Friday, August 18, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter One [8]


It is not a secret that there were atrocities carried out against Serb civilians during the Yugoslav wars. Individual units of the Bosnian army, as well as individual soldiers, sometimes committed horrible crimes. The same was, unfortunately, true of some Croatian units and soldiers. Given the nature of the HDZ, it should come as no surprise that there were incidents which were more systematic and authorized; or that the Croatian authorities were less than forthcoming.

I'm going to sound callous here, perhaps, although I certainly don't intend to. There was a massacre of civilians at Gospic during the initial war in Croatia. Over 100--120 is the total as far as I know--Serb civilians were murdered by Croatian paramilitary forces in a campaign that was far from random or spontaneous. And although it was the bloodiest such incident, it was not the only one. Ethnic Serbs, and some non-nationalist Croats, were targeted.

There is no excuse for such incidents. The fact that they occured after the outbreak of hostilities, including the brutal seige of Vukovar, of which Johnstone, predictably, has nothing to say, does not in any way mitigate this war crime.

The problem is that Johnstone discusses it in a vacuum--there has been no acknowledgement of the rise of Serbian nationalism, of the increasing belligerence of the Knin Serb leadership, of the disarmenant of the Croatian Territorial defense by the JNA, or, indeed, of the fact that the Gospic massacre occured while the war in Croatia was being waged. I run the risk of playing the same game the genocide deniers do--excusing one atrocity by claiming it was merely 'retaliation' for other, earlier atrocities committed by the other side.

But Johnstone, interestingly, isn't using that strategy here (although, at Srebrenica, the tit-for-tat, bad-things-happen-in-wartime line is the basis of her revisionist history). She is not bringing up the horrors of Gospic in order to excuse or justify JNA atrocities and aggression. As noted above, she does not even acknowledge such incidents. The seige of Vukovar is never mentioned in this book, for example. In Bosnia, Johnstone at least feels compelled to provide some sort of justification for and/or obfuscation of widespread atrocities against the Muslim population. In Croatia, the presumed heirs to the Ustasha regime require no such intellectual and moral reconfiguring. The Croats were nothing but resurgent fascists, and this one, decontextualized (there's a term the revisionists are very familiar with!) atrocity suffices to make the case for the Krajina Serb rebellion and the JNA invasion.


Daniel said...

Hi Kirk,

Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina was multi-ethnic military force that fought against Serbs, Croats and even Bosniaks in Western Bosnia. Some individual crimes were committed, there is no denial that 2,000 Serbs died in Bosnia, some from Serbian shells, some from individual crimes committed by Bosniaks. However, on the other side, there is over 8,000 slaughterd Bosniaks in Srebrenica alone. Serbs were the only one who committed genocide.

Look what genocidal Serbian forces did in Bosnia, follow this link:

Kirk Johnson said...

Thanks for your input Daniel.

I am aware that the Bosnian Government army (you'll note I avoid the incorrect term "Bosnian Muslim Army" that gets thrown around) was multi-ethnic.

I am actually arguing against the relativist argument that 'all sides committed atrocities so all side are equally guilty.' I hope I am making that clear throughout my blog. It is just that this particular section of Johnstone's book focuses--disproportionately, and completely out of context--on one horrendous war crime committed by Croat forces against mostly Serb civilians. I thought it was important to go on record against any such war crimes.

You would think such an attitude would go without saying, but then again, you know how these Balkan genocide revisionists are.

Suada Bešlagić said...

Good post. Diana Johnstone does not hold Milosevic, Karadzic, and their forces responsible for any of the atrocities carried out in the former Yugoslavia, since all these atrocities were provoked or engineered by the West or the Croats or Muslims anyway (Srebrenica, Sarajevo), or were exaggerated (Srebrenica, mass rape) or didn't happen (concentration camps). Many are never mentioned by Johnstone at all (Vukovar, eastern Bosnia).

But by a curious sleight of hand she portrays all Croat, Muslim, or Albanian atrocities against Serbs as in no way related to previous aggressive policies by the Milosevic regime. For example, as you say, she mentions the Gospic massacre of 50-100 Serbs (ICTY indictment numbers) by Croat ZNG troops and police, claiming that it occurred in September 1991, and that this was the first major massacre of civilians during the Yugoslav Wars. Leaving aside the fact that it occurred in mid-October 1991, her claim that it was the first major massacre during the Yugoslav wars is just an attempt to vilify Croatia and blame it for the war; not to mention that this atrocity occurred at the height of war after numerous similar Serb atrocities (e.g. at Kozibrod, Dalj, Lovas and Široka Kula), and during the fierce battle for Gospic, which had been under constant attack by the JNA and Croatian Serb forces since August 1991. In a much more egregious example, later Johnstone mentions Naser Oric’s small scale raids against Serbian villages around Srebrenica and is ready to excuse the Srebrenica massacre by reference to this, but does not mention the incomparably larger in scale Serb offensives and atrocities in the same region that preceded them (e.g at Zvornik, Visegrad, Foca, Bratunac, Vlasenica, Srebrenica itself). Nor does she mention the fact that the Serbs were besieging and shelling Srebrenica, creating a humanitarian catastrophe in the enclave. She does not mention how Srebrenica became an `enclave' in the first place: through Serb aggression against, and conquest of, East Bosnia in 1992, and the systematic campaign of killing, mass rape and expulsion of the Muslim population that this involved - against which the Srebrenica Muslims were temporarily able to hold out as an `enclave'.