Srebrenica: The urban legend

Posted on November 2, 2011 by

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The alleged Srebrenica massacre of Bosnian Muslims in July 1995 is referred to regularly by the mainstream media as a moral touchstone, an example of “genocide” that can take place when the U.S. is not the moral arbiter or when the U.S. hesitates to intervene on behalf of an endangered part of humanity somewhere in the world. And many Americans, conditioned by sixteen years of media saturation, responded reflexively and have come to agree that a genocide occurred in Srebrenica even though there is still no proof sixteen years later.

(Photo: Bosnian Nazi soldiers reading Nazi propaganda. “Before WWI, Serbs accounted for 75% of the population of the municipality of Srebrenica. Before WWII, they accounted for 50% of the population. Before the outbreak of the Bosnian War, they accounted for only 30% of the population. This tremendous population decline was not caused by a drop in the birth rate or migration. It was a direct result of genocide carried out by Muslim and Croat neighbors. “Srebrenica Before It Happened,”)

The credulity of ordinary Americans did not last long. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11, triggered the invasion of Afghanistan. Later, Americans found out that the casus belli, “that we’re fighting them over there so that we don’t have to fight them here” was fraught with lies, as well. UNOCAL, a U.S. oil company, was interested in bringing Central Asian oil to market via a proposed Afghan oil pipeline. Then the American public learned that Condoleeza Rice, Secretary of State, and Hamid Karzai, the President of Afghanistan, were former members of UNOCAL’s board of directors. It turned out to be simply another war for profit. After the invasion of Iraq, Americans began to further doubt the veracity of U.S. government public statements. It appeared, after all, that Sadam Hussein did not possess weapons of destruction. “No matter,” replied the Bush II Administration, “invading Iraq was still the right thing to do because we took control of Iraq’s oil fields.” Few Americans know that U.S. intervention in the Wars of Succession on the territory of the Former Yugoslavia were also based on lies, even though the U.S. Government still refers to these interventions with pride as necessary and successful international efforts. Yet reality is sobering. It turns out, in hindsight, that the Saudis wanted a Muslim state in Bosnia in exchange for staying out of Gulf War I, so U.S. President Clinton was delighted to show his good faith and granted, like a genie from the Arabian Nights, the Saudis their wish. One cannot help but wonder why “a Muslim state” (i.e., a theocratic state based on sharia law) was created in Europe, when all the other European states are secular. Later, it was revealed that there were untapped oil reserves in Tuzla in Bosnia, coincidentally the location of U.S. Eagle military base. Then the war in Kosovo, also considered a model of interventionist probity, turned out to have an oil pipeline hidden beneath the humanitarian rhetoric. AMBO, the Albanian-Macedonian-Bulgarian Oil Company, began construction in 2010 of an oil pipeline from Burgas on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria to Durres in Albania. Coincidentally, U.S. Camp Bondsteel is conveniently located in Kosovo to protect this pipeline and its putative future profits.

Thus, the Bosnian War generally, and the alleged Srebrenica massacre of July 1995 specifically, were testing grounds for not only new weapons, but also new media techniques to win broad support from the U.S. population for future wars of imperialist aggression, such as the current war being waged against Libya, which employs many of the same media techniques and military approaches that were developed during the Bosnian War: the leader is declared to be “insane”; NATO introduces “no-fly zones” during the opening phase of the conflict; then an invasion is planned to “protect” citizens from an “insane” dictator. These propaganda techniques were then, as now, enormously successful, and are based on selective reporting and selective omission of critical facts in order to create a perception of U.S. virtue and enemy villainy.

The Srebrenica massacre stands as a nearly perfect propaganda campaign, which is nurtured to this very day. For example, given Don McLean’s lyrics “Drove my Chevy to the levee…” almost any American can reflexively complete the verse with “but the levee was dry”; likewise, any American, upon hearing “Srebrenica”, can add a phrase standing in apposition, “where the Serbs killed 8,000 men and boys” without any prompting. But the Srebrenica levee is, as we shall see, also dry.

Stefan Karganovich is the director of The Srebrenica Historical Project (www.srebrenica-project.com), whose mission statement on its website states:

Our broad purpose is to collect information on Srebrenica during the last conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, defined not as July 1995, but more broadly as 1992-1995. That means that we shall be creating a comprehensive and contextual, as opposed to selective, record of the violence between the communities in that area during the conflict. We shall focus also on crimes committed against the Serb civilians not because we favor them but because so far they have been ignored. We wish to redress that balance, but we will not work under any ideological limitations. A corollary goal will be to launch something along the lines of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission….

The fundamental objective of our project is to rise above politics and propaganda and to create a contextual record of the Srebrenica tragedy of July 1995 which can serve as a corrective to the distortions of the last decade and a half and as a genuine contribution to future peace.

In addition to regular press releases and news updates on topics related to Srebrenica, the Srebrenica Historical Project has published Deconstruction of a Virtual Genocide: An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Srebrenica, which Mr. Karganovich has written and edited in collaboration with four other noted authors. Years of research have gone into the production of this book, which re-examines key aspects of the alleged Srebrenica massacre. The empirical basis for these studies, and the verifiable information contained in these twelve thoroughly researched and well thought-out essays will serve as a touchstone for journalists, historians, researchers and students who wish to delve beneath the surface of corporate media accounts of the Bosnian War and the fall of Srebrenica.

Deconstruction of a Virtual Genocide is a landmark study devoted exclusively to the events that took place in Srebrenica during the 1992-1995 period, and it overturns allegations of genocide having taken place in Srebrenica, yet it does not deny that extrajudicial killings, i.e., executions, did take place. It furthermore refutes, using The Hague Tribunal’s own evidence, that such an incident ever occurred.

Mr. Karganovich, who authored seven of the twelve essays contained in the book, establishes a towering level of dispassionate intellectual honesty in his pursuit of the truth, which is matched by the four other contributors: Ljubiša Simić, Edward Herman, George Pumphrey, and J.P. Maher. Mr. Karganovich alerts us in his preface that this study will take a holistic approach to Srebrenica, and place it within the context of the 1991–1995 Bosnian War. He does so masterfully by opening with a bombshell revelation.

Mr. Karganovich’s approach is academic: he summarizes the principal lines of inquiry his study will pursue in his opening essay, “A Critical Overview of Srebrenica.” He reviews three categories of evidence for the alleged massacre: the testimony of Dražen Erdemović, the DNA testing performed on the human remains that were found, and satellite photos of the county of Srebrenica. Much has been written about Dražen Erdemović, the mercenary from the Tenth Sabotage Detachment, whose purported eyewitness testimony served as evidence in The Hague Tribunal for the conviction of General Krstić, among others, for genocide. Mr. Karganovich quickly sketches the portrait of a perjurer who, although having confessed to the murder of one hundred men, which ranks him as one of the foremost twentieth-century mass murderers (one wonders whether his story merits a made-for-TV movie), served only a fraction of his ten-year sentence, and has been rewarded with a new identity and a life-time subsidy in return for providing testimony in The Hague Tribunal that often contradicts itself as well as known facts. Few people recall the satellite photos that supposedly indicated the aftermath of a genocide in Bosnia. Madeleine Albright introduced the Srebrenica massacre to the world when she waved prints of these satellite photos at a UN Security Council in order to upstage a session convened to discuss Croatia’s Operation Storm, which expelled 250,000 Serbs from their hereditary lands. These satellite photos have since been sealed in archives and will not be available for fifty years, so they are not available for independent examination or review. Lastly, there is the DNA evidence that The Hague has at its disposal. After the arrest of General Ratko Mladić, an article entitled “Monster Mladić and the Mothers Who Waited” (Daily Express, UK, May 28, 2011), made a typical assertion with respect to Srebrenica: “So far, DNA tests and other forensic methods have led to the identification of 6,690 victims there.” The ordinary reader, faced with such a scientific statement, simply accepts this as indisputable empirical proof that substantiates the claim that “8,000 men and boys” were murdered in Srebrenica. Doubt or inquiry recoil before such a luminous and self-evident truth. However, as George Pumphrey pointed out, no independent third party ever reviewed the DNA matching data. Thus, the character of Mr. Karganovich’s mind is revealed by his asking an unlikely yet entirely reasonable question: “Who performed the DNA testing?” Mr. Karganovich learned the answer: the DNA testing was performed by an NGO called The International Commission on Missing Persons in the Former Yugoslavia, which was established after a G-7 summit in Lyon, France, in 1997 at the behest of U.S. President Clinton. Its past presidents have included former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and Senator Bob Dole, and James Kimsey, a former director of America Online. Its current President is Thomas Miller, former U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, who — like all ICMP presidents — was appointed by the U.S. Secretary of State. This actually makes the ICMP an NNGO (a non-non-governmental agency), in other words, an official mouthpiece for U.S. State Department propaganda. Even so, this evidence was presented during Popović et al. in closed session. When Radovan Karadžić, in the course of his trial, requested the right to examine the DNA evidence, the ICTY Prosecutor Hildegard Uertz-Retzlaff replied: “ICMP has not shown the DNA to us either. So that is not correct that they have given it to us, but not to others.” The judges ruled that Karadžić would be allowed to examine a small number (300) of the samples, yet the judges made such examination contingent on the written consent of the families of the victims. Karganovich further learned that the ICMP had been operating from its inception in 1996 — to October 2007 — without certification from Gednap, the international agency based in Germany that accredits DNA laboratories. The ICTY Chamber, however, in a ruling that would have stunned any U.S. attorney working on a medical malpractice case, ruled that “the ICMP’s lack of accreditation prior to 2007 does not undermine the authenticity of the identifications concluded before this time.” (!) Furthermore, Karganovich made subsequent inquiries with Gednap which led to another shocking discovery. The ICMP has laboratories in three locations in Bosnia: Sarajevo, Tuzla, and Banja Luka. The ICMP has administrative offices in Sarajevo, and the Banja Luka laboratory is reserved for a small number of difficult cases. However, Karganovich says of Tuzla, “That site, the only operationally significant of the lot, it turns out never was inspected by Gednap and no explanation has been offered for that awkward exception.” Karganovich also points out that DNA samples, as well as results, can nowadays be faked. Nonetheless, the Chamber congratulated the ICMP for avoiding accountability for having operated without generally accepted professional standards, and the Chamber saw fit to incorporate this data into its judgment in the Popović case, which bodes ill for Serbian defendants at The Hague Tribunal in the short term, and jurisprudence in the long-term.

Karganovich argues eloquently that Srebrenica was a case of genocide by political arrangement, if not a staged event. He cites the testimony of Hakija Meholjić, President of the SDA (the Muslim political party) in Srebrenica, who went on record to say that U.S. President Clinton, indicated to Alija Izetbegović what conditions would lead to U.S. intervention in Bosnia. Meholjić goes on record to say that during a meeting with Izetbegović in Sarajevo in 1993, Izetbegović declared that U.S. intervention could be obtained by the deaths of at least 5,000 Srebrenica Muslims. Meholjić has never retracted this statement.

At that time in 1993, Alija Izetbegović demanded not just the killing of 5,000 Muslims in Srebrenica, but the slitting of their throats…. I stood up and asked him if he were demented and who was supposed to kill that many people…. Izetbegović endorsed the commission of genocide, and the Serbs fell for something that had been arranged in advance.
Dani, Sarajevo, June 22, 1998

Izetbegović, of course, denied making these remarks when the article appeared in 1998. Yet UNPROFOR commander Philippe Morillon stated that “Mladić had walked into a trap.” General Mladić took Srebrenica with 400 soldiers and two tanks, while 15,000 Muslim soldiers and civilians of military age gathered in the nearby village of Šušnjari to make a rolling retreat through difficult terrain that had been heavily mined by both Muslims and Serbs. These soldiers made no effort to fight. Why? These are unlikely choices that were made by the Bosnian Muslim Army, which provoke the suspicion of any dispassionate observer.

After such a bombshells, one might think that the rest of Deconstruction of a Virtual Genocide might pale in a repetition of already known facts in the Srebrenica case. Nothing could be further from the truth. Each chapter contains new conclusions drawn from rigorous analyses of the available evidence that casts the alleged Srebrenica massacre as a hoax designed advance a political goal: the domination, privatization, and destruction of Serbia as a state and Serbians as a nationality.

These essays examine twelve critical topics that have either been omitted or ignored by the U.S. and European corporate media. If there is any fault at all with Mr. Karganovich’s writing, it is a thoroughness typically associated with German scholarship. On the one hand, Mr. Karganovich speaks out as a prophet in the wilderness; on the other hand, he can ill afford to base a hypothesis on assertions that are not empirical or to draw a false conclusion. If he errs on the side of thoroughness, so be it, because by doing so he shields his determined effort to expose the truth from unwarranted criticism. Karganovich keeps his powder dry for pages at a time, but he allows his prose to catch fire and explode when he makes his devastating points. He furnishes essays providing a critical overview and recontextualization of the role Srebrenica played in the war: its promised demilitarization (which never occurred); the question of whether the fall of Srebrenica was “genocide” or “blowback”; an analysis of Muslim losses due to minefields and combat activity; and an investigation into the question of whether there was demonstrable intent on the part of the Serbs to exterminate all Muslims. Ljubiša Simić reports on the ICTY’s forensic reports and the presentation and interpretation of these reports. Edward S. Herman, known for his outstanding work in dismantling U.S. propaganda in Manufacturing Consent (which he co-wrote with Noam Chomsky), contributed an essay on the U.S. media coverage of Srebrenica. George Pumphrey, one of the most astute of the early commentators on the alleged “massacre,” contributes an analysis of the history and the legend of Srebrenica. And J.P. Maher examines the argument and rhetoric of the ICTY Judgments. The result is not damaging to the ICTY’s claim that genocide took place in Srebrenica; it is, instead, as Karganovich says, fatal to such claims. It is worthwhile to highlight his lines of inquiry, especially those that involve new evidence.

The corporate media does not acknowledge the fact that the Bosnian Muslim Army stationed as many as 5,000 armed members of the Bosnian Muslim 28th Division in Srebrenica, who were under the command of Naser Orić. These soldiers were never disarmed nor was Srebrenica ever demilitarized, despite agreements to do so that were signed by French General Philippe Morillon and General Ratko Mladić. These soldiers regularly attacked neighboring Serbian villages and hamlets during the 1992-1995 period. They killed approximately 3,200 people, 2,700 of whom were civilians. The UN, by not enforcing its own agreements on the demilitarization of Srebrenica, bears the brunt of the culpability for failing to have disarmed the Muslim soldiers stationed there. Karganovich quotes from the debriefing of the Dutch soldiers stationed in Srebrenica: “the BiH forces carried out systematic actions from within the enclave, and subsequently withdrew to UN protected territory.” Further killings of Serbian civilians continued unabated, even though the Serbian military had promised not to attack the “safe zone.” Karganovich quotes official Bosnian Muslim Army documents that attest to troop strength in Srebrenica in February 1994 (5,133), impressive stockpiles of weapons (e.g., 4,000 guns, sub-machine guns, and machine guns; sixty 60mm mortars; thirty-six 82mm mortars). However, throughout this period, the UN and the “international community” blamed only the Serbs for rising tensions in Srebrenica.

Effective propaganda shares one important quality: it is based on half-truths. If the UN and the “international community” were to admit that General Mladić had taken Srebrenica because the situation in the safe haven and surrounding areas had become intolerable, that the Muslim soldiers of Srebrenica were not innocent victims, then the pretext of the Srebrenica massacre hoax collapses. One of the most foreboding elements in the Bosnian civil war was the foreign actors, spearheaded by the UN but including influential government officials from various states, who together called themselves the “international community”; the corporate media which dumbed down its explanation of the war in favor of the Bosnian Muslims and to the constant disadvantage of Serbs; and finally NGOs (non-governmental organizations), all of which, in the most prejudicial manner, minimized or omitted Bosnian Muslim crimes but exaggerated Serbian ones. Karganovich quotes General Satish Nambiar:

Portraying the Serbs as evil and everybody else as good was not only counter-productive but also dishonest.

Karganovich summarizes the collective effort made by the various contributors in “The Balance Sheet.” First of all, Karganovich plainly refutes charges of “revisionism” because “no fundamental aspect of the matter has been clarified.”  Srebrenica remains an open question. Therefore, “there is literally nothing to ‘revise’.”

Attempts to tar every independent inquiry into the events that took place in Srebrenica with the brush of “revisionism” are not merely political sport.  They arrest, Karganovich rightly maintains, the free intellectual inquiry on which Western society has developed over the past five hundred years.  It is, instead, a concerted effort to socially engineer the thoughts of the public.

Deconstruction of a Virtual Genocide was published after the emergence of two heretofore inaccessible sources: 1) the complete set of autopsy reports prepared by the ICTY Prosecution forensic teams from 1996 to 2001; and 2) statements given by Srebrenica residents, most of them surviving members of the 28th Division, who ultimately reached Muslim-held territory after the fall of Srebrenica on July 11, 1995.

The autopsy reports are significant because they shed light on the fact that the bodies of about 1,920 individuals were found in mass graves, and secondly, these autopsy reports established a pattern of injury that revealed at least two major causes of death:  execution and combat.  The former is a war crime; the latter is not.  Karganovich and his contributors did not ignore autopsy reports conducted by the ICTY after 2001; they are not available because the Bosnian Institute for Missing Persons assumed responsibility for this task in 2001.  Each year the Bosnian government inters new victims in the Potočari Memorial Cemetery, yet none of the autopsies of these alleged victims has ever been submitted to the ICTY as evidence.

The survivor statements refer to fierce combat and enormous casualties, which are unrelated to the executions.  Why have these combat casualties never been identified as such by the ICTY?  The ICTY never distinguished between deaths resulting from the lawful conduct of warfare, as defined by the Geneva Conventions, and executions.

Martyrs Made To Order: 28th Muslim Division’s Ill Fated Escape
(The soldiers of the 28th Muslim division of Srebrenica met their demise after being betrayed by Muslim leaders and after inflicting years of untold horrors on the Christian population of surrounding villages)

  Green arrows – ARBiH – Muslim Armed forces [ARBiH – Armija Republike Bosne i Hercegovine

Red arrows – VRS – Bosnian Serb Army [VRS – Vojska Republike Srpske]

Blue – Dutch (i.e. NATO) troops positioned to defend their Muslim fundamentalist allies.

The ICTY has all this information readily available in its databases, so it is not simple oversight, but something more serious. Is the ICTY acting in bad faith?  As Karganovich reasons, “If we concede that [there were] 500 execution victims and add to them the 442 with [blindfolds] and ligatures, the maximum of potential victims of execution in this lot would be about 950.”  That amounts to 26% of the Tribunal’s 3,658 cases, which falls far short of the majority of those exhumed.  And  based on the internal evidence of the ICTY’s autopsy reports, the actual number of individuals who perished is 1,920. So the ICTY cannot reach its target figure of 8,000 in this fashion.

The DNA evidence presented to the ICTY is unacceptable in any court of law, and its introduction is a violation of the adversarial system on which a court of law is based. The only conclusion Karganovich can draw is that the ICTY is a kangaroo court that acts in bad faith and seeks politically correct judgments.

Diana Johnstone, author and political analyst, raised the question of “the uses of Srebrenica.” The key question is not what happened, but cui bono? The Sarajevo-based government uses Srebrenica as a national rallying cry to motivate “patriotism” and mass mobilizations of Bosnian Muslims, who are Islamized Serbs, as they had been known until recently, when Tito recognized the Muslim “nationality” in 1972.  The Srebrenica legend feeds the paranoia that prevents reconciliation with their Serbian neighbors, and it manipulates their citizens by manufacturing fear and insecurity. Karganovich ruefully notes that this also means that Bosnian Muslims, after having been subjected to such social engineering, will be less likely to think for themselves, much less to think “outside the  box.”  The Bosnian Muslims have instead, under the cover of the alleged Srebrenica massacre, subjected themselves to re-Islamization, because the Saudis and others consider them to have been  insufficiently Islamized in the first place. For all these reasons, the Sarajevo-based government will never tolerate the demystification of the Srebrenica cult. This has resulted in continued backwardness in Muslim-held Bosnia, and insures a dysfunctional Bosnian government, which is what the U.S. and the EU wanted in the first place, so that these neo-imperialist powers can continue to “supervise” the crippled state they created.

The phony version of Srebrenica, the core of which is a heinous crime that did not occur, which the Serbs did not commit and which they will never accept as their collective act, was invented deliberately to serve as a permanent and unbridgeable obstacle to the unity of two religious communities which are component parts of the same people.

The Bosnian Serbian leadership always maintained that about 1,500 to 1,800 Bosnian Muslim troops were killed in the Srebrenica action, and that an uncertain number of those were executed. Sixteen years after the fact, the initial Bosnian Serb estimates of Muslim casualties in Srebrenica end up being closer to the truth than any of the subsequent formulations or pseudo-legal constructs proffered by The Hague Tribunal.

The day has come when Americans must interpret the news by applying interpretive techniques to it that were once reserved for literary criticism. Besides conveying a literal propagandistic meaning, the “news” conveys a latent meaning that is brought to light by the act of interpretation. One must “interpret” the news because it withholds some secret that must be explained in order to understand it. Corporate high priests still guard the official meaning of “Srebrenica,” and they still try to marginalize or shun those who would question it. Thus, the “news” is a social engineering device that can only be resisted by “interpretation.”

This phantom massacre, an urban legend, erases the memory of the 750,000 Serbs, Jews, and Roma who were killed in the Jasenovac Concentration Camp during WWII; this phantom massacre erases the memory of the forced conversion to Roman Catholicism of some 300,000 Serbs who lived in Croatia during WWII; this phantom massacre erases the memory of Operation Storm and the ethnic cleansing of 250,000 Serbs from Croatia; this phantom massacre erases the memory of the 3,200 Serbs who were killed in the area around Srebrenica between 1991 and 1995 (commensurate to the number to American lives lost in 9/11); this phantom massacre erases the genocide conducted against Serbs in Srebrenica specifically, and in Bosnia generally during WWI and WWII; and this phantom massacre erases the bombardment of Serbia in 1999.

Genocide is a crime. The extrajudicial execution of prisoners is a war crime and such crimes deserve the punishment to the fullest extent of the law. Yet what is the punishment for those who fabricate a phantom genocide — one that never took place? There is no punishment for such a crime. It’s not on the books, so, it isn’t a crime, after all. Even so, the act of fabricating a false genocide is its own punishment, because to lie to others is to lie to one’s self. The U.S. is now suffering the terrible consequences of having lied to itself, because it has distorted its own view of the world as well as its own place in it, and the U.S. has far more ominously poisoned the discourse it conducts on questions of its own survival. The corporate media conducts noxious social engineering efforts at the expense of open dialogue with respect to our vital interests, such as: the government-sponsored bail-out of U.S. banks; the war against state and municipal union employees; the growing number of U.S. states that are tottering on the edge of bankruptcy; the movement to destroy public education by the introduction of charter schools, and along with it, the attacks on teachers’ unions; chronic unemployment; the artificially induced national debt; low taxes favoring corporations and wealthy individuals; the never-ending engagement in several simultaneous imperialist wars — each and every public dialogue has been corrupted by the same mechanism that unleashed the “Srebrenica massacre” on us, and still sustains it. That is how the corporate media rewrites history and perverts honest discourse by means of saturation-level repetition of media lies.

A film about Srebrenica worked Norwegian journalists. This film is a masterpiece unmasking deception and lies:

Tere’s another documentary exploring the aggression suffered by the Serbian people preceding July 1995.

Posted in: Bosnia