"There are no angels in this conflict" has been a slogan used for the refusal to stop the killing—as if angels, rather than human beings, deserve our empathy and support. In July 1992, British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd patronized victims along with perpetrators: "Where there is no will for peace we cannot supply
it." The Balkanist stereotype was continually used to imply that all sides were equally guilty.
No party in any war has ever been free of blame. But the blame-on-all-sides position falsified important differences between the methodical genocide carried out by Serb nationalists, the predatory aggression of Croat nationalists, and individual crimes committed by Bosnian soldiers, crimes that were not related to any overall criminal policy and that have been punished.
Moral equalizing led to political equalizing. After the London Conference of 1992 affirmed the territorial integrity and legitimacy of Bosnia, NATO powers shifted to a competing language in which the Bosnian government was one of three "warring factions." When Bosnian leaders held out against aspects of peace plans that rewarded the atrocities of Serb and Croat nationalists with territorial concessions and left Bosnia open to future destruction, Western diplomats leaked statements to the effect that the Bosnians were "sore losers" and would not accept the fact that they had "lost"—as if genocide were some kind of football game.
In 1993, David Owen stated that Serbs had controlled 60 percent of pre-war Bosnia, a claim used by Serb militants to justify their claim that most of Bosnia should be given to the 31 percent of the country that was Serb.[ ] The last land registers before the war, however, showed 50 percent of Bosnia was public land and that Serb landowners controlled 23 percent. In April 1995, Thorwald Stoltenberg made the astonishing announcement that Bosnian Muslims were actually Serbs; it was a Serb extremist dream-come-true. If Bosnian Muslims were Serbs, then they had no reason to reject Serb military occupation and since (according to the extremists) Serbs were either Orthodox Christian
or traitors, there was no reason Bosnian Muslims shouldn't be treated as traitors. The two men entrusted by the Western powers to protect the sovereignty of Bosnia were adopting the most spurious and fatal claims of the radical religious nationalists among the Serbs.
Moral equalizing could be achieved by portraying all sides as inhuman savages; it could also be achieved by ignoring atrocities. According to a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a senior advisor to Yasushi Akashi, the chief of the UN operation in Bosnia, the problems in Bosnia were not the result of ageold tribal hatreds but rather the effects of organizational breakdown—within both international and Yugoslav institutions—following the cold war. There was no crime and, it was implied, no one really was responsible.
A final way of avoiding moral distinctions was to demonize an entire people. Phrases such as "Serb aggression" and "Serb atrocities" ignore any Serb opposition to genocide. The group demonization is based upon a view of the Serb people as a homogenous mass—a view shared by Serb militants. For Republika Srpska President Radovan Karadzic, for example, any Serb who does not support the attack on Bosnia is not a true Serb and any criticism of Karadzic's policies is a criticism of "Serbs" in general.
Peter Brock published a piece in the journal Foreign Policy asserting that the Western media had exaggerated the atrocities committed by Serbs while refusing to report atrocities against Serbs. The article ignored the massive evidence in the human rights reports and war crimes investigations of organized genocide by the Serb militants. Multiple flaws in the Brock article were soon demonstrated. Even so, it was a propaganda bonanza
for Serb religious nationalists. For many Serbs and others who wish to believe that the genocide was a fabrication of Western media, the Brock article was a citation from an establishment journal. At the base of the Brock article was the notion that criticism of the leadership of the Republika Srpska was a slur against all Serbs; Radovan Karadzic couldn't have said it better.
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