Christopher Hitchens on Military Intervention in Haiti and the War in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1994)
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Published on Jun 5, 2013
The Bosnian War, sometimes referred to as the War in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Bosnian Civil War, was an international armed conflict that took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1 March 1992 and 14 December 1995. The war involved several factions. The main belligerents were the forces of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and those of the self-proclaimed Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat entities within Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republika Srpska and Herzeg-Bosnia, who were led and supplied by Serbia and Croatia respectively.
The war came about as a result of the breakup of Yugoslavia. Following the Slovenian and Croatian secessions from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1991, the multi-ethnic Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was inhabited by Muslim Bosniaks (44 percent), Orthodox Serbs (31 percent) and Catholic Croats (17 percent), passed a referendum for independence on 29 February 1992. This was rejected by the political representatives of the Bosnian Serbs, who had boycotted the referendum and established their own republic. Following the declaration of independence, the Bosnian Serbs, supported by the Serbian government of Slobodan Milošević and the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), mobilized their forces inside the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to secure Serbian territory, then war soon broke out across the country, accompanied by the ethnic cleansing of the Muslim Bosniak population, especially in eastern Bosnia.
It was principally a territorial conflict, initially between the Serb forces mostly organized in the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) on the one side, and the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ARBiH) which was largely composed of Bosniaks, and the Croat forces in the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) on the other side. The Croats also aimed at securing parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina as Croatian. The Serb and Croat political leadership agreed on a partition of Bosnia with the Karađorđevo and Graz agreements, resulting in the Croat forces turning against the ARBiH and the Croat-Bosniak war. The war was characterized by bitter fighting, indiscriminate shelling of cities and towns, ethnic cleansing and systematic mass rape, mostly led by Serb and, to a lesser extent, Croat forces. Events such as the Siege of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica massacre would become iconic of the conflict.
The Serbs, although initially superior due to the vast amount of weapons and resources provided by the JNA, eventually lost momentum as the Bosniaks and Croats allied themselves against the Republika Srpska in 1994 with the creation of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina following the Washington agreement. After the Srebrenica and Markale massacres, NATO intervened in 1995 with Operation Deliberate Force targeting the positions of the Army of the Republika Srpska, which proved key in ending the war. The war was brought to an end after the signing of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina in Paris on 14 December 1995. Peace negotiations were held in Dayton, Ohio, and were finalized on 21 December 1995. The accords are now known as the Dayton Agreement. A 1995 report by the Central Intelligence Agency found that Bosnian Serb forces were responsible for 90% of the war crimes committed during the conflict. As of early 2008, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia had convicted 45 Serbs, 12 Croats and 4 Bosniaks of war crimes in connection with the war in Bosnia. The most recent figures suggest that around 100,000 people were killed during the war. In addition, an estimated total of 20,000 to 50,000 women were raped, and over 2.2 million people were displaced, making it the most devastating conflict in Europe since the end of World War II.
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