Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Tracing the Causes of a Massacre A Reporter Returns to Bosnia and Puts a Human Face on the Tragedy in Srebrenica

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Tracing the Causes of a Massacre A Reporter Returns to Bosnia and Puts a Human Face on the Tragedy in Srebrenica

Article excerpt

ENDGAME: The Betrayal and Fall of Srebenica, Europe's Worst Massacre Since World War II.

By David Rohde

Farrar, Straus & Giroux 440 pp., $24 I approached this book with foreboding. Who can forget the Bosnian War, and especially the "ethnic cleansing" symbolized by the slaughter of 7,000 Muslim men in the town of Srebrenica in July l995? Hasn't there been coverage enough? Who wishes to relive all that brutality, the massacres, mass rapes and examples of Western failure? Yet "Endgame: The Betrayal and Fall of Srebrenica, Europe's Worst Massacre Since World War II," by David Rohde, offers something entirely new. A calm, straightforward report, it is small in scale but broad in vision and conclusions. It offers telling details mixed with broad perspectives. The book recounts the day-by-day experiences of specific individuals who lived through those fateful summer days, contrasting them with the actions and policies of officials - Serb, Muslim, UN, or NATO - who might have prevented the massacres. It is a sharp, compelling mixture of narrative and analysis. Rhode saw it at close range as a reporter for The Christian Science Monitor. He faced extreme risks from Serb forces and was jailed for 10 days after becoming the first Western reporter to find evidence of mass graves. He won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting on the tragedy. His eyewitness narrative of events is balanced by a sophisticated assessment of the underlying factors, the how and especially the why motivating the officials in the United Nations chain of command, and in the Western governments behind them. The result is masterly: a chilling account of how good - but conflicted and weakly held - Western intentions were swept away by the racist imperatives of the Serb leaders. These were aggravated by Srebrenica's isolated position in eastern Bosnia, hard against Serbia but distant from the Muslim heartland around Sarajevo. The Srebrenica enclave, with its 60,000 Muslim inhabitants, was thinly defended by a few hundred Dutch peacekeepers and an equivalent number of Muslim fighters, the latter being lightly armed, short of ammunition, and poorly led. The Serbs were not much stronger numerically, but their handful of heavy weapons - tanks, artillery pieces, and armored personnel carriers - ruled the day. The narrative begins with Serb shelling of Dutch outposts on July 6. No retaliatory aerial bombardment came from UN forces; indecisiveness reigned. By the 11th, Srebrenica had fallen, thousands of Muslim civilians had begun trudging north toward Muslim-held territory, and General Ratko Mladic, the Serb commander, began taking control of the region. Ominously, Rohde relates how Muslim men between 16 and 65 were being separated from women and children. The few Dutch peacekeepers were humiliated and shunted aside. …

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