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The Dismantling of Yugoslavia (Part II)

Jump to Part: I, III, IV | Glossary | Timeline

3. The UN in NATO’s Service

A striking feature of U.S. policy since the collapse of the Soviet deterrent is the frequency with which it relies on the Security Council and the Secretariat for its execution—before the fact when it can (Iraq 1990–91), but after the fact when it must (as in the cases of postwar Kosovo and post-invasion Afghanistan and Iraq). Even though the Security Council never authorized these last three major U.S. aggressions, in each case the United States secured degrees of council assent and ex post facto legitimation.

No Security Council resolution has ever condemned these U.S. wars as contrary to the UN Charter or recognized the rights of the Serbs, Afghans, and Iraqis to resist alien subjugation. Instead, after each of these “supreme international crimes,” the Security Council simply revised its extant mandates to accommodate the supreme international criminal, and instructed the Secretariat to mitigate their inhumanitarian consequences.

But this process did not begin with operations Allied Force, Enduring Freedom, or Iraqi Freedom. Long in the making, one root traces back to the Security Council’s earliest responses to Iraq’s August 1990 invasion of Kuwait; the unremitting devastation of Iraq, including the genocidal sanctions regime, has borne the UN’s seal ever since.40 The other traces back to the massive UN involvement in Yugoslavia during the first-half of the 1990s, when the Council fielded the largest number of blue-helmeted troops ever (close to 40,000 at its peak in 1995) in its most costly mission to date ($5 billion).41

Neither UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s An Agenda for Peace (June 1992) nor its Supplement (January 1995) advocated “humanitarian” war, much less the right to take sides in civil wars; and yet before the end of the decade, “humanitarian” war and the related notion of a “responsibility to protect” had been placed near the top of his successor Kofi Annan’s agenda. “The logic of peace-keeping flows from political and military premises that are quite distinct from those of enforcement,” the Supplement asserted. “To blur the distinction between the two can undermine the viability of the peace-keeping operation….”42

The UN struggled to respect this distinction throughout the wars in Croatia and Bosnia. But as the United States became the dominant player in these theaters, it pushed the UN’s “peacekeeping” mandate toward “enforcement”—toward becoming a “party to the conflict,” invariably taking sides against the Serbs of Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia itself.

Even at the time of the crisis in late May 1995, when two hundred UN personnel had been taken hostage by Bosnian Serb forces following NATO air strikes against them, Boutros-Ghali insisted that “UNPROFOR is not a peace-enforcement operation,” and blamed the demands that it act on the “ambiguities” and “confusion” that followed from the frequent reference by Security Council resolutions to Chapter VII of the charter.43

But just three months later, when NATO conducted an extensive bombing campaign against the Bosnian Serbs, the distinction was obliterated. In To End A War, his memoir of the time he spent as the chief U.S. negotiator for Bosnia, Richard Holbrooke recounts an episode when Kofi Annan, then the head of UN peacekeeping, “won the job” to succeed Boutros-Ghali some fifteen months before the event. With Boutros-Ghali “unreachable on a commercial aircraft,” Annan “instructed the U.N.’s civilian officials and military commanders to relinquish for a limited period of time their authority to veto air strikes in Bosnia. For the first time in the war, the decision on the air strikes was solely in the hands of NATO.” The result was Operation Deliberate Force, the “largest military action in NATO history.”44

The United States and NATO had found a crack in the door, and rushed through it. In a very short period—maybe three months at most—the UN went from a peacekeeping to a warmaking mode in Bosnia, with NATO its enforcer. As one U.S. National Security Council officer later described Annan, he “[understood] that the U.S. military is not the enemy.”45

In contrast with Boutros-Ghali, whom Washington denied a second five-year term,46 Annan’s long tenure can only be understood as a recognition of his willing service to the United States and NATO. In what Michael Mandel calls an “emotional defense of unilateral interventionism, using Kosovo as the example of the next intervention,” Annan warned in June 1998 that “all our expressions of determination to never again permit another Bosnia…will be cruelly mocked if we allow Kosovo to become another killing field.”47

Seven months later, before the North Atlantic Council in Brussels, Annan expressed the “hope that we,” but “particularly those with the capacity to act,” in his words, “were beginning to draw the right lessons from the experience in the Bosnian war—about such critical factors as credibility, legitimacy and the morality of intervention and non-intervention.” But “there is only one way in which we can prove that we have done this: by applying those lessons practically and emphatically where horror threatens.”48

The “right lessons” were immediately applied by NATO. Within forty-eight hours, it issued its second order “authoriz[ing] air strikes against targets on [Federal Republic of Yugoslavia] territory,”49 and from March 24 through June 10, made good on it. Subsequently, when Serbia and Montenegro tried to initiate legal proceedings at the International Court of Justice against ten of the states then attacking it, the court ruled that it “manifestly lacks jurisdiction” to entertain the complaint. The court “cannot decide a dispute between States without the consent of those States to its jurisdiction.” Since the “United States observes that it ‘has not consented to jurisdiction…and will not do so,’” the court was left with no alternative but to conclude that it was powerless.50 Thus does the real culture of impunity remain unchanged.

Both Kofi Annan’s “We the peoples” (March 2000) and his In Larger Freedom (March 2005) support this shift to UN warmaking on “humanitarian” grounds. “The fact that we cannot protect people everywhere is no reason for doing nothing when we can,” “We the peoples” asserts, with NATO’s war fresh in mind. “[W]e must embrace the responsibility to protect,” the latter stresses, “and, when necessary, we must act on it.”51 Of course, when it turned out that “those with the capacity to act” were also those doing the killing, Annan adapted well, with silence and even acceptance of the new realities created by the killers, his de facto masters. Nor are we aware of any cases in which Western advocates for the “responsibility to protect” have ever turned this alleged principle back against the states they call home—even when these states invaded other countries, killing, terrorizing, and torturing their populations. As always, selectivity and double standard remain the rule.

4. The ICTY in NATO’s Service

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia was established by the Security Council in May 1993.52 This was done on the basis of the claim that such an institution was needed under Chapter VII to help restore “international peace and security,” despite the absence of a single paragraph in the UN Charter granting the Security Council powers which include judicial rights. Not only was this resolution ultra vires, an excellent case can be made that the real purpose behind the ICTY’s founding was to use an alleged interest in “justice” to prevent peace, and to advance U.S. objectives in the Balkans, all of which required the use of force and breaking of the peace.

The creation of the ICTY followed by only five months a December 1992 speech by Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger that called for a “second Nuremberg” to bring to trial named villains, mainly Serb leaders, including Milosevic.53 It was organized mainly by U.S. initiative, with its staff referring to Madeleine Albright as the “mother of the Tribunal”54 it has been funded and largely staffed—and with high-level personnel vetted—by U.S. and NATO officials; and it has functioned consistently as a dispenser of faux-justice and moralistic opprobrium, while serving as a real public relations and political arm of NATO. As NATO spokesman Jamie Shea pointed out during the 1999 bombing war, NATO countries “established” and “are amongst the majority financiers” of the tribunal, and support its activities “on a daily basis.” Asked whether NATO recognizes the ICTY’s jurisdiction over its bombing activities, Shea replied that “when Justice Arbour starts her investigation, she will because we will allow her to….I am certain that when Justice Arbour goes to Kosovo and looks at the facts she will be indicting people of Yugoslav nationality and I don’t anticipate any others….” And when pressed on the same point the very next day, Shea replied: “We are the upholders, not the violators, of international law.”55 Shea’s remarks on this NATO-ICTY relationship have never been reported by the New York Times; nor were they reported by any establishment daily newspaper at the time.56

York University professor of international law Michael Mandel argues convincingly that the ICTY’s main function was to allow a claimed pursuit of justice to avoid the settlement of the armed conflicts until NATO’s objectives could be met. With the ICTY’s help, Serb targets were more fully demonized, and their leaders declared untouchables at the negotiating table. ICTY president Antonio Cassese openly bragged about how ICTY indictments had prevented the Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic and general Ratko Mladic from participating in negotiations at Dayton in 1995—“Let us see who will sit down at the negotiating table now with a man accused of genocide,” Cassese told L’Unita newspaper. Such brazenly politicized use of indictments was a prime modus operandi of the ICTY. The most spectacular was the indictment of Milosevic and four others in May 1999, in the midst of NATO’s seventy-eight-day bombing war on Yugoslavia. One thing that made it so was the openness with which chief prosecutor Louise Arbour admitted to the political objective of blocking Milosevic as a possible negotiator. At the press conference in late May 1999 to announce the initial indictments for Serb conduct in Kosovo, Arbour stated frankly that the “evidence upon which this indictment was confirmed raises serious questions about their suitability to be guarantors of any deal let alone a peace agreement.”57 But perhaps even more remarkable is the fact that this indictment was compiled hastily, on the basis of unconfirmed “evidence” supplied to her office by the United States and United Kingdom, and issued just when NATO was coming under criticism for having turned to targeting Serbia’s civilian infrastructure. Thus the ICTY was providing a public relations cover for NATO war crimes carried out within the framework of NATO’s UN Charter violation of aggression—the “supreme international crime”!

Amusingly, one of the most telling pieces of evidence of ICTY servitude to NATO is the contrast between the initial indictment for Kosovo and the prosecutor’s refusal even to investigate NATO’s conduct during the bombing war. By its statute the ICTY is obligated to indict any party operating in the former Yugoslavia if presented with plausible prima facie evidence of its participation in war crimes. Michael Mandel submitted a three volume dossier of such evidence regarding NATO to the ICTY prosecutor in May 1999; but in contrast with the next-day service on behalf of allegations of Serb crimes following the Racak massacre in January,58 it took the prosecutor some fourteen months to report back that “neither an in-depth investigation related to the bombing campaign as a whole nor investigations related to specific incidents are justified.”59 The new chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said that she was “very satisfied that there was no deliberate targeting of civilians or unlawful military targets by NATO during the bombing campaign….The prosecutor judged these to be genuine mistakes on the part of NATO.”60 How this conclusion could be reached without an investigation is problematic. It also flies in the face of open admissions by NATO officials of deliberate targeting of civilian facilities, and rapidly accumulating evidence that such targets were struck extensively. And Amnesty International had no trouble in identifying NATO war crimes.

Del Ponte had commissioned an internal study of the question that openly acknowledged reliance on NATO press releases, declared reliable. One of its more interesting features was its statement that with only 495 dead and 820 civilians wounded in “documented instances” from NATO bombings, “there is simply no evidence of the necessary crime base for charges of genocide or crimes against humanity.”61 Recall that the “crime base” for the initial indictment of Milosevic was 344 deaths, unverified by the ICTY, but nonetheless regarded as sufficient to bring the indictment.62 We are dealing with an institution that can’t even keep its propaganda straight. But then again it doesn’t have to: The establishment media never called attention to this comical double standard or recognized the service that it provides NATO, immunizing its extension of the bombing war to civilian facilities. Nor was Carla Del Ponte discredited as an authority and truth-teller. Instead we find the Nation magazine’s UN correspondent Ian Williams asserting that a speech by Del Ponte before the Security Council was itself sufficient to “put questions concerning the death toll [in Kosovo] to rest.”63

5. The UN, ICTY, and the Srebrenica Massacre

The UN and ICTY played central roles in the institutionalization of the Srebrenica massacre as the mark and proof of Serb criminality and “genocide” in Bosnia—a “terrible crime,” in Kofi Annan’s words, and “the worst on European soil since the Second World War.”64 It was clear by mid-July 1995 that several thousand of Srebrenica’s male population had escaped to Bosnian Muslim-held territory, and some even to Serbia; it was also clear that unknown numbers had died in fierce fighting. The claim that 8,000 Bosnian Muslim males had been executed there was based on a Red Cross news alert that its office in Tuzla had fielded 8,000 missing person requests: 5,000 for “individuals who apparently fled the enclave before it fell,” plus 3,000 for “persons reportedly arrested by the Bosnian Serb forces.”65 At that point in mid-September 1995 there were only a few reports of the kind of opportunistic killings that accompany war, along with allegations of mass executions. But in a remarkable propaganda coup, the thousands of escapees and the deaths from fighting were forgotten and the 8,000 quickly became victims of execution and genocide. Furthermore, unlike other cases where early inflated and speculative estimates of deaths were gradually revised downward in the light of emerging hard evidence—as with estimates of Kosovo Albanians killed during NATO’s bombing war, or the deaths at the World Trade Center on 9/1166—this initial 8,000 figure for the missing, now executed, males of Srebrenica has never been revised from its initial very problematic level. It has remained firm and unchallengeable, despite the fact that nothing close to confirming evidence has been forthcoming.

By the time of the 2001 judgment in the trial of the Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstic on charges that included “genocide,” six years of forensic searches of Srebrenica-related gravesites had produced 2,028 sets of individual remains (“conservatively estimate[d],” the court noted).67 Nonetheless the court managed to conclude that the “total number” of Bosnian Muslim males executed was “likely within the range of 7,000–8,000,” and that the deaths of even 7,000–8,000 military-aged males in this particular region of far eastern Bosnia constituted “an intent to destroy in part the Bosnian Muslim group.”68 Krstic was guilty of “genocide.”

With this tortured decision, political to its core, the court ruled that “genocide” could and did occur in one small town, although the perpetrators bussed the women and children to safety, and the court confessed its uncertainty about how many of the missing really were executed, and how many were killed in battle. In effect, the court simply guessed that a majority of the missing were executed. “[T]he evidence given by witnesses, as corroborated by the forensic and demographics evidence presented by the OTP, strongly suggests that well in excess of 7,000 people went missing following the take-over of Srebrenica,” one sentence reads. “The correlation between the age and sex of the bodies exhumed from the Srebrenica graves and that of the missing persons support the proposition that the majority of missing people were, in fact, executed and buried in the mass graves.”69 As Michael Mandel writes, a “majority of a maximum of 7,000–8,000 would put the maximum executed closer to 4,000”—or roughly one-half that of the standard view.

“[S]o why the exaggerated numbers?” Mandel asks. He answers:

Because the tribunal wasn’t really interested in the murder charges. They were after the big prize of genocide, a much more difficult case to make in these circumstances, so the higher the number of dead the better. My computer tells me that the tribunal used 33 times more space in their judgment trying to establish the genocide charge than the murder charge, even though the result for Mr. Krstic would have been the same.70

The Srebrenica massacre took place in the month before Operation Storm, Croatia’s devastating attack and ethnic cleansing of some 250,000 Serbs from the Krajina, with over 1,000 civilians killed, including over 500 women and children—no women and children were bussed to safety by the perpetrators, as they were at Srebrenica—and more than 2,000 missing.71 It is likely that more civilians were killed in this campaign than following the fall of Srebrenica, but this was given cursory treatment by the Western media, and has never been regarded as a case of “genocide.” On the contrary, the immediate and unrelenting focus on the fate of Srebrenica’s male population facilitated this U.S.-approved and supported cleansing campaign. Cees Wiebes recounts an occasion in August 1995, when the “[UN Military Observers] in Zagreb organized a press conference on large-scale human rights violations by the Bosnian Croats during the recently completed Operation Storm (carried out with U.S. assistance). The room was full of journalists and things were just about to start when an official from the U.S. Embassy in Zagreb suddenly entered and announced that a press conference was about to begin at the embassy where information would be released on aerial photos of possible mass graves around Srebrenica. The room emptied immediately.”72

Madeleine Albright’s performance before the Security Council had the same diverting impact. On the afternoon when the Council met to adopt resolutions on Croatia as well as Bosnia, Albright reminded the Council not to “forget the tragedy and outrages perpetrated earlier in Bosnia against the eastern enclaves of Srebrenica and Zepa…the magnitude of the suffering they caused…[as] many as 13,000 men, women and children…driven from their homes….”73 In fact, she used the phrase “we must not forget” five different times during her remarks—each time directed at Srebrenica and Zepa and the Bosnian Serbs. The “dead were not killed in the heat of battle, they were not killed in self-defence and they were not killed by accident,” Albright insisted; “they were systematically slaughtered on the instructions of the Bosnian Serb leadership.” This is at best a half truth as it is clear that unknown but large numbers were killed in battle. Furthermore, those killed in Krajina were not killed in the heat of battle, in self-defense, or by accident, and the proof of the Croat leadership’s role in these killings and the driving of many more than “13,000 men, women and children from their homes,” with U.S. support, is clear.

In August 2005, Croatia’s government declared the tenth anniversary of Operation Storm a “Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day.”74 That is, Croatia was officially celebrating the single largest ethnic cleansing in Europe since the Second World War. Srebrenica was treated rather differently: In Bosnia on the tenth anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, dignitaries from Western states and the UN gathered at the new Srebrenica Memorial at Potocari to solemnly commemorate and “pay tribute to the victims of a terrible crime—the worst on European soil since the Second World War” (Kofi Annan).75 Can you imagine the Western response if Serbia declared the tenth anniversary of Srebrenica a “Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day”? But nobody in the West noticed the Croatian declaration, just as annual celebrations of Operation Storm during previous years had been unremarked.

The asymmetry in how the Srebrenica massacre and Operation Storm have entered the Western canon is enlightening. Srebrenica is regularly described as the “worst atrocity in Europe since the Second World War”—this formula is routine. As regards Operation Storm, at an August 2005 ceremony in Belgrade to mark its tenth anniversary, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica referred to it as the “biggest ethnic cleansing since World War Two,” and nobody has put forward a claim of a larger forced transfer during the Balkan wars. However, as the tenth anniversaries of both events came and went in 2005, the English-language print and wire services referred to Srebrenica as the worst atrocity (or greatest massacre) in Europe since the Second World War literally hundreds of times; whereas the same print and wire services carried a description of Operation Storm as the greatest expulsion or transfer or ethnic cleansing in Europe since the Second World War a grand total of fifteen times, and but twice in print, none in the United States or Britain.76 Srebrenica is almost never mentioned without defining it as Europe’s worst massacre since the Second World War, whereas Operation Storm is virtually never described as Europe’s largest ethnic cleansing since the war. Once again, political bias on the worthiness and unworthiness of the victims dictates attention and indignation.

Another point worth noting is that Operation Storm was very much a return to Second World War–style ethnic cleansing and mass murder, when the Axis-created Independent State of Croatia (1941–45), headed by Croatian fascist Ustashe leader Ante Pavelic, slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Serbs (and many Jews and Gypsies), while large numbers also died in fighting or fled. As Nebojsa Malic has noted, although it took half a century for Serb numbers to recover from this wartime decimation, the newly independent Republic of Croatia was able to carry out another series of decimation operations with critical U.S. aid in the years 1992–95, with its culmination in Operation Storm. “Tudjman made Pavelic’s dream to rid Croatia of Serbs a reality,” Malic writes. “It seems everything is in the choice of allies.”77 And dependent on the silence and de facto cooperation of the humanitarian interventionists and international community.

6. The Bosnia ‘Genocide’ Hangs on Despite Painful Revisionism from within the Establishment

Accusing critics of “denying” atrocities is a popular technique of derogation. Another tested device is to charge them with “revisionism.” Every time assertions of fact move closer to unwanted truths, the moral and emotional bona fides of the “Holocaust” are raised as if a shield to deflect them aside. When one of the present authors began writing critically about the role that Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge was playing in the “reconstruction of imperial ideology,” it became clear that to raise doubts about the uses to which widely circulated and sometimes dubious information was then put would be met with the charge of “apologetics for Pol Pot” and worse.78 Three decades ago, it was argued that “The propaganda system has been committed to eke what profit it could from the misery of Cambodia. Questions of truth are secondary.”79 The treatment of Yugoslavia since 1991 corroborates this criticism in full. After the forensic investigators who followed NATO into Kosovo unearthed dramatically fewer bodies than anticipated, Michael Ignatieff, writing in the New York Times, dismissed as “revisionist” anybody who, on the basis of this lack of evidence, concluded that NATO had lied.80 Rather than answer the critics, the critics were dismissed with a rhetorical ploy.

Charges that Bosnian Serbs or ethnic Serbs in general had perpetrated crimes against humanity and genocide were made early and often during Yugoslavia’s breakup. A critical pillar of support for these charges was the number of Bosnian Muslim civilians alleged to have been killed by Serbs, their fate regularly described in the most lurid fashion. “Genocidal Serb aggression began in Croatia in the summer of 1991…[then] moved to Bosnia in [the] spring 1992 and escalated sharply,” U.S. Representative Frank McCloskey (D.-IN) wrote on New Year’s Eve 1992. “Serb forces in Bosnia have killed between 128,000 and 200,000 persons—almost one in 10 Bosnian Muslims.” Attending talks in Geneva during the first week of 1993, Bosnian Muslim President Alija Izetbegovic repeated the 200,000 figure, and added that the Muslim women of Bosnia had been subjected to the “most massive raping in human history.’’ Speaking in Washington D.C. shortly thereafter, he repeated the 200,000 figure again; in remarks before the Carnegie Endowment, he stated that “In the last nine months, more than 200,000 people have been killed in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which means approximately almost 1,000 per day.”81 Within forty-eight hours, Izetbegovic’s claim had been reported by the Washington Post, National Public Radio, Associated Press, the London Independent, and the New York Times.

Coming just months after the previous summer’s reports of Serb-run concentration and even death camps, and deposited within a journalistic setting primed to believe the worst horrors about Serbs, the 200,000 figure soon became a floor below which estimates seldom dipped, but frequently exceeded. (Richard Holbrooke opens To End A War with the assertion that “Between 1991 and 1995, close to three hundred thousand people were killed in the former Yugoslavia,” and he continued to repeat the 300,000 figure in the days after Milosevic’s death.) The gullibility quotient was very high, despite the fact that the numbers were unverified and emanated from a biased source that regularly disinformed as it strove to gain Western interventionary support. Many journalists embraced the disinformation. “There is no attempt here to be objective towards the perpetrators of Bosnia’s ethnic carnage or those who appeased them,” Ed Vulliamy proclaimed at the outset of his book Seasons in Hell, which proceeded to find “echoes” and “political resonances” with the “Nazi project” everywhere the Serbs took up arms; by July 1993, Vulliamy added, the Serb project had produced “hundreds of thousands of Muslims dead….” “The Serbs came, they slaughtered, they conquered, while the world looked on,” David Rieff stated in 1995. “As I write, the genocide is all but complete.”82

Language and imagery derived from the Nazi’s attempt to destroy Europe’s Jews were applied on a regular basis to events in Bosnia from the summer of 1992 onward, then reprised in Kosovo beginning in early 1998 (see section 10). In both accounts the perpetrators and victims were defined according to ethno-religious categories: Serbs against “Bosniaks” and “Kosovars.” Armed conflicts were translated into strictly racist pogroms; victory lay not in the surrender of an enemy but in the cleansing or purifying of the victim-race from the Serbs’ living-space. The series of indictments of Milosevic et al. for Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo illustrate well the role that the example of the Nazis played for the ICTY, and shared by historians and journalists. Thus the two indictments for Bosnia portray the civil wars from their very inception as one gigantic, ethno-religiously motivated conspiracy carried out by Serbs against the rest of Yugoslavia’s peoples: “The purpose of this joint criminal enterprise was the forcible and permanent removal of the majority of non-Serbs, principally Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats, from large areas of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina….”83

Counts 1 and 2 of the Bosnia indictments charge Milosevic et al. with “genocide or complicity in genocide,” based on an assumed 200,000 or more deaths in the context of a series of civil wars. Lower estimates by others with intelligence access, such as that by former State Department official George Kenney, who put the total “in the tens of thousands, including civilians,”84 were ignored.

However, in conflict with the party line, researchers for the Demographic Unit of the Prosecutor at the ICTY, and with the Sarajevo-based Research and Documentation Center, independently produced estimates of total war-related deaths on the order of 100,000 on all sides. In the first study, by Ewa Tabeau and Jakub Bijak, only some 55,000 deaths out of a total of 102,622 were found to have been civilians, including over 16,000 Serbs; the remaining 47,000 deaths were members of military groups.85 In the ongoing work of the second, a group of some twenty researchers headed by the Bosnian Muslim lawyer Mirsad Tokaca, the total number of deaths caused by Bosnia’s civil wars have been estimated at 97,207 on all sides, of which 57,523 were soldiers at the time of death, and 39,684 civilians.86 These most certainly are not negligible numbers. But they are far less dramatic than 200,000 Bosnian Muslim deaths (or more), and far less satisfactory if one is eager to make a case for “genocide,” and to justify the intense focus on this theater of conflict as opposed to others, some of which have seen mortality rates running to seven digits.87 Also, though Bosnian Muslim civilian deaths were possibly twice that of Serb deaths (or approximately 31,000), some of the Muslim deaths occurred in fighting between Croat and Muslim forces as well as intra-Muslim fighting.88 Furthermore, 16,000 Serb civilian deaths are not negligible—indeed, this fact alone contradicts the party line implication that the Serbs were uniquely killers and not major victims. As we show later (section 9), the number of Serbs who remain uprooted by these conflicts exceeds that of any other ethnic group; and the number of Serbs denied the chance to return to areas from which they were driven dwarfs their rivals.

The substantial downward revision of war-related deaths in Bosnia came as a shock to the media and commentators long versed in repeating cliché lies. Only grudgingly have the inflated figures begun to give way to the more authoritative 100,000; and rare is the admission that years of erroneous reporting require a fundamental rethinking about the nature of what had been reported before.

Most incorrigible of all has been what we call the Bosnia genocide lobby—a set of institutions and individuals funded by Western governments, the partisan billionaire George Soros, and the established NGO-networks, whose members see their task as guarding the standard narrative against serious challenges. For the lobby, the ultimate authority on whether Serbs committed “genocide” in Bosnia is the ICTY, an “international court established by the United Nations”—hence regarded as an independent body, despite massive evidence to the contrary (see section 4 and section 7). The lobby’s members regularly use the charge of “denial” and “revisionism” to deride any questioning of the party line, treating skepticism as intolerable. While such techniques have worked in regards to the Srebrenica massacre, the findings of Tabeau and Bijak as well as the Research and Documentation Center are harder to dismiss as “revisionism,” much less “denial.” In this case the chosen route has been silence, a route also taken by the mainstream media.

To test this, we ran database searches of fourteen different English-language print media for mentions of the principals identified with this research (Ewa Tabeau, Jakub Bijak, and Mirsad Tokaca) in connection with their important findings.89 Through May 2007, there had been only one mention anywhere in our media universe: The February 13, 2006 London Independent reported that “Mirsad Tokaca, the head of the Centre, funded and financed by Norway, finalised a list of 100,000 citizens of Bosnia killed in the war.”90 Despite the heavy use of the earlier high numbers, and the important conclusions that they supported, these new research efforts were not found to be newsworthy. Even when the Research and Documentation Center released its updated work in a June 2007 document titled the Bosnian Book of the Dead, the same print media devoted a total of 251 words to the event, despite veteran researcher Patrick Ball’s assessment that the data are “better than any I’ve worked with so far.”91 But like all previous downward revisions, the latest told the wrong story.

Following the death of Slobodan Milosevic in March 2006, the present authors carried out a series of database searches to determine which death tolls were then being reported for the wars in Bosnia or the former Yugoslavia altogether.92 We found that the inflated figure of 200,000 or something greater was used in at least 202 different items (i.e., news reports, obituaries, editorials, and op-eds), and the more recent establishment finding of 100,000 in only 13. In at least 126 different items the death toll was reported to have been 250,000 (99 items in all) or 300,000 (27 items). For the U.S. media alone the ratio was 76 to 2 in favor of the higher numbers rendered obsolete by the new establishment studies. It is testimony to the deep-seated bias of the media that the death toll issued by relatively scholarly establishment sources was not yet able to displace the old and higher figures whose origins date back to Bosnian Muslim officials not noted for scruple. The journalists hate to abandon numbers that have fitted their biases so well.

In another egregious case, during a guest appearance on PBS’s Charlie Rose Show in June 2007, ICTY chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte stated that “more than 300,000” civilians had died as a result of the wars in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo, deaths the responsibility for which she attributed to Slobodan Milosevic. As a purveyor of the standard narrative, and herself a chief protagonist in the West’s intervention in the former Yugoslavia, Del Ponte can get away with intellectual murder here and anywhere else. (For her remarks on NATO’s innocence of any war crimes in its 1999 bombing war, see section 4.) Rather than recognizing the deeply political nature of Del Ponte’s office and calling her to account for such outlandish assertions, Rose introduced her as a “relentless pursuer of justice,” and treated her with groveling respect.93

We find it interesting that in the West, the million or more Iraqi deaths from the “sanctions of mass destruction” and the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths that have followed the 2003 U.S. invasion are never presented as “genocide” or events that “we must not forget,” and don’t merit the indignation of Ed Vulliamy, David Rieff, Samantha Power, and the mainstream media. The driving out of 250,000 Serbs from Croatia, and killing several thousand of them, doesn’t even rate the designation of “ethnic cleansing,” let alone genocide. The hundreds of thousands of Serbs killed by the Independent State of Croatia’s Ustashe regime at Jasenovac and other prison camps during the Second World War—some estimates run to 600,00094—and the 16,000 Serb civilians killed in Bosnia 1992–95 are effectively disappeared, while the 31,000 Muslim civilians killed in the latter years are elevated to world class status as victims of genocide. In short, these are words to be used only when describing the crimes of U.S. enemies, with suitable attention and indignation to be provided in parallel.

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  1. See, e.g., Hans C. von Sponeck, A Different Kind of War (New York: Berghahn Books, 2006).
  2. In the fifty-one months between the September 25, 1991, date on which Res. 713 was adopted (it initiated an arms embargo on Yugoslavia), and the December 21, 1995, date of Res. 1035 (to help enforce the Dayton Accords), the Security Council devoted 27 percent of its resolutions to the former Yugoslavia—more to this one theater of conflict than to any other during a comparable period in UN history, including Iraq.
  3. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Supplement to An Agenda for Peace (S/1995/1), January 3, 1995, pars. 35–36.
  4. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Report of the Secretary-General Pursuant to Security Council Resolution 982 (1995) and 987 (1995) (S/1995/444), May 30, 1995, par. 16. This important document expressed the fears then rampant inside the UN that UNPROFOR had violated its peacekeeping mandate (i.e., strict neutrality) and become a party to the conflict (i.e., against the Bosnian Serbs).
  5. Richard Holbrooke, To End A War, rev. ed. (New York: Modern Library, 1999), 99–103. See also Tim Ripley, Operation Deliberate Force: The UN and NATO Campaign in Bosnia 1995 (Lancaster: Centre for Defence and International Security Studies, 1999).
  6. Perry Anderson, “Made in USA,” The Nation, April 2, 2007.
  7. In his memoirs of the five years he spent as Secretary-General, Boutros-Ghali recounts a conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who told him, after his rejection by the United States: “You symbolize the United Nations, and the American Congress is hostile to the United Nations. You are also blamed for trying to control American military power. You used the ‘dual key’ to oppose NATO air strikes against the Serbs. Your stance was very badly perceived by military circles in Washington.” Unvanquished (New York: Random House, 1999), 332–33.
  8. Michael Mandel, How America Gets Away With Murder (Ann Arbor: Pluto Press, 2004), 106–07; Kofi Annan, “Secretary-General Reflects on ‘Intervention’ in Thirty- Fifth Annual Ditchley Foundation Lecture” (SG/SM/6613), June 26, 1998.
  9. Kofi Annan, “Secretary-General calls for unconditional respect for human rights of Kosovo citizens” (SG/SM/6878), January 28, 1999, emphasis added.
  10. “Statement by the North Atlantic Council on Kosovo,” NATO Press Release (99)12, January 30, 1999.
  11. Federal Republic of Yugoslavia v. United States of America, International Court of Justice, Order of June 2, 1999, pars. 19–31. Each of Yugoslavia’s other nine complaints eventually was dismissed according to the same reasoning: The one naming Spain on June 2, 1999, and the other eight on December 15, 2004.
  12. Kofi Annan, “We the Peoples” (A/54/2000), March, 2000, esp. 42–53, here 48; and In Larger Freedom (A/59/2005), March, 2005, par. 135.
  13. UNSC Res. 827, May 25, 1993. Par. 2 states that the Security Council’s “sole purpose” in establishing the ICTY is “prosecuting persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law in the territory of the former Yugoslavia….”
  14. Elaine Sciolino, “U.S. Names Figures It Wants Charged with War Crimes,” New York Times, December 17, 1992.
  15. Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, “Remarks at the United States Supreme Court,” Press Release, ICTY, April 5, 1999.
  16. NATO Daily Press Briefings, May 16 and 17, 1999, http://www
  17. Aside from the circulation that transcripts of NATO’s daily press conferences received over the M2 Presswire, the only contemporaneous report to have quoted any part of Jamie Shea’s comments on the NATO–ICTY relationship appears to have been Farhan Haq, “Milosevic Indictment Heralds New Era,” Inter Press Service, May 27, 1999. Haq also quoted Robert Hayden: “Mr. Shea clearly knows that he who pays the piper calls the tune.”
  18. See Mandel, How America Gets Away With Murder, esp. 117–46; Antonio Cassese’s interview with L’Unita was reported in “Karadzic a Pariah, Says War Crimes Tribunal Chief,” ANP English News Bulletin, July 27, 1995; “Statement by Justice Louise Arbour, Prosecutor” (JL/PIU/404-E), ICTY, May 27, 1999.
  19. On January 16, 1999, the day after FRY forces had organized an action at the KLA-dominated Kosovo town of Racak, accompanied by invited OSCE observers and AP photographers, and had fought a battle there with KLA fighters, some 40-45 bodies were found in different locations, approx. twenty of them in a single ravine. U.S. and OSCE official William Walker rushed to the scene, declared it a massacre, and got ICTY prosecutor Louise Arbour to announce on the same day that she had “launched an investigation into the most recent massacre in Kosovo” without her having seen the bodies or received any further information. There is serious doubt as to whether this was a massacre at all, as no such evidence was found there by the OSCE observers, the AP photographers, or a French reporter present on the day of the battle and the bodies were found only after the KLA had returned to Racak. For discussions of this controversy, see Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, “CNN: Selling NATO’s War Globally,” in Philip Hammond and Edward S. Herman, Degraded Capability: The Media and the Kosovo Crisis (Sterling, VA: Pluto Press, 2000), 117–19; Johnstone, Fools’ Crusade, 238–44; and Mandel, How America Gets Away with Murder, 72–80; 134–36.
  20. Mandel, How America Gets Away With Murder, 176–206; Carla Del Ponte, Final Report to the Prosecutor by the Committee Established to Review the NATO Bombing Campaign Against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, ICTY, June, 2000, par. 90.
  21. Barbara Crossette, “U.N. War Crimes Prosecutor Declines to Investigate NATO,” New York Times, June 3, 2000.
  22. Del Ponte, Final Report, par. 90.
  23. Louise Arbour, Prosecutor of the Tribunal Against Slobodan Milosevic et al. (IT-99-37), ICTY, May 22, 1999. See scheduled A–G, which list 344 “persons known by name” alleged to have been killed in Kosovo.
  24. Ian Williams, “Revisionism: The Numbers Game in Kosovo,” Toronto Star, November 23, 1999.
  25. Kofi A. Annan, “May we all learn and act on the lessons of Srebrenica” (SG/SM/9993), July 11, 2005.
  26. See “Former Yugoslavia: Srebrenica: help for families still awaiting news,” ICRC News, September 13, 1995, http://; “8,000 missing, presumed dead, from fallen enclave,” Agence France Presse, September 14, 1995; Maud S. Beelman, “Red Cross Says 8,000 People from Fallen Safe Area Are Missing,” Associated Press, September 14, 1995; “8,000 Muslims Missing,” the New York Times, September 15, 1995, reprinting the AP report. Also see the entry for “Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Annual Report 1995, ICRC, May 31, 1996, par. 16,
  27. At their peak, estimates of deaths caused at the World Trade Center in New York City reached as high as 6,886; but this was eventually reduced to 2,749. See Ula Ilnytzky, “Report drops trade center death toll by three, to 2,749,” Associated Press, January 23, 2004.
  28. Judge Almiro Rodrigues, Judgment in Prosecutor v. Radislav Krstic (IT-98-33-T), ICTY, August 2, 2001, par. 73. We add here that the 2,028 estimate was based on exhumations in whole or in part of twenty-three Srebrenica-related gravesites through 2001. We believe that there are at least twenty more “known” sites that have yet to be exhumed, although presumably less “promising.” See Dean Manning, Witness Statement, Prosecutor v. Slobodan Milosevic (IT-02-54-T), November 24, 2003, pars. 27–29.
  29. Judgment in Prosecutor v. Radislav Krstic, par. 84; par. 598.
  30. Judgment in Prosecutor v. Radislav Krstic, par. 82.
  31. Mandel, How America Gets Away With Murder, 156.
  32. See, e.g., “Notification regarding anniversary of Serbs suffering in the aggression of Croatian army on the Serb Krajina in the August 95,” as posted to the Web site of the Veritas Documentation Information Center (last accessed June 23, 2007), http://www.veritas .org.yu. Veritas reports 1,883 ethnic Serbs killed during Operation Storm through the end of August, 1995. At tenth anniversary ceremonies in Belgrade, various survivor groups that represent former Krajina Serbs estimated as many as 2,627 Serbs had gone missing in the Krajina between 1991 and 1995. See “Patriarch Pavle holds memorial service for Serb victims of operation Oluja,” August 4, 2005,
  33. Wiebes, Intelligence and the War in Bosnia 1992–1995, 337.
  34. “The situation in the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina” (S/PV.3564), UN Security Council, August 10, 1995, 6.
  35. “Serbia, Croatia mark 10th anniversary of Krajina Serb expulsion,” RIA Novosti, August 6, 2005; “‘Oluja’ 10 years on—Serbs mourn while Croats celebrate,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur, August 4, 2005; and Zoran Radosavljevic, “Croats cheer 1995 army triumph, reach out to Serbs,” Reuters, August 5, 2005.
  36. Kofi A. Annan, “May we all learn and act on the lessons of Srebrenica” (SG/SM/9993), United Nations Secretary-General, July 11, 2005.
  37. We based these findings on searches carried out with three databases: Factiva (“All Sources”), NewsBank (“North America”), and Nexis (“Major Papers,” “Magazines and Journals,” and “Wire Services”). Our search parameters were: “Srebrenica” and “world war” for the period July 1–31, 2005; and “Operation Storm” and “world war” for the period August 1–31, 2005. Note that our point is very conservative: The disparity in the media’s treatment of Srebrenica and Operation storm is actually greater than “scores of times” and “15 times” suggests.
  38. Nebojsa Malic, “Remembering the Storm,”, August 4, 2005,
  39. Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, After the Cataclysm (Boston: South End Press, 1979), esp. 135–294; and Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent, 2nd Ed. (New York: Pantheon Books, 2002), esp. 260–96. Also see Edward S. Herman, “Pol Pot, Faurisson, and the Process of Derogation,” in Carlos P. Otero, ed., Noam Chomsky, Critical Assessments, vol. 3, Anthropology (New York: Routledge, 1994), 598–615.
  40. Chomsky and Herman, After the Cataclysm, 292.
  41. Michael Ignatieff, “Counting Bodies in Kosovo,” New York Times, November 21, 1999.
  42. U.S. Rep. Frank McCloskey, “The US Is Appeasing Fascism and Genocide,” Christian Science Monitor, December 31, 1992; John A. Callcott, “Bosnia-Herzegovina peace talks break for five days,” United Press International, January 4, 1993; “Remarks of Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic to the Carnegie Endowment,” Federal News Service, January 8, 1993.
  43. Ed Vulliamy, Seasons in Hell (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994), xi; 43; Rieff, Slaughterhouse, 17.
  44. Carla Del Ponte, Prosecutor of the Tribunal against Slobodan Milosevic (IT-01-51-I), ICTY, November 22, 2001, pars. 5–9.
  45. George Kenney, “The Bosnian Calculation,” New York Times Magazine, April 23, 1995.
  46. Ewa Tabeau and Jakub Bijak, “War-related Deaths in the 1992–1995 Armed Conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” European Journal of Population 21, (June 2005):187–215; here 209; and n. 12, 213. These numbers are arrived at as follows: Tabeau and Bijak give 16,700 as their best “guesstimate” for Serb civilian deaths in the Bosnian wars (see their n. 12, 213). Taking this as a reasonable estimate in a murky field, we can make a further rough estimate of Bosnian Muslim civilian deaths by taking the Tabeau- Bijak total of Bosnian civilian deaths, 55,261, subtracting out the 16,700 Serbs plus 8,294 Croat and “Other” civilian deaths, giving us a Muslim civilian total of 31,000. The Croat–Other numbers are obtained by applying Tabeau and Bijak’s ratio of Croat–Other deaths to total deaths that they use in an alternative calculation (see their table 5, 204). It should be noted that Tabeau and Bijak were working for the ICTY and testified for the prosecution during the Milosevic trial, so that their biases, if they exist, are not likely to show up in inflating Serb casualties. Last, we should also note that Milan Bogdanic, one of the co-directors of the Institute for Missing Persons of Bosnia and Herzegovina, has reported the recovery of 3,251 sets of remains from as many as sixtythree “mass graves” containing Serbs, activities that have aroused zero interest in the Western media (see “Serb officials say mass grave discovered in northwestern Bosnia,” BBC Worldwide Monitoring, February 21, 2006).
  47. See Mirsad Tokaca et al., “Status of Database by Centers,” Research and Documentation Center, Also see Nidzara Ahmetasevic, “Bosnia’s Book of the Dead,” Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, June 21, 2007; and Christian Jennings, “Book of Dead names nearly 100,000 victims,” The Scotsman, June 22, 2007.
  48. See, e.g., B. Coghlan et al., “Mortality in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” The Lancet (367), January 7, 2006, 44–51. Already over three years old, this study concludes that “about 3.9 million people have died as a result of the conflict between August, 1998, and April, 2004.”
  49. See Brendan O’Shea, Crisis at Bihac (Gloucestershire, U.K.: Sutton Publishing, 1998).
  50. The databases used were Factiva and Nexis. The media universe consisted of the mass-circulation dailies Boston Globe, Financial Times, The Guardian/Observer, The Independent, New York Times, The Times (London), Toronto Globe and Mail, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post, and the weekly magazines The Economist, Maclean’s, and Newsweek, for all regular publication dates through May 31, 2007.
  51. Vesna Peric Zimonjic, “Five years on, Milosevic is still in the dock,” The Independent, February 13, 2006.
  52. Aida Cerkez-Robinson, “Research shows many estimates of Bosnian war death toll were severely inflated,” Associated Press, June 21, 2007. The Financial Times devoted 77 words to the RDC’s downward revisions, the New York Times 102, and the Guardian Weekly 72.
  53. See Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, “Milosevic’s Death in the Propaganda System,” in Peter Phillips, ed., Censored 2007 (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2006), 387–88. The databases used were Factiva and Nexis. The media universe consisted of large numbers of English-language sources deriving from wire services (including AFP, AP, DPA, Reuters, and many others), European, Canadian, and U.S. print, TV, and radio, and other regions (e.g., Australia, though by no means only), and covered the eleven day period beginning with Milosevic’s death on March 11, 2006.
  54. “A Discussion With Carla Del Ponte,” The Charlie Rose Show, June 20, 2007.
  55. According to The Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, “Some six hundred thousand people were murdered at Jasenovac, mostly Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, and opponents of the Ustasa regime” (740). Israel Gutman, ed. (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Publishing House, 1990), vol. 2, 739–40.
2007, Volume 59, Issue 05 (October)
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