Tuesday, October 10, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [9]


Johnstone's ongoing crusade to drag all idealism down to the basest of levels continues unabated. This section of part 3 continues with the theme that all of the atrocities associated with the Bosnian Serb genocide campaign were, in fact, dreamed up by a Western media that was (take your pick) naive, gullible, biased, or conceptually boxed in by lazy Nazi parallels.

After my tale of woe two posts ago, I feel a bit sheepish rushing through a section in a perfunctory fashion, but trying to engage Johnstone's argument is more than a little like a cat chasing it's own tail. Since she does not believe there was any campaign of genocide in Bosnia--in fact, since she believes 'ethnic cleansing' was a dark fantasy imposed on the situation by outsiders--she also rejects out of hand any evidence--of which there is plenty--that there was a systematic effort to use rape as a weapon of terror against the Muslims of Bosnia.

Therefore, any efforts to investigate and document those rapes must--in her convoluted worldview--be politically motivated and biased. When you cut through all the bullshit, that what her case boils down to: there was no genocide, therefore no campaign of ethnic cleansing, and therefore the accusations of mass rape against Bosnian Serb units and paramiliataries are slanderous lies.

In case you wonder if I might be exaggerating her position by leaving out some of the nuance, I'll let her tell you:

"Muslim, Serbian, and Croatian women all reported having been raped. The mainstream media chose to play up stories involving Muslim victims, while ignoring the rape of Serbian women. To this bias was added a political twist: rape was "promoted" from a sordid personal crime to a central feature of the strategy of one of the warring parties."

[As an aside--note the quotes around "promoted." An especially snide touch--not out of character, but certainly out of place in this context.]

She backs up her assertions by the usual methods--as noted before, while this book was copyrighted in 2002, Johnstone seems to lack access to any reporting, invesitgation, interviews, or fact-gathering after 1993 or so. Sketchy preliminary reports from the early months of the war (which were often based on first-hand testimony; her absolute disregard for the veracity of first-hand eyewitness reports is pervasive throughout this book--a theme I need to examine at length in the near future) are held up to microscopic scrutiny; no further revelations or data are allowed into the discussion.

Early reports were, of course, inconclusive; they were not, however, groundless, nor were they based on Bosnian government propaganda. The reporters and activists who first brought the issue to the world's attention were not in command of all of the facts, but this does not mean they weren't on to something. Johnstone has chosen her ground wisely--a moral high ground defending impossibly pure standards of neutrality posing as objectivity.

To illustrate how laughably 'even-handed' she expected the media to have been, here is the first sentence of the final paragraph:

"A Serbian spokeswoman, Dr. Ljubica Toholj, claimed that almost all the Serbian women in northern Bosnia had been raped by Muslim mercenaries, who had come from all around the world in order to kill non-Muslims."

Yes, she seems to seriously believe that this charge should have received more consideration from Western NGO's and journalists. This is the same northern Bosnia where, it was well known, the Bosnian Serbs were having a great deal of early military success.

Do I need to say more? It's one thing to confront Johnstone's distortions, misrepresentations, interpretations, and even lies; but when the entire fabric of her argument is constructed from such fantastic notions, it's hard to find a surface solid enough to grasp; it's like wrestling with fog.


Owen said...

Kirk, I think you've identified the central issue - Johnstone like other partisans refuses to acknowledge the reality of the victims' experience, and the rest flows from there.

Srebrenica Massacre said...

Yeah right, Diane Johnstone is just blowing the wind.

The charge that all Serbian women were raped, and similar laughably ridicolous, inacurate, biased, and completely false accusation were central in Serbian propaganda which was one of the most important factors of genocide, mass executions, ethnic cleansing, and rapes in Bosnia.

Remember the charge that all Serbs were killed in Eastern Bosnia? Oh man, Serbian propaganda is just sick, poisoned with lies and voluntarily fabricated accusations.

She fails to mention the fact that less then 2,000 Serb civilians died in the war in Bosnia (see RDC info on my blog).

I am sick of these Serbian people and their apologists, they are bold faced liers, most of them.

Kirk Johnson said...

Dan, you are entitled to your opinion, but I don't think making blanket condemnations of Serbs is productive. It simply drags the discussion down to a level of tit-for-tat, with each ethnic group trying to outdo the other. Don't forget that Serbs often justified their actions based on past injustices done to them; is that legacy of paranoia, bitterness, and fear of the 'other' a heritage you want for the Muslims of Bosnia?

Anonymous said...

When I traveled through the Serbian held regions of BiH in 2000 by bus, I had a chance to see the situation as to damage, it was considerably less than in nearby Muslim or Croat held areas. I am reporting what I saw.
Usually the more military success the less damage to the area out of the front lines.