Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A medal with meaning

American defense secretaries are not the only ones who make headlines because of controversial reality-defying decisions.

In Holland recently Dutch Defence Minister Henk Kamp decided to award service insignia to 850 troops -- including 450 who were deployed with the UN in Srebrenica in July 1995.

That is the time when Bosnian Serb forces captured an area that was supposedly a UN safe zone and slaughtered up to 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men. They are still uncovering and digging out the mass graves 11 years later.

Some people blame a weak, cowardly,uncaring UN force with protecting themselves and allowing that massacre of civilians. Other say the Dutch troops were outnumbered and have been wrongly blamed for failing to prevent something they could not do anything about. No one's really figured out the culpability of the UN for luring civilians into a combat area with that misleading label of "safe zone." Apparently members of the force in Srebrenica have suffered a high rate of depression and PTSD.

Whatever the reality is -- can the fix really be to give out medals? Would you want one of those medals if you'd been in that place?

The Bosnian government has protested to the Dutch about the insult, especially to survivors and relatives of the victims of the massacre. A number of association have also expressed disbelief and outrage. People I've asked about it just kind of smile incredulously and shake their heads.

The head of the Srebrenica Mothers Association said Kamp's decision was "scandalous, shameful and humiliating for the survivors of the massacre."

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