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“Denying” the Srebrenica Genocide Because It’s Not True: an Interview with Diana Johnstone


Saturday, July 11th, was the official 20th anniversary of what is called the “Srebrenica Massacre” and “the Srebrenica Genocide,” when Muslim men were killed by Serbian forces in the Bosnian civil war of 1992 to 1995. The Western consensus about what happened at Srebrenica is, like the official history of the Rwandan massacres, disputed by academics, journalists and international criminal defense attorneys including Ed Herman, David Peterson, Michael Parenti, Robin Philpot, John Philpot, Christopher Black, Peter Erlinder, Ramsey Clark, and Diana Johnstone.  Both official histories serve as cornerstones of Western interventionist ideology.

Last week, prior to the July 11th commemoration, Russia infuriated Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the United Nations, by vetoing a Security Council resolution on Srebrenica because it included the word “genocide.” Four Security Council members, Angola, China, Nigeria and Venezuela, abstained. Speaking to the Voice of America, Samantha Power then called all those who disagree with the Western consensus “genocide deniers.”  I spoke to genocide denier Diana Johnstone, author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions and Queen of Chaos: the Misadventures of Hillary Clinton, coming in September from CounterPunch Books.

Ann Garrison: Diana Johnstone, UN Ambassador Samantha Power calls you a genocide denier, along with Ed Herman, David Peterson, Michael Parenti, and anyone else who’s dared to challenge Western consensus on what happened at Srebrenica in July 1995. What’s your response?

Diana Johnstone: Well, I am very much a genocide denier, and I’m proud of it and I can say why.

AG: Please do.

DJ: Yes, because what happened was not a genocide. Note that denying “genocide” means denying an interpretation, not the facts, whatever they are. There was a massacre of prisoners, whose proportions are disputed. That was a war crime. But it was not genocide. When your victims are military age men and you spare women and children, that cannot be genocide by any sensible definition. The International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia was set up to blame the Serbs for genocide, and they did so by a far-fetched sociological explanation, claiming that because the Bosnian Muslims had a patriarchal society, killing the men would be a sort of genocide in one town. But that is not what people understand by genocide.

AG: Why were Serbians a US target?  And why were Bosnian Muslims favored?

DJ: Well, for one thing, the Clinton Administration and subsequent administrations have had a policy of allying with Muslims all around the world. Partly in a long term anti-Russian strategy which goes back to Zbigniew Brzezinski’s policy of supporting Mujahadeen in Afghanistan. The notion that the soft foolsjohnstoneunderbelly of the Russian Empire is Muslim and that they can be used against Orthodox Christians – that’s a long term US strategy going back to Brzezinski’s role in the 1970s.

AG: In the Carter Administration?

DJ: Yes, and so Serbia was seen as a potential Russian ally in the region, as the Serbs are Orthodox Christians, and so that was the reason it was targeted. The story was that Orthodox Christians are the bad guys and the Muslims are the good guys. And that’s been a constant US strategy for the last several decades.

AG: So, you’re saying that the USA is not constantly fighting evil Muslims all over the world?  

DJ: No, it’s fighting the less evil ones. It’s been fighting the ones who are more secular. It was fighting the less fanatic. In Bosnia, the US supported Izetbegovic who was the most Islamist politician among Muslims there, who had written a declaration saying a country with a Muslim majority should be ruled by Islamic law.  It was fighting Gaddafi, whose main enemy was the extreme Muslims, and it got rid of Gaddafi, and now they’re taking over Libya. It attacked Saddam Hussein, who had a secular society, who was hated by the Islamic extremists. And now they’re taking over Iraq. And the United States has been against Assad’s regime in Syria. They have targeted precisely the Muslim regimes which were not religiously fanatic. So of course Islam is divided, so the United States has been killing Muslims, but they have been favoring the most extremist.

There’s another point I want to make and that is that calling Srebrenica a genocide is extremely harmful for more than one reason. Of course we know that the main reason for this has been to justify future wars by saying, “Oh dear, we let this happen in Rwanda. We let this happen in Srebrenica, so we have to have preventive wars to prevent it from happening again.” That’s the ideological pretext used by the United States. But, the fact is that supporting the view that the West stood by – which is a sort of Samantha Power thing –  we just stood by and let the Serbs commit genocide against Muslims is harmful in other ways as well.  That line, which is untrue, is used to recruit people to extreme Islam against the West, which is what is happening in the Middle East. Because they think the West is the enemy, the West supported genocide of Muslims, we are the victims, therefore we are justified. And they’re recruiting young men from all over the world, including Europe, to go and fight the West partly on the basis of that pretext. So it’s very harmful, this lie.

AG: So all of the US attacks on secular states, where Islam is the dominant religion, have led to Islamic fundamentalism and recruitment to groups like ISIS? 

DJ: ​Absolutely, absolutely. And the whole US policy for the past decades has in fact inspired this extreme Muslim radicalism against the West. The notion was that we’ll get the Muslims on our side by supporting them, but it’s worked quite the opposite way because we have weakened the secular Muslim leaders, and with the help of our dear ally Saudi Arabia, which is of course an extremist Muslim state and our close ally in the region.

AG: Would you like to say anything about the controversial figure of 8,000 dead? Global Research published an interview with Ed Herman headlined “The Srebrenica Massacre was a Gigantic Political Fraud,” in which he says that the numbers were inflated without supporting forensic evidence and that there were many massacres in the Srebrenica area, including massacres of women and children in Serb villages.

DJ: Well, I’m very skeptical about this 8,000 number, more than skeptical. I think it’s clearly not true, but I didn’t want to dwell on that because my main point is not so much how many bodies, but the uses of this, the exploitation of it.  And also, the fact that since it was men and boys of military age, this cannot be genocide.  This is the sort of massacre that happens in wars.  Men get killed because of what they are; they’re on the other side.  That’s what it’s all about.  And of course it happened on both sides. This was a war; it wasn’t just Serbs killing Muslims. Muslims were killing Serbs. I mean this was a civil war with two sides fighting.

AG: That is exactly what is ignored about Rwanda. The infamous 100 days in Rwanda were the final days of a four year war of aggression that begin when Ugandan troops invaded Rwanda in October 1990 and then waged a four year war until they seized power in Kigali.  The received story treats the 100 days as though it happened in a vacuum.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about Srebrenica?

DJ: Well, maybe there is one more thing I should have said.

AG: Go ahead.

DJ: That is, it’s very ironic that Bill Clinton is going there as one of the official mourners of the dead at Srebrenica, because a story that is very much circulated outside of mainstream media is that the whole Srebrenica Massacre was a trap that was deliberately laid to lure the Serbs in because Alija Izetbegovic, the Muslim leader, had heard from Bill Clinton that Clinton needed for there to be a massacre of at least 5000 Muslims in order to politically bring the US and NATO into the war on the Muslim side.

That’s in a book by a Bosnian Muslim leader, Ibran Mustafic. The book, however, is in Serbo-Croatian. It was mentioned in a UN report that a lot of Muslims have said that the Srebrenica Massacre was a setup in order to blame the Serbs and get the US and NATO in on the Bosnian Muslim side. That’s been said by a lot of people, and there’s a documentary film about it, but that has been kept out of the mainstream discourse entirely.

AG: Is there documentation that Clinton said that?

DJ:  There’s documentation that Izetbegovic thought he said that. And, remember that they don’t speak the same language. Clinton might have said offhand, “Well, y’know I’d need a massacre of at least 5000 to be politically able to come in,” without really meaning that anyone should stage such a massacre. I’m not accusing Clinton of having ordered the massacre. But on the other hand, it is extremely probable that Izetbegovic, whose whole strategy was to portray the Bosnian Muslims as pure victims, might have taken that up. And he ordered the commander out of Srebrenica. There was no defense there, although there were more soldiers, more Bosnian Muslim soldiers, in Srebrenica than Serbian soldiers who attacked. But they did not defend, they ran away. And this has been interpreted by a lot of Bosnian Muslims as deliberately setting things up in order to have Serb vengeance, because there had been a lot of Serb victims of the Muslim soldiers. They had killed over 3000 Serb villagers in the region. And so, many believe that this was deliberately set up to have the victims that would bring the US in on the Bosnia Muslim side.  Even the French General Morillon said that.

But another reason it was not genocide against Muslims is that the Serbs were allied with another group of Bosnian Muslims on the western side of Bosnia, whose leader was a secular Muslim, Fikret Abdic, who was originally more popular than Izetbegovic, got more votes. So the genocide label is absolutely absurd, and yes I’m a genocide denier because it’s not true.

Diana Johnstone is the Paris-based American author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western DelusionsHer 2005 essay “Srebrenica Revisited,” can be read on the Counterpunch website. From 1979 to 1990, she was the European Editor of In These Times. From 1990 to 1996, she was the press officer of the Green group in the European Parliament.  She is also the author of “The Politics of Euromissiles: Europe’s Role in America’s World,” and her new book “Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton,” will be published by Counterpunch Books this year.  She can be reached at


Ann Garrison is an independent journalist who also contributes to the San Francisco Bay View, Global Research, the Black Agenda Report and the Black Star News, and produces radio for KPFA-Berkeley and WBAI-New York City.  In 2014, she was awarded the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize by the Womens International Network for Democracy and Peace.  She can be reached at

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