Everyone loves an underdog, real or imagined, particularly if that underdog can be portrayed as the thoroughly innocent victim of sinister and numerous attackers following a premeditated plan of conquest and annihilation. Such a simplistic, Manichean explanation of complex events is both easy to construct and easy to understand. Thus, the portrayal of the Bosnian Muslims and the fledgling Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina (RBiH) as the blameless victims of both Bosnian Serb “Chetniks” and Bosnian Croat “Ustashas” during the devolution of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s has gained currency despite the patent inaccuracies and lack of sophistication of such a portrayal and the obvious efforts of the Muslimdominated RBiH government to concoct a sophisticated, wide-reaching, and ultimately successful propaganda campaign to paint their rivals, both Serb and Croat, as war criminals and themselves as the innocent victims. The acceptance of this manufactured myth by the international media and western governments has served to cover effectively the Bosnian Muslims’ own sins of commission and omission.
While it is undoubtedly true that the ill-prepared Bosnian Muslims were the victims of a vicious attack by the Bosnian Serbs, the usual portrayal of them as innocent prey of their erstwhile Croat allies during the 1992–94 civil war in central Bosnia is far less accurate. In both the numerous media accounts and the plethora of testimony and decisions in the United Nations–sponsored war crimes trials in The Hague, the salient facts of the Muslim-Croat conflict in central Bosnia have been distorted thoroughly by the ideological, political, social, and personal agendas of various government leaders, journalists, war crimes prosecutors and witnesses, and other observers—few of whom were properly equipped or inclined to analyze and report the facts of the matter accurately, thoroughly, or outside the commonly accepted but faulty framework of a story in which the Bosnian Muslims appear to be the victims of overwhelming forces intent on their destruction.
Grounded in the myth of the Bosnian Muslim community as underdog, most existing versions of the story portray the Bosnian Croats as having waged, at the behest of Croatian president Franjo Tudjman, a campaign of unprovoked military aggression against the innocent and unsuspecting Muslims for the purpose of “ethnically cleansing” central Bosnia as a first step toward its annexation by the Republic of Croatia. Convincing evidence