The New York Review of Books
In the Killing Fields of Bosnia
By Mark Danner
September 09, 1998
Books discussed in this article:
TO END A WAR
By Richard Holbrooke
408 pages, $27.95 (hardcover)
published by Random House
CROATIA: A NATION FORGED IN WAR
By Marcus Tanner
338 pages, $30.00 (hardcover), $16.00 (paper; to be published in November) (paperback)
published by Yale University Press
THE GRAVES: SREBRENICA AND VUKOVAR
text by Eric Stover, photographs by Gilles Perress, and foreword by Richard Goldstone
334 pages, $24.95 (hardcover)
published by Scalo
SREBRENICA: RECORD OF A WAR CRIME
By Jan Willem Honig and Norbert Both
204 pages, $11.95 (paperback)
published by Penguin
BLOOD AND VENGEANCE: ONE FAMILY'S STORY OF THE WAR IN BOSNIA
By Chuck Sudetic
393 pages, $26.95 (hardcover)
published by Norton
ENDGAME: THE BETRAYAL AND FALL OF SREBRENICA
Europe's Worst Massacre Since World War II
By David Rohde
440 pages, $24.00 (hardcover)
published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
480 pages, $15.00 (paperback)
published by Westview
precise details of what was happening [in Srebrenica] were not known..., but there was no question that something truly horrible was going on.An odd construction, that sentence, defining what is known only by what is not: five days after the Serbs swept into Srebrenica, Holbrooke and other officials, men and women perched on the heights of the United States national security bureaucracy and benefiting from all of its vast powers of perception (satellites gazing down from space; spy planes snapping photographs from the upper atmosphere; unmanned "drone" planes relaying "real-time" video images; diplomats and attachés "in-country" working their informants for secrets and rumors and gossip) could know no "precise details" of Serb actions in this one tiny place in eastern Bosnia, but were able nonetheless to harbor the certainty that "something truly horrible was going on"?
had just spoke[n] with President Izetbegovic and had received "alarming news" about the refugees from Srebrenica. Large numbers of refugees were now being moved out of the enclave in buses and trucks unescorted by UNPROFOR troops. Many were being taken "off the main track" and "all sorts of atrocities" were being committed.If Sacirbey's statement was not precise enough, it is hard not to suspect that the still-classified photo reconnaissance and cable traffic contained more details—for it is clear that American satellites and spy planes were taking many relevant photographs. The only dispute is who in the intelligence bureaucracy actually examined them and what they did with them and when. It is also clear that Bosnian Muslim intelligence officers were listening in on the Bosnian Serb Army communications and likely passing on at least some of what they heard to the Americans, who in any event were likely listening in as well. "If it ain't scrambled, we're listening to it," as an American military intelligence officer said.
He feared that if the Bosnian Serb troops entered Srebrenica there would be a bloodbath because of the tremendous bad blood that existed between the two armies. The Bosnian Serbs held the young Muslim commander in Srebrenica, Naser Oric, responsible for a massacre near Bratunac in December 1992 in which many Serb civilians had been killedLeaving aside the question of Milosevic's supposed "worry"—for in 1993, as two years later, he certainly knew everything Mladic was doing, and almost as certainly approved it—it is doubtless true that for Milosevic, for Mladic, and for Holbrooke himself, the name Bratunac would have had a special resonance, a resonance not so immediately evident to CNN's Sarajevo correspondent, who now, this Sunday two years later, as Holbrooke waited his turn to be interviewed, reported from an already darkened Sarajevo that
...perhaps as many as four thousand men were taken to an area [sic] called Bratunac which is just outside the Srebrenica enclave. Their precise conditions and whereabouts [are] not known.Not to worry, however: officials of the International Red Cross had appealed to Serb leaders for permission to visit the refugees and, according to the CNN man, "in Sarajevo there's hope and expectation that that permission will come through."
spent long hours unsuccessfully trying to find a way to stop the tragedy in Srebrenica.... My recommendation—to use airpower against the Bosnian Serbs in other parts of the country, as well as Srebrenica—had been rejected by the Western European nations that had troops at risk in Bosnia, and by the Pentagon....Here again an oddly constructed sentence—would it not be more natural for an American official to speak of his recommendation as rejected "by the Pentagon, and by the Western European nations," not the other way round?—alerts the reader that a seemingly simple point is not quite so simple. Holbrooke's "recommendation," however vehemently argued, never had a chance of success. The power to order air strikes was constrained by the notorious "dual key" arrangement, according to which either the United Nations or NATO leaders had the power to block a proposed attack. Having refused to allow air strikes that might have stopped the Serbs at Srebrenica's gates—a refusal Holbrooke strongly implies might derive from "a deal" the UN Protection Force commander, French General Bernard Janvier, concluded with General Mladic a month before—would it have been at all likely that United Nations officials and Western leaders would approve them now, after the enclave had already fallen, and after the Dutch soldiers had been effectively taken hostage? As Holbrooke writes,
The first line of resistance to any action was the Dutch government, which refused to allow air strikes until all its soldiers were out of Bosnia.... The Serbs knew this, and held the bulk of the Dutch forces captive in the UN compound at the nearby village of Potocari until they had finished their dirty work at Srebrenica.
On 14 July, there were a number of buses in Bratunac containing male refugees sitting with their heads between their knees and giving the impression that they were very frightened. There was a great deal of shooting in Bratunac, for example, from the direction of the so-called stadium (a football pitch surrounded by a fence).The Dutch soldiers, the report goes on, "did not, however, find any victims"—a rather misleading locution, managing to suggest as it does that the soldiers searched for victims, when they apparently did not, and that there were none, when there certainly were.
"After the Christmas attack, when the people from Kravica were refugees in Bratunac, the menfolk were bitter, weren't they?"
"They were angry..."
"What did they say?"
"Revenge.... They said, 'Kad tad. Kad tad, sooner or later our five minutes will come.'"
"...And the opportunity finally came."
"Yes, blood vengeance."
"Did they come for you?" [He nodded.] "They were excited?"
"What did they say?"
"They said, 'Grab your gun and come down to the soccer field.'"The soccer field at Bratunac, that is, whence the Dutch hostages heard "a great deal of shooting." Much of that firing was done by men like Mihailo Eric. As it happens, though, Mihailo himself, a war hero, a man who had been gravely wounded, shot through the forehead earlier in the fighting, refused to take part in the massacre. As he tells Sudetic,
"It's one thing to kill someone in battle, and it's something else to kill prisoners, men who've surrendered and have no guns."
"And have their hands tied?"
"Yes."Mihailo's attitude, of course, was unusual; had it not been, the war would have been fought very differently. During Sudetic's interview he and Mihailo were interrupted:
The door behind me swung open. A man with a construction worker's beer belly stumbled in. He had a ruddy complexion, light eyes, and light hair. It was Mihailo's father, Zoran; he had been a member of an "obligatory work brigade" called to Bratunac on the day the killings began. We stood up.... The father sat down in Mihailo's chair, and Mihailo stood behind him leaning against a wall.
"Was it honorable to kill them all?" I asked the father.
"Absolutely," he said. "It was a fair fight."
Mihailo stared at me from behind him with a forlorn look in his eye.
"Absolutely," the older man said again, and he turned to the woman: "Get some more brandy."In Bratunac, in Kravica, one suspects that the father's view would be the accepted one. For him, Mladic's victory over Srebrenica offered an opportunity, a chance to end the cycle of attack and retribution. Having finally conquered the enclave, would one then hand back to the Muslim leaders seven thousand men of military age (who, even if they weren't soldiers, could easily take up arms) so they could then, or at some point in the future, rejoin the fight—the fight, that is, to regain the homes they had just lost? What, after all, had losing his home done to Zoran Eric and the other survivors of the Muslim attack on Kravica?
"And they killed all of them [Sudetic asks him], everyone they could?"
"And the Muslims in the column who escaped across the road? They held them up...as long as they could so that they could get some men together and have one more crack at them, didn't they?"
"They came around looking for volunteers."
"Did guys from Kravica go?"
"They wanted to kill as many of them as they could."
"So they could never come back? So there would not be enough military-age men left to fight their way back?"
"Never," Mihailo said.2.
They seemed pleased with themselves in a sort of professional, low-key way. I believed what they said, because they looked and behaved as if they were more than capable of doing what they claimed. Each had an Alsatian dog, a gun, handcuffs, and a terrifying-looking knife with a blade about 9 ins. long.Other Dutch soldiers had heard shots, seen here and there bodies of murdered men—on the football field at Nova Kasaba, for example, from which, during the night of July 13-14, some "blue helmets" had heard forty-five minutes of small-arms fire. Next morning two Dutch soldiers saw hundreds of bodies, and others had later glimpsed "'clean-up teams'...wearing gloves...as well as tipper trucks and lorries carrying corpses."
that the military action could have been carried out a week earlier, but that they had waited until there was sufficient transport capacity (buses/trucks) to evacuate the refugees.As it happened, American pilots flying U2 spy planes noticed the burgeoning fleet of vehicles and photographed them, but intelligence officers who examined the evidence—in another demonstration that such information, stark and inarguable as it may seem, lies many assumptions away from actual knowledge—concluded that the buses and trucks were intended to move Serb soldiers.
All of you who wish to stay here can do so. If you wish to leave, there will be enough busses and trucks provided. You will be transported to Kladanj.Kladanj is Muslim territory, from which the refugees could make their way to Tuzla. However, even as the Dutch were "negotiating" the terms of the evacuation—in a memorable moment, Mladic is caught on videotape telling a Dutch officer, "I am in charge here, I'll decide what happens. I have my plans and I'm going to carry them out. It will be best for you if you cooperate"—a fleet of trucks and buses suddenly appeared. Says the Dutch report, "The battalion was surprised by the speed with which the [Serbs] commenced the evacuation of the refugees."
In a surprisingly short space of time, the [Serbs] appeared to have large numbers of buses and trucks. Mladic ignored protests by the battalion commander. UNPROFOR's orders to Dutchbat were to offer as much protection as possible to the refugees and to provide optimal support in transferring the population to safer locations.... The battalion initially assumed that there would be one escort per bus. This was not permitted by Mladic.Thus began a smaller and more intricate version of the diplomatic duplicity that had accompanied the entire war: Mladic made promises to placate the Dutch—and Western leaders—and then blithely broke them. No sooner had he broken his last promise than he would make another, and the Dutch, and the West, would pretend to believe him. They had no choice; the alternative was to take action of some sort, and this they would not do.
ANNAN SAID THAT THE SECRETARIAT WAS CONCERNED THAT THE RESOLUTION RAISED UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS THAT A MILITARY RESPONSE TO THE BOSNIAN SERB ATTACK ON SREBRENICA WAS POSSIBLE. IN FACT, UNPROFOR HAD REPORTED THAT NO MILITARY RESPONSE WAS POSSIBLE.And how had the Dutch officers come to this conclusion?
ANNAN SAID THAT THE BOSNIAN SERBS NOW HELD 51 DUTCH TROOPS AND HAD THREATENED TO SHELL THE UN COMPOUND IN POTOCARI IF NATO AIR POWER WAS USED AGAINST THEM. THE SERBS HAD DEPLOYED A NUMBER OF HEAVY WEAPONS WITHIN SIGHT OF THE UN COMPOUND TO EMPHASIZE THEIR POINT.And what did the Dutch officers, given this uncomfortable situation, propose to do?
UNPROFOR WAS CONCENTRATING ON PROTECTING THE CIVILIAN POPULATION OF THE ENCLAVE AND ARRANGING THEIR EVACUATION.And how were the UN peacekeeping troops going about this?
THE DUTCH COMMANDER HAD HELD TWO "HOSTILE" MEETINGS WITH GENERAL MLADIC WHO IS IN SREBRENICA. DURING THEIR FIRST MEETING MLADIC SLAUGHTERED A PIG IN FRONT OF THE DUTCH COMMANDER TO PROVE HIS TOUGHNESS. THE SECOND MEETING, HOWEVER, WAS MORE POSITIVE AND MLADIC AGREED TO THE EVACUATION OF THE CIVILIAN POPULATION....That is, the general "agreed" to what he had planned to do anyway, and the Dutch, perceiving themselves to be quite powerless—Was not the current situation, with the mob of sweating, starving, thirsty refugees, quite untenable? And might not the Serbs shell them at any time, as they had threatened to do?—accepted Mladic's promises of "safeguards" gratefully.
This is not good, crowding at one place.... Where are all the men being taken....They are separated from each other? It's too crowded. This is not good....How aware were the exhausted peacekeepers of what was happening? At one point on the videotape we see a tall sunburned Dutch soldier in shorts and hear the reporter's voice:
Reporter: For Independent Television in Belgrade: What's going on today here?
UN soldier: You know what's going on.
Reporter: I just came here.
UN soldier: You know...The Dutch plan to "escort" the buses fell instantly apart. The Serbs would not let the Dutch troops aboard; when the Dutch tried to follow in their white jeeps, the Serbs confiscated the vehicles and detained the troops. The Muslim women, having suddenly lost their husbands and fathers and sons, and trembling with their fear of what the Serbs might now do, were subjected to night voyages of terror. They passed through darkened Serb towns where villagers greeted them with angry shouts and threats and clatters of stones. Here and there the buses were stopped and Serb troops charged aboard, demanded money, threatened to cut off the breasts of those who had none to give; at some of these stops younger women would be pulled off and never seen again.
He was young and hard-faced. She smelled the intensely familiar odor of cigarettes, musty sweat, and faint sweetness of alcohol.... He spoke, and his words came out in a slur. Suddenly he pulled a long knife from his belt and held it up in the air. He was smiling, and his large hands, she now saw, were swollen from the heat. Then, in one motion, he leaned over and pulled the blade across the throat of a baby sleeping in her mother's arms. Blood splattered against the windows and the back of the seat. Screams filled blockquote>the bus. The man shouted something at the woman and then with his left hand he pushed her head down.... "Drink it, you Muslim whore," he screamed again and again. "Drink it!"By now the dawn had come; in the rising light many of the women once again saw their husbands and their fathers and their sons. They saw them in groups of ten and twenty and by the hundred, gathered by the side of the road, their hands raised in the three-fingered Serbian salute, as the Serb soldiers stood about them, cradling their rifles. They saw them sitting in a field, hundreds of them, their hands clasped behind their necks, their heads bent between their knees, afraid to look at the Serb soldiers who stood around them. The Serbs made the women look.
They said to us, "See your army?" Kneeling in the grass were many men I knew. They had their hands behind their necks. I saw one of my sons among them. But I could say nothing to him. I do not know if he saw me.
Neighbors, if you have never seen me before, Iam Ratko Mladic. I am the commander of the Serbian army, and you see we are not afraid of the NATO pact. They bombed us, and we took Srebrenica. And where is your country now? What will you do? Will you stand beside Alija [Izetbegovic, Bosnia's President]? He has led you to ruin....When a Muslim prisoner interrupted, demanding to know why they had been separated from their families, Mladic abruptly changed tone, turned soothing. He is negotiating a prisoner exchange, the general said, no one should worry: "Not a hair on your heads will be touched."
some of the men in the warehouse heard members of the Drina Wolves receiving orders from an officer.
"The twelve of you here tonight have been given an order to carry out the task assigned you. Is that clear?"
"Clear, sir," shouted the militiamen.
The gunmen entered the warehouse with flashlights. A pool of light fell on one Muslim.
The man wound his way to the door, turned to the left and disappeared...
There were thuds, then screams, cries for help, and gurgles. Inside the building there were muffled groans.
"Do you know him? Who was that?"
..."He's my relative."
...A flashlight shone through the door.... "You! You!"
Prisoners seated near the front of the warehouse heard the cries, gasps and groans....The Serbs cursed as they tortured their prisoners: "Turk bastard." After a few minutes a Serb would mutter, "He's finished." The loud hiss of air and gurgle of blood rushing out of a man's throat was followed by the sound of feet kicking the ground. As prisoners' throats were slashed, their bodies went into seizures.At one point, several men were led out to relieve themselves and one managed to steal a glimpse in the half-light of Drina Wolves at work:
Seven or eight Serb soldiers had formed two lines. A Muslim prisoner was walking between them. On the left, one of the Serbs had what looked like an iron crowbar in his hand. He pummeled the prisoner with it. The man crumpled to the ground. On the right, one of the Serbs had an ax, which he embedded in the Muslim's back. The prisoner's body twitched. Blood spattered across the pavement.
Shells abruptly whizzed overhead. Gunfire erupted with no warning. Corpses littered their route. A Serb mortar had landed ahead of them...and killed five men. A human stomach and intestines lay across the green grass just below the intact head and torso of a man in his twenties.... The image would slowly eat at their minds.Paranoia infected the Muslims: Serbs had infiltrated the column, spied on their movements, prepared an ambush. Soon the Serbs filled the sky with booming metallic voices and many of the sleep-starved men began to break. As a doctor recalled:
A megaphone voice reverberated against the mountainside. The [Serbs] summoned us to surrender. Escape was impossible, they said.... The waiting tried our nerves to the utmost. Some people in the group began to hallucinate. Fear. Stress. Such people were a danger to their comrades: they shouted and screamed and could betray our position.... Some armed men completely panicked and opened fire randomly. They shot a few of their own men. We had to overpower them with force.Yet far from "betraying their position," these "hallucinating" men had perceived the horror of it:that the Serbs knew where they were, that they were playing with them. Their fellows' dogged determination to escape had become true hallucination. During the evening of July 12, as their wives and daughters and mothers began their phantasmagorical journeys along these very roads, hundreds of exhausted men lay in a great grassy clearing on a hillside. As Rohde tells it, just as a young man rose from the crowd to search for his father:
The hillside exploded. Screams filled his ears. He dove toward a cluster of trees. Other men piled on top of him. He hugged the ground. Mortars whistled overhead....
All around...men sprinted down the hill, then up and across in a panic. Weapons and bags with food were dropped in the pandemonium. Men gasped or groaned where they had fallen. Those carrying stretchers threw the wounded to the ground and ran for the nearest cluster of trees or bushes.... Men running downhill tripped, fell and tumbled head over heels for fifty yards, the ground was so steep....
[The gunners] had a devastating position..., [with] a half-mile-wide clearing filled with people for targets. For the first twenty seconds, it was a question of how many rounds the Serbs could fire, not whether they would hit anyone.
The next five minutes were the cruelest. The men who found cover in the foliage were trapped. In a macabre technique..., the Serbs would estimate which clusters of trees were filled with the most men and then methodically saturate them with flak from the antiaircraft gun and mortar rounds. Bodies were found stacked on top of each other in the trees. The living pulled the dead on top of them and used corpses as sandbags.This ambush—which effectively severed perhaps half of the Muslim civilians' communications with their military and political leadership at the head of the column—and others like it drained many of the Muslims of hope. Or rather it forced them to reach the desperate conclusion that a step that had seemed insane and suicidal the day before—delivering themselves into the hands of the Serbs—had become their only choice. They were unarmed, without food, without water, desperately in need of sleep; before them, blocking their escape, stood their well-armed, well-rested enemies; if they forced themselves onward these soldiers would surely kill them. And if, in their thousands, they surrendered? Was there not the chance that someone would help them, that someone would intervene? However savage the Serbs might wish their retribution to be, the men of Srebrenica were too many. Simple numbers must afford them some protection.
"Are you afraid?"
"How can I not be afraid?"In the background, a Serb gunner lobs a few antiaircraft shells into the trees on the hillside, floating gray cloudlets over the luminous July green. Ghostly figures are briefly silhouetted, staggering from copse to copse. We hear again the cameraman's voice, talking to the Serb troops:
"How many have come out so far?"
"It must be three to four thousand, for sure."
that I was walking, that is, I felt my body walk, but only with a small part of my consciousness. While I was running, and vaguely conscious of it, I was also sleeping and had crazy, terrible dreams. At one point, Iheard my own voice say, "Enough, when I get some money together, I will buy a car and never walk again, not an inch." The strange sound of my own voice woke me up.As in a nightmare, macabre visions confronted the reeling men at every turn. Corpses, parts of corpses, the mutilated and wounded lay everywhere. When one of Sudetic's relatives reached the bottom of a hill, emerging from the impenetrable early-morning fog,
he heard a bleating sound, like the sound of a goat in pain. Aman knelt there in the grass. The skin of his face had been stripped away, leaving a crusty black pulp of coagulated blood and muscle. His lips had been cut away, and from the cavern of his mouth he bleated again. His index finger sliced across his throat.
Paja's steps slowed as he turned all the way around and looked back at that face. He stopped long enough for the man to climb to his feet. Another bleating cry. Another appeal to cut his throat. Paja moved on.Far ahead was the front of the column and the military and political leaders of Srebrenica and its strongest soldiers. Behind were most of the civilian men who, having been strafed and shelled, having seen their friends and relatives left in pieces on the trail, having been bombarded for hours with the inescapable electronically amplified appeals of the Serbs—"Come down! We will exchange you for our prisoners!" "Come down! We have your women and children!" "Come down!United Nations troops are here and they will protect you!"—had finally come down the hillside by the thousands. Those who had not been led gently off into the woods to have their throats slit were now kneeling fearfully in some part of Mladic's freshly made death camp, built as it was of buses and ware-houses and football fields and grassy meadows.
They were being taken to this house one by one.... They were taking certain people and saying, "Don't worry, your time will come. There's no need to be afraid. You're just going in for interrogation," but nobody was coming out again.Very quickly the intentions of the Serbs, and the prospects of the Muslims, became difficult to deny, and the realization showed on the Muslims' faces.
They were pale and terrified. They knew what was awaiting them—I did too. They knew they were going to be killed. They were praying to be simply killed. I heard people whispering that they were hoping to be killed without being made to suffer.Halfway through the baking afternoon, however, a silver-haired, bull-like figure strode to the front of the crowd, which now numbered perhaps two thousand, and cupped his hands to his mouth. "You are welcome here," shouted Ratko Mladic. "No one will harm you!"
You should have given yourselves up earlier. You shouldn't have tried to go through the woods.
Look what your Alija has done to you. He destroyed you. You will be going to Bratunac and be spending the night there.
As he and his red command car visited each "interrogation
and collection point" that afternoon and evening—and survivors
have told of his speeches in virtually all of them—he gently rebuked
the prisoners, established his godlike authority, then reassured them
by offering a detail or two about their immediate futures. Mladic had
crafted a psychological message that would keep alive what little hope
the men may have had and thereby serve to ensure docile behavior. Hopelessness,
after all, might bring desperation, and with it desperate acts. In this
operation planning was extremely tight, deadlines unyielding; Mladic had
no time for irritating rebellions.
Now two sixty-foot-long trucks pulled up, and Serb troops packed aboard several hundred prisoners, shoulder to shoulder. After a short drive the trucks stopped and for several hours the men struggled to stay conscious in the suffocating darkness. At last the doors swung open, flashlight beams shone in, and the prisoners knew at once that Mladic had spoken the truth:they saw before them the faces of Serbs from Bratunac. These Serbs, most in civilian clothing, spoke kindly to any Muslims they knew and invited them to come down from the truck for a talk; they then began savagely beating them, and after a time they dragged their bodies away and the cowering prisoners heard shots. The Serbs returned and the flashlight beams flickered among the faces again, searching for more.
Though they didn't know it, a short while before General Mladic had made a second appearance before the surviving prisoners in the agricultural warehouse of Bratunac. By now, the Serbs with their knives and axes had killed an unknown number of the men. General Mladic spoke to his officers and then supervised, hands on hips, as six buses pulled up to the warehouse and the troops loaded the rest of the prisoners aboard.
Everywhere this night on the territory encircled by the "iron ring" Mladic had built around Srebrenica there was great activity: convoys of trucks and buses moved thousands of men according to precise timetables; officers consulted with one another, radioed orders, moved hundreds of their men about; drivers delivered earthmovers, bulldozers, heavy equipment of all sorts from site to site. Meantime many stayed in their houses, listening and wondering.
The Dutch troops, for example, who had seen perhaps a thousand Muslim prisoners kneeling on the football field near Nova Kasaba, and whom Serb troops had now detained in the village "for their own safety,"heard, according to the Report Based on the Debriefing on Srebrenica, "continuous shots from hand-held weapons... coming from the direction of the football pitch...for three quarters of an hour to one hour." The next morning two Dutch UNsoldiers "reported that they had seen between 500 and 700 bodies"; however—the writer of Report Based on the Debriefing carefully adds—"two other members of Dutchbat [i.e. the Dutch batallion] who were in the same vehicle reported seeing only a few corpses." Presumably the need to clarify this ambiguity (and not their frantic concern to find a way out of Bosnia) is why the Dutch did not find this eyewitness account of a substantial massacre worth broadcasting to the outside world, or indeed even worth mentioning at their press conference in Zagreb more than a week later. It would take more than three weeks and the flight of an American U2 spy plane for the world to gain a hint of what happened at Nova Kasaba that night. The plane took a photograph revealing that the assembly of Muslim men last seen in the satellite picture had been supplanted by three large plots of recently disturbed earth.
As it happens, interviewers from Human Rights Watch discovered in late July a man, identified as I.N., who hid in high grass not far from the field at Nova Kasaba and witnessed what happened after Mladic left and several hundred men were trucked to Bratunac. The Serbs, he said,
picked out Muslims whom they either knew about or knew, interrogated them and made them dig pits.... During our first day, the Cetniks killed approximately 500 people. They would just line them up and shoot them into the pits. The approximately one hundred guys whom they interrogated and who had dug the mass graves then had to fill them in. At the end of the day, they were ordered to dig a pit for themselves and line up in front of it.... [T]hey were shot into the mass grave....
At dawn,...[a] bulldozer arrived and dug up a pit..., and buried about 400 men alive. The men were encircled by Cetniks; whoever tried to escape was shot. /blockquote>
The Nova Kasaba men never made it to Bratunac, Mladic's main switching point: they were regarded, perhaps, as "overflow"in the general's meticulous hydraulics. For that night thousands of Muslim men would move along various roads to and from Bratunac and then to a school in Karakaj. Here Serb troops hustled the men into a gymnasium—"Quickly! Quickly!"—and forced them to remove their jackets, hats, shirts. When the room had grown so crowded that most of the sweltering men were sitting in their neighbor's laps, Mladic appeared in the front of the gymnasium. He gazed at the men but said nothing to them; instead he spoke with his officers, laughed, smiled, then left. The Muslims could hear the engines of trucks and buses as they pulled up to the schools.
The final stage had begun. Mladic would make no more calming speeches. Now the Serbs would direct every action to suggest inevitability: there was no more talk of exchanges or rescue. The Muslims were half stripped, their shoes and other belongings rudely taken. They were beaten, bloodied; forced to shout "Long live Serbia," to run down hallways, jump into trucks, follow orders without question, even those final orders leading to their own executions. For Mladic and his men, the Muslims had to be made to see that they had already entered into a dark, bloody landscape; they had already stepped partly into the world of the dead. "We were ordered to run out into the corridor"of the school, one survivor recalled.
We were running barefoot on a floor which was covered in blood. I saw about twenty corpses lying near the front door.... The Cetniks kept on yelling to load more and more people into the truck until it was crammed full.... They ordered everyone to sit, but we couldn't because it was so tightly packed.... The Cetniks started to shoot at people in order to make us sit down.The running, the shouting, the beating—the objective of all of this, as Honig and Both remark in Srebrenica:Record of a War Crime, was "to instill the execution process with a sense of inexorable movement and speed. No one, including the executioners, was given an opportunity to question the process." Mladic had carefully planned the operation so the execution sites lay only a few minutes from the final "interrogation points"—they might better be called "pre-execution chambers"—so that the final truck ride, during which the blindfolded men could hardly deny what was about to happen, gave them no time to react. Upon their arrival—and for the same reason—"operations" began instantly:
When the truck stopped, we immediately heard shooting outside; stones were bouncing off the [truck's] tarpaulin. The Cetniks told us to get out, five at a time. I was in the middle of the group, and the men in the front didn't want to get out. They were terrified, they started pulling back. But we had no choice, and when it was my turn to get out with five others, I saw dead bodies everywhere.... A Cetnik said, "Come on [Turk], find some space."... They ordered us to lie down, and as I threw myself on the ground, I heard gunfire. I was hit in my right arm and three bullets went through the right side of my torso.Another survivor describes his first glimpse of the execution site under the blindfold:
We came near to what I saw through my right eye was a wooded area. They took us off the truck in twos and led us out to some kind of meadow. People started taking off blindfolds and yelling in fear because the meadow was littered with corpses. I was put in the front row, but I fell over to the left before the first shots were fired so that bodies fell on top of me....About an hour later, Ilooked up and saw dead bodies everywhere. They were bringing in more trucks with more people to be executed. After a bulldozer driver walked away, I crawled over dead bodies and into the forest.Bodies were everywhere within Mladic's "iron ring," covering the fields, the mountains and hillsides. In the moonlight another survivor rose slowly and fearfully; he was wounded, bloody, and cramped from hours lying motionless beneath his dead countrymen. Now he gazed in astonishment out upon a moonlit "ocean of corpses," so many of them in the vast meadow that try as he might he could not avoid stepping on them to escape.
The following day, as his troops were hard at work with bulldozers and diggers, and as special "clean-up teams" scoured the roads filling trucks with stray corpses, General Mladic traveled to Belgrade to meet with Milosevic, Special Representative Yasushi Akashi of the United Nations, Carl Bildt of the European Community, and General Rupert Smith, the commander of UN troops in Bosnia. Though Mladic had already "cleansed" the greater part of the population, perhaps a thousand Muslims at this moment remained imprisoned in various warehouses and storage depots in Bratunac.In his cable reporting to Kofi Annan in New York, Akashi expresses his pleasure that "despite their disagreement on several points, the meeting re-established dialogue between the two generals."
INFORMAL AGREEMENT WAS REACHED IN THE COURSE OF THE MEETING ON A NUMBER OF POINTS BETWEEN THE TWO GENERALS WHICH WILL, HOWEVER, HAVE TO BE CONFIRMED AT THEIR MEETING SCHEDULED FOR 19 JULY. IN VIEW OF THE HIGHLY SENSITIVE NATURE OF THE PRESENCE OF MLADIC AT THE MEETING, IT WAS AGREED BY ALL PARTICIPANTS THAT THIS FACT SHOULD NOT BE MENTIONED AT ALL IN PUBLIC.Four days later General Mladic was, according to the UN meeting summary, in a "chipper mood," which the note-taker attributed to the general's "success in pressing his attack on Zepa," which he would conquer in a few days. He had retained, as insurance, most of his Dutch hostages. Indeed the agreement negotiated is telling in its almost total focus on the Dutch, who would be freed on July 21, and its failure to take up what Akashi had referred to as the "shortfall in our database"—the seven thousand or so Muslim men who had simply disappeared. Failing to agree on whether to refer to these parties as detainees (as Smith wanted) or POWs (as Mladic insisted), the generals contented themselves with guaranteeing access to the Red Cross—after July 20.
The following day the Dutch battalion would depart for Zagreb. Since the beginning, the release of Dutch troops had always been the West's primary concern, a blatant self-interest that the Muslims found maddening. (David Rohde speaks of a Muslim artillery officer who had written bitterly on a Dutch colleague's pad a simple equation: "30 Dutch equals 30,000 Muslims.") As a young translator who lost his entire family said later:
Everyone was afraid. The Dutch were afraid. We were afraid, but I don't know who was more afraid. I think we had much more reason to be afraid than the Dutch. As far as I know, the Dutch all arrived home safely.They did, of course, and they were promptly given six weeks leave before any investigation was undertaken. The events at Srebrenica, however, had already had their effect. Even as he sat in CNN's studio on July 16—the very day that Serb troops would murder the final thousand or so Muslims held at Bratunac, machine-gunning them at the state farm of Pilica—Richard Holbrooke must have known that he and the other "hard-liners"in the administration were about to win.
Like many before, Mladic had overreached himself. Soon he would turn his sights on the Bihac "safe area" to the west, thus threatening the Croats, who would unleash a brutal attack that would "cleanse" the Krajina of more than one hundred fifty thousand Serbs and hand Mladic and the Serbs their first defeat. President Clinton, with an election coming, knew he would have to send troops to Bosnia, either to help evacuate the allies or somehow force an end to the fighting.
And finally—for how can one know how much it really mattered?—General Mladic had committed an enormous crime that had shamed the West as nothing had before. In so doing he had left the way for Bosnia to at last become an American war.
This is the eighth in a continuing series of articles.
The transcripts of Serb radio communications are drawn from Roy Gutman, "The UN's Deadly Deal: How troop-hostage talks led to slaughter of Srebrenica," Newsday, May 29, 1996.
As Charles Lane and Thom Shanker wrote in these pages, "During the late spring and early summer of 1992, some three thousand Muslims in the northern town of Brcko were herded by Serb troops into an abandoned warehouse, tortured, and put to death. A US intelligence satellite orbiting over the former Yugoslavia photographed part of the slaughter. 'They have photos of trucks going into Brcko with bodies standing upright, and pictures of trucks coming out of Brcko carrying bodies lying horizontally, stacked like cordwood,' an investigator working outside the US government who has seen the pictures told us.... The photographs of the bloodbath in Brcko remain unpublished to this day." See The New York Review, May 9, 1996, p. 10.
In the matter of "precise details," a partly declassified Defense Intelligence Agency cable, which offers "a list of prisons in Bosnian territory, with the number of prisoners as of July 1992," under the rubrics "Location," "Number of Prisoners," and "Number Liquidated," includes "Brcko-Luka" and lists the "Number Liquidated" there as over 3000. The list, presumably compiled in July or early August of 1992—the date, like much else, is blacked out by the government censor—includes one place where the "Number Liquidated" exceeded 2000 (Zvornik "Bratsvo" Stadium) and three where it exceeded one thousand.
See David Owen, Balkan Odyssey (Harcourt Brace, 1995), pp. 134-135. For the story of Bratunac and the history of the war around Srebrenica, see my earlier article, "Clinton, the UN, and the Bosnian Disaster," The New York Review, December 18, 1997. This was the third article in the present series in these pages, which began with "The US and the Yugoslav Catastrophe," November 20, 1997; "America and the Bosnia Genocide," December 4, 1997; "Bosnia: The Turning Point," February 5, 1998; "Bosnia: Breaking the Machine," February 19, 1998; "Bosnia: The Great Betrayal," March 26, 1998; and "Slouching Toward Dayton," April 23, 1998.
 Mr. J.J.C. Voorhoeve, the present Dutch minister of defense, who held that office at the time Srebrenica fell in 1995, took strong issue with Holbrooke's description of the Dutch role in a letter to the secretary dated June 3, 1998, a copy of which the minister sent to this author. Holbrooke, who had just been named US representative to the United Nations, said he would revise this statement in future editions of his book and that he would now say that "European governments" refused to authorize air strikes until the Dutch forces had left Bosnia.
 "We don't know how many people were killed," according to a senior Dutch officer quoted by a British journalist. "They were hanging onto the tracks and the wheel arches, like Indians on a train. It could be 10 or 15, maybe more. No one knows." See John Sweeny, "And We Are All Guilty," The Observer, December 8, 1996.
 See Roy Gutman, "UN's Deadly Deal."<
 For an account of the attack in Kravica, see my article "Clinton, the UN and the Bosnian Disaster."
See The Independent on Sunday, July 23, 1995; quoted in Srebrenica: Record of a War Crime, p. 37.
 See Report Based on the Debriefing on Srebrenica, p. 51.
See, for example, Chris Hedges, "Serb Forces Fight Dutch UN Troops in Eastern Bosnia," The New York Times, July 10, 1995. "But senior United Nations officials also said the Bosnian Serbs...may not take the town, filled with refugees as it is...."
 Like many of the details of this event, the degree of cooperation between Mladic's forces and the Yugoslav National Army remains a matter of dispute. I discuss some of the specific evidence, including the movements of Mladic and Perisic during the weeks before the attack and intercepted transcripts of radio calls between them, in "Bosnia: The Great Betrayal." See also the words of a man whom the producers of the British television documentary series describe as a "highly placed NATO officer": "The Bosnian Serb Army couldn't plan an attack like this without the Yugoslav National Army, much less survive without them. The Bosnian Serb Army was only supported by the Yugoslav National Army logistically, but you have to look at their command and control [and] communications. The Bosnian Serb Army communications were all networked with the Yugoslav National Army, just like the Sam-6 missiles aimed at our planes." See Dispatches, June 17, 1996.
See Roy Gutman, "Dutch Reveal Horrors of Mission Impossible," Newsday, July 24, 1995.
 See Report Based on the Debriefing on Srebrenica, p. 57.
Lane and Shanker, in their New York Review piece cited above, attribute this information to an unnamed "intelligence official."
See the so-called "Petrovic video," shot by Serb cameraman Zoran Petrovic-Pirocanac, in and around Srebrenica from July 11 to July 16, 1995.
 For a description of this "Trek Through the Forest," see my article, "Bosnia: The Great Betrayal."
 See Anthony Lloyd, "Srebrenica's Exiles Tell Grimly Familiar Stories of Murder," The London Times, July 15, 1995.
 See Michael Dobbs and R. Jeffrey Smith, "New Proof Offered of Serb Atrocities," The Washington Post, October 28, 1995.
 The words are Dr. Ilijas Pilav's, quoted in Honig and Both, Srebrenica: Record of a War Crime, pp. 52-55.
 Although the initial images of Nova Kasaba were identified, when USRepresentative Madeleine Albright unveiled them to the United Nations Security Council, only as "aerial photographs," it seems generally agreed that they were drawn from satellite imagery. According to William E. Burrows, for example, "On July 13 or 14 a US reconnaissance satellite downlinked imagery showing several hundred people gathered at a soccer field in the area." See "Imaging Space Reconnaissance Operations during the Cold War: Cause, Effect and Legacy," on the Cold War Forum Website (www.fas.org). Both The New York Times and The Washington Post agree with this, though Honig andBoth, whose sources tend to be very solid, claim the photographs were taken by an "American U-2 spy plane."
See Michael Dobbs and R. Jeffrey Smith, "Proof Offered of Serb Atrocities," October 28, 1995.
 Drawn from an interview in the "Petrovic video," cited above.
See Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, The Fall of Srebrenica and the Future of UN Peacekeeping (October 1995). This and the accounts of other survivors below are drawn from this report, pp. 36-45.
"On 15 July, [Dutch] military personnel...saw 'clean-up teams' (these people were wearing rubber gloves) as well as tipper trucks and lorries carrying corpses." See Report Based on the Debriefing on Srebrenica, p. 51.