Thursday, June 29, 2006

Link to interview discussed below

OK, time to dissect the Borojevic/Johnstone interview. First sentence of the first paragraph:

The Bosnia and Herzegovina's [Muslims] genocide case against Serbia-Montenegro, the first case in the history of that kind in which a whole country is being accused of genocide has been deliberated at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague.

Underlying the military and political conflict, the Bosnian War was, on one level, a conflict between notions of nationality and citizenship. The government of Bosnia and Hercegovina was, however imperfectly, fighting for the continued existence of a multi-ethnic republic. Crucial to this concept is the idea that the nation is made up of individual citizens. My contention that the Bosnian cause should have been important to Americans is based on this very premise. The United States of America is a land of free, individual citizens who are equal in the eyes of the law.

The difference between a concept of citizenship founded on individual rights versus a nationalism founded on ethnicity and what can only be considered a pre-modern sense of collective identity is absolute. They are not differing grades on the same scale; the two concepts are opposites and represent radically different ways of structuring a society and of conceptualizing the relationship between the individual and the State.

In this opening paragraph, the choice of terms is deliberate and telling. Borojevic explicitly places "Muslims" in parenthesis after the name of the country, which accomplishes two distinct but related propaganda aims.

First, it reinforces the notion that Bosnia was a "Muslim" country (and therefore should only include land where Muslims live, presumably). Simultaneously, of course, the implication is that ethnic Serbs are NOT Bosnians.

Second, the "Muslim" qualifier after the name of the country indicates that the action of the State is the action of the people. It is not the government of Bosnia and Hercegovina which is filing the lawsuit against the government of Serbia (once Yugoslavia); it is "the Muslims" suing "the Serbs." We are in the realm of collective identity and collective guilt now.

Once this shift to ethno-tribalism has been made, the next step--accomplished in the final part of the sentence--is to the terms of debate as explained above. It is true that no state has ever sued another state in the ICJ before. But Borojevic's choice of words--a "whole country has been accused of genocide"--is not accidental. Once you accept the logic of collective identity, then the guilt of the State must be assumed by 'the whole country'. Which can mean nothing more, and nothing less, than all Serbs. Even those who live outside of Serbia.

The logic of collective identity has run its course. 'Only Unity can save the Serb'? What a hollow promise that has turned out to be.

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