Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter One [22]

As I have noted, Johnstone chose to end Chapter One with a lengthy, multi-section attack on the SDA and Izetbegovic in particular; the gist of her argument is that Izetbegovic was an Islamic fundamentalist, and that the SDA was a religious party as much as an ethnic one. With nothing but very circumstantial "evidence," she implies (rather than directly charge, which would require contemporaneous evidence) that the government of Bosnia duped Westerners into supporting an attempt to establish an Islamic theocracy inside of Europe.

I think a disclaimer needs to be made here; there are certain unpleasant facts that lend themselves to distortion and disproportionate citation in the hands of those who would smear Bosnian Muslims and the SDA during the war years.

The SDA was a nationalist party, not a religious party, despite Johnstone's efforts to portray it as such (she even refers to it as a "religious party" in this section). Still, it is true that Izetbegovic was more devoutly relgious than the average Bosnian Muslim; it is also true that the party included a hardline faction that sought to 'Islamacize' the party, Bosnian Islam, and the struggle for Bosnia's survival during the war. And during the war, those within Bosnia's Muslim leadership who sought to achieve a more Islamic identity among their community achieved some small successes. Some of this success was reflected in the military, many units of which became more explicitly "Muslim" as the war dragged on.

Finally; the SDA and Izetbegovic reached out to other Muslim countries from the beginning, and these appeals increased as the war went on. The government and the Army of BiH received money and materials from many Muslim governments, including the Wahabbi regime in Saudi Arabia and the theocracy in Iran. Weapons were smuggled in. Finally, a significant number of mujahideen came into Bosnia; many of them were organized into units and incorporated into the Army of BiH.

Mujahideen units were formidable fighters; they were also ruthless and often cruel. Atrocities were committed; these units were infamous for collecting the heads of Serb soldiers. Many of these foreign fighters stayed behind after the war ended, setting up enclaves of Islamic fundamentalism near Zenica. Many others took advantage of lax wartime restrictions to acquire Bosnian passports and new identities. It is known that Al Qaeda had a presence in Bosnia during the war, and afterwords. Saudi money financed new mosques, as well as the teaching of Wahabbi doctrine. Burkas were seen more often on the streets of some Bosnian towns.


All of the above is true. Those of us who care about Bosnia and the ideals which its sovereignty, history, and culture represent do our cause no service if we do not face up to such incidents, where the government we supported (if Bosnia taught me anything, it is that in some situations, such as genocide, there can be no standing on the sidelines--one must choose) failed to live up to to the standards a secular, multicultural democracy should always abide by.

I do not fear such an accounting; just because the truth is more complicated and less clear-cut than one might first believe does not mean it ceases to be the truth. I knew very little about Yugoslavia, and essentially nothing about Bosnia, when the war broke out. My initial impressions were from CNN reports; at the time, I continued to get the vast majority of my information from the mainstream broadcast and print media. You can easily extrapolate the naivete and crudeness of my understanding of events at the time.

When the NATO war in Kosovo broke out, I found that the situation was different; I was excited that the Milosevic regime was finally receiving serious, sustained military reprecussions; but it was clear that most of the people I knew did not feel the same way. There was no enthusiasm for the war, no sense that a greater wrong was, however imperfectly, being righted. And there were disturbing signs that the campaign to end apartheid in Kosovo was being compromised by the Clinton administrations' politically motivated strategy.

I found myself struggling to articulate a compelling argument in favor of Western intervention in Kosovo; ultimately the discussion would encompass the rest of the former Yugoslavia and the wars that had torn the country apart. I had to revisit events which I understood viscerally but not particularly deeply. I realized I needed to learn more--a lot more--in order to understand the situation.

I'm sure my story is not unique, nor is it very interesting. I shared the above anecdote in order to illustrate that I am the sort of person Johnstone is hoping to rope in; for all her raging at the perfidy of Western elites and politicians, I suspect she knows better. She has, as already noted, read the same books I have, most of which come to very different conclusions than she does, and so she cannot be unaware that the actions actually taken by the U.S. and other Western powers most often did not match the lofty rhetoric and high ideals she disparages throughout this book. She wants to convince the poorly informed reader that he or she was duped into supporting...well, she doesn't really get to that. Western imperialism? The destruction of a successful socialist state? The establishment of an Islamist state in Europe? She alludes to much; she articulates little.


And so Chapter One sputters to what passes for a conclusion; a grab-bag of implied Islamaphobia, swipes at "illegal arms smuggling" (has she ever mentioned the massive logistical support the Bosnian Serb Army continued to receive from the JNA? Do you really need to ask?), along with a healthy dose of outrage at corruption among SDA elites and their cadres. The facts I listed earlier are, of course, combined with sinister quotes from Islamic supporters of Bosnia, and stories of squalid black marketing, bribery, and other venality.

The hope, I suppose, is to disgust the reader with the whole cause of Bosnia. Johnstone's world is where ideals and moral outrage go to die; there is nothing to believe in here. Rather than rally against real evil, in the form of genocide and institutionalized racism, she would rather look for any flaws in the victim. She prides herself on this; she believes that she is bravely destroying false illusions. But her perception is completely without proportion. In her determination to strip the Bosnian Muslims of any shred of unearned sympathy, she succeeds only in reducing all human endeavors to their worst moments, and all human activities to their basest motives. Like any self-righteous Puritan, she seeks to prove that you are nothing but your worst sins. When the Bosnians cry that they are being wrong, she smugly points at their own shortcomings and says "You see? Your sainthood is unearned." Her obsession with petty legalisms and minor contradictions have led her so far astray, she can no longer see what is in front of her; the large panorama of human suffering and misery is nothing but distant, emotionally overwrought images. She prefers to get up close, and snidely point out where the artist missed a brush stroke.


Srebrenica Massacre said...

SDA = Party of Democratic Action.

Her claim that this was an islamic party is just bald faced lie, she's insane. They hated SDA (Party of Democratic Action) because they stood up AGAINST communism and leninist socialism in Former Yugoslavia.

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Please come and leave a comment, I would like to hear your opinion.

And thank you for a great work that you are doing on your blog !!!

Srebrenica Massacre said...

One more thing, it's not a secret. tjere was around 300 mujahedeens in Bosnia fighting Serbs. Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina had around 200,000 members. So now, do your math and you will get under 0% of alleged mujahedens fighting for our cause.

What she failed to mention is that Bosnian Serb soldiers' military amblems were particularly religious in nature. For example, all their military amblems contained "GOD SAVES THE SERBS" message. This message is highly religious in nature and no secular army would cary that religious message on their amblems, unless that army was religious in nature.

Another thing, that she failed to mention was that many Christian extremists, Christian fanatics, and Christian terrorists fought for Serbian cause (example: Greek volunteer during the genocide in Srebrenica).

Owen said...

Kirk, your description of Johnstone's wilful disregard of the general picture of suffering is very well put.