Ten years ago today, Bosnian Serb forces under the command of General Ratko Mladic entered the Bosnian Muslim town of Srebrenica, then being defended by Dutch peacekeepers. General Mladic made three demands: that the townsmen surrender their weapons; that all males between the ages of 12 and 77 be separated out for "questioning"; and that the rest of the population be expelled to Muslim areas. Within two days, 23,000 women and children had been deported. Another 5,000 Muslim men and boys who had taken refuge on a nearby Dutch base were also delivered to the Mladic forces.But Christopher Hitchens is far more brutal.
As we now know, most of the people surrendered by the Dutch to the Serbs were slaughtered, as were more than 2,000 others, bringing the estimated tally of the Srebrenica massacre to 7,200. Yet the scale of the atrocity alone is not why we remember it. We remember because the men of Srebrenica were betrayed by their ostensible protectors, and that carries some lessons for today.
We still have to endure the disgrace (and the victims and survivors have to endure the humiliation) of knowing that Mladic and his psychopathic political boss Radovan Karadzic are still cheerfully at large. They are not hiding in some dingy cave in the unmapped hinterlands of Waziristan. They are in mainland Europe. Last Friday, when the New York Times covered both the London atrocities and the coming anniversary of Srebrenica, it ran an editorial that smugly inquired "why the wealthy nations have not done enough about the root causes of terrorism and why Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden continue to function after almost four years of the so-called war on terrorism. Many will wonder why the United States is mired in Iraq while Al Qaeda's leader still roams free."Aljazeera.com also weighs in--and attracts a lot of reader comments.
Prettily phrased, you have to admit. Others might wonder why the wealthy nations took so long to address the "root cause" of Serbian terrorism--the root cause being Serbian fascism and irredentism--and why it is that Mladic and Karadzic are still gloatingly free after 10 years, not four. The "hunt" for the latter two gentlemen began during the Clinton administration, and on the turf of the sophisticated and multilateral Europeans, as the writer of the above words might have had the grace to admit.
People in the West who lazily look back on the 1990s as the good old days fail to realize just how much diplomatic, economic, military, and moral credibility the West--the UN, EU, US, NATO--squandered during that halcyon decade before the end of history reversed itself so abruptly at the end of the millennium.
In the summer of 1984, I remember the great relief of returning to normalcy, to the tolerably functional societies of the West after spending a year in Ceausescu's Romania, the bleakest and most dysfunctional society I have yet encountered. (I know there are, have been, and will be worse.) We could easily endure Romania because we knew that we would eventually escape to a better place. The Romanians, however, remained trapped in their hell, whose brimstone has taken a long time to lose its potency even after the fall of Ceausescu.
Since the beginning of the 1990s, one safe area after another has been attacked from either the inside or the outside, until normalcy has come to include the possibility of yet another outbreak of savage barbarism any place, any time. As last week's attacks in London reminded us yet again, there is nowhere left to hide. We can only meet those threats head on, anywhere and everywhere, with violent warnings where necessary, as we should have done in Bosnia and Rwanda, while steadily destroying the attraction of the noxious ideologies that feed the barbarism.
Here's more from David Aaronovitch in The Times Online: 'If we don't provoke them, maybe they will leave us alone.' You reckon so?