Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bosnian Soccer Players Threaten Boycott

Bosnian Footballers Demand Ouster of Current FA Leadership

This isn't just about soccer, by the way:


"The domestic league is also in a poor state, mired in allegations of corruption and match-fixing. The NFSBIH is run on ethnic lines that reflect the delicate balance between the country's two parts, the Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat Federation, created after the 1992-95 war.

The letter called specifically for the resignations of the NFSBIH board's Muslim, Serb and Croat members and of the national team director.

"Those gentlemen (in the NFSBIH) do not want to face the truth and admit to themselves what they have done for team, besides degrading its honour and constantly disturbing relations among us," the players added.


Could there be a better metaphor for the stae of the country? The division of the nation's soccer federation along ethnic lines has weakened the team--and worked to undermine team unity.

Bosnia's citizens, like it's best soccer players, deserve better.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [30]


We're now officially in "I won't dignify that comment with an answer" territory, or at least damn close. Nowhere up to this point has the difference between Johnstone's revisionism and typical Holocaust denial been so slight. The same tactics are at work here--this is the "Where are the bodies?" act of her noxious drama. She also throws in yet more digs at the SDA-led government in Sarajevo.

She starts off with this comment:

"After Bosnian Serb troops captured the town on 11 July 1995, women and children were evacuated."

And that's all she has to say about that. "Evacuated" sounds much better than "deported after being forcibly separated from their husbands, sons, and fathers" after all. It also has the faint ring of "rescue" to it.

The paragraph continues; here are some quotes:

"...the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced that it was trying to obtain information from the Bosnian Serb authorities about 3,000 persons who witnesses said had had been detained, and from Sarajevo authorities about some 5,000 individuals "who fled Srebrenica, some of whom reached central Bosnia." The total of these two figure was the original source of the oft-repeated estimate that 8,000 Muslims had been massacred."

On the face of it, this seems reasonable. She goes on to claim that these 5,000 men made it to safety in central Bosnia. And then she accuses the Bosnian government of playing politics with their identities:

"The problem was the Bosnian government authorities were not cooperative in revealing the names and number of these survivors."

""The London Times reported on 2 August that thousands of "missing" Bosnian Muslim soldiers from Srebrenica at the center of reports of mass executions had been regrouped in Muslim territory."

"THe ICRC continued to post a list of "missing" that its own officials knew was not accurate, because the Bosnian government refused to provide information, holding back the names of the survivors not only from the Red Cross, but even from the men's own families."

My purpose in writing this blog is not to defend every single action taken by the SDA during the course of the war. Johnstone, knowing that the Izetbegovic government was sometimes shady or crude in its operations, uses this knowledge not to illuminate the fate of the Muslims of Srebrenica, but to conceal. There is not a word in this section of the fate of the 3,000 Muslim men that even she is willing to acknowledge were taken into custody. And while Johnstone has previously decried the pracice of relying on unnamed sources passing along unverified information through a third party, she accepts the explanation for the identity of 2,000 Muslim soldiers "in an area north of Tuzla", according to a Red Cross report.

At any rate, playing this numbes game is a pointless exercise; Johnstone has grossly underreported the actual numbers of Muslim men at Srebrenica. She has deliberately ignored eyewitness accounts and testimonials made by relatives of the missing. I'll make this point yet again--this book was written in 2002, yet she relies on tentative figures and reports contemporary with the events she is describing when it suits her purpose to do so. A lot more was known--and known rather definatively--about Srebrenica when she wrote this book than was known in the confusion of August, 1995. Yet she relies on inaccurate figures and sketchy reports from the era, in order to cast a shadow of doubt and ambiguity on events which, in reality, are amply documented.

"Six years after the summer of 1995, ICTY forensic teams had exhumed 2,361 bodies in the region, and identified fewer than 50. In an area where fighting had raged for years, some of the bodies were certainly of Serbs as well as of Muslims. Of those bodies, 199 were found to have been bound or blindfolded, and must reasonably be presumed on the basis of the material evidence to have been executed."

And five years after this book was published, more bodies and more mass graves continue to be discovered. And reports and information has been collected and analyzed, and it is fairly well established that 8,097 Muslim men were killed at Srebrenica.

As for her comment that "fighting had raged for years" in the area--she can only get away with nonsense like this by ignoring the condition and context in which these bodies were found. Keep in mind that one reason so few had been identified was because body parts were mixed together, mass graves having been excavated and sometimes relocated by bulldozers and trucks.

As for the blindfolds; if you have read any of the accounts of the slaughter, you know that blindfolds were, to put it callously, optional for Serb soldiers carrying out their bloody business.

And so this section ends; with a pathetic attempt to use the physical evidence provided by widely scattered corpses as revisionist exhibits in a trial where the survivors are not allowed to speak on their own behalf.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [29]


This section consists of only one (rather lengthy) paragraph. The argument is more of her typical cart-before-the-horse logic. The entire premise is ridiculous--the UN did a fine job of discrediting itself long before Srebrenica.

While there isn't much substance in this section--how could there be, given the non-starter of a premise above--a couple of points need to be addressed.

"For the advocates of armed "humanitarian intervention," the fall of Srebrenica was used as proof of the failure of the United Nations. More than that, it was used to discredit the whole tradition of neutral diplomacy in favor of the moral absolutist approach of "identifying and destroying the enemy." "

Some advocates of humanitarian interventionism most certainly did point to Srebrenica as proof of UN weakness; what of it? The bold statement at the beginning of this section claimed that The United States is the culprit; now that we are reading the fine print, we find that we're actually talking about "some advocates of "humanitarian intervention" "? For all her self-professed sophisticated grasp of complex issues, Ms. Johnstone often manages to get herself mighty worked up over what "some" people say and believe.

Also--this is becoming quite the motif in her book--who is she quoting when she puts "identifying and destroying the enemy" in quotation marks? She doesn't say. I suspect it comes from her own paranoid imagination.

Finally, she quotes Kofi Annan ("Washington's choice as Secretary General" she notes) on Srebrenica; his condemnation of the:

"institutional ideology of impartiality even when confronted with atempted genocide"

sounds pretty refreshing to me, after the craven blathering of Boutros-Gali. But leave it to Johnstone to find something far more sinister in his comments (from 1999).

"The United Nations thereby renounced the role of impartial diplomacy and endorsed U.S. military might as the best means to deal with civil conflicts."

For a woman who can write pages detailing the uncertain provenance of rape victim eyewitness testimonies, this is pretty pithy description of what would surely be a monumental shift in the geopolitical order, were there a shred of truth in it. Not only does she not have a bit of evidence to back up this incredibly crude bit of hyperbole, she doesn't even get her own comparison correct: Annan, in the quote above, is not addressing "civil conflicts"--he specifies attempted genocide. We already know that she doesn't believe a genocide actually happened in Bosnia; but Annan's comments make clear (not only in the quote above) that he believed there was a genocide underway in Bosnia; if she had even a shred of integrity and honesty she would have felt compelled to address this. Needless to say, she does not.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [28]

It's not hard to see where she's going; having tricked the UN into supporting their menacing military presence smack-dab in the middle of a wide area of Serb villages (we know that Oric had 5,000 troops, but not a word about the number of Bosnian Serb soldiers facing him OR the heavy weapons they had), "the Muslims" then carried out widespread atrocities almost at will. Finally, the poor, beleagered Serbs had no choice but to take the bait and strike back. The next act in her paranoid fantasy awaits:


First off--the decision to pull Oric from Srebrenica was, indeed, suspicious. I am not sure of the motives. Izetbegovic was no saint, and by 1995 the government was fairly desperate for Western support. And there is no doubt that the fall of Srebrenica, Zepa, and Goradze would "simplify" the map of Bosnia in the interests of future peace agreement nicely.

So it is no surprise that Johnstone and other revisionists have jumped on this mystery like starving dogs on raw steak. Over the years since the massacre happened (this book was written in 2002), it has become increasingly difficult for even the most deluded of revisionists to deny that an atrocity of some sort took place. With more and more evidence of widespread slaughter accumulating over the years, the seeming abandonment of the enclave by the government has become the foundation of a new, slightly subtler bit of revision:

"The Serb offensive changed its objective when it encountered no resistance, whether from the Muslims or from UNPROFOR. Finding Srebrenica undefended and in chaos, General Ratko Mladic abruptly ordered the Bosnia Serb forces to occupy the entire enclave, including the center."

And just like that, Johnstone completely rewrites history. The massacre wasn't pre-planned; the Serb forces were merely invading the outskirts of Srebrenica in order to crush Oric's forces; if you've read the quotes in my previous post, you will note that she truly presents the Serb actions at Srebrenica as almost defensive in nature. Mladic, she claims, was merely responding, in desperation and frustration, to Muslim provocations.

She does not dwell anymore on Bosnian Serb military actions in Srebrenica--why would she want to? She almost never provides concrete information about the Bosnian Serb military and its capabilities; she never acknoweldges the existance of paramilitary units(she dismisses eyewitness accounts of paramilitary units by noting that in Bosnia, lots of people had old military uniforms and guns lying around).

She does, however, lavish attention on the uncertainty regarded the absence of Oric and many of his best soldiers at the time of the Serb offensive into Srebrenica. Here, she is almost on solid ground--even observers symptathetic to the Bosnian government and its cause had cuase for concern and suspicion. I have never suggested that Izetbegovic was an angel, or that the SDA was a government of saints. Johnstone expended a great deal of ink and effort earlier in her book trying to crete an absolute equality between the SDA and the Bosnian cause. A people should not be judged by their leader's worst moments. Even if we assume the worse.

And, when it comes to the Bosnian Muslims, Johnstone rarely misses an opportunity to assume the worst.

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [27]

Johnstone's next 'factor':


Johnstone is predictably selective in recounting the events by which Srebrenica became a Muslim enclave; we read that Serbs fled the town in May 1992, but nowhere (not even in the population figures quoted in the previous post) does she mention that Muslim refugees from the surrounded area were driven into the town, looking for safety.

The impression she is trying to create is that of a sizable population of Muslims manned by formidable military force inflicting terror and death on defenseless surrounding Serb civilians. That the Muslims at Srebrenica were outnumbered, outgunned, and mostly refugees doesn't get mention at all.

The raids carried out by Oric and his forces get center-stage in this section. Most readers of this blog are most likely already familiar with the wildly exagerrated numbers and stories cited by Bosnian Serb officials and their apologists. It should come as no surprise that Johnstone repeats this figures uncritically. The hypocrisy of citing figures such as "[f]orty Serbs were killed outright," "some 192 Serb Villages were pillaged and burnt," and so forth is striking when compared to her refusal to accept even the estimates (which later turned out to be very close to the exact figures) of deaths at Srebrenica, only a very few pages earlier. Of course, she always does this; it is strange, though, that she doesn't at least go through the motions of addressing this glaring double-standard.

Of course, while the numbers of killed and the scale of the atrocities carried out by Naser Oric and his forces were grossly embellished, some atrocities did occur. Oric only recently finished his trial for war crimes committed by his troops. But the kernel of truth contained in Johnstone's retelling is merely an excuse for wild, paranoid accusations. And to justify the subsequent massacre; she notes at the end of this section that

"To put a stop to these raid, the regional command of the Serb army hastily planned "Operation Krivaja 95," initially aimed only at the non-demilitarized surroundings of Srebrenica municipality."

There in no mention of the changing situation in the summer of 1995; the faltering Bosnian Serb war effort, the rising threat of rearmed Croatia and its US-brokered alliance with Bosnia's government, and the US governments increasing impatience with the situation. None of this. Johnstone pats herself on the back frequently for her sophisticated and informed analysis, but while she is always willing to put actions into a selective historical context (i.e. drawing parallels between Croatian government actions and the Ustasha regime of the 1940s), she generally manages to discuss events within Bosnia without any relation to other contemporaneous events elsewhere in Bosnia, or in Croatia and Serbia.

Like most conspiracy theorists, her technique is like that of film director; she needs to control your point of view at all times; panning wide when she doesn't want you to notice details and zooming in for a close-up when she doesn't want you to notice the surrounding context.

Monday, October 23, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [26]

Johnstone's Srebrenica revisionism is based on "a number of factors [which] should be taken into account."


This claim is not new, nor is it original to Johnstone. Still, it is instructive to note how clumsily she wields her selective information.

"Common sense would suggest that a "safe area" in wartime must be demilitarized. In reality, these were all Muslim-held towns and the Muslims refused to demilitarize them."

Common sense might also suggest that a "safe area" ought to be somewhat "safe." As for her call for demilitarization, this is not the first time in the book that Johnstone has harped on this point, but she has yet to explain why the burden of demilitarizing should be on one side only; the reason these towns were "Muslim-held" was because, in most cases, they were where all the Muslims had been driven to.

"All were used by Muslim forces as safe bases, from which to attack the Serbs. The UN protection force (UNPROFOR) ensured safe transit to the "safe areas" of food shipments and other provisions from international charitable organizations. The Serbs suspected--correctly--that these shipments were also used to smuggle weapons. From the Serb viewpoint, the "safe areas" were a fraud, a disguised form of aid to the Muslim side."

By this point in the book, I am so used to her anthropamorphizing the collective entity of "the Serbs" and other ethnic groups that I no longer take note of it that much. In this passage, however, we see this tendency operating at an extreme degree; Muslim forces weren't using "safe bases" to attack Serbian military positions or Serbian villages--they were attacking "the Serbs."

Also worth attention--Johnstone dryly noting that UNPROFOR "ensured safte transit" for food and other supplies. I'm pretty sure that you could create a word processing template for UNPROFOR soildiers who want to write memoirs of their time in Bosnia; a helpful feature would be to include a hotkey for the phrase "Bosnian Serb forces refused to let us through the checkpoint again today." It would save a lot of repetitive typing.

The second and final paragraph briefly mentions the April 1993 situation in Srebrenica, when Serb forces halted their offensive under international pressure. It is common knowledge--despite the ominous tones of conspiracy afoot that she typically employs yet again--that the "demilitarization" of Srebrenica was never fulfilled; the Bosnian Army continued to operate there, and not all the civilians in the enclave disarmed, either. We are so far from reality that pointing out--again--the essentially defensive position the Bosnian forces were in is really pointless.

Once again, on those sporadic occassions when Johnstone happens to have at least some of the facts on her side--yes, the Muslims in Bosnia tried to drag UNPROFOR forces into a showdown with Serb forces; yes, the Bosnian Army carried out forays into Serb-controlled areas around Srebrenica--her glee is almost palpable.

One last point--in the frist paragraph, Johnstone gives the population numbers for each of the safe areas:

"Six so-called "safe areas" were set up by the United Nations in April and May 1993: Bihac (200,00 inhabitants), Goradze (60,000 inhabitants), Sarajevo (380,000 inhabitants), Tuzla (130,000 inhabitants, swollen by refugees), Zepa (12,000 inhabitants), and Srebrenica (an enclave with 44,000 Muslims, the Serb inhabitants having fled in 1992)."

Even while giving something as basic as popultation figures, she finds a way to distort and mislead. Tuzla was "swollen by refugees," but there isn't a hint that the population of Srebrenica was several times it prewar total. All we know is that Serb inhabitants had fled; that they were fleeing from a huge influx of terrorized refugees must have slipped her mind.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [25]


The fourth, and final, factor Johnstone claims underlines the case against Karadzic is his complicity/responsibility for the massacre at Srebrenica. And she proceeds to devote seven full pages to refuting any responsibility for whatever happened at Srebrenica; which, she assures the reader, was nothing. Or at least nothing very bad. Or at least nothing approaching a war crime. Or at least nothing resembling genocide. And anyway, the Muslims did it, too.

You get the picture.

She begins thusly:

"However, for public opinion, all of this seems like quibbling. The case against Karadzic, and indeed against "the Serbs" [note: she puts "the Serbs" in quotes herself at this point, as if it were the international community, not Serbian nationalists and their allies, who insist on filtering all dialogue through the collectivist prism.] "in general, can be reduced to a single words: "Srebrenica." The difficulty in knowing the truth about Srebrenica began with the fact that before any solid information was available, Srebrenica had already become an important symbol and overwhelming political weapon."

The Western world has always been arbitrary in offering sympathy, attention, and identification with, oppressed, suffering, or persecuted peoples outside of its own geographic/cultural/social/political spheres. Oppressive foreign regimes, more often than not, can buy favor from the United States and other Western nations by adopting an accomodating foreign policy, or favorable economic and trade arrangements. Some atrocities in non-Western countries receive extensive media coverage and serious consideration, if nothing else, by the United Nations or other international bodies. Other ongoing wars, famines, oppressive regimes, and even genocides go unnoticed and ignored.

There isn't a double-standard; there are many. Realpolitik, not enlightened humanitarianism, has been the standard--at least when the standard hasn't been hostile intervention, destablilzation, and outright imperialism.

And yet, unless one want so to dismiss any possibility of change, we must start somewhere. If the citizens of the world are ever to overcome any of the bigotries and divisions which divide us and begin to work towards a truly just, global peace, we must start somewhere. The journey to a better world begins with a single step. The decision to finally draw a line somewhere would almost certainly be arbitrary, and influenced by less-than-idealistic considerations--but what of it? If we are to challenge injustice everywhere, mustn't we begin somewhere?

Johnstone wants the reader to believe that the attention paid to the Bosnian war by the same Western world that turned a blind eye to the Turkish oppression of the Kurds and barely bothered to pay attention to the brutal genocide in Rwanda is somehow tainted by that bias. Other Balkan genocide deniers take the same line. She is not arguing that the West paid too little attention to the Kurds and the Tutsis; she is arguing that it paid too much attention. That difference explains her callousness towards the victims of Srebrenica and her indifference towards any evidence that contradicts her painstakingly elaborated fantasies.


She concludes this introductory paragraph with the following, predictably dishonest comments:

"Uncertainty has persisted concerning the actual number of people killed, the circumstances and motives involved, and the political significance of the real or assumed killing that took place."

The "uncertainty" is all hers and her allies.

"In trying to understand what happened at Srebrenica, a number of factors should be taken into account."

And now she proceeds to share these disingenuously crafted "uncertainties" with the rest of us.

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [24]


The argument here isn't that Karadzic wasn't at the head of the chain-of-command; she isn't claiming that the President of Republika Srpska was not accountable for the actions of his own military. She is slightly--very slightly--more nuanced than that.

Instead, she cites some statements made by Karadzic which were clearly for foreign consumption--and claims that:

"But in the absence of presidential orders to commit crimes, the hypothesis can at least by advanced that whatever crimes were committed by Serb forces were in violation of Karadzic's orders and without his consent."

You might want a little evidence to support the hypothesis that the elected leader of a rebel government engaged in an all-out war to cripple the central government and drive civilians of other ethnic groups from the areas you hold before you 'advance' it, one would think. Especially when you consider that, by this hypothesis, his orders were systematically ignored and violated for several years, without a peep of protest from this hypothetically agrieved President.

She offers no evidence. She does, however, stress that Tudjman was never indicted in his lifetime for the atrocities committed by Croat forces during the overthrow of the Krajina Serb Republic (even while Martic was indicted). Yet another example of her standard "He/She/They did nothing wrong, and anyway everyone else was doing it, too" defense.

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [23]


The second factor Johnstone considers fundamental to the charges against Radovan Karadzic was the famous threat he made in the Bosnian Parliament. Johnstone frames the debate as having been between a reasonable Karadzic and a stubborn Izetbegovic.

The speech is well known; I won't quote it here. Johnstone's reaction to it is stupifyingly clueless. Or, rather, she assumes a stupifying level of cluelessness on the part of her intended audience:

"Despite the double negatives, these are strong words, uttered in the heat of debate. They are certainly no more warlike than Izetbegovic's statement months before, in February 1991, that he "would sacrifice peace for a sovereign Bosnia-Herzegovina, but for that peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina...would not sacrifice sovereignty." Karadzic's statement could be interpreted as a warning to Izetbegovic of the dangers of war and an invitation to compromise to save the peace."

The only way in which that statement could be taken as a sincere gesture towards compromise and peace (she doesn't specify the terms by which this peace would be established, naturally) is if you are ignorant of the context in which it was made, of contemporary events in Yugoslavia, and of other, more inflammatory, comments made by Karadzic and others in the SDS. You would have to be ignorant of the shifts within the JNA, and the devolopment of Serb militias and shadow governments. You would have to be blissfully ignorant of the nationalist breakdown of Yugoslavia and how it threatened to tear Bosnia apart and leave the Bosnian Muslims with nothing.

Ignorant; or deliberately ignoring what is known. Johnstone has read the same sources I have. She surgically removes isolated facts, incidents, and quotes which support her propoganda. Yet she never addresses or even acknowledges that many of these sources support an interpretation of events in Bosnia far more orthodox than hers.

Of course, it is impossible that she is not familiar with the large body of information and eyewitness testimony supporting the orthodox interpretation of events she is trying to distort. While combing through documents, books, and eyewitness testimony to find the few shards of possibly favorable documentation and interpretation she used to piece together her tediously constructed paranoid fantasy, she could not help but be exposed to the unpleasant truth.

Unlike her ideal reader, she is not ignorant; she deliberately hides what she knows. And she's good at hiding truth from herself--she has to be, to be able to write something like the above quote.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [22]


Johnstone never ceases to amaze me; just when I think she's set the bar as low as possible, she manages to stoop just a little bit lower. Previously I detailed her attempts subtly shift the meaning of the term 'genocide,' In this section, she goes further than that: She is not merely trying to change the meaning of the word, she tries to claim it never held it's original meaning in the first place. This section opens with this bombshell:

"The term "genocide" tends to be used increasingly for crimes that fall far short of the literal meaning: the annihilation of a people."

This takes her pseudo-scientific parsing of the literal to new heights--a word which self-consciously coined by known individuals is now to be held hostage to its semantic roots. This is taking the old cliche of "playing semantic games" to a new height--the established, agreed-upon definition is to be held hostage to its Greek and Latin roots.

Don't think she doesn't know exactly what she's doing? Here in the next sentence:

"Already, the definition of the term in the 1948 Convention on Genocide was extremely broad and included "causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of [a] group," if committed "with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, racial or religious group." "

There you have it--she is literally arguing that the term 'genocide' does not really mean what the originator of the phrase and the body that established the full definiation said it meant. The absurdity of this argument is so staggering, one almost forgets to ponder this: You get the strange sensation that Johnstone is upset that the Convention on Genocide cast such a wide net. Does she want states and armies to have a wider latitude when it comes to killing people? I honestly don't know.

Unbelievably, she manages to ratchet up the level of absurdity yet another notch, in the very next sentences:

"There is a marked tendency in war to harm or kill people along lines of "national," ethnic, or religious identity. This was clearly the case in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Therefore, technically, all sides might be charged with "genocide." "

Is she seriously suggesting that there is no difference between the Bosnian war and, say, the Franco-Prussian War on the other? Does she not understand what the issue is?

Well, apparantly not; it sure seems to come as a surprise to her:

"The key word seems to be "intent." "

Seems to be? Is she playing stupid? Is she really this ignorant? The motivation for writing such drivel would be baffling, if it weren't for the sentence that follows:

"It has simply been assumed from the start that the intention of the Serbs was more "genocidal" than the intentions of the others."

I don't have a measured, thoughtful response to this statement. Frankly, I don't think it deserves one. Ms. Johnstone; all I can say is: "DUH."


That covers the first paragraph of this two-paragraph section. The second paragraph tries to dismiss the "genocidal intentions" of "the Serbs" by quoting the testimony of John Hunter Ralston, who testified as the the political program of the SDS. As Johnstone notes, it's stated goals don't "sound much like "genocide." " Johnstone, apparantly, is asking "Where was the Bosnian Serb Mein Kampf? Any student of the breakup of Bosnia knows the political and social context that statements like the SDS party platform were made in, but Johnstone seems to require a literal statement of intent worthy of a B-movie villan just before the hero breaks the handcuffs and disarms the Doomsday Machine. She not only discounts eyewitness testimony, she discounts any capacity empathetic observers have to interpret, infer, and understand.

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [21]


Up to this point, a casual reader might be willing to believe that while Johnstone obviously sees the root causes of the Yugoslav wars differently, she might still concede some degree of guilt to the Bosnian Serb and Serbian Republic leadership. She might raise concerns about what she perceives as a witch-hunt against Serbs as an ethnic group, and she might voice doubts about the legitimacy and objectivity of the ICTY, but surely, you think, she looks at the civilian body counts, the role played by the JNA, and a host of other factors, and conclude that Radovan Karadzic, for example, brought dishonor, if nothing else, to his people.

Well, you would be wrong. She doesn't merely think he has been blamed more than is fair; she does not think the man bears any guilt whatsoever.

Johnstone starts off with a list of the 16 counts of genocide and other crimes against humanity that Karadzic was charged with. She concludes her list with the observation:

"This is a compendium of all the crimes that may or may not have been committed in the course of the war."

Notice how far she is from any realistic or reasonable reference point. We are not even debating guilt or responsibility for various war crimes; she won't even acknowledge that they happened. She lives in a world made up of abstraction, where raw experience and lived reality simply do not register until these events and experiences have been vetted by being subjected to a fantastic and context-ignorant process to an impossibly pristine state of validation.

"But guilt depends on personal repsonsibility. The grave accusations against the Bosnian Serb leader were based on the following factors:"

She lists these four factors, which get elaborated on next; we shall look at each of them in order. Before she deals with them in detail, she first describes the events of June 27, 1996, when judge Claude Jorda refused to allow Karadzic's defense attorney represent him during a hearing. She is, of course, outraged by this. The fact that Karadzic was, of course, not present, and refuses to turn himself in, matters not at all.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [20]


Johnstone kicks off with this bold claim:

"The presumption that a defendant is "innocent until proven guilty" has been cast aside by the ICTY."

This is strong stuff. After the introductory paragraph--which I am quoting, sentence by sentence, with commentary, in this post--Johnstone presents three examples of anti-Serb bias by the ICTY. Namely, Karadzic, Milosevic, and the Srebrenica massacre. This is going to be rough going.

"The presumption of guilt is blatant in regard to Serb political leaders, starting with the president of the "Serb Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina," or Republika Srpska, Dr. Radovan Karadzic."

Not to play spoiler, but I cannot wait 12 and a half pages (the length of part 5) to make this observation: Of course there was a presumption of guilt; I'm pretty sure the Nuremburg prosecutors were pretty damn sure they had the goods on Goering as well. The ICTY was created to deal with the charges of genocide; it's facetious to pretend otherwise.

"After years of hearing commentators rail against the occupation forces in Bosnia for failing to arrest "the indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic," the Western public must be convinced that the case against him is overwhelming. This impression, based on media uproar, is not borne out by close examination."

Again with the shift to public opinion. Johnstone shifts from legalistic hair-splitting to a generalized impression of public opinion frequently throughout Chapter Two; the better to paint a (not very detailed) picture of an overriding Western conspiracy/misinterpretation/bias/etc.

That she considers the public impression of Karadzic as a war criminal to be based on "media uproar" is neither surprising nor enlightening; we already know where she stands on the issue.

At any rate--you've been warned. We are about to enter 12 straight pages of full-bore genocide denial. Up until now, she has at least maintained the fiction that she is concerned with wider questions of Western bias, international law, the legitimacy of hastily-constructed international tribunals, the arbitrary nature of international law in a world dominated by a handful of powerful Western states, and so forth. In this section, she cuts the crap and gets right down to it: genocide denial, and open alignment with the architects of the Serbian Nationalist ethnic cleansing project of the 1990s.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

"Fools; Crusade" Chapter Two [19]

UNDUE PROCESS [concluded]

Johnstone then goes into a two-page diatribe against the "privitization" of the Tribunal; apparantly it was supposed to pay its own way--perhaps they could have had a bake sale. I can't find any other explanation for her concern about the the financial support given by Western governments to pay for the Tribunals' work. Of course the NATO countries wanted it to be successful. This was no secret. And yes, the wealthy powerful countries of the world can use their pursestrings to control which international institutions get funding and which don't. This fact hardly constitutes a conspiracy against Serbia.

I normally try to be more thorough and meticulous in my analysis, but this extended piece of meandering paranoia isn't worth the time. I'll sum up the six paragraphs here:

1) Western governments set up the ICTY
2) Western governments set up funding for the ICTY
3) Johnstone believes that "both the United Nations and "justice" itself" are being "privitized."


She concludes this lengthy section by, essentailly, claiming that absolutely nobody but other nationalist Serbs had the right to try nationalist Serbs accused of war crimes. This rather odd claim starts off with an appeal to "the Anglo-Saxon tradition of common law"..."the right to be judged by one's own peers." No, she isn't making the crude an obvious claim that this should be taken literally; she is pointing out (rightly) that this has been interpreted in the modern world to mean

"that an individual is being judged by people who are not prejudiced against him for reasons of social category (race, nationality, religion, etc.) and are socially close enough to be able to evaluate such intangible factors as motivation."

The mention of "motivation"--given the context--is creepy; but her point is true enough if we divorce it from her less honest intentions. She goes on to mention that in the United States, we try to insure that the jurors are not prejudiced against the defendent.

So...what then? Ultimately, the judicial ideal she is describing aspires to as much impartiality and fairness as possible; the idea is to judge a case on its merits, not on ones personal biases, prejudices, and bigotries. Johnstone seems to feel that, for Serb war criminals, this is an impossible standard to meet:

"In comparison to such scruples, what can one say of judging--without any jury whatsoever--citizens of Balkan states by judges from distant continents with no understanding whatsoever of the complicated background of Balkan conflicts beyond what they have gleaned from the media?"

And thus Johnstone point completely falls apart; one does not need an expert's depth of expertise in Yugoslav studies to grasp the charge of genocide. Crimes against humanity are just that; one reason those of us who believe in interntional justice do so is because we believe in affirming not only a shared sense of justice but an unbounded, universal commonality with all humanity. I do not need a PhD in Balkan Studies to know that the massacre at Srebrenica was wrong, or that the use of mass rape to terrorize members of an ethnic group is a violation of accepted behavior.

At the end of this lengthy section, she is back to this tired canard--the situation in Bosnia was complex, rooted in ancient hatreds and convoluted politics; far too esoteric for any "ignorant foreigners" (her term) to grasp.

Human rights are universal concepts; the entire premise of international justice is that we share a common humanity and we CAN understand the suffering of others and acknowledge the shared, basic level of civility we should expect from each other. Her closing call for the Tribunal to cede its authority to "Yugoslav historians" who would then demonstrate to the Tribunal its inadequacy to judge the situation is nauseating and pathetic, but entirely in keeping with her petty, tribalist mentality.

Monday, October 16, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [18]

UNDUE PROCESS [continued]

There is more--much more--of the same. We get the cases, of Momcilo Krajisnik and Momir Talic, along with lurid descriptions of trigger-happy US Navy SEALS itching to kill a war criminal. Charges of "genocide" (she always put the word in quotes) are trumped in order to justify the arrest of any and every Serb leader vindictive Western forces can get their hands on. There is nowhere to hide. Serbs are being hounded from one end of the globe to another. The persecution is ceaseless and ruthless, driven only by an insane hatred of "the Serbs."

Think I'm exaggerating the hyperbole? Have a gander at this example of sober, even-handed analysis and rhetorical restraint:

"Far from home, in a hostile environment, the defendants attract no attention from the human rights activists who concern themselves with the fact of accused criminals in the United States or European countries. They are pariahs, doomed to rot in prison."

And those veiled implications that the Tribunal allows, or even causes, the deaths of indictees? The veil comes off:

"In addition to killing defendants or virtually burying them alive..."

Honestly. The overwrought prose is bad enough; but to speak of the fate of prisoners in the cushy prison at The Hague to "rotting in prison" is borderline obscene when one considers that two of the five case studies she presents were indicted for, among other things, responsibility for the sadistic horror of Trnopolje. Johnstone's sympathy for "the Serbs" appears to be a zero-sum game; she has absolutely no sense of proportion or sensitivity for their victims--for, surely, if we are to withold judgement on the guilt of the accused, shouldn't she be equally respectful of the accusers?

Perhaps I'm merely venting; in this section her facade of imparitiality has come off, revealing not only open collusion with ethnic cleansing in Bosnia but even admiration
for the architects of that genocidal exercise. A paragraph attacking the prosecutors for the Tribunal for having been spotlight-grabbing bullies concludes with this tribute to the Big Guy:

"Until Milosevic defied the Tribunal's exhortations to take charge of his own defense, the defense was invisible and inaudible. His skill in cross-examining witnesses and exposing glaring contradictions in the Prosecution's case soon caused the media spotlights to be turned off."

Anyone familiar with the crudetactics Milosevic used in his cross-examinations shouldbadger share my disgust at this passage; to describe such cyncial and cruel bullying as "skillful" requires a level of callousness I simply cannot fathom.

She goes on to draw ridiculous parallels; the decision to deny the defense access to information allegedly related to ongoing intelligence work might be a cause for legitimate concern, but it hardly conjures up comparisons to the Dreyfus case in my mind; the use of pixilated images to protect the identity of witnesses is not, contrary to her bizarre assertion, reminiscent of the Inquisition. Her assertion that:

"This anonymity is particularly grave in proceedings where verbal testimony rather than material proof constitutes the principal basis for conviction."

deserves--but does not receive--elaboration. Why is the anonymity so grave? Given the circumstances in Bosnia, given the situation, isn't anonymous testimony a reasonable protection to provide victims and witnesses in exchange for agreeing to testify? Don't witnesses have rights?

The answer, of course, is that Johnstone--like Milosevic and her other heroes--simply does not acknowledge the legitimacy of the Tribunal; it, not war criminals from the Yugoslav wars, is on trial as far as she is concerned.

Her final attempt to question the reliability of verbal testimony in cases involving genocide is clumsy; she reports a case from March 1993, where a "Muslim" [sic] court convicted a Serb of "genocide", for killing two brothers--a ridiculous charge. It turned out that he had been tortured into confessing, and that his victims were still alive.

To Johnstone, this is proof that "witnesses statements and even confessions are the least reliable proof of guilt." A less apt analogy would be hard to draw; the ICTY does not torture confessions out of suspects; the Bosnian court in 1993 was hardly an impartial or objective venue; nobody in The Hague is there as a lone citizen committing two murders; the charge of "genocide" in that case was absurd. Making sloppy, wild parallels like this expose her self-delusion to the reader.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [17]

UNDUE PROCESS [continued]

Johnstone considers the cases of five ICTY defendants and indictees who died either in captivity at The Hague, shortly after incarceration, or were killed during capture.

1) Simo Drljaca: Police chief at Prijedor, helped set up Omarska and Keratem camps. Johnstone does not believe that these camps carried out the work of ethnic cleansing, so the charges against him have no merit in her book. Earlier, she had written that "prisoners are always at the mercy of guards" by way of acknowledging that human rights abuses occured at the prison; however, she does not acknowledge that Drljaca, as a chief official, might bear some responsibility. He was killed during capture by British troops while trying to escape.

2) Dragan Gagovic: Police chief in Foca, charged with raping a woman in a detention center. Also shot during arrest by French troops. Johnstone notes that "Local residents were furious that SFOR had chosen to arrest the karate coach in circumstances that endangered the lives of children." He was a karate instructor driving some young students home.

3) Djordje Dujukic: Bosnian Serb general nabbed by Bosnian Army forces and turned over to The Hague for questioning; released three months later. Died of untreated cancer.

4) Slavko Dokmanovic: Mayor of Vukovarg; indicted for complicity in the abduction and murder of 250 soldiers from a hospital. Johnstone notes "Defense witness testified he was elsewhere at the time of the Vukovar hospital massacre" which is not much of a defense. She drily notes that an acquittal was expected, but that on June 29, 1998 he "was found hanged in his cell."

Note: He "was found hanged in his cell," not "He hung himself." The sinister--and completely unfounded--implication is clear.

5) Milan Kovacevic: Dirctor of Prijedor hospital, member of "Crisis Group" responsible for operation of prison camps. Arrested in 1997 after war was over. He had health problems, and died in captivity from a stroke and heart attack although he had been ruled fit to stand trial.


So, what are we to make of her case studies, which in her mind paint a clear picture of...what exactly? Let Ms. Johnstone explain:

"These deaths are the most dramatic indication of the lack of concern for the rights or even the lives of the defendants that prevails at the Hague Tribunal."

Well, if these are the "most dramatic" cases she could find, then she's got a pretty weak case. The first two deaths, to put things in perspective, involved indicted war criminals resising arrest by highly trained special forces troops. The third case is unfortunate, but people do die of cancer from time to time; there is no reason to suspect that ICTY officials had a diagnosis they chose to ignore. The forth case involves suicide. Which leaves us with the fifth case, which might indicate some negligence if the story that fellow prisioners calls for help were ignored; subsequent inquiry contradicts this accusation. So we have a man in his late 50s, from a country where smoking is nearly universal, as is the consumption of strong drink and large quantaties of pork, under a great deal of stress, dying of natural causes.

Johnstone's outrage at the unjust treatment of war criminals is bottomless; she expects them to be treated with kid gloves during arrest, for example:

"The methods of arrest are so spectacular as to convey the impression that the suspect is a wild beast who must be grabbed with all the delicacy of hounds tearing apart a wild boar."

No, I'm not making that up--the same woman who demands a cooly rational, detached treatment of refugee rape victims manages to apply this hysterical burst of hyperbole to describe the arrest of indicted war criminals, in Serb-majority areas. Even though two out of the five of her own examples attempted to resist arrest she fails to grasp this. I suppose she would prefer that the ICTY wait for indicted criminals to turn themselves in; perhaps she wishes all cases were like that of Karadzic and Mladic?

I suspect she does.

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [16]


This final section of Part 4 seeks to delegitimize the work of the ICTY. It starts off with this conspiracy-friendly bit of paranoia:

"Tribunal indictments being the equivalent of conviction in the court of public opinion, with guilt taken for granted, actual prosecution and conviction are scarcely necessary, and the next step can be execution. Out of deference to its European supporters, the ICTY can inflict long prison sentences, but not capital punishment. However, the number of unconvicted defenants who have died while in custody of the ICTY or its agents ought to have caused a major scandal in any proper criminal jurisdiction. Defendants appear to run a strong statistical risk of a de facto death penalty before being put on trial. Here are some examples:"

[As always, underlined words in quoted sections were italicized in the original text.]

There are many problems with this paragraph, and on many levels. It was only a few pages ago Johnstone was sneering at "ICTY apologists" for not 'thinking through' the implications of certain beliefs and statements. Is that the problem here? Or has Johnstone, in fact, thought her statements through? If she has, then I was correct when I surmised that her concerns about the legitimacy of the ICTY are in fact a sham--she does not want there to be any effective instrument of international justice, period. Like a State's Rights advocate gone global, she envisions a world in which sovereignty is so absolute that the internal affairs on a nation are of no concern to the outside world at all, even when the internal affair involves the mistreatment of citizens by the state.

The first clause is a fine example of her sloppy logic and imprecise comparisons. Are indictments really the equivalent of conviction? Has she analyzed this issue in depth? Has she conducted a "serious, scientific study" a la the one she wanted performed on rape victims?

And this "court of public opinion"--which public is she talking about? The world at large? The Western public? Surely not the Serbian public--at least not the confirmed nationalists. Who is she describing here? And how much weight should public opinion carry in such situations? Why is public opinion the primary concern here? She does add "with guilt taken for granted" but again, she does not explain why this is so, or why she can be so sure. We don't even know who this "public" is, yet we are to take her word on how they feel about ICTY indictments.

So getting a conviction is "scarcely necessary," she assures the reader. Really? How so? Going back to the question of "the public"--I would think that the public in, say, Bosnia, or Serbia, might care very much about whether or not high-ranking defendents were found innocent or guilty. And I have a little more faith in use stupid, naive Westerners than Ms. Johnstone does; I think people in the West understand that a man found guilty of charges of genocide is maybe a little more responsible than a man found innocent. People who follow things like international tribunals tend to at least acknowledge the judicial process at work.

Then her 'analysis' just gets goofy; the reference to "the next step can be execution" refers to the the fact that several defendants died either in custody or while being arrested--she wrote this years before Milosevic died in his cells, so I can only imagine what she thinks now.

Clearly she is implying--strongly implying--that foul play was involved. In the next post, I will examine the five examples she gives; for now I only ask the reader to consider this: What possible motive would the ICTY and Western powers have for causing harm to to indicted war criminals? What motive could be at work here? Causing the deaths of a high number of suspects--as Johnstone is alleging--would be very hard, if not impossible, to cover up. It would delegitimize the work of the tribunal. To go back to Milosevic, remember that the primary emotion expressed by Del Ponte and numerous others at his death was disappointment that he had cheated a final verdict.

Friday, October 13, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [15]


Johnstone won't let go of the collective-guilt accusation. You really have to hand it to her--this level of self-delusion is hard to keep up for any length of time.

"Collective guilt can imply collective innocence. Whitewashed by the indictment of their Serbian counterparts and convinced that the Tribunal was on their side, the Bosnian Muslim leaders were encouraged to seek not compromise but institutionalized vengeance."

What "compromise" is she thinking of here? Her version of events in Bosnia is so warped it's nearly impossible to address the "issues" she brings up; after awhile the temptation to just let things slide gets hard to resist. But this I cannot ignore--what compromise could the Bosnian government have made?

Furthermore, what sort of "institutionalized vengeance" is she visualizing here? Fortunately, she does clear this confusion up:

"The Muslims' insistence that "there can be no real peace until Karadzic is sent to The Hague" was a demand for vengeance and exoneration, not for peace."

While calling on the victims of ethnic cleansing to compromise, Johnstone is outraged at calls to indict, try, and convict a primary architect of ethnic cleansing. This, to her mind, is "vengeance." She wants peace without a shred of justice; it's a muddled moral universe she inhabits.

She quotes Richard Goldstone, the first Chief Prosecutor, by way of bolstering her bizarre thesis. He stated, forcefully, that "The victims of the Yugoslav war want legal vengeance," and "For us the victims are the most important." He goes on to explain that there is a difference between the work of the tribunal of the South African Truth Commission--which he was also involved with--by the "big difference between apartheid and genocide in the extent of the crime."

From these quotes, she derives this rather surprising conclusion:

"This surprising comparison reveals that Goldstone, for all his talk of establishing individual responsibility, had prejudged the Bosnia conflict in terms of group guilt and group victims. In the mind, the Muslims were victims of "genocide," all of them, and as "victims" had the right to demand justice."

I'm not sure where she gets this--he referred to 'victims' plural and there has never been a single indictment that I'm aware of against "the Serbs," unless Johnstone knows something I don't.

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [14]


The previous section ended with Johnstone--having wandered off into bizarro-world where charges against genocidal tyrants guilty of mass murdering citizens of their own nations somehow become attacks on those very same nations by the "Great Powers" (Johnstone loves that phrase--I wonder if she knows Metternich is dead)--clarifying her case against the ICTY. "Clarifying" being, in her case, an extremely relative term.

Essentially, she objects to the dubious legal grounds for the ICTY, which was based on a broad interpretation of Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Fair enough. She also claims that the ICTY was housed in The Hague so that it would deliberately be confused with the ICJ. OK--fine. These are not meritless points; were Johnstone sincerely interested in pursing them, she might have given her book some substance.

But of course, that is not her intention; the dubious mandate of the ICTY and the haphazard nature of international justice is just another tactical diversion on her part. Johnstone is not interested--at all--in constructive suggestions towards the creation of more comprehensive and permanent institution to judge and enforce international justice. She merely wants to rewrite the history of Yugoslavia's bloody collapse on behalf of virulent Serb nationalists.

Up to now, I had wondered whether Johnstone had ever recognized the underlying logic of collective guilt and group identity in her own arguments. Amazingly, in this section she finally confronts the issue of collective guilt--by accusing the ICTY of engaging in promoting it!

"The most enlightened political argument in favor of the Tribunal was that individual repsonsibility needed to be established in order to replace the notion of collective guilt. This laudable ambition has not been realized. By setting out from the very start to build a case against the political leadership of the Serbs and only the Serbs, the notion of collective Serb guilt has been bolstered."

We're back, yet again, to the same rhetorical repeating-loop: There was no genocide in Bosnia, therefore there was no program of systematic ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, therefore the political and military leadership of Serbia and the Bosnian Serbs cannot be held accountable for genocide and ethnic cleansing since they did not carry out, or even intend, such a program. She goes on:

"Only Serb political leaders have been indicted for crimes attributed to subordinates, crimes no different in nature from those committed by subordinates of the opposing sides, whose political leaders have not been charged."

Do I really need to point out the obvious? What Serb-majority city was beseiged for four years, subjected to artillery bombardment? Where are the mass graves the Muslims are hiding?

"Rather than individualizing guilt, this has made a powerful contribution toward comforting notions of the collective guilt of the Serbs."

Her logic, while maddenly circular (all the better to fortify against any contrary facts or evidence; I have a mental image of circling wagons) doesn't form the neat trick she thinks it has; even if the ICTY was mistaken in prosecuting Karadzic, Mladic, and Milsevic for genocide, must this be interpreted as an attack on all Serbs? The Germans haven't been ostracized from the world community after Nuremberg, and the Nazi leadership was found guilty. Again, Johnstone delibertately confuses media coverage with specific actions and policies taken by governments and international bodies. Holding a nation's leadership accountable for its actions is not an attack on all its citizens. Then again, Johnstone believes that an attack on Pol Pot is an attack on Cambodia. Since the irony of such a ridiculous notion is lost on her, it's far too much to ask her to comprehend this rather simple point.

Also, why does she describe the notion of the collective guilt of Serbs as being "comforting"? Who, I wonder, took comfort in such a notion? This is rather insulting to the reader's intelligence. And speaking of insulting intelligence, here's the next paragraph:

"ICTY apologists sometimes claim that prosecution of a leader such as Milosevic is necessary to "deter" any future "dictator". It is hard to believe that those who espouse this notion have thought it through."

Once again, her strange use of quotes around words of her own choosing; why is 'deter' in quotes? Is she quoting someone directly? As for putting 'dictator' in quotes, that's much clearer--she considers Milosevic to have been a democratically elected and tolerant leader.

Johnstone, of all people, is accusing others of having not thought through some remarkable claim. Considering that "Diana Johnstone has not thought [fill in the blank] through" could serve as a thesis statement for my review of "Fools' Crusade," this should be fun:

"It assumes that a political leader in a uniquely complex and dramatic situation sees his choice as between being "good" or "bad", and that if he sees a tribunal looming, he will be "good". This infantile notion is suitable for children in a candy shop, where the prospect of "getting caught" can weigh more heavily than the fun of grabbing the goodies. It is totally irrelevant to unforeseeable historic dramas, such as the disintegration of an established country."

Yet another appearance by her favorite strawman--the Hopelessly Naive, Uniformed, Deluded Western Idealist. Johnstone's accusation here is simply ludicrous--whether or not one believes that the threat of being indicted, which would limit travel options and otherwise adversely affect a governments ability to carry on, it is not hard to see the logic of hoping that this is so. Does Johnstone think that the pressure currently being applied to Lukashenko in Belarus is "infantile"?

Sometimes the international community has limited options to intervene in the internal affairs of a nation; often the main limitation is a lack of political will to do so. Credible non-violent threats, such as sanctions, are often used as a way of at least inflicting symbolic pressure on regimes violating norms of civilized behavior. This is the dynamic Johnstone is describing; it is hardly confined to the example of the ICTY.

What is truly infantile is her glib comment equating committing genocide or other crimes against humanity to a child being naughty. Infantile, and offensive.


This section ends with a rousing denunciation of the political nature of the ICTY; she portrays the fact that Karadzic was unable to participate at Dayton as proof that the whole thing was a sham, a way of disabling the Bosnian Serb leadership by criminalizing them. Johnstone, as we have seen, cannot accept the obvious truth: Karadzic and his allies had criminalized themselves.

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [13]


This section starts off with a decent premise: Impartial, even-handed international justice exists more as an ideal than a reality. The Nuremberg Trials were, when all is said and done, stil a matter of victor's justice (justified, in most people's opinion, including mine).

Attempts to establish permanent tribunals continually came up against resistance from powerful nations including the United States; few if any governments like to surrender sovereignty, and powerful nations rarely feel any compulsion to do so.

From this promising start, atypically grounded in a reasonable observation, Johnstone takes a predictably clueless wrong turn:

"The United States, still unwilling to support a universal tribunal, proved willing and even eager to set up ad hoc tribunals to try not only Yugoslavs, but also Rwandans, as well as Saddam Hussein and Pol Pot. This means in effect a series of Great Power tribunals to judge small countries."

[As always, underlined words in quotes were italicized in the original text.]

Johnstone and her fellow revisionists--as well as Serbian ultra-nationalists--continually confuse charges against individuals and leaders as attacks on entire groups and nations; rarely, however, is this conceptual misunderstanding so explicitly laid out.

It is unclear--to put it mildly--how charges against Pol Pot can be construed as judging Cambodia. Wouldn't the charges against Pol Pot mostly involve crimes against the Cambodian people? The same goes for Saddam Hussein, of course, although hardline Baathists surely appreciate having Johnstone on their side.

Johnstone is untroubled by this logical disconnect; later she baldly states:

"From the very start, the tribunal [the ICTY] was intended not as an instrument of unbiased justice, but as a way to punish a particular national group, the Serbs."

I eagerly await Johnstone's surely-upcoming defense of the unjustly targeted Hutus, as well. To be followed by an impassioned plea for the Janjaweed in Sudan, we can be rest assured.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [12]


This section purports to show that the system of international justice created to investigate and prosecute war crimes in the former Yugoslavia was politically motivated and biased against "the Serbs." She already introduced this 'insight'18 pages earlier, in the section of part 2 "Creating Public Opinion" entitled "The Nazi Equation:"

The context makes it very clear that the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia was conceived from the start as a means to prosecute Serbian leaders, not to enforce humanitarian law in general."

[As always, underlined words in italicized quotes were italicized in the original text.]

As I mentioned earlier, trying to pin Johnstone down is difficult because of her circular reasoning--she denies that there was any systematic program of ethnic cleansing carried out by the Serb leadership, so therefore any efforts to document ethnic cleansing was biased and politically motivated, and any actions taken in response to ethnic cleansing were assaulting "the Serbs."

She believes that a crusade against "the Serbs" is evident since the ICTY targeted the leadership of the Bosnian Serbs and Serbia proper (Milosevic), but only pressed charges against lower-ranking officers and soldiers on the Bosnian and Croat sides. It's a pointless exercise trying to break this cycle--Johnstone and her fellow travelers are determined to believe in the innocence of Milosevic, Karadzic, and the rest despite all evidence to the contrary.

The opening two paragraphs of part 4 obliquely address the problematic nature of regarding "the Serbs" as a distinct, collective identity. Johnstone notes that:

"In Serbia, an estimated 200,000 youths went abroad to escape military service. Many thousands of young Bosnian Muslims sought asylum elsewhere, probably for similar reasons."

It is clear that at least 200,000 young Serbs wanted no part of a war in defense of "the Serbs." Johnstone could have come to the same conclusion that I, and so many others, have come to--Serbian nationalism and the political and intellectual elite responsible for fostering and utilizing it has had a negative effect on most ethnic Serbs. Serbia proper was certainly adversely affected by the war and its aftermath; at least some Bosnian Serbs must be aware that the Republika Srpska is far from heaven on earth. Surely a unified Bosnia would be better for all its ethnic groups.

This is not the conclusion Johnstone comes to; it seems she has never even considerd the possibility. Ultimately, the decision to abide by the logic of collectivism and tribal/ethnic identity is a dead end, that can only lead to this: confronted with indisputable evidence that much of the political and intellectual leadership of Serbia and rebellious Serb entities in Croatia and Bosnia bear responsibility for inciting a series of wars in which their armed forces carried out systematic campaigns of genocide, the true believer in collective identity cannot divorce him or herself from the guilt of individuals one has chosen to communally identify with. If the basic unit of society is not the free and sovereign individual citizen, but is instead the collective ethnic group, then any attack on the leadership of that group is an attack on all members. There is no ICTY affidavit charging the 200,000 young draft dodgers in Serbia for war crimes, but in Johnstone's universe the world is against them all the same.

Note also that while she knows without a doubt why 200,000 young Serbs avoided serving in the military, she can only guess in the case of the young Bosnian Muslims who did the same: lacking any facts to damn these Muslims with, she settles for a bit of insinuation. Those Muslims, you never can be sure what they're up to.

Note also: Johnstone has implicitly acknowledged that the JNA was taking part in the Bosnian war.


She never tires of attempting to muddy the waters--most analysts of any situation attempt to clarify and illuminate; Johnstone seeks to obscure and confuse. Witness the following excerpt from the second paragraph:

"Crime flourishes in civil war. So do rumors, lies, and propaganda. In the confusion of suffering, destruction, and conflicting accusations, it is extremely difficult for outsiders to sort out exactly who did what to whom. Never before, however, have the international media given remote observers such a vivid impression of knowing exactly what was going on."

Since Johnstone was, only a few pages earlier, calling for "serious, scientific study" of mass rape allegations, surely it is not asking too much for Johnstone to quantify how vivid these "impressions" were; after all, how else could she be sure that "never before" had they been made.

This two-paragraph introduction started with the observation that Yugoslavia was flooded with weapons and old uniforms, and that the people of Bosnia had a long tradition of guerilla warfare. (Tough shit for urbane Sarajevans, obviously). The point, you see, is that anybody could appear to be a paramilitary to a frightend refugee. The fact that there were numerous heavily armed paramilitaries active in Bosnia matters less to Johnstone than the possibility that the thugs who drove a family from their village might have been merely drunken racists from the hills rather than professional killers of unarmed civilians. Left unanswered is this question: What was driving these hypothetical non-paramilitaries? Why, exactly, did war break out? Who motivated them? Who destroyed civil society and social order to the degree where the dogs of war could find themselves unleashed?

Oh, that's right--the IMF did it. Those poor, bloodthirsty peasants had no choice but to give in to bloodlust, you see, once the evil western bankers destroyed their socialist paradise. You people ARE taking notes, right?

I often refer to Johnstone's "argument," but it should be clear by now that she doesn't have an argument; she has a grab bag of sometimes incompatable themes and arguments that work best when doled out in discrete, diffused doses. Trying to make her book work as an extended, cohesive analysis is an exercise in futility.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [11]


She just loves this subject, doesn't she?

I'm glad to report--this is the final section of part 3 ("The Uses of Rape"). It's also only two pages long. Given the insubstantial nature of this section, two pages is probably overlong.

By this point in her manuscript, Johnstone probably had a macro ready to go; pick some early reports that were either inaccurate or at the very least not more fully documented later, add a quote or two from a Western "expert" (funny how she does this consistantly even while decrying Western naivete about the Balkans) she finds handy, and avoid any first-hand testimony like the plague.

Once again, this section mostly focuses on the media. It also focuses on quantitative issues only; while out to prove that the numbers of rapes were not as high as reported, her claim that the systematic nature of rape crimes in the Yugoslav wars was falsely reported requires her to ignore specifics. She cannot report what those women actually said happened to them, because to do so would be illustrate the deliberate use of rape as a weapon of terror. She needs her reader to think that all the stories of mass rape were concocted by credulous Western reporters from inflated figures; she cannot afford for her audience to be privvy to the details. The rape victims must be silenced.

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [10]


Johnstone isn't done wading through the muck quite yet. In this section, she examines the exact counts of rape allegations and rape victims, decrying the use of projections and estimates as well as the reliance on eyewitness testimony. She seems to hold war reporting to an almost legal standard; reporters and activists were interested in getting a picture of the big situation as quickly as possible; Johnstone is remarkably uninterested in the fact that while these imprecise figures were being tabulated, a fierce war was still raging; a war where unarmed civilians were the target of military action. The outside world was trying to get a handle on the situation, not prepare a detailed affidavit for a court case.

I run the risk of sounding glib about the truth; however, I believe it is possible to perceive and document the occurance of mass rape in a systematic fashion without witholding judgement long enough to garner statistics as thorougly and comprehensively as she insists on in this section.

It bears repeating--Johnstone is adamant that eyewitness testimony is absolutely not to be trusted. While this assumption underlies all of part 3, it is explicit here in this section:

"...Dutch criminologist Tineke Christine Cleiren stressed that the "reliability and the credibility of reports and testimonies could not be verified," and that "individuals, as well as groups, may be driven by political or personal revenge or by encouraging groups to report sexual violence...some people identified themselves so much with victims of sexual violence that they state hearsay stories as their own experience. There are indications that sexual violence was reported by the parties in the conflict as an element of propaganda." "

And so on. Not that Cleiren did not possibly have a point, but it's telling that Johnstone accepts this comment at face value; she never asks or explains what "indications" Cleiren might have been referring to.

She certainly zeros in on any possible statistical discrepency going the other way; the fact that the numbers of rape victims were extrapolated from projections drives her damn near over the edge. This sentence from the previous section ("Rape and Politics") illustrates how clinical and unempathetic her approach to the matter is:

"The Warburton mission lacked the means to carry out a serious, scientific study."

We're talking about statistics gathered from frightened refugees; scattered through the Balkans even as the violence they fled continued. Thousands of people were telling horrible stories of what they'd seen and experienced. I'd like to know what sort of "scientific study" Johnstone would have proposed in that situation. And just who, one might ask, would serve as the "control group"?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [9]


Johnstone's ongoing crusade to drag all idealism down to the basest of levels continues unabated. This section of part 3 continues with the theme that all of the atrocities associated with the Bosnian Serb genocide campaign were, in fact, dreamed up by a Western media that was (take your pick) naive, gullible, biased, or conceptually boxed in by lazy Nazi parallels.

After my tale of woe two posts ago, I feel a bit sheepish rushing through a section in a perfunctory fashion, but trying to engage Johnstone's argument is more than a little like a cat chasing it's own tail. Since she does not believe there was any campaign of genocide in Bosnia--in fact, since she believes 'ethnic cleansing' was a dark fantasy imposed on the situation by outsiders--she also rejects out of hand any evidence--of which there is plenty--that there was a systematic effort to use rape as a weapon of terror against the Muslims of Bosnia.

Therefore, any efforts to investigate and document those rapes must--in her convoluted worldview--be politically motivated and biased. When you cut through all the bullshit, that what her case boils down to: there was no genocide, therefore no campaign of ethnic cleansing, and therefore the accusations of mass rape against Bosnian Serb units and paramiliataries are slanderous lies.

In case you wonder if I might be exaggerating her position by leaving out some of the nuance, I'll let her tell you:

"Muslim, Serbian, and Croatian women all reported having been raped. The mainstream media chose to play up stories involving Muslim victims, while ignoring the rape of Serbian women. To this bias was added a political twist: rape was "promoted" from a sordid personal crime to a central feature of the strategy of one of the warring parties."

[As an aside--note the quotes around "promoted." An especially snide touch--not out of character, but certainly out of place in this context.]

She backs up her assertions by the usual methods--as noted before, while this book was copyrighted in 2002, Johnstone seems to lack access to any reporting, invesitgation, interviews, or fact-gathering after 1993 or so. Sketchy preliminary reports from the early months of the war (which were often based on first-hand testimony; her absolute disregard for the veracity of first-hand eyewitness reports is pervasive throughout this book--a theme I need to examine at length in the near future) are held up to microscopic scrutiny; no further revelations or data are allowed into the discussion.

Early reports were, of course, inconclusive; they were not, however, groundless, nor were they based on Bosnian government propaganda. The reporters and activists who first brought the issue to the world's attention were not in command of all of the facts, but this does not mean they weren't on to something. Johnstone has chosen her ground wisely--a moral high ground defending impossibly pure standards of neutrality posing as objectivity.

To illustrate how laughably 'even-handed' she expected the media to have been, here is the first sentence of the final paragraph:

"A Serbian spokeswoman, Dr. Ljubica Toholj, claimed that almost all the Serbian women in northern Bosnia had been raped by Muslim mercenaries, who had come from all around the world in order to kill non-Muslims."

Yes, she seems to seriously believe that this charge should have received more consideration from Western NGO's and journalists. This is the same northern Bosnia where, it was well known, the Bosnian Serbs were having a great deal of early military success.

Do I need to say more? It's one thing to confront Johnstone's distortions, misrepresentations, interpretations, and even lies; but when the entire fabric of her argument is constructed from such fantastic notions, it's hard to find a surface solid enough to grasp; it's like wrestling with fog.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [8]


Johnstone, having claimed that the reports of concentration camps in Bosnia were fabricated in order to garner Jewish-American support for Muslim Bosnia and formerly fascist Croatia (oh yes, she really believes this), now goes on to claim that reports of mass rape in Bosnia were likewise fabricated in order to enlist Western feminist support.

The problem, as Johnstone sees it, is that feminists have succeeded too well in sensitizing people to rape; we are, apparantly, too willing to believe accusations of rape. Once again, Johnstone is standing up for those courageous souls willing to look rape victims in the eye and say "Prove it."

The level of sensitivity she displays in this section can best be illustrated by this quote from the third paragraph:

"Women are raped every day in peacetime in the most "advanced" societies. There is no reason to doubt that in wartime, especially during civil war, rape is even more common.

It is nearly impossible for a sane, decent person to understand what it is she might be getting at here. What is her point? "Rape happens"? And what does "there is no reason to doubt" supposed to mean? Is there ANY reason to doubt? At all? I simply cannot conceive of a good reason to write the above two sentences. There is simply no good reason to make such a 'point.'

Having callously dragged this agonizing subject down to the base level of 'bad things happen' she goes on to elaborate on what it means to be "skeptical" in the world of Diana Johnstone:

But aside from the matter of believing or doubting the word of the women themselves, in wartime there is the additional problem of whether or not to believe allegations made in the context of war propaganda."

It is no longer enough that reporters and activists attempt to be clear-headed and in command of as much information as possible; we must now be actively disbelievers. Johnstone, who is very concerned about the feelings of 'the Serbs' as a group is clinically immune to any feelings of empathy for individual women. Perhaps Johnstone merely wants matters of justice decided by Napoleanic Code, where all are guilty--or fabricators of anti-Serb propaganda--until proven innocent.

For all her bombast, however, Johnstone's entire argument rests on a single example--that of Jadranka Cigelj, interviewed by Roy Gutman. She analyzes this case to excrutiating detail, while ignoring the other evidence of mass rape in Bosnia--namely, thousands of known rape victims, along with testimony from the Tribunal. Need I mention that her source of information on Gutman's alleged duplicity comes from "Living Marxism" affiliated pseudo-journalist Thomas Deichmann?

After working through her latest anti-journalist hissy fit (yes, I realize "anti-journalist" is ridiculous, but so is "anti-Serb" in the context she uses it; fair play and all that), this opening section of part 3 [note to self: I must get my terminology straight!] peters out with a lame attempt to portray the press as having been on a wild goose chase for 'authentic rape victims.' Does Johnstone bother talking to, or reading interviews with, any actual rape victims in Bosnia? I think you know the answer to that question.

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [7]


I promised myself when I started this project that I would see it out to the bitter end; that no matter how repetitive or offensive the subject matter I would never skip ahead without at least a cursory examination of the contents of a particular section and some comments. Those of you who have stuck it out with me to this point might at times wish I hadn't been so diligent to this point; this stuff gets tedious after awhile. But I believed when I started--and I still believe now--that the lies being propagated by Johnstone and her ilk must be vigorously confronted and systematically discredited. I believe I've shared the anecdote about the offhand comment made by a friend of mine; he was quoting "some UN general from Canada" who had, to my friend's recollection, dismissed the idea of Western intervention in Bosnia because "those people have been at each other's throats for generations" or something very similar. I'm sure you can guess that the general was Lewis MacKenzie. My friend was unaware of MacKenzie's track record in Bosnia and of his ties to nationalist Serb organizations after the war. The war in Bosnia may be over, but the battle to control the history of that war rages on.

That said, this section of the book is testing my commitment. The subject is pretty obvious. Her methods are the usual--extend the sloppy Serbs-as-Nazis metaphors to cover all Western accusations of genocide, or even widespread human rights abuses, against the Bosnian Serb military and leadership so that all charges can be dismissed as "demonizing the Serbs"; cherry-pick isolated incidents and reports out of context; ignoring the testimony given by any actual Bosnian Muslims; and, when all else fails, simply lie. This time the particular subject of her scorn are the stories of mass rape that came out of Bosnia. Even if a person refuses to believe that ethnic cleansing was the goal of the Serbian leadership or that the use of systematic gang rape against large numbers of Muslim women resulted from deliberate policy, there is no doubt that a large number of women were brutally raped in Bosnia. One might think that this is one battle Johnstone might want to avoid fighting. One would be wrong. Her willingness to spit in the face of the women who were brutalized and traumatized in this fashion is stunning.

Honestly, there is part of me that would like nothing more than, having skimmed through this section once, simply move on to section 4 and be done with it. The tedium of confronting this woman's dogged campaign against honest discourse and simple human decency becomes exponentially more maddening when she turns her attention to the "problem" of rape in Bosnia.

All this is my way of saying--I really wanted to post today, but I just don't have the stomach for this crap on such a beautiful day. I'm re-reading this horrid filth one more time, so that tomorrow I can pick up and hopefully breeze through it quickly.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [6]


The final section of part 2 ("Creating Public Opinion") kicks off with this smug bit of implied self-congratuation:

"It is sometimes assumed that particular courage is required to tell a terrible story and expose a frightful crime. The opposite assumption would be just as well founded: it may take particular courage to deny a terrible story."

While the cliche of the "Freudian slip" gets overused, I can't help but wonder if either Johnstone or her (clearly overpaid) editor noted that she uses the word "deny" instead of, say, "disprove" or at least "discredit." As frustrated as I get with the woman, I'll give her her due--sometimes, she makes it easy.

Considering that she is implying that she and her fellow genocide deniers are the heroic ones, what does she have to say about the Western reporters who actually went to Bosnia and filed reports on the atrocities she claims never happened? She does, indeed, call out Roy Gutman and David Rohde by name, and her dismissal of their work is beneath contempt. She actually accuses Gutman of merely regurgitating "war propaganda," and flatly declares that Rohde found nothing of substance at Srebrenica. In her universe, being moved by the atrocities they discover somehow turns reporters into liars; her idea of proper journalist is one so "skeptical" that he or she is willing to disbelieve what he or she knows to be true.

That both Gutman and Rohde have been proven by time and further investigation to have been correct means nothing. Throughout Chapter One, I was amazed at how differently Johnstone looked at reality. In Chapter Two, she barely seems acquainted with reality at all.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [5]


This next part of section two is predictable--Johnstone looks for examples of over-the-top media coverage from early in the war in order to demonstrate that "the Serbs" were demonized. As usual, she relies on very carefully selected reports in order to skew the numbers while painting a picture of a Western public being duped by a naive, crusading press.

What is most striking about the early paragraphs--in which she claims that fewer than 3,000 civilians were being held in camps in the fall of 1992 (and fewer than half of that number held by Bosnian Serbs)--is how little effort she expends on making such an outrageous claim. I'm not sure if she believes that a summary dismissal is all that is needed, or if this is part of a more clever approach, wherein she implies that the general impression the uninformed reader probably has (garnered from TV news broadcasts) is entirely based on smoke-and-mirrors by pro-Bosnian Western media. That approach would fit her thesis well, but considering how clumsy her polemic has been so far I doubt she intended such a sophisticated critique-by-implication. After all, her entire argument hinges on such a flimsy body of contrary "evidence" that I'd be mighty surprised to see her document these highly doubtful assertions more thoroughly.

So Johnstone relies in a single Red Cross report from early in the war--from a time when access to rural areas was limited at best, more frequently impossible--to claim that there were, in the fall of 1992, a grand total of 25 prison camps holding a total of 2,692 civilians. The woman who claims that even now, ten years after the fighing is over, it is impossible to know howm many people died in the war somehow is convinced that a preliminary estimate during wartime by on organization is definitive.

Not only does she claim that the number of camps and prisoners was small and that the numbers held by all three groups were roughly equal, but she comes very close to endorsing the military logic of imprisoning civilians in prisoner camps. The outbreak of the war is portrayed as a three-way landgrab for "arms factories and mountain passes;" the prisoners were unfortunate civilians of the wrong ethnic group in each area, respectively.

This section meanders quite a bit, and I know why--she does not dare get too close to the "Living Marxism" vs. ITN fiasco, since the courts, and the documentary record, have weighed in decisively on the matter. So she is reduced to skirting around the issue, playing semantic games with the media's choice of language rather than confronting the reality that Western reporters were (admittedly sometimes clumsily) trying to portray.

Instead of acknowledging the completely discredited provence of such statments, she quotes LM-associated journalist Thomas Deichmann as if he were merely another mainstream journalist; his ties to LM and to the Bosnian Serb leadership (he would later appear as a defense witness at the trial of Dusko Tadic, and gave sympathetic interviews to Radovan Karadzic). The lie (not a 'myth,' not a 'misinterpretation'--it's a flat-out lie) that the camp at Trnopolje was actually a safe refuge for Bosnia refuges get regurgitated here as if the ITN libel trial never happened and the extensive research done by Ed Vulliamy and others didn't exist.

In case you were wondering why she spent so much time documenting the relationship between PR firm Ruder Finn and the governments of Bosnia and Croatia, this section is ostensibly the payoff for that 'revelation.' The suggestion that these camps were concentration camps like the ones operated by Nazis apparantly all stems from a sustained propaganda campaign on behalf of their clients. She even goes further, portraying Karadzic as naively trusting, allowing reporters access to these camps out of goodwill. The Croats and Muslims, we are assured, most certainly did not allow such access. So the Serbs accidentally gave the hostile Western press the images they needed to demonize them.

Do I need to spell out all that is wrong here? Is is not a matter of record that there were many, many more camps than 25, and many, many more prisoners held by the RS forces than the 1,203 she allows? Do we need to quote from survivors of those camps (she sure as hell doesn't--she quotes Deichmann about Fikrit Abdic but far be it from her to let Abdic speak for himself)? Do we need to point out that Johnstone implies that ITN filmed misleading images but must avoid discussing the fallout of those accusations?

Most of all, do I need to point out that while it was problematic that the situation became over-generalized with sloppy, inprecise comparisons to the Holocaust, the real issue should be why the hell those people were in the situation they were in. And Johnstone is remarkably blase about that. And she somehow believes that it is possible to defend Serb tactics in the war without troubling about the strategic objectives of that strategy:

"...the most fundamental lie was to present the Serb campaign to secure a swath of defendable territory as a matter of "ideology" and "genocide." "

You and I might think that the reason the Serbs wanted swaths of 'defendable territory' might be worth investigating. You and I, however, are not Diana Johnstone. Her claim that the International Criminal Tribunal was waging a biased, politically motivated attack on Serbia's leadership is laughable considering the evidence at its disposal, but that doesn't seem to trouble her at all.

It's hard to get a handle on this section, as it essentially consists of Johnstone spinning her wheels in the muck of lies and self-delusion that is the stock in trade of the Bosnian Genocide denier. One last quote is worth note, however:

"If justice is the goal, those who advocate an international criminal court should be equally determined to establish an international court where parties considering themselves defamed can bring charges of libel. As it is, there is no recourse for political defamation of foreign leaders or nations."

Read that quote. And again. Think about how completely insane such an idea is, and how completely one's sense of proportion would need to be in order to equate crimes against humanity to supposed slights against political leaders. Think about what a farce such a court would quickly become were this to become a reality.

I didn't make that quote up--it's on pages 74-75 of the book. And yes, she goes on to make her point explicit--she really believes that the world needs a international court of libel so that Karadzic, Plavsic, Mladic, Milosevic (too late for him, I guess) and the Serbian people in general can sue Western leaders and Western journalists for libel. That is the conclusion Johnstone comes to.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [4]


You can guess what this section is about. The first part barely merits discussion, so I'll merely summarize the contents--Johnstone spends three pages huffing indignantly about the public relations firm Ruder Finn, hired in 1991 by the Croatian government and then in 1992 by the Bosnian government.

Johnstone is shocked that governments hire public relations firms, and clearly believes that by detailing some of the actions Ruder Finn took on behalf of their client, the reader will be equally shocked to learn that public relations firms engage in...public relations.

One sentence merits notice, however:

"In October 1992, Ruder Finn took up the job of public relations for the ethnic Albanian separatists in the Serbian province of Kosovo."

I don't believe it's any accident that Johnstone--who approves heartily of majority-Serb areas breaking away from Croatia and Bosnia--is careful to describe Kosovo as a Serbian province. Apparantly, while the internal borders of Yugoslavia's republics were artificial and could easily be ignored, the inclusion of Kosovo as part of Serbia is permenant and unquestioned.

Other than that, there isn't much of note in the first part of section 2. It's mildly amusing witnessing Johnstone--who continually scolds "the West" for being naive while presenting herself as a cool-headed voice of fact-based reason--getting riled up at these unexceptional examples of how governments do business in the mass media-driven real world. Whenever she's unsuccessful at avoiding it, reality has a way of getting under her skin.

Monday, October 02, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [3]

1. MANICHEAN MEDIA (continued)

Johnstone revisits the three infamous market massacres, juxtaposing the timing of each incident against supposedly crucial moments in the war. These incidents--May 27, 1992, February 5, 1994, and August 28, 1995, have been widely discussed and investigated. It is not worth the effort of engaging Johnstone's "argument" on this issue; she doesn't really have one. Any student of the Bosnian war knows that Karadzic always had an ever-changing explanation for how and why "the Muslims" had bombed their own people, and of course UN General Lewis MacKenzie was always eager to make such accusations himself. (By the way--does anyone know if General MacKenzie's pro-Serb loyalties predated his time in Bosnia? I'd be interested to know).

At any rate, this is Johnstone, and if you've been following my critique at all you can pretty much guess at the 'depth' and intellectual honesty of her analysis. Revisiting my point from yesterday's post, there are NO footnotes, no naming of names, no chronology, and most tellingly, no follow-up. I can't make this point often enough--this book was written in 2002. There is no excuse for regurgitating some of the uncertainties of wartime reporting that were inevitable at the time. Johnstone relies on then-contemporary doubts which have since been largely clarified.

The salient point here, then, is not the validity of the ridiculous claim that all three of these highly publicized bombings were orchestrated by the Bosnian Army--other observers have examined these incidents with far more balance and integrity than Johnstone is capable of. Her critique of what she considers lazy and biased media predisposition to blame everything on "the Serbs" contains no real insight per se, but her clumsy attempt at a sophisticated and nuanced analysis exposes her dishonesty, biases, and moral myopia quite succinctly.

First, she scolds the media for a failure to think critically about these massacres:

"While serious independent investigation of such incidents was beyond the capacity of journalists in war conditions, critical analysis is always possible. An unbiased analysis should take into account these considerations:"

It's always grimly amusing to read Johnstone patting herself on the back for being "unbiased." At any rate, what are these considerations? She lists five:

"1. Each of these atrocities was committed at a crucial moment for the future of the conflict: on the eve of an international decision to take punitive measures against the Bosnian Serbs. In each case the atrocity became a clinching argument for such measures. The timing could not have been worse for the Serb side, or better for the Muslim side."

Was there ever a time during the entire war when the international community wasn't contemplating taking punitive measures against the Bosnian Serbs?

"2. One element in deciding who may have committed an anonymous crime is motive. The Muslim motive would have been to trigger international action of their side. The Bosnian Serbs had nothing to gain and much to lose from those particular attacks at those particular times."

It is worth noting that the Bosnian Serb soldiers who manned the artillery pieces around Sarajevo were known for drinking continuously throughout the day.

"3. Staging attacks on one's own side for propaganda purposes is an aspect of psychological war familiar to specialists. It is called "black propaganda."

4. It may be hard to imagine that the Muslims would kill "their own people." However, in Bosnia there were several thousand mujahidin from Muslim countries, including veterans of the war in Afghanistan and Algerian islamic terrorists, for whom Sarajevo's fun-loving, often hard-drinking inhabitants were not exactly "their own people." For the sake of the cause, such foreign fighters might have few qualms about killing a number of Sarajevo civilians, few of whom were likely to be devout Muslims."

The mujahideen fighters were not known to be in Sarajevo. There were often tensions between Bosnian Muslim soldiers and the mujahideen; it is stretching your imagination to the limit to suggest that Bosnian Army soldiers--led by General Jovan Divjak, a Serb--would sit idly by while foreign fundamentalists deliberately slaughtered their fellow citizens.

Assuming, that is, that such precision was possible. Mortars are not smart bombs. The conspiracy Johnstone is alleging requires an element of precision and sophisticated ordinance that wasn't there. Finally:

"5. The Izetbegovic government, throughout the war, refused proposals to make Sarajevo a genuinely open, that is a demilitarized, city. "Beseiged Sarajevo" was a key asset in the Muslim strategy of winning foreign sympathy and support. It diverted attention from other fronts where Muslims were fighting more aggressively and with success."

Time and time again--just when I think I'm used to Johnstone's remarkable capacity to put the wagon in front of the mule, she manages to surprise me anew. Of course the Bosnian Serbs wanted to demilitarize Sarajevo--that was the first step towards partitioning the symbol of multicultural Bosnia and the capital of the republic; not to mention freeing up troops and weapons for other fronts. Why a UN member state should be expected to demilitarize its own capital--under assault from an enemy army--during a war is frankly inconceivable.

Johnstone has elsewhere quoted approvingly (and, needless to say, very selectively) from Silber and Little's Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation; it seems fitting to me to let them have the last word on this subject:

[from page 310]

"The common sense observation that if you fire around 500,000 mortar, artillery and tank rounds into a small city over twnety-two months (as the Bosnian Serbs did)--many of these randomly lobbed into civilian areas--sooner or later one will land somewhere where crowds are gathered, was swept away in the ensuing row. A walk down any side street in Sarajevo provides visible evidence that nowhere was safe from the random mortar: the city's streets are pockmarked everywhere with the distinctive splatter of the mortar impact point. The local people called these imprints "Sarajevo rose"--the color of blood. By February 1994, you could barely walk more than a few meters without passing one."

Conspiracy theorists hate to hear this, but it's true--usually, the simplist and most obvious answer is the correct one.