Monday, January 22, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Three [25]



I don't have a lot of time tonight. Fortunately for me, this section won't take much time.

The "obscure fratricide" refers to the barbarous Ustashe regime during World War II. I'm going to assume that anyone reading this blog already knows enough about the subject; no need to reiterate that not-so-obscure bit of history here. Johnstone--normally breezy and glib with the details of history--is painfully detailed and anecdotal in this section. Rather than the broad outlines of events from Slovene and Croat history, we get specific dates and events here. It goes without saying that her version of Yugoslavia's WWII was a black-and-white struggle between fascist Croats and their Muslim allies versus heroic, anti-fascist Serbs.

I feel dirty writing stuff like the above paragraph; it makes me sound dismissive and callous to the suffering of the hundreds of thousands of victims of the Ustasha regime. I don't wish to convey that impression. However, the one-sided, grossly oversimplified version of history Johnstone is peddling here is stifling and claustrophobic; it is nearly impossible to change the subject from the victims of Ustasha terror without appearing unfeeling. To point out that only a minority of Croats supported the Ustasha, or that the quisling Serb regime in Belgrade was also guilty of atrocities against Jews and others, or that the civil war between Partisans and Chetniks was multi-faceted and involved members of all the ethnic groups fighting on all different sides might only seem to clutter the table.

Johnstone throws the corpses of the Serbs and others murdered by the government of Ante Pavelic on the table like the most obscene of trump cards. Her willingness to indulge in the pornography of war at the expense of the convoluted reality of the time (where's her 'nuance' now?) is infuriating and insulting. And, ultimately, not worth discussing.


That's pretty much it for this section. In the next post, we will examine the point she makes at the end of this disagreeable little history lesson--the involvement of the Catholic Church in the Ustasha reign of terror.


Shaina said...

Good post; World War II was very complicated in the Balkans. As you said; members of all ethnic groups fought on all sides. Sometimes they allied with each other; sometimes they fought against each other. That of course does not take away from the horror of the Ustasha genocide; or from the horror inflicted by any of the parties in the war.

Yet, Johnstone and her ultra-nationalist allies use WWII to demonize entire ethnic groups for the actions of some of their members; and use it to justify the collective blame used by ultra-nationalist politicians in the current conflict.

Kirk Johnson said...

It never ceases to amaze me that Johnstone has the gall to lecture the media and the public at large about our alleged collective failure to grasp the nuances of Yugoslav history; and yet she resorts to the crudest of generalizations.