Thursday, October 05, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [5]


This next part of section two is predictable--Johnstone looks for examples of over-the-top media coverage from early in the war in order to demonstrate that "the Serbs" were demonized. As usual, she relies on very carefully selected reports in order to skew the numbers while painting a picture of a Western public being duped by a naive, crusading press.

What is most striking about the early paragraphs--in which she claims that fewer than 3,000 civilians were being held in camps in the fall of 1992 (and fewer than half of that number held by Bosnian Serbs)--is how little effort she expends on making such an outrageous claim. I'm not sure if she believes that a summary dismissal is all that is needed, or if this is part of a more clever approach, wherein she implies that the general impression the uninformed reader probably has (garnered from TV news broadcasts) is entirely based on smoke-and-mirrors by pro-Bosnian Western media. That approach would fit her thesis well, but considering how clumsy her polemic has been so far I doubt she intended such a sophisticated critique-by-implication. After all, her entire argument hinges on such a flimsy body of contrary "evidence" that I'd be mighty surprised to see her document these highly doubtful assertions more thoroughly.

So Johnstone relies in a single Red Cross report from early in the war--from a time when access to rural areas was limited at best, more frequently impossible--to claim that there were, in the fall of 1992, a grand total of 25 prison camps holding a total of 2,692 civilians. The woman who claims that even now, ten years after the fighing is over, it is impossible to know howm many people died in the war somehow is convinced that a preliminary estimate during wartime by on organization is definitive.

Not only does she claim that the number of camps and prisoners was small and that the numbers held by all three groups were roughly equal, but she comes very close to endorsing the military logic of imprisoning civilians in prisoner camps. The outbreak of the war is portrayed as a three-way landgrab for "arms factories and mountain passes;" the prisoners were unfortunate civilians of the wrong ethnic group in each area, respectively.

This section meanders quite a bit, and I know why--she does not dare get too close to the "Living Marxism" vs. ITN fiasco, since the courts, and the documentary record, have weighed in decisively on the matter. So she is reduced to skirting around the issue, playing semantic games with the media's choice of language rather than confronting the reality that Western reporters were (admittedly sometimes clumsily) trying to portray.

Instead of acknowledging the completely discredited provence of such statments, she quotes LM-associated journalist Thomas Deichmann as if he were merely another mainstream journalist; his ties to LM and to the Bosnian Serb leadership (he would later appear as a defense witness at the trial of Dusko Tadic, and gave sympathetic interviews to Radovan Karadzic). The lie (not a 'myth,' not a 'misinterpretation'--it's a flat-out lie) that the camp at Trnopolje was actually a safe refuge for Bosnia refuges get regurgitated here as if the ITN libel trial never happened and the extensive research done by Ed Vulliamy and others didn't exist.

In case you were wondering why she spent so much time documenting the relationship between PR firm Ruder Finn and the governments of Bosnia and Croatia, this section is ostensibly the payoff for that 'revelation.' The suggestion that these camps were concentration camps like the ones operated by Nazis apparantly all stems from a sustained propaganda campaign on behalf of their clients. She even goes further, portraying Karadzic as naively trusting, allowing reporters access to these camps out of goodwill. The Croats and Muslims, we are assured, most certainly did not allow such access. So the Serbs accidentally gave the hostile Western press the images they needed to demonize them.

Do I need to spell out all that is wrong here? Is is not a matter of record that there were many, many more camps than 25, and many, many more prisoners held by the RS forces than the 1,203 she allows? Do we need to quote from survivors of those camps (she sure as hell doesn't--she quotes Deichmann about Fikrit Abdic but far be it from her to let Abdic speak for himself)? Do we need to point out that Johnstone implies that ITN filmed misleading images but must avoid discussing the fallout of those accusations?

Most of all, do I need to point out that while it was problematic that the situation became over-generalized with sloppy, inprecise comparisons to the Holocaust, the real issue should be why the hell those people were in the situation they were in. And Johnstone is remarkably blase about that. And she somehow believes that it is possible to defend Serb tactics in the war without troubling about the strategic objectives of that strategy:

"...the most fundamental lie was to present the Serb campaign to secure a swath of defendable territory as a matter of "ideology" and "genocide." "

You and I might think that the reason the Serbs wanted swaths of 'defendable territory' might be worth investigating. You and I, however, are not Diana Johnstone. Her claim that the International Criminal Tribunal was waging a biased, politically motivated attack on Serbia's leadership is laughable considering the evidence at its disposal, but that doesn't seem to trouble her at all.

It's hard to get a handle on this section, as it essentially consists of Johnstone spinning her wheels in the muck of lies and self-delusion that is the stock in trade of the Bosnian Genocide denier. One last quote is worth note, however:

"If justice is the goal, those who advocate an international criminal court should be equally determined to establish an international court where parties considering themselves defamed can bring charges of libel. As it is, there is no recourse for political defamation of foreign leaders or nations."

Read that quote. And again. Think about how completely insane such an idea is, and how completely one's sense of proportion would need to be in order to equate crimes against humanity to supposed slights against political leaders. Think about what a farce such a court would quickly become were this to become a reality.

I didn't make that quote up--it's on pages 74-75 of the book. And yes, she goes on to make her point explicit--she really believes that the world needs a international court of libel so that Karadzic, Plavsic, Mladic, Milosevic (too late for him, I guess) and the Serbian people in general can sue Western leaders and Western journalists for libel. That is the conclusion Johnstone comes to.

1 comment:

Owen said...

The woman's bonkers, does she not understand that the doors of the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand are wide open to her maligned friends, just as fortunately they werer to ITN? I'm sure Messrs Carter-Ruck would have been delighted to offer M and K and M their services, as they did to Boris Berezovsky.

"On 6 March, libel proceedings brought by Boris Berezovsky (the prominent Russian financier and politician) against Forbes Magazine were settled with the reading of a statement in the High Court in London.

Mr Berezovsky (represented by Carter-Ruck senior partner Andrew Stephenson and partner Claire Gill) sued over allegations published in the 30 December 1996 edition of Forbes in an article entitled "Godfather of the Kremlin?" which related to Mr Berezovsky's business activities and his connections with President Yeltsin.

In the agreed statement, Mr Justice Gray was told that Forbes had falsely accused Mr Berezovsky of being involved in the murder of political rivals. The magazine accepted that there was no evidence that he was responsible for any murder and that it had been wrong to characterise Mr Berezovsky as a mafia boss. Forbes agreed to publish a correction, both in the magazine and on its website."