Crimes and questions

In early 1995, the Yugoslav civil war was at a critical phase. The NATO bombardment of Bosnia had weakened the Bosnian Serbs but everyone was jockeying to gain ground in battle and go to the negotiating table in a favorable position for the final division. The troops of Mladic and Radovan Karadzic were engaged in «cleansing» operations in an attempt to remove the Muslim population, mainly in northwestern Bosnia, so they could stake a political claim to «ethnically cleansed» areas in the imminent settlement of the Yugoslav question. Mladic’s forces besieged enclaves such as Goradze, Brsko and Srebrenica, which had been characterized as «safe areas» by the UN, and where thousands of unarmed Muslims had taken refuge in the hope of UN protection. Some 40,000 men, women and children trapped in Srebrenica were, they believed, under the protection of a force of 200 Dutch UN peacekeepers posted at the village of Potucari, at the entrance to the town. When Mladic’s forces tightened the circle so as to take over the town, the people saw what was happening and fled toward Potucari in the belief that the Dutch troops would protect them. Much has been said about what happened when Mladic arrived at the UN headquarters at Potucari and demanded that the UN troops let him pass. It is said that he who later led the massacre after intimidating the Dutch, threatening to slaughter them all, and that they gave in. Another report says that he assured them he would not harm any of the civilians but would simply take the unarmed Bosnian Muslims out of the enclave, and that they believed him and allowed him to pass unhindered. What happened next is more or less common knowledge. He let the women and children leave – he even gave them sweets – then he assembled all the adolescent and adult males in Potucari’s factories and from there led them to buses in groups to different parts of the valley where his special forces and the Scorpion militia executed them to the last man. Other groups of Mladic’s, in which some Greek trophy-hunters were active, went into the city, demolishing houses and looting property. There are videos and photographs showing the Greek flag flying over the town hall of Srebrenica. Some people in Greece went into spasms of national pride at the sight of the Greek flag, but they went silent – and have remained so – since the discovery of the horror in which our fellow citizens took part. But there are still unanswered questions about the stance of the West. Why did they allow Mladic to invade Srebrenica when they could have crushed his forces with an air attack, which would have been easy, given that NATO bombardment of Serb targets in Bosnia was in full swing? How much foundation is there for the claim made by many analysts in the West that the international element turned a blind eye – if not its full consent – to the ethnic cleansing of Srebrenica, possibly in view of facilitating the carve-up at the upcoming Dayton meeting? That is something we may never learn.

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