Sunday, November 11, 2007

Srebrenica: Response to left-wing apologists for genocide

Srebrenica: Response to left-wing apologists for genocide

by Michael Karadjis

The massacre of over 8000 defenseless Bosnian Muslim captives by the Bosnian Serb army of General Mladic in July 1995, under the noses of the UN and NATO in the final part of the long Bosnian war, is widely regarded to be the largest massacre in Europe since 1945. Moreover, it is the only action by any side in the entire set of Balkan wars declared unquestionably an act of genocide by the International Court of Justice, in a toothless ruling that decided the rest of the Bosnian Serb campaign to eliminate the Muslim population did not quite reach that mark, a ruling widely condemned, producing a dissenting statement from the court’s vice-president, Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh.

Yet even the Srebrenica genocide has been actively denied by a coalition of people on the far right and left of the political spectrum. The apex of this campaign was the publication by Ed Herman, who now appears to work full time on such issues, of ‘The Politics of the Srebrenica Massacre’, which can be read here:

Herman’s awful piece is long and those who have the taste for that kind of thing can read it themselves. Here I will be responding to the main allegations within it without necessarily trying to quote every word. Fortunately, a member of the same camp, someone called Michel Collon, has summed up the argument neatly enough in a ridiculous ‘Milosevic media quiz’ he penned some time ago, where one of his contrived “questions” was about whether or not we were told “the truth” about Srebrenica. Here is the first part of his answer:

“No. First element. Even if it's a matter of condemning abominable crimes, historical truth - necessary for reconciliation - is not served by the propagandistic processes that unreflexively use the term 'genocide', by the obfuscation of the fact that that some of the victims died in combat or by the systematic exaggeration of the numbers. Inquests have determined that many of the 'victims' were found some months later voting in subsequent elections or even taking part in other battles with Izetbegovic's army. This information was and remains obscured. We won't here go into the argument over numbers which only serious historians will be able to sort out definitively.”

I suppose it is not unusual to be getting lectures about ‘obfuscation’, ‘exaggeration’ and ‘historical truth’ by such masters of the former two and violators of the latter. And it would be difficult to find a worse example of all of this than the Herman-Collon spin on the Srebrenica massacre.

Collon of course “won’t go into the question of numbers”, but nevertheless assures his readers that these numbers were “greatly exaggerated,” and many were killed in battle, and many others turned up to vote. Leave a piece of crude propaganda and then “don’t go into it.” The lie is based on the extensive article Herman cited above.

When Herman produced this, here were a number of replies well worth reading:

Bill Weinberg:

Roger Lippman:

Julie Wornan:

Stela Rajic:

Bill Weinberg’s excellent reply then turned into an ongoing discussion on his blog, including with Herman and others:

Balkan Witness, which is run by Roger Lippman, also produced a reply, which ZNet refused to publish:

It is difficult to know what to add to these excellent replies, and all the rest of the enormous amount of information available about this massacre (see end of this article for links). The crux of the matter is this numbers’ game of how many died. Herman and company are claiming it was probably only about 2000 rather than 8000, based on some rather ugly juggling of figures, which someone with Herman's highly prestigious background should be expected to know far better than to producing as serious argument. I have been criticised for being too harsh on Herman, but the problem is precisely that Herman is no second-rate hack; it is the fact that we are here talking about someone with a long history of valuable work, including his collaboration with Noam Chomsky in "Manufacturing Consent' and elsewhere, that makes this pseudo-historical work of denial of the rebrenica genocide so difficult to stomach. It gives me no pleasure to have to harshly criticise someone like Herman, but on these issues, it is essential.

Herman's number-crunching revolves around two main claims . One is that some people initially identified as missing later turned up in Tuzla, as Collon says “voting in elections,” and yet despite this, “the same number” of around 8000 is still being used. In other words, Herman claims the original number quoted was 8000 killed, but then this was not adjusted downward to take into account those initially thought to be missing, who later allegedly turned up to vote. Never mind that in fact initial estimates were quite fuzzy and tended to be around 10,000, or even in some cases 12,000, and that the 7-8000 figures were in fact settled on later; never mind that, like in any enormous bloody event, some may well initially be wrongly listed as dead or missing, but meanwhile many others that were not originally thought dead or missing may have turned out to be, thus canceling the whole point.

The second piece of acrobatics by Herman are various figures (people can check his article themselves) that say, well such-and-such a number (from memory around 40,000) was the population of Srebrenica at the time, therefore there were this many men and women of these ages, and it is known that this many of each sex and age arrived in Tuzla, therefore 8000 dead men is simply too many. Reading such nonsense, anyone who ever actually followed the war must wonder why Herman is so determined to lower the numbers killed by his Chetnik buddies, that he feigns so naively certain that the exact pre-war population of Srebrenica can be used as a guide in such years of chaos. Any casual observer of the Bosnian conflict would have seen regular media reports that Srebrenica’s population was bursting at the seems due to huge numbers of Muslim refugees from other parts of ethnically-cleansed East Bosnia pouring in; estimates during the war regularly put the wartime population there as high as 70,000, compared to the pre-war population of some 40,000, meaning nearly half the population refugees.

Leaving aside this juggling and bizarre logic, Herman is refuted by the simple facts, all of which he simply refuses to believe or acknowledge. The International Commission of Missing Persons (ICMP), as of early 2005, had 7789 people listed as dead or missing from the massacre by relatives or friends (and there must be more missing than this because ICMP has bone samples for which there are no matches with family members' DNA). Herman clearly assumes these relatives are co-conspirators in the “hoax” and are making it up. As of July 2005, the Red Cross had listed some 2000 confirmed dead and 5,500 missing, ie, a total of 7500. Amnesty’s figures are very similar, and its website claims “every one of the scores of Moslems we have met who left Srebrenica in 1995 has a relative or friend now among the missing” (the site also claimed 1000 Croatian Serbs were missing following Croatia’s ‘Operation Storm’ in the Krajina, a figure Herman will be happy to accept while vigorously denying the former). By July 2003, some 6000 body bags were in the possession of the ICMP (1), and more are being discovered; 2000 have already been positively identified. In 2005, the Bosnian Serb “government” itself made an official admission of 7800 killings in Srebrenica, and apologised for the massacre, much to the distress of its intellectual defenders like Herman.

Moreover, as Andras Riedlmayer shows, these numbers may be minimum numbers:

“On 5 June 2005 Bosnia's Federal Commission for Missing Persons (Federalna Komisija za nestale osobe) issued a provisional list giving the names, parents' names, dates of birth and unique citizen's registration numbers of 8,106 individuals for whom it has been reliably established from multiple independent sources that they went missing and/or were killed in and around Srebrenica in the summer of 1995. A verification process is underway for another approximately 500 victims whose disappearance or death has not yet been verified from two or more independent sources.”

Thus the real numbers may be over 8500. Riedlmayer’s piece is an excellent overall summary of the situation:

Clearly, for Herman, once again all these “names, parents' names, dates of birth and unique citizen's registration numbers of 8,106 individuals” are merely part of the grand hoax, all made up in order to make the Chetniks look bad. Herman simply denies all these figures with an arrogant wave of his hand, bemoaning "a failure to find (all) the executed bodies" (yet). One can only wonder what he would say to the Vietnamese, who claim there remain 300,000 Vietnamese missing in action, whose bodies have not been discovered since the war. Perhaps all a conspiracy to make the US look bad? Many many years ago, Herman and Chomsky penned an awful piece of apologia for the Khmer Rouge (in the Preface and Cambodia chapter of the otherwise very useful 'After the Cataclysm'). They even claimed there would be Cambodian resistance to the internationalist Vietnamese fighters who came in and liberated the country, a claim absurd beyond the imagination. Since that time, the unquestionable truth of the genocide in that country, of possibly some 1.7 million deaths, is denied by very few. Though neither Herman nor Chomsky have made a clear admission of the wrongness of that piece, Chomsky has in practice written very differently since, having no qualms about using the term "genocide" for the KR and describing the Vietnamese intervention as perhaps one of the few genuine 'humanitarian interventions'. Herman may have done the same, though I cannot say for sure as I do not follow his work as much, but if he has, what is clear is that he has never broken from that method.

At the end of this piece, a bibliography of other articles on the Srebrenica massacre will be provided for anyone who wants further detail, but for now, leaving aside the numbers’ games, the Srebrenica revisionist school also uses a number of other disingenuous arguments. Collon sums some of them up grubbily here:

“Second element. Why did the media hide the events essential to an understanding of this drama? In the beginning, this region was inhabited by Muslims AND Serbs. The latter were run off in 1993 by an ethnic cleansing committed by the Muslim nationalist troops of Izetbegovic. French general Morillon, who commanded the UN force there, charges: "On the night of the Orthodox Christmas, the holy night of January 1993, Nasser Oric led raids on Serb villages. . . . There were heads cut off, abominable massacres committed by the forces of Nasser Oric in all the neighboring villages." (Documents of information from the French National Assembly, Srebrenica, t 2, pp. 140-154). The desire for vengeance does not excuse the crimes committed later. But why systematically hide the crimes of 'our friends'?”

Of course we all know from the western media that Muslims cut off heads, so no surprise about this piece of crude tabloidism; of course the good Christian Serbian nationalists never did such things, or anything much at all. Sigh. In any case, here we will argue politically rather than treating readers to the same crap.

Where can one start, when one wants to simply despair. “This region was inhabited by Muslims and Serbs.” Yes. Presumably “this region” refers to the whole East Bosnian region along the Drina River, the border with Serbia, not only Srebrenica. Collon then jumps to January 1993 and talks about an attack out of Srebrenica by Muslim forces on nearby Serb villages, claiming the local Serbs were thereby “ethnically cleansed” by the Muslims. And then he has the hide to claim that someone other than himself is “hiding the events essential to understanding this drama.”

The reality is the absolute reverse. Collon cannot explain why Muslims were holed up in the tiny “enclaves” of Srebrenica, Zepa and Gorazde in East Bosnia, permanently under siege by the massively armed Bosnian Serb Army all around them, or how these places even became “enclaves” in the first place. So now let’s explain to Collon “the events essential to understanding this drama.”

The first thing to understand is that almost the whole of East Bosnia had an overwhelming Muslim majority before the war, with a substantial minority of Serbs; in the very first stages of the genocide, in the months after its onset in April 1992, hundreds of thousands of these Muslims were driven out of most of the towns and nearly all the villages. Enormous crimes against humanity were recorded in Zvornik, Visegrad, Bijelina, Foca, Bratunac, Glogova, Sokolac and elsewhere. All vestiges of these people were eradicated; mosques leveled to the ground and replaced by car-parks. Whole books can be written about these crimes; many in fact have. Massive documentation of these crimes is available at the Hague Tribunal, the UN Commission of Experts, Amnesty International and countless other places. It is not my responsibility to have to quote it all; it is Collon’s and Herman’s responsibility to explain why they simply ignore this enormous ethnic cleansing that drove thousands of terrified refugees into places like Srebrenica and then kept them holed up there for 3.5 years, constantly besieging them, why they simply write as if it all didn’t happen, and then instead refer to the desperate subsequent retaliatory attacks out of the besieged enclaves, out of the Warsaw Ghetto, out of the Gaza Ghetto, on surrounding Serb villages, as the real initial “ethnic cleansing.”

There is no doubt that war crimes were committed on some occasions by these desperate raids out of the ghetto, particularly the famous Orthodox Christmas raid Collon refers to. In the great majority of cases, these raids aimed at stealing food for survival in the besieged enclave; most deaths were of Serb military personnel, though there certainly were civilian deaths as well, as there usually are in such desperate cases. Yes the desperate Palestinian attacks out of their Gaza and West Bank prisons also result in Israeli civilian casualties; we do not support either these attacks on Israeli civilians or those on Serb civilians, but we generally do not equate desperate actions of the ethnically cleansed, terrorized, imprisoned ghetto dwellers with the systematic crimes of the massively armed oppressor state that drove them into that situation in the first place, let alone putting the main blame on the oppressed as Herman/Collon do.

With breathtaking hypocrisy, Collon notes that “The desire for vengeance does not excuse the crimes committed later, but why systematically hide the crimes of 'our friends'?” Here he is implying that the meticulously organised capture of Srebrenica and the killing of 8000 captives in cold blood in 1995 merely represented some kind of spontaneous “desire for vengeance” by the local Serbs against the Muslims, to punish them for these earlier raids out of the ghetto. He does not mention the idea that these raids out of the ghetto themselves, apart from a desperate attempt to get food, may have included elements of “desire for vengeance” by the terrorized Muslims for the enormous terror and ethnic cleansing that drove out the bulk of the East Bosnian population, some into the Srebrenica ghetto, in 1992. In fact irony of ironies is that one of the “Serb” villages mentioned as being attacked during some of these raids was Glogova - an *originally Muslim village* that had been brutally ethnically cleansed by the Chetniks in spring 1992, and then repopulated by Serbs. In the original Chetnik attack on Glogova, it has been claimed by one source that every last inhabitant was massacred, on 9 May 1992 by the invading ‘Yugoslav’ Army units and Serb paramilitaries (Emir Suljagic, ‘The victims are interested in forgiveness, not punishment’, Dani (Sarajevo), 6 May 2005).

A more appropriate and historically truthful statement, paraphrasing Collon’s line above, would have been “The desire for vengeance (and food) by some of the terrorized and ethnically cleansed Srebrenica Muslims does not justify the crimes they committed later (ie, these occasional raids out of the ghetto), but why do Collon and his co-thinkers systematically hide the enormous initial crimes of their friends that led to this desire for vengeance, let alone then trying to explain away the much later and even larger meticulously organised crime in July 1995 as merely a further part of this cycle of “vengeance”?”

Incidentally, how many Serb civilians were killed in these desperate raids out of the ghetto? The revisionists cite Serb government figures claiming several thousand deaths. This however is absurd; of course the same people who meticulously attempt to show that overall numbers of deaths in the Bosnian war were much lower, typically want to boost the number of Serb deaths. However, they cannot have it both ways. If the revisionists are satisfied with the meticulous count being carried out by the Sarajevo-based Research and Documentation Centre, consisting of experts from all three Bosnian communities, which by late 2006 had an estimate of close to 97,207 dead in the whole Bosnian war (which the RDC claims is likely to rise no higher than 150,000 maximum, rather than the 200,000 or higher earlier believed), then do they also accept the estimates of dead from each group? According to this research, of the 97,000 confirmed dead so far, a total of 4000 Serb civilians died in *the whole of Bosnia,* alongside some 21,000 Serb troops (compared to over 33,000 Muslim civilians and over 31,000 Muslim troops, accounting for 66 percent of all deaths, and 83 percent of civilian deaths)? Not to mention that many of the Serb civilians killed were residents of multi-ethnic Sarajevo or Tuzla killed by years of Serbian Chetnik shelling into those besieged ghettos.

If only 4000 Serb civilians are known definitely so far to have died in the whole of Bosnia during the entire war, how many of these died in the Bratunac district nearby Srebrenica? On this, the Research and Documentation Centre has a very precise answer:

“The allegations that Serb casualties in Bratunac, between April 1992 and December 1995 amount to over three thousand is an evident falsification of facts. The RDC's [Research and Documentation Center] research of the actual number of Serb victims in Bratunac has been the most extensive carried out in Bosnia and Herzegovina and proves that the overall number of victims is three to nine times smaller than indicated by Serbia and Montenegro.

“Perhaps the clearest illustration of gross exaggeration is that of Kravica, a Serb village near Bratunac attacked by the Bosnian Army on the morning of Orthodox Christmas, January 7, 1993. The allegations that the attack resulted in hundreds of civilian victims have been shown to be false. Insight into the original documentation of the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) clearly shows that in fact military victims highly outnumber the civilian ones. The document entitled “Warpath of the Bratunac brigade”, puts the military victims at 35 killed and 36 wounded; the number of civilian victims of the attack is eleven.

“In addition to information received from relatives and family members of the victims and inspection of cemeteries, RDC has collected all existing primary sources, official documents and documentation of RS Ministry of Defense and Bratunac brigade of VRS, as well as research by the Serb authors. The victims have been categorized on the basis of two time-related criteria: the first was the municipality of residence at the time of the beginning of war; the second was the municipality of premature and violent death.

“After all the sources have been processed, cross-referenced and reviewed, the results showed that 119 civilians and 424 soldiers classified in the first group died in Bratunac during the war. Under the second category the number of civilians is the same (119) whereas the number of soldiers is 448. The result demonstrates that 26 members of other VRS units other than Bratunac brigade of VRS fought and died in combat in the municipality of Bratunac.”

(Research & Documentation Center, The Myth Of Bratunac: A Blatant Numbers Game,

So there we have it: 119 Serb civilians killed during the whole war in that region. By contrast, attempting to calculate the number of Muslims killed in Srebrenica would have to include those killed during the initial months of the cleansing of East Bosnia in the northern summer of 1992, those killed during the constant Chetnik siege and shelling of the town from 1992 to 1995, and the 8000 killed in July 1995 alone. The numbers are clearly enormous.

The United Nations' General Assembly Resolution 53/35 (Fifty-fourth session, Agenda item 42, The situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina, 15 November 1999, pages 103-104) has this to say about the occasional raids carried out by the besieged Muslims of Srebrenica:

“A third accusation leveled at the Bosniak defenders of Srebrenica is that they provoked the Serb offensive by attacking out of that safe area. Even though this accusation is often repeated by international sources, there is no credible evidence to support it. Dutchbat personnel on the ground at the time assessed that the few “raids” the Bosniaks mounted out of Srebrenica were of little or no military significance. These raids were often organized in order to gather food, as the Serbs had refused access for humanitarian convoys into the enclave. Even Serb sources approached in the context of this report acknowledged that the Bosniak forces in Srebrenica posed no significant military threat to them. The biggest attack the Bosniaks launched out of Srebrenica during the more than two years which it was designated a safe area appears to have been the raid on the village of Visnjica, on 26 June 1995, in which several houses were burned, up to four Serbs were killed and approximately 100 sheep were stolen. In contrast, the Serbs overran the enclave two weeks later, driving tens of thousands from their homes, and summarily executing thousands of men and boys. The Serbs repeatedly exaggerated the extent of the raids out of Srebrenica as a pretext for the prosecution of a central war aim: to create geographically contiguous and ethnically pure territory along the Drina, while freeing their troops to fight in other parts of the country. The extent to which this pretext was accepted at face value by international actors and observers reflected the prism of “moral equivalency” through which the conflict in Bosnia was viewed by too many for too long.”
(Quoted from

Then there is the final part of the Herman-Collon thesis:
“Third element. Like other so-called demilitarized 'safe havens', Srebrenica was in reality an area used by the forces of Izetbegovic to regroup, the UN protecting them from total defeat. Astonishingly, Oric's troops retreated from Srebrenica just a week before the massacre. French general Germanos: "Oric had widely declared that they had abandoned Srebrenica because they'd wanted Srebrenica to fall. The 'they' was Izetbegovic." And why? It is interesting to return to a curious UN report, written a year and a half earlier by Kofi Annan: "Izetbegovic had learned that a NATO intervention into Bosnia was possible. But it would happen only if the Serbs forced their way into Srebrenica and massacred at least 5,000 people." A massacre predicted a year and a half before it happened! (UN Report of 28-29 November). General Morillon also informed us that "It is Izetbegovic's people who opposed the evacuation of all those who had asked to be taken out, and there were many." His conclusion: "Mladic fell into a trap at Srebrenica."

Before fully answering this grotesque and self-contradictory frame-up, note the last line, the punch line in essence: “Mladic fell into a trap at Srebrenica.” In other words, when Mladic entered the town, unknown to him, there were people still there, who had not been evacuated (peacefully ethnically cleansed), and they were defenseless, because the mighty Bosnian army, which had allegedly been attacking them for years from this enclave, had not decided to be massacred, so poor old Mladic had no choice but to oblige. I suppose to a French general like Morillon, and a red-brown apologist like Collon, there is simply no alternative to a gigantic massacre when you stumble into a town full of Muslims who have the gall to be living there!

This piece from Collon above is once again direct from Herman, so let’s also add what Herman adds specifically to this. Herman claims that since Izetbegovic was so determined to get US intervention, his government “abandoned” Srebrenica by withdrawing “a military force much larger than that of the attackers,” and then retreating in such a way “that made that larger force vulnerable and caused it to suffer heavy casualties in fighting and vengeance executions,” and this “helped produce numbers that would meet the Clinton criterion” (the “Clinton criterion” means 5000 massacred Muslims, as it was from Clinton that Izetbegovic had allegedly learnt that NATO intervention would first require this number of extra dead).

We are unclear from all this confusion which is more important to Herman here: to demonstrate that the good Serb military of Mladic only killed about 2000 Muslims (given that they were rude enough to still be in town when he got “trapped” there), or that he inadvertently had no choice but to kill about 5000 Muslims who were deliberately retreating “in a certain way” to make this happen, because that was what Izetbegovic wanted him to do and planned things this way.

You have to get to the footnotes to read that Izetbegovic flatly denied this, while another person, a Srebrenica chief of police, confirms the Clinton suggestion. Note that, even if Clinton did make such a suggestion, and even if Izetbegovic did hear it and pass this information on, nowhere does anyone quoted claim that Izetbegovic or any other Bosnian leader suggest it was a good plan that should be followed through on. This is simply Herman’s and Collon’s implication. The idea that Izetbegovic, who had been “struggling for years” to get some help to end the slaughter may have been appalled at the suggestion by Clinton that more Muslims need to be slaughtered to justify any western help is not considered. It is not part of Herman’s “narrative,” which has to follow the line that if Mladic did massacre some Muslims, it was the fault of Izetbegovic, who wanted him to massacre even more.

Where there may perhaps be an argument regarding the culpability of the Bosnian government, given the lack of options after so many years of massacre, was that the withdrawal of the Bosnian Muslim Srebrenica commander, Naser Oric, several months before July 1995, may have weakened their defense. And further, though this is pure conjecture, that this act may have been a final concession by the Bosnian government to the enormous pressure from Serbia and its Chetnik allies, Croatia, and all the imperialist powers, including the US, for the ethnic dismemberment of his country. In other words, if he agreed to give up Srebrenica to the Chetniks, then they may accept a peace agreement – one based on a partition that he was opposed to, but if there was no alternative but continual massacre, then maybe the only thing left was to get as good a deal as possible.

If that were the case, it is a bizarre logic to then be putting the blame on Izetbegovic for making this concession to the Chetniks and the US, and blaming him for the massacre. If Izetbegovic had in fact agreed to give up Srebrenica without a fight, and had organised the retreat of his troops, then how is that supposed to whitewash Mladic for carrying out a massacre of 8000 captives there after the troops have retreated? While the claim by Herman and Collon that some of the retreating troops were “killed in battle” with the Chetniks, rather than being essentially defenseless, captured and killed as every other report claims, is grotesque and appalling, one wonders why *if* true there would be a “battle”, when the Bosnian government and army are here being accused of wanting to give up without a fight. Obviously what Herman and Collon mean by a “battle” is the fact that the retreating troops were shot in the back by the Chetniks, but some perhaps still had a uniform on; it was a “battle” like the “battle” between the US air force and retreating Iraqi troops at the end of the first Gulf war after Hussein’s surrender.

For any doubters, I’ll further quote here another section from the same UN General Assembly report, which deals with these issues, if not the particular slander against Izetbegovic:

“B. Role of Bosniak forces on the ground
475. Criticisms have also been leveled at the Bosniaks in Srebrenica, among them that they did not fully demilitarize and that they did not do enough to defend the enclave. To a degree, these criticisms appear to be contradictory (only “to a degree”!). Concerning the first criticism, it is right to note that the Bosnian Government had entered into demilitarization agreements with the Bosnian Serbs. They did this with the encouragement of the United Nations. While it is also true that the Bosnian fighters in Srebrenica did not fully demilitarize, they did demilitarize enough for UNPROFOR to issue a press release, on 21 April 1993, saying that the process had been a success. Specific instructions from United Nations Headquarters in New York stated that UNPROFOR should not be too zealous in searching for Bosniak weapons and, later, that the Serbs should withdraw their heavy weapons before the Bosniaks gave up their weapons. The Serbs never did withdraw their heavy weapons.

476. Concerning the accusation that the Bosniaks did not do enough to defend Srebrenica, military experts consulted in connection with this report were largely in agreement that the Bosniaks could not have defended Srebrenica for long in the face of a concerted attack supported by armour and artillery. The defenders were an undisciplined, untrained, poorly armed, totally isolated force, lying prone in the crowded valley of Srebrenica. They were ill-equipped even to train themselves in the use of the few heavier weapons that had been smuggled to them by their authorities. After over three years of siege, the population was demoralized, afraid and often hungry. The only leader of stature was absent when the attack occurred. Surrounding them, controlling all the high ground, handsomely equipped with the heavy weapons and logistical train of the Yugoslav army, were the Bosnian Serbs. There was no contest.

477. Despite the odds against them, the Bosniaks requested UNPROFOR to return to them the weapons they had surrendered under the demilitarization agreements of 1993. They requested those weapons at the beginning of the Serb offensive, but the request was rejected by the UNPROFOR because, as one commander explained, “it was our responsibility to defend the enclave, not theirs.” Given the limited number and poor quality of Bosniak weapons held by UNPROFOR, it seems unlikely that releasing those weapons to the Bosniaks would have made a significant difference to the outcome of the battle; but the Bosniaks were under attack at that time, they wanted to resist with whatever means they could muster, and UNPROFOR denied them access to some of their own weapons. With the benefit of hindsight, this decision seems to be particularly ill-advised, given UNPROFOR’s own unwillingness consistently to advocate force as a means deterring attacks on the enclave.

478. Many have accused the Bosniak forces of withdrawing from the enclave as the Serb forces advanced on the day of its fall. However, it must be remembered that on the eve of the final Serb assault the Dutchbat commander urged the Bosniaks to withdraw from defensive positions south of Srebrenica town – the direction from which the Serbs were advancing. He did so because he believed that NATO aircraft would soon be launching widespread air strikes against the advancing Serbs” (ie, something that never happened, since, as anyone not born yesterday understands, NATO had sold Srebrenica to the Bosnian Serb Army).

Finally, while Collon doesn’t use this argument, this is a useful place to reply to Herman’s additional argument that the fall of Srebrenica, and the massacre of its inhabitants, was “convenient” for the Bosnian government, which wanted nothing more than US intervention, and was willing to sacrifice its own people to get it.

For background on this, Izetbegovic and the Bosnian government had signed on, extremely reluctantly, under extreme pressure, to the US-inspired Contact Group partition plan of mid-1994, which offered a full 49 percent of Bosnia to the Chetniks as a recognized “Serb Republic” (Republika Srpska) despite the region having been “cleansed” of its non-Serb, mostly Muslim, plurality (Serbs account for 30 percent of the Bosnian population, and large parts of ‘Republika Srpska’ previously had overwhelming Muslim, Croat or mixed majorities). The other 51 percent would be a “Muslim-Croat Federation”. This was a massive victory for Serbian war aims, and a total defeat to Bosnian government war aims, which had been fighting to preserve the multi-ethnic constitution over the whole of Bosnia, and to allow for the return of refugees. This is why both Milosevic and Tudjman signed on immediately, seeing it as a great deal, especially Milosevic. Tudjman was less thrilled, because it meant giving up the Croat chauvinist statelet in Bosnia, ‘Herzeg-Bosna’, while his Serbian allies had got theirs over half the country. But his Bosnian Croat chauvinist allies had been decisively smashed by the Bosnian armed forces in late 1993, so he had no choice, and figured Croatia would effectively exercise suzerainty over the other half of Bosnia anyway.

So since Milosevic thought it was so good, why did not the Karadzic leadership of the Bosnian Serb Chetnik forces also sign on? At one level, since they had already conquered 70 percent of Bosnia due to overwhelming military superiority, why should they withdraw from any, given they were under no military pressure from the poorly armed Bosnian government forces?

However, there was another side to Karadzic’s rejection. Perhaps Karadzic would accept the 49 percent, but he wanted the borders of the new Serb Republic to be even less messy, which would require even more ethnic cleansing of people whom happened to be in the wrong areas. Above all, Karadzic and his Chetniks had two strategic aims:

The first was the widening of the northern “corridor”, through the previously Croat-Muslim majority Posavina region, which connected their conquests of previously Muslim-majority East Bosnia, along the Serbia border, with their stronghold in Banja Luka in the northwest, which had had a slight (54%) Serb majority, and which further connected to the overwhelmingly Serb region along the southwest Dinaric range (Bosnia Krajina) which adjoined the Serb Republic of Croatian Krajina. Some 160,000 Croats had already been ethnically cleansed from the Posavina to create the ‘corridor’, but widening it further would seal this situation.

The second was the elimination of three remaining “enclaves” where Muslim refugees had taken refuge within Serb-conquered East Bosnia – Srebrenica, Zepa and Gorazde, all surrounded by Chetnik-controlled territory. The Chetniks considered it rude that, after having expelled hundreds of thousands of Muslims from East Bosnia, some tens of thousands had remained in these three pockets inside “their” republic.

Clearly, if Karadzic could secure the elimination of three small enclaves, he may be willing to sign on to 51-49. And it is possible that, given the extent of utter western betrayal, Izetbegovic had finally decided that the three small and difficult to defend enclaves may have to be sacrificed to end the slaughter. I stress “may have”. This is purely conjecture. However, it is conjecture of a far higher order to suggest that he wanted Srebrenica eliminated along with 5000 or 8000 of its inhabitants. If he made a deal, signified by the removal of Oric, it is far more likely to have been along the lines of, OK, we give up Srebrenica, you let the people out alive. The fact that the Chetniks who overran Srebrenica only let some of the people out alive, and captured and killed 8000 others, is likely to have been seen by Izetbegovic as appalling betrayal.

Who, in the end, was the fall of Srebrenica, and also neighbouring Zepa straight afterwards, therefore “convenient” for? Clearly, it was highly convenient for Karadzic’s Chetnik forces, because it allowed their “state” to do away with these troublesome enclaves. If it was so “convenient” for the Bosnian government, it is interesting that when the US imposed the 51-49 partition a few months later, Srebrenica and Zepa were inside the ‘Serb Republic”. One might think that since it was so “convenient” for Clinton, who was allegedly finally searching for an “excuse” for “more aggressive policies” after years and years of ignoring the Bosnians “struggling” to induce US intervention by all means (I’m using Herman’s self-contradictory terms), that the US would make a point of forcing the Chetniks to hand over Srebrenica to the “Muslim-Croat Federation,” to signify a US somehow making amends for refusing to come to the defense of Srebrenica and allowing such a gigantic massacre to take place. Even if the massacre was a “hoax” as Herman thinks, still, since the US pushed this hoax, one may expect it to demand the Chetniks withdraw. Yet it was never even an issue. From the very start of the new US-drawn maps, Srebrenica and Zepa were part of the Serb Republic, along with a widened northern corridor – ie precisely the two strategic aims of Karadzic in previously rejecting 51-49 had been met. This would seem extremely convenient for the Chetniks, and convenient for Clinton and the US in an entirely different way to that portrayed by the revisionist “left” and right.

And therefore, it’s not surprising that the ‘smoking gun’ – US support for the Chetnik conquest of Srebrenica – has recently surfaced. In late 2006, Richard Holbrooke, the assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration in 1995, revealed in an interview with the French magazine Paris-Match that his initial instructions from national security adviser Anthony Lake were to sacrifice the three remaining Muslim ‘enclaves’ in East Bosnia – Srebrenica, Zepa and Gorazde – to the Serb nationalists ( Holbrooke claims he rejected the instructions, but in the past he has emphasised his rejection only of pressure to abandon Gorazde, leaving the question of the other two unclear – till now. The same issue of Paris-Match also had an interview with the chief prosecutor of the Hague Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, Carla del Ponte, who claims that western officials held a meeting with Milosevic, Karadzic and Mladic in 1995, to discuss the plans to seize Srebrenica. She said there were minutes of the meeting and that she knew the names of the officials, but was unable to use this as evidence because they refused to confirm their attendance. The revelations cast light on Holbrooke’s statement after Dayton that Milosevic was someone the US “could do business with.”

It also fits with other recent statements by Holbrooke, which reveal that behind the US intervention, formally against Karadzic’s forces, was the fear that the excesses of the Chetniks – who had conquered 70 percent of Bosnia despite Serbs being only 30 percent of the population – were leading to a radicalisation among the dispossessed Bosnian Muslims. In a Washington Post article entitled ‘Was Bosnia worth it?’ Holbrooke asserted that if the US had not intervened in 1995, “we would probably have had to pursue Operation Enduring Freedom not only in Afghanistan but also in the deep ravines and dangerous hills of central Bosnia, where a shadowy organization we now know as Al Qaeda was putting down roots that were removed by NATO after Dayton.”

The idea that Al Qaida had more than a marginal role in the desperation of Bosnia is fanciful, and a slander against the Bosnian Muslims. However, the fact that Holbrooke feels compelled to describe in this way the growing radicalisation among the Muslims, who had been left to the slaughter in the middle of Europe for years in the 1990s, indicates the degree of worry this was causing Washington.

Muhamed Sacirbey, Bosnia’s foreign minister at the time, commented that “for many years, I believed that the West gave an orange light to the Serbs to take over Srebrenica, but I am now convinced that it was a green light.”

Croatia’s reconquest of the Krajina

Before concluding, a discussion of the Croatian army’s retaking of its ‘Krajina’ region in August 1995, resulting in the flight or expulsion of its entire Serb population, is in order. This is for two reasons. Firstly, as will be shown below, the two events – Srebrenica and Krajina – were in reality part of a connected ‘pincer’ movement to “tidy up” the ethnic map of the region to make the Serbo-Croatian regional partition plan more viable. Secondly, both Herman and Collon make direct comparisons between the two events, in a way aimed at pushing their highly unbalanced, to put it as mildly as possible, view of this conflict.

Collon asks “Was the largest ethnic cleansing of the war committed by the Croat Army?” and provides the following answer for us:

“YES. On August 4, 1995, a hundred thousand Croat soldiers, a hundred and fifty tanks, two hundred troop transports, more than three hundred pieces of artillery, and forty missile launchers attacked the Serb population of the Krajina. More than 150,000 Serbs were forced to leave this region which they had inhabited for centuries. The worst atrocities of the war were committed: the Croat forces killed the elderly who could not flee, and burned 85% of the abandoned houses.”

It is always interesting when people who devote most of their time to being apologists for massive war crimes then go out of their way to emphasise the war crimes of someone else they do not like, forgetting entirely about all the qualifications, apologetics, numbers’ games and other arguments they’ve insisted on in order to deny or minimize the crimes of the people they like.

At the outset, I’ll say one thing: I’ve never supported Tudjman, and in fact to properly understand the 1990s, it is necessary to understand that it was not Serbo-Croatian conflict, but the Serbo-Croatian alliance, that dominated that decade in the Balkans. I feel no need whatsoever to be an apologist for Franco Tudjman’s war crimes and crimes against humanity, such as in this example here; it is not I, but Collon, Herman, Johnstone and Parenti who are the war crimes deniers, and their insistence that appalling crimes were committed by Tudjman in Krajina, next to their denials about the enormous crimes committed by Milosevic, Seselj, Karadzic and Mladic in Vukovar, Sarajevo, Srebrenica, the death camps, Kosova and elsewhere stands out as rank hypocrisy.

So let’s look at Collon’s statement. He begins: “On August 4, 1995, a hundred thousand Croat soldiers, a hundred and fifty tanks, two hundred troop transports, more than three hundred pieces of artillery, and forty missile launchers attacked the Serb population of the Krajina.”

Apparently here the size of the heavy weaponry arsenal actually matters. Yet Collon obviously sees no importance in such facts when Croatia was attacked by the ‘Yugoslav’ Army with hundreds of tanks, thousands of artillery pieces, plus masses of other heavy weaponry in 1991, at a time when Croatia itself had next to no arms; nor obviously does he see any relevance in the fact that Bosnia was attacked by the ‘Yugoslav’ Army and its spin-off ‘Bosnian Serb’ Army which disposed of 330 tanks, 800 artillery pieces, 400 armoured personnel carriers and 37 military aircraft, for years on end, when Bosnia was virtually defenseless. Only some aggressors should be allowed to have such weapons, according to Collon.

The he writes: “More than 150,000 Serbs were forced to leave this region which they had inhabited for centuries.” Yes this is correct. At least Collon uses the population figures based on the actual census, and does not embellish the figure to 200 or 250 or 300 thousand or whatever, as many of his co-thinkers do, or “hundreds of thousands” as Herman does in the same article where he tries to show that not many Muslims were killed in Srebrenica.

Why did Croatia invade the Krajina and expel 150,000 Serbs? Because it was Croatian territory, that had been seized by the Serbian armed forces in 1991, brutally “cleansed” of its Croat population, and taken over as the so-called “Republika Srpska Krajina”. Obviously at some point Croatia was going to attempt to retake its territory. Of course, as socialists, we don’t have any particular obsession with “national” territory if a people in part of that territory consider themselves part of another nation which they want to join. It is Collon and company who are hypocrites, who support the right of the Serb nationalists to rip apart Croatia, create facts on the ground via expelling non-Serbs and set up a new ‘Serb republic’, but oppose the right of the already overwhelming majority Albanian population of Kosova – overwhelming majority without the need for any ethnic cleansing – to gain independence from Serbia, because this is “Serbian territory.”

But let’s leave aside their hypocrisy for the moment. We can agree that in the way Tudjman’s reactionary regime retook the Krajina, with a massive military attack, launching hundreds of missiles directly into the Krajina capital Knin, was a method that guaranteed the expulsion of the Serb population. Furthermore, it is also very clear that many people who stayed behind, mostly old people, were murdered by Croatian troops, as Collon notes. We unreservedly condemn Tudjman’s attack in Krajina.

Now that is clear, let’s go the Collon’s next point: “The worst atrocities of the war were committed” during this offensive. What cynicism. This coming from someone who has just done apologetics on the massacre of 8000 Muslim captives in Srebrenica, a month or so earlier, and on the concentration camps, and on the entire three years of genocide in Bosnia, now tells us that the expulsion – not killing – of 150,000 people, involving the killing of some 1000 people, is when the worst atrocities of the war were committed.

While this nonsense may simply be dismissed as the ravings of a hypocrite, nevertheless it actually forms part of a discourse which is usually a little more coherent – rather than the worst atrocities of the war, which is patently absurd, this discourse usually claims this was the “greatest single act of ethnic cleansing” in the whole war. What this means is that these 150,000 people fled in a few days, whereas the millions that fled their homes in Bosnia, and hundreds of thousands in Croatia in 1991, did so over a longer period of time.

In other words, it is fine to expel a million people from their homes “where they had lived for centuries” if the people at least put up a little fight first, and thus hold up their expulsion, but if they flee en masse without their political and military leadership even making the pretence of a fight, then this is much worse, even if it only involves 150,000 people, relatively middling by the standards of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans that decade.

And the simple reason they fled without a fight was that the Krajina Serbs were only ever part of a cynical game. Milosevic allowed Tudjman to overrun this region in 1995, without putting up even the pretence of a fight, as part of a greater Milosevic-Tudjman-US deal to partition Bosnia and the region in a ‘neater’ way, which resulted in the recognition of ‘Republika Srpska’ in Bosnia. This is despite the Krajina Serb leadership being massively armed with napalm and cluster bombs, which they had liberally used against neighbouring Bosnian Muslims in the completely surrounded and besieged ‘enclave’ of Bihac for years. This is evidence that Milosevic and co. had cynically set up the Krajina Serbs as cannon fodder for this later catastrophe, being merely a bargaining chip in the meantime – they were simply in the wrong area to be really of interest as part of greater Serbia, being separated from Serbia by the entire republic of Bosnia.

But if we are to condemn Tudjman’s method of retaking the Krajina, which seemed guaranteed to ensure the flight of the Serb population, then surely we should also condemn the initial ethnic cleansing of the Croats from the Krajina and the other two regions – East and West Slavonia – that were torn out of Croatia in 1991 and called a “Serb Republic.” Yet from Collon – and Herman, Johnstone, Parenti etc – total silence. So let’s here set the record straight.

Firstly, the Krajina itself, the furthest part of Croatia from Serbia, was the only part that could actually claim the right to self-determination, as the only of the three regions with a Serb majority. Yet even there Serbs were a majority of only 69 percent – much smaller than the majority status of Albanians in Kosova – and the far-right SDS (Serb Democratic Party) leaders ethnically cleansed the Croat minority of 60-70,000 people from the Krajina, an abominable act that never gets mentioned by the apologists. In fact the first case of ethnic cleansing in the whole set of Balkan wars occurred when the ‘Yugoslav’ Army, acting on behalf of the Chetniks, meticulously destroyed the Croat town of Kijevo, situated inconveniently near Serb majority regions in Krajina, and sent the entire Croat population packing in July 1991.

Western Slavonia was overwhelmingly Croat in composition, thus its capture resulted in the ethnic cleansing of another 70,000 or so Croats. There was not one region in all western Slavonia with a Serb majority. As for Eastern Slavonia, the population of the whole region originally conquered in 1991 was only 14 percent Serb, and making this region a ‘Serb state’ meant the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Croats. Late in 1991, Croatian armed forces managed to take some of this back and drive out the Serb minority, but at the end of the war, the ‘Serb state’ still covered a region that was originally only 30-35 percent Serb, so some 100,000 Croats and tens of thousands of other non-Serbs remained expelled.

Thus the carving out of a ‘Serb republic’ in Croatia meant the expulsion of some half a million Croats, the big majority of the population of the three regions altogether, and even as Croatian forces retook some of it by late 1991, there remained some 230,000 Croats ethnically cleansed. It is astonishing that the great majority of the left, even the better sections who later sympathised with Bosnia’s Muslims and have no sympathies for Serbian reaction, almost never make mention of the right to return of hundreds of thousands of Croats brutally expelled by the Serboslav army and its SDS creation from various parts of their own country, including Croat-majority regions, in 1991. This is despite the fact that they almost always, when talking about the Balkans, condemn Croatia’s ethnic cleansing of 150,000 Serbs when it retook the region four years later, as if this later terror was not directly connected to the former. Croats are simply not politically correct.

So let’s go back to Collon’s rhetoric regarding Srebrenica. As we saw, he (and Herman) pretend that the meticulously organised massacre of 8000 defenseless Muslim captives in July 1995 was merely some kind of spontaneous revenge for the occasional raids out of the Srebrenica ghetto into local Serb villages by traumatised, besieged, starving Muslims, which resulted in some civilian deaths. However, they do not see these desperate raids out of the ghetto as revenge by these terrified refugees who had been driven into the ‘enclave’ of Srebrenica in the first place by the brutal ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Muslims in East Bosnia in the summer of 1992.

Collon had said “The desire for vengeance does not excuse the crimes committed later. But why systematically hide the crimes of 'our friends'?” So why doesn’t Collon now say, regarding Tudjman’s expulsion of the Krajina Serbs in 1995, that “the desire for revenge (ie, of the originally expelled Croats of 1991) does not excuse the crimes committed later (in 1995).” And I’d add, quoting him, “but why does he systematically hide the crimes of his friends?”

Finally, when speaking of the numbers expelled from Krajina, another factor needs to be taken into account, regarding the slow process of return. Some 300,000 Serbs were either expelled or left during the war years, of the original Croatian Serb population of 600,000. This included the 150,000 expelled from Krajina, some 20,000 expelled from Western Slavonia earlier in 1995, and over 100,000 who drifted out during the years, due to the increasingly chauvinistic atmosphere under Tudjman, or decided to leave Eastern Slavonia when it was peacefully reintegrated into Croatia in 1997. To date, some 120,000 of these 300,000 Serbs have returned to Croatia, meaning two thirds of the original Serb population now lives in Croatia, a far cry from the “ethnically clean” Croatia that the left Croat-haters envisage. In fact, a Croatian Serb party has been in a coalition government with the ruling ‘moderated’ HDZ government since its reelection in 2004, and Serb councilors have been elected in Knin, the capital of the Krajina region. Nevertheless, all this progress still leaves a huge Serb population who have not returned, and there is no doubt that one major region is the feeling of insecurity in a state where Croatian chauvinism is still rife among a section of the population and sections of the sate apparatus.

One other major problem however is housing. Many of the houses that had belonged to the Krajina Serbs are now occupied by the Posavina Croats – ie, some of the 200,000 Croats expelled by the Bosnian Serb Army and Chetniks from northern Bosnia and the Posavina ‘corridor’, which connects the west and east halves of ‘Republika Srpska’ but was originally largely Croat in population. Once again, the plight of these people, who cannot return to their homes in Bosnia, is simply not sexy enough for the Chetnikophilic wing of the left. Meanwhile, while the retaking of the Krajina resulted in the expulsion of 150,000 Serbs, and this is abominable, I will leave it to the Collons of the world to give their opinion on the fact that the retaking of the Krajina and Western Slavonia, and later the reintegration of eastern Slavonia, also allowed the return to their homes of 230,000 ethnically cleansed Croats.

What Herman had to say on this is both crasser and more detailed than Collon’s pulp here. Herman makes a big deal about comparing what he sees as the western reaction to Srebrenica massacre and to the Krajina cleansing, which occurred soon after.

Yet he appears to prefer the politics of doing the reverse of what he sees as bias. His whole essay is dedicated to showing that Srebrenica was a hoax, that not many died, that those who did probably died fighting as soldiers, that the Muslims deserved it anyway for “provoking” the Serbs, and that Izetbegovic wanted Mladic to massacre his people in any case, so Mladic is not to blame for carrying it out. Yet strangely, he makes none of these caveats regarding Krajina. Quite the opposite, he wants to believe the largest figures for people killed and cleansed, and makes no effort to look into the background as I have detailed above at all.

According to Herman, the Croatian government was delighted by Srebrenica because it “provided a cover for their already planned removal of several hundred thousand Serbs from the Krajina area in Croatia.” After all the appalling playing with numbers over Srebrenica, Herman simply couldn’t care less with accuracy at all in Krajina – so the well-established figure of around 150,000, which Collon is honest enough to report, and which may indeed have risen, accordig to soem estimates, to perhaps 170,000, becomes “several hundred thousand” for Herman, a figure entirely made up.

Herman then even suggests that this operation “may well have involved the killing of more Serb civilians than Bosnian Muslim civilians killed in the Srebrenica area in July.” Of course, this can only be suggested if you believe the lowest possible figure for the numbers killed in Srebrenica, and the highest possible figures for those killed in Krajina (which Herman naturally does), and even then would be scarcely possible. Herman quotes 1,205 Serbs killed by the Croatian army in the Krajina cleansing, a figure I have no particular quibble with, still less reason to quibble with. But interesting that his source is Veritas ( Now if you go to the site of Veritas, you are immediately confronted with a page full of the flag of the ‘Republika Srpska Krajina’, that is, the racist Serb statelet set up in parts of Croatia conquered and ethnically cleansed of its non-Serb inhabitants between 1991 and 1995. The site describes itself as a “non-government organisation established in late 1993 by citizens of the then Republic of Serbian Krajina - RSK. Prior to the exile of Krajina population in August 1995, the organization was headquartered in Knin. Afterwards it moved to Belgrade.”

Isn’t it interesting that Herman ridicules as by definition wrong any source from the Bosnian government, and without explanation refuses to accept the very careful work of the Research and Documentation Centre in Sarajevo, even though it includes Serbs, Croats and Muslims, essentially because it doesn’t verify the figures he wants, but when it comes to Krajina, he has no problem immediately accepting the figures provided by an agency of the Croatian Serb Chetnik state! I could add here as well that whereas the Research and Documentation Centre has made a detailed study of Serb deaths in villages near Srebrenica, and determined that 119 civilians died through the whole war, Herman simply gives the figure of “well over a thousand Serb civilians” dying there, without question, and quite innocently puts as his source the “Yugoslav (ie Serbian) government.” Thus the break between his method of believing figures for deaths for Serbs and that for Muslims and Croats is total.

Like any rank populist, he then goes on to give a harrowing description by a UN officer of a particularly ghastly case of murder of a number of Serbs during this operation – the kind of description that one could find thousands of regarding the appalling atrocities carried out by Serbian forces, but which if one quoted them, they would be immediately accused of “demonizing” “the Serbs”. You are only allowed to “demonise” some people, not others, you see.

Apart form all this, Herman’s piece is full of basic inaccuracies, which reveal his lack of any real knowledge of this region he pretends to be a specialist in. His knowledge of anything Croatian is so lousy that he manages to confuse Eastern and Western Slavonia, he talks about an alleged slaughter or disappearance of Serbs in 1991 in “Vukovar” (ie in *Eastern* Slavonia, where the ‘Yugoslav’ Army led a horrific siege for months in 1991, leading to thousands of deaths), and then “references” this by linking to an article by a guy called Kent, on the ultra-Likudnik, Islamophobic site ‘Emperor’s Clothes’, which points to ethnic cleansing of Serbs from *Western* Slavonia, but which is mostly about the Croatian recapture of that region in 1995, rather than 1991; the head starts spinning.

For all his refusal to believe this source and that, Herman has no problem with various ultra-rightist sources. Between Bogdanovic, a reactionary Serb nationalist that Herman is extensively collaborating with (here is a good review of Bogdanovic’s film, giving an idea of his politics:, the neo-Confederate, League of the South, arch-racist Trifkovic, his blog ‘grayfalcon’, and another arch-Islamophobic pro-Likud Serbian ultra-right site, ‘Serbianna’, and the politically similar ‘Emperor’s Clothes’, such references account for 13 of Herman’s references, one sixth of the total, not counting the US Republican Policy Committee (which Herman recommends has a “good summary” of the view that Bosnian Muslims regularly bombed themselves, as, I suppose, Muslims tend to do in the view of such a quintessentially reactionary organisation), or various US generals and so on. The neo-Confederate Trifkovic is also highly recommended for a “good summary” of how Muslim suffering was greatly exaggerated. One feels disappointed that Herman hasn’t also referenced the John Birch Society, the Ku Klux Klan, Ariel Sharon, the white South African AWB Boer Resistance, Le Pen, Ian Paisley and other such scum who all hold similar views to his on former Yugoslavia issues. And as he notes, there are a number of other Serbian nationalists he is “indebted to,” one of which is Milivoje Ivanisevic, a former senator of the Karadzic regime in ‘Republika Srpska’, ie, the half of Bosnia officially turned in to a “Serb Republic” after the non-Serb half of the population, about a million people, had been ethnically cleansed, and all traces of centuries of Muslim culture and civilisation eradicated.

Anyway, let’s return to Collon’s final comment on the Krajina issue:

“Clinton called the offensive 'useful'. His Secretary of State said: "The retaking of the Krajina could lead to a new strategic situation which might be favorable for us." Worse yet: the United States advised Croatia in carrying out its offensive, according to an admission by the Croatian foreign minister. Furthermore, it was Washington that took charge of the 'democratic' training of this army.”

This is all very true. The US should be made to bear some of the responsibility for the atrocities that took place as part of this operation, not only the Croatian generals that are up on charges at the Hague.

However, it is worthwhile understanding why the US aided the Croatian offensive, because left at that, as it usually is, suggests that, well, the US aided Croatia against the Krajina Serbs because perhaps it likes Croats and doesn’t like Serbs. Yet this hardly squares with the revelations above, that the US also likely connived with the Bosnian Serb forces in the conquest of Srebrenica.

Neither does it concur with the US position during the massive Serboslav attack on Croatia in 1991 and the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Croats then – the position then was that the US opposed recognition of Croatia, pushed an arms embargo against “all Yugoslavia”, which effectively prevented unarmed Croatia from getting arms to balance the massive arsenal of the ‘Yugoslav’ Army, via Vance brought about a peace agreement that froze the confrontation lines in Serbia’s favour, effectively recognizing the annexation of a third of Croatia, allowed the ‘Yugoslav’ Army to take all its heavy weaponry in Croatia out into Bosnia, and then continued to oppose recognition for months after the EU and Russia had recognised Croatia and Slovenia.

So what was the political situation that led to the US arming of Croatia to facilitate its reconquest of the Krajina in 1995? It is true that the US green light to the Bosnian Serb forces to take Srebrenica did not involve training and arming their forces, as in the case of Croatia’s retaking of the Krajina. That was obviously unnecessary; as the Serb nationalists controlled the great bulk of weaponry, there was little they could do with even more weapons to subjugate a little enclave full of disarmed or semi-armed Muslim refugees.

But the evidence strongly suggests that the conquests of Srebrenica (and Zepa) and then of Krajina were a pincer movement in tandem, a last bout of ethnic cleansing aimed at ethnic “tidying up” of the region in order to carry out a neater Serbo-Croatian partition of the region as the basis for the US-imposed Dayton Accord. The fact that not only was no attempt made to prevent the conquest of the Srebrenica-Zepa “safe areas,” despite strong indications the US knew it was coming, but also that from the start, the new US partition plans had ceded Srebrenica and Zepa to ‘Republika Srpska’, a key demand of the Chetniks to sign on to the US plan, indicates this.

This has all been explained above. What needs to be added to that section was that there was a quid pro quo. If the east Bosnian Muslim ‘enclaves’ were to be eliminated to create a stronger ‘Republika Srpska’, and RS’s ‘northern corridor’ between its east and west halves through the formerly largely Croat-populated Posavina was to be widened, then Serbia would also agree to forgo those conquests in the very far west of Bosnia on the Croatian Krajina border, and Krajina itself, because even though these were ironically their only conquests where there really had been an overwhelming majority Serb population before the war, they were also the conquests that were the furthest from Serbia geographically, apart form being economically useless rugged land. On the other hand, they were very valuable to Croatia – the Krajina itself was Croatian territory whose loss in 1991 had effectively cut northern Croatia off from its Dalmation coast; while for the Croatia’s Bosnian Croat puppets to take over the neighbouring far west section of Bosnia from the Serbs would allow Croatia a stronger link to the Bosnian territories already controlled by these forces, in Western Herzegovina. This explains not only the US arming of Croatia to recapture Krajina, and the US and western facilitation of the Serbian conquest of Srebrenica-Zepa, but also the complete lack of fight by the Krajina Serb leadership and the relatively quiet acceptance of the Krajina recapture by Milosevic.

So when, as Collon notes, “Clinton called the offensive 'useful'” and “his Secretary of State said "the retaking of the Krajina could lead to a new strategic situation which might be favorable for us," they were talking a lot of sense. The conquest of Srebrenica-Zepa also led to this same “useful new situation,” consolidated as the Dayton Accord.

One final thing that should be noted about Dayton is the fact that the attempt by the non-violent Kosovar Albanian leadership of Ibrahim Rugova to be represented at Dayton so that the Kosova issue could also be addressed was snubbed by the US, quite happy with Milosevic-Tudjman as its strategic partners. It was this snub of the Kosovar Albanians, who had been waging a “Ghandian” campaign for independence right through the 1990s, while the rest of Yugoslavia was engulfed in flames, in concert with the recognition of the gangster state of ‘Republika Srpska’ in half the UN-member state of Bosnia, despite it being nothing but a creation of enormous violence and genocide, that taught the Kosovar Albanians the “painful truth” as enunciated by a KLA commander, that “those that want freedom must fight for it.”


(1) Regarding these 6000 body bags, Roger Lippman at Balkan Witness points to some confusion about this:

"The figure of 6,000 bodies found to date was reported in error. In all likelihood, someone at ICMP told journalists that ICMP had 6,000 body bags from Srebrenica. It is a mistake that is easy to understand; in most cases, one would assume that a body bag containing human remains would contain an entire body. Sadly, because of the problem of secondary mass graves and commingling of remains, that is just not the case with Srebrenica victims. (Secondary mass graves are locations to which bodies from primary mass graves were removed by Serbian forces in an effort to hide the magnitude of the massacre.)

"Each body bag does not represent an individual victim. Excavators at the scene of a mass grave isolate body parts and bodies the best they can and put them into body bags. Because of the problem of commingling and secondary grave sites, parts of the same individual may be in other parts of the same grave site or in other graves. Therefore, the remains of one individual are sometimes contained in several different body bags.

"This does not diminish the number of persons who went missing from Srebrenica. As of early 2005, ICMP has on its database 7,789 named missing individuals from Srebrenica – and there are more people missing because ICMP has bone samples for which there are no matches with family members' DNA.

"The nearest estimate of the number of exhumed bodies from Srebrenica in early 2005 is close to 4,000. No one can give a more precise figure than that. There are many more sites waiting to be exhumed – and doubtless more will be discovered.

"The erroneous figure of 6,000 bodies has been picked up and repeated by numerous other news sources, but never with proper attribution."

The following are some extra useful links on Srebrenica (on top of the links provided above to replies to Herman):

This is a very thorough report:
Srebrenica Investigation: Summary of Forensic Evidence – Execution Points and Mass Graves

I also think Bianca Jagger gives an excellent description of the entire Srebrenica ordeal, which is useful not just regarding the issue of numbers, but also other aspects of the story distorted by Ed Herman. Jagger’s articles are at and

This is the Bosnian Serb government’s own report admitting the crime:

Weinberg also included a list of other useful links about the Srebrenica massacre:

"Srebrenica: Anatomy of a Massacre," Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR)

Dragan Obrenovic statement to ICTY

Momir Nikolic statement to ICTY

IWPR story on Momir Nikolic perjury, from FreeRepublic

ICMP press release on identification of bodies

Open Democracy report, "Srebrenica: ten years on"

Radio Netherlands report on the Tribunal ten years after Srebrenica

BBC story on Serb Republic apology for massacre

"Serbia Struggles to Face the Truth about Srebrenica," by Tim Judah, Crimes of War Project

Deniers of Serbia's War Crimes, Balkan Witness

"Did Six Million Really Die?" Holocaust-denial numbers-fudging