Guilty of the past… or for the future? - by Diana Johnstone

Activities - Press Releases

On the proposed Srebrenica resolution:

January 25, 2010

diana_johnstone-belgrade_forum_for_the_world_of_equalsI learn with utter astonishment that leading Serbian politicians are undertaking to officially endorse the criminal status of their own country by adopting a parliamentary resolution expressing "regret" for the Srebrenica "genocide". This would amount not only to a betrayal of their own country, but also to a betrayal of Serbia’s defenders abroad.

Expressions of "regret" may appear to be harmless exercises in hypocrisy. It costs nothing to "regret" all the regrettable things that have happened in history. Such virtuous posturing can have no effect on past events.

But this proposed statement could have seriously harmful future effects, because it proposes to define what it claims to regret as "genocide".

I am one of a minority in the West who are continuing to stand up against insults and slander to argue that the Srebrenica massacre cannot correctly be described as "genocide". Certainly, any execution of prisoners is a war crime – and such crimes were surely committed by all sides in Bosnia’s civil war. But even if, as alleged, as many as seven or eight thousand Muslims died after the 1995 capture of Srebrenica, a single massacre of military-age men while sparing women and children cannot be described as "genocide" – unless the term "genocide" is redefined to fit the single case of Srebrenica. And this is precisely what was done by the International Criminal Tribunal on former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. In order to convict General Krstic (who was not even present at the scene) of "genocide", the ICTY judges ruled that killing a large number of Muslim men from Srebrenica was "genocide"

because of the "patriarchal" nature of their society. Women and children survivors were too insignificant in such a patriarchal society to matter! This preposterous verdict simply confirmed the obvious fact that ICTY is working for those who set it up, choose its judges and pay its

expenses: that is, essentially, NATO. It is there to justify the NATO interpretation of the conflicts in former Yugoslavia, by putting the entire burden of blame on the Serbs. Unless an Orwellian future bans free historical enquiry, I am confident that my critical appraisal of ICTY will be justified by history.

This peculiar resolution appears to be the work of "democratic"

politicians whose foreign policy for the last ten years or more has consisted in bleating, "Milosevic was bad, but /we/ are good – love us, love us, /we/ are the /good/ Serbs". This manichean posturing has prevented any serious examination or analysis of the causes and conduct of the civil wars of the 1990s. Moreover, it has been a crashing failure. In Western eyes, this policy looks like what it is: a shameless attempt to curry favor with the victors. The sponsors of this resolution no doubt hope it will bring advantages in the future, such as an approving pat on the head from the masters of NATO and the European Union. At most, it may elicit a shrug: "Yes, we know you are guilty, and it’s about time you admitted it."

Such a resolution can serve only:

* -- to justify the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia, which was carried out precisely on the pretext that Serbia had proved its "genocidal" tendencies in Srebrenica, and therefore had to be prevented militarily from committing another genocide in Kosovo. If the victims of NATO bombing endorse the pretext for that bombing, this will be used as a justification for further so-called "humanitarian" military interventions by NATO.

* -- to provide grounds for Bosnian Muslims to demand revision of the Dayton accords in order to wipe out Republika Srpska as a "product of genocide" and to centralize Bosnia-Herzegovina under Muslim rule. It would also expose Serbia to demands for reparation payments that could not only jeopardize the economic future of the Serbian people, but would perpetuate the unhealthy tendency of certain Bosnian Muslim leaders to try to live forever off their "victim" status. It would also tend to encourage other secessionist movements within Serbia against an admittedly "genocidal" state.

These are the real reasons that certain Western politicians may be putting pressure on gullible Serb leaders to adopt such a resolution, on the pretext that it would help Serbia "be part of Europe".

By saying collectively, "yes, we are a pariah nation, but it was that other guy who did it", Serbs will implicitly endorse their own collective guilt. After all, whatever his faults, Slobodan Milosevic was not really a "dictator" but a politician who was repeatedly elected. If he was guilty of "genocide", then the Serbian people who elected him share responsibility.

Do some members of the Serbian political class suffer from delusions of grandeur? Do they imagine that by elevating little Serbia to Hitlerian levels of political evil, they will suddenly be honored like Willy Brandt kneeling in the Polish ghetto? They overlook the fact that even in defeat, Germany was the industrial powerhouse of Europe, courted by (and divided between) East and West, whose leaders had overwhelming economic and political reasons to welcome penitant Germany back into the family of nations. By aspiring to such heights of wickedness, little Serbia appears at once foolishly humble and foolishly pretentious.

Do the sponsors of this resolution hope it will help them take Serbia into the European Union? The European Union will admit Serbia if and when EU leaders consider that doing so is in their interest. Not a minute before, whatever obsequious gestures are made by Serbian politicians

Do they hope it will help them take Serbia into NATO? But without submitting the question of NATO membership to a popular referendum, this would be another betrayal of the Serbian people.

Do they hope that it will help them get back Kosovo? This is most unlikely, and however painful, the loss of Kosovo is not as grave as the loss of the nation’s honor. Kosovo was seized by overwhelming military force.

This resolution would give away the national honor without a fight. It would simply announce to cynical Western leaders that they can do what they like with Serbia, a nation which once stood up to the Ottoman Empire, the Habsburg Empire and the Third Reich, but which now comes crawling on its knees to join its aggressors.

Worse still, it can only encourage them to give other small countries the same treatment. The message received would be, "We can bomb them, destroy their infrastructure, kill their civilians, detach pieces of their territory – and they will officially blame themselves! Let’s keep it up!" Serbia would thereby be not only the victim and dupe of NATO, but its accomplice in further crimes.