Washington's silence on Bosnia massacre a shame

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor_@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Muslim News" <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 27 Apr 2002 11:45:19 +0100

WASHINGTON: Last week, for the first time in history, a Western government 
resigned because it was a bystander to genocide. Last Tuesday the popular Dutch 
prime minister, Wim Kok, and his cabinet stepped down in response to a 
7,600-page report that faulted the Dutch government and army for sending a 
flimsy posse of some 400 Dutch peacekeepers on an "ill-conceived and virtually 
impossible" mission to protect Bosnian Muslims in the UN safe area of 

In July 1995 the safe area became the most dangerous spot on earth when Bosnian 
Serb Gen Ratko Mladic strolled into town. After meeting little resistance from 
Dutch soldiers on the ground or NATO bombers overhead, Mladic presided over a 
10-day killing spree, systematically executing every Muslim man and boy he 
could lay his hands on - more than 7,000 in all. Kok, who was prime minister at 
the time of the massacre, reportedly burst into tears when he read the Dutch 

Kok's resignation marked the first time in our age of genocide when an outside 
power has paid a tangible political price for its sins of omission. It is a 
refreshing act that testifies to the tirelessness of Dutch journalists and 
citizens. But on this side of the ocean, the move was greeted by silence - a 
silence that is in fact the trademark of American policy before, during and 
after genocide. 

Neither the United States nor any of the Security Council powers that ordered 
the creation of the safe areas and then abandoned Srebrenica's civilians in 
their hour of need have stepped forward to shoulder their portion of the blame 
for the massacre. 

Several years were spent investigating the Clinton administration's response to 
Srebrenica, analyzing an ad-hoc assortment of declassified documents obtained 
through the Freedom of Information Act and conducting some 50 interviews with 
US officials involved in shaping this country's Bosnia policy. Even this 
unofficial inquiry yielded startling evidence of extensive American knowledge 
of the peril to Srebrenica's Muslims: 

Senior Clinton administration officials knew the safe areas were likely to come 
under attack. Indeed, several expressed private hope that the Muslim territory 
would fall into Serb hands, because it would facilitate the partition of the 
country.Once Mladic seized Srebrenica on July 11, 1995, USpolicy-makers were 
keenly aware that the men and boys were being separated from the women and 
children, that Dutch soldiers were barred from supervising the "evacuation," 
and that the Muslims' fate lay in the hands of Mladic, the local embodiment of 

US officials received hysterical phone calls from leading members of the 
Bosnian government who pleaded with Washington to use NATO air power to save 
those in Mladic's custody. One July 13 classified cable related the "alarming 
news" that Serb forces were committing "all sorts" of atrocities. On July 17 
the CIA's Bosnia Task Force wrote in its classified daily report that refugee 
reports of mass murder "provide details that appear credible." In a July 19 
confidential memorandum, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights John 
Shattuck described "credible reports of summary executions and the kidnapping 
and rape of Bosnian women." 

Yet, despite this knowledge, neither President Clinton nor his top advisers 
made the fate of the men and boys an American priority. The president issued no 
public threats and ordered no contingency military planning. Spokesman Nick 
Burns told the Washington press corps that the US was "not a decisive actor" in 
the debate over how to respond. The most powerful superpower in the history of 
mankind had influence only "on the margins," in Burns' words. Because more 
intimate knowledge of Mladic's designs would have been inconvenient, senior US 
officials ordered neither a change in the flight pattern of American satellites 
snapping images overhead nor the reassignment of intelligence analysts. 

After the massacre, neither the Clinton team nor Congress looked back. There is 
no evidence that Clinton commissioned an internal after-action review of the US 
response to Srebrenica. When the UN conducted its own Srebrenica inquiry in 
1998, its investigators say, Clinton administration officials did not return 
their phone calls. The UN team was granted access only to a group of 
hand-picked junior and midlevel officials who revealed next to nothing. Dutch 
investigators complained that they met a similar stone wall in Washington. The 
Bush administration has a unique opportunity to look backward in order to move 
Source: The Washington Post 

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