Wednesday, October 25, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Two [27]

Johnstone's next 'factor':

THE MUSLIM MILITARY FORCE STATIONED IN SREBRENICA--SOME 5,000 MEN UNDER THE COMMAND OF NASER ORIC, HAD CARRIED OUT MURDEROUS RAIDS AGAINST NEARBY SERB VILLAGES

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.

9 comments:

Shaina said...

I don't know where you get the fortitude to continue reading this book. I'm going insane just reading the excerpts.

On a more serious note, you bring up two major (themed) flaws throughout Johnstone's analysis.

The first is to take everything out of context. (i.e.-not make any mention over the fact that overwhelming majority of people living in the enclave in Srebrenica were refugees either forced, or driven from their homes during the orignal "ethnic cleansing" campaign in the spring of 1992.

The second is to employ a double standard when it comes to sources. The data presented by the Red Cross, etc. is deemed unreliable. Yet, Johnstone accepts *as fact* that data from the RS, without even at least entertaining the idea that the RS may not be the most reliable source.
Michael Parenti utilizes the same tool when he wrote his chapter on Srebrenica. Like Johnstone, Parenti openly doubts the number of Muslim deaths at Srebrenica. (Using the same "where are the bodies? argument that I'm sure Johnstone will also be arguing). Everything regarding the Srebrenica casualities is open to debate.
Yet, just a few pages later he gives a number for the Serb casualty, as an absolute fact. Without even pretending to go through the motions to look at where the sources came from.
Just from the perspective of research her work is sloppy. To tell you the truth, I doubt that even in high school I could have gotten away with writing a paper with so many problems regarding the sources and research.

Shaina said...

Johnstone's argument re: Srebrenica is typical of the deniers/revisionists/justifiers.

1. Completely ignore the fact that the Bosniaks were driven from their homes, killed, etc. In a consciencious plan by the VRS to remove the Bosniak population from thir home to create the "Greater Serbia" project.

2. Present a complete 180 view of the military situation in Srebrenica. The VRS GREATLY outgunned and outnumbered the Srebrenica forces. Which-with a few exceptions, were primarily a rag-tag group of soldiers mostly armed with hunting rifles and without uniforms. The overwhelming military advantage of the VRS, and the fact that the utlized this advantage is of course, never presented.

3. Completely ignore the humanitarian sitution in Srebrenica. The overwhelming flood of refugees, lack of medicine, the deliberate starvation of a civilian population, disease, etc. Ignoring the fact that the raids against Serb villages were a direct result of searches for food.

4. Presented a flawed a very selective view of the fighting during this period. Every claim of Muslim directed crime is taken as fact. Despite the fact that we know as of 1998, there have been exaggerations (Kravica).
At the sametime, while every claim of atrocity commited by the Srebrenica forces, whether true or untrue, or exaggerated is presented as an absolute fact-there is no mention of the VRS attacks against the Srebrenica enclave during this same time (or the starvation of the population.)

etc. etc. etc.

Kirk Johnson said...

Thanks for your thoughtful and informed responses.

I can't improve on what you've written here. In a nutshell, you've summarized her "research methods," which are transparently hypocritical to anyone with a baseline knowledge of events.

Owen said...

As you say Kirk "transparently hypocritical to anyone with a baseline knowledge of events" - so why does Chomsky insist on sticking his neck out for her in such an apparently unguarded way? Puzzling.

Owen said...

"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."

Johnstone's not completely off-beam here. The Krstic judgment found that what was initially planned as a limited military offensive opened up the door to genocide when the Serb forces found it unexpectedly easy to press on and take Srebrenica itself.

Of course, Johnstone might have chosen to consider how it was so easy for the decision to proceed with the genocide to be taken and for the necessary resources to be deployed to that effect.

Kirk Johnson said...

Thanks for your clarification, Owen. When I finish my initial review of the book and sit down to revise my comments, this is something I'll definately look at.

Owen said...

What may emerge, whenever Mladic is eventually brought before the tribunal, is that there were two plans - the first for a limited offensive, in which Mladic tested the willingness of the Dutch to stand up to the Bosnian Serb onslaught, which would have ended if the BS Army had encountered resistance, and a more comprehensive plan, which could be brought into play once it was clear that the international community were not going to act or at least were not going to act quickly enough to prevent the genocide plan being put into effect.

Funny, Johnstone doesn't pay much attention to anything else the ICTY finds.

Shaina said...

"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. "

I'm re-reading some of your earlier posts; and I think that this is an important point. I'm very dismayed by the exaggeration of Bosnian Serb casualties by Serb ultra-nationalists and the allies.

First of all, it distorts from the historic record. No one, either a person directly involved, or an outside observer in served by such a distortion. Furthermore, as we have seen in the past, exaggerations and distortions of atrocities have been used to justify later atrocities.
Secondly, it has been used in a rather repungent way to justify what happened in July 1995.
Thirdly, by exaggerating the Serb casualty list; they are actually, in my opinion, trivializing the actual suffering of indvidual Serbs in the area. For example, instead of being able to properly acknowledge the 11 civilians who were killed at Kravica; I'm on the defensive when I see exaggerated claims made by ultra-nationalists that 80 women and children were killed at Kravica. In other words, because of the greatly exaggerated casualty numbers given, the space that we could devote to acknowledging indvidual Serb victims; is used "calling" them on their exaggerations.

Kirk Johnson said...

I couldn't agree more, Shaina. One point I tried to make throughout my review of "Fools' Crusade"--and which I wish I'd been more forceful in doing--is that revisionists like Johnstone do actual ethnic Serbs a disservice by clouding actual atrocities and injustices behind a wall of deceit and imagined horrors. It puts those of us who wish to set the record straight in the unfortunate position of seeming to trivialize actual losses in life, property, and livelihood by ethnic Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia. A similar dynamic seems to be playing out in Kosovo, where hysterical Serb claims of earlier "ethnic cleansing" by Albanians drowns out legitimate concern for the fate of ethnic Serbs in that province, especially since the NATO war.

Your second point--that such exaggerations serve to justify retaliatory atrocities--is unfortunately all too accurate.