DID YOU KNOW?  -- Three years before the 1995 Srebrenica Genocide, Serbs torched Bosniak villages and killed at least 3,166 Bosniaks around Srebrenica. In 1993, the UN described the besieged situation in Srebrenica as a "slow-motion process of genocide." In July 1995, Serbs forcibly expelled 25,000 Bosniaks, brutally raped many women and girls, and systematically killed 8,000+ men and boys (DNA confirmed).

21 December, 2009


Author: Daniel Simpson

By concluding their diatribe [1] with the words “properly understood”, Ed Herman and David Peterson reveal which of us is the “enforcer” trading in authoritarian demands to adhere to “Truth” (as opposed to facts supported by evidence).

I’ll confine my response to matters of fact relating to my original comments [2]. Herman and Peterson are not “serious dissenters from the party-line”, and they haven’t “challenged” anything except their credibility, by misrepresenting the known facts, despite being demonstrably aware of them [3]. I presume they regard this as lying when others do it.

The 8,000-plus death toll figure does not originate in any meaningful sense from a 1995 press release, as they claim [4]. It’s a tally of missing people, presumed murdered, more than three-quarters of whom have since been DNA-matched to the remains of corpses exhumed from mass graves [5]. If they had the remotest interest in the facts, Herman and Peterson would at least refer to this mounting substantiation of a death toll they call “incompatible with the basic arithmetic of Srebrenica numbers before and after July 1995” [6], and for which they say that “nothing close to confirming evidence has been forthcoming.” [7]

If they’re suggesting that these people killed themselves in large numbers, or weren’t murdered by Serbs (I’ll leave them to define what being killed “execution-style” means, since it’s presumably meant to mislead the uninformed), they need to provide evidence. They have none. They just blithely assert they died in combat, ignoring the evidence amassed by the ICTY [8], except for a few quotes they like the sound of (none of which tell us anything about the named human beings on the list of the missing [9], most of whom are now proven dead, having been exhumed from mass graves and DNA-matched).

To be clear, the ICTY’s summary sheet says [10]: “The Tribunal has established beyond a reasonable doubt that the vast majority of those killed were not killed in combat, but were victims of executions.” It is true, of course, that we don’t yet know exactly how many were killed, but the most recent announcement by the body in charge of the DNA-matching programme states [11]: “The overall high matching rate between DNA extracted from these bone and blood samples leads ICMP to support an estimate of close to 8,100 individuals missing from the fall of Srebrenica.”

The main reason that the exact number has yet to be established directly undermines Herman and Peterson’s claims. To quote the ICTY again [12]: “If those buried in the mass graves had indeed been soldiers killed in battle, there would have been no need for Bosnian Serb forces to execute a massive cover-up campaign. And there is much evidence that proves that is exactly what they did in September and October of 1995. In order to cover up their initial crimes of killing civilians and prisoners of war, the Bosnian Serb forces committed another crime - they attempted to relocate the bodies. They used bulldozers and other heavy machinery to exhume a number of the mass gravesites and move the bodies to other locations.” Hence their dismembered state.

When asked to provide evidence that the list of the missing isn’t “authentic”, as they suggest [13], Herman and Peterson don’t attempt to prove that named people listed on it are alive, or never were. Instead, they change the subject, alleging (again with no evidence) that “Bosnian Serb lists of their dead and missing in the Srebrenica area don't interest [me]”. Presumably this means they accept they have nothing to support their earlier reference to “thousands of escapees” [14] among the 8,000.

They go on to say they “are perfectly forthright that [they] believe more civilians were killed during Operation Storm than in the aftermath of the fall of Srebrenica”, having stated that Operation Storm resulted in “over 1,000 civilians killed”. [15] Unless they’re saying “over 1,000” means more than 8,000, and they’re in sole possession of the evidence that demonstrates this, they need to prove that the vast majority of the 8,000 named Srebrenica missing (of whom more than 6,000 are now identified and dead) weren’t civilians. They have never attempted to do so because they can’t.

As for Diana Johnstone, she not only puts “Srebrenica massacre” in quotation marks [16] (and adds that a “myth” called “Srebrenica” was “perhaps being used even before it happened”), she puts “8,000” in quotation marks too, and refers to the “sacralization of the estimated number of victims” [17], despite by her own admission (in email correspondence) having paid no attention to any of the emerging evidence for years.

That her work is inaccurate and misleading is self-evident. Noam Chomsky agrees. Though he called it “very careful and outstanding” in his interview with Emma Brockes, he said “it may be wrong” [18]. In fact, he conceded it was, by telling the Guardian “there was no debate or disagreement about Srebrenica”, [19] insisting repeatedly that he’s never suggested there was, and stating unequivocally (in email correspondence) that he presumes standard accounts of what happened at Srebrenica to be accurate.

Herman and Peterson refer to the influence of “political bias on the worthiness and unworthiness of the victims”. To them, the dead civilians of Srebrenica are beyond unworthy. They don’t exist. This isn’t mere self-delusion. It’s a deliberate attempt to mislead people. As the Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee once said about the Gulf of Tonkin incident: “Misinformation? Disinformation? Deceit? Whatever! Lies.” [20]


[1] http://www.monthlyreview.org/mrzine/hp081209.html

[2] The original Media Lens thread, since deleted, can be viewed here: http://raouldjukanovic.wordpress.com/files/2009/11/herman-and-peterson.pdf

[3] Aside from the evidence laid out here, see, among other examples, the exchanges here: http://www.glypx.com/BalkanWitness/Srebrenica-debate.htm and here: http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/5972

[4] See page two of http://www.monthlyreview.org/1007herman-peterson1.php and http://www.srebrenica-report.com/politics.htm [and for counter-arguments to both, see http://www.glypx.com/balkanwitness/Herman-FPIF.htm and http://www.glypx.com/BalkanWitness/Srebrenica-debate.htm respectively]

[5] http://www.ic-mp.org/press-releases/dna-results-of-the-international-commission- on-missing-persons-reveal-the-identity-of-6186-srebrenica-victims-dnk-izvjestaji- medunarodne-komisije-za-nestale-osobe-icmp-otkrili-identitete-6186-sreb/

[6] http://www.srebrenica-report.com/conclusions.htm

[7] http://www.monthlyreview.org/1007herman-peterson2.php

[8] For a brief overview, see: http://www.icty.org/x/file/Outreach/view_from_hague/jit_srebrenica_en.pdf then read on: http://www.icty.org/action/cases/4

[9] A list, readily available to Herman before publication of “The Politics of the Srebrenica Massacre”, referenced in [3] above, can be seen here: http://www.domovina.net/srebrenica/page_006/Preliminarni_spisak_Srebrenica_1995.pdf

[10] http://www.icty.org/x/file/Outreach/view_from_hague/jit_srebrenica_en.pdf

[11] For source, see [5] above

[12] See [10] above

[13] http://www.monthlyreview.org/mrzine/hp081209.html

[14] For sources, see [4] above

[15] http://www.monthlyreview.org/1007herman-peterson2.php

[16] http://www.counterpunch.org/johnstone10122005.html

[17] ibid.

[18] http://www.chomsky.info/onchomsky/20051031.htm

[19] http://www.chomsky.info/letters/20051113.htm

[20] From “Deceit and dishonesty - The first James Cameron Memorial Lecture,” By Ben Bradlee (The Guardian, 29 April, 1987)