We all want to belong. We all want to think that we are good. We all want to be proud of our heritage, community, and history. We all want to have purpose and meaning in our lives. These are all genuine human desires that are by themselves positive sentiments, but they ultimately leave us vulnerable to manipulation by ambitious political leaders. Because nationalism fulfills all of these desires it has been the ideal political weapon for leaders like Slobodan Milosević, who unleashed the forces of Serbian nationalism as a way to rise to power. But more than fulfilling Milosević’s political ambitions it also released the forces of hatred that tore apart the former Yugoslavia of which the massacre of Srebrenica was a part of. Nationalism rests on an “us versus them” narrative that is more myth than actual history. All past nationals sins must be swept under the rug as a way to make the nation worthy of glory. If it just engendered pride in one’s past, nationalism would not be such a destructive force. Unfortunately, the end result is usually arrogance and hatred.
Natalie Nougayrede’s article at The Guardian reminds us that Putin is playing with the same fire for his own political purposes. This is not to say that Putin is planning to commit genocide or ethnic cleansing, but that his use of nationalism will, and already has, bring great suffering to many. Putin’s veto of the UN resolution is only a small part of his overall power play, but as Nougrayrede reminds us, it is still significant if we value peace and justice. “Some will argue that Russia’s latest veto should be seen as just another snub to the west. But the rewriting of the history of the Bosnian war and the unravelling of the mechanisms that the west tried to put in place to prevent more violence are something that Europeans would do well not to minimise. If only because of those unarmed 8,000 men and boys who were killed just because of who they were: Bosnian and Muslim.”
Russia must not be allowed to rewrite Srebrenica’s history | Natalie Nougayrede | Comment is free | The Guardian.
I doubt it. Many Americans don’t know anything about the Bosnian War (1991-1995) much less Srebrenica. And if they did they would likely be baffled by the confusing mix of ethnic and religious groups, and conclude, like we did during the conflict, that there is nothing we can do! In addition, our focus, in terms of foreign policy, has been taken over by the troubles in the Middle East. At the time of
I don’t think we ever learned them, but it’s never too late to learn something. Therefore, it is worth remembering what happened in Srebrinica.
On this day twenty years ago the Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladić entered the U.N. declared “Safe Area” at Srebrenica, where thousands of Bosnian Muslim refugees had sought safety. No one thought that the Serbs would dare attack a U.N. “safe area” while the world was watching, but Mladić knew that the Dutch U.N. soldiers could do nothing. They were there to protect the Bosnian Muslims, yet their mandate only allowed them to use their weapons in their own defense. This situation was the result of the reluctance of Western nations to risk their own soldiers’ lives in defense of others.
After negotiations, Mladić was able to manipulate the U.N. into paying for the gas for buses that would, unbeknownst to the U.N., be used to take only the women out of Srebrinica. They had something else in mind for the men. Even before the Dutch soldiers had gone the Serbs separated the men from the women. However, they made sure that the Dutch would not see the killing, and therefore sent them on their way before the real killing began. In the end, they massacred approximately 8,000 Muslim men.
The point of the massacre, and those at other “safe areas,” was to ethnically cleanse (a term the Serbs coined themselves) the remaining Muslim enclaves in pursuit of their dream of a Greater Serbia that was free of all non-Serbs. Ironically, this massacre and the “cleansing” of the other safe areas opened the way for a peace agreement that was signed on December 14, 1995 in Dayton, Ohio. Continue reading
“Srebrenica is famous for the massacre. But it’s time to move on and make a beautiful, inspiring story.” Ismar Poric, the choirmaster of Suprar
With all the violence in the Middle East and Africa a story from Srebrenica is hopeful. Talk about irony!
A group of children from Srebrenica (both Bosnian Serbs and Bosniaks) created a song (Love People) to raise money for the recent flood victims. The choirmaster, Ismar Poric, sees this as more than an opportunity to help the flood victims but also as an opportunity to heal the past. “In one way, the country is poisoned by nationalism – but the children are not. Their parents were in the war and told them stories. But we try to bring them together – put different ethnic groups together so they can learn about each other.”
Read the entire story at the BBC (“Srebrenica children seek harmony in music” By Guy De Launey)