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.


Owen said...

"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."

"Many thousands"? "probably"? "similar"? Any reference given?

Kirk Johnson said...

None, of course. I suspect that if she were to give any sources or hard numbers, that would undercut her contention that the situation in Bosnia was too confused for hard data; remember, a key element of her argument is that nobody--especially not well-meaning Westerners with pro-Bosnian sympathies--could know with any degree of certainty what was going on there.

Owen said...

Kirk, your answer comes as a complete surprise to me!