NATO, The Netherlands (close U.S. ally), as well as the UN were betrayed. Srebrenica and its citizens paid the highest price of genocide. New evidence makes undeniable of what some of us have alleged for almost two decades as a "yellow light" or "green" from Washington, Paris and London to assault and overtake the UN "safe area" and also NATO "protected zone" of Srebrenica. The only true question that remains is not even why, but was it reckless, acquiescence or perhaps complicity?
The Netherlands, who had the UN peacekeeping duty on the ground and deployed troops in the safe area and protected zone, had also been promised that NATO air support would provide the firepower that they needed to counter the weapons of Serbia's despot Slobodan Milosevic and his General Ratko Mladic, if they should attack. When this assault did come, the air support was deliberately and premeditatedly blocked without the Dutch, UN or Bosnia & Herzegovina (BiH) being informed. More troubling, Milosevic and Mladic were led to know that contrary to the UN and NATO resolutions and commitments, their assault upon Srebrenica would not be confronted with the requisite air support.
Recent evidence, documents and confirmation from then U.S. Administration officials reveals an agreement between London, Paris and Washington to suspend all NATO air support, a month before the assault started. This secret agreement was initially reached by then UK Prime Minister John Major, France President Jacques Chirac, and U.S. President Bill Clinton, and on May 28, "according to the declassified U.S. national security archive, the Principals Committee formalized a decision, apparently made during the phone call, 'to suspend the use of NATO air strikes against the Serbs for the foreseeable future.' (See: The Guardian of July 4, 2015 - "How Britain & the US decided to abandon Srebrenica to its fate").
Within that same week, as BiH's newly appointed Foreign Minister (my predecessor had just been assassinated), I met with then-Dutch Defense Minister Jorvis Voorhoever in Paris who informed me that he had received intelligence that Mladic was planning and already preparing an assault upon Srebrenica. It has also been confirmed that this intelligence came from U.S., UK and French sources. I believe Voorhoever shared my concern and that of other informed UN and allied sources that Mladic's assault could, perhaps most likely would lead, to mass killings, sexual assault as well as eviction of the enclave's population. Voorhoever voiced his fears to the allies gathered in Paris. However, his and my concerns were the least recklessly ignored, despite the statements of Mladic indicating his intentions and past history of such systematic brutality and intention to commit genocide when his military and paramilitary had overrun other towns and villages during the early stages of his campaign in BiH and Croatia. (See: Netherlands TV : "Why Srebrenica Had to Fall")
Left Naked to Genocide:
With columns of Mladic's troops and logistics already flowing to assault the UN safe area and NATO protected zone, why weren't the air strikes resumed? Dutch peacekeeping outposts within the safe area were overrun. The Dutch specifically called for air support on at least five or six occasions before it was too late (including on the night before the final onslaught when Voorhoever called me to let me know of what he had requested and believed would be a massive NATO strike). However, the NATO air support never came. While Mladic and Milosevic knew that NATO was not coming, neither the Dutch nor BiH Governments had been informed that a decision had already been made not to honor such commitments or pleas from BiH or the Dutch. Perhaps if we had not been in the dark to the betrayal both the Dutch and BiH governments could have taken even more measures to minimize if not avoid the consequences, including mass killings and other grave violations of international humanitarian law.
The key capitals had long claimed that the assault, and particularly the genocide of Srebrenica, could not be foreseen. That retort in the least reveals recklessness or has been evidenced as a lie. The blame was systematically laid upon an amorphous "international community" or the UN. NATO, or more accurately who blocked NATO, was conveniently avoided as question. However, was there a scheme or motive for the betrayal of Srebrenica beyond expediency? Was it more "a convenient genocide" that facilitated Milosevic's and Mladic's demands for territory and thus acceding to a new "American Initiative" for talks that would conclude in the Dayton Accords?
Real or mere pretext, Milosevic, Mladic and the presumed political head of the Bosnian Serb ultra-nationalists Radovan Karadzic demanded from the key members of the Contact Group including the U.S., UK and France that the so-called eastern enclaves including Srebrenica, Zepa and Gorazde be ceded to them, Republika Srpska. As then-BiH Foreign Minister, I was under constant pressure from these allies to engage in territorial and population exchanges. I refused, (as I believe did other senior officials of BiH). It was not my land to exchange. It was not my character to facilitate ethnic ghettos or ethnic cleansing and such was not sound values or strategy for an aspiring country and democracy. I had little doubt that my American countrymen shared the same values and would certainly not accede to a strategy delivering a new apartheid in Europe.
Colluding with the "Mafia":
However, I may have been more American than many of my U.S. counterparts. The evidence now points to an implicit or perhaps explicit plan, perhaps drifting of strategy of appeasement, by Washington, as well as Paris and London (including their agents on the ground General Bernard Janvier and Carl Bildt, presumably representing the European Union). Not wanting to expose their policy and action, or lack thereof, by openly withdrawing from BiH, they secretly committed to give the Serbian "mafia" (as one U.S. official called them) enough of the demanded booty to incentivize them to a deal (See Guardian Article). At this point we are talking of a green light, but acquiescence and/or complicity are more of the legal terms.
Richard Holbrooke describes "instructions" to "sacrifice Srebrenica, Gorazde and Zepa" (the three eastern enclaves and safe areas sought by Milosevic and Mladic) in a TV interview 10 years after the betrayal of Srebrenica and signing of the Dayton Accords. From the declassified U.S. documents since then, repeating, it is evident that there was a U.S. Government decision to withhold the requisite air support promised to the UN, the Dutch, as well as the BiH government. Such decision by the "Principals Committee" had to be made by persons that I had considered friends and/or worked closely with to preserve lives, secure peace and under terms that would most effectively restore BiH's multiethnic society. Katie Martin, Richard Holbrooke's widow, now reveals that her husband was against the cessation of NATO air support; but regardless of whether such was his view, in the end Ambassador Holbrooke steered the Dayton Accords in manner to give Srebrenica to those who committed genocide and legitimize ethnic political chauvinism which still haunts the country (Also see "Why Srebrenica Had to Fall"). Madeleine Albright and I worked closely and I would still argue effectively while both served as Permanent Representatives to the UN. Ambassador Albright was one of the first to expose before the UN Security Council aerial intelligence of Mladic's killing spree soon after Srebrenica was overrun. General Wes Clark urged the BiH army forward when the winds of war had shifted in BiH's favor. Then National Security Adviser Anthony Lake and I had several frank and friendly conversations about the prejudice that played against "Bosnia's Muslims." President Clinton in his unique charismatic manner personalized our relationship by calling me "Ambassador mo," and his full paragraph reference to me in his book My Life one could only describe as generous and flattering.
Betrayed as an American:
Nonetheless, I feel betrayed that no one informed me/us that the people I had responsibility toward, particularly the citizens of Srebrenica, would now be left naked, and that Mladic knew he had a free hand. Further, after Mladic's killing spree came to light, in part by Ambassador Albright before the UN, they still did not acknowledge the mistake. When Milosevic insisted to have Srebrenica and Zepa conquests recognized months later in the Dayton Accords, Holbrooke told the BiH negotiating team that we had to agree or would be blamed for the failure of the U.S. led talks. I resigned in Dayton due to these tactics as well as concessions that have rewarded genocide and left BiH divided and limping. I resigned as much because I felt my American values wounded. Srebrenica was no less than Pearl Harbor, or 9/11, or Bunker Hill or The Alamo to be forgotten. (See: "Bosnia's Alamo... Srebrenica?"). Two decades since the betrayal of Srebrenica and my long campaign to come to the truth, there have been no consequences or even acknowledgement in public of the enormous misdeed or mistake by the U.S. or European officials involved.
The Dutch carry responsibility for the consequences, and Netherlands courts have acknowledged liability, even if narrowly defined. The Netherlands endured humiliation for their surrender of Srebrenica. A Dutch Government was forced toward resignation. Members of the Dutch peacekeeping battalion (DutchBat) have faced court-martial, shame and at least 10 former members have committed suicide. The UN has been blamed not only for the failure, deserved and beyond its control. It has become an easy scapegoat for all others avoiding accountability. More lasting, the UN has come to look impotent in new crisis, as Syria where a safe area concept might have helped save civilian life. The impotence has given rise to ever more brutality, killing and sectarianism and new terror threats, as ISIS, that thrive in the vacuum. The damage to NATO is still to be discerned but the current Netherlands Government as well as former have to wonder what kind of alliance this is if its decisions can be reversed in secret or perverted by two or three of its members. Vladimir Putin, a supporter of the cause of Milosevic and Mladic, must now be further emboldened. Accountability Goes Beyond DutchBat, indeed The Netherlands and UN
The attorney representing DutchBat and its commander, post airing of "Why Srebrenica had to Fall" concluded similarly as how much had been concealed and/or misrepresented and how much was still not being revealed. He contacted me to consider further joint efforts to uncover the whole truth. Attorney and Professor G.GJ. Knoops feels his clients are also being held responsible for the failures of others as well. During the final months/weeks of the safe area of Srebrenica, we begged for humanitarian air drops as the enclave's population was slowly suffocated. DutchBat also faced a deliberate effort by Mladic to place them in contempt of the people they were mandated to protect. DutchBat did not have enough as Mladic deliberately reduced food, medicines and fuel. Srebrenica citizens had much and suffered from hunger, lack of essential nutrients as iodine and hygienic supplies. Our pleas for urgent humanitarian assistance went unheeded.
Key parts of the evidence trail remain redacted, and have not been released with the document dump of the last couple of years. Most curious is that the two weeks around the fall of Srebrenica have remained totally blacked out. Knoop has demanded from his Government that they request from Washington full transparency, particularly key documents now apparently still redacted. As I stated on several previous occasions and repeated during the "Why Srebrenica had to Fall" filming: "I hold The Netherlands Government most accountable for not asking the needed questions regarding the betrayal of Srebrenica, in the least to clear their responsibility."
"Acquiescence", "Complicity" and "Cover-Up" join Vocabulary of Srebrenica Genocide: Speaking in the metaphors of "yellow or green lights" has now been outpaced by the evidence, and we must use the proper legal terms of "acquiescence" and/or "complicity." All these words, even "reckless," have consequences for all involved, at least if we are to believe that the rule of law is the foundation for NATO, UN, EU and the U.S. While the focus of this article has been mostly on Washington, the role of London, Paris and Brussels does not escape the demand for accountability now either. Avoidance of accountability and self-promotion written as history have for too long gone unchallenged. However, another word now belongs in the discussion of the past, "cover-up" and it should not shape a shared future.
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