Wednesday, September 06, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter One [13]


This final section, an assault on the very idea of Bosnia, is where Johnstone really lets it all hang out.

"Having decisively contributed to the violent distintigration of multicultural Yugoslavia, the West proceeded to idolize one of the fragments as a multicultural Eden: the central Yugoslav republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina."

In this opening sentence, Johnstone prepares to marshall her selectively chosen facts and chronologically convoluted narrative to do battle with yet another strawman of her own creation; in this case, a 'West' that has "decisively contributed" to the outbreak of war in Yugoslavia. And yet again, she deliberately conflates media coverage and political rhetoric with actual policies and actions taken by governments. Like Parenti and others, Johnstone's bizarre assertion that the West was trying from the beginning to break Yugoslavia apart is based mostly on media rhetoric and generally toothless political pronouncements. And even then, one must ignore something as fundamental as the sequence of events before and after the outbreak of war.

"For complex historical reasons, deeply rooted in the consciousness of the people, the balance in Bosnia depended on its insertion in a balanced Yugoslavia."

Ignoring the pompous tone of this sentence (terms like "the consciousness of the people" reveal why Johnstone is so easily swayed by nationalist bombast), one has to ask three questions:

1) Is this true? What are these complex reasons? She doesn't tell. Perhaps its something along the line of the facetiously 'traditional' "narod/narodnost" distinction?

2) If this is true, why is it true? Bosnia and Hercegovina existed for centuries prior to the founding of Yugoslavia; the ethnic and relgious demographics of the country had always been in flux, and neither the founding of the Kingdom after World War I or the founding of the Socialist Republic after World War II changed that fact. Why had the "balance" within Bosnia become untenable outside of the Yugoslav framework?

[NOTE: This is not necessarily an invalid point. As mentioned earlier, the nationalist 'pull' of neighboring Serbia and Croatia (still within Austo-Hungary, but home of a rising sense of national identity) in the 19th Century had contributed to the growing sense of 'Serbness' and 'Croatness' among Orthodox and Catholic Bosnians, who began to 'become' Serbs and Croats; in more recent time, the designation of 'Muslim' as a nationality--and migration to and from the Sandzak--had a related effect on Muslim Bosnian, although they natually remained more attached to their Bosnia identity.
However, in order to address this point, Johnstone would have to acknowledge and confront the rather fluid and imprecise nature of national identity among the South Slavs; this would undermine much of the collectivist/tribalist logic of her arguement. So even if she is aware of this possible avenue of inquiry, she rightly smells danger and avoids it).

3) What of this "balanced Yugoslavia"? Without Slovenia and Croatia, and with Vojvodina and Kosovo under Belgrade's thumb, wouldn't her own logic compel her to reexamine the situation?

She does address the third question, sort of:

"The secession of Slovenia and Croatia unbalanced the Yugoslav Federation, increasing the relative weight of Serbia. This was not to the liking of Muslim or Croat leaders in Bosnia-Herzegovina, nor to the government of Macedonia."

It is interesting to note that, while Johnstone always refers to 'the Serbs' or 'the Bosnian Serbs,' here she is careful to talk about Muslim and Croat leaders. The better to suggest treachery and conspiracy later, we can assume. We already know what she thinks of Croatia's leadership (note also that, at this point in the book, Radovan Karadzic has yet to be mentioned, nor has Momcilo Krajisnik--Biljana Plavsic is not cited in the index at all).

Having acknowledged that a "balanced" Yugoslavia no longer existed--in fact, having essentially conceeded that the Yugoslavia that Bosnia was being asked to stay in was Serb-dominated, she promptly drops the matter.

The really important point, she goes on to point out, is this:

"The Bosnian Serbs were vehemently opposed to secession from Yugoslavia. They considered that without their consent as a "consituent people," secession and the referendum were illegal>"

So while Muslim and Croat leaders played dangerous games with a volatile situation--ultimately plunging the country into the abyss at the prodding of their Western masters--the Bosnian Serb people stood on principle as a group. The contrast is the way she portrays these different groups is starkly revealed here.

But, at any rate, Bosnia's Muslim-led government--along with the Bosnian Croat community--were foolish enough to listen to this presumed chorus of Western pressure. The EU's admittedly foolish handling of the situation is not, in her telling, a mitigating factor to the tragedy that befell the country; rather, the EU, and the Muslim-led government in Sarajevo bear the primary blame for starting the war. A more startling refutation of well-documented facts and any reasonable interpretation of events is hard to fathom.

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