Friday, June 22, 2007

"To Kill A Nation" by Michael Parenti [7]


Quick takes on the first two sentences of Chapter Three:

"Some people argue that nationalism, not class, has been the real motor force behind the Yugoslav conflict."

Yes, "some people" do argue that. Almost all of the participants and victims on all sides, for example.

"This presumes that class and ethnicity are mutually exclusive."

It does? Really?

"In fact, ethnic enmity can be enlisted to serve class interests, as the CIA tried to do with indigenous peoples in Indochina and Nicaragua--and more recently in Bosnia and Kosovo."

And there you have it--the Yugoslav wars were really class warfare, instigated by--and largely benefitting--the capitalists in the US. Parenti still doesn't have any proof for any of this, but at least now he has an ideological peg to hang his hat on.

No matter--Parenti "knows" that the West conspired to destroy socialist Yugoslavia through draconian austerity measures, proof be damned--but it gets worse. The worsening economy apparently led to social disharmony and increased inter-community tensions--but not quick enough for those evil global capitalists:

"In order to hasten the discombobulation of Yugoslavia, the Western powers provided the most retrograde, violent, separatist elements with every advantage in money, organization, propaganda, arms, hired thugs, and the full might of the US national security state at their backs."

When I read that, my first thought was "Wow--Parenti is claiming that the United States armed Arkan's Tigers and Seselj's Chetniks. I sure would like to see what proof he thinks he has for this." Unfortunately, no proof is forthcoming. Which isn't surprising, since none of the groups allegedly supported by the US are subsequently identified. The self-referential circle of Balkan revisionists sometimes come across as a secret cabal, conversant in an esoteric application of previously uninteresting or unimportant facts and privy to arcane sources of ambiguous information. Perhaps I need to go through some sort of initiation process before I would be allowed access to all the assuredly riveting sources Parenti doesn't bother identifying.

He repeats the usual overblown point about Germany's rash recognition of Slovenia and Croatia, and then dismisses US statements about the importance of keeping Yugoslavia intact (at least Parenti acknowledges such statements--Diana Johnstone didn't bother) as a smokescreen to hide the intendeded effects of IMF shock therapy.

He does, finally, offer some "proof" that the breakup of Yugoslavia was a deliberate policy of the US--a secret paper from 1984. That the Reagan Administration might have planned for the dismantling of Communist regimes through free market reforms should surprise no one, but Balkan revisionists like Parenti and Johnstone specialize in such fundamental naivete. The other "proof" is that the US threatened to cut off aid in 1990 unless elections were held. Again, Parenti's pretensions to sophistication are betrayed by his own sensibilities--it is any surprise to any reasonably aware reader that the US uses foreign aid as leverage? This is not proof of any secret plot--this is how the real world works.

Throughout this part of Chapter Three, Parenti harps again and again on Western support--economic and otherwise--for the various republics while scorning the Federal Government all the while completely ignoring the context of events in the early 1990s. Like Johnstone, Parenti ignores the larger context whenever it is convenient, so no mention is made that the republics were already fighting for independence from Belgrade during this period. The West did not forment secession, it merely acknowledged what was already happening. But Parenti is only interested in what he considers a "repudiation of its [Yugslavia] sovereignty by the Western powers."

He has more:

"So, for a number of years before hostilities broke out between various national groups in Yugoslavia, measures were being taken by the major powers and financial interests to undermine the Belgrade government and the national economy."

Yet the only one of these measures (I haven't detailed all that he includes) dates from before 1990, and that was the debt restructuring measures imposed by the IMF which were in response to then-contemporary economic conditions. All others date from 1990 and 1991; but a strict adherence to temporal rationality is not Parenti's strong suit.


Another box aside: "Free Texas! Free Corsica!" Parenti describes seeing this graffiti in Belgrade during the 1999 NATO bombing. He dutifully describes it as a clever comparison between the situation of Mexicans in Texas and Corsicans under French rule to Albanians in Kosovo made by Serbs protesting heavy-handed NATO tactics. To date, no mass graves of Mexicans have been found anywhere near San Antonio.


Lake said...

Beware: Serbian propaganda at work again and this time, it's condemned by George W. Bush. Read here Kirk:

Anonymous said...

"Wow--Parenti is claiming that the United States armed Arkan's Tigers and Seselj's Chetniks."

Wow--you are claiming that the United States didn't train and arm to the teeth Bosnian mujahideen and the Croat forces of Operation Storm, which would carry out the Reagan plan.

Lake said...

Anonymous, Army of Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina had close to 200,000 soldiers, mostly infantry. Out of 200,000 soldiers, there were 300 mujahadeen and they comprised about 0.15% (zero point fifteen percent) of our forces. Therefore you are over-exagerating with Serbian propaganda about mujahadeen. Why don't you mention thousands of Christian extremists (cut throaters) who were fighting with genocidal Serb forces? What about them "Mr Anonymous"?

Owen said...

Lake, these Anonymous's who don't leave a name rarely leave any sign of engagement with fact either.

Kirk, Parenti's looking in the wrong direction. He should have taken a proper look at the issue of class warfare and the recruitment of nationalism to the service of the opportunistic nomenklatura across eastern Europe. The IMF structural adjustment programmes were essentially designed to restructure the economy, not to restructure power relationships, hence the ability of canny operators including Mugabe and Milosevic to reinforce their own positions while SAPs wrecked their electorate's livelihoods.