On April 5, 1999, Serbian police found a truck half-submerged in the Danube River. When they looked inside, they found it filled with human bodies. Following orders, they hid the truck and its contents. Two weeks later, on the other side of Serbia, the same thing happened.
The full picture would only emerge years later, when the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia investigated and prosecuted the chief architects of the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo. These cases, which formally came to a close in 2014, exposed a secret campaign to hide terrible crimes by transporting and concealing the bodies of the dead.
In Tell It to the World, Eliott Behar, a former war crimes prosecutor, tells the true story of what unfolded. He examines the causes and consequences of mass violence, identifying a powerful and disturbing connection between the justice we seek and the injustices we commit.
Published: January 3, 2015
“Man is not what he thinks he is, he is what he hides.” ~ Andre Malraux
Sometimes the things that make us uncomfortable are the things we most need to explore. This book is one of those instances. The content made me uncomfortable. It invaded my dreams. In the end, it did exactly what it was supposed to do. If you aren’t uncomfortable when you read this, there is probably something wrong with you. Despite the discomfort, and because of it, this book needs to be read.
The truck was piled high with human bodies, a heavy mass of men and women, intertwined.
While the content is not easy to read, Eliott Behar’s writing style certainly is. He manages to pull a multi-faceted and profoundly disturbing story together, telling it to us in a way that is easy to follow and impossible to ignore. His focus is largely on the ethnic cleansing within Serbia and Kosovo, though he also touches on Bosnia and other areas involved in the human rights atrocities of the ’90s. Throughout the book, he alternates a kind of educational narrative with his own personal experiences during the trial and the horrific personal stories of some of the survivors. The blend works exceptionally well. It’s easy to read cold facts, acknowledge them intellectually, and then move on. When these stories are personalized, the result is something else entirely.
At the root of this, I think, tends to lie a core conviction that their actions – the most brutal, inhumane, and unconscionable deeds imaginable – were justified.
Most of us here in the U.S. experience war and conflict from a distance. The fear doesn’t touch us, and so, perhaps, we don’t look closely enough at the kind of damage it does to humanity. Our history classes focus on facts and dates. Maybe it’s time books like this one were brought into the classroom instead.
The corpses began to appear individually, floating in the water around the perucac dam.
Thanks for reading. 🙂