Thursday, November 30, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Three [2]



Because Johnstone can't wait to get to the good stuff, she starts off her survey of "nationalisms" with an unsurprisingly laudatory history of Serbia and the concept of Serbian nationalism. She sets the tone in the very first sentence:

"The principal difference between the Serbs and the others was their attitude toward the preservation or destruction of Yugoslavia."

Given the 123 pages of implied tribalism and ethnic nationalism preceding this quote, this casual use of the terminology "the Serbs" versus "the others" crosses the line into self-parody. Her slavish defense of Serbian ultra-nationalism and its actors has simply short-circuited any capacity for critical thinking. It's worth nothing before I go any further, that she is, in a way, being more honest than she realizes--this truly is a history of Serbian nationalism, not of actual Serbs. She is only interested in 'Serbs' as members of a tribe defined by late 18th/early 19th Century nationalism and by the Serbian state. The actual, complicated story of the Serbian people, their roots, the history of their interrelation with other Balkan peoples, simply doesn't interest her. I don't think Johnstone really cares about the actual Serbian people; I just think she finds their recent history a convenient stick with which to beat the Western governments she hates so much. That the most extreme manifestations of Serbian nationalism are so accommodating to her post-Stalinist collectivist mentality makes the marriage all the more perfect.

Her selective history of the breakup of Yugoslavia continues in the next sentence:

"The leaders of each of the other nationalist movements needed to break up Yugoslavia in order to create an independent state apparatus of their own."

The amount of well-document information about Yugoslavia in the late 1980s and early 1990s one would need to ignore in order to be able to write that sentence is staggering. This entire book is loaded with footnotes; clearly Johnstone means to impress with her extensive scholarship. Yet what is most impressive here is the deft job of dodging the vast body of evidence and scholarship done by others on the subject. Willful ignorance of this caliber needs to be recognized.

Johnstone returns to the "Smaller Yugoslavia versus Greater Serbia" theme from earlier in the book:

"Serb opposition to dismantling Yugoslavia was inevitable considering the Serbs' population distribution and political history."

We will examine the implications of this statement, and continue with the analysis of the book, tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Three [1]


Diana Johnstone sets her sights on Balkan history in this chapter. She intends to set the record straight about nationalism in the former Yugoslavia. The title of this chapter, "Comparative Nationalisms" really says it all. Apparantly, Ms. Johnstone isn't quite finished lecturing us ignorant Westerners.

This should be fun.


This chapter, like the others, is broken into sections. As before, she sets it up with a brief, introductory paragraph. And, as usual, she gets it wrong from the get-go.

"Throughout the 1990s, "nationalism" was widely denounced, with the Yugoslav disaster given as the prime illustration of where it could lead. However, the condemnation of Serbian nationalism as the arch villain supposedly opposing "multiculturalism" led to tacit endorsement of the sparatist nationalisms that were tearing apart the multinational state of Yugoslavia. Anti-nationalism in theory became pro-nationalism in practice."

Johnstone must get lonely a lot; how else do we explain her fond attachment to that great strawman, the Clueless Western Idealist. Did you know that all those people speaking out against alleged genocide in Bosnia were really just misguided advocates for "multiculturalism"? (Must remember the quotes--regular readers of this ongoing review will recall how putting words in quotes when nobody is being quoted and/or the word is being used in its proper context is a bizarre Johnstone specialty).

Other than that, we are in familiar territory here; the Serbs only wanted to keep Yugoslavia together, it was the other national groups who wanted to tear it apart, etc. Remember, throughout this chapter, that Johnstone is operating under the twin assumptions that:

1) the national identities of different Yugoslav groups were fixed, collective in nature, and grounded in distant history; and

2) the borders of the republics--especially Bosnia--were merely administrative borders dating from communist rule. The historical basis for Bosnia's modern borders don't exist in her world; then again, she doesn't acknowledge the historical basis for the Bosnian state, period.

We will touch on these points repeatedly. These two premises underly much of the analysis which follows.

I will begin section 1, "From State-Building to State-Breaking"--her survey of Serb nationalism--tomorrow.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Housekeeping, and some final thoughts on Chapter Two

I had not meant to let two weeks pass without posting. I wish I could report that I have thoroughly edited and corrected my posts so far; that, however, is not the case. I have only begun proofreading the Word document versions of my "Fools' Crusade" extended review/critique/expose, let alone transferring those corrections to the posted, online versions. I don't know when I'll finish the job. I've been busy with other things. I finally started writing a novel the week before last.

However, I'll continue plugging away at the rewrite process. In the meantime, I have saved all my posts so far into three Word documents (one for the introduction, one apiece for Chapters one and two) which I'd be happy to email to anyone who wants them now. You'll have to accept them warts and all, however. I can't promise I'll be done cleaning them up before, say, Christmas, although I'll try.


I have ordered a new copy of "Fools' Crusade" through interlibrary loan, and I expect it to arrive sometime in the next week. I will begin working on Chapter Three as soon as I have it. Originally I had hoped to finish this project by the end of January; unless I pick up the pace considerably, I don't see that happening. The extra time I spent on Chapter Two and my two-week hiatus have put me behind schedule. Not a major problem, except that there are some other books and articles I'd like to write about. I'm itching to deal with the issues in "Bosnia After Dayton" by Sumantra Bose, for example. And with Kosovo back in the news, the status of Republika Srpska is certain to become an urgent matter.

That said, I vow to be as thorough in the remaining three chapters as I was for the first two and introduction. I have somewhere between 90-100 pages of text saved in Word from the blog so far, and considering how sloppy the prose sometimes is--not to mention my atrocious spelling, a shortcoming I've long since resigned myself to (I can't explain it, it's just a fact--I'm a terrible speller)--the work of reshaping my long, meandering response to this horrid book into something more concise and focused seems daunting enough, and I'm only halfway done with the 'rough draft.' But, after all, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step...I've no idea how many steps I've taken to this point.


As for final thoughts on Chapter Two...where to begin? Johnstone's petty and disproportionate focus on decontextualized legalisms is so obtuse and removed from any flesh-and-blood connection to the specifics of reality, it became difficult at times to even find a place to tether my counter-arguments. I constantly felt that for every point she offered, I was obliged to re-visit old ground yet again, and to reiterate what should have been an accepted body of fact and evidence. Her assumptions existed on a foundation so dubious that to take her arguments at face value is almost to concede defeat; her task was seemingly not to win her point to drag the discussion back to a level where simple facts and fundamental common sense were themselves in question.

We'll see how Chapter Three goes. Check back here in a few days.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [36]


Johnstone criticizes the idea of an international criminal court on the grounds that "no court can function without a police force." She essentially asks: Who will police the police? In our society, democratic accountability and civilian oversight are supposed to do the job, but Johnstone considers the Western democracies to be imperialist bullies and their publics to be naive dupes; no hope there.

Since she pre-emptively concludes that no effective checks could be placed on any international enforcement agency, such as NATO, she arrives at this conclusion:

"And here we approach a conundrum, which it is dangerous to evade: how can the law judging war crimes ever be other than the law of the victor?"

Not an unfair question, but given the current geopolitical situation this is, as I've pointed out earlier, setting the bar far too high. A new global order must start somewhere; someone must pick up the mantle in lieu of an effective world government. While she argues that any attempt to set up the ICC essentially condones the belief that "might makes right," she ignores the unfortunate reality that might is sometimes necessary.

She goes on a little longer, and while I have conceded that she has the germ of a good point here, her approach is clumsy and sometimes lets her anti-Western bias show through; as when she says that "Many in the West consider the Soviet Union under Stalin guilty of appalling crimes..." Yes, well. "Many" do.

Which leads up to this crude bit of false equivalence:

"Absolute unchallenged power creates absolute impunity, and the current imbalance of power in favor of the United States is not a favorable environment for the establishment of a balanced system of international justice. In a more balanced world, an international criminal court could be the appropriate jurisdiction for clearly international crimes, such as, for example, the alleged involvement of Osama bin Laden in the World Trade Center suicide bombings. Assuming it was planned abroad, that was indeed an international crime. So was the U.S. sabotage of Sandinista Nicaragua, the U.S. invasion of Granada, the clandestine U.S. encouragement of drugs for arms deals in various parts of the world, and so on."

You can feel Johnstone straining to make this simplistic and reductionist parallel seem fresh and insightful; the "alleged involvement" of bin Laden in the World Trade attacks merely one mark in the assets column, versus multiple debits like Granada, Iran-Contra, and so forth. It's a tired line of reasoning; that it is premised on a cultivated lack of proportionality and perspective is ironic since she is bringing it into a discussion about "a balanced system of international justice."

"Thus it is significant that up to now the call for ad hoc "international criminal tribunals", and even the arguments in favor of an international criminal court, have focused primarily on the prospect of punishing famous perpetrators of essentially internal crimes (General Pinochet, Pol Pot), described as "crimes against humanity".

So, you have the invasion of Granada versus four years under the Khmer Rouge. And the primary distinction to be drawn is...jurisdictional. By Johnstones's own logic, worked out throughout Chapter Two and examined in previous posts, no international body would have the capacity to understand, the clarity to judge, or the authority to intervene. The sovereignty of the state trumps the rights of citizens.

"This focus of "evil dictators" conveys the message that they can be stopped, judged, and punished by the benevolent outside intervention of the "International Community". It enforces the dualistic view of an essentially good Western imperial condominium obliged to punish "bad" men who trouble the moral order."

I wonder how carefully some of the Serbian nationalists who've welcome Johnstone (Borojevic, for one) have read this book. Pol Pot? Pinochet? Sure, she has a lot of good stuff to say about Serbian nationalism and Milosevic and so forth, but are they fully aware of what they have signed up for here?

In the final two paragraphs of Chapter Two, the mask comes off.

"If presidents are to be tried in criminal court for acts committed during war, incidents immediately come to mind that could justify putting U.S. presidents on trial." What about the repsonsibility of the U.S. president for the My Lai massacre in Vietnam?

I have not encountered any proponant of the ICC who has suggested that presidents should be tried for crimes committed by individual soldiers or civilians during wartime; this isn't a nuance of meaning she is missing here, it's the fundamental premise of international justice. I don't understand how Johnstone can compare LBJ's responsibility for My Lai to Pol Pot's responsibility for the Cambodian genocide so glibly, but she does. Johnstone has succeeded in changing the terms of debate, but by way of creating an absurd caricature of the original issue.

The first sentence of the final paragraph says it bluntly:

"A major obstacle to any universal justice at present is the obvious fact that the prime suspect in truly international crimes is likely to be the U.S. government..."

The defense of sovereignty is really a battle in the war against globalization; which, in turn, is just US/Western imperialism. At the end, this long chapter just turns out to be a slightly more sophisticated version of Michael Parenti's "whatever bad things you can say about Milosevic, at least he was against the Americans" revisionism.


And with that, believe it or not, Chapter Two is finished. I plan to review what I've written so far, and correct misspellings and some grammatical errors; then I will invite anyone who is interested to email me, and I'll send you Word files of the entire review so far. After a few days reflection, I hope to have some final thoughts and observations about Chapter Two and the book so far. Then I'll be ready to tackle Chapter Three.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [35]


The first paragraph of this section, summarized in my previous post, was naive nonsense. However, beginning with the second paragraph, Johnstone does confront a real, and serious, issue.

"The experience of the ICTY should give pause even to those who are enthusiastic about the project for an International Criminal Court (ICC). Unlike the ad hoc tribunals, the ICC is intended to be universal. But is this possible? In reality the project raises problems that have yet to be solved satisfactorily."

[as always--underlined words were italicized in the original text]

The first sentence is her predictable jab at the case against Milosevic and the Serb leadership, but the rest of this paragraph addresses a genuine concern--where would the ICC derive its legitimacy and its authority from?

I wrote earlier about Johnstone's implicit belief in the sanctimony of sovereignty. Regardless of her dishonest motiviations, issues of sovereignty and the legitimacy and authority of international actors will need to be addressed if humanity is to craft a new, better world order. If we are to overcome national divisions and craft better solutions to war, racism, religiously motivated violence, terrorism, and environmental catastrophe, we will need to address these issues.

However, conceding that Johnstone has a good point is one thing; discerning any intelligent or reasonable analysis on her part is quite another. And the signs are not good:

"There is no authentic justice that is not applied equally to all."

This might be a lovely slogan for a an idealistic protest march, but this level of sanctimonious absolutism just isn't very useful when trying to create realistic, possible solutions in the current geopolitical climate. It is not cyncial to say so; nor is it narrowly incorrect. If the international community had managed to respond promptly and robustly in Bosnia and managed to fully prosecute war criminals after the end of hostilities, but completely failed to take any action during or after the Rwandan genocide (which is, grievously, essentially the truth)--would the justice served to war criminals in Bosnia be "inauthentic"? Were the Nuremberg trials less authentic because Stalin was getting away with mass murder in the USSR?

For all her pretentions to hard-headed realism, Johnstone is reliably simple-minded and unrealistically fundamentalist in her assessment of the issue, even putting her genocide revisionism aside. She goes on to assert that:

"The Hague Tribunal has already shown that selective justice results from the political bias of the most influential powers, the prejudices created by mass media and finally from budgetary constraints."

This is a statement open to question, to put it mildly. But while we can dismiss that allegation out of hand, the next charge needs to be more forcefully rejected:

"An international tribunal simply lacks the means to judge equitably all the various crimes that may be committed in the course of violent civil strife or war. Serious detective work at a long distance, sifting truth from lies in distant countries torn by civil conflict is a mammoth, not to say impossible, task."

And yet, she has written a book that purports to tell the real story of what happened in places like Trnopolje and Srebrenica. Even if she were to counter with "I don't pretend to know the whole truth, her objections are ridiculous. The anchronistic "distant countries" in an age of satellite communications and internet access is laughable; her assertion that it is impossible to get a reasonable picture of what happened in a country during a time of war is so baldly stated I had to reread it several times to make sure there wasn't some nuance or extra word I was missing. This is simply a ludicrous statement.

Still, she manages to top it:

"It is neither politically nor financially feasible for an international court to prosecute all the dreadful human rights violations that take place around the world."

And since justice cannot be authentic unless it is applied in all cases at all times, the only conclusion one can draw from this is simple: Since we cannot fully and completely carry out justice in every single situatin, we must refrain from attemptint to do so at all. If we cannot have perfection, we must have nothing at all.

Why is this? Why insist on such an impossibly high standard of purity and perfection?

"Inevitably, a few spectacular cases will be singled out by the interests of Great Powers, media attentiona and financial support. In short, an international criminal tribunal is almost certain to turn into an international political tribunal that stages show trials of scapegoats."

You see? It's those damn Western Imperialists again, those turn-of-the 19th-Century "Great Powers" she invokes against so reliably. The dirty hands of politics will soil the purity of the maiden known as international justice; we must not let them get their filthy hands on her. Better to keep her looked up, safe from any threat of becoming soiled with worldly knowledge.

The ICC will continue the ICTY practice of accepting funding from governments and anyone else who cares to fund their work. Johnstone assumes this will guarantee justice for wealthy Western nations; as if no oil-rich autocrat has spare change laying around. She also points out that the UN Security Council will have control over initiatives by the ICC, which she believes will guarantee "Great Power" hegemony. As if Russia and China always work in cooperation with the US, and always will.

She goes on to note that "no court can function without a police force." NATO is the ICTY's police force, and she asks:

"And if NATO were ever to commit war crimes, who could the Tribunal send to arrest NATO?"

Given Johnstone's inability to make qualitative distinctions and reliably interpret quantitative information, we can only speculate on who--individually, or collectively--she might mean when she refers to "NATO" committing war crimes; the leadership, individual soldiers and units, the entire organization as a whole, the nations providing troops and support, etc. She certainly doesn't trust the citizens of the Western democracies--particularly the United States--holding the most power and clout within the organization.

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [34]


Johnstone's remarkable capacity to trivialize the deadly serious and bulldoze a sweeping and varied topography of human struggle, suffering and conflict into one, blandly undifferentiated moral landscape achieves something of a pinnacle in the opening sentence:

"Since war is itself the breakdown of law, order and justice, stopping war would seem to be more important than attempting to turn it into yet another object of courtroom proceedings."

Johnstone seems to be defining war as some sort of contagen or social process. Comments such as this betray her lack of sophistication and nuance; for all her excoriation of "naive Westerners" she tends to rely on hyperbole and uninformed naivety.

War is, of course, more than a "breakdown" of law and order; such conditions are often a consequence of war, of course, and certainly areas suffering from armed conflict generally experience lawlessness and chaos. However, she seems to confuse the symptom with the disease; I'm tempted to create a Venn diagram for her benefit. Think she'd appreciate the gesture?

As for war being a breakdown in "justice," one must ask why she assumes this is so; is she therefore stating that justice is, by definition, an automatic condition of peace? Or is it the other way around? I assume so; this is not the first appearance of this parallel in the book. Earlier, she criticized the Izetbegovic government for, in essence, not giving the Bosnian Serb Republic what it wanted in exhange for peace, regardless of the justness or fairness of such a peace. There may well have been many Bosnian who would have happily traded justice and an integrated Bosnia for peace--especially had they known what was coming--but that is not the issue. One wonders what Johnstone believes is important; what, if anything, would be worth fighting for. The people of North Korea have known "peace" for decades now; is that peace preferable to the instability and chaos likely to come when the current regime begins to crumble?

Her self-righteous cluelessness continues in the next sentence:

"It is remarkable how certain ICTY jurists take it for granted that there will be more and more wars, and are comforted by the prospect of regulating these wars by judicial institutions."

What is remarkable is how Johnstone presumes to know how ICTY jurists feel and think about their work. It is also remarkable that Johnstone expects this hard-headed international tribunal to call for the world to hold hands and sing Kumbaya rather than deal with reality. One reason to assume that there will be more wars in the future is that the history of civilization suggests that this will be so. A reasonable person might believe that establishing a new standard of international justice might be a positive step towards restricting and discouraging future wars; Johnstone wants it all now, or nothing. Or, she wants nothing now so she can scold incessently. It's hard to tell what she wants, or expects, frankly.

"The aspiration seems to be to make war more sporting, a game to be played within rules."

Keeping in mind that Johnstone was earlier complaining that international law did not exist to make the world perfect, only to establish some guidelines of accepted behavior. How this is different, she does not say, most likely because she doesn't care. And this is, to be honest, just a very stupid statement.

But not as stupid as what comes next:

"This is grotesquely inappropriate for modern warfare, which has been transformed by technology into a merciless slaughter of innocent bystanders."

Would somebody please tell this woman that World War I is over? This statement is so hopelessly wrong and outdated, I don't know where to start. The latest military technology makes it easier to kill bystanders; smart bombs sometimes make mistakes, but it is a safe assumption that the US Air Force won't repeat the carpet bombing tactics of World War II and Vietnam in Iraq or Afghanistan, or anywhere else. By way of contrast, please note: the genocide in Rwanda--around 800,000 human beings killed in the very definition of "merciless slaughter"--was carried out with clubs and machetes.

Monday, November 06, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [33]


Johnstone concludes her review of the "factors" involved in the Western case against Milosevic with this claim--that NATO committed crimes equal to, or greater than, those committed by Serb police and military forces in Kosovo, and that the charges brought against Milosevic were drummed up by the US and NATO in order to justify their military action against Yugoslavia post de facto.

Because this two-page section takes us out of Bosnia and into Kosovo, I am not going to give the issues she touches on all the attention they fully deserve, even though the situation in Kosovo was, of course, directly related to the war in Bosnia. The NATO war in Kosovo is another issue, which deserves a fuller study than I can give it right now. The NATO military action against Yugoslavia in 1999 operated under a different dynamic and reacted to different circumstances than the long drawn-out Western responses in Bosnia. However, there are some points worth noting:

"The NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia, initiated on 24 March 1999, were in flagrant violation of international law on numerous counts. Yugoslavia was attacked, without any mandate from the UN Security Council, although it had not committed any act of aggression against any other country."

Putting aside Johnstone's ever-disproportionate sense of selective outrage, it must be noted that, especially in the second sentence, she is technically correct, at least in regards to operations in Kosovo (Johnstone is not willing to acknowledge the reality of JNA and Serbian paramilitary operations against Croatia and Bosnia, but since those wars had ended some years earlier we will let that pass). Kosovo was, and remains, part of Serbia.

Johnstone is consistant on this point--the sovereignty of a state trumps the rights of individuals within that states. The world community has been grappling with the problem of sovereignty for some time now; the former Yugoslavia was only one arena in which this question has been relevant. At what point do the internal affairs of a sovereign nation become the business of the outside world?

This isn't the first time Johnstone has stumbled across a good point; as always, she fails to grasp it. Instead of acknowledging that the international community came up against a somewhat new problem and was feeling around for a suitable response--including a coherent ideological/intellectual framework--she concludes that she has found another convenient stick with which to beat the Western conspiracy against Serbia. And after getting her whacks in, she tosses it aside.


She has nothing to say about the situation in Kosovo, of course. She believes that the US indictment against Milosevic was brought to The Hague as the war was still going on in order to justify it in light of civilian casualities in Serbia and growing opposition in the US. Which might be partially true. The Clinton administration had many conflicting motivations going into Kosovo; their spotty track record in Bosnia certainly being one of them. No reasonable person can doubt that in Kosovo, the US regarded Milosevic as some sort of "unfinished business" from Bosnia.

If Johnstone were seriously interested in some of the international legal implications of NATOs war against Yugoslavia, this section might have been worthwhile reading. But she isn't, and it wasn't. As an example of the laughable nature of her analysis, I present this quote:

"The Yugoslav government itself tried on 29 April 1999 to institute proceedings at the International Court of Justice in The Hague against NATO governments for a broad range of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Western media, in brief reports, let it be known that such an intitiative was "not serious." "

Again, if her intent was to question the impartial nature of international justice by asking whether a small nation can effectively use the institutions of internatinal justice against powerful nations, she might have an interesting and productive line of inquiry going. But Johnstone's vision is narrow and petty; she only wants to discredit the West on behalf of her nationalist heroes.

The section ends with Johnstone decrying the government of Zoran Djindjic (who, she explains, had "risen to power on Kostunica's coat-tails with much financial backing from the United States and Germany"--I'm assuming she's not all that distraught over his murder) for turning Milosevic over to The Hague. "Serbia got virtually nothing for selling its former president," she complains, raising the question of why a nation should be conpensated for surrendering a man who started four bloody wars and tore the delicate social fabric of his neighbors to shreds.

Lecture at Bosnian Embassy

I attended a lecture last Thursday--November 2, 2006--at the Bosnian Embassy at 2109 E Street NW in Washington, D.C. Igor Davidovic and Osman Topcagic spoke on Bosnian Integration into the European Union. I was a little late, and I didn't take notes, so I apologize that I cannot provide a better report of what was said. But the lecture was well-attended, and two former US ambassadors were present, as well as representatives from Slovenia, Macedonia, and Bulgaria; and possibly others as well.

The mood was positive; both Davidovic and Topcagic are optimistic about Bosnia's ability to comply with EU requirements and qualify for EU membership. They understand that Bosnia must move forward with the process.

Someone asked a question about police reform. The answer, briefly, was that while that is an issue which must be dealt with, it is not currently a deal-breaker; the process can continue to move on while necessary reforms are worked out.

I wish I had been able to attend the entire lecture; I also wish I had been able to record the proceedings. Obviously, the lecture was for public consumption and accentuated the positive; still, I did not get the impression that the two men were wearing rose-colored glasses. One point that was made--entry to the EU is not a zero-sum game; the more Balkan nations that get in, the better. Serbia was mentioned--specifically, the dely in negotiations stemming from the failure to arrest Karadzic and Mladic. Both men agreed that Serbia needs to get in as well.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [32]

The final "factor" regarding Srebrenica, in Johnstone's "analysis":


She doesn't even wait until the actual text to begin lying this time; contrary to what she assert in this title, the mass executions at Srebrenica bore quite a bit of evidence of prior planning and systematic execution. If Johnstone can come up with a convincing reason why a Bosnian Serb force intent on a rapid, retaliatory raid into the outskirts of Srebrenica just happened to have bulldozers handy, I'd love to hear it.

"Much is made of the facct that when they captured Srebrenica, the Serb forces filtered the men of military age from women and children, who were offered safe passage."

Her definition of "safe passage" certainly differs from mine, even without the endemic rape. She does not have another word to say regarding the treatment of the women, children, and elderly civilians of Srebrenica; not where they were sent or under what conditions. More to the point--she does not mention how many of them ever saw their loved ones again. While snidely asking for satellite pictures of slaughters-in-progress and crunching numbers with suspect data, Johnstone never considers that if one really wanted to know if thousands of Muslim men were killed at Srebrenica, one could merely ask the people who knew them and miss them the most.

"This was often mentioned as something particularly sinister."

It takes a particularly calloused and empty soul to write such a sentence, given that even if she is right about the massacre, such a move would have seemed incredibly "sinister" and terrifying to the people going through it. How could it not?

"However, one thing should be obvious: one does not commit "genocide" by sparing women and children."

One thing IS obvious: Diana Johnstone does not understand what genocide is. She is divorced from reality, decency, and common sense.

"The men were singled out partly because the Serbs could exchange Muslim POWs for Serb POWs."

Civilians--even of military age--are not POWs. It is interesting that Johnstone--who doubts everything, even eyewitness testimony--is so certain about Bosnian Serb intentions and plans. Not only does she always know what they were thinking and planning, she never has any doubt as to motive.

She does go on to admit--in the most roundabout way possible--that Muslim men of military age were massacred; by soldiers looking for revenge against Oric and his troops, and to "eliminate easily a part of the enemy's war army." She concludes this blase admission with:

"The Serbs themselves do not deny that crimes were committed."

Some do, some don't.

"Part of a plan of genocide? For this there is no evidence whatsoever."

By her own admission, women, children, and elderly members of one ethnic group were evicted from the region, while the military-aged men were rounded up and killed as prisoners. That's her defense of Serb actions at Srebrenica. And, somehow, she has parsed the entymology of the word "genocide" so as to convince herself that the above scenario doesn't qualify.


She closes this short section with the accusation that the fall of Srebrenica was a clever Muslim trap, laid by the Izetbegovic government, which knew that the vengeful Serb army wouldn't resist the temptation to commit a huge atrocity, thereby soliciting worldwide condemnation. And who was the biggest victim of this devious plot by those shifty Muslims? Why, Slobodan Milosevic, of course.

Friday, November 03, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [31]


"The accusation of a "Srebrenica massacre" was used by the Clinton administration to focus world attention on Serb misdeeds at precisely the moment when some 200,000 Serbs were being driven out of the Krajina by the Croatian army, supported by the United States."

The fate of the Krajina Serbs did not receive the attention it deserved at the time. Operation Storm accomplished something terrible in Croatia; after 400 years of continuous inhabitation, Croatian territory was essentially emptied of ethnic Serbs. It is true that the Krajina Serbs mostly fled as opposed to being slaughtered in large numbers; it is also true that they were completely abandoned by Milosevic and the Serbian government, and that their own rebel government and miltary forces melted away without putting up any serious resistance.

Considering the role the rebel government in Knin had in starting the wars in Yugoslavia, and the atrocities carried out by their forces and on their behalf by the Serb-controlled JNA, it is understandable that many Western observers felt that the Krajina Serbs were only getting what they deserved. Reaping what they sowed.

But that would be wrong; not only because many thousands of ethnic Serb civilians shouldn't be held responsible for the crimes of the state (even an illegitimate state), but because the flight of the Krajina Serbs was anything but orderly and unmolested.

The atrocities carried out against Serb civilians--mostly elderly Serbs too old or weak or just tired to run--may not have been killed as part of a premeditated plan by the Croatian government and its armed forces; however, given the toxic propaganda put out by the Tudjman government, and given that the leadership of the Croat military had to know its troops were itching for "payback" while reclaiming a third of their territory, it would take an unfathomable level of chutzpah to deny that the Croatian government has a great deal of war crime guilt on its hands.

Johnstone is not merely suggesting a double-standard at the expense of ordinary Krajina Serbs, however--she believes that the Clinton administration manufactured evidence of a "Srebrenica massacre" (the parenthesis are hers) in order to divert attention from a widespread project of ethnic cleansing throughout the Croatian Krajina.

Give Johnstone this much credit--she doesn't settle for damage control. Apparantly she understands that the best defense is a strong offense; accuse the United States of complicity in genocide in Croatia. Unfortunately for her, the evidence for this seemingly damning counter-charge is thin--that Secretary of State Madeline Albright made her charges of genocide in a closed session of the Security Council on August 10, some weeks after the actual massacre but (conveniently, in Johnstone's estimation) right when the Croatian offensive was in full swing. Although conspiracy theories are built on coincidences such as these, advocates of such usually try to marshall at least a semblance of corraborating data. All Johnstone goes on to offer is insinuation--and rather naive and clumsy insinuation, at that.

"Most of Albright's satellite photographs were classified "for security reasons." They could not be critically examined by the public."

At the risk of sounding glib--give me a break. This was a closed session of the United Nations Security Council. There is absolutely nothing sinister or unusual about one nation sharing classified information in a closed session which is not for public consumption. Our government has been taking satellite photographs for decades--the public knows what they are, and what they are and are not capable of showing. Putting the phrase "for security reasons" is laughable; of course it was for security reasons.

"The meaning of these unseen photos was "spun" for the media by the habitual American official who did not wish to be identified:"

Why is "spun" in quotes? She is the person describing this report as "spin." She isn't quoting anybody; this is her own paranoid interpretation of events.

At any rate, here is what this "habitual" unnamed source had to say:

"According to one American official who has seen the photographs, one shows hundreds and perhaps thousands of Muslim men and boys in a field near a soccer stadium about 5 miles north of Srebrenica. Another photo taken several days later shows a large area of freshly dug earth, consistent with the appearance of known mass graves, near the stadium, which is empty."

[Note: I'm using a photocopy of this section of Chapter Two at the moment, so I cannot look in back to see where Johnstone is quoting this from. I apologize. When I get another copy of the book sometime in the next week or so, I will try to remember to verify this quote, which is obviously second-hand.]

Note that we are talking about two different pictures taken days apart. This is not a constant surveillance-camera situation being described.

"Waving her picture at the 14 members of the Security Council, Albright excused any future failure to find the "hundreds and perhaps thousands of Muslim men and boys" in the "mass grave" by warning ominously: "We will keep watching to see if the Bosnian Serbs try to erase the evidence of what they have done." "

Johnstone only presents this scene in order to mock Albright's sincerity, of course:

"If the United States was really able to watch everything the Bosnian Serbs were doing, and the massacres took place on the scale alleged, questions arise."

Note: Even in the quotes that Johnstone has selected to buttress her conpiracy theory, neither Albright nor anyone else has claimed that the United States can watch everything the Bosnian Serbs were doing.

"Why were no photos displayed showing the massacres?"

I don't think this piece of noxious nonsense even deserves a reply. The Srebrenica massacre was carried out in dozens of different locations over a period of days, by numerous scattered small units. The Serb forces weren't looking for a photo op.

"More troubling still, if U.S. satellites observed the Serbs carrying out massacres in July, why did the United States wait until August to denounce the crime? If the U.S. government was aware at the time that thousands of men were being executed, why did it makeno move to prevent it?"

In light of recent revelations regarding the knowledge Western governments had about events at Srebrenica, this is an interesting--and disturbing--line of inquiry. But Johnstone, as always, isn't really interested in the truth. It is increasingly clear that the U.S. and other Western powers knew more than they let on at the time, and the full story is beginning to come out. But while this new information will prove embarrasing, to say the least, the the U.S. and others, ironically these revelations hurt Johnstone's case as well, since she isn't actually arguing that the U.S. was hiding anything it knew--she doesn't believe there was anything to know in the first place. She has asked the right question, but at her own arguments expense.

No, she wants to believe that it was all an elaborate plot to provide cover for the real genocide being carried out by Croatian forces in the Krajina. She quotes David Rohde's Endgame on the subject of the international communities' role in allowing genocide to occur. Rohde's book is excellent, and his argument persuasive. Unless, of course, you are a deluded genocide denier like Johnstone:

"Significantly, Rohde rests his case not on the 7,000 figure whose fragility he must know, but on the political argument, which can be valid even if the number of victims proves no higher than roughly 500 or 600. What matters, finally, is that the "International Community" must in the future intervene more vigorously on the "right" side. The point is to discredit neutrality in favor of aggressive military "humanitarian intervention." "

Minus the snarky quote marks around 'International Community' and 'right' and I could have written the first two sentences myself; charges of genocide are qualitative, not quatitative, in nature.

As for the third sentence: When confronting genocide, one must abandon neutrality. If one chooses to remain neutral in the face of genocide, you discredit yourself.