“The Srebrenica Massacre: Evidence, Context, Politics”

Shortly after the end of the Cold War, the break up of the former Yugoslavia provoked a civil war in Bosnia that claimed the lives of an estimated 100,000 people. [1] The war went on from 1992 until 1995. The combatants were Bosnian Croats, Serbs and Muslims. For its own reasons, NATO took the side of Muslim and Croat leaders. A massacre of Muslim males took place outside the town of Srebrenica when it fell to the Serbs in July of 1995. This massacre is often referred to as the worst crime perpetrated in Europe since Adolph Hitler. Sometimes, corporate pundits have even removed the words “in Europe” from that assessment.[2] According to rulings by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) which were endorsed by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) (without its own investigation), 8,000 Muslim men and boys were executed – a crime that was ruled to be genocide.

The authors of “The Srebrenica Massacre: Evidence, Context, Politics” (Edward Herman and various other writers) persuasively argue that the number of Muslims executed was greatly exaggerated and the death toll “probably no more than the number of Serbs that had been killed in Srebrenica and its environs during the preceding years by Bosnian Commander Naser Oric and his predatory gangs.” According to Serb historian, Milivoje Ivanisevic, Naser Oric’s victims numbered 3,287 by the end of the war. [3]

Some of the most odious cheerleaders for Western crimes have equated questioning the official story about Srebrenica with “Holocaust denial” – a term used to describe the outlandish and racist arguments about WWII put forth by neo Nazis.[4] “Genocide denial” is the accusation leveled at writers like Ed Herman because the ICTY found Serb leaders guilty of genocide in Srebrenica. It is not surprising to see right wing militarists lash out hysterically at authors who show, not only that Serb crimes have probably been exaggerated, but that the crimes of NATO allies in Bosnia have essentially been erased – not just “denied”. However, it is surprising to see a progressive writer like George Monbiot add his voice to those denouncing Ed Herman and his colleagues.[5] Consequently, many progressives may seriously wonder if Herman and his co-authors are really “in denial” about what took place in Srebrenica.

After reading the book – and especially after reading some of the criticism Ed Herman has taken over the years – it is more clear to me than ever that Ed Herman and his co-authors take a position that is very rational and well supported by facts. The forward to the book is written by Phillip Corwin, who was the highest ranking civilian UN official in Bosnia at the time of the Srebrenica massacre. It should be noted that some of the “conspiracy theory” the authors are accused of peddling –  for example, saying that strong evidence suggests that Bosnian Muslim leaders were willing to sacrifice their own people to assist NATO’s propaganda campaign – are not examples of “theorizing” at all. The authors simply point to conclusions drawn by highly placed people within the UN and NATO.[6]

A key word to recall about the book’s thesis is “executions”. The Srebrenica massacre happened between July 11 and July 19 of 1995. Fierce combat had been going on in the area for years between Serbs and Muslims and would continue to go on for months afterwards. While Srebrenica fell, only about 15 miles away, in the town of Zepa, Muslim troops held off a Serbian assault for twelve days, finally yielding on July 25. Additionally, the conflict displaced hundreds of thousands of people with all sides guilty of ethnic cleansing. The uncertainties about exactly when and where people died, and especially as to who died in combat and who was executed, would be very significant even if you assume that (miraculously) there was negligible bias, dishonesty and incompetence in the Western controlled institutions that did the investigating and the prosecuting.

The book drives home this basic point in various ways. One is by recalling the how the death toll of the 9/11 bombings was revised downward from an initial list of 7000 missing persons to a final death toll of 2,749 that wasn’t finalized until 2003. Jonathan Rooper, a former producer-director with BBC TV News, who wrote Chapter Four of the book, remarked

“The outrage took place in the richest city in the richest country in the world, with all of the resources necessary to get the body count right. Unlike Bosnia and Herzegovina, it was not a relatively impoverished, war-torn country with internally displaced.”

The authors might also have pointed to the estimated death toll from violence in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. There are two peer reviewed scientific studies of the death toll in Iraq as of 2006. One study, published in the Lancet medical journal, estimated a death toll from violence of 600,000. Another, published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), estimated the death toll from violence as 150,000. That is a very wide level of disagreement. The two studies did not diverge nearly as much on the death toll from all causes. The Lancet study estimated 650,000. An author of the NEJM study estimated about 400,000 deaths based on his study’s data. [7] Studies published in scientific journals demand a level of transparency that facilitates intense scrutiny. The Lancet study, in particular, was subjected to a tremendous amount of it – in very stark contrast to scientific evidence gathered about the Srebrenica massacre as the authors reveal.

Defenders of the official story about Srebrenica point to the work of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) which has matched DNA from bodies recovered from the Srebrenica area (in graves up to 60 miles away from Srebrenica according to Rooper) to a list of missing persons list derived from people who claim their relatives were among the Srebrenica “safe area” population on July 11, 1995.

The authors point to many valid reasons to consider the DNA evidence inconclusive. A partial list of those reasons include the following:

1) DNA evidence cannot answer the crucial questions of how people died (i.e. in combat or through execution) or when. The testimony of Bosnia Muslim commander Enver Hadzihasanovic to the ICTY states that 2628 troops were killed attempting to fight there way through Serb lines to safety.

2) The value of the DNA evidence depends of the accuracy of the missing person’s list to which it is matched. An understandable lack of reliable population records for Srebrenica in 1995 casts significant doubt on the accuracy of the list. Voting lists from 1996 have, according to separate investigations carried out by Milivoje Ivanisevic and Jonathan Rooper, listed a significant number of people as voters who were also listed as Srebrenica victims. There is also the refusal or inability of Bosnian Muslim officials to provide a list of troops who successfully escaped from Srebrenica by fighting their way through Serb lines.[8]

3) The ICMP’s work has not be subjected to the scrutiny that other scientific work (for example the Lancet study on Iraq mortality) has been subjected. The level of scrutiny obviously depends on how useful or embarrassing Western elites find the work. Jonathan Rooper commented

“Radovan Karadzic’s defense team has been unable to gain access to the ICMP’s DNA evidence, and even ICTY prosecutor Hildegarde Uertz-Retzlaff has acknowledged to the court that ‘The ICMP did also not provide the DNA to us.’ This is a remarkable admission: that the ICTY has neither seen nor tested the quality of the evidence on DNA provided by an interested party, the Bosnian Muslim-controlled ICMP, in coming to serious decisions on claims of ‘genocide.'”

Former heads of the ICMP have included U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and former U.S. Republican Senator Bob Dole – politicians committed to defending the imperial interests of the US government and its allies.

Unmasking the ICTY

The book shreds the credibility of the ICTY. The tribunal is shown to be transparently biased in favor of the Western governments that established it and protective of Western allies. One fact that really stands out is the ICTY’s acquittal of Bosnian Muslim commander Naser Oric, whom the tribunal did not even indict until 2003 (and on minor charges given his crimes). The ICTY initially convicted Oric and sentenced him to a trifling two year sentence. The ICTY later acquitted him.

Naser Oric videotaped his murderous raids on Serb villages and, in 1994, proudly played them for two Western journalists – Bill Schiller of the Toronto Star and John Pomfret of the Washington Post. [9] Bill Schiller, who would go on to become the Star’s foreign editor, described Oric as “blood-thirsty” and wrote

“I sat in his living room watching a shocking video version of what might have been called Nasir Oric’s Greatest Hits. There were burning houses, dead bodies, severed heads, and people fleeing. Oric grinned throughout, admiring his handiwork.” Oric explained the decapitation of one of his victims by noting that his men sometimes used “cold weapons”.

Oric also told Schiller that civilians were not “intentionally” killed in these raids but admitted that they sometimes “get in the way”. An ICTY spokesperson made the incredible remark that they “found no evidence that there were civilian casualties in the attacks on Serb villages in his [Oric’s] theater of operations.”
The ICTY never indicted Bosnian Muslim President Alija Izetbegovic or Croatian President Franjo Tudjman. In a lame effort to pass itself off as even handed, the ICTY carried out secret investigations of these men for years and then claimed that it would have indicted them had both not died of natural causes. As explained by the author of Chapter Five of the book, George Szamuely, this was quite unlike what happened with Serb leaders “Mladic and Karadzic, indicted within days of the capture of Srebrenica, and Milosevic, indicted while NATO was still bombing Yugoslavia.”

The ICTY made ample use of plea bargaining to both coerce and entice key defendants to say what they – and their US and European bosses – wanted said. Given the way WWII has been invoked when talking about Srebrenica, it is worth noting that plea bargaining was not used at Nuremberg. Why would Nuremberg prosecutors have needed it? Every single defendant at Nuremberg pleaded “not guilty” to every charge. Defendants did not have the option of selectively pleading “guilty” or “not guilty” to specific charges.[10]

During Operation Storm in 1995, Croatia expelled an estimated 250,000 Serbs the Krajina area with the direct assistance of US military. It was the largest act of ethnic cleansing in the war. George Bogdanich, who wrote Chapter Seven of the book, explained

“Operation Storm, which was launched less than a month after the capture of Srebrenica, was U.S.-sponsored and carried out by Croatian troops trained and equipped by U.S. military experts from Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI), a private military contractor. ‘Retired’ U.S. generals such as Carl Vuono and Richard Griffiths were deeply involved in the planning of the operation, and MPRI received air support from the U.S. naval fliers from Aviano air base, who knocked out the Serbs electronic defense communications at a crucial point.”

In 2004, The NGO Veritas estimated 1960 Serbs killed during Operation Storm – 1205 of them civilians. [11]

The ICTY very belatedly (after years of protests from activists) indicted various Croatians (but no US citizens) for their role in Operation Storm, but it did not indict for “genocide” as it had in the case of the Srebrenica massacre.

Why Challenge the ICTY Over Srebrenica?

From the point of view of holding the NATO officials and their allies accountable, would it have been tactically wiser to simply assume that the ICTY’s version of the Srebrenica massacre was accurate? Would that not have prevented a vilification campaign against the authors that distracted from the other crimes they address? Critics invariably ignore what the authors say about Serb victims. However, there is a steep price to pay if standards for evidence in the case of the NATO’s official enemies are allowed to drop through the floor, while they are raised to the mountain tops for the US and its accomplices. There also a steep price to pay, if we choose to defer to a vilification campaign that seeks to shut down rational discussion by screaming “genocide denial”.

Progressives should not remain silent when corporate pundits of various stripes conduct that kind of campaign.


[1] Jonathan Rooper explains in Chapter Four of “The Srebrenica Massacre: Evidence, Context, Politics” that the 100,000 number came from sources the corporate media, by its own standards, could not discredit. Nevertheless, the fact that the media had for over a decade uncritically cited numbers as high as 200,000-300,000 on a regular basis “did not cause the sort of stir that might have been expected from the discovery of one of the worst examples of sustained misreporting in recent times”


The book can be downloaded for free



For recent and very detailed data on deaths in Bosnia’s civil war see


[2] For example, Jon Snow, a newscaster for Channel 4 News in the UKK wrote “Tonight the massacre at Srebrenica and the siege of Sarajevo are two of the worst incidents of civilian suffering and death to have occurred since Adolph Hitler shot himself in his own bunker in Berlin more than 65 years ago.”


In an email exchange with me, Snow conceded that the words “in Europe” should have been inserted.

[3]see page 289 of “The Srebrenica Massacre: Evidence, Context, Politics”;

See also The Srebrenica ID Card by Milivoje Ivaniševic


[4] Dancing on a mass grave – Oliver Kamm of the Times Smears Medialens


George Monbiot tweeted that Kamm’s work effectively exposed Medialens’ “genocide denial”

[5] Naming the Genocide Deniers by George Monbiot



See also “More Monbiot and the Left Wing Genocide Belittlers”


[6] For example, consider the following excerpt from page 235

“…Boutros-Ghali did, in fact, give formal authorization to the UN military to act, but in his memoir Unvanquished, he recalls a conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher following the marketplace explosion:


I told Christopher that [UN Special Representative Yasushi] Akashi reported that the mortar round had been fired by Bosnian Muslims in order to induce a NATO intervention. Christopher

responded that he had seen many intelligence reports and that they went ‘ both ways.’33


Those convinced that Muslims forces were responsible for the Markale Marketplace massacre included NATO’ director of intelligence U.S. General Charles Boyd.…”


Another passage from page 236


“…For instance, the New York Times reported in August of 1995 that French UN forces claimed that ‘until mid-June of that year, gunfire came from Government soldiers deliberately shooting at their own civilians. After what it called a “definitive” investigation, a French marine unit that patrols against snipers said it traced sniper fire to a building normally occupied by Bosnian [Muslim] soldiers and other security forces. A senior French officer said, “We find it almost impossible to believe, but we are sure that it is true.”‘


[7] Mohamed Ali, made the estimate for deaths from all causes in Iraq derived from his (NEJM) study at a conference in Denver in 2008. It was reported by Miother Jones.


[8] Jonathan Rooper wrote in Chapter Four that from “very small sample of the 1996

voting list” he was “able to cross-reference more than 100 names between the Red Cross’ missing persons list and voting list”.

Milivoje Ivaniševic (illegally) acquired the full list and found 3,106 “persons from the list of missing in a list of voters for Srebrenica in the 1996 elections”

See The Srebrenica ID Card by Milivoje Ivaniševic


According to Bosnian Muslim commander Hadzihasanovic, about 3000 Muslim troops successfully broke through to safety.


[9] The articles cited are

Bill Schiller, “Muslims’ hero vows he’ll fight to the last man,” Toronto Star, January

31, 1994.

Bill Shiller, “Fearsome Muslim warlord eludes Bosnian Serb forces”, July 16, 1995

John Pomfret, Washington Post, “Weapons, Cash and Chaos Lend Clout to Srebrenica’s Tough Guy”, Feb 16, 1994


[10] Below from the “Inside Justice” website


“Twenty-four people and seven organizations were charged with the equivalent of genocide. All defendants pleaded ‘not guilty.’ “

Many people say that Albert Speer was the only Nazi at Nuremberg to plead “guilty” but that is not true as the Inside Justice website explains

“Albert Speer, a defendant, told King [a Nuremberg prosecutor] that the indictment was too sweeping and inflexible. Thus, Speer felt he had to plead ‘not guilty’ to all the charges or stand falsely accused on some charges. Speer would have preferred the option to plead not guilty to some of the charges and guilty to other charges.”

[11] Agence France Presse, “Commemoration of 9th anniversary of Serb exodus from Croatia”, August 4, 2004  

Leave a comment