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.