Debate: The Srebrenica Massacre
ZNet refused to publish the letter below.
Edward Herman on
The Lists of Missing at Srebrenica
By Balkan Witness staff
Of Herman’s many dubious and outright false assertions about Srebrenica, one of the most contemptible is his attempt to make disappear from history the roughly 8000 Bosnian civilians massacred by Serbian forces. Some of his mystification is couched in slippery deniability, in a half-hearted attempt to deflect the criticism he deserves. But taken together, his comments comprise a clear endeavor at war-crimes denial. (1)
Herman is perturbed that the estimated number of victims has stayed relatively constant around 8000. (2) But this estimate has been documented in detail by several independent sources and has been accepted widely, from the corporate media to such progressive reporters as Amy Goodman of “Democracy Now” (Srebrenica 10th anniversary report, July 11, 2005).
Though Herman uses misleading and out-of-date reports to cast doubt on the credibility of the lists of missing, he ignores the detailed documentation of the lists from several sources. The credibility of the lists deserves particular attention in rebuttal to Herman.
On June 5, 2005 Bosnia's Federal Commission for Missing Persons (Federalna Komisija za nestale osobe) issued a list of the names, parents' names, dates of birth, and unique citizen's registration numbers of 8,106 individuals who have been reliably established, from multiple independent sources, to have gone missing and/or been killed in and around Srebrenica in the summer of 1995. The Federal Commission's list was made public early in June. 2005 (3)
A verification process is underway for approximately 500 more victims whose disappearance or death has not yet been verified from two or more independent sources.
Relatives and friends have registered a total of 7,789 names of people missing or known to be dead from the July 1995 events at Srebrenica with another reporting body, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP).
In addition, the International Committee of the Red Cross has compiled its own list, based on inquiries from friends and relatives. (The ICRC list is slightly shorter because it allows only those reported by relatives. Where entire families were wiped out, the ICRC does not accept reports from friends or neighbors.) The ICRC states that there are still 5500 missing persons from Srebrenica, in addition to the 2000+ identified dead. (July 2005)
Another list appears as an annex to the Republika Srpska Srebrenica Commission's June 2004 report.
It should also be kept in mind that names appear on the missing-persons lists as a result of active inquiries from relatives and others close to the missing/deceased individuals in question. In addition to these names there are other individuals who were among the dead and missing in July 1995 but do not appear on any lists because they had no close friends or relatives there to inquire after them - including cases where whole families (or whole village populations) were killed.
For one of numerous reports on the difficulties faced by forensic investigators in attempting to identify some of the recovered bodies, see Srebrenica: ten years on, by Ed Vulliamy, July 6, 2005. That sort of information should be posted on ZNet as a counter-balance to Herman’s ridiculous denials.
Apparently Herman has never been to Bosnia, so he thinks he is able to preserve his ability to look at the issues with “objectivity,” unlike the surviving victims of the massacre. But his selective reliance on Serbian nationalists, right-wing Republicans, and a handful of leftist ideologues produces historical revisionism that disgraces Z Magazine.
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(1) Herman’s denial of the magnitude of the massacre:
> … there is a major issue of how many were executed, as numerous bodies found in local grave sites were victims of fighting, and many Bosnian Muslim men who fled Srebrenica reached Bosnian Muslim territory safely.
> … the evidence for a massacre, certainly of one in which 8,000 men and boys were executed, has always been problematic, to say the least …
> There are also lists of missing, but these lists are badly flawed, with duplications, individuals listed who had died before July 1995, who fled to avoid BSA service, or who registered to vote in 1997, and they include individuals who died in battle or reached safety or were captured and assumed a new existence elsewhere.
> The 8,000 figure is also incompatible with the basic arithmetic of Srebrenica numbers before and after July 1995.
(2) Herman on the list of dead and missing persons:
> One anomaly connected with Srebrenica has been the stability of the figure of Bosnian Muslim victims-8,000 in July 1995 and 8,000 today, despite the crudity of the initial estimate, the evidence that many or most of the 5,000 "missing" reached Bosnian Muslim territory or were killed in the fighting, and the clear failure to produce supportive physical evidence despite a massive effort. In other cases, like the 9/11 fatality estimate, and even the Bosnian killings and Kosovo bombing war estimates, the original figures were radically scaled down as evidence of body counts made the earlier inflated numbers unsustainable. 
> But the link of this propaganda triumph to truth and justice is non-existent. The disconnection with truth is epitomized by the fact that the original estimate of 8,000, including 5,000 "missing"--who had left Srebrenica for Bosnian Muslim lines-was maintained even after it had been quickly established that several thousand had reached those lines and that several thousand more had perished in battle. This nice round number lives on today in the face of a failure to find the executed bodies and despite the absence of a single satellite photo showing executions, bodies, digging, or trucks transporting bodies for reburial.
(3) As an alternative to Herman’s make-believe denials, readers might be interested in a couple of documents with much detail about the massacre:
Thanks to Andras Riedlmayer for some of the information above.
For more background and documentation on Srebrenica, see the Bosnia page.
Books about Srebrenica:
Blood and Vengeance, by Chuck Sudetic
Endgame: The Betrayal and Fall of Srebrenica, by David Rohde
Srebrenica: Record of a War Crime, by Jan Willem Honig and Norbert Both
For a concise chronology of the massacre, see the Srebrenica Commission Final Report(PDF).