Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter One [21]


The first sentence of this section sets the tone:

"Izetbegovic was a man with a cause he considered sacred."

The insinuation that he was a fundamentalist intent of creating an Islamic state is clear; the use of the word 'sacred' has obvious religious connotations. The purpose of this section is to link Izetbegovic and the SDA with worldwide jihadists and Islamists. Izetbegovic was the leader of a nationalist party that appealled to an 'ethnic' group defined by relgion, the Slavic Muslims of Bosnia. Nationalist politics prevailed in the dying years of Yugoslavia. The Muslim-led Bosnia government, desperate to get weapons and aid from any source it could get them, turned to the Muslim world. Bosnia's government accepted any help the Muslim world was willing to offer in their desperate war for survival, and this included several hundred or even several thousand mujahideen.

Johnstone takes these few facts and juggles them fiercely, trying to create the illusion of a developed, cogent arguement. By ignoring both chronology and outside events (there has not been any mention of events in Serbia, both during and immediately prior to the Bosnian elections, for example), she attempts to create the illusion of having uncovered a vast Islamic conspiracy behind the SDA.

For example, she discusses the creation of ethnic Muslim militias in 1991, without context, to develop the illusion that there was a systematic and logistically advanced plan for war by the SDA leadership.

"This involved obtaining money, arms, and volunteers from Muslim countries. In May 1991, ten months before the proclamation of independence that set off civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cengic [an imam who served as deputy defense minister] gave written instructions to SDA party faithful from all over the Republic to form Muslim brigades under the command of General Sulejman Vranja, a Yugoslav army officer still on active duty. Needless to say, this clearly treasonable activity was kept secret at the time."

Needless to say, Johnstone does not discuss the prior development of much larger Serb militias in both Bosnia and Croatia; nor does she discuss the complicity of the JNA in the militarization of Serbian areas throughout those republics long before this May 1991 order. Her disproportionate outrage is not new, of course, but again a reasonably informed reader must balance outrage at her dishonesty with befuddlement at her motives; she has read the same books I have, for example--why does she pretend not to know these things?

She goes on:

"The prospect of war never deterred Izetbegovic. Once the war began, he wanted to keep it going, and even after Dayton, he continued to arm in order to be able to resume it. But there has never been the slightest suggestion by the International Criminal Tribunal that Izetbegovic's declared readiness to sacrifice peace might imply any responsibility whatsoever for the ensuing war."

I wouldn't bother with this lenghty analysis of her work if I didn't think Johnstone was presenting a point of view and an interpretation of events that needs to be addressed and refuted at length; I believe that the cause of Bosnia was one of individual human rights versus collective identity and generational guilt, of civic nationalism versus ethnic nationalism, and of secular citizenship versus tribalism. Still, there are times when I wonder if she isn't just batshit crazy. Simple distinctions sometimes confound her; her failure to grasp the true meaning of 'genocide' might be wrapped up in her inability to distinguish between different levels of war crimes, from isolated incidents carried out by rouge units versus predetermined state policies.

In the above quoted paragraph, I'm not sure if understands that it's not a crime against humanity for a head of state to lead his country in a time of war. His leadership might have been reckless, but Johnstone has been endlessly droning on about international law and other legalities throughout the book; Bosnia-Hercegovina was a UN member state exercising its right to self-defense. Even if you recognized the cause of Serb nationalism as a legitimate grievance, one would then need to concede the fact that the government in Sarajevo was fighting a civil war, which is not banned by any international body. Indeed, the UN has been historically reluctant to intervene in such internal matters, considering such intervention a comprimise of sovereignty. Why Johnstone would expect Izetbegovic to be charged with war crimes for carrying on in a war where his aim was to reestablish control over his own county is impossible to fathom.

She cannot, of course, concede that Izetbegovic and his government were fighting for anything noble--indeed, she charges him with trying to establish an Islamic theocracy at the expense of the Christian majority--so she therefore does not need to consider his reasons for rejecting 'peace' (a peace without justice).

Having breezed through a very truncated history of the SDAs' feeble attempts at self-armament in the months leading up to the war, she skips ahead five years to this scene:

"At Dayton, however, eager to secure a settlement, U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke finally lost patience with Izetbegovic. "If you want to let the fighting go on, that is your right," he told the Muslim leader, "but Washington does not want you to expect the United State to be your air force. If you continue the war, you will be shooting craps with your nation's destiny." Aside from the inappropriate nature of the metaphor (one cannot imagine the auster Izetbegovic "shooting craps" or having any familiarity with such an activity), Holbrookes' warning ironically echoed an earlier warning to Izetbegovic voiced by none other than the Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic--the very warning that was cited by the International Criminal Tribunal as the main evidence of Karadzic's intention to commit "genocide" (see Chapter 3)."

Now THAT'S some chutzpah...comparing Holbrooke's diplomatic strong-arming to Karadzic's thinly veiled threats; two very different men with very different agendas in very different situations. And the end result? She suggests that Karadzic's crude threat to exterminate an entire ethnic group was, in fact, nothing but reasonable words of caution to a relgiously motivated, blood-thirsty fanatic.

She goes on. The stage is set for one of the most unfortunate episodes in the war from the Bosnian side; the mujahideen units that fought on the Muslim side, mostly in central Bosnia. This post has grown long enough; perhaps it would be good to save this discussion for the next one, where we will finally put Chapter One to rest.


Shaina said...

Excellent job once again.

This sums it up perfectly:

[blockquote]"Simple distinctions sometimes confound her; her failure to grasp the true meaning of 'genocide' might be wrapped up in her inability to distinguish between different levels of war crimes, from isolated incidents carried out by rouge units versus predetermined state policies. "[/blockquote]

As you said, there is a difference between isolated war crimes and atrocities committed by rogue inviduals, commanders and units, AND a systemetic, top-down policy to commit pre-meditated crimes for the purpose of creating an ethnically pure state.

Reading Johnstone, I feel as if I have entered a vortex where common sense, morality, and common decency have been left behind and replaced with conspiracy theories and outright racism and bigotry.

Every "fact" she mentions is taken entirely out of context in order to fit her agenda.

And she seems to have no awareness of the irony of the fact that in her attempt to show that there was no genocide in Bosnia, and that the Bosniaks and Bosnian-Croats were the primary institigators of the war; she has utilized the same arguments used by the RS and Belgrade leadership to carry out genocide in Bosnia.

I don't even need to read the book to know that Johnstone makes no mention of Greek or Russian irregulars. The degree of her hypocrisy is amazing.

Owen said...

Kirk, you're giving us ample evidence of Johnstone's wilful and obvious sloppiness and a quick and easy way of judging the analytical competence of anyone describing her work as superb, incisive or similar.

Srebrenica Massacre said...

Another offensive lie is that war-time president Alija Izetbegovic was a mujaheedin or "Muslim terrorist" etc. Izetbegovic - leader of Party for Democratic Action - was one of key figures responsible for destruction of communism in Yugoslavia. He fought for democratic, secular, multicultural, and internationally recognized Bosnia-Herzegovina. He wrote several books analyzing Islam. Serb propagandists took some of his statements out of context, as Noel Malcom ("Bosnia: Short History") pointed out.

More than any other text, the Islamic Declaration is cited by Serbian nationalist propaganda as evidence of dangerous 'Islamic fundamentalism' in Europe which must be suppressed... or else. Often cited to justify persecution of the Bosnian Muslim civilian population during the former war, the Declaration and its author, Mr. Alija Izetbegovic, former president of Bosnia, have been demonized and frequently blamed for the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. One might explain these accusations as viscous political propaganda brought on by war. However, as early as 1983, Izetbegovic and his writings were the target of a virulent campaign against Islam in Communist Yugoslavia. This campaign had its contemporary roots in the early 1970's when Bosniaks were allowed for the first time to declare themselves as a national group, but its deeper roots may lie in what Serbian scholar Bogdan Denitch calls "the pathological suspicion and hatred of Muslim Slavs."

Serbian propagandists (and other left-apologists) took out of context President Izetbegovic's words from Islamic Declaration (Izetbegovic's book criticising Islamic governments): "There can be no peace or co-existence between the Islamic Faith and non Islamic institutions". Part II of the Declaration, "The Islamic Order," explains how Muslim society should be reorganized based on Islamic principles. Parts of this section are often quoted out of context to prove that the Declaration advocates violence. It is crucial to note that Izetbegovic was speaking here of Islamic countries in which false modernist or conservative Islamic doctrines have been institutionalized in the political and social system. He was simply criticising Islamic governments and in many instances praised Western achievements. He was not speaking of Western countries or his native Bosnia-Herzegovina (Bosnia is not even mentioned in the book). A close reading of the Declaration reveals that Izetbegovic was advocating a cultural, not a political revolution, especially in countries (like Yugoslavia) where Muslims were a minority. As Noel Malcolm pointed out, Bosnia was not even mentioned in Izetbegovic's book and he even praised Christian governments and Christian achievements in arts and science.

Kirk Johnson said...

Thanks to all of you for your kind and thoughtful comments. When I look at the fine work you all do and the depth of all of your knowledge and research, it's really humbling and inspiring.

I'm still mulling over my next post; I want to address the "Islamic Question" at some length. Post 9/11, Bosnian genocide revisionists seem to feel that the "Islamicist" label is a particularly damning tool to use against the Bosnian Muslim leadership. I think the subject of Islam needs to be addressed directly.