Friday, November 03, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [31]

THE INITIAL ACCUSATION AGAINST THE BOSNIAN SERBS WAS POLITICALLY MOTIVATED

"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.

6 comments:

Owen said...

As it was unlikely that there would have been a geostationary satellite in poistion and dedicated to observing events in the Srebrenica area, the satellite presumably came from an orbiting satellite making passes over the area on a regular but not necessarily even daily basis. If Johnstone is going to claim that pictures are deliberately missing she needs to deal with the technical issues first.

Kirk Johnson said...

Exactly--this is what I was alluding to, but I should have been more explicit. To not acknowledge or even demonstrate awareness of such a technical issue betrays either dishonesty or ignorance.

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