Re: The Politics of the Srebrenica Massacre, by Edward S. Herman

Mr. Herman,

I was a regular reader of Z Magazine for three years when I decided last year to end that ongoing agony that would arise every time I read any of your articles regarding Bosnia.  They all were all the time so blatantly biased, misleading and false, that my only conclusion was that it was not your ignorance or misinformation.   You were a replica of the prewar Politika’s (Serbian daily) journalists in service of Milosevic, preparing the nation for everything to come.  You still are.  You use the same language, vocabulary, style and arguments as them.

While we all know that nothing is black or white, that although all sides did atrocities (just as all sides did them in all wars), you lie not even pretending to do justice to all sides in what happened.  There’s always justification for all that Serbs did (otherwise, they just didn’t do it!), and there’s constant demonization of all other sides – not one right thing on their sides.  Your comparison of Arkan with Naser Oric (whose name you are misspelling all the time because you’re not getting it from original sources!) is ridiculous.  Arkan, who put together hordes of criminals in Serbia and trained them with his state’s help to go in Bosnia to kill and rape.  Oric, local commander of Bosnian Army, defending Srebenica, as of now indicted by International Criminal Tribunal. 

But then, that’s your scientific method:  throw in all that comes in mind to dilute the subject. What does the Ustasha’s (which to you is the same as Croats!) massacre of civilians – Serbs and others –in Jasenovac, which nobody denies, have to do with Srebrenica? Are you saying that Jasenovac makes it okay for Srebrenica to happen?  You had to pull in Jasenovac because you couldn’t find any historical massacre that Bosniacks did to Serbs.  This way you depicted Serbs as eternal victims, so what the heck if they from time to time kill some plane hijackers? You cite and call for a witness controversial General MacKenzie, who spent few months in Sarajevo in 1992, who built further his “reputation” in Somalia, whose name was alleged to Sonja’s motel in Vogosce (camp for women who were repeatedly raped by Chetniks).  You cite international observers from 13 years ago who were saying, to our disbelief, in the first days of shooting “they didn’t know who was doing it” or “everybody’s doing it”.  Really?

I’ve been tempted many times to respond to you, but it hurt too much.  While I can even understand reasons for all that happened in my country, I can’t say that I understood reasons for which somebody not directly involved would be so hateful to one of the sides.  Then it came to me: you are doing it purposely; I just can’t believe how obvious you are to anybody who knows anything about that region.  I previously declined the urge to say something because you don’t care about the truth.  But thirteen years after the war started, you didn’t change a bit the poisonous way in which you “explain” what happened in Balkans.  I can almost feel the breath of your hate on my skin, and I reminded myself of my obligation to tell the truth as a firsthand witness.  I owe that to those who are not among us anymore because I was there.  There are no facts that will change what you’re saying publicly.  In addition, there’s nothing that I can say to you that will not be returned against me: I must be biased because I’m one of the victims.  The fact that you forget is that in Bosnia we’re all victims.  No exception. 

I left Sarajevo when the first humanitarian aid landed, when my family was already out of food, when my father-in-law (Serb) got arrested by Chetniks for helping Muslims, when my mother (non-practicing Muslim) got forced by Serbs to leave her home at Ilidza, just before my brother and all male members of my family got put in Croat camps near Capljina.  I left Sarajevo with 6-year and 2-year sons in July of 1992 believing that we would be back in September because, was I naïve(!), war is something that happens to others, not to us.   I left Sarajevo leaving 22 members of my family behind me; they sent me out to save my sons.  I left Sarajevo after my second attempt; the first one failed in May when Arkan’s Beli Orlovi sent me back from Ilidza with the gun pointed in my head (they didn’t like my father’s name on my ID) but didn’t have enough space to hold me with other women and children who they already held in the local school to keep them for the next three days as hostages.  I left Sarajevo surrounded by heavily armed Serbs helped by ex-Yugoslav Army.  I left Sarajevo 18 months before my first husband got killed and 6 months before my cousin got killed at Pivara waiting for water with her mother.   I left Sarajevo knowing that if I started to hate, Milosevic and Karadzic won.  I left Sarajevo knowing that this will end one day, and we’ll relearn to live together again.  Hr. Herman, I know that you know that we’re not tribes that somebody forced to live together.  So, remember, because we lived all together since we came to the Balkans 13 centuries ago, we’ll continue to do it, whether you like it or not.  I don’t hate.  My children don’t hate.  My friends are still of all nationalities, today more than ever.   My family is a typical Bosnian family.  I’ll leave it to you to figure out what it means.  I bet you never spent a day on that soil.  Nor you ever spoke to Bosnians.  God forbid to any Bosniaks! They must be all terrorists!

The damage you are doing to this magazine is irreparable, however. I came to doubt seriously everything I read there because if the editor didn’t make an effort to get the truth from more than one author about the things I knew about, I wondered what else was skewed or misrepresented. Z Magazine lost credibility with me and I didn’t renew my 3-year old subscription.  I even once read a piece by Chomsky – who was my idol in the field of human rights and my teacher in linguistics, since my student years in Sarajevo – in which Herman’s influence on Balkan issues was more than evident.  That was a fist in my stomach.  What is wrong with the world? With all the testimonies, journalists, video recordings, discovered secret documents, plans, meetings… is it all just Muslim paranoia happening in Bosnia? No wonder “nobody knew” what’s was going in Nazi camps. Only today, it is in the form “Herman only knew” what was going in Bosnia.

However, after a long time, last night I thought I may see what Znet says about 10 years after Srebrenica. They may want to correct injustice after so many years.  And then I saw your name.  I really feel sick since last night.  I can’t tell you how upset I am. You are raping us all again and again.  Shame is something that decent people feel when they hurt others.  That is what I wish to you.  I don’t wish you to ever live or witness horrors or war.  I wish you to know the pain you instigate in all of us by spreading hate and lies.   

And please, do yourself a favor: don’t even try to guess my nationality.


Stela Rajic

Seattle, 7/22/05

Leave a comment