CHAPTER THREE: DIVIDE AND CONQUER[continued]
In the last post, I considered the easily refutable assertion that the Bosnian Serb army was merely "holding" 70% of Bosnian territory, rather than taking it by force--and clearing non-Serbs out by terror and force. In the next paragraph, Parenti manages to top that statement with an audacious callousness that should infuriate any informed reader:
"A ceasefire, the "Dayton accords," was brokered by the Western powers in Nobember 1995, with terms that insured Western suzerainty over a thoroughly partitioned Bosnia-Herzegovina. The larger portion became the Bosnian Federation (Muslim-Croat) and a smaller territory became Republika Srpska, into which the Bosnian Serbs were corralled, those who had not fled to Serbia."
In light of events at Srebrenica, Zepa, and a thousand other smaller, less infamous places, it is an act of spiteful dishonesty and revisionism which can lead a writer to describe the ratification of separatist Serb territorial gains as Serbs being "corralled". "Blaming the victim" simply doesn't capture the level of callousness in that statement.
At this point, the chapter veers into a tangle of tired, abstract legalisms familiar to anyone who read my review of "Fool's Crusade." I won't even bother--if Parenti sees no difference between the right of Bosnia to secede from an increasingly Serb-nationalist dominated rump Yugoslavia versus the status of Scotland within the UK, then there is no point continuing the discussion--the man will not even acknowledge the raw facts on the ground, let alone the subtle distinctions between the various examples he provides. It is not that some of his examples aren't relevant, but he brushes facts and complexities aside with such contempt that any measured debate would be impossible. For example--he compares the status of Puerto Rico in the USA to the status of Krajina Serbs as if the parallel were absolute and self-evident; yet I would assume that even the most passionate of Puerto Rican nationalists hoping for independence (and I acknowledge--they have a strong case) would argue that the government in Washington has engaged in a policy of ethnic cleansing against islanders. And, if they had--is Parenti arguing that two wrongs make a right? Like Johnstone, Parenti is not interested in practical, just solutions--he just wants to smear the US and the West in general.
Not only does he argue that the secession of the republics was illegal under the Yugoslav constitution (ignoring the actions of the Belgrade regime at the time), he also frets that the recognition of Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia were both illegal and interventions in Yugoslavia's internal affairs. That's what we in the reality-based community call "disproportionate outrage."
How far is willing to take this insistence on abstract legalism over the reality on the ground? This far:
"The United States does not acknowledge the right of any state or other constituent political unit or ethnic community within its boundaries to secede from the Union or, for that matter, to override the supremacy of federal power in any way. This was made perfectly clear in 1861-65, when the Southern Confederacy's secession was forcibly repressed in one of the bloodiest wars of the nineteenth century."
He does go on to quote Jefferson, using the same logic that Confederate leaders used to justify their actions. He does seem to be arguing that the United States was both the aggressor and in the wrong during the American Civil War. I will let the reader draw his or her own conclusions.
He concludes the chapter by comparing the effect of the sanctions against Serbia to those imposed against Iraq. This is, in itself, not a bad point--I find the use of sanctions distasteful since they mainly target the civilians of a country, not its leadership or military. It took 34 pages, but Parenti has finally said something that I can agree with.
But he uses this insight to draw very different conclusions--but first, he puts the cart in front of the horse and claims that the sanctions contributed to the rise of "ethnic violence" when a simple look at any almanac would demonstrate that sanctions were not imposed until after the outbreak of war and the onset of ethnic cleansing.
But never mind that--we know how cavalier Parenti is when it comes to chronology. He goes on--by quoting Susan Woodward (both he and Johnstone rely heavily on Balkan Tragedy, which I have skimmed but not yet read--it may be next, to give fair warning), who claims that:
"Tensions along ethnic, racial or historical fault lines can lead to civil violence but to explain the Yugoslav crisis as a result of ethnic hatred is to turn the story upside down and begin at its end."
We are now going to "learn" how the West manipulated the situation they had deviously created in order to create a convenient bloodbath in the middle of Europe. In the next post, we will begin to see how Parenti manipulates reality in order to bring this paranoid fantasy to life.