Blogs > Liberty and Power > Srebrenica: The Story Behind a Name

Jul 22, 2008 9:29 pm

Srebrenica: The Story Behind a Name

Today’s news headlines announce that Radovan Karadzic has been arrested in Serbia and will stand trial at the UN Tribunal in The Hague on fifteen counts of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and other atrocities, most notably for organizing the siege of Sarajevo and for his role in the massacre of Muslims at Srebrenica (1995).

If you read The Times, the Srebrenica massacre involved"more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys."

If you read the Guardian, the massacre involved"nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys." Elsewhere the Guardian reminds us,"That the Serbian forces under Karadzic's command committed genocide against the Muslims of Srebrenica in July 1995 is an established legal fact."

If you read the Independent, the massacre involved"more than 7,500 Muslim men and boys."

And if you read the
Telegraph,"Some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were executed in and around the town of Srebrenica in 1995."

Would it surprise you, dear reader, if I suggested that these accounts are far removed from what likely happened? According to Diana Johnstone's detailed inquiry into the Srebrenica massacre, some 3,000 persons were killed and the massacre did not constitute genocide as defined in international law. She also explains why the U.S. and the European Union have been keen to promote their own very dubious version of this event and thus how the name of a town—Srebrenica—has become a powerful propaganda symbol—"Srebrenica"—of the New World Order.

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Mark Brady - 7/25/2008

I haven't advanced a "conspiracy theory" any more than anyone else who suggests the official justification for some government action doesn't tell the full story behind it. Of course, the U.S. and major European powers are bringing some people who are most probably war criminals to trail. The interesting questions are (1) why only some putative war criminals in the Balkan wars have been brought to trial; and (2) why some obvious candidates in some other wars have not been brought to trial. It is truly victors' justice.

Steve Kowalski - 7/25/2008

Let's analyze the argument being put forward here. Firstly we get told such things as the numbers are a matter of "historical truth" and "I hold no brief for any .... thugs".

These are points that no-one in their right mind is likely to dispute, but as far as I get tell, they play no real part in the argument either. They are, I suggest, a rhetorical device to get the reader knodding sagely, so that when the key point - a completely unsupported asserion, I might add - that the ICTY was set up as a means of furthering US and European interests, we're ready to agree to that too. However, let's note, here we have yet another conspiracy theory being used to support a particular viewpoint.

Incidentally, I am not so naive as to think that such thoughts didn't enter the minds of those who set up this body - I just think it might have been a bit more complex than that, with the aim of bringing persons, who most probably committed horrendous acts, to justice playing at least some sort of role.

I'm still waiting for a reasoned approach here. Brady seems to be falling into the same blind alley as Johnstone. The end result will doubtless be to allow libertarians to be dismissed as crackpots who inhaled too deeply at some stage in the dim and distant past, rather than people whose arguments might be taken seriously.

Mark Brady - 7/25/2008

Here are two reasons why the numbers matter, specifically with regard to Srebrenica and other massacres that occurred in the Balkans in the 1990s.

First, I suggest we should be interested as a matter of historical truth, which is surely a commendable objective in its own right.

Second, the case which the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) seeks to make against Radovan Karadzic rests on a particular version about what happened so the number and identity of those killed at Srebrenica and the circumstances surrounding their deaths is relevant to his guilt or innocence.

As you would expect, I hold no brief for any Serbian, Muslim or Croatian thug, and it seems likely that Karadzic, like some other Serbs, Muslims and Croats, was responsible for a series of crimes. That said, I am well aware of the biases of this U.S.-financed court which was not established in the disinterested pursuit of justice but to promote the interests of the United States and major European powers in the Balkans. Hence the selectivity of their prosecutions and the way in which questionable evidence is all too readily accepted as the truth.

Craig J Bolton - 7/24/2008

To re-emphasize an important point in that comment, it is amazing, and not at all delightful, that some historians with a certain orientation seem to always be fascinated by "the numbers game" with respect to these sorts of incidents.

Were "only" 3 million Jews killed in the Holocaust rather than 6 million [with the rest escaping, presumably into outer space or the 5th dimension]? It seems to make a great deal of difference to some people. Mass murder without any civilized rationale is so much better if the numbers are just reduced somewhat.[not]

Steve Kowalski - 7/23/2008

It is not just the English newspapers that have published these numbers - they have generally been quoted around the world, including by International bodies. This does not mean that they are right or that Diana Johnstone is wrong. However, when we look at her reasons for disagreement with them, this seems largely to consist of the number of bodies that have been recovered. We need to consider, whether, in the circumstances, this is a particularly reliable way of assessing the death toll. Anyway, no matter - whether 3000 or 8000, the number still represent a horrifying incident.

The more interesting part of her story is that this was not really the massacre of innocent people. Rather there was a war going on. The Bosnians had first done nasty things to the Serbs and the western world has tampered with the story so as to justify armed intervention by NATO on the Muslims' behalf.

I agree with Ms. Johnstone that the word genocide has become one that is thrown around with gay abandon these days, and perhaps this massacre does not justify its use. This does absolve the Serbs who took part in the massacre. After all, the proper course of action would have been to imprison them as enemy combatants, not summarily execute them. Perhaps we should remember too, that some of the murdered were young boys - too young to possibly have been involved in any armed activity.

But let us too acknowledge that Ms. Jonstone is a woman with a mission - namely to convince us that intervention was not justified. If the facts are presented in the standard way, intervention seems more justified that if presented her ( very minority) way. Therefore we might think that she has every incentive for finding her account more appealing, and that she might very well have been searching for any evidence that justified her view.

Frankly, what she is suggesting amounts to a conspiracy theory. I suggest that, in the vast majority of cases , such theories need consigning to the trash can. If there really is a conspiracy, the fact of its existence alone means that it is very difficult to keep secret. In the majority of cases, the idea that there is a conspiracy in play is invented by persons who find the real facts inconvenient. I have little doubt that this is the case here.

There are good reasons why the US should not have become involved in Bosnia Herzogovina. Let us try and make such cases based on fact and principle, not by wishing away inconvenient aspects of the matter.