Saturday, September 30, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [1]

After 22 posts, devoted to 40 pages of text (that's 1.8 PPP {'Pages Per Post'} for those of you keeping score at home), I finally was able to bid Chapter One, "THE YUGOSLAV GUINEA PIG," a fond adieu.

Even as I was ripping Johnstone's logic, moral bearings, and selective use of facts to shreds (not that I'm a particularly knowledgable or astute critic; shooting rhetorical fish in a barrel is tedious work but in the case of Balkan genocide deniers, someone's gotta do it), I was repeatedly struck by the impression that the entire chapter had the feel of an extended introduction. So many different themes and arguments were introduced and breezed through, so many assumptions were briefly introduced, and so many premises were referred to, that after going through the entire chapter in detail the reader is bound to expect further elaboration in coming chapters.

After all, Johnstone makes no bones about it--she is going against conventional wisdom in this book. She is making claims that Western governments, Western-dominated international organizations, mainstream media outlets, and the bulk of Western intellegensia colluded either deliberately or by unconscious acceptance of faulty imperialist logic and distorted facts. That's a pretty sweeping claim. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

And yet, as we've seen, she covers a lot of ground in Chapter One. It is not only a matter of questioning the conventional understanding of events, as we have seen--anything more than a cursory reading of her book so far reveals that Johnstone has embraced an ideological framework directly at odds with notions of individual rights, individual identity, and--most notably--individual conscience and responsibility.

Taken along with her blanket dismissal of genocide charges against the Serb leadership, suggestions of fascist conspiracies directly traceable to World War II, implied charges of an Islamic fundamentalist jihad, and a decades-long Western strategy to dismember Yugoslavia, Johnstone's explicit endorsement of the logic of collectivist group identity along ethnic lines and her insistance that international law somehow recogzine the tribalist dismemberment of a multi-ethnic nation-state is staggering; she isnt' merely jousting with conventional wisdom about the Bosnian War, she is refuting the Enlightenment, secular Western tradition.

You would think this would require more than 40 pages.

So I begin Chapter Two--"MORAL DUALISM IN A MULTICULTURAL WORLD"--with the expectation that the rest of the book would go on to flesh out the themes and arguments laid out in Chapter One. I have my sources ready (it is worth mentioning again that, by and large, Johnstone relies on the same books and articles I, and most likely anyone reading this blog, have read; her ability to quote approvingly from books such as Silber and Little's Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation while completely ignoring the inescapable conclusions the authors draw is quite amazing). I have my previous posts up on another browser window, since I assume we will be revisiting the same issues, and it wouldn't hurt to have me previous comments handy.

In short, I begin Chapter Two expecting Johnstone to really bring out the big guns. This, I suspect, is where the choir she is preaching to expects to get the payoff. Chapter One was the appetizer; now we're ready for the main course.

It took all of one page before the sinking feeling of deja vu confirmed itself; my hopes that her arguments would become more intellectually vigorous and substantial were cruelly mocked. After drearily trudging my way through the disingenuous, rhetorically muddied, conspiracy-insinuating Chapter One, I had hoped to encounter more full-blown, fleshed-out argument which are at least worth engaging. In Chapter One she had, on occasion, stumbled across a valid point or two; I was hoping to sink my teeth into some of these legitimate points in order to sharpen my intellectual focus and grasp of the events.

Alas, no. Chapter One, it turns out, was an introduction to nothing. She already has her cards on the table. In Chapter Two, she simply moves on to the next half-baked, occasionally incompatable mishmash of misused fact and tenuously implied insinuation.

Keep in mind, this book was published in 2002, not 1996. Many of the uncertainties and much of the misinformation that prospered during the chaotic uncertainty of the war has since been cleared up. At least, in the universe you and I live in. In Johnstone's world, fact-gathering and analysis stop wherever is convenient for her thesis.

Which is all a very long, convoluted way of saying this: Johnstone begins Chapter Two with the tired, discredited notion that the most famous and bloody single mortar attacks on Sarajevo were committed by the Bosnian military against its own people.

Yes, she brings these old charges back up, as if they are fresh, unknown to the reader, and unexamined by outside observers. After all the bombast and bluster of the first chapter, THIS is the best she can do. Johnstone has played her game so far as if bluffing is beneath her, clearly implying that she's holding such a great hand there is no need for her to stoop to our level and play the game. And then she shows us what she's got. And it's nothing.

In short, Chapter Two promises to get ugly; I've browsed through enough to note that we will be treated to the revelation that there were no concentration camps in Bosnia and that the allegations of mass rape were fabricated. For all her intellectual posturing, for all her efforts to play the cooly objective "progressive" intellectual, it all boils down to lying through her teeth on behalf of her ultra-nationalist allies. As it turns out, her tediously constructed thesis has leading precisely nowhere; her pedantically footnoted book, cobbled together from a hodge-podge of sources either dishonest or dishonestly used, adds up to less than nothing.

2 comments:

Owen said...

Kirk, obviously D. Johnstone will not have had the opportunity to incorporate the findings of the Krajisnik case into her analysis. On the off chance that she is avidly following your detailed exegesis, it might be helpful to draw her attention to the following two paragraphs of the Krajisnik judgment:

--

Para 1050: Stojan Župljanin, as chief of the Banja Luka CSB, represented one of those local
authorities. At a meeting of MUP officials on 11 July 1992, presided over by MUP Minister Mićo Stanišić, Župljanin noted, according to the minutes of the meeting, that
“The army and Crisis Staffs/Wartime Presidencies demand gathering as many Muslims as possible and leave such non-defined camps to the Internal Affairs. The conditions in these camps are poor: there is no food, some individuals do not comply with the international standards because, among other things, the concentration centres are not appropriate or for other reasons.” The meeting resolved to hold talks with the Ministry of Justice to solve “the question of the moving out of certain inhabitants, villages, etc. which is not the
jurisdiction of the MUP but some are trying to attribute it to the MUP”.

Para 1051. Hence, at least in early July 1992 Stanišić knew about the illegal and widespread detention of Muslim and Croatian civilians in inhumane conditions. He reported the situation to Radovan Karadžić and the Prime Minister on 17 July 1992 using words from the minutes of the meeting the week before: “The Army, crisis staffs and war presidencies have requested that the Army round up or capture as many Muslim civilians as possible, and they leave such undefined camps to internal affairs organs. The conditions in some of these camps are poor: there is no food, individuals sometimes do not observe international norms, etc. ... Special emphasis should be placed on the issue of relocating certain citizens, villages, etc. because this does not fall within the competence of the MUP”. Here is the
logic of ethnic cleansing cast in the banal language of officialdom: round up civilians, place them in camps, camps and their staff do not meet international standards, citizens and whole villages are thus relocated.

--

It seems that from the above that RS officials were happy to describe camps where civilians were collected in inhumane conditions as concentration centres. If Ms Johnstone is passing by perhaps she would be able to persuade me that I should not regard camps that were concentration centres where civilians were collected in inhuman conditions as being concentration camps.

Owen said...

Just to show the other side of the picture while Johnstone gives her version of the Bosnian government bombing its own people, here's what Ratko Mladic had to say in his 12 May 1992 discourse to the Bosnian Serb Assembly, cited in the Krajisnik judgment:

975. The Accused [Krajisnik] did not just know about the operations of Bosnian-Serb armed forces in 1992, he actively supervised them as a member of the leadership. The Bosnian-Serb Assembly was a forum for the formulation and coordination of military strategy. On 12 May 1992, in a long speech to the Assembly, General Ratko Mladic explained his “vision” that the Serbs could prevail in the territories they considered theirs without completely destroying the Muslims: “we cannot cleanse nor can we have a sieve to sift so that only Serbs would stay, or that the Serbs would fall through and the rest leave. ... I do not know how Mr. Krajišnik and Mr. Karadžiæ would explain this to the world. ... that would be genocide.” But there was an alternative to genocide. Mladic advised the Bosnian-Serb leadership on how to achieve controversial military objectives quietly, cynically, ruthlessly, while staying below the radar of international attention: “We should not say: we will destroy Sarajevo, we need Sarajevo. We are not going to say that we are going to destroy the power supply pylons or turn off the water supply, no, because that would get America out of its seat, but ... one day there is no water at all in Sarajevo. What it is we do not know ... And the same with the electrical power ... we have to wisely tell the world, it was they who were shooting, hit the transmission line and the power went off, they were shooting at the power supply facilities ... that is what diplomacy is”.