Tuesday, August 05, 2008

More Myths from the NY Times

"Hero to Some, Butcher to Others" is how New York Times' Dan Bilefsky describes Gen. Ratko Mladic. Good versus evil, black-and-white, typical for coverage of Bosnia (and the Balkans in general).

Here is just an example of the banality of journalistic evil:

On May 2, 1992, one month after the Bosnian Republic‘s declaration of independence, Mr. Mladic’s forces blockaded Sarajevo. They shelled the city and destroyed its mosques.

More than 10,000 people died in Sarajevo during the siege, including about 1,500 children. Thousands of Serbs also died in the Bosnian conflict.

The numbers given here are about as reliable as the "250,000 dead" canard repeated for so many years. The mosque claim is patently false. The part about Serbs shelling Sarajevo leaves out the part where Muslims shot up the Serb parts of the city. Honestly, the biggest surprise for me is the admission that "thousands of Serbs also died" in the war. That's more than the mainstream media ever dared admit before. Even so, it's an afterthought, and presented in passive voice, as if no one actually killed (or beheaded, burned, impaled or mutilated) those Serbs.

Bilefsky's "understanding" of Yugoslavia's collapse is equally facile:

When Slobodan Milosevic played on Serbian grievances to win control of Yugoslavia in the late 1980s, he also appealed to army officers, indoctrinated to maintain the old Yugoslav federation, that they had to act to prevent its dissolution.

Uh, what? Milosevic did not "win control" of Yugoslavia, he became president of one of its republics. And since when is teaching army officers to defend their country "indoctrination"?! To Bilefsky, a 45-year-old country may be "old," but I bet he would not describe the United States as "old federation" in an article about the misnamed Civil War, now would he? And the U.S. was 74 or 85 years old at the time, depending on whether we count from 1776 or 1787 (when the Constitution was adopted). Finally, wasn't Yugoslavia, in fact, disintegrating? And wasn't the army's job to, you know, prevent that?

Here's another sample of Bilefsky's turgid prose:

"...as Yugoslavia began to disintegrate in 1991, Mr. Mladic was ready to do his part in the schemes devised by Mr. Milosevic in the name of protecting and assuring the dominance of the Serbs, the largest ethnic group."

What "schemes" are these, precisely? And what "dominance"? If being derided as "bourgeois oppressors", divided between four republics, having several new "nations" (like "Montenegrins") carved out of them and being the only component of the federation sub-partitioned with autonomous provinces (Vojvodina and Kosovo, the latter being under Albanian domination for decades) qualifies as "dominance", I'd hate to see what subjugation would look like.

But the reason I decided to even bother writing about this is that Bilefsky included a juicy quote about Mladic hating "the West, Albanian nationalism, and Muslims" from "Seki Radoncic, a leading Bosnian investigative journalist."

Now that's just laugh-out-loud funny. Go Google "Seki Radoncic." He wrote a screenplay for a 2006 movie, a book about Muslims in Montenegro, and another book or two about police in Montenegro. The propaganda outfit IWPR describes him as "investigative journalist from Montenegro currently living in Bosnia." Stipulating he is, in fact, an investigative journalist (as opposed to, say, a tabloid muckraker - and those are a dime a dozen over there), he's not "Bosnian" and all, and much less "leading."

The biggest media empire in Bosnia is owned by one Fahrudin Radoncic. He is also a Montenegrin Muslim - or, as the Bosnian Muslims call them derisively, Sandzaklija - who rose from obscurity as the propaganda chief for the Izetbegovic regime. What are the odds that Seki and Fahrudin are related, and that this is the secret of Seki's success?

Either way, that Bilefsky quotes Radoncic as a "leading Bosnian investigative journalist" suggests that he's being fed "information" by the other Radoncic. Thus the New York Times becomes an outlet for Radoncic's Avaz, a government-subsidized daily blending tabloid journalism with vitriolic propaganda. Not that this is by any means hard.

Maybe the NYT should re-hire Jayson Blair. That way we'd get testimonies from "Srebrenica genocide" survivors, leading experts on Balkans politics, and even secret supporters of Ratko Mladic, all without the author ever leaving his New York cubicle. Saves the expense of a plane ticket, and is just about as credible, or truthful.



Grey Falcon,

What is, to your knowledge, the most detailed and accurate description of what actually happened in Srebrenica?


The Saker

Gray Falcon said...

There isn't one yet that I've come across. The version most media peddle is nonsense; from just reading the "drive-by" explanation in stories about Bosnia, you'd imagine tens of thousands of Serb troops entering the town, and massacring the unarmed, defenseless menfolk as their women and the UN troops watched. That did not happen.

Apparently, Srebrenica was taken by only about 200 Serb troops and a tank or two, after the Muslim troops made a run for it, leaving their women and children behind at the UN base. Serbs claim several hundred men (including teenage boys) were seized in the UN base, and later exchanged, unharmed. Muslims claim they were all killed. Surely there is a record somewhere that can shed light on this.

It also appears that, as they pursued the fleeing Muslim troops, Serb troops did not take prisoners - and those they did, they executed. The Serb troops were local, and many have lost families to Muslim raids over the past several years; Oric's men had taken no prisoners, either. While that may be an explanation, it's not - and cannot - be an excuse. Killing POWs is wrong, any which way you slice it. But genocide it ain't.


Your info jives with mine. As far as I know from classified sources many of the Muslims in Srebrenica were actually relocated into a refugee camp under UN control and later moved to Muslim controlled cities. I also know for a fact that the Dutch battalion was set up to take the fall for the operation: the truth is that the Dutch DID call in NATO airpower for help and that Akashi DID relay this request to NATO who REFUSED to act.

I was aware of the massacres of Serbs living around Srebrenica which the Muslims committed earlier in the war and I do remember hearing at least one Serbian officer saying that when he would enter Srebrenica he would make the Muslims pay for that. Still, I have absolutely no reason to believe the theory that Mladic or, even less so, Karadzic shared this guy's desire for revenge as they were far more interested in good PR for them then killing a few Muslims.

As for the famous video of tehe Skorpioni shooting Muslims prisoners, I have never found any source which would convincingly place this at the moment and location of the fall of Srebrenica.

I know that some Serbian units did commit horrendous atrocities (I think that one of them was called the "White Swans" or something similar), but these were not subordinated to the authorities of the Republika Srpska and were freelancers.

All this is to say that when you write "Killing POWs is wrong, any which way you slice it. But genocide it ain't I completely agree with you.

During the war in Bosnia I was getting daily classified UNPROFOR briefings and I have NEVER heard ANYONE at UNPROFOR making the claim that a genocide was taking place. Not in Srebrenica, not in Omarska, not in Gorazde and not in Sarajevo. There were plenty of such claims form NATO HQ, but not a SINGLE ONE for the UN forces on the ground.

Still, I very much deplore that the authorities in Belgrade and/or the Serbian press corps never managed to produce an comprehensive report about Srebrenica or the rest of the propaganda operations of Muslims (Makrale and Racak come to mind). My best guess is that the authorities and elites in Serbia are all very much aware of all this and have a vested interest to remain silent.

Could have have anything to do with $$$ and support coming from their bosses in Washington?

Red Star said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr. R said...

I tried to figure out the whole Srebrenica business myself - I checked what they said at the Krstic process. Some details not widely reported came out of that. One, is that as the 28th Infantry Division and those who traveled with it passed through the RS lines towards Tuzla, Mladic insisted that the main force of the VRS's Drina Corps go for Zepa to the south... leaving a small force to deal with the Srebrenica column headed north...

Also, prisoners were held with very few guards. So you had many prisoners, few guards, and at least one site where there was a prisoner uprising. There was also an attack by the Muslim army from Tuzla to help the column. They played VRS intercepts where they openly expressed worry that Zvornik was being threatened by the fighting. The executions of the PoWs took place almost all in the Zvornik area at around the time of the greatest pressure by the Muslims in the Zvornik area.

Also, there were offers to exchange the prisoners while they were alive. Alija Izetbegovic refused.

Now I must say that it was a while since I looked into this so there may be inaccuracies. I think nevertheless that "Zvornik Massacre" would be more accurate than "Srebrenica Massacre".

M said...

Zvornik Massacre is also quite excessive.

We should never forget that, for an example, an enitre division of those "freelancers" (who were in reality mercenaries born in the West fighting on the Muslim side, or in other cases on the Croats' side) was infiltrated within the VRS (I think it was called the 10th Brigade or 10th Division!) by Western secret services.

And most crimes blamed on the Serbs in BiH were actually committed by mercenaries who were part of this bunch.

I believe that all crimes blamed on the Serbs were committed by that bunch.

For example Drazen Erdemovic, who boasted to ABC in a 1996 interview of the fact that he had killed on his own 1200 Muslims in BiH was part of that group of mercenaries.

I hope Gray Falcon can correct my claims if I'm wrong but I think I'm recalling the facts precisely.

Mr. R said...

"Zvornik Massacre" - an observation that the massacre they describe did not take place in or really near Srebrenica at all - but near Zvornik. Now, what constitutes a massacre and who is responsible, that is something people can discuss...

It's the 10th Sabotage Detachment or 10th Demolition Division (I have seen I think both descriptions) or perhaps 10th Demolition Detachment...

Yes, they ran one of the shooting sites described and there were very few guards at all involved in that... and that site was near Zvornik as were the others... all but the grenade warehouse, the place where they say people were herded and then they shot it up and fired grenades into it...

With a shortage of manpower(had the VJ been allowed to participate this problem could have been solved) the VRS did end up integrating volunteers with who knows what motives... from what I know there were mercenaries too who ended up going to Zaire and who knows where else in Africa...

There were such people who were to be tried in Serbia for involvement in Srebrenica-related shootings but when Djindjic took over they were sprung from prison. Perhaps their possible involvement with the Western intelligence agencies that helped put Djindjic into power helped get them the out-of-gaol free card; this also served the effort of snuffing out any attempt at establishing an alternative telling of the Srebrenica events.