Monday, October 06, 2008

Genocide Denial Goes Dutch

Thanks to Daniel at Srebrenica Genocide Blog for the following update on a very troubling and offensive story:


The story focuses on Marco Van Hees, who seems to be the ringleader of the "Dutchbat III" group of 15 Dutch soldiers involved in Srebrenica genocide denial. The fact that these men are willing to add further shame to their record is almost numbing; it's almost--not quite, but nearly--impossible to muster any outrage against such an irrational act of betrayal and contrariness.

Daniel covers the story thoroughly, so I have nothing to add about the specifics. I do wonder if anyone out there has any insights into the psychology of someone like Marco Van Hees. The fact that he was present in Srebrenica, yet is able to claim a distorted and dishonest version of events, is troubling yet not difficult to believe--people often lie, and they often convince themselves to beleive a version of events which contradicts their own personal experiences. While unfortunate (to put it mildly), there is nothing extraordinary about Van Hees' ability to deny a horrible reality he should be bearing witness to.

It's not the ability of 15 or so Dutchbat soldiers to lie to the world, and seemingly to themselves, about a horrible atrocity they were witness to--and passive participants in--which puzzles me; rather, it is the motivation to do so which I cannot understand. I do have a theory, however, and I welcome any input from readers with more expertise, knowledge, and/or insight into individual and group psychology to correct, elaborate, or refute my (admittedly half-baked) notion.

Simply put, I believe that these few Dutch soldiers who have chosen to side with the fascist mass-murderers of Srebrenica are motivated at least partially from a feeling of powerlessness. I acknowledge that the more obvious answer would be that they are motivated by shame, and a desire to rewrite history so that their actions (and failures to act) in August of 1995 might seem more reasonable and justified. No doubt this plays a part, but I have read that violence is often a reaction to a feeling of powerlessness--a primal urge to lash out and assert control over a situation or perceived status.

The Dutch soldiers at Srebrenica, by a combination of factors both imposed and self-created, were passive pawns in a much larger game, and one can easily imagine the humiliation they must have felt. I realize I am not giving any attention to the incident where frustrated Bosniak soldiers inflicted casualities on the Dutchbat battalion in an attempt to force them to take a stand--that incident most certainly fueled some resentment on the part of the Dutchbat soldiers. And the stresses of being trapped in the enclave with thousands of desperate people of a different culture, language, and faith cannot be discounted.

Even acknowledging all that, I still contend that the humiliation inflicted on the Dutch soldiers by the Bosnian Serb forces, by General Mladic personally, and by the untenable position the UN and their own government had put them in--all of this contributed to a sense of powerlessness, and the dirty, desperate, and not always "grateful" Muslims who were nominally in their care were the most obvious, and easiest, targets for that frustrated rage to focus on.

At any rate, this is a story worth following. These foolish and dishonorable Dutch men will certainly provide ample ammunition for the Balkan revisionist crowd. We must be vigilant and tireless in response.


Anonymous said...

A genocide denial, as in this case, that you have masterfully described in your post, for me represents the ultimate ethical downfall and the kind of negation of all of us, as human beings. Unfortunately, there are still people who are denying Holocaust, so denying of Srebrenica genocide can also remind us about the darkest and the most intimidating points of the recent past.

Anonymous said...

Kirk, there are further developments at Srebrenica Genocide Blog. It seems van Hees may be a member of Dutchbat2 and not Dutchbat3, so any observations he may have to make would be even less relevant.