Friday, September 08, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter One [18]

Up to this point, there has been much in Johnstone's narrative to be appalled and outraged by. But nothing up to this point--her anti-cosmopolitan embrace of primitive tribal collectivism, her disregard for truth, her contempt for the victims of a vicious war--can compare to the moment, in the subsection entitled "Ideals versus Facts," on page 53, when Diana Johnstone makes the off-hand claim that there was no genocide in Bosnia. And then she goes on to drain the term "genocide" of any real meaning. It is a staggering moment, all the more so for being blandly included in a throwaway line, part of yet another dig at David Rieff. (Her contempt for Rieff's book--Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West--is one more good reason to buy a copy and read it).

This subsection, as mentioned yesterday, begins by snidely dismissing the tolerant, multicultural tradition of Sarajevo; it then brings up the activities of seperatist Croats in Hercegovina by of proving...something, I'm sure; then points out that even Rieff admitted that the SDA's commmittment to multiculturalism was fading in 1994 (without, you can be sure, examining the reasons WHY the Muslims of Bosnia might have began identifying themselves as 'Muslims' instead of as 'Bosnians' after years of ethnic cleansing and war); mentions the mujahideen who came to fight in Bosnia as proof that Izetbegovic and the SDA were closet fundamentalists; which brings us back to David Rieff, the archetypical Western Bosniaphile. It's a long paragraph leading up to her denial, but let's look at the whole thing:

"David Rieff's mother, Susan Sontag, actually attempted to turn Sarajevo into the Bosnia cult's vision of it by going there and staging Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot," in an apparant snipe at the "International Community" which was slow to rush to the awaited rescue."

Johnstone's snideness and contempt for Sontag's brave and decent attempt to stand in solidarity with the citizens of a cultured city under seige is sickening. It is beyond me why Sontag's action could in any way offend anyone's sensibilities.

"Meanwhile, her son seemed little concerned to separate fact from fiction in his zeal to prove his tragic thesis that Bosnia was the best of all multicultural societies, being subjected to "genocide," and that "the Serbs were the villains of the war." The press corps in the Holiday Inn knew that "to be fair and to be impartial are not the same thing," what mattered was to work up enough public indignation to force the West to intervene militarily on behalf of the Muslims."

Note the quotes around 'genocide.' And note the hyperbole being attributed to Reiff--that Bosnia was "the best of all multicultural societites,' something he did not claim.

"After his first trip to Bosnia in September 1992, to write for an American magazine on "ethnic cleansing," Rieff returned repeatedly, "resolved to write as frankly incendiary a narrative as I could," with the idea that what he wrote could end the slaughter. Rieff had no doubt: "ethnic cleansing was not just a war crime, it was genocide, pure and simple." But two pages later: "Ethnic cleansing was in part about making these routes secure from guerilla attack." That sounds more like war than genocide."

I cannot for the life of me fathom what the hell this twisted, sneering shell of a human being is getting at here. Is it not possible for an act of genocide to be committed as a military aim? Or does that make it 'merely' a war crime? Is Johnstone suggesting that only a universal plan of elimination, carried out under peacetime through industrial means counts as genocide? Or, as it seems, is she suggesting that ethnic cleansing is an acceptable military policy? Or that a large-scale war crime with a logical military objective is not, by definition, genocide?

I don't know. She doesn't know, either, I suspect, not that it matters. Her goal is not to illuminate but rather to obscure and occlude. I did not manage to finish my analysis of this chapter before I had to return it this afternoon; the next few pages go into more detail on body counts and so forth. Along with one last swipe at Izetbegovic and his 'Muslimness,' which was apparantly the legitimate threat the Bosnian Serbs were fighting against.

I'll get back to this book in the next couple of weeks, and pick up where I left off. But it is rather welcome that I'm forced to take this break right after this section. I need a break. I'm taking a vacation from Diana Johnstone. I promise to finish the job I've started--her lies and her corrupt reasoning should be confronted relentlessly.

Right now, I'm tired of trying to live in the cramped and convuluted moral universe Johnstone inhabits. I need fresh air, honesty, and decency. I'm tired of sterile, disingenuous legalisms and smug pseudo-sophisticated contrarianism. I'm tired of viewing the plight of the Bosnians--or anyone--as nothing but an intellectual construct, or a symptom of Western imperialism. I'm tired of this woman. And if I'm doing a decent job of conveying her views and her writing, you are, too.

11 comments:

Srebrenica Massacre said...

Hey Kirk,

I tried to post a message to your blog yesterday, but there was only an option for "Team Members" to post. I am glad you changed it to old way. This way, I can even post from home by selecting "Other" option. Anyways, I just want to say that it is a shame that Johnstone's book can be found in Canadian libraries. Genocide denial is crime in Canada, just as Holocaust denial is a crime in this country. So it is a shame that her book is readily available to school kids - her opinion doesn't contribute to peace, it only serves as seeds of hate. I blame Bosnian community for not doing more to protest this genocide denial book being kept in Canadian libraries. In fact, Bosniak community could have done a lot, but in fact - they did nothing. Politically speaking, they are one of the most disorganized groups in Canada. When it comes to lobbying and activism, they fail miserably. It's a shame.

Srebrenica Massacre said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Srebrenica Massacre said...

Kirk, also see this:

http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=23301331&postID=115768373624336162

Shaina said...

Kirk,

I completely understand your wanting to take a break from reading Johnstone's tome to ethnic cleansing.
You've inspired me to read another one of Johnston'e fellow travelers, Michael Parenti's To Kill A Nation.
Like Johnstone, he starts out with a reasonable premise (we do not intervene in humanitarian situations for purely humanitarian reasons). Like Johnstone however, he then somehow links being wary of NATO to supporting ultra nationalist Serb forces AND supporting genocide denial. His love affair with Serbian ultra nationalism is to such an extent that he actually makes the Republika Srpska as the epitome of liberalism and globalism etc. As far as I know, not even Johnstone makes that argument.

Beyond my repulsion at their arguments, I'm really glad that I read Parenti and that I've been following Johnstone's book via your blog. Their faulty logic they use to support what I concieve to be a morally reprehensible stance only reiterates my own views even more.

The only thing that surprises me is that there are people out there who take these arguments has having scholarly merit.
And the fact that you have been reciving some spam from visitors should be seen as proof that your analysis is doing a good job at poking holes in the genocide revisionist argument.

Shaina said...

Daniel,

have you read "This Time We Knew"?

I haven't read the book, although I have seen it at the library in the States. The book is a series of articles on the western appeasement/moral equvialency/bystander phenonenom during the Balkan war.

One of the chapters specifically deals with interest groups and lobbying and the role the Serbian interest group played in the United States.

Perhaps one of the best thing Bosnia had going for it was that in the States there was a lot of human rights organizations and interest groups which spoke out against the atrocities. Groups like Human Rights Watch, religious organizations like Jewish rights groups and the Quakers. Ethnic based human rights groups like the Arab Anti-Defemantion league.
It was probably the first time in history that Jewish and Arab interest groups were on the same side of the argument.
Furthermore, after the fall of Srebrenica mainstream right, left and center commentators were united in their condemnation of the UN's policy. Of course, it goes without saying that they were all motivated by different factors. But, just the fact that so many people with such varried views agreed on the same argument (if not always the reasoning behind that argument) is something of interest.
"A Problem From Hell: America in the Age of Genocide" gives a good introductory overview into the roles these various political organizations played in trying to get US intervention (or at least interest) in Bosnia.

I know that Holocaust denial is illegal in several countries. I also believe that Belgium was planning or it is on the lawbooks, to make denial of the Rwandan genocide a crime as well. I'm not sure if that is an actually law, or if they were just considering it. Belgium was of course the former colonizer of Rwanda.
On the otherhand, there are also countries like Turkey where writers have face persecution for discussing the genocide against the Armenians.

Anonymous said...

First, @ Kirk, this analysis was exhaustive and thorough, and really takes her book apart.
@ srm, I think the genocide itself contributed to the problem, people qualified and experienced in positions o f leadership, formal and informal were among the first to be killed.
People who as a group have been traumatized tend to have a hard time becoming an organized force whether socially or politically.
This is a direct result and aim of opression.
Katja of Yakima Gulag Literary Gazett

Owen said...

Kirk, I've just been rereading bits of Roy Gutman's "A Witness to Genocide". In cse you ever start to feel the sense of unreality overwhelming you as you plough through Diane in Wonderland a couple of quick pages of Gutman will serve as well as any bucket of cold water.

Srebrenica Massacre said...

anonymous, the fact that people are traumatized does not excuse their failure or unwilingness to be proactive against genocide denial.

Take Saint Lous for example. Bosniaks are percentage wise one of the biggest communities there. What have they contributed towards genocide denial? I don't see them commenting on my blog. I don't see them defending Wikipedia's Srebrenica Massacre article. I don't see them opening english sites and blogs against genocide denial and revisionism.

In other words, they take it easy and pass this burden to other folks.

And I am not going to waste my time on this for too long.

Katja said...

I have just spent some time looking into the situation in St. Louis. Yes the Bosniaks are about the largest non-American ethnic group there, they are also poor, the only community there that is poorer is the Serbs in St. Louis. Bosniaks arrived in the U.S. poorer than any Muslim group, including Palestinians.
They are mostly in entry level employment even though many of them had professional positions back in BiH before the war.
They are still a community in shock.
I remember when Vietnamese refugees came to the U.S. after the Vietnam war and some of the same situation was the case. People have to get established a little before they are able to put aside time for politics. Vietnamese are still not noted for their political activity. Very few enter politics and I don't think any have attained high political office.
The Bosniaks in the U.S. and Canada may have new reasons to feel afraid of involvement in political action and lobbying. I'm NOT saying this to excuse them, they should be doing something, but perhaps a lot of these folks don't even have relatives left back home, and that tends to break the ties to their homeland, and hence cause less motivation to be organized.
There is hope for the future if they maintain some cultural identity, and there is hope if they begin to prosper a little.
It would actually be good if the Bosniaks in the U.S. and Canada began to look at politics as a way to solve problems in the same way the Irish did in the U.S. There however were some cultural factors that led to the Irish doing this, despite a lot of political disunity. Language was one factor, most Irish who came to the States spoke at least some English, many were very fluent, more so than Americans of English ancestry!
I'm not sure such a group success for any ethnic group, let alone a Muslim ethnic group is even possible anymore. Part of the success of Irish political organization in the U.S. was it's corruption frankly!

Owen said...

Daniel, you're too hard on people who don't have your level of commitment.

What I've learned from Oxfam volunteering is that most people rightly or wrongly feel themselves too tied up with making ends meet and keeping their family together. What you have to do with them is give them something to do they think they can manage, something small, but where lots of numbers add up to something, like a very focused petition or a letter writing campaign where you provide the basic text that they can amend if they want.

For example next time Lewis MacKenzie spouts some rubbish in the Globe and Mail, circulate your Bosniak contacts with an e-mail to send to the G&M with a few examples of MacKenzie's more glaring errors and the comment that publishing MacKenzie doesn't do anything for the G&M's reputation as a trustworthy newspaper. That's easy enough for people to do and they can customise it if they want to get more involved.

(If the G&M don't respond then you do some e-mails to their advertisers. The media don't tend to like the idea of a lot of people telling their customers that they're rubbish.)

That's just an example, and once you've given people something easy to do, you'll find that with luck some of them will come back and want to do more. But don't load them with anything too complicated to start with.

Owen said...

In fact Daniel, one thing you could do is ask your contacts in the Bosniak community to check whether their local library stocks Fools' Paradise, and if it does, get them to write to the head librarian asking whether it stocks books presenting the balancing view to this extremely biased author.

Never ask librarians to withdraw books, it smacks too much of censorship to them (unless, that is, you want to create a bit of a furore in the local newspapers and you're prepared to handle the flak!). However librarians tend to be people who are interested in presenting more than one side to an argument, particularly if a controversy might get people interested in using the library.

So prepare a standard letter and draw up a short-list of books like Postcards from the Grave from which the letter-writers can pick one or two to suggest the library stocks as an alternative point of view.