Thursday, June 29, 2006

Link to interview discussed below

OK, time to dissect the Borojevic/Johnstone interview. First sentence of the first paragraph:

The Bosnia and Herzegovina's [Muslims] genocide case against Serbia-Montenegro, the first case in the history of that kind in which a whole country is being accused of genocide has been deliberated at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague.

Underlying the military and political conflict, the Bosnian War was, on one level, a conflict between notions of nationality and citizenship. The government of Bosnia and Hercegovina was, however imperfectly, fighting for the continued existence of a multi-ethnic republic. Crucial to this concept is the idea that the nation is made up of individual citizens. My contention that the Bosnian cause should have been important to Americans is based on this very premise. The United States of America is a land of free, individual citizens who are equal in the eyes of the law.

The difference between a concept of citizenship founded on individual rights versus a nationalism founded on ethnicity and what can only be considered a pre-modern sense of collective identity is absolute. They are not differing grades on the same scale; the two concepts are opposites and represent radically different ways of structuring a society and of conceptualizing the relationship between the individual and the State.

In this opening paragraph, the choice of terms is deliberate and telling. Borojevic explicitly places "Muslims" in parenthesis after the name of the country, which accomplishes two distinct but related propaganda aims.

First, it reinforces the notion that Bosnia was a "Muslim" country (and therefore should only include land where Muslims live, presumably). Simultaneously, of course, the implication is that ethnic Serbs are NOT Bosnians.

Second, the "Muslim" qualifier after the name of the country indicates that the action of the State is the action of the people. It is not the government of Bosnia and Hercegovina which is filing the lawsuit against the government of Serbia (once Yugoslavia); it is "the Muslims" suing "the Serbs." We are in the realm of collective identity and collective guilt now.

Once this shift to ethno-tribalism has been made, the next step--accomplished in the final part of the sentence--is to the terms of debate as explained above. It is true that no state has ever sued another state in the ICJ before. But Borojevic's choice of words--a "whole country has been accused of genocide"--is not accidental. Once you accept the logic of collective identity, then the guilt of the State must be assumed by 'the whole country'. Which can mean nothing more, and nothing less, than all Serbs. Even those who live outside of Serbia.

The logic of collective identity has run its course. 'Only Unity can save the Serb'? What a hollow promise that has turned out to be.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Borojevic interview with Johnstone is prefaced with a two-paragraph introduction that rather artlessly combines strands of typical conspiracy-mongering (facts stripped of context, handled with a deliberate disregard for balance and a sense of proportion) with the coarser practice of blatantly lying.

Borojevic refers to the lawsuit filed in the International Court of Justice by the government of Bosnia and Hercegovina against the government of Serbia on charges of genocide. This lawsuit dates from the actual war (it was, obviously, originally filed against the "rump" Yugoslavia), and certainly is worth some discussion. If Borojevic and Johnstone were interested in a serious discussion about the jurisdiction of the ICJ, the precedent of one state suing another, or even the wisdom of Bosnia seeking reparations while reconciliation is still far from assured, then this might have been an interesting, provocative, or at least worthwhile article.

Instead, it is a tedious mix of pedantic legality, clumsy semantics, and moral relativism gone berzerk. For hardline Serb nationalists, ultra-right nationalists looking for validation, and neo-Stalinists in search of fellow travelers, Johnstone offers an escape from reality into a foggy moral twilight where the sharp contours of state responsibility for genocide become fuzzy and ultimately imperceptable. Follow Johnstone down her predestined road of 'intellectual discovery' and you will gladly lose yourself in the tangled shrubs of historical justification, collective guilt, and knee-jerk anti-Western ideology. All the time blissfully ignorant that you are still lost deep in the forest.

Pardon the rather tortured metaphor. It's very difficult to describe the logic at work here--an ideology that remains doggedly faithful to its own reference points while heroically ignoring the mass of factual data and information towering all around you. I don't know how she does it with a straight face; I sure as hell don't understand why.

I promise to actually begin discussing the text of the interview in the next post. I needed to vent a little before diving in to the closeted, airless intellectual world Diane Johnstone lives in. I hope to illustrate this in the next few entries.

Monday, June 19, 2006

I found this interview with genocide denier Diane Johnstone on the Serbian nationalist webiste Serbianna:

Diane Johnstone and Boba Borojevic Play Hot Potato With the Truth

The entire site is something of a treasure trove of Serbian nationalist revisionism, propaganda, implicit Islamophobia, and of course a healthy dose of outright lying. This interview, conducted by Boba Borojevic, is an instructive demonstration of the power that tribalism can hold over members of the group even in the 21st Century. Ms. Borojevic is apparantly an educated academic, living in Canada, yet none of this cosmopolitan background can overcome the logic of tribal identification and collective identity. Borojevic, like all ultranationalists, simply cannot conceive an identity separate from a group; not only for herself, but for anyone. There are not individuals in the world, only Serbs, Muslims, etc.

If you haven't been to this website before, I invite you to look around awhile, check out the links and other featured columnists. Quite instructive.

An analysis of this interview is coming soon. Just wanted to get this up.
Oliver Kamm takes Chomsky to task again

Chomsky is practically a poster child for Srebrenica massacre/Bosnian genocide deniers and apologists. For him, America-as-imperialist-bully is not only an ideological default position, it is the only conceivable reality. Many knee-jerk anti-Americans have convinced themselves that America has become evil and corrupted by all the sins it has committed; for Chomsky, it seems, the actions of America are sinister simply by virtue of having been committed by the United States of America. Or 'the West.' Or the forces of globalization. Etc.

I'm far from the first to make this generalization about Chomsky, I realize--plenty of right-wing critics who probably never wanted to hear what he had to say about Nixon and Kissinger's war crimes in Southeast Asia back in the day would heartily endorse this view even if they've read nothing of his recent comments on Bosnia and Kosovo.

But just because the man once pissed off the right people shouldn't give his current writings any legitimacy. Judge Chomsky by what he has to say about the here and now, and his moral and intellectual authority looks pretty shaky.

The status accorded to Chomsky in the American far left is practically hagiographic. Check out this excerpt from David Barsamian's introduction to Imperial Ambitions, subtitled "Conversations on the Post-9/11 World". The book consists of transcripts of interviews with Chomsky carried out by Barsamian:

"Chomsky's soft voice masks a torrent of information and analysis. He has an extraordinary power to distill and synthesize reams of information. And he misses nothing. In one interview he referred to the 1988 shooting down of a civilian Iranian airliner by the USS Vincennes. I was flabbergasted to learn that his source was Proceeding, the journal of the U.S. Naval Institute."

A tenured, experienced academic knows how to locate obscure sources of information? A long-standing critic of US military interventions would have studied documents produced by a branch of the US military? Wow. Color me underwhelmed.

The entire forward is an exercise in hagiography commensurate with Chomsky's outsized status among knee-jerk 'anti-imperialists' and wide-eyed wannabe be revolutionaries pining for revolutionary street cred.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Well, months have passed, the EU deadline has come and gone, and Mladic and Karadzic still remain at large. One has to wonder how much of a price the hardline nationalists in Serbia are willing to pay.

My fear is that the underlying issues in Bosnia will never be fully resolved. The status of the two-state division between the Croat-Muslim Federation and Republika Srpska might not be fully resolved; the current situation in Cyprus does not give one hope for the future. There is no guarantee that the younger generations on both sides of the dividing line will overcome the cycle of recrimination and guilt that the current situation perpetuates.

What are children in Bosnia learning today? In their schools, in their churches and mosques, in their living rooms, on their playgrounds? What is the mental image of their country Bosnian children are forming?

We know what happened to Bosnia. We know how the promise of cosmopolitan, secular, multi-cultural Bosnia was betrayed by the West and brutalized by extremists and fanatics. What will become of Bosnia? What will this nation look like in ten years? Fifty? A century?