The worst act of the war occurred in the summer of 1995 when the Bosnian town of Srebrenica came under attack by forces commanded by Ratko Mladic. Srebrenica was a UN-declared safe area and guarded by a lightly armed Dutch contingent. This did not deter Mladic, who was intent on taking over the enclave. During a few days in mid-July, more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim males were executed by MladicĂs troops. The rest of the townĂs women and children were
driven out to nearby Tuzla.
With a failed UN mission, the credibility of NATO waning, and facing a retreat of UN peacekeepers, President Clinton took the lead in August 1995 and launched a limited bombing campaign against Bosnian Serb positions. This, coupled with a Croatian offensive against the Croatian and Bosnian Serbs, forced Karadzic and Mladic to agree to peace negotiations commencing in Dayton, Ohio, in November 1995.
The outcome of Dayton gave the Bosnian Serbs 49% of Bosnian territory and established the Bosnian-Croat Federation to control the remaining 51%. The Bosnian Serbs were also obligated to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal and allow refugees to return to their homes. To this day, they have done neither. While no one criticizes the peace brought by Dayton, many recognize that it is unjust for allowing the Bosnian Serbs to control territory that they took through a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign.
In addition, many commentators criticize the structure of the constitution created by the Dayton Agreement, which cements an ethnic divide. Among other measures, what was once the sovereign state of Bosnia Herzegovina is now divided into two entities, one Serbian and the other Bosnjak (Muslim) and Croatian. A non-functioning federal umbrella is headed by a three-member presidency: Serb, Bosniak and Croatian (people must declare themselves as one of these three groups in order to run for office or vote). The way the
government is structured, any ethnic group can block the workings of another group, often simply by not showing up at the legislature. Given all of these and many other problems, it is little surprise that Bosnia Herzegovina presently does not function as a unitary country and that intragroup tensions continue to run high.
During the long years of war in Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia, Kosovo remained under the tight control of Milosevic. The Kosovar Albanians responded by setting up a parallel civil adminstration, schools, and healthcare facilities. They also resisted the Milosevic regime with nonviolent, Gandhian
tactics under the leadership of Ibrahim Rugova.
All this time, the Kosovar Albanians hoped the international community would recognize their plight and come to their aid. Despite periodic reports by human rights investigators and international diplomats on gross and systematic human rights violations against Kosovar Albanians, the international community did nothing. The final straw for the Kosovar Albanians was Dayton, when the international community had the upper hand with Milosevic yet completely ignored the problem in Kosovo. The Kosovars even attempted to attend Dayton, but were not allowed to leave their plane and were sent back across the Atlantic. This demonstrated to the Kosovars that the international community was not going to come to their support. It also demonstrated that nonviolent tactics were not going to get the worldĂs attention. Only tremendous human rights abuses as suffered by the Bosnian Muslims would force the world to intervene.
With the situation in Kosovo only getting worse, and tit for tat retaliations by the Serb forces, finally in November 1997, at a funeral for slain Kosovars, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) stood up publicly and asked for support from the Kosovo Albanian community. The response by the crowd was overwhelming support. The familiar Serb response was disproportionate retaliation. If a Serb policeman was shot by the KLA, the Serbs would respond by torching a whole village and killing civilians. The first major massacre occurred in the Drenica region in the spring of 1998 when 51 members of an extended clan were killed by Serb forces in retaliation for a KLA provocation. Again, despite detailed reports of human rights investigators, the international community did nothing other than issue Milosevic an empty warning.
The U.S. has a particularly long history of warning Milosevic over Kosovo. As early as 1992, President Bush had warned Milosevic against a crackdown in Kosovo. Clinton reaffirmed the warning upon assuming the presidency and again at periodic stages during his terms. Throughout 1998 Milosevic increased his troop strength in Kosovo and began a scorched-earth policy of destroying whole villages in his attempt to wipe out the KLA. But for each village destroyed, more KLA members would sprout up in defiance. The Srebrenica of Kosovo occurred in January 1999 when Serb forces killed 41 civilians in the Kosovo village of Racak. While international mediators called it a massacre, Milosevic claimed that the slain villagers were actually KLA terrorists in civilian clothes. International forensic experts were soon to prove this untrue.