The massacre of 8000 defenceless Muslim men and boys in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in July 1995 stands as the most horrific crime in a long line of crimes in the Balkans during the 1990s. The prime responsibility for this slaughter lies with the regime of Serbian ex-Communist Slobodan Milosevic, which had overthrown the multi-ethnic Yugoslav socialist federal republic created by the Yugoslav Communists under Josip Broz Tito's leadership and ushered in a brutal capitalist restoration, full of Yeltsin-style mafias and oligarchs.
The Milosevic regime revived the Serbian national-chauvinist ideology of Chetniks, the pro-capitalist forces which had fought against the Communist-led Partisans in World War II, slaughtered tens of thousands of Muslims and collaborated with the Nazi German occupation of Yugoslavia. As "Greater Serbia" ideology replaced the Titoist "brotherhood and unity" policy, the Milosevic regime launched wars against other Yugoslav republics, principally Croatia and Bosnia, in which non-Serb populations were forcibly removed from large areas deemed to be "Serb territory".
The Yugoslav federal army was the fourth largest military force in Europe, and though its ranks were made up of Yugoslavs of all nationalities, its entire arsenal was handed over to Greater Serbia by former US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance in his plan that ended the brief Serbo-Croatian war of 1991.
Much of this arsenal was then passed on to the Bosnian Serb Army (BSA), the Serb nationalist armed forces in Bosnia led by the pro-Chetnik Serb Democratic Party of Radovan Karadzic.
Control of this massive arsenal gave the Serb chauvinists in Bosnia an overwhelming advantage in the subsequent civil war, which is why the great majority of the war crimes were committed by military forces led by the right-wing Serbian nationalists.
However, the Croatian regime of ex-Communist Franco Tudjman competed with Milosevic in terms of national chauvinism, and armed forces in Bosnia aligned with Tudjman's regime also committed serious war crimes.
When their war ended in late 1991, the Milosevic and Tudjman regimes formed an alliance to partition the multi-ethnic republic of Bosnia between them. This drive to partition Bosnia was supported by the West European imperialist powers, which drew up plan after plan for the ethnic partitioning of Bosnia.
Furthermore, the US and its European allies enforced a criminal arms embargo on the beleaguered Bosnian republic, preventing it acquiring arms to match the enormous Serbian military machine. Their aim was to balance the Serbian and Croatian regimes' appetites by dividing Bosnia between them. Through such an approach, they sought to create a stable political environment for foreign investment.
Srebrenica was a small town in eastern Bosnia, the region adjacent to the Serbian border. Serbian nationalists wanted this region incorporated into Greater Serbia, but its population was overwhelmingly Muslim.
The terror that the Serb nationalists use to drive a million Muslims from their homes reached a level not seen in Europe since the Second World War. However, tens of thousands of Muslims, rather than fleeing the region, were driven into a number of small Muslim enclaves inside eastern Bosnia, surrounded by Serb-annexed, ethnically "purified" territory. One such enclave was Srebrenica.
The 8000 Muslims killed in July 1995 in that town were a fraction of those killed during the initial ethnic "cleansing" of eastern Bosnia that drove them into the town, and of those killed during the three years that the encircled Serb nationalist forces pounded the town with artillery and tank shells on a daily basis.
A number of times, starving Muslims holed up in Srebrenica broke out and raided nearby Serb villages, mostly to acquire food. On some such occasions, Muslim troops also committed atrocities, though on markedly smaller scale than those committed by the Serbian nationalists. The atrocities committed by Muslim fighters against Serbs have subsequently been played up by Serb nationalists and their Western apologists to suggest the Srebrenica massacre was merely revenge for these Muslim attacks.
UN 'safe havens'
The United Nations declared Srebrenica and six other besieged Bosnian towns "safe areas" in 1993. To enter these towns, the UN required the local Muslim militia to hand over all their weapons. However, these towns were never safe for their inhabitants, who were continually shelled for the next two-and-a-half years.
In July 1995, the BSA entered Srebrenica. The UN troops "protecting" this "safe area" fled without firing a shot and allowed the Serb troops under the notorious butcher General Ratko Mladic to round-up as much of the male population of all age groups as they could find. Thousands of these captives were then taken away and killed. Thousands more were captured as they tried to escape through the forests and later killed or shot while escaping.
In one incident, at least 1000 Muslim men and boys were locked in a warehouse in nearby Kravica and machine-gunned by Mladic's soldiers and then finished off with hand grenades. At the end of this atrocity, Mladic declared the Serb people had finally "liberated" Srebrenica from "the Turks".
A couple of months later, the US entered the war with its own ethnic partition plan — the Dayton plan. The main difference with previous partition plans put forward by the European Union was that it gave the Serb nationalists even more of what they wanted.
Not only would they get half of Bosnia as an ethnically purified "Serb Republic", but Mladic's physical elimination of the troublesome, messy enclaves of Srebrenica and Zepa was to be recognised as if nothing had happened. They were to be included in the Bosnian "Serb Republic".
Surviving female relatives have registered 7789 people missing after the Srebrenica massacre, and they continue to campaign for justice. Last year, even the government of the Bosnian "Serb Republic" admitted that 7800 Muslims from Srebrenica had been slaughtered.
Greece, as the only imperialist country in the Balkans, played a specific role in the restoration of capitalism in the former socialist states of the south Balkans. Greek capitalists took the leading role in buying up denationalised property in Albania and Macedonia, while taking a significant share of privatised businesses in Serbia and Bulgaria.
The Greek capitalist rulers' specific strategy was to play the reactionary "Orthodox" card — the Greek and Serb people are allegedly both "Orthodox Christians" and thus had to help each other against the "Turks", as they called the Muslim peoples of the Balkans.
The oppressed, brutalised, disarmed Bosnian Muslims and the Kosovar Albanians were thus pictured as ghosts of the Ottoman Empire trying to return and again threaten Christendom. The Greek and Serb "Orthodox" peoples would be in the vanguard of the defence of Europe against this "Islamic threat".
Throughout the bloody break-up of multi-ethnic Yugoslavia, Greek "volunteers", applauded by the Greek corporate media, the Greek Orthodox Church, and all the major political parties in Greece, went to Bosnia to aid the Serb nationalists. In 1995, a team of these "volunteers" raised the Greek flag alongside the Serbian, ancient Macedonian and Byzantine flags at the Srebrenica massacre site. Karadzic decorated four Greek volunteers with the White Eagle medal following this.
On July 10, 163 Greek academics, journalists and political activists issued a call for Greece to officially apologise to the victims of Srebrenica for the role of Greek imperialism in this atrocity. The call stated in part: "On July 11, 10 years will be completed since the massive massacre of 8000 civilians in Srebrenica organised by the regime of Milosevic and its followers in Bosnia, Mladic and Karadjic. This was not the only atrocity, it was preceded by others (Vukovar, Goradze) as well as the long siege of Sarajevo that cost 11,000 dead.
"Croatians and Muslims also committed war crimes and now account for them before the International Criminal Tribune at The Hague. But the massacre of civilians in Srebrenica symbolises the absolute terror and characterises the regime which committed it.
"Aimed at ethnic cleansing and organised cold-bloodedly, it is the worst mass-killing in Europe after the World War II that the international community did not prevent despite its promises to protect the population...
"Contrary to what happened elsewhere, in the rest of the world and in particular in the rest of Europe, in Greece public opinion was misinformed and uncritically placed in a common psychological front with the criminal regime of Milosevic, under the pretext of Orthodoxy, the traditional Greek-Serbian friendship and alleged 'anti-imperialism'. Not only this. Greek 'volunteers' (their public confessions have been published) have fought in Bosnia with Karadzic and Mladic and raised the Greek flag, dishonouring it in Srebrenica at the moment of the carnage.
"The Greek state has the obligation to apologise publicly to the families of the 8000 slaughtered and to call for the indictment of the Greek 'volunteers' who were accomplices in the crime, as well as the supposedly 'unknown' people who manipulated them. We demand this."
The call and the names of these who signed it are available at
From Green Left Weekly, July 20, 2005.
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