Murphy's Law: April 23, 2002

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The recent resignation of the Dutch government over the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia, which 110 Dutch troops did not prevent, has largely been portrayed as a black and white affair. The Evil Serbs bully the outnumbered Dutch peacekeepers and then slaughter the defenseless Moslems. The reality was a little different. The Dutch were sent into the surrounded Moslem town to do two things; disarm the Moslems and protect them from the Serbs in the surrounding hills. The UN declared Srebrenica a "safe area" and threatened to use massive force if the Serbs misbehaved. The Moslems didn't surrender all their weapons and continued to fire on the Serbs (who didn't fire back lest they hit one of the Dutch soldiers and incur the wrath of NATO air power.) In the course of trying to disarm the Moslems, two Dutch soldiers were killed. So there was no great affection between the Serbs and Moslems. But as the Serbs continued to protest the Moslem sniping, the Dutch government feared a Serb attack. The Dutch politicians ignored professional military advice and sent their soldiers into Srebrenica with little more than their rifles and about a hundred bullets per man. It soon became obvious that the vastly outnumbered Dutch troops could easily be wiped out by the Serbs. This would be a political disaster for the elected officials back home. So the Dutch soldiers were ordered not to resist if the Serbs marched in. The Serbs heard of this, marched into the area, and killed as many of the Moslem men as they could (although many, especially the ones who kept their guns, got away.) Since then, at least ten of the Dutch soldiers have committed suicide and many others are wracked with guilt, as well as the knowledge that no one had clean hands in Bosnia. 


 


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