“May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.”

"This report is maybe 12-years-old. Parliament buried it, and it stayed buried till River dug it up. This is what they feared she knew. And they were right to fear because there's a whole universe of folk who are gonna know it, too. They're gonna see it. Somebody has to speak for these people. You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you all come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, 10, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people . . . better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave." ~ Captain Malcom Reynolds

Monday, July 12, 2010


Peter at Bayou Renaissance Man has a post up discussing the Srebrenica massacre which started 15 years ago on the 11th. I won't take the space to re-type the details of the event, or the facts before and after - far more educated people than I have done so.

But I will take a moment to remember the victims - and to feel the sorrow and shame of being unable to do anything about it. Writing this the best I can given the limits of memory & sworn responsibilities.

During this period of time I spent numerous tours in and around the zip-codes in question, working with various units. We gathered intelligence, knew who all the players were, and had plenty of information on what was going on between the various factions of the former Yugoslavia - anyone who tries to say otherwise is either deluding themselves or full of crap. All of this was reported up the chain daily - to regional and national (and in some cases international) players. 99.9% of the time for nothing.

You see, this was the Clinton-era post-Somalia military. Troops didn't go in on the ground, we didn't do anything that would put folks in danger of being in a news story, and heaven forbid we take a preemptive approach to anything. Air strikes (as long as the bad guys said it was ok) and an occasional cruise missile launch were ok, but we all knew nothing else was going to happen. For the regular units the frustration was even worse - we at least got training funds, they just spent more time cleaning, painting and doing busy work.

Add to that the intelligence sinkhole & leaks. Anything that got forwarded to the French we might as well have just sent straight to the Serbs. Things that went up through our channels were subject to interpretation, multiple layers of filtering, and sometimes blatant editing to match the agenda of the week. I can recall witnessing events first-hand, which were then listed as "suspected" or "non-existent" because someone a thousand miles away didn't like what the front-line folks saw.

So we sat. We watched. We reported. We begged for permission in many cases - whether to go in and capture a known bad guy, or to go in and protect those who were helpless. All for nothing.

The Kurds. Srebrenica. Rwanda. The Congo. Sudan.

Every one of these campaigns, massacres, and genocides the United Nations and the United States knew or knows clearly about. And I guarantee you that, just like we felt 15 years ago, any one of which the military would enthusiastically solve if given the chance.

I am all for civilian control of our military - I've seen the alternative, and it isn't fun. But this is the downside. If the mission doesn't fit the political agenda, public opinion or whatever else, even the best troops in the world can do nothing.

I gave up hope on the U.N. after Srebrenica - coalitions are important, but I will never again have faith in that organization. Somehow I still retain hope that the U.S. as a nation will learn from the past and prevent such events in the future, but for now that appears futile.

Be that as it may... for now, let us remember the victims of Srebrenica. Let us pray that someday we can mean it when we say "never again."

1 comment:

Ann T. said...

Dear Sean,
I study international relations. I wasn't anywhere near that conflict, but in the reading I got hugely p.o.ed.

There was a lot of talk, and a lot of opera, over the killing there. There's still a lot of talk and opera. Everybody's lying but I'm not sure they know it. They're all stuck in the "forest of motives."

Governments have made this area a huge test study for post-conflict programs now. The big secret is, they can't tell what the hell they're doing with all those EuroBucks in there and if it is working on the things they think it is working on.

Fixing things requires will. The politicians generally respond to the will of the people. I don't know where that went.

Thanks for remembering the people massacred in that part of the world. Though I am not with the experiences you had, it makes me think of them.

Ann T.