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Srebrenica: Record of a War Crime
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32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
Honig and Both are Dutch foreign policy specialists who take an academic approach to the massacre of Srebrenica in Bosnia in July 1995. Their detailed accounts of UN policy debates and genocidal Serb attacks on the civilian population leading to the expulsion of over 20,000 women and children and the murder of 6,000 Bosnian Muslim men clearly demonstrate the failure of the international community's tepid approach to peace-keeping and the responsibility of the military and political leaders involved. There were no heroes at Srebrenica, only variable levels of guilt. The book is dispassionate and slightly distanced from the moral implications of the massacre. It is indeed a `record of a war crime'.
The Bosnian Serbs, commanded by General Ratko Mladic and led politically by Radovan Karadzic (both indicted for war crimes by the Hague tribunal), carefully planned for weeks and months the reduction of the Srebrenica enclave. They had calculated the number of buses needed to transport the Muslim men to their killing fields, and they ordered the victims to remove their shoes before being shot in order to thwart identification.
The book is divided into three sections, describing the actual fall of Srebrenica; the slow slide of the international community into the "safe area" concept as a sort of least common denominator; and the months of military and political deterioration leading up to the massacre. There is criticism for everyone: the UN which viewed the safe areas as an interim solution and came to endorse them because Security Council members were unwilling and unable to agree on anything more substantive. For their defense, the Bosnians in Srebrenica relied on the goodwill and the hesitation of their enemy Serbs and on an undersupplied battalion of Dutch soldiers. The US which abandoned the Vance-Owen peace plan without a viable alternative and then endorsed the creation of "safe areas" without the will to defend them. The authors also point out that policy disputes in Washington prevented the pursuit of a "Frasure Deal", a negotiating track between US Ambassador Robert Frasure and Serb President Slobodan Milosevic. The Bosnian Muslim leadership which refused to evacuate its civilians from Srebrenica long after it recognized the enclave as indefensible. The Dutch government which ostentatiously placed its troops in harm's way in order to satisfy domestic humanitarian demands, but then allowed them to become little more than underfed hostages unable to defend themselves, much less a large civilian population.
But most of all, final and criminal culpability falls to Mladic and Karadzic and the Bosnian Serbs with murder in their hearts who achieved military conquest through genocide. For while the authors demonstrate that any number of international players may have been able to stop the massacre of Srebrenica, only one side actually started it, the Serbs.
The book is excellently researched and clearly organized. By allowing the facts to speak for themselves and eschewing vociferous moral censures, Honig and Both have indicted us all for our roles in the worst European massacre since World War Two.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 21, 2013
Format: Paperback
In July, 1995 the Bosnian Serb Army under command of General Ratko Mladic conquered the laughably-denominated "safe area" of Srebrenica in Eastern Bosnia, separated the women from the men, and then systematically slaughtered 8000 Muslim men. Thus, for the fourth time in the 20th Century, Christians carried out mass murder, on religious grounds, of non-Christians. The United Nations, whose charter makes it the protector of international peace and security and human rights, failed dismally for about the 200th time since its founding in 1945 (Cambodia and Rwanda are only two of the most grisly other failures).

It is fitting that this admirable book should be written by two Dutch academics, as the UN contingent in Srebrenica was a Dutch airborne battalion. Its performance was nothing to celebrate, but the Netherlands deserves credit for being the only country willing to put soldiers there. (The Clinton administration made loud moralistic noises, but contributed not a single soldier on the ground.) And in defense of the Dutch battalion, their position was made impossible by the cumbersome, timid, compromise-driven UN command structure. At the Serbs' insistence, they were allowed no heavy weapons and--incredibly--were refused helicopters, making re-supply possible only at the suffrance of the Serbs, who controlled all the ground routes in and out. The UN resolutions authorizing their presence were vague and contradictory, appearing to allow force only in defense of the UN personnel themselves, not the Bosnians. NATO was willing to supply fighter-bombers, but the UN authorization process was so gelatinous that air power never figured into the events in any significant way. The Dutch presence could be called worse than useless, because it lent the appearance of safety to an enclave that was, in the circumstances, indefensible; and led the outgunned Bosnians to rely on it.

For eighteen years, forensic teams have combed the surrounding hills and meadows, painstakingly recovering and identifying the victims' bodies. Only about half have been found. They have been re-interred in a cemetery across the road from the abandoned battery factory in the village of Potocari that the Dutch used as their headquarters. The four thousand or so headstones instill silence in all who visit. (The battery factory has been preserved as it was, down to the soldiers' graffiti.)

This book was written scarcely a year after the events. Its clear, thoughtful account holds up very well, not just recounting the conquest and massacre, but the larger picture as well. First-rate.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
As my title may suggest, I was surprised at how thorough and cogent an account this is of the July 1995 massacre of Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina, especially considering that it was first published about a year after the events it describes (many of which the Bosnian Serbs went to great lengths to hide).
I followed the events in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in 19991-95 as closely as I could through the news media (especially the New York Times) as they unfolded, and, like most outside observers, I was appalled and incensed at the seemingly murderous aggression of Serbs against the much less well-armed Croats and Muslims, and at the evident impotence of the UN and international community to do anything significant in the face of it. As I read this book I found myself recollecting many of the events reported at the time (pin-prick UN airstrikes; UN "peacekeepers" taken hostage as human shields by the Bosnian Serbs; satellite images of freshly bulldozed earth where the massacred Muslim males were buried in mass graves). The authors (Honig and Both), however, are able to narrate the events much more completely and coherently, and have clearly done some excellent research. They situate events in the greater Muslim-Serb-Croat fighting as well as from the international diplomatic perspective; and they provide superb on-the-ground detail.
One thing that becomes clear is that there was plenty of blame to go around, and that the "evil Serbs vs. virtuous Bosnian Muslims" paradigm that seemed so obvious at the time is not always valid. The Bosnian Muslims mounted continuous and often deadly raids from the Srebrenica "safe area" into the surrounding Serb villages which hardened a resolve for vengeance among the Bosnian Serbs. The UN/international community failed to demilitarize the Srebrenica enclave, ensuring the "safe area" remained a military thorn in the side of the Bosnian Serbs. The UN also passed over several opportunities to evacuate the 25,000 Muslim civilians in Srebrenica, as it did not want to be seen as aiding "ethnic-cleansing"; and the Bosnian government in Sarajevo also resisted an evacuation as it sought to use its civilians in Srebrenica as leverage in hopes of provoking a UN military offensive against the Serbs.
Moreover, the whole garrisoning of the Srebrenica enclave by Dutch UN troops was ill-conceived and executed. The Bosnian Serbs did not allow the Dutch troops to deploy any heavy weapons (heavy machine-guns and medium mortars were their largest weapons), and the Serbs controlled all land routes into Srebrenica and were able to limit the resupply of the Dutch garrison. The Dutch "blue-helmets" barely had enough food, and never significant reserves of fuel or ammunition.
None of the aforementioned, however, is intended to dilute the guilt of the Bosnian Serbs in the pre-meditated massacre of over 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys. The entire Bosnian Serb military reduction of Srebrenica was meticulously planned and executed over several days. The Serb assault unfolded in a limited and unanticipated fashion intended to gauge the response of the international community as well as confuse the UN forces on the ground. As the Muslim men and boys attempted to breakout of Srebrenica to Bosnian government-controlled territory 25 miles away, Bosnian Serb troops deployed along key roads that the Muslims would have to cross, capturing the great majority of the Muslim males. These Bosnian Serbs also used confiscated UN vehicles and uniforms as well as food to lure the Muslim men from the forest. The account of this attempted Muslim breakout is harrowing, and many of the famished and terrorized Muslim men were driven to suicide.
Jan Willem Honig and Norbert Both have done an excellent job of documenting the Srebrenica massacre. They have also helped elucidate the military and diplomatic chain of events that led up to the July 1995 killings. This book is less than 200 pages long, and has good maps. The main Bosnian Serb culprits in this crime, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, are now being tried in the International Tribunal in the Hague.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
I thought that book is very good because it tells a llot of truth that happend in Srebrenica. I am very happy that Jan Willem Honig and Norbert Both took the time to tell the world what happened in Srebrenica.

The author is talking about the war that happened in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The author is giving details on the massacre that took place in little town of Srebrenica. Over twenty thousand Muslim women and children were deported; thousands of unarmed Muslim men were murdered. All this happened in then called "Safe area" protected with United Nations.

I would recommend this book to others because it tells the turth about the massacre that happend in Srebrenica. You are able to form your own opinion about the United Nations assistance in keeping peace in the Safe area.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
The massacre of thousands of Bosnians by Bosnian-Serbs following the fall of Srebrenica during the summer of 1995 was a lamentable and heinous crime in a civil war already noted for its unspeakable brutality. The events also served to show the indecisive and weak-willed approach the UN and the Americans adopted in response to the crisis. The events are complex and there is no doubt much that we are still not aware of, but the authors manage to piece together a sound account of the events surrounding this incident, in particular concerning the under-manned and ill-equiped Dutch contingent deployed in the Srebrenica "Safe-Area."
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