Sunday 12 July 2015


Twenty years ago the Srebrenica massacre was the deadliest of the Bosnian War and followed a short-lived NATO bombing of Serb positions. That would culminate four years later with intensive bombing against Serbia itself. I was in Mostar at the time and could hear the planes as they headed for Belgrade. Only more recently, when researching weapons used in the Iraq war, did I find out that their bombs were tipped with depleted uranium. (articles for Future Trust  & Counterpunch).  Srebrenica has since been invoked to justify military interventions elsewhere. In 2005, Christopher Hitchens defended the US decision to invade Iraq with an article entitled , “From Srebrenica to Baghdad”. Guardian columnist, Peter Preston, advocated military intervention in Libya, with these words, “Remember Srebrenica”. Most recently an article on ISIS in the New International Business Times warned of a “New Srebrenica”. Srebrenica was the largest mass killing in Europe since the 1940s. Eight thousand Muslim / Bosniak men and boys were killed and, according to an investigation by the Dutch government, “Muslims were slaughtered like beasts.” But, according to Swedish diplomat Carl Bildt, European Union mediator during the Bosnian War, Bosnian government forces assigned to protect Srebrenica were “not putting up any resistance. Later it was revealed that they had been ordered by the Sarajevo commanders not to defend Srebrenica.” Bildt’s account is supported by military correspondent Tim Ripley, who has provided evidence that the Bosnian government ceded the town to Serb forces. There is evidence that a similar policy was applied in Mostar, where I was living. Bosnian forces were withdrawn from a strategic hilltop in the town on orders from the Sarajevo government. International talks to resolve the Bosnian conflict began in early 1992, shortly before the war began. The effort was directed by Portuguese diplomat José Cutileiro. He brought the leaders of all three Bosnian ethnic groups to Lisbon and out of the talks came a plan for an ethnic confederation. In March 1992, all three agreed to a preliminary version of this peace plan, but it broke down under US pressure. Were they afraid that the European Community might emerge as a distinct power bloc in the post-Soviet world, acting independently of the United States and NATO? The US ambassador to Yugoslavia, Warren Zimmermann, encouraged President Izetbegović to reject the peace plan. According to former State Department official George Kenney, “Zimmermann told Izetbegović … [the US will] recognize you and help you out. So don’t go ahead with the Lisbon agreement.” Zimmermann himself has denied blocking the agreement, but a wide range of sources, including James Bissett, the Canadian ambassador to Yugoslavia; Peter Carrington, a former UK foreign minister; and the official Dutch investigation of the Bosnian War, confirm that the US government played a disruptive role. In light of US pressure, the Croats and Muslims both withdrew from the agreement and the stage was set for war. The idea that international diplomacy emboldened Serb aggression is a myth that has helped justify later efforts to scuttle diplomatic settlements elsewhere. The ensuing levels of slaughter has resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands. It continues. I doubt the victims of the Srebrenica massacre would welcome this as their epitaph. ( my memoirs, "Left Field" will be published by Unbound in March 2016)

For fuller accounts read here,  here and  here

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