Sunday, July 08, 2007

"To Kill A Nation" by Michael Parenti [15]


Diana Johnstone twists and distorts facts and history to suit her ideological ends, but Michael Parenti seems to live in an alternate reality altogether. I originally believed that this review would be shorter and require less time than my review of "Fools' Crusade" because Parenti's motives were more obvious and his lies more blatant. Instead, I have found this task to be at least as difficult as reviewing most sections of Johnstone's book. She wrote her book as an attempt to "correct" what she saw as a biased and incomplete Western version of events in the former Yugoslavia. As a result, it was generally possible to juxtapose her version of events and her intellectual framing of the issues against verifiable facts and an articulated, generally accepted narrative.

Parenti is simply telling a tale, a narrative manufactured wholesale and accessorized with whatever facts, sensational data, and random anecdotes might flesh it out and lend it some authenticity. It is very, very difficult to grapple with such a slippery and amorphous text. Parenti doesn't play fair.


Chapter Six starts off with this dispatch from an alternate universe:

"Bosnia-Herzegovina represents another unhappy episdoe in the Western campaign to dismember Yugoslavia. After a protracted armed struggle between Croats, Muslims, and Serbs--aided and abetted by NATO bombings that helped break the Serbian defenses in 1995--Bosnia-Herzegovina was partitioned into two new "republics": the Muslim-Croat Federation of Bosnia and Republika Srpska (Serb Republic) composed of Bosnian Serbs."

Where to begin? We can dispense with any consideration of the first sentence--we already know that the entire premise of Parenti's book is that Yugoslavia was primarily destroyed from without by Western imperialist powers and global capitalists.

The next sentence is quite a piece of work--redefining the Bosnian war as a "protracted armed struggle" between three (presumably evenly-matched) ethnic groups is par for the course for Balkan revisionists, but adding the touch about NATO bombing breaking "the Serbian defenses" takes that fantasy one step further.

The final sentence is really over-the-top: the insane notion that it was at Dayton that Bosnia was partitioned goes beyond anything even Diana Johnstone is willing to claim, as far as I recall. Not only does this fly in the face of every known fact about the war, it also contradicts Parenti's own claims earlier in the book that Bosnian Serbs were fighting to stay unified to Yugoslavia (and, therefore, very much partitioned from the UN member nation of Bosnia).

One last point from this paragraph worth noting--Parenti's choice of words when describing the two entities of post-Dayton Bosnia. He describes the Republika Srpska as being "composed of Bosnian Serbs" rather than being comprised of 49% of Bosnia, or as encompassing the borders negotiated at Dayton, based on the territory held by the Bosnian Serb Army at the end of the war. It may only by a slip of phrasing, but I believe it is a telling one.

From here, the chapter goes in predictable directions--the Handzar Division of World War II stands in for the entire Slavic Muslim population, as it usually does in Balkan revisionist propaganda, and we are reminded of Izetbegovic's membership in the Young Muslims. Parenti is adamant that Izetbegovic was an Islamic Fundamentalist, and this accusation, combined with his allegedly right-wing politics, provide Parenti with a convenient monster. We shall see this imagined monster in action in the next post.


Shaina said...

I was going to ask you how you would compare Parenti to Johnstone; but you already answered my question.

Just a note: it gets more outlandish.

Kirk Johnson said...

Actually, Shaina, I do plan to write an essay on Johnstone, Parenti, Chussadovsky, and other Balkan revisionists once I've done some more "rough draft" reviews on this blog. Hopefully, I'll have more to say on the contrast between these two. But essentially, that's it--Johnstone maintains at least the pretense of objectivity, while Parenti explicitly takes the side of Serbian nationalism (which, in his twisted worldview, is actually anti-globalist socialism writ small).

It does get more outlandish--the earlier notes about him describing the Bosnian Serbs as being "corralled" by NATO, and the comment above describing NATO breaking the "Serbian defenses" is only the tip of the iceberg. Johnstone never claimed that the forces beseiging Sarajevo were on the defensive.

Shaina said...

I think I may actually prefer someone who explicitly swallows the kool-aid of Balkan revisionism and the logic of ultra-nationalist Serbs than someone who presents themselves, and maybe even genuinely believes that they are objective, but who obscures the truth even more. For some reason, the latter is just more frusterating for me.

IIRC-there's a bizzare chapter about the RS under the leadership of Karadzic being a model liberal democracy or something like that.

And I could google it myself, but who is Chussadovsky?
Besides Johnstone, Parenti, and Herman, there is also Noam Chomsky.

And of course, there are also Balkan revisionism from the ultra-right as well. I've tried at one point to at least give a cursory review to right-wing revisionism, but that was a bit harder because most of the right-wing revisionism that i've found was in the form of websites and messageboard and not scholarship (however one defines that). Also, while the left-wing revisionism is deplorable, at least it is based to some degree within a larger political context, right-wing revisionism seems to be based primarily in racist rantings.