Friday, March 19, 2010

US General Blames Dutch Gay Soldiers for Srebrenica

Blame it on the gays.  That's the way at least one retired U.S. general sees it.  Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander John Sheehan says the fall of Srebrenica in 1995 was partly due to gays in the ranks of the Dutch military, which was tasked with guarding the so-called 'safe haven.'   Sheehan wasn't gabbing to close friends in some dank drinking hole after whiskey unlocked his lips.  Sheehan was speaking under oath before a dour Congressional committee.  The Dutch, gay and other sundry groups were left mouths agape, reacting with outrage.  Beyond that, however, the scandal opens a tiny window to again ask what really happened at Srebrenica some fifteen years ago. The author, Diana Johnstone, tells the Informant the Dutch were in a no-win situation. 

Sheehan offered his interesting thoughts to the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 19.

Apparently pining for the certainties of the old Cold War, Sheehan blames Europeans for trying to "socialize" their armed forces once the Berlin Wall fell. 

This, Sheehan posits, let the gays in. 

"That led to a force that was ill-equipped to go to war. The case in point that I'm referring to is when the Dutch were required to defend Srebrenica against the Serbs," Sheehan said.

"The battalion was under-strength, poorly led, and the Serbs came into town, handcuffed the soldiers to the telephone poles, marched the Muslims off, and executed them."

Carl Levin, chairman of the U.S. Senate's Armed Services Committee, wanted to pin down Sheehan, asking: "Did the Dutch leaders tell you it was because there were gay soldiers there?"

"Yes, they did. They included that as part of the problem," Sheehan said, according to a webcast on the website of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"That there were gay soldiers?" Levin then asked.

"That the combination was the liberalisation of the military, a net effect was basically social engineering."

Here's CNN's take.

The Dutch Defense Ministry called Sheehan's statements bunk. 

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende got about as riled up as a politician can get, saying "The remarks were outrageous, wrong and beneath contempt."

Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen called the claim "the bizarre private opinion of someone without an official function".

Military unions were apopletic as well.

Dutch news agency ANP quoted the head of the military union AFMP as saying Sheehan's comments were "out of the realm of fiction", while the head of the gay soldiers' group SHK called his comments "the ridiculous convulsion of a loner".

While Sheehan's preposterous remarks are easy to ridicule, they point to a deeper problem.

Even fifteen years after the fall of Srebrenica, few really know the full context of what happened there.

What you say, that's bunk?  The record's clear.

Serb forces came into this beseiged town, separated the men and boys from the women, and summarily executed them, all while the Dutch looked on helplessly.

This is the worst massacre since the end of World War II, we are told, and few of us question that, and have no reason really to.

Yes, Serb forces killed wantonly in Srebrenica.  But it was war, a country was falling apart, old ethnic hatreds had bubbled to the surface. 

However, in the West it is the Serbs who are the ones most fingers point to for causing most of the bloodshed. 

Srebrenica, like most of what happened in Yugoslavia in its dying days, show it wasn't as simple as that.

Ed Herman, a media critic and a leading skeptic of the official Srebrenica narrative, says "context stripping" was rife in Bosnia and elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s.

One element of context was the fact that the “safe area” concept was a fraud, as the safe areas were supposed to have been disarmed, but weren’t, and with UN connivance. [28] They were therefore used by the Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica and other safe havens as launching pads for attacks on nearby Serb villages. In the three years prior to the massacre well over a thousand Serb civilians were killed by Muslim forces in scores of devastated nearby villages; [29] and well before July 1995 the Srebrenica Muslim commander Nasir Oric proudly showed Western reporters videos of some of his beheaded Serb victims and bragged about his killings. [30] Testifying before the Tribunal on February 12, 2004, UN military commander in Bosnia in 1992 and 1993, General Philippe Morillon, stated his conviction that the attack on Srebrenica was a “direct reaction” to the massacres of Serbs by Nasir Oric and his forces in 1992 and 1993, massacres with which Morillon was closely familiar. [31] Morillon’s testimony was of no interest to the Western media, and when the ICTY finally got around to indicting Nasir Oric on March 28, 2003, very possibly to create the image of judicial balance, he was charged with killing only seven Serbs who were tortured and beaten to death after capture, and with the “wanton destruction” of nearby villages. Although he openly bragged to Western reporters of slaughtering Serb civilians, the ICTY reportedly “found no evidence that there were civilian casualties in the attacks on Serb villages in his theater of operations.” \

Diana Johnstone, author of the little cited, but courageous, Fools' Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions, cites an authoritarian Dutch study:

According to the most thorough study of Srebrenica events, by Cees Wiebes for the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation report, the Bosnian Serb forces set out in July 1995 to reduce the area held by Bosnian Muslim forces on the outskirts of Srebrenica, and only decided to capture the town itself when they unexpectedly found it undefended.

"The VRS [Republika Srpska Army] advance went so well that the evening of July 9 saw an important 'turning point' [...] The Bosnian Serbs decided that they would no longer confine themselves to the southern part of the enclave, but would extend the operation and take the town of Srebrenica itself. Karadzic was informed that the results achieved now put the Drina Corps in a position to take the town; he had expressed his satisfaction with this and had agreed to a continuation of the operation to disarm the 'Muslim terrorist gangs' and to achieve a full demilitarization of the enclave. In this order, issued by Major General Zdravko Tolimir, it was also stated that Karadzic had determined that the safety of UNPROFOR soldiers and of the population should be ensured. Orders to this effect were to be provided to all participating units. [...] The orders made no mention of a forced relocation of the population. [...] A final instruction, also of significance, was that the population and prisoners of war should be treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention. On July 11 all of Srebrenica fell into the hands of the Bosnian Serbs."

And here you have it, it wasn't that the Dutch were gay that caused the fall of Srebrenica, it was the fact that Bosnian Muslim forces, including Naser, had abandoned the town.  

In exclusive comments to the Informant, Johnstone says the Dutch were in a no-win situation.

"The Dutch soldiers were not supposed to "go to war", but to act as peace-keepers … where there was no peace agreement. This ambiguity put them in an impossible situation to start with. The basic problem was that the "safe area" of Srebrenica was never demilitarized, and was used by Muslim soldiers as a base to attack surrounding Serb villages. When the Serbs attacked, apparently in a vengeful mood, there was chaos, as the Dutch soldiers found themselves caught in the cross-fire while most of the Muslim soldiers abandoned the town to try to flee to Tuzla."

But why? 

Johnstone cites the French general Morillon and his testimony at the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague who said the Serbs had fallen in a trap.

Subsequently, on February 12, 2004, testifying at the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague, General Morillon stressed that the Muslim commander in Srebrenica, Naser Oric, "engaged in attacks during Orthodox holidays and destroyed villages, massacring all the inhabitants. This created a degree of hatred that was quite extraordinary in the region, and this prompted the region of Bratunac in particular---that is the entire Serb population---to rebel against the very idea that through humanitarian aid one might help the population that was present there."

Asked by the ICTY prosecutor how Oric treated his Serb prisoners, General Morillon, who knew him well, replied that "Naser Oric was a warlord who reigned by terror in his area and over the population itself. I think that he realized that these were the rules of this horrific war, that he could not allow himself to take prisoners. According to my recollection, he didn't even look for an excuse. It was simply a statement: One can't be bothered with prisoners."

Morillon recounted how "the Serbs took me to a village to show me the evacuation of the bodies of the inhabitants that had been thrown into a hole, a village close to Bratunac. And this made me understand the degree to which this infernal situation of blood and vengeance [...] led to a situation when I personally feared that the worst would happen if the Serbs of Bosnia managed to enter the enclaves and Srebrenica."

A Bulgarian reporter, Germinal Civikov, has dissected the Srebrenica story in his book, Srebrenica: Der Kronzeuge.

He points on most of the evidence for the massacre at Srebrenica came from a self-confessed slaughterer, Drazen Erdemovic.

Writing for the Brussels Journal, John Laughland picks up the story. 

Civikov’s interest in the case was aroused when he started to reflect on the veracity of Erdemovic’s testimony. The prisoners, he claimed, were shot in groups of 10. They were bussed in, taken off the busses, marched to the execution spot in a field several hundred metres away, frisked for their possessions, and shot. Arguments broke out between the executioners and the victims; the executioners drank and quarrelled; there were some moving scenes such as when Erdemovic tried to save an old man but eventually had to kill him like the others. Quite simply, Civikov reasoned, it is not possible to kill 1,200 people this way in 5 hours unless one assumes that each group of 10 men was killed in 2.5 minutes. Even if it had taken only 10 minutes to kill each group, itself an achievement, it would instead have taken some 20 hours to kill so many people. If you do the maths you will see that he is right.

Throughout the thirteen years since Erdemovic has been telling his story in four different trials, not one of the ICTY judges ever did this simple calculation or questioned the veracity of his account.

Former Bosnian Muslim president Alija Izetbegovic was reported to have believed that NATO intervention on the side of the Bosnian Muslims was only possible if the Serbs were to break into Srebrenica, killing at least 5,000 of its people.

After Srebrenica, NATO launched an aggressive new air campaign against the Bosnia Serbs.

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