ‘genocide’ with respect to the events there and then, without also being guilty of the intellectual and moral crimes that go by the names denial and revisionism.  (For an exemplary instance of this political approach to the historical record, and the campaign to scare off challengers to those who’d like to keep the record all to themselves, see "The Guardian, Noam Chomsky, and the Milosevic Lobby," Marko Attila Hoare, The Henry Jackson Society, February 4, 2006.  Though this kind of work is far from alone.)   

The Srebrenica Genocide Blog includes re-postings of material lifted from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.  As well as other electronic sources.  Such as the aforementioned Marko Attila Hoare ("The Left Revisionists," "Chomsky’s Genocide Denial," "The Guardian, Noam Chomsky and the Milosevic Lobby"), Bill Weinberg’s World War 4 Report ("Why Does Z Magazine Support Genocide?"), and other beauties ("Srebrenica — Defending Truth," "Edward Herman on The lists of Missing at Srebrenica," and a post that purports to define the phrase ‘Srebrenica Genocide Denial and Revisionism‘, among others).  (See below, where I’ll post a copy of this very last item on the menu.) 

The Srebrenica Genocide Blog provides links to (i.e., recommends) seven other websites, including the Bosnian Institute, Balkan Witness, and the Henry Jackson Society.

Last, the Srebrenica Genocide Blog is run by a fellow in Canada named Daniel (email: [email protected] ).  Though nothing else is available on the gentleman that I’ve been able to find.

War-related Deaths in the 1992–1995 Armed Conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina: A Critique of Previous Estimates and Recent Results,” Ewa Tabeau and Jakub Bijak, European Journal of Population, Volume 21, June, 2005, pp. 187-215
Population Losses in Bosnia and Herzegovina 92-95 Project, Research and Documentation Center, Sarajevo
"Genocide Is Not a Matter of Numbers," Emir Suljagic interviews Mirsad Tokaca of the Sarajevo-based Research and Documentation Center, Bosnian Institute News & Analysis, January 19, 2006

Srebrenica and the Politics of War Crimes (Homepage), Srebrenica Research Group

"The Bosnian Genocide Promoters," ZNet, February 15, 2006

FYA ("For your archives"): One item lifted from the Srebrenica Genocide Blog.  The list of "keywords" reproduced at the very bottom are beyond irony.  To repeat them for you here: "Srebrenica Genocide, Srebrenica Massacre, Srebrenica Genocide Denial, Srebrenica Massacre Denial, Srebrenica Genocide Revisionism, Srebrenica Massacre Revisionism, Srebrenica Genocide Deniers, Srebrenica Massacre Deniers, Bosniaks, Bosnian Muslims, Bosniak, Bosnian Muslim, Bosniacs, Muslims, Bosniac, Muslim."  Somehow or other, the author neglected to mention Satan.—Please see to it that this mistake does not happen again.

* http://srebrenica-genocide.blogspot.com/2006/02/srebrenica-genocide-denial-revisionism.html#links
09 February, 2006


Srebrenica Genocide denial, also called Srebrenica Genocide revisionism, is the belief that the Srebrenica genocide did not occur, or, more specifically: that far fewer than around 8,100 Srebrenica Bosniaks were killed by the Bosnian Serb Army (numbers below 5,000, most often around 2,000 are typically cited); that there never was a centrally-planned Bosnian Serb Army’s attempt to exterminate the Bosniaks of Srebrenica; and/or that there were no mass killings at the extermination sites.

Those who hold this position often further claim that Bosniaks and/or Western media know that the Srebrenica genocide never occurred, yet that they are engaged in a massive conspiracy to maintain the illusion of a Srebrenica Genocide to further their political agenda. These views are not accepted as credible by objective historians.

Srebrenica genocide deniers almost always prefer to be called Srebrenica Genocide revisionists. Most scholars contend that the latter term is misleading. Historical revisionism is a well-accepted part of the study of history; it is the reexamination of historical facts, with an eye towards updating histories with newly discovered, more accurate, or less biased information. The implication is that history as it has been traditionally told may not be entirely accurate. The term historical revisionism has a second meaning, the illegitimate manipulation of history for political purposes. For example, Srebrenica Genocide deniers (or Srebrenica Genocide revisionists as they like to be called) typically willfully misuse or ignore historical records in order to attempt to prove their conclusions.

While historical revisionism is the re-examination of accepted history, with an eye towards updating it with newly discovered, more accurate, and less-biased information, Srebrenica Genocide deniers/revisionists have been using it to seek evidence in support of their own preconceived theory, omitting substantial facts.

Most Srebrenica Genocide deniers reject the term Genocide and insist that they do not deny the Srebrenica Massacre, prefering to be called "revisionists". They are nevertheless commonly labeled as Srebrenica Genocide deniers to differentiate them from historical revisionists and because their goal is to deny the existance of the Srebrenica Genocide, by omitting substantial facts, rather than honestly using historical evidence and methodology to examine the event.


[keywords: Srebrenica Genocide, Srebrenica Massacre, Srebrenica Genocide Denial, Srebrenica Massacre Denial, Srebrenica Genocide Revisionism, Srebrenica Massacre Revisionism, Srebrenica Genocide Deniers, Srebrenica Massacre Deniers, Bosniaks, Bosnian Muslims, Bosniak, Bosnian Muslim, Bosniacs, Muslims, Bosniac, Muslim]


Leave a comment