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.


Shaina said...

Another theme of Johnstone's writing (besides VERY selective use of sources) and taking everything out of context; is to generalize entire ethnic groups or to make entire people pay for the mistakes and crimes of a few.

1940 Croatia was a Nazi puppet state?
Well, that must mean that all Croats are Nazis, and naturally aggressors!
Oric and some of his soldiers committed war crimes?
Well, that must justify killing all of the Bosniak males in Srebrenica!
Sometimes her lack of simple morals confounds me.

Her statement on Izetbegovic who removed Oric from Srebrenica, was not of course to show genuine concern for the Muslims living in the enclave; but of course to somehow justify or lessen what happened in 1995.

Kirk Johnson said...

This aspect of her book is perhaps the most troubling, to me--she explicitly embraces the logic of tribalism and collective identity throughout this book; I'm still fumbling my way towards a coherent, concise way of stating this: Her underlying premise is undemocratic and dangerous. A world in which individuals exist primarily as members of a group (which is presumed to be culturally homogeneous and absolutely distinct from other groups) damns us all to division, neo-tribal warfare, suspicion, and the submission of individual rights to collective identity. Furthermore, individual conscience is less important than collective identity and collective responsibility. This might be why she focuses so little attention on Karadzic and Milosevic--she doesn't believe in individual responsibility, only group dynamics; there is no room in her critique for individual responsibility, political or otherwise.