Massacres in Bosnia and 'the Hypocrisy of Governments'
WHILE our Congress frets about not risking our soldiers in Bosnia, the parliament and people of the Netherlands are agonizing about whether its soldiers risked enough.
Dutch troops were stationed in Srebrenica, a name that, like Babi Yar in Ukraine and Guernica, Spain, has become a stain on the world's conscience.
Srebrenica was the enclave in eastern Bosnia that the United Nations disarmed and promised to protect as a ''safe area.'' But last July, Bosnian Serbs stormed the town, led thousands of Muslim men to slaughter and mass graves, and drove away thousands of women and children.
The pathetically small Dutch battalion of 460, some of whom had earlier been held hostage for a week, did nothing. Worse, their commander, Lt. Col. Tom Kerremans, was photographed in a toast with the Bosnian Serb commander, Gen. Ratko Mladic. And a senior officer signed a paper certifying that ''the evacuation was carried out by the Serb side correctly.''
A disclosure: I have worked in the Netherlands, admire its people, and proudly wear the Order of Orange-Nassau given to me by Queen Juliana 40 years ago.
The Dutch reacted to the shameful performance of their men in Bosnia as I would expect from a people dedicated to international order, a people with the highest per capita rate of foreign-aid spending in the world. The press went up in smoke. Under popular pressure, the government in The Hague promised parliament there would be a full investigation.
Three months later Defense Minister Joris Voorhoeve submitted his report. He did not defend the panicky fraternization of the Dutch officers with the marauding Bosnian Serbs. But he said the soldiers were themselves prisoners of the Serbs, helpless to prevent the slaughter and worried about escaping with their own skins.
The minister said that responsibility must be shared by all UN members, who did not provide the 34,000 troops promised to protect Srebrenica. He blamed the ''hypocrisy of governments'' that wanted to show they were taking action against genocide, but were unwilling to put their troops where their mouths were.
For the Dutch, spreading the blame did not remove the blame. Jan Hoekema, a retired diplomat, said, ''We always thought of Holland as a white angel in a dark world. Now we wonder if we are always heroes.''
Srebrenica is coming back to haunt the Netherlands. The UN War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague says it has evidence of the atrocities committed there and expects to issue indictments before the end of the year. And witnesses in the eventual trial will undoubtedly include members of that scared little Dutch battalion.