Sunday, August 20, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter One [9]

4. GREATER SERBIA OR SMALLER YUGOSLAVIA?

This section discusses the above question--were 'the Serbs' fighting for the former or the latter?

(Ever the tribalist, Johnstone never trifles with analyzing the political leadership of the Knin breakaway Serb entity--Milan Babic and Milan Martic merit all of one mention apiece in this book; neither of these solitary respective citations are in any section of the book dealing with the outbreak of war in Croatia or the rise of Tudjman and the HDZ).

As this chapter progresses, Johnstone ventures further and further down the road of ethnic nationalism and collectivism. The slide into a de facto defense of ethnic cleansing and is beginning to pick up steam in this section. The implicit pro-Serbian nationalism of her thesis is becoming more explicit, although she continues to present her views under the guise of disinterested, anti-establishment analysis.

This section contains a few howlers. Here's one:

"During the period of the Yugoslav break-up, Milosevic managed to co-opt Serbian nationalism, while keeping his distance from nationalist ideology. It may be suggested that he thereby prevented the rise of such a truly nationalist leader as Vojislav Seselj."

Given that Milosevic was instrumental is helping Seselj in his rise to power, and that for many years there was tactical cooperation between Milosevic--a master at keeping himself at a distance from the dirty work done on his behalf--and the Serbian Radical Party leader, 'it may be said' that it takes a hell of a lot of nerve to write crap like that with a straight face.

How about this excerpt from the final paragraph:

"Much more could no doubt be said about what was wrong with Milosevic. If using criminals for dirty tasks makes him a criminal, then he may be considered a criminal--but surely no more (or, rather, less) than the late President Tudjman of Croatia or President Alija Izetbegovic of Bosnia, widely regarded as a saint."

The reek of unsubstantiated innuendo is strong here. Of course, she is most likely referring to a variety of incidents, most of them well-documented (Johnstone counts on the reader having delved no further into the Yugoslav crisis than watching TV news and reading the occassional front-page story; she assumes a level of credulousness on the part of the reader that would be insulting if one was inclined to take her seriously), such as the Bosnian governments' initial reliance on gangsters and other underworld types for the defense of Sarajevo. And an entire book could be written on the level of black market profiteering and corruption that went on at, behind, and between front lines throughout the war.

But to examine any such incident in detail might risk putting the issue in context; it's all well and good to imply that the defense of Sarajevo was morally comprimised by having been carried out by gunmen, drug-runners, and other assorted thugs, but you run the risk of noticing that the forces attacking Sarajevo were suspiciously well-armed and equipped. One reason Milosevic didn't have to resort to using crooks to do his dirty work was simply because he had the resources of the original Federal government, not to mention the JNA, to work with.

I would also mention that I don't know many people who consider Izetbegovic to have been a 'saint,' although--unlike Milosevic--he at least isn't disqualified by virtue of having betrayed, and later most likely at least endorsed the murder of, his best friend and mentor.

Or how about this, a couple of sentences later:

"Unlike other, Milosevic was virtually forced to resort to extra-legal means to enable his country to survive despite severe economic sanctions."

Speaking of taking a lot of nerve--that Johnstone has the audacity to make this claim by way of comparison to the man who led Bosnia during the war is obscene. What, one wants to ask--no, demand of--her, were the hardships and obstacles Izetbegovic faced? Is she so blinded by her pathological support of Serbian ultranationalism that the glaring moral hypocrisy of this statement simply escapes her?

8 comments:

Shaina said...

Great post.

Your title reminds me of the discrepancy I've seen by the Milosevic apologists over what the Serbian war goal was.

The majority proclaim that Milosevic was merely trying to keep the country of Yugoslavia united.
But, I've also seen people proclaim that the Serbian government was trying to help protect the Bosnian Serbs and their rights to self determination.

Those goals seem at odds with each other. On the one hand, there is the suppossed goal of keeping the multi-national, multi-ethnc country of Yugoslavia united. In this case, the Slovians, Croats, Bosniaks are portrayed as ultra-nationalists; while Milosevic is portrayed as the epitome of socialism, multi-culturalism etc.

On the other hand; for those who claim that Milosevic and Serbia were just helping their fellow Serbs in Bosnia fight for independence; "nationalism" ceases to be a dirty word. Instead, the the goal is self determination and national independence.

Your point on Johnstone's hypocritical view on the defense of Sarajevo is well taken.
It is well known that the Bosnian government relied on known criminal elements and gansters to help defend the city; but as you said; Johnstone ignores the fact that Milosevic/Karadzic had the full power of the JNA weaponary and most of the soldiers; as well as the fact that they were the ones that were attacking the city.
It should also be noted that it has been well documented that Milosevic relied heavily on the criminal element in Serbia to fight the war as well.

The fact that Johnstone mentions the use of gangters in Sarajevo, while not putting the war into context or mentioning that Milosevic used gangsters as well; shows how biased she is.

Owen said...

"Milosevic was virtually forced to resort to extra-legal means". What does she mean by this? My guess is that she's saying that he took action that she'll concede was close to the boundary between legal and extra-legal but she believes he stayed on the legal side of the line.

Does she specify what she's actually referring to here, so that we can make our own judgment?

Kirk Johnson said...

No, Owen, she very pointedly does not specify what she means. In fairness, I'm reviewing this book as I go along. I may discover that she covers this ground in more detail later on.

Kirk Johnson said...

However, Owen, I take it to mean that she acknowledges that he crossed the line by engaging in smuggling and contraband in order to deal with the sanctions. The whole you-can't-blame-a-starving-man-for-stealing-a-loaf-of-bread-to-feed-his-family arguement.

Kirk Johnson said...

Thank Shaina. Your response and attention mean a lot.

Good catch on the contradictory nature of those two claims. The inconsistent nature of the case Johnstone and company make in favor of Milosevic involves a lot of logical inconsistancies such as this one.

Srebrenica Massacre said...

Oh... Johnstone is so sickening, it trully sickens my stomach to read her 100% pro-Serb sidedness. Her reason is clouded by hate and she suffers from Islamophobia - hardly curable psychiatric disorder.

jurjen303 said...

Kirk wrote: One reason Milosevic didn't have to resort to using crooks to do his dirty work [...] .

Two words: Arkan's Tigers.
Despite (as you rightly note) having the resources of the federal government at his disposal, Milosevic did resort to using gangsters and other criminals in the pursuit of his objectives, and the leaderships in Knin and Pale were more than willing to accept this help.

Kirk Johnson said...

Of course you are correct, jurjen303. Shaina also noted this, in a comment above yours.

I was referring to the siege of Sarajevo specifically, but the generic nature of my comment was unfortunate--it cannot be stressed enough that much of the killing done in the name of "ancient ethnic hatred" in Bosnia was actually committed by a relatively small number of criminals employed by the Serbian state, and directed from Belgrade.