Wednesday, October 11, 2006

"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"?


Shaina said...

Her selective uses of sources, particularly Western sources when it fits her purpose is quite apparent.

In general she dismisses all "Western" sources as biased, imperialistic, whatever.
However, if there is a Western source which adheres to her p.o.v. suddenly the Western source is not biased, but sound, balanced and useful.

Not even dealing with her pathetic thesis, just the scholarship of the book: lack of sources, use of old/outdated sources, putting everything out of context leaves a lot to be desired.
And from your reviews, it appears as if she uses a lot of intellectual mumbo jumbo and abstract concepts to hide away from the actual plain facts. (At least, that is my impression.)

Kirk Johnson said...

If that's your impression, then I must be doing something right--you've done a fair job of summing up her shoddy scholarship.

Anonymous said...

Bravo for responding to this monstrous person, Kirk. I have been doing research on the deniers for a number of years and a detail drew me once more recently to your blog. I was following the thread of criminologist T.C. Cleiren's testimony to the ICTY, which I saw in Johnstone. Could not find her whole testimony in English but found the French.

Your write that Cleiren may have had a point, but "The outside world was trying to get a handle on the situation, not prepare a detailed affidavit for a court case." Well, in fact, the ICTY WAS dealing in the legal realm, which meant that Cleiren had to be very cautious about her statement. As she said, she had to deal with the possibilities as well as the constraints international law must consider. So she goes into a very lengthy list of qualifications--second-hand eports, propaganda, confusion on the grouns, fear and shame on the part of the victims (in fact we can see reading her testimony that one constraint will obviously be the UNDERREPORTING of the crime). All this said (this is the extent to which Madame Johnstone is willing to consider the testimony). Professor Cleiren says that because of the uncertainties that are naturally part of such a study, a commission "must be very careful before drawing conclusions based on individual cases." She then says immediately after, Malgre tout cela (despite all this/nevertheless), the UN commission on which she had served had reason to believe that not only were there individual crimes but that there was also a "systematic policy." And this was the conclusion of the court, based on her testimony and that of other expert witnesses and evidence.

See for her testimony to the hearing to review the Karadzic-Mladic indictments (see

This is so typical of the dishonesty of apologists Johnstone, Edward S. Herman, Peter Brock, and many others. NOTHING can be trusted in what they say. One recalls Mary McCarthy's comment about the stalinist writer Lillian Hellman, that "every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the.'"

You can find some of my writing on these subjects at the Balkan Witness website, e.g.

I would also like to stay in touch outside the blog, if possible, but can't see how to send you an email.