Desolate lands – Dutch lieutenant – Peace Keepers – Destiny – Freedom
On the way to Nasca we traveled with a Dutch couple from the eastern part of the Netherlands. We traversed some of the most desolate lands in Peru. This arid region sees very little rainfall and is home to some of the strangest monuments on earth. Fantastical creatures are etched in the pampa and a huge candelabra has been drawn in a mountainside that is best seen from the sea. The landscape of mystery and the desolation provides a great stage for conversation and debate.
Robert was a lieutenant in the Dutch army and his partner a social worker who aided the unemployed with expanding their skillset to become employable again. We talked about many things but the topic of Srebrenica has been on my mind since then. One of the lowest points of humanity in the past twenty years, it still has an effect on the Dutch psyche because of the role they played in it.
The Dutch force of several hundred was posted in Srebrenica as peace keepers. Maybe their presence under the auspices of the United Nations gave the inhabitants some measure of security that the Serbian method of ethnic cleansing would not come to pass in their neighborhood. As the large and highly organized Serb army approached the safe zone the Dutch commander called for airstrikes in their positions, a request that was denied, the explanation being that such an action would exceed the scope of the mission. When the army arrived in the town the Dutch were given a choice: die fighting or comply with Serb orders. Armed with small arms against tanks and artillery pieces the Dutch commander chose the latter over certain death.
The Serbs decided that some of the population needed to be relocated and demamded that the Dutch help in the process. Thousands of Bosnian residents were gathered up and loaded onto buses to be transported out of the area. The Dutch, convinced that this was the only option, complied with the orders. The order to transport turned out to be a lie, of all the deportees only women and children survived, the men were taken away and systematically massacred. After discovering the horror that they had been a party to, ten Dutch soldiers commited suicide. The commander was transferred to a dead-end post in the United States, and the world learned the true meaning of ethnic cleansing.
Now if we believe in destiny and that everyone has a role to fulfill, as our current President frequently states, then we should not be troubled much by Srebrenica . It was preordained and scripted to the last detail, with Serb villians, Bosnian victims, and unwitting Dutch accomplices. Given that none had any freewill in the matter is impossible to pass any kind of value judgement on either of the parties – they are not good or bad, just fulfilling a role set before them by destiny. Believing in destiny can also be remarkably freeing as well – if everything is preordained then may as well act any way you wish…
So there is the conflict – freewill or destiny. I somehow do not think everything is preordained. A huge script that goes exactly according to plan strikes me as a little boring, things have to be a bit more interesting than that. I believe that we all have free choice at any give instant of existence, everything is wonderfully unscripted and our freedom limitless. Of course we have no proof either way, and either world view is consistent and self-sustaining.