Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.
-- George Orwell, 1984
My memory says: I did that. My pride says: I could not have done that, and remains inexorable. Eventually-- memory gives in.
-- Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil
On Christmas day, I was granted the honor of having an old essay of mine, entitled A Srebrenica Christmas, reprinted in The American Thinker. It recounted the story of how, when I was in Bosnia during Christmas of the year 2000, a group of soldiers I knew brought a load of Christmas toys to be dropped off at an orphanage outside our headquarters in Tuzla. This particular, multiethnic orphanage was chosen because here, some 95 children, including some orphaned by the Srebrenica massacre, were being raised. We did the same the following year.
A very happy and heartwarming event, it was, and the comments I received from readers pleased me. I was glad to have written something that gave a bit of sparkle to the season.
But then it started, as I should have expected. Vicious attacks from Serb massacre apologists began to appear in my in-box denying anything had happened and that the Bosnian Muslims had deserved every bit of it--classic doublethink. Most were anonymous rants, generally consisting of absurd conspiracy theories purporting to explain away the horrors of July 1995. I unhesitatingly deleted them upon identification; for life is too short to argue with crazy people.
But one message I received was of a different order: it contained an essay by one Julia Gorin, a blogger who has tried to make a name for herself as a 'Defender of Serbia' when not doing stand up comedy (true story). Her quite unhappy response to my post appeared a couple days after Christmas.
What she had to say was not all that important; she is just another pro-Serb, anti-Bosnian Muslim partisan regurgitating baseless slanders she heard from bitter folks of the old country (an old country it appears she has never seen). Normally, I would have simply disregarded this misguided young woman and consigned her to the same deletionland as the other ranters... had it not been for one part of her letter that was not her own.
In the course of her post she'd shared an Email she had gotten from a personage of much greater prominence: Ms. Doris Wise Montrose, President of the Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors in Los Angeles, California.
Ms. Montrose had apparently read my essay, and contacted Ms. Gorin for an explanation. Ms. Gorin claimed that Ms. Montrose "asked for my assessment because she didn’t trust the content and was confused as to what it was doing on one of her favorite sites."
Ms. Montrose's response to Ms. Goren read as follows:
I suspected the article was BS and that’s why I asked you about it. I found it at AT b/c it’s one of the sites I visit very often. I don’t know if you are considering responding to this article but why not write an entire article and submit it to Thomas Lifson? That’s what I would like to see. This is fraudulent narrative passing as fact b/c this narrative gets so much more attention. A lot like the other BS narrative called the Palestinian narrative. .... Doris
Given the seriousness of the charge -- given that Ms. Montrose was quoted by Ms.Gorin calling my essay "B/S" and a "fraudulent narrative" -- a response is imperative: not to Ms. Gorin, whom I do not view as rating an answer, but to Ms. Montrose. Given her status as the head of a Holocaust survivor's group, hers is too serious an allegation to ignore.
I thus sent the following letter. (Warning: it's lengthy.)
Law Offices of
Richard L. Kent, Esq.
January 3, 2011
Ms. Doris Wise Montrose
President, Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors
20058 Ventura Blvd., #198
Woodland Hills, CA 91364 Email: email@example.com
Dear Ms. Montrose:
I am bound by honor to write today in response a statement made by yourself to one Julia Gorin, and published by her in her blog, concerning an essay I wrote some ten years ago. That article, entitled "A Srebrenica Christmas," was reprinted in The American Thinker this past Christmas day. In your comments to Ms. Gorin, you seemed to indicate that you thought that my article was "B/S" (to use the term attributed to you).
It appears from your comments that you are not familiar with the historicity of the Srebrenica massacre, the reality of which has been established for over fifteen years by means of investigatory resources of all the major nations of Europe and North America, the work of thousands of investigators and judicial personnel, as well as testimony of hundreds of eye witnesses closely examined and cross-examined in open court.
It is a historical certainty a great war crime occurred at Srebrenica in July 1995: the organized and planned murder of some 5000 to 6000 captured male Bosniac civilians and militia and the killing of an additional 2000 to 3000 unarmed individuals fleeing captivity, as well as the forced expulsion ("ethnic cleansing," to use an odious phrase) of 18,000 or so women and children from the town. The killers were members of the Bosnian Serb Army, known as the Army of Republika Srpska ("VRS"), Fifth Army (the "Drina Corps") plus a unit from RS Ministry of Interior. The VRS army commanders and the national leadership of the wartime RS, including its President, Radovan Karadžić and Drina Corps commander General Radko Mladić, were criminally responsible for the Srebrenica crime.
Furthermore, many of the dead were videotaped as captured alive. Many dead were found blindfolded with hands tied. Neither were battle casualties. And their disinterment by backhoe and reburial to secondary graves under highways testify that the RS authorities knew of the profound evil they had done.
There have been extensive efforts to bring those responsible for this great crime to justice. Over a dozen officials now serve long sentences for their actions in the Srebrenica, some serving life terms. Others await judgment, including Karadžić, who ordered the crime, and Mladić, who oversaw it. And Slobodan Milošević himself died in prison at the Hague while standing trial.
So how am I qualified to say that Srebrenica occurred? This: I was an American peacekeeper in Bosnia for just under two and a half years, from January 2000 to May 2002. I was Deputy Political Advisor to the Commanding General of Multinational Division (North), the US headquarters on 'Eagle Base' near Tuzla, Bosnia from October 2000.
I was sent to Bosnia by the U.S. Government as a peacekeeper: which is to say, you sent me, and the work I did there is of the same general nature as yours: to bear witness, to never forget, and to give effect to the phrase, "Never Again." However, my work like yours went beyond remembrance only.
At the time I took this assignment in 1999 I had some background in the local history but was a "tabula rasa" as I have no family connections to the region. My previous career in the defense world and on Capitol Hill (working for the GOP) plus my then-new law degree all served as preparation for this work. I was directed to learn the truth so that I could advise the US command.
Over the course of my time there, I had full active access to all official US documents on the subject. I traveled extensively through all parts of Bosnia but especially in the US sector and met with scores of people of all nationalities. I interfaced extensively with the investigators from the International Committee on Missing Persons (ICMP) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Finally, from October 2000 to the spring of 2002, among other duties, I helped to organize a cemetery for the Srebrenica dead-–the same cemetery you see on TV every July 11th when Srebrenica is in the news–-so my work directly applied to the aftermath of the massacre.
I am here to speak the truth: and that truth is that the Srebrenica massacre is an actual event: a crime of world historical importance for it showed that WW2 style atrocities are still possible even in Europe today. It was, as the UN, the World Court, and the ICTY found, a war crime, a mass slaughter in contravention to the laws and customs of war–a crime against all humanity. It was so serious a matter to the government of the Netherlands (whose troops failed to prevent the slaughter) that, when their report on the subject was published in April 2002, the entire Dutch government resigned. Furthermore, on November 10, 2004, RS President Dragan Čavić publicly admitted what had happened at Srebrenica and apologized.
The Srebrenica massacre as history is firmly established. Furthermore the ICTY, affirmed by the World Court, has found the events there to constitute an act of "genocide" under the terms of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide by which the parties were bound. The Convention, art 2., defines genocide, as "...any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [or] (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."
That the victims were almost entirely Bosniac has been irrefutably established by DNA identification of most of the dead and there is no doubt they were shot because they were Bosniac. There is also no question that shooting them constitutes "serious bodily harm." The shootings were "deliberately inflict[ed]." And the children (and their mothers) there were forcibly transferred out of the region to make the Srebrenica region Bosniac-free. Therefore, as a legal matter genocide has been established by judicial finding. While one must not call it "the same as the Holocaust" (a claim I don't make for many reasons) the fact that genocide happened at Srebrenica as a legal matter is not a matter of mere opinion.
To suppose that the massacre never occurred would require that we also suppose that thousands of US peacekeepers, hundreds of ICTY and ICMP investigators, the UN, World Court, the EU, the US government under three Presidents of both parties, even Secretary of State Clinton, all cooperated in grand conspiracy. This is political fantasy, "grassy knollism" or "9/11 trutherism" for a new decade.
I acknowledge that the Srebrenica Bosniacs often raided their besiegers in the years prior to the fall of Srebrenica. Those were acts of war. Investigation shows that the number of Serbian dead in the region 1992-1995 from those were approximately 580, including some 120 civilians–not the "3000" often claimed. Furthermore, these raids are irrelevant as regards the criminal nature of the massacre. The VRS had a positive duty not to murder these men once the city fell. History shows they chose to do differently.
There are indeed those who wish you to believe that Srebrenica "never happened," and even if it did, "they had it coming." They do not wish the truth to be known and understood. I believe that if you take the time to examine the historical record you will not number yourself among them.
I wish to point out those children at the Lukavac orphanage who are in fact children of Srebrenica are like you: survivors of and the offspring of victims of genocide (albeit, yes, of a much different scale). Your sympathy should go to them, not to their fathers' killers.
I went to Bosnia as a result of having learned of the Holocaust in my youth. I agree with you from the bottom of my heart: "'Never Again' must," indeed, "remain more than a mere slogan" both for the children of Israel and for all humanity. This message I wholeheartedly accepted as a child when I learned of the Holocaust, and by unlikely circumstance, was able to put into practice in a very small way as a man.
Certain Srebrenica atrocity apologists would pretend that Serbia is like Israel since "our mutual enemies are Muslims." Don't fall for it. Serbia is not Israel and Srebrenica is not, say, Jenin. I am a full-throated supporter of Israel as a Jewish state, and know well the difference between the two. Jenin was no war crime. The same must not be said of Srebrenica.
I have examined your web site and agree with you that Israel and the Jewish people get a profoundly raw deal in this world and that the state of Israel is under grave threat. With you, as a friend, I tremble for Israel. But to speak the truth of Srebrenica is not to oppose your cause: truth is not a zero sum game.
I invite you to learn the truth on this matter for yourself. I suggest you begin with an excellent video on the events associated with the fall of Srebrenica, to be found on Youtube in a program entitled "A Cry From The Grave." While dated (for instance, the number of Serbs killed at Kravica on January 7 1993 is now known to be 35 soldiers plus 11 civilians) it remains an excellent record of the Srebrenica crime. I have been to almost all the sites shown in that program, have met some of those giving testimony in the film. I believe that it is accurate (95%+) "beyond a reasonable doubt."
I also recommend the classic Endgame: The Betrayal and Fall of Srebrenica by David Rohde as an introduction to the subject. Wikipedia is also a surprisingly solid source (moreso than usual). And of course the ICTY website icty.org itself, being judicial evidence, is the gold standard for reliable information as to what occurred. For the larger political background of the war, I suggest a five hour BBC series, "The Death of Yugoslavia," also on Youtube.
To conclude, let me paraphrase the immortal Ron Ridenhour: something rather dark and bloody occurred at Srebrenica in July 1995. It constituted a violation of the laws and customs of war, a crime against humanity and, by law, genocide, so found by a tribunal recognized as fully legitimate by the United States and after many thousands of hours of investigation by a hundreds of multinational investigators.
Given the status you hold in the community at large I respectfully request you reconsider your words and withdraw them, for "B/S" Srebrenica was not. Neither was my article on the children. Truth is easily determined if you look. I urge you to investigate this issue on your own. Don't take the word of a highly interested ethnic partisan who as far as I know has never been anywhere near Bosnia.
/Richard L. Kent/
Richard L. Kent, Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
Former Deputy Political Advisor to the Commanding General, Multinational Division (North),
Peace Stabilization Force (SFOR), Tuzla, Bosnia, 2000-2002
Government institutions, like most humans, have a reflexive reaction to the exposure of internal corruption and wrongdoing: No matter how transparent the effort, their first response is to lie, conceal and cover up. Also like human beings, once an institution has embraced a particular lie in support of a particular coverup, it will forever proclaim its innocence.
--Ron Ridenhour, first reporter of the My Lai atrocity, Los Angeles Times, 1993
I offer and request you, the reader, to take an hour or so out of your life and watch the following TV documentary on the Srebrenica Massacre. It is entitled A Cry From The Grave, and it is in 11 parts.
I urge you to watch it and learn the truth of what happened at Srebrenica. Warning: Not Safe for Work and not for the squeamish.
Part 1 is below.