Monday, July 11, 2005
( 5:28 PM )
There is an article in the NY Times and an editorial today marking the tenth anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide - where Serbs massacred tens of thousands of Bosnian Muslims and committed atrocious crimes against humanity on thousands more. What I found compelling was not the obvious questions about what it will do to the soul of Serbia not to deal with the crimes that were committed - but rather the example that it leaves for us in these current times. Ten years ago the world barely acknowledged the genocide that was happening until it was almost over - then moves to punish the higher-up criminals began. But the Serbs as a people are in full-on denial and whitewash of what happened.
At the end of the Second World War, Allied troops forced German citizens to walk through Nazi death camps. They were confronted by crimes committed in their name, in order to ensure that those crimes could not be denied or minimized later. The people of Serbia and Montenegro, by contrast, have never been forced to acknowledge the crimes committed in their name.
The model used in South Africa was the most difficult path for reconciliation. The Truth and Reconciliation model requires that those who were victims be willing to exchange punishment of those who victimized them in order to learn the full truth. The South Africans would never say this was an easy path, but it is what they chose. Reconciliation in the Balkans cannot be possible until the Serbs are willing to face the truth that what was suffered at the hands of the Serbs was far and away more grave than what they suffered.
This reminds me of our own situation now. We are already amongst revisionists who want us to believe that we continue to suffer these horrible crimes against us by fundamentalists who endanger our very existence. Yet, the crimes against humanity that we have visited upon an entire region of people so far outweighs our ongoing "suffering." 9/11 was a horrible, shocking crime against us - the appropriate response would have been to find those responsible and punish them. Instead, we have launched ourselves into a situation where innocent people are being hurt and killed every day because we wanted retribution far and away unequal to what was logical. We are complicit in torture while our leaders try to pshaw away the inhumanity of our actions towards Iraqis, Afghans and our own soldiers and their families. Will we ever be able to face the truth about what we have allowed to happen in our name? We do not even see the coffins coming home or the thousands of wounded and maimed who fill our hospitals because history is already being revised. Will we exchange our pride for the truth? I hope so.