Tuesday, July 31, 2007

"To Kill A Nation" by Michael Parenti [16]



The Alija Izetbegovic of Parenti's book is a familiar figure to anyone conversant with Balkan revisionism and contemporary Serbian ultra-nationalism--an Islamic fanatic intent on imposing Sharia onto non-Muslims throughout Bosnia. Parenti's version of Izetbegovic is, typically, a Frankenstein's monster made up of quotes from Islam Between East and West and other equally context-free quotes from Western observers and so forth. The only new wrinkle Parenti adds--compared to Johnstone's very similar treatment--is that Parenti dwells for a page or so on Fikret Abdic, described as "one figure who behaved honorably throughout the war." Given Parenti's blind spot when it comes to the kleptocratic nature of Milosevic's and Karadzic's regimes, this soft spot for a Godfather-like opportunist is just about par for the course.

In spite of himself, however, Parenti has brought up some interesting issues. I have not yet found an English-language biography of Izetbegovic, who remains a somewhat difficult figure to understand. It is difficult to guess the man's motivations both before and after the outbreak of the war. More importantly, there is not enough information on the SDA as a whole available in English, but it seems clear that in many ways the party was more avowedly "Islamic" than the ethnic Muslims who voted for it. This is not to validate the ridiculous claims of Parenti, Johnstone, and others; instead, I believe that a more thorough accounting of the ideological debates within the SDA, as well as an objective study of Izetbegovic's policies and strategies during his years in power would not only help to flesh out our understanding of the era, it would also give readers the ammunition needed to deflate the menacing caricature of a cold-blooded Islamist unleashing gangs of mujahideen against the frightened Christians of Bosnia.

After the expected Muslim-bashing, the chapter peters out with more ravings against the privatization of the Muslim-Croat Federations infrastructure and economy. More plotting by those evil global capitalists, you know.

There is a boxed aside near the end of the chapter; this one is entitled "Who Wanted Peace in Bosnia?" The answer, of course, was...Slobodan Milosevic, who is contrasted to Izetbegovic. The setting is Dayton, at which--as is well known--Milosevic was quite willing to negotiate a peace treaty, even to give up the suburbs of Sarajevo to Izetbegovic, who is portrayed as being stubborn and belligerent because he wanted control over his own country. The lack of context (sure, Milosevic wanted peace in 1995--he didn't want to lose any more of what war had gained him) is expected and typical and not worth comment. What is worth comment is his source--Diana Johnstone.

The Balkan revisionists cite each other's works in a closed circle of mutually reinforcing citation. In fact, if one peruses the footnotes it does not take long to see that much of the "source material" for this book are the usual Balkan revisionist writers (Johnstone, Elich, Chossudovsky, Woodward, etc.) as well as some sources so blatantly biased and transparent in their propaganda intent that even Johnstone might have hesitated to rely to much on them--I am thinking especially of the website http://www.jasenovac.org/, an absolute masterpiece of revisionism in that the ostensible cause--commemorating victims of the Usashe genocide of World War II--is a worthy one, therefore putting critics in the position of seeming to argue against sympathy for Serb, Jewish, and Roma victims.

Why this is interesting is that, in the Introduction, he makes a point of claiming that:

"In any case, I want to point out that almost all the information used in this book emanates from well-established Western sources:"

which he goes on to list in rather exhaustive detail. It provokes a rather "methinks he doth protest too much" reaction, a reaction which a subsequent examination of his actual uses of the quotes and information he does actually (selectively) retrieve from such sources thoroughly vindicates. And while he does refer to a couple of "progressive" sources, he makes no mention of the myriad of not-so-mainstream (to put it kindly) sources he utilizes.

There were times when, reading Johnstone, I suspected that she might actually believe much of what she was saying. Parenti, though, is too transparent and thorough a dissembler of truth and information for that. Parenti believes so strongly in his version of the truth that he holds mere facts in contempt, and reassembles them as he sees fit.


Harun said...

Hi. If you're looking for an english-language analysis of the internal politics behind the Bosnian state, Marko Attila Hoare's "How Bosnia Armed" (which focuses on the evolution of the ARBiH) is a good place to start.

Kirk Johnson said...

Thank you, Harun--that book is actually on my list of books I need to acquire! I've read some of Hoare's articles on Bosnia and Yugoslavia, and have been meaning to check out his books. Thank you very much for the recommendation--good to hear from someone who has actually read it. Much appreciated.

Shaina said...

For a look at Izetbegovic's writing, the evolution of his political p.o.v. and his policies, statements and personalities in the period leading up to the war; which were in marked contrast to Karadzic, Milosevic and Tudjman; I would reccommend this paper by the Scholars' Intiative.


Shaina said...

The link got cut off: