Wednesday, August 08, 2007

"To Kill A Nation" by Michael Parenti [19]



Having listed a number of incidents involving Croat, Muslim, and Bosnian government forces, Parenti now turns to attention to the seige of Sarajevo.

This is interesting--I would have expected him to go for broke and break out the Srebrenica denial material at this point, but Sarajevo it is. And unlike Srebrenica, there is far too much visual evidence of the siege to deny that it happened, so instead Parenti opts for the argument that it wasn't really a siege at all--or at least not a very bad one--and it was the Bosnian government's fault.

Parenti's 'evidence' for this assertion essentially boil down to two points--the Bosnian government's intermittent intransigence both with the international community and its own citizens; and the fact that, at certain (no doubt carefully chosen) points in time, life in Sarajevo was less than completely hellish. Parenti inadvertently betrays his own dishonesty in the first paragraph. First, he writes:

"The key story that set much of world opinion against the Serbs was the siege of Sarajevo which lasted, on and off, from April 1992 to February 1994."

(The "on and off" is a condescending little touch, isn't it?)

Then he approvingly quotes Charles Boyd, who noted that local markets were selling produce at reasonable prices on the day the Bosnian government was commemorating the 1,000th day of the siege.

Boyd has become quite the darling of Balkan revisionists (apparently US generals are not guilty of being imperialists if they happen to have convenient excuses) but Parenti could have at least addressed how a siege that lasted less than two years "on and off" could have made it to Day One Thousand.

And then, of course, the usual charges that Bosnian forces (always--ALWAYS--ABiH forces are referred to as "Muslim" forces; but then, he later talks about an interview on "Muslim television") systematically shelled their own citizens; that the famous marketplace bombings were actually bombs planted by "Muslim" troops; and of course that the entire siege (as it were) was entirely the fault of the Izetbegovic government, which refused to accept cease-fire and peace agreements. God forbid we blame the heavily armed troops in the surrounding mountains and hills. Parenti even praises the Serb forces for this:

"Bosnian Serb forces had offered safe passage to all civilians. With noncombatants out of the way, especially women and children, the Serbs would be able to treat Sarajevo as a purely military target."

He honestly seems to believe that this was a noble, humane, and reasonable gesture. It is worth noting that in this chapter, Parenti's previously noted pretense of relying mostly on Western sources has gone out the window--nearly all of his 'information' comes from fellow revisionists.

At the end of the chapter, Parenti cynically plays at being even-handed by admitting that "Violations of the Geneva convention can be ascribed to Serb forces, especially Chetnik paramilitary units and irregulars." He proceeds to list a series of rather random and unconnected atrocities (almost as an aside, he concedes that Serb forces bore "much of the responsibility for Sarajevo").

But this all comes after several pages of predictable and decontextualized incidents, a crude and barely-sourced attempt to snow the gullible reader. The Bosnian government forces are blasted for refusing to allow the UN access to the Sarajevo marketplace after the infamous 1994 bombing. Which begs the question--why should the UN expect to have unrestricted access, anyway? Where is Michael Parenti's concern about sovereignty now? Why should the UN be allowed to go anywhere and see anything in the Bosnian capital? He does not explain--in the former Yugoslavia, the sanctity of state sovereignty was apparently only for Serbia and the RS.

This tedious and thoroughly dishonest chapter closes with a comparison between the "moderated truths" mouthed by mealy-mouthed neutralists like Boyd, Rose, and so on versus the "barrage" of "Serb-bashing stories broadcast unceasingly around the world." This level of hyperbole and paranoia is worthy of Karadzic and Cosic at their best. In the next chapter, Parenti signs on to the Serb nationalist cause whole-heartedly.

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