The Balkans Resource Pages: The Story of Srebrenica

When I was leaving Yugoslavia not in my furthest fantasies could I see two Americans (rumpled, kind of intellectual, you know, Upper West Side types) pasting their fliers on street-light poles, fliers that say "Help Srebrenica", or something like that. If somebody asked me then where the Srebrenica is on the map of Yugoslavia, I'd need quite some time to find it. The war put us on the map so well, that even those who are traditionally bad with geography (Americans) now know perfectly well where all those little hamlets in Bosnia really are.

At the time of its every anniversary, the infamous Srebrenica story (8,000 young Muslim men and boys were killed at random and buried in mass graves during the Bosnian Serb conquest of Srebrenica in Summer 1995) is surviving another interesting twist lately: not only that the U.N. have been accomplices, but also the U.S. might have been acomplices (which by default made U.N. acomplices) with the Serb advance on Srebrenica. Mladic took Srebrenica after Croatian Army took Pakrac. It was as if 'somebody' gave a signal to both Milosevic and Tudjman that if Serbs give up the struggle in Croatia, they'd be generously rewarded with territory in Bosnia.

When Srebrenica fell, a wave of outrage with Serbs suddenly rolled through the Western (particularly American) press. The U.S. started closing in on its Western allies asking for NATO air-strikes. Loosing one of its "Safe Havens" the U.N. took up the blame (well, that is why we have the U.N., don't we). Organizations like Safe Haven Relief funded by the likes of Freedom House just spawned out of nowhere; CIA took nice satellite pictures of every move Serbs did in Srebrenica.. ..and didn't release them for three weeks, all the way until The New York Times printed that two F-18s helped Croatian forces to subdue Krajina. As soon as the information, about the close air support the U.S. provided to Croatian Army in seizing Krajina from Serbs, surfaced to the press, the sattelite pictures of the mass graves around Srebrenica were released. A clever diversion. They became a pivotal point in the American public opinion about the war in the Balkans.

Eventually this series of events discredited the U.N. operations in former Yugoslavia, established the U.S. as the only rightful leader (which is exactly the role the U.S. wanted to play in this as in any other game), and blatantly showed Balkan leaders their place in the game (when Holbroke seated them for dinner in a hangar at the Dayton Air-Force Base just next to the parked F-117 and a few cruise missiles). It did work, so we should not be screaming foul now.

It is just unfortunate that the same mind games will now apply to the implementation of the civilian part of the Dayton Agreement, which is still headed by Europeans, so the U.S. is not really interested in making it work (yet both Holbroke and Christopher wrote in major newsmagazine how 'all three parties to the Dayton agreement are not enough committed to implementation of civilian accords', without much sympathy for Carl Bildt).

Of course the European powers pursue their own agendas which have nothing in common with the interests of Bosnian people, too. The cold war between the U.S. (with large and affluent, voting Croatian emigre community) and the U.K. (which ruling party highest ranking members received generous contributions from Slobodan Milosevic's proxies), did not damage no houses in either the U.S. or the U.K. (or women raped, or kids massacred, or where are those floods of refugees from London or New York?). In such wonderfully enacted "New World Order" the U.N. can be expected not to work: they are what we made of them.

Curiously, Bosnian Army unit that decided to defend Srebrenica until the last men - despite the orders from Sarajevo to retreat - was lead by a shady local gangster-type, Naser Oric. Himself a Bosnian Muslim, he worked previously as a Serbian policeman in Kosovo, where he, obviously earned enough trust to be promoted to a personal bodyguard to Slobodan Milosevic - a job he held until the war in Bosnia started in 1992. Today, he is one of the very few Bosnian Muslims wanted by the Hague war crimes tribunal.

Today, 10 years after, in the promised land of Dayton Bosnia, with one Western government that resigned in shame over a simple mistake of one of their soldiers, with nearly 15,000 people in Bosnia & Hercegovina still missing, with most of Srebrenica corpses still unaccounted for, and the Serbian commander that ordered massacres in Srebrenica, Ratko Mladic, still at large (he even received military pension until two years ago in Serbia-Montenegro), Srebrenica's mayor, along most of its Bosniak citizens, still live in exile in Sarajevo. What must they think about us?