Sunday, January 17, 2010

How to Tell That A Book Has An Ideological Axe to Grind

In the spirit of "I don't need to eat the whole fish to know it's rotten", I will not be launching a comprehensive, chapter-by-chapter review of Shadows on the Mountain: The Allies, the Resistance, and the Rivalries That Doomed WWII Yugoslavia by Marcia Christoff Kurapovna. The book is concerned with the rescue of 500 American airment by Chetnik forces near the end of World War II, but while this incident is often used as propaganday by Serbian nationalists and their allies, Kurapovna has gone one better and written an entire book centered on that rescue. However, she seems to engage in quite a bit of questionable revisionism and out-and-out one-sided propagandizing in her efforts to not only put the rescue in "context" but to give it a significance that it does not warrant.

The subtitle of the book hints at what this context is--she argues that the Allies wrongly betrayed Mihailovic and the Chetniks (who at least once she claims were fighting for "Western values"), were duped into supporting the Partisans, and therefore "doomed" Yugoslavia.

Needless to say, it takes a lot of creative use of selectively chosen facts to make this argument; but while Kurapovna's footnote-laden book certainly manages to avoid the bombast of more obviously biased works, her agenda is clear. One can learn this with a cursory read through, but one can save even more time by restricting oneself to the mercifully brief Preface. There is enough coded language and unexamined inferences in these first four pages to alert the reader.

Echoing Diana Johnstone's disclaimer near the beginning of Fool's Cruade, she immediately begins with the "I'm only pro-Serb in the sense that the big bad Western media is anti-Serb" rhetoric, Kurapovna immediately plays to the nationalist mythological motifs of Serbia's specialness and it's sense of martyrdom. She is not subtle. The third sentence reads:

"Yet anyone writing about Serbia must remain constantly on the defensive--to respond to usually knee-jerk, ill-informed hostility toward the country and to the questionable tallying of its various abuses and atrocities as recorded by less than scrupulous international media."

The contradiction between the book's ostensible concern with the fate of Yugoslavia versus the singular concern with Serbia in the Preface is quite telling. Considering that the book goes on to portray Serbia as surrounded by enemies , one wonders what sort of Yugoslavia would have been possible under the royalist Chetniks and the Nedic government.

To date, this book has received very little traction. Rather than give it any more attention, I am merely greatful that the propagandists for the other side are often so clumsy.


Srebrenica Genocide said...

Kirk, good news. You campaigned to see Nedjo Ikonic deported to Bosnia so he can face genocide charges (see your message here). Well, he's just been extradited to Bosnia, take a look at Reuters coverage.

Srebrenica Genocide said...

First of all, it is not true that Serbian Chetniks saved American airmen in World War II. This is just one of many inflated numbers and lies coming from the Serbian sources.

While it is true that during the War, both the Partisans and pro-German Serbian-Nazi Chetniks aided Allied pilots in escaping, they did so because they were paid in gold for each one.

Draza Mihailovich's apologists like to point out that: "an independent American commission concluded in 1946, these Allied airmen were instructed by their American and British superiors to look for any signs of collaboration, they were given freedom of movement by Mihailovic forces, and yet not one of these hundreds testified of Mihailović collaboration with the Axis."

In fact, this was far from so called "independent American commission" and the medal for Nazi collaborator Draza Mihajlovic was result of intensive lobbying by Serbian-Americans who were part of Chetnik forces. These included Lieutenant Nick Nikola Lalich (an American of Serbian heritage), Captain George Musulin (also an American of Serbian heritage), Pro-Serbian US Army Colonel Robert H. McDowell (friend of Nikola Lalich) and Ruth Mitchell, the sister of the late Gen. William (Billy) Mitchell. They lobbied for Draza Mihajlovich's medal, and he got it as a result of their lobbying, and as a result of testimonies of many other pro-Serb oriented members of Chetnik forces who emigrated as "refugees" to the USA and other countries to avoid prosecution for war crimes.

According to Dr. Marko Hoare,

"Mihailovic continued his opportunistic game of seeking to collaborate with both Axis and Allies. In this context, he assisted the US airborne evacuation of about two-hundred and fifty airmen from Chetnik territory in August 1944. This simply meant that the Chetniks allowed the Americans to use their airstrip for the evacuation - scarcely a particularly heroic action - while at the same time, Mihailovic sent a delegation along with the departing US planes in a fruitless effort to win back Allied support. Yet it was for the rescue of US airmen that Mihailovic would posthumously receive the Legion of Merit. On other occasions, however, Mihailovic’s Chetniks rescued German airmen and handed them over safely to the German armed forces - were he so inclined, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder could follow Washington’s example and decorate Mihailovic for saving the lives of his country’s servicemen. Yet none of Mihailovic’s intrigues saved him or his Chetnik movement from destruction at the hands of the victorious Partisans: the revolution in the western Balkans - Europe’s second and last successful Communist revolution - succeeded thanks to British and American military intervention, which enabled the reestablishment of Yugoslavia. This is a fact that Milosevic’s left-wing supporters usually prefer not to mention. The Left Revisionists, November 2003]"

Katja R. said...

@Kirk:Thanks for this post, I really appreciate all points made in it a lot!
@Daniel: Your reply is very worthwhile reading in it's own right! I sometimes have gotten into WWII discussions with people who totally do not get that there were some complexities to WWII in the Balkans taht Americans usually do not fully understand. So it is way easy to lie to us on these questions.

@Both I am att a point when I see the phrase 'Western Values' I want to stand on a chair and scream real loud! This has become a coded phrase meaning 'Not Muslim Values' At this point in time you don't hear the phrase Western Values from any-one who has not bought into either Christian extremisin or Corporate Socialism or some evil combination of both.

Kirk Johnson said...

Yakima, I believe you had a second post I accidentally "rejected" instead of publishing...sorry about that if it's true. I'm getting a LOT of spam lately, and it's really pissing me off.

Daniel, great points by the way, and I take them to heart. I probably was trying too hard to be even-handed. If nothing else, your observations only confirm my hunch that Kurapovna has an agenda.

Kirk Johnson said...

Here is the comment from 'Yakima Gulag' I rejected in error:

Arundhati Roy is from kerala, the most Communist oriented state in India, and she is very much in the tradition of Indian Christain Communists. She also comes from a family that were 'Christains of St. Thomas' NOT Indian Catholic, and Christains of St. Thomas, technically are closer to an Orthodox perspective.
It probably makes her likelier to side with people like Pinter and Diane Johnson and Noam Chomsky than not. there are some positive things in her work but elements of her body of work have alwasy felt disconcerting to me.
And I am a huge fan of her novels.

Anonymous said...

Well I agree but I think the collection should prepare more info then it has.

Katja R. said...

Thanks Kirk for putting part of what was in the post in.

I finally have internet at home, but I am having problems getting into my own blog, some external filter called 'Dans Guardian' keeps blocking me. I really want to get the inventors and turn them over to anyone who will get rid of them for me... Japanese Pornography and Nudism INDEED! AS IF!

I am trying to find out if it has to do with my personal computer, or Charter. Either way Dans Guardian must GO AWAY :)