Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Commemorations and Lessons of the Srebrenica Massacre (11 July 1995-11 July 2010)

Last year, the European Union decreed 11 July, the anniversary of the massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslim civilians in 1995, a day of commemoration and reflection.  This year, 50,000 people, including major political leaders, attended the burial of the newly identified remains of 775 of the victims.

The Spiegel's coverage, citing a range of major newspapers, stressed two things:  the abject failure of governments and the UN at the time, and the continuing failure to resolve essential questions of the mystery.  The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung asked "whether there was a standing agreement between the western powers, the Bosnian Muslims and the Serbians to exchange Srebrenica for a suburb near Sarajevo." And more simply, the conservative Die Welt asked why the fate of Serbian General
Ratko Mladić, the architect of the massacre, remains unknown: "In a time when the whereabouts of every mobile phone can be traced using global positioning satellites, when satellites can take pictures of the tip of a match and when Google records every street lamp on its maps, this sort of disappearing act is incomprehensible. Serbia obviously still lacks the will to accept the past. How long will they need before they find Mladic?"

The reflexive moral commentary would point to the guilt of the outside world along with the killers, to the well-known failure of the UN and even NATO.  The left-wing TAZ, however, also raised the big and uncomfortable question about the failures of intellectuals and "progressives," as well:
"We should remember this though. At the height of the war in Bosnia, well known peace researchers thought it best to simply let the conflict 'bleed out' naturally. Representatives of the left wing of the Green party even opposed the protection of humanitarian aid sent there to help the starving populace of central Bosnia. And some in the leftist scene in Berlin even took the side of war criminals Karadzic and Mladic."

"A culture that remembers the past is distinguished by the lessons it draws from history, for its present and for the future. That means admitting to one's own failings too. Many protagonists involved in this discussion however, prefer to throw a cloak of secrecy over the things that happened in Bosnia back then."


• read last year's post

• Update (15 July)Peter Lippman, "Srebrenica, fifteen years on": "The dignified commemorations of the massacre of Bosnian Muslims in July 2005 retain their integrity and human core, even as the leaders of a divided Bosnia seek to channel the grief into political pageantry. Peter Lippman, in eastern Bosnia, reports. . . ." (read the rest)

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