The Politics of the Srebrenica Massacre by Edward S. Herman

Re: The Politics of the Srebrenica Massacre by Edward S. Herman; July 07, 2005

Dear Z Magazine,

While people the world over are expressing solidarity with the survivors of the Srebrenica massacre and demanding that the criminals be brought to justice, I was dismayed to see that Z-magazine, “dedicated to resisting injustice”, saw fit to publish Edward S. Herman’s article which insults the survivors by attempting to reduce that tragedy to “politics”.

I will not refute Herman’s allegations here. That has been done – and will continue to be done. I must say a few words about Herman’s method, however.

Herman contradicts just about every source you can think of which people of good faith consider reliable. I’m not talking about the mainstream press, but the Red Cross, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Doctors without Borders, Physicians for Human Rights, the UN, etc. These are the same sources we all cite approvingly when they denounce US crimes. All of these organizations denounce the massacre of approximately 8000 men and boys in the Srebrenica enclave in the days following July 11, 1995. Is Herman seriously implying that these organizations had no research teams on the ground and no better source of information than the mainstream media?

Herman likes to put forth a highly questionable statement and then tell us that nobody else is talking about it. For example, “even though only rarely discussed there is a major issue of how many were executed…”. The reason this question is rarely discussed is that it is not a major issue and not even a minor issue. Only a few eccentrics still try to make an issue of it.
Z-Mag readers are sensitive to media bias, and so Herman imagines that they will swallow anything he cares to serve up, if he can say that the media are ignoring it. You can use this method to plant the idea that the moon is made of pineapple pudding: just say “this question is rarely discussed…”.

A related Herman tactic is to assume that every position taken by the mainstream media and the majority of writers on the subject is suspect, just because it is a majority position: “[The Srebrenica massacre] is regularly cited as proof of Serb evil and genocidal intent…”. Thus, what is “regularly cited” is bound to be false for that very reason. The Serbs are generally considered to be the main aggressors in the war – therefore it’s false.

Once we “accept” that the Serbs are not the aggressors, or not moreso than others, it becomes “clear” that if the US, NATO and the ICTY have focused on Serbian crimes, it can only be that “punishing the Serbs” serves their own interests. There can be no other reason for moving against the Serbs on the battle field (since the Serbs are not an aggressor) or pursuing Serbian war criminals. Nor need we examine what possible benefit the US may derive from this. The Serbs are innocent (or not more guilty than others) – we know this because they are so often accused by a mainstream propaganda machine that can do nothing but lie. Therefore, the US must have something to gain from having singled them out. Now that we know – it has been proved – that the US has some stake in punishing the Serbs, we can disregard every reference to Serb crimes as an invention of the US propaganda machine, or at the very least we can assume that there are equally weighty crimes committed by non-Serbs which they are not telling us about. This is the train of thought Herman insidiously suggests. Some may find it gratifying, but he rates a zero for logic.

This sort of pseudo-reasoning takes a particularly macabre turn when Herman turns his attention to the Bosnian Muslims:

    “A remarkable feature of  the Bosnian Muslim struggle to demonize the Serbs, in order to get NATO to come to Bosnian Muslim aid with bombs, was their willingness to kill their own people. This was most notable in the case of the ruthless bombing of Sarajevo civilians in three massacres: in 1992 (the “Breadline Massacre”), 1994 (the Markale “Market Massacre”) and a “Second Market Massacre” in 1995. In the standard narrative  the Serbs were responsible for these massacres, and it is admittedly not easy to believe that the Muslim leadership would  kill their own for political advantage even if the evidence points strongly in that direction. But these massacres were all extremely well timed to influence imminent NATO and UN decisions to intervene more forcibly on behalf of the Bosnian Muslims. More important, numerous UN officials and senior Western military officials have claimed that the evidence is strong in all three cases that the actions were planned and executed by Bosnian Muslims.”

Of course it is “not easy” to believe that the Bosnian Muslims would kill their own people – those allegations are simply preposterous. But Herman would have us think that because such a grotesque accusation is “not easy to believe”, we must believe it. If those massacres resulted in some long-overdue attention to the Bosniak predicament, we should perceive that they “were all extremely well timed to influence imminent NATO and UN decisions” (looking at events from the wrong end of the telescope, so to speak). And Herman has prepared us to see it this way, because he has “demonstrated” (by implication)  that the Bosnian Muslims were quite prepared to murder each other.

The facts can be found in many excellent books, such as:
    Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation, Laura Silber and Allan Little (1996)
    Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West, David Rieff (1995)
    The Bridge Betrayed: Religion and Genocide in Bosnia, Michael Sells
    Bosnia: A Short History, Noel Malcolm (second edition, 1996)
    Srebrenica: Record of a War Crime, Jan Willem Honig and Norbert Both
    Endgame, David Rohde (1997)
    UN Report on Srebrenica, and reports of human rights NGO’s

The Srebrenica survivors were betrayed by Europe, America and the UN; they lost their loved ones and their homes and even their photograph albums; what’s left to them is their memory and the sharing of their story – their truth. Why try to deprive them of even that?

Julie Wornan
Member of S.S.V.D.S.
(Soutien aux Survivants de la Vall̩e de la Drina РSrebrenica), Paris

Leave a comment