Nicholas Burns, the U.S. undersecretary of state, declared, at a press briefing he gave after returning from a recent trip to the Balkan hot spots, that former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic “ordered the execution of 8,000 men and boys at Srebrenica.”
Over the last few years, I have sought to get at the truth concerning what happened at Srebrenica. In 2002, I wrote an article for a London magazine, which I entitled “Srebrenica: No Definitive Verdict Yet,” in which I summarized several reports: The United Nations Report, the Dutch Report, the Belgrade Law Center Report, the Republika Srpska Report, and some nonofficial studies. While all of these report massacres, in none of them is there proof that Mladic or anyone else ordered large-scale killings or that the number of victims exceeded 2,500. More than one report alleges that many of the victims were killed in armed combat.
Does Undersecretary Burns have proof for his charge?
Recent stories about the discovery of a videotape reportedly showing Serbs in Bosnia killing some Muslims seem to suggest the validity of charges against the Serbs, but the tape shows the massacre of only six men, and it is impossible to tell from the tape anything about the total number of victims or the identity of the perpetrators.
There are other aspects to the story, however. Without taking away any of the guilt of the Serbs,...