Saturday, September 30, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [1]

After 22 posts, devoted to 40 pages of text (that's 1.8 PPP {'Pages Per Post'} for those of you keeping score at home), I finally was able to bid Chapter One, "THE YUGOSLAV GUINEA PIG," a fond adieu.

Even as I was ripping Johnstone's logic, moral bearings, and selective use of facts to shreds (not that I'm a particularly knowledgable or astute critic; shooting rhetorical fish in a barrel is tedious work but in the case of Balkan genocide deniers, someone's gotta do it), I was repeatedly struck by the impression that the entire chapter had the feel of an extended introduction. So many different themes and arguments were introduced and breezed through, so many assumptions were briefly introduced, and so many premises were referred to, that after going through the entire chapter in detail the reader is bound to expect further elaboration in coming chapters.

After all, Johnstone makes no bones about it--she is going against conventional wisdom in this book. She is making claims that Western governments, Western-dominated international organizations, mainstream media outlets, and the bulk of Western intellegensia colluded either deliberately or by unconscious acceptance of faulty imperialist logic and distorted facts. That's a pretty sweeping claim. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

And yet, as we've seen, she covers a lot of ground in Chapter One. It is not only a matter of questioning the conventional understanding of events, as we have seen--anything more than a cursory reading of her book so far reveals that Johnstone has embraced an ideological framework directly at odds with notions of individual rights, individual identity, and--most notably--individual conscience and responsibility.

Taken along with her blanket dismissal of genocide charges against the Serb leadership, suggestions of fascist conspiracies directly traceable to World War II, implied charges of an Islamic fundamentalist jihad, and a decades-long Western strategy to dismember Yugoslavia, Johnstone's explicit endorsement of the logic of collectivist group identity along ethnic lines and her insistance that international law somehow recogzine the tribalist dismemberment of a multi-ethnic nation-state is staggering; she isnt' merely jousting with conventional wisdom about the Bosnian War, she is refuting the Enlightenment, secular Western tradition.

You would think this would require more than 40 pages.

So I begin Chapter Two--"MORAL DUALISM IN A MULTICULTURAL WORLD"--with the expectation that the rest of the book would go on to flesh out the themes and arguments laid out in Chapter One. I have my sources ready (it is worth mentioning again that, by and large, Johnstone relies on the same books and articles I, and most likely anyone reading this blog, have read; her ability to quote approvingly from books such as Silber and Little's Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation while completely ignoring the inescapable conclusions the authors draw is quite amazing). I have my previous posts up on another browser window, since I assume we will be revisiting the same issues, and it wouldn't hurt to have me previous comments handy.

In short, I begin Chapter Two expecting Johnstone to really bring out the big guns. This, I suspect, is where the choir she is preaching to expects to get the payoff. Chapter One was the appetizer; now we're ready for the main course.

It took all of one page before the sinking feeling of deja vu confirmed itself; my hopes that her arguments would become more intellectually vigorous and substantial were cruelly mocked. After drearily trudging my way through the disingenuous, rhetorically muddied, conspiracy-insinuating Chapter One, I had hoped to encounter more full-blown, fleshed-out argument which are at least worth engaging. In Chapter One she had, on occasion, stumbled across a valid point or two; I was hoping to sink my teeth into some of these legitimate points in order to sharpen my intellectual focus and grasp of the events.

Alas, no. Chapter One, it turns out, was an introduction to nothing. She already has her cards on the table. In Chapter Two, she simply moves on to the next half-baked, occasionally incompatable mishmash of misused fact and tenuously implied insinuation.

Keep in mind, this book was published in 2002, not 1996. Many of the uncertainties and much of the misinformation that prospered during the chaotic uncertainty of the war has since been cleared up. At least, in the universe you and I live in. In Johnstone's world, fact-gathering and analysis stop wherever is convenient for her thesis.

Which is all a very long, convoluted way of saying this: Johnstone begins Chapter Two with the tired, discredited notion that the most famous and bloody single mortar attacks on Sarajevo were committed by the Bosnian military against its own people.

Yes, she brings these old charges back up, as if they are fresh, unknown to the reader, and unexamined by outside observers. After all the bombast and bluster of the first chapter, THIS is the best she can do. Johnstone has played her game so far as if bluffing is beneath her, clearly implying that she's holding such a great hand there is no need for her to stoop to our level and play the game. And then she shows us what she's got. And it's nothing.

In short, Chapter Two promises to get ugly; I've browsed through enough to note that we will be treated to the revelation that there were no concentration camps in Bosnia and that the allegations of mass rape were fabricated. For all her intellectual posturing, for all her efforts to play the cooly objective "progressive" intellectual, it all boils down to lying through her teeth on behalf of her ultra-nationalist allies. As it turns out, her tediously constructed thesis has leading precisely nowhere; her pedantically footnoted book, cobbled together from a hodge-podge of sources either dishonest or dishonestly used, adds up to less than nothing.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter One [22]

As I have noted, Johnstone chose to end Chapter One with a lengthy, multi-section attack on the SDA and Izetbegovic in particular; the gist of her argument is that Izetbegovic was an Islamic fundamentalist, and that the SDA was a religious party as much as an ethnic one. With nothing but very circumstantial "evidence," she implies (rather than directly charge, which would require contemporaneous evidence) that the government of Bosnia duped Westerners into supporting an attempt to establish an Islamic theocracy inside of Europe.

I think a disclaimer needs to be made here; there are certain unpleasant facts that lend themselves to distortion and disproportionate citation in the hands of those who would smear Bosnian Muslims and the SDA during the war years.

The SDA was a nationalist party, not a religious party, despite Johnstone's efforts to portray it as such (she even refers to it as a "religious party" in this section). Still, it is true that Izetbegovic was more devoutly relgious than the average Bosnian Muslim; it is also true that the party included a hardline faction that sought to 'Islamacize' the party, Bosnian Islam, and the struggle for Bosnia's survival during the war. And during the war, those within Bosnia's Muslim leadership who sought to achieve a more Islamic identity among their community achieved some small successes. Some of this success was reflected in the military, many units of which became more explicitly "Muslim" as the war dragged on.

Finally; the SDA and Izetbegovic reached out to other Muslim countries from the beginning, and these appeals increased as the war went on. The government and the Army of BiH received money and materials from many Muslim governments, including the Wahabbi regime in Saudi Arabia and the theocracy in Iran. Weapons were smuggled in. Finally, a significant number of mujahideen came into Bosnia; many of them were organized into units and incorporated into the Army of BiH.

Mujahideen units were formidable fighters; they were also ruthless and often cruel. Atrocities were committed; these units were infamous for collecting the heads of Serb soldiers. Many of these foreign fighters stayed behind after the war ended, setting up enclaves of Islamic fundamentalism near Zenica. Many others took advantage of lax wartime restrictions to acquire Bosnian passports and new identities. It is known that Al Qaeda had a presence in Bosnia during the war, and afterwords. Saudi money financed new mosques, as well as the teaching of Wahabbi doctrine. Burkas were seen more often on the streets of some Bosnian towns.


All of the above is true. Those of us who care about Bosnia and the ideals which its sovereignty, history, and culture represent do our cause no service if we do not face up to such incidents, where the government we supported (if Bosnia taught me anything, it is that in some situations, such as genocide, there can be no standing on the sidelines--one must choose) failed to live up to to the standards a secular, multicultural democracy should always abide by.

I do not fear such an accounting; just because the truth is more complicated and less clear-cut than one might first believe does not mean it ceases to be the truth. I knew very little about Yugoslavia, and essentially nothing about Bosnia, when the war broke out. My initial impressions were from CNN reports; at the time, I continued to get the vast majority of my information from the mainstream broadcast and print media. You can easily extrapolate the naivete and crudeness of my understanding of events at the time.

When the NATO war in Kosovo broke out, I found that the situation was different; I was excited that the Milosevic regime was finally receiving serious, sustained military reprecussions; but it was clear that most of the people I knew did not feel the same way. There was no enthusiasm for the war, no sense that a greater wrong was, however imperfectly, being righted. And there were disturbing signs that the campaign to end apartheid in Kosovo was being compromised by the Clinton administrations' politically motivated strategy.

I found myself struggling to articulate a compelling argument in favor of Western intervention in Kosovo; ultimately the discussion would encompass the rest of the former Yugoslavia and the wars that had torn the country apart. I had to revisit events which I understood viscerally but not particularly deeply. I realized I needed to learn more--a lot more--in order to understand the situation.

I'm sure my story is not unique, nor is it very interesting. I shared the above anecdote in order to illustrate that I am the sort of person Johnstone is hoping to rope in; for all her raging at the perfidy of Western elites and politicians, I suspect she knows better. She has, as already noted, read the same books I have, most of which come to very different conclusions than she does, and so she cannot be unaware that the actions actually taken by the U.S. and other Western powers most often did not match the lofty rhetoric and high ideals she disparages throughout this book. She wants to convince the poorly informed reader that he or she was duped into supporting...well, she doesn't really get to that. Western imperialism? The destruction of a successful socialist state? The establishment of an Islamist state in Europe? She alludes to much; she articulates little.


And so Chapter One sputters to what passes for a conclusion; a grab-bag of implied Islamaphobia, swipes at "illegal arms smuggling" (has she ever mentioned the massive logistical support the Bosnian Serb Army continued to receive from the JNA? Do you really need to ask?), along with a healthy dose of outrage at corruption among SDA elites and their cadres. The facts I listed earlier are, of course, combined with sinister quotes from Islamic supporters of Bosnia, and stories of squalid black marketing, bribery, and other venality.

The hope, I suppose, is to disgust the reader with the whole cause of Bosnia. Johnstone's world is where ideals and moral outrage go to die; there is nothing to believe in here. Rather than rally against real evil, in the form of genocide and institutionalized racism, she would rather look for any flaws in the victim. She prides herself on this; she believes that she is bravely destroying false illusions. But her perception is completely without proportion. In her determination to strip the Bosnian Muslims of any shred of unearned sympathy, she succeeds only in reducing all human endeavors to their worst moments, and all human activities to their basest motives. Like any self-righteous Puritan, she seeks to prove that you are nothing but your worst sins. When the Bosnians cry that they are being wrong, she smugly points at their own shortcomings and says "You see? Your sainthood is unearned." Her obsession with petty legalisms and minor contradictions have led her so far astray, she can no longer see what is in front of her; the large panorama of human suffering and misery is nothing but distant, emotionally overwrought images. She prefers to get up close, and snidely point out where the artist missed a brush stroke.

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter One [21]


The first sentence of this section sets the tone:

"Izetbegovic was a man with a cause he considered sacred."

The insinuation that he was a fundamentalist intent of creating an Islamic state is clear; the use of the word 'sacred' has obvious religious connotations. The purpose of this section is to link Izetbegovic and the SDA with worldwide jihadists and Islamists. Izetbegovic was the leader of a nationalist party that appealled to an 'ethnic' group defined by relgion, the Slavic Muslims of Bosnia. Nationalist politics prevailed in the dying years of Yugoslavia. The Muslim-led Bosnia government, desperate to get weapons and aid from any source it could get them, turned to the Muslim world. Bosnia's government accepted any help the Muslim world was willing to offer in their desperate war for survival, and this included several hundred or even several thousand mujahideen.

Johnstone takes these few facts and juggles them fiercely, trying to create the illusion of a developed, cogent arguement. By ignoring both chronology and outside events (there has not been any mention of events in Serbia, both during and immediately prior to the Bosnian elections, for example), she attempts to create the illusion of having uncovered a vast Islamic conspiracy behind the SDA.

For example, she discusses the creation of ethnic Muslim militias in 1991, without context, to develop the illusion that there was a systematic and logistically advanced plan for war by the SDA leadership.

"This involved obtaining money, arms, and volunteers from Muslim countries. In May 1991, ten months before the proclamation of independence that set off civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cengic [an imam who served as deputy defense minister] gave written instructions to SDA party faithful from all over the Republic to form Muslim brigades under the command of General Sulejman Vranja, a Yugoslav army officer still on active duty. Needless to say, this clearly treasonable activity was kept secret at the time."

Needless to say, Johnstone does not discuss the prior development of much larger Serb militias in both Bosnia and Croatia; nor does she discuss the complicity of the JNA in the militarization of Serbian areas throughout those republics long before this May 1991 order. Her disproportionate outrage is not new, of course, but again a reasonably informed reader must balance outrage at her dishonesty with befuddlement at her motives; she has read the same books I have, for example--why does she pretend not to know these things?

She goes on:

"The prospect of war never deterred Izetbegovic. Once the war began, he wanted to keep it going, and even after Dayton, he continued to arm in order to be able to resume it. But there has never been the slightest suggestion by the International Criminal Tribunal that Izetbegovic's declared readiness to sacrifice peace might imply any responsibility whatsoever for the ensuing war."

I wouldn't bother with this lenghty analysis of her work if I didn't think Johnstone was presenting a point of view and an interpretation of events that needs to be addressed and refuted at length; I believe that the cause of Bosnia was one of individual human rights versus collective identity and generational guilt, of civic nationalism versus ethnic nationalism, and of secular citizenship versus tribalism. Still, there are times when I wonder if she isn't just batshit crazy. Simple distinctions sometimes confound her; her failure to grasp the true meaning of 'genocide' might be wrapped up in her inability to distinguish between different levels of war crimes, from isolated incidents carried out by rouge units versus predetermined state policies.

In the above quoted paragraph, I'm not sure if understands that it's not a crime against humanity for a head of state to lead his country in a time of war. His leadership might have been reckless, but Johnstone has been endlessly droning on about international law and other legalities throughout the book; Bosnia-Hercegovina was a UN member state exercising its right to self-defense. Even if you recognized the cause of Serb nationalism as a legitimate grievance, one would then need to concede the fact that the government in Sarajevo was fighting a civil war, which is not banned by any international body. Indeed, the UN has been historically reluctant to intervene in such internal matters, considering such intervention a comprimise of sovereignty. Why Johnstone would expect Izetbegovic to be charged with war crimes for carrying on in a war where his aim was to reestablish control over his own county is impossible to fathom.

She cannot, of course, concede that Izetbegovic and his government were fighting for anything noble--indeed, she charges him with trying to establish an Islamic theocracy at the expense of the Christian majority--so she therefore does not need to consider his reasons for rejecting 'peace' (a peace without justice).

Having breezed through a very truncated history of the SDAs' feeble attempts at self-armament in the months leading up to the war, she skips ahead five years to this scene:

"At Dayton, however, eager to secure a settlement, U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke finally lost patience with Izetbegovic. "If you want to let the fighting go on, that is your right," he told the Muslim leader, "but Washington does not want you to expect the United State to be your air force. If you continue the war, you will be shooting craps with your nation's destiny." Aside from the inappropriate nature of the metaphor (one cannot imagine the auster Izetbegovic "shooting craps" or having any familiarity with such an activity), Holbrookes' warning ironically echoed an earlier warning to Izetbegovic voiced by none other than the Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic--the very warning that was cited by the International Criminal Tribunal as the main evidence of Karadzic's intention to commit "genocide" (see Chapter 3)."

Now THAT'S some chutzpah...comparing Holbrooke's diplomatic strong-arming to Karadzic's thinly veiled threats; two very different men with very different agendas in very different situations. And the end result? She suggests that Karadzic's crude threat to exterminate an entire ethnic group was, in fact, nothing but reasonable words of caution to a relgiously motivated, blood-thirsty fanatic.

She goes on. The stage is set for one of the most unfortunate episodes in the war from the Bosnian side; the mujahideen units that fought on the Muslim side, mostly in central Bosnia. This post has grown long enough; perhaps it would be good to save this discussion for the next one, where we will finally put Chapter One to rest.

Monday, September 25, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter One [20]


Serb nationalists like to claim they were fighting against "Islamic fundamentalism" in Bosnia. More sane observers have found that claim laughably ridiculous on the face of it; Bosnia's Muslims were by and large extremely secular and Western-leaning; the country was democratic in nature; there was no attempt to impose sharia even on the Muslim communities, let alone non-Muslims; the government never sent a single fighter outside of Bosnian soil.

But the Islamaphobes have an ally--Johnstone has found all the pieces she needs to suggest that there was an Islamic conspiracy afoot in Bosnia. Does she put all those pieces together to create a convincing portrait? Of course not--as always, Johnstone links together isolated facts, free of any messy context, and cobbles them together so that mere proximity--in isolation from any mitigating factors, or the accumulated baggage of messy reality--might hopefully imply a cohesive theme.

Actually, Srebrenica Massacre did a fine job of summing up the problems with Johnstone's "arguement" in his comment to the previous post (for some reason, it claims '0 comments,' but all the comments are still there). Izetbegovic published his "Islamic Declaration" in 1970. Johnstone, playing along with her nationalist buddies, works on feeding the implication that it was some sort of Mein Kampf, a blueprint for an Islamic Bosnia.

Innuendo runs deep in this section. Johnstone notes that Izetbegovic, as a decendent of the Muslim upper class of Ottoman Turkey (she playes this card a lot, by the way--comparing the elite status of the SDA leadership to the peasant status of rural Bosnian Serbs):

" an heir to a Muslim elite which bitterly opposed attempts by the later Turkish Sultans to make concessions to Balkan Christians in order to preserve Ottoman rule in the Balkans."

It never ceases to amaze me how often, and how blithely, Johnstone will indulge in notions of generational guilt. Compared to implications that modern-day Germany represents resurgent Nazism and that contemporary Croats are all card-carrying Ustasha, holding Izetbegovic accountable for the grievances of 19th Century Muslim elites is relatively minor; still, it's yet another Freudian slip, another indication of how thoroughly she has assimiliated the collectivist logic of generational and tribal identity.

This section goes on for three pages, dredging up quotes from this document without a whiff of context; that she fails to mention he did not include Bosnia itself in his vision of a truly Islamic world should surprise you not at all. Nor should it amaze that, even if you take her carefully chosen quotes at face value, Izetbegovic failed miserably as a champion of Islamic world conquest--one quote from his book warns of the failure to adequately prepare for seizing power; being adequately prepared to take power by force was most certainly not a vice of the SDA under Izetbegovic.

After several paragraphs of carefully decontextualized quotes and random bits of innuendo posing as analysis, she starts the penultimate paragraph with this curious quote:

"If "fundamentalism" can be defined as basing an entire social and political order on religion, then Izetbegovic was indeed a "fundamentalist." "

Yes, and if "my wife" can be defined as "Salma Hayek," then I'm married to one of the most caliente women in Hollywood. I guess once you've redefined "genocide" you've pretty much got carte blanche to redefine terms at your leisure.

This paragraph-from-an-alternate-universe continues thusly:

"Izetbegovic's demand for an Islamic state once Muslims are a majority of the population deserves attention, since demographic changes in Bosnia-Herzegovina were moving toward a Muslim majority. Did fear of this prospect help drive non-Muslim citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina into the arms of nationalist Serb and Croat parties? Whether or not such fears were groundless, the question needs to be raised."

[underlined text was italicized in the original]

One waits for Johnstone to begin quoting from SDA statements and party platforms calling for an Islamic state in Bosnia; she does not, of course, because she has no such documentation. Instead, she has a book written 20 years prior (republished in 1990, she ominously notes) as her sole source for these 'demands.' Thus she implies that this urbane, educated, pro-Western man was a raging fundamentalist seeking to reimpose sharia on the decendents of the same Balkan Christian peasants his ancestors lorded over.

Such fears were groundless, although they were certainly fueled by racist propaganda coming from the nationalist leaders Johnstone has allied herself with. The specter of Muslim hordes out-breeding the scared Christians of Bosnia was a scenario dreamed up by the most extreme elements of the SDS; and here we have Johnstone giving creedence to them. The question that REALLY needs to be asked is this: Has this woman no shame?

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter One [19]

She's baaaaaaaaaack!

I rushed through the end of Chapter One before returning my previous copy. In this post, I'll just cover anything I skimmed over, and then in the next post I'll start Chapter Two.

Remember folks--I'm reading Johnstone so you don't have to!


I'll try not to choke on my own bile and return, just for a second, to where I basically left off; in the section entitled "Ideals versus facts", the title of which neatly encapsulates the snide tone of Johnstone's cherry-picking of conspiracy-friendly, decontextualized facts. This was the section in which she claims that the genocide in Bosnia simply didn't happen.

The games she plays with conflicting casualty rates is simply astounding. It is hard not to understand that death tolls during the war were inexact--for one thing, press access to areas of Republika Srpska was limited; for all of Johstone's laments about how much the Western media covered the war, most of the ethnic cleansing occured off-camera. Nor should it be surprising that the Bosnian government used the biggest figures it could get away with in order to stir up international outrage. Not to defend that practice, but it strikes me as disproportionate to focus your outrage on inflated civilian death tolls when civilian deaths were a deliberate aim of Bosnian Serb tactics.

Here's the concluding paragraph of this paricularly loathsome section:

"What was being destroyed in this "genocide" was not the Bosnian people, who despite undeniable hardships and heartaches--yes, and despite Srebrenica--have survivied, although widely dispersed. What was being destroyed was the Western intellectual's multicultural dream. Meanwhile, by readily believing the worst horror stories, they exacerbated hatred on all sides and helped to destroy the Yugoslavs' multicultural reality."

So you see, what happened in Bosnia wasn't a genocide, because not every single Bosnian was killed; they were merely "widely dispersed" after some "hardships and heartaches." And the real culprits in stirring up the killing weren't far-right nationalists or the brutal paramilitaries who inflicted the majority of those 'hardships'--no, it was those clueless Western intelllectuals who made everything worse. Why couldn't they have stayed out of it?




As for Johnstone's take on Izetbegovic; if you know anything at all about the SDA, you know that it was a Muslim nationalist party, and that its behavior during the war was not always laudable. And, if you know anything about Izetbegovic, you know that he was more religious and 'orthodox' a Muslim than the majority of Bosnian Muslims.

But Johnstone is forever tilting at the windmills of shallow media coverage as if she's the only one who 'gets it.' Deliberately confusing public statements with actual policy decisions is her stock in trade.

Izetbegovic probably wasn't the best leader; he certainly had his shortcomings. That one of those shortcomings was that he spectacularly FAILED to prepare for war is a fact Johnstone steers well clear of. It's amazing how much blame she appears to be preparing to heap on the ethnic leader who was NOT arming for civil war.

She concludes this short section with a paragraph discussing the election deal made with Fikret Abdic, who actually won more votes. The deal was somewhat fishy; later events would show that Abdic would not have been the man any sensible person would want leading Bosnia, but nevertheless he did win the most votes among Muslims. At any rate, here's Johnstone on Izetbegovic:

"This was supposed to be a shared presidency, to be rotated annually between a Muslim, a Serb, and a Croat. But Izetbegovic proved immovable."

It should go without saying that the reason Izetbegovic didn't step aside for a Serb might have had something to do with the civil war that raged for nearly all of his time in office. Johnstone, as usual, doesn't expect her narrative to slavishly follow the chronology of real-world events; she just floats above the time-space continuum at her leisure, lighting down whenever she spies a stray fact, incident, or quote which might pretty up the stories she keeps telling herself.


Actually, I realize I breezed through quite a bit of the end of this chapter. The above, one-page section is just the opening salvo on a sustained 10-page attack on Izetbegovic, his leadership, the SDA, and, implicitly, the 'Muslimness' of Bosnia's largest ethnic group. It deserves more attention. So, lucky reader, we're not quite through with Chapter One. More next time.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

McCain/Dole Editorial: Heed the Lessons of Srebrenica

I read this article when it first came out, and was waiting for it to be archived on, but today I received it from the Center For Balkan Development e-newsletter I subscribe to. Please keep in mind this was a published editorial in the Washington Post, in case you decide to cite it.

A good reminder of why people like me continue to dwell on the war in Bosnia--there were lessons in that war the world needs to take to heart.


Rescue Darfur Now
Washington Post, September 10, 2006
By John McCain and Bob Dole Sunday

In 1995, the writing was on the wall. The conflict in Bosnia was escalating. Tens of thousands of civilians had been driven from their homes and were trapped in places the United Nations had designated as "safe areas," including Srebrenica. Only a few hundred poorly equipped U.N. peacekeepers stood between those civilians and Bosnian Serb forces. The Serbs had signaled their defiance of the United Nations, their disdain for diplomatic overtures and their determination to advance on the safe areas and finish the job of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. All the makings of a massacre were present, and, before the eyes of the world, that is what unfolded. Eight thousand Bosnian Muslims were systematically killed at Srebrenica, and history has judged severely those policymakers who failed to heed the warning signs of mass murder.

As advocates of military action in Bosnia, we will never forget those terrible days. We remember that when the United States and its allies did finally act, military intervention saved countless lives. And all of us pledged anew that, should such a situation again unfold, we would do things very differently.

Today, the Darfur region of Sudan faces its own Srebrenica moment.

The scale of human destruction thus far in Sudan has been staggering. Already, more than 200,000 civilians have been killed, with perhaps 2.5 million forced into squalid camps. This catastrophe is the result of a directed slaughter perpetrated by the Sudanese government and allied Janjaweed militias.

Faced with its moral responsibility to act, the U.N. Security Council has adopted a resolution that would replace a courageous but inadequate African Union force with a much larger U.N. force empowered to protect civilians. Last week, the Sudanese government not only rejected the resolution but demanded that the African Union withdraw from the country, leaving civilians vulnerable. Meanwhile, government forces have launched a major offensive in Darfur to finish off any rebel forces there, pushing tens of thousands more civilians into the camps.

As with Srebrenica in 1995, the potential for further mass killing in Darfur today is plain for all to see. All the warnings have been issued, including one from the United Nations that the coming weeks may see "a man-made catastrophe of an unprecedented scale." What remains unclear is only whether the world has the will to impose an outcome on Sudan different from that which unfolded so tragically in Bosnia. Make no mistake: At some point we will step in to help victims in Darfur and police an eventual settlement. The question is whether the United States and other nations will act now to prevent a tragedy, or merely express sorrow and act later to deal with its aftermath.

Urgent action is required in the coming hours and days.

First, the United States should reject out of hand Khartoum's demand that the African Union force leave and should insist that it stay, with broad international support, until the introduction of a robust U.N. force in accordance with Security Council Resolution 1706.

Second, the United States should call on the European Union to impose financial sanctions against the Sudanese leadership and to pursue the immediate imposition of similar sanctions by the U.N. Security Council.

Third, NATO should immediately establish and enforce a no-fly zone over Darfur to ensure that Khartoum ends its offensive military flights and bombing raids, as the Security Council has already demanded.

Fourth, the United States should intensify efforts to persuade U.N. members to commit troops and funds for the U.N. force in Darfur, and it should develop plans for U.S. logistical support. The administration should push the United Nations to draw up firm plans for the entrance of a robust force into Darfur and contingency plans for the force to enter without Sudanese consent.

Fifth, U.S. and allied intelligence assets, including satellite technology, should be dedicated to record any atrocities that occur in Darfur so that future prosecutions can take place. We should publicly remind Khartoum that the International Criminal Court has jurisdiction to prosecute war crimes in Darfur and that Sudanese leaders will be held personally accountable for attacks on civilians.

Finally, the United States should increase pressure on countries friendly to Khartoum -- and particularly our allies in the Arab League -- to abandon their support for Sudan's refusal to accept the U.N. force.

Some of these steps would be dramatic and difficult. But the circumstances imposed on the people of Darfur are likewise dramatic and difficult. And so would be the consequences of inaction: a humanitarian disaster that the world will in any case have to address; a massive and possibly permanent population of refugees dependent on international support; a conflict spreading to neighboring countries with prospects for settlement even more remote; and a permanent stain on our conscience.

Throughout the world, people of conscience were shocked by and ashamed of our failure to stop the genocide in Bosnia and Rwanda. We must not repeat these mistakes. In Darfur, the moment of truth is now.

John McCain is a U.S. senator from Arizona and Bob Dole was a longtime senator from Kansas and the 1996 Republican presidential nominee.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Bosfam; and a modest proposal

BOSFAM Homepage

I'm sure most of the regular readers of this blog are already aware of the existence of the BOSFAM weaving collective. If you are not aware of this group and its fine work, by all means check it out. It is a collective of war widows who have banded together to try and find a way to utitlize their weaving skills as a way to make a living. When you consider that the educational and literacy levels of many of these women is low, and that they mostly were homemakers who have no experience in the workplace, you can appreciate the long-term economic hardships they face, along with the emotional toll taken.

I have been in touch with the DC Office of AdvocacyNet in regards to their new 'Sponsor a Weaver" program. The program is simple--you donate $1,000.00 and you sponsor one of these women, who will use your money to support herself and purchase the supplies she needs (wool, etc.) in order to set herself up in business.

I think it's a great idea, but unfortunately a thousand dollars is more than I can afford. However, there is no reason why several people can't pool their resources and colletively sponsor one of these women.

I'm going to contact friends of mine to see if anyone would be interested in donating towards this cause. If anyone reading this would be interested in joining in, please email me. I haven't set anything up yet, like a PayPal, but if I get some interest I'll definately try to get the ball rolling.

I'll keep you all updated on any progress I do or don't make. Also, the weaver you sponsor makes a rug as a thank-you gift for the donor. I'm willing to entertain ideas for who would receive the rug, but my suggestion would be for the Embassy of Bosnian and Hercegovina. I have been there several times (it's only an hour from my house, give or take Northern Virginia traffic). To put it kindly, they haven't wasted too much of their nations resources on decorating the place. The rug would not only be a nice display of one of their nations indigenous crafts, it would also be a tangable show of support from a handful of concerned Westerners.

Think about it, and let me know.

Friday, September 08, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter One [18]

Up to this point, there has been much in Johnstone's narrative to be appalled and outraged by. But nothing up to this point--her anti-cosmopolitan embrace of primitive tribal collectivism, her disregard for truth, her contempt for the victims of a vicious war--can compare to the moment, in the subsection entitled "Ideals versus Facts," on page 53, when Diana Johnstone makes the off-hand claim that there was no genocide in Bosnia. And then she goes on to drain the term "genocide" of any real meaning. It is a staggering moment, all the more so for being blandly included in a throwaway line, part of yet another dig at David Rieff. (Her contempt for Rieff's book--Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West--is one more good reason to buy a copy and read it).

This subsection, as mentioned yesterday, begins by snidely dismissing the tolerant, multicultural tradition of Sarajevo; it then brings up the activities of seperatist Croats in Hercegovina by of proving...something, I'm sure; then points out that even Rieff admitted that the SDA's commmittment to multiculturalism was fading in 1994 (without, you can be sure, examining the reasons WHY the Muslims of Bosnia might have began identifying themselves as 'Muslims' instead of as 'Bosnians' after years of ethnic cleansing and war); mentions the mujahideen who came to fight in Bosnia as proof that Izetbegovic and the SDA were closet fundamentalists; which brings us back to David Rieff, the archetypical Western Bosniaphile. It's a long paragraph leading up to her denial, but let's look at the whole thing:

"David Rieff's mother, Susan Sontag, actually attempted to turn Sarajevo into the Bosnia cult's vision of it by going there and staging Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot," in an apparant snipe at the "International Community" which was slow to rush to the awaited rescue."

Johnstone's snideness and contempt for Sontag's brave and decent attempt to stand in solidarity with the citizens of a cultured city under seige is sickening. It is beyond me why Sontag's action could in any way offend anyone's sensibilities.

"Meanwhile, her son seemed little concerned to separate fact from fiction in his zeal to prove his tragic thesis that Bosnia was the best of all multicultural societies, being subjected to "genocide," and that "the Serbs were the villains of the war." The press corps in the Holiday Inn knew that "to be fair and to be impartial are not the same thing," what mattered was to work up enough public indignation to force the West to intervene militarily on behalf of the Muslims."

Note the quotes around 'genocide.' And note the hyperbole being attributed to Reiff--that Bosnia was "the best of all multicultural societites,' something he did not claim.

"After his first trip to Bosnia in September 1992, to write for an American magazine on "ethnic cleansing," Rieff returned repeatedly, "resolved to write as frankly incendiary a narrative as I could," with the idea that what he wrote could end the slaughter. Rieff had no doubt: "ethnic cleansing was not just a war crime, it was genocide, pure and simple." But two pages later: "Ethnic cleansing was in part about making these routes secure from guerilla attack." That sounds more like war than genocide."

I cannot for the life of me fathom what the hell this twisted, sneering shell of a human being is getting at here. Is it not possible for an act of genocide to be committed as a military aim? Or does that make it 'merely' a war crime? Is Johnstone suggesting that only a universal plan of elimination, carried out under peacetime through industrial means counts as genocide? Or, as it seems, is she suggesting that ethnic cleansing is an acceptable military policy? Or that a large-scale war crime with a logical military objective is not, by definition, genocide?

I don't know. She doesn't know, either, I suspect, not that it matters. Her goal is not to illuminate but rather to obscure and occlude. I did not manage to finish my analysis of this chapter before I had to return it this afternoon; the next few pages go into more detail on body counts and so forth. Along with one last swipe at Izetbegovic and his 'Muslimness,' which was apparantly the legitimate threat the Bosnian Serbs were fighting against.

I'll get back to this book in the next couple of weeks, and pick up where I left off. But it is rather welcome that I'm forced to take this break right after this section. I need a break. I'm taking a vacation from Diana Johnstone. I promise to finish the job I've started--her lies and her corrupt reasoning should be confronted relentlessly.

Right now, I'm tired of trying to live in the cramped and convuluted moral universe Johnstone inhabits. I need fresh air, honesty, and decency. I'm tired of sterile, disingenuous legalisms and smug pseudo-sophisticated contrarianism. I'm tired of viewing the plight of the Bosnians--or anyone--as nothing but an intellectual construct, or a symptom of Western imperialism. I'm tired of this woman. And if I'm doing a decent job of conveying her views and her writing, you are, too.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter One [17]


The idealization of Bosnia that bothers Johnstone so much was primarily guilty, in her mind, of creating a false Bosnia, a mulitcultural Eden (she actually uses that exact phrase somewhere in the book) led by the saintly Izetbegovic (ditto THAT phrase) and his immaculately secular SDA, residing in the tolerant paradise of Sarajevo.

Did I mention Johnstone likes to joust with strawmen?

Having already denied that Sarajevo had been under seige during the war (in that case, I should have simply rented a car at the time, and driven in to see the place for myself!), she also makes the rather remarkable claim that the Serb neighborhoods in the hills (which had, by and large, 'become' Serb after the outbreak of the war) suffered the same deprivations as the Muslim neighborhoods in the central part of the city (the old Turkish sector had been mainly Muslim, but other than that the central part had been just as mixed as the suburbs prior to hostilities).

She also claims that the fact that the three nationalist parties (SDA, SDS, and HDZ) received 90% of the vote in 1990 somehow indicates that Sarajevo was actually a very divided city. That those election results were a reflection of the unstable and fearful political situation in 1990, and not a reflection of, say, complext historical and social factors, seems to be beyond her capacity to understand.

She even insinuates that Bosnian soldiers deliberately made it unsafe for journalists to stay in the Serb-controlled suburb of Ilidza and then forced them to stay, for the rest of the war, in the Holiday Inn in the government-controlled part of town. Bosnian soldiers didn't even control access to the airport, yet they were somehow able to control Western access to the Serb side of the front lines. It only sounds ridiculous if you believe that Sarajevo was, as every available fact demonstrates, under seige and surrounded by Bosnian Serb forces. The Johnstone who writes this:

"The "Sarajevo" on the world's television screens was the Muslim center of the city. The Serbian suburbs, whose inhabitants were undergoing the same fears and deprivations, became invisible."

clearly is not burdened by such knowledge.

She goes on to point at the Croat extremist breakaway republic of Herceg-Bosna, the regrettable existance of which somehow is supposed to undercut the legitimacy of Western criticism of Republika Srpska and its campaign of ethnic cleansing in northern and eastern Bosnia. Like any good conspiracy theorist, Johnstone ignores the forest in order to look at the weeds.

And then she returns to Rieff, who she fancies has been made a fairly ridiculous figure by now. All the better--if you have discredited the messenger, the message becomes easier to denounce. And the message to be denounced is this: that there was genocide occuring in Bosnia in the 1990s. Johnstone will deny that genocide occured in two ways; she will lie about the body count, and she will attempt to change the very definition of the term.

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter One [16]


Having demonized the SDA leadership of the Bosnian government as tools of Western imperialism--and sneaky Muslims to boot--Johnstone now turns her wrath on the Western journalists, writers, pundits, and intellectuals who supported the cause of Bosnian sovereignty.

The first paragraph overstates the degree which the Western media simplified the war (and ignores the fact that Western media outlets often bent over backwards to give Bosnian Serb politiicans a listen in the interests of 'objectivity'):

"The reality was complex, and steeped in lies, myth, and history. The reporters sent to report on the "seige of Sarajevo" were mostly too new to the region to be able to distinguish truth from lies."

She goes on, disparaging the thrust of Western reporting on the war as nothing but human interest reporting in search of a convenient narrative and easily identifiable victims and villains. Take note of the quotes around 'seige of Sarajevo'--this is no typo. As she mentions later, she does not believe that Sarajevo was under seige. Forget that the city was surrounded by a hostile military, subjected to years of artillery bombardment and sniper fire, deprived of communication and commerce with the outside world, and claimed for partition by a rebel government--apparantly, this is all too crude and obvious. Presumably, there were subtleties and nuances us mere mortals are not able to detect. Lord knows the citizens of Sarajevo weren't privvy to them.

The biggest 'myth' at play in Bosnia was the ridiculous idea that outsiders lacked the experience and intimate knowledge alleged to be necessary to understand the situation. Johnstone frequently does this, presenting herself as a lone voice of reason against a shreiking hoard of misguided, ignorant Westerners who foolishly imagine themselves to be capable of understand the Byzantine complexities at play. Her deluded sense of intellectual and moral superiority would be laughable if not in service of such a heinous cause.

She also takes a few potshots at David Rieff, author of Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West. His passionate defense of Bosnia and the multicultural ideal its sovereignty represented earns him two full pages of venom, including this rather bizarre misinterpretation:

She quotes Rieff here:

"Rieff was openly and fervently convinced that Europe must become another United States, a melting pot. He had gone to Europe "in search of this 'Americanization' of the European future" with the "didactic conviction that in the twenty-first century we would all be polyglot or we would kill one another off." "

And then she responds thusly:

"This is a rather extraordinary conviction, and comes down to saying, "within a century, everybody must be like me, or else we will all kill each other." "

Which, of course, is NOT the meaning of what eeiff says here. And while Johnstone might have her reasons for believing that Rieff is wrong to believe a cosmopolitan, polyglot future is necessary in order to avoid mutual destruction, it seems an odd choice to choose the cause of the Bosnian Serbs--who refused to live in a state where they would have to share political power with others--as a good example of why Reiff is allegedly wrong.

But that would be using logic, and logic is something that Johnstone and the other Balkan genocide deniers can't indulge in excessively.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter One [15]

The next four and a half pages continue the trend of seeing everything that happened in Bosnia through the prism of Western/EU/NATO/US actions and interference; the magnitude and influence of foreign actors in the former Yugoslavia is consistantly exaggerated, while the entire shared body of knowledge concerning actions taken in Belgrage and among the SDS leadership is completely ignored.

At the same time, the threat of Islam looms ever greater. We read about "Izetbegovic's Muslim forces," not the Army of Bosnia and Hercegovina. Bosnia's extremely secular Muslims were somehow ripe for Islamic theocracy, at their neighbor's expense. The Bosnian leadership were rich, capitalist tools, heirs to the privilage (and, implicitly, the duplicity and cruelty) of their Ottoman-era ancestors. As it turns out, the Bosnian government was led by a pro-American, fundamentalist, neo-Ottoman elite. She has plenty to say about the leadership of the SDA; not so much about he Muslim population as a whole; being that they are nothing but traitorous Serbs and Croats led astray by religion and foreign privilage, perhaps they are not worthy of our consideration.

Like most conspiracy theorists, Johnstone tends to get bogged down in minutiae and decontextualized facts. She goes on to claim that US support for this imagined Islamic government in Bosnia (no explanation as to what form this "support" took during the period from the breakout of the war until the fall of 1995) was a crucial element in developing a strong US presence in the Central Asian republics AND in strengthening "the crucial strategic US-Israeli-Turkish alliance in the Middle East."

That last one really comes out of left field, since Israeli rhetoric and state actions--such as selling arms to Serbia--don't reflect such a reality; neither does the fact that the Israeli punditry was remarkably pro-Serb during much of the war. Not that Israel was a major player during the conflict--'support' for Serbia mostly took the form of favorable statements by a number of pundits and a handful of politicians, and a tendancy to look the other way when small, covert arms deals were made. Then again, that pretty much summarizes US 'support' for Bosnia for the first three-plus years of the conflict, and that doesn't stop Johnstone from conneting the dots and portraying the SDA in Sarajevo as crafty tools of the American empire.

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter One [14]

Having blamed the victim in the previous paragraph, Johnstone then glibly deals with the infamous--and still shadowy--meeting between Milosevic and Tudjman at Karadjordjevo, where the partition of Bosnia was most likely discussed. Her focus here isn't on the substance of the talks, or even the implications of the leaders of the two neighboring republics discussing Bosnia's fate in secret, but rather in defending the honor of Slobodan Milosevic by pointing out that it was Tudjman, not the Serbian leader, who claimed to have brought up the matter of partitioning Bosnia between Croatian and Serbia. (Not for the first time, Johnstone ignores Milosevic's penchant for engaging in deceit and playing his cards extremely close to his chest while keeping the dirty work at a distance; as always, she takes this sociopath at his word).

Having damned Tudjman for having proposed the partition of Bosnia, Johnstone promptly opines, in the very next paragraph, that doing so was a great idea:

"But if Yugoslavia was indeed "in a state of disintegration," what would have been so terrible about a negotiated territorial division between Croatia and Serbia to spare the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina the horrors of civil war? There had never in history been an independent Muslim Bosnia-Herzegovina."

You can get whiplash trying to follow Johnstone's train of thought sometimes, but let us try and keep up here. One wants to ask: How, exactly, was this territorial division of Bosnia to be achieved without some kind of civil war? Given the mixed demographics of the country, it would have been hard to draw a boundry acceptable to both Croat and Serb nationalists. And wasn't a division of Bosnia between Serbs and others the underlying theme of the bloody war that did occur in Bosnia?

While pondering the staggering number of problems such a proposal would entail, one runs the risk of skimming over that second sentence--but that would be a mistake, because it attempts to gloss over the ugly reality of this division she is advocating--there was no place for the Muslims of Bosnia.

I don't think Johnstone is ignorant of this point--she has pointed out before, and does so again in this very paragraph, that 'Muslim' was a recent national designation; she also repeats the lie that Bosnian Muslims are really just lapsed Serbs and/or Croats.

To be fair, she does go on to address the fate of Bosnia's Muslims if such a division were enacted, but her solution is a little strange:

"It would have required guaranteeing that the full religious freedom already enjoyed by Bosnian Muslims would be safeguarded--by no means a difficult matter."

Not a difficult matter, but certainly an almost irrelevant one--the Kosovar Albanians weren't being persecuted because they were predominantly Muslim, but because they were Albanian. The shift from ethnicity to religion is most likely no accident--Johnstone will use Islam as a stick with which to beat Bosnia's Muslim leadership.

I'll wrap up this post by discussing the sentence which follows the above quote:

"Serbs and Croats had no objection to living with Muslims as neighbors; their objections were to living as potentially second-class citizens of a Muslim state--another matter altogether."

{underlined text in the above quote italicized in original text}

The second half of this sentence somehow tries to spin the straw of bigoted invictive into the gold of respectable opinion; the specter of a fundamentalist theocracy being imposed by a nearly defenseless, deeply secularized population comprising less than half of the population somehow is transformed from hysterical hate-mongering to sensible public opinion. The insertion of the qualifying "potentially" is the closest shave with reality this clause contains.

The first half of this sentence? I mentioned that Karadzic has not made an appearance yet, and Plavsic never will; you could not discuss either one of them and still bring yourself to write such a whopper.

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter One [13]


This final section, an assault on the very idea of Bosnia, is where Johnstone really lets it all hang out.

"Having decisively contributed to the violent distintigration of multicultural Yugoslavia, the West proceeded to idolize one of the fragments as a multicultural Eden: the central Yugoslav republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina."

In this opening sentence, Johnstone prepares to marshall her selectively chosen facts and chronologically convoluted narrative to do battle with yet another strawman of her own creation; in this case, a 'West' that has "decisively contributed" to the outbreak of war in Yugoslavia. And yet again, she deliberately conflates media coverage and political rhetoric with actual policies and actions taken by governments. Like Parenti and others, Johnstone's bizarre assertion that the West was trying from the beginning to break Yugoslavia apart is based mostly on media rhetoric and generally toothless political pronouncements. And even then, one must ignore something as fundamental as the sequence of events before and after the outbreak of war.

"For complex historical reasons, deeply rooted in the consciousness of the people, the balance in Bosnia depended on its insertion in a balanced Yugoslavia."

Ignoring the pompous tone of this sentence (terms like "the consciousness of the people" reveal why Johnstone is so easily swayed by nationalist bombast), one has to ask three questions:

1) Is this true? What are these complex reasons? She doesn't tell. Perhaps its something along the line of the facetiously 'traditional' "narod/narodnost" distinction?

2) If this is true, why is it true? Bosnia and Hercegovina existed for centuries prior to the founding of Yugoslavia; the ethnic and relgious demographics of the country had always been in flux, and neither the founding of the Kingdom after World War I or the founding of the Socialist Republic after World War II changed that fact. Why had the "balance" within Bosnia become untenable outside of the Yugoslav framework?

[NOTE: This is not necessarily an invalid point. As mentioned earlier, the nationalist 'pull' of neighboring Serbia and Croatia (still within Austo-Hungary, but home of a rising sense of national identity) in the 19th Century had contributed to the growing sense of 'Serbness' and 'Croatness' among Orthodox and Catholic Bosnians, who began to 'become' Serbs and Croats; in more recent time, the designation of 'Muslim' as a nationality--and migration to and from the Sandzak--had a related effect on Muslim Bosnian, although they natually remained more attached to their Bosnia identity.
However, in order to address this point, Johnstone would have to acknowledge and confront the rather fluid and imprecise nature of national identity among the South Slavs; this would undermine much of the collectivist/tribalist logic of her arguement. So even if she is aware of this possible avenue of inquiry, she rightly smells danger and avoids it).

3) What of this "balanced Yugoslavia"? Without Slovenia and Croatia, and with Vojvodina and Kosovo under Belgrade's thumb, wouldn't her own logic compel her to reexamine the situation?

She does address the third question, sort of:

"The secession of Slovenia and Croatia unbalanced the Yugoslav Federation, increasing the relative weight of Serbia. This was not to the liking of Muslim or Croat leaders in Bosnia-Herzegovina, nor to the government of Macedonia."

It is interesting to note that, while Johnstone always refers to 'the Serbs' or 'the Bosnian Serbs,' here she is careful to talk about Muslim and Croat leaders. The better to suggest treachery and conspiracy later, we can assume. We already know what she thinks of Croatia's leadership (note also that, at this point in the book, Radovan Karadzic has yet to be mentioned, nor has Momcilo Krajisnik--Biljana Plavsic is not cited in the index at all).

Having acknowledged that a "balanced" Yugoslavia no longer existed--in fact, having essentially conceeded that the Yugoslavia that Bosnia was being asked to stay in was Serb-dominated, she promptly drops the matter.

The really important point, she goes on to point out, is this:

"The Bosnian Serbs were vehemently opposed to secession from Yugoslavia. They considered that without their consent as a "consituent people," secession and the referendum were illegal>"

So while Muslim and Croat leaders played dangerous games with a volatile situation--ultimately plunging the country into the abyss at the prodding of their Western masters--the Bosnian Serb people stood on principle as a group. The contrast is the way she portrays these different groups is starkly revealed here.

But, at any rate, Bosnia's Muslim-led government--along with the Bosnian Croat community--were foolish enough to listen to this presumed chorus of Western pressure. The EU's admittedly foolish handling of the situation is not, in her telling, a mitigating factor to the tragedy that befell the country; rather, the EU, and the Muslim-led government in Sarajevo bear the primary blame for starting the war. A more startling refutation of well-documented facts and any reasonable interpretation of events is hard to fathom.