At Memorial in Bosnia, Clinton Helps Mourn 7,000


OTOCARI, Bosnia, Sept. 20  Near Srebrenica, where

more than 7,000 Muslim men were massacred during the

war in Bosnia, former President Bill Clinton today

honored the dead and condemned the "genocidal madness"

that ravaged this tiny hill town. 

Widows at the ceremony, which officially opened a

museum and cemetery, were not entirely pleased to see

Mr. Clinton, who became committed to ending the

Bosnian war only after it had waged for nearly four

years and after the outbreak of "ethnic cleansing"


That 1995 rampage by Bosnian Serbs in Srebrenica, a

United Nations haven for close to 40,000 Muslim

refugees, was the worst war crime in Europe since

World War II. It prompted Mr. Clinton to push for

aggressive intervention.

That and a subsequent American-led peace accord forced

the Serbs to end the war that erupted after the

breakup of the former Yugoslavia. American

peacekeepers remain in Bosnia. 

Addressing thousands of mourners, many of them Bosnian

Muslim women who lost husbands and sons, Mr. Clinton

said: "Srebrenica shattered the illusion that the end

of the cold war would sweep away such madness.

Instead, it laid bare for all the world to see the

vulnerability of ordinary people to the dark claims of

religion and ethnic superiority."

"Bad people who lusted for power killed these good

people simply because of who they were," he added. 

The memorial and cemetery sit across from the factory

that served as the United Nations' headquarters in the

Srebrenica haven. It was from that enclave, with

United Nations peacekeepers looking on helplessly,

that many of the 7,000 men and boys were rounded up,

bused away and later executed over several days.

Others were hunted down after they fled into the


Serb soldiers threw bodies into mass graves, then

exhumed and reburied some to conceal their actions. A

thousand of the bodies have so far been given

permanent burials and there are more than 5,000 body

bags containing an assortment of body parts.

The two Serbian men accused of masterminding the

massacre, Gen. Ratko Mladic and Dr. Radovan Karadzic,

have been indicted for genocide at the International

War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, but are at large.

Many of the women and politicians here acknowledge

that Mr. Clinton was instrumental in stopping the war,

but some say he waited too long.

"For almost four years the world was watching what was

going on in Bosnia and Herzegovina," said Sulejman

Tihic, a member of the Bosnian state presidency.

"Everybody knew about the concentration camps,

genocide and the other ways of crime. They knew who

was participating in it. They knew who was the

criminal and who was the victim."

Ahmija Delic, her head wrapped loosely in a scarf, sat

on a mound of dirt next to her sons' empty graves. The

body of her 26-year-old son, Sabuhudin, was to be

buried today. The grave next to it, she hoped, would

one day hold the remains of her youngest son, Vahidin,

20, who fled into the woods with his brother and


Eight years later, Mrs. Delic, who now lives in

Denmark, said she was not prepared to forgive her

enemies or to soften her bitterness. She still dreams

in the evenings that her two sons, her only children,

will come home to her, she said.

"Even if someone killed all the cheniks," she said,

using the word for Serbian nationalists, "I cannot

forgive. They were not human beings and it was a shame

for the rest of the world to allow one people to carry

out these killings."

"Clinton could have helped this not to happen," she

said. "Now it's embarrassing because he has to come

here and justify himself."

Several narrow rows away, Zilija Dedic, 46, and her

two girls used well-worn tissues to blot their tears.

She recalled seeing the smoke outside of Srebrenica on

July 11, a sign that the Serbs were burning houses as

they entered the town. Her husband and son fled into

the hills, and at first she hoped they would outrun

the Serbs. But she suspected the worst when she saw

the sheer number of Serbian soldiers and the heavy

weapons they brought along.

"I thought nobody would make it out alive," she said.

The carnage subjected women like Ms. Dedic not only to

emotional turmoil. It also rendered many penniless and

unable to fend for themselves and their children. Ms.

Dedic lives with her daughters in a former Serbian

apartment in Banovici, now a Muslim-held town, with

little money and a dim future.

But she is not angry at Mr. Clinton, who, after his

speech, made his way over to a plot of four open

graves  three sons and a father  and shoveled a pile

of dirt onto the green silk-covered coffins. "Our

people would have suffered more death if it hadn't

been for Clinton," she said.

In Srebrenica itself, the 1995 truce has brought

little change. The village, which was home mostly to

Muslims before the war, is now almost entirely

populated by Serbs, most of whom were pushed out of

their own towns. They have clung fiercely to the

divisions created by the war.

Even today, many Serbs here do not acknowledge the

massacre, insisting that the number of Muslims killed

has been grossly inflated and that those who died were

mostly soldiers.

"Sometimes, I am not comfortable with them here," said

Bozica Dragicevic, 33, referring to Muslims. As for

the dead, "if there were 7,000, all Potocari would be

a burial ground for them."

But some Muslims have moved back to town and their

children attend school without incident. A small cafe,

owned by a Muslim woman and her husband, opened in

June, and they serve Serbian settlers as well as

Muslims. Just next to the cafe, a stone's throw from

the Serbian Orthodox church, a new mosque has been

built and its rhythmic call for prayer has not caused


With this kind of measured progress in mind, Mr.

Clinton encouraged the mourners to trade remnants of

vengeance for the aspirations of the next generation.

"Children must be taught to hate," he told the crowd. 

"I hope you will teach them instead to trust," he

said, and to choose "the freedom of forgiveness over

the prison of hatred, tomorrow's dreams over

yesterday's nightmares." 


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