Thursday, December 16, 2004

Death Tolls, Part 4

It was only a matter of time before the findings of Dr. Ewa Tabeau and Jacub Bijak, demographers tasked with establishing a death toll in Bosnia for the ICTY, would become public once the Norwegian media broke the year-long silence and mentioned the existence of their work.

News of this report exploded the commonly accepted, but mythical, notion that 250,000 "Bosnians" died in the 1992-95 fighting, although that figure - along with 200,000 - is still used in many wire reports. In the past couple of weeks, the assertion has morphed somewhat into a claim that 200,000 have died in all the Balkans wars of the 1990s, but even that is still an unsupported claim.

The premier Serbian newsweekly, NIN, has a story this week on the Tabeau-Bijak report, based on information provided by Dr. Tabeau herself. (Even though I occasionally write for NIN, I had absolutely nothing to do with this article - though I wish I had). The article mentions the specific numbers, the methodology used by the demographers, and some of the other claims presented so far. If I have time in the next couple of days, I''ll try and translate it and post it here.

Something that NIN notes at the end, however, stuck with me. They say that most researchers, including dr. Tabeau, feel the need to preface their findings with a statement that they "do not wish to minimize the suffering of the victims." But how can establishing real numbers and debunking false atrocity stories in any way change the suffering of individuals who've experienced the real thing? It can't. What it can do is demolish the collective image of suffering, created and cultivated for political purposes.

The death toll of 250,000 "Bosnians" was invented as a propaganda tool in the first place, a number to appeal to Western public opinion so it would clamor for a military intervention in Bosnia (which was a policy of the Izetbegovic junta). Claims of "aggression" and "genocide" served the same purpose. Propagandists who cooked up these numbers and allegations never really cared for the actual victims; quite the contrary, lies have exploited their suffering, victimizing them all over again.

The best service to the victims of war would be to stop lying, both to them and about them. Matter of fact, let's tear up the entire tapestry of deception that has covered the real Bosnian War - brutal and painful enough without the lies - and has made peace and coexistence there impossible. What Tabeau and Bijak found is not the end of the quest for truth in Bosnia. It is just the beginning.


blueforte said...

I too am incensed by the propaganda about Draza Mihailovic. Isn't it true that he received a medal from the French Government also? I will look into this.

protagoras said...

I am an avid fan of, but generally do not read your column, as once or twice was enough. But I have to speak out.

I lived in Germany and watched the demonstartion on TV, where unarmed people were shot at, that started the conflict.Day after day of news about the conflict and why it began, and what was going on flashed on the TV. (I am not German, Serbian, Croatian, or Muslim.)

I had three friends that I went to school with, one Muslim, one Serbian and one Serbian and Croatian. We were part of a group of friends from all over the world. They spoke about the horrors, the camps, and the genocide. They were doctors - freshly minted.They spoke about the hatred, and prejudicial philosophy that served as a foundation for unspeakable things that were done to human beings by human beings.

My Muslim friend was gangraped, and killed herself a few years ago. My Serbian friend was beaten and raped because she didn't have her ID with her and could not prove she was Serbian. She came back to Berlin to counsel other female and child survivors, and then went back to Bosnia to counsel all victims. She separated herself from her family when she found out her brothers had done to others what was done to her, and that they were avid supporters of the "ethnic cleansing ". My third, mixed friend, who was also gangraped after her family was killed in front of her, except her father, who was killed after she was raped in front of him, is now insane. All felt that military intervention was necessary.I feel that the use of the military was wrong from the beginning, and I mean the shooting into the unarmed demonstration.

You can discuss numbers all you want. But whether the numbers are low or high ( and it seems that the difference may only be 50,000 )does not justify the genocide - yes, genocide. When even a few people are destroyed because of their beliefs, or the color of their skin, or nationality, it is genocide. All that will reap is revenge, and begin a vicious cycle. When you look at the numbers that are expected in the article you refer to, numbers what makes 150,000 ( which is what the ultimate number is expected to be per the article ) less collective than 200,000?
What about those who were not killed but were raped, beaten, or placed in camps?

I cry for my friends who were all wonderful and giving people.

My hope is that some day people and nations will look to Gandhi as an example, and rather than trying to minimize their role in such events, and spend a lot of energy on being defensive, apologize for wrongdoing and do something concrete to promote peace and coexistence.

Gray Falcon said...

protagoras, I remember well the incident you mention, when a crowd of protesters was fired upon. I also remember that the shooter was Jusuf "Juka" Prazina, one of the most notorious thugs loyal to Izetbegovic. See, most people in Bosnia didn't want a war; certainly, the Serb and Croat nationalist leadership stood to gain much from the cantonization agreement signed in March 1992, without ever resorting to violence. But Izetbegovic, who had a militant Islamic agenda, needed a conflict in order to muster popular support. He wanted a war, he provoked it, and willingly prolonged it, using the resulting suffering of his people as a political weapon. It is his regime that insists on calling the war an "aggression" and "genocide," neither of which is accurate. I disagree with your definition of "genocide," which cheapens the term and relativizes that crime.
Of course every loss of life is tragic, and every assault is criminal - I am a libertarian, and oppose aggressive violence altogether. But this is not a discussion of whether or not there was suffering; it's about whether or not that suffering was deliberately misrepresented to achieve political and military objectives, whether by Izetbegovic or by the Empire. I think the issue of numbers demonstrates quite clearly that this was the case.