[Was the “Srebrenica genocide” something that was readily detectible around the time it occurred, or was it a scenario that was constructed after the fact, almost as a propaganda afterthought? Professor J. P. Maher (University of Illinois, Linguistics, ret.) offers some intriguing insights through a study of the temporal distance between the events of July 1995 and the public debut of some of the key terminological markers of the institutional Srebrenica narrative.]
No reports from 10 July 1995 and ensuing days and weeks refer to “the massacre of 8000 (or 7000 etc.) Muslim men and boys”. When did commentators first start using the formulation, the catch phrase?
From Iran there is no mention of a massacre having taken place:
“Iranian foreign minister [Ali Akbar] Velayati, in a message to the UN secretary-general, has asked for immediate action to prevent a massacre of the defenceless people of Srebrenica by the Serb rebels.
From the front, there was never any mention of a massacre having taken place. Journalist Chris Hedges in the New York Times of 18 July 1995 reported that thousands of armed Muslim fighters “slipped” through Serb lines under fire, and after arriving safe in Tuzla, were held by Muslim forces (and at the site of a US garrison).
Between the week starting 11 July 1995 and the first press reports of a purported massacre over a month passed. David Rohde (Christian Science Monitor) did not use any such phrase or make claim of “Srebrenica massacre”. He in fact did not report from Bosnia, but posted his articles from Zagreb (Croatia). In The Guardian of 19 August 19 1995 he wrote only: “I saw what appeared to be a decomposing human leg protruding from freshly turned dirt…”
Rohde repeated Ambassador Madame Albright’s fabrication about a massacre in a soccer stadium in a nearby town, where: “…human faeces, blood, and other evidence indicated large numbers of people were confined, and perhaps shot.”
America’s UN Ambassador Madeleine Korbel Albright brought the earliest allegation of a Serb massacre of Muslims on 11 August, 1995. The chief United States delegate to the United Nations told a closed session of the Security Council that 2,000 to 2,700 missing Bosnians from the Srebrenica enclave “might have been shot by the Bosnian Serbs.” She did not use the formulation “Srebrenica massacre”.
However, uncertainty characterizes a UN report: “United Nations officials estimate that 4,000 to 6,000 Muslim men are still missing in the wake of the Srebrenica and Žepa assaults.”
In a piece in The New Republic of 7 August 1995 Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote an op-ed under the headline: “After Srebrenica.” Brzezinski wrote only that something awful “might happen.”
24 July 1995 Newsweek wrote: “…Perhaps 3,000 younger men from Srebrenica, many [sic] of them Bosnian government soldiers, had fled into the woods and dodged the Serb invaders, and some made their way to Tuzla.”
That catch phrase “Srebrenica massacre of 7000-8000 Muslim men and boys” does not appear until weeks after the alleged event. It will not be found in the press until the American-Croatian joint enterprise “Storm” (Oluja) on Serb Krajina in August-September 1995.
For months, even years, the press is full of stories about women from Srebrenica demanding from Muslim Bosnian officials to learn where their missing men were.
If one brackets 10 July 1995 and the beginning of October 1995, search engines like LEXIS-NEXIS now permit us to track press reports on whatever story using the parameters:
Srebrenica AND massacre
Srebrenica AND missing
Srebrenica AND 7000 OR 8000
7000-8000 men and boys …
In a US State Department briefing on 27 October 1995 Nicholas Burns is quoted as saying:
“We believe that several hundred—and perhaps as many as 1,000 or more—men and boys were separated from the refugees by the Bosnian Serb military forces. These are Muslim and Croatian men and boys. We don’t know what happened to them...”
The New York Times of 29 October 1995 read:
“…the summary killing of perhaps 6,000 people. …shots [ i.e. aerial photos] taken by a U-2 spy plane two weeks later of freshly turned earth in the same fields were first shown to U.S. President Bill Clinton’s top advisers Aug. 4…
“On July 11 the Bosnian Serbs captured Srebrenica. 15,000 people—mostly the men, including the local soldiers—gathered on the outskirts of Srebrenica… Safety lay a three-day trek away, through Serb-held territory. The march began just before midnight.... “]
Associated Press reported on 16 November 1995:
“As many as 8,000 people are missing… the Clinton administration has accused the Serbs of killing as many as 2,700. Other estimates put the death toll as high as 4,000.
“Even a year later, women demonstrated in Muslim-controlled Bosnia, sometimes violently, demanding to know the fate of their men from Srebrenica.”
On 29 November 1995 The New York Times read:
“Wednesday up to 5,500 civilians are still missing from Srebrenica four months after rebel Serbs overran the Muslim enclave, Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali said in a report to the U.N. Security Council.... Estimates of the number of missing civilians previously ran as high as 8,000, but the ‘best current estimate’ is between 3,500 and 5,500, Boutros-Ghali said in the report.”
Stemmatology (stemmatics): The establishment of family trees has been refined over centuries of transmission of ancient texts to establish the original text and subsequent copyings. The method is closely analogous to modern cladistics (branching) in DNA analysis. A striking feature of the ICTY’s Krstić and Popović judgments is their non-lawyerly language, which closely resembles the rhetoric of journalism, especially advocacy journalism. This, and not witness testimony from the late 1990s on, is the source of the ICTY’s arguments. Contemporary reporting from eastern Bosnia at the time of the fall of Srebrenica in mid-July 1995 lacks these markers. They begin to appear at the earliest a month later. A crescendo of catch phrases is reached two months after the events of July 1995 and has been sustained in boiler plate ever since, especially the syntagma “the Srebrenica massacre [of x-thousands of Muslim men and boys]”.
Meanwhile, in numerous reports contemporary with these rhetorical patches, government functionaries declare their lack of information of what really happened.
J. P. Maher, PhD
 Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran Network 1, Tehran, in Persian 0930 gmt 11 Jul 95; Source: Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran Network 1, Tehran, in Persian 0930 gmt 11 Jul 95; SECTION: Part 4 Middle East;
THE MIDDLE EAST; IRAN; ME/2353/MED. Message to UN secretary-general. Text of report by Iranian TV on 11th July.
 Federal News Service.