Saturday, August 11, 2007

"To Kill A Nation" by Michael Parenti [21]


Parenti is simply begging for a beat-down in this chapter His ignorance has been on display throughout this book, but while most of his chapters have begun with overheated rhetoric or laughable assertions (the Serbs were targeted because a larger percentage of them were Communists, for example), he begins this chapter (after a short initial paragraph recapping that "all that remained" of Yugoslavia was Montenegro and Serbia with its two autonomous provinces) with the following declaration:

"Let us begin with some history.".

Well, historical context is good--let's see where Parenti starts, and what historical facts he chooses to emphasize:

"During World War II, the Albanian fascist militia in western Kosovo expelled seventy thousand Serbs and brought in about an equal number of Albanians from Albania."

On the one hand, I'm oddly thankful that Parenti didn't go back much, much further into the historical record in order to muddy the issue with even more half-baked nationalist myths and questionable demographic facts. One of the main impediments to any US involvement in Bosnia was the ridiculous claim that the war was a tragic by-product of "ancient hatreds". Serious observers of the crisis realize that it was more recent history--the vicious, multi-faceted civil war that raged during WW II and the clampdown on discussion imposed by Tito--rather than unfinished business from the Ottoman invasion which truly fueled whatever genuine nationalist passions were inflamed by cynical and irresponsible politicians in the years after Tito's death.

So I do not object to the decision to begin his brief historical sketch during WW II in principle, but while it should be possible to present a balanced view of the conflict there without examining previous events such as the 1908 conquest, such a balanced presentation is clearly not Parenti's intention. His account is incredibly one-sided, and riddled with misinformation clearly derived from Serb nationalist sources.

The claim that thousands of ethnic Albanians entered Kosovo during World War II has long been a staple of Serb nationalist propaganda, so there is little mystery as to where Parenti is getting his information (there is no citation for this claim in the text). He goes further still in deferring to the views of his Serb nationalist allies when he regurgitates claims that there was an ongoing ethnic cleansing of Serbs and other non-Albanians throughout the post-WW II period.

The portrayal of Kosovar Serbs as being victims of ethnic cleansing in the years before Milosevic is not without a grain of truth--relations between the two communities were not good--although Parenti, typically, does not bother detailing any of the history of the region prior to WW II, when the province was conquered and a policy of harassment against the Albanian population as well as a colonization project to settle ethnic Serbs in the region in order to turn the demographic balance in Belgrade's favor.

The chapter continues to list all the failings and shortcomings of Kosovo and its Albanian majority in language very similar to the logic used by 19th Century imperialists to justify the subjugation and exploitation of colonial peoples.

And then we get to the Milosevic era and beyond. The rest of this chapter will be discussed in the next post.

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