Monday, July 02, 2007

"To Kill A Nation" by Michael Parenti [13]


Having acknowledged some of the troubling issues surrounding Croatia, Tudjman, the HDZ in both Croatia and Bosnia, and the lingering poison of Ustashe nostalgia, let us now consider Parenti's far less balanced and nuanced consideration of Croatia during the 1990s.


Parenti and Johnstone share many underlying assumptions about events and realities in the Balkans, but they also operate under a similar overriding assumption about their intended readership; they assume--or, more likely, they hope--that the reader is not particularly well-read on the subject. Aside from being able to pass off biased or even incorrect information as fact without fear of challenge, and being able to decontextualize at will, they also rely on a sense of astonishment and outrage at "revelations" which should be common knowledge to anyone with even a modicum of interest in the historical context of the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

Which means this--the first three pages of this chapter consists of a brief rehash of Franjo Tudjman's fascist past. This is not news to most people, but that doesn't stop Parenti from presenting this portrait of who he strangely names "the White House's man-of-the-hour" as a devastating expose. His summary of the Usatshe years is predictably gruesome and devoid of nuance. Parenti shares Johnstone's penchant for ethnic collectivism, so any indication that the Ustashe only represented a minority of Croats is missing in his version of history. Indeed, I suspect that Parenti would be incapable of acknowledging the complexities and ambiguities of individual affiliations and actions during such a conflict.

Perhaps I am not expressing myself well; Parenti's disingenuous analysis is so devoid of balance and nuance, not mention factual comprehensiveness, that it becomes nearly impossible to find a coherent position to critique. Parenti is not making an argument or developing a thesis, he is merely waving the bogeyman of resurgent fascism in the reader's face, seeking to incite revulsion and shut down critical faculties.

I will resist the urge to respond in kind. In my previous post, I considered the importance of acknowledging and examining the sins of Tudjman and the HDZ during the Balkan wars. Wallowing in the horrors of World War II is not the path towards unlocking the political motives of cynical autocrats and hate-driven nationalists in the 1980s and 1990s. Let me state--I absolutely agree that Franjo Tudjman was a thug, a Holocaust denier (Parenti's outrage about this point is repulsively ironic, given later chapters of Omarska and Srebrenica), and on the whole a toxic and destructive factor in the Bosnian war.

I will not indulge Parenti's crude rhetoric any further. In the next post, I will continue with the rest of the chapter, where Parenti begins to consider contemporary issues.

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