With Hillary Clinton surging in the polls and Democrats knifing Bush's foreign policy and praising Bill Clinton's, it's time for a reality check on a supposed triumph: Team Clinton oversimplified a complex situation in Bosnia and ended up aiding and abetting Muslim extremists.
That's the conclusion of John Schindler, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College and a former National Security Agency analyst. In his new book, "Unholy Terror: Bosnia, al-Qa'ida, and the Rise of Global Jihad," Schindler reappraises the 1992-1995 Bosnian war and America's decision to come to the defense of Muslims in their conflict with Serbs.
Because his conclusions are controversial, his credentials are important: Schindler's NSA work, he says, showed him that the conventional academic and media wisdom about the Balkans was wrong. "I spent a lot of time in the Balkans and I participated in the culture, spoke the language and met many people. What I learned was that pretty much everything I thought I knew was either wrong or an even more dangerous half-truth."
In our interview, he told me that "people in the U.S. and the West were fed a steady diet of satellite-driven images, frequently horrifying, without the ability to independently verify what was really happening on the ground in Bosnia. The result was miscomprehension, the reducing of a complex ethnic and religious civil war into sound bites."
Both sides committed atrocities, Schindler notes, but those of Muslims generally went unreported. For example, "The number of Christians murdered in Sarajevo during the war by Muslim military and police, right under the noses of Western journalists, is at least in the many hundreds and probably in the low thousands. Between 1992 and 1995, some 1,300 Serb civilians were liquidated by Muslim troops based at Srebrenica; this was the precursor to the infamous July 1995 Serb offensive against that town."
Those killings did not become well-known in the West because "they were never seriously investigated by the Western press, governments or NGOs. … The view that both sides committed atrocities ran and runs contrary to the simplistic, moralistic view of the war peddled by the international media, and therefore remains unwanted by CNN and many others."
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